Ready For Kindergarten

My daughter’s preschool career ends in six short weeks as this fall she will enter kindergarten. Yet this morning I still carefully unzipped and slid her jacket from her arms and hung it on her hook that has a cute little peeling bunny label on it. I put her lunch in her basket that she can easily reach, and then she sat down on the bench waiting. I bent down to her so we were eye to eye and I kissed her nose – twice – as I gently removed her boots and smelled her toes and laughed as she asked if they were super stinky this morning. I placed her boots in her spot beneath the bench and then slid her shoes on her, folding the velcro over the top with an extra pat and then one more kiss to her nose before we both stood up.

 

She grabbed my hand – her right into my left – and we skipped into her classroom together. She sat down at the art table to make me a card. She makes me a card every day. Typically a rainbow and a sun with some flowers. We stand together in the center of the picture – one tall and brunette and one small and blond. And we are both smiling. I kiss her goodbye as she is just beginning the orange stripe of the rainbow and tell her to have an amazing morning. She kisses me back and hugs me tight and tells me that she loves me so much that some days it physically hurts her.

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She is nearly five and starting kindergarten soon, and yes I’m the mom who still helps her with her coat and shoes, and walks her into class each day and waits until she gets settled before I leave.

 

And I feel no guilt for babying her just a little longer. Especially knowing I am not the same mom as I was when my oldest was finishing her preschool career. Back then I did what you were suppose to do to get them ready for kindergarten – I taught her to tie her shoes, zip her coat, and the flip method for getting her coat on and over her head properly. She got dressed each morning independently, and I walked several paces behind her as we entered preschool, and watched her find her own hook, take off her jacket, change her shoes, and run into the classroom after a quick kiss and hug in the hall. After all, in a few short months I’d be putting her on a bus and she’d have to survive on her own.

 

I must get her ready.

 

This time I don’t care. And no, I don’t plan on sending this child to her kindergarten teacher as a baby lost in the woods looking for someone to wipe her butt. We’ve got that covered.

 

What I’ve found instead is that she is ready for kindergarten without me having to put so much outward effort on making her independent. While I’ve never actually shown her how to zip, she knows how. I can take her boots on and off her for weeks – but when we’re running behind and I ask her to put her boots on – she knows how.

 

I believe in independence, free-range, and my children learning how to make their own choices.

 

But I also believe that helping her with her coat and boots for a few more months until I’m not allowed to anymore is okay too. Maybe it’s more for me than for her. And if she ever asks to ‘do it herself’ I gladly step aside. But for now, it gives me time to steal more kisses and hugs and enjoy this short time we have together before she’s off to school forever.

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You may calling it ‘babying’ her, but I just call it ‘time.’ Because as every mother knows, there’s never enough time to enjoy them while they are little and draw you holding hands under a rainbow filled sky.

 

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A Cooking Birthday Party For Kids

I love to celebrate birthdays – and have been known to throw a few wonderful birthday parties in the past. From princesses and butterflies or rainbow birthdays to yellow themes or peace signs and slumber parties to Yo Gabba Gabba and Alice in Wonderland – my girls spend months thinking about themes, crafts, food and friends. We even have parties for our cats. And I’ll spoil them rotten on this day – because it is truly their day. Call me over the top, call me obsessive, call me Tracy – but don’t call me crazy because you’re only a kid once – so why not do it up in style while you can. And hey, if you want balloons and clowns even when you turn 45 – I say go for it.

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But.

 

Having ‘in-home’ parties has become less appealing to me over the last few years. This weird thing happens – the kids GET BIGGER. And while 10 five year olds doesn’t seem like a big deal in your modest home, 10 eleven year olds cannot all fit in one room. Also – they don’t totally enjoy playing pin the tail on the donkey or doing my lame crafts I come up with. So our theme parties have slowly turned into slumber parties(the type where I sit in the kitchen and watch Scandal and drink red wine – which AWESOME), but even I(even with wine) cannot handle a slumber party every single year. Also tween girls scream. What is UP with the screaming? So this year I convinced both of my older girls that we should ‘hire-out’ and have off-site birthday parties.

 

And while I’ve always liked in-home parties because I’ve always considered them to be more economical – if I factor in all of my time to clean and prepare and decorate and coordinate and manage and buy everything – well it turns out having an off-site party is about the same cost and I HAVE TO DO NOTHING. But show up. And read People magazine with a latte.

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But I also wanted to make sure it was a party where everywhere hung out and did things together. I didn’t want a big bouncy house thing or open rec day or something where I would be chasing kids and mending broken arms. I still wanted all the kids to be a group and do something that Esther was passionate about. Also, we like quiet things. And less screaming.

 

Also note that I’m anxious for the day when my kids are old enough to just be passionate about a mani/pedi spa day and fancy lunch with me and just a few of their friends. I think this day is coming soon.

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Esther loves to cook and bake. So I Googled cooking schools in Minnesota and found a very awesome place called “Way Cool Cooking School!” I called and they had the date we needed available, so we loaded up two minivans full of 11 tween girls and off we went for a few hours of cooking.

 

The Way Cool Cooking School did EVERYTHING. The craft – they decorated aprons and all of the guests signed Esther’s apron. The lunch – they all made their own pizzas from the crust on up. The cake – they provided a birthday cake already made and decorated, and the kids made homemade cupcakes and decorated them to take home. The treat – they made chocolate dipped ‘mini microphone’ marshmallow treats. The goodie bags – they provided each child a ‘left-over’ box with fun cooking utensils, treats, and recipes. They did ALL of the set-up and the clean-up.

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I did nothing but deliver the girls to them and then I honestly read a magazine for two hours.

 

And Esther and the girls all said it was one of the best parties ever. I loved that it gave them a skill, they had fun, and we didn’t have to worry about the mess. The ‘chef’ was so incredible with the girls and I just cannot recommend a party like this enough. I would say it would be perfect for kids ages 7-13 and those that are able to sit and really pay attention for an extended period of time. The chef taught them some great cooking skills and shared some fun recipes.

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I have a feeling we will be going back there soon as they also offer classes and camps for kids. (And no, they have no idea who I am or that I’m writing this).

 

Do you love to have home parties or off-site parties for your kids?

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Zombie Mommy

“Mommy, I don’t like when you leave me.”

 

I don’t always like leaving you either. But sometimes I have to…and I always come back.

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“But if you were dead you wouldn’t come back.”

 

True, but I’m not dying anytime soon – so just for now, know that I’m coming back.

 

“But you will die someday and then you won’t come back and I won’t know you aren’t coming back.”

 

But by then you’ll be older and maybe a mommy too, so you won’t need me as much. So it will be okay. And that’s a long time from now.

 

“I’ll still need you when I’m a mommy.”

 

Maybe for some stuff. But not everything. You’ll have your own house and kids and life and even your own cats. And I’ll be very old when I die.

 

“Well even if you die when I’m a mommy and you’re very very old. I will still wish you were coming back.”

 

Me too.

 

“Unless you were a zombie. That would be super creepy. Don’t come back as a zombie mommy.”

 

I feel like I can promise you that I won’t come back as a zombie mommy and creep you out.

 

“Because if you did come back as a zombie mommy, I don’t think I could let you in my house.”

 

I understand and will respect your wishes if I did show up at your door as a zombie mommy. I wouldn’t let me in either.

 

“Okay, so don’t feel bad.”

 

I’ll be dead. I don’t think I’ll feel bad. I’m going to try not to be a zombie mommy ever.

 

“Promise.”

 

Promise. Now I have to get going to my thing.

 

“Okay, I will miss you, but please come back just as a regular mommy.”

 

Right, I’ll come back as regular mommy. Not dead. Not a zombie. And I’ll tuck you into bed. It won’t be creepy.

 

“This is why I love you so much. Because you’re not a zombie mommy.”

 

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Nine

I’ve never been this close to a middle child before, but now that I have one, well there’s a lot of truth to the myths you hear. And my empathy for Jan Brady has grown by leaps and bounds the last few years.

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Our middle child is our ultimate peace maker and friend to all. She cherishes her sisters’ love and appreciation and gives to each of them endlessly. She lets Eloise control the wheres, whys, whats, and hows – what the plans are, where they are going, the games they play, and when they do it – almost always on Eloise’s time. And she lets Astrid take most of the snuggles, the long bedtime routines, controlling the shows for the baby cartoons, the space on mom’s lap, a big slice of her attention for the last four years.

 

And this middle has done it with grace and acceptance and a smile for most of her life.

 

But nine is changing things. She’s using a word I’ve never heard from her. NO – to her sisters and to us. She’s giving herself permission to voice an opinion when she’s never expressed one before.

 

Typing that sounds awful.  I hope it hasn’t been. She has just always ‘gone with the flow’ and has seemingly done it with a laugh and a skip in her step. Now I wonder if that was okay or if she’s been bottling up her angst for years.

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Not that she seems angry now. She just seems strong and is using her voice.

 

And saying no more often. As well as voicing what she wants to do and what’s important to her.

 

When I think about it, even many of her toys and interests were all things that Eloise liked, and I think she felt like she was suppose to like and do the same things.

 

But today, Esther is nine and she wants you to know…

 

She doesn’t like riding horses. Sure, her sister is obsessed, but she’s not interested.

She loves all animals and honestly(and don’t tell her sisters), our cat prefers her over anyone.

She hates the Rainbow Loom – and all jewelry making – and all small motor type toys. Her hands can’t do the things that her sister’s can – and instead of ending up just getting frustrated, she is just saying “I’m not interested in that.”

She loves books about fantasy and sci-fi and wishes her sister would stop suggesting realistic fiction to her.

She doesn’t like riding a bike. So stop asking her to learn.

She’s an amazing tap dancer and she doesn’t care that you like jazz better. Tap is cool.

She likes scary movies. She wishes her sister would just go to bed earlier so we could watch more. Eloise hates scary movies.

She likes to ski fast. She hates to turn. She likes to just go straight down as fast as humanly possible.

She doesn’t care if her hair is messed up, her clothes don’t match or if her shoes work with her outfit.

She’s a good friend and loyal to the core.

She likes fruit and sushi and all vegetables and steak. She wonders why Eloise and I don’t like meat.

She doesn’t like math even though she’s good at it.

She’s very affectionate and still tries to fit on my lap. You can see the sadness in her face when she doesn’t.

She randomly comes up to me and touches me, hugs me, and tells me that she loves me. She doesn’t care who hears.

She doesn’t care about technology. Has never used a laptop and has never asked to, and is the last person you’ll find using the iPad.

She’s the first in the kitchen to ask if I need help making dinner or setting the table. And the first to volunteer to fold laundry.

She likes to go to bed early and stay in bed late into the morning. Like wants to sleep in like a teenager. The girl likes to sleep.

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She never asks for anything.

But now I need to do a better job of asking her what she wants to do, what she wants, and what she likes.

I don’t want her to live a life of just going with the flow, as the peace maker, as the middle.

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Because our Esther is such a pure and special person that needs to be heard.

 

And at nine she’s finding her voice. My job is to help her use it and to guide her how to make it louder.

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Because nine is just the beginning.

 

Happy Birthday Sweet Esther-Boo. I love you so much it hurts.

 

 

 

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How You Know It’s True Love

In Spanish class they were given the materials and instructions to make one Valentine. What they did from there was up to them. Children came out of the room immediately handing cards to their moms or dads, sisters and brothers. But Esther handed us nothing and instead simply said “I have a special card that I made today.”

 

I assumed she just wanted to present her masterpiece to us upon our return home.

 

Esther walked in the door, removed her snowy boots and dropped her backpack to the floor. She took off her mittens, hat and coat and knelt down to unzip her backpack. She reached in and carefully removed a card and skipped into the living room calling for Truffle.

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But she didn’t need to call for Truffle as he was already bounding down the steps as he does each day at about 4pm when his sisters return from school.

 

Typically Esther reaches down for him, picks him up and over her shoulder, where he nuzzles her face and purrs for several minutes.

 

But yesterday instead she got down on the ground and read him the Valentine’s Day card that she made only for him. Her favorite Valentine.

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And as she finished I heard her say “No one will ever love me the way that you do, Truffle-man. You are the best kind of love of all.”

 

And if you’ve ever loved a pet – well I think you know exactly what she means. Unconditionally.

******

Astrid came home yesterday when a bag full of Valentines from her preschool party. There were tattoos, chocolates, cards, and stickers. One of the sets of stickers had several Cupids on it.

 

“What’s that guy, Mama?” She asked, not familiar with the baby cherub archer man.

 

Oh, that’s Cupid. Cupid helps people fall in love.

 

Astrid climbed up on my lap, grabbed my face in her hands, and looked right into my eyes and said “We didn’t need a Cupid to make us fall in love. We just did that right from the beginning.”

*****

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Eloise came over this morning and stood very close to me. Then she took her hand out to measure where the top of her head now hit on my face.

 

Right above my nose.

 

I thought you were coming over for a Valentine’s Day hug. I said.

 

“Ha!” Eloise responded. “In a few months I’ll be taller than you. I just wanted to remind you of that fact.”

*****

Happy Valentine’s Day, my friends. May you find and have all the kinds of love that ring true.

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My Children Are My ‘Want To..’ Hands Free Mama – A Review

I snuggled up to her in bed. She spooned into me as I wrapped my arms around her and took in the freshly bathed sent of her hair. Her fleece pajamas felt warm to my touch and she relaxed into me like the perfect puzzle piece against my stomach, neck and chest.

 

“Will you tell me a scary story, Mama.” She asked.

 

A scary one before bed? Really, is that what you want?

 

“The scarier the better!” She said.

 

In her dimly lit bedroom I could still see the wonder in her eyes and smile on her lips as I started the scary bedtime story for her.

 

I’m typically a “Let’s do this bath/books/bed thing quickly!!” kind of mom as the end of the long day cannot come soon enough. From an early wake-up to breakfast to bus to work to dance to homework to dinner to bed – the days of parenting can be long and tiresome. And by 7pm I’m reaching for the quiet and for the alone.

 

And I cringe to admit that maybe I’ve blown off her story requests with an “I’ll tell you extra stories tomorrow.” or “Let me think of something even better to tell you in the morning.” and sadly “It’s bedtime sweetie, no time for stories tonight.” More times than not…

 

But I made time this week. More time than usual as I realized how fleeting this ‘telling stories’ part of childhood is. How my 11 and 9 year olds read by themselves in their rooms with their lights. Their books are filled with complicated words and few pictures, and many of their stories I’ve never shared. How soon this little one in the fleece pajamas with reindeer on her feet, and baby fine freshly washed hair won’t ask to hear my stories anymore.

 

So I stayed.

 

And told a story of sisters getting lost in the woods and the calls of wolves scaring them from the forest and how they had to run to stay safe together. As I made ‘real’ wolf howls and panicked voices, her grip tightened on my arms that kept hold around her.

 

Her grip relaxed at the end, when of course the sisters made it home to their mom and hot cocoa after a stern “That’s why I tell you to never wander in the wood alone at night!” Then she turned to face me and I kissed her nose as she wrapped her still so very small arms around my neck and said “I’m glad you were there to protect me. Now I can sleep better.”

 

Soon I could hear her heavier and steady breathing humming on the monitor downstairs, and each of those breaths slowly entered my mothering heart with calm.

*****

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This moment took five minutes. Yet it’s a short moment with a long impact that my sweet girl will always hold in her heart. Those days that mommy stayed and held me as she told me stories.

 

I could’ve instead spent five more minutes on Facebook or answering work emails or writing another blog post. (All of which, I really still do have time to do).

 

But I’m not going to let those five minutes of joy that I can and will spend with my children be the “I have tos” of my days…oh no those are the “I want to moments…”‘ that I need more of. MY “I have tos..” are my work demands and the emails. And sure – I have to mother – but not because I have to. Because I want to. And choose to be present for my children every single day.

*****

I just finished reading Hands Free Mama by Rachel Macy Stafford.

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Distracted parenting. Can you relate? And this isn’t to shame anyone(ME!) on the phone at the playground or answering emails instead of playing Monopoly(oh help me god). But it’s being present when you can be present. Rachel’s words, commitment and journey of grasping what really matters has inspired me. Her new book is full of ways to make your parenting life(and mixed with your professional life) meaningful and fulfilling by learning to grasp and appreciate the moments that really matter. Her book gives tips on unplugging and making real connections.

 

One of my favorite lines from Rachel’s Hands-Free Pledge is…

 

” I am letting go of distractions, disconnections, and perfection to live a life that simply, so very simply, consists of what really matters.”

 

Every chapter hit me in soft spots and hard as I mirrored my parenting in hers. And I had many a “Me TOO!” moment as I recognize how busy we’ve all become. Her chapters are full or beautiful stories and insightful tips about Awareness, Presentness, Simplification, and even Forgiveness.

Tips and lessons that I want to model for my own children as they start to enter the social media space.

Her book is a beautiful and gentle reminder not to let our lives, our only one, pass us by.

 

I have so much gratitude to Rachel for sharing her words with us. And I would love for you to check out her book. It will make you think, cry, and maybe make a few tiny changes, that will make all the difference in your days. And your world.

 

Like my world – which includes bedtime snuggles and stories with a reindeer-footed preschooler who won’t want to hear mommy’s stories for much longer.

 

So join Rachel and go hands-free. Discover what happens when you choose to open your heart—and your hands—to the possibilities of each blessed moment.

 

Her books is available here…

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Christianbook | iBooks (Apple) | IndieBound

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One Last Chance

 

Um hi, this is Tracy Morrison and I want to schedule a D&C.

“Hi Tracy, let me just look up your chart…..okay so let’s see here….um Tracy, so you are pregnant again?”

I am and I want the D&C as soon as possible.

“Why don’t we make an appointment with your doctor first and do an ultrasound and see how far along you are.”

No, this isn’t negotiable. I don’t want an ultrasound. I’ve had dozens of ultrasounds before and I know what it will show – it will show a pregnancy that is 5-6 weeks along with a little beating heart and then I’m going to fall in love with that beating heart right then and there. And then you are going to make me come back again in a week or so and there’s that heart again and then I fall in love just a little bit more. A week later we’ll do it all again and I’ll find myself not only falling in love even more, but I’ll find myself at Target buying a sleeper, some little socks and I’ll start listing baby names. And you know what happens about a week or maybe three weeks after that? I’ll be in Target again and feel it. Feel some light cramping or maybe not so light cramping and then a drip..drip…drip. And then the good times well they really start. I will find myself back in the ultrasound room to see what I already know. I will see my baby. My baby that I fell in love with. Gone. Just like the last time and the time before that and the time before that and the time before that.

“Tracy…I..um..”

So no, I don’t want that doctor’s appointment or that ultrasound or that heartbeat or that falling in love or seeing that baby or buying that sleeper or those sweet dreams of meeting my new baby for the first time. I just want a D&C tomorrow so I don’t have to hope anymore.

******

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Sometimes I think back to that conversation. I remember that woman. Me. Sitting on her kitchen floor with her head on her knees as she sobbed-shouted into the phone. And how she hung-up on the nurse that day for being so unreasonable. Then I think about how the doctor called me about an hour later and told me he just wanted me to come in so he could give me a hug and buy me a coffee. The doctor who told me three months earlier that it would be a million to one chance for me to have more children and any pregnancy would almost certainly end in another loss. The doctor who finally took hope out of my heart and I started to heal.

The next day in his office as he told me he thought we should do an ultrasound just ‘to see.’ I remember yelling at him for his betrayal of my heart and my hopes as he ripped me opened and played with my fragile emotions of motherhood.

“But Tracy you’ve been given one last chance. Never walk away from one last chance. You never know when this could be the one.”

******
Sometimes I hover too long over her crib at night. Her crib. She’s three and a half and still in a crib. My baby. My chance. I stroke her baby-soft cheek and move her blond curls away from her eyes. My tears fall onto her blankets maybe filling her slumber with dreams of her own that will come true one day. The same tears I shed on that kitchen floor four years ago when I thought all hope was gone.

 

This post originally appeared in Mamalode, but disappeared after their site migration. So I’ve brought it here. Home. Where it belongs.

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this is me…

this is me…

this-is-me

-my body is strong from hard work

 

but still

 

-my belly is soft as it keeps a warm reminder of holding seven babies - of which three land in my arms each day

 

-my arms are long and lean and admittedly weak but strong enough to hold me up each day

 

-my tattoos are like memories etched into my body forever. of a certain place. or time. or man. and i treasure them as marks made of a life well lived

 

-my hips are wide and my torso is short, inherited from my mother’s side – maybe not my favorite trait – but i see my body in my mom’s and in her sister’s and it reminds me of where my inner strength comes from each day

 

-my face is angular with high-cheekbones that remind me of the distant Native American heritage passed down through my father. along with my dark eyes that mirror his. his eyes are deep, quiet and kind and i treasure having the same

 

-my legs are long and travel great distances just like my paternal grandmother did as she exercised each day and showed her beautiful legs off well into her 70s

 

-my fingernails are ragged and unkept because my hands are always busy and it show the real me. just like my brows will always be wild and not in fashion and my hair needing a trim because i believe there are more important matters to attend to

 

-my hair is thin and sparse like my maternal grandmothers, so i think of her each morning as i brush my hair with a daily reminder of my loved ones gone like silver flashes of light through the clouds on a dreary day

 

-my hair is also gray and this week, after months without a color appointment, I smile at as the top of my head shows a new hue publicly. and i’m okay with that

 

-my face is serious and lined with experience, heartache, bravery, and calm from a life so full that it allows the bad in because without it, the good would not feel so fresh and unexpected

 

-my laugh matches my brother’s, as it should because no one can mirror your childhood like your sibling

 

-my body has taken me far and it knows the journey is still in its infancy

 

-my body is mine, and the finest thing i own. from the first touch by my parents on the day i was born, from holding my new babies on my stomach, to today as i reflect at the middle-aged woman i’ve become – this is me

 

-my body has beauty and faults and it encompasses my whole life and where i came from – giving me pieces of ancestry like little gifts that i appreciate each day when i catch the reflection of my true self. my beautiful self

 

-my body is sexy and perfect and strong – no matter the tiny imperfections that only i really see

 

-my body is a reflection of my life lived. a house of memories that no one else has

 

because

 

this is me

 

*****

For #ThroughTheLensThursday with the prompt Reflection

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What Do You Learn In Preschool

I vaguely remember preschool. I remember it was in a church basement; Lutheran, even though we were Catholic. And my teacher wore her hair high up on her head in curls that were neatly pinned like flowers. She also wore a tan, ribbed turtleneck top, a huge smile, and sensible shoes most days. I remember playing with various toys, reading books, signing songs, and learning the importance of sitting quietly on a carpet as we all faced the teacher. My teacher, in 1972, wore a miniskirt as she sat on a chair facing us. We could spy her undies every day. We loved her. And her undies and how they made us giggle.

 

Preschool was a place to go and socialize with other kids, a place where you learned a little body control and how to listen to a teacher, and a foundation for getting you ready for your adventure to bigger and better learning.

 

Preschool should be magical. It should be a place where unicorns graze in rainbow colored fields under a jelly bean sky. Preschool teachers I believe are hatched from pastel colored eggs that have been dipped in fairy dust before being carried down to earth by white swans wearing tutus.

 

This is how I want my daughters to feel when they go off to preschool. I want them to feel like they are wrapped up in magic at every turn.

 

And we’ve found that spot with our preschool.

 

Don’t laugh at me, but I have tears running down my face a I type this. And when Astrid’s teacher hugged me hello this morning I cried then too. Just feeling her warmth and by knowing how safe and happy Astrid is there. Each day her teacher hugs or touches me and tells me words that are reaffirming. “We love Astrid so much. She’s a delight. She makes my heart happy. Her smile lights up a room. She’s a lovely friend. I don’t want her to ever go to kindergarten…”

 

And I cry again. I’ve warned them that I plan to just come and sit in the classroom next year for a few hours even though Astrid will not be there. Because I need more unicorns and fairy dust in my life. Everyone should have a place that makes you feel this good.

 

Astrid’s school focuses a lot on music and art. Each ‘lesson’ or monthly plan is about a band or artist. They’ve studied The Beatles, Bob Marley, Michael Franti, Taj Mahal, Claude Monet and more. They learn all of the songs or paintings, have dance parties, and explore the places and cultures where the artists are from. This is her preschool curriculum, and I melt over it each day I enter that happy place to drop her off. And I linger longer there than I have at any other school.

 

We’ve spent months singing along with Astrid as she continues to appreciate the arts at home – and teach us what she has learned. And I love it so hard that no one is pushing phonics or math or early reading books on this child. This child with a song in her heart.

 

Her favorite song from the year is Cakewalk Into Town by Taj Mahal… and she sang a few versus for us. And I think if we all listen and watch this just a few more times, well no one will get the blues ever again.

 

Guaranteed unicorns, rainbows, swans and jelly beans if you watch this….

What do you love about your child’s preschool?

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I Did This – I’m With The #HappyMamas

The quiet is almost deafening upstairs. Occasionally I hear soft stocking feet running down the hall, a giggle, or a door quietly shutting. But for nearly three hours it’s been silent.

 

If you are a mother of three, this could cause concern. The long quiet. Concern enough to go check on your children – are they free of blood, teeth intact, room not on fire, alive. But I never went up there. With three kids I expect at least one will be able to scream down for help in case the other two are dealing with blood or fire or broken teeth.

 

It’s our fifth day off school over a span of just two weeks. We’ve spent a lot of time together. A lot of time inside our home together. A lot of time not being able to safely play outside. A lot of time dragging out every toy, book, game, crayon, and snack we own.

 

And besides an hour in the morning as the zombies stare at the TV while they shovel in frozen waffles, or the hour at night when we catch-up on Dance Moms together or watch reruns of Sam And Cat – the TV is off, the iPad isn’t touched, and my computer is my computer.

 

The girls are brushing doll hair, putting on fashion shows, making pictures, having pretend picnics, and going through drawers of stuffed animals that haven’t been unearthed in years. Together.

happy-mama

And frankly some of the time I haven’t even known what they were doing because they were playing. Without me near. For hours. By themselves. Like children should do. Maybe they sat and listened to music and took turns being the lead in a band, or maybe they put on puppet shows, or maybe they told each other jokes. What they did is their own thing. That they created for themselves. In their rooms. And they only came down for dinner when I called them to set the table. And they came down together and laughing. No blood.

 

I finished my work. It’s one of my busiest weeks at work, and having them home from school weighed heavy on my shoulders and mind as I saw the temperatures plummet. But I had nothing to worry about, because kids have the ability to make their own fun. And play with each other.

 

I want to whisper this secret to my friends with all little ones at home – that things will get quiet for them one day. That one day their kids will just go play without them building that Lego tower with them(not that I don’t love to do that once in awhile), but when they do need a three hour block to get some work done – their kids can manage that for them..and just go play. Like we once did as kids.

 

Yet my kids are still all here in our house. We’re still sharing space together. Even though they aren’t tapping on my knee saying “Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom…”

 

And even though my kids are a floor away and not asking me for anything – I am still mothering. In fact  – I did that….I mothered enough so my kids know they can make their own fun and snacks and pick up their toys. I did that. I taught them boundaries and gave them a space to play. I let them know that sometimes mom needs to work and needs quiet, and to respect my time just like I respect a crazy amount of time with them. I taught them to be self-sufficient and to be happy even playing alone or with a sister for more than 10 minutes. I did this.

 

Watching your kids move away from you because they know how and can, is still mothering. Being a good mother did this. Being a good mother doesn’t have to be defined by how many games you played with them or how many plays you acted out. Being a good mother also means that they can go off for hours to create their own plays, but being there when they’re ready to perform.

*****

Galit and I were chatting and having a glass of wine together. We sat close and laughed about many things as we talked…we really talked, and finished sentences. We were out together bowling with our families…TEN PEOPLE..and bowling in a LOUD bar. And yet we sat and drank wine and heard each other. We talked about writing and work and sure, kids.

friends

And those SIX kids were just feet away from us, but they were bowling and talking and laughing and playing all by themselves. They never came to talk to us or ask for anything. They managed their own food and drinks. They took their turns and kept their own scores and just did what kids do.

 

We’ve done it. We’ve reached this sweet spot in mothering. Where the kids are old enough to do so much(nearly everything) on their own, and you can do things you enjoy parallel to them(like talking with a dear friend) – because they are still there. There – feet or a floor from you – but still with you. This sweet age when they can do for themselves yet they are still with you and not away with friends.

 

Dear friends – this is such a sweet time right now. I cherish this moment of motherhood before it flees too. Like all of the moments mothering do. Mothering has its beautiful and hard moments – the moments you miss and the one you don’t once they are gone – but I’m holding this now of motherhood tight.

 

This moment where my kids are here. But just not right here all of the time.

****

This was written as a Happy Mama Moment. A group of 12 moms have formed a Happy Mother Movement for 2014. Each month you can join us and link up with your Happy Mama Moment, inspired by Dude Mom.

happy mama movement logo

 

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You’re So Vain

“Mommy, don’t close the door on me when I’m peeing because you won’t be able to see me pee.”

beautiful-face

Hon, I don’t need to watch you pee. I’ll just be in the hall folding laundry. I’m right outside the door.

 

“But, Mom, if you close the door you won’t see my beautiful face, and I have the most beautiful face in the world. Even when I’m peeing my face is beautiful. Won’t you miss my face?”

******

So I watched her beautiful face while she peed.

 

Motherhood is so weird sometimes.

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117th Avenue Northeast

I learned to dance The Hustle in that house. There was a much older neighbor girl(6th grade) who knew all the cool steps. I was only in kindergarten and wanted bell-bottom jeans just like hers, and I grew my hair out in her to match her Marcia Brady style.

 

That house is where we would listen to Helen Reddy, The Carpenters, The Beatles, or even a little Charlie Rich when we would all pitch-in to clean on Saturdays. I remember marching through the living room(while holding a broom) as I cleaned to Yellow Submarine.

our-houseOur(only one) bathroom was pink, our kitchen was orange and avocado green, and our living room had raised blue velvet wallpaper and matching blue shag wall to wall carpeting.

 

That house had only two bedrooms, so I shared with my brother – our twin beds parallel on opposite walls – and we would talk late(8pm) into the evenings. Our discussions mainly centered around the fact that our mom made us go to bed, but it was still light out, and our friends could be heard playing right outside our window.

 

At that house we had a sandbox in the backyard. We would spend days digging to China(not possible) and when we gave up we would run from yard to yard just playing with whomever else(everyone) was outside.

 

The summer that I was five, I convinced my mom that I should be able to run around the neighborhood without my shirt because my brother and all of his friends did. No one ever thought the girl with the Marcia Brady hair, but running around without a shirt seemed odd. I preferred jean cut-offs and bare feet to a dress and mary janes any day during those years we lived in that house.

 

I’d follow my big brother everywhere when we lived in that house. And one day that summer of being five, that ‘bad’ kid that no mom liked, but we just could not stop hanging around, taught us all the word “fuck” as we all sat on top of the monkey bars together. The word felt strange yet nice on my tongue as I said it the first time.

 

I think I went right back to that house and told my mom about it.

 

We got our first dog when we lived in that house. But Benji peed on visitors, and laundry, and furniture. And when Benji peed on mom, we had to return him to the shelter. We didn’t have anymore pets in that house.

 

We moved into that house as a family of four…and left as such..but with a different dad.

 

I don’t remember a lot about the four years we lived in that house – just the pink bathroom, green refrigerator, the sandbox, learning a favorite word, having my brother near each night to talk to, and my freedom from shirt-wearing status.

 

But I bet my mom remembers a lot more about that house. How a marriage broke-up. How she went back to school and got a good job to support us as a single parent. How she got remarried. The memories that house must hold for her.

 

And it all makes sense now how Helen Reddy became our Saturday cleaning theme since I still know all the words to You And Me Against The World, I Am Woman Hear Me Roar, and Delta Dawn.

 

That house will always be the house that taught me the importance of a good personal theme song because it buries itself into your heart to create a lifetime of memories. Kind of like a house can. When everything changes.

*****

Written for #WhereILivedWednesday with Anns Rants.

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Smartie

Astrid and I were watching a goodnight show on TV the other night. There is this giant stuffed star(seriously, you watch this show don’t you?) that goes to sleep in a hammock each night. Typically I don’t really watch this show. She enjoys her 15 minutes of it before we read books for bed and it gives me 15 minutes to try to get past level 125 of Candy Crush(How do you get past level 125?).

 

But on this particular night I had gone through my five lives on Candy Crush quite quickly and found myself watching this Star go to sleep. And my goodness this big yellow star has HUGE, BRIGHT, ORANGE eyelids when he closes his eyes and drifts off to sleep.

Four-year-olds

So I said startled “Whoa, look at his huge orange eyelids. I had no idea!”

 

“Um, Mom he’s had those forever, don’t you watch?”

 

Busted.

 

“Of course I watch – I just didn’t realize they were SOOO orange.” I said to cover my tracks. And then to be playful “They are super orange just like your eyelids, Astrid.”

 

“I don’t have orange eyelids.”

 

“How do you know since you’d be sleeping when they are closed, so you could not see them, so how would you ever know the color of your eyelids?” I challenged. “They are bright orange, trust me.”

 

“Well duh(she has tween sisters), Moommm, I just have to look in the mirror and close one eye while I leave the other eye open and then switch eyes. I will always know the color of my eyelids and they are currently not orange. Only stars have orange eyelids.”

 

I don’t like not being able to trick four year olds. It’s like she’s ripping me of my guaranteed rights as a mother.

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45

I’m been writing little notes about turning 45  on ‘Canal Park Lodge’ mini paper for the past 36 hours. How I want to say that my life is better at this age without botox, or how I look better now than at 18, or how I’m so practical that I prefer a gift of fuzzy slippers over lace undies. On how I can still rock a bikini and appreciate a birthday morning spent in a hotel pool in Duluth instead of waking up next to my husband in a hotel on the Left Bank in Paris with my kids thousands of miles away.

birthday

But that is all bullshit.

 

Because my reality and my here and my now and my imaginary wants of life are all a blur right now as I hit nearly a mid-century. My reality still has three kids at home – three honestly very little kids without total freedom from college educations until I’m nearly dead and botox is clearly a moot point and a weekend in Paris is waiting in line behind mortgage payments, bathroom remodels, medical bills and finally those college educations.

 

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

 

But I hate my birthday.

 

There I said it. I feel so much better than I did 14 hours ago when I woke up and had to pretend, mainly to myself, that I was excited for the day. Because frankly the 146 messages on Facebook are the only thing that makes birthdays in 2013 exciting for me.

birthday1

(well and maybe dinner with my grandma)

Don’t get me wrong. I like a good hug and wish from my kids, and maybe a well thought out gift and plan from my husband….but it will never feel less awkward to celebrate my birthday.

 

I’m that one who is impossible to please as I ask for nothing yet expect something. Truly I’m the perfect Minnesota Mother Martyr who typically gets weepy by noon because I can already tell that this birthday is going to suck.

 

No cake, no presents, no dinner plan and it’s all I can do just to fold some laundry, clean up some cat puke and ask if I can boil somebody a meal of buttered noodles to take my mind off of it all.

 

And it’s not that I want to be spoiled. I just want somebody to really ‘get’ me.

 

And I worry for my daughters that they will never find that person who does.

 

Because honestly I don’t like fancy underwear, udon noodles or fruit mixed with my chocolate.  I don’t feel complicated, but maybe I am.

 

So tonight I didn’t feel like making my own last minute birthday dinner plans. Instead I let Jed get the kids take-out and I went to a friend’s house to have a glass(or two) or wine and cry a little and laugh a lot with a group of women who have turned 45 and have raised families, had careers, written novels and experienced good and bad birthdays also without botox.

 

And I came home feeling better than I have in a long time.

 

I love my family more than I could ever explain. They sustain me. They are me in so many ways. They are my 24/7 and my past and future and I cannot imagine love more than the love I have for them.

 

But today on my 45th birthday I needed a bunch of wise women to teach me that it’s okay to be where I am today – ‘just’ a mom in the trenches of making lunches and swimming at hotel pools on my birthday – and that Paris isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

 

So today I am going to take a deep breath and remember good and simple things still happened today. Things I want to fold up like a tiny piece of paper that I put in a pocket next to my heart. Tiny moments of my children’s very brief childhood that are indeed reminders that they are the most precious gifts that I have.

 

I will remember Eloise and Astrid with their heads pressed together on the panda pillow on Eloise’s bed. Eloise was reading a large and complicated chapter book to Astrid, and Astrid told her that the book was a bit boring without pictures. So Eloise had the two of them drawing pictures together at the end of each chapter. They illustrated five chapters together today. Astrid came downstairs and explained the whole book to me with her detailed drawings.

 

And during this time my Esther played The Price Is Right on the Wii. This deserves a post of its own – but let’s just say that kids these days are really missing out by not hanging out at their grandparent’s house and learning the value of a new washer and dryer set.

 

So now I sit content with an hour left in my birthday. I’m wearing my fuzzy slippers and very un-sexy underwear. My make-up is smeared and my hair in a ponytail. My husband snores from the couch, my kids are asleep, and the 10pm news is almost over.

 

And I am finally okay and tear-free on a day that brought me more emotions than I would like to admit. Mainly because soon I will be 45 years old and one day and the pressure to care what the day brings will be over.

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I’ll Take The Root Canal Instead Of The Uterine Ablation

Blood quickly started running out of my vagina, through my underwear, soaking my very awesome olive green skinny jeans and started oozing down my leg.

 

As I was standing in line to pay at H&M.

 

Mind you that I was not wearing a sweater or coat to cover my bottom or to wrap around in front of me, and my handbag is medium size and structured so also of no use for camouflage.

 

Also I had just inserted TWO super tampons just one hour earlier as my period started yesterday morning.

 

I’d also like to take this time to remind you that I had just started my period two weeks ago when I bled all over the dental exam chair while getting a root canal. And since I haven’t had my period in about four days, well it was really time for it to start again.

 

Which is why I was seriously saving for a Uterine Ablation or putting one on my daughter’s Christmas list.

“Dear Santa, I would very much like Saige the new American Girl Doll, Roller Blades, an iPod Touch, and of course a Uterine Ablation for my mom so she doesn’t bleed through clothing when we are out in public anymore. Love, Eloise”

 

Because when you have high deductible insurance you pray to Santa for all things to do with your uterus.

 

So while I’ve been saving up for a fun visit to the doctor to have my uterus scraped and lasered and stuff…a tooth fell out because a filling from 1975 went bad. And I ignored this hole in my mouth for about four months(did I mention we also don’t have dental insurance) until HOLY HELL A NERVE WAS EXPOSED and THE PAIN…OH THE PAIN!

 

So for the next three days I sat at the dentist getting a root canal and a crown and writing a check for $2600! Because how fun is that! I now have no pain, a new tooth and I fear my uterine ablation is now off Santa’s List.

 

Because as a mom(or parent) we don’t prioritize things like our lady parts when we need to spend money – we put off haircuts and doctor’s appointments, going to the dentist and buying ourselves Spring wardrobes while we make sure our kids are properly outfitted and signed up for soccer.

family budget

Mom Money Prioritization goes something like this….

1. Food for kids

2. Shelter for kids

3. Clothing and shoes for kids

4. Cat food and litter

5. School supplies and books for kids

6. Activities for kids – sports, dance, piano et al

7. Birthdays and holidays for kids including presents

8. Your kids friend’s birthday presents

9. Charitable contributions

10. Kids dental and doctor visits.

11. Braces for kids

12. Vet visit for cat

13. Cell phone bills

14. House repair needs

15. Vacation savings

16. Saving for college

17. One haircut per year

18. Razor refills to shave your legs

19. Dental appointments for you

20. Your uterus

 

So off I go to buy another box(or 20) of Super Tampons and wish someday the tampon makers would realize that they have a HUGE market to capture of perimenopausal women who need the Super Deluxe Paper Towel Roll Size Extra Absorbent Tampons so they don’t have to worry about leaking out in front of their children. Or the cashier at H&M. Or their dentist. Or on the car seat. Or ever.

 

Do you prioritize money differently now that you are a parent?

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The Wake-Up

I was supposed to wake-up Eloise about 10 minutes ago. But I’m letting her sleep even though it will mean she will be mad at me. She likes to get up about two hours before the bus comes so she can do extra homework and read and organize her backpack and eat a healthy breakfast and put together the perfect outfit. It’s also about the only 15 minutes each day that I get just with her. But maybe that annoys her because she sits at the table all busy and I ask her 100 questions and maybe she just prefers the quiet of our morning routine and I should just sip my coffee and read Facebook as we sit across from each other.

 

And I wonder when(if) she will ask if she can have coffee for breakfast. I was 12 when I first asked. I used to dunk Oreo cookies in my coffee in those mornings before junior high.

tweens

I considered myself very capable of both school and life by the time I was 10 or 11 – much like my oldest daughter. But I screwed around a lot too. Sometimes I worry that Eloise doesn’t have enough fun. She’s so serious and proper and kind. All of the good things, but she worries a lot.

 

At 10 years old and in 5th grade she goes to 7th grade for math(algebra) and has told me that she feels like she isn’t doing all the great in the class….and I hate seeing her worry. But her report card last week revealed an A+. I’m not sure how she thinks she can do better. But it worried me. Also, now we do algebraic equations at the dinner table and Jed smiles this cute smile because we are both kind of math geeks and it’s like the best dinner conversation ever. Unless you don’t like math. She also leaves hexaflexagons all over the house.

 

I hope her dates(when she is 16) like hexaflexagons better than cheap beer.

 

Eloise made dinner this week – the whole thing – homemade chicken strips, potatoes, salad and rolls. Also brownies for dessert. She’s anxious to have permission to walk to the grocery store alone soon. But it’s across two busy streets and also ALONE is a big and heavy word right now.

 

And I know that we could leave her in charge of her sisters for two weeks and life would function beautifully and normally(but we’d never do that…fyi) and that makes me both proud of her and worried for her.

 

As her beautiful, thoughtful, caring, insightful, and capable personality will probably never change – nor should it – but once in awhile I wish she’d give herself permission to sleep-in.

 

But for now I need to go wake her so I can stare at her and smile in wonder of what a beautiful person she is.

 

And I hate when she gets mad at me.

 

Maybe I need to buy some Oreos.

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Shhh…I’m Listening

Just Write

 

She jumps around when we walk now – over sidewalk cracks and leaves and branches and probably imaginary hurdles. But she never lets go of my hand. My arms shakes erratically up and down as we stroll but I cannot imagine the alternative which is too still for me to take.

 

Typically as she jumps and walks, she also talks. Or rambles on. She notes nature and dogs passing by or sometimes tells me a story about preschool or shares a personal details of our home life that I didn’t know she quite grasped until it’s voiced. And then I worry about what she shares at school.

this-is-four

But yesterday she said to me “Mommy, do you know what I love the most about trees?”

 

“Trees?” I asked as again she pulled on my arm as she hurdled over a branch and then a crack and then bent down to inspect a very red leaf. She decided to bring it home and glue it into her notebook.

 

“Yes, trees.” She replied quite certain that I needed to know more about this love for trees. “I love trees because they are such good listeners. When I talk to them they stand tall and still and never move away. Trees are very, very still.”

 

And at that moment she let go of my hand and quite literally went and hugged the closest tree and rubbed her tiny, smooth hands over the rough and damp bark of the old ash tree.

 

As I stood, unmoving, and watched her I wondered if she was implying something. Was I ‘not a tree.’ Was I ‘not still enough.’ Or ‘not tall enough.’ And did I ‘move away’ when she talk.

 

Was I too busy to really listen. Because sometimes she says to me “Mommy, no I want your eyes on me when I’m showing you something so I know you really see me.” Does that mean that sometimes she knows my ears don’t really hear everything.

 

Does she know that sometimes she shares a story while I’m unloading the dishwasher and my “How nice!” and “What a great story.” and “I love that.” are just page fillers to make it seem like I’ve heard it all. Because can I really hear it all? And was I just fooling myself to think that kids really don’t know that we don’t pay attention all of the time? Was I failing in my continuous movement of not taking it all in.

 

And I wondered how I could be more like a tree for her. Can I plant my feet firmly on the floor in front of her to let her know I am strong and tall for her and still. So still. To always hear everything she has to say. Because if she has to say it, well it must be important.

 

As this is coming from someone who says very little. Having trained myself to only speak if it’s of the utmost importance – almost emergency like and even in an emergency I wonder if I could shout as I would hate to bother people. And with my quiet nature – I listen a lot. So it shocks me to hear that maybe I still don’t listen enough.

 

And maybe her comment has nothing to do with me. Maybe she just likes trees and sometimes just needs a strong, still, tall tree to talk to.

 

Don’t we all.

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