Tuesday, September 16, 2014

I See You

You throw fits at the bus stop.  You desperately want to ride the bus.  You hate that your sister is doing something you can't.  Your 50 pounds of muscle and energy pull me off balance.  Other parents say things like "Poor guy," or "Isn't that cute."  But I see them back away and look at me sideways.  They can't see you.

You scream at soccer practice.  You expected a game.  You refuse to play and walk off the field in a huff.  The coaches smile uncomfortably at me.  They say things like "When he's ready," or "He can join us when he wants."  But the awkwardness persists.  They can't see you.

You cry and pout after being punished.  You can't understand what you did to deserve this.  You feel wronged.  You feel like every one's picking on you.  Like no one likes you.  Everyone laughs at the silliness of it all.  They remind you what happened, and they're annoyed when you don't agree.  They can't see you.

No one can see the real you.  No one says it, but a lot of grown ups think I'm too easy on you.  Think you are a bit too wild.  But I see you, Freddie.

You are difficult.  You have strong opinions.  You are stubborn.  You march to the beat of your own drum.

But behind those thick blond bangs, I see who you really are.  I see who you will be with a heart big enough to love the whole world.  A heart that I know will get crushed so many times but will always come back for more.  And I'm going to make sure of it, because of all the people who will break your heart, I will never be one of them.  I'll always protect it.

In those deep blue eyes I see a will strong enough to support the universe.  A will that people will try and beat down.  A will that people won't always understand.  But I will support it, I'll never question it.

I hear that gruff little boy voice and I hear ideas that could change people.  Thoughts bouncing around in that little brain.  Stories spilling out of your soul.  They won't always believe in you, they won't always listen to you...but I promise, I will.

I'll always hear your side, even if it's a lie.  I'll always hug you back, even when you're maddening.  I'll always take your side, even when you're wrong.

Because I see you and I love who I see.

Monday, August 25, 2014


I'm back at work today after an awesome, super-fabulous, week off with my minis.  So I'm feeling all sad and weepy and searching for any way to cover my salary so I never have to leave them again.  Probably should be going through the hundreds of emails I have, but get rich quick schemes are way more productive and fun.

Next week Ainsley will be back in school, I'll be back in full swing at work, and the hectic crazy schedule of fall will settle on us and I won't necessarily feel this way.  But last night, I was almost crying as I went to bed.  Knowing that I would close my eyes, and when I opened them it would all be over.  I stayed up way past my bedtime, just prolonging the inevitable.

Last week was great.  We packed a summer full of fun into one week.  So it was busy, but worth it.  Last summer, we had the luxury of being lazy.  With a newborn around sometimes we needed to be lazy and spend the whole day in our PJs.

But not this time.  This time I wanted the week to be filled with smiles and giggles and fun.  Cohen barely napped...we were always on the go.  We hit the zoo, the water park, a concert, a farm, the fountains, Chick-fil-A, the pool, bike riding...and we even found a rainy day to snuggle on the couch and watch a movie with popcorn and candy.

Normally, I am fine with work.  I don't hate it, I don't love it...but I do love getting paid.  I'm okay with my kids being away from me.  Some days I miss them like crazy, others I welcome the break.  I know they are off learning and doing things that I have no business teaching them.  I know they are loved where they are. My kids are well adjusted and independent and bright and a lot of that has to do with daycare and preschool and extra activities.

But I won't lie, coming back to work is always hard and I know that for a few days I'll have this knot in my stomach.  I know that today I'll blow off work and look at their pictures for most of the day.  I'll recall Freddie asking me every day "Mommy, what we gonna do fun today?" And after I told him, he'd say "What else we gonna do fun today?" If you could just hear the way he says "else" you would fall madly in love.  I will remember Cohen dancing at a Rocknocerous concert.  The grin spreading across his face, his bottom bouncing up and down and his hands waving back and forth.  I will think about how big Ainsley is getting.  How kind she is to her brothers.  How she watches out for them.  How she can't wait to be big and grown and all I want to do is stop her.

Most of all, I will look forward to the next time I pretend to be a stay at home mom and spend all my time with the most awesome people I know.

Thursday, August 14, 2014


Time stops and speeds up all in the same moment.

The instant I feel the lift, I know it's coming.  The roar of traffic ends.  The music pumping through my headphones stops.  There is no sound.  The breeze freezes and all is still.  I am the only thing moving in this frozen universe.  I can feel all my weight sail towards the ground.  So many questions pass through my mind as the sidewalk slams into my body.  How is this happening?  How do I fix this?  I'm moving in slow motion, but it happens so fast I am powerless to stop it.

Then the collision and everything returns.  Cars whiz by.  Rihanna wails into my ears.  The wind whips at my shredded knees as I roll over and stare at the moving clouds.

I can't believe I just fell.  I take inventory of my limbs and know that I have skinned knees and burned hands.  And an elbow.  I touch it gingerly.  Ouch.  Yeah, the elbow is bad.

Then I'm shaking, and tears are pushing out of my eyes.  A moment ago I was running.  Halfway done, and now I'm lying here, kicked around by cement, crying and shaking.

I wipe my eyes and stand up, suddenly aware that people probably saw this happen and how stupid I must look.  But no one's around.  Just cars zooming by on their way to wherever.  Everyone too busy and focused on their own road to insert themselves into mine.  Someone was probably talking on the phone and stopped mid-sentence to say "Holy shit, some girl just ate it on the sidewalk."  But he's long gone, traveling 50 mph on his way to begin his day.

I stand there, figuring out what I'm supposed to do next.  My world just crashed and I'm only halfway done. I'm as far from home and a shower and bandages and a hug or kind word as possible.  So I run.  It burns, but I run.  Tears start and stop, but I run.  I'm staring at the ground, careful of every step, but I run.  Because sitting on the sidewalk and crying isn't an option and walking will just take too long.  I run.

That wasn't the first time I fell while running and it's happened since.  I'm sure it will happen again.  Always the same feelings and shock.  Different spots but always the same situation.  It never happens as I'm starting or finishing, always right there in the middle when I have no choice but to push through.  No choice but to keep running.

And after it happens, it always takes me time to trust myself again.  Those next few times out I'm less confident.  Sure that every bump in the sidewalk or break in the asphalt will reach up and pull me down.  My eyes stay glued to the spot in front of me.  I ignore the deer grazing in a yard, or the kids riding their bikes, or the fox eyeballing me from across the street.  I focus only on what I'm doing, one foot in front of the other.  And that sucks.  I might as well be running on a treadmill, going nowhere, staring at the stupid red numbers, waiting for the time to end.

It takes time for me to remember that we all fall down.  It's not always easy to get back up and keep going.  It would be much easier to sit on the corner, blowing on my skinned knees, crying into my red palms.  But we don't, we can't.  There's a lot more ground to cover.  So many more miles to run.  And if we spend those miles focused on not falling, we'll miss all the beauty and life that makes the run worthwhile.

We all fall down.  What matters is if we get back up.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Popped Balloons

As a parent, I believe it's a natural instinct to want to fix problems.  At least it is for me.  Even after three kids, I jump up when one of them falls down.  I hate to hear them cry.  It actually feels like someone is squeezing my heart.  Like it will just shrivel and dissolve in my chest.  It doesn't even matter if they're crying because they're bratty.  And believe me, I can recognize bratty.  The problem is that they are genuinely hurting, no matter the reason - even a bratty one, and that hurts me.

I have to make a conscious effort to not fix things for my kids.  To not do everything for my kids.  Ideally, my kids stay where they are forever and ever, never grow up, and never leave home.  Ideally.

Realistically, they grow up and need to be functioning, independent, reliant, adults.  They leave us and start their own lives.  That's the way of the world, right?  As much as we'd like to shelter and protect and fix...eventually, we won't be here.  It is natural that a child leaves his/her parent to start his/her own family.  It is natural that I will leave this world before my children.  So as much as I want to take care of them now, I need to know that at that time, they will be okay.

I am not a stranger to disappointment.  This is not an "oh poor me" statement.  It is a fact.  I was shown how to be independent and self reliant.  My parents didn't do everything, they didn't fix everything.  I actually think these things go hand in hand.  If you're never disappointed, you never learn to fix/adjust, you are forever dependent on someone.  I think it's just the way my generation was raised.  And the generation before that and before that and before that...

Until now.

The other day, Ainsley went to a birthday party.  She was particularly tired.  It's been a crazy summer.  Different activities every week.  Late nights.  Full weekends.  She got a balloon as she left.  It popped the moment we walked outside and she dropped it to the ground.  She burst into tears.  I literally took two steps towards the door to get another.  I stopped.  I knelt down and said "Ainsley, balloons pop.  It's a fact of life.  I'm sorry you're sad, but it's the way it is.  Let's go."

She nodded and cried a bit more, but was over it by the time we were driving away.  So is it natural that my immediate response was to fix the problem?  A very silly problem.  A problem that wasn't actually a problem at all.  The less balloons in my house, the better.  Was it natural because I'm a mother and I don't like to see my child upset?  Or was it natural because every where we look these days a parent, a school, a teacher, a government, a nation...is leveling the playing field.  Telling everyone that you're all the same, and everything's fair, and everyone deserves anything they want.

You're not good at math?  Well of course you are, here let's make it easier.
Your closet's too small?  Okay, let me bust down this wall and make it bigger.
The other team won?  Oh no, that's not fair...no more scoring.
You're offended by the word bossy?  Well, that word no longer exists.
Someone teased you?  BULLY!!!!!!! SUSPEND HIM! LOCK HIM UP!

As much as it hurts me to see them hurt, I want my kids to lose.  I want someone to pick on them.  I want someone to break their hearts.  I want them to flunk tests.  I want them to get rejected from a school/job/team/audition.  Because if none of that ever happens, and they go through life with everything being easy and handed to them, then aren't those good things lessened?  Why is winning awesome?  Because you know what it feels like to lose.  Why can friends be lifesavers?  Because you know what it feels like to be lonely.  Why is falling in love and getting married and having babies the best thing that can happen to a person?  Because a broken heart sucks.

You can't have joy without sorrow.  Happiness can not exist without sadness.  That feeling you get when you laugh so hard you can't breath, the one where the rumble of laughter consumes your whole chest and belly.  You can't have that if you haven't also been overtaken with breathless tears.

I want my kids to love what they earn.  To be proud of themselves for an accomplishment.  And I want it to be their accomplishment.  Not mine.  If it's me handing them the toys and cars and clothes, if it's me working the math problems and writing the papers, if it's me picking up their dirty clothes and putting away toys - without any effort on their part - they'll never understand that feeling.  You know the one.  That feeling that makes you beam.  That feeling that you, just you, actually did something that was hard and challenging.  Sure it might suck in the now.  It might be the hardest thing to get through.  But that feeling when you get the reward, nothing beats that.  And to deprive my children of that?  That would make me a really bad parent.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Sweet Girl

Dear Ainsley,

Long before I ever had children, or even considered being a mom, I figured I'd have girls.  Three or four sweet little girls.  Sisters...all close in age so they could grow up the best of friends.

Well, the universe has a way of throwing your grand plans in your face and saying "NO WAY!"  Somehow, the universe always seems to know what is best.

So instead of three little girls in matching bows and dresses, I got you and two little boys.

If you would have told me this 10 years ago, before I had a chance to experience any of you, I probably would have cried.

I couldn't have known that the first baby the universe sent me would be the perfect little girl for me and there would just never be a way to top her.  Now when I think about having another little girl, it seems so strange.  You really are so perfect, how could any other girl compare?

All the things I like about myself are in you tenfold.  I try to be sweet and kind and caring.  I try to be brave and creative.  I try to be strong and confident.

You are all of those things on steroids.

This year you went to first grade.  You lost your first tooth.  You learned to read, to write.  You've learned some Spanish.  You can add and subtract.  You know about tree parts and bird species.  You've made best friends.  You joined Daisy scouts and became a Brownie.  You cut your hair off because you wanted it that way, and now you've decided to grow it out.  You learned to tie your shoes.  You learned to whistle.  You played soccer and loved it.  You gave up dance.  You know every word to every Frozen song, but really...this year it wasn't Frozen that you fell in love with, but Star Wars and Princess Leia and Queen Amidala.  You started calling us Mom and Dad...but most of the time it's still Mommy and Daddy. 

My favorite thing about you is the excitement in your eyes over everything.  You just love life and all that comes with it.  I hope you never loose that.

Six was an awesome year, but I think seven will be even better.

Happy Birthday Ainsley Bug, we love you!


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Ignorance is Blissful

Sometimes I like to think back to simpler days.  Back before I had kids, before I thought about getting pregnant, before I bought a house, before I got engaged.  I was so uninformed back then.  It was so freaking AWESOME!!

Because now?  Well, now I am so very much informed about everything that at times I'm sure I am sentencing my family, my dogs, society to certain and cruel death.

I am informed about everything.  I know bunches of stuff about GMO's and the non-GMO project.  I know about organics, about the dirty dozen and the clean sixteen.  I know that maybe, just maybe, sunscreen and vitamin D deficiency cause skin cancer and not the sun.  I know that Deet is bad.  I know that toothpaste and deodorant are poisonous.  I know that plastic is quite possibly the most evil invention ever.

My brain is overloaded with the information on how to stay healthy.  I know how we should eat, I know what we should use to groom and clean ourselves, I know where we should shop.  I know all this stuff.  There is just one teensy, little problem with all this information.  I absolutely, positively, do not have the time to execute it all.

I get it.  The world has become one of convenience.  It has to be for me.  My world begins at 5 am and doesn't stop until 11 pm.  The two grown ups in my world, work and commute 9ish hours a day.  The three little people are shuttled around to different locations depending on the week.  Back before anyone knew what GMOs were, when my grandmother grew her own garden and canned her own veggies, when barely anything was plastic, when West Nile Virus was something that obviously only happened on the west bank of the Nile...life was a little slower.  Not saying it was easier, just slower and simpler.

I am aware that when it comes to food and household products, the more you can do on your own, the better it is for you.  The fact is...there aren't enough hours.  I can barely find the time to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich...let alone bake the bread, jar the jam, and mash the peanuts.  It's pretty tough to cram the farmer's market into a Saturday morning when you also have soccer games and birthday parties and all other errands to run.

Last year I made a small commitment...no more granola bars.  I would not buy another granola bar.  All that sugar, all those additives parading around as a healthy snack.  I would just make my own.  I have tons of recipes with zero sugar.  And really, it's not a huge undertaking.  However, when it's Sunday evening and I haven't started because we've been running around fitting all of our errands and house cleaning and fun family time into 2 days because fat chance any of that is happening during the week, it is a huge pain in my ass.  Those nights I'm staying up past 11 to get it done.  I've stuck to my commitment, but I've definitely lost a few hours of sleep over it.

My newest obsession is sun block and vitamin D deficiency.  I have a recipe for making my own sun block.  I've had it for over a month, still haven't made it.  So instead I lay out the big bucks for the organic, chemical free stuff.  And I've started letting my kids get a bit of un-sunscreened outside time.  But seriously?  My kids are blond, blue eyed, fair skinned babies.  I can't, in good conscience, let them get sun burned...and they will burn.  They will.  I don't care what you tell me about tanning diets or essential oils or anything.  They will burn and it will hurt and I can not believe that a burn is good for them.

I yearn for the carefree stupid days.  The days when I didn't google how to naturally remove ants from my smoke detector, when I just bought a can of Raid and sprayed those little effers until they curled up and died.  I long for the days when I just bought milk, the cheapest milk I could find, and didn't worry about added hormones and if my 6 year old's nose pimple was because of the rBGH in some string cheese I bought because I can not afford organic dairy.  I miss the time when I thought the most awesome invention ever was the aerosol sunscreen.  Spray that on and no lotion hands and it worked.  No burning.  Who cares about what you're breathing or if it contains hormone disrupting chemicals like Oxybenzone?

But you can't unlearn it.  You can't become re-blind to it.  So I will just try and manage my panic attacks over genetically modified corn and BPA in plastics.  I will just do my best and try to remember that there's always something.  Even when Grandma was making jam on the back porch, I'm sure there was something out there that had her worried for her children, worried for the world.  Probably the bugs eating her cabbage leaves, but I'm sure she had some nice pesticides to take care of that ;)

Friday, June 20, 2014

First Birthdays

I feel like I should document Cohen's first birthday party.  I know I've gotten away from writing about my kids birthday parties, even some milestones.  I'm more trying to capture the everyday of their childhoods.  However, I've written about a lot of birthday parties...I don't want Cohen to be left out.

So if you'll remember back 7 and 4 years...I'm cursed in the first birthday department.  Seven years ago, my refrigerator broke just days before the big birthday bash.  I couldn't prep any food and what I had bought already, needed to be chilled with coolers and dry ice.  Plus it was my first attempt at an awesome first birthday cake...if I do say so myself.

Then four years ago, we were living with my in-laws for Freddie's big day.  I can't remember exactly what happened, but some pipe broke or detached or something and the water had to be shut off and an emergency plumber called.  I was making mulit-colored monster cupcakes and what I do remember is a sink overflowing with blue, orange, and purple icing and everything that goes with cake decorating just moments before guests arrived.

For this, our final first birthday, I decided to make it a bit easier.  I pulled way back on food.  We rented a pavilion at a park.  I didn't decorate.  And though the cake looked complicated, it really wasn't.  I didn't have to color a bunch of icing and it was really just a slight modification to the ladybug cake.

Voila...the puppy cake...

Pretty cute, I think.

On Friday afternoon, it seemed the curse had been broken.  All my kids were away at school or daycare.  The house was clean - even the sink was empty.  The cakes were baked and all the food was prepped and cold in a working refrigerator.  When my mom and sister and everyone arrived home from the sights in Washington, DC, I was chopping the final vegetables and ready to drink a beer.

Carolyn walked in first...

"What's wrong with your eye," I asked.
"I got something in it."

Ainsley came in next, followed by my mom.
"She's been itching her head all day," my mom said.

I checked  her head for the millionth time that week, knowing we had gotten yet another lice notice from the school.

That night, my sister's husband also had a red eye and I said "Are you sure you guys don't have pink eye?"

The walk-in clinic confirmed the pink eye Saturday morning.

I found lice on Ainsley Monday night.

I had to add this picture, because this could have been the site of the lice transfer to me.  Our experts that came and cleaned our heads for us say that you need head to head contact in order for the lice to transfer.  So here I am with my lice-ridden daughter the day before I found them...head to head.

The party went off without a hitch, except I forgot all condiments, but that's a small obstacle in the face of conjunctivitis and nits.

So I'm not sure if the curse is broken or not.  But the party was fun, as they always are, and we deal with the issues (and in this case, the laundry) after.  And now my baby is walking and babbling and laughing and loving all the foods he gets to eat.  Not so much a baby, but still so very cute and so very sweet and cuddly.  So I'd say curse or no curse, it was all a success.  Just probably a good idea that we don't have any more first birthday parties, less someone looses a limb or something.

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