Friday, July 17, 2015

Eight

Dear Ainsley,

I didn't realize this before hand, but apparently eight is a big deal.  When you're a kid birthdays are always a big deal.  Soon, you will snuggle into eight and it will become well worn.  It will be comfortable and you will be itching to be nine.

But as an adult, I am looking at my eight-year-old and realizing that this is one of those times that I will look back on and think, "That was the moment when everything changed."

Maybe I'm being dramatic, but over the last few months there has definitely been a shift.  Your thinking is different, your attitude is changing.  You're maturing and aging and it's like I can see it happening.

Some of it's good, some of it is...difficult.  But you are definitely growing up.  I've seen that happen for eight years, but this past spring it's become very apparent that you will not be a kid forever.  Something that my head knows but my heart is not quite on board with yet.  So we have to take baby steps, because just like you've never been eight, I've never had an eight-year-old and we are navigating these new waters together.  So we give little bits of independence and judgement, then we pull it back when it gets too scary.  I think ear piercing is a good place to start.

You've been begging me for pierced ears for three years.  I originally told you, you had to wait until you were nine.  Why?  Who knows, ask Grandma.  That's when I got my ears pierced, so I figured it was a good age.  But I won't lie...I couldn't wait to buy you little earrings.  So when you begged and pleaded on your seventh birthday I made you a deal.  You show me how responsible you can be and I would take you on your eighth birthday to get it done.  Well, I'm not going to lie and say you were suddenly the poster girl for responsibility, because you so were not!  But I think I wanted your ears pierced as much as you did, so I conceded.



It was a stressful event.  I was so worried for you.  Not about the actual piercing and if you would be allergic or get an infection.  Those are all things we could deal with.  No it was more the way you handled it that ripped me apart.  You were so brave and insistent that you did not want to cry but you were afraid that you would cry.  Ugh...how did you get so grown up to have this emotion?  This need to not show your fear and emotion in public.  And you did cry a bit.  You cried before hand out of sheer excitement/fear/anxiety.  But just a tiny bit behind your fists.  Then it happened and you laughed and said "Ow, ow, ow..."  Because it did hurt, but not nearly as bad as you  had imagined.




I have to say, you have impressed me beyond my imagination with the ear hole care.  You can be a bit...dramatic...especially when it comes to injury.  A scrape on the foot needs a homemade cast and crutches in your opinion.  So I was worried that there would be a lot of whining and complaining about turning and cleaning ears.  But not once have you belly ached.  You listened intently to all the instructions and you come and ask me, "Does this one look a little bit red?  Could it be infected?"  You always wash your hands before touching them.  You worry about going swimming.  You clean them every morning and every night without being asked.  So I think we made the right decision.



In the end, they are your ears, part of your body.  And I always want to make it clear that all of those things fall under your power and your decision making.  Not mine.  I hope this is one small step in that direction, and I hope that you let me help you make these decisions the older you get.

I'm so proud of you, Ainsley.  I'm so proud of who you are and all that you do.  I consider myself really lucky to know you, to be a part of your world.  You're going to be great things and I'm glad I get to watch.

Love,
Mommy

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

For Now, Us Takes A Back Seat

Today Clif and I "celebrate" 9 years of marital bliss.

I put celebrate in quotations because other than a quick kiss on the cheek and a whispered "Happy Anniversary" followed by a mumbled "You too" before I left the house this morning, there won't be any typical celebrating.

We won't toast champagne over an elegant steak dinner.  We won't lie on the beach for hours as our fruity drinks sweat in the Caribbean heat.  We won't spend all day watching a movie marathon with take-out on our couch.

This week has seen little shut eye with a coughing Cohen, a puking Freddie, and a big school project that Ainsley needs to finish before tomorrow.  I think both of us would trade the beach for a secluded bed in a dark room for the next 72 hours.  Still, beats last year when we were battling the lice.  That is actually one of my favorite posts.  It is absolutely the truth about marriage.

I think back over the last nine years.  Nine is not a very exciting anniversary.  Just shy of that decade mark. Years behind our predecessors.  Years ahead of the newlyweds out there.  Still, a lot has happened in nine years.  We've been broke, we've been uprooted, we've grown our family, we've lost loved ones.  A lot of life happens in nine years.  And when you start stacking nine years on top of nine years on top of nine years, before you know it a lifetime will have passed.

So last night, Clif and I were joking about our anniversary and how it never seems to be about us anymore.  I said "I passed right by a CVS today on my walk and I didn't even go in and get you a card."  He said "Well, I didn't get you one either."  And we laughed.  Because we both think cards are a waste of money but it is a small, fairly simple gesture.  Yet neither of us took the time to do it.

"We aren't very good at making it about us," I said.  And he said, "Look around.  How could we possibly?  Don't worry babe, one day it will be all about us again."

And he's right.  One day there won't be sick kids to sit up with.  There won't be projects cluttering the kitchen table.  There won't be babies being born the day before with birthdays to celebrate every year.  There won't be lice to comb out and kill.

One day, we'll be able to celebrate our anniversary for weeks at a time if we so desire.  For now we'll just take the quick kiss on our ways to our respective days.



So Clif, Happy Anniversary.  We have seen ups and downs.  Good times and bad times.  I don't have time for you and you don't have time for me.  But we still love each other and we've agreed to stay on the ride...at least until next year.  We're already planning a 10 year anniversary vacation...without the kids.  After that, I'm not making any promises.


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Little Tiny CEO

Dear Cohen,



Two years.  This is where I'm supposed to say, "I can't believe you are 2" and I can't because you're my baby.  But then...when were you not a part of our family?  A part of me?  It doesn't seem like I just met you two years ago.  It seems like you've always been around.  So much so that I recently looked at old pictures from before I was even pregnant with you and thought "Wow, life must have been so weird then."

Strange how a person can come into your life and just make it the new normal without a word.  There's no great shift.  Just all of the sudden you exist and it's like you always have.

But two...



Two is so much bigger than you were a year ago.  And just completely on the other side of the world from where you were 2 years ago.  You amaze me.  You are light years ahead of any other two year old I've ever known.

I guess that's the curse/blessing of the 3rd child.  You're going to grow up so fast.

Already you are so independent.  You want to be just like the big kids.  We aren't even allowed to consider a highchair these days.  Strapping you in takes an act of God.  You'd much rather sit in a seat and come and go as you please.  Sippy cups?  No way.  Pass the big kid cups.



You follow Ainsley and Freddie everywhere and pitch an absolute fit when I don't allow you down to the playroom or outside without me.

You started climbing out of your crib a month ago.  I'm not really sure what to do with you there.  Ainsley and Freddie were over 2, more like 2.5, when they did it.  You no longer want anyone to take you out of the crib.  You can do it yourself.

You want to brush your own teeth and read your own books and get your own milk.



You have lots to say, and even more to do.  You're always busy.  Always talking.  I can remember you as a tiny thing, thinking how could you possibly ever talk or walk.  But you can and you do, because that's how it goes.  We spend so much of our grown up lives not changing, that watching a baby become a toddler, then a kid is incredible.

The older kids like to play "punch buggy" in the car.  You are not one to be left out.  So randomly I'll hear you yell "Buddy!  White!"  You have a favorite Knock-Knock joke...

You: "Not - Not."
Us: "Who's there?"
You: "Tow."
Us: "Cow who?"
You: "MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"

You ask questions and then more questions and when we answer you reply "Ohhhhhhh" like it's so logical.



When the others ride their bikes, you ride yours.  Down every hill, around every turn, you are right behind them.  You can ride a scooter like a pro.  You can climb up any playground structure.  Just the other day, I turned for a handful of seconds, and when I looked back you were teetering on the top rung of a ladder about 7 feet in the air.  Reaching your tiny foot over to the landing.  Babe, that ladder was not made for a munchkin like you.  It was not made for little toddler legs.  I sprinted over, screaming for you to wait, but you had already made the leap and just giggled down at me as you ran to the slide.



You are fearless.  You have no caution flag, no yellow light...just full-throttle.  You run.  You go.  You jump.  And you don't want any hand holding or help along the way.  Railings were not made for you.  You walk down stairs with your hands behind your back, defying us to stop you.

You have epic light saber fights with Freddie.  You already have the fighting stance.  You color with Ainsley.  You pick your colors carefully even though right now they are all "bue" or "yeyow."

When we try to get you dressed, you have very strong opinions about your style.  Yesterday we went through every single pair of socks you own.  All of them discarded to the floor with an "Ah na yike dat sock."  You ended up sockless.



Today it's choosing socks but one day I think you'll be tackling stock options or magazine covers with the same decisive authority.  You'll go far, little man.  And no one's going to help you.  You're going to do it all on your own, because that's the way you like it.

Happy Birthday Cohen!  We love you as big as your personality, as loud as your screams, and as funny as your knock knock jokes.

Love,
Mommy




Thursday, June 4, 2015

Thinking Outside the Box

For a moment, let's take Caitlyn Jenner out of the picture.  Because let's face it, she - along with all of the Kardashians - is a fame whore.  And to paint her as a hero because she's brought attention to a topic...well it's slightly ridiculous.  She said in an interview that you don't go through a sex change for media attention.  Well, I would disagree with that when it comes to anyone associated with the Kardashians.

True, Caitlyn has stirred up some emotions, and people are talking about it.  But I don't see her motives as selfless.  Liberals are singing her praise.  Weeping at her new found freedom.  The religious right is calling her an abomination. A slap in the face to God's awesome and perfect plan.

So let's take her out of the story.  Let's instead just talk about the topic.  Instead of it being a 60+ year old reality TV star, who may or may not go to any length to remain in the lime light...let's imagine that it's a no-name college boy or an unnoticed high school girl.  Let's put those people at the center of this topic and let's talk about them.

And instead of focusing on what our society labels us, let's broaden our mind and view gender and sexuality on a spectrum, rather than a box you check.

I think we could all agree, without screaming at each other, that there are different types of boys and girls.  There are girls who like to wear dresses and pig tails and there are girls who like to play in the mud. There are boys who love to sing and dance and there are boys who'd rather spend their days on a ball field.  Doesn't make these kids any less of a person or girl/boy...just means they're different.  We're all different. We're all unique and no where will you find a person just like you.

I think we can also agree that as these kids age and grow, different sexualities emerge.  And I'm not talking about homosexuality vs heterosexuality...though that is a part of it.  But even within our own "categories," can't we agree that there are different tastes?  A man may like only blond women.  He may only like to have sex in the mornings.  We don't put him in a "blond women, sex in the morning" category, he's just a heterosexual man.  And we don't think it's weird that he doesn't find Zoe Saldana attractive, because he's more of a Reese Witherspoon guy.  Right?

So instead of having these groups, why can't we look at both gender and sexuality as a spectrum?  That over here on the right you have heterosexual people who are horned up all the time and will drop their pants at any moment to get laid, then all the way over on the left you have homosexual people who would do the same.  And all through the middle you've got everyone else that fall, just somewhere.  Some women are attracted to men, but just not all that in to sex.  Some men are attracted to men and have sex once a week.  Some women go out every weekend looking to take home a new person.  Some women cheat.  Some guys are uber loyal to their spouse.  Some men save themselves for marriage.

Am I making my point?

If not, well here it is.  I've read multiple articles lately that talk about not messing with what God created.  I agree.  I believe in God, I may not attend church every week or memorize bible versus, but I believe.  And I pray.  And I tell my kids about him.  And I agree that God is perfect, and he has a perfect vision, and we are all made to perfection...fat, tall, thin, dark, smart...whatever.  And I believe that God does make people all over the spectrum.

So why is it so strange to believe there are men out there that feel more feminine?  And why is that a sin? God did make these people.  They exist.  It's not just Caitlyn Jenner.  There are lots and lots of boys out there being made fun of for painting their toe nails.  Did God make a mistake with them?  Because my sweet, sensitive, 5 year old loves to have his toe nails painted.  In fact, he and his 2 year old brother are sporting fuchsia toe nails right now.  Just like mommy.  So is that a mistake?  Do they not fit into the correct box?  Are they just trying to be something they're not to garner fame and attention?

I personally, don't believe that.  I just think when God cut us all out of his fabric he spiced it up a bit.  How boring would it be if we all looked the same?  Just as boring if we all fit in the same box.




Friday, May 29, 2015

Muscle Memory

So today I'm going to do something a bit different.  I know I have not been spending much time on the blog.  I think I've only written 2 or 3 posts this month.  But I have been writing.  I've been flexing my fiction muscles a bit.  They are way out of practice.  I hope they remember how to do the heavy lifting.

Recently my in-laws moved out of their house that they've lived in for years.  This meant that Clif and I had to find a home for all the stuff we were storing there.  I came across a box that contained writing from high school.  All fiction.  You guys?  I was really good at it.  I mean, I was totally impressed with my 17 year old self!  It was all a bit dark and angst ridden, but I was a moody teenager.

I had forgotten how much I loved it.  This then prompted me to find some of my college stuff.  Which led to 22-year-old Jaime stuff.

Anyway, long story short, I was yearning to dive back into it.  So I did.  So on the days that I would normally get an urge to post on here, I wrote a fiction piece.  None of them are done.  They're all just snippets.  So today, I'm going to share something with you.  But first...

THIS IS FICTION!!!!

Everything else I've ever posted on here has been absolutely true to the best of my knowledge and/or memory.  My point of view.  This is NOT true...fiction.  I just want that to be crystal clear so I don't get any worried phone calls or concerned emails.

I would welcome any constructive criticism.  I hope you enjoy it...


The memory is always the same, because how can a memory change?  A memory is.  There are no questions.  Different people may remember it differently, but to you, in the crevices of your mind, the memory stays exactly as it always was.

The memory comes in a dream, but it always seems to veer off course.  There is always some plot line that emerges that wasn’t there in 1982.

It’s raining.  Storming.  The thunder wakes me and as the next lightning bolt slices through the sky, my room lights up and my mother is standing over me whispering to be quiet. I can't be sure if she's real.  My mind has been yanked from unconsciousness and I can't tell what actually hovers over me and what remains from sleep.  The outline of her appears with the lightning and disappears just as quickly.

She picks me up, slips down the stairs and out the door.  She runs and my chin bobs on her shoulder.  I see the rectangle of light flowing out of the darkness where she left the door open.  I’m soaking wet by the time we slip into the car.  She tells me to lie down and she speeds off as another flash of lightning and boom of thunder disrupt the rhythm of the rain. 

Sometimes Andy is with us, running behind to catch up.  Other times I see him standing in the rectangle of yellow light, crying for us.  Still others I just hear him screaming for us to come back.  Once my mother carried both of us and when I looked over, he was just gone.  That's the dream's doing.  My mind's way of making sense.  In reality, Andy was never there.  He had drowned in the creek the summer before and I was left as an only child.  One child to a mother and father conditioned to parent twins.  Single in a world where I had never been alone, not even during my first breath.

My dreams always put him there, because how can I exist without him?  We were meant to be a pair and when he was gone, so was I.

I always wake when Andy disappears.  Right on cue.  I notice he's gone and my eyes pop open like I was never even sleeping.  As if my subconscious won’t believe he’s gone.  The memory exists, but refuses to finish it's playback.  I can remember what happens.  That my mother and I drove off, through the night, all night until we were four states away and passing under the neon lights of a dingy motel.  But my dream never gets that far.  My dreams belong with Andy...our dreams.  They can't move forward without him.  And without a dream, what could I possibly become?

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Village

I have lots of memories of playing outside as a child without adult supervision.  We built forts in the woods, walked to the creek, and played hide-and-go-seek until bedtime.  All while our parents were inside making dinner or cleaning up dinner or watching TV.  I honestly don't even know what they were doing.  In a lot of these memories, I'm a bit older than my kids, but my younger siblings were always with me and I have one memory in particular I want to share.

 I can't be sure of my exact age, but I know we moved from that house when I was 6.  I know it was warm and my birthday's in the fall, so that makes me think I might have been 5.  And that would make sense, because my mom was probably inside with my 3 year old brother and infant sister.

I decided to play cowgirl using my bike as the horse.  And I would need boots and a hat, of course.  I pulled some dress up clothes out of the playroom and went back outside to ride my bike wearing boots and a hat.  The boots were way too big and I had a lot of trouble staying on the bike.

The yard was huge to me.  I mean, it was like a field.  I haven't been back to that house as an adult, so I have no idea how big it actually is.  Our neighbor, who seemed miles away at the time, was sunbathing.  I think she was a teenager, but I really can't be sure.  Five year old memories do not translate well into adulthood.

So I tried and tried to ride the bike, but because the boots were so big my feet were never actually pushing on the pedals.  The empty toes of the boots just bent up and applied no pressure to make the bike move forward.  I fell over and over again.

Suddenly the neighbor was there beside me in her blue bikini.

"Are you having trouble?" she asked.
"I think your shoes are too big.  Why don't you put your sneakers back on?" she suggested.
"But I'm a cowgirl." I replied.
"Well, how about when you're riding your horse you wear sneakers and change into the boots while your horse rests?"

I lit up at the idea.  She helped me put my shoes back on, then walked back to her blanket and book.  And I played cowgirl.  Switching shoes each time I got on or off the horse.  What a perfect idea.

For whatever reason, that memory is burned in my mind.  When I think of playing as a child, it's always one that pops up.  I have no idea how long I was outside without my mom.  I have no idea what the neighbor's name was.  But it seemed like she was my savior in that moment and it seemed like I was out there all day.

Fast forward to now.  I don't like my kids to be out of my sight.  I try to let them play on their own, but when it's not in the house, that's really hard for me to deal with.  So I made a decision recently.  I was going to force myself to allow them free play, on their own.  If you've heard about the Silver Spring family that's been brought up on child neglect charges for allowing their 6 and 8 year-olds to play at a playground without adult supervision, you'll know the term Free Range Parenting.  I'm not sure I'm as free range as some people, but I'm trying to be that, if just a little bit.  I don't think my mom had a name for it.

I started letting Ainsley and Freddie go, by themselves, to the basketball court in our neighborhood.  It's not far.  They can be home in 2 minutes.  I don't have to walk far before they can hear me call them.  They know about strangers and never going anywhere with anyone unless we know.  I quiz them on this before they leave the house.  Every. Single. Time.

They don't get long.  Maybe 30 minutes before someone is checking on them.  So a couple of weeks ago, I walked down to check on them and they were playing with another girl in the neighborhood.  They were building a tee pee.  They had found huge sticks in the woods and dragged them onto the court.  The situated them in the basketball hoop to create a structure.  I was kind of amazed and I had to admit to myself that if I had been there with them, they never would have done that for a couple reasons...

1 - When I'm around, they expect me to entertain them.  They want me to play with them.  In the house they prefer to just watch TV than to play without me.  And unfortunately, I'm the grown up so someone has to not play and make dinner.

2 - If I had been there, I would have nagged them to watch for dog poo, and not to play with sticks, and you can't use the hoop, and be careful in the woods.

Instead, they had been left to their own imaginations and own rules within the boundaries I had set.  And at that moment, I was sold on the idea.  I would need to push away my own fears and worries so that they could actually have these experiences.

There are rules.  Freddie can not be by himself.  He has to be with Ainsley.  Ainsley is allowed to play outside by herself or with friends in 30 minute blocks.  She has to stay where she tells us she's going and she's not allowed to go in any one's house.  Even friends we know.  When they are bike riding, Freddie has to stay on sidewalks unless a grown up is around.  Ainsley has proven that she's very good about watching for cars, so she can ride in the street.  We talk about strangers every single time they go out.

They've had so much fun with this.  This is the first time, ever, that they've really spent time outside.  We don't have a yard, so I've never just been able to let them play in the yard while I watch from the deck or the kitchen window.  They're both covered with scraped knees and dirty feet.  It reminds me of the way I played as a kid, without play dates, and bounce houses, and organized functions.

Here's the one big difference.  The village is gone.  That mentality that we should all look out for one another and bring each other up instead of pushing each other down.  It's like what I ask my kids when they have to tell me something about someone else.  I say "Are you telling me this because someone is going to get hurt or do you just want to see that person get in trouble?"  We try and teach our kids not to tattle, but society has become one big game of tattling on one another.

That neighbor that came over to help me.  I don't remember her ever talking to my mom.  That doesn't mean it didn't happen...I was 5, what did I know?  Yet she still watched out for me.  She didn't call the police, she didn't knock on my mom's door and condemn her for her parenting choices.  She saw a little kid having issues and she helped.  Period.  When I was a kid, my whole neighborhood watched out for me.  Everyone on the street knew my family and if I fell or needed an adult, there were plenty around.

My kids won't have that and that's sad.  I bet it was nice when you had a whole network of people to lean on if you needed it as a kid - or a parent.  So instead, we'll teach them how to take care of themselves on these 30 minute excursions, and we'll teach them to watch out for one another and any other kid that's with them, and in the end I think they'll end up being better adults for it.  Hopefully ones that don't tattle. Ones that know how to build a village.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Heavy

Last week was a bad week.  Emotional, sad, tiring...heavy.

My aunt passed away after a long, tough battle with ovarian cancer.  It wasn't a shock, it was expected, and her passing was a blessing after the pain and suffering she had endured.  Doesn't make it less sad.

We took Gatsby in for a lump, that we assumed was nothing.  Turned out it was cancer.  He had to have surgery to remove it, x-rays to see if it had spread.

I got a letter from Ainsley's school saying she was falling behind.  That she should probably attend summer school to stay on target.  A form letter.  In May.  Nothing personal or informative, just a basic template with her name written in to the blank space.

That was Tuesday.

It was a heavy day.  A day that I wanted nothing more than to crawl into bed, snuggle under the covers, and watch reruns of Friends until laughter replaced tears and the growing knot in my stomach dissipated.  But Clif was in Boston for work and there were three little people that needed to eat and stuff...so, I pulled up my big girl panties and marched my way through the evening until it was bedtime and I could sit down and work on the things I wasn't able to focus on at work that day.

But thank God for them, right?  They do make me laugh and keep me on task and give me something to occupy my time when the heavy takes up residence on my chest.  Somehow, with all the responsibility that comes with raising three children, they lighten the load in the emotional department.

Things have gotten better.  I finally worked up the nerve and found the words to email Ainsley's principal.  We are currently in an exciting game of phone tag.  Gatsby's tests all came back positively.  The lump was removed, the cancer had not spread, and the Vet believes that he's cured.  And Sue?  Well, she's soaring with the best of them.  No longer a slave to her sick body.

But here I am, a week later still feeling heavy.  Still wondering why life can be so damn hard at times.  Why everything seems to come crashing down at once.  One of the great universal mysteries.  I know it will pass.  The heaviness will be replaced with love and laughter.  You can't feel great happiness without great sadness.  The ying and the yang.  You take the good, you take the bad...

Life is one big flipping coin.  Heads or tails.  You never know how it will land.  If you'll be a big winner or loser that day.  But one thing's for sure, you've got a 50/50 chance either way.
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