Wednesday, December 16, 2009

'Tis the Season

. . . for severe lack of slumber with an extra heap of vomit on top?!?

After coming off less than two hours of sleep (I had cuddled next to our daughter who spent the night coughing and trying her best for an early gift of holiday bronchitis), the dog began puking on the carpet. Of course, she had the great timing to wait till I was by myself with both kids, since my husband had just unknowingly(?) escaped out the garage as the first heave ensued. I cleaned up the dog barf, then trudged to the kitchen wondering what could happen next, as I had only been semi-awake for 10 minutes.

Thankfully I spotted some bananas that were seconds from a compost bin dive. And well, since I was out of lemons (and lemonade is not a classic cold weather drink), I got the sudden urge to whip up some chocolate-banana-nut bread instead.

In the time I got the bread prepared and in the oven, I had cleaned up more dog puke, washed my hands for the upteenth time, determined my daughter was staying home from school, laughed off the fact that my day's plan to tackle the ridiculous list of last-minute Christmas errands was just not going to happen, and had improved my attitude considerably. And from the warm, sweet aroma coming from the kitchen right now, seems like the day is looking up (did I mention the kids stayed asleep during my baking bliss?). God bless us, everyone--and a special shout-out for the cocoa bean.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

FCS Friend

Dear Flip,

Because of you I am reminded of these seemingly simple, everyday things . . .

- The "stuff" really does not matter.
- The sweetest sound in the world is your child's voice, especially laughter.
- Silly quibbles with our loved ones are just that.
- Time with family and friends is irreplaceable.
- Prayer is a powerful and uniting force.
- God is the source of hope and love.

And in this season of giving, I thank you, Flip, for these reflections. What a present from someone I have not seen in 20 years.

My hope, my prayer is that you are given the opportunity to experience these gifts on Earth again. Until then, thank you.

Monday, November 23, 2009

My Big Knockers

I'm having an affair with the Tidy Bowl Man. Or at least my husband probably thinks so. I regularly find myself headed to the bathroom to get just a few minutes alone.

I've got vivid memories of my mom uttering various pleads for privacy to us, namely to me and my brother but sometimes my dad too. "May I at least go to the bathroom by myself?" or "I've been to the kitchen, den, and my sewing room. Are you guys going to follow me to the next room?" (Yep, we probably were.)

Moms are like magnets. There is this amazing, unstoppable draw to the matriarchs of most families. It seems as soon as a child is born to a woman, she is magically infused with some kind of fierce polar attraction, where those who are dependent upon her must be in close proximity. Panic ensues if she is not in obvious eyesight. And if one of the them finds himself near her, the other(s) are fixated on finding her too.

Sometimes when I'm hiding away for a little restroom retreat and hear the familiar knock at the door, followed by Mo-om? I try to be patient. I remind myself that when the kids are older, I'll be sitting in there, yearning for those tiny taps (that inevitably become insistent knocks). Until then, Mr. Clean and I are going to continue our private mini-meetings as long as necessary. You see, my husband is close, but every woman knows that you can't trust a sailor-particularly one who drives around in your toilet.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Battle of Wills and the Bulge

Thought it was time to write the blog entry that inspired me to start this thing to begin with and also partially explain the blog title I chose.

I eat, therefore I run. Should also add that I enjoy drinking yummy beers, and the ones I'm partial to tend to contain the highest caloric count in each tantalizing sip. I've been "a runner" for over a decade. Many have asked me if I like running. Not especially. And although a fringe benefit to running is that it clears my cluttered mind, my main motivation for hitting the pavement is typically to work off a recently gobbled HoHo (or seven).

Months ago, I was running on my regular route, slowly sputtering up the hill I must climb on my return home. I was pushing my Chunkasaurus Rex in the jogging stroller, as he hummed and nibbled on crackers, oblivious to my pain. And I was struggling. I mean the kind of internal battle where I was actually talking to myself aloud, "Come on, you can do this. You've run further than this before. This is the same body that ran the fun and festive Rock 'n' Roll San Diego marathon, right? Just a slightly hilly three miles today. And you're on the home stretch. Let's go!"

Unfortunately my answer didn't come from my positive inner athlete but from my exhausted excuse-making slacker, "Oh yeah? Well, that was awhile ago. And I've had two kids since then. This body isn't quite the same, you know, a lot more mileage on these legs (which now that I am looking at the back of, am wondering if you don't need to cut out a few of those sugary coffee drinks, little missy."

Midway up the hill, I was able to quiet my feuding inner voices. I considered that maybe I don't often get to run as fast or as far as I'd like to, but this body of mine is just as amazing, maybe even more seven years after my one marathon run. Sure, this is the body that got me through a 26.1 mile trek. But to give it full credit, it's the same one that carried two babies, each followed by a pretty crazy emergency c-section, allowing me both of the most miraculous gifts-millions of times more precious than a race gold medal that is somewhere collecting dust.

By the time I reached the hill's peak, I had made a pretty long mental list of many other accomplishments both my body and mind have made since that hot June run in California. And I had finished yet another run, with the added benefit that my son was asleep and was able to take a long bath (the kind where I get to slowly shave my weary legs without later having to cover my cuts in a mix of Transformer and Hello Kitty band-aids as most my showers end these days).

I am one running mother.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Forgive AND Forget

Last Friday I volunteered with a fellow kindergarten mom to watch our kids' class during the teachers' luncheon. That's right, 18 extremely excitable mini-minds for an hour all to ourselves. It's been a long time since I was a teacher, but when I walked into the room and saw those fresh faces light up (even though I knew it was just the novelty of having new "teachers" for a brief spell), it felt so good.

Until my eyes met his. All of the excitement and exhilaration of being back in the classroom flushed away like a stinky Kandoo wipe. It hadn't occurred to me weeks ago when I agreed to work with the class that we would meet face-to-face today. There he was. Ed-not his real name, but that's what I found myself calling him back in October. (You may remember him by his full alias, Edward Scissorhands.)

He did not smile when he saw me. Just looked me over and then went back to making his turkey puppet. On his table I spotted the sharp scissors lying next to his pencil box. What else was in there? I pondered briefly. A poky compass? Extra pointy markers? Heaven forbid, a metal paperclip which we all know could quickly transform into a wicked weapon with one tiny twist?!

Get a hold of yourself, Sabena! Fortunately it was just a fleeting moment that I had such suspect thoughts about Ed. I've coined these brief attacks as PMS (Protective Mom Syndrome). Since the cut capri incident, I've decided that occasional PMS is okay as long as you A) don't act on your momentary fantasies for revenge, B) remember that in most instances the immature offender is just that, a kid being a kid, and C) always be mindful that the he/she is someone else's whole world. Ed's mom (or dad, aunt, grandmother, etc.) probably has a raging case of PMS herself. She proudly displays every piece of artwork his chubby hands create. (Even the ones that require cutting.)

So as I walked around the room assisting the little turkeys in making their own, I made sure I stopped by his table several times. I wanted to know as much as I could about this little felon, I mean, fellow. The more I stopped by to check his progress, the more Ed seemed to warm up to me. At my fifth or so visit, he told me why he picked each color for the various puppet parts. When he was done, he proudly smiled at me and held up Tom the turkey. And it was terrific.

BTW, I looked. Just a few dull-tipped crayons and a nontoxic gluestick.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Back in the Saddle...

. . . but just a little wobbly.

I've lived much of my life thinking about "what's next?!" Whether it's the big things like when do we have another child? To the smaller stuff, such as deciding on what color to paint the nursery, I often seem to have my mind on the next thing to be done. Well-intended as this approach is (as most of "what's next" normally concerns my family), with a bit of age, I mean wisdom, I've begun to realize, like most things, there is a downside to this kind of thinking if it's done all the time. I think I am getting it: if you are always looking ahead, it's easy to miss out on the enjoyment and wonder of what's going on right now.

Luckily I am married to someone who is more about dealing with the here and now and takes time for reflection. I admit at times this has driven me crazy. Me and my let's get it done (BTW, even in the county we should try to say it properly), let's not miss out on an opportunity, let's try to take some control of the situation kind of approach. I used to view his method as indecision (and occasionally even as slackerdom). But after over a decade together, I am learning that in some situations, there is much merit to what I used to consider madness. Why sit back and let things just happen to you? Shouldn't we try to influence and alter our fate, trying to put the odds in our favor? Come on! Let's go after (fill in the blank)! But I am recognizing that there are times, many times in fact, when not focusing on the future and simply living in the present is good.

Along with my thoughtful spouse, I also have two marvelous, miniature reminders of why it's important to let some things just happen. If I constantly continued my "what's next" approach as a parent, then I would have missed out on so many amazing moments. Lately, I am getting much better at sitting down with my children and molding things out of playdo and spending less time obsessing over whether or not we should take advantage of the currently low mortgage rates. I am a work in progress, trying to figure out when to play which card-living for the now or mildly manipulating what's in store.

In fact, a few weeks ago (on the night of October 20 to be exact) I had a particular full-on, sit-back-and-enjoy-life-right-now enlightening event while I was tucking our son in bed, while my more easygoing partner was reading a bedtime book to our daughter in the next room. I remember the date vividly because the next morning I was going to chaperone my daughter's school field trip, and at my son's bedside I couldn't help but think of all the things I NEEDED to be doing instead of scrambling around the zoo with 80 plus five- and six-year-olds (among many things, needing to write two FL articles due on Friday). And then I looked at the lowering eyelids of my little boy and was struck at how much I love him, and how blessed I was to be there at that moment. So instead of seeing this as an opportunity to run out of the room and go work on my articles, I intentionally took a deep breath, and tried to mimic the gentle rise and fall of his chest. I took a minute to admire the beautiful quilt that covered his little body. My mom had made it for him before he was born. After a little while, I tiptoed to my sleeping daughter's room, full of anticipation about spending some reflective time with her as well. I ended the evening by hanging out with my husband-intentionally minus talk of possible jobs, suggestions of future plans, or other potential changes. A great way to end the day.

And it's a good thing I did too. When I went upstairs to awaken the kids the next morning, I saw that the little guy had wet the bed. After scrambling to get them ready for school, I went to check my email real quick-like and found a horrible message-my computer had a virus. Ugh! Where was the natural high from the peace and satisfaction I had experienced just hours before?! Why could I already feel it deflating like a cheap grocery store balloon? Where was the beautiful inner harmony that sang in my soul as I was enjoying the present just last night? Oh well.

At the zoo, about halfway through a mostly fun field trip (inner peace slowly returning), we visited the gorillas, and I noticed my boy's warm forehead. By the time I collected both my kids, checked out with the teacher, and swiftly moved to the car, my son's violent vomiting spell had begun. Once I got them home and settled down for quiet time, I checked the mail and discovered my cell phone bill had almost tripled (my bad, honey). The next letter was a hospital bill from some more tests our normally healthy daughter had to undergo. How much?! (Ooohh! Christmas gifts are gonna be slim this year.) Minutes later I go check on my napping cherubs to find my son's temperature is 104.7. It takes two hours to get it to budge. I'm told that my pediatrician's office cannot see more any patients that day. ("The flu's going around, you know?") I get his fever under control and, of course, he sleeps next to me that night so I can watch him. I wake up at 2:00 a.m. as achy as a newbie taken Tracy's Turbokick class.

The next day at the doc's, my little boy is officially diagnosed with the flu. And yes, I have it too. I admit I fought the urge to run to my computer and check the day's mortgage rates-the future was surely looking brighter than the present (but remember my son and I were not the only ones with a bug). After quarantining ourselves upstairs for a few days, he bounces back, I don't. Doctor's diagnosis-probably a minor lung infection. Briefly I am better. A week later, I am worse. Diagnosis-pneumonia. Briefly I am better. A few days later, I wake up and cannot walk. Doctor and hospital visits later, I learn I have a blood clot in my leg. Are you serious?!

It's been over three weeks since my remarkable night of clarity, and I am well on the mend now. I don't know how I knew it, but somehow on October 20, somewhere deep inside my mind and soul, I knew that I needed that special gift of a few minutes of blissful acknowledgement and reflection of how life could be so wonderful right then and there. During my tri-sickness, I continuously returned to those moments with each of my children and husband. In those rather trying weeks, I rarely thought about what I needed to be doing next (heck, my computer and I were too sick). Honestly though, remembering those precious minutes was far better than any medicine (even the pain killers) that the doctors gave me. My latest awareness is that we must truly be plugged into the here and now to create the memories that make the past a pretty good place too.

(Oh and, yes, in case you are hiring a writer, I did get both articles done on time.)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

My Thought for Today

When it rains, it pours.
But don't the flowers turn out extra pretty?

Either that or the blossoms all drown quickly, their exquisite beauty never to be seen.
But at least you're left with a large, squishy puddle to stomp, splash, and squelch your frustrations.

However you view it, the rain can be a gift.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Words of Love

There are certain words, specific phrases that make the world a better place (at least the one I live in).


-uttered at anytime by your child--even when it's said just to get something (and nothing replaces the first time)

I'm thinking of you.

-spoken by someone you know that loves you and is actually thinking of you

Here you go . . .

-offered by a dear friend who recognizes that you need help, knows that you do not want to owe anyone, but sees that you will likely implode if someone does not step in soon

I'll take care of it.

-said by your loving partner when he sees that you have given what you can, desperately need to recoup, and need him to be the strong one for a little while

These are the kind of words that are wonderful to hear, especially if you happen to come down with the flu which develops into a lung infection and you're out of commission for a week. At least I think they would be. :-)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Tooth's Final Tale (blog followup)

A few people have asked me, "So how did that terrible tooth end up coming out?"
So here goes. . .

When I picked up my daughter from school--the same day I was sure her teacher was going to do the final dirty work-- my daughter was smiling. As she flashed her pearly whites, you couldn't help but see that sucker was still hanging on. It defied gravity. Are you kidding me? I turned it over to you, teach! I was letting you sub in, remember?! As the she buckled my daughter in the backseat she smiled and said, "I told her to try biting into an apple when she gets home." WHAT?!?!?!? Like I hadn't tried that. For weeks I had already offered taffy, gum, steak, apples, oranges, kumquats, pomegranates, melting tar. That's the best you got?

Wait, wait. I couldn't be critical of this wonderful woman. She was trying to actually educate a group of blooming, busy beavers all day long. I am sure she tried to get the tooth out in her own way and with very limited time. Ball's back in my court.

When we got home from school I decided that I would not make the dangling tooth a big deal. Until after dinner. I announced that the tooth HAD to come out before bedtime. So there we were, teeth brushed, pjs on. Of course I had tried to assist with the teeth cleaning part. "The perfect time to loosen that sucker up just a little more," I reminded her. But she didn't want my help, of course.

My daughter had tried to postpone the event all evening. But it was here, nothing else left to do but read our bedtime books. "Sweetheart, I told you it's gonna come out tonight. So are you going to pull it or am I?"

With a touch of indignance and a lot of spunk and a hint of fear, she announced, "Okay, okay, I'll do it myself." And she grabbed ahold of the offending object and with one big tug, it was out. Squeals, jubilation, dancing, and hugs. I think we were both thinking the same thing Hhhmmm, now that wasn't so hard, was it?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Still of the Night

It was 3:00 in the morning when I heard the first odd noise eeking from the monitor-my enemy, my best friend. I lied there listening, trying to convince myself that my son was just having a dream and must be talking to himself. Oh, he'll just put himself back to sleep, right? Please, oh please, put yourself back to sleep. Then the sounds turned to weird whimpers. What if he's having a BAD dream! He needs me! My eyes pop open, and I make the familiar nightly race up the stairs to my son's bedside. I snuggled next to him, rubbing his back and telling him to just go back to sleep. While I tried to comfort him, I stared up at the ceiling wondering when this would end. Not just my son's possible frightening dream, but me flying up the staircase during the night, pretty regularly for my three-year-old, but still not an unusual occurrence for our newly six-year-old. When will I sleep through the night?

Where did I do wrong? Did we co-sleep with our babies too long? I was warned by many: relatives, friends with children, friends without children, well-meaning comments from near strangers at the grocery store, park, gym, you name it. Did my kids nurse too much? Oh, don't get me started on the unsolicited advice on that topic. (Do you know where I live?!?) Why didn't I let them cry it out? I read the literature, heard the testimonials, watched the videos. Couldn't do it. But did I really have to be at their bedsides as soon as the first peep was made? Honestly, for me I had done pretty well to pause this evening and wait, oh, about 12 seconds before scrambling up to tend to my son. Perhaps that wasn't enough wait time, huh, Dr. Ferber?

So just as I was about to search my soul and figure out where I went wrong to have such night-dependent children. The exact second I was on the verge to come to terms with, analyze, and possibly solve one of my parenting shortcomings. . . my son's murmurings got even stranger. He's not talking in his sleep. It's not a nightmare. As I listened and watched he was sleeping fitfully. Then it hit me. He's getting sick. No fever--yet--but I knew it was coming. I scooped him up and headed downstairs and rocked him in a chair. As the minutes slipped by he was in fact burning up. He woke up and gave me a quizzical face. I'm no Nostradamus, but I recognized the look. I knew what was going to happen next. I yelled from the living room to my husband to come help. Then the puking began. The skyrocketing temperature, the chills, the aches, the coughing soon followed.

How is it that when your child gets sick the whole world stops? Nothing else matters. No previously scheduled appointments, no penciled-in commitments will take place. Most emails go unreturned. You're lucky to check voicemail, and you only answer phone calls from family and the doctor. And that To Do list in my daily planner that I check religiously throughout the day is no longer "really have to do" stuff anymore. Everything else becomes unimportant.

I am relieved to say that we found out later that morning at the pediatrician's office that our little boy did not have one of the hysteria-inducing flus going around, just a "regular, old virus." He slept much of the day and soon signs of returning health were evident. Fortunately it appears to have been a pretty quick, down and really dirty bug. My mommy mental freeze has almost melted, and I have mostly returned to my everyday life.

Last night when I was putting my son to bed, something struck me-maybe, just maybe my unpopular nighttime parenting method paid off the other night. After all, I was able to catch him before he was alone and sick and throwing up in bed. I even got the OTC meds in his system to start the relief a little sooner. Hey, perhaps it's okay that I am so quick to answer my children's nocturnal chirps echoing from the monitor. Maybe it's not completely terrible when I dash up to my kid's room at the slightest sound. Oh no! Stop! It's this kind of rationale that only encourages my enabling behavior! This thinking is precisely how I cycle back into our current nighttime routine! What am I doing?!

As things turn back to normal (whatever that is) and my son fully regains his health, I plan to use this time to figure out how to reduce my sundown sprints. Perhaps it will hit me next time I am cuddled next to his sister. . .

Thursday, October 8, 2009

View from the Sidelines

I admit it. I took the coward's way out this morning. Just dropped my daughter off at school . . . with a dangling top front tooth. It won't make it through the day-unless she refuses to eat her snack (but she won't deny her mid-morning granola bar), and there is no way she'll not eat her mini pack of candy corns that she'll be surprised to find in her lunch bag. That sucker's gonna pop out at school sometime today after she bites into one of her tasty treats, I know it! That's the last card I had left to play.

I asked myself, am I a wimp? Have I lost my mothering edge? Why did my mighty power of persuasion not work? Why did I fail to convince her to get that tooth out before she went to school today? I don't get sick at the sight of blood. I don't have an aversion to wobbly, tiny tooth roots. Okay, I admit it! I didn't want to make her her cry about it again. So I gave up at the first hint of a lip quiver at 7:oo a.m.

Last night I tried it all. First, the loving approach. "You can do it sweetheart. Just one little tug and the tooth fairy will come tonight." To the supportive method. "You are amazing and brave. Just one tug, and you can do it!" To the logic angle. "It's going to fall out soon. Why not just pull the tooth now?" To a matter-of-fact explanation. "Sometimes things that are worthwhile might cause a little pain." To mild fear tactics. "You better get it out so you don't swallow it tonight in your sleep." And then of course, the tough love approach. "Come on, suck it up. It's just a tooth! You've done this before!"

After having the first five teeth basically fall out on their own, my daughter thinks this is how it's supposed to happen. Before going to sleep, she tells me that the loose tooth DECIDES when it's ready. We should not MAKE IT come out. Maybe she's right.

When I called her teacher this morning (praying to get her voice mail, which of course I did NOT), I had to explain to her live that I just couldn't do it this morning. I asked her to keep an eye out and see what she could do about the flopping fang. I swear I heard her snicker. After teaching so many children over the years (including her own), she's gotten this call more than once, I could tell. "We'll see what we can do." I felt like such a loser right then. The WE meant her and my child. I was out of the equation. I couldn't pull the trigger, so now another tougher, better player was going to start in my parenting position. Oh well . . . maybe next time.

Why do we hate to see our children cry? In this particular case, even when it doesn't seem like a really big deal? The tears would have been brief. She would have gotten over it. I don't know. Maybe it's because as parents we know that there is sadness and suffering out there. We want to protect our kids from that, but we know we cannot shield them from the many disappointments and pain life brings. We know our kids are going to cry many, many times in their lives. Today I guess I just wanted to see it happen one less.

As the day has gone along, my feelings of failure and frustration have turned to hope and excitement. I can't wait to pick up my daughter from school today. I can already picture her happy, tear-free face, holding her tooth in a special baggy provided by her understanding teacher, my temporary replacement. I should just count myself blessed that there's another loving, experienced grown-up who is willing to help me dry my daughter's tears and take one for the team.

Monday, October 5, 2009

No More Ed Scissorhands, Please

When I picked my daughter up from the car rider line she had her regular happy-to-see-you-smile. She buckled up and started immediately into her animated rundown of the day's activities. We were about halfway home when she nonchalantly mentioned the hole in her pants. The intro to this little anecdote particularly caught my attention. "What do you mean you have a hole in your pants? You didn't this morning, did you?" I questioned.

I looked up in the rear view mirror to catch her glance. "Oh," she realized this part of her day would need further clarification. She went on to tell me that one of her neighbors at the blue table used his scissors and cut her pants, but not her. I remained calm, assuming it had been a random accident by a fumble-fingered child during craft time, perhaps she was trying to hold something on her lap as he used those little, blunt scissors the kindergartners are allowed to have. But she went on to give me specifics, such as it happened during snack time, and the boy had sneaked out (the now in my mind sharp) sheers when the teacher wasn't looking. Okay, the full inquisition was on. Who was this kid? A boy. Did your teacher see any of this? No. Did you report it? Yes. Do you know his parents? No. Is this juvenile delinquent mean to you every day? Sometimes. Does this guy have a criminal record? Most likely. Are you going to end up dating this dude in 10 years? Duh, of course. (So, I didn't ask all of those questions, but I knew the answers.)

Soon we were home from school, and she and her little brother shared an afternoon snack. As the kids munched on milk and Teddy Grahams, I could see that my forgiving daughter was long over the incident, but I was still seething from the vision I had of this little scoundrel with huge hedge clippers slashing my angelic darling's Gap capris.

I called my level-headed neighbor who also has a kindergartner at the school. What would she do? Why wasn't there a note in my daughter's backpack detailing the incident? Why had the teacher not called? After all, school had been out for five minutes! As I spoke, I tried to disguise my mama bear, protective growl. My friend told me to calm down (guess I wasn't hiding my feelings so well), then we discussed the many explanations of how this could have happened.

After talking at length about the situation with my husband (and a little more to my daughter before bedtime), I couldn't help wondering Is my daughter safe at kindergarten? Should I have home-schooled? What's wrong with kids these days? Am I teaching my children to be assertive? The questioning went on through my mind all evening.

Turns out, this boy did cut her pants, the teacher was not aware it happened (and profusely apologized and "dealt" with the him-who knows?), my daughter had mentioned that she had a hole in her pants but neglected to fully share how it happened. She was moved to the orange table which thrilled her since her newest friend sits there too (and "orange is prettier anyway"). I was so glad that I was relatively composed and well-rehearsed before I got the full explanation.

Then came the flashback to when I was a young teacher (long before I had been blessed with children of my own). I recalled a possibly-suppressed memory of the day a parent of a sweet seventh grader came into my classroom very calmly and asked, "Can you tell me how my daughter got a gluestick caught in her hair during social studies class yesterday?" Now I know just how lucky I am that she also had a merciful daughter, kind neighbor, and patient husband to talk to. Either that or she was just not fully in touch with her inner bear.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Laugh Lines

Being half-naked in front of an audience is never easy. At least that's been my experience with my two young, insistent children who hang out in the bathroom and watch me when I get ready in the morning. As if this isn't enough, I also open myself to the beautiful and sometimes brutal honesty that comes from only a child's lips.

A few mornings ago we were getting ready for school (and of course I had already fed and dressed the kids, so now it was time for them to stare at me with the remaining three minutes I allow for myself to get ready before heading out to most places). I was standing in front of the bathroom mirror brushing my teeth with one hand and my hair with the other. My daughter looked up at me and asked, "Mommy, what are those lines?"

I sighed then drop my brushes on the counter and look into the extra large mirror surrounded by only slightly forgiving lighting, and pondered. Hhhhhmmm, the crow's feet that have made themselves visible nearly all the time, not just when I smile? Perhaps the deeper lines in my forehead that once simply enhanced my expressive face that now are a permanent fixture? Oh no! Tell me it isn't so . . . maybe she spotted another horrid wrinkle that I am not ready to acknowledge!

As I came to, I heard my daughter's sweet voice, "Mommy, I like your lines. They're pretty." And she pointed to the silvery, slightly faded stretch marks along my hips. I chuckled and told her "thanks" and meant it, because it hit me right then that without those "imperfections" my little bathroom buddies wouldn't be here. Guess that sort of makes those lines beauty marks.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Brave Girl Walking

I met another mothering milestone today. I actually watched my beloved kindergartener walk into school by herself from the car rider line into the school building. She not only entered by herself, she also managed to open the huge, heavy door that is the entrance for the little students. It may sound like a simple accomplishment to some, but I was amazed and in awe of her.

For the first few weeks of school, I did what many other parents were doing. We entered the school parking lot, got our precious pupils fitted with their backpacks, walked them into their respective rooms, and exchanged kisses at the classroom doors. I couldn't help notice with each new school day there were fewer parents walking into the building with their children. Many had begun to drop their kids off in the car rider line at the sidewalk. The kindergarten teachers had recommended that by September 18, all children (yes, moms, even the five-year-olds) walk into school on their own. At first I thought that seemed a bit arbitrary, but I did want to follow the rules and more importantly, help my daughter build independence. My daughter's main concern was not the walk from the car to her classroom. "That's easy." But she expressed some concern over the humongous metal door. "What if I can't get it open by myself?" We discussed her options if that happened, although we took time to recognize that since she eats so many vegetables and protein, she really has gotten quite strong--probably enough to conquer the dreaded door.

So I have been talking this up for about two weeks now. And this morning on the drive to school we agreed that today would be a good day to give it a try. So why was I so surprised this morning that with no hesitation, she did it?!

As I pulled the car away slowly, craning my neck trying to watch her walk down the hall as long as I could till the mammoth door closed behind her, tears swelled up big and powerful, putting any crying crocodile to shame. I drove passed the many helpful teacher assistants who line up along the sidewalk to assist students exiting their cars. Each one smiled at me intently and kindly, in such a way to say that everything was going to be okay. Then I laughed and my tears turned to a giant and proud smile at the thought that my daughter only needed one reassuring look this morning to be brave . . . mine.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Tummy Trouble

Long ago my big brother encouraged me to trust that feeling in my gut—you know the one you experience when something is just not right or something bad is on the horizon. Granted he was mostly warning his little sister about the guys out there with indecent intentions, but I have learned to rely on that weird feeling. How I wish I had been listening to my problem-prophesying belly today. My son and I had just returned from our late morning grocery trip and unloaded all the food. Of course he wanted to open the SpongeBob Cheez-Its immediately, but I advised him that we didn’t want to ruin our lunch. So instead we put up the groceries and went outside to play for a little while.

Our retired, friendly neighbor stopped by our house, and he and I were standing just inside my open garage door while he explained to me how to properly mix leaf blower oil. All the while I was watching my son ride up and down our sloped driveway into the garage, each time starting higher at the top. Trying not be rude, I would occasionally excuse myself and offer a parental warning, such as “Be careful” or “That’s as high as you should go” to my brave big wheel racer. A couple of times I noticed my belly felt a little funny—perhaps it was hunger pangs or maybe even the extra piece of cake I had for dessert last night calling to haunt me.

Mr. Helpful-but-takes-really-long-to-pass-along-his-wisdom was juuuuuuust about done going over the oil process, and I looked up noticing my son starting at the very top of the driveway. My gut let out a scream, but the drama was already it motion. My little speedster quickly transformed into a terrific tumbler and landed on his beautiful, perfectly soft, previously unblemished face, landing just inches from my feet.

As I quickly cradled my little man in my arms, cursing myself in my head and frantically searching over his sweet body making sure all the parts were still there (and thankfully they were), my eyes landed on a three-inch diameter scrape a half centimeter from his gorgeous green right eye. After realizing all would be okay, my oil informant walked back to his house, as I carried my now calm but slightly whimpering son.

After cleaning his wound, we decided it best to skip a regular, well-balanced lunch and went straight for the Cheez-Its, and yes, I allowed him to eat all of them that he wanted before naptime. As my son slumbers and I write this, my belly feels quite uneasy, but at least this time I can blame SpongeBob.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

It's a Ride, Not a Race

As a kid, my mom was the fastest walker I knew. No, she was not one of those amazingly fast Olympic speed walkers. She just did not stroll. Whether we were shopping at the mall or simply heading to our neighbor’s house, we were on the run—or so it seemed to my young little legs that were trying to keep up. Once in awhile, I had to remind her, “Mom, you’re going too fast.” She would catch herself and smile at me, and slow down so that I wasn’t left behind. Back then, I didn’t realize that she had a list of things to accomplish in a certain amount of time. At that age, I couldn’t understand that my mom carried a ton of responsibility as a mother and wife. She had limited time and sometimes limited money. She moved quickly because she was trying to make every minute count.

Now it’s my turn. Thirty years later I have two precious children and a loving husband. Like so many families, we find ourselves amidst this rush-and-hurry world—at a time even more busy than the one my parents guided me through. Sometimes I remember back to my mother’s fast gait and consciously try to slow myself down, especially when I look down and see my young ones trying to keep up. And it’s hard! I’ve got places to go, people to see! I have a lot to do! As a stay-at-home mom, a wife, and a freelance editor, it often seems that there are not enough minutes in the day for me to get it all done.

So as I rushed the kids around this morning, asking my daughter to brush her teeth for the third time instead of posing in the bathroom mirror, while chasing my three-year-old who really just wanted to go “commando” today, all the while reminding them that we needed to get moving so we wouldn’t be late for school, I caught myself. I heard the words that I often say to my children, It’s not a race, guys! I took a deep breath, and we finished getting ready calmly and together and happy—and even made it to school with a few minutes to spare.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

And So It Begins

While my daughter snuggled up with her fluffy white seal Marshmallow, literally with a smile on her precious face and dreaming of her first day of "big school" last night, I sat there on the edge of her bed with tears streaming down my face. I looked at her, our oldest, our first born, our sweet daughter. As I gently rubbed her soft cheek, careful not to wake her, I couldn't help but picture her first days on this earth. Her tiny fingers grasping mine as I rocked her in the NICU, awed, scared, amazed, overwhelmed, still slightly drugged, but mostly completely in love with this new little person. I opened my eyes and we were back in her room. Fast-forward five and a half years and here is my little love, just hours before she starts kindergarten.

I had tried to make the day feel special. Her favorite homemade breakfast, fun activities with me and her little brother, a trip to the library, followed by the delicious pastry shop in town. With her favorite pink frosted cupcake in hand, I watched enjoy her snack and smiled at her as she ran around the dessertery with one of her friends (also a new kindergartner). As the other mother and I commiserated over the idea of our daughters going off to kindergarten, I laughed inside at myself as I put up a brave front about how excited I was about the new teacher (which of course I was) but it was only a mask to cover my breaking heart. I know she felt the same way. We sort of smiled a knowing mommy smile at each other as she left with her kids and I exited with mine, quietly wishing each other good luck for the next day.

This morning we (of course Dad and little brother had to go too) all walked into the school hand-in-hand. I fought back the tears so hard my eyes hurt. The sweet little students grouped together for morning story time. Without much hesitation, my little kindergartner walked over and picked a seat on the colorful carpet, listening intently to the reader. A few minutes passed and each of the kindergarten teachers called her class to come join her and walk to the classroom, just 20 feet away from the reading area. Again with no qualms my little girl assembled with her new classmates and her teacher, eager to find her name tag at her table. I knew it was time to leave soon. So I tried to take a few quick pictures. She was so excited and ready to listen to the teacher's next request, she barely turned around for a shot. After a quick "I love you" we three scooted out the door, leaving one of us behind. But she did not seem to care a bit. And I knew that was how it was supposed to be.

And so begins a new chapter in our lives. Thankfully I have two years to prepare for our youngest's school entrance. It will probably take me that long to recoup from this one.