Monthly Archives: February 2010

Flying Solo

I’m giddy. Giddy with excitement. I remember being twelve and not being able to sleep because I knew my parents would be waking me up before the sun rose to head to the airport for a vacation. I’m that kind of giddy. But I’m not heading to the airport tomorrow. Instead I will be doing what I loved most Before Kids. Something I don’t do often enough. Because I have kids. And because it’s expensive. And because it requires a lot of planning. And layers.

I’m going skiing.

Skiing. It’s when I feel most ALIVE. It’s when I can feel life coursing through my blood.

The wind slapping my face.
The chill burning my cheeks.
The speed under my feet.

Each turn energizes me. Each bump rejuvinates me. My lungs may burn at the end of a long run but my head is clear.

I stop often each trip down the hill. To look and notice the beauty around me. When do I ever do that? Stop. And breathe.

I close my eyes on the chair ride up. And listen. To the wind. To the rhythmic sounds of ski edges scraping down the mountain. To the snow falling from the branches. So peaceful.

It is a sport of one. Just me. No interaction with another. I am only there in the moment, for me. I fly solo. With no concern for another. My mind stays focused on me. My breaths in and out. My legs turning side to side. My arms guiding my moves. I am so joyful in my oneness.

I am giddy. I cannot wait to see the mountain in the distance as I drive towards it. I cannot wait to snap on my boots and click them into the bindings. And take that first deep breath as I sail down the hill.

If the rain would ever stop that is.

* I’ll be taking a couple of days “off” from my computer as I hit the slopes, so my blog will be a little quiet for the weekend. I hope to be back with some fun family and ski stories when I return!

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Imagine That!

On Saturday Hannah built an enormous snowman.  Bigger than any that she had ever built.  Then she came inside and had hot chocolate with HUNDREDS of marshmallows.  After she finished her delicious hot chocolate (that she made all by herself by the way) she played “roll the ball” with Luke where she taught him to push the ball back to her, in between her legs.  If it went between her legs he got a point, if it didn’t, he lost a point.  She won that game but he was getting better the more he played.  Later in the afternoon, she played Candy Land with Tim and me.  She won six times in a row.

Sounds like a fun day for a five year old, doesn’t it?

The problem?

None Of It Actually Happened.

When her babysitter asked her Saturday night what she did that day, this fabrication is what came out of her mouth!  In reality, Hannah was sick. She stayed in her pajamas the entire day and moved from the couch to the floor all day to draw or play with her My Little Pet Shop.  And that’s it.

This is not the first “story” Hannah has told recently.  She tells me little stories all day that I know aren’t true but when I ask her if they really happened she says, “Yes Mommy! For Real!  It really happened!”  So I let it go.  Her stories don’t hurt anyone.  They aren’t malicious or mean spirited.  I wouldn’t go so far as saying she’s “lying” but she certainly is telling some Tall Tales.

What to do.  What to do.

I have always encouraged Hannah to use her imagination.  We put on puppet shows.  We play doctor, diner, teacher, mommy, veterinary hospital and pet shop.  She sits for HOURS with her dolls and plastic toys making up stories.  She sits in her room with her books and the words she can’t read, she makes up, to become the story she wants it to be.  And now, the stories have creeped into her own life.  And it makes me wonder (go figure).

I can’t help but think that the stories she tells are a reflection of what she wishes was going on in her life.  I’m sure she WISHES she had been able to go outside and build a fantastic snowman instead of being sick inside.  Maybe she is looking forward to teaching Luke little games like roll the ball.   How do I encourage her to TELL me these “dreams” instead of pretending they happened and telling other people they did?  How do I teach her that stories are wonderful to create but when it comes to her, she needs to be truthful?  Where do I draw the line?

I’ve tried to communicate that it isn’t necessary to make up stories.  That she can feel safe with the truth. Some of the fibs she tells are more along the lines of denying having done something that I am certain she’s done.  Teaching Luke to burp for instance.  I’ve asked her not to, but she finds it hilarious so she does it against my wishes.  I’ll hear him burp from the kitchen and I’ll ask her if she told him to do it.  “Oh no mommy!  I told him to moo like a cow but he doesn’t understand moo like a cow, so he burped. I bet if I ask him to moo again, he’ll burp so you can see that he’s confused between mooing and burping.” See, she doesn’t just deny… she makes up an elaborate story to go along with it. I pry over and over to get her to be honest with me.  I tell her I won’t be upset if she tells me the truth, that she’ll feel so much better having said what actually happened, but she knows I’ll be disappointed.  So she clams up and sticks to her story.  A few times she’ll come to me an hour after the story was told and says she just “remembered” that, oh yes, she had told him to burp.  She was just “confused”.  And I hug her and tell her I’m so proud of her for telling me the truth in hopes that she’ll keep it up.

But I don’t want to hinder her imagination.  I want her to know the right places to weave these stories into life.  I want her to know when it’s wrong, where the line needs to be drawn.  She’s five.  I’m not worried about cheating and plagiarizing and other forms of lying (yet).  I just want to trust her.  I don’t want to fear the stories she tells at school about what goes on at home.  She’s already gotten one of her grandmothers in trouble for telling me that “Grandma put makeup on my cheeks and lips before we went out because she said you ALWAYS have to wear a little makeup for special occasions”.   I was furious.  I’m glad I found the strength to bring it up with Grandma because I found out sweet Hannah had made up the story.  Grandma hadn’t said that.  And Hannah hadn’t worn any makeup.  Yikes.

I’m sure there’s no clear cut answer here.  When to stop the stories from being told.  How to prevent the stories from growing out of control.  It’s normal, I know.  All little kids want things to sound bigger, better, more exciting.  They want to be the best, the strongest, the most experienced.  But there has to be a limit.  A stopping point.  Where stories can be told, but with more fact than fiction.

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When there is no Routine in the Routine

Every day feels the same.  I am awakened without fail, far too early, by Hannah each and every morning.  She comes in and announces the time.  Today it was Six Four One.  She climbs into my bed between Tim and I and complains that there are too many pillows and proceeds to toss them one by one onto the floor beside us.  Some reach the floor while others smack me in the face.  She asks to play with my phone which I blindly unplug and hand over to her.  She adjusts the volume to “three squares” (silent is out of the question) and chooses one of the many kids apps I’ve bought to entertain her, all of which are too loud for my ears at that hour.  I try to ignore the buzzing, whirring, mooing, clanking and singing for the many minutes she sits beside me, taking up My space in My bed in My quiet time.  Without fail, after her attention span is depleted, she begins begging to go downstairs.  Begging, pleading, whining.  She’s hungry.  She’s thirsty.  She’s uncomfortable.  She’s ready to start her day.  Luke starts piping up down the hall and I drag myself out of bed to his room as Hannah races to be the first to open his door.   Every day she wants to help change his diaper.  Every day he kicks her in the face as she does.

Same routine in the kitchen every day.  Make coffee, make toast, make oatmeal.  Pour milk for one, juice for the other.  Prepare lunches.  Watch two TV shows and tromp back up the stairs to get dressed.  First Hannah, then Luke, then mommy.  Brush teeth.  Brush hair.  Jackets on, lunchboxes in hand, off to school.  And at night… it’s all the same again only in reverse.  Routine. Ritual. Tradition.

And I’m ok with routine.  I often find great comfort in routine.  The expected.  As boring and painful as the rote may be.  But the problem, is that as  as my life feels, it is so far away from actually being routine.  There is so much unexpected within the standard.  So much that I can’t predict.  So much chaos within the everyday.  And that I am NOT good with.

The temperaments are unpredictable.  What will make one smile one day, will make them scream the next.  What one wants for lunch on Monday they will despise on Tuesday.  The outfit that makes Hannah smile for school makes her miserable for a playdate.  The time allowed for playtime before school one day is plenty and the next is far too little.  One day Luke plays with the playdough, the next day he eats it.  One mealtime Luke drinks from a cup, the next he dumps it.  One moment Hannah is verbal and communicative with her feelings, acting more like a nine year old than a five year old, and the next she is thrashing on the floor, throwing a full on tantrum, like a two year old.  And that’s what breaks me.  Because when I feel like I’ve finally figured SOMETHING out, I go and find out it really doesn’t work at all.

I put Luke in his crib at 12 today.  The time he ALWAYS goes down for his solid 2 hour nap.  It’s the time I EXPECT to get something done. The time I NEED to refuel for an afternoon of chasing him from one room to the next, catching him as he jumps from the couch and lugging him from the grocery store to Hannah’s school.  Needless to say, he’s not sleeping.  I’m watching him in the monitor. Not sleeping.  He’ll now be overtired and cranky.  I’ll have little patience.  There goes the expected.  So much for routine.

I pick Hannah up from school at the same time every day.  I have the same evening planned every day.  But I am full of worry every night as I drive to pick her up because of the unpredictability of what my nights will bring with her.  Did she nap at school? Did her best friend want to play with her?  Did they get to go to the gym?  The answers to these questions are different every day.  And therefore, so is the routine. I know I shouldn’t expect things to hum along in my house like they do in a well managed assembly line.  It’s not THAT kind of “sameness” that I seek.  But if any part of my day could be consistent from one day to the next, it would help.

Consistency.  It’s supposedly the key to parenting.  I just wish my kids had to read the same books I read, so they’d understand that consistency on their part would help me out too.

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When the picture doesn’t tell the story

I was all set to sit and write a post about storytelling.  I had been writing the words in my head all day and looked forward to a thought provoking post on paper.   But it will now wait for another day.  Because I just got an email from my mom.  One that made me “feel” so much that I need to push the original words out of my head and write about something else.

My mom does not read my blog very often.  It’s not that she’s not interested in my life or what goes on in it (much to the contrary) but she very rarely has the chance to sit at her computer to read it.  I know if I send her an email, it will be a week before she responds. If I want her attention on something, I call.  And I do call.  A Lot.  We talk frequently about little things and big things.  She’s a great sounding board for my thoughts, a fantastic audience for my stories that only a mom could love and an honest friend.  But she doesn’t read my blog.  Unless I call her when I know she’s home, remind her of my website and tell her to sit down and read it right then.

Friday I told her to read my Love Letter to Sleep.  I thought she’d think it was entertaining.  (She did). I didn’t realize she’d read other posts while she was on my site.  But I guess she had the time and decided to peruse around.  Turns out, she read my most recent post about memories.  And after she read it, she sent me this email:

“That blog was beautiful, honey.  I feel the same as you about the snow–get the same “feelings” you do looking at it–the memories are also the same-strangely not from my childhood, but from yours.  The other day (I was telling Dad) I passed a great snowman and it took my thoughts to building them with you and Lee.  We have a picture of us with our creation hanging in the laundry room.  I remember that day and the fun I had.  But the picture of us–neither you or Lee is smiling and I began thinking–was I the only one who had fun?  Did I force you to build the snowman?  Were you freezing?  Then I felt so sad–wanting to do it all again–and make sure you were happy. I love you honey–I hope you were happy.”

I choked back tears when I read this short note.  It struck me.  Hard.  I felt so SAD that my mom wondered about my happiness.  I felt so BAD that she didn’t have the memories from her childhood, but only from mine.  So many memories are only memories because of the pictures that we hold onto through the years.  Do we really REMEMBER or do we only think we remember because of these pictures?  And what if the picture doesn’t tell the whole story?  Expressionless faces.  The hugs given after the photo was shot.  A missing smile because we didn’t hear the photographer say cheese.  The fact that this was the 7th picture taken and our faces were frozen solid.  Missing pieces of the story.  How do we capture the full story so that 30 years from now, I’m not asking my kids, “were you happy?”

I don’t remember the time my mom cites in her email, although I know the picture well.  I’ve passed it thousands of times at my parent’s house.  I was three.  My brother 5.  We stood on either side of our huge snowman creation with my parents standing behind us. My brother and my faces are as serious as the snowman’s.  I don’t remember if I was freezing and begging to go inside for hot chocolate.  I don’t know if my brother had repeatedly thrown snowballs at my face.  I don’t know if I was tired of standing waiting for my dad to figure out the self timer on his camera.  But my mom is right.  I don’t look happy.

I will be devastated if I look back at these years with my kids with such wonder.  Wonder of whether the times that I cherish with my kids, were equally cherished by them.  I wish I could reassure my mom and tell her, “Of course I was happy in that picture!”  But I can’t.  But I can remind her of the times that I DO recall being so much more than just happy.  I can reassure her that I’m so thankful for the things she did with me and encouraged me to do.  I can let her know that I’m not just enjoying childhood with Hannah and Luke… I also truly LOVED the childhood she gave me.  I may not have proof in pictures, but I hope she’ll take my word for it.

This is one more reason I’m so thankful for this blog.  This place where I can add words and emotion to the photographs.  This place where I can memorialize so much more than was done when I was young.  This place where I can hope to capture it all, so that if we don’t look happy, at least we’ll know why.

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Meet My Neighbor – Motherese

I am so honored to have my friend Kristen from Motherese visiting my little “home” today as part of Never True Tales Won’t You Be My Neighbor.  It’s good timing for her visit because I’ve been a bit under the weather (as you know if you read any of my past like 27 posts) and could use a distraction from the cabin fever I’ve been facing.  Luckily I have an abundance of Purel scattered about.

I met Motherese back in November and haven’t missed a post since.  It’s usually the first blog I read in the morning and she leaves me pondering her words throughout the day.  Many of you know I’m a big “wonderer”.  I wonder about the small, insignificant things and the big, life altering things.  I write often of these little curiosities that overtake my head and it’s as if Kristen is also inside my head because the things she writes about, so often are what I’m wondering.  She just articulates them so much better than I ever could.  Her words are captivating and honest.  Her thoughts poignant.  I have absolutely LOVED getting to know her over the past few months and I know you will too.

Milestone = Mild Groan

Yesterday morning I received an e-mail from BabyCenter announcing, “Your baby is 6 months old!  He is now rolling over in both directions!”

Oh, he is, is he?

Like Big Boy before him, (Not-Really-So) Tiny Baby is off the charts in terms of height and weight (and sheer cuteness, naturally), but is lagging a bit on some of those pesky developmental milestones.

When Big Boy was younger, I would graze on those child development checklists (like the ones in this book, and in this one) the way Big Boy now eats his vegetables – reluctantly, but with a vague sense that it’s “what one does.” Reluctantly because he didn’t always measure up.  He hit all of the cognitive and social benchmarks, but weeks or months would pass between the standard for movement milestones and when he actually achieved them.  He rolled late, he crawled late, he walked late.

And mostly that was okay with me.  After all, none of those lists quantified the moments whose qualities I cared about – the first time he nuzzled into my neck, the first time he held onto me when I was holding him, the first time he reached out his arms to me.  But those pesky creatures known as Other Moms sometimes got – and get – to me.  Big Boy was perfect in my eyes, but I thought to protect him best I needed to start seeing him through the eyes of others as well.

Big Boy did not crawl until he was almost a year old.  When we visited our pediatrician for a well-check, hearing the questioning tone of my peers like an alarm in my head, I asked the doctor – a soft-spoken, no-nonsense gentleman – if this was cause for concern.  His typically laconic response:

“Put things he wants near him, but just out of reach.  He will move toward them when he’s ready.”

And, of course, he did.  Moved toward them and away from infancy, away from complete dependence, and toward a life of milestones that likely, maybe even hopefully, will not be in step with anyone else’s checklist.

What was the biggest milestone in your life?  What was the most memorable of your child(ren)’s milestones?

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You’re not nearly as sick of hearing about my being sick as I am about talking about being sick.

I crave happy giggles,

singing songs , skipping through

the house and sidewalks, holding little hands,

pointing at balloons and airplanes overhead.

I miss healthy glows, morning cuddles, full tummies

from hot oatmeal and toasted bagels, full nights of sleep

and feeling rested, trips to the museum, to the park, to the store,

hot cleansing baths instead of cooling ones.

I crave normalcy, routine, down time, time OUT.

I miss the playful me, the patient me, the me my family expects.

I miss my family.  I miss the life I love.

Three weeks of pneumonia, flu, strep, ear infections, viruses, fevers

and overall malaise is making me a mommy I don’t want to be.

I don’t recognize this screamy, impatient, sad, angry, forgetful mommy.

I miss me.  And so does my family.

So if anyone can place a call to someone, somewhere and ask them

to send this sickness somewhere else, I would really love you.

And bake you some delicious cupcakes.

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Missed

For weeks Hannah has been asking begging for a sleepover at Nanny and Grampy’s house.  She’s been talking about toenail painting, and pancake making.  She was excited for the special attention, the focus 100% on her, the cozy double bed.  A day spent reading different books, playing with different toys, swimming and the special grandparent love.

Finally, after two cancellations because of her case of strep and Grampy’s bad luck catching Luke’s flu… the long awaited day had arrived.  She packed hours before they were to pick her up.  Her bag was filled with bathing suits, snow gear, fancy dinner clothes and toys.  She was prepared to wake early and brought crayons and paper to fill her time before she could climb into her grandparent’s bed for early morning cuddles.  After 7 days of enduring all the attention being showered on her sick little brother, she was ready, more than ready, for her little getaway.

At 4:00 in the afternoon, she waved goodbye from Nanny’s car window and they drove away.  I scooped still sick Luke in my still sick arms and sat quietly on the couch, happy that she would get the attention she needed and I would get a small break myself.

At 6:00 the phone rang.  The caller ID signified it was my parent’s house.  I smiled excited to hear my little girl’s voice tell me what she was had helped Nanny make for dinner or what adventure she had already taken.  “Hi Mommy!” she excitedly peeped over the line.

“HI SWEETIE!” I bubbled.

Long Pause…

“Mommy, I miss you a little bit.” I heard her voice crack and could almost feel the tear drip onto my hand that held the phone.  I couldn’t believe it.

“That’s ok to miss me a little Hannah but I’m sure you’re having so much fun!  There’s no reason to be sad.  You’ve been so excited for this, counting the minutes, so enjoy it!” I tried to keep my voice calm and even… not too empathetic or preachy.

“But, But Mommy.  I really do miss you.  I’m sad all of a sudden.”

As surprised as I was to hear these words come from her, it brought me back 30 or so years and I choked back my own cry.  You see, I never could stay away from home.  As much as I wanted to have sleep over, as much as they always seemed like such a good idea, there never was a night in my childhood that I didn’t call home in the night and ask to be picked up.  I recall being so sad at one sleepover that I threw up.  I became dizzy with the sadness that overtook me.  I don’t even know what it was that I missed so much.  Maybe the warm hugs.  Maybe the kiss goodnight.  But more likely, it was the familiarity I missed.  Or the unfamiliarity that made me sad. The unfamiliar smells.  The routine tuck-in that I got each night.  I think I was more nervous about something going wrong and not having the familiar securities to make it right.

At ten years old I was to spend a week at my grandmother’s beach house.  The beach house that I spent weeks at each and every summer.  THIS was to be a special week with just me and my grandmother.  A week of swimming in the ocean, watching TV in my grandmother’s bed until late at night, having ice cream from the truck every day, going to the amusement park down the boardwalk as often as I wanted.  I counted the minutes until this special week arrived.  I had been counting the years ever since my older brother had spent this week alone with Gammy.  But when it arrived, and I watched my parents drive away, down the street until I their car was just a spec in front of me… I started to cry.  And there was no consoling me.  My grandmother tried it all, but all I wanted to do was lay curled on my bed surrounded by my moms clothes.  I wrapped her shirts around me, buried my face in the warmth and scents of her sweaters.  It was pathetic.  Really, it was.  But I missed her.

And there was Hannah on the other end of the line.  Missing me.  And I knew JUST how she felt.  It didn’t matter that her grandmother that she adores was sitting right beside her.  It didn’t matter that all of her favorite activities were planned.  She missed something.  Something that the house 30 minutes away couldn’t give.

I calmed her down and blew her a kiss into the phone and asked to speak to my mom.  She said that this sadness came out of nowhere.  It was the sound of my voice that turned her mood.  She assured me the sadness would be short lived and I hung up the phone.

The next morning, before any of the fun even had the chance to start my mom told me they were on their way home.  Hannah was sick.  Fever, cough, looking gray.  She arrived home shortly after the phone call.  She walked in, Ellie in hand, and collapsed into my arms.  Even though she wouldn’t ever verbalize it, I knew she was thankful for the familiar.  My arms. Her house. Her spot on the couch. Her bed.  Because there she was at her grandparent’s house, not feeling quite right and not having her creature comforts there to make it right.  My little girl fear of sleepovers came true for Hannah two nights ago.  Being somewhere, no matter how comfortable, and having something go awry.  A fever, a sore throat, a worry.  And not having that “thing”, whatever it may be, there to set you straight.

I was glad actually that I now know she wasn’t feeling well the night she arrived at my parents and that was the reason for her sadness even if she didn’t realize it yet.  I would hate for Hannah to have the same aversion to “being away” as I had growing up.  The same loneliness, even when not alone, that I had when my parents left me.

But, I’d get it if she did.

I’m just happy a do-over sleepover is already in the works.

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