Friday, June 26, 2015

Lessons Learned from an Unaccompanied Minor

By anyone's standards, I'm a conservative mother.

You can spin it anyway you want using language like...she enjoys having a pulse on her kiddos...she's actively engaged in the day-to-day details of their comings and goings...she loves knowing them like the back of her hand.

Or, you could say...she's a helicopter mama with a high need for control who has a hard time letting others get involved in the rearing of her littles.

And you'd be right on all fronts.

So, today was a big deal. 

This happened.

I put my 10-year old not so little son, Sam on a plane as an unaccompanied minor to spend the next five days with his grandparents and slew of boy cousins down south.

And to be fair, he didn't fly by himself.  My 13-year old nephew was with him...but no adult, hence, the unaccompanied minor status for both.

I know that people do this all the time.  In fact, I grew up doing it.  My parents were divorced and I got on planes with my little brother to visit my dad. is my kid and this time around, I'm the parent.

Last night and really all this week, Sam and I spent time sharing all of the things that he was excited about doing...swimming, fishing, golfing, Nerf gun warring with the cousins,  eating loads of cheese pizza, learning to play poker and staying up really, really late.

I told him that I was feeling both excited and sad thinking about missing him, to which he replied...It's okay to be sad because you miss me, but don't be sad worried that I'm not having fun or really that I'm missing you.  You should find fun stuff to do while I'm gone.  It's kind of a cool time for you too.

And I sat stunned.

He's right.  In the end, this is what kids want.  They want to know that their parents will always be there for them, when they need them.  Simultaneously, they want to fly, literally and figuratively away from home to have new adventures and to discover treasures that they can call their own.  And while they're gone, sometimes indefinitely, they want to know that their parents are happy and aren't sad that they've flown the coup.

This is our love the hell out of our kids while they're under our roof, to encourage them to try on new ventures and to reassure them that we have our own lives pursuing our own passions while they're gone...and, that we will always be here as their rock when it's time to land or to fall.

It was a wake-up call.  And even as I write the words, it seems like such an evident, ridiculous concept to type.  But for me, it's real for the first time, because for so long my passion has been them.  And the time is evolving to rediscover my own wholly exempt of them.

He didn't cry.  He didn't even look back as he descended down the walk way with the "Unaccompanied Minor" sign dangling from his neck.

With tears in my eyes alone, I watched their plane lift into the sky and said, "Be safe, have the time of your life, you are loved, and I will be more than fine."

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A Mom of Big Kids

In the summertime, I spend a lot of time at the pool with my kids.

We're there at least three days a week for swim team, one day for lessons for Claire Bear and well, pretty much every day unless its raining and even then we tend to swim in the indoor pool.

While I'm there, I strike up conversations with a variety of moms that are all just trying to keep it together...schlepping sunscreen, granola bars, towels, hats, pool toys, books and a margin of patience.  Most are just trying to make sure that their kid doesn't drown and wears himself out so that she can have five minutes of peace in the car on the drive home.

But today was interesting.

While watching my youngest catapult down the water slides and guiding her to swim toward the ladder, a woman I'd never met before asked me how many kiddos I had.

After telling her that we have three, she proceeded to ask their ages to which I replied, Sam is 10. Kate turns 8 next week and Claire is 4.5.

Wow, she said.  You've got big kids. 

What the what, I thought?  Big way, that's not me.

And then, she kindly said and I took this all the way to the're not old enough to have a 10 year old.

But then I thought about it.  In relationship to these mamas who are nursing or have toddlers in diapers or are still restrained (probably in a good way) by nap schedules or have to take half their house with them just to go to the grocery store or  the library or aren't sleeping more than a few hours at night or still view the stroller and the diaper bag as an appendage....well, that's not me, anymore....which is both a beautiful and a huge realization.

In fact, the other day while shopping, I told a woman who was due to deliver any day to enjoy every minute because it goes by so quickly.  And then, I thought while getting into the car, I can't believe I just said that...I'm now one of those people dispensing that advice.

You can't know it at the time or while it's happening, but one day, you wake up and realize that your kid can pour his own bowl of cereal and wipe his own bottom and make his own bed and ride his bike to his friends' house and like a rock star, grind the beans and pre-set the coffee maker to brew an amazing cup of joe (okay, maybe that's just a skill we teach at our house).

And while my kids are not yet tweens or teenagers, they are getting taller and more brilliant and more self sufficient and less needy.  And I have to say, I'm both basking in the glory and emotional witnessing these parts of me evolve...

One day, I became a mom of big, how did that happen?

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Go Above Your Nerve

I'm in the process of reading Cheryl Strayed's memoir "Wild"... the documentation of her 1100-mile sojourn on the Pacific Crest Trail during the summer of 1995.  She begins her journey on the Mojave Desert and hikes through California and Oregon before completing ninety-four days crossing the Bridge of the God's in Washington state.

With each stop along the way, she signs the trail log book with her name and a literary quote pertinent to what she's endured to get there.

One of my favorite quotes is her first...

The concept of pursuing the unknown in light of fear has always, always fascinated me.  I see it playing out in my life and the lives of those I love, all of the time. Most recently, we were on a family bike ride and my 7-year old Kate was desperate to stay on her bike while climbing a steep hill.  Watching her 10-year old brother do it with ease was both motivating and infuriatingly frustrating.  Riding alongside her on my bike, she kept saying, "I can't do it.  I can't balance.  It's too hard.  Just go."  And so I did.  I slowly and sadly biked up the hill.  As I was turning the corner to head onto my favorite bridge, she passed me with a HUGE smile on her face.  "I did it!" she screamed, sweat beating down her face. "I did it!"

In that moment it hit me that confidence of any sort only comes in the doing...there really is nothing intellectual about it.  Nerve comes from testing the boundaries and conquering.  It's visceral...physical...garnered through experience, especially, when you're really, really scared.

The ability to do something extraordinary that you've never done before comes in leaving your ego at the door and recognizing that you can fail at anything in why not risk failing at something you really, really want instead of the safer choice.

That's when I stumbled upon this quote...

I later told Kate that she not only can bike up any hill that she wants but that really anything is possible when you're willing to go for it.  And the more you try, the more you fail, the more you learn and eventually, the stronger you become...until one day, you're so strong that you say to the I am, I'm not afraid.  I want to experience all of it...even if it hurts and even if I never arrive.  It's worth being unbalanced, stumbling, falling off and looking up to see that the top of the hill is really far away...but if you surrender, one day, you just might get there.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

What a Good Run Can Do

I don't know about you...

but I'm notorious for having internal dialogues with myself all day long.

They look like this...

Don't forget to add spinach and ziplock bags and that thing that Kate needs for so and so's birthday party to the grocery list.

It's okay that the paint job is going to be costly.  It needs to be done and it's worth it.  It's just money. Stop agonizing over this shit.

Drive to the post office and overnight the Father's Day card, you cannot be late another year.

Call the god damned eye doctor immediately and schedule the back to school appointments. Sam probably needs a new prescription and most likely can't see his hand in front of him.

Sign up for the race.  You only have one on the docket for next year and you need to get back in the game.

And it goes on and on...not only the to-do's, but also the what if's like...what if I have breast cancer because I need to schedule a mamogram or what if the car breaks down or should I go back to work full-time or why can't I lose more weight or what if my friend is angry?

It's really ridiculous the amount of head space that I take up.

And so, when I couldn't take it anymore...I went for a run this morning....a really long, really hard, really humid, really sweaty, really "shut the fuck up" brain run.  I played my music ridiculously loud and fancied myself Rocky as I ran up hills and rounded bends and traversed different streets and paths than I'm accustomed to.  And it felt so, so good...even the salt sweat that crept into my eyes.  It felt alive and free and me.

This stuff that we hang onto is just that...stuff.  Almost all of it is out of our control.  The vast majority of it doesn't matter.  And at the end of the day, holding onto it makes us irritable, fatigued, no good for the people we love and unable to thrive.

We need to run or get on our bikes or go for walks or swim or skate board or talk to friends or dance or sing or skip or scream or write or have sex or jump or build a fort or mow the lawn or build a bird house or weed the garden or plant or bake or get a massage or laugh or cry because that is where life happens.

And there is a difference between surviving and not being alive.

For me, joy is in running, even when I tell myself that I can't or I don't have time or I'm not very fast or I'm not as fit as I used to be.

As I reflect on one of my favorite writers, Rainer Maria Rilke, I'm reminded that a good run keeps me in the present, engages my breath and my being in the moment and gives forth life, not fear.

"Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final."

Monday, June 15, 2015


I've always been a huge fan of the written word.

Growing up, when I came across a word that I wasn't familiar with, I'd ask my grandfather what it meant.  He prided himself in saying, "Look it up," with a bit of a twinkle in his eye.

To make the process easier, my grandparents gave me a Webster's dictionary, companion thesaurus and encouraged underlining every word I learned playing Scrabble or reading novels from the library.  I still have the books and sometimes thumb through the pages looking at the scribble markings and pencil lines.  I even once showed them to my children hoping that they might find them fun to use.  They just scoffed and said, "Why would you flip pages, when Wikipedia is a click away?"

Recently, I learned a new word...obdurate.

Do you know it? 

In a nutshell, it's an adjective that means to be a belligerent hard ass resistant to change.

In a bigger nutshell, me.

I'm such a creature of habit.  I like things to go down the way I've planned them or the way that I'm most familiar with.  So, even when I'm trying to implement change that is entire being screams....FUUUUUCCCCKKKK YOUUUUU! Stop screwing with that which you know.

Last week was a tough one.  We discovered a leak in a panel on our roof and had to have an insurance adjustor come out which should not have been a big deal given that we've never made a claim on our home...except, we recently changed insurance providers.  Let me tell you...if you need someone to do battle for you when it comes to matters of home ownership and justice...I'm the fucking girl for you.

On the heels of the roof, the older of our two old Hondas had to be taken in with a minor problem that hundreds of dollars later turned into..."Here's how you can baby it for the next year until you need to replace the clutch."

And then the overpriced bids came in for painting the exterior of our home in the hopes that we no longer look like the condemned property on the block.  I may be exaggerating...a bit, but just a bit.  Why did I go to graduate school?  I should have been a car mechanic or a house painter.

And then, I wrote a tuition check for our older two for school.

And then, I wanted to drown myself in a vat of chocolate and sushi and wine and iced coffee and popcorn and caramel and, and, and....

There's a legend that says...the harder the change, the more the universe will fight until eventually wanting it badly enough, you will prevail.

This image struck me as my seven-year old asked me if it was fun to be a grown up.  "You know...because you get to stay up late, eat ice cream when you want, make kids do chores, say 'no' all the time."  To which I replied, "Being a grown up certainly has its' perks...but the truth is, it's not all that it's cracked up to be.  There's lots of responsibility and many times you do the right thing for the good of the family, when all you really want to do is just ride your bike to Mexico."  She just started laughing and said, "No one rides their bike to Mexico.  That's silly."  I suppose, she made my point.  Instead, obdurate or not, most of us, just do the right thing.

Picture me. Fighting against the wind. Determined.  Obdurate Kelly hell bent on getting it right even though I want to scream and said, "Ugh!" In the end, I'm sure it all works out.

Friday, June 12, 2015

She Just Gets Me

We meet every two weeks at a hodgepodge of cafes around the city.

I of course order an Americano.  She orders tea and she orders nothing.

That's because, she's been up since the crack of dawn, tackling a bazillion miles on her bike, getting her yayas out and her endorphin rush on.  While she's been doing Purre Barre classes racking up more hours than I can conceive of...squeezing her ass and her abs and getting strong physically and mentally.

We exchange compliments like, I love your got the new Apple watch?!!...That dress looks fabulous...and then, hugs...before we get down to business.

The truth is...we're an odd group.  From the outside, we're in completely different life stations.  I'm married with three relatively little kids.  She's divorced with one soon-to-be graduating teenager.  And she's married with adorable furry four-legged creatures and looking to grow her family in the future.

They have massive jobs and kick-ass resumes.  She runs an incredible organization and makes donor calls and solicits board members.  She flys out to very cool destinations and leads a team of people who do good work.

And I well, you know what I among them, I stand in awe of the talent and the humility.  I think that's why it works.

All three of us are so very different and yet, we have a passion and an energy that surges through our veins and when the time comes, we tell the other exactly what we think and question why following your dreams is such a crap shoot.

She wants me to write her profile for just laugh and think, what in the Hell do I know about dating?  I think marriage is a gauntlet.  But of course, I start to put the words together in my head and write the most eloquent piece about a friend that I feel like is worth her weight in gold and that the majority of men are completely undeserving of.

She wants me to write about the Imposter Syndrome because I constantly tell her that I feel like a fraud and want to exude the kind of confidence that she does in client meetings.

She thinks that the shit my kids say is for the record books.  I tell her that I wish I was making it up, but for better or for worse, this is my crazy, hot mess of a life.

When it comes down to it, I'm grateful to have a village of women in my life that I turn to for a myriad of hopes, dreams, support and needs.  These two girls just happen to really get me.  They know when to gently call bull shit.  They ask really good, open-ended questions when I'm trying to probe or dig into what the crux of the issue is.  And they make no bones about being flawed, imperfect, sometimes withering on the vine.

And yet, dutifully, even when we can't find a fucking parking space to save our lives....we show up, we smile, sometimes cry and always encourage the other that it's worth it.

I'm just so thankful to have someone(s) who gets me.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Sticky Love

Tonight, as my four-year old daughter came bounding up the stairs to wish me good night, she gave me a hard smooch and said, "I love you forever."

Moments earlier, I was sinking into coveted alone time after what had felt like many moments of park, pool, library, zoo, art museum, children's museum, book store, ice cream shop, board game cafe and bicycle path time.

Technically, we're only on day 18 of summer with 74 more to go...but it finally hit me tonight, that I have been going, going, going with my kiddos.

For me, that's a good thing.

Summer, much like my brand of parenting is a labor of love.  I spend a lot of time with my children doing lots of things and truth be told, I love it.  Typically, we start the day, me with coffee and a run...them with a croissant or granola...and a wish list that asks, "what do we want to explore today?"

So, tonight as I was reading a new book called, "If you find this letter," the following passage struck me...

"Aim for sticky love. It's big. It's loud. It makes you into the kind of person who leaves something behind when they finally turn to walk away.  And though no one can quite touch it or understand the DNA of it, everyone can still tell, by the way the atmosphere has shifted in the room, that something was left behind."

This is the kind of love that I want in my life.  An intentional, focused, mucky, sticky, available residue that is remembered.

And sometimes while I'm on the sidelines, listening to my littles hash it out with their friends or each other, I'm just so amazed and grateful that for a short time, I get this vantage.

For example, at the zoo yesterday, one of Sam's friends said, "Oh wow, look, it's pilgrims!" To which I replied, "Oh sweetheart, that's an Amish family.  Traditionally, they subscribe to using minimal technology and live off the land."  To which he said, "Why would anyone do that?"  And my retort,"I suppose to get back to a simpler, more focused life."  And he said, "Huh?" I couldn't stop laughing.

And then, today, Kate (7) and Claire (4) were fighting in the car on the way to the pool.  "Claire, would you STOP singing.  It's beyond annoying." To which Claire said, "Nope, the world needs more of me."

Shortly, after the summer started, Sam asked me what I did for a living.  I told him lots of many that I can't possibly list them all on a business card.  It's a full life, I said.  He pressed on, "No really, what's your job?"  Again, I couldn't stop laughing.

Every moment at the library sharing stories and the pool splashing and the art museum painting and the park building sand castles gives me a chance to become stickier...more connected, more entrenched in the lives and hearts of the ones whom I love deeply.

That said, I'm not a saint.  They're signed up for plenty of camps and swim teams...but overall, I am with them many, many hours.  We laugh, we scream, we dole out consequences, we hope, we love. 

 This is the model of parenting that works for me.  It's sticky and oohy gooey and lovely and hard and mine.  Here's to more summer escapades.