Friday, May 27, 2016

Anticlimactic Start to Summer

I had a different idea for what today, the last day of school would look like.

In years past, our older two children would bound out of their rooms, screaming, "Last Day!" and scarf down breakfast, super excited for a half day of no homework and goodbyes to their friends.

After taking the obligatory, "You made it to the end," pictures and sending them on their way, I would take a quick shower and then head with our youngest to pick them back up.  Our walk home would entail great talk of all of our summer plans (a trip to California, loads of time in the pool, bike rides, strawberry smoothies, cherry popsicles and mindless staring at the sky).  Upon arriving home, we would trade the stroller for the car and head to our favorite ice cream spot and load waffle cones with mint chip for them and coffee for me.

But five days ago, our youngest came down with fever that never really went away and this morning, our oldest complained of an upset stomach and then, my husband was down for the count.

So, after dropping my middle one off at school.  I headed to the market to buy ingredients for chicken noodle soup and blueberry muffins--my go-to comfort food when the fam is ill.  In the check out line, the cashier began singing  Whitney Huston's, "I Wanna Dance With Somebody," (not well), all the while telling me that she can't help but sing when Whitney comes on.

Upon arriving home, my son told me that he had an ant in his room.

After scoping it out, we realized that he was raising an ant brigade complete with barracks, brought on by a fucking Jolly Rancher mound that he conveniently left in the corner of his desk.

And then, my youngest found a bag of balloons and proceeded to blow them up while snotting all over herself and shoving them into my face to tie the knot on the end.

And then, my bored son helped himself to the baking soda and vinegar to conduct science experiments in the bathroom which led to the toilet rim having a gritty, cocaine-like surface on it.

And then, I's summer.


So, here's my new mantra....expectations are for the birds.  Adventure and rolling with the punches is so much better, right?!

My prayer is that all of the sickness will vacate our abode so that we can embark upon a summer of health and more fun than we can imagine.

And if that doesn't happen, I'll be into the fire water a little more than usual over the next 12-weeks and for certain singing, "I Wanna Dance With Somebody."

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Two Sides of Me

I am blessed to be the mother of a son and two daughters.

From the beginning, my son has always been the perfect amalgamation of his own thing.  Vintage Sam, he is a hand-crafted brand of his own being in the world.  And while once in a while, my husband and I see glimpses of ourselves in him, for the most part, he is custom awesomeness on its' own.

My daughters are another story.

From the time my oldest daughter, Kate came out of the womb, she was instantly a carbon copy of me, except infinitely kinder and much sweeter.  We look like each other, share the same sugary voice, over-enunciate our vocabulary and value language as though it's the hottest commodity on the face of the earth.

From the time that Kate was three-years old, she was reading multi-syllabic words and calling out her preschool teachers for skipping sentences in the stories at circle time.  Fiercely independent, our middle child has never needed anyone to entertain her.  She is the epitome of creativity and can often be found re-purposing twine, cardboard, leaves and safety pins into a masterpiece.  A fantastic piano player, beautiful ballerina and prolific writer, she spends most of her life dreaming smack dab in the present.

At the tender age of five, my younger daughter, Claire is the feistiest, most self assured, would-be pole dancer that you've ever had the privilege to meet.  On the day of her birth, ten minutes before my last push, I started crying profusely and when my OB screamed, "Look at me!  What's wrong?!" I just retorted, "I don't know, I'm scared.  Something's coming."  And sure as fuck, she was hell-bent to be in the world.  When she emerged with absolutely no scream, my OB un-lassoed the umbilical cord from her neck four times and then whisked her away to get an APGAR score.  She was off-the-charts healthy.  A fighter, hard core dancer, consummate singer and lover of all things sparkly and forbidden...she is a force to be reckoned with.  Unafraid or encumbered by the fear that often holds me back, Claire's motto is that life is for the living and that much like Dylan, you should get busy doing that or get busy dying.

Which is why it is crazy to me that the past few weeks, Claire has been stuffing anything and everything up her shirt, signifying that she wants to be a mother.  After shoving three beanie boos up her dress, she asked, "How old do I have to be to be a mommy?"  I told her that she had to go to college, graduate school, study abroad and then maybe at the age of 30, we could talk about it...her hopes seemed undeterred.  "Well, I'm gonna have 29 babies and I don't need a husband."

"More power to you, " proclaimed Kate from the kitchen, "I'm going to art school in Paris."  And in both moments, I was over-the-moon elated for both of them.

Little versions of me wrapped up in both of them...the girl who yearns to live in a high rise contributing to her industry while also breastfeeding a babe and reading Dr. Seuss at night...except I could never figure out how to do it.  Such a beautiful, hard thing to make work in the world.

I suppose at the end of the day, all you want is for your kids to be happy...but man, I hope they get to experience professional adventure and personal peace and that Claire comes to her senses about the 29 babies deal...or I may have to flee the country as the grandmother.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Quiet Shifting

May is traditionally jam-packed.

Filled to the brim with commemorative, mile-stone activities...ballet recitals, Mother's day teas, high school and college graduations (shout out to my sister-in-law who rocked it at hers), final exams at school, ending spring football games, First Holy Communions (hats off to my adorable Godson), teacher appreciation gifts...and this year, our Claire graduated from preschool and so too did our family.

All of these "ends" are racing us towards summer and a chance, I think, to finally breathe.

Throughout this mix, I took on a weekly writing program, participated in my first public reading, and left for a retreat weekend by myself to write.

The dichotomy of these experiences has been whirl-windish...keeping up with the cyclical family rituals while forging space to create has kept me on my toes and feeling what it means to shift.

And somewhere between keeping the laundry going, meals on the table, homework attended to, and thank you gifts afloat,  I came across this quote and it brought me to my knees.

I am really, really good at staying busy.  Managing the lives of three children makes for an easy out when it comes to justifying the continual "to and fro" of it all.  But then what I'm also really good at is, from time to time, being quietly resentful that I use all of my good energy on the daily busyness and not enough on sitting with myself to see where I am and where I want to be.

Last weekend, when I was by myself, I went for a 5-mile run in the morning and a 5-mile run in the afternoon.  It was beautiful and painful to sit in silence at my computer with my thoughts.  And even though, my writing space was comprised of a beautiful, serene wooded landscape, it was tough to let go of all of the things I should or could have been doing with that time.

And so, while I was running, this quote came:

And for me, it bears the truth of who I am.  At the end of the day, when the laundry is put away, the dishwasher is running, the children are sawing logs and my teeth are brushed, I know who I am....even if I don't want to admit it in polite company.  I'm this beautiful mess of a being who is constantly wandering, ever seeking, never fully satisfied, always yearning to make amends, continually striving to do better, worried that I've squandered my potential.

My life makes for decent writing material.  It also makes me a pretty kind friend.  Sometimes, it makes me a miserable partner because I often have one toe in the future and the other in the past, rarely appreciative of the present.

But in a time when quiet shifting is taking place, it makes me aware, intimately aware, that even if the laundry is constant...the children are growing, my place in the family structure is changing and there is a place for the creative amidst the mundane.  In fact, there must be, otherwise the mundane is just that...rote, ritualistic. 

Here's to slowing the busyness for brief moments to appreciate and to sink into the truth of who we are, especially when no one is watching.

And as the summer comes, may there be very sweet moments of boring bliss to capture the truth of it all...deep in the pool, on the side with a popsicle and over several iced coffees in the sunshine.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Life in the Margins

It rained hard last night.

The kind of pounding against the roof that at 1am, woke me up disoriented, scrambling to close windows, while reassuring my children that everything was okay.

Grabbing a glass of water, I tried to read and then to write and then to turn off the light and finally, acquiesced to change my 4:30am gym alarm to a 6:30am wake the kids up one.

While fighting to go back to sleep, I thought, I hate being alone with my thoughts.  Neurotic and worrisome, I'm constantly thinking about everything I need to get done, questioning how it's going to get done and then second guessing the bigger questions.

Rolling over to turn off the alarm,  I steadied my way down the stairs to the coffee pot and breathed.  "Every moment is a choice and in this one, choose joy," I banged out in my best self-help voice.  The good news was that Claire (5) and I had no where to be, so we donned our rain garb and headed out for an outdoor adventure.

Halfway down the path, she jumped in the biggest puddle known to man, drenched her dress and soaked her socks.  A little ways farther, she spent what felt like an eternity, having an in-depth dialogue with a worm that she was horrified to discover, was deceased.  I told her in different words that last night's storm was a ferocious bitch and then we said a "Hail Mary" for our wayward friend.

Just as I was getting tired of doing nothing, she noticed a man rollerblading holding the leashes of two wiener dogs and she belted out, "That's dangerous.  Where's your helmet?"  I thought for sure, he would glide right past us with his canines, but instead, he stopped and said, "You're right.  It's in my car.  I'll grab it."  And to my amazement, he wasn't put off at all.

She looked at me beaming and said, "Safety first."

Watching her catapult down the slide, wriggle sand between her toes and try to introduce herself to the little people at the park, it made me thankful that I left my phone at home.  I couldn't take a picture of her.  I couldn't check to see if the AC inspection people called back.  I couldn't see if it was going to rain later this afternoon.  I couldn't do anything other than feel the wind, watch her play and soak in the 60 degree May morning.

And I realized that the real life happens in the margins, not in the calendar.

While I pawn off these moments as boring or burdensome as I try to get the real things done...the truth of it is...that this is what it means to literally live in the moment free of the fear of what there is to do and worry for how it won't measure up.

This weekend, I'm headed by myself to write...all. weekend. long.  And already, I've thought about canceling the trip a million times.  What if they need me?  What if it rains?  What if I'm by myself and I can't stop thinking?

I think if that happens, I'm going to find a dead worm and have a conversation with it.  I feel like that's a good place to start...

Friday, May 6, 2016

Ode to 41-Year Old Me

I woke up this morning and thought,  I'm 41.

And two seconds later, I was elated.

Forty one is infinitely better than forty...even though, my son, Sam told me that I am now officially closer to 50 than I was before.

For months leading up to my fortieth birthday, I was stressed...worried that I hadn't reached certain milestones...a number on the scale, a title on the business card, a day without yelling at my children, a particular street address, a book with my name on the front cover.  I felt less than.

But slowly over the last year, I've come to realize that all of that internal pressure is a rash of shit.  In the end, it's my "less than's" that really make me a pretty kick-ass wife, mother, friend, writer, neighbor and random lady you meet at the coffee shop.

And so, while I spent my 41st birthday morning, substitute teaching in my youngest daughter, Claire's classroom, I wrote an ode to myself, similar to the annual one I compose to my children on their days of birth. 
Ode to 41-Year Old Me

Ode to you, the woman with the long brown hair and the bright blue eyes with the smile. 

You know the one.  The face that greets the world and says, "I love you.  All of you, but especially, the broken parts.  The fractured places that you're embarrassed to share.  The stories that you don't like to admit.  The failings and the misgivings.  The pieces that aren't quite right and won't seem to go away as hard as you try."

Here's to the woman who's been around the block, knows what matters and hasn't left her optimism out to dry. 

Cheers to the spirit that keeps up the good fight even when making one more God damn peanut butter sandwich or reminding a certain someone to lay out his uniform or pick up her fucking shoes may quite possibly be the death of you.

Hats off to the soul who knows how to say I'm sorry and really mean it when she fucks up which is quite honestly, all of the time.

Salud to the beautiful woman you have grown into...a girl who loves tanned legs, skirts that go way above the knee, bright shoes that bang out the miles, bottomless glasses of bubbly and moscato, gallons of really strong coffee and plates of sushi.

Blessings to the one who prays for strength and endurance and hope and grace as she fumbles and grapples with just trying to do the right thing.

Here's to hope for the new year....may the 41st year be filled with you...all of you.  More of the written word, less guilt, greater devotion to running and singing and celebrating and believing that there really is more joy to be had and less dishes to worry about.

I love you and even though you question it, I'm proud of you...41 doesn't look too shabby.