Tuesday, March 30, 2010


As a parent, especially a first-timer, it's natural I am going to love every one of your stages, the next more than the last.

As a newborn, I couldn't get enough of your quiet sleepiness, the way you'd lay on my chest content for hours. The way your tiny, fuzzy head smelled.

As an infant when your mouth gave way to smiles and gurgles and coos; how you were finally communicating with the world around you.

As a toddler when you began to speak and run, all within a matter of months. How you blew my mind with your fierce capabilities.

Now, as a girl, how you want to be everywhere and everything your Mama is. I am in LOVE with this stage of your life. How you want to be taught. How patient you are. How near you are to me. How proud you make yourself when you contribute to our daily lives together.

It's helping sort laundry, throw things away, pick up after ourselves, do the dishes, clean the sinks, mail the letters, feed the dog. Clip the coupons on quiet, sunny Sunday mornings while we drink coffee and juice, and eat warm muffins together.

There is nothing I'll love more than this stage than the next.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Ice Cream Cone

Friday night on a whim, we headed out for ice cream. I love the spontaneity weekends provide!
It was cold enough to warrant coats, hats, and the heater.
But that didn't matter to us.

This was your first ice cream cone. You've had plenty of bites and bowls of ice cream, but there's just something sweet about your first cone- all by yourself!

The minute we got home, I made a mad dash for the camera- telling Daddy I needed to document this for LDM.
I mean- you only have your first ice cream cone once!

And I'd say your happiness was unparalleled. The rest of the weekend when I asked you want you wanted for meals, or snacks, or even to do, you answered, ice cream? with hope in your voice.

And I don't blame you for asking!

Friday, March 26, 2010


Main Entry: em·pa·thy
Pronunciation: \ˈem-pə-thē\
Function: noun
Etymology: Greek empatheia, literally, passion, from empathēs emotional, from em- + pathos feelings, emotion — more at pathos
Date: 1850
1 : the imaginative projection of a subjective state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it
2 : the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also : the capacity for this.

3 : see also: waking up at 6am to empty your stomach's contents violently in empathy as your Daddy's team, Syracuse, loses in the Sweet Sixteen round of the NCAA tournament the night before.

Feel better, you two.
Mama loves.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

My Most Favorite Gift of All

Dear Mom,

I wanted to take the time this week to send out a belated/revisited/extended Thank You for the best gift I've ever received from you.

It's not my writing chair, my college graduation gift.

It's not any of my fabulous Tiffany jewelry.

Or my new Perk-o-Matic coffee pot that's older than me and makes amazing coffee.

Not my bridal tree Christmas ornament collection that made me cry in front of all those people at my bridal shower.

It's not the Snoopy Icee Machine I got when I was three.

Or my bed.

Or, that Starbucks-themed Easter basket I got a few years ago.

It's not the Crazy Quilt you bestowed on me when I moved into my first home that wasn't also yours. The quilt that took you four years to hand-stitch.

Not my middle name, which is also yours, and the lil' dude's.

It's not even my baby brother- Christmas, 1984.

No. It's not any of those things.
It's my steam-cleaner I received wrapped all fancy from you at the lil' dude's baby shower.

The card said;

"You'll See.
Love, M."

And see I have.
And here's advice: never give a child with the stomach flu neon-colored fruit snacks when she begs and begs and tells you she feels better. Especially if you have beige carpeting.

Because she DOESN'T.

Unless your Mom rocks like mine and you have a steam-cleaner.
Then, really, give her what she wants.
You can handle it.

You'll see.
Love, LDM

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Most Important 433 Words to Read

As you know, darling daughter, I love words. And writing. And stories. I am always looking for inspiration around me, and for sweet tidbits to pass along to you. This is no exception; this is an excerpt from I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around The World, a book by Eve Ensler.

Dear Emotional Creature:

I believe in you. I believe in your authenticity, your uniqueness, your intensity, your wildness. I love the way you dye your hair purple, or hike up your short skirt, or blare your music while you lip-synch every single memorized lyric. I love your restlessness and your hunger. You possess the energy, that, if unleashed, could transform, inspire, and heal the world.
Everyone seems to have a certain way they want you to be- your mother, your father, teachers, religious leaders, politicians, boyfriends, fashion gurus, celebrities, girlfriends. In reporting my new book, I learned a very disturbing statistic: 74 percent of young women say they are under pressure to please everyone.
I have done a lot of thinking about what it means to please; to be the wish or will of somebody other than yourself. To please the fashion setters, we starve ourselves. To please men, we push ourselves when we aren't ready. To please our parents, we become insane over-achievers. If you are trying to please, how do you take responsibility for your own needs? How do you even know what your own needs are? The act of pleasing makes everything murky. We lose track of ourselves. We stop uttering declaratory sentences. We stop directing our lives. We forget what we know. We make everything OK rather than real.
I have had the good fortune to travel around the world. Everywhere I meet teenage girls and women giggling, laughing as they walk country roads or hand out on city streets. Electric girls. I see how their lives get hijacked, how their opinions and desires get denied and undone. So many of the women I have met are still struggling late into their lives to know their desires, to find their way.
Instead of trying to please, this is a challenge to provoke, to dare, to satisfy your own imagination and appetite. To take responsibility for who you are, to engage. Listen to the voice inside you that might want something different. It's a call to your original self; to move at your own speed, to walk with your own step, to wear your colors.
When I was your age, I didn't know how to live as an emotional creature. I felt like an alien, and I still do a lot of the time. I am older now. I finally know the difference between pleasing and loving, obeying and respecting. It has taken me so many years to be OK with being different, with being this alive, this intense. I just don't want you to have to wait that long.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Hey, Mama

You've become quite cavalier in your casualness, little girl.

You're all, Hey, Mama! now when you greet me.
It's funny. And, another reminder you're just growing up, up, and up!

You say, Hey, Mama! when you pee on the carpet.
Jump on my bed.
Hide from me when your nose needs wiping.
Balance on the arm of the couch.
Spill gallons of bath water on the floor.

Hey, Mama!
Hey, you goofy, dramatic, casual little girl!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Let's Go, Orange!

Are you ready for the Big Dance?
It's March Madness, little girl!
You know the drill.
You know who we root for.

After all, you've been studying your play book for weeks and weeks.
Let's go, Orange!!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

From my flower beds comes life. Happy St. Patty's Day!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

In Dog Years

I want to wish the Beagle a very, very happy 4th birthday today.

I had to drag Daddy to the farm where you were for sale.
You were on clearance, even.
I can't believe no one wanted you.
I did.
When I saw your tiny puppy face.

I had wanted a Beagle for ever and ever.
I had your name waiting.
Even though I still mostly call you Brown Dog.
Or, Brown Doggy.

Within a few weeks, Daddy loved you most.
I love how you liked him so much, you MADE him love you.
It must be that canine sense.

You'll always be my first baby.
You were the biggest thing Daddy and I did after we got married.
You've made us laugh.
And cuss.
And gloat.
And cry.
But not a lot.

I can't wait for all these next years with you in our home.
You're fiercely loyal.
And us humans talk about you and FOR you more than any sane people should.

I am sorry I called you fat on the blog. You're mad. Yes you are. Would it be better if I called you phat?

We love you.
You made us parents.
And a family.
Conventional or not.
You were first.

We love you bigger than a Milkbone.
And more than the blankets in your bed.

Happy Birthday, Beagle.
Mama loves.

Monday, March 15, 2010

On Fitting In

For the Dad, it was a Bart Simpson "Slacker" t-shirt.
For me, it was a pair of Z Cavaricci jeans.
Considered 'the' items to make us fit in with our peers all those years ago.

Also considered 'the' item neither of our parents would buy. There is a lesson in there I am sure, as we both grew up just fine.

So Friday, when the Dad picked up the lil' dude from daycare and she was positively raving about 'the' item that everyone else had BUT her, we had a decision to make.

In the end, an $8 umbrella prevailed as the winner.
I'm sure we'll get to the jeans argument in a few more years.
But for now, there is a happy 2-year old just praying for rain for her and all her friends!

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Queen of Your Castle

It isn't always the easiest to make the best decisions as a family. Daddy and I both work full-time so we can put milk in your tummy, clothes on your tushie, and fun in your life. The evenings can be chaotic; managing a household, a child, a dog, a marriage ... all of those things we call life. And, please, sweetheart, don't misunderstand. We love every aspect of our life together, and our family and home. It's who we are. All I am saying, is sometimes, after work and daycare, it may be easiest to slip in a DVD or recorded show or movie for you to watch- while Daddy shovels snow or does laundry, while Mama makes dinner, or organizes things for the next day. While it may be easy; it might not be the best.

So, we make conscious efforts to spend our time with you- encouraging your imagination away from the television.

And engaging in all sorts of crazy fun playtime with you!

Because after all, the dishes can wait. So can everything else.
Except for you.

Fabricating fortresses for your favorite fairytalers.

Building beautiful buildings for your buddies.

Constructing castles for your kingdoms of creatures.

And look who is the Queen of your castle! I couldn't have built it better myself, sweetheart!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Winter Weight

We've got what they call a little bit of a weight problem here at the Casa de Lil' Dude.
I am referring to the Beagle.
He's large.
And he's in charge.

Typically, winter weight is something the Beagle packs on after his endless days of running around his kingdom and neighborhood wan due to the harsh Midwest winters we endure. By May Day, usually, he's looking more and more svelte, a product of the return of sunshine, the melting of snow-pack, and the incline of the thermometer.

But this year, he is extra winter-weighted. Neighbors have commented when they've seen us on walks through the puddles. My Dad commented two weeks ago. The aunties, randomly stopping to visit, have commented. Dinner guests and their children, all point and laugh at my poor, fat Beagle dog.

And I think I know what's going on here.

Take the heart of our two-year-old daughter, bigger than the sun, and her affinity for sharing what she's been given, no matter the recipient. But, in most cases, I am assuming her recipient has a tail. And long, brown ears. And turtle breath. And aside from raw potatoes, cold carrots, and errant pieces of fresh garlic, there is nothing this dog won't eat.

As we continue to battle the bulge, I have to find a way to make the lil' dude understand it's not OK to share her goods with her furry companion.

Sharing with people: good. Sharing with puppies: bad.

And too bad, what, with Easter right around the corner.
The Beagle? Totally loves him some jellybeans.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Acceptance Speech

Image courtesy starpulse.com

On Sunday night, actress Sandra Bullock was the recipient of an Academy Award for her leading role in the film The Blind Side. In the film, based on a true story, Bullock portrays Leigh Anne Tuohy, a Caucasian mother who takes in the broken and abandoned Michael Oher, an African American teenaged boy who eventually goes on to play in the NFL as a Baltimore Raven.

Her acceptance speech was the sweetest, most heartfelt soliloquy I've ever heard. I wanted to capture it here to prove: there is nothing comparable to a mother's love for her child.

I would like to thank what this film was about for me, which are the moms that take care of the babies and children no matter where they come from. Those moms and parents never get thanked. I, in particular, failed to thank one. So, if I could take this moment to thank Helga B. for not letting me ride in cars with boys 'til I was 18 'cuz she was right. I would have done what she said I was gonna do. For making me practice everyday when I got home; piano, ballet, whatever it is I wanted to be. She said to be an artist, you gotta practice everyday; and for reminding her daughters that there's no race, no religion, no class system, no color, nothing. No sexual orientation that makes us better than anyone else. We are all deserving of love, so, to that trailblazer who allowed me to have that, and this, and this, I thank you so much for this opportunity that I share with these extraordinary women.

Monday, March 8, 2010


There's an old wives' tale that when children take to sleeping more over certain periods of time, it means the child is undergoing some sort of growth spurt. After all, growing big and tall and healthy is hard work!

On Saturday, lil' dude, you napped for four hours straight.
A) you haven't napped on a Saturday in 2010.
B) you slept through our library & Starbucks date.
C) I am not mad.
D) I went in and checked on you multiple times.
E) you were always breathing.
F) and just about always snoring.
G) That afternoon reminded me of your babyhood, where you spent staggering amounts of daylight snoozing.

When I finally heard you creeping into awakeness just as the sun was setting for the day, I heard you proclaim, lil' dude woke up! like you were so surprised you actually found the strength and courage to face the day again. After all, a girl does need to go pee and eat a turkey dog every so often as mandated by nature.

Don't worry. Within 2.5 hours, you were ready for bed again.

And last evening, as I plunked your tushie down in a bubble bath at 6:45pm you declared, "Sleep now. Time for bed." I knew you were serious, all yawn-y and droop-lidded. I hustled you through your bath and following routine. You want sleep, I shall get you there, my precious girl!

As we settled into the rocking chair with a tiny board book of your first prayers, you politely reminded me, "Sleep now. Time for bed." There was no second book to be had.

And, at 7:08pm approximately 10 hours after you opened your eyes for the day, you were enveloped by the darkness, welcomed by sweet dreams, and blissfully, sweetly, peacefully, went to sleep.

And this morning, 12 hours later I greeted your sweet face and the expectation you'd gained a foot or two in length.
But, you're still my three-footer.

Most creatures terminate their hibernation by spring.
You, my little creature, commence yours.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Letter from Mama, v27

Spring is my second favorite season. I love the promise of fresh, new life after a long, cold winter. I like the message Easter portrays. I like the smell of mud and the damp green color. I love the return of sunshine. I love dirt under my fingernails. And I love sharing it with you.

Yesterday you wanted to go on a walk- so we loaded the wagon up and hitched up the Beagle so he could be our lead. You requested to bring your furry pals too- two brown puppy dogs, and two bumpy, oatmeal-textured bears. The sight of you tucking the four of them in together across from your seat, and covered by a blanket, warmed my heart. You're always so good to think of others, especially when there is joy to be dispersed, and fun to be shared. Just as I am noticing my tulip bulbs swelling under the soil in my flower beds, I am noticing now how you didn't have to stand tippy-toed on the porch to ring the doorbell. You're just tall enough to reach without exertion. I noticed on our walk the things you pointed out- the church bell tower, tolling in the distance, the house where the tiny Collie lives and barks like crazy, and the park with the bridge covering the stream. The things you've remembered since our last stroll through our neighborhood a few months ago, before the snow, ice, and wind made us retreat.

Being born in December, I consider your first full season as spring. This spring marks your third on this planet. You can sing the alphabet, count to 14, identify most colors, say your entire name, wear underpants all day long, name household after household of corresponding family members, and you have 17 teeth. You whisper when it's appropriate, say excuse me when you need to get by, talk on the phone to your peeps, and ask to see your grandparents on a weekly basis. It's amazing to watch your seasons fade into the next as you grow bigger, smarter, and into the life you live. You'll always be my favorite new bud on the trees, biggest Robin on our back fence, and warmest patch of sunshine in late afternoon.

Mama loves.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

I Need Cat

There are certain phrases that once uttered, become instant catch phrases.

From my generation, we'll always have;
How YOU doin'?
No soup for you!
All that and a bag of chips.
Show me the money!
Talk to the hand.
Don't go there.
Hasta la Vista, baby.
That's what she said.

And so on.

There are also the lesser famous catch phrases made by popular by the people you know and love.

For instance, when my brother was a toddler, he fell off the kitchen chair in my grandparents' kitchen. Those of us who witnesses his tumble began to laugh. And my brother, bless his heart, shouted very loudly, not too funny! He hated to be embarrassed, hated to be the center of attention. And there you have my family's favorite catch phrase, still used 20+ years later.

Last weekend, we played for three straight days out of town. On Monday afternoon, we stopped by my parents' to retrieve the Beagle. The lil' dude, tired from her adventures and freshly up from a 20-minute nap, was devastated when she learned we wouldn't be spending anytime with her Grandma, with whom she had just spent the weekend with.

As we buckled her defiant little behind into her car seat, the wailing truly began. She started to cry hard for her Grandma, for the dog named Bernice, and the cats.

She kept repeating I need Grandma! I need Bernice! I need Cat! over and over again, her face a hot mess of tears.

And, here I Need Cat was established as our new catch phrase.

At my parents', there are three cats. My mom? Does not like cats. The one above, Mildred, is my Dad's cat I bought him for Father's Day 7 years ago to mend his broken heart after our old gray cat died from diabetes. Mildred lives in the garage, and tries to sneak in for snacks and sleep. The other two cats, Bill and Ted, are now permanent residents after my brother brought them home from his college house, and failed to bring them to his new house. Those cats are strictly garage cats, separated from Mildred in their own garage. And they love the lil' dude. And she loves them. All of them.

So, when you're a tired, sad, mad, crying toddler who just really wants her Grandma, the dog named Bernice, and ALL the cats, the only thing that makes sense is to say, I Need Cat.

And then listen to your parents say that out of context for the next 20+ years.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


By Alison Meghee & Peter H. Reynolds

One day I counted your fingers and kissed each one.
One day the first snowflakes fell, and I held you up and watched them melt on your baby skin.
One day we crossed the street and you held my hand tight.
Then, you were my baby, and now you are my child.

Sometimes, when you sleep, I watch you dream, and I dream too ...
That someday you will dive into the cool, clear water of a lake.
Someday you will walk into a deep wood.
Someday your eyes will be filled with a joy so deep that they shine.

Someday you will run so fast and so far your heart will feel like fire.
Someday you will swing high- so high, higher than you ever dared to swing.
Someday you will hear something so sad that you will fold up with sorrow.
Someday you will call a song to the wind, and the wind will carry your song away.

Someday I will stand on this porch and watch your arms waving to me until I no longer see you.
Someday you will look at this house and wonder how something that feels so big can look so small.
Someday you will feel a small weight against your strong back.
Someday I will watch you brushing your child's hair.

Someday, a long time from now, your own hair will glow silver in the sun.
And when that day comes, love, you will remember me.

Monday, March 1, 2010

From Behind the Camera

I present you with my attempt to get out from behind the camera; and into my daughter's life through photography.
It's easy to be the portrait-taker, the scene-setter, the dictator of everyday life through the lens.

But I want to be IN her life through photography.
I don't want to worry about my greasy ponytail.
My same old sweatpants.
My beat-up glasses.
My makeup-less face.
My double chin.

Or anything else I fear may ruin a perfectly good photograph.
Because after all, how can it be perfectly good if we're not in it together?

Because it is days like these, documented in the photo above, she'll remember for what they were, a Mama and her best girl being silly, goofy, crazy.

She won't remember that she has mac 'n' cheese crusted in between her eyes.
My bangs are too long.
Her t-shirt is too small.
And, I always wear that sweatshirt.

But none of that matters.