Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Reflections at Christmastime

Lil' Dude's Mama, circa 1982

One of my Besties began her email to the group of us this morning;
Hi friends- back at work today. boo. The growing pains of getting older and changing traditions suck. I miss being a kid sometimes! ha
I know what she means.

Yesterday was perfect, Christmas magic here at the Casa de Lil' Dude. Just the three of us, four if you count the one with a tail. It was the first time in my adult life I've spent Christmas Day home just as us- as in, where I live and with whom I live. The year the lil' dude was born, my parents and brother brought Christmas to us. But yesterday was a first.

And at first, I balked at not traveling after Santa showed up. I'm so accustomed to organizing, packing, and schlepping an entire truckload of holiday cheer to someone else's house. I'm a diehard traditionalist; I love upholding traditions and reveling in repeated, repetitious joy year after year. But I eventually embraced the change of routine ... and it was perfect and the first of our new Christmas Day tradition was born.

Who knew I'd love it so much.

And we weren't short of family time this holiday- one big Christmas December 15th, another December 22nd, and some mini celebrations the 16th, 17th, 20th, and 23rd. Christmas Eve was at my Grandma's ... that's unmissable. Unless in the event of a newborn baby or snowstorm.

This year, I really felt what it's like to straddle that line of child/adult, of daughter/parent. I realized how much I owe it to my own Mother for the past 33 Christmases she continues to make for me. I realize how much goes into ... everything.

Perpetuating myths, magic, Christmas traditions
Shopping, shopping, budgeting, shopping, wrapping, presenting
Remembering everything & everyone from teachers, coaches, aides, dogs, and friends
Handling travel, menus, grocery stores, recipes, adjusted routines
For never, ever saying or acting like any of the holiday mayhem was anything except worth it
Managing expectations, ridiculous wish lists, ungratefulness at times
With gratitude, exuberance, and grace

Clearly, traits she learned from her own Mother, My Grandma, who at 81 years old, invites all 55 members of her family, from her eldest daughter down to her great-great granddaughter to Christmas Eve dinner at the Fellowship Hall at Zion Lutheran Church mentioning in the invitation please bring a bottle of soda or juice to share, I'll have all the rest and very true to her written word takes care of all the rest- all 55 of us and our specific holiday favorites including Swedish meatballs, Lutefisk, ice cream roll, pickled herring, Lefse, Rosettes, white dinner rolls, and her legendary mashed potatoes. She became a Mother 64 years ago and she's made Christmases- each and every single one, perfect and memorable despite circumstance ever since.

This year, in my traditional handwritten thank you notes post holiday, I will make more than a brief mention to both of those women how much I appreciate their continued effort toward family celebration and Christmas in general. How I know it pained both of them to celebrate when it meant doing so without my Grandpa, or when new work schedules meant my Mom had to work Christmas Day for the first time in her kids' lives. How they both forged on with a song in their hearts despite heartache, overwhelmingness, sickness, fatigue, and circumstance.

Because that's the true meaning of Christmas.
And I learned it from the best(s).

Thursday, December 20, 2012


Kid Rock's teacher always emails parents on Sunday evening to layout the week ahead.
This time of year, it's basically to let us know which days the kids will be playing outside so we can pack their appropriate gear.

Yesterday was an intended snow day. She had her snowpants, boots, and mittens at the ready in her cubby.

At pickup time, the kids were still outside. I noticed my daughter's jacket, boots, and Princess bag of gear still intact inside. The rest of her class was out in the snow. I wondered if she was sick or ... in trouble. She hearts snow days.

She came out to me from the classroom- looking fine. I asked her why she wasn't outside.

And she said, Mama, CeCe is sick and can't go outside to breathe cold. So I stayed in with her to be her friend. I didn't want her to be alone. My eyes instantly filled (and are again, right now!); my throat burned. I made eye contact with her teacher and held her silent gaze. We obviously had the same exact feelings about the lil' dude at that exact moment. #26Acts

#26Acts is a hashtag phenomenon taking the world by storm. Started by NBC News correspondent Ann Curry (whom I have always admired & adored) after she visited Newtown, CT last week, it's simply finding the good in each day the rest of us have with our children. It's random acts of kindness, mostly anonymous, some not. It's paying it forward, it's lighting each of Newtown's 26 victims memories ablaze by being the people and humanitarians we are.

I have always said it's the little things in life that bring me the greatest joys. It's Kid Rock's artwork on my walls. It's the Beagle's undying love of fleece blankets. It's text messages from my husband. Letters from my Grandma. Whipped cream on my coffee. Music ready to be retrieved from the library. Mint lipgloss. Gray anything. Songs on the radio that remind me of my Besties. Happy hours. Clean sheets. Fresh fruit. Target runs. Instagram. Goats. Hallmark Channel movies. All of them; little things. The littlest. The little things that make my heart big.

#26Acts is about the little things. Think of what brings you the most unadulterated joy and do it for someone else. Pay for someone's drive-through coffee. Look at the stack of wrapped gifts under your tree, and pick one or two to donate. Leave a balance on a giftcard for the cashier to surprise the next patron with. Leave a 50% tip. Plug meters. Salt sidewalks. Leave handwritten notes in mailboxes, under windshield wipers, on computer monitors. Send text messages to six people, right now, with a favorite memory the two of you shared. Be present. Listen. Absorb. Appreciate.

And there is no expiration date on kindness and intentionality. This isn't an Advent calendar. It's a life calendar so begin your legacy right this second. Do it, be it.

Have fun!

Mama loves.

Monday, December 17, 2012

In Green

I didn't want to write this post. I still don't.

Newtown, CT.

I won't make it political, I won't make it wordy. God, I'll even leave out the cliches. Or most of them. No promises on the swearing.

I have written about some pretty awful things in the past. Parenthood and humanity ain't all rainbows and unicorns. But, the rainbows and unicorns are what makes it worth living.

My 5-year old doesn't know what happened in Connecticut last Friday. How ... How would I even begin to explain that to her? She is scared of spiders. She cries when her boots come off in the snowbank. She's just a little kid. Just like those 20 children. She's just a little kid.

And she is my whole goddamned world. I'm hellbent on making her know that every single day. That didn't start because of Friday, either. That started when I received the call March 23, 2007 from my doctor ... pregnant.

And because she's my whole goddamned world, I have to protect it; protect her.
And that means I cannot become cynical, jaded, complacent.
I have to instead focus on the rainbows and unicorns.
I have to find them when they're buried. I have to find them when they've been overrun by everything dark and disgusting. I have to present them to my girl, my only child, in order to foster and maintain her own faith in humanity.

This country and its people are amazing. We're lucky to live here. We have nothing to be afraid of. We simply cannot live like we do.

You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty. -Mahatma Gandhi


Monday, December 10, 2012

The Tale of Two Birthday Parties

                                                           1985                                2012

History has a weird, often shitty way of repeating itself where family matters are concerned.
And now, lil' dude, you and I can say we've both had our 5th birthday parties cancelled (partially) due to snowstorms. You in December, of course, and me, the first week of April.

We should move.

Saturday was gorgeous here- sunny, clear, mild. The forecast for Saturday night and Sunday, when your party was planned however, looked hellish. Meteorologists kept nicknaming the impending storm Snowmageddon and Snownami and other ridiculous names. I knew we'd wake up to something nasty, however, and I prepped you the best I could even before you went to sleep.

We woke up to something nasty.
Your peeps, the near lot of them, couldn't come.
We didn't want them to ... everyone had to drive too far.
Nothing involving cake and glitter is ever worth endangering life and liberty for.
Trust me on that ...although it's a hard lesson learned!

And you? Handled it like a rockstar. You made me so proud.
It's hard to countdown to a particular day of awesomeness and not have it happen on day zero.
And you are quite the look-forwarder to.
It helped that your peeps are awesome, too. Like your Papa, who was magically in town to work the weekend, who had the foresight to grab your presents from Grandma G. before he left. And like your Uncle D. & Auntie T. who have a ginormous new SUV and even bigger hearts and showed up, too.

We sang, we had your handpicked menu, opened presents, had cake and made the most of out the day we had in front of us. We fielded phone calls and wishes from our stranded guests and did our best to quell their sadness.

And take it from me, dear girl, that sometimes things work out the way they are supposed to, planned for or not. I am a planner with a capital P. The snowstorm that knocked out my 5th birthday party also knocked out all my guests. And I looked forward to things, then too, just like you. In fact, I would get so anxious and worked up about looking forward to things, I would often throw up the night before the actual event. I missed a few fieldtrips that way! But looking at that photo above, you wouldn't know I was heartbroken that day in 1985. I had my parents who ensured I knew it was still OK to celebrate and rock that My Little Pony cake!

Let it be a lesson for you ... to make the most out of any situation that doesn't go your way.

I sorta was kicked out of my college's School of Business & Economics for a poor GPA.
I then majored in Mass Comm ... was good at it, loved it, and have used my degree each day since I graduated 10 years ago.

I didn't want to leave my college town to come to this town ... but I did.
And I met your Dad.

And on a girls' trip with your Fairy Godmother and some Aunties, we tried in vain and failed to find Wrigley Field for a Cubs game. Instead, we freestyled our way into a tattoo shop for matching symbols of beauty and vigilance. One of my favorite memories and tokens of friendship.

And guess what?
You have at least two more birthday celebrations to come thanks to Mama Nature!
December rocks our faces off.

Friday, December 7, 2012


Happy, Happy Birthday, Sweet Baby Girl.
You've been so excited for this day.
I am so glad it is here, for you.
And for me, too, of course.
Motherhood means celebrating all your little's loves, too.
Even the ones that sting a little more than usual.
I love you; I am proud of you; you made me ... well, me.
Mama loves.

And because of my affinity for words- typography, quotes, lyrics, mantras, poems, stories what have you ... I will borrow someone else's words for the rest of this entry. Because I couldn't say it better.

From a Carter's Count On It commercial, narrated in tiny-girl speak which sounds remarkably like someone I know and love very much:

I was born on a cold, September Sunday.
When you brought me home, it was a whole new world.

That first night was a DOOZY.
But you got the hang of it and so did I.
And together, we grew and grew and grew.

Some days were fussy.
But others were all smiles.
And even now, many moons later when you take my hand,
I hold it right back.

Because the day I became yours, you became mine.

From the first night home to the first day of school.
And every first in between.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Longest Day in the History of Ever

Her name was Ann, and she was a dirty, dirty liar.
A sweet and well-meaning dirty, dirty liar.
But still.
5am hooked up to Pitocin ... Nurse Ann telling me we'd have a baby by lunchtime.

I have blogged about my day that Thursday, December 6th, 2007 here so I don't need to repeat it again.
Even though it's currently on repeat in my brain and seeping out of my pores.
Ask me how I am this week and I will launch into my labor and delivery story unprompted.

From the very beginning of this family, we realized we weren't in charge.
Show up when we're told. Leave the rest to chance. I get it, now, thanks to that little blonde cyclone above. Not in charge. Check.

I am emotional. I am nostalgic. I am grateful as shit.

Imagine hearing a lifechanging song, or finding THE cupcake recipe or favorite fit of jeans for a killer price ... and loving your discovery every single day. That's basically what parenting is. Every single day. And I have had five years of those days. These are the good ol' days; this is as good as it gets.

I just scanned Little Dude's Mama posts looking for my labor and delivery story. I stumbled across some videos of Kid Rock ... made me cry, they did. Her pretending to be a pirate with one of my headbands, age three. Her reciting her ABC's before bed, at just over two years old. Sob, I did.

Love, I did, even more.

So yes. On December 6th, 2007, I lived the Longest Day in the History of Ever.

Pretty clueless. Wearing a Victoria's Secret sweatsuit. 10 days overdue and with the patience of a, well, 4 year old, I was at the mercy of the process. I was bored. I was starving. I was waiting for the greatest gift of all. I woke up at 3:30am that morning- and intentionally by alarm - so I could straighten my hair and put on eyeliner so I could go have a baby. And then the minute I had my first nasty contraction, I begged for an epidural ... and I wasn't even 2cm. Pretty clueless.

And still, I didn't have an ounce of an inkling of what was going to happen to my life the very next day.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

5 Years Ago Today

Five years ago today, this is what we looked like.
OMG- that hoodie, a non-maternity fave, was workin' overtime on that belly!
I had to relinquish it to the thrift pile post-birth; as it never regained its shape.
Sorta like me, I suppose ... !

Five years ago today, I was seven days overdue. I waddled into my clinic to the sympathetic smiles of the front desk staff- no doubt shocked I survived Thanksgiving & the weekend storm without having That Baby. Did you have extra pumpkin pie? They giggled. That- THAT right there was why I stopped going into the office a week prior. People, while meaning well, annoyed the shit out of me. The day I hit my due date, 11/27/07, I stopped leaving the house, for all intents and purposes. Except to forcefully walk the dog for miles and miles, while cursing every single old wives' tale of that starting labor, in the Dad's giant snowboarding jacket and loosened Sorels. Except to go to another OB appointment, except for a regular peppermint mocha run to the Local Blend uptown ... caffeinate that sucker, please, I'd tell the Barista. Maybe that will shake the baby out.

Five years ago today, I had several heart-to-hearts with my pediatric nurse bestie about my cervix; I had several full-on cry-cry-crying sessions with my Mama; I had several emails with my wife-of-a-Chiropractor bestie about my transverse fetus & how to get it head down, once and for all.

Five years ago today, my beloved, and I truly mean that, OB, in her long, gray braids, Aztec vest, and soothing voice told me to burn some sage to induce labor. Burn some sage, Mama. Get centered. Feel the calm, welcome the storm, Oh, I welcomed the storm alright. Of hot tears and the complete inability of being in control. Call my nurse in the morning, let her know how the sage burning went, and we can discuss an induction ...

Five years ago today, I still swore on everything I owned and held sacred I was having a boy. I worried about the freaking green, fuzzy Carter's snowsuit I bought was too girly for him to come home in. I also worried that after purchasing the coming-home outfit at a Newborn size, up to nine pounds infant-swathing capacity, it would be too small after I had baked this kid into eternity.

Five years ago today, I started an email to everyone & their Mothers with this as the first line ... "Well, it seems our little Thanksgiving turkey is instead going to be a Christmas ham ... " to give them the update before becoming inundated with their requests for one. Once again very well-meaning, but still ...

Five years ago today, I still worried about my water breaking when I joined my friends at a birthday Happy Hour at a Real Live Bar. I tried ordering an icy shot of Grey Goose when I finally got that belly hoisted onto the stool; but instead received a complimentary mug of drought root beer when I answered the bartender's, when are you due? with an, "168 hours ... AGO,"

Five years ago today, wide-awake and sitting sentinel in my spot in the living room at 2am, I feared- not labor or pushing or drugs or sterility or screaming at my husband, but of never, ever sleeping, ever again. I am pretty sure I didn't sleep a wink all of November, and I had the stocked-to-the-hinges deep freeze full of baked goods and holiday crap to prove it. Come out come out wherever you are, baby ham, I have some scones and brittle and muffins and strudel and lasagna and stew and stromboli and rosettes and biscotti and peach brandy slush to feed you.

Five years ago today, I had no clue ... not even a tiny ounce of how my life was going to change in a mere 72 hours from now.