Thursday, August 29, 2013

Fan Mail

Our Village stretches far and wide. It's one of my favorite things in America. Our support system; our fan base;  our roster. We're crazy-lucky.

I've been waxing poetic about Kindergarten for months now. Bear with me; sorry, not sorry. My Village has heard my jam on repeat but they're faithful. They let me go on and on and let her go on and on. 

This week, the mail started rolling in. Last summer, when the Lil' Dude split her cheek wide open, I think she had mail to open for 10 days straight. Love via USPS is what that is! 

Grandma G. sent a box yesterday- the Lil' Dude spied it on the porch the minute we got home. It has stickers, she squealed. I know where it came from! It contained a new skirt and cardi- my girl's love languages. And two books- Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten and Don't Let The Pigeon Drive the Bus. And a card ... Oh, the card:

To my Lil' Dude-Girl;
I am so proud of you starting kindergarten- you have grown up so fast. My first day of kindergarten in April 1967 is the only first day of school I remember. My outfit was orange and bright pink and my tennis shoes had zippers because I couldn't tie my shoes tight enough to keep the laces tied- Grandpa R. had to reteach me when he was done working in the fall! I rode the bus to school but got picked up before lunch- only went 1/2 days. I loved it and you will too. Have a fabulous year. Love, Grandma G.

Oh, man.

And that lady- Grandma G., my own Mama also sent me a letter, in a University of Minnesota card. 

Thought this card was most fitting as our favorite 5 year old heads to kindergarten. Maybe she will be 10 years old and ask, "Does this town have a college? I think I want to go there!" Like you did. Push U of M!!! Be thankful she is a bright and healthy little girl, able and willing to go to school. We are blessed! You will survive the first day- I promise. "You are amazing, competent, strong, and beautiful!" ... And so is Lil' Dude as she starts her road of education. You have done an amazing job being her Mom! Be proud. Love you bunches- M.

Oh, man-er.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Spin Cycling

Inspiration comes to me from everywhere; every single day. I act on a lot of it, but if you were privy to the folds in my brain matter, you'd have to sit down to catch your breath. My brain never, ever stops. My memory is even worse. Better? I don't know. Go, go, go. My brain looks like your Pinterest boards. Combined with your sister's. And your boss's. And your entire street's. To all of the college freshman, to all of the stay-at-home Mamas everywhere.

I was washing the Lil' Dude's school clothes the other night. I was snipping tags and sorta sorting colors. I washed the clothes alone, and I don't know why. I guess I didn't want their fluffy, crispy, newness to be ruined by older, dirtier, more experienced clothes. As I shut the washer, I was hit with a wave of nostalgia that you could have surfed on, right into the sunset.

I told you about my brain. I remember 3rd grade with great clarity. I can tell you all the outfits I've worn on every single business trip since 2005. I remember the songs, the scents, the scenes. I've got raging OCD ... but of the cute variety. Not of the clinical kind (for the most part).

So imagine if you will- me, pregnant. With OCD. And a strong, shared desire to not know the sex of my baby until its birth day. It was the first time in my life I didn't feel in control and it quite honestly, scared the shit out of me. But even worse, it made me insufferably insane.

I didn't know what I was carrying. I didn't know when it would be born, or how. I JUST DIDN'T KNOW.

As I amassed piles of gender-neutral clothing, bedding, and babyness, I realized in all my planning-glory I had enough heaps to do laundry. I bought my first bottle of Dreft, and swooned with baby anticipation as I took the first whiff. And I threw all those impossibly tiny onesies in with handmade fleece receiving blankets and burp rags and bibs and the cutest booties you've ever seen.

And as I closed the lid on the washer, I exhaled. Here goes nothing, I thought. What the Hell. Whatever happens, happens.


And as I closed the lid of the washer a few nights ago I uttered the same sentiment. Here goes nothing. What the Hell. Whatever happens, happens. I can't very well prepare myself, or worse yet, her, for what will happens as she starts school next week just as I couldn't prepare myself for pregnancy, childbirth, or parenthood.

And it's not about her; she's aces. She chose skinny jeans for her school debut, be still my heart. It's not about letting go. I've let her go one thousand times, and one thousand and one times too many. She comes back. My Dad was right, there are more than enough hours in a week to get your Mama on, and parent the way you choose. It's about me and what I can't be prepared for.

So I'll just keep washing clothes, load after load.

Friday, August 23, 2013


Today is one of those days where I can't fix it for you.
Today you're saying goodbye to one of your best friends, your first crush, and probable first love.
Your buddy G. is leaving daycare for kindergarten, and had the audacity to make his departure a full week before yours.


He was born five months after you, and started daycare as you were starting to produce teeth. That's a lot of days spent together. You have literally grown up together.

I remember the days he'd sit waiting for you on the steps, holding your "daycare NaNa". His drop-offs always prompt, ours notsomuch. I remember the one time I snuck up the stairs to see the two of you entwined on the couch, your head in his lap as he absentmindedly stroked your hair, engrossed in a cartoon. Every Friday morning he asks, "how was gymnastics last night?"

And like any couple you've had your rows. Called each other names. Hurt each other, physically, emotionally. Sold each other out to the highest bidder, and lunged for the soft spots in each other's lives.

But there were always Friday mornings. You two are both only children. Kindred to the core.

And today, you're saying goodbye to him.

Last night, you colored your heart out in a project of epic love proportion with his name on it. You included an address label bearing your info, lest that sweet boy ever forget where to find you.
And, you included a temporary tattoo with your Daddy's favorite local brewery logo on it. Matching tattoos, at five? Yeah, sweet girl, you got this thing called love on lock.

We stopped this morning at the bakery to pick out cupcakes in G's honor.
It took an excruciating amount of time.
Vanilla. They have to be vanilla. That's his favorite. They can't have girl sparkles or jewelry or Hello, Kitty or nothing.

I stood back and let you pick.
One of our extended family motto's is, when all else fails, bring food.
And cupcakes were your idea.

I hope today goes as best as it can.
I hope you hugged his neck, hard, and told him how awesome he is.
How much you'll miss him.

And how you'll never, ever forget him.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Advice on Turning 30

I'm continually absorbing other people's words and stories, as I always have. I just read this piece by the lovely and talented Olivia Wilde as it appeared in Glamour's September issue. And while yes, my dear, you're just about to start kindergarten, I don't think there's any harm in reading her advice on turning 30. Life moves fast!

DON'T freak out about all the brilliant people who accomplished more than you by 30.
Yes, Einstein had discovered the theory of relativity by your age, and Emily BrontĂ« had written Wutheringfu*#ing Heights, but honestly, what you achieve is far less important than what kind of human being you are. What do you want people to say at your funeral: "Olivia may have cured HIV, but she ran over my cat and drove away laughing"? No, thanks! I'd rather be a good person who makes people happy than a dick who wins a Nobel by 32.

DO enjoy your sexual prime.
Hey oh! According to horny Professor Alfred Kinsey's 1953 page-turner Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, women really start heating up in their thirties, so let's just say it's finally your turn to act like an 18-year-old boy—except you'll be 1,000 times better at...everything.

DON'T cut your face.
I am so saddened and grossed out by young women who look like creepy, old aliens because of their new Barbie noses and lips. Is that a smile or a grimace? Did you melt hot wax on your face, or is that your skin? A better approach: Take care of yourself now that you're old enough to know how. Drink water, sleep eight hours (I wish), and don't go within 400 feet of a tanning booth or I'll slap you. Hard.

DO travel.
This is possibly the last time until retirement that you won't be considered a bad person for booking a last-minute ticket to Morocco with friends just because you damn well feel like it. You're old enough to know where not to go (CancĂșn) but young enough to feel guilt-free being entirely unreachable.

DON'T propose to the next guy you meet just because you worry he'll be your last chance at lifelong companionship.
Sure, you've attended more bridal showers than yoga classes in the past year, but that doesn't mean you're destined to be a craggy spinster, searching for roommates on Craigslist at 50. The danger with "husband hunting" is you start to see every date as a job interview ("He does seem to be homosexual, but that might be good for fatherhood!"); it clouds your ability to get to know someone.

DON'T feel pressured to pop out kids.
I love kids with a passion I usually reserve for hot cheese, miniature chairs, and Prince concerts, but I feel no stress to reproduce simply because of a fear of withering eggs. Wait for the right partner, and make sure you're where you want to be in life before picking neighborhoods based on school districts. This is not to suggest you should live irresponsibly for the next 10 years, then expect to get knocked up when your chosen dude finally sneezes inside you. But you'll never find the right baby-maker or enjoy baby-making if you're doing it out of anxiety. Relax, be good to your body, and when the time is right, get busy.

DO reap the benefits of your accumulated wisdom.
You're 30: You know stuff now. Your twenties were for "ducking up," as my auto-correct would say, and learning from those mistakes. (For instance, never again will I convince myself that sleep is for sissies and go straight from a party to the airport. You will not "sleep on the plane"; you'll vomit in the security line. Go to bed.) Now you get to live with that knowledge under your belt. Also, make it a nice belt. You're 30. Stop dressing like a hobo.

DO learn a new skill.
You've already lived longer than most women in the thirteenth century, so why not look at your thirtieth as a rebirth? I started stand-up paddleboarding at 29 and consider it my baby step toward becoming a badass 30-something semipro surf goddess (as long as the sharks go vegan).

And DON'T be bogged down by your past.
Saturn has now orbited the sun once since you've been alive; make this next go-round whatever you want it to be. Consider your baggage (bad boyfriends, job setbacks, body issues) lost by the airline of life, leaving you empty-handed at your new destination with only one choice: Go shopping.
That's it. Now go—be awesome.

Friday, August 16, 2013

It's Not About the Stuff

I've made no claims to be religious, but I am a spiritual person.
I have boatloads of faith.
I know things happen for a reason.
I know there is a greater power at work which is comfortable to me, and I see no desire to question it.

That being said, I think there is spirituality and healing powers in ...

... music. The louder, the better.
... fellowship. The louder, the older, the better.
... mint-flavored lip gloss.
... coffee. At home, drive-through, front porch, gas station, The House That Built Me, airport, dock.
... magazine subscriptions.
... sun. Sunlight, sunshine, sunblock, sunflowers, sun rays, sun salutations, sun dogs, sun roofs.
... and shopping. I mean, Target? Can I get an amen?

My own Mama and I have a long-standing history of shopping.
She's definitely not a thing-wanter or self-purchaser. For her, shopping meets a few of her basic needs. Deals, deals, deals, and shopping for the others, the ones she loves best.
From the time I was very young, this has worked to my advantage!

On her seventh day on this fine planet, my own Mama and I took the Lil' Dude on her very first shopping trip. We dressed her as a reindeer (I still stand by that decision) and pushed her through the mall. It was baptism by fire, really. If she's from my loins, she's gonna love her some shopping. And mostly, she has. There was that one time last spring when she and I were deep in the trenches, summer clothes shopping and wedding shopping and Mother's Day and Grandmas' birthdays' shopping when she sighed and said, I wish I was golfing with Daddy. I recoiled like I had been slapped.

Then I did was any self-respecting Mama would do and bribed her with a trip to Target's golden aisles of toys with a $10-bill upon compliance. (I also still stand by that decision)

Yesterday, yesterday was another day of firsts. We school shopped for the first time together, just Mama and daughter. We were hitting on cylinders of my holy testament with loads of sunshine, lots of coffee, and music; in fact at her discretion, we blasted AWOLNATION'S Sail on repeat all afternoon.

It was a glorious, rad day.

But, one with lesson woven through its fabric.

Shopping, by definition, is about stuff. The buying and selling and acquiring of cash or goods. Yes.

But what it means to me is different. It's about the time and the people. Something my own Mama instilled in me all those years ago I began shopping with her. If it's about the stuff, you're doing it wrong. In fact, I remember my senior year of college, that Friday in March when I called home to say I was en route- spring break meant going home to my childhood house. As ever, my own Mama and I had plans as we did annually for spring break, to shop our faces off at the midwest's largest mall.

When she answered, she was anticipating my call.
And she was crying.
Oh dear God, who? Is all I wanted to know.

The paper mill closed today and Dad lost his job. 

Oh. Well? I stood in my rented kitchen with the wall phone, age 21 and on the cusp of adulthood and completely unprepared for it, by the way, waiting. "Oh. Now what?"

Well you come home and we'll all talk about it, but we can't go shopping this weekend. I am so sorry.

No, no shit. That really hadn't crossed my mind. How could it hers?
That's what happens when you become a parent. Their stuff is now your stuff. She was anticipating my shock, sadness.

By the time I arrived home, a few hours later, my Dad had received a few calls from headhunters, etc. and was appearing nonplussed as his is ever-loving nature. My own Mama was still pacing and big-picturing the shit out of it all. We didn't shop that weekend. We didn't need to. It's not about the stuff.

And a few months later, on the very same June morning, my Dad and I both began new jobs and new chapters in our lives. When I called him from the floor of my walk-in closet that morning, he 3 hours away from his family at a new job, new town, and dealing with his own stuff, he walked me through my mine. I'll never forget that conversation. He ended the call with, "Now you and Mom can go shopping to celebrate your success! Get you some real world clothes and maybe a Palm Pilot."

Thursday, August 15, 2013

An Open Letter to The Other Woman

I know how much she loves you. She doesn't even try to hide it anymore.
It's been that way for years.
By Sunday nights, she's asking for you.
And when she comes home to me in the evenings, she calls me by your name.

God, does she love you.
I tried to prepare myself for it, I really did try.
Other people tried to prepare me, too.
My Dad sent me this email on February 21, 2008. You know, The Day.
The Day she also became yours.

Hi Kid,
Welcome back to the working world.  I suspect there were a couple tears shed at some point over the past 24 hrs.  Just remember there are 168 hrs in every week and Lil' Dude will be with you or The Dad around 123 of those hours.  More than enough time to mold her into whatever you want.  Just make sure you go to the right house to pick her up instead of a neighbor two doors down like I did with your brother when we lived in Circle Pines.


The Other Woman ... aka The Daycare Lady.

When I met you that August evening, before I even met my eventual daughter, I liked you instantly. You honestly reminded me of, well, me. You had your nose pierced, too. I mean, is that not the best reason to choose daycare for your child? I couldn't explain it. I wasn't even to the car in your driveway when I gushed to The Dad, 'she's the ONE.' He, as he always regards me, told me to settle down ... we had time and other appointments. I said no, no, NO. Cancel them. Hire her. Choose her with me.

I won him over; we called off the search. I have never been able to explain my gut feelings or instinct to him, but he plays along most the time. When I called you the very next day to hire you, you told me you weren't necessarily for hire ... that in turn, you were seeing other expectant parents and interviewing them, as we did you.

I was crushed. I was terrified.
I was pregnant ... crushed, and terrified. Trifecta. 
Oh God, please let her choose us, I prayed.
And dirty little secret? I'm not much of a pray-er.
But I prayed my soul off those days leading to your decision.
I debated on dropping off my killer chocolate chip cookies, or an over-$20 bottle of wine.
Instead, I followed my Grandma's sage advice and kicked it old-school with a handwritten thank you note.

Thank you for your time in meeting with us, and opening your home to us.
You've had children, and you know firsthand how extremely difficult this decision is.
You were the first provider to put us at ease, and give us a little faith that everything will be OK.
Thanks again. 
It was very nice to meet you.


P.S. I like totally love your nosering!

You chose us.
Then I started praying for a different reason.

My own Mama was a stay-at-home mom and I remember her saying "Daycare kids are brats!" so that is how I grew up. She went to work when I was a 6th grader- so I could be in charge of my brother who had survived Kindergarten to advance to first grade. I was 11- the magic number where I was deemed old enough to supervise a six-year-old. And he was a brat, and he had never ever been to daycare! I then learned that daycare didn't make kids brats; they simply were assholes because of how they were being raised ... by their own biological parents. Daycare was a means to an end, a way to be in two places at once, essentially.

You chose us.

You were one of the first people I called when my daughter was born. Right after I called and sobbed with my Grandma ... she was one of the only people who knew I was having a girl. I called you, propped up in that hospital bed, knees drawn up to my chest, with a tiny pink baby girl in between. I held her tiny fist in my hand as I spoke into my pink cellphone, whispering her name to you. A girl! You declared. A girl is so perfect!

And on February 21st, 2008, the Dad bundled her up in her First Day Outfit and winter hat, pacifier in place, and I left before they did. I had on a grown-up outfit- a dress and boots. I had washed and straightened my hair, applied eyeliner and perfume, and I was Starbucks-bound before debuting at the office. It was almost like leaving them at home, not really accepting where they were headed after I backed out of the driveway.

I marched into my office ... head held high, hugging all my co-workers who hadn't seen me since Thanksgiving or before. I walked into my office ... to a gorgeous bouquet of flowers, a delivery from two of my Besties- one of whom is the Lil' Dude's Fairy Godmother. This was the card, and it still hangs in my office today. It constantly reminds me to fight to the good fight; the delicate, effing-crazy, beautiful balance that is Motherhood.

And the day went fine. You texted that notion a few times, you already a pro in dealing with new Mamas in their postpartum-career newness. I was overwhelmed with 12 weeks of catch-up and alertness and the day sped toward 5pm in perfect natural order.

And the weeks stretched on, the winter eventually subsiding as the sun bolstered the spring and I fostered the courage to handle the drop-offs and pickups. And when I had to leave for my first work trip when she was just three months old, it was you I fearfully trusted with my whole heart in one tiny fleece pile of love. I will be back. Five days. Please love her and whisper to her that I do, too.

And you have loved her fiercely. More fiercely than I could have ever imagined, or hoped.
I don't even know where to begin with a list, you know what I mean?

Administering Motrin to her as my matronly Post-It note instructed post-shots.
Easing her into rice cereal.
Bagging up the blow-outs.
The little "Lil' Dude needs diapers!" notes stuck to her carseats.
Her first holidays ... her first friends.
The endless texts and photos.
Your honesty.
Your consistency.
Applying 14 tubes of SPF.
Letting her get dirty.
And love on your ancient dog.
Getting her to eat vegetables. 
Potty-training her with gusto.
Teaching her the alphabet.
Wiping her nose, her tears, her bloodied knees.
Being reluctant and hesitant to call in sick because it inconvenienced others.
Letting her wear ridiculous outfits and dance on your furniture.
For telling her, and me, you love her and meaning it.
The sidewalk chalk.
The American Girl picnic lunches.
The temporary tattoos.
The permanent attachment. 
For having her call me when her first tooth fell out.
And for bagging up her bangs she hacked off herself.
For telling me what I needed to hear, whether or not I want to.
Being more excited for kindergarten than I am.
The birthday celebrations, and Christmas gifts chosen with perfect intentionality.
Hell, for complimenting me in your entryway nearly every day.
For being so effing amazing at your job.
For choosing us.

I wanted to get this prose out of my heart and onto paper before The End, which is so, so close on that horizon. I want you to know that 72 months ago this very month, my life forever changed when I met you. Not one single other person on this planet, save for her own Daddy, has had as much to do with the wonderful little girl she is today but you. Not one.

Thank you for sharing her with me.
And, no. It's not actually me, sharing her with you.
You know exactly what I mean.

Mama loves.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Monday, August 12, 2013

Out In Front

Ride like the wind, she said.
We were on our first bike ride together after weeks of her gaining confidence on grass, with a parent trotting beside. Tonight was the real deal.

And faithfully, I followed behind her, shouting encouragement, traffic laws, lyrics to the songs she initiated. It goes without saying- I won't forget that bike ride, ever.

I will always be behind her.
In fact, pregnancy prepares you for that.
There you are, big ol' baby bump in all its glory, stretched out before you, announcing your position in the world.
The one behind your child.
Forever and ever.

I was behind her, pushing her in that giant contraption of a stroller system, all over the damn mall and Target when I was on maternity leave, bored, deliriously happy and content, but stir-crazy nonetheless. Hashtag, winter.
I was behind her when old ladies peered into her stroller and commented me on her big cheeks, or gorgeous hazel eyes.

I was behind her when she learned to roll over.
During that first March Madness she was on this earth.
I wasn't there when she rolled off our bed.
Onto the floor.
But got The Phone Call when I was at Starbucks, nearly to work.
I made it home in record time.

I was behind her when I strapped her to my chest that spring she had croup, and her Ped. told me to take her outside in April without a blanket in her face. It's OK he assured me. You're supposed to.
I sat on the icy deck stairs in the waning light of day, cell phone clutched tightly in my hand, wondering what the Hell I had gotten myself into by giving birth to a human of my own.

I was behind her, unfortunately, when she fell down our own staircase.
Twice, in one day.
I was behind her, an ankle's reach too short, the second time.
That second time? We got on tape.
I swore a lot.
On tape.

I was behind her as she finally walked, at age nine months.
And I say finally because it was all she tried to do from that particular July until she took off, in October. It was her goal in life.
And I was behind her.

I was behind her as she boarded her first airplane, shy of two, holding her hand down the aisle.
Each passing row of passengers sighing in relief as we kept going.
She didn't make a peep, for the record.

I was behind her as she started preschool as a three-year-old.
And four-year-old.

I was behind her on the swings, on the fieldtrip buses, on watersides, rides at Disney World, and on escalators while Christmas shopping at the largest mall in North America. I was behind her as I ran her into the ER for the first time as a Mama, again, wondering what the Hell I had gotten myself into by giving birth to a human of my own.

I've been behind her for her entire life.
And waiting to be exactly right there all of mine.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Things That Hurt

Inner-arm tattoos.
Burning the roof of your mouth.

Delivering grandparents' eulogies.
When your favorite TV show airs its series finale.

Charley horses.

Double ruptured eardrums.

Running in subzero temperatures.

Running into screen doors.

Trying to remember passwords.
Pruning raspberry bushes.

Shin splints.

Shutting your hair in the car door.
Daylight savings.

Gas prices.
Latte prices.

Sparks from the bonfire, landing on your skin.
Highly anticipated albums that are lame.

Amanda Bynes.
The Yankees.

Buying jeans.

Bands breaking up.

Hollywood breaking up.
Adam Levine's fiancee.

The offseason.

Losing your contact list.
Sneezing through broken ribs.

The dentist.




Dogs in tutus.

Sunburnt cleavage.
Paying full price.

Stepping on plastic horses.

Most status updates.


Having a baby.
And it being August, when she's five.