Monday, September 30, 2013

Fake It 'Til You Make It

For me, it was the Dirty Dancing soundtrack.

I was seven, and I had a hot, maybe forbidden copy of the cassette duped from my Auntie R. who would have been 20 at the time. I adored her and probably told her she was pretty 300 times in order to get my hands on that music.

I would lay on my bedroom floor in the basement, my hand-me-down cassette player that was my own Mama's, plugged into the wall. I would position myself on my stomach, chin on hands, and listen to Dirty Dancing overandoverandoverandover, repeat.

My only mission was to learn every single word of every single song. Before I burnt the reels out of the Maxwell-brand tape that is ... which I eventually did. I later managed to acquire a legitimate copy of the album on tape, and I already knew every chord and didn't need to lay on my floor with my finger prone over the rewind button. I had succeeded in my quest. It didn't prevent me from then buying the CD when I found it in the bargain bin at Sam Goody (oh you guys! The amount of money I spent at Sam Goody!) as a teenager. Nostalgia like whoa.

For her, it will be Beyonce's Single Ladies. And it will include the dance routine from the video.

Kids these days.

At this point in her nearly six years of life, I had estimated I/we have read my daughter 3,650 books. At one bedtime last week, the Lil' Dude, after having Single Ladies stuck her in head all evening, asked if she could listen to that song on my iPod instead of listening to a story. I completely rocked her face off when I one-upped her with the offer of watching the video on YouTube instead.



Sometimes parenthood is so freaking cool.

So along with Beyonce, she chose Alicia Keys' Girl on Fire (girl power!) and because she's her Mama's daughter, FloridaGeorgia Line's Cruise.

And we have ourselves a new little bedtime routine. She keeps track of the songs she wants to listen to each night on little Post-It's ... Lorde's Royals, Macklemore's Thrift Shop (holy explicit lyrics, Batman), Katy Perry's Roar, AWOLNATION'S Sail, and Single Ladies on repeat. Just her and I gather in her bedroom in the pitch black, door shut, and I push play on YouTube at max volume, three songs each night.

Okay, maybe four if you count Beyonce twice. After all, it's her main goal in life to memorize the lyrics AND the dance ... just as mine was with that soundtrack in 1987. I keep telling her she has to fake it until she makes it ... that one day, (much to her Daddy's complete and utter horror), she will be Beyonce in the black Lycra complete with the robot hand.

Monday, September 23, 2013

No Regrets

We just returned from a lazy weekend at my parents'- the Lil' Dude's Grandparents of the North. A long few days spent hunting for leaves and caterpillars, running hills with the dogs, building pink Legos, drinking copious amounts of coffee, having free reign over the candy drawer, and sleeping in. Best. Days. Ever. It's one of the few places in my orbit that recharges my batteries no matter how long I'm docked there.

Yesterday, we were all seated around the dining room table eating our Sunday Supper departure meal- roast beef, gravy, mashed potatoes, white dinner rolls, corn, and garden-fresh tomatoes and peppers. My Mom had already remarked that she didn't cook any kid food all weekend- no Velveeta Shells & Cheese, no pickle roll-ups, no crustless jam sandwiches, no turkey dogs. The Lil' Dude ate Chicken Fricassee, Last Turn Chili, smoked salmon from Alaska, and extra-sharp cheddar cheese from Green Bay just like the grownups. It was monumental.

But as we sat down yesterday, she began to whine about her roast beef ... It's too tough. I can't do it. I don't like it. When in reality, it was fork-tender. Buttery. Perfect. So my Dad said, "Eat your potatoes and everything else," and let his only grandbaby off the hook.

When I was a kid, I refused to eat meat. I declared everything as too tough, I don't like tough meat, and that became my mantra. I wrote about it in school; my teachers mentioned it at conferences, my friends' parents and extended families commented on it and harassed me about it endlessly.

So, 30 years later, it's only natural my child would utter the same mantra.
Only this time, she gets a free pass.

My Dad mentioned yesterday, "It's true. Children's teeth and palates cannot tolerate meat. They lack the jaw strength. I know that now. In fact, that's my only regret in parenting- that I made you sit at the dinner table and eat everything off your plate, meal after meal, night after night. My only regret."

I questioned his claim. His only regret in parenting? And he confirmed it. With vigor.

And that- that right there, is why I hold him in the highest regard, truly idol-status category of parenthood. That something as inconsequential as dinnertime rules would be his only do-over. Especially when I take into consideration the other stuff I thought was bigger, and more regrettable.

He made me learn how to change my own oil, and tires.
He made me take Calc.
And gun safety.
He bought me a brand new car for Sweet Sixteen.
(that I totaled 4 months later)
He also bought my baby brother a brand new car for his Sweet Sixteen even though his experiment with that was ill-fated.
He let my high school boyfriend come over All. The. Time.
He made me save 75% of each paycheck I earned ... in my savings account.
He was brutally honest about my hair. Shoes. Tattoos. Piercings; the gamut.
And still loved me.
He paid for my entire college education.
And made me graduate in four years.
He never took me to Disney World.
He let me move in with my college boyfriend.
And paid off my credit card debt.
He let me travel to far-off places, and gave me souvenir money.
He let me take his truck to country music festivals as a minor.
He made us sit down to dinner as a family as many night of the weeks as possible.
He made me own my mistakes and failures and lies and shame.
And still loved me.
He still corrects me. And educates me. And holds me accountable.
And has me proof-read his business communication, and program his new Smartphones.

I know when I go to sleep each night, I have regrets on the day regarding my daughter. Something I did. Or didn't. Or mishandled. Or ignored. Or fell short, overreacted, failed, botched, denied. Every single day, my heart pumps diesel into every chamber of her life, and I do it wrong. But that's OK. That's incredibly human. And very Mama. It's what we do ... it's doing it without regrets that truly matters.

And I hope, with every feather I have, that 30 years from now I can sit at the dining room table in my life and pick out something very, very small that spanned a few years of time, as my only regret in parenting. I have a good example to follow.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Interview // Age 5

1. What is your favorite color? 
Umm, pink. Blue. And purple. And red. And orange. That's all my colors.

2. What is your favorite toy?
Palace Pets.

3. What is your favorite fruit? 
What's that orange stuff again? Cantaloupe. 

4. What is your favorite tv show? 
Umm, Ninja Turtles.

5. What is your favorite thing to eat for lunch? 
Umm, macaroni and cheese. You knew that!

6. What is your favorite outfit? 
Ummm, is ... what I weared for picture day. 

7. What is your favorite game? 
Umm, tag with E.

8. What is your favorite snack? 

9. What is your favorite animal? 
Umm horses.

10. What is your favorite song? 
Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star

11. What is your favorite book? 
Ummm, the farm book about horses from Auntie A.

12. Who is your best friend? 

13. What is your favorite cereal? 
Guess. Frosted Flakes. 

14. What is your favorite thing to do outside? 
Ummm ... go swinging at school. Used to be at daycare, but now school.

15. What is your favorite drink? 
Gatorade. Blue.

16. What is your favorite holiday? 

17. What do you like to take to bed with you at night? 
My sweet NaNa and Rattle-Girl. 

18. What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast? 
The things that I have at Kay's Kitchen- hashbrowns and sausage.

19. What do you want to have for dinner on your birthday? 
My favorite dinner- actually, pizza.

20. What do you want to be when you grow up?
A teacher. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Watch Dog

It's funny, the things in life you don't account for. Like the feelings and unconditional love of a Girl's Best Friend ... which I always thought were diamonds, since I am an April baby- it being my birthstone and all. But a Girl's Best Friend is her Beagle. Unrequited, unrivaled, and unreal.

For the past five-plus years, The Beagle has always seen the Lil' Dude leaving with her parents, safely buckled in as the kennel door closes and garage door comes down. There was peace with that I assume; and on the rare days or weeks where the adults returned home sans girl, there was plenty of looking and sniffing for her, a general discontentment settled at the top of the stairs until that tiny human of his returned.

Yesterday, day two of kindergarten was very, very unsettling for The Beagle. In Tuesday's flurry of activity, I guess we just didn't notice- we both left the house and locked him up after the school bus headed past. Yesterday, he witnessed the whole damn thing- how that giant, yellow monstrosity swallowed up this tiny human just as the sun was rising.

And this is where her beloved watch dog perched for the day- from 7am until 2:30pm - in the hot, hot sun, eyes glued to the corner where it all went down. That in dog years, is like, 14 days or some nonsense. But I couldn't get him to budge a damn inch.

(And all those hot tears I was so proud not to spill Tuesday pour, pour, poured down my face yesterday as I tried to assure the little beast she would come back)

Their reunion at the end of the long day was Hallmark Channel-esque. They both deserved Grammy's or Oscar's or both.

Today, he was much better. He insisted on being leashed to go with to retrieve her at the bus stop, and I happily obliged. Have you ever seen a bus full of weary, droopy kids not perk up at the sight of a ridiculously and genuinely excited dog waiting for its owner? It was magical and I should have charged admission.

Yes, he was much better today, having lived through yesterday knowing that big, bad bus did in fact return his favorite human to her rightful place. And as I am wont to do, again and again, I shared my favorite new anthem with my firstborn furbaby about this whole new season we're in with our best girl and doing the best we can.

Let Her Go
By Passenger

Well you only need the light when it's burning low
Only miss the sun when it starts to snow
Only know you love her when you let her go

Only know you've been high when you're feeling low
Only hate the road when you’re missin' home
Only know you love her when you let her go
And you let her go

Staring at the bottom of your glass
Hoping one day you'll make a dream last
But dreams come slow and they go so fast

You see her when you close your eyes
Maybe one day you'll understand why
Everything you touch surely dies

But you only need the light when it's burning low
Only miss the sun when it starts to snow
Only know you love her when you let her go

Only know you've been high when you're feeling low
Only hate the road when you're missin' home
Only know you love her when you let her go

Staring at the ceiling in the dark
Same old empty feeling in your heart
'Cause love comes slow and it goes so fast

Well you see her when you fall asleep
But never to touch and never to keep
'Cause you loved her too much
And you dived too deep

Well you only need the light when it's burning low
Only miss the sun when it starts to snow
Only know you love her when you let her go

Only know you've been high when you're feeling low
Only hate the road when you're missin' home
Only know you love her when you let her go

And you let her go (oh, oh, ooh, oh no)
And you let her go (oh, oh, ooh, oh no)
Will you let her go?

'Cause you only need the light when it's burning low
Only miss the sun when it starts to snow
Only know you love her when you let her go

Only know you've been high when you're feeling low
Only hate the road when you're missin' home
Only know you love her when you let her go

'Cause you only need the light when it's burning low
Only miss the sun when it starts to snow
Only know you love her when you let her go

Only know you've been high when you're feeling low
Only hate the road when you're missin' home
Only know you love her when you let her go

And you let her go

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


This little baby went to kindergarten.

And this little girl came home.

That's my favorite picture of her to date; the photo on top. It used to hang in our dining room. Women, the dramatic ones the most, will look at that photograph and claim their uterus is making physical pangs. It's a pang-inducing picture. Look at it. Look at those eyes, those ridiculous cheeks, the impossible tiny pink shoes. Pang, pang, PANG.


She had a great first day. I asked her, and that was her reply. She was enthusiastic. She summed it up, We basically lined up all day long. It was boring. You heard it here first. 270 nonstop days of asking when she could go to school and it was anticlimactic and a snore-fest. That's my girl.

On my first day of school, I rode the bus home.
The wrong bus home.
My neighbor Jason and I were dropped off a neighborhood over from ours, the last kids on the bus and completely clueless. I can't recall if the bus driver intervened in any way- but for the sake of his memory I choose to believe we lied to him and he safely dropped us off, end of story.

We wondered down the street- I wore red jeans and a white polo shirt with a navy blue belt and matching shoes. Hi, America, I love you so hard. We eventually saw a bike path that we knew led to our neighborhood, and we hauled ass. Sure enough, we came flailing down our street as our Mothers- one in her kitchen berating the Hell out of the transportation company and/or school- and one standing sentinel on our street, wringing her hands. I remember talking to my grandparents that night, replaying my first day of school for them as though I wasn't their 11th grandchild to do so, but the first and they let me do just that. I told my Grandpa the best part was finding my own way home and told me quite literally, that I had street smarts. 

The lil' dude's bus was over 10 minutes late at drop-off. No need to worry, the endless paperwork the school provided to us first timers mentioned that as a precautionary measure against likely initial week logistics. Do not call the school or bus company if the bus is 10-20 minutes late, it said. School is 2.1 miles from our driveway. I put my faith into those logistics and sat sentinel myself with other Mamas and their dogs and iPhones and wrenched-on hearts.

And there bus T-38 came, and my daughter was the first one off. I felt my shoulders relax when I didn't know they were tense. Her Bestie came tumbling after. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Most Important Post I'll Ever Write

Hi, baby girl.

I know you triple-dog loathe when I call you Baby.
You know I don't mean it in any other way besides lovey, right?
It's not about what you are, it's about who you are.

You're going to Kindergarten in the morning, baby girl.
My entire heart, up on that big yellow school bus, and disappearing around the corner.
We've been waiting for tomorrow for a thousand yesterdays, haven't we?
You, for all the positive strawberry-scented, glittery awesomeness of it all.
Me, for all the rest of the gray thunderclouds replete with icy fog and straight-line winds.
I know ... I KNOW. Drama. Of course I am excited for you. Delighted for you. Proud of you.
That's what you do for the ones you love the most.

Remember when you were four and you were counting down turning five?
Then when you turned five on a Friday, you wanted to know if Kindergarten would start the very next day, or if you had to wait until Monday? We shit the bed on that one, your Dad and I. We didn't know you were that excited ... but yeaaaaaaaay! It's here now! Way to go, waiting 270 days to actually go to school!
See? You can do anything you set your pretty little mind to.

If I really want to wimp out on tomorrow, and make excuses like, you're my only child, so I only get to do this first day stuff one time, and one time only, I believe I have the right to do so. But I won't. This isn't about me, actually. It's really all about you. And, because I have only given birth to one physical human, doesn't mean you're my Only Child. I sorta hate that. If I had five other babies and was completely insane and overrun by smallish people needing everything from me all the time and you were the captain of that crazy ship, you would still be my Only Child. I hope that makes sense. You are my only you ... you made me a Mama, and you have the great privilege of wearing that badge of honor all the rest of your days. That's some serious armor. Keep that shit shiny, baby girl.

Back to you.
You have an important job tomorrow.

Tomorrow, you have to be yourself.
That's it.

I know your hair will be all disastrous.
Your manicure, defunct.
You won't eat your lunch.
You won't wash your hands.
You'll chew on your shirt, or your hands.
Or both.
You'll roll up your sleeves, and stash away your hoodie.
But that's you, and that's all I want you to do tomorrow.

I would like to whisper to you to be brave. To not whine, fortheloveofeverythingholywiththewhining. To have fun. To listen to your teacher(s). To not say serious, dude? all day long. To try hard. To eat well. To have fun.

I will take your perfect little face, with your new freckles, old scars, missing teeth, and gigantic eyeballs and I will say, "Lil' Dude ... you go be you. I will wait right here for you. I love you more than all the whipped cream at Starbucks, and more than all the songs. You got this."

That's it for jobs, swear.
Kindergarten is a job in and of itself, and this will be the first of many many Septembers where I say the same thing to you as I kiss you goodbye on your first days.

Now ... favors.
I might ask you to do me a favor.
I know you are going to be so rad tomorrow. I am not worried about you.
I am worried about them.
All the other children who will be your classmates and village and community for a long, long time.
You have your Mama's instinct and sensitivity, so you'll know who I am talking about, I just know it.

They won't seem happy or excited, or even faking it well.
They might not have new clothes for school.
Or anyone who grabbed them by the face in the morning and told them to be themselves.
They might not look like you, or speak like you, or have the material things you have.
But they need you.
And really, now is the time.
So, if you could do your Mama one favor, and look for those children? Feel for those children?
I didn't give you any jobs for tomorrow.
Just one favor.

But one tiny spirit on one tiny day in one tiny town in one tiny place might save one tiny person.

I believe that with everything I have. I should have believed that in 1985, when I got on my very first bus. Or in 1989 when I moved 130 miles away to a new neighborhood and town. I should have believed that in 1992 when I entered middle school, or 1995 when I began my Freshman year of high school, and I sure as hell should have believed that in 1998 when I moved into the dorms.

Give them your last cracker.
Let them use your notebook.
Give it to them, whatever.
We can replace stuff.
Not humans.
Wait for people to catch up.
Look them in the eye.
Be patient.
Don't let them sit alone, or outside of anything.
Speak up for them, if they cannot speak for themselves.
Please, baby girl.

Now- these are not your jobs. They sound like work. They're not.
Your only job tomorrow- and for the rest of your life while I am at it, is to be you.
It's technically not your job to look out for other people, to put their needs first, to address their situations, or to assess their pain.

But it would be a favor ... one small favor.
And I know you're the right person for that job.

I'll see you when you get home.
It might so happen that I'll be just casually hanging out at the end of the driveway at 2:20pm. Maybe.

I can't wait to hear everything you have to say.

Mama loves.