Wednesday, December 10, 2014

On Seven

You turned seven a few days ago. Your Golden Birthday!
You had an epic Frozen party; your mother took it over the top.
No surprise there.
It was awesome.
The end.

Oh, seven. Those days ... those days are long.
The years ... the years are so very short.
Time's a jerk.
I held you last night at bedtime, like you were an infant.
A 60-pound+ infant, at that. We swayed back and forth.
And I whispered to you seven years ago that very night, we brought you home to your house for the very first time.
We had no idea what we were doing.
We knew you needed to wear diapers, so had a pile of those.
We knew you needed to eat, so had a pile of formula measured into bottles at the ready.
We knew we loved you, so had a pile of that, too.
That seemed to be all you ever needed.

This year for your annual birthday letter, I want to share with you why being a girl is so awesome.
The list of pros is infinite, actually.

We're pretty by nature. Lipgloss is a weapon.
We can eat chocolate and shop at Target when we're sad.
People are always surprised at what we accomplish, regardless of arena.
Our intuition is unrivaled.
We smell amazing.
We get to have the babies, new boots, and ability to wear our men's clothing.
Men are often afraid of us.
It's okay when we cry.
We have ridiculous routines and hallmarks and things we celebrate.

And specifically speaking, you and I have some of the most amazing women surrounding us. I know, while I was pregnant I swore on Starbucks you were a boy. Don't tell anyone, but I am THRILLED you weren't. I know. Parents should never be glutton-y in that regard, but wow, am I so, so glad I have a daughter. The women around you are, too.

You have always had an "I can do it myself!" attitude about life. You have since you were miniature. It's simultaneously heroic and aggravating. Yet as you continue to grow and develop into the person you are, I see it emerging as your most distinct personality trait. And it's no damn wonder given your lineage.

One of your favorite people in the universe, your great-Grandma S. was unable to come to your party Sunday as she was sick. An illness stretching into its third week, she called with the sad news Saturday, and delivered it to you straight. Lesson number one- do it yourself. Go straight to the source and own what you should. At age 83 we talked about her throughout your party, how she A) never goes to the doctor and B) doesn't take any medication nor has she, ever. Her familiar phrase is, going to the doctor will only result in learning things you don't want to learn. Amen, sister. Ignorance is bliss, eight decades later.

Well, one of your equally stubborn aunts drug your great-Grandma to the doctor Monday. Rapid heartbeat, cloudy lung, they admitted her to her first hospital stay since she had her last baby, 48 years ago. Bless her heart! Which is fine, by the way. Viciously pumping away, just a little faster than necessary. She was released 24 hours later- you can't keep a good woman down- and upon hearing her discharge orders of slow down (never) and make sure you keep your follow-up visits (not on your life), she was back where she belongs in her ancient little farmhouse nestled on 180 snowy acres, feeding those sketchy barn cats all her table scraps.

So, to summarize, your great-Grandma S. is our matriarch and if there is anyone you want to be like, be like her.

Happy, happy golden birthday to my best sidekick, my mini-me, and favorite four-foot wonder.
You're going to have one hell of a year, and I can't wait to watch.

Mama loves.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Ordinary People

Ordinary people do extraordinary things every single day.
Most the time, these ordinary people don't make headlines.
They aren't setting out to cause a ruckus. They are not attention seeking.
They are simply people making some pretty awesome decisions.
Every once in awhile, these people are actually your people.

Your Papa tutored an elderly woman and helped her earn her GED as a Septuagenarian.
Your Auntie SG moved to Las Vegas at age 23.
Your Great-Grandma S. has handmade thousands of mission quilts.
Your Grandma G. submitted herself to genetic testing in the name of her family.
Your Daddy learned to eat (and like!) vegetables.
Your Auntie T. became a Mama.
All of your Great-Grandpas fought for their country.
Your Fairy Godmother got an early mammogram.
Your Bestie B$'s parents have fostered a bunch of littles.
You're surrounded by badass, selfless, brave people.

And then there's this guy.

Your Grandpa T.
One day he just up and started running.
In his '60's, he just walked out the front door one day and ran down the street.
And he did it again and again and again.
We joke he had on his standard denim with all that change in his pocket, flannel, & ancient Nikes when he first started running. It's actually not a joke. We're certain he did just that.

Because to him, it didn't matter.
Use what you got, where you are.
We also joke he enters his races because A) he loves free stuff like shirts and water bottles and B) what's better than being excused for work than running a 5k?
The answer to your Grandpa T. is, nothing.
Nothing is better.

Recently, your Grandma S. has been entering this races with him.
She is quick to add, "but I don't run! No way."
She's doing it for her husband of 40 years.
Support and camaraderie and the like. And matching t-shirts to boot!
It's quite the story, and we're so proud (and inspired!) of our people.

As with anything, there's a lesson here for you.
Use what you got, where you are.
All it ever takes is opening the door and beginning.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Monuments

A year ago, on the night before you started kindergarten, I wrote you a letter.
In that letter I told you all sorts of truths and wishes and asked you a favor.
And that favor was:

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.

And I knew I could have faith in you.
You exemplify stewardship and have such a servant's heart.

When your classroom schedule came out this fall, you were disappointed with a capital D to learn you only have art once a week now, on Thursdays. As a kindergartner you had art three times a week which rocked your face off. We talked about the importance of balance and how as a first grader, your schedule is different. You're bigger, smarter, more capable. You accepted art would be a weekly treat, and you'd be happy to go to music and phy. ed. three times a week each. We pointed out places in your schedule where you could "freelance" art- during morning readiness, free time, Freedom Friday, and of course, at your rad after school program. So much time for art! And of course, Thursdays have quickly become The Best Day of the Week, Ever. Your favorite- just like mine!

I've mentioned before, but I have an antique dresser in a bedroom closet downstairs that solely houses your art projects, paintings, doodles, drawings, experiments, all your heart and soul on paper and various mediums. It's seriously jam-packed and you're just shy of seven. And the collection probably only represents 10% of your life's work. Parting with your artwork breaks my heart, it does. You have read me the riot act on disposing of your stuff for years! Often times, I feel like a Mexican drug lord trying smuggle construction paper and patterned ephemera into the recycling bin like they're drugs I'm trying to get into Texas. It's serious. It's on my Mama-resume, this highly felonious and never-ending task of deciding what stays, what goes. It doesn't help that I'm extremely OCD about order and an advocate for anti-hoarding. I tell you not to take it personal; you always take it personal. It's hard to not involve the heart in the matters of things you love.

That being said, art is arguably the most important thing to you. It goes without saying your people, faces, Village, Beagle are truly first. But art is a hair's width behind.

On Friday's at your after school program, they clean out the Art Cart. Sounds so simple, but it's an act you take very ceremoniously. Throughout the week, the kids are constantly creating projects and baubles and pieces on display that require ample time to dry, set, heal. There's a giant baker's rack that houses the week's art, and at closing time Friday, the kids stash it or trash it. And when I show to claim you, your first concern is A) have I interrupted the second installment of art leadership time (and I usually do, so I just find a chair in the corner & let you do your thing- I know better than to get between my girl and her art) and B) have you assessed your Art Cart slots yet?

Last week, when I went to find your purple unicorn backpack and striped fleece at pickup, I noticed a large trundle of stacked art projects by your things. I walked back to find you. You held up one finger to me to indicate you needed a minute and ran. You came back with the trundle of artwork under your arm, saying you were ready.

One of the program's staff commented, "Thanks again, Lil' Dude. You're a good friend, and I appreciate your help, and your friends will too."

I asked you what she meant- and you explained you noticed so many of your classmates were absent when they emptied the Art Cart, and it positively, 100% devastated you to see their hard work and creativity being subjected to the garbage. So you raised your hand time and time again to save piece after piece of glitter and gold and felt and Elmer's love for the people who were not there. Like a tiny soldier in the Monuments Men army, rescuing condemned art to return to its rightful owners.

Now, I'm used to my heart exploding with love and pride when it comes to you, so Friday was no different. You're making a difference each day, kid, in the lives of the people around you. I hope you know how good that feels, how natural it feels to think of others before you think of yourself.

Keep that shit up.

Mama loves.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Radio Personality

Monday night at the dinner table, I asked Kid Rock about her day.
She reveled us in her usual tales, mouth full of food.

Oh and I'm gonna be on the radio and I got free pancakes for doing it.

Well, double score!

The local AM station in our city runs a "Kids Speak" program that includes its morning deejay interviewing select students in first grade all about their summer vacations, what they like about school, and various other topics. The segments run on-air later that week.

Behold, baby's first radio interview!
Paraphrased, obviously.
Age 6 years, 9 months, and 8 days

Deejay: Lil' Dude. Ok. That's a great name! I bet you don't know anyone else with that name!

Lil' Dude: Ha. No!

DJ: Okay, okay, (laughing). Did you do something fun with your summer vacation?

LD: I did. I did go to the Black Hills.

DJ: What did you do after that?

LD: I did go to a Little Red Cabin, and I also went to my Grandpa and Grandma's for the whole entire week.

DJ: Wow! What did you do with Grandpa and Grandma?

LD: I had a few sleepovers with my friends from down there, and I went swimming with my friends.

DJ: Ok. Did Grandpa and Grandma give you a lot of sweets?

LD: No, no! I just only had ice cream.

DJ: Ice cream! What kind of ice cream is the best?

LD: Ice cream sandwiches.

DJ: Oh those are good. Do you like chocolate ice cream?

LD: Silence

DJ: How about ... ice cream with chocolate chips?

LD: Silence

DJ, obviously segueing way off course: What do you think it means to be a good person?

LD: I don't know.

DJ: You don't know? So if your mom says, 'Lil' Dude, be a good person today', what do you think she is trying to tell you?

LD: Be good and be yourself.

DJ: Be yourself? That's a good thing. And nice to other people? Yeah. Have you ever thought what a cool job to have would be? What do you want to be when you grow up?

LD: A teacher. At this school.

DJ: What would you have the most fun teaching?

LD: Math! And reading, too.

DJ: Who do you think is smarter: boys or girls?

LD: Girls. 

DJ: Why are girls smarter, do you think?

LD: Because they like to learn about horses, and lots and lots of girls like to learn about fairies, and ponies, and they like to learn about more stuff than boys.

DJ: Yes, boys are that way, aren't they!

So she already knows being a good person simply means being yourself, and that girls are smarter than boys. My work here is done. Fistpump; parenting.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


Today is School Picture Day.

When I was about the Lil' Dude's age, my own Mama permed my bangs.
You see, each morning my own Mama curled my bangs- you know, the 1980's Mall Bangs slash The Claw Bangs slash That. She used deductive reasoning to conclude that she could save us both time and AquaNet if she just permed my bangs. My mullet (that's right) was long and stringy and the perfect dishwater blonde so it was always always Party in the Front.

So much WINNING.

That being said, today is school picture day for my first grader. I let her choose her own outfit, right down to the accessories, which because she is a female and also because she is my daughter, she knows are the best part of any outfit.

Speaking of so much winning. Can't wait to see her yearbook photo! Neither can her Grandmas!

Her teacher asked students' parents to write out "Hopes and Wishes" for their child's academic year. The Hope stars are hung prominently in the classroom. Such a cool continuity for kids to see- home to school- and back again. I love her teacher for the inclusion.

On Kid Rock's star, the Dad and I wrote;

We hope you continue to be the happy, secure, proud and amazing girl you are today all the way through your year!

And until she's 85.

As a parent, you can't teach self-acceptance. But you can foster it. You can be the example.

And because someone else said it first, here's the perfect new song that empowers the whole self-acceptance gig straight into outer space.

By Colbie Caillat

Put your make up on
Get your nails done
Curl your hair
Run the extra mile
Keep it slim
So they like you, do they like you?

Get your sexy on
Don't be shy, girl
Take it off
This is what you want, to belong
So they like you, do you like you?

You don't have to try so hard
You don't have to give it all away
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
You don't have to change a single thing

You don't have to try, try, try, try
You don't have to try, try, try, try
You don't have to try, try, try, try
You don't have to try
Yooou don't have to try


Get your shopping on, at the mall, max your credit cards
You don't have to choose, buy it all
Do they like you? Do they like you?

Wait a second,
Why should you care, what they think of you
When you're all alone, by yourself
Do you like you? Do you like you?

You don't have to try so hard
You don't have to give it all away
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
You don't have to change a single thing

You don't have to try so hard
You don't have to bend until you break
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
You don't have to change a single thing

You don't have to try, try, try, try
You don't have to try, try, try, try
You don't have to try, try, try, try
You don't have to try

You don't have to try, try, try, try
You don't have to try, try, try, try
You don't have to try, try, try, try
You don't have to try
Yooou don't have to try


You don't have to try so hard
You don't have to give it all away
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
You don't have to change a single thing

You don't have to try, try, try, try
You don't have to try, try, try, try
You don't have to try
You don't have to try

Take your make up off
Let your hair down
Take a breath
Look into the mirror, at yourself
Don't you like you?
Cause I like you

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Little Mercies

Consciously, I have plenty of thoughts and feelings as my daughter, my only child, enters first grade, and turns seven in a quarter of a year. Plenty. Mostly, I am excited. I am confident. That's new ground- to not have my heart beating rapidfire against my ribs. To not wring my hands in emotional misery. To not want to punch time in the face for being an asshole. I'm growing up, y'all. Right along side my child.

I didn't write her a letter the night before she started school this year. I didn't ... feel ... like I had to. She doesn't need a operator's manual. She should, technically. As I readied her for her first day, I whispered All Of The Things to her;

Your room number is 214.
Remember to take bus T28 home! Because it's actually Tuesday, not a Monday!
Your lunch code- do you remember it from kindergarten? 9 7 2 6 1 1
I will see you at 2:30pm
I love you 1,000 times.

And then I shoved her out the door and waved goodbye from the porch.
That's a lot of data for a tiny human who still can't pronounce thirsty correctly.
But damn if she doesn't nail life on the head all damn day long.
In fact, when she came skipping down the road from the bus stop at nearly 2:50pm yesterday (no panic here, swear), a neighboring Mama texted me to ask the Lil' Dude where her son was, as he no-showed the bus. Oh, he went to KidStop, for sure. And she was correct, my little mayor of social town. She always knows.

As I said, I didn't have a whole lot to say to her this year. She knows everything I would say.

Do your best.
Do no harm.
(but take no shit)
Be courteous.
Be grateful.
Have fun.
Be yourself.
Don't forget to be rad.
Be kind.
Be patient.
Make good choices.
Talk a little less.
Eat a little more.
Remember where you came from.

But I had a moment this morning when I read this paragraph from author Heather Gudenkauf from her novel "Little Mercies";

Motherhood is a procession of goodbyes. Some bittersweet and filled with promise and hope, some gradual, a gentle prying away of your fingers from something precious, some more violent, unexpected.

Motherhood is a procession of goodbyes. It sure is ... I hadn't thought of it that way until right now. All of those big, huge messy emotional things that live within- are simply goodbyes being processed at their own times. There's a name for what I'm feeling, experiencing each day. The goodbyes have ranged from her no longer needing help at bedtime as she showers, to her extended biking privileges to a further stop sign, choosing all of her own school clothes (oh, the battles we've raged in the name of fashion, Lord help us and maybe little baby Victoria Beckham or Anna Wintour while we're at it), to the evident self-soothing she administers herself as her first line of defense when the wheels fall off. It's all one great big, giant goodbye.

But, it's motherhood's goodbye, not my own. I feel a certain peace when I break it down that way- this godawful knowledge is every single Mama's rite of passage. I am armed and surrounded by villages and legions of women who do this every day. It's my baby niece spending her first night her in her own crib this week at the age of four months. It's three of my Besties sending their kindergartners off on a big, ol' bus this week. It's my aunt as my Goddaughter started her senior year of high school yesterday. It's three other Mama friends who chose to hold their summer babies back from starting their school days for one more year. It's my Grandma's wracked heart as her daughter submits herself to Chemo each week while she's 100 miles away. It's new daycares, new pregnancies, hearing aids fitted at five, Mamas seeing their beautiful baby girls walk down the aisle to the rest of their lives, and driver's ed.

It's all part of this incredible journey I have been so, so lucky to be on.
So in the famous words of Kid Rock herself ... PEACE OUT!
The leavin' here is all good.

Mama loves.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

1st Grade Diaries

1. What are your favorite foods?
Chicken drumsticks, sausage pizza, and BBQ ribs.

2. What are your favorite toys?
Barbie dolls, (especially Anna and Elsa), swing set, Legos, and Saige.

3. Who are your favorite friends?
E., B., A., (my neighborhood!) Big T. and Little T., B$, and Gdub!

4. What do you like to do in your free time?
Watch Netflix (LOL), enjoy my family, doing wood projects with my Dad.

5. What were your favorite things from the summer?
Little Red Cabin, The Black Hills, camping, and my Fairy Godmother's wedding was my BIGGEST, FAVORITE one.

6. What are you proud of doing after you finished kindergarten?
I learned how to remove old nails from wood. I can also read!

7. What are your favorite books?
The chapter books.

8. What are your favorite TV shows?
Netflix- Scandal, CSI, Grey's Anatomy, Sophia the First, Peppa the Pig, Jessie.

9. What is something that makes you happy?
My family.

10. What would you like to be when you grow up?
Good question- I don't even know yet! Starbucker, mailman, Old Navy girl, a Vet ... The boss of the vet.

11. What are you most looking forward to in first grade?
Learning how to read more and do math!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Where We Were


11 roadtrips
4 tubes of SPF
1 new bike
6 pounds of coffee beans
7 new bathing suits
1 fairytale Fairy Godmother wedding
1 new Village people
13 ice cream cones
4,000 songs
7 growlers
900 cucumbers
90 good night kisses
109 Selfies
22 pounds of fresh cherries
73 bike rides
5 wishes made on shooting stars
9 quarts of pickles (and counting)
23 sunfish caught
3 buckets of ice water
3 face paintings
1,000 I Love Yous
8 airplanes
2 more baby teeth
5 gallons of coconut water
125 limes
1 happy family

That was the recipe for our summer. It was epic. It was tiring. But as someone mentioned to me over the course of the season, how lucky we are to have so many opportunities to love, and be loved. How lucky we are to have a datebook full of people, places, and things. I never took one second or one morning waking up in a different place for granted. If we could cram, we crammed. If we could show, we showed. If we could do, we did.

You, my best sidekick, grew up this summer. Your face is lean. Your legs are long. You pulled out more teeth, learned how to tie your Nikes, graduated to a bigger bike, and ponytailed your own hair. You stopped using your hooded baby towels and learned how to make a turban with your hair towel. You willed time to fly so you could get back to school- you miss math the most. You adopted vocabulary like frustrated, chaos, chemotherapy, and irate. There is no shortage of communication where you're concerned. You fall asleep talking, and wake up in the morning to finish your sentence.

When I was pregnant, your Auntie H. gave me the best advice of my life- put your baby into your life, not your life into your baby. Best. Advice. Ever. We've always done that, this summer was true testament. Baby, this life is one wild ride. I'm so glad you're here to share it with us.

Mama loves.
(Mama is TIRED)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Summer of Yes

If this spring has me taught me anything, it's that life really is too short.

So I am embracing that this summer, and declaring it The Summer of Yes.
Less thinking, less rules, less contemplation.
More freedom, more flexibility, more fun.

We were on our way to my parents' at dusk last Friday.
They live in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by quiet woods, lakes, ponds, hills.
As we sped past a Painted turtle tucked into its shell in the middle of the highway, the Lil' Dude begged her Daddy to stop. Too late, we dodged it and flew past.

I told her how it seemed like when I was a little girl, I was always harboring a turtle or two. The perks of growing up in the middle of nowhere. She has already dabbled in some turtle-raising of her own; she mothered a 50-cent piece sized baby Painted turtle last winter named Florence.

RIP, Florence the Machine. You weren't long for this world. We won't forget.

So I told her as we left that turtle in our rearview, we would most definitely stop for the very next one we saw.

And of course we did. The Dad stomped on his brakes, and I sprinted back to the creature holding the Puke Bucket from the car. Car sickness; the struggle is real. I grabbed the turtle, allowed it to pee as they always do when a predator threatens, and stuffed it the bucket. Painted turtles are great pets because they are sweet, lumbersome, docile.

False. This particular Painted wanted to eat my face. Mean ... the remaining five minutes to my parents' seemed like forty as our beloved new pet clawed and hissed and clawed and scraped up my shins and arms as I tried to keep it contained.

The Summer of Yes. Hashtag; parenting.

My Dad always supported my creature-finding habit and this time was no different. He got down the kiddie pool and together he and the Lil' Dude set about arranging the turtle- a boy named Clem by now- in its forced habitat. Home sweet home.

It turned out Clem the boy turtle was mean for a reason- SHE, now renamed Jewel, had eggs to lay.

Oh Mama, I'm so sorry about the little adventure I just forced you to take as labor was imminent. How rude of me!

So we explained to Kid Rock that this particular turtle was not going to be part of her Summer of Yes. She could spend the night in the blue plastic pool, but the next day needed to go to a pond to let nature continue its course. She understood, however sad it made her. Some days I swear her bravery about does me in.

So that's what we did. Drove two miles to the nearest pond and furthest from traffic with Jewel tightly secured in a brown grocery bag. No more bucket turtle management for me. Hell no. I walked with my girl, her hand in mine, and the bag in her other, and we shimmied Jewel out of her cargo hold and she slid on her belly like a penguin directly into the water. Go be a Mommy! We shouted.

When she left, the Lil' Dude made her Papa promise pinky-swear he'd look for other turtles, and hopefully baby ones, for her to adopt since Jewel didn't work out so well.

Imagine our shock when my own Mama called tonight, asking to speak to her granddaughter. She had some news.

"Guess who is back? Jewel."


Sure enough, that Mama turtle hoisted herself approximately 34,987 turtle miles, literally up hill both ways, back to where she was forced to temporarily reside thanks to The Summer of Yes. Two miles in real life. Without getting smashed on the road or eaten alive. She's currently furiously burrowing her nest right in my parents' dirt driveway to lay those eggs. 3 days after she left the premises.

And because we asked with incredulousness in our voices, how do we know it's our turtle?

She's marked- probably forever- with some doggie toenail marks right on the top of her shell. That poor girl is probably permanently terrified of dogs as the Beagle and my Dad's dog batted her around a bit when the Lil' Dude wasn't supervising Jewel's territory.

Now the Great Turtle Watch 2014 is underway, and someone way over here (135 miles) is already preparing to become a mother herself to however many babies a Painted usually produces in a ... what? Litter? Gaggle? Posse? of turtle eggs.

I could easily use this amazing tale to spin an analogy of mothering and sacrifice and resolve to protect our offspring, uphill both ways. But I won't.

Sometimes all it takes is one little Yes.

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Mighty

This week you told me it was no longer acceptable to refer to any part of you, physical or physiological, as little. Moving forward acceptable addressing includes Big Girl, First Grader, Child. You're my little girl with (some) little baby teeth and the littlest ponytail. It's your last day of school. 

For you, this has been a long time coming. I think the conscious countdown began around Day 47. I assume your wonderful teacher who is in her 20 or 30th-something season of teaching started said countdown. Even sunshine burns if you get too much; there IS such thing as too much of a good thing. And other assorted and relatable cliches. 

I talked to your Grandma G. earlier this week about my plans to volunteer at school all day today, and she told me to soak it up. She was a stay-at-home mom until I was a 6th grader and said right around 3rd grade I no longer passed the volunteer slips onto her. I no longer "needed" her to be part of my life at school. Shit. Hindsight is always 20/20. She went on to say "kids these days" probably are even younger than I was when they shut their parents out. Shit. 

Your Dad and I continually go back and forth on your life. I probably would have kept you as an infant ... Maybe until last year. He's been pumped for driving lessons and team tryouts since you were swaddled. I think that is just the dynamic of genders and parental roles. The bigger you get, so does your stuff. I liked having a diaper bag full of cups and compartments and extras and the things I needed to pacify or calm you. I carried all the answers and solutions around with me. But now, you carry your own bag. Your little (sorry) chin trembled last night as you replayed your day to me- why wouldn't your friend let you sit with her on the bus when she had just Tuesday morning? I don't know, sweetheart. I am 34 years old and I have no idea why people act the way they do from one day to the next. Maybe it's what the carry in their own bags, they stuff they don't let anyone see. I do know it certainly isn't for me to worry about and I try hard each day not to. You will have to, too. 

You had a wonderful year. You're a lot like your Mama- you love social settings, rules, routines. I loved school- ask your Papa about any of my GPA's and he'll tell you I learned a lot more outside the classroom than in! But my attendance record was sterling. I hated to miss out on ANYTHING. You're the same way. We call you the Mayor- you know everyone, and your school is large, spanning Pre-K through 8th grade. You know everyone's siblings and neighbors and cousins and daycare affiliates. Last names, first names. Today you attended the 8th graders' graduation and you are "just going to miss them so much!" Of course you are. You can't teach humanity or interpersonality so that's all you, baby (sorry) girl. I am so proud of you. I always, and still to this day, take great pride in being the girl my Grandma or own Mama ask about people- what was her name? Where did they move to? That skill will get you far. Keep honing. 

You're thrilled for 1st grade; you're excited for your own desk and to be able to read more. I just don't want you to grow up too much this summer. Sooner than later, we're going to tell you your beloved Grandma G. has cancer and that she will be working on her health and recovery for a long, long time. She will shave her own head before medicine makes her bald. She will look sick and act sick and not be the superhero you've always known. Up until now, you think she's had the world's longest lasting stomach ache. We didn't want to taint your last weeks of school with any of the above. I know, it's not my job to protect you from life's shitty stuff. But it is my job to put you first and make what I believe are the best decisions for you, while I am able. 

You had a wonderful year. I already said that. You had your locker moved once because you were too slow in the mornings, chitchatting with your neighbor. You also sat out a recess recently for The Woodchip Incident. But you know what? You told us about both of those occasions. The school didn't notify us. Hell, if they had to report every minor incident students do, they'd never be able to teach. Truth. Thank you for telling it. It's what I am most proud of you for all year long. I'm also pretty proud of you for not getting sent to the Principal's office, or setting fires, or taunting kids, or disrespecting your teacher. And there was just that time or two we let your lunch account balance slip below $0.00 and we forgot Sharing Day items three times. But who's counting?

I'm so proud of you. I am as excited for your summer as you are.
And I'm so dang lucky I get to be your mom.
To my mighty kindergartner!

Mama loves.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Sometimes the Shadows Cast

"Fear does not burn out, but sometimes the shadows cast by the thing you're afraid of are larger and more frightening than the thing itself." -Elizabeth McCracken

I found that quote in a magazine at a Delta gate in Chicago Friday morning.
I instantly Tweeted it, thus preserving itself forever unto my Internet.
I can't stop thinking about those words. I want to tattoo them onto my hip.
I just might.

Saturday night you lamented all your besties and villagers were out of town camping or at cabins. You were devastatingly lonely with a lot of weekend stretched out before you. After awhile, you asked us if you could set up your purple pup tent and inflatable pool in the backyard. Hey, second best thing, I get it. I was proud of you for suggesting your own adventure. As the sunshine burned into the west, you said you were going to sleep in your tent overnight and we gave you clearance.

You brave girl. You lasted all night until the sun crept back in from the east and baked you out of your purple nylon haven. You went back for a second night, too.

You weren't scared, and I wasn't either for that matter.

Letting you sleep alone in our backyard is safe. It's half-fenced in. Our neighbors are close- we like and trust them. We live in a quiet little town, in close proximity to a quiet girls' college, outside a quiet bigger city, and we're not scared of anything, really.

Yet- there are things to be scared of. Our beloved little town has seen its share of sadness. It bears the unfortunate 'fame' of being home to one of the most infamous (and unsolved) kidnappings in history, spanning over two decades. One of our favorite parks is named after a city police officer who was killed in the line of duty when he was just 25 years old. And, just nine miles from our driveway in another of our favorite tiny towns there was a school shooting where two students were killed ten years ago. So, while we would never say "that type of thing would never happen here," we don't let the knowledge or acceptance of it scare us. We simply can't live that way.

So you went to sleep all alone in the backyard when I went to sleep incredibly proud of myself for not letting fear dictate my parenting decisions. It was a great fortification for me in general- it reminded me there will always be months like this one where life changes in an instant. Where life's best laid plans are scrapped. Where fear of the unknown is completely inevitable. We still have a decision when it happens and are in control of how deeply we allow fear's roots to take hold. And it's never easy. Not one time has it been easy to choose to not be scared. After all, fear does not burn out.

Yet ... this month also brought sunshine. And blooming tulips and blossoming crab apple trees. It brought new babies- several! who are here and healthy and already so loved. This month we celebrated your Grandmas' birthdays and lost teeth and exciting things for Daddy at work. We broke in the Weber grill and sun tea pitcher and new tubes of SPF, pairs of flipflops, and stripey bathing suits. We've lit fires and made wishes and took nothing for granted and looked forward to everything.

And because it bears repeating and repeating and repeating;

"Fear does not burn out, but sometimes the shadows cast by the thing you're afraid of are larger and more frightening than the thing itself." -Elizabeth McCracken

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Being There

I'll let you in on a dirty little secret: I'm no Supermom. Not even close. A lot of people in my life think I am. I got a few Mother's Day greetings this year that alluded to that fact. 

Yesterday was your spring concert. 12:55pm-1:20pm. Seriously. 25 minutes. No siblings, grandparents, or significant other important people were allowed to attend due to space constraints. The date has been circled on our calendar for weeks. I was thrilled to see it fell between two weeks of planned travel I had for work.

And then last week happened. And I kissed you goodbye a few times and left my returns open-ended. Which, while you rolled with it, beat my heart up pretty good. I've written about it before. I have always traveled and worked full-time (plus some!) while being a Mama. You're used to it. Daddy is our hero. And all last week, I kept thinking about your concert. May 13.

I'm no Supermom. But yesterday, when you marched up to those chorale risers in your perfect little maxi skirt and my borrowed dangly earrings and made eye contact with me and beamed, I felt like one. I was there. I kept my promise.

I never turned in my $20 fee to have my background checked to be able to volunteer at your school. There are just 17 days left of you being a kindergartner. 
I missed so much. 
After being so ingrained at your preschool and highly involved for two years straight, I guess I dropped the ball on your foray into elementary school. At times, I wonder if I did it intentionally. To give you that space, the room for you to have something all your own. Sure, I was there for ice cream socials, lunches, family nights. And I swear I never forgot to pick you up- never, not one time!

A note came home yesterday stating the need for parental support for a litany of things these last few weeks. You can bet your ass I still have my background check form from SEPTEMBER filled out so I'll be there. The Dad asked why I am even bothering at this point.

Because of that little face up there. It still doesn't take too much to make her day. A new cardboard box to decorate, a whole cantaloupe. Finding her parents' faces in a sea of them. 

Mama loves.
I'll be there.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Mother's Day

When I was born in 1980, you could smoke in the maternity ward.
You also were assigned a roommate.
My own Mama, knowing she didn't want her newborn baby girl exposed to the secondhand smoke her roommate was emitting, opted to keep me in the nursery. She herself would sit in the windowed lounge down the hall, where infants were not allowed.
That's right.
Not only was she, at age 18, all alone at St. Joseph's Hospital, she didn't even have her baby to spend immediate postpartum days with.

Because it was best for her child.
And because she is selfless.
She always has been.
That was her first decision in motherhood.
She hasn't ever let me down.

She just told me this story as I sat by her bedside all last week. It was the first time I had heard it.
And as she was discharged, she went back to campus to complete the last two months of her freshman year of college. I went home with her own Mama, my Grandma S. 
The House That Built Me.

God I love that story.
I love this story, our story.
My story.

She has taught me everything. By intention or design and even without her knowing she is.
She's a legendary cook. As we drove to their house on Good Friday this year, the Dad and I anticipated what our weekend menu consisted of. Randomly, I said, "how good would salmon be?" And by random, I mean, I eat salmon less than one time a year. It wasn't a staple in our house growing up.
Yes, that evening's meal was grilled salmon. She said she accidently walked by the fish counter that day and thought, how good would salmon be?

I mentioned a few days ago as I was online shopping that I was looking for a traditional pair of Birkenstock sandals- you know, the hippie-brown leather-Jesus style. I have never ever owned a pair even though I went to an extremely granola-y college. My own Mama looked me. I just ordered a pair last week and they were delivered Saturday, she said.

She's in everything I am. 

This Mother's Day, our first post-diagnosis doesn't change how I feel about her. It doesn't make me panic or stream through the what-ifs. It hasn't taken me to dark places. I for one know I have never taken my own Mama for granted. I have never wished I could take back the years where I hated her- or thought I did. I don't wish to apologize for who I was to her. I don't have to use today to make up for a year where she isn't high on my priority list. It didn't take a diagnosis for me to take stock in our relationship. Nothing has changed. 

In comparison, we're starkly different. I am an extrovert and thrive in social settings. I like attention! She abhors sunshine, makeup, hair color. She's practical where I am not. She was a stay at home mom until I was a 6th grader. I have a Village of girlfriends- some I've been friends with since I was that 6th grader, while she prefers my Dad's company nearly exclusively. I like the beach, she prefers the woods. I like reading and music, she likes sewing and flowers. I like fashion, tattoos, technology, and pop culture. She through all of my phases, insecurities, sizes, moods, statements, and announcements has been a resolute supporter and acceptor. I am emotional and nostalgic where she is cognitive and realistic. We fought over nothing. We fight over nothing. She doesn't judge me. She doesn't worry about hurting my feelings with honesty. 

She's taught me to be selfless. To put others especially my daughter, husband, and Village first. It's been easy for me to do that, because it's how I was raised. The greatest gift I can give her is to bloom where she planted me, to pay it forward in her homage. 

One of her favorite, oft-dry, overused cliches is Everything Happens for a Reason.
I guarantee she would accept she even has cancer for a reason.
She's already said she's going to be a beacon for recognizing symptoms and advocating self health. She's willing to be our revolutionary trailblazer to push people to talk about the ickier things in life. Ask uncomfortable questions of your elders. Be the martyr for her baby sister, daughter, nieces, and granddaughter.

Happy Mother's Day.
Mama loves. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Four Little Words

She was calling my cellphone. She never calls my cellphone.
I mean ... we talk all the time.
But we're not talkers. We're communicators.
We swap emails rapid fire.
Me, the techy, from any device. Her, sitting at the antique dining room table, MacBook open, coffee nearby. I send photos of her granddaughter, the dog, my travels. We swap recipes, gossip, Pinterest plans, Pinterest fails. We like words and typography and quotes and Channing Tatum and Ellen and we communicate a lot.

She was calling my cellphone.
After a week of silence from Base Camp Mama, my body got tingly.
Hello? I ventured?
How's my girl today?
Good, I further ventured. How are you?
Not great. I have cancer.

The blood rushed to my ears and I couldn't hear what she was saying.
Who? Who has cancer?
When I finally heard her, I stood up and took four steps before my legs gave out and I slid to the floor. Oh, it sounds dramatic. And it was. But there is a certain grace to handling news like that and having that be the honest to God reaction. In a way, that's what reactions should be. We shouldn't
have to condition ourselves for when it's our turn. We shouldn't alter the way in which we live to accept the inevitability of life. We should always be so fortunate to fall on the goddamn floor when we hear what we don't want to.

My Mom Has Cancer, I said to the Dad as he collapsed with me onto the floor.
I stopped wailing and dried my cheeks.
Okay, what next? I asked her, and we got right down to communicating the way we know how.
I swore a lot- I mean, I don't usually drop eff bombs in front of my own Mama, but there's plenty more where that came from. I already know that.
And she pretended not to hear me.

The first few times I said those four little words out loud, I could hardly enunciate. Each time since, it has gotten better. I won't say easier, because it will never be easier. I can now communicate without
the threat of hot tears or stomach-dropping fear taken over my nervous system.

My immediate concern was my daughter. At that very moment, she was in the shower singing Frozen at the top of her lungs, using nearly my entire bottle of $26 Philosophy Coconut Icing shower gel to
her heart's content. Blissfully unaware of what was happening down the hall. Timing is everything and we caught a break there. There, in that very instant, I was stuck in the middle- Mother, Child. Even Granddaughter as my thoughts stretched to my Grandma. Her baby has cancer.

We're taking it day by day because that's manageable.
Her surgery was successful and her pain is in control.
She's stage 2 and I hate that she has a stage, but that's how cancer rolls.

I am not sure what was worse- talking to my Grandma or Kid Rock.

My Grandma pleaded with The Lord- take her, she said. I am ready to die.
Hold the eff on here people. No one is going to die for eff's sake.
Kid Rock, my mighty kindergartener, just wanted to know what color her guts were they removed, (sic) and if she had staples or stitches. Ummmm, great questions baby girl.

I have read 37 magazines in the past three days. I read an article on TV host Robin Roberts and her new book called 'Everyone Has Something' and I think that's our theme here because it's true. It's a matter of how we respond and soldier.

And in our world that's with lots of hope, even more coffee, and a shocking amount of swear words.

Monday, April 21, 2014

On Sacred Spaces

When I was a girl, I was never in my parents' bedroom.
It wasn't a policy- there wasn't a keep-out sign on their door.
It was just a space that was all theirs. I never pajama-footed my way to their bed early mornings. Never begged to sleep between them stormy nights. Never had girls' night slumber parties with Mama-daughter in that bedroom.

That's why when we visit their house and you have access to their bedroom- where you play Legos in front of Grandma G's armoire for hours, or watch YouTube videos on the laptop in their bed in the dark, I secretly smile. Those grandparents and their knack for bending, or altogether dismissing, the rules between one generation and the next. They all do it. My grandparents were no different. My Grandma S. let me swim (in a RIVER and chlorinated pool) in my cast the (second) summer I broke my arm. Our little secret, she said. Until that bad boy started to smell. Then it was everyone's damn secret. And my Grandpa R. ... the man who did not believe in delaying gratitude, would let me pour a brand new box of Lucky Charms straight out into a mixing bowl until the toy came tumbling out into my waiting hands. When Grandma wasn't looking, of course.

Over the weekend you were camping out in their bedroom. Papa came in for something, and opened his closet door. His and Grandma G's are connected internally, but have separate doors on the exterior. When you shut either of the doors, it acts like a vacuum, pushing open the adjacent door. So when he shut his door, hers opened.

You came out to the kitchen where we were all congregated on Saturday night. You whispered you needed Grandma to come here. She went with you.

Out you came arms full of Easter eggs and miniature stuffed crap intended for their insides.

Look, you showed us. The Easter Bunny left all his eggs and stuff RIGHT IN GRANDMA'S CLOSET, and he did it A DAY EARLY!
"Yes," deadpanned Grandma. "That stupid Easter Bunny just left them right on my closet shelf. He must have needed the extra time and storage space to drop them off before Easter morning," she continued.

Hook, line, and an absolute believer at age six, sunk.

Later that night as I tucked you into your own bed and space downstairs, you whispered, what if Grandma G. is the Easter Bunny? 

I perched on the edge of your bed, brushed your bangs back from your forehead and admitted that yes, Grandma G. is many, many things. Wickedly talented. Relentlessly stubborn. Effortlessly low-maintenance. The best gift-giver ever. Incredible mojito-mixer and baker extraordinaire. A no-nonsense, honest feedback-giver. Beautiful flower-growing green thumber, and most selfless human I have ever met, but she is not the Easter Bunny.

I promise.

The next morning, you woke up to the dining room table set beautifully for a tea party with new Peter Rabbit porcelain dishes. There was a colorful note from the Easter Bunny with instructions to look for a giant basket inside and 12 eggs outside. The little kitchen chair where you left him a plate full of Jelly Bellies, baby carrots, romaine, and Dove dark chocolate eggs and a handwritten note depicting his likeness you sketched had been well-attended; there wasn't much left save for a few crumbs, pieces of candy wrapper tinfoil, and the tiniest, dirtiest little set of bunny footprints you ever did see, right there on the dishcloth you left him for such purpose. You know Grandma G. doesn't care for her floors to get dirty from the animals ... and that Bunny will have wet feet when he comes hoppin' in!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Because Someone Else Said It Best

101 Things I Will Teach My Daughter

By Leah Froehle
1. Chocolate is only a temporary fix.
2. A properly-fitting bra is not a luxury. It is a necessity.
3. Your happiness is your happiness and yours alone.
4. How to apply red lipstick.
5. How to wear the crap out of red lipstick.
6. A boyfriend does not validate your existence.
7. Eat the extra slice of pizza.
8. Wear what makes you feel gracefully at ease.
9. Love the world unconditionally.
10. Seek beauty in all things.
11. Buy your friends dinner when you can.
12. Wear sunscreen like it’s your second job.
13. Try with all your might to keep in contact with far-away friends.
14. Make the world feel at ease around you.
15. Walk with your head up.
16. Order a cheeseburger on the first date if you want to.
17. Never, ever bite your nails.
18. Swipe on some lipstick, put on your leather jacket, and sneak into a bar somewhere.
19. Learn from your mistakes that night.
20. Dental hygiene is not multiple choice.
21. Your GPA is not a confession of your character.
22. There is strength in breaking down.
23. You don’t have to like yoga.
24. Pick a tea.
25. Take care of your feet.
26. Pick a perfume.
27. Even if you’re tall, wear the heels anyway.
28. Classy is a relative term.
29. Drink whiskey if you like whiskey.
30. Drink wine if you like wine.
31. Like what you like.
32. Offer no explanation.
33. Advil and Gatorade.
34. You are no less of a woman when you’re in sweats and gym shoes than a woman in stilettos and a pencil skirt.
35. A woman is a woman is a woman.
36. Love your fellow woman with all your heart and soul.
37. Cry, uninhibited, with your friends.
38. Laugh until you can’t breathe with your friends.
39. Tell me everything.
40. Exercise to be strong and healthy. A beautiful soul needs a sturdy vessel.
41. There is no shame in hoping for love.
42. My cooking is the best cooking.
43. Do not take sex lightly.
44. I mean it.
45. Anna Karenina. I’d like it if you read it.
46. The world spins on the principle of inherent tragedy.
47. Do not be blind to it.
48. Men are effectively idiots until the age of 26.
49. Carbohydrates are not the enemy.
50. Involve yourself in an organized activity of your choosing.
51. Listen to classical music occasionally.
52. Take hot baths.
53. Do not use bath salts.
54. You are more than capable.
55. I promise.
56. Don’t smile if you don’t mean it.
57. Mean your anger. Mean your sadness. Mean your pain.
58. I am always, always listening.
59. Travel.
60. Get stuck in a foreign country with $4.67 in your account.
61. Make me furious.
62. Make me worry.
63. Come home smelly, tired, and with a good story.
64. Your story isn’t really yours.
65. You are a compilation of others’ stories.
66. Well-fitting and modest is ALWAYS sexier than too small and tight.
67. Who cares if glitter isn’t tasteful?
68. It’s too much eyeliner if you have to ask.
69. Learn to bake for when you’re sad and I’m not there.
70. Humility and subservience are not synonyms.
71. Wash your face twice per day.
72. Be gentle with your skin.
73. Science is really cool.
74. So is literature.
75. And history.
76. And math.
77. There is no substitute for fresh air.
78. Carry your weight.
79. Make up for it later if you can’t.
80. That salad is not better than pasta and it never will be.
81. You’re fooling no one.
82. Find at least three green vegetables you can tolerate.
83. A smoothie is not a meal.
84. Expect the best from everyone.
85. People will let you down.
86. Bask in the sun (wearing a sunhat and SPF 90).
87. There is a certain kind of man you need to avoid at all costs.
88. You’ll know it when you meet him.
89. What other people say is right doesn’t always feel right.
90. What feels right is where your happiness is.
91. Give thoughtful gifts.
92. Form an opinion.
93. Stick to it.
94. Exfoliation in moderation.
95. Argue with people when you need to.
96. If it’s worth fighting for, fight fiercely.
97. Don’t fight for acceptance.
98. You shouldn’t have to.
99. Take pictures, but not too many.
100. Follow your bliss at all costs. (I’m cutting you off at 22, though).
101. Chocolate ice cream, however, might just be a permanent fix.