Sunday, March 8, 2015

She is little...

On Tuesday, my daughter went to her middle school orientation.  They were there to learn about the curriculum and their elective options, and then walk around and explore.  Due to her brother's stomach bug, she went with a friend, whose mom graciously kept me updated.  Around 6:00 I received a text "and they're off to middle school."

My heart broke a little.  The air literally left the room and I had to sit down.  Poof, just like that, she was all grown up.

I was not prepared for such a visceral reaction.  She's my middle child, so I have been through this before.  But it never ceases to surprise me, that feeling of...well, your child growing up.

It's thrilling and wonderful and nervewracking and terrifying.  Her brother is chill, he's laid back and devil-may-care, go-with-the-flow.  She's different.  She's more innocent, more naive, more sensitive and trusting. And smaller.

Yesterday, while shopping at Target I needed to use the restroom.  "Meems, come with me and watch the cart while I go to the bathroom, please."


"Because, honey, I don't want to leave you alone in the store.  Please come with me."

"MOM!  Oh my gosh, I'm almost 12!  I'll be perfectly fine here looking at the clothes.  I'm not a baby."

And she was right.  But she looks like one.  And apparently I have a tendency to treat her like one.  And she'll always be a baby to me -- MY baby.

She has always had a tendency to want people to do things for her.  This, literally, is why it took her so long to walk -- she was tiny and adorable and easy to carry and preferred it that way.  When she finally walked on her own, she did so like she'd been doing it for years.  She never toddled.  She just got up and matter-of-factly walked across the room.

Lately, as she teeters on the edge of puberty and middle school, her tendencies to be babied have been amplified.  I know it's a security thing, but I see her going down a dangerous road of being a girl who needs someone.  As a sagittarius, nothing scares me more.  I want her to be a girl who is independent and capable and strong.  I want her to be someone who values and appreciates validation (and who doesn't really?) but who doesn't seek it.  I have been encouraging her to do her own thing, to have confidence in her abilities, and take some chances.  And she is.  Her reaction to my request was proof that my strategy is working.  This is a girl who, a couple months ago, would not have wanted to be left alone.

She is discovering her girl power.  Embracing it.

When I was a little older that she is now, I was helping my sister with her paper route.  She was sick, and so my mom and I were splitting the early morning job.  I was little too, and as I lugged a huge newspaper bag full of newspapers up a steep hill, I remember my mother coming to me to help.  When I told her I was fine, she commented "well, you may be little, but you're mighty."   Those words have stuck with me and have probably formed who I am more than any other advice I ever received, from my parents or anyone.

So I let her browse.  When I returned, she gently admonished me "you think I'm so little sometimes.  I'm not little, Mom.  I only look little."

And she's right.  And she's mighty.  And she doesn't even know it yet.  But she will.

I'll make sure of it.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015


Let's see, this is...week 9.  Week 9 of having someone NOT AT SCHOOL.  Between snow days (7 of the last 11 instructional days have been snow days), holidays (let's just go ahead and celebrate every president individually for pete's sake), stomach bug (responsible for 2 of the weeks), flu, teacher work days, a sprained thumb, and now the stomach bug AGAIN, this is the 9th week of school since Christmas vacation that there has been someone at home.  THE BEST NEWS OF ALL??  We're supposed to get more snow on Thursday, which means no school for at least one, and probably (let's get real, this is Richmond) two days.

I am teetering on the edge.  Verrrrry close.  So close.

Husband is out of town.  Because, of course.

This week's recap:

Little Dude has lacrosse evaluations at the polar vortex of sporting venues, River City Sports Complex, which is always at least 10 degrees colder than anywhere else in town (read more about that here).  As the weather is a balmy 45 degrees today, he insists on wearing shorts and a tee shirt only to contract pre-frostbite immediately upon arrival.  I run to the car to retrieve his sweatshirt.  I then proceed to watch his practice (oh, who am I kidding, they all have white helmets and neon green socks -- one of those kids is mine, somewhere), huddled with the other parents as the wind whips us around and my toes and fingers lose feeling.  My other two children are at home texting me incessantly about things like what's for dinner? and how's practice? and can I stay up and watch The Voice? and finally I tell them that we will talk when I get home and not to text me again unless their life depends on it because every time I have to text them I have to take off my glove and I already feel like I am fighting a losing battle to keep my fingers.  Why is it they never have anything to say to you UNTIL YOU LEAVE?  An eternity An hour and a half later, T comes running off the field crying, telling me he feels like he's going to throw up.  Awesome.  We race off to the car without even removing his gear because it is so cold and because I am worried about him throwing up right there on the turf in front of God and everybody.  As we hustle to the car, him crying and moaning and turning green, me encouraging him to breathe slowly through his mouth and hurry, hurry, it occurs to me that if he does get sick, it's going to happen in his helmet.  Awesome.  The sooner we can get to the car, the better.  I get him in, get his helmet off, and frantically search for something for him to use as a vomit catcher should he get sick on the way home.  Grabbing his water bottle, I empty the water only to find that it's a ROCK STAR of a water bottle because between its insulation and the ice we put in originally, none of the ice has melted -- nay, it's a solid chunk now -- and there's hardly any room in there for whatever might happen.  Luckily, nothing does.  He goes home, eats 8 bagel bites and declares he is fine.  It is freezing in our house and I am so tired of being cold that I turn up the thermostat upstairs.  And immediately feel guilty, but a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.  Stupid windows that need to be replaced and blast you, winter!  My children are all asleep in shorts and short sleeves and have kicked off the covers.  Well, except for Meems, who sleeps with 6 layers in the summer, so she's pretty much cocooned in her bed, so much so that I can hardly find her under all the layers.  I uncover her face so she doesn't suffocate and go to bed.

Wake up, take a shower.  It's my off day for washing my hair so that means I get to sleep in an extra few minutes.  Holla!  Get out of the shower to a little voice saying he thinks he's going to throw up.  Awesome.  He goes off to the bathroom and I go downstairs because I am going to need coffee for this and the dog doesn't greet me the way she usually does.  Hmmm, she must be tired.  I get the coffee started, when I hear another little voice telling me that the dog has had an accident and there it is, a giant pile of dog in the middle of the floor.  Awesome!  Welp, that explains her demeanor.  As I am cleaning it up, the little guy upstairs is yelling "I'm having diarrheeeeeaaaaaaa" and the teenager is making all the big brother comments he can make about the state of affairs in the bathroom and banging on the door complaining he needs to brush his teeth.  The door is locked and the occupant is indisposed, so I have to break into the bathroom using a hair pin so we can retrieve a toothbrush.  Never in his life has brushing his teeth been so important as this morning.  Little Meems has middle school orientation tonight and her friend is coming home with her after school to go with us because of scheduling conflicts and now I have to call her mother to tell her what's going on because who wants to find out after the fact that there was a potential stomach bug exposure. Now Meems is going home with her friend and her friend's dad will take them to the orientation and bring her home after, because I can't take a kid with stomach issues to a middle school packed with hundreds of rising 6th graders and their parents, which makes me sad because this is middle school and it's all new and scary to her and I wanted to be the one to share that with her.  Now, I just have to get some work done, pick one up from track team callbacks, ram some dinner down his throat, take him to his lacrosse evaluations and get home before she does.  Maybe he will actually wear something warm.  A girl can dream.

Ugh, time to break into the bathroom again.  Don't ask.

That's my week, how's yours?  Wait, it's only Tuesday?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

My Messy Life

I left the house in a mess this morning. 

There were dishes in the sink, I think I left two cinnamon buns on the counter (I can't be sure -- I meant to wrap those up and put them in the fridge), and not a single bed is made.  The boys’ rooms, well, I can’t even.  I am still in the process of unpacking from our ski weekend, and there is laundry to put away.  If, God forbid, our house were to become a crime scene, it would be difficult to tell what’s crime scene and what’s regular everyday scene.

Monday, I straightened up the house.  Then the kids came home.  
Last night, instead of unpacking and putting away laundry, I took the boys to the gym with me while Meems was at her tumbling class.  There are knee hockey goals in my living room, a robotic arm living in my dining room and rolls of duct tape and grip tape that someone left in the family room.

This is my life.

Once, when the kids were babies, my husband had the lack of judgement misfortune to question what I did all day.  The house was a mess.  He informed me that his home growing up was always spotless and he wondered why I couldn’t manage the same thing.

Granted, this is what it looked like.  Usually, I hurriedly picked up the joint before he walked through the door, but for whatever reason, that day did not.

can you find the baby? 
After he came to, I explained to him that we had two kids on two different schedules.  While one was napping, another was playing.  One didn’t want me out of her sight and one never stopped moving.  One was potty training and one was still nursing.  One liked to jump off of everything, and the day before, I found him trying to swing from the dining room chandelier.  During the afternoon nap I ran around the house doing all the chores only to have it all negated as soon as they woke up.  Anything that could be pulled out of a basket or cabinet was.  The playroom was also the living room, family room and entrance to our small, cozy home.  We lived in this house, LIVED.  And life is messy.  And kids are messy.  But they are my priority and I would rather spend my time playing with them and letting them explore than creating an environment where they were afraid to make a mess. 

We moved to a larger house; the mess moved with us and, with the addition of a third child, got bigger.  And as they get bigger, it never gets smaller – it just looks different now.  Gone are primary-colored plastic toys and bouncers and matchbox cars and babies.  Now it’s, well, it’s knee hockey goals and robotic arms.  It’s sports gear and projects and science experiments and shoes and balled up socks and wet towels on the floor and cheese stick wrappers and electronic devices and my daughter’s purses and papers.  Now it’s lacrosse and tumbling and cross country and drum lessons and basketball and friends and doctors’ appointments and tutors and homework instead of naps and potty training and nursing and cabinet excursions.

For the record, my husband now has a home office.  Lucky for me that home office came equipped with a better understanding of what the heck happens every day to create such chaos. 

I could have cleaned last night.  Should have cleaned last night.  But after working all day and making dinner and doing homework I wanted to do something for me.  And I wanted to do something for my children.  Will played basketball with his friends, Tate had me show him how to work all the workout machines, and then the two of us ran together.  Each boy was happy (until T fell on the treadmill and in a panic I stopped the machine and ruined his workout, but that’s another story), as was mom.  I got to have a little time with my little T, which doesn’t happen much.  His smile, well, it’s worth any sacrifice. 

That's not to say the mess doesn't drive me crazy, and I do yell about it sometimes.  I am trying to teach them how to be responsible for themselves AND their belongings AND our family’s total well-being.  One day, they will get it (ok, maybe).  In the meantime, we do what we can.  We clean up the messes, but they always come back.  And that’s OK. 

My home is messy.  But it’s happy.  It’s cozy.  There is love in every room and we live there, really LIVE there. 

It is what it is, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Although I  would like to find fewer balled up socks and wet towels on the floor. 
Ah, baby steps.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Mornings with Meems

Let it be stated:  Meems is not a morning person.

Every morning, Meems asks me what she should wear. Every. Single. Morning.  I have yet to figure out what exactly she wants from me here. It just feels like a trick question somehow. I know, it would appear pretty straightforward, but not much with this kid is straightforward. Except when she tells you that you look prettier with makeup, or with your sunglasses on. That’s pretty straightforward. Brutally straightforward.

I offer suggestions. Typically, the result is this: she poo-poos each one and then gets mad at me because I can’t figure out what she wants to wear. She may not know what she wants, but she always knows what she doesn’t want.

No lie.

Typical morning:

“Mom, what can I wear?”

Leary and weary of her torturous guessing game, I decide to be encouraging instead. I tell her that she has a great sense of style and she doesn’t need me – she always looks cute (and she does have a great sense of style, I’m not lying to her). She usually comes back with a very loud sigh, the ever present eyeroll, and an “I know but what can I WEAR?” as if I don’t really understand the meaning of that word.

“Pants? It’s cold.”

“I don’t have pants. I have jeans.”

“Yes you do, you have some cute camo capris and some grey skinny cargos. Either of which would look cute with boots or flats. You also have yoga pants. And, incidentally, jeans are pants.”

“Ok but what can I WEA-YUR??” She has not only spoken the word super slowly but also turned it into a two syllable word.  Apparently, that word is still foreign to me.

“Meems, I don’t know what to tell you. I will tell you you’re 11, you’re running late, you have to get ready for school, I have to get ready for work and I don’t have time for this. Just pick something and it will be fine.”

Often, this exchange ends in someone stomping off and slamming a door. Mornings are no good for anyone around here.

This morning, it happened again. Because of course.

“Meems…” sigh “I don’t…..”

She cuts me off. “Mom, I just really am asking you today. Can you please help me?” The look in her eyes and the tone of her voice tells me she needs this, that she’s not actually setting me up for some evil preteen takedown.

I offer suggestions. She accepts them. We brainstorm. This, I love. I wish it could always be this way. Feeling bold, I suggest the boots she never seems to want to wear (what am I crazy? I am setting myself up to get shot down!) and she agrees.

I nearly faint. I am overcome with a little love gush for this sweet baby girl of mine getting all grown up. I’m feeling all warm and fuzzy and truly connected and then…

“Thanks Mom. Now shut the door. I have to get dressed and the boys will see me naked. GEESH.”

Aaaand we’re back.

But for a moment, a tiny, shining, shimmering pre-pubescent moment, life was good, simple and happy. For one single minute, I wasn’t trying to guess if “I need your help” really meant “I don’t need your help” and if “I don’t know what to do” really meant “I KNOW, gosh!!”

I am discovering, as my children get older, that those moments are golden. They are warm and reassuring, to both child AND parent.

Those are the moments where life truly happens.

Thankful for one of those moments today.  And taking bets on how long it will be before it happens again.