Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Got Gum?

Little Meems has always been a fanatic about gum.  From a young age, she was obsessed and was chewing gum way before a child her age should've been.  Luckily, the parenting police never arrested us.  I am sure they were alerted.

We have since learned that gum is helpful for our little girl.  It helps her organize her thoughts.  Some kids need a "fidget" to utilize while completing tasks that are difficult.  You know, the kids who get called out for fidgeting?  Chances are, the fidgeting helps.  I was a fidgeter.  In church, in school, when I was talking, or getting lectured...I remember, all too often, a hand on my knee or a plea to sit still.  In hindsight, I now know that my fidgeting was a way to slow down my brain.  When my body is left to idle, my brain starts going a mile a minute.  Kicking my leg, tapping my eraser to my mouth, talking with my hands...these things reign it all in, make the speed more manageable.

Little Meems is the same.  In her case, gum is key.  She rubs her blanket against her mouth when she's listening intently to a book.  She does cartwheels and handstands when she's studying.  She actually has "homework gum" which she chews while working to organize her thoughts.

Hey, whatever works.

Her teacher is letting the students chew gum for the SOLs.  This, of course, thrills my Little Meems.

I bought her a pack of SOL gum for her last SOL a week or so ago.  It had to be mint.  Apparently, mint stimulates your brain.  A win/win for my gum girl, as it's her favorite.  This morning, I was informed that she needs gum for her mat SOL.


"I don't have any gum.  Wait, didn't I just buy you some?"

"I ate it all."

"How do you go through an entire pack of gum in one SOL?  It was just a couple hours!"

"It was hard.  The writing SOLs are just so hard."

Writing is her downfall.  A  whole pack of gum...wow, what must it have been like for that little girl who just said "fine!" when I asked her how the test was?  My heart broke a little.  That's a lot of gum.  You do the math.

Which brings us to math.  "I have two pieces of cinnamon gum you can have."

"It has to be mint."

"Well, let me get my magic wand..."

"Maybe my teacher has mint gum."

"Maybe you can trade her two mint for two cinnamon."

"What if it takes more than two?"

I'm off to work, with a stop at Rite Aid on the way in to get a little girl a whole lotta gum.

Mint, of course.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


Watching your child be brave – it’s gut wrenching, heartbreaking, wondrous and spectacular all at the same time. 

My boys swim.  Will has been swimming for 6 years and Tate has been swimming for 3.   They adore it and it’s so good for them, physically, but also emotionally.  It’s one of the only sports in their young lives where their effort is rewarded based on merit – and not participation.  For one son, that means cheers.  For another, it often means tears.  But both are determined and committed and will give 100% to this endeavor, despite the sometimes disappointing outcome. 

Little Meems has not enjoyed this summertime ritual like her brothers.  After swimming one season and finishing mostly last in most of her races, she decided it wasn’t for her and hasn’t looked back.  Scratch that, she’s looked back…but only momentarily.  For her, the competition evokes fear, a fact I learned after a tearful admission to her dad and me after some pressing.

No problem.  There’s no need to let summertime fun stress you out.

But I worry about her, because you see, she’s an awful lot like me as a kid – a kid who too often let fear prevent her from trying something new.  I don’t want her to have those regrets – some chances only come along once in a lifetime.  Swim team comes around every summer, but she’s getting to the age where it’s harder and harder to compete.  In other words, it’s almost too late.

We didn’t press the issue.  As I registered the boys, I asked her once again.  “Are you sure?”  I encouraged her to think about it, and pointed out that many of her friends would be on her team and how much fun that would be.  I also explained that I don’t care how she does, it’s just about having fun, but it’s not about stress, so the final decision was hers.  To my surprise, she said she’d think about it. 

A couple days later, she said she would do it.

“Mom, I think I’ve decided to do swim team after all.”

“Are you sure honey?  You know you don’t have to.”

“Yes.  As long as I don’t have to do Butterfly.” (Little Meems always has stipulations)

“I think we can arrange that.  What made you change your mind?”

“Well, I’m about to turn 11 and I just think I need to be brave about this.”

“Ok.  I think it will be a lot of fun.  A great way to spend time with your friends all summer.”

“That too.  I think I can do this.  I don’t feel afraid right now.  I might be a little nervous at the meets, but I don’t feel that now.  I really want to do this.”  Nodding her head, convincing herself as much as me.

This is tricky mom/tween territory.  The trick is to be enthusiastic and encouraging, yet play it cool so as not to freak them out. 

We signed her up, she’s started practices, and she’s loving it. 

It’s gut wrenching and heartbreaking and wondrous and spectacular.  I’m so proud of her.  Of course, the true test will come in the shape of her first swim meet.  Hopefully, her confidence and the support of her friends will make it all worthwhile, despite the outcome.  The fear of losing or being embarrassed is a big one.

But not nearly as big as the fear of trying.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Sick Day

Yesterday, Will stayed home from school with a stomach ache.  Nothing major, but he’s a kid who has his share of stomach issues.  Generally, those issues end with vomiting.  Middle school is not a place to flirt with a vomit scenario, and so, after seeing him get a little stressed about going to school, I let him stay home.

Let's call it a “mercy sick day.”

Mondays are my days to grocery shop, get caught up on laundry and hose down the house after the weekend.  We weren’t even home this weekend and the house STILL got filthy.  As I had some errands to run, I offered him the chance to stay put and watch TV or come with me.  Opting for the latter because he was feeling better (although I suspect it was really because he doesn’t like to be alone) we made a trip to Target and the paint store.  He used his money and a Target gift card to buy a new game he wanted, and spent the afternoon holed up in the playroom (resting Mom!) with his game. I got to baby him a little, and wait on him, feel his forehead and snuggle a little.  These are the things we moms love to do when our babies are sick.  And to my surprise he let me.

Midway through the afternoon, I suggested we go to the batting cage and hit a few balls.  This is a baseball skill that eludes him on a regular basis.  He gets nervous, he doesn’t choke up enough, he overthinks it and tenses his body.  I wanted him to just make consistent contact, to increase his confidence and sharpen his feel for the process (my grandfather played baseball, and he taught me everything I know about it, which isn’t much, but I know how to hit).  A moment of bafflement followed by a few seconds of incredulity, and he was in.

I told him to keep it between us.  The LAST thing I need is his brother and sister finding out.  Some things are better left unspoken around our house.

After 220 balls pitched at various speeds, and some great hits (especially when he listened to me and choked up on the bat and relaxed) we headed home.  We had a great discussion about visualization; he declared it the best sick day ever.

Here’s a kid who really celebrates life.  I wish I could have so many best days ever.

Later, when his brother asked him what he did, he said “nothing” and caught my eye.

And that made me happy.  Because you know what?  I don’t get much one-on-one with him, because of his age, because I am a girl, because there are 2 other children and too often, 2 of them get lumped together due to age, sex or simple geography.  I love it when I can make a connection, or a memory, with just one of them.  I love it when I can have secrets and experiences to share collectively, but also individually.

Later, when I tucked him in, he assured me his stomach was fine, hugged me and said “thanks for today Mom.  It really was the best sick day ever.”

I hope so.  I think it was just what he needed.  

Sick days aren’t just good for your health, you know.

Sometimes, they are just good for the soul.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Letting Go...

I feel like this is a theme of quite a few of my blog entries.  It's my way of making myself accountable, admitting I have a problem.  It's my very own 12-step program for control-freaks anonymous.  Besides, I have found that, sometimes, if you put it out there in the universe, the burden feels lighter.  Is it the lack of gravity?  That weightlessness?  Oh wow, there are so many metaphors right here for just everything in my life lately that honestly, my head spins and I wish I could address them all and I'm a little heartbroken that I can't --  the crazy English major and wannabe writer in me.  Am I the only one who loves it when her children ask her about words?  I got so excited trying to describe abundance to T today that he said "ok, now you're just creeping me out."

What can I say, I'm a word nerd.

Back to letting go.

I long ago made peace with the fact that I'm not perfect and neither is my life.  I try to embrace those imperfections and look to the blessings within:  the toys strewn all over the house that indicate a house full of children; the din of screaming that, upon further examination, reveals itself to be joyful screeches and laughter; the holes in the knees of pants that indicate active, playful children.  My home is full of half-finished or not-quite-completed projects.  My laundry is slightly too wrinkled.  My home isn't perfectly decorated or completely what I envision, but it's cozy and comfortable and welcoming.

But, lately, I've been having trouble letting go.  The irony of it is that "letting go" is the whole purpose.

My Little Meems is almost 11.  After redoing her brother's bedroom, she decided it was time for some changes in her own room.  As we just painted it a couple years ago, I told her that was off the table, but I'd be happy to incorporate her favorite colors into the room more.  She decided to trade up her antique twin beds for a double bed with a sheer canopy draped over the headboard.  OK, I can do that.

And immediately all the possibilities came rushing toward me.  I have about 12 inspiration boards going for her room -- oh it's going to be fabulous.  It will reflect her age, but be something she can grow into.  I'm going crazy over fabric swatches and curtains and wall decor.  Saturday, we stopped in Pottery Barn kids and I started showing her a variety of options -- polka dots! stripes! paisley! geometrics!  I went into a frenzy brainstorming over them.  She pulled out a sham she liked (her duvet is white).  It was solid, quilted, and turquoise blue.  Plain.  I was all, "but Meems, the polka dots!" and she was all "I hate polka dots."  I was all "what if we combine this turquoise and add a pop of purple?" and she was all "I don't like the purple, just turquoise."  I was all "what about..." and she held up her hand, and with a "Mom!" completely shut me down.

Totally defeated, frustrated and confused, I thought "but who wants...plain?"

And it occurred to me, she does.  I have been so hell bent on decorating the room for her my way that I forgot to ask her about her way.  I never got to decorate my own room when I was younger -- my mother did  and it was beautiful...but I couldn't hang my Rob Lowe or Duran Duran posters.  There was no where to put up all my snapshots of friends.  There was no making it mine, and I longed for a space to do just that.  And I swore to myself that, one day, I would let my kids do just that.  And what was I doing?  Making a gag face when she showed me plain old turquoise shams.  Blinking my eyes and making a horrified face when she handed me a red and black bedazzled "Rock Star" sign she got for her birthday that she desperately wants to hang.  Pulling down the photos she has haphazardly taped to the wall because there's no rhyme or reason to the placement.  I do the same thing to her older brother.  I am trying not to get upset when the posters he has tacked up to his wall from Sports Illustrated are crooked and clustered all together rather than artfully arranged.

I like arrangements.  I crave vignettes.  She is not interested in vignettes.  At all.  Or maybe she just doesn't know she needs them??

And there I go again.

It's time to let go.  This is supposed to be fun and nothing is getting done because I can't make up my mind because there are just so many beautiful options.  But that's not my luxury to possess...it's hers.  It's her room, her taste, her decision (within reason - I'm not crazy!) and should reflect her personality.  It should make her comfortable.  And, for the first time since we began this process, a decision has been made, and it was her decision and I have to respect that (even if I feel like she just doesn't understand how many options are out there!).  She knows what she wants (which is unusual -- typically she knows what she doesn't want, and let's just say there has been a lot of this in the process as well).  The room won't fulfill my visions of a spread in Domino, but that's OK.  As she's entering those prepubescent years, she needs a haven she can stomp off to when she just can't TAKE it anymore, or she can't believe how STUPID her brothers are, or when I'm making her life MISERABLE.  She can throw herself on the bed and snuggle her plain turquoise shams and feel that sense of...mine.

If she's like me, we will experience those episodes in abundance.

I'm off to Pottery Barn kids, the tune of "Let it Go" stuck in my head.  Besides, turquoise never bothered me anyway.