Three years ago, the CCS came into our lives. It is hard to believe that the tiny baby who ate around the clock and giggled at everything is the spunky three-year-old who keeps busy terrorizing her sister and tasting assorted things that I would prefer her not to (sand, leaves, dog treats). Like most humans, she is full of contradictions. She is both the girl who proclaims she is mad at me for not letting her lick chalk and also the girl who grabs my face in her hands and says “I lub you so much.” Without Claire, our lives would be neater and I wouldn’t know the number to poison control, but they would also be so much more mundane.
This year, we decided we needed to have a real party since our baby is turning into a real kid. In true Claire style, she requested a kitty party. Truth be told, I was relieved because her first request was for a Music Man party, and I wasn’t sure how to pull that off. So we partied kitty style. We invited a few of our favorites to our backyard for dinner, and Claire lived it up. She partied so hard and ground so much sand into her dress, in addition to drenching herself with water, that she was stripped down to her undies by the end of the night. Surely a sign of a perfect night?
Happy birthday to our three-year-old. Thanks for being uniquely you.
The inevitable has happened – the AJS has finished preschool. I cannot tell you how sweet and idyllic these past two years of preschool have been. Sometimes in life, it seems like you flounder and struggle to find the right fit, and other times everything falls right into place. We stumbled upon the perfect preschool fit for Avery, and what a blessing it has been.
We went to Avery’s preschool program, which was an impressive fractured fairy tale play, in which the AJS played the role of one of four little kittens. I felt a bit daunted when Avery’s lines were sent home from school for at-home rehearsal, but she knew them perfectly from our first practice. I think they spent quite a lot of practice time at school. Our little kitten (Furry) was tied into knots about having to sing a song off-key for comic effect- her perfectionist soul objects to off-key apparently. But come show-time, she delivered in an adequately squeaky singing voice.
And so it is with some anxiety, both on Avery’s part and also on mine, that we begin our kindergarten countdown. The AJS has shed some tears about (1) leaving her sweet teachers behind, (2) having her class split apart, and (3) not having as much time to spend with her mom (that’s my girl). And I must admit, that I get a lump in my throat when I think about that little AJS being gone from 8:00-3:00 each day. Who knew kindergarten would feel like such a leap?
So for today, we’re making our summer bucket lists and are going to make these sunny days count!
Here I am on my first Mother’s Day without my mother. I have received many sweet and thoughtful messages from my friends expressing their love and concern. I appreciate you so much friends, but I have to assure you – I am not sad.
I’m taking today to reflect and appreciate the thirty-four years, almost to the day, that I had the mother who was perfect for me. I so needed each day of those years to learn how to be a person, and most importantly, how to be a mother. I would have been desperately at sea these past five years of mother-dom without my Mom’s guiding hand. In my Mom’s last week with us, she, the bravest and strongest of humans, told me that she wasn’t sad or afraid to die but that she just didn’t want to leave her girls (me and my sister). It was then that I realized that my mom had given me everything I need to make it in this world because she had given me every ounce of herself. Reflecting on that time, I understand that there never could come a day that I would be ready to part with her because I am selfish and she was my favorite.
We started our Mother’s Day celebration today with lunch and shopping, and we ended it with ice-cream for dinner and a trip to the toy store. My children were incredulous over both of these events, the AJS questioning me at-length about the protocol of having ice-cream only for a meal. Today, I merely wanted to indulge and celebrate my two other favorites. I wanted to be the rule-breaker instead of the rule-enforcer. I thought of my mom often, remembering our own trips to Braum’s for ice-cream for dinner when my dad was out-of-town. Today was special, but everyday is special because I am with my family. How amazing is it to be able to hold my two biggest blessings in my arms each and everyday?
So today I reflect on all I learned from my own mother and recommit to my own goals as a mom, the greatest of which is to spend each day I have left being there for my kids, showing them my love.
Today was Bike & Trike day at Avery’s preschool. I have been a bit anxious in the days leading up to this. The AJS is not an enthusiastic bike rider. Last fall, she had built up some confidence and was zipping up and down our street at a good pace, even dubbing herself “Speedy Cat” in honor of her pink, cat bike helmet. But winter happened, and we have gotten back on the proverbial horse with less gusto. If you want to see her go into full panic mode, mention taking off her training wheels. Yikes. As spring has provided us with few chances to practice, it was with an anxious heart that I approached the preschool, bubblegum pink, princess bike with Cinderella coach shaped basket and metallic streamers in hand.
Avery completed a shaky ride down the track, attempted a u-turn, half fell off, and then dismounted and tearily hit the snack table. I figure our bike-riding was complete. But then in a display that yet again proves that kids are better than adults, she climbed back on and proceeded to slowly pedal around the track for the better part of an hour with a huge grin plastered on her face. At times, she was biking so slowly that 8-10 preschoolers would be backed up in a line behind her, and her ears must have been ringing with the sounds of other kids whizzing by her. She was unbothered. Impervious even. I would have quit, but the AJS biked on. The other obstacle to her burgeoning cycling career is that she likes to bike whilst looking behind her to talk to her friends, wave to passersby, spot butterflies, etc. I was so proud of my tiny biker today. I love these years before the world has crept in. Bike on, (not very) Speedy Cat, bike on.
I realize that the rest of the blogosphere has already posted their Easter pictures and tales, but here I am, representing harried moms everywhere, just getting around to . . . Palm Sunday. Yes, I realize that most people aren’t eagerly commemorating Palm Sunday, but ours contained such a sweet moment that I want to relive over and over. As a matter of fact, I am filing this moment in my “happy moment” bank. It’s a new strategy I’m employing. My kids are screaming at each other, screaming at me, etc. and I pause, take a breath, relive a happy kid moment . . . and then I yell at them. It’s a developing strategy – I’ll keep you posted.
So Avery has been eagerly anticipating Palm Sunday for weeks. Yes, she’s not your typical child, but for whatever reason, Palm Sunday is on her radar in a big way. She started in one week out, reminding us that Palm Sunday was rapidly approaching and gently reiterating that she does not like it when we miss Sunday School. In case you were judging my piousness by my frequent church attendance, it actually is a direct reflection of the amount of pressure applied by the AJS.
The big PS rolled around, and I dutifully made sure the kids were groomed slightly better than average since the entire congregation would watch them traipse down the aisle avec palms. This year marked Claire’s first appearance at Palm Sunday, before always falling short of the age cutoff. Jerrod and I sat a little closer than usual and directly next to the aisle in order to watch our delicate flowers process. The doors opened, and the children started walking from the back of the church to the front. AJS appeared somewhat in the middle of the pack, palm waving, eyes scanning the congregation to find us. I whispered her name as she walked by, and she stopped the entire procession to give me an enthusiastic hug, which I interpreted as a “thanks Mom for not crushing my dreams by skipping church because I was born to wave this palm.” Claire’s class came last, and Claire came walking down the aisle hesitantly – but on her own. I didn’t know if she would do it. For all her bravado, the CCS is very suspicious of new situations. When Claire walked past us, I ducked down in the aisle and avoided eye contact. Totally normal behavior. But I was convinced that if she saw me, she would make a hard right into my lap.
Once they all made it to the front of the church, the kids sat on the steps. Claire immediately found Avery and sat next to her. And here comes the sweet stuff – brace yourselves. The kids sat and listened to a short children’s sermon, and as I strained to see my nuggets, I saw Claire, still looking bewildered, and Avery sitting next to her, holding Claire’s hand and reassuringly patting her on the stomach. And it was working. Claire looked comforted. I’m not sure why exactly the AJS selected stomach-patting as her method of comforting. I have even tried patting my own stomach to see if it’s soothing (not soothing). But that tiny, tender moment between my daughters got me. My children have been such opposites from day one, which causes a fair amount of head-butting. So witnessing that honest moment of love expressed and love received hit me right in the heart. But don’t worry, the sweetness was short-lived. Directly following the children’s message, the kids stood up and sang a song. I don’t think Claire’s class was supposed to sing, but when the CCS saw Avery stand up and sing, Claire immediately popped up next to her and started fervently mouthing words in an exaggerated manner. Cue shattering of touching moment, which was quickly replaced with “yes, that’s my child” head-shaking. But even the lip-synching made me hopeful. Maybe Avery will be part of Claire’s roadmap for life?
Hope your Palm Sunday was similarly sweet. Up next, Easter pics. I promise.
It’s been a little hard for me to look at this blog lately. When I first started this, my purpose was two-fold. One, all of our family is out-of-town, so it was an easy way to share our day-to-day lives. Two, it was a substitute for my noticeable lack of baby books. But, as is almost always the case in life, what starts as one thing ended up as an entirely different thing. I talked to my mom almost daily. She heard every story I had. And yet, this blog became a thing between us. I would write a post, she would call me laughing, and we would re-live the blogged-about moment. Before long, each time I wrote a post I was writing it for her, including the tidbits I knew she would find funny, writing in much the same tone as our blunt conversations.
And now she is gone. But the blog lives on. And I hate the blog a little bit. I’m holding a grudge against a blog. As much as it has encapsulated the joys and pitfalls of my growth experience as a mother, it reminds me of what I no longer have. Herein lies the problem with my attitude towards life these days. I have thirty-three years of the brightest of happy memories with my mom. But I won’t let myself open them. I can’t bare to peek in, to think about that happiness because it makes my pain much more acute.
I’m not good with grief. I have never known what to say to other people who were grieving. I think, in part, because I have never understood what I could say to alleviate someone else’s pain, could never find the words. But I also think, in part, it was because I couldn’t bear to feel that pain, to let myself imagine having that kind of loss myself. I remember the first time I ever let myself think what it would be like if my mom died. It was almost two years ago, and we had just learned about the first of my mom’s health problems. It was a flicker across my mind, quickly buried. It kept bobbing back up over the next two years, always dismissed, but each time returning more quickly than the last. And then one day, it wasn’t me quietly fearing that my mom wouldn’t make it – it was my dad telling me that she was not going to make it. It was me watching my mom fade away.
Apparently, I’m not good with my own grief either. I’ve never been a sharer of my deepest emotions or comfortable feeling sad or vulnerable. I always thought that I was strong. But grief is the thing that shows you how breakable you truly are. And how changeable your life really is.
But as uncomfortable as I am in my own skin these days, I have to start letting the happy in. I have to relive the happy memories to chase away the bad ones, even though it will sting. Someone I love and trust very much recently told me, that “we can’t see everything as a loss and forget all the amazing blessing we had and want to pass on to our children.” And it made me realize how very much I am doing that.
So today, I’m going to try to quit hating this blog so much and try getting back on the horse with the hope that, once again, it will start as one thing and end as another. It starts with this post and this picture. A picture of my mom and Claire. In fact, the last picture of them, which coincides with the last time I remember being with her before her life took a turn down a path that led to us saying goodbye to her. And I will think of each post as a continuation of our thirty-three year, ongoing conversation.
One of my greatest joys as a mother is to watch my children play together. Not play independently side-by-side but truly interactive play. It has been unfolding over the past six months, and sometimes two-year-old CCS and five-year-old AJS are on different pages. Every single night in the tub, they divide up a bevy of princess dolls amongst themselves. Without fail, each night, a princess dialogue commences with AJS saying “friiiieeeeends, where are you?” Some nights it plays out better than others. Here’s one of my particular favorites from the past week.
AJS: Friiiieeends, where are you?
CCS: Hi, Cinderella (pronounced Cinewewwa). How are you?
AJS: I’m fine. Put on your finest gown. We are going to have a princess party.
CCS: Hi, Cinderella.
AJS: There will be dancing and princesses and delicious food.
CCS: Hi, Cinderella. I wanna go to City Bites. (Have you noticed a theme? Please see Claire Speaks).
AJS: We will dance away the night to our favorite music.
CCS: I’m Princess Aurora (pronounced Awowa). I wanna pink donut.
AJS: with slight exasperation. I know you’re Princess Aurora. We don’t eat donuts or City Bites at balls. It’s supposed to be fancy.
CCS: unphased. Hi Cinderella.
Poor Avery Jane. She has not quite completed her indoctrination of Claire yet. Give her time. Until then, I think there are going to be a lot of balls where City Bites is served.