Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Mommy Blinders?

I’m slightly suspicious when I see a video link of someone’s cute kid on a blog. Some of the time, the video is especially cute. Other times, the cuteness factor is there, but it's more along the lines of regular cute. There’s nothing wrong with regular cute, it’s just that everybody’s kid is regular cute and regular cute doesn't necessarily need a video attached to it.

I'm sure that the moms who share these links are of a different opinion, though. They must be completely convinced that they are sharing the cutest thing ever with the world. The phrases “a face only a mother could love” or "love is blind" come too mind. While too harsh for my liking (kids are cute), they do point to a mom’s subjectivity about her children.

But rose-colored glasses should be part of the parental territory. We should think our kids are great, mamas. No need to apologize for wanting to show off our kids every now and then, especially when it doesn't sink to the level of Toddlers and Tiaras.

We are hardwired for unconditional love, and rightly so. This truism doesn't necessarily mean that everyone else (besides friends and family) are obliged to drink the go-go juice and/or wants to be subjected to our unique brand of maternal madness.

So it’s tricky. On the one hand, I am completely sure that the link I’m about to share is the cutest thing ever. On the other, it’s also quite possible that I am wearing a big, ol’, honking pair of mommy blinders the size of Honey Boo-Boo's hairdo.

You’ll let me know, won’t you?

P.S. This video is of my daughter using a microphone for the first time. I find it hilarious (and cute) because of her preferred word choice, which is peppered throughout both this video and our daily conversations, as well as being oh, so, quintessentially toddler.

P.P.S. You don’t have to watch the whole thing (not that you need my permission not to anyway). Watch and listen until around twenty seconds or so. I find the rest to be cute, but I'm Claire's mom. You may just find it regular cute.

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Photo Source: Flickr, Lwp, Kommunikacio

Thursday, August 22, 2013

This Fragile, Mortal Coil

Dear Claire,

How do I explain to you who my father was? It all feels so fraught. I don't know where or how to begin.

He died when I was 11. He had cancer.

See, saying that word was hard. I don't want to teach you that word. People can't bring themselves to say "cancer". They say the "dreaded C word", instead. I don't want to sugarcoat it, though. The horror of the disease needs to be honored by name.

So, there. I have begun. Yet...

How do I explain who I am? How do I explain being so formed by his absence?

One hot, August night, I was baptized in the waters of loss. When I came up for air, dizzy and disoriented, I found my identity unwillingly transformed.

I was not myself when he died -- in an instant, a fatherless child navigating in the murky depths of grief. In a sense, I am not myself now. Or, rather, I'm more than I appear to be. A part of me remains hidden. I guard this place like an animal protecting a wound, daring anyone to try and come near. Your papa does not know what I have shared with no one.

But I worry you sense that a part of me is unreachable. I wonder how this history that I keep silent separates me from you, as well as the ones I love.

Telling you is its own thorny road, though. I don't want to share childhood memories of my dad, and have you detect pain in my voice. I worry that this story of loss will change your own sense of self. How will you grapple with who "Grampy" is? My stepdad is the only Grampy you have ever known. Yet, he is not your Grandpa by blood.

It's all so confusing. Will it be too much for you? Will you fear your own papa dying?

These thoughts are too dark for a young mind. I struggle to imagine you contemplating them. I want to shield you from their dizzying and disorienting effects. Right now, you believe that the sun rose for the first time on the day you were born. Someday, I will have to tell you that the moon and the stars existed before you.

Talking about my own childhood loss makes this fragile, mortal coil feel even more present. It signifies my powerlessness to protect you, just as my parents could not protect me.

I know for sure that you will never know how I lie in bed at night, and pray to God that you never have to go through what I went through. You will never know that I wake up in the middle of the night to make sure you are breathing. I fear I am cursed, and that you and your papa are too good to be true.

But silence can cause more damage than revelation, I've found. These words have not come easily for me today. Perhaps, I have written them more for me than for you. I feel no closer to knowing what to say to you when you are older. Maybe, a poet's words will help you understand one day:

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He is Dead

To mourn full-throated like W. H. Auden is to honor his memory. This past is your birthright. Someday, you may take part in the grieving too. You may desire to know your grandpa, to understand me, to commune in our family history -- maybe, even to know and understand yourself.

This story of loss ends in triumph anyhow. After all, you are my father's and your grandfather's legacy, Claire...unique and beautiful, Claire.


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Joining Finish the Sentence Friday with Janine, Kristi, Stephanie, Kate.

Monday, August 19, 2013


My daughter, my beautiful butterfly, I watch as the baby in you fades and a little girl emerges.

Your chubby cheeks slim and reveal high, broad cheekbones. Your legs stretch and lengthen, and rolls of baby fat disappear from around your thighs.

You take greater command of your body each day, exploring new places and new heights. I'm just as likely to find you atop the climbing wall at the playground as I am atop the kitchen table. This newfound bravery wears me out sometimes -- your growing size keeping pace with huge reserves of energy and curiosity.

And speaking of curiosity, how many questions will I answer today? We have conversations, complete with your opinions, demands and lists of favorite things. When I say "Goodnight." You say, "Goodnight", also. My words"I love you" are returned with "I love you too". My heart is warmed each time, as if I'm hearing them for the first time.

You have friends, some real and some stuffed, thanks to an imagination that takes us to faraway places and on silly adventures. We share tea out of miniature cups and saucers, and call Grammy on a make-believe phone.

Nothing pleases me more than to be the one who witnesses your growth -- even if it means I have to be the one who mourns the baby becoming a memory. It's one of the many paradoxes of being a parent. I celebrate you, as I let you go.

When I look at the pictures of you taken as an infant and, later, as a baby, I see how you changed then. It’s crazy, but I didn't seem to notice how you grew into a baby, at the time. I can't believe that you ever fit in the crook of my arm.

I feel completely sure that I’m not going to forget this moment. I'm not going to forget you becoming a little girl. Yet…

I’ve decided to write it down, so I know that I watched you transform from a baby to a little girl. I want to remember this time, make a record of it. I want proof that we were here together for this magical metamorphosis, my daughter, my beautiful butterfly.

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Photo source: Hannes Grobe/AWI; 2010

Thursday, August 15, 2013

I Used to Love

1) Long, hot showers

2) A clean house

3) Peace and quiet

4) Freedom on the weekend

5) Getting dressed without an audience

6) Sleep

7) Perky boobs

8) Going to the movies

9) Reading the paper

10) Having conversations with adults over bottles of wine at restaurants until closing time.


I haven't stopped loving numbers one through 10. I traded them for a child, who I love more than all of the things that I used to love combined.

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Joining Finish The Sentence Friday, "I used to love...".

Finish the Sentence Friday

Monday, August 12, 2013

My Toddler is Irrational and Other Obvious Observations

Blooding curdling screams, like she is being tortured. Oh, the horror! How can life possibly go on? Her string cheese will never ever be the same!

Saying that a toddler is irrational is as obvious as saying Ryan Gosling is hot. If you don't agree with me about the toddler part, I invite you to come over and try to convince my daughter that her string cheese, orange or banana are going to taste exactly the same, even if they are broken.

Post not about Ryan Gosling, but it can't hurt!
I am telling you that Claire will have have none of your logic. She will continue to believe that said string cheese is in a state of ruin. She will continue to vacillate between this belief and the vain hope that something can be done or someone can help to fix her string cheese and make it better, which, in turn, will guarantee that all is right with the world.

I realize that part of my job as a parent is allowing her to have feelings of disappointment about such devastations as broken string cheese. It's important to me to validate her experience, even if I don't agree that the world is going to end due to a piece of cheese. I also know that it is my obligation to teach her that things break, and to commiserate about the fact that life doesn't always work out the way that you planned.

I don't often feel so philosophical in the moment. I kinda just want it to stop. The drama-queen side of my daughter seems to have a way of taking me off my center. And when she wants things just so, I start to get paranoid. I wonder whether my daughter's predilections for whole pieces of food are just typical toddler behavior or something much more dire. Perhaps, she's inheriting some of my own OCD tendencies. In reality, it's impossible to predict which of my bad qualities she's going to inherit, so I don't know why I bother trying.

But the bigger problem is that I really do want to be able to take all of Claire's problems away from her. It kills me when I can't fix her string cheese. I want to continue to be the all-knowing, all-powerful figure in her life. With each string cheese incident, I have a shorter distance to fall from my pedestal.

With each string cheese incident, I project into the future all of the disappointments that she is going to have in life, which I am powerless to stop from happening. I imagine the teacher who will make her feel stupid or small. Mean girls will surely enter the picture at some point along the way. She will endure a broken heart for the first time.

I am not psychic. How do I know these things will happen to her? Because they happened to me! My parents did not do a good job helping me through these times. "Buck up" was the general Germanic tone. I could go on in greater length about my own childhood, but I'll save that bit of ranting for another post.

This post is about how I want to do things differently with my daughter. I don't want to minimize my daughter's feeling like my parents did with me, when I was little. I also know that being a supportive mom doesn't mean constantly stopping Claire from falling, but, rather, being there to catch her when she falls.

Knowing and believing are two different things, though. I guess I'm as irrational as my toddler!

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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Sleeping Vicariously

Our babysitter came over at 5PM and announced that  it was her birthday. For a second, I was confused. "Why's she here? Shouldn't she be out celebrating tonight?" I thought.

Then she added, "After I leave here, I 'm going to take a nap and then my friends are taking me out."

Ah, youth. I had nearly forgotten. Then, she nonchalantly mentioned sleep and I remembered. She's 21. She's not a mom.

I found her lack of reverence for sleep breathtaking. She announced taking a nap at night like it was a given. It signified the ability to sleep with abandon, to run fast and lose with it, like a profligate. She might as well have been discussing inhaling and exhaling instead of the exotic treasure to be coveted that sleep has become to me.

She says stuff off the cuff with no idea how it stops me in my tracks. One time, I asked her about her trip home to visit her family. She came out with this beaut, "I only got to lay out once."

Lay out? First, I don't need any more wrinkles, thank you very much, Ms. Flawless Twenty-Something Skin Girl. Second, do you know how much I would give for the time to lie my body in a horizontal position in the sun with the sole responsibility of baking my front and backside evenly (and, dare I say it...sleeping)?


I think about sharing how different our respective perspectives are, but I know she just wouldn't understand. So I just nod, as if I'm commiserating about the horrible tragedy that befell her while sitting at home and cursing the grey skies above.

I was 21. I understand her. It took her reminder, but I remember. When you're 21, you have long stretches of time to fill at your leisure. Napping is something you take for granted, tan lines a major preoccupation.

She can't possibly comprehend how something as commonplace as sun-worshipping turns into a huge indulgence for the mom of a toddler. As it should be. Really, I didn't grasp what an overwhelming, non-stop responsibility a child is either, until becoming a mom.

The funny thing is that I didn't feel jealous of her carefree ways, certainly not about the laying out bit. Being 21 may mean a world of possibility is ahead of you, but I also remember a lot of confusion about what direction to take in life and many missteps along the way.

I can appreciate the privilege of youth without wanting to go back. Rather bizarrely, I feel more rested just thinking about napping after dark.

I am vicariously sleeping. Is there such a thing? There is now.

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Photo Source: Mike Lehmann, Mike Switzerland, WikipediaLicense This photo has been altered and does not suggest that the licenser endorses this blog or its use.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Life Happens

I don't have a bucket list. I've never been the five-year plan type. I don't like to make lists. Whenever I put something down on paper, it means I have to do it. I don't like anyone telling me what to do, even if it's me. It's a wonder I get anything done.

Really, much of my life has been guided by the John Lennon truism, "Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans". When I'm 80 and sitting on a rocking chair, I think I will remember the things that kind of just happened to me.

I didn't plan on marrying my husband six months after I met him. I didn't plan on waiting to have my daughter until I was 44. I believe that these things happened by the grace of God.

Bucket lists always include travel. My most memorable trip was a complete fluke. An acquaintance told me she was going to Ecuador for her cousin's wedding. I said, "Wow, I'd love to go to Ecuador." She said, "Wanna come?" So I went.

The day of the wedding, a gaggle of family matriarchs were eyeing me up and down, and talking in Spanish.

Two minutes later, I was a bridesmaid.

Someone explained to me in English that one of the bridesmaids forgot to show up. I was rather unceremoniously packed into a maroon bridesmaid's dress that was two sizes too small, while another more anticipated bridesmaid was having her dress hemmed with duct tape.The Roman Catholic priest conducted the service entirely in Spanish, a language of which my knowledge is sketchy. Everyone stood up, sat down, stood up again. I remained a beat behind, with no clue what was going on. The reception hall was sandwiched between a circus on one side and an auto body shop on the other.

I wish I could share some of the pictures from the wedding with you, but they are all packed away somewhere. Most of them show me laughing hysterically at how surreal the experience was.

I could go on. Ecuador blew my mind. The people took non-planning to a level that made me uncomfortable. I marveled at their genius ability to roll with life, and have fun no matter what the circumstance. The trip was a once in a lifetime experience that I will never forget. The country of Ecuador is beautiful, it's people welcoming, it's food divine.

So in honor of my husband, my child and a trip to Ecuador, my bucket list includes:

1) Seeing where life takes me.

2) Striving to teach my daughter, Claire, to appreciate where life takes her.

3) Inviting anyone else who would like to join in to come along for the ride.

There's an unofficial #4 to add to this bucket list: I am finally linking up with Finish the Sentence Friday, something I have been wanting to do for awhile. I am so happy that I've been able to get over writer's block and write off the prompt "My Bucket List Includes" (even though I kinda wrote a non-Bucket List). Big thanks to one of the FTSF hostesses, Stephanie, for encouraging me to contribute a post.

And in the spirit of things not always working the way you planned, I cannot figure how to paste the FTSF button. So...if you would like to join the Finish the Sentence Friday Party, allow me to introduce you to your lovely hostesses:

Stephanie, Mommy for Real

Janine, Confessions of a Mommyaholic

Kate, Can I GetAnother Bottle of Whine

Dawn, Dawn's Disaster

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Photo Source: Garrett-btm, Deviant Art

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