she's an e


An entire semester has gone by in a flash and I find myself completely unable to accept that the year did NOT just start. It sure feels like it. I still don't have that rhythm you seem to find once things settle in. You know, the methods we adopt to lug allllll the bags and hats and gloves from the car to the house, or the routine when we get home and everyone simultaneously wants your undivided attention, a snack, to play a game, help with homework and you need to make dinner. Yeah, no. We don't have a rhythm and yet here we are at the end of December.

It is progress report time. We had a very positive parent teacher conference in November, so we weren't expecting any surprises on Caroline's progress report. We had, I think, formed a collaborative relationship with her teacher. We had a list of things we can do at home that we continue to work on and through and around.

When we met with her teacher in November she was preparing for the reading assessments which she would use to document the progress report. She shared that in September our Caroline had 24 sight words. The most recent assessment had her up to 78. She expected she would test into level D, she warned us that it was as hard to test beyond level D as it was to get into it. She prepared us for what level she expected her to be at and together we worked on a plan to get her to where she needs to be at the end of the year and prepared for second grade. It was a fully doable plan, one that we all have great confidence in, one we know Caroline can handle.

Imagine our great delight when this was inside her report.


 


Even sweeter was this face when her book envelope this week held letter "E" books. I got all choked up and could not tell her enough how incredibly proud we were of her hard work and tenacity to stick with it and wow. She is on pace to more than meet her standards, to go beyond our expectations.


I'm not sharing to emphasize the "E," but to reinforce that kids are AMAZING. She decided it was important, she focused on it, and here she is. We had worries and questions and without ever sharing those concerns with her, look at her.

I am incredibly proud of her. I might be even MORE proud of her "advanced proficiency" in respecting the rights and feelings of others.


Now that I really take that all in, I am. She can be a good student. She can make her marks. She can advance her education and learn about her specific interests, but at the end of it all, if she cannot be a good person who cares about others, well then we failed her, didn't we?

She warms my soul this one. She reminds me what is important and that 4 right there, THAT is the most important thing.

holiday haze

I feel confident saying I must not be the only one feeling like we suddenly whooshed right into the holidays. Maybe it was the later than usual Thanksgiving or the busier schedules or the trip we are planning in late January (that's probably what it is), but I feel like I got hit with a hay bale of tinsel all at once on December 1st. We suddenly had a tree and gift lists and a whole lot of "holiday things to do with the kids" that we really haven't done much of yet.

With a first grader and a preschooler, the season is bright and full and my kids are so stinking excited for Christmas that I cannot wait, yet in my heart I am begging it all to please just slow down already because this feeling is so short lived and why is that? I could sit and stare at our amazing tree all night with a cup of cocoa and music. I run my hand carefully down the garland on the stairs, my fingers tripping over the string of red garland the kids strung through it. There is a feeling you get this time of year and I am trying extra hard to cherish it.

Our town had their Tree Lighting a week ago and it was unfortunately very rainy. We planned ahead and had dinner out together at the restaurant beside the festivities, but found ourselves strolling over to a quirky little bookstore I adore in town instead of standing under umbrellas. Santa was in residence that night and 10% of the sales for the evening went to the Food Cupboard. Connor was NOT having anything to do with Santa, but brave Caroline approached him eagerly, wide grin, eyes bright. She was thrilled, until he asked her what she wanted for Christmas and she had no idea. It was like "A Christmas Story" and I could picture that Santa suggesting a football, only in this version he offered a doll. She nodded her head and looked at me full of anxiety. She could not remember a single thing and despite my best efforts, I couldn't remember a single thing either. We collectively started piecing together a couple items, but wow, for a kid who pokes me in the side during EVERY commercial signaling that yes, she wants that too, this was shocking.

I have started digging into the archives here to find out what gifts we have given the kids in the past to answer questions about what gift for an x year old girl or boy. I'll admit I even look back for my own niece and nephew because what did we give our nearly 12 month old in 2007???

So here - for the me of the future searching for an item for a preschool boy or a first grade girl...

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Power Ranges, Super Heroes, Hess Truck, Playmobil, Legos, and those "sports guys in a bucket"

Books, anything animal related, Friends Legos, American Girl accessories of ALL kinds, Barbie, and MORE BOOKS

The holiday isn't about stuff. It shouldn't be, but it inevitably is. I have to admit that we are going above and beyond what we have ever done before this year and somehow neither of them has a "big" gift. I think Steve and I both keep saying, "ok stop spending," and then we don't. (in truth, he says stop, I don't, but he doesn't stop me.) With all that has happened in this crazy world they are growing up in this past year, those precious moments of pure joy on December 25th might actually sustain me the whole year through and I want them to have a magical Christmas morning. Judging by his reaction to a recent holiday party present in which he SCREAMED in joy, Connor is going to be especially fun to watch.

This week I am feeling a bit lost. I am staring at the 14th on my weekly planner and my heart sinks. I find I am living more for today, less for tomorrow, and fighting to just do what I might otherwise push aside. I am trying to choose time with them over finishing my work. I am learning to accept help from others. Steve addressed and stuffed all the holiday cards this year. I let him do this and if you know me, this was truly difficult for me to let go. He offered to help and I let him, sounds simple, but isn't and when those cards were stacked and sealed I breathed a holiday sigh of relief and my heart was full of gratitude. I work very hard to ensure that my children know there are loved, not just by saying it (which I do countless times a day), but through my actions. I know I am ok because they ask me to snuggle them close. Connor's greatest joy is getting all of us together into one big family hug in someone's bed. We are tight close family unit and I want that to sustain for always. We are overscheduled, exhausted, hard working parents. We do the best we can and I think we are doing alright, so long as they know how much we love them. This weekend will be hard, but I am grateful to have the time with my partner in this crazy life and my littles the whole weekend through. I will remember, I will say a prayer, I will think of Caroline, I will cherish every moment with my family and though my heart will ache, I must continue to find the joy in this magical season for my own family. Through is the only way.

mine and theirs

I'm running in a local 5K tomorrow. I hate running in the cold. I hate the layers, the can't breathe cold in my lungs, the weight of my feet on the cold pavement.The proceeds go to charity and support my community. The race literally starts and ends in my neighborhood. In the three years we have lived here, I have yet to run in this race.

I ran a "run through" last weekend because I have a mental block for a section of the course which historically is tough for me. I get anxious just thinking about a particular part of the race. I could not find a course map and ended up guessing. Guessing gets you a four mile run instead of a 5K.

I really hesitated to register until I looked at the calendar and saw that the weekend of the race directly preceded the anniversary of Sandy Hook Elementary School. When I realized that, I was all in. The race is even called the Angel Run. I'm running to support my community, but my thoughts will be with the families missing their first graders (and loved ones) this holiday season. They have almost reached the point on the calendar where they can no longer recall what their child (or loved one) did last year on this date.

My Caroline is a first grader this year. I have been lingering with the kids at bedtime. Snuggling with them extra long, smelling their smells, feeling their warmth, soaking them in. I'm sure a lot of people will be doing that this week and through the holidays.

I'm going to be thinking of them tomorrow. I'll be wearing my Sandy Hook Run for the Families shirt, "For Caroline, mine and theirs."

I hope it lingers

Things have changed and they remain the same. Looking back over the year, it is hard not be grateful for our health, our lives, that we continue taking one step more each day. The headlines were filled with the makings of nightmares. I am sure I'm not the only one that lingers longer with my children at bedtime. I can't be alone in my silent prayers when I pick up each child at school or in the sigh of relief I feel when the garage door opens signaling Steve's safe return. 


I looked back and I haven't done a thankful post each year, probably too caught up in the rushing and baking and ahhhhhhhh of it all. 

There is this from 2011 (actually scratch that, 2010!) and what babies they were! Connor on the brink of walking and becoming baby Godzilla. 

I teared up reading this one from 2007 just as I imagined I would when I wrote it six holidays ago. 

Time goes fast. Today I am thankful for today. We are so blessed in so many ways and I hope this thankful feeling carries through to the new year and beyond. Less stuff, more snuggles. Fewer dollars spent, more time given. Less about me, more about you. Less rush, more linger.

ice time S.O.S.

If you watched Connor playing for all of twenty minutes you would undoubtedly see him playing some variation of a sport. He frequently tosses a football into the air and races to catch it himself, "Gronk makes the catch!" said quietly to himself as he does his own play by play. (it's very cute to watch, but don't let on that you are listening!) He shoots baskets at the closet door hoop we put up two Christmases ago. We had to take away his golf clubs because he was driving small balls into people and breakable objects with such force and precision that we had no choice. He drags the two knee hockey goals into the center of the floor, dumps all the tiny wiffle balls out and shoots endlessly on both nets. He begs Daddy to do "batting practice." He amuses passerby at BC tailgates with his non-stop punting, throwing, and catching. He is a physical kid. Period.

We thought it was a no brainer that it was his turn for the town's "Learn to Hockey" program this year. Steve and I alternated watching Caroline last year because one of us had to be constantly amusing Connor with his knee hockey sticks. He seemed excited, he appeared ready, we took him to a public skate at the same arena as the Learn To program and he even seemed excited about hockey.

It was a downhill slide from the moment his skates hit the ice on Week 1. He could stand up, but he participated passively and then made his way ever so slowly across the ice to the door and off he came. Last week during the second week, he screamed so loud that the director asked him to take a break. They don't encourage the kids to get off the ice. Ever. I boosted, I encouraged, I begged, I commanded. He dropped his gloves from his hands and stared me down.

We tried to give him some confidence and brought the whole family to another local public skate the following day and the kid was racing around, "no, don't help me" and "I don't want to be done." I spent the week reinforcing hockey on Saturday and having a good attitude, participating, and having fun. We held our collective breath as he stepped out on the ice this morning and he stood there, refusing to skate, stoic, determined, and poised for a quick exit from the ice. The singular positive is that he did not cry. I again tried to convince him to get out there, to show the coaches he COULD actually skate, to encourage and he again hit us with 'No" and "I don't want to." The kid who plays hockey non-stop, the one who is sitting beside Steve at this very moment watching the Bruins game asking endless questions, that kid does not want to play?

We don't get it. We don't understand it. He isn't too young. He isn't struggling to skate. He is interested in hockey. He wants to score goals. He just flat out refuses to participate and it is making us both UTTERLY insane. Are we bad parents if we push him through whatever is stopping him from going for it? or are we bad parents if we let it go and sit him down? We are stuck in this terrible grey spot where there is no right answer. Half the parents there judge us because we don't stick him out and walk away letting him scream his head off if he wants, but STAY ON THE ICE. The other half look at us and think we are pushing too hard. It is an epic battle of wills and he is proving to be the most willful of us all. That's a pretty hard task, but he is excelling at willfulness.

What's the right move here???

burden and beauty

I have shared here before that Caroline has required an extra nudge to do many things, including tying her shoes, eating green vegetables, and unfortunately reading and writing. We seem to have finally achieved that magical place between her needing to gain these important academic skills and her possessing the motivation and enthusiasm to do so. She has been devouring books in huge gulps and I can barely keep her stocked with things at her independent level. I found an amazing little bookmark timer that she delights in using. She snuggles into bed with Connor at bedtime and SHE reads him a book. She often struggles a bit with words she has not totally mastered, but feels like such a big girl. We have been so incredibly impressed with the strides she has taken since September.

She is Caroline. She lacks self confidence in so many ways, constantly teetering on the edge. Unless she knows with certainty she can do it herself independently and successfully, she often chooses just not to do it and that is where our dilemma begins and ends. She cannot read without practice, she cannot practice without mistakes, she cannot cope with mistakes. She wears her whole heart on her sleeve.

Something happened recently and she was trying to read the words on something and we corrected her and to be honest, I can't even remember what she was trying to read at the time. It didn't seem like a big deal, but suddenly she fell apart. "I thought I was going to be the smart one."

Silence. Tears. I didn't even know what to say in that moment.

Then

I reassured, "you are smart."
I validated, "It must be so hard to think you read it correctly and have a grown up tell you that you didn't."
I reinforced, "This is something we need to practice together and I am going to be right here practicing with you as long as it takes."

She has an amazing imagination. She makes up songs while she is working on a project or her homework. She has such enthusiasm for her world that I am often yelling across the yard not because she is doing something wrong, but that she is just so happy that the entire neighborhood can hear her gleeful shrieks. I know that these new skills she is mastering will open entire new worlds of her imagination. Writing stories, illustrating sentences.

This is the hard time, except it isn't.  I keep telling myself she will focus and learn and meet expectations, that it will be okay and then THEN we can relax.

There will never be relaxing, just more to learn, more she doesn't know, and that is both the burden and the beauty of it all.

sweet from bitter

We play a little game at bedtime, when my sweet boy pulls me beside him under his blue checked sheets to "snuggle for a minute." Body memory remains strong three years later and he flips himself so that his body rests just so against me, just as it did during the nights of his babydom that I don't look back on with much fondness or affection.

I can barely remember the terrible sleepless nights, when he would sleep for perhaps 20 minutes or on a good night a couple hours before waking up and starting the never ending pick up put down, wake up, back and forth to his bedside all.night.long. I became the Mom I said I never would be and would end up cuddling his squishy baby body against mine in our bed, exhausted and utterly out of options.

Even so, by day he was sweet and his little pumpkin face and full cheeks kept him somehow in my good graces and me out of the funny farm. He was sweet even then, but somehow sweeter now.

The baby who would not sleep has become the champion sleeper, nearly always eclipsing his sister's slumber in the morning, most times needing to be woken by Steve as he leaves the house and dropped into bed beside me where he refuses to wake up for several more minutes. He clings to me when I try to leave to hit the shower and get things going, pleading for "just one more snuggie."

It is a pretty amazing gift to be his mom, battle wounds from babydom aside. He envelops me with tight hugs and love. He clings to me like a spider monkey or requests that I carry him in front of me "like a joey." He says, "I'm the baby (insert any animal here) and you the Mommy (insert same animal). Ok?" It's often monkey, or kangaroo, or chicky. He makes cute little noises and pushes his head into the crook of my neck, sighing audibly.

When we wave goodbye to Caroline and I scoop him up into my arms for the walk back from the bus stop just the two of us, we stop to look at acorns and leaves and we point up at birds and listen to the sounds of our neighborhood. This is the time of day that he knows is his alone. It is fleeting, but his.

At bedtime, he tells me, "I love you more than marshmallows," and we go back and forth with "I love you more than..." Brownies. Popsicles. Meatballs. Popcorn. The Red Sox. Tom Brady. Dustin Pedroia.

The other night he told me he loved me more than (insert LONG pause) Monkey, his treasured dirty, never leaves his side lovey. He is sweetness from bitter, love from frustration, and more than anything he somehow knows that I will always be there, because I always was.

lucky and they know it

The season of football is upon us. There was a time a few years ago when we devoted entire weekends to college football. I would spend my Fridays off packing up baby Caroline (who lately is more often called Lady Lou, Toots, or "I said two seconds more five minutes ago") for an early afternoon getaway toward Boston up the Merritt with our fingers crossed to get through Hartford and onto 84 before an accident or the afternoon crunch, whichever came first. We would arrive to Kiki and Papa's house in time for a much needed glass of wine after we put the baby to bed. The morning would be an all out press of tailgate prep, diaper bag packing and the execution of the proper balance of layers and baby amusements. Sunday would be a hummie sandwich by Papa (amazing) and a plan for exit around baby sleepiness and if the Pats were playing while we were driving home (and they nearly always were) it meant Pats coverage on satellite all the way back home. If I didn't have Mondays off back then, it would have been completely unmanageable.

By the time Connor arrived on scene, we were back in Massachusetts. I cannot even fathom how we would have gotten "he who refused to ride in the car" back and forth for football, but I'm entirely sure that we would have found a way.

I'm sure many of our friends and family think we are insane for bringing the kids to six full seasons of football save a very small handful due to weather, illness or a kickoff after bedtime. Most days I think we are insane, but then I see the kids (who with the exception of the last five minutes of each half without fail), sit tight, pay attention, cheer appropriately and have one heck of a time. Caroline kicks her feet as hard as a grown man against the metal at her feet. Connor asks questions constantly and the game is no exception, but it is often me fielding these questions and I am not always sure that I have the right answers. They love the tailgate with family and friends, the balloon artist and face painting, Baldwin, the band, and they are always the last kids standing at the games. They can hang. Sure, they often need smuggled snacks, matchbox cars, and sometimes our phone, but for a first grader and a preschooler, they do as well or better than some of the adults we see.

Highlights from this weekend.

Caroline turning each time this LOUD FSU fan behind us cheered because she knew she was cheering for the other team. "I don't like it when she does that."

Connor and Lyle playing tackle football keep away at the tailgate.

Caroline CRYING at the end of the end of the game and covering her eyes "I can't watch, tell me what happens," she was THAT invested.

Connor losing his MIND when I came back pretzel-less post halftime because they were sold out. I'm not sure BC was ready for that many fans?!

Caroline's answer to "what was the best part of today?" It was "being together with our family."

I will deal with the day after soreness from carrying tiny people on my shoulders, bigger tiny people on my back, if the best part of her day can always be that. That is why we do this. They are lucky kids and they know it.

demon

We motored right through that summer, didn't we? We packed a lot in; lots of beach days, a relaxing family vacation, many a lobster, countless ice cream novelties, and some quiet times at home just us. I always get a bit sad when another summer comes to a screeching halt. This year my sadness was eclipsed by the replacement of my sweet (though incredibly energetic) daughter by what I can only nicely describe as a demon. It might have been the terrible combination of lack of routine the week between camp and school and first day of first grade jitters, but Steve and I will always remember Labor Day weekend 2013 as one long frustrated beyond frustration time out from hell. We were both at the end of our ropes and when we left the rainy beach on Sunday just before noontime to head to a movie with the kids, we never expected that we would be still in movie mode at 4pm that afternoon.

Opportunity 1: Canceled unceremoniously by me when the little one ran ahead and nearly toppled a huge "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2" display, forcing me to yell his full name to the as you can imagine CROWDED cinema lobby. "It's hard to do the right thing," was never more true because while no little boy who behaved that way deserved to get plunked into a cushy seat with popcorn, what in bloody hell were we going to do with these kids when we were both just completely defeated?

Opportunity 2: a frank discussion in car about behavior and disappointment, another chance to go as a reward for good behavior in bad Cape traffic which honestly seemed impossible at that point. They proved us wrong and after we wasted time around the SECOND theatre awaiting the movie start time and the kids were as good as gold for the first time in DAYS, "SOLD OUT." Insert white flag and trumpet here. That one was a head slapper.

Opportunity 3: At this point, after all we had been through, we were getting to the GD movie. One way or another. 2:30 showing at yet ANOTHER theatre further up the road, tickets purchased from the second theatre and we had nearly an hour to kill. The sass and frass came back from the larger animal in the back seat, but the tickets were purchased and yeah, white flag was still flying high. It would be a miracle if we all survived the day.

So, it was a rough way to end what really truly was a wonderful summer. Our girl is still not herself, but I keep trying to remind myself that this too shall pass, things will right themselves if we continue to be consistent and reality will return.

I told myself these things and then did something that seemed unthinkable. I warned the world. I notified her new teacher via email that she had a very difficult weekend and we suspected there might be some school anxiety and wanted to give her a heads up that things were off at home. I sent the same email to her after school program who reported to me at pick up that they had no issue with her that day. I crossed my fingers and hoped, but when we got home the demon was back out of her cage.

Yesterday when I picked her up, I was informed that she had an episode of "freshness" with a teacher, she had apologized, but it was out of character for her. On the tense ride home she told me a friend told her to say it. We did the you are your own person, you know right from wrong thing and since I have experience with this other little girl who is herself a true demon (once laughing at another child that her grandmother was dying - "ha ha, your grandma is dying!") I probably did the absolute wrong thing and told her that this girl was not a friend. sigh. Later we talked about how her supposed friend always tries to get others to do and say naughty things so that they get in trouble. I told her that she should be strong in those moments and walk away from her. I reminded her that she alone is in charge of her actions. The teacher involved has not been able to make eye contact with me, or at least it feels that way.

Last night we had a heart to heart and I told her that it must feel like she is in over her head with this and that she must feel like she is drowning in all the badness. I told her we could turn a new page and start over, but that it is up to her to decide what goes on that page, not me. I laid out what she is expected to do and how she is expected to behave and then made rules for how I will respond. I say it over and over, but it is so hard to actually do; I won't give her my emotion, it just feeds the demon. I want my girl back. I want to enjoy her again.

(Dear Caroline, this one is for you in about 30 years honey when you call me to say you are at the end of your rope with your sweet little girl.)

just like me

When we saw my cousin a few months ago now, he told me that Caroline reminded him so much of me when I was her age. I don't think he necessarily meant it as a compliment, noting that I had even more energy and crazy in me than she does now. I find that quite difficult to comprehend, but I suppose it is possible. I see myself in her now more than ever and it is when she is most crazy that makes me the craziest. Well played DNA, well played.

We are clearly physically similar, but she catches me at odd moments being a little mini Kerri. I used to write and draw in blank books and she can often be found working on her letters or drawings in a quiet corner, with a blanket around her legs. At the table she likes to do pages from a workbook in pen, asking me questions while I wash dishes or chop cucumbers.

It's been far from a soft landing at home after vacation in so many ways. While I worked hard tonight to score some Keens for the kids next summer at the crazy Zulilly sale that I wanted to shop all day, but couldn't get to, the kids destroyed the playroom. That friends is why I usually bring them directly upstairs for a snack and some sort of activity pre-dinner. It was a rough transition to home and Steve just happened to be home to witness the pandemonium, having just been stung by a bee in the apparently enormous nest in our apple tree. Awesome.

No matter what happens between pick up and bedtime, I try to make my goodnights to the kids quiet, reflective, and a reset if needed for the next day. I spent some extra time with each of them tonight, just laying beside them talking about whatever was on their minds. Connor asked, "Mommy, why you stay so long?" It is because I love you my little boy. He wrapped his arm around me and snuggled his head against me and RESET. Later with Caroline, she kissed my heart necklace and told me she was putting all her secrets and memories inside for me to keep always, even when I die.

BANG. Here we go down the death road again. "Why do people have to die, Mommy? It just doesn't make sense!" It's just the way it is, babe. "Babies, then they die. Babies, then they die. Babies, then they die." Don't you believe in heaven? "How do I get there?" Your soul goes, your body stays here, but your spirit goes up. "What is a spirit?" It is the important stuff about you, not the way you look, or what you do, or what you have, but what you have inside that makes you special and wonderful. It is the good friend you are, the way you care about other people, how much you love animals, and how much you like to have fun. That is the part that will live forever.

That satisfied tonight, but I will be holding this heart necklace that Steve gave me even closer now that she put her secrets and memories in there forever. My God, she is just like me, the little girl probably her age who used to ask my mother ridiculous questions all the time about why things were named what they were and what it felt like to be dead.

we went to harwich

We ate (TOO MUCH) fried seafood, mini golfed, scooped up crabs (that ate other crabs) on the mudflats, ate more ice cream than we should have, went fishing, beached, swam, and watched the entire first season of Homeland. Dare I say, we had a restful and fun vacation with two smallish children?

There were moments of course, a few days that we pushed it a bit too long at the beach and one in particular where Connor nearly pushed a senior citizen off the boardwalk to be the line leader. His little elbow was making its way to her knee just as I grabbed his shoulder and stopped him. True story.

We never had a complete rain out and we have THE worst weather luck in the history of weather. I tried to be more flexible and Steve tried to be more regimented. The kids shared a room and that was simultaneously the best and worst part of the day. They would have spent all night chatting in their beds, by the light of their little camping lanterns. Most nights one had to fall asleep in our bedroom and get hoisted back into their room later.

Caroline found the elusive Moon Snail herself buried under the sand at the end of a little trail of sand. Connor swam in the ocean without being held (wearing a puddle jumper, of course) for the very first time and loved it, but not the sea weed. Caroline launched herself from Steve's shoulders and swam on her own, DIVING through waves. The kids caught three keepers on our fishing trip which we took home to the cottage and baked with camp mix. Caroline branched out and decided cookie dough is her new favorite ice cream. Connor was all sherbet all week and could not believe I had ice cream that tasted like maple syrup.

We got lost getting to Pirate Mini Golf, I have no idea how, and it was a really rocky start thanks to an ill-advised car nap for Con, but he pulled himself together. We had very flexible rules, did not keep score and the kids basically hit their balls and ours until they got all four into the hole, somehow.

We felt the sea air all around us, we took in the peaceful beauty of all things "cape," and we enjoyed what felt for awhile like limitless time together. It was enough to get me wishing for summers with the kids and perhaps even pushed me to formulate an escape plan that would not involve my work phone ringing from my bag in the bedroom and me spending time looking for service to check in on my caseload and complete things I shouldn't have had to complete. Time spent away together brings perspective.

Here are some of my favorite moments of the time our little family spent in Harwich in a little house by the sea.









 





















 

bravery

There was an accident at camp the day after the 4th.

At pick-up... "Mrs. McCashew? Yeah, Caroline had a little fall on a wiggly stump, she is ok, but we wanted you to know." She climbed in and strapped her seatbelt and we pulled away to keep the pick up line moving. I tried to keep calm, but what was this accident and what had happened?? I pulled over immediately into a side road and inspected my beauty's bod. Some pretty nasty bruising and scrapes were on her leg requiring three band aids and similar marks were also across her upper chest.

Her explanation: She had been standing on the stump (that she shouldn't have been standing on) and it wiggled and fell over. When it fell, she fell and scraped her leg before the stump fell on top of her.

Good news/bad news. She got the warm and fuzzy for bravery that day, but a stump fell on her chest.

I was panicked for two reasons; a stump fell on my girl and if I had not been picking her up (it was a fluke transportation change secondary to the holiday) how would this information have been communicated to me? Then I pushed that aside because my six year old had given me a very complete picture of what had happened, complete with her inattention to the group and admittance that she should not have been standing on the stump.

I know her as well as I know myself and I had an idea that this might lead to her not wanting to participate in high ropes. I worried that she would shy away from it for the rest of the summer and that was not going to happen. It didn't take long for me to convince her that the best answer to this was to choose it as her number one elective the next time she updated her list and to my surprise, she agreed. She cheered at pick up yesterday when she told me she had gotten high ropes. In the next breath she alerted me that perhaps she was a bit too afraid to do everything in high ropes.

I told her all about how afraid of heights her mom is and that doing a high ropes course like this would make her feel like there was nothing she could not accomplish. I told her that when I was a camp counselor that one summer (that blew her MIND!) I had done a course like hers with my kids. She nodded, smiled and went on with her day and then today happened.

During the briefest of post camp debriefs, "We walked across a wire today! The first girl went up and took one step and she was done. I went up and walked across the whole wire and then I leaned back and they lowered me down! Tomorrow I get to do a squirrel fly!!"

Based on her description, this is probably pretty close to what she is doing, but I really hope she doesn't go this high?!

Squirrel Fly

shadows

If I am being honest, it has been building for some time now. A comment here, an extra tight hug, a pleading look. Then it became more tearful, more assertive, and longer lasting.

It is the shadows he is afraid of. Darkness is too dark, a soft light is enough to make the shadows longer. The door opened lets in the hall light, but creates more leering shadows on his wall. Tearful and frightened, he can't be consoled. He sits in his bed and calls softly for us, "I want my Mommy." "Daddy?"

Tonight we sprayed the monster spray on his walls and under his bed and by the door and over by the window. I held him in my arms and sang to him once and then again. I even stood up with him on my shoulder, blanket tucked around him, and sang the same song I made up when Caroline was a baby that I sang to them both at bedtime.

It's time to go night night
Time to go to bed
Time to close your eyes
Time to rest your head

Holding him now, compared to then is utterly different and remarkably the same. His legs graze my knees now, but his hand still gently brushes my back. His fist rubs the satin edge of his blanket. The weight of him is heavier, but his head in the same familiar spot. It has been so long since I have sung him to sleep like that and though it does not have the same instant effect, it works wonders to calm and reassure him. I still got it.

He is awake still. Quiet, but awake and watching around his room afraid to close his eyes.

the one about the chipmunk, the other one

Last year we missed the Meet & Greet at Camp because it was the same HOT night as preschool graduation. As a result, I spent most of the first half of Caroline's summer trying to pry information out of her about her fellow campers, activities, and who her counselors were. Even though it was an icky rainy night and I was single Mom for the evening, we moved mountains to get her there this year to meet her counselors Kerri (I know!), Dani, and Becca and lay eyes on her "bunk." It was so sloppy that I felt like I was mudding in the south getting out of the offsite parking lot. Lulu the Subaru can add MUD to the things she enjoys that some cars hide from. The kids loved it.

Yesterday, I packed all the things, after labeling all the things, after gathering all the things. If it doesn't have a Mabel's Label tag mate, kiss it goodbye. Even things with labels can go missing at camp, eventually finding their way home. When the kids change clothes several times a day with swimming and boating and wibiting (more later), six year old girls lose things when they all wear the same Merida underwear and pink mesh swim shoes. I heart you Mabel's Labels.

We were off our game Monday; new routine, both kids requiring swim wear, towels, sunscreen and a change of clothes. I missed the first day of camp photo, BUT remembered to apply her nametag announcing far and wide that she is a "GOLD CHIPMUNK." I prepped her en route the way I had last year, reviewing the emailed weekly schedule. This year I snapped a photo of the email on my phone for easy access. SMART. Drama, Dutch Auction, Swim, ELECTIVE, and Nature. She panicked about the Elective, "what if I don't get gymnastics??" "You can try to get it next week, you will get something from the list you made." She found her little friend from school at the bus stop and they held hands and walked to the bus and she barely kissed me goodbye. This was a far cry from last year when the tears rolled and I convinced her and myself that this day would be the most amazing day of her life.

The differences didn't stop there. When I picked her up she was tired, but animated, telling me every single detail of her entire day. Her swim instructor's name is Greg, "just like Hokie," and "we back floated and front floated and I jumped off the dock into the deep water and he said he would help me and he did." What did the most dramatic six year old do in drama? "We had the best day in drama, Mommy. We got to dress up anyway we wanted and we had a FASHION SHOW!" Nature? "We dug in the ground for baby frogs and I caught one and look at my hand!' (holding up dirty hand with what I can only hope was dirt) Deep breath. The Elective. "Mommy, I got gymnastics! I get to do it all week!!!" (pile of laughs and cheers and smiles)

Sigh.

We complained to ourselves about the injustice of losing a significant discount for canceling the first week of camp that overlapped thanks to snow days with the last week of school. We bellyached about the cost and how could we imagine doing this for BOTH kids when Connor goes to kindergarten as we crunched numbers to estimate what down payment (yes, down payment!) we can make in the fall to save us from pricey installments.

That ride home, this morning in the car with her when I told her she will be Swimming, Boating, spending an hour on the HUGE inflatable obstacle course with a brand new trampoline called the Wibit, doing Gymnastics again AND spending time in Arts and Crafts she was so happy and so excited that my heart nearly burst. Camp is good for all our souls. I don't even GO and I love it as much as she does.

The night before camp during our little pillowtalk session, she told me she was sad that she had so many playdate requests from friends at school and so little time with camp to schedule them. I reassured her that a night at the local ice cream institution or a post dinner playground session would be just as much fun as any other playdate. Skeptical, I reminded her of all her friends who get to be pick ups at school, that go home with their Moms. I reminded her how much she had wanted to be a pick up some days and not go to her afterschool program. I reminded her that she LOVED her program and how special it was that she got to go. I explained that camp is even more special than that, that her Mom works hard everyday at her job not so she can buy cute tops at banana (sometimes), but so Caroline can spend her summer at the most special place on Earth; her camp. She hugged me so tightly, fiercely and whispered in my ear, "I love you Mommy Chipmunk. I love you so, so much." (yup, I cried after that.)

Summer has officially kicked off here at McCasa. There are dozens of homemade pretzel bites in the freezer, Ina's Shrimp Salad is halfway made, and we are mostlyish packed for the 3rd of July at the most special beach.

a race to the finish

I decided. I trained. I ran not nearly often or long enough at the end thanks to that great New England weather a few weeks back that was replete with rain and thunder. I made and rearranged running playlists. I beat my best mile again and again & gained distance with each long run. I never did the seven mile run my training information recommended, but I ran six and that was enough, it had to be enough because I ran out of time. This past Sunday I ran in the B.A.A. 10K. The most important part of this story is that it was HOT. The race was at 8AM and it was already the heat of the sun when we started running. I stopped at every water station, I urged Amy to run ahead after the 5K turnaround, and then I walked for a bit because the race I had in mind and body prepared to RUN for eight weeks suddenly felt out of reach and HOW COULD THAT BE??? I am not saying I had been overly cocky going in, but not finishing was not an option. I had imagined racing down to the finish with all the sprint I had left and by mile five, I had no jog left, forget sprint. Not even my carefully tailored playlist could motivate me and at one point I ripped the ear buds out in frustration and looked to the sky for a reason for WHY I was feeling this way at mile five??? It was brutal, but I texted Steve who had the kids at the finish to update them and let them know I was close to the home stretch and then I refocused my energy on my family's faces, knowing full well that every three seconds Steve was needing to answer "where is Mommy?" That crosswalk between the park and the common never seemed so far from that corner, but I got there, found them, high fived the kids and looked towards the finish. I will admit that following the race, I stopped briefly beside the medical personnel just to be sure I was really ok. I was. Two bananas, a Gatorade, water, and finisher medal later, I was better. I didn't have the energy to face a downtown brunch/lunch with the kids and after an ice cold shower I slid into bed beside the kids and Steve and slept for two amazing hours. I DO NOT NAP. EVER. I beat myself up about my sluggishness, thought about what I could have done differently, wondered this aloud and to myself and it all comes down to the heat. TOO HOT. I want a rematch 10K. I haven't run yet this week, I just started feeling normal again today, but I have my eye on something for fall to redeem myself.

While I finished my race this weekend, Caroline finishes her race to the finish tomorrow. Our kindergartener is a mess. She is full of happiness that school is done, despair that school is done, excitement about summer and camp, and anxiety about a new school year with a new teacher and class full of mostly new friends. I have held her on my lap sobbing into my shoulder and then moments later watched her color a picture of the beach that she cannot wait to see again. With the addition of four extra special school days thanks to snow days, she is missing her first week at camp. Some from her school that will be Chipmunks with her this summer at camp are starting on Friday and it just didn't seem like a good transition, so she won't start until Monday and there have been tears over that too. Add to all of that the obscene HEAT out there in an unairconditioned school and you have a recipe for absolute disaster. I am so proud of my kindergartner Caroline's accomplishments this year, both in and outside of the classroom. She tried new sports, wore a tutu and tap shoes, learned to read for pleasure, developed an affinity for cannonballs, and has a spirit that you cannot help but be drawn to. She has grown in height and strength, in knowledge and confidence. We are incredibly proud to have a girl starting first grade in the fall. First grade.

It isn't the finish, it's the race and the two girls in McCasa finished some pretty good races this week.

the results of approximately 36 dance lessons

As a parent who knew Caroline in preschool when she would cross her arms and cry during "concerts" and look so incredibly uncomfortable in front of a small crowd that it broke your heart to watch told us Saturday, "she has come a very long way."

Not an ounce of fear, no anxiety, just sheer excitement and happiness. Caroline loved this beginning to end. Makeup. Hair. Glitter. Costume. Attention. She sweetly had no idea dancers got flowers and she has two beautiful bouquets. Did she know every step? No. Did she lose herself a bit towards the end of her ballet number before racing to the back to get to position? Yes. That was my favorite part of the entire show. Caroline of yesteryear might not have even gotten out on stage. If last year she had gone out and forgotten where to run, she would have collapsed the floor or cried hysterically. Not only did she race back to her spot, but she helped her friend who forgot the last part and reminded her rather enthusiastically that she should be down on her knee. That's our girl.

Here are the photos of her big amazing debut. She knocked it OUT!

Caroline Recital 2013

on the eve of my daughter's first or only (time will tell) dance recital

*for my mother*

Tonight Caroline fell asleep while we were all snuggled together in our bed, reading "Little House in the Big Woods." We were reading about the maple sugar party at Grandpa's house and the swirling of skirts and banging of boots and off she went. Her brother was rearing to go for an all night read-a-thon, but I snuggled my little chipmunk (this week he is the tiny menace of our backwoods locale that destroys flower beds, as opposed to the baby bird of weeks past who hatched out of an egg each morning... I cannot make this stuff up) into his chipmunk bed and wished him acorn dreams (for real, I said that). I admired her sweet slumber and carried her to bed, tucking her under the sheet and George under her arm before retiring to the jobs of the night. With Steve at the game, it meant lunches and dinner clean up and everything else that we didn't pick up or prepare for Friday.

Friday. It hit me, even though it has been on my phone's calendar for weeks, shining off from the screen. Recital. Dress Rehearsal. Connor and I have been watching her practice her tap and ballet routines in the "big studio" since April. She smiles when I catch her eye and I shake my head when she fumbles the steps and throws her head back and laughs in her moment of lost.

We found this studio last summer, at the end of camp when we drove by and saw an open house sign. It was the day of the last farmer's market and we took our peaches and walked up the block and into a studio that felt exactly like the one I had grown up in. It had good energy. There were no trophies or awards from competitions. There was a strict dress code. They had Caroline at tap shoe.

I entered into dance with Caroline cautiously. Dance had been my thing, my only thing, for a very long time. I breathed dance, I ran routines in my head at bedtime to fall asleep, I dutifully brought a blank tape each January to my dance teacher to record the music of the dances I would perform in June to better practice them at home in my living room under my mother's watchful eye. "Do that pirouette again," she would say, until I got it just right. I couldn't have been the only dancer who spun across the floor with the dishes after dinner. I danced in the Nutcracker every year from Kindergarten when I hit the stage in all white pulling Clara in a sleigh with tiny reindeer antlers on my head and a furry little leotard. I did A Midsummer's Night Dream twice, once as the tiniest and once as the biggest. I overheard my mother at a party not that long ago say that she was sure I was going to end up in a tiny NYC apartment, a starving dancer. Sometimes I think about that too.

I remember being a tiny ballerina. I remember leaping around the room when my mother agreed to dance lessons with the phone book in front of her, exclaiming, "Ballet!" over and over. I remember my first recital (I was a rag doll, with a pink polka dotted jumper over lace bloomers), the big stage, the bright lights, not knowing what to do next. I also recall how angry my mother was the afternoon of another recital (when I played the part of a black eyed susan) when my babysitter let me run through the sprinkler after my mother had carefully done my hair before she went to work. I mostly know it from photos, but that first year there are Brett and I on the stage, a bouquet in my hand, the red velvet curtain our backdrop. I remember the year I broke protocol and auditioned for the traveling Nutcracker that came to town and caused a stir with the traditional show in Springfield. I remember the way it felt to stand on that stage the year after I danced the part of Clara and have the Ballet Mistress Miss Nancy express to me how it wasn't fair to give me a part when I already had one in the other show. I knew even then she felt betrayed and was punishing me. She gave me the part anyway - the soldier who falls during the battle and needs to be carried off in the stretcher. I somehow managed to hold a coveted role in the other production too; the first girl Polichinelle out of Mother Ginger's skirt. I loved it.

Caroline has not always loved it. In the early months of the school year she would collapse in a heap at school on Wednesdays and cry the entire way there. This often led to me wondering why we were doing this and I started thinking this was me pressuring her and what if it was? It started to get a tiny bit better after Christmas, hit an all time low the day of her second "peek week," when the parents are allowed to come observe class. I think I made it clear that day that if she behaved so terribly when I picked her up to go to class on Wednesdays that even if we paid for the lesson, we were not going. I knew she got it when she cried not because I was upset, but because she was not allowed to go that day. That was also the day it got better and it has gotten better ever since. She counted down the Wednesdays left and when I announced to her this past week that she had finished her last class, she cried.

It brought me pause.

I called my Mom that very moment (it was 9AM) and asked her if she and my father would mind coming a bit earlier so that she could accompany Caroline and I backstage for her first and perhaps (jury is still out) last dance recital. I know she will help secure every curl into the perfect ballet bun, that together we can apply blush and lip gloss, but I draw the line at the eyeliner and eyelash curler which I still to this day cannot go near after my annual pre-recital makeup application. We had a good laugh about that and I could hear the emotion in her voice. It's an amazing thing to bring something so special between her and I full circle with my tiny human girl, my determined strong daughter, my twirling ballerina tap dancer.

Steve still says she won't go on stage, but I've seen her and I know that not only will she go on stage, she will shine brightly in her canary tutu and sequined skirt, the one with her name written on the tag, exactly like my own when I was little but written by my hand now.

golden

It is fully June now and I have yet to write the family calendar on the white board. I keep glancing at it on the way in or out of the house and it provides no reassurance that I am not missing something or forgetting to send something to school. It is jarring how much I rely on that white board. In my head, I know that this week is the last week of the six week scramble that was the end of hockey, parks and rec t ball and soccer, and the end of a year long once a week ballet/tap class. I know her field day is today, that Steve has a Red Sox game tomorrow night, that the dance dress rehearsal will require a miracle on Friday.

Time flies by, as it always does. It races by at an alarmingly fast speed as the warmer months creep in and the too fast to pass summer lies just ahead of us.

Caroline prepares to become a first grader and we marvel at her progress this year; socially, academically and physically. She gets herself dressed, makes her bed, stands on a stool and makes toast or waffles for herself and Connor. She shows determination and competitiveness that rival her own stubborn parents. She displays maturity and we have finally reached a place where she can find humor in some of the silly things Connor says that as a six year old she knows the answers to and he as a preschooler does not. "Oh Connor, you know caterpillars don't eat sticks!" And boy, does that kid have questions about Everything? Our quiet little shy Connor has come into his own in great strides over the past year; making observations, asking non-stop questions, his mind working at alarming speeds to make sense of everything in sight. With a first grade bound girl and a preschooler firmly engrossed in his life at school, I realize reflecting on this time that we have entered what I will look back and refer to as the golden years of our family. For all the strife and running around and last minute patient emergencies that keep me from my typical pick up plans and all the counting to three, this is the very best time. The kids are old enough that we are no longer limited by their developmental stage when we make plans, no naps to consider skipping, no strollers to lug. I cannot tell you how floored I was when I realized we need to research bike racks to bring the kids' bikes to the cape this summer. My kids will have bikes on the Cape this summer. Do you even know what this means, world??

It isn't all honey. We talk about big kid stuff now. The worries are bigger and the answers harder. I spend more time tucking Caroline in at night, feeling her hands brushing the hair from my face gently, admiring her freckles and dimple. I linger when putting Connor back to bed during a middle if the pee-mergency feeling the weight on his body on my shoulder. They need me less and less and when they do I have noticed I am more eager to fulfill their whims. It is all just going so fast.

When Steve and I recently spent a night away in the city and reaffirmed our plans to sell our home and buy that amazing waterfront condo someday downtown. (We will split time between the city and the shore, of course) I felt a pang because they won't be there anymore, in that place we are still crafting as ours (thank you expensive new windows). Steve said, "well, we will only need a one bedroom." "No," I almost shouted. We need a bedroom for everyone because even if it isn't their home, it will be the place they come home to and there needs to a space for everyone and all the new people who will join them over the decades ahead and become a piece in this mcpuzzle.

It's easy to forge ahead, think of those times. It is harder to imagine them really happening, but they will. Until then, I need to remind myself that these golden years are a flash and ensure that I treat them as the precious thing they are.

BLTs

One of my favorite things about warmer months growing up was the occasional BLT night that we would have at home. I mean, does it get any better? Bacon, with crispy lettuce, a drippy ripe tomato on toasted bread smothered with just the right amount of mayo. Sounds like heaven, right?

I am not sure if we had them often, or really under what circumstances my mother prepared them, but boy do I love a BLT. Perhaps I romanticized them a bit because one of the marital sacrifices I make is that my partner despises tomato and removes lettuce from sandwiches. He doesn't even like mayo. Bacon on bread doesn't really sound like dinner to him and BLTs aren't something you often make for little kids. It isn't even something I order when we are out. Long story short, there has been a long, sad BLT drought.

This weekend after Connor nearly choked inhaling a piece of bacon because his love of bacon is second only to his father's, I had a lightbulb moment while writing my grocery list. He lerned early, eat it fast or miss out! Caroline loves tomatoes, tolerates bacon, loves all greens and would happily put mayo on everything she eats. Connor is not really a fan of sandwiches, but clearly loves bacon. Last night my daughter practically licked her BLT plate clean and her brother picked his apart, but ate nearly everything that wasn't green.

The doors to a summer of casual hot night BLTs have opened wide and i celebrated this loudly! With cheers. My poor husband sensed my excitement and kept his "this isn't dinner" commentary to himself. He wasn't pleased, but I did make him an amazing grilled cheese with bacon and I defy anyone to tell me that isn't delicious!

I can't wait for BLT requests, but is there a way to make sure my man has a good meal that night that feels like dinner to him?

See Caroline Read

I learned how to read well before kindergarten. My mother worked with me each night and I remember it wasn't always fun and it was definitely not easy. I have vivid memories of looking at the page and feeling so utterly unable to sound it out and truly having no idea what it said and how could I possibly ever understand this? Those were the days when my parents worked opposite shifts. Dad played Gargamel and Smurfs with us in the mornings and Mom handled dinner, activities, and bedtime. I remember reading to her in bed once and having her fall asleep. (Now that I'm a Mom, I understand how that could happen.) I learned to read with Dick and Jane. My father learned to read with Dick and Jane (maybe my mother too?) like most kids in the 50's. I held my father's books in my hands and while Caroline is using an updated version, the stories are the same.

Go, dick!
Go, Go, Go

She has come so far in the past few months. As an "early reader" myself, I have always encouraged her and sat with her and the Bob books, but she nearly always pouted or sighed heavily that "this was not fun." The very last thing I wanted was to push too hard and make her hate reading. At first she had little interest in letters at all and then later it seemed she was lacking confidence to even try to sound things out. I kept telling her over and over that she would love reading, that it would unlock unbelievable worlds for her.

We worried her confidence would not just get in her way, but set her back. How many other kindergarteners were reading? Was she the only one? Should we be worried? We are incredibly fortunate to live in a town with an amazing school system and they agreed with our concerns and set her up with some intensive literacy skill building in a small group. I hesitated to write about this because for the first time this feels like over sharing and it feels like it belongs to her and not me. I wondered what she would think to read this back when she is 12 or 17 or 39 and what it will mean to her that I shared it. So I feel it necessary to share also that she was doing well, meeting minimum requirements, but that they felt she would benefit from the additional time focusing on literacy. In any other town, she probably would not have gone to this group, but I am of the mindset that anything extra is worth exploring and I refused to let my own pride get in the way of her education. So older Caroline reading this years from now, you were doing fine honey, your teacher and parents just wanted you to be the absolute best you could be and we needed help to make that happen.

She brought home several short books a week, added to her sight word vocabulary, honed good reading behavior and before our eyes she blossomed. She couldn't wait to read to us about a cat's day spent meowing and licking his paws and cat napping. She smiled ear to ear when she took home a "B" book. We attended a literacy night for her school and I had tears in my eyes telling her reading specialist how amazed we were, asking her what else we could continue at home to keep the momentum going. With summer fast coming, I started to worry about how we at home could keep it light, make it fun and ensure she doesn't lose these skills. A Friday came and went and the weekend flew by as weekends always do. On a recent Monday morning, I pulled out the papers from Friday's school day and there was a letter from the principal stating she was meeting expectations for her grade level and she would not spend anymore time with the reading specialist. What great news right? Caroline cried because she loved going to her reading group. She loved her reading specialist. I wrote a note to this amazing catalyst myself that night, my words echoing her emotion. It was full of gratitude and mostly admiration. I wanted her to know how important and impactful she had been to Caroline.

Tonight she didn't want to stop, 68 pages in one session. She read most of those pages beside Connor who listened quietly and intently to her every word. You could tell she was so proud she could do this thing that he can't do. I can barely keep him still for a short book anytime of day that isn't bedtime. I'm sure I will find her with a hidden book and a flashlight any night now. (except she sleeps with a light on, so the flashlight probably won't be necessary.) It's going to be a summer full of new stories and the days she needs me to read it aloud or help her sound it out are numbered. I have wanted this for her for so long, but now it feels hard to imagine she is old enough to read it herself.

What books do you recommend for kindergarteners just starting out that they can read rather independently?

Caroline reads dick and Jane.

http://youtu.be/UQuU6U3sv0o

busy

Most days, like many Moms, I barely keep this ship afloat. If often starts early while I am getting dressed or drying my hair. "Don't make me yell, please, let's not start the day like this." Closely followed by, "if you touch him/her again, you are going to your rooms to get dressed and you will not see the end of this Arthur which you have already seen 17 times." We all stumble out the garage with frantic "your backpack!" "Connor, you need to wear a coat, buddy!" and what must be the neighbors' favorite, the shrill "look both ways!!" as the two of them race down the hilly part of the driveway to the street in the epic no one wins game of "I'm the line leader."

Once everyone gets where they need to go, I spend about 20 minutes or more, emailing, organizing my day, determining desired caffeination level appropriateness to tackle the plans just confirmed, and set my GPS to take me past the neighboring town's horse farms if possible or a dunkin donuts if not. I listen to bad music, squawk back at Dr. Laura, laugh at Howard Stern, see patients, call families, chat up colleagues via cell and email, search for lunch, debate whether or not lunch is rlly necessary, scare neighbors in quiet neighborhoods I park in to document, before racing to pick the kids up for the finish line that is home.

I get approximately five words from each kid if I ask them what they did that day. Instead they get this standard set and I get the standard answers.

Who was your best friend today? (Lila or Nate 99.99% of the time)
What was the best thing you did today (played outside)
What was the hardest thing (con says missing mommy, Caroline inevitably now shares that in fact something did happen at school and I get to hear about the latest mean girl drama and oh my lord, they are too young for this BS!!!)

If it is M, W, or F (which never happens because we always are out and about that night, but makes her feel better because it is three days) they get to watch a show. If not, they each select something creative to do or play in their own rooms. I scramble to empty and refill lunch boxes and pull some sort of healthy meal together during this time. There are often, "stop guys!" "That's two" and sometimes one of them ends up screaming in their room pounding on the door or stripping their bed in frustration. Yes, stripping their bed.

The other night after dinner, I had an off day for my 10K training and Steve wanted to get insanity done with downstairs which required the use of the playroom. I kept the kids upstairs and with nothing to distract me from their ooey gooey goodness having completed all required tasks of evening prep, we played an epic game of pirate ship on Connor's bed. The kids loved the suggestion and instead of letting them take the lead, I suggested we hop in quickly and set sail because the seas were getting rough and that brought out the sharks. I had them at sharks. We hid under blankets during big waves, I shook the bed when we hit a big rock, we took on water and needed to bail it ourselves with just the invisible buckets in our hands. The kids screeched joyful terrified screams each time they came up with a new creature of the deep to come on board and nip at their toes. Their favorite was the jellyfish with its long reaching stinging tentacles. We snuggled together, laughed from our bellies, and Steve came upstairs after his cool down wondering aloud if we were alright with all the noise.

Take a break from the usual. Hop on a boat and let their imaginations take you all away. That short half hour I spent with them aboard our blanket pirate ship will be something I will always remember when I look back on these days with them. It was simple, but special. It was outside of their norm, away from the comforts of their play space, and the way they looked to me to guide this new game was powerful. It was a reminder that even when they don't necessarily need me and can play quite independently now, I shouldn't assume that just because they are playing and happy they wouldn't benefit from me taking the helm and leading them on a crazy adventure.

Alligator aggression

My boy has nightmares that he cannot be woken from. Even with his eyes open, you know he is still elsewhere, and touching him often brings little comfort. Last night I heard him screaming from his bed and found him sitting up, tears streaming down, scared. It was the scared look that said this was not the usual, "I'm asleep, but I have to pee, what do I do?!" kind of wake up. We get at least one of those a week. I rubbed his back, soothed him with quiet words in his ear and he clung to me with a fear so real that I slid in beside him to rub his back until whatever he was dreaming about passed. "Alligators." He did his tell tale triple breathe in and sigh out and I started to get back up to sleepily climb back under my own covers. He sensed I was leaving and reached for me and I couldn't leave him. I rubbed him back some more, sang "you are my sunshine" in whispers and before I knew it I was staring at him watching the years go by to a time when I would cherish this ungodly wake up. Those thoughts don't take long to turn into a time when I am older and less involved in his life and more on my way out of this earthly place. It always happens quickly how my thoughts progress from this moment, to the next, to a time in the distant future and then to that sad time when I will no longer be here anymore at all. I can't be the only person who easily slips into anxious fear about that time. I always think the same thing; it is just so short, it is so unfair to get this only to lose it, and I feel pangs that I will miss so much of my children's lives. Those are the times I scrunch my eyes tight at night, feel the weight of my three year-old beside me, his tiny man boy hand clutching my shirt, and keep rubbing his strong back. Before I realized it hours had passed, the sun was rising and Steve was peering down on us. "He couldn't get himself settled," but I wonder if it was the other way around.

anything can happen

Do, Do, Do, Do

I teach my children that anything can happen. We all do. On any given day I help levitate that adage with encouragement to go ahead and do it! I delight in that part of parenthood. I scoop heaping tablespoons of their dreams and hopes into my heart. We all build our kids up, reassuring, urging them on. Anything can happen.

Anyone can be anything. Anything can happen. Any day can be the greatest day. Anything can happen, even on the brightest clearest bluest days.

I hesitate briefly to enjoy those cloudless blue beautiful days now. The world our kids are growing within is dangerous and unpredictable and full of the makings of nightmares. I think about this when I run; that anything can happen.

Last May, I started huffing and puffing and forcing myself to train for a 5K with friends. I didn't really want to run so much as prove I could. I lean toward the kind of competitive you don't want to play Monopoly with. I was so fearful before the start of that run that I might not even finish. I had barely run the three and change miles in my six weeks of training. Training which included shuffle stepping initially to make one tiny loop of the neighboring area. I celebrated my first mile like it was a triathlon finish. Back then not stopping for the whole mile was the best run ever.

It felt pretty good to finish, I was triumphant, so I kept running off and on that summer and ran again this past fall with those same friends and my cousin in memory of a BC grad who gave his life on 9/11.

Sandy Hook.

The Marathon.

It is not my will to run that keeps me running, nor my enjoyment of logging those miles. I bet some people watch the miles add up and feel satisfaction. I mostly think about how many hours without my kids and Steve that adds up to. Ah yes, good ol' mom guilt. Sure, it's also about health and since doing my combo Insanity/Running I have never felt better (or fit into some of my old favorite dresses and pants). For me, it's more about doing something in the face of all this sadness which I feel powerless to change. Anything. I think about those things when I run and they propel me forward, forcing my body to lean into the expanse ahead of me. Twenty more yards, five more minutes, just around the corner until I get back to them.

How many more times will I need to reassure my children in the wake of senseless tragedy? How many more terrible things before they stop believing that these are the exception and not the new normal? How can I send them off each day with confidence not just in who they are and how to cope with playground drama, but the sense of how to be safe should they encounter some terrible circumstance without scaring them half to death? How can I reinforce all of this when anything can happen?

All the books and articles we read about parenting always tell us to lead by example. Do as I say and as I do. If I'm fearful, and Lord knows I am, then how can they be anything but. They can see through me now, especially Caroline, and they know when I am uneasy. I can't always turn things into a joke and tease them about how we are having monkey stomach for dinner. Sometimes it has to be serious when serious questions are asked.

So in working hard to continue that "Be not afraid" mantra I took on after Newtown, I registered for the Boston Athletic Association 10K on June 23rd. It runs right through the heart of some of the residential neighborhoods most affected by the bombing, just a couple blocks over on Comm Ave, both starting and finishing between the Park and the Common. I'm in week three of my training, up to 4 miles a run now, working on my pace, and feeling stronger (and more sore) by the day. I'm running to show the strength that exists in our city and to show my kids that anything can happen; even Mommy can run that race.

A History of Mother's Day

Six years ago, Caroline made me a Mom and we spent our first Mother's Day snuggling in bed before heading up to the house we had just closed on to continue readying for our big move.

From Caroline Month 4
2008

From Caroline Month 16

2009

From Caroline Month 28

2010

From Kids.May.2010

From Kids.May.2010

2011

From Kids June 2011

2012

From MomandDad Mother's Day 2012

Things have changed so much since 2007, but the really good things remain the same. Snuggling in bed is still my morning priority and the very best part of my entire day.

2013

The Greatest Game

All week we watched the weather, we watched the forecasted rain which threatened both the Boston College Spring Football Game and the Sox game we had tickets for on Saturday. Steve and I didn't speak directly about the potential danger we might be putting our family in to attend these events after Monday. I could see him roll his eyes at my implied caution, "I know, I know" I said, "but we have to consider it." We watched the Bruins game, well three of did because a particularly sassy member of the family had been sent to bed early after declaring that she "hated" her brother and I was not her "friend." My eyes pooled over when Rene Rancourt handed the anthem to the fans and Steve said one thing, "we will be at the second Sox game at home since all this started." We thought to ourselves and then out loud, "darn." Imagine, missing that epic first home game by just one day.

Then Thursday night and the flurry of push notifications that alerted me at 5:30AM that it had been the wildest night ever in Boston.  Steve had already gone downstairs to do Insanity and bleary eyed I ran downstairs, "Steve, something is going on!" Seeing a note that people should not take the train I dialed my sister-in-law and woke her (sorry, Kerry) and said to her, "don't go to work, stay home, just don't go to work." I had no idea what was happening, but I didn't want her grabbing her coffee, putting in her ear buds and walking out the door.

It was a very long Friday. Anyone who had a productive work day, hats off to you. I was checking email constantly, waiting for notification that the kids' schools were closing. I texted Steve who was working from home incessantly to the point of annoyance, "any updates?" He cleaned the entire  house as a method to cope with the suspense and anxiety. We picked up the kids, we made pizza, we watched the "stay in place" order get lifted and our eyes met again as they had all week. "We're going," he said. Inside I panicked a little. Ok, I panicked a lot. Then they cancelled the spring football game at Boston College and I echoed another sentiment I read that day, "it's the prudent thing to do." I held the kids, one under each arm on the sofa, while Steve's phone erupted with news notifications and he raced upstairs to watch the end of the most dramatic week dare I say in Boston's history.

& then it was over and the relief was immeasurable. I counted our blessings and those of people I love and care about that endured the stay in place order and were directly in harm's way that entire day. Steve immediately realized we were going to the game. THE GAME.

We were up and eating Dunkin' before we would have even pulled ourselves away from Jake and the Neverland Pirates. We were in the car and headed to the park at 10:30AM for the 1:10 start. We bought programs, "believe in boston" flags for the kids, B Strong hats for Steve and his Dad, and headed to the Yard House for turkey burgers and fries. We sat spitting distance from a foursome of SWAT team members. My kids high-fived every "statie" and BPD they saw. I looked at Steve as we waited to get through Security and I said it out loud, "Vigilance." We stopped to snag a balloon and with Connor on my shoulders, WBZ news interviewed me for the 6 o'clock news and the world got a glimpse of my wild talky hands shouting that it had been an emotional week full of ups and downs and that after Friday night, we couldn't wait to get there. What they didn't air was when he asked if we were excited about the special ceremony at the beginning of today's game. "That is the game today, isn't it?"

We couldn't wait to get there. They couldn't either.


Security wrapped down the street, or so we heard and it was evident because there were so many open seats. We were in our row well before 1pm, waiting, anticipating, and I wondered how I would answer the questions that would surely come. You can hear it in this shaky and unclear video we took at the beginning of the pre-game. Caroline exclaims, "It's the Marathon!" then later, "why are they sad?" and "why are they crying?" All I could tell her was that it was ok and today was a day to be happy.



The kids clapped and cheered and held their signs and flags over their heads and were completely clueless. We had succeeded in shielding them from the week, only to bring them to the ceremony celebrating the heroism and silently remembering the victims. Luckily, they were distracted by those green flags and cotton candy and I never held their hands so tight during a national anthem before.

The family next to us were visiting from Kansas City. Their daughter was attending Wellesley in the fall and they had arrived Thursday night. They were so in love with Boston; the people, the spirit, the soul.

Connor studied the game carefully, asking where the blue team went, who was batting, where are they running, why are those guys cleaning the dirt?



Caroline tracked the scoreboard and held her Sweet Caroline song up high while the bachelorette party behind us piled pink beaded necklaces around her neck and Neil himself took to the field and sang her song to her.


We were there. Our family was there. Years from now, we'll tell them about it, show them pictures, and they might remember the hot dogs or the flags or the train ride. We have the B Strong cards, the stickers the BPD personally handed to my kids with the same logo, the memories, the gratitude, the wave of pride, the tears, and the win. It wasn't a Yankee game. It wasn't playoffs. It wasn't the World Series. It was the greatest game. We were there.