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?