Saturday, April 5, 2014

Thoughts that Slay Me

(Hi there. Let's just ignore for the time being that I haven't posted on here since...sometime last year.)

Mathilda, my big girl, my baby, gives the best hugs. Hugs that remind me we're all a piece of the same big pie, that we're more than these physical bodies that we think define us, that the Beatles had it right: all we need is love. Yes, hugs can do that; good hugs can. Mathilda loves to sit on my lap, to cuddle, to crawl into bed between Chris and me on lazy Saturday mornings. It's delicious and warm and the coziest thing pretty much ever.

As I sit in the preschool parking lot, waiting for the three hour school day to end, I'm thinking that the remainder of Mathilda's preschool career can be measured conveniently in weeks, or even days. Her time as a four-year old...the same. She will turn five the day before she becomes a preschool graduate. I'm thinking I'll only get to watch her run up the stone steps and proudly open the giant wooden door a handful of times before this era of her life, of my life, is over. Her days of picking apples from the mural in the preschool stairwell are coming to a close. I've been walking down these stairs for eight years, which means I've eaten a lot of imaginary apples.

Soon, too soon, Mathilda will be five, which as any parent who has been there knows, is a world away from four. Preschool graduation will come and go, we will have our long awaited summer, and then, as my friend Julie says, the "k word".

I am choking on the pain of letting go.

Trying not to, because this is just life. It's how things work. "Mine" is not truly a word that can be used to describe any of my children. They belong to themselves. Truth is, I am more theirs than they are mine. I merely have had the privilege of helping to usher them into this physical world, to guide and protect them and let them dance on my toes until they are ready to fly across the dance floor of life on their own.

This brings me back to my Mathilda (I can't help it, it feels like she is mine) and her soul-affirming hugs. Who am I without a child to hold? I'm not sure I know. I'm not sure I want to know. But I do know there will come a day when my youngest will no longer want to sit on my lap, when she will be too busy for long hugs and cuddles, and when she will realize she doesn't need me nearly as much as she thinks she does right now. When that happens, well it feels like my very essence of being will just seep right out of me. I know that's not true. Kids grow up, parents live to tell about it. I am a person who can be described in terms outside the realm of motherhood. I know that's true.

I will always be a mother, and it will always be my most cherished role. Yet, as impossible as it is to fathom from where I stand now, before my first child was born, I was a whole and complete person. And as my children continue to grow and to need me less and less with each passing year, I will continue to be a whole and complete person, and continue to do plenty of growing and changing of my own. I know all this is true.

"Can I run and hug you, mama?" Yes, baby girl, you can. For as long as you are willing, I will lift you up as you take a running dive into my arms, and swing you around, and inhale the intoxicating scent of your sweet head while I kiss your soft little cheeks. And I will not think about whether this will be the last time.

Friday, December 6, 2013

12 Days of Happy

Oh hey, yeah it's me. I'm still alive. Maybe my blogging hiatus is over, or maybe this just a quick foray into MichiGal and then I'll be MIA again. I make no promises. But when my fellow Michigan blogger friend, Ashley from Parsimonious Pash, said she was looking for bloggers to link up for a 12 Days of Happy post, I decided to jump back in. For a minute. Maybe more.

Writing about happy things is always fun, and here are 12 things I'm particularly over the moon about at the moment.

1. Family
Okay it's the obvious one. But we just had a great Thanksgiving holiday, and now we're looking forward to an equally awesome Christmas time. My cousin from Kentucky came to stay with us for a few days. I saw some other familial peeps I haven't seen in awhile. I spent some time with my godson and his precious baby sister. I found out my aunt does NOT have cancer. My sister sent the kids their annual Trader Joe's Advent calendars (thanks, Grace!). My mom and mother-in-law help me out at every turn and are the best grandmas ever. And my brother-in-law will be here in a couple weeks for a holiday visit. I am just so blessed and grateful to have all these people in my life (including those I did not specifically mention!).

2. Christmas Shopping
I love Christmas shopping. Love love love it. I'm not the most materialistic person, and given a choice I'd generally rather "do" than "have". (Although, remind me I said that when you catch me browsing the Vera Bradley site and ogling all the beautiful patterns and great deals...). But I do love to shop. And this is my annual chance to spoil my kids a little bit and have some fun. I love searching for bargains and trying to find the best prices, and putting lots of thought into the perfect gifts. This year I've been trying to shop local more, although I can't resist the Siren call of Amazon. Especially now that Mathilda's preschool has signed up as an affiliate, so that when we use their link to shop, they get a small percentage of sales. I love her preschool, which is a tiny non-profit with lower than usual enrollment this year, and I know they can use all the funds they can get to help make up for those lost tuition dollars. If you're doing some Amazon shopping, it'd be awfully sweet of you to use their link too! Here it is: Amazon affiliate link.

3. My Gym Membership
My personal splurge is a gym membership. Sure I realize that I could theoretically work out for free by simply walking or running outside, using the hand-me-down exercise bike in our basement, or randomly planking in public places and then posting the photographic evidence on Facebook. However, I know me. And I know that the best way for me to work out is to get out of my house and away from all its wonderful and terrible distractions. I need a place where there is nothing to do but work out. And I especially love and am sort of addicted to working out with my lovely friend, Tina. We have fun. We laugh. It's not boring. Sometimes I don't feel like going to the gym, but I honestly feel like a million bucks every time I leave. 

4. My Ancient Mutt
We're not extravagant pet people. Our dog gets a bath like once a year and sleeps on the cold hard floor. But that doesn't mean I'm not crazy about our sweet, sweet Cleopatra, who will be 13 years old this week. She will likely celebrate by placidly lying around while children climb on her, accidentally step on her tail, and try to get her to budge so they can get into the front closet. Maybe she'll get a doggie biscuit or two to mark the festive occasion. We specially picked Cleo out of a litter of rambunctious pups based on her calm personality, and we couldn't ask for a better dog to put up with our family. She gets her tail pulled, she looks sadly at the culprit and continues on her way. She gets stepped on, she lets out a pathetic little whimper and goes back to sleep. She loves to go for car rides and can almost walk around the block without having to be half dragged back to our house. Happy Birthday, Cleo, you've been good to us.

5. Books
Books have been my drug, and reading my ultimate escape mechanism, for as long as I can remember. I'm pretty much always in the middle of at least one book, and more likely two or three. I read to my kids until I lose my voice, hop from Kindle to "real" book and back again, write book reviews from time to time, visit the library, help organize Lucy and Connor's school book fair, and go to a sort of book club once a week. Sort of because we mostly drink coffee and bitch about our kids, but once in awhile we get in an excellent book discussion too. Books are a huge part of my life, and have taught me so much about the world, about other people, and about myself. Yesterday I picked up two Stephen Hawking books from the library. Don't laugh. 

6. My Bed
I've bragged raved about my bed before and I'm about to do it again. Every single day I am so happy that I won that Gardner White Furniture contest awhile back and decided to spend my entire prize, a $1000 gift certificate, on a kick ass mattress. It's been, oh I don't know, who am I am kidding...I can't remember these types of's been awhile, and I am literally still in heaven every time I lay down. I try to do my online stuff in bed but my bedroom is like an internet dead zone or something, and sometimes I get tired of losing service every few minutes, but there is no place I'd rather be while I'm doing my Christmas shopping or writing my blog posts. Or reading, or talking on the phone, or having important discussions. I think it's a Serta memory foam mattress, but wouldn't you know, I'm also not good at remembering those sorts of things.

7. Friends
First let me mention that this list is in no particular order. So being lucky #7 does not mean anything at all, accept that my friends are without a doubt an important part of my happiness dozen. I have some truly wonderful friends who manage to make me feel better about life and the world and everything in it. Some have been in my life for decades, some are more recent additions, but I love them all and am so happy to have them.

8. Rosetta Stone
I think my Life List (see link up top) says something about learning French. If it doesn't, it should. French was my favorite subject in high school, and I started off as a French major in college. But I stopped taking it when I transferred to a community college for a few semesters and found that I'd already leveled out of their French courses. Quitting French has been a long time regret of mine, and now I am finally going to try again. For years I have coveted Rosetta Stone but never wanted or was able to pop that giant tag. Then my wonderful friend Shelly (told you my friends are awesome) posted on Facebook that Rosetta Stone was having a crazy good Cyber Monday deal, PLUS payments could be broken up into five monthly installments (with no penalty!). Immediately I told Chris that's what I wanted for Christmas, and yesterday a beautiful yellow box containing French lessons I-V arrived on my doorstep. My heart is soaring. I am so happy. And no, I'm not waiting until Christmas. I've already started. So have Bethany and Lucy. Bonjour!   

9. Babies
Intellectually I know that I won't be birthing anymore babies. But my heart sometimes has a different idea. Chris is fixed and that's a good thing, because I'm pretty sure I could work my powers of persuasion on him and next thing you know we'd be trying to figure out where to put another kid in this house. I recently went to a baptism, with 10 adorable, cherubic little babies being baptized. Ten. In my direct vicinity. I looked at Chris across the pew and mouthed, "I want a baby," to which he responded by giving me an "it sucks to be you" look, and that was the end of it. Although I know that deep down he would love a baby too, and if it weren't for the small matter of a certain surgery, I wouldn't even have to work all that hard to persuade him. At the luncheon after the ceremony, I held that itsy bitsy freshly baptized baby while her parents ate, smelled her scrumptious head and got into my bounce 'n walk groove with no trouble at all. I'm not sure it would have been possible for me to be happier in that moment. Days later and I'm still feeling it. Babies are pure magic.

10. Music
A couple weeks ago I was in a funk. So crabby. My cure? The Beatles. I tend to listen to the same music over and over again until I move onto the next thing, which I'll then listen to repeatedly. It just makes me unreasonably happy to listen to certain music and I want to keep re-living that feeling.

11. Packages on the Porch
Opening my door and seeing a brown cardboard box (or even better, a stack of them) sitting there kind of gives me that Christmas morning feeling, even though what's in those boxes is rarely for me. It's so much fun receiving packages, knowing what's inside is going to make someone happy. And it's also fun when it's for me. And knowing that a few minutes ordering online saved me tons of time driving around from store to store, that makes me happy too.

12. Sleep
Wonderful, mysterious, luxuriously rejuvenating sleep...ahhh! Most mornings I am up and at 'em, but those few and far between days, when I wake up and realize hey! I have nowhere to go, and I can roll over and snuggle down deeper into the covers...those mornings are the best. The rare treat of a nap also brings me immeasurable pleasure, especially if the stars align and my kids leave me alone long enough to actually fall asleep. That is an utterly beautiful thing.

What's making you a happy camper these days? I'd love to hear all about it! Also, if you are a blogger, head over to Parsimonious Pash and link up! 

Monday, October 14, 2013

A Reminder to Slow Down

It was bound to happen.

I was super stressed. Chris has been traveling a ton, so I'm flying solo much of the time. We have so much going on constantly. I am over-extended and worn out. So, the universe has delivered a forced slow down, especially for me.

 Mama is sick, and that is never a good thing.

A few weeks back, I took the kids to Cedar Point for HalloWeekends. I was feeling like crap, but there was no backing out. Chris was out of town so I was on my own. I forged ahead because I refused to disappoint the kids, and it was a really great opportunity. And a wonderful thing happened. After walking around the park for hours upon hours, I actually felt better. Ha! I beat this thing! I felt rather...invincible.

Fast forward to this past week. Chris was gone (again). I had two sick girls. I was starting to feel like crap (again). I forged ahead, because I had to. And now, here I am, not getting better. I'm re-visiting my youth, when I was down for the count with respiratory ailments on a regular basis, when struggling for breath was a way of life.

We have a house full of asthmatics, which means the proper tools (a nebulizer) and drugs (Albuterol) are on hand. So I gave myself a breathing treatment. Because, you know, it feels good to breathe. And...yuck. I hope this is not how my girls feel when they take Albuterol, because my heart was racing, I was jittery, and my teeth were still chattering the next morning. It did seem to help with the breathing thing though. Also my wonderful husband went to the store late at night and woke me up with two cold tablets and a glass of water because he could tell I wasn't sleeping well. Those tablets have been helping too. I'm just worn out, congested, and not real happy with the breathing situation. I haven't slept this much in years. Napping even.

So, see Universe? I'm slowing down. I'm resting. But enough already, okay? I've got a busy week ahead. Lots of driving little people back and forth. Meetings. Errands. Household maintenance. Fun stuff, too, like Disney On Ice. I'm even going to defy you a little bit and continue going to the gym, but I'll take it easy.Who knows, maybe I'll sweat it out. Also, I don't mean to sound all self-important by mentioning how busy I am. This is just my life. I enjoy relaxing, believe me, and squeeze it in whenever I can.

Thank you for the reminder. I do realize that sometimes I need it. Thanks also for allowing me to be well enough that I can still function on an as needed basis. I will continue to strive for balance. I will also continue to rest, because dang it, I'm tired. Hopefully one day it will fully sink in, and then you can quit sending me these annoying reminders.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Stress Busters

It's been an interesting week for me on a personal level, with "interesting" being a euphemism for: stressful, hard, enlightening (in a bad way), disappointing, and...well, I think you get my gist. When I encounter bumps in the road like this, I often get stuck in a depressive rut. My game is thrown, know what I mean? This week I've been trying to counteract my self-defeating natural tendencies, with limited success. There's room for improvement, but I'm doing okay. Which is better than lounging in the pits of despair.

My coping mechanisms this week:

  • I have allowed myself to lean on my husband. I'm typically a loner when it comes to difficult situations, so this is a different way of doing things for me. 
  • Sleeping a lot. Maybe this isn't great, but I usually don't get anywhere near enough sleep. This past week I've been getting, I'm estimating, enough plus a little more.
  • Confiding in a friend. I might vent from time to time, but I generally don't ever truly lay it all out there for anyone. This time I did, and it was kind of refreshing, in a super naked feeling kind of way.
  • Escapism, in the form of reading a lot. Also, I even fell asleep watching Pretty in Pink one night. (I hardly ever watch television. But I love this movie.)
  • Yoga. I went to my first class. I loved it. I felt so zen by the end of the class, like I had just had an hour long massage. You know that feeling, kind of like you're walking on air and everything is just mellow and good? Three days later and it finally doesn't hurt my abs to cough anymore.
  • Getting out of the house. Mathilda and I went on two preschool field trips, one to an apple orchard and one to a fire station. It's kind of hard to be anything but happy when you're hanging out with a bunch of preschoolers. I went to book club with some girl friends. I went downtown with my friend and laughed a lot. 
  • Indulging in a little comfort food. I didn't go overboard, but I did get fries and a frappe from McD's, and ate lots of cereal.
  • Writing about it. No one has to see what you write, it still helps.
Well, I think that's all I've got. I'm trying. That's all. 


Sunday, September 22, 2013

9 Things I'd Tell My Tween Self

Dear Tween Me,

Those of us who survived the tween years know that they're no picnic. If we haven't totally blocked this whole awkward stage out of our minds, that is. I know you probably won't listen, but if you would, just for a minute, try to pay attention to your older and wiser self, I think you could learn a thing or two.

  1. Everyone has a struggle. I know you think the grass is always greener. Things are easier for other people. Homework. Friends. Family life. Hair. Fashion. Gym class. But appearances can be deceiving. This is something you'll want to remember your whole life, and best start now. No matter how awesomely perfect you think that super popular girl's life is, you truly have no idea what kind of things she's dealing with in her personal life. 
  2. Be thankful. You're rolling your eyes, I know you are. But I can save you a whole lot of trouble if you just heed this advice now. Many adults never even figure it out, but it's one of the most important life skills you can learn. Being happy is way better than being crabby, melancholy, depressed, jealous, and, well, unhappy. And being a happy person begins with gratitude. Trust me, you have a lot to be grateful for. Never, for one minute, forget that.
  3. People are focused on themselves. You think the world is silently ridiculing you for wearing that jacket from last season, or because you have a little blemish on your forehead or because you lost the battle with the curling iron this morning. Relax. I get that kids your age can be jerks in a major way, but I promise you that no one is as hyper-focused on you as you are. They are too busy thinking about themselves, and being embarrassed because they don't have the "right" shoes or because their parents won't let them wear make-up yet.
  4. Practice the Golden Rule. Again with the eye rolling. But think about it. Treat others as you would like to be treated. It's simple. It makes sense. Just do it. When you're tempted to join your buddies in being snarky about a classmate, think for a second how you would feel if someone talked to or about you like that. Suddenly it won't seem so funny anymore.
  5. Keep a journal. There are a couple reasons for this little piece of advice. First of all, you think now that you will always remember the wonderful details of your youth. But memories fade. You will forget so much. Secondly, writing is cathartic. When you're feeling confused, sad, overwhelmed, or angry, write it out. It releases negativity and helps you sort things out in your mind. In other words, you'll feel better. Plus you'll be writing so much in high school and college, you might as well get in as much practice as you can now.
  6. Be yourself. The temptation is great to fit in at any cost. You might not believe me right now, but standing out is a much better option. I know that there is a part of you that just doesn't want to be noticed right now. Or that only wants to be noticed as part of a group. But pretending to be someone you're not isn't the answer. Like what you like. Listen to the music you enjoy. Wear the clothes that make you feel good. Pursue the hobbies that interest you. People will still like you. If they don't, they can kiss off. Don't waste your energy on them. 
  7. Your friends all shop at Kmart. I know how mortified you are every time your mom or grandma take you to Kmart. You are terrified that someone will see you walking in the store and tell everyone at school that you're a Blue Light shopper. But (considering that there was no Target back then) where else do you think people get their school supplies, toilet paper, and shampoo? They go to Kmart. They really do. 
  8. Enjoy being the age you are right now. You want to grow up. You want to be independent and free. You'll get there, don't worry. In the meantime, thank your mother for doing your laundry, cooking your dinner, and giving you lunch money. Because when you're grown up, she won't do those things anymore. Your job right now is to be a kid, and that's not a bad job, so don't get too far ahead of yourself. 
  9. Don't be afraid. You are frozen by fear of failure and embarrassment.  You are terrified of the unknown. Failing is okay. Everyone does it. You'll get over it and be better off for trying. There are worse things than being embarrassed for a minute. Learn to laugh at yourself, and keep in mind #3. The world is full of unknowns, and the fun of life is turning as many of them into knowns as you possibly can. 

38-year old me, who still has a lot to learn