Posts Tagged ‘childhood’

Decision Times

Wednesday, March 26, 2014
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I was organizing old photograph albums on a shelf in the basement when I found a journal from my teenage years. I picked  up thedr-seuss-memory-quote spiral-bound notebook filled with sprawling cursive writing, but I only read a few lines before  putting it down.

I’d thought I would enjoy reminiscing with the author, but I realized that I didn’t even recognize her. I recalled the events and even many of the emotions she described, but I didn’t remember the girl.

Experience and time have distorted my memories of the teenage girl I once was, and even though I still have a great deal in common with her, we are now very different people. And in reading those few journal entries, I found myself wondering how that teenage girl could possibly have been expected to plan what she wanted to do with the rest of her life when she hadn’t yet grown into herself.

dr seussNow, 30 years later, that former teenage girl is fielding questions about what her son wants to do with the rest of his life, and I’m having a tough time believing that he can possibly know.

Maybe I’m a cynic. After all, I’m just as astonished by people who stay in the same career, much the less the same job, for their entire life as I am by people who are still married to their high school sweetheart.

In my world, that just doesn’t happen.

In my world, teenagers are just tall children who are exploring the world and discovering new interests and passions every day. They are young souls who are still learning that life isn’t about one decision that will lead them down the right path but about a series of decisions that will take them on an adventure.  And the are unique individuals who still need to determine how to use their gifts.

But I realize that’s in my world.

In the real world, teenagers are encouraged to identify their interests, decide on a college major and purse a career path by the time they are 21.

Maybe, if I didn’t have a son who was only a baby last week and is turning 16 next week, I might buy into that world.

But in reality, my son who is still trying to figure out who he is, and I’m pretty sure that the only way he can do that is through experiences – both good and bad. My job as a parent is to encourage him so he pursue opportunities that will allow him the time and the freedom to learn about himself.  And I hope he encounters some life-changing adventures along the way.places-ypu-will-go-quote

I also like to think that the teenager I used to be hopes for the same thing.

According to her journal, she does.


The Day I Ate Dog Food

Tuesday, January 7, 2014
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dogfoodWhen I was four years old, my brother Sean and his friend Gusty convinced me to eat dog food.

The food didn’t look anything like the plain Purina Dog Chow my family fed our mutt, Charlie Brown.

Charlie Brown’s food was hard and brown and looked completely unappealing.

Moses, the yellow lab who belonged to our neighbors, ate something that looked far more interesting, It, like Charlie Brown’s food, came out of a bag. But in addition to dry pellets, there were softer chunks of some kind of strange, reddish substance. In my four-year old opinion, Moses was getting filet mignon while Charlie Brown was getting hamburger.

I must have expressed such thoughts to my brother, who immediately cooked up a scheme to get me to eat dog food. He shared it with Gusty, the human boy who lived with Moses.

I wish I could say they took forever to wear me down. I wish I could say they bribed me. I even wish I could say they threatened me. Those would all make a better story and would make me appear smarter than I apparently was.

I was at Gusty’s house playing with his sister Anni when he asked if we wanted a snack.

Anni said she wasn’t hungry, but I was always up for food.

“We’ve been eating Moses’ food,” Gusty said.

I must have looked skeptical, because my brother quickly added, “It’s actually really good. You should try some.”

That’s all it took. They brought me the dog bowl and told me to take a handful. I did.

That was by far the worst snack I have ever eaten, but I refused to let on. I don’t know why I pretended, but I did. As the boys and Anni stood watching  me, I ate. And as I crunched, I asked the boys if they were going to eat too. They said they were full.

It was only days later, when word leaked out to other children in the neighborhood, that I realized I’d been the butt of a cruel joke. The embarrassment grew  in me like weeds during the summer months. The only way I could get rid of the weeds was to start distrusting people.

I’ve had 43 years to get over the incident and learn to trust when I should and to distrust when appropriate. But looking back, I wonder about those small moments that change children forever and shift the way they view  the world. I wonder if trying to protect our children too much prevents them from learning tough lessons.

I’ll never know.

What I do know is that memories have a strange way of resurfacing in our lives.

Shortly after we were married, my husband and I adopted our first dog. There was no debate over his name; I simply made a decision.

We named the dog Gusty.

It seemed appropriate, and, for the record, our beloved Gusty lived 16 years. During that time, he ate pounds and pounds of dog food.

The Problem with Peacocks

Wednesday, December 4, 2013
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Sometimes I wish my life had a rewind button.peacock

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not asking for a time machine. I have no desire to go back and  relive parts of my life (although a few do-overs would be nice.) But I would like to revisit certain moments so I can see them from a different perspective, particularly one that takes into account my parents’ point of view.

Years ago, I never would have thought I’d want to see things through my parents’ eyes, but time and children have a way of changing many things, including the way I think about peacocks.

When I was growing up, my next door neighbors had peacocks (now known as peafowl but when I was a kid they were all peacocks), and I thought that they were the ultimate cool pet. I used to visit their pen daily to search for stray feathers, and I was always impressed when a peacock fanned out his tail and strutted for me.

My parents were less thrilled about the peacocks. In fact, they actually despised those birds. My dad constantly complained about them and the noise they made. At the time, I just thought he had extremely sensitive ears. I should have realized there was more to his complaints.

He and my mother aren’t pretentious, and they don’t care about how people look or what clothes they wear. Most of all, they aren’t taken in by people who call attention to themselves by being the loudest or the most demanding. In other words, they find peacocks annoying.

When I was a child, I may not have understood. As an adult, I do. I’ve had to deal with too many people who are more focused on appearance than substance and who waste energy and resources getting attention rather than focusing attention where it is most needed.

In other words, I now also find peacocks annoying, and I realize I should have paid more attention to my parents’ opinions.

But here’s the really cool thing about being a parent: we have the opportunity to see the impact of  genetics and our own lifestyle choices on a new generation.

When my children were younger and we visited the zoo on a regular basis, we always admired the animals for their various qualities. We talked about how fast the cheetah was or clever the monkeys were or how wise the tortoise must be. But my kids never gave the peacock the time of day. They found the strut and beauty completely unremarkable.

Even better, now that they are adolescents, they actually find the peacocks in their lives annoying.

And I find that completely satisfying.

The Son I Don’t Know

Wednesday, October 2, 2013
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Yesterday, my husband insisted I watch a video of a baby dancing to Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies.” I had just gotten home from work and Image (51)was already on my way out the door again, but Giles was persistent.

When I finally looked, I knew why.

The baby dancing in diapers reminded both of us of our son, a teenager who now towers over both of us.

When he was born, everyone told me the years would fly by, but I really didn’t believe them. Sleepless nights, diapers and endless worries about his development consumed my time and energy.

Now  suddenly, he is  a sophomore in high school with a life about which I know very little.

I know the  boy who walks through my house in his boxer shorts and tousled hair. I know the boy who is obsessed with computers, video games and music. I know the boy who comes home from football games and plays the trumpet after he thinks everyone else is asleep. I even know the boy who gives me sarcastic answers in one breath and says “I love you too, Mom” in the next breath.

But what I don’t know is the teenager who goes to school every day and faces the realities of adolescence and peer pressure. I simply get glimpses of him every now and then.

The first glimpse came at the end of his eighth grade year when he won a dance contest during a school assembly. My son? Seriously? He was never the most coordinated kid nor particularly interested in anything that’s popular. I later found out he’d won the contest by performing the “Dead Bernie,” which is actually a shout out to a movie from the year I graduated from college.

I got another glimpse when I was at Girl Scout camp with my daughter this summer when one of the other mothers mentioned him.

“My son loves Shepherd,” she said. “He’s like Norm on Cheers. When he enters the classroom, everyone yells his name.”

I asked Shep about this, and he stoically said, “I’m a character, Mom.”

And then, at a recent football game, an English teacher was chatting with me. “I love Shepherd,” she said. “He is just so enthusiastic. He doesn’t care what people think about him.”

I got the not caring about what people think about him part, but I wasn’t sure about the enthusiasm. Around the house, he generally shows the enthusiasm of a slug.


But that same night after the game, he was particularly talkative.

“Mom,” he said. “One of the kids from the other band told me I was an awesome trumpet player.”

That’s about as talkative as Shep gets. At least, that’s about as talkative as he gets with me. But he highlighted his enthusiasm by wailing on his trumpet until the wee hours of the morning.

His love of music is why I am being the dutiful mother and taking on responsibilities with the school music boosters. That’s also why, on Monday night, I found myself playing games on my phone during a boosters meeting while I listened to other parents discuss basket bingo and costumes for show choir.

Then the band director said something that caught my attention. The group had been talking about the band’s performance at an away football game when the other school had given them unexpected respect and a standing ovation. In response, the band had signed a thank you letter. Only, according to the band director, he couldn’t send it yet because someone had decided to give himself an inappropriate title upon signing.

My heart sank. The band director never gave any indication about who the culprit was, but I knew. When I got home, I didn’t even ask.  But I did tell my husband, who pursued the issue with Shepherd.

“I asked Shep about signing the letter,” Giles said. “He admitted he embellished his signature a bit by adding that he was the best trumpet player.”

My heart sank a bit that my son had once again gone a bit too far. But then, my heart also lifted.

Maybe I’ve been kidding myself. Maybe I do know my son better than I thought.

Maybe, just maybe, I am having a problem letting go of the toddler and embracing the man he will soon be.

But in the meantime, I’m drafting a speech about modesty and how to sign a letter.

I have absolutely no doubt about what Shep’s one word response will be.

And when he says, “whatever,” I’ll know he still needs a mom to guide him.

Nice Girls

Wednesday, June 12, 2013
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The girl’s costumes matched the costumes of the other dancers, but her moves were nothing like theirs.

Instead of tapping, she stood awkwardly in the middle of the stage and occasionally shuffled her feet. Instead of jumping and leaping, she swayed from side to side. And her arms hung limply at her side instead of moving in sync with the other girls.

But as both of her dance numbers ended, she waved wildly at the audience then clapped three times.

Not only did the audience cheer enthusiastically, but so did the dancers backstage.

Even though she’s been in my daughter’s dance recitals for the past few years, I only recently learned that the girl’s name is Grace. I still don’t know the exact nature of her cognitive disability. What I do know is that I’ve never once heard anyone make fun of her or complain that she is ruining a dance number.

In fact, the only time I’ve heard anyone talking about her was this past weekend when I spent numerous hours as a backstage mom ”supervising” a group of middle school dancers.

In reality, I did very little supervising and a whole lot of listening.

As the girls watched the performances on a grainy television feed in their dressing room, they didn’t point out anyone’s mistakes or missteps. Instead they cheered on and complimented everyone, including the dancer who didn’t really dance.

“She is always so happy,” said one girl. “That’s just adorable.”

“She has a signature move,” said one of the star dancers. “She claps three times and then everyone else claps.”

“Have you noticed how all the other girls in her class take care of her?” asked another. “That’s so awesome.”

I agreed that was awesome. But I don’t think the girls recognized just how awesome they are too.

In a society in which adolescent girls are often depicted as being self-absorbed and mean-spirited, the dancers were building each other up instead of tearing each other down. In a world in which out performing others is often described as success, they were more focused on being kind. And on a stage where a disabled girl simply wanted to dance, they simply wanted to cheer her on.

If that isn’t reason to have hope for our future, I don’t know what is.

Reviews and Coming Attractions

Monday, June 25, 2012
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"This will be a night to remember!" – Templeton the Rat

I don’t have many photographs of my mother.  In fact, I doubt Ava and Maryn could describe her face.  I have a picture of her on the day she was married — 1954 — and I have a picture of her at my own wedding. Only one.  She despised posing for pictures, primarily because she was desperately shy but also because she disliked her smile.  In the few prints I have of her holding me as a baby, she looks absolutely miserable.  For years, I thought she hated being a mother.  But now I know that she just hated her teeth.

Having so few pictures of her means that I don’t have many memories.  Today, my iPhone holds at least 1,000 blurred, grainy images of my children.  Since I’m the family photographer, I’m rarely in those shots.  But on occasion, I’ll hop in the frame and stand behind the girls (to hide my other “frame”), and show every tooth in my mouth. Gap and all.  I love being with my kids. I want them to see that joy.  I want them to remember it.

One evening, my husband and I were sitting outside listening to John Tesh’s radio show, “Intelligence for Your Life.”  We laughed through the corny anecdotes and bits of strategy, such as deleting a Facebook account when searching for a job, and working crossword puzzles to avoid Alzheimer’s disease.  The girls were in the yard swinging and chatting away, arguing briefly over the cutest band member of One Direction.

“Do you think they’ll remember any of this one day?” I asked Mike.  He shrugged his shoulders.

I admit that I get a little more nostalgic in the summer than any other time of the year — Christmas included.  I guess it’s because I spent every hour with my mother in those months between Memorial Day and Labor Day, doing nothing I might add.  Back then, I knew how to sit still and be quiet.  I knew how to be content with a do-nothing day.  It was a three-month rest for a child who didn’t need it.  But in that sabbatical of sorts, I didn’t form many memories.  One day rolled into the next.  I remember spending time at Greenbrier Pool and never applying sunscreen other than a mixture of baby oil and iodine.  I remember watching my parents can vegetables from the garden.  I remember watching soap operas at 3:00.  I remember our blue, 1979 Mercury stationwagon with wood panels.  I remember the old Holiday Inn sign that lit up in vibrant colors, which I had to see before I went to sleep each night of our annual vacation.   I remember my 10-speed bike, which logged many miles through the flat, tree-lined streets of Kanawha City.  That’s about it.  But is that enough?

Mike has similar memories.  ”You hopped on your bike at 9 in the morning, and you were gone all day,” he said.  ”If you were home before dinner, it was because you wrecked and needed a Band-Aid.”

That’s it?

“Little league baseball games,” he added. “We had to go to church once a month to play on the team.”

Nothing else?

“Oh, and I remember that we were at Ormond Beach, Florida when Elvis died,” Mike announced.

Thank you. Thank you very much.

The Pinterest-pinning, Facebook-posting, Twitter-tweeting mother in me wants a perfect summer for my girls that will be remembered as long as the mind can store it.  To do this, though, I find myself spending a small fortune on memory-making activities and props, such as a membership to our neighborhood pool (and its costly repairs), and a hammock for the side porch (which I’ve never been in longer than 5 minutes).   We’ve built swing sets and wooden forts, a pergola,  and we’ve added a couple of dogs.  This past week, we purchased an outdoor movie theater.  Well, sort of:  I bought a projector and a paint tarp.   These things,  along with a few strands of solar lights wrapped around a few oak trees, povide a cozy ambiance for summer’s children.  And mosquitos.

On Monday evening, we decided to watch “Charlotte’s Web” in the backyard. I made popcorn and carried it outside, along with bottles of water and boxes of M&Ms.  I picked up the popcorn that spilled onto the ground and chased off dogs that snatched the plastic bowls right out of the girls’ hands.  I sprayed each family member with enough OFF to give them lung cancer, and I tore down spider webs that belonged to less famous and less attractive arachnids so everyone would sit without worry or complaint.  I lit citronella candles and fussed at the girls to stop flipping their hair so close to the flames. I caught the Beagle and dragged him into his crate, where he howled along with the whining Wilbur.  I threw the tennis ball over the hill at least 100 times for the Golden Retriever, which I am convinced could find anything in the dead of night.  I answered the phone twice.  I had to go to the bathroom once.

But while I was reclined in my patio chair, I looked over at Maryn, parked in her daddy’s lap munching on candy and smiling at the sarcastic comments made by Templeton, the rat.  I looked over at Ava, legs crossed and straight-faced, twirling her hair as she pondered the messages left by Charlotte A. Cavatica.  For a few minutes, everything was as it should have been. Will the girls recall any of this when they’re older? I don’t know.  I hope I’m around to hear about it, though, particularly the parts that drove me up the wall, but made the others laugh.

As E.B. White so elegantly stated, “Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.”


One is the loneliest number

Wednesday, February 1, 2012
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If you, the loyal Mommyhood readers, will allow it, I’m going to be a little melodramatic for a moment.

In the past two months(ish), every, single woman that was pregnant at the same time I was pregnant has either had another child or announced her second pregnancy. I can think of ELEVEN off the top of my head.

Combine the rising number of friends announcing their first pregnancies with the fact that MY baby is now an independent 2 ½ year old, and I’ve got some major baby envy. It appears as baby fever, but that’s just a nice word for what it really is: a big, green, ugly womb of envy.

Photo courtesy of Jillian's Drawers

I want another child. If I could, I would have an entire houseful of children. As it is, we live in a tiny house and two children and whatever pets exist would more than fill it. Being the eldest of four, I believe four is a great number. Three is good, so is two. One is phenomenal, but it just feels lonely.

This pity-party leaves me a bit guilty, because I have so much. I don’t have infertility issues to contend with. I don’t feel a longing that many women feel — for just one pregnancy, just one child to carry in my body — and I’m so thankful I’ve had that experience. I don’t want to take anything away from it. However, this mama is ready for some more sleepless nights, 24-hour nursing, diapers and sweet, little baby clothes. Oh, the sweet, little baby clothes that cover the sweet, little baby toes…

I’m not romanticizing the affair, really. I remember our newborn and infant phase. It’s exhausting. I remember the pain that came with the childbirth recovery, and not being able to walk or sit normally for two weeks. But I knew, the minute I started pushing my son out, that I could do it all again.

This article by Elizabeth Pantley, author of The No-Cry Sleep Solution, offers a few questions to ask before you add another child.

  • Do I want another child? Absolutely.
  • Will another child change our economic situation? Not really. If you wait until you can afford a child to have one, you’ll never have one.
  • How will life change, and are we ready for that change? Life change will be minimal, providing any future pregnancies and children are like the first.
  • How will a new baby affect the lives of your existing children? My son can’t get enough of babies. He’s a little jealous, but that’s a good trait to overcome, and it’s easier to overcome at a younger age.
  • Are you and your partner on the same page? Oh… that. That is where the issue lies. My baby-makin’ partner in crime (an only child himself) is more hesitant to add another to our brood. Lately, he’s warming up to the idea, but I brought up potential baby names the other day and he turned a sickly shade of green and started tapping his foot incessantly.

So, there’s only one question left: When? When will I be ready for another baby? I told new mom me that I would be ready for another when my son weaned. OK, done. Then I said I’d be ready when he was potty-trained. That happened in September. He sleeps through the night pretty well. He can talk, feed himself, undress himself, bathe himself. He’s a boy, not a baby anymore.

What do you think? How many years are in-between your children? When did you know it was time for another?

The Heirloom

Monday, July 4, 2011
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My Presbyterian father's second Bible.

I didn’t write a tribute piece on Father’s Day, because I wanted to stay focused on my husband rather than on my dad, who passed away in 2006.  But last evening, it was all I could do to stop thinking about him as I dropped ears of corn into a stock pot of boiling water….as weird as that sounds.

When I was a little girl, Saturdays belonged to us. Perhaps it was his way of spending time with me after a long week at the office, or perhaps it was his way of giving my mother a much deserved break — but either way — it was our standing date.  We’d leave the house around 7:30 a.m. and browse Kanawha City yard sales, looking for things we liked but certainly did not need. An hour or so later, we’d drive to Farmer’s Market, the one that sprawled for what seemed to be a mile or more under the interstate.  I would follow behind him as he walked from stand to stand, checking out the latest crops, smelling cantelopes and testing the ripeness of a peach.   I can see him in my mind’s eye wearing his traditional red golf shirt with a chest pocket holding a pack of Marlboros, navy slacks (that’s what he called them!), and wing-tipped shoes (always).  When he had made his choices, brown paper bags shook open and into them fell piles of half-runners. He’d hand me a box of tomatoes with metal handles, warning me not to poke them as I had been found guilty of doing before.  White corn (never yellow) was stacked in plastic bags, their husks pulled back just enough to confirm the Silver Queen.  Cucumbers filled another bag, their prickly skins leaving a bumpy rash on my hands and arms.

Around noon, we’d make our way to Kroger for the remaining ingredients that were required for whatever recipe he discovered watching Crockett’s Victory Garden, a show that aired on public television for half of my childhood.  Finally, we’d pull into the driveway and the rest of the day was spent listening to the clanging of pots and pans and the occasional sneeze, a sign that he had overdone it with the black pepper.

Toward the end of summer (which certainly wasn’t August 19th), I was allowed to stay up late watching TV while my mom and dad canned all of those fruits and vegetables they had grown, or overgrown by neighbors.  Even with the roar of an air conditioning unit sandwiched in the dining room window, the house was sweltering hot, yet somehow more comfortable than any other time of the year.  From the swivel chair in the living room, I could see directly into the kitchen, where both of them chatted about things I couldn’t hear.  Newspapers covered the tabletop, and they sat across from each other stringing beans and pulling off darkened ends, never looking up, and never breaking speed.  They canned until midnight or later, or until my dad carried me to my room and put me in bed wearing the day’s clothes and dirty feet.

I’m sure it wasn’t easier back then, but as a child, life felt safe. My dad would stroll through his minature garden and pull a carrot out of the ground, wipe the soil on those same slacks, and hand it to me — top and all.  “Tell me if it’s a sweet one,” he’d say, and I would report that it was good.

Today, I live in Fort Hill on a ridge that is anything but conducive to gardening.  But I started a container garden of Better Boy tomatoes, cucumbers and of course, baby carrots, which my own daughters have enjoyed planting and watching grow.  I can’t recreate the Noyes Avenue backyard, or reopen the old Farmer’s Market, nor can I bring back the late nights of canning bread and butter pickles and strawberry jam. But, I can remember all of it as if it were yesterday.

How sweet it is.

The Princess of Wails

Friday, July 1, 2011
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Their mother would have turned 50 on July 1.

Being a royal watcher is one of my greatest, most untamed self-indulgent behaviors.  I have loved The House of Windsor ever since Lady Diana Spencer became engaged to Charles Philip Arthur George, Prince of Wales.  I watched the lavish wedding on television in the wee hours of the morning with my mother, and this past spring, I pulled my oldest daughter out of bed at 4:00 a.m. to watch Catherine Elizabeth Middleton become the future Queen of England.

Ironically, I didn’t get choked up when Kate stepped out of the car in her demure dress (although I did get choked on a sip of coffee when Pippa walked out to greet her), and I didn’t get emotional when Mr. Middleton escorted his daughter down the aisle.  But I did fall apart earlier in the ceremony, when William and Harry walked into Westminster Abbey… by themselves.

Their mother should have been there.  And I sobbed like Sarah Ferguson after getting cut from the guest list.  I cried and cried and cried some more.

It was just so sad to me….those handsome boys, standing in the exact place where their mother’s funeral had been held years before…returning for the eldest son’s long-awaited marriage.  On a day of joy and hope and celebration, I was a blubbering mess of maternal madness.  The very thought of missing my daughters’ milestone moments scares me to pieces, but on that morning, it sort of scared me straight.

Now, I know that I won’t perish in the backseat of a  Mercedes Benz in a tunnel underneath the streets of Paris, a result of a high-speed chase to shake off a pack of paparazzi wolves.  However, mothers die in automobile accidents all the time.  I doubt a Mommyhood blog hater will run my SUV off the South Side Bridge, but someone driving under the influence of alcohol could.

I could also die of breast cancer or suffer  a massive stroke.  Anything could happen to  me — anyone — at anytime.  Therefore, I felt as though I needed to get my act together in a few areas to make sure those morbid possibilities didn’t become realities by my own doing. So, I made a list of things I wanted to correct in my life, staritng with:

1) Diet and Exercise:  I know, I know.  Isn’t this what everyone says when they get a wake-up call? Well, I decided that my “baby weight” would have to come off once and for all.  I started a low carb/good carb/protein plan of eating that focused on clean, whole foods.  I invested in a pair of Sketcher Shape-Up shoes (ugly as sin), and I started walking and “jogging” in the evenings.

2) Health Screenings:  I suffer from White Coat Syndrome, so just scheduling doctor appointments made me sick to my stomach. I wanted to be checked out from head to toe and teeth to ta-tas, and I requested all of the labwork that went along with it.  Searching for any and every possible glitch in my health, I gave more blood and gave up more modesty than I thought possible.  But I did it. And yes, I cried from embarassment in the hospital elevator.

3) Stress Management: I’d be a complete hypocrite if I said that I had my anxieties under control (just read this blog to figure that out), but I’m working on it.  Through journaling and blogging (thank you!), I have found a creative way to rid my mind of troublesome thoughts.

4) Legal and Medical Directives:   When we received the news that I was expecting our first baby, Mike and I had wills drawn up by an attorney who specialized in estates and trusts.  He also drew up paperwork for a Living Will, Medical Power of Attorney and Durable Power of Attorney.  It took a few hours (and a few weeks to solidify), but our wishes were granted.  But when we had to decide who would become legal guardians of our children, I hesitated.  I had no parents, no siblings and no grandparents.  And when we did make the brutally difficult choice, we were asked to choose backups to the backup.  Again, more tears. There wasn’t anyone left to willingly take on that responsibility.  That’s when it occured to me that I simply couldn’t die.

But since that time, priorities and interests have changed, and we needed to have our wills updated.  When I called our attorney to request edits, he informed me of the hourly rate, which had changed in the past few years.  I really sobbed then.

5) Insurance:  Suddenly, there were new expenses to consider in the event of an emergency — paying off the house, securing the girls’ college funds, and providing a nest egg for anything that might be needed in days or years to come.  While I certainly won’t get into that here, we revisited our financial health, too, making adjustments to the long-term plans that we established at marriage and after the births of our daughters.

Getting my own “house”  in order took some effort, but it gave me peace of mind.  We are reminded that every one of our hairs is numbered (which is increasingly upsetting because mine is falling out like crazy), and to live each day to the fullest.  But with that mentality also comes a requirement of restraint and discipline, of limits and boundaries — to guard those precious boys and girls in our lives, and God willing, to be present for all that is in store for them.

Finally, at 4:00 in the morning, I made a promise to myself to get more rest. Going around crying all the time is bloody exhausting!

The Wonder Years

Tuesday, May 31, 2011
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Darn you, Fred Savage!

On June 10th, my daughter will turn eight years old. Normally, the 8th birthday is treated like the one before it or the one after it, holding back the fanfare of  a Sweet 16.  But Today’s Child has a reason to celebrate year number eight because it marks the moment he or she becomes a tween.

Like a mature woman’s biological clock, a child seems to have a tween instinct. I’ve been seeing hints of this in Ava, as she turns her head when we walk passed Gymboree and Build-A-Bear. But, the part that surprised me the most is what did catch her eye.

Fred Savage.

Last fall, I got so excited when I found a new station, The Hub, on cable. Old cartoons such as Strawberry Shortcake air during the day, and old family favorites such as Happy Days and Family Ties air at night.   One evening, I was late putting the girls to bed and they watched the opening credits of The Wonder Years.  The toothy grins and waving hands of Kevin, Paul and Winnie seemed to capture Ava in The Counter Culture’s tweenage haze.  Her eyes locked on the screen … and then I knew that she had developed her first crush. And it crushed me.

I tried to explain that Fred Savage wasn’t really a 12-year old boy living in the suburbs, but a married man as old as her mother with children of his own. Oh, and he became the voice of Oswald on Nick Jr., for one year.

Then, I had a flashback to the late 1970s when ‘my heart stood still’ each time Shaun Cassidy sang “Da Doo Ron Ron”.  I even slept on a Hardy Boys pillowcase. But I had to have been older, right?  1979…let’s see…that would have made me…six!?

Tween is playfully defined as the age and stage of a girl’s life that is “too old for toys but too young for boys.”  (Thank goodness.)  Tween is formally defined as “a period of life in which boys and girls first discover their own interests. (Oh crap.)

Tween behavior could be illustrated as a young girl who listens to Justin Bieber on XM’s Disney Radio while flipping her hair over the shoulder of a hoodie from Justice.  She uses slang language, like all the time, and she thinks everything is cool! — like a sleepover!


The tweenage clock has triggered another alarm, because in the next hour, my Ava — soon to be eight — will spend the night at her grandmother’s house across town.  I know, I know…kids do it all the time these days.  Well, not mine. I just left my girls for an overnight getaway with friends this past February, and that was after nearly eight years at home with them.

Eight.  There’s that number again.

Before you post a comment on my blog telling me to Please, Mom, get a grip, I need to explain what these past years have meant to me.

I have loved every second of her.  I mean that — every second.  When she was irritable with colic, feverish with colds, and covered with bug bites; when she was worried about storms, finicky about vegetables, stubborn about bedtime, and tearful about school.  I have loved buying matching dresses for both daughters at Christmas and Easter, and I have loved snapping billboard-sized bows in her blonde hair.  I have loved belting her into car seats and turbo-boosters…and I have loved tucking her in at night.  I have loved knowing that she was right across the hallway — or even better — right across the pillow.

So, I’m grieving a little.  I’m getting all caught up in the romance of babyhood and early childhood, and I’m feeling sentimental about the first years that have gone by far too fast.

I’m not sure how I’m going to handle the changes in life that come with having a tween — or God help me — a teen.  But as Joe Cocker says, I’m gonna try with a little help from my friends.