Perfect


Dear Caroline,


Sometimes being a mom is hard. OK, maybe I should say, a lot of times being a mom is hard. We all know being a parent is hard. I say mom here because this is about you and (mostly) me. Not about generalities. I’m not talking about the mountains of laundry or the piles of dishes. Nor am I talking about being up all night with a sick kid or juggling work and pediatrican visits. I’m talking about my oddities and insecurites, and your quirks and challenges. There are days when I struggle and days when I feel guilty because you deserve a much better role model. Today might be one of those days.


I had a little chat with your preschool teacher this morning when I dropped you off today. (Let’s not talk about the fact that you were 35 minutes late because our personalities clashed and you moved at a snails pace, OK?) She shared with me that she was feeling frustrated with certain dynamics in the class, and the pressure to “prepare you all for kindergarten” was weighing on her. She also mentioned that she was devistated from learning yesterday that one of her daughter’s friends from high school had taken her own life over the weekend. As we stood in the hallway talking in hushed tons, you caught my eye from your seat at the snack table and blew me a kiss.


How can I raise you to be confident when I lack confidence in myself? How can I instill in you a belief that you are good enough, smart enough, and perfect JUST THE WAY YOU ARE when I question myself at each turn? How can I show you that all you have to be is YOU when I sometimes feel like I don’t even know myself?


You don’t have to BE perfect. You ARE perfect. At the end of the day, you just have to try. You just have to keep moving. For a perfectionist, the hardest thing to do is try. Trust me. I don’t want to try if it’s not going to end up right and correct and perfect. I’m afraid to say, I think you have this too. You crumple up your papers when it doesn’t turn out JUST how you wanted. You refuse to write your name because you aren’t 100% sure that you’ll do it right. Just try sweetie girl. Just try.


I suppose at the end of the day, that all I can do too. Just try. Maybe we can learn this together.


I love you always my sweet Caroline.



Smiles


1. Forty-three years of marriage for my parents.


2. Babysitting the two kids from next door one night last week. Ben wasn’t home from work yet. The four kids are sitting around the table eating dinner, and I’m in the kitchen making cookies as a special treat. Thomas cheefully looks around and says, “Huh. So, this is what it would be like to have 4 kids and just a mom.” I’m still laughing about that. Hardly Thomas, hardly.


3. Rain. Cold, hard, melodic and much needed rain.


4. Caroline’s pure excitement about celebrating 100 days of school today. We counted out 100 chocolate chips last night for her to share with her classmates.


5. A second tooth lost for Thomas. He kept asking me if I could pull it out yet… He does not enjoy having a loose tooth in his mouth.


6. Caroline helping me in the kitchen. We made wontons last night, and she kept reminding me how she was such a good helper. “And not just a good helper ONE time. But lot’s of times, right Mommy?” Yes, sweet girl. You are a good helper on so very many jobs.



Smiles


1. The garbage and recycling trucks honking at the little boy that lives next door. Every Monday morning.


2. Caroline in feetie jammies asking me to carry her. I lift her up onto my hip and she wraps her legs around me and rests her head on my shoulder. I notice that her toes are threatening to push through the jammies.


3. Wilson trying ever so earnestly to bury the food bowl. We frequently have to discreetly lay a dish towel over the empty bowl, otherwise he’ll try to dig forever.


4. Glow in the dark Solar System hanging over Thomas’ bed.


5. Thomas earnestly telling us about a Dinosaur show he found on Netflix. “They said this discovery could change paleontology FOREVER.”



Fairy Tales


Dear Caroline,


Last week Daddy and Thomas went off on an adventure (road trip to Legoland and San Diego!!) leaving us girls behind. We had five days of uninterrupted one-on-one time and aside from the 10 hours when I was violently ill with a stomach bug, it was PERFECT. We slept in and lounged around. We went out and spent time with relatives. We snuggled and made each other laugh. We went to the mall and painted pottery. We had sleepovers in the big bed every night. We went for bike rides and colored a giant cardboard rocket ship. We just flat out had fun. You told me multiple times each day, “Mommy, I’m having SUCH a beautiful day today.”


I just want you to know how much I loved it…. How sweet you were…. How it never even crossed your mind that you might have gotten the bum end of the deal being left behind. We made our own fun and certainly made the most of the time. And I have to say, I think it was a most delicious way to bring the year to a close. 2011 was a good year. You grew up so very much Bug. Your opinions and ideas and imagination have become captivating and it was a lovely gift to spend the final days of 2011 completely focused on you.


I am forever grateful that I get to be your momma. And ever so in love with you.



Bits and Pieces


Thomas lost his tooth on October 23rd. He was thrilled, although rather grossed out by the hole it left behind… I told him on the 22nd that I thought it was getting loose enough to pull. And on the morning of the 23rd he promptly asked me, “So, when do you think you might pull my tooth out?” Alrighty then.


We survived Halloween–more than survived. I think everybody had fun. A grand total of SIX pumpkins were carved on Sunday. We were invited over to a friend’s house for pizza followed by trick-or-treating with buddies. The kids whooped it up like only kids can do. When I went to tuck them into bed last night, I could hear them laughing hysterically–I just *knew* that I was going to have to scrape them off the ceiling. Instead, I was shocked to find them curled up together under the blankets on Thomas’ bed watching old Tom and Jerry cartoons on Caroline’s iPod.


Caroline flitted from costume idea to costume idea in the days leading up to Halloween. Finally, on the big day she settled on the Fairy/Princess costume that we’d purchased in September. I was amused that after all the idea changing (Rainbow Flower, no wait, Fairy Princess, no wait, Super Hero Kitty, no wait, Princess Tiana, no wait, Tinker Bell, no wait….) she landed right back where she started. I’m hoping Super Hero Kitty makes a return at some point in the future–I think there is a ton of potential there.


Thomas was Iron Man. This is noteworthy because it’s the first time he wasn’t a dinosaur.


I have zero pictures of them dressed up together. However, I have lots of memories of giggling children, buckets of candy, and time well spent with friends. At the end of the day, it’s the joy that matters–not the number of photo ops.


Thomas told our neighbors on Sunday, “We didn’t carve our pumpkins until this morning. My parents are pretty much last minute carvers.” How right you are my boy. How right you are.



Pearly White


Dear Thomas,


Today you went to the dentist for the first time. I know the grown-up Thomas will totally judge your father and I for waiting so long to take you. What can I say…. In many ways you are the most responsible person in the family. I’m sorry. Anyway, you went to the dentist. There is a bit of a situation with your teeth and I knew that I could no longer procrastinate about finding one and taking you.


Several weeks ago, you had your first loose tooth. In typical Thomas fashion, you were matter-of-fact about it. And? Matter-of-fact about the fact that you were rather unnerved by the idea of it. We’ve done lots of talking about it since and I think you are now, if not comfortable with the idea, at least cool with it. However, the tooth has not progressed much… Not any closer to coming out. During one of my nightly wiggle checks, I noticed something behind the loose tooth–over the next few days, it became clear that your new tooth was beginning to come up BEHIND the old one. Sorry bud. Looks like you may have teeth from my side of the family–we are a regular bunch of snaggle-toothed jaws. It was time for a professional opinion.


I went to schedule the appointment and they had a next day opening, but it was in the middle of the morning. I knew you would be upset about missing school, but I didn’t want to wait a month for an afternoon appointment, so I snapped it up and started worrying about how you’d do with such a short time to get used to the idea. As a testament to how much you’ve matured in the last year, you were completely ok with the idea. Your one request was that we take you to school in the morning, then pick you up for the appointment, and then bring you right back to school when done. I asked you last night how you were feeling about going to the dentist, and your response was “excited”. Yes. Really.


You did wonderfully. Of course. You were sweet and charming and polite and compliant. You sat perfectly still for xrays, and didn’t fidget at all during the cleaning. You have zero cavities and she was impressed with your teeth. The dentist was making small talk with you about ‘Angry Birds’ and asked how many stars you usually get. “Well… Um, it’s really pretty unpredictable actually”, you told her. I thought her eyes were going to pop out of her head! She also got a huge kick out of it when you told her that you “really weren’t much of a roller coaster person.”


After you were done, we went down to the Korean bakery to pick out a treat. And I prodded you for details about what you thought about the experience. “What was it like? Did it feel funny? Did it hurt? Did it taste strange?”


“It felt really good. My favorite part was when they would squirt the water, but really I liked the whole thing.”


Yes. Really.


PS–She feels like the baby tooth in front/big tooth behind is not an issue.


PPS–Please remind me to floss your teeth more regularly. Okay? Let’s face it. Your memory is better than mine.



Vision


Dear Thomas and Caroline,


I’ve been thinking about this space lately, and my (lack of) use of it. And considering… Why I (should) write. What I (want to) say. Here’s what I think. I have HORRIBLE memory. Really, really bad. I’m the first to admit this. And I think at the end of the day, my desire is to capture moments with the two of you that will no doubt slip into the swiss cheese holes of my brain over time. This is not my space–it belongs to you. I will no doubt, from time to time take it over with thoughts that have little to do with you directly. But, at the end of the day, I am your mother so I guess that’s my prerogative. Right? (No need to answer.)


I want to remember how you are at 4 and nearly 7. I want to remember the things you say, your favorite activities, your oddities, frustrations, and triumphs. I want to relish the joy of parenting you. I want a record of these days that flash by in the blink of an eye. I want you to know how proud I am of you both. And most of all, I want you know just how much you fill my heart with love.



Bittersweet


This morning on our way to school, Caroline and I were talking about families. “I’m the sister and Wubby is the brother. He’s MY brother. I’m the little sister.” Around in circles… “Who is my daddy?”, I asked her. She shrugged and said she didn’t know. When I told her it was Grandpa, she smiled and said, “Yeah, that’s right.”


I fell silent, concentrating on the cars in front of us. After a moment, her quiet voice piped up again from the back seat… “Who is Daddy’s daddy?” It’s not a taboo subject for us. It is something that Thomas is comfortable with–something we talk about from time to time. But it occurs to me that while we’ve talked about it WITH Thomas, we mostly just talk about it around Caroline. I don’t know that she’s had direct conversations about it. “Daddy’s daddy was Grandfather, but he died.”, I tell her. She’s quiet again for a bit and then asks, “Why…?” I explain that he was in a really bad accident a long time ago. She asks a few questions, absorbing this information.


As we approach her school, she starts talking again. “Mommy? I think we should get Daddy and Wubby. And our kitties too. We can put Ginny in her’s cage and Jim Bob in him’s cage. And then we can all go together and find Daddy’s daddy. And take him to the doctor.”


Ooof.


I am at once impressed by her logic and slayed by her simplification. The mind of a three year old…


I pull into the school parking lot and gently explain that we can’t go find Grandfather. That doctors can’t help him. He’s dead, and has been for a long long time and there is simply nothing we can do about it. “Sweetie, he’s just gone.”


“Mommy? I didn’t want Daddy’s daddy to die…”, she says wistfully as she embraces me and climbs out of the car.


Me either, sweetheart. Me either.



Watching my Ego


The scene: In the car, on the way home from the doctor’s office. Because yes. Once again somebody is sick. Thomas this time. Hello antibiotics and inhaler every 4 hours. Thomas is pensive, looking out the window, lost in his thoughts. He finally speaks…


Thomas: You aren’t the smartest person in the world, you know.


Me: [Shocked!] Whaaaaaat? Yes I am! Why do you think I’m not??


Thomas: I know you you aren’t.


Me: How do you know?


Thomas: Because you don’t know how to spell everything.


Me: YES I DO!! E-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. Ha! [Evil cackle.]


Thomas: [Audibly rolls his eyes at me.]


Me: What?!?



Rewind > Pause > Play


So. Hi. It’s a new year. It’s a different year. I’ve been thinking about a new year’s post for over a week now and frankly, I’m just not sure which direction I want to point… There is a running dialogue (one-sided because I generally don’t talk back to myself) in my head and I have yet to reach an end point. I keep trying to decide what I want to say about last year. I try to put my finger on how to approach this year. And as for goals or resolutions in 2011? I’m skeptical at best. Call me gun shy thanks to 2010.


Last year I set some fairly reasonable goals. At least they seemed reasonable. I honestly was doing a pretty good job on the majority of them for the first few months of the year. And then at the end of April everything turned upside down. It was one short phone call on April 28th. “Mom is sick. Dad took her to Urgent Care this morning they think she’s having a reaction to a medication. They are sending her to the hospital. I’ll keep you posted…” Truthfully, I can still feel the initial sensation–an electric current running over my skin, coursing through my blood. The next few weeks and months were like one of those worst-case-scenario scenes that your mind comes up with, but you tell yourself will never really happen. But this time it did. And yes, arguably it could have been worse. But this was pretty nightmarish. Just like that, normal and routine and goals flew out the window. I am so very thankful that I didn’t stop to think. I ran. A quick phone call to Ben and another to my boss and I was out the door and flying down the freeway to my family. To Mom. To Dad. To Sarah.


This is surreal.” I said that countless times–it became a motto of sorts. It was surreal, and it still is. I’m trying very hard not to get stuck on the path of “remember and regurgitate every little detail” at the moment, that is not where I want to go with this post. Suffice to say, things were frightening. And overwhelming. And unknown. A middle of the night transfer to a larger hospital with a specialized treatment center is never a good sign… I try to be thankful. I am thankful. I’m thankful that I went to the hospital when I did–the following weeks would have been unbearable for me if I hadn’t done that. I’m thankful that Valley Med was a (relatively) short ambulance ride away when a transfer was required. I’m thankful for the nurses and doctors and support staff. I’m thankful for a husband who kept things running at home with minimal complaints while I was away for long hours. I’m thankful for very understanding management at work who allowed me the flexibility I needed to cope. I’m thankful for Thomas and Caroline who were a reminder that 24 hours a day, seven days a week at the hospital was not the best way for me to spend my time–even when I wanted to, even when it was torture to leave Mom’s bedside, even though I still sometimes wish I could have held her hand more. Above all, I’m thankful that the times I was summoned back to the hospital by frantic phone calls, she was still there.


However. However… However, my overwhelming feelings about it are not thankful. Mostly, I still just feel numb. I still what-if. I still mourn what used to be. We have, for the most part come out of the storm. (Yes, there are still very real and very major hurdles being faced. But survival is no longer the day by day, minute by minute struggle that it was in May.) Before this happened, I thought that life felt chaotic and out of control–things were moving too fast and I was always a few steps behind. Now? I am MILES behind. It feels like I’ve been swept down a mountain by an avalanche–I can’t even see the top of the mountain any more, and digging out and climbing back up is a laughable idea. I sometimes think I will now be perpetually far behind. Behind on laundry, work, cleaning up messes all over the house, and focusing on what really matters, grocery shopping, doctor appointments, Thomas’ homework, getting the mail, sweeping the floor, sleeping.


I am very tempted to simply reuse my list of 12 things from 2010. You know, kind of like a do-over. But… I think that I would rather focus more on the fact that this a new year. And so? I will instead go with some general ideas. Stress less. Enjoy more. Eat less (junk). Exercise more. Play more. Clutter less. Sleep more. Nap less. And above all? Cherish family.