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Emotional Contractions

It has been quite a build-up for me. This working towards my little guy’s first day of kindergarten. Real school. All day long. Just like his big sisters. Leaving home at 7:30 in the morning and not getting home until after 3. That’s a long day for a lil’ dude who is used to long lazy days at home playing dinosaurs, building train tracks, or lying in his underwear watching TV. And that’s a long day for his mama too.

The days leading up to this momentous occasion of leaving him at school were filled with tears. Which is me. Totally how I deal with these life moments. My kids always think I’m crying because I’m sad and I’m constantly reminding them that I’m not really sad (maybe just a little) – it’s more that I’m feeling “life” as I tell them. These are the moments when I just can’t deny that life is happening.

It’s kinda easy to deny that life is happening in the middle of hectic days filled with routine and errands and fighting and bill paying. But when a new school year starts and I see my youngest child gear up for his next big adventure, it all becomes crystal clear.

This is life. And it’s happening.

As I got the kids ready on that first day, packed their lunches, made them breakfast, drove them to school, my mini-emotional outbursts came and went. No matter how hard I tried to keep it together, those life-happening tears would just well up making their way to my eyes and just spill over running down my cheeks. And then they would subside almost as soon as they came. And then they would come again.

As I exited off the freeway, I thought how these tears of mine reminded me of my labor contractions. The way that pain would come and go. Overtaking me as my babies started making their way into the world. And I thought, yeah, these are like emotional contractions.

The pain of a mama letting go….

It’s been a theme of my motherhood. Letting go. But not just letting go of them as they stretch and grow towards being their own little independent creatures….letting go of me. Surrendering to this experience of motherhood in all of its struggles and glory.

It’s hard to explain…but I am a woman who adores and is addicted to my independence and individuality. And becoming a mother has meant I can never really be just me again.  It means I can never really even think about just me again. It’s impossible. It’s a mind shift of epic proportions…the moment my firstborn arrived into the world, everything shifted. Solo me was gone. I am profoundly connected to my children.

We are inextricably linked.

And it’s been a struggle. This letting go of me. Surrendering myself to motherhood. And it’s a process that seems never-ending…

But on the first day of school watching my lil’ dude walk onto the school campus and start this grand new adventure that marks the start of his true big boy independence and the beginning of a time when I could maybe spend some more time getting back in touch with solo me, I realized how desperately I didn’t really want to let go of him. Just like my body seemed to not want to let go of any of my babies. All three of my labors were long and painful and slow…..

I guess it’s the story of me and them. Trying to untangle ourselves from each other as we stretch and grow and feel life happening…..

••••••••••••••••••••

August 27, 2012….

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Forgiven

Today my 7 1/2 year old love fairy, Phoebe, received the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the first time. Yep, we’re Catholic. Or at least I am. And our kids are being raised Catholic. With my husband’s blessing of course.  What I’ve come to realize over my lifetime is that a lot of people find this confessional thing kinda weird. The most common thing I hear is – “Why do you need to tell a priest your sins? Why not just talk to God on your own?”

And honestly, I kinda get it. It is kinda weird. Walking into a small box of a confessional (even if it is way more mellow and comfortable and face-to-face than it EVER was when I was a kid) to have a conversation about sins can sound pretty uh, strange. 

But my standard answer has always been something along the lines of .. “Well, it’s a lot harder to think about how you can improve as a human being and actually talk to someone about it than just sit and think about it.”

And I think that’s about right.

Today proved it.

•••••••••••

I haven’t been to confession in a loooong time. When Claire received her first confession two years ago, all of the parents were encouraged to also confess but uh, I didn’t. And before that? I can honestly say I hadn’t even considered going in years. Like a lot of years. I had convinced myself that my private conversations with God were good enough as far as me recognizing my faults and trying to improve on them.

Even this morning, after the group prayer service and after the gentle encouragement that parents are welcome to confess after their child, as I sat and waited for Phoebe’s turn to go into the confessional, I was not even considering going in. She was a little nervous, worried that she might forget her sins, and I was all about just telling her it was all good and it won’t be scary or bad or weird or anything. That the priest she was going to see was super nice and all was good on the confessional front.

But with Phoebe – I should have known….

“Mommy, are you going to confession? You must go to confession too. You just have to.”

“Oh really Phoebes? I’m not sure honey. There are a lot of kids waiting and well, I can go another time.”

“No Mommy. You must go.”

With her angelic face, she was calm yet determined. Her questions were not pleas – they were barely questions really. They were statements. Spoken with quiet conviction.

When her number was getting closer to going in, she got up from the pew and stood at the wall waiting her turn. I remained seated. She looked at me from her place in line and gestured for me to come. Not emphatic. Not desperate. Just certain. She mouthed to me -

“Come Mommy. Come stand behind me.”

•••••••••••

Phoebe has been taking care of me since she was born. It’s her. Don’t know how else to say it. I remember when she was about 17-months-old and we were hanging out on my bed after her evening bath. I had the paper spread open before me and I was reading a sad article about some sick twin babies who were awaiting a transplant of some sort, a miracle, and I was getting weepy. Phoebe looked into my eyes with the tears welling up in them and she said “Mama’s cying?” (That’s how she said crying. No R) And I said, “Yes. Mama’s reading a sad article and it’s making me cry.” And in her love fairy 17-month-old way, she said, “Love you Mama. Love you.”

•••••••••••

I got up from the pew without thinking too much. I was just doing what Phoebe was telling me to do. As I stood behind her, she shifted in her place with a nervous smile on her face as she looked towards the confessional door waiting for it to open. She was next. I gently rubbed her back and asked her if she was ready. She said she was. She had the sweetest look of innocence and excitement in her eyes. A new adventure.

The door opened, her classmate came out beaming and proud, and she slipped in without needing any final words of encouragement from me. She was on her way.

As I stood there waiting for her to come out, I thought I can’t really believe I’m doing this. I wasn’t nervous. I was just feeling a little embarrassed. I knew I didn’t really have to go, that no one else would care if I went or didn’t – only Phoebe cared. I was doing it for her… I guess. I was setting an example, I thought. I’m teaching her that this is something we do as Catholics. But inside, I felt like a skeptic. A fraud. Did I believe in this? How come I haven’t gone in more years than I care to mention? I wondered if that is why I haven’t gone. Maybe I stopped believing that there was really any reason to go at all. That my life was not better or worse for having confessed or not.  Maybe I had come to the conclusion that going to confession was basically irrelevant. Maybe?

As I stood there knowing I would most likely go in because well, Phoebe would be expecting me to go in, I wondered if I could go through the motions of confessing. Did I know what I would say? Are they even doing it the same way they used to I thought? “Bless Me Father for I have sinned…” Is that what I should say?

I felt tears starting to well up in my eyes as I stood there. Oh man. I did NOT want to cry. Come on! This is Phoebe’s day, not mine. I am here to support her! Not just stand here and get all weepy and consumed with my own thing….damn.

And then the door opened and she slipped out. Just as pure and innocent and near perfection as she was when she entered just a few minutes ago. I felt my legs walking towards the door and my hand reaching for the handle and before I knew it I was face-to-face with a priest. Inside a confessional. No screen. No darkness. Just a friendly face in priestly garments.

Holy shit. Now what?

I stammered – I haven’t been to confession in forever.

No problem, the priest said. We specialize in that.

Well, what should I do? Do I say the things I used to say? How do I start?

Well, he said, we covered a lot of ground in the prayer service before this, so we can just start.

Okay. Do you start or do I start?

I’ll just ask you, he said, one thing. And he looked straight at me and said – “If you had to name one thing that is keeping you from having the kind of relationships you want to have with the people in your life and with God, what would that one thing be?”

And with that question, I realized exactly why I was sitting there. And of course, in me style, the tears started flowing and I apologized for being such an emotional person, but I knew exactly what that one thing was. I didn’t have to reach or dig or make up anything or bullshit him or anything.

The words just came.

When I walked out of that confessional a mere 7 minutes later, I felt renewed. Yeah, I know that sounds all corny but I did. These words I shared were deep inside me and I knew about this thing that holds me back too often but it’s a whole different ballgame when sharing these words with another human being. Especially a person I didn’t know well at all. Who was able to view me as just another imperfect soul trying to get a little better….

I don’t know what it is really. Not sure why the whole experience was so freeing. So filled with that new start vibe. Is it because the priest absolved me from my sins? From those weaknesses that keep me from being the kind of person and mother I really want to be? Is it because I looked another soul in the eyes and spoke about what I feel hinders me? What was it exactly?? I don’t know but I do know I felt better. Cleansed. Free. Human.

I went over to Phoebes who sat in the pew waiting for me. I gave her a huge hug and thanked her for making me go to confession. She looked at me with a knowing look that said “Of course. No problem Mama.”

And that’s just the way my motherhood journey continues to go. Just when I think I am leading them, I realize they are guiding me too. Showing me things I can’t seem to see on my own. Giving me what I need when I don’t think I need it.

After Phoebe and I were all confessed-up and soul-cleansed, we headed over to the patio of the church so Phoebe could pick up her certificate, a sugar donut and a wooden cross necklace that said “Forgiven” on it.

Forgiven.

It’s a pretty powerful word really.

And a cool feeling I’ve decided.

 

 

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9 1/2

Claire,

What you’ll learn about me someday is that your mama likes to write when inspiration strikes. And inspiration has been tough to find during my recent long run of work of which you are always asking, “When are you going to be done with your work?” And truly baby it can’t come too soon right about now when the warmest feelings of family are running through my soul. And with these feelings come inspiration …

It’s late on a Sunday night after our glorious 4-day Thanksgiving break from regular life. And as I was lying in bed about to crash out I kept getting flashes of our time together and wanted to write down these memories. These feelings I have for you tonight – my 9 1/2-year-old firstborn.

9 1/2.

Right about now, I think it’s probably the coolest age there is.

At 9 1/2, you love puppies and you even started a Pet Finder’s Club with your sister and neighbor friends. Your heart is moved every time you see one of those flyers posted in the neighborhood with a picture of a missing pet so you’ve combined your puppy passion with your entrepreneurial nature. It’s the Pet Finder’s Club that makes me know you’ll be okay in life.  A young passionate entrepreneur. How can you lose?  You love reading books about tweeny girl stuff especially when you’re cozy under your dream cloud in bed or stretched out in front of the fire. You can sit and play the assortment of iPhone apps that you’ve downloaded on my old iPhone for too long it seems and you desperately wish for an iPhone that actually calls. I always ask you “Who exactly do you even need to call?” and you answer that you need to call me. That makes me smile. I hope you always want to call me. You love to Irish dance and you’re good at it. Even though there are parts of that world that are tough for me, I love to watch you dance and I love that you love it.  On a warm summer day, there’s nothing better for me to see actually than you doing some impromptu Irish dance steps in your bathing suit on the back deck to a Foo Fighters tune as you watch your reflection in the big sliding glass doors. Such a vision of freedom, creativity and expression. That is you my Claire Rose. Free, creative, expressive.

This is you.

Claire, your spirit is so strong and so sensitive all at the same time it blows my mind. We’ve had plenty of strong bouts recently but tonight I am struck by the loving sensitivity that is bundled up inside my long-limbed fierce beauty.  You are such an awesome big sister both commanding and guiding in the way you lead your lil’ sister and brother.  Phoebe adores you, I might even say worships you, and your sister friendship is truly something to behold. On this Thanksgiving break, we were talking about best friends at the table and you said to Daddy and me about Phoebe, “Well, she is my best friend.”  Well, that statement had tears welling up in my eyes on several occasions as I remembered you saying it….I don’t think a mama could hear anything better really….

Tommy calls you his “Mini-Mama.” He’s been saying that for quite some time. He doesn’t use it all the time but when he does? It’s perfect. This morning I was lying in bed in my typical holiday morning haze and it must have been like 8 AM or maybe 8:30. Daddy and all of you were awake (because Daddy rules at morning duty) and I’m sure you had all been up for at least a couple of hours. Tommy came back upstairs to do his usual routine of watching a “show” – usually Wubbzy – and he called for you to follow him. As I was groggily gaining my awareness, I felt Tommy crawl over me and he pulled down the covers on the other side of the bed where you were going to get in and he said “Let’s cuddle Mini-Mama.” Yep. Mini-Mama. That is you. In so many ways. A mini-me.

I knew early on that we would have our moments. Because you and me are alike in all the same ways that are often the cause of our conflicts.  Dramatic, stubborn and bursting at the seams with emotions.  We want our place in the room to be well-defined and only ours. We are loving but we love things our way. We like what we like. We don’t like what we don’t like. No excuses. We say it like it is. Even when it hurts. We yell loud. We forgive easily. No grudges. Just facts. We can collide, my Claire Rose, and we will, many times. But we will never ever ever drift apart. It’s not who we are.

This evening we were coming home from the mall with Grandma and yep, we were playing your Camp Rock tunes in the car. We pulled into the driveway and I stopped the van but of course did not turn off the engine completely. We were mid-song. Grandma, Tommy and Phoebe slowly filed out and went inside but you wanted to hear “Wouldn’t Change A Thing.” It wasn’t long before you from the back seat and me from the front were involved in our own little duet….with dramatic gestures, singing at the top of our lungs, locking eyes and cracking up all at the same time….

“You,
me
We’re face to face
But we don’t see eye to eye
Like fire and rain
(Like fire and rain)
You can drive me insane
(You can drive me insane)
But I can’t stay mad at you for anything
We’re Venus and Mars
(We’re Venus and Mars)
We’re like different stars
(Like different stars)
But you’re the harmony to every song I sing
And I wouldn’t change a thing…”

Yep, I wouldn’t change a thing. Not one singular thing about who you are Claire. God has given me such a strong soul of a daughter to challenge me all at the right times and even sometimes at the wrong times which end up being the right times too. You have tested me from the very second I found out we were pregnant with you. You were given to me to make me a better person, to fight against my innately selfish nature, to push me to the edge of who I think I can be and to teach me about a kind of love I couldn’t even fathom before meeting you.  You started this profound journey I’ve been on of becoming a mother and in so many ways, you lead me down this crazy winding path of awesome insanity.

Sometimes you look at yourself and you wish you didn’t have freckles. Or you think your feet are too big or maybe you would like a different hair color but I swear Claire – all I see when I look at you is a stunning beauty.   Your hazel eyes that are so wise and so innocent all at the same time, your nose which looks just like your daddy’s to me, and your smile is like sunshine. You just light up the room when you smile. It’s pure joy.

You are a believer. In a world where being 9 1/2 can mean so many different things, you are heart, faith and belief.  You trust the world around you and you feel completely comfortable in it. You are so settled in your skin. It’s the one thing that makes me feel like I’ve done okay so far as your mom. How comfortable you are being you.  You walk through the world with confidence and grace with your two feet planted firmly on the ground. There is nothing airy about you. You are solid and genuine and firmly rooted to the earth.

We had a visit with Santa today at the mall. I can tell that maybe your 9 1/2-year-old mind is whirring away with thoughts of both possibility and impossibility when it comes to this mysterious Santa Claus but as Santa explained how you, Phoebe and Tommy could contact him if you thought of anything else to add to your list, you listened with those most believing eyes, nodding slowly, glancing down at your brother as to retain the important information so you could remind him later of what he needed to do.  You’re smart and logical and sharp. But your soul is filled with faith. Just like your mama.

At the mall, we had a visit to Claire’s – a perfect place for young girls as they tiptoe towards tweendom – and you and your sister picked up all kinds of little pop trinkets that instill a sense of “grown-up independence.”  As you explained to my iPhone video about wanting a particular lip gloss set enclosed in a plastic pink doggie case, I marveled at your analysis of the products you had been exploring and your opinion on why this particular set was especially appealing.  Throughout our time at Claire’s, you asked me all kinds of questions about ear piercing since it seems you are pretty curious as to whether or not you should get yours pierced. You want to have earrings like so many of your friends but there’s another side of you that knows you could live a perfectly happy life without having your ears pierced….I’m curious to see what you decide. You’ve never been a big fan of pain….

While you were cruising around Claire’s, I thought this is one way we are distinctly different. You will always be way cooler than me. From your truly original fashion style, to your hair styles, to your music taste, to your discerning eye for good iPhone apps, to your enthusiasm and curiosity for all that life holds for a 9 1/2 year old to explore – you inspire me. If I were 9 1/2 I would totally want to be your BFF.  You are my kind of chick.

But instead I am your mom. And wow. That’s a very different role than a BFF. But I’m hoping someday along the way there will be BFFish elements to our relationship. But that will be someday…..

When we said good night tonight and sweet dreams like we always do, I told you how much fun I had with you during this Thanksgiving break. And you said you had so much fun too. We then reminded each other that it wasn’t too much longer before Christmas vacation and we would get to do a lot of fun things together then too. I gave you a big kiss on your puckered lips and snuggled into your neck to kiss it just like I’ve done since you were my chunky love of a baby. You squirmed and told me it tickled but I also know that you love it when I do that sometimes. Because you like to be reminded of when you were my baby girl. Even as you grow and stretch your way ever so slowly and ever so quickly it seems towards independence, you’re not even close to being ready to being a truly big girl.  Even though being a big girl is just around the corner….

And that is why I love you being 9 1/2 so so so much.  Still my baby girl but old enough to sing a duet with.

I love you so much my Claire Rose.  I am so blessed to be your mama.

Love,

Mom




 

 

 

 

 

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Reading Minds….

So yesterday I turned 44.

Yeah that sounds all weird actually. It’s even a little tough to type because my mind can’t figure out where the time went. But that’s all so cliche and whatever.  But all the 55-year-olds are like “What are you complaining about?” and all of the 33-year-olds are like “That’s not old even though they’re thinking it IS old…” and all of the 22-year-olds are like “I’ll never be THAT old…” and well, my kids just think it’s cool that I’m an age that has two of the same number.

And now that I think about it for one more second, it is kinda cool.

Forty-four.

44.

Cooooool.

••••••••••••••

I’m having a rebirth of sorts, I think. A settling somewhere in between what my life used to be, what it is now and what it’s going to be. I guess that’s why 44 seems kinda cool. It’s a pretty smooth peaceful place where all the work I’ve put forth into my human experience is paying off in a variety of ways. Creative ways, productive ways, love ways. And love ways being the most rewarding of all….and simply reinforces my belief that relationships and love is where it’s at.

My journey of becoming a mother continues as it always will because this mother gig changes in a flash and all of a sudden I have a brand new challenge in front of me and my patience runs thin and then I survive it and grow a tiny bit more.  Why do people even talk about what kid age is harder or easier or whatever to deal with as a mother?  Each age is hard and easy in it’s own unique untouchable ways.  In the middle of sleepless infant nights, I remember thinking it couldn’t get any harder than this and now it seems like a dream of beauty and peace compared to the battles between the kindred stubborn spirits of me and Claire or the demanding whining of my 4-year-old prince or the spontaneous moody shrieks of my emotive 7-year-old Love Fairy.

But it’s all a dream really and tomorrow it changes….

•••••••••••••

At the end of a happy birthday work day, I went to pick up Claire and Phoebe from their Irish Dancing class (another subject which deserves it’s own series of posts at some point in my life).  At the end of their class, they gathered their shoes, water bottles, jackets and ran with two of their best friends to our mini-van as it was my turn to carpool.  The four girls piled into the back of the van and settled in for the five minute drive home. We’re in a Camp Rock mode right now after a High School Musical phase so I immediately plugged my iPhone into the stereo and scrolled through the Camp Rock tunes that are currently marked as favorites on YouTube and decided on “A Brand New Day.”

As soon as the tune started playing, Claire yelled from the back, “Yay! You were reading my mind!” And then she turned to her friend seated next to her and said quite matter-of-factly with no intention of me hearing … “That’s what moms are for – reading your mind.”

And with that overheard statement it was like a flash of light and crisp clarity and confirmation in the middle of all of the confusing gray moments of motherhood where I wonder if I’m really doing anything right at all…and as I waited in the intersection for a left turn towards home, the tears welled up as they do when I get struck with one of those rare cool mama moments.

I guess I’m doing okay.

My 9-1/2 year-old thinks I’m a mind reader. Which is exactly what I’m supposed to be.

Happy 44th Birthday to me.

•••••••••••••••••

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“Country Strong” from JFK to LAX

My brother, who travels all over the world, has told me that he often finds himself crying watching movies on airplanes. Movies that wouldn’t otherwise inspire him to cry if he saw the same movies in a theater. I’m thinking about this now as I sit suspended in air trying not to think about being suspended in the air.

I’m feeling kinda emotional too right now. I mean, I just found myself weeping during the airplane movie, Country Strong, which really does not deserve my tears. So I’m thinking about this interesting phenomenon about crying on airplanes. I wonder why….

Is it because when you stare out the window and see the sun setting over big puffy clouds with miniscule lights below each representing thousands of huge lives being lived you are filled with those brain-bending thoughts of wonder and awe about the vastness of this world and your existence? Or is it because there’s something weirdly emotional that happens to you when that buzzing airplane noise gets stuck in your psyche? Or is it because you’re simply tired from a week of work in New York City away from your home and you’re simply dying to get home and hug those kids of yours up and any thought of their glowing faces makes you weep with yearning? Or is it because you simply can not believe you have almost three hours left of your flight when you swear you’ve already been on the plane for like 6 hours and isn’t this only a 5 ½ hour flight?

It’s all that and more for me right now.

I made the mistake of scrolling through my iPhone photos after Country Strong ended because I keep getting a warning that I don’t have enough space to take more photos. So I thought I would delete some or all of those millions of photos that my kids end up taking all over the house – most of which are extreme close-ups of the floor.

And for some weird reason, I have photos reaching back to almost three years ago when I first got an iPhone and it did not help my Country Strong tears to see each of my babies looking way more babyish than they are now.

I just spent a week away from them. Their huge lives being lived and I didn’t witness any of it. And I kinda feel like shit about it. This is life I guess. The balancing act of raising a family and being with your family. But tonight the balance is way off. Six days away and it’s too much. Simply too much.

I’m getting older and it’s weird. I meet young eager faces ready for a career in television and I thought for a long time that I would most always be younger than most. And now I’m older than most and it’s weird. And add on top of my lifey thoughts the fact that I’m reading “A Visit from the Goon Squad” which is one depressing tale of time and getting older after another and wow –

I want to be graceful about getting older. Just like my Grandma who never considered Botox and lived until 91 years of age with the smoothest, most beautiful wrinkles on her face. Her eyes glowed with memories of living. I want to be like her. I want to resist the temptation to hide my age. To hide the wrinkles that are only there because I’ve laughed and cried and have made overly dramatic expressions that define part of who I am.

Can I do it?

I hope so. I’m feeling all Country Strong right now. We’ll see what happens when I land and I continue my daily existence where mirrors taunt me.

I’m tired and the airplane buzz seems really loud right now and the final glow of the sun is escaping my view ready to shine its light on someone else in the world.

I’m almost home…..

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When the Moment Arrives, I Own It.

It wasn’t anything earth-shattering. To other types of mamas perhaps, it could even be considered insanely ridiculous that this moment would arrive at such a completely mundane time.

It was after 9 PM. I had been folding a couple loads of laundry that had piled high in the basket after being neglected for the last 12 hours or so.  I had been watching some Tivo’d Glee that I had let the viewing fall behind on due to some really nonsensical and insulting story lines that had been interjected into my beloved theater geeky, heartwarming, formerly-consistent evening pleasure.  A commercial break. And instead of forwarding through it, I took the moment to go deliver a pile of clothing to my girls’ room.

I clicked on the hallway light but left their room dark.  I walked in over their pink rug that defined their main floor/Barbieville/Miley-Cyrus-dance-party/SqueakieCentral/Lego-City/emergency veterinary/art gallery/play-space that I had worked hard to clean a few hours before.  I stood at their dresser, pulled open their drawers and started lying in articles of freshly laundered and folded clothing into their designated spots.  I glanced over, with the dim hallway light streaming in, and there they were.

My girls.

All long-limbed and tangled in rainbow-colored polka dot sheets and a white puffy comforter affectionately dubbed “The Dream Cloud” snoozing soundly away after a solid weekend filled with a Gnomeo and Juliet viewing, a trip to Shakey’s, a Target adventure, a ballet class, an Irish Dance performance, a trip to the library, treats of frozen yogurt AND ice cream, and plenty of deck-dancing, succulent planting, computer playing, and enough imagination to last a lifetime.  And the cherry on top of our delicious family sundae weekend was the highly-anticipated finale of our four-part bedtime story series which I had started five nights before.  I think I want to end more nights with homespun tales of ridiculous proportions. I don’t think the girls and I have ever laughed quite so hard as we did these past few nights during our off-the-cuff storytelling.

So as I glanced and bent to lay in some of their school uniform shorts and t-shirts into the bottom right drawer where they are stashed, this moment arrived.

The kind of moment I had feared would never come when I first found out I was going to become a mother. The kind of moment I doubted was meant for me. The kind of moment I rarely have because I have struggled to truly become a mother, from the inside. I feel too often that I am an outsider looking in. That I’m still MYSELF too much of the time.  I feared this before pushing out my first child. That I was too selfish to really be a good mother. That so many other women had so much more to give. Or at least were so much better at being graceful about the giving. About the complete and utter surrender that is being a mama. The surrender that I face again and again at every single dawn and fight all the way to the end of each and every day only to usually collapse into a heap at the end knowing I’m a better soul for the struggle.

So yeah, the moment.

As I laid those uniform shorts and t-shirts into the drawer, I felt it rise within me.  A feeling of a peaceful warrior winning the battle that I wage within. A feeling of success. A feeling of complete and utter content.

I’m doing this. I’m a mother and I’m doing this. I’m succeeding. I’m a good mom.

I know, I know. You wouldn’t think a trip to the library, an improv series of bedtime storytelling and a few clean clothes could make me feel this way. But it did.

It’s been a little over  2 1/2 hours since this moment arrived, and I’m still basking in it.

I can do this thing.

••••••••••••••••••••••••
Here’s to a week filled with some moments for all you good mamas out there.

P.S. I found the “laundry” image for my post’s header on this cool site, Right On Walls. Check it.

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Letting Go of Numbers

I was doing such a mundane thing. I grabbed a stack of envelopes that contained bank statements spanning the last three years. It was a stack discovered recently by my man and they sat on our dining room table taunting me with their neglect.

I’ve never been so lame about being organized. Becoming a mama has definitely messed with my inner drive to keep my life in order. I guess with the first kid I tried to hang on but three kids later, I’m just a shell of my former to-do-list-self. I mean, I always have a to-do list in my mind – it’s just that it’s more haphazard than ever before and I’ve slowly grown to accept that the same list may linger inside my brain for waaaayyy longer than would have ever been acceptable before.

I used to never ever pay a bill late. And although I still rarely do, it has happened on more than one occasion since becoming a mom. And our checking account balance? It used to be accurate and identical in all the three most important places – Quicken, my brain, and at the bank.  Now each of these areas holds a completely different story and I’ve grown to accept that the balance that the bank has? Is usually the correct amount.

So I had started over a year ago to start reconciling our checking account with this stack of papers. I guess I felt the need to track every single purchase that had come out of our checking account over the last three years – in the hopes of coming up with the same number as the bank in the end. Does this sound ludicrous to anyone? It kinda does to me. But only as I’m typing this right now.  It never really seemed insane before….

So on our vacation to Lake Arrowhead in August 2009, I started the reconciliation process with our checking account. I sat overlooking the lake and started to dig in. I didn’t last long. I gave up after probably two months which got me up to like August 2007. Yippee.  So I had crammed this stack of statements into a computer bag -  one that my husband just discovered in our front closet  Hence this diatribe on bank statements…..

Well, a few months ago, before my husband found the stack,  I had, in my mind, accepted that I would never return to this stack of statements. Instead, I would let it go.  Which was kinda monumental for me. Taking over two years of purchases and just tossing them aside, trusting that the bank did indeed track our purchases correctly and did not, in fact, owe us any money.  I was letting it go.  And pretty adamant that I would not turn back.

But then this stack showed up a few days ago and it sat there taunting me. Should I change my mind? Should I obsessively go through each one to make sure everything was tracked properly? I let the stack sit there but I think I knew I would stick to my original decision – let it go.

So tonight I grabbed the stack in an effort to chip away at the amount of stuff that has somehow found it’s way (again) to our dining room table and I headed over to our paper shredder. I rolled up our pink kid-sized IKEA office chair to the shredder and settled in to, once and for all, rid myself of this stack of financial memories.

As I shredded, month after month, I glanced at the balances and I noticed how they rose and fell depending on the time of our lives.  I thought about the life events attached to these fluctuating balances – the birth of Tommy; our house remodel; the beginning of elementary school tuition; increasing health insurance; vacations; birthday parties; etc.  And I realized that there were times over these bank statements that I stressed hard about money. That I suffered a silent panic attack inside about whether or not we would pull this whole raising a family thing off. That I got angry, literally, during my “bill paying sessions” when I transferred money around to try and make it all work.

But you know what?  As the shredder whirred away erasing the details of our financial history, I realized that even though at times it all seemed so dire, now, in retrospect, it wasn’t dire at all. It was just another day of life being lived.  And the balances rise and fall. Depending on our life events. And that our life events were actually infinitely more important. And why did I even allow myself to get so wrapped up in something as trivial as the balance of our bank accounts?

And then as these thoughts went bouncing through my brain, I came across the bank statement that ended in November 2008. And on the outside of that statement’s envelope, I saw in my hand writing my cousin’s phone number in Phoenix and right below that, the number, in my husband’s writing,  to the hospital room where my Auntie Geri spent the last days of her life.  And I flashed to the last time I spoke to her, when I dialed that number and I got to hear her voice for the very last time. When she still had enough life in her to hold a phone and whisper her trademark words of selflessness and love. When she asked only about me, my husband and my kids and reminded me that “these are the best days of your life, Leane.”

And I sat at the shredder and even though I knew it didn’t really matter, I couldn’t bring myself to shred those numbers.

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Things Learned on A Christmas Vacation

I left work at 5 pm on Thursday, December 23rd and returned this morning around 10 am.  The last 10 days have been crammed with life adventures that have left me bursting at the seams with emotions ranging from debilitating worry to boiling frustration to rising anger to debilitating joy.  I guess that what’s I signed up for when I decided to be a parent of three trying to navigate this wondrous time of year commonly known as Christmas vacation.

I have one hundred posts sitting in my brain that most likely will never make the page, so for now I’ve decided to focus on the Top Ten Things I Learned During the Wild Christmas Vacation of 2010.

10. A gorgeous rendition of “O Holy Night” during Christmas Eve Mass is enough to keep me happy for days.

9. You can never have too many train tracks.

8. Kinect is Mind. Blowing.

7. I can never hear my 3-year-old tell me “I love you so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so much, Mama!” too many times.

6. A peach reed diffuser from Pier One is really cool when it’s given to me as a Christmas present from my 6-year-old Phoebes.

5. When you have the right love in your life, it don’t matter what you unwrap from under the tree.

4. Sugar sprinkles simply CAN. NOT be dispensed properly by a 3-year old, a 6-year-old OR an 8-year-old.

3.Sitting on a freeway with three kids in a van stuck for hours upon hours in the middle of a snowstorm SUCKS.

2. Homemade chocolate cookies and hot chocolate prepared by Grandma and Grandpa at the end of said drive mentioned in #3 almost makes all the turmoil worthwhile.

And the # 1 thing I learned on my 2010 Christmas vacation is:

I believe in magic.

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Here’s to a 2011 of epic proportions….

the very first sunset of 2011 on a desert highway

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The Greatest Story Ever Told

As I sit here working on my Christmas cards that I’ve had sitting here for almost two weeks but still have not sent, I decided that this post that I wrote last year at this time was one that I needed to read again…. and then after reading it, I decided I would share it again here….



A newborn swaddled babe lying on a bed of hay in a manger surrounded by goats and cows and sheep, a virgin mother, a carpenter, three wise men, and one incredible holy star telling the tale to faraway lands.

I keep forgetting to ponder this story for a second in the midst of all that Christmas is to a mama of three young kids. Creating the magic…building the backdrop….setting the stage so Christmas morn will be all they hoped it would be and all that I need it to be.

And being a blogger and twitterer during Christmas prep is like living in a mall. Bombarded from all angles about stuff and how to get that stuff and why to get that stuff and maybe even that stuff will be given away for free so I will tell other people about that stuff so maybe they will buy the stuff. And then we will all wake up with a bunch of stuff under our trees.

And then add in the Christmas cards to be sent, the cookies to be baked, the tree to be trimmed, the lights to be strung, the parties to attend, the teacher gifts to be bought, the presents to be wrapped….well, no wonder I’m having trouble keeping the greatest story ever told anywhere near my general brain awareness.

I have had my own walk of faith. I was raised Catholic and taught to believe in Jesus Christ, the son of God born unto a virgin given to the world to save us from our sins. And it all sounded just about fine to me as a child and as a I grew into a young adult.

Sure, I had my questions and doubts, don’t we all if we are honest?, but my faith was shaken to it’s core at the age of 28 when I made a trip to the promised land, Israel. As I knelt at the tomb of Jesus, supposedly, the foundation of my life slipped away and I was left tumbling in mid-air. When I hit the ground it was a rocky one. Without the security of my faith.

I guess anyone who chooses to walk a life where religious belief is an integral part is bound to have struggles. So after the initial, emotional, freak-out, I settled into the faithless leg of my faith journey.

The road to where I am now is littered with tears and fear and acceptance and doubt and revelation, and I can honestly say that a week before yet another Christmas day in my 42 years on the planet, I have clawed my way back to a deeper understanding of my faith and a greater appreciation for the seed that was planted within me by my parents when they chose to baptize me and raise me with…..faith.

As a mother, when it comes to religion, I have come to my own truth that believes either I will give my children faith or I will not. My husband was not raised with faith and no matter how hard he tries, I think he feels like he looks at me from the outside. But when it came to the question of whether or not to raise our kids in a religion, there was no doubt in his mind. He wanted them to be given the seed of a belief. And we knew we would do all that we could to water it and help it grow yet knowing all the while that this seed was their own and that they would walk their own individual path just as I have. And still do.

Our kids are young. And they look to us for everything. They search our faces and our hearts for reasons to believe …. in all kinds of things.

To believe in anything is powerful, and belief has the ability to define a lifetime with possibility.

So this Christmas season, my husband and I are working hard to give the gift of faith – in a man in a red suit with a puffy white beard who will climb down our chimney leaving magic in his wake – and the not so apparent gift of belief in a story where a baby was born unto the world to save us from ourselves.

In the midst of the whirl and the twirl that is the modern Christmas season, I am doing my best to keep my heart focused on the greatest story ever told…when the world stood still gazing at a newborn babe believing in all the possibility that His birth brought to a people starved for perspective and hope.

And the story continues…


Merry Christmas!

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Giving a Hug To Someone Who Really Needs One…..Me

I woke up this morning a little before 6 AM and sat in the stillness for a few minutes before peeling myself out of the comfiest bed ever to a dark and misty morning. After his nightly trek up the stairs to our room, my 3-year-old lover boy was snuggled next to me breathing deep and sound. My man had risen nearly an hour before me because that’s just who he is. I’m still kinda jealous about his early morning expertise because there is something pretty stellar about the still of early morn. I heard the front door close and I knew he was off to grab our cappuccinos because our espresso machine is in need of repair.

I felt like I usually feel when I pry myself from my most favorite horizontal position. My head spins slightly and my muscles ache as I try to get them moving for the day. As I stood in the closet to throw on a sweatshirt and grab my Uggs, I felt the remnants of another day spent sitting at a computer at work. My neck and my shoulders ached because of course, I have not taken the time to make sure my set-up is as ergonomic as it can be. And then I thought of it…..my little black secret weapon folded in my closet. And I knew I would grab it, heat it up and use it. Right then and there. To start my day….

…my Moji Tension Release.

So to get it all out there let me say I would have had NO idea about this product if Heather had not introduced me to this company. They then signed on to sponsor CA ’10 which gave me the opportunity to get to know them more. And of course Moji sponsored CA ’10 because they are a young company trying to connect with some online voices who might be willing to spread the word about their innovative products. And I wouldn’t be spreading the word if I didn’t think this was one cool product.

When Moji’s devoted rep, Lynne, hung out with us in Ojai, she said something that stuck with me.  She asked us, as women and moms, that if we had an extra $100 to spare, who and what would we spend it on? And if we did spend it on ourselves what would we buy with it?

I really thought about this line of questioning because as a generally insane working mom of three, I ALMOST ALWAYS forgo the kinds of activities and products that actually contribute to my well-being and overall health.  My mind immediately went to the fact that with the extra money,  I would probably just pay off some outstanding credit card debt or spend it on something the house needed or the kids needed and if I DID spend it on me, it would most likely be for a meaningless piece of clothing. I wouldn’t really think to invest in a product that heats up in the microwave in two minutes that I could wrap around my tense neck and shoulders to provide some soothing relief.

And I started reflecting on why not? Why wouldn’t I buy that? Because it’s not “practical?” Because it feels indulgent? Because it’s not an absolute necessity? Yeah, a combination of all of those things. But mainly because as a generally insane working mom of three, I have forgotten that to take care of ME is one of the most important things I can do for not only myself but my family.  Because a more relaxed, happier me makes for a more relaxed, happier family. Plain and simple.

So this Moji Tension Release is my current addiction. Watching TV. In the morning as I make the kids lunches. Sitting at the computer late at night. It’s my mini-indulgence that eases the tension I seem to carry each and every day in my neck and shoulders and back.

(For the record, this picture is not me.)

Lynne at Moji created a cool mini-holiday campaign where we think about the person we would most want to give a hug to this holiday season….because truly, this Moji Tension Release IS like giving a hug.  A lasting hug.  And there are many people I want to give a hug to….many. But this product and meeting Moji has helped me to realize that the person I need to be hugging a little bit more is me.

So my thoughts this holiday season are this – if you want to give an innovative, lasting hug kind of gift to someone you love, consider this product. And if you’re anyone like me who often neglects yourself because you think that’s the “noble” thing to do, consider this product for yourself.  I’m betting you actually deserve it.  I’m realizing I sure do. And I’m psyched it only took me planning a grassroots conference to learn this very important lesson.

I’m hugging myself a little more each and every day.

Go Moji!!

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From now until December 31st you can get 15% off ALL OF MOJI’S PRODUCTS if you enter HOLIDAYHUGS at checkout. And you need to order by 12/19 to make sure it gets there by Christmas so get on it.  It’s my gift of choice this holiday season so let the hugs multiply…..

xo

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