On Turning Five

 In three days, my little goober turns 5.

This is not new or surprising information. I’ve only blogged about it maybe 6 or 7 times now. But birthday number 5 feels a lot like birthday number 1, and perhaps for good reason.

The first birthday, for mom and dad, is largely about survival. Or, having survived. The first year of your first born’s life is often equal parts bliss and oblivion; and the celebration of the first year encompasses each of those emotions.

But the fifth birthday; this one wraps up the first few years in a bow. It sets our little ones right up for kindergarten, and reminds us, quite often by way of a well-executed blow of smart sassiness, that the times, they are-a-changin’.

Five year olds are people. They have thoughts of their own, ideas of their own, and what I can only assume is the beginning of an internal dialogue on the world.

This is alarming.

All these years we have held her and paddled her little feet out to the edge of the branch, and jumped back. And then we stepped forward again, tapped her on the little head, scurried her out to the edge of the branch again, and tip toed back.

And now, it is safe to say…. the tricycle in our backyard is obsolete. The alphabet puzzles are no longer a fun challenge. The sippie cups stand, stagnant, in the cabinet. It takes a full twenty minutes to find a wipe in this house now. The swingset in the backyard no longer looks so looming. Story time at the library is just another opportunity for her to pull out her school skills. And these are good things. These are the things we live for when we become parents, the notion that while time marches on, we have prepared them for it.



Well. Kind of. Because after all, this is only test #1.


Happy 5th birthday to our baby girl. I mean big girl. I’m sorry; young lady.

To my kid.

To my whole heart.

To my husband and I.

We have fed her and bathed her and kept her warm and dry for five years now.

Remember when day one seemed so daunting? We did it.

how i met your father

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Two people come out of a building. One out of the whirling central door, and the other out of the furthest door to the left. From the gold-laden revolving door at center, a sharp looking man exits. He looks to be about 30 years old; give or take, and his demeanor makes him appear somewhat like a giant, just out of place, in the middle of an amusement park.

To the left, a young woman exits from the furthest door, trying to remain as invisible as possible. But that’s not quite what it seems. She wants to be seen, she’s just terrified of what will happen once she is. So she stays quiet and stays left, and just out of the rain and just out of sight.

As they step out onto the street, the rain suddenly turns into downpour. She buttons up her brown overcoat and pulls the collar up around her neck. At the same time, he pulls an umbrella out of his back pocket. He sparks a smile and opens the umbrella, quite pleased with himself.

But she, with her buttoned up, weather-appropriate raincoat securely shuttered around her neck, is now soaked to the bone.

Here is our heroine, drenched and shuddering, yet seemingly unaware. Now this is not to say she is optimistic and handling it well. No. Anyone could tell by the look on her face that shows that, on some level, she knows how cold she is. She knows. It’s just that she isn’t tuned in. There’s just too much to think about, so much to do and to learn and to know; she has no time to stand soaking in the rain, thinking about irony.

Our gentleman lifts his head to look up a bit, trying to get a sense of how to navigate his way through this storm. Suddenly, our heroine appears in his view. He looks at her. In shock. Why is she soaking wet? What is the deal with her malfunctioning raincoat? Why isn’t she looking for cover?

He walks toward her, the bottom half of his pant legs now weighted down from the gathering rainwater overcoming the sidewalk.

“Hey,” he offers, “You look kind of, uh, like you could use a hand.”

She looks up to see a man standing before her. He has offered her a smile, and she’s working to get a read on it; much in the same fashion as a mathematician would read code. He’s got an umbrella, she thinks, but just about the only thing it’s protecting is his head. Water is pouring down from the sides of it, in sheets. He doesn’t seem to notice.

“Uh yeah,” she replies, “I guess when it rains, it pours here.”

He laughs, “Yeah, when we do weather here we pull out all the stops.”

He cautiously steps forward, in an effort to get some umbrella over top of her.

She looks up. What’s he even thinking, that umbrella isn’t big enough to cover us both. What silliness.

He steps forward for the one last step and stretches out his arm to bring her underneath. She looks up and nods in appreciation. Then suddenly she glances down at the umbrella’s handle.

“LM,” she reads aloud, surprised. He looks down at the handle. “Oh. I don’t know, I just picked this up somewhere,” he explains.

“That sounds like a bad plot gimmick of an overly long sitcom series,” he laughs.

“Haha, totally” she chuckles. “What even, anyway? Don’t you hate when they have this build up for what seems like, ever, and you’re like hello, I’ve got it… I’ve got the ending. Like, let’s move this along now. Enough with the fillers.”

“I know, right?!” he tosses his head back in laughter, “Let’s just get on with the ending already. I mean look, I’m Craig, I’ll be your husband in about three years.” 

“Haha oh! Is that right?” she half-shouts in disbelief, “I guess we’ll see.”

He takes her arm and leads her away from the awning dripping rainwater overhead, “I guess we will.” 

 

How to Parent when Life gets Hard

  
Man. That’s a great title. I never write the title first. I have to half-admit I did so hoping it would lead to some incredible insight to put down on this paper right here. 

So.

Alright so. 

Let’s start with what I do know. I know that life gets real, much to our dismay, and that ultimately our children bear witness to it. And I also know that they are impressionable, and they’re sponges, and that they tend to save up stuff for when they’re grown and can tell us how hard their life is and that it’s all our fault.

But like, it’s real. Life is the real deal. Emotions are the real deal. And sure I’d love to tell you that every time I have an emotion slightly left of center that I sit my daughter down with the sunlight streaming in softly through the window and explain it with such eloquence and ease that she shall never be impacted.

But…. no. I mean, I do my best. And I know you also do your best. But it’s hard. Home is where we are the most ourselves, and the most emotionally messy when it gets hard; and alas, it’s also where our kids live. (Why is that? Doesn’t grandma need a sleepover?)

So, here’s what I’ve come up with- thou shall not torture oneself with worry about how the children will be impacted by our grief and our sadness. If we’re aware enough to worry about it; we’re probably already doing a good enough job (that sentence was more for me than for you, but you’re welcome to wear it if it fits). 

And if they are acting bonkers because we are standing slanted like we haven’t had our V-8? Toss our your arms to offer a hug. Get down on the floor and listen about Shopkins or BB-8 for thirty minutes or so. They’re pretty good about living in the moment. Maybe they’ve got some good stuff we need to learn. 

Let the Light in

  
Don’t marry someone just because dating them has been super exciting; it’s not always going to be. Sometimes you’ll be holding a bowl in front of them, waiting for vomit, and wondering how long until your own will come up.

Don’t search for a partner based on the life he or she can provide you with, it could all be gone in an instant. You know that.

It’s not about the ring (though mine brutally kicks ass), the baby count, or the square footage. It’s not the clock ticking, the race to the finish line, or the prepping to take the world’s most beautiful photograph.  

It’s about finding the one person who is willing to show you who they are, when the chips are down. 

It’s about them knowing you’re going to tell them the truth when they need to hear it most. And it’s okay because it’s why they asked you to begin with. 

You don’t have to always be up together and you don’t need to be always down together, and I’ll be damned if one more person says the best way to do this hard part of life thing is to just “take turns.”

Do it because of love. Do it because you laugh at the same stupid stuff and because you can freely admit you hate how the other one chews or breathes or folds their shirts. 

Do it because when the world suddenly goes dark and you find yourself furiously slapping the wall trying to find the light, you’ll know that’s the moment when nothing else matters.

And do it for the moment when the light suddenly switches back on, and then watch the scene in omnipresent distance; as you both tip your heads back in laughter. And relief.

Do it for the light.

  

The Story of Who I Am (now).

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The words. All the words. And the sentences they belong in. I need to find the matches.

But they’re all over the floor.

They’re piling up against the wall, falling over on top of me even while I sleep. I don’t have the time to sort through them so I keep shoving them and stacking them back up; desperately holding out a disciplinary hand and asking them to “just stop! Stop!” moving. They glance at me quickly, with the sass of an undisciplined child that I know too well, and hop on their word-tushes and slide down the stack at an angle just precise enough to smack me right in the face.

The words, they have a story to tell. And I’m sorry to say, the story isn’t for you.

It’s for me. 

And before I share it, let me just also say; I don’t know what the story is yet. I want to be clear about this because it’s a little secret I’ve known my whole life but only just discovered; I don’t know what I’m going to say until I read it. And I’m pretty sure that’s true for you too, maybe you just haven’t realized it yet either. And this is important, because writing is as much about the reader going on the adventure as it is the writer leading the way.

So I’ve got the words in my bag (I had to grab a trash bag because they wouldn’t all fit into a purse with any kind of dignity). Here we go.

I asked my eighty-year old self if it had anything to say to me this afternoon. Okay no, this is what really happened. The kiddos were napping and I was reading/writing, while keeping close tabs on their restless but settling little legs banging against their cots, their need to feel a hand on the small of their back just one more time before drifting off to sleep, and surveying the scene to see if anyone needed to be stared at uselessly by me while they coughed. So once they settled, this is what I wrote-

Dear Lisa, from 80 year old you.

(Pause. Hesitation. Brain freeze. Uncertainty about everything I’ve ever done and said in my life… and then finally-)

“You were afraid, weren’t you; that I wasn’t here. That the truth would come out that it actually all made no sense in the end. Because that’s the real threat, isn’t it. That it all wouldn’t just be a series of twists and turns in a life of purpose, but rather; a straight up loss. Straight up mistakes, straight up failure, and straight up shame. You were afraid I wasn’t here watching, but I am.”

And, that was it. Like a visit from a long-lost loved one in a dream, she was gone. Just like that.

But something weird happened right after this. I turned to a blank page in the back of the book I was reading, and I added this-

I have always been a compilation of who I’ve been. Nothing changes that. The story belongs to me.

I have something to learn, wherever I am today. And if I don’t see it, it’s because I’m afraid to.

I used to think the hardest thing was to take a step back. To bow out for a while from the story you’ve been telling yourself about who you are. But here’s the secret that hides beneath that; every time I step back I have a choice to make. Do I fight against this, with all my might. Do I yell and kick and scream that this doesn’t fit The Story of Who I’ve Always Been. Or do I sit my ass down, take a look around, and listen. The hardest part isn’t when you disappoint yourself. The hardest part is when you realize you have been the one building the walls that surround you.

Why is this brick here?! Who’s been mixing cement?! Who’s in charge here? Hello? Can I speak to the owner of this establishment please? There are bricks all around me! And they keep getting higher. Yes. I know. It’s perplexing to me too. Would you look at that, now there’s cement on my hands, I demand to know what’s going on at once! There is a wall growing higher around me, I’ve got cement all over my hands, on my clothes, in my hair, and all I was doing was standing here. Telling everyone about how smart I was. And how seasoned. And experienced. And accomplished. Someone needs to remove this wall immediately. This is unacceptable!

I look around.

I’m alone.

Everyone has gone home for the night. I’m the one standing in hardening cement, by myself, throwing an ego-laced tantrum.

When you’ve got the chance to let yourself down, do it. Then wipe the crap off your hands, the egg off your face, and clear the page for a new chapter; The Story of Who I Am Now.

 

 

 

Writer’s Un-Block

  
Something short of the precise opposite of writer’s block is happening to me. I was originally going at a manageable pace that I could bang out one of these pieces between one to three times a week, but now I’m just inundated with mental word piles. It’s a little like racing home when you’ve really got to go to the potty. 

Yeah. I just wrote that. 

So now, while I try and figure out which the heck gasket is leaking in my brain, I’ve been just making notes in my phone instead. I don’t want to lose a thought, but these are not quite ready yet. They still need to sit in a bowl in the fridge with a towel over them.

I have about fifteen towel covered bowls in my brain fridge right now. 

I didn’t even know I had a brain fridge. 

This morning I did my daughter’s hair for the first time since Christmas morning.

Alright calm down. I bathe her. Ok. Her hair gets brushed. I just leave before dawn and my hubby has learned to do the low pony tail and I don’t get to really do it anymore. 

And I missed it. And I miss her. I now work the longest day I’ve ever worked since she was born. I had it really, really easy there for a good long while. 

But now we smell each other when I get home. I’m sure this is fine. It’s biology. It’s motherhood. Or something. But we do. I drop my keys and sit down on the floor in basically the garage, and we just hug.

And then she takes off across the house to the kitchen, and loudly submits her application for something in the fridge that daddy has already repeatedly told her “no” about. 

The (brain?) fridge is like an endless list of options but with vaguely defined rules. 

Some kind of dough is rising in there. 

But for now I’m just gonna turn out the light and go to bed.

The Boys do all the Pooping. And you know it.

1). I have the worst cut near the underside of my pinkie toe from stepping on a cookie cutter that was on the floor in the kitchen.

2). Kindergarten registration is a week from tonight and whenever I begin to mentally formulate any word that begins with “ki,” I let out a convulsive gasp followed by hair trigger weepiness. It happens so fast and takes me a good fifteen to twenty seconds to recover.

3). For efficiency, I’ve been trying to run through that entire process while I’m taking a potty break at work. The only part that still needs hammering out is how to make the tears on the front of my shirt dry by the time my hand is back on the door handle. 

4). Damnit air.

5). Today I found an unexpectedly comfortable seat on a spot of soft grass on a tiny hill on the playground and I felt so guilty about enjoying it that I kept calling kids over to talk to me so I could still “do the teaching.”

6). Today while changing diapers I said to a coworker- oh my gosh- I just realized I always expect the boys to have pooped, and never the girls. I feel so bad. 

7). When, in ten to fifteen years, this generation of boys is angry at us for accusing them of doing all the pooping, you’ll be able to trace it back to this post.