Monday, January 31, 2011

car talk

Following my Ella's Heart Act to Follow ceremony last Friday, I stopped at Frank's Car Wash to vacuum out my extremely winter-worn car. Alright. Fine. It's a minivan. To entice Summit to sit in his carseat for what would undoubtedly be quite a while, I pulled out the big gun: the DVD screen was released from the ceiling of the vehicle, and 'How to Train Your Dragon' was inserted into the DVD console.
All with a heavy heart...which is quite strange because I can't think of how many times I have wanted to have my kids preoccupied with something other than asking me a million and a half questions or making incessant demands of me. But I knew that as soon as I pulled down that screen, I would lose part of my Summit until I am able to wrangle his mind back from the world of movies in the car. For the next several weeks, every time we get in Mommy's car, the first thing he'll ask of me is, "Mommy, can you get me my cell phone?" (He, of course, means head phones, but he's been doing this for a while, and I think it's cute and funny that he calls them his cell phone, so I can't bring myself to tell him the proper term.) And as soon as those puppies cover his ears, all of his attention will be focused on a movie that will play 30 times in a row over the course of a month. When this happens, I'll find myself in the silence of the car with just me and NPR.
Now, I'm not gonna pretend that there are days when I would kill for silence and NPR, especially when the kids are bickering and crying and whining and telling on each other. Lately, however, I have found myself relishing the sounds of their constant chatter. I love the questions and the innocent, ridiculous things that pop out of their mouths. They make me laugh and love them even more...if this is possible. I love the sounds of their voices (well, most of the time). I love the way Summit speaks in his squeaky, helium-pitched voice. I love the way Ella says "mommy." I love the way Summit says it, too. I love hearing about Ella's day at school when I pick her up from Nursery Road. I love it when Summit points out dinosaurs in the clouds as we drive down the road. I enjoy speaking to my kids in those moments when they can't go anywhere or be distracted by friends or television or cats or puppy or bikes or painting. They let me into their lives and share with me the sweet thoughts or wonders that reside in their developing minds. That time is reserved for me. (I even get to see them act silly and put underwear over their heads, which, by the way, is gross...especially when it's your brother's, Ella!)
And when I'm driving down the road, I can't leave the room to pick up something in another. I can't fold laundry or cook dinner. I can listen to them, though, and give them my attention without feeling obligated to do something that I just "have to do." I can't count the number of times when I have been so caught up with making the beds or cleaning the bathrooms or folding laundry or making sure to dot every i and cross every t that I have missed out on a moment with my children. Why ever should I rely on car talk for good conversation?

Perhaps the lesson from this is mine. I know that one day, I'm not gonna have as much to do, but they are, and when that day comes, they won't be so willing to talk. When I finally have the time, they won't. And that's gonna suck. The realization of this brings tears to my eyes, and I can place myself 10 years ahead, and my heart aches for missing my babies. My little loves. And when I'm in the car 10 or 20 years from now, which probably won't be a minivan anymore, I'll be alone with silence and NPR, longing for the days when my car was covered in bug juice and crackers, crayons and papers, laughter and questions for "mommy." Covered in my children.

I better enjoy it now. This is the time of my life.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Pink Lipstick and Diamonds.

After a sick visit to the doctor the other day, Ella and I stopped at Walmart (my least favorite store in the world) for some groceries. I was on a quick mission for big essentials, and it was the easiest store at the time. My kids, especially my Ella, aren't so fond of the place either, so I told her if she was agreeable I'd buy her a treat. After a whirlwind spin through the store, I asked her what it was that she wanted to get. Without missing a beat, her answer was, "lipstick." This is no big surprise.
At the checkout, Ella handed the cashier a tube of the brightest pink Tammy Fae Baker lipstick you have ever seen. The lady looked at her, then me, and I felt obligated to make an excuse: "It's a bribe for not whining around the store. She's very excited." The woman's face softened, and she said, "Oh! This is her first makeup." I then explained, that no, in fact, it's not. And then the woman's face hardened again, so I gave her a look that said, "Hey, don't judge me. Mind your business and put my stuff in the bag."

My kid has been getting makeup since she was about 2 1/2 when my friend, Ashley, thought that bright blue and green eyeshadow and nail polish would be a great gift for Christmas. And since then, she's enjoyed playing with the colors and painting her face up like a circus clown. A very cute blue-eyed circus clown. Of course, my Ella is NOT allowed to wear that stuff out in public. She only plays with it at home. So, don't any of you judge me, either.
I saw a similar madness unleashed this weekend when I changed out her earrings for the first time since she's gotten them pierced. My mom had given Ella some sweet ladybug studs for Christmas, but I couldn't find them at the time, so I rummaged through my jewelry box to find something for her to wear. The only earrings small enough for her were some little cz studs. Not surprisingly, she was dazzled to see them in her ears. She is certain that they are real diamonds, after all. And she LOVES them. In those first moments, I saw a side of my Ella that goes together with expensive jewelry like peanut butter goes with jelly. Like Lake Murray and summer. Like botox and wrinkles. Uh oh.

Should I have been surprised then last night when Ella brought me the 800 number for a Sleep Number bed? Well, I wasn't. I was scrubbing the carpet in my bedroom on my hands and knees like freaking Cinderella when she waltzed in and nonchalantly handed me a piece of paper with all the information I needed to order the bed exactly at that moment. What?! A 6 year old is demanding that I stop everything to order a Sleep Number bed? Right. When I laughed at her and told her if anyone would be getting a bed like that it would be me, she was absolutely, truly, unequivocably DEVASTATED. Are you kidding me?

This is gonna be a costly one to raise.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

shout out to the grandparents

the other evening, after we ate dinner with my parents, my dad was driving me and the kids home (...matt had abandoned us earlier for some nerd show on syfy, and the kids weren't quite ready to leave popi and babi's house). of course, as soon as the kids got in the car, they started their ridiculous fighting over who got to put their hand on the center console cushion in the back seat. "his hand's touching mine." "ella won't move her haaaand." over and over. wawawawaaaaa. my good gracious! i told them, "get your stinking hands off the cushion thing and mind your business! i don't want to hear anymore of this nonsense and the next one to make a peep loses a book!" (this is my constant threat.... taking away from the 3 books they each get us to read every evening.)

exasperated, i looked over at my dad, who by this point is nearly gasping for air from the lack of oxygen all of his laughing at my adversity has caused. "what!" i demanded. "ahahahahaha. this is awesome!" he told me. then he reminded me that they got a stationwagon when we (me, kent, and john wesley) were little because they were D-O-N-E with the incessant bickering over who crossed which line, who wiped a booger on whom, whose leg touched another's.... gaaaah.

alright. i get it. i deserve it. it's penance. the time has come for me to atone for my past obnoxious deeds.

it's also time for me to acknowledge that my parents did a heck of a job raising me and my goofy brothers and to recognize matt's parents for all the work they put into raising matt and katie. (i'd also state that you all...both sets...still have some unfinished business...;) ha!)

and if you don't already know it, all four of you hung the moon for ella and summit. they love you guys more than anything. and whenever our kids lose all of their books or have to go to time out, they call for you all, all of you, at once: "leenie papa babi popi babi popi leenie papa." it's like you're all one person. one person who will come in and save the day... rescue the poor, destitute children from their awful, mean, snarling parents. when we are the fire-breathing dragons, you are the knights on horses. when we are the evil stepsisters, you are the fairy godmothers.
and you're more than that. you're the extra cookies and the breakfast cake. the late-night movies and the early, early, early saturday mornings. the treats from the store and the patient hand to put the little pieces together. you're the narrators to countless books (more than 3) and the leaders of songs sung a bajillion times in a row. the horsies on the floor for rambunctious riders and the soft, warm snugglers who give up the best pillows (i know their mommy won't do this). you are love and kindness and gentleness and sympathy and encouragement.

they love you and we love you.

thank you.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Remember when you were first born and everything was perfect? You knew no sorrow. You never wanted for anything. You got to eat and drink whenever you desired to do so, whatever you desired. People wanted to hold you and sing to you and rock you to sleep...and encouraged you to sleep during the day! Everyone loved you and thought you were amazing and sweet.

Remember how wonderful it was?
Me either.

But this reminds me that I got to see my kids when it was that way for them.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

she shares her soft

When I found out I was having a baby girl when I was pregnant with Ella, I was sooooo excited. I am super superstitious, and secretly I was hoping for a girl and I felt like I was having one, but I didn't want to jinx it, so I told everyone I thought she was a boy. I even bet Matt 20 bucks that the 20-week ultrasound would show that we were having a boy. That may be the only thing I've ever been okay with losing.

Anyways, so as soon as I learned that my bean was a female bean, I went directly to a cutsie boutique and bought her the prettiest, softest, silkiest, sweetest pink Little Giraffe blankie and matching pillow. I couldn't imagine a more perfect lovie for my little love to hold and cuddle. I could hardly wait for her to be born so I could introduce her to what I just knew would be her life-long snuggle accessory. I so looked forward to seeing her sleep with it during her naps and rub it on her little face. I imagined having to cut a small corner of the pink satin to put in her pocket on her first day of school. I imagined her taking it with her to college. I dreamed of having it somehow become part of her bouquet on her wedding day. And maybe she would one day pass it on to her own baby girl. Ahhhhhh. It was going to be just. like. that.

Maybe not. Maybe not at all. She still has it in her bedroom for her dolls to play with, but the thing looks brand new 6 and a 1/2 years later. Never been used. Not the way I imagined anyway. She instead gravitated to this small blanket that one of my parents' friends gave as a baby gift. It's white satin on one side and has chamois blue and yellow checked squares and a duck in the middle on the other. Don't get me wrong, it's cute and all, but not my first choice. But that doesn't matter because it's HER first choice. She has adored it from the start. She calls it her "Little White Blankie," and it has been a constant companion for years. Though, now that she's older, she doesn't like for her friends to see LWB, I know she feels best when she knows exactly where it is.

She rubs it on her nose and twirls it through her fingers. She loves on it when she's taking a nap or reading books or watching a movie. She always has. LWB is an extension of my Ella, and I don't think I'd have it any other way.

Starting at about 1, whenever she snuggled with me, she'd surprise me with a moment's rub of LWB on my nose and cheek. When her language was toddlerese, I'd ask if she was sharing her soft with me. She always shook her head yes and smiled a big smile. When she was 3 - 4 years, I would ask her what she was doing, and she would tell me, "Mommy, I'm sharing my soft with you." I lived for those moments. I have always loved that she wanted me to be a part of something that brought her so much comfort and warmth. Tonight, when I was singing her songs, she rubbed LWB on my nose and cheek like she has so many times before. Now SHE asks ME if I know why she does that. Even though I know the answer, I so relish hearing her say it herself. "It's because I love you."

Yes, she shares her soft, and in doing so, she shares her heart. I only hope she knows that SHE is MY soft. SHE is MY heart.

Dear Jurrasic Park,

You're dinosaurs have invaded my shower AGAIN!

This is how my shower looks every night before I get in. Summit likes to take "dino showers" with his "dino pals." This kid. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

the smells of things.

Sitting with the Mercy Lou the cockapoo this evening, I smelled her sweet puppy breath when she licked my face, and I relished the moment. I know it won't be long before her baby dog smells turn into big dog smells.

It reminds me of my kids' smells. I already miss their little people smells, though some of them still return to me on occasion. Every once in a while, I can get a hint of Summit's baby breath when he gives me kisses, and when that happens, I am flooded with beautiful memories of him as a teeny weeny human being. I recall his sweetness that would softly splash the room after taking baths or waking up from naps. Ella used to teeth on a little toy we named Mr. Tiger. I never wash him because there are moments when I can breathe in the scent of her little baby mouth from his fur. Her little white blankie, though tattered and dirty and overly washed, still carries the smell of her baby hair and hands and face.

For some reason, I identify memories with various aromas, and when they come to me, I am carried back to a specific time in my life. I love to go into my grandmother's closet and smell her old housecoats and sweaters and bed sheets and see if I can find her in them. There is a small tub of Pond's face moisturizer that I used to buy for her and that I rubbed on her soft skin during her final weeks that brings her back to me.

And it's not just people that smells remind me of. There are places and experiences that live in redolent scents from my past. Paper mills carry the memories of countless road trips from South Carolina to Florida with my family when I was little. Not one of us fails to share a story of driving through Brunswick, GA and making jokes about "who made that smell." (What can I say? We are a family who enjoys a good laugh from bodily vapors.)

The aroma of  spruce pines takes me high into the Rockies of Colorado, up Gothic Road to mountains so majestic they take your breath away. I remember snowboarding between them, hiking through them, camping amongst them, watching meteor showers near them, and all of a sudden I get to be young and free and careless and naive in a good way.

On the occasions when I get a sprinkling of a certain plant that smells like the Alfred Sung perfume my mom used to wear, I am transported to Santa Elena Canyon on the Rio Grande. I instantly remember being 20 years old, canoeing into the towering limestone walls and being covered in a scent so dazzling it made me want to cry and bottle it up all at once.

One of my favorite scents is that which emanates from desert sage, abundant and resilient in the desert of the Southwest. Whenever I am so fortunate to catch a whisper, I float back to when I lived on the Colorado Plateau in the Painted Desert of Utah. I remember steep canyons, impossibly rugged terrain, and auras of a people who vanished long before we ever made our way out West. I remember lightning storms rolling across the desert and bright red sandstone rock formations that would enchant even the most well-seasoned traveller.

I love when these experiences find their ways back to me. They help me to remember all of the good and happy times I've enjoyed, all the fun and adventure and love I've been fortunate enough to encounter along this journey of my life. These smells are mementos of a life well-spent as well as encouragements to keep trucking along in search of new endeavors. I love the smells of things.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Little hands, big trust

There is nothing in the world like the feeling of your child's little hand reaching up to grasp onto your own. In that small act live a million little meanings that are so important and special. Every time my Ella or Summit put their little fingers around my hand, I get the warmest feeling. This is one of my favourite things. At once I am reminded of how fortunate I am. I mean, these are my babies, and despite how utterly crazy I can be at times, they still want to hold MY hand. As far as having someone to grab onto whenever they need that extra protection and encouragement, I get to be their go-to person! Me! They trust me to take care of them and make sure that they make it safely in which ever direction it is that they are going. When they are scared or shy or nervous or excited or happy or sad, they put their little paws into my big one and hang on with love and trust and sweet gentleness.

I love their little hands. Hands that can be covered with worm guts (Ella) or paint, with garden dirt under their fingernails or dried runny nose on their palms. Hands that I know dont always get washed after a trip to the potty. Hands that pick candy up off of restaurant floors (you know who you are, Summit). No matter the level of contamination, I still love their hands, and I love when I get to hold them.

And I'll never forget that in this tiny moment, they are putting their lives in my hands.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

yogi tea bags are full of wisdom.

I love to drink green tea. Yogi Tea, I have found, has the most delicious green tea flavor in their super- antioxidant bags. The little tags on the end of the tea bag strings always have short quotes on them that offer small bits of philosophical wisdom. Just like the excitement that came along with finding the treat in the box of Cracker Jacks, I look forward to what my Yogi tea bag will say on it each day.

Today, one of my Yogi tea bags read, "You must live for something higher, bigger, and better than you."

I love this quote. I've seen it several times before, but it's one that always resonates with me. As I am no stranger to being selfish (hey, at least I'm owning up to it), it's good to see this to make me remember that I am no more significant than anyone else, and, above all, I should look to those around me to see how I can make their lives better. (That's a selfish motivator, though; I get a great deal of self-satisfaction out of helping others.) Clearly, the most important people in my life are my babies, and they get precedence over all others. To this end, I've always tried to teach them the importance of being aware of their surroundings and the happiness and struggles of others, including the people in their lives and those that they do not know. One of my favorite books to read to my Ella and Summit is called Zen Shorts by Jon Muth. It is a beautiful book that discusses letting go of anger and resentment, trying not to put too much credence into good versus bad luck, and the value of being willing to sacrifice our very last dime even to people who we may not think deserve it.

We can't know a world without pain and suffering, danger and violence if we focus only on what is good for ourselves individually. We must work for the safety and well-being of all people... and in doing so, we open up the world to a higher, bigger, and better place. Namaste.

Friday, January 21, 2011

dino summit

My baby boy, Summit is infatuated with dinosaurs (...well he's 3, but I still consider him my baby boy...). He's had a love affair with these long-lost giants since he was a year and a half. It's truly an obsession. He carries them with him wherever he goes. He sleeps with them. He talks to them. He takes baths with them. He's given many of his dinosaurs names; Sarah is his favorite triceratops...she's the mommy dinosaur. (In the picture below, she's the tan dinosaur between the pink t-rex and the grey triceratops.) He loves to read all about them. Every night when he chooses his bedtime books, he only wants those that are about his beloved extinct creatures.
Since he was 2 he's been able to identify them. His hilariously high-pitched voice (think Wizard of Oz munchkin on helium) has clearly pronounced names such as velociraptor and allosaurus and ankylosaurus for as long as he's learned about them. He can tell the difference between carnivores and herbivores as easily as a chef can distinguish between rice and quinoa. His knowledge is quite impressive. He's even shortened the term dinosaur to just 'dino.' Sometimes he just growls and roars as a dinosaur may have, and there are times when we only speak to each other in roars.

He. Loves. Dinosaurs. And I love that he has a passion for something at such a young age. I often wonder if he will continue to have such  predeliction for dinosaurs when he grows up. That he has such a desire to be completely immersed in a subject at 3 gives me great hopes for his future. I love the idea that the world is his oyster. And he loves the world. I have faith that he'll always seek out truth and knowledge and do what is right. And if he is as disciplined about learning later in life as he is about dinosaurs in these beginning years of his existence, his future is limitless.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

It snores, too.

 So many people in my life snore. Amazing snorers. My earliest snoring memories are of those when my dad's snores, like barrells rolling down wooden stairways, would wake us up in the middle of the night...despite the fact that at least 2 closed doors were between us all. No wonder my mom was always snippy in the morning; there's no way she could have had a restful night's sleep. I also remember my popa's loud snores that would sail up the stairs from his "dungeon" where he took his afternoon naps. My brother, Kent, inherited Popa's brand of snoring: a loud rumbling that rises and falls like waves ebbing and flowing on the beach. Sometimes it's so loud that it wakes even Kent up, which, by the way, is FUNNY to witness. He'll sit up, all startled, look around to see what happened, and when he's satisfied that all is fine in his world, he'll resume his position and go right back to sleep. When my Ella was a baby, she snored like an old man in dire need of an apnea mask. She had large adenoids that nearly touched, which caused the little thing to sound like a hibernating bear. She has since grown into them, and the snoring has subsided. Nevertheless, it was incredible to hear this itsybitsy baby snore with such ferocity. My mom doesn't like to admit that she snores, but I have heard her many times. She does it mostly when she passes out on her back with her mouth wide open. It reminds me of how my grandma used to sleep.
These are just a few of my favourite snorers. The list could go on and on, and I wouldn't be surprised to find that I could place myself up there somewhere. What does surprise me is that as I have been chilling on the couch watching The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and snuggling with the little baby cockapoo, Mercy Lou, I have learned that it snores, too! A 9-week old puppy snores. Ha! I love it!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Heart Act to Follow

Today my sweet Ella Kathryn came home from school with a notification that she is going to be honored for a kind act that she displayed at school. Students who show positive, nurturing, kind behavior are recognized at a ceremony called "A Heart Act to Follow" where they are bequeathed certificates and pins on stage in the little arena. She received this award last year in kindergarten, also, when she read a book to a fellow classmate who was having a hard time listening to the teacher. This year, she helped the custodians clean up the cafeteria after lunch even though it was not asked of her (if only she'd do this at home). Small acts, yes, but huge accolades in younger years can turn these minor gestures into much grander expressions of generosity and good will later in life.

When I think about where my little girl gets her good heart, I look to the people who taught me the difference between right and wrong, compassion and mean-spiritedness, grace and mercilessness, and I am inundated with the essences of these people whom I hold dear to my heart.

My grandmother was an amazing woman who was truly a "heart act to follow." She had the lightness and gentleness of a ladybug.  She was patient and trusting, kind and loving, generous and humble. She listened with all of her heart and loved with even more. She would have done absolutely anything for anyone, and even more for those who were her family: her husband, her children and grandchildren, her sons-in-law and brother, her mother and her great-grandchildren...these people made her world go 'round and she never failed to let us know just how much she treasured us. She was remarkable, and I know that with every breath she took she cultivated that beautiful decency in the lives of those with whom she was closest.

For this reason, I honor my grandmother today, knowing that a large part of the reason that my little girl receives such acknowledgement for her own kindness is because she is reflecting at least a small amount of all that my grandmother passed on to her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Though she has left this earth, her essence floats around and spreads its seeds just like a dandelion blowing in the wind. Thank you, Grandma.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

camping memories

Because I've been a royal failure at keeping a detailed account of my kids' first experiences, I intend to share my memories of those firsts as I chart our lives here. Certain important firsts include Ella learning to walk when she was 11 months old while we were waiting for the ferry to hitch a ride over to Daufuskie Island for a wedding. Summit was about the same age as Ella, but he was determined to walk earlier...thus he began cruising around at 6 months old! He was into everything right from the start. Ella's fiirst word was 'Da Da' and Summit's was 'Ma Ma.' At least I got one of those! This could go on and on....

One of my favorite family memories was the first time we took the kids camping. It was Labor Day weekend of 2008, and we went to Black Forest Family Campground, a sweet, family-oriented place just a short distance south of Brevard, NC. Now, Matt and I have spent more time camping than sleeping in hotels, and our style up until this trip had been extremely minimalistic; we only brought exactly and minimally what was needed to get by. This trip, however, was drastically different. We packed an ENTIRE minivan full of all of the comforts of home...we even brought the sound machine so Summit could sleep through the night in his pack n play! The kids had the portable DVD player to watch movies while we made dinner. They could rest on the down comforter on the king-sized blow-up mattress in the MASSIVE brand-spanking-new Kelty tent after we got back from a hike to a waterfall. Yes, this was a serious departure from the backcountry, carry only what you need camping trips from years past. But it was awesome!

We had yummy meals cooked over the fire pit and on the camp stove. We went swimming in the pool by the main house and played on the playground. We went on hikes to beautiful waterfalls in Dupont State Park and in Pisgah National Forest. (The kids had so much fun. They kept up amazingly on what would be pretty long hikes for an average person.) We made delicious smores over the fire at night and chased fireflies at dusk. We told camp stories. When Summit refused to sleep in the pack n play, we snuggled all together on the cozy air mattress with all of the pillows and down comforters from home. It was an amazing experience, and I know that Matt and I were happy to learn that our kids enjoy being outdoors and experiencing the beauty of nature as much as we do.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Thank you, Dr. King.

In this climate of cultural pessimism, disrespect for the opinions and philosophies of others and the tendency to promote and incite violence against others have taken a forefront in the daily news and in our daily lives. Perhaps because of this, the celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. seems all that more welcomed and appreciated. I want my children to know that one person can make a positive difference, that the world is full of people who value the lives of others as much as their own, and that in order for us to have a healthy, successful society, we all must participate in the betterment of our country and the people who live in it. I don't want my sweet Ella and Summit to know hatred and animosity or devastation and hopelessness. Their futures are so bright and limitless from this point, especially from their perspectives. They can be the goodness and beauty and kindness and love that our earth requires of her inhabitants. May you both always be good, appreciate all forms of life...from trees to animals to people, and love as much as you can.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Day 1

I have begun journals that I failed to journal, books for which I never wrote more than the first few pages, photo albums that I only sparsely adorned with pictures... you get the picture. So, it is with great trepidation for my ability to follow through with this that I enter into a relationship with a blog. This is mostly for my family and myself, for our memories of happiness and elation, for adventures and hopes, for successes and failures, for love and life. Well, here goes nothing. Have mercy on me.