Eight.

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Dear Bean-

You turned 8. Your brother turned 10 in May and you turned 8 and my head is whirling from all that. But I’m really not that sad because 8 is actually one of my favorite ages. I love just about everything about 8 and I’m so excited to go through this age with you. But first, 7.

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7 was SUCH a great year for you. You blossomed at school this year. First grade was rough, but second grade?? You simply shined. Probably more than you should have given the amount of times we heard you were a bit too chatty in class, but I’d so much rather that Bean show up in school every day than the nervous, shy, anxious child we saw in first grade. While confidence at home has never been your problem, we all loved seeing you let that same confidence shine through at school and socially.  And this summer? Forget it- you’re killing it. You’ve gone to two camps already this summer without Scorch- something that would have been unheard of last year.

You, my funny girl, are 85% delight, 15% she-devil and 100% perfect. You can be sweet, loving, funny and a cuddle bug when you want to (which, thankfully is most of the time). You are the perfect mother’s helper and it’s a blast watching little kids flock to you. You adore playing school and your trusty white board is your all time favorite toy/tool/companion. Shopping for gifts for you is crazy hard simply because you want so little. You’re into experiences and going places and really don’t care much for things. You believe in quality over quantity when it comes to your friends and definitely inherited your father’s introverted side. Our house is one of your favorite places on earth- preferable with the cat on your lap and Netflix blazing.

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You have always known what you want, when you want it and have the biggest sense of self of anyone I know. While you’re definitely more courageous and brave this year, you simply won’t be pushed past your limits- big or small. Out of all your personality traits, this is the one I hope you fiercely hold on to. It’s maddening (MADDENING) to fight with you 10 minutes before we have to go to Church when you want to wear your leopard leggings with a tye-dye t-shirt but child, this ability to know what you want and have a single-mindedness about it will allow you to move mountains as you get older.

Here are my birthday wishes for you:
1) I wish you self-confidence. I hope as you continue to grow, you see how amazing you are and hold on to that feeling no matter what is raging on around you.
2) I wish you the joy of good friends. You are surrounded by some of the kindest, sweetest kids. I know that “girl drama” is supposed to come in to play soon- but resist it. Be a friend to those that deserve it, be kind to all- but don’t get sucked into drama and fights. You and your friends are better than that.
3) I wish you continued love of learning. Keep rocking that white board. Keep teaching your baby dolls what you learned at school. (But please Lord- read a whole chapter book. Your jumping from book to book is making me crazy.)
4) I wish you a sense of discovery. You haven’t found anything you’re really passionate about and that’s fine- you’re only 8 for goodness sake. But keep trying things. Sports, clubs, instruments- I don’t care what it is, but expand your horizons.
5) I wish the knowledge that you’re loved. Hormones are going to start sooner or later, which means things may go a little haywire with your emotions. Know that we will always be your safe place to land.
6) I wish you courage. Baby girl, this world is a nutty place and you’ll hear about a lot of bad things as you get older. Have the courage to know that the good way outweighs the bad. Have the courage to speak up when you see something you don’t like. Have the courage to be true to yourself.

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My fierce, funny, feisty, perfect child- I wish you nothing by good things during this year. And when bad things do happen- because they will- we’ll be here to get through it together.

All my love,
Mom

Lazy Daze of Summer

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So hey there! It’s almost been a month and THAT’S embarrassing. But life got crazy and then it got lazy and now we’re finding our new summer normal (which is, tbh, my favorite kind of normal).

Back on a random Wednesday in June I drove 2 hours away with my siblings to see Mumford & Sons play (my two-second review: if you love their albums, you’ll adore them live). We had a blast- we ate great food, danced to an amazing band and had a fun, fun night. I got home Thursday around noon and basically didn’t sit down again for another week until school got out. Field trips! Award ceremonies! Baseball playoffs! Lacrosse tournaments! Birthday parties! You name it, we did it all within a week time span.

And then I collapsed.

Just kidding. I’m a Mom- I can’t collapse. We all made the best of that crazy week and actually had a blast as my kids said goodbye to 4th grade and 2nd grade. This past year was amazing for both kids and I may have cried a bit at the end of year awards ceremony as we said goodbye for the summer.

And now…it’s summer. I adore summer. I love the heat and camps and nights at friend’s pools and days at the local lake.

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The kids were at a camp last week that ran from 10 – 3:30. The hours of this camp could not have been more inconvenient as a working mom. 10 am is smack dab during my morning meetings – but I didn’t care (much). The kids love this camp and really- not having to leave the house until 9:45 (vs our normal school-day 7:45) was heaven. No one was grumpy, I didn’t have to yell and I didn’t have to feel guilty that the kids didn’t have any down time this summer.

This past weekend was the long 4th of the July weekend. We have friends/family kind enough to invite us to their lake homes for what would have been a great weekend. But we said no and opted to stay home. We slept in, watched baseball, had dinner with friends, swam, watched too much TV,  made s’mores and let ourselves had a lazy summer weekend that we always want but usually never get. It was perfect.

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I wish I could say we’ll have lots more lazy days this summer, but we won’t. Camp started at 8:30 this week for Scorch, baseball tournaments start soon, birthday parties will crop up and my *gulp* 20th high school reunion is fast approaching. And those weekend will also be amazing- but I’m so glad we started summer in this lazy daze.

Happy Father’s Day

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The Hubs loves nothing more than being home and doing nothing. Truly, the man is an introvert at heart and our home really is his happy place. And….he really didn’t get to spend much time there this weekend. Yesterday the Bean had her first lacrosse tournament, so we were gone for 5+ hours and got home with enough time to relax for 45 minutes before heading to Scorch’s baseball game. Today, we had church and then an awards presentation during the 3rd inning of a 2 pm baseball game that we had to be at for Scorch. We managed to squeeze in some time at the pool and dinner with friends each night, but this was not a relaxing, laze at home weekend like the Hubs would have loved.

And part of me feels really badly about that since today is Father’s Day. But really- this weekend just encapsulates all the reasons the Hubs is such a good father. He shows up daily. He’s there for his kids as a coach, as a fan, and as a father as often as humanly possible. He may grumble and complain under his breath, but he’s there. The Hubs is the kid’s biggest supporter and they know he would do anything for them.

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My father was the same exactly way when we were growing up (minus the introvert part) and we were all the luckier for it.

So here’s to the dads that show up and support their kids no matter their passion. The dads who kiss booboos, change diapers and walk the floors at all hours of the night. The ones who learn more about what their kids love so they can play/learn/experience together. The ones who cheer the loudest at the wins and wipe away the tears after the losses. To the fathers like the Hubs and I were blessed enough to have growing up and to the amazing father my kids are lucky enough to have. Happy Father’s Day!

 

 

Love More

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Dear Kiddos-

It’s Wednesday and, on a national scale, this week has sucked. We’ve had the largest mass shooting in our nation this past weekend in Orlando as a man killed 49 people at a gay club. A singer was gunned down point blank in Orlando the night before the shooting. And today I woke up to the news that a 2 year old was snatched by an alligator from a Disney World resort.

The news this week has been full of sadness and grief and shock. Gun activists are fighting with those looking to restrict access to firearms and things are getting ugly. Close minded, ugly, small people are saying horrible things about gay people and Muslims. There are ideologies shared on Facebook that make me cringe.

Kidd0s- this exhausts me and scares me. I cry as I watch the mother’s of the victims mourn their babies- because our children are always our babies no matter how old they are. And I’m mad. I’m so damn angry at the hate and ignorance in this world. Which I realize doesn’t solve anything, but there it is.

But while this week has sucked on a national level, we’ve had a good week. You found out your new cousin is a girl! Baseball games have been won! Family dinner have been eaten! You’ve been on field trips and are so excited for the last day of school! Our life- our little, wonderful, miraculous life- is good. It’s more than good- it’s amazing. And I’m so thankful for that.

I’m at a loss on how to help on the larger scale. So I’m concentrating for right now on our lives. I’m not only focusing on raising you with all the love, acceptance and kindness in my heart- but I’m going to continue to focus on raising you to be respectful, kind and accepting in your hearts. I figure if all the mamas out there try to raise their kids with that same focus, the good will continue to win. Love with triumph in all is forms. And maybe, just maybe, this world will be a safer one for you, your loves and your children.

So, kiddos- love fiercely. Love without boundaries. Love with your whole heart.

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Because that is how we love you.

-Mom

National Best Friends Day

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Dear Kiddos-

Today is National Best Friends Day- which I didn’t know this was a thing. Did you know that it was a thing? Regardless, I’m a huge believer in the power of friendship and I will use any excuse to celebrate the lovely, amazing, accomplished women in my life. The lovely, amazing, accomplished women in your life because my friendship with these women are a part of who you are and are, I hope, a role model for you to base your friendships on.

I have some memories from my earlier years, but really most of my concrete, linear memories start in 5th grade. I had moved to the school district I was in when I was in 3rd grade and immediately met Marlana. From there, my friend group grew and shrank throughout elementary school, then middle and high school. But the core group- the main 10- pretty much stayed the same.

These are the women I literally grew up with – the ones that ohhh’d over my first bra, the ones who knew about all my crushes and didn’t laugh (too hard) at my bad perms. The friends I learned to swim next to when my front teeth were still to big for my mouth (aham*Scorch*). The friends what were with me when I had my first drink- and held my hair after. The friends that still text me when they go to the museum I got my first period at just to tell me they are in the place I “became a women.” They are the friends that drive for hours to celebrate your big milestones.  The friends that helped me become the person I am today by giving me the support, friendship, love, teasing and validation every child needs growing up.

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Last Day of 8th Grade.

There were fights- big and little ones- and ebbs and flows as we grew up, grew apart and then grew back together. But I could not have wished for a better group of friends to navigate the first part of my life with. I see you with your friends now and try to encourage you both towards the friends that I can think will end up making up your core group. The friends who will know you inside and out and love you still. The friends that you may not see for years but who you know will always be there. I wish passionately for friends like this for both of you.

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The gang, minus 3, this past Christmas.

During college and our years living in Washington, DC I made new friends- some of whom I’m still friends with now- but it wasn’t until I had you kids that I met my new tribe. These are the women who are helping raise you. The woman who have full permission to parent you as they see fit because they know you and love you and want nothing but good things for you. They are your friend’s mamas so you’ve never known anything but this big intertwined pile of love and friends.

These are the mamas that have celebrated your birthdays with you, seen you in almost every Halloween costume you’ve ever worn, watched you play all your sports and joined us for more playdates than I could count. They know all your secrets because the know all my secrets. They know when you’re being horrible because I’ve called at least one of them crying in frustration or fear or just sheer exhaustion.

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They make me laugh so hard I cry and make me feel normal about the crazy that is my life. They are the friends who commiserate with me when marriage gets hard and celebrate all the best things that happen to us because the genuinely love us. They are married to the men that kidnapped your father on his birthday- proving that good people attract the like.

I cannot imagine navigating the landmine that is adulthood without these women, their significant others and their children. The friendship that I have with them is the one you see day in and day out and that I hope you emulate. I pray that you see how we treat each other with respect and kindness – not cattiness and bickering.  I hope you see how friends should build you up, not break you down.

So, my kiddos, squeeze your current bestie because they may hold the title longer than you can imagine. Or they may not- and that’s OK too. You’re going to change and so are your friends. Find those that respect who you are, who you’re becoming and where you’re going. Find friends that make you a better person by sharing your interests and by challenging you to try new things. Don’t dismiss anyone based on their packaging- you’ll miss out.

Love you both,

Mom

When Accidents Happen

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When Scorch was 3, I shut our van door on his arm.

He and I were going to his swim lessons at a local YWCA. I carefully pulled into the lot, keeping my eyes peeled for kids darting around. I gathered up all our stuff, unbuckled Scorch from his 5-point harness, set him carefully on the ground, and pulled the door shut. In the time it took me to turn around from the van to the sidewalk- Scorch realized he forgot something in the car and reached in to the van to grab it.

The van door (a manual-slide side door), hurling at top speed, slammed into his arm above his wrist and bounced back. I was standing right there- literally not two feet away from him- and I couldn’t not stop it from happening- all all happened so fast. Thank God Scorch’s arm wasn’t broken, but it was severely bruised and we had it x-rayed 3 separate times over the next few months to make sure we didn’t miss a fracture because the swelling was so bad.

When the Bean was 3, I lost her at a playground. It was after a big charity walk and the kids were so very good that I decided to take them to the playground they had been drooling over all morning. There were a lot of people there, so I kept both kids by my side as we explored. At one point, Scorch wanted to go on the swings and the Bean didn’t. So I told her to stay put behind me while I gave her brother a push to get started- he was only 5 and not very good a pumping yet. When I turned around, literally 10 seconds later, she was gone. Thankfully we found her within minutes- she wandered away to check something else out- but I have never been so scared in my life.

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I don’t know what happened in Cincinnati yesterday. I have no idea if the child’s mother was on the phone. Distracted by an other child. Simply tying her shoe or looking in her purse. I have no idea what she was doing- but I can almost guarantee she was doing something we’ve all done before. Or maybe she wasn’t doing a damn thing and her kid still managed to get away from her. 3 year olds are quick and quiet when they want to be – and they are pretty easy to lose in a crowd.

It IS a tragedy that a gorgeous, majestic, endangered animal lost its life as a result. Should the zoo have responded different? Been built differently? Had a different safety plan in place? Perhaps- maybe it’s time we revisit the ethics behind zoos and how they are built. But what I seeing online and in the news isn’t about the zoo- it’s an attack on this child’s mother.

Here is what I do know. I know that society expect perfection- and that is an impossible standard. We’re not supposed to be helicopter parents, but if our kids fail, we’re blamed for not being on top of them all the time. I’m supposed to feed my kids organic, free-range, non-processed food all the time, but not really. Because if that is all I do, then I’m too out there and subject to eye rolls from the other moms. I know that I’m supposed to urge my kids to be happy and find themselves- but if they aren’t the top of their class/team/whatever than clearly I’m not doing my job at helping them excel.

I know that I’m supposed to keep my kids safe at all times- but I also know that accidents happen. I know that I’m supposed to be a perfect parent. But I’m not- and neither are you. And I hope that should my screw up be so public or so emotional, people would show me the grace and compassion all parents deserve.

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Saying Goodbye

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It’s been a month. The Bean made her First Communion. Scorch turned 10. Last weekend the Bean and I went away with her Girl Scout troop. We camped in NJ and spent a day in NYC. It was a long, fantastic, exhausting weekend and I’m so very, very thankful I had that time with the Bean. And then, when I got home that day, I got a phone call telling me my Grandmother passed away.

My Grandmother was a central figure in my younger life. As a kid, I spent as many weekends as I could up there. She had dogs and cats and horses and acres and acres of land that we’d explore on foot and on horseback. She introduced me to wheat bread and water with lemon which sounds odd, but at the time was Big Deal. I had birthday parties at her house on the bank of her pond and I still remember how at home I felt in her home.

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I’ll never forget the day she explained the birds and the bees to me. We were mucking out her horse’s stall and she, being a nurse, explained the mechanics of sex to me in very frank, clear cut terms. I remember wanting to puke and telling her I was NEVER letting a boy do that to me. Ever. She laughed.

She opened up a shop on her property where she- a fabulous artist- sold her paintings, ceramics and other gifts. I worked there a lot of weekends when I was in elementary into middle school. She taught me how to tie bows, run a register and write invoices. She held painting classes throughout the year and would host a special one in Nov for myself and my cousins to make gifts for our parents.

My childhood was a very happy one for a lot of reasons- one of them being the relationship I had with my Grandmother.

So, Grandma- thank you for your love, support and encouragement. You’ll be greatly missed, but we’re all so very glad you’re safe and at peace now.

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Grandma with Baby Bean in 2008

 

10.

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Dear Scorch-

You turned 10. TEN. Double digits. Child of mine, how is this possible?!

I read through your birth story last night (something I’ll share with you when you’re older and won’t make you gag) and looked through all the pictures we’ve taken of you on your birthdays to-date and my mind was more than a little blown because these years went by fast. Faster than I would have ever thought possible.

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Sometimes I miss your sweet baby cheeks. I miss looking down at your darling face and eye lashes while you nurse. I miss your squeaky voice and holding your tiny hand in mine. I miss how you fit on my lap and how your face would light up when I walked into the room.

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But most of the time, I don’t miss much because I’m loving the time we’re in right now. You are one of the smartest, wittiest kids I know. You’re sweet and kind hearted and have more energy than a puppy. You’re loud and enthusiastic and without shame (within reason)- all things I adore about you. You manage a crazy schedule better than I do and your joy is infectious.

Earlier tonight, you were watching a video and your laugh resonated through the house. Even though I couldn’t see the video because I was doing laundry, I couldn’t help but start laughing because of how hard you were laughing. That kiddos, is just who are you. People are drawn to you, in part, because of this joy that you have.

I won’t lie to you- the tail end of year 9 has been challenging. Your emotions are close to the surface and I never know which way the wind is going to blow. Thankfully 85% of the time you’re still your normal happy-go-lucky self. But when you’re not? It ain’t pretty for any one. Eye rolling, tears and yelling are more common place then I’d like- but these crazier times have led to some great heart-to-hearts. I promise you that no matter how many times you roll your eyes and stomp around, I’ll always be here to listen. I may get mad and I may do some stomping of my own, but at the end of the day- I’ll *always* be your soft place to land.

As you get older, here is what I want you to promise me. Promise me that you’ll:
> Keep your kind heart, it will never lead your wrong.
> Remember your manners, they’ll get you out of more tight spots than you can imagine.
> Don’t forget to laugh. If you look hard enough, there is always humor (even if it’s dark, gallows humor. Sometimes that the best kind)
> Keep perspective. There are very few things that are worth getting terribly worked up about, so learn to let things go.
> Fight for what’s right. Those very few things that are worth getting worked up about are VERY important, so don’t hesitate to fight hard for them.
> Respect yourself. You’re a smart, passionate kid who has one hell of a future. Respect your mind and your body enough to make the smart decisions to keep yourself safe and healthy, even if that means not going along with the crowd.
> Respect others. Be kind, listen to what others say, respect their feelings and be empathetic. Stand up for those that can’t stand up for themselves, even if that means not going along with the crowd.
> Blame me. As you get older and people start doing things/saying things that make you uncomfortable, blame me. “I can’t because my mom will kill me.” “I can’t because my father can smell a lie a mile away.” I’ll be the bad guy in any story you need me to be because if your heart is telling you something isn’t right, listen to it.

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You, my sweet, darling, amazing child, are a complete and total miracle. We couldn’t love you more if we tried and I’ll never tire of reminding you of that. Watching you grow is one of my biggest privileges and I cannot wait to keep seeing who you turn out to be.

I love you,
Mom

Happy Mother’s Day

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I’d like to think I’m everything in that saying. Wise, full of strength and dignity, brave and kind. And I am, sometimes. But I’m also full of BS,wearing in yesterday’s clothes, terrified about the future and sometimes not-so-kind to the Hubs, the kids or myself.

And that, right there, is the joy of Motherhood. My kids are the love of my lives and the biggest pains in my butt. They are my every joy and happiness as well as the cause of a lot of my fear and tears. There are days I look around waiting for the real grownup to step in, because clearly, I don’t know what I’m doing.

Motherhood is messy and heartbreaking- but it’s also my biggest joy, triumph and privilege. And I’m beyond thankful to be surrounded by women who feel the same way about their families regardless of if their babies are itty-bitty or if their babies are raising their own kids.

To my Mother, my Mother-in-Law, my sisters and my friends- I’m in awe of each of you and your strength, your determination, you kindness and your grace. I’m also appreciative as heck when you you’re none of those things and keeping it real, raw and honest because I need to see that too.

To my friends and family longing for a family of your own- I feel your pain and hope your dreams are realized, one way or another, soon.

 

 

DC in a Day

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It’s been over a month since we road tripped it down to FL, so (because we’re crazy) we decided to road trip ~7 hours down to Washington, DC this past weekend. Clearly, we cannot get enough of our van. We picked the kids up right after school on Friday, pointed the car south and arrived to my sister’s well past bedtime, fueled on Twizzlers and gas station snacks.

We were coming back home on Sunday, which meant we had 1 day and 1 day only to squeeze in the highlights of Washington. We left my sister’s in the pouring rain at 9 am with Lala in tow and made the 45 minute drive into the city.  I love Washington. It’s my favorite city so when Scorch started fan-girling in the back seat the minute he got his first glimpse of the Washington Monument, I got a little teary. The kid was soooo excited and I was beside myself getting to show the kids the city where the Hubs and I worked for 3 years.

There are a lot of things to see in Washington- enough that you could easily fill 5 days of sight seeing. Since we only had one day and were visiting with a 9, 7 and 5 year old, we decided to hit the highlights. One day, I’d love to go back and do it all, but for this weekend, here’s how we made it work:

  1. National Museum of Natural History: it was pouring in the morning, so starting off inside just made sense. We got to the museum about 5 minutes after it opened, waited in line to go through security and went upstairs first. The main dinosaur exhibit was closed, so we hit up the smaller fossil area, the mummies and the insect zoo. Then we migrated down to the Mammals and Ocean exhibits with what seemed like thousands of our closest friends. I would have loved to have seen the geology section (including the Hope Diamond), but the crowds were bad, so after an hour and a half we moved on.
  2. National Archives: Scorch is a huge history buff like his father, so the guys wanted to see the Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights and the Constitution so we moved over to the National Archives. The girls could not have cared less so after we saw the line to view the documents, I took them to the Family Center area (which was open for play Saturday) to work off some energy while the guys geeked out. Worked out perfectly! As a side note, the Museum Store there was our fav of all of them.
  3. Air and Space Museum: We walked over to the Air and Space to meet up with my parents and sister for lunch. This was ideal because there was a McDonalds and Boston Market in the museum which worked perfectly when dealing with 4 kids 9 and younger who were starving. After eating, we just did a quick walk through- we had been to the Air and Space Museum by Dulles Airport a few years back, so none of us had enough interest to brave the crowds and stick around.
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  4. The Mall & Monuments: the rain finally stopped, so we moved our party outside to check out all the monuments! Walking from the Museums, we did a roughly 4.5 miles loop that let us hit:
    • The Washington Monument (we didn’t go up it, just played around it)
    • WWII Memorial: there was something going on that day, so there was a few dozen WWII vets there when we were. It was very touching to see them and to get to say thanks.
    • Lincoln Memorial: if this place doesn’t give you goose bumps, you have no soul. (Same goes if you don’t get the urge to yell “JENNNNNNY” and wade through the reflecting pool).
    • Vietnam War Memorial: this one gets me every time- it’s amazing how a place filled with so many people can be so quiet.
    • White House: So much has changed since the Hubs worked there that it’s hard to get a good glimpse of the House any more (the giant tent in the yard didn’t help either), but it was still so cool to show the kids where Daddy used to work and to reminisce!
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  5. Thomas Jefferson Memorial: after walking back to the car, we bribed the kids with ice cream and drove over to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. Such a gorgeous place on the river- it’s my personal favorite.

And then we were done. The kids were amazing, the sights were gorgeous and everyone had such a great day. We missed a lot- the Korean War Memorial, the MLK Jr. Memorial, Arlington, and the Zoo just to name a few. But that’s Ok- that just means we have to go back again soon!

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