Valentine’s Day is for Lovers

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I’d like to offer up the dating advice of my six-year-old. You are welcome.

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This may not be widely known, but there are four steps to falling in love.

Step 1:

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First pick someone you like.

Step 2:

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Next talk to them.

Step 3:

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Then get in touch with them.

Step 4:

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Last you got yourself a boyfriend.

Kate’s four-step process is simple to follow, although it may bring to mind a few questions. Like, why does the girl in this instructional have such a giant rack? (I don’t know. Kate likes boobs?) What are they talking about in each step? (Imaginary friends/animals. Naturally.) In step three, how are they getting in touch? (Texting with their iWatches. Again, naturally.) So what are you waiting for? With Kate’s four easy steps to falling in love and getting yourself a boyfriend, you won’t be spending this Valentine’s Day alone.

YOU ARE WELCOME.

 

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Remember

It is past his bedtime. He is snuggled on his tummy, tucked in tight under his baby blanket that just barely covers his tippy toes. I lay next to him on my stomach, facing him so that we are nearly nose to nose. I slowly and gently stroke his hair as I sing “You are my sunshine” quietly. All is still and we slowly come down from the day together, relaxing into the darkness of the evening. Slowly, so slowly I hear a sound start to rise from him. It is a soft keening, building in his throat and before I know what has happened there are giant tears slipping down his cheeks. And the keening rises to a wail of anguish and suddenly he is sobbing and choking out the words,

“I don’t want you to die.”

“I love you so much.”

“Please mommy, please don’t die.”

I press closer to him so that his tears spill onto my face and I rub his back and murmur to him that I am not going to die, that I am going to be with him for a long, long time. And he clings to me and sobs and his hot breath warms my face and my heart aches with all the love I have for him.

And he cries himself dry. And exhausted, he sleeps.

I pray that when I look back at this time of Beckett’s life, I remember. More than just wild and silly and terrible threes, I pray I remember his heart. His giant capacity to love. I want to remember that when Kate is sad he tries to make her laugh. That when I am frustrated he always, with wide blue eyes worried, asks if I’m mad at him. That he wants me to smell his breath after he eats. That he loves dinosaurs.That his favorite color is blue. That he cries if I walk up the stairs too fast for him to keep up. That any time I put on a dress, or make-up, he tells me I am beautiful. That he still asks me if I’m sad that Pops is gone. That he gives the best hugs. That his hair curls when he gets sweaty. That he is the most animated child in his class during chapel, and that he sings with his whole body. That he, in all honesty, wants to live with me forever. That he cried this morning because Kate will move away some day when she “grows up.” That he loves apples so much he eats two or three a day. More if I would let him. I want to remember the way his hair smells after a bath. The sound of his giggle. How much he loves babies. And that the thing he fears most in the dark of night is that I would someday go away and not come back.

Please, God.

Help me remember.

The goose

Yesterday, when I picked Kate up from school, a group of kids were playing Duck, Duck, Goose outside. Kate ran over and jumped in the circle, as did a few other children. She sat perfectly still. Legs crossed. Small smile on her face. I wasn’t close enough to tell, but I wouldn’t have been surprised if she was holding her breath. I could read it all over her. Her eagerness. Everything about her said, “Pick me, pick me!” 

Several rounds passed and the children who started the game picked the kids they knew and were friends with to be the “GOOSE.” I saw Kate’s smile fading but she continued to sit perfectly still. Not really making eye contact with anyone. Just waiting. HOPING.

A few rounds after that, I saw some of the kids in the circle getting impatient. One raised his hand, “PICK ME!!” and of course, that time he was picked. A few other children who hadn’t had turns did the same. And they got their turns. But Kate continued to sit perfectly still. Only her face had changed. It had no joy. She was the only kid who had not been picked.

My heart ached for her. I wanted to scream, “SOMEONE JUST PICK HER!” I wanted to march over there and tell the other kids to give everyone a turn. I wanted HER to be brave and tell someone to “PICK ME” like the other children who weren’t being chosen. But she just sat there silently. And so did I.

Parents were ready to leave, and the game disbanded. But Kate didn’t move a muscle. There was no one left in the circle. And yet she just sat there. It was like she couldn’t believe she hadn’t gotten a turn. That surely, if she just stuck it out a little more, she would be given a chance. I finally walked over and crouched down next to her.

“It’s time to go home Katie.”

“Okay.”

“Kate, are you okay? Are your feelings hurt?”

“Yes. No one picked me. Why wouldn’t anyone pick me?”

“Well, honey, a lot of times people will pick their friends, so the same people get picked all the time. But you don’t have to be afraid to ask for something that you want. If you want a turn, you raise your hand and say that. You just say, “PICK ME!” and maybe it will happen.”

“Okay.”

“I’m sorry your feelings were hurt Kate. I love you.”

“I love you too Mommy. Let’s go.”

I still have that image in my mind. The one of her sitting. No one left in the circle. No joy on her face. She has probably forgotten it by now. To be honest, she probably forgot the sting of not being chosen about five minutes after we left the playground. But it has stuck in my mind.

It is stuck because it is a reminder of what is to come. Of hurt feelings and bruised egos and tears and sadness. Those things that we, as parents, pray our children won’t have to suffer, but really are simply a part of growing up.

I wanted to say something during the game. I wanted to intervene for Kate. Save her that tiny bit of pain. But I just watched. And waited. Because I’m not going to be there on the playground with her all the time. I’m not going to be able to make kids pick her, or play with her or be nice to her. I’m going to have to give her the tools to stand up for herself. To ask for what she wants. To treat others the way she wants to be treated. To be fair, and loving, and compassionate.

I knew parenting was hard. But I didn’t really realize how much it was going to hurt, too.

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Grief

I remember the first time I felt real grief. It was when my Nana died, and I was in high school. Since then, I’ve felt varying levels of loss, sadness and pain, but never again have I had to deal with the kind of grief that physically removes the air from your lungs and bends you to your knees.

Until last week. When I got the news that my Dad had a tumor in his esophagus. That the doctors were concerned enough to take a biopsy. That we would know something in a week. I hung up the phone and bent over and felt the heaviness of all the “what ifs” wash over me as I imagined saying goodbye, having my KIDS say goodbye, to someone so big and so important to us all. And for a week, I grieved over what could be. I alternated between hopeful and hopeless. I wore big sunglasses so my kids couldn’t see the silent tears that would slide down my face while I drove them to school. I canceled social engagements so I wouldn’t have to keep up a brave face.

Sometimes I would get caught up in my children, in our lives, and I would forget. For a moment, I would forget my grief. But then, a word, a song, a thought, would trigger it and my stomach would tighten, my heart would seize and I would hurt. Physically hurt from it all. And, I would feel guilty. Because when something so big is looming over you, it feels like it should take over life, like there can’t be room for anything else. But life does continue, and so I waded through, feeling removed from it all while I waited for the answers to all the “what ifs.”

And then we got our answer. It IS cancer. It HAS spread. There are spots on his liver. They said “small” spots, but all I heard was, SPREAD. My parents reacted positively. They rejoiced that it hadn’t permeated his body. I felt small, and mean, and ungrateful because I couldn’t rejoice. I could only rail against the universe that this was happening to such a GOOD MAN.

And so we move forward. We ATTACK. Dad meets with doctors. They create a treatment plan. They treat. We see how Dad responds. They treat more. We pray.

We pray.

I don’t even really know how to put into words how I feel. I think at this point I feel numb. I feel tired. WEARY. I think that is the word. I feel weary and I’ve only been dealing with this grief for a little over a week. How long will this take? How long will I feel scared, and uncertain and worried and WEARY?

I’m not ready to say goodbye to my Dad. And I know for a fact he isn’t ready to say goodbye to our family. That is the silver lining. That no matter what the tests say, or the doctors say, or the Internet or the statistics say, my Dad is a force of nature. He is single minded. Focused. Dedicated. Determined. Positive. I have to believe that if anyone was going to beat this thing, it will be my father. I have to believe it because the alternative is unacceptable.

Love you daddy.

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The long game

A week and a half into our school year and Kate is already pulling the, “I don’t want to go,” card. She seems to truly enjoy school now (thank you GOD), so I’m chalking it up to her not being a morning person. Like, at all. She takes a lot of time to get revved up. Usually a show or two, some milk, some cuddling with the dog, some books, maybe half a frozen waffle, a glass of water, a trip to the play room for some mindless entertainment and then a trip to the bathroom. And then, AND ONLY THEN, am I aloud to suggest, ever so sweetly, that it is time to get dressed for the day. If we are in a hurry, and she is not allowed to warm up in her very own way, be prepared for some hysterics. I could tell her we have to hustle because we are going to go to Disney World and MICKEY HIMSELF with all his angels princesses were coming over to the house to fly us there personally with MAGIC FREAKING PIXIE DUST and she would throw herself on the ground and scream, “BUT I HAVEN’T WATCHED WILD KRATTS YET!!!”

So THAT is what I’m working with. So far this year she has been pretty okay with the whole process of getting out the door, which I attribute to the newness of school. But apparently that wore off this morning.

When I told Kate to get dressed, she told me no. That she didn’t want to. That she hadn’t played yet. So I informed her that it was a school day, and that she had to get dressed and she would play at school. That’s when she brought out the BIG GUNS.

“I don’t want to go to school.”

“Why?”

“I just don’t.”

“Is something wrong?”

“No. I just don’t…. (searching for a reason…) I just don’t like that I have to lay down there.”

“Well, you have to do quiet time here, so just think of it as your quiet time there. I can talk to your teachers and see if you can read a book or something instead.”

“NO.”

“Kate, you have to go to school, so if you have a problem we should talk to your teachers.”

“MOM NO, Don’t talk to my teachers. I just don’t want to go.”

At this point, I am lost. I mean, I’m pretty sure she doesn’t want me talking to her teachers because she doesn’t really have a problem with school, but for the life of me I’m not sure what to say next. Do I threaten? Force? Stuff her, leg by skinny little defiant leg into her clothes and strap her in the car? Do I bribe? Plead? Frankly, I haven’t had enough coffee for this. Ben overhears and comes in and picks up his little girl and sits on the bed. They put their heads together and start having a quiet little conversation and I throw my hands up and walk into the kitchen to feed the child that is currently NOT testing my patience today.

Not three minutes later, Kate comes, skipping out of the bedroom fully dressed and ready to eat breakfast. I stare, in pure wide-eyed amazement at my husband. He smiles and I mouth, “WHAT DID YOU SAY TO HER?!” He shrugs the modest shrug of a man who knows he has done something truly amazing but doesn’t want to let on that HE thinks he just performed a miracle. I make a mental note to buy him a beer and give him a good smooch the next chance I get.

We finish getting ready for school and get loaded up in the car and start down the road. It is quiet for a bit and then Kate says,

“Mom. Do you know what Daddy told me?”

“No, what?”

“He said that if I go to school every day, and then go to school every year, that someday I will get to go away to college. And then, after I go to college, I can have my own house. And when I have my own house, I can FINALLY get my kitten or a puppy.”

A lightbulb went off. Genius. My husband is a PARENTING GENIUS. He used bribery, but in the best possible way. He played the long game. He took preschool and packaged it with a lifetime of education and topped it off with the one thing she DESPERATELY wants but can NEVER have, as long as she lives under the same roof as my highly-allergic husband. A cat. He bribed her with the hope of a CAT in TWENTY YEARS. The man should belong to MENSA.

“But, I’m really going to miss you when I go away to college Mom.”

Ah. There it is. Out of the mouth of babes, a gentle reminder that I don’t have forever. While I struggle to make it through the here and now, sometimes I need to think like Ben, and focus on the long game. And try to find joy in every difficult, head strong moment as it happens.

Now you’ll have to excuse me. I’m going to buy my man a beer.

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Awesome sauce

Things at the EdelSpot are generally pretty awesome.

I realize that if you just glance through my posts, you may see a disgruntled woman complaining about life, her children, her life with her children. That couldn’t be further from the truth and if I don’t say it, I am doing you all a disservice.

I love my life. I love everything about it. From the messiness, to the lack of sleep, to the days I want to tear out my hair or run away to Argentina, I love it all. Because it is perfect in it’s lack of perfection, and it is MINE.

I once met up with an old friend that I hadn’t spent much time with since my children were born. She reads (or used to read) The EdelSpot. And at some point in our conversation, she made an offhand comment about how I don’t even like my own daughter.

Pause for righteous indignation.

Actually, pause for an internal brain explosion. HOW COULD YOU THINK I DON’T LIKE MY OWN DAUGHTER? Clearly, we are not close friends any more.

But the truth is, she had a point. I probably spend most of my time sharing about the latest shit storm or parenting fail over here. But that is because NOT EVERYONE NEEDS A RAINBOW. Seriously, when you are having a hard day, and you feel overwhelmed and you haven’t showered in a few days and you have to yell at  your daughter that if she wipes another booger on the furniture SHE IS GOING TO TIME OUT UNTIL SHE IS 20, the last thing you want to do is see how FUCKING AWESOME another mom is doing. Because then the shame spiral kicks in and  you are forced to pour cereal into a bowl for the kids and turn on some Dora so you can go lie in the bottom of the shower in the fetal position and cry because WHHHHYYYYY????? WHYYYY is it SO EASY FOR THEM AND NOT ME?!?!?!?!

Or maybe that is just how I handle a hard day.

The point is, I actually LOVE my daughter beyond all words. I love my son. I am madly in love with my husband and we have been given riches beyond my wildest hopes and dreams. Are we perfect? Nope, not a single damn one of us. But we have our good days and our bad days. Our good moments and our bad moments. And we support and love each other through this life.

One of the things people say to me is “Thank you,” for being real about the challenges of being a parent. But I’ve realized that maybe I give a really one-sided version of the story. With B’s birthday this week, I have spent a lot of time reflecting on how lucky we are. And I decided I need to sprinkle more of the good in with the bad. Even if the good is a little less entertaining, at least it is 100% real.

So get ready. It’s time The EdelSpot blows a little sunshine and roses up your behinds my friends.

Because life is good.

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