Birthday Wishes

Dearest E,

It’s here! Your favorite day of the year and one of my favorite days of my life…your birthday!

Six years ago you came into our world and taught us the definition of happiness. You also taught us the definitions of exhaustion and frustration, but let’s focus on the positive, it is your big day after all.

When you turned 5 last year I couldn’t wait to see what your fifth year would bring. To say it was exciting would be an understatement. You flew on an airplane for the first time, played on your first soccer team, started kindergarten, and recently lost your first tooth, which is adorable btw. A lot of firsts!

You still love horses, cracking jokes, and you’d eat pancakes for every meal if I let you (and some days I do).

We hope you have an incredible birthday full of surprise and joy because that’s exactly what you bring to each one of our days. I’m beyond proud you’re my daughter and am so lucky you call me mama. You are everything good in the world and we love you!

Hope your birthday is as magical as you are. Happy 6th Birthday, Miss E!

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Time Flies When You Don’t Want It To

This too shall pass is simply a polite way of saying you’re screwed for now and parenthood is an endless loop of waiting for things to pass. So basically, parenthood = you’re screwed. Math has never been my strong suit, but that’s an equation I can understand.

At some point in parenthood you might find yourself wishing the time away because it would make life a little easier. Like just a few months ago when I was grumbling about our lunch routine and how awesome it was going to be when the big one had lunch at school. Cut to now and I’m sad that the three of us won’t have that time together. WTH? I was seriously just complaining about it and now I’m getting all sappy over it? Parenthood is such a weird thing because what drives us crazy one day will be the very thing we miss the next.

It’s so hard not to look to the next stage of my children’s lives even as everyone is telling me to cherish the time while they’re little because one day I’ll wake up and they’ll be starting school, and before I know it, they’ll be full-blown adults. Some days I’m like, yes, I want to be as present as possible and soak up every second with my amazingly brilliant kids and other days I’m like if they don’t leave me alone my eye is going to twitch so hard it’s going to pop out of my head.

So I’m finally learning to be careful what I wish for when I’m busy wishing things would pass because it’s taken me this long to learn that I might be screwed for now, but not forever.

Walking Boots

My father grew up walking the country roads of rural Georgia. He spent his childhood walking everywhere–to town, to school, to the neighbor’s farm that was miles away. He passed down his love of walking to me and now I’m hoping to share it with my daughters. They’re finally old enough that we don’t need a stroller anymore, which is nice, but stressful in different ways. They’re loose and I’m outnumbered and there are no sidewalks here and I have to corral them like wild turkeys.

When we were young, my brothers and I went for walks with our dad almost every night after dinner, now that I think about it, it was probably to give my mom a break from our constant noise because normally she stayed behind.

We’d set off on our usual route and along the way I had my small detours like balancing along the bricks of a certain driveway or a shortcut through another. We always passed The Purple Lady’s house, where, I kid you not, every single thing was purple–the house, the car, the flowers, even her hair!

Strolling along, I’d ask Papa to tell me stories from his childhood. Sometimes he’d tell me all about going to school in a tiny one room schoolhouse, walking however many miles with a group of kids he could still name as if he’d seen them the day before. And he’d tell me about the first pair of glasses he got and how he was so amazed he could finally see ants on the ground. Or how he and his older brother JR got into all sorts of mischief, pulling pranks on everyone. Toward the end of our walk, I’d run ahead and put my hands and feet in the imprints on the sidewalk on Lancaster St. right before saying hello to the yellow lab that always barked at us as we passed by.

We forget pieces of our childhood until we have children of our own and they remind us what it used to be like. I hadn’t thought about these walks for a long time until I took my girls for one yesterday. Just like my detours, they found their own along a rocky pathway, where I followed behind, feeling that long-lost spark of adventure. Then they hopped from one stepping stone to the next at the house on the corner. The big one pointed out pretty white blossoms blooming on a tree while the little one picked dandelions to carry, and I felt like a kid again, which is to say, happy.

on a walk

Memory Lane

Parenthood is the ultimate plot twist. It starts out as trying to protect a helpless little baby from the big bad world, providing everything she needs to survive until one day she turns into a clever, strong-willed child with a mind of her own, and then it’s the parents who need help surviving.

My baby turns five soon. So naturally I’ve been looking back on my first five years as a parent. It’s mind-boggling to think how much living and learning this tiny person has brought along with her. I keep hearing my mom’s voice in the back of my head like a mantra, “It’ll get easier. It’ll get easier…” Yes mama, it has gotten easier, but it’s gotten much harder in much different ways.

The first year of my daughter’s life was based on survival, hers more than mine, but both of ours together. I remember not knowing a damn thing about being a parent and having to figure everything out from scratch and on very little sleep. My only goals were to make sure she was fed, clean, and happy. It was a ton of work, but I remembering loving (almost) every minute of it.

The second year of my daughter’s life was based on safety, in the most basic definition of the word. This was when she was unsteady on her feet and charging the world like a wild stallion–fearless and curious and full of wonder. My only goals were to make sure she was fed, clean, and didn’t crack open her head.

The third year of my daughter’s life was based on surrender, meaning I had to give up a little bit of control. This was when she started preschool, interacting with other kids, being exposed to more than just our little bubble. My only goals were to make sure she was fed, clean, and didn’t bite anyone.

The fourth year of my daughter’s life was based on surprise, meaning I was surprised at just how difficult she could be. This was when she really started to come into her own–her own ideas, her own choices, her own way of doing things. My only goals were to make sure she was fed, clean, and that I didn’t strangle her for never listening to me.

The fifth year…well, that’s this year ahead of us. I’m not sure what it will be based on yet or what all it holds for her, but I’m hopeful that it’s full of love and lots of laughter. Because if I know my daughter it definitely will be. There’s nothing she loves more than making us laugh, and there’s nothing I love more than laughing with her.

Chip off the Ol’ Block

It’s when you see yourself in your children that you really start to worry for their future.

I’m officially worried.

My four year old is exactly like me; she’s a sensitive spitfire full of piss and vinegar who takes things too personally, wears her heart on her sleeve, and does everything possible just to get a reaction. Karma is in full force, people. Now I know exactly where that expression, “chip off the old block” comes from!

People say that it’s great to have a strong-willed child because she’ll stick up for herself and be driven later on in life, but that does nothing to help me put up with her ridiculous attitude until we get to that point (if we even make it to that point). And how do I know if she’s strong-willed and not just an A-hole? Or is that one and the same?

One of the best things about having kids is seeing pieces of yourself in them, but it’s also the worst. In one moment it’s endearing how much my daughter sounds and looks just like me. The way she says, “Seriously!” after dropping something on the floor, to how she responds, “What a bummer!” finding out McDonald’s ice cream maker isn’t working. I especially see myself when she throws her head back and laughs, eyes twinkling with silliness. She’s like a cuter, smarter, funnier caricature of me. These are the moments when it all makes sense.

But then there are the other moments, like when she throws a fit because not everything goes her way, which is my signature move. Or when she scrunches up her face in a terrifying scowl, crossing her arms in disgust before stomping off because it’s not her turn to choose a movie. Or when she bursts into tears because that little line on her sock isn’t lined up just so. These are the moments when I’m confronted with my own terrible behavior.

It scares us to see our children act like us because we want them to be so much better than us, to be everything we’re not, to not make our mistakes, and to know a happiness we’ve never known. And then despite all our exhaustive efforts, they end up exactly like us anyway.

My daughter and I are going to clash our whole lives because we’re too much alike. One day I hope we’ll sit and laugh about how she was as stubborn and feisty as her mama, and it’ll make me proud instead of crazy. But until then, as soon as her father gets home, she’s his problem. Come to think of it, that was exactly what my mom did with me, and once again it hits me that I’m more like her than I’ll ever know or admit.

Buh-Bye Babyhood

When I was pregnant I couldn’t wait for my babies to get here. It seemed to take for-ev-er. Then they were born, life fast forwarded four and a half years, and now they’re so grown up. The little one just turned three, and now she’s a full-blown miniature person, leaving her babyhood in the dust.

She’s hitting huge milestones back to back, and I guess that’s why it feels like this chapter is done. We just gave her a “big girl bed,” and she’s so in love with it. She asks me to come look at it no fewer than ten times a day. I’m only mildly bittersweet about it, I say, tears streaming down my face.

Parenthood is this weird limbo. You’re stuck between wanting to keep them your babies forever, and wanting them to grow up and leave the nest sooner than later. Believe me, I’m absolutely DONE having babies, and needing to care and nurture one, but I’m not done holding onto them as if it was the first time.

I’m ecstatic they’re gaining more independence, doing more for themselves because that means I don’t have to do every single little thing for them, although most of the time that’s exactly how it feels. Baby steps, I guess.

So adios, diapers! Arrivederci, crib! Au revoir, babyhood! It was fun while it lasted, not to mention life-changing in every way imaginable.

 

3 Candles

Dear S,

Happy 3rd Birthday, darling girl! It seems impossible that you’re three years old already, yet here we are.

Where does the time go? Probably the same place where my sanity and all the missing socks end up. I say this every time another birthday rolls around, but I can’t believe you’re another year older. Time is rushing away from me, refusing to slow down, just like you. Each day you’re getting a little taller, your hair a little longer, you’re changing and maturing right before my eyes. Please stop.

You are a delight in every sense of the word. Just seeing your little face with your plump cherub cheeks and your huge expressive eyes makes me smile. You are quite the character, and as much as it pains me to admit it, you’re already such a little diva. You furrow your brow, cross your arms, and roll your eyes just like a pro. (I have no idea where you get it from.) I’m so afraid when you become a teenager. Please don’t.

You love doing everything with your big sister: “barrel racing” in the front yard, coloring pictures together, playing horses and Barbies. The two of you together is everything. The other night you asked to sleep in her bed, and while it didn’t last all night, I thought that was the sweetest thing in the world.

Every night I put you to sleep, reading, rocking, and singing to you. It’s my favorite part of the day. Your body curled up in my arms with your tiny arms wrapped around me. Your little voice telling me you love me back. I’m always so exhausted by this time that sometimes I just want it to be over so I can rest, but then I realize there’s no better place than in your parent’s arms, so I rock you a little longer and squeeze you a little tighter because you won’t always let me hold you like this, although I hope you prove me wrong.

We have big plans for your birthday today. A trip to the zoo, and then a party with friends and family, even a rainbow donkey pinata that you’re head over heels in love with. Something tells me you’re gonna be more in love with what’s inside the ill-fated rainbow donkey.

Wishing you a magical 3rd birthday, Sweet Pea. You truly are my sunshine. We love you!

Sunshine