These Are The Days

Smart ~ Writer ~ Mom

Month: October 2014

52 Weeks of Sisterhood (and Brotherhood): Roots

This photo? My cup runneth over.

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Each time I look at this photo I smile. And then I pause. And I have a moment. And then I smile again.

I’ve started and stopped writing this post several times in the last two months. I couldn’t keep up with it all. Paralyzed with some strange form of writer’s block, I suppose. And then I realized that my anxiety was coming not from the lack of words, but rather the overabundance of feelings. So many feelings. 

So instead of trying to process those feelings in this space, how about I give you a little back story for some perspective?

It was taken this summer when we spent an amazing week camping with my son and his family at Yosemite National Park. They’ve been camping there for years and I was so excited to join them this year. On one of our first days, we went on a hike. The weather was perfect, the trees were gorgeous and the view was absolutely breathtaking. As we wound along the trail, my son’s mother pointed out this fallen tree with the magnificent exposed roots. It’s been there for years, she said.

I remembered seeing it before. One of her beautiful handmade Christmas cards from about 20 years ago featured a picture of my son and his brother standing in front of the roots…

On this day, I watched as my husband, our girls, and their brother “climbed the tree.” They walked behind the roots and carefully climbed onto the wide end of the trunk. With careful footsteps, and my husband guiding our three-year old, they made their way “up” the fallen tree … all the way to the top … and back “down” again.

They climbed off the widest part of the trunk so we could take pictures in front of the roots, as my son had done so many years ago.

As I looked through the lens of my camera, my breath caught sharply.

I thought about this open adoption journey now 26 years strong. I thought about the extraordinary relationship I have with my son. I thought about the genuine friendship and strong bond of motherhood I share with his mom. I thought about the adage about roots and wings and how we all want to give our children both so they will be grounded in who they are and also confident enough to fly on their own.

I thought about roots and family trees and connections and siblings and mothering and where we all come from and what it all means.

I love this picture. The three of them. Together. Oh my goodness.

52 Weeks of Sisterhood: At The Table

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2008, when my oldest daughter was 4 🙂

We’ve had this white “princess” table for years now. My folks gave it to my older daughter when she was about three years old.

She used to sit at that table and color or fingerpaint. She had mounds of construction paper and glue sticks and kid-size scissors and she’d use her imagination to create little masterpieces.

The table also served as her “office” when she got her Fancy Nancy telephone. An old clipboard from my office held all of her important papers. She would cradle the old-fashioned phone between her ear and her shoulder while she scribbled notes on her clipboard.

The table moved around our home in Syracuse – sometimes in our kitchen. Sometimes in the dining room. But always up against the wall so all of her important things wouldn’t fall off.

When little one came along, big sister was sometimes reluctant to give up total control of all of her things. Sharing became an important concept as we taught her that it was also OK to keep some things just for herself.

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Taken just the other day

She eventually gave up total control of her “office” and made way for her sister to enjoy it as she had.

The table now sits in our kitchen and it really makes me smile when I see both of my girls sitting there. It doesn’t matter what they’re doing, I just love that my three year old fits there perfectly, and if my ten year old scrunches up her knees a bit, she can sit there too.

They color with their crayons and markers or my little one will work in her kitchen and then serve us her PlayDoh creations. Sometimes they both sit and look out the window at the people below and wave (we are on the second story). Just the other day when I snapped this shot, the UPS guy came and the girls yelled “HELLO!” from the window. (Our UPS guy is pretty cool and always waves to the girls).

We’ll be moving in a couple of months and we’re all super excited about the change.

Not sure where the table will end up, but I know it will have a special place in the house for our girls.

52 Weeks of Sisterhood: The Push and Pull of Growing

20141006_165141Three little flowerpots occupy a tiny corner of our patio.

A little over a month ago, the girls planted the dirt and the seeds that came with the little kit and they’ve been keeping vigilant watch over the recent sprouting.

The other day, they filled our pink watering can (did you really think it would be any other color?) and gave the plants a drink of water. And by a drink, I mean the plants are currently swimming. Drowning, perhaps.

My little one is overjoyed and all-around dumbstruck that a plant is growing out of the pile of dirt.

My older one knew they would sprout, of course, but she was anxious to see the first bud.

Definitely a product of the instant gratification generation.

I smiled as I watched them spend the next ten minutes trying to will the plants to grow, grow, grow.

 

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My older girl is dealing with some things at school. Mean girls. Peer pressure. Pressure to fit in and be cool. She had a little breakdown last night. Tears. Stress. I don’t always know the right thing to say as my girl navigates the rough waters of the preteen years. It’s hard to help her walk the line between being defined by a group of her peers and not sacrificing who she is or what she wants to be (or do) in the process.

Fifth grade is hard. Growing up is hard.

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20140925_082138We have two long pieces of wood hanging in the doorway between our kitchen and our dining room.

One for each girl.

The sticks serve as their growth charts and, due to our nomadic lifestyle over the last decade, they are designed to be portable. The pink one on the left belongs to little sister and the white one is big sister’s. At least once a day, my little one says, “Measure me, please mom?” She’s so eager to move the notch on her growth!

But me? Not so much. I mean don’t get me wrong, I love watching them grow. And I know that my and my husband’s primary role is to ensure they grow up to be healthy, happy adults. But I don’t want to rush things, you know?

My little one is 99.999% potty trained (pull-ups at night, God help me) and she sleeps in a big-girl bed thanks to a transitioned toddler bed. At the playground, she can swing all by herself and only calls on me to push her when she’s feeling lazy, not because she can’t get enough momentum on her own.

My older girl is looking more and more like a pre-teen every day. Remember the episode of the Brady Bunch where Marcia started high school and she joined every club? Yes, well. My girl is doing probably too many lots of things at school – viola, chorus, cheer squad, math team, Girl Scouts, etc. I admire her enthusiasm, but I don’t want her to become a ten-year old burnout, either. So we’re talking about balance and commitment and responsibility and priorities. Big girl stuff. Growing up stuff.

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They’re both so eager to grow taller, be bigger, do more. And I suppose when I was their age I wanted to be older, bigger, and more grown-up too. But I’m sure as heck not going to stand over them and will them to grow, grow, grow. Like their little waterlogged plants, they’ll do it in their own sweet time. I’m just along for the ride.

What’s Really Frustrating

So today was frustrating.

By the time I sat down to begin my work, after dropping my little one at preschool and taking my older daughter to an orthodontist appointment, I was already behind the game by about two hours. I logged in to my computer and – nothing. No Internet connection. So I rebooted the router. Nothing.

I restarted my laptop in hopes it was just a fluke – nothing. I called the cable and Internet provider and got a recorded message saying they were aware of a power outage in my area. Frustrated, I decided to gather up my stuff and head to the library to work.

It was then that I realized I was within hours – HOURS! – of missing the deadline to pay my recent traffic ticket. For those who know my love of fast cars and fast driving, please know that this infraction was not for speeding. Let’s just say that in the state of New Jersey, you can’t make a turn where it makes sense to make a turn. If you do? You get a “failure to observe road signs” ticket in the vicinity of $85. Not a fortune, but not my favorite thing in the world.

So it was off to the municipal court to pay the ticket. Turns out they can’t accept a credit card. Cash or check only, please. Of course I didn’t have my checkbook with me, so I circled back home, got my check book, drove back and paid the bill. Then, I headed to the library, which is in the same parking lot, to begin work. And guess what? The library’s Wi-Fi was down.

OMG.

If not for the library’s quiet policy, I would have screamed in frustration. By now, it was 12:45 and just about time to get my little one. My whole morning was gone. After we got home and she went down for a nap, I was able to get some work done and as I was posting some work on Twitter, I came across this story:

Cincinnati Bengals’ player Devon Still’s four-year old daughter is battling a rare form of cancer.

I was familiar with this story and had seen clips of it in the news and maybe you have, too. But did you know that during the Patriots-Bengals game last night, the Patriots organization did something really cool? They ran a special video to honor Still’s daughter and other kids battling cancer. The New England cheerleaders wore his jersey to show support and some of the players on both sides of the field had the hashtag #leahstrong on their faces. My husband told me that Still’s shirt is one of the top selling items in the NFL right now.

For as much crap as the NFL has put forth lately, this was a moment of clarity and purpose. Some may dismiss it as a clever PR move by the Patriots organization, but I don’t think it was. To me, it was a sober reminder that cancer touches everyone: rich, poor, famous, not famous. And it was a reminder that although we sometimes cheer for different teams, when it comes to cancer we’re all on the same side.

My favorite part of this whole story is the clip Devon Still posted on his Instagram account. It’s a video he shot with his daughter in the backseat. He’s giving her a pep talk as they drive off for another round of treatment. Heartbreaking and so, so sweet.

Childhood cancer – hell, any kind of cancer – is so awful.

I wrote a post a while back about the amazing things the St. Baldrick’s Foundation does to raise awareness and funds to combat childhood cancer. And you know what I realized is really frustrating? The fact that more U.S. children die of childhood cancer than any other disease and yet childhood cancer research only receives 4% of federal funding. FOUR PERCENT. Makes no sense to me.

We have no guarantees, right? You do your best every day. You hug your kids and all that. But when it comes right down to it, having the right perspective puts everything in order.

No Wi-Fi and a traffic ticket are inconsequential compared to what thousands of kids go through each year. Goodness knows my perspective isn’t always on track. But today the universe gave me a swift kick you know where and reminded me that my day may have been frustrating in my own little world, but in the wider picture, there are more important things to get frustrated with.

I’m not affiliated in any way with the St. Baldrick’s Organization, but if you’re so inclined, here’s a link to their site. 

52 Weeks of Sisterhood: The Girls of Fall (These ‘Tonights’ Are Going By Fast)

I watched from the window as my husband taught our 10-year old how to throw a football.

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She got the hang of it and even put her own little spin on her toss.

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My youngest was just happy to be there…and was clearly more interested in kicking around her pink soccer ball.

My husband played football in high school. I, of course, did not. But I sort of always wanted to be a cheerleader. And I could have, too, if I hadn’t misspelled the word “success” while auditioning for the squad. For the record there is only one “U” in success. OMG EMBARRASSING.

Anyway.

FALL! It’s awesome, isn’t it? I love pretty much everything about it and judging from my Twitter feed being flooded with all things pumpkin, spice, and colorful leaves, it’s safe to say I’m not alone.

So as I was enjoying watching my family play, I started thinking about football games. Professional, college, and high school. And then I thought of this picture.

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My husband, around age 11. OMG.

How adorable is this kid?

So I took lots of pictures of them playing on the grass as the sun was setting. Early fall is a great backdrop for time outside.

And then because I’m sentimental and mushy and I love relating life moments to music, I thought of my very favorite Kenny Chesney song. I’ve included it below for your listening pleasure 🙂

Among the many coaches and players shown in the video’s introduction is one coach who’s giving a pre-game speech to his team. He’s reminiscing about his time on the field some twenty plus years earlier and he’s trying to instill in them a sense of appreciation. Enjoy this moment. Enjoy this game. He says, “You’ve got plenty of time for tomorrow. But these ‘tonights’? They’re going by fast.”

Oh my goodness yes they are.

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