Sunday, February 11, 2018

Six: A Letter to My Angel

Darling Lily,

The other morning I had a quick meeting with your kindergarten teacher and as we wrapped up the chat she told me point blank that you are such an “angelic child.” And you know what, sweet girl, she is absolutely right.
To be honest, I have been struggling trying to figure out just way to say to you this year. This is frustrating to me my love. I am a wordsmith by trade, and when it comes to your letter this year I was just at a loss for words. I look at you and I am absolutely blown away. I just cannot believe that you are six years old. But, here’s the thing, you are truly a wonder to behold.

The Oxford Dictionary defines angelic as a person “exceptionally beautiful, innocent or kind.” And while I believe you are beautiful, it’s the kindness of your spirit that has impressed your teacher this year. Your father and I have always seen this, but there is something so mature in your compassion, humanity and consideration. You love all people. You see grace in every opportunity. You give honest and authentic compliments. You pick up trash at the park.You offer true forgiveness. You listen, you are polite, and you are generous with gifts – treasures you find, pictures you create, books you read. 

Lily, one of the things that I love about being your mother is that you teach me daily how to be kind. Every day you remind me that kindness and love is something we are required to do. A few weeks ago, after ballet class, a little girl was upset. She was crying about losing her sticker from her theater class. And you, my love, marched right up to her, knelt down to her level, and offered your sticker from ballet.

We are taught that kindness is smiling at the neighbors, bringing dinner to a new mom, offering a seat on the bus to the elderly. Random acts of kindness, we say. Small. Unassuming Sensible. But, my love, what you are teaching me is that we are taught wrong. There is nothing small, unassuming or sensible about kindness. The thing about kindness is that requires vulnerability. It is a gift of connection, an ability to truly see others, a generous offering of our own self. It cannot be done strategically. It cannot be done sensibly. You remind me that kindness is something we are required to do all the time, in small measures and large, this offering ourselves to others. We can give stickers and service; we can give greeting cards and grace.
At six year old, you are a joy to be with. I love that you are obsessed with all things Harry Potter. I love that you are constantly practicing the piano. I love that you spend the afternoons practicing your spells and creating new “potions”. I love that you have memorized long passages of Pippi Longstocking and Ramona the Pest. I love that you spend the majority of your day immersed in pretend play. I love that you have fallen in love with bike riding.  I love that you start and end our daily dinner prayer – even on nights when you are sad or frustrated. I love that you stick your tongue out when you think. I love that you are constantly dancing. I love that you infused love and laughter into each and every day.

I love you more than all the stars in the sky and all the water in the ocean. 

Love, Momma 

Sunday, February 04, 2018

A Questionnaire: SIX!

Last Tuesday was Lily's birthday. In lieu of a babybook, I ask the following the following 20 questions to my birthday girl (starting with the third birthday). You can see previous answers here and here and hereSo, the other afternoon, I fired away: 
  1. What is your favorite color: hot pink or maybe just regular pink 
  2. What is your favorite toy: karaoke microphone  
  3. What is your favorite fruit: oranges 
  4. What is your favorite movie: Cinderella (this will be a forever favorite) 
  5. What is your favorite thing to wear: fancy dresses or regular dresses with leggings  
  6. What is your favorite animal: dogs and cats 
  7. What is your favorite song: Britney Spears (she especially loves singing Britney Spears on her karaoke microphone) 
  8.  What is your favorite book: Harry Potter (We've been working our way through the illustrated copies of the series and she is obsessed)  
  9. Who is your best friend: Simone and my sisters. Freya and Merit.  
  10. What is your favorite breakfast: daddy's chocolate chip pancakes (Note: this tradition started several years ago during a marathon training session. Daddy makes pancakes on Saturday morning. As a child who thrives on routine, this cannot be deviated from and I am okay with that.)
  11. What is your favorite lunch: avocado sandwiches 
  12. What is your favorite dinner: hamburgers 
  13. What is your favorite snack: oranges or apples with peanut butter 
  14. What is your favorite dessert: rainbow cake  
  15. What do you sleep with at night: rainbow brite starlight pillow pet and a stuffed Minnie Mouse
  16. What is your favorite thing to play outside: Harry Potter (She makes potions and practices her spells. It's really the cutest thing). 
  17. What do you want for your birthday dinner: We went out to the Counter for her birthday. She ordered a burger with fancy cheese, avocado and pineapple dipped in katshup and extra crispy french fries. We went home to sing, open presents and eat her homemade Rainbow Birthday cake (featuring chocolate frosting) 
  18. What do you want to be when you grow-up: a famous ballerina chef (This has slightly evolved over the past year - she still loves art, but now she's passionate for cooking and she wants to have her own cooking show in which she dances while she cooks. If anyone could create this niche professional it will be she.) 
  19. Where is your favorite place to go: Rockin' Jump 
  20. What is your favorite game: any pretend game (Honestly, she's not a huge fan of games, as she really doesn't like to lose.) 
The birthday girl in her self-decorated kindergarten birthday crown. 

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Let It Flow

I think and think
then close my eyes again.
This year I hope
I truly learn
to fly – kick
not to kick anyone
so much as
to fly.
- Inside Out and Back Again, Thanhha Lai 

Oh dear, I’ve been away for an awfully longtime, haven’t I? Or perhaps you hadn’t noticed. Perhaps, like my kids, who simply continued as normal playing after I slipped out for a dentist appointment – and then when I returned home, they hadn’t even realized I’d left.

But now, I’m here, on the other side of the crazy fall semester, on the other side of a busy soccer season. My students (and me!) survived the hectic and emotional Napa fires. I’m here on the other side of the Christmas festivities: all gifts given, all events attended, all food eaten, all worries assuaged.

So now it’s the day before the new year, we started packing up the Christmas decorating and purging the house, we have been tackling the laundry and tending to the yard and 2017 is rapidly coming to a screeching halt. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m big on dates and anniversaries. I’m reflective and nostalgic. I am goal orientated by nature, so for me reflecting on the past year and crafting SMART goals for the upcoming year is just part of my nature. This past week as we drove and crisscrossed the state J and I wrote out financial goals, decided a list of books to read out loud as a family, and novels we personally want to tackle. We made professional goals and sketched out a list of household projects to attempt.

But these past few weeks as I ran through the holidays and the end of the semester craziness, I realized that I will forever remember 2017 as the year I learned about the necessity of self-care. Perhaps it was because of the demanding training for the Boston Marathon. Perhaps it was because I just kept burying grief and sadness and discomfort instead of honoring it. Perhaps it was the seven demanding years of constantly being pregnant or nursing. Prior to this year, I was always focused on goals, achievements and meeting the excessive expectations I had on myself. My high tolerance for discomfort meant I juggled all the balls I had in the air – but I knew that I was sacrificing my health and my attitude.

And through this year, I got to know myself better and know what I needed – not just to function, but to flourish. I started a gratitude journal. I learned that a cup of steaming tea and a good book actually makes for a more productive afternoon. I prioritized sleep and I started and ended each day with a giant glass of water. I learned to punctuate each day with a minute of awareness. I learned to focus my attention on my feelings and sensations and to be lean in with whatever those feelings were. I learned that it was okay for me to be selfish. I learned that it was okay to do something just because it made me happy. I practiced deliberately taking a break from technology. I practiced yoga and got massages. I learned to breath. I focused on lowering my own personal expectations.

I once read an interview about a professional acrobat. She shared bits of wisdom she founded nestled into her practice, but one stood out, “What fascinates me about acrobatics is that you start thinking in a different way. You’re not only thinking with your head – your body also remembers things. You can reach a mental state that you could never reach if you were just sitting on a chair. Movement is simply another level of thinking. Actually, when you perform super-complicated acrobatic movements, it’s dangerous to think. Usually it’s when you think it goes wrong.”


And there’s so much truth here, I think. There’s something to be said about the flow of life – the routine and the mundane and the ease of familiarity – that, sometimes, we over-think. The mind is a powerful tool, and this year, I want to learn that sometimes, it’s okay to put it on the shelf for a bit, hanging between the hammer of schedules and power saw of theory and – instead – move around a bit, pressing forward to another day. It’s a comforting idea, but a challenging task, choosing the scenic route over the fast track, learning to trust my own intuition and so my goals for 2018 include a few slower mornings and an appreciation for what surrounds me. Learning to trust and not to think.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Happenings

1. Lily has started Kindergarten. She was nervous and excited. After the end of her second week, while she helped me make the dough for Pizza Movie night, I asked her a few questions:
  • What is your favorite memory from this summer? Going to Hawaii and snorkeling. Goring to my grandparents house and swimming every day. 
  • What are you most looking forward to this school year? Doing lots of art. 
  • What is your teacher's name? Mrs. Erickson. 
  • What is your favorite part of the day? Whenever we get to do art. Like coloring with smelly markers or making a project. 
  • What is one new thing you learned in school so far? To keep our hands and feet to ourselves. 
2. On our walk home from that first day of school, Violet ran ahead shouting "Sisters are gone! Sisters are gone!" When we walked in the door she ran to the Legos, still shouting, "I get to play with the Legos. Sisters are gone, these are all mine." Obviously, she was struggling with a little seperation anxiety. For a grand total of three hours, she play independently and happily. Honestly, a rareity this summer. And then, when I told her it was time to go and get Lily, she groaned and complained: "Already?  It went by way to fast."

3. When we moved into this house, the front yard and back yard were alright: a little scrubby, but noot terrible. Over the past year, between the drought and the inside projects, we kind of forgot about the outside, until one sunny Saturday morning in the early spring, we decided that something needed to be done. We impulsively hired a few day laborors and took out all the overgrowth and rotting planter boxes. However, we had no idea what to plant, or really how to do landscaping. And, did I mention we have multiple black thumbs. We've killed succulents, which is basically impossible to do. Being such landscaping neophytes, we took to walking the neighborhood and taking pictures of neighbors front yards (which, in hindsight, probably looked really creepy and suspicious.) We then starting frequenting every garden center in the tri-valley area. Since then we have compared mulch types and had date nights discussing fertilizer options. During the course of the past few months, we've replaced the entire sprinkler system, moved the valve system, broken two power tillers, but today, the sprinklers automatically when off this morning at 6:30am. We high-fived each other when we heard the water rushing through, and took our coffee to the front steps to watch it water our new groundcover.

4. We are obsessed with audible and audio books. We listened to the Ramona Quimbly Collection all summer, and have listened to the first two Little House books, narrated by Cherry Jones (both are amazing). We are nearly finished with Anne of Green Gables, and I have been listening to Pride & Prejudice while I fold laundry and do dishes. J has listened It and Peter Pan and Dracula while working on the front yard.

5. Lily, the latest ballerina soccer player, declared yesterday, over chocolate crossiants and juice after her first soccer game, that "soccer wasn't nearly as fun as she thought it should be."
6. The girls have been obsessed with learning about different European Monarchies. It's not that they are interested in the tiaras and diamonds and princess gowns, but they want to know which have been overtaken by revolution. Their latest pretend game is Princess and Guard. Lily is the Russian princess. Daisy is the guard, keeping her locked up. Violet throws all the stuffed animals and stomps her feet as an angry mob. While I love their creative play, I'm a bit concerned about the intensity. Whatever happened to playing fairies? 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Trois Ans

Dear Violet,  

Here’s the deal. Your third birthday has come and gone, and I am embarrassingly late with this love letter to you. But, my excuse is that we are nearing the end of summer, and gearing up for the upcoming school year. Our summer days have been filled with adventures, swim lessons, spontaneous playdates, library trips, yard work, and many bowls of frozen yogurt, and it’s all going so very quickly now.
Truth be told, I have been struggling to write this letter to you. I have a hard time describing your personality. Because the truth is – this past summer has been a challenge with you. There is a lot going on in your head – and you are strong and fearless – a frightening combination for us. For example, a few weeks ago, you insisted on jumping off the diving board at our local pool. You just barely learned to swim this summer, but before I could even get to the other side of the pool you marched to the end of the board, placed your toes over the end, and jumped in with no hesitation. Or maybe it's independence and stubbornness because you insist on walking through parking lots without holding a hand. Or the argument that we have on a weekly basis that you cannot scooter, alone, six houses down, across a busy street, to visit your friends. I am fully convinced that there are no less than 1,432 opinions running through your mind each second of every hour, all day long, and you make these opinions known in very loud and boisterous ways. You do not sit back or sit still or sit tight. You go and be and do and try, tornado-ing through life with a very clear and direct agenda.

But here’s the other thing: you are gentle and loving and kind, mirroring the emotions of those around you and displaying such empathy for the world. The other day, Lily fell. She scraped her knees and banged up her elbows. You saw it happen, and you rushed over as soon as you heard the crying and it took all of three seconds before tears welled in your eyes and you cried too, looking back and forth, between me and your sister, doing your best to comfort her.
Fearlessness and sensitivity are a difficult combination to work with. They’re tough cards to be dealt, but they are also amazing tools to carry through life.

And here is my wish for you, dear Violet, that you continue to honor the weight of life. That your fears never stop you from daring to think new thoughts, try new things, take risks, fail, start again, and be happy. That you continue to discover that there is more to life than afternoon dance parties and summer bike rides – and that you remain sensitive to the good times – and the bad. In life, there will be moments of pure magic and green grass and perfect days, and they will lift your spirits. It happens naturally, like the cooling effects of a summer thunderstorm. You’ll know it when you feel it.

But, empathy isn’t a trained behavior. It’s an inherent reaction that comes from a good and beautiful heart – the kind of heart that you have. I can’t wait to see you grow into someone who cares so much. Someone who is so very aware of the weight that life holds. Being sensitive can be a hard trait to carry through life, but it’s a good one – I promise. You’ll see.
Sweet Violet, I guess what I am trying to say that I can’t wait to watch you grow: To dance, wild and free.

I love you more than all the water in the ocean and all the stars in the sky. 

Love, Momma

ps: Breakfast was twenty minutes ago, no you can't have a snack. 

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Violet is THREE

Yesterday was Violet's third birthday. In lieu of a babybook, I ask the following the following 20 questions to my birthday girl (starting with the third birthday). You can see Daisy and Lily's third birthday answers, here and here. So, this morning over a coffee (for me) and a cup of orange juice (for Violet), I asked the following questions: 
  1. What is your favorite color: blue and purple  
  2. What is your favorite toy: blue and purple toys. (She loves to play with dolls and stuffed animals. Also, She is always playing with magnet blocks).
  3. What is your favorite fruit: oranges, apples and melon. But, I really like popcorn.  
  4. What is your favorite movie: Blue La-La (Cinderella) or Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (which isn’t a movie, but she loves it so).
  5. What is your favorite thing to wear: skirts. shirts with mickey mouse or minnie mouse. twirly dresses. (This is a new development. It used to be something that was “cozy” but lately, she’s been all about the dresses and skirts).
  6. What is your favorite animal: puppies! or bears, too.
  7. What is your favorite song: “Bake Sale” (from Silly Classical Songs) or “You’re Welcome” (from Moana.) (She calls this "My Welcome Song" which is always makes me smile). 
  8. What is your favorite book: Biscuit books! If You Give A Mouse A Cookie. Guess Who Mickey! oh, and Give a Dog a Donut! (She really likes any books that are primarily with dogs or animals. We can never leave the library without a book from the Charlie the Ranch Dog series.)
  9.  Who is your best friend: Reagan and Sadie (our neighbor, who is almost 8, and always shares her snack with Violet.)
  10. What is your favorite breakfast: daddy's pancakes 
  11. What is your favorite lunch: macoroni and cheese 
  12. What is your favorite dinner: pizza movie night (on Friday nights we make pizza and watch a movie together as a family. Basically, it's our favorite night of the week). 
  13. What is your favorite snack: popcorn (see answer number 2) 
  14. What is your favorite dessert: cupcakes
  15. What do you sleep with at night: my minnie mouse pillow
  16. What is your favorite thing to play outside: in the mud kitchen or swimming or catch with my ball.  
  17. What do you want for your birthday dinner: spaghetti and meatballs. cantaloupe and chocolate cupcakes with blueberry cream cheese frosting. (On the hottest day of the year we slow roasted tomatoes and simmered sauce on the stove all afternoon long.)
  18. What do you want to be when you grow-up: i don't know (We always think she'll be a veterinarian since she loves animals so much. Or a professional swimmer since I can't get her out of the swimming pool.) 
  19. Where is your favorite place to go: swimming! (For her birthday party we are going swimming with a few of her favorite people, and then celebrating with a few cupcakes. And yesterday after camp, we spent three hours at the pool jumping off the diving board.) 
  20. What is your favorite game: pretend puppies with sisters. or maybe candyland.
Don't you put on your sister's swim gear when getting ready for a quick Trader Joe market run?