Sunday, February 05, 2017

Two point five

Dear Violet, 

Two and a half is cracker crumbs and puzzle pieces and crayon wrappers strewn around the playroom floor. Two and a half is singing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" loudly from the car seat. It's cut-up grapes and whole apples and Minnie Mouse songs at any opportunity.  
Two and a half is - day after day -  negotiation of which shirt to wear and which shoes to put on. It's blanket forts and telling elaborate stories about the hungry monster who accidentally ate your boot or how you lost a tooth at ballet class. Two and a half is a parade around the living room ribbon streamers in one hand, a baby doll in the other. It's potty training and sleep regression and bubble baths. It's early mornings, before dawn has broken, whispering in my ear, "snuggles, peas, Momma, peas." 
Two and a half is a dinner-time prayer, chubby toddler hands clasped, eyes tight shut "Thank you God for Daddy, and Momma's milk and Madeline and Reagan and Casey, my blue balloon and oh! my sisters." Two and a half is balls and playgrounds and finger puppets and books. It's Biscuit and Ollie and Peter Pan. It's scooter rides and chalk drawings.  It's helping to mix the pancakes for breakfast and hot cocoa dates. Two and a half is exhausting and endearing. A bridge between a baby and a big girl.

It's another pan dirtied by home-made play-doh and another masterpiece to hang on the wall, another pair of mismatched socks in the laundry. Two and half is collecting every rock and stick and leaf along the half mile walk to pick sister up from school. It's nap-time snuggles and and kisses sprinkled throughout the day. 
It's a hidden confidence. An unspoken independence. A holy ordinary. Two and a half is my heart melting with every post-slide giggle. 

My dearest Violet, I love you more than all the waters in the oceans and all the stars in the sky. 

Love, Momma 

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Five Rotations of the Sun

Monday 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 here's answers here and here. So, this morning on our weekly hot cocoa date, I fired away: 
  1. What is your favorite color: hot pink
  2. What is your favorite toy:  jewelry make-up doll and my dress-up clothes 
  3. What is your favorite fruit: avocado (She reminded me that avocado is a fruit because the seed is on the inside. She is waaay too smart.) 
  4. What is your favorite movie: Cinderella, Princess & the Frog, Aladdin, and Beauty & the Beast (She really had a hard time narrowing this one down). 
  5. What is your favorite thing to wear: fancy dresses or regular dresses with leggings  
  6. What is your favorite animal: ostrich, elephant and giraffe 
  7. What is your favorite song: Stories Podcast: Songs, Volume 1 (She is still rather obsessed with Stories Podcast and just recently they came out with an album of all their songs & poems. It was love at first listen)
  8.  What is your favorite book: All of them. (Note: She hasn't met a book that she hasn't loved. But, if as her Mom I was to answer this for her I would say anything Angelina Ballerina or James Mayhew as those are always ones she request when we hit up our local library or used book store.) 
  9. Who is your best friend: Simone and my sisters 
  10. What is your favorite breakfast: daddy's pancakes (Note: this tradition started during my last marathon training. Daddy makes pancakes on Saturday morning while I go on my long run. As a child who thrives on routine, this cannot be deviated from and I am okay with that.)
  11. What is your favorite lunch: peanut butter and jelly 
  12. What is your favorite dinner: hamburgers or anything with a loaf of bread that she can dip into olive oil and vinegar 
  13. What is your favorite snack: cheddar bunnies 
  14. What is your favorite dessert: cake or brownies  
  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: ride my scooter or to make potions in the playhouse. 
  17. What do you want for your birthday dinner: She had four birthday dinners: Pineapple & Pepperoni Pizza, Hamburgers and French Fries, Mac & Cheese and Fish Tacos (This year her birthday fell on a Monday night, a night I teach. So we kicked off the weekend with her choice for Pizza Movie Night, and finished it off last night with her choice of Taco's and the last of her homemade five-layer rainbow birthday cake. 
  18. What do you want to be when you grow-up: a famous ballerina space artist (She has stayed firm on her professional ambitions. If anyone can do this, it will be she). 
  19. Where is your favorite place to go: Rockin' Jump 
  20. What is your favorite game: Who Shook Hook (Honestly, she's not a huge fan of games, as she really doesn't like to lose. BUT, she has recently become interested in puzzles which makes this puzzle loving family really happy.) 

Monday, January 30, 2017

A birthday letter

Dear Lily,

This morning a picture from my facebook feed popped up: A picture of you and I hours after your birth. I realized that I couldn't remember what those first few days were like. As I sat down to write your birthday letter, I re-read the letters I wrote you from last year. I can't remember which nuances in your personality have been apparent since birth and which ones have just sprouted up. And Lily, you've grown sure (nearly two inches in just a few short months) and changed quite a bit, but you are still the same beautiful, independent firecracker you've been since birth. 
You are still fierce and creative and wise and soulful and funny and sensitive and bold and cautious. You sing at the top of your lungs and constantly dance around rooms. You love stories - audiobooks, picture books, chapter books and movies and fairytales. You love to color and paint. You draw wonderful pictures.  Your feelings are easily hurt and you love to always be first. You love rainbows and fairies, princesses and unicorns. But, lately you seem to be learning a little more just how the world works and just exactly how you fit in. Each new experience buffs your edges and softens you – from wild and reckless to smooth and refined.

I remember, so clearly, standing in a phone booth somewhere in Dublin, Ireland, the last days into my semester long study abroad stint. The phone connection was static-y, but I was on the phone with your grandfather. We were talking logistics of the pick-up at the airport in Los Angeles. I made an off-hand comments that my time abroad had changed me. "I was changed," I boldly said. He laughed and said that I could not ever change. He claimed that we never change, we are always the same.

That comment has always stuck with me – because, Lily, we do change. We evolve. We grow. That is part of God’s great design. Hebrews 13:8 say “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” He is the only one to stay the same, but we change. It's human. Even mountains move with time, and the rockiest of boulders become smooth from sand and wind and water. Part of me aches to keep your edges in their purest form. They’re a part of you, the spikes on your cactus, and a portion of me wishes the world – the culture pressures and social nuances and the sandy hourglass – could never file down your spikes. But, I know that change is inevitable. 

I once read that, when Michelangelo was asked how he managed to sculpt such beautiful creations, he replied: “In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.” And I suppose that’s the beauty of it all, Lily. Your father and I aren’t really the sculptors at all. Our statues have been created by something bigger than us, and our job is to withstand the chiseling – firm enough to stand, soft enough to be carved.

I see these attributes in you now, five beautiful years around the sun. You are marble, Lily. You swirl with strength and sensitivity, with steadiness and flexibility. And someday, you are going to make a beautiful statue – even despite the rusty, imperfect tools your father and I are working with. You’ll stand tall and beautiful, a house for whatever light you choose to shine. 
I love you more than all stars in the sky and all the water in the oceans.

Love, Momma

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Brand New

Over the past few weeks I have found myself cleaning out closets and re-ordering spaces around the house, recalibrating our home after the holiday whirl. We dug right into our first new years project creating a dedicated office space. We have packed up a few bags of baby/kid clothes we no longer need, boxed up books we have outgrown and filed away paperwork no longer needed. These sort of inventories often offer the best sort of reflection, a practical accounting of days and time and space. 

Truth be told, 2016 was a bit of an emotional roller coaster for me. I’m usually the type to look for the best in a situation (or at least the humor in it), but this past year smacked me around a bit. I spent the better part of the year feeling ungrounded and disconnected. I struggled with a lack of clarity and focus. Honestly, this past year I have felt more like a shadow of who I once was. Like there were two of me - the woman who laughs at jokes and the woman who cries in the closet. The woman who wants to tell the world about her hurts so that people understand – and the woman who wants to shut the world away because she can’t trust that others will understand.

While I am so happy to be marching away from 2016, this past year also taught me about letting go of failure and disappointment. This past year taught me more about dreaming despite heartbreak. It taught me about the power of voice and the value of silence. It’s funny how such powerful lessons can be woven amid difficult circumstances.

I know that everybody under the sun is making resolutions right now, and our family is too. We are goal orientated by nature. We wrote out professional goals, we created personal goals. We made a list of books we hope to read as a family. I am training to run the Boston marathon, and raise money for an organization that is near to my heart. We want to build a bookcase in our living room and fix up the front yard with a proper walkway and perhaps a porch swing. We want to hike in Lassen National Park and explore the big island of Hawaii.

But, mostly my goals for 2017 include finding a lighter approach. Recently, I was reminded of a marvelous quote written by J.K. Rowling, "Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light." And this is what I want to remember this upcoming year: Let my light shine. I want to shift my focus back to the wonderful. whimsical aspects of life. I want to dance. I want to play. I want belly-laugh. I want to explore and I want to continue to look for the beautiful parts of life even in the messiest of days. 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Here comes the sun

It must be said that after the rain comes the sun. After a few weeks of very difficult and very busy days and late nights and bad attitudes, temper tantrums and sick kids, we have finally settled into a rhythm of this school year.
We've made art and enjoyed delicious smoothies. We've snuggled and read books and played with shaving cream at our water table. We drew chalk pictures patio and practiced riding our bikes on the Iron Horse Trail. We've listened to music and danced. We twirled and sang.

We've gone on slow walks and watched a snail make her way across the sidewalk. We've made lemon-zucchini bread, chocolate-chip zucchini bread, ratatouille and stuffed cheesy bread. We've scootered to neighbors house and made perfume with treasures we found in the yard. We've had dinner with friends and spontaneous playdates.
We watched The Princess Bride in its entirety on a Sunday afternoon, and practiced our new piano songs after school. We've done kitchen science experiments and had leisurely dinners in the backyard where the light is soft with the warm sun setting. We've had soccer practice on hot days and we've colored on the green grass. We've gone to choir practice and parent participation gymnastics class and ballet class. We've checked out stacks of books from the library and cried on the final pages of reading Charlotte's Web. 
When the tide is against me, and life seems hard and overwhelming and chaotic.  I cling to the joy this family brings me as though they were a life raft. And when everything is going well, I just enjoy sitting back and thinking of all the smiles we shared. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

On the Road

In January of 2001, when I was 20 years old, my cousin Andy gave me a novel. Technically, a friend of his, when I complained to them both about looking for something to read, Jeff slipped it in my hands when I was saying good-bye. I took that book with me, shoving into the outside pocket of my carry-on bag, next to a bag of cookies.

I boarded my flight to Ireland, I listened to music on my Walkman, I tried to watch in-flight TV. I was restless. I was nervous. I ate a cookie. I pulled out the book, running my fingers over the cover, reading the title once more, On the Road by Jack Kerouac. I sat back, reading the opening paragraph. I consumed the novel in one sitting. I re-read it again, marking quotes, jotting in the margins.

I read On the Road two more times my first two weeks in Dublin. I finally got set-up on email through the university system, I sought out Jeff’s email. “That novel you gave me, I wrote him. “I loved it. I loved every part of it,”

The response was short, “Oh yeah,” he wrote. “I thought you might.”
I read that book again and again and again. I carried that book in my pack around Europe. I brought it home to college, from college to my adult life, from Sacramento to Los Angeles to the suburbs of San Francisco, packing it up with every move. It still remains, without question, one of my top three favorite novels of all time.

When I met J, we bonded over a love of reading and travel. He’d tell stories of lay-overs in Australia and jet off to New York for the weekend, and I’d reminisce about my time in Ireland. We'd share our favorite novels, talk about our favorite characters like they were old friends. After we graduated, our weekends were free, and often times we would skip town for the weekend, deciding at the last minute where to explore next. We’d pack up a cooler and drive: San Luis Obispo. Hollywood. San Diego. The Redwood Forest. On our drives we would plan out elaborate trips to Europe. To Asia. To Argentina. Anywhere and everywhere.

The weekend excursions diminished as we earned more responsibilities. Grad school and a mortgage. Babies and routine.  Weekend trips were less likely to happen, but they were essentially what really built our relationship. 
A few days after Christmas 2008, we were driving up to Orangevale. It had been a particularly hard month, and we had hit rock bottom.

“What if we just skipped Christmas and kept driving?” he asked. "Yes." I answered without thinking. 

So we just left. We let in the rain, with just the nights’ clothes on our back and a coffee to share. No plans except an idea to head north.

As we drove on I-5 towards Oregon, the quote from On the Road that I had memorized years before came flooding to the surface.  “What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? – it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies."
This past weekend as we drove farther and farther north, we kept questioning our decision. “We should have camped in Sonoma,” I muttered, as Violet cried, and “Are we there yet” sang out for the thousandth time. But, then north of Eureka, the landscape changes and something shifted and it felt right.

On Saturday as we hiked through Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, and we watched the girls climb on tree stumps and raced among Redwood Groves. We ran our hands up and down the soft bark of the trees. We breathed in the fresh air and played games among the trees. We built campfires and roasted marshmallows. We dug in the dirt and balanced on tree logs. In forty-eight hours we watched each of our girls grow in different ways.
I am nostalgic to a fault. I miss people before I’ve left them. I reminisce about things ten minutes after they’ve happened. I look back on times that were happy and they made me happy, but they make me sad too, and sometimes there is just no way to separate the happy from the sad, and it’s because you can’t go backwards, I think, because there’s no way to press the repeat button. Things happen and then they’re over. People are here and then they’re gone. We keep going forward because we have to, and the past recedes in the rearview mirror behind us, and it gets smaller and smaller and smaller.

Nostalgia, if you can believe it, was once recognized as a medical condition. Soldiers fighting in wars in the eighteenth century were diagnosed with nostalgia and sent home. Rousseau’s Dictionnaire de Musique describes how Swiss mercenaries were banned from singing the songs of their homeland – the Kuhreihen, or cattle-herding melodies – because they stirred in them such a powerful longing for the past that they would run away, become ill, or even die. Nostalgia – from the Greek word nostos meaning “returning home” and algos, meaning “pain.” So, when it comes down to it, we feel nostalgic when we are looking for a sense of grounding or stability.

You can’t go home again, they say, and it’s true, you can’t: you can’t go back in time to a grand international adventure in 2001 when all the world seemed alive and new. You can’t go back with hard-won knowledge and hard-earned skills, and you can’t do it over, even if you swear you wouldn’t do it any differently at all. But, remembering the past inspires hope and builds confidence. Nostalgia helps us make sense of this wild ride. It grants us perspective, reminding us: Nothing is permanent. You can’t go backwards, and so you have to go forwards. But there’s nothing wrong with looking over your shoulder every once in a while.