Walking with baby Logan

His chubby little hands clench up into fists and he begins to rub his eyes.

“You getting sleepy,” I say to him.

He responds with a tiny whine. His body curls up and his head, suddenly way to heavy for his body, drops on my shoulder.

I grab my well-worn baby carrier and strap him in. I can feel the tension release immediately. He knows what is coming.

Stepping into my shoes we head outside. It’s fairly crisp and the air smells like logs burning. I cradle his head with one hand and we begin to walk.

We stop under my neighbor’s tree and both look up. A bird is chirping loudly, but I can’t find him in the tangle of yellow and brown leaves. After a moment, my sweet little baby nephew begins to whimper. He looks away from the tree and rubs his face against my chest.

Time to walk on.

I used to know every tree, bush, flower and house in my neighborhood. It was as familiar to me as my own backyard.

The enormous plum-tree that exploded pink flowers all over the sidewalk in the spring followed by loads of squishy plums that my kids loved to collect.

The tiny stone turtle that could only be seen under the rose bushes in the winter after the neighbors cut them back.

The crazy, barking dog that would run at the fence if you didn’t remember to cross to the other side of the street.

The grove of twisty trees that dropped plenty of sticks and little red balls just right for children’s hands and imaginations.

The giant black bees that favored the climbing morning-glory that grew along the fence of the house with the giant trampoline in the backyard.

The house with an abundance of pomegranates growing so far over the fence that you’d be able to pick some in the fall without them noticing.

The brick house that grows giant sunflowers in the summer that we just had to stop and measure ourselves against every time.

The house with several towering pine trees that always provided us with pinecones for our nature table.

As I walk around my neighborhood now, with my nephew sleeping soundly on my chest, I suddenly feel lost.

It all looks so foreign and bizarre.

It’s all so different.

Where did that grove of palm trees come from?

When did that retaining wall go in?

Where are all my memories?

It seems that my neighborhood has continued to grow, just like my kids. While I stay tucked inside, living with sadness and longing for the past, time just keeps moving forward.

It’s all so different.

My babies are giant kids who no longer enjoy walks in the neighborhood with their mother, certainly not strapped to my chest. They are smart, creative, intelligent children who love to play board games, read books, create art and make things out of string. They spend hours away at school each day and hardly seem to need me when I pick them up.

It’s all so different.

photoAs I walk home, I am suddenly struck by everything.

The beauty of the clouds and the vastness of the sky above.

A mass of deep, dark purple flowers growing next to a small ceramic snail.

An arch covered in a rich green tangle of ivy.

A lawn of dark, thick grass that is dotted with five baby pine trees in a star pattern.

A square garden box made of redwood that is growing pumpkins, squash and kale.

I feel like a small child out on my walk in the big, wide world.

I’m amazed at everything.

I pick up a golden leaf that I can’t bare to leave behind; stuck by how soft and cool it feels as I trace the vein pattern with my finger.

I stop and watch a group of blue jays fight in a bird bath and laugh at them.

I see sparks in my neighbor’s garage as he solders something together and I’m excited by what it might be.

When I get home I lay my nephew down to finish his nap and I pick up my Bible. I’m finding my way back to God and I can feel him speaking to me.

“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34

I pray for peace and for God to open my eyes to the beauty around me every day. I pray for forgiveness and strength.

Before I know it, little baby Logan awakes. He stirs sweetly and I quickly go to him. He smiles up at me with his entire body.

I return the smile with mine.

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Sometimes things are as beautiful as a rose

RoseAs we walk around the blacktop, her little hand in mine, I can feel her body tense up.

She was fine all morning, but the reality is here.

We stop and she looks at me. Her new haircut frames her face in the light perfectly and it hits me how completely I know her, how intimate we are without words.

Her eyes tell me all the fears she carries right below the surface.

“I’m scared.”

“Nobody will be my friend.”

“I’ll miss you.”

“I don’t like this.”

I smile at her and then squeeze her hand gently three times in mine.

“I love you.”

She squeezes back four.

“I love you too.”

We walk more. Both of us look forward, lost in our own thoughts and emotions.

Does she know how I feel, I wonder? Are my eyes telling her all the fears I carry close?

“I’m scared.”

“I don’t want to be alone all day.”

“I’m going to miss you.”

“I don’t like this.”

Before I know it, her teacher is playing a harmonica and signaling it is time to lineup. I stand back with all the other parents.

She stares at me from the line and I ask if she wants a kiss. She makes fishy lips and we both laugh.

I walk over, give her a quick hug and kiss, and then stand back to watch her walk to her new classroom.

I follow her like a lost puppy and then I’m temporarily struck.

My little sidekick is going away.

She won’t be with me most of the day anymore.

I’m going to be alone.

I really, really don’t like this.

When we get to the door, I watch her teacher. He stands on his knees so he is at eye level, he takes her hand into his and he welcomes her with so much kindness and genuine love.

His words from an e-mail the night before pop into my head: “I will do my best to take good care of your hearts, and then you will come and pick them up at the end of day.”

Yes.

I take a deep breath and I let it go slowly.

I don’t cry. I don’t even feel sad anymore.

Before I have time to really examine my feelings, this wonderful teacher invites all the parents to walk in and see the children at their desks.

My girl is in the front row, paying attention to him talking and she is perfectly at home there. The classroom is warm, inviting and feels so right.

This is good.

If you’re unfamiliar with Waldorf school, entering first grade is huge. This class will be together until they leave the school in eighth grade. I really couldn’t have asked for a better environment for my sweet, sensitive girl.

This is going to be wonderful.

I walk out and actually feel excited.

For us both.

She will learn to read.

I will learn to run.

She will learn to knit.

I will learn to write a book.

She will learn how to be out in the world and make friends.

I will learn how to have goals and reach for them again.

It’s going to be a good year for us both and I’m really happy.

The first day of Waldorf school includes an opening day ceremony where the eighth graders welcome the first graders with a rose. We are at a new campus this year that only goes up to fourth grade, my son’s class.

When I found out my boy would be handing his sister a rose, it was as if the universe was giving me a gigantic hug.

We all head to the tiny outdoor amphitheater. So many familiar faces, hugs and smiles. The ceremony begins with the teachers and staff singing a lovely song about harmony and unity.

Then my son’s gorgeous teacher, who I adore beyond words, strums the guitar and leads the entire school in singing:

“From you I receive

To you I give

Together we share

By this we live”

rose2

As we all sing, my sweet boy hands his sister a beautiful white rose and they walk together across the stage. I feel giddy, silly and almost break into hysterical laughter.

My life is shifting in so many ways right now and this one moment, one rose given to another, seems to symbolize all that is good and wonderful in my life.

The ceremony is over and I get in my car. I have friends to see, errands to run and freedom to feel.

Yes, freedom.

I’m opening myself up to what might be. I’m saying yes to opportunities, allowing myself to be vulnerable and releasing all the anxieties that hold me back.

This is scary, but it is going to be amazing.

 

Warm waves, surprise thoughts and Cuban coffee

beach

Trudging across the sand alone, a strong breeze hit my face and my sunglasses pressed hard against my nose. The only other person on the beach was a worker setting out beach chairs for the day.

“A storm is coming in,” he says to me. “Probably will have to just drag these all back in a few hours.”

Setting my bag down on the shore, I took off my sundress and ran like a child into the waves. I let the water hit my face hard and push me over. Snapping on my goggles and fighting the current, I swam out until my feet barely touched the sandy bottom. Then I waited for a wave to crest, dived under and flipped around to watch the water crash above me. Surrounded by bubbles, I surfaced when I was out of breath.

When my body got tired I went limp and let the waves push me to shore. I lay gasping for breath on the hot sand. I stood and barely dragged myself to my bag. Eyes closed against the sun, I stretched out and let the warmth blanket me and the calming sounds of the waves lull me to sleep.

“That is a stupid thing to do.”

A strong male voice that was surprising close hit me like a jolt. Startled and disoriented I felt the heat of my body and the scratchy sand under my face.

“I don’t care if it’s stupid, just do it.”

A female voice, high and filled with annoyance, answered even closer and I felt around for my sunglasses.

Drool was along the side of my face and my entire body was sticky with sweat and sand. Rolling on my side I saw them. A couple, maybe in their 50s, tan and in matching swimsuits was standing a few feet from me.

“Just hold the damn coconut and let me get the picture,” the woman said pushing the round, brown fruit into his hands.

Could it be they don’t see me? I thought.

“Want me to get a picture of you both?” I said. My voice sounded so raspy and odd that I wasn’t even sure I said it.

“That would be perfect!” the woman said in a very different voice. Her hair was flowing around her face and I noticed she wore a lot of makeup for a beach day.

I dragged my body up and could feel how exhausted I was. Several late nights, travel, wine and vacation had set on me like a drug. My body was more relaxed then I could remember it ever being before.

This couple snapped into picture mode before I was even up. There they stood in a pose that I imagined came from years of comfort and familiarity. His hand around her waist, she holding the coconut like a sweet newborn baby and both with matching smiles that accentuated the laugh lines around their eyes and mouths.

“Thanks,” he said and offered to take my picture holding the coconut.

Shaking my head, I gathered my things as they started to banter about placement of towels and what they would eat for lunch.

The walk back was hard. I could feel the extra weight on my body like I was carrying one my children piggyback style across the hot sand. I silently chided myself for how bad I have mistreated and neglected my body.

When I arrived back at the resort I found a bathroom. I looked in the mirror and laughed. A long, crazy almost hysterical laugh.

Here I am, I thought.

Sand was stuck on me from a combination of salt water, sweat and drool. It was all over the left side of my face, my neck, arm and leg. A crusted layer of sand accentuated the laugh lines around my eyes and mouth. My skin was slightly red and shiny. My hair was a tangled impossible mess.

Here I am, I thought again.

Everything I have done in my life has resulted in the person I was seeing in the mirror.

Laughing at myself some more, I made a half-hearted attempt to clean up and then headed out.

I had no idea what I wanted to do.

Wandering around the gorgeous resort, I found myself sidling up to the Tiki bar that had just opened for the day.

Signs all over proclaimed things like “If You’re Drinking To Forget, Please Pay in Advance” and “Dear Lord…Let this Be a Flip Flop Day.” The bartender was about my age. Her name was Michelle. She recommended the Key Lime Colada.

An older couple from Phoenix shared the bar with me and we talked for over an hour about life, marriage, kids, travel and retirement. I kept drinking until my lovely friend came to retrieve me.

This was four days into my trip. Days that had been unlike anything I had imagined they would be. My friends embraced me with more love than I can explain and I felt full in a way I didn’t know I needed to be.

Amazing conversations driving in the car at 1 a.m. Cuban coffee. Some of the most delicious food I have ever eaten. Creativity. Cuban coffee. Unbelievable sunsets. Spirituality. Did I mention Cuban coffee?

I felt nourished in every way possible. My soul had been feasting and was just so full.

Sitting at that bar a realization flooded my body and I felt a surge of something new.

I did not miss my kids.

For some reason I had imagined I would spend the entire trip pinning away for them like missing limbs that had been cut from my body. Somehow I had told myself that a “good mother” could not possibly enjoy vacation without her children. That my very essence would be crushed and I would weep at the sound of their voice on the phone and be worried anxiously the entire time.

None of that happened.

I did not miss my kids.

I knew they were fine and I allowed myself to be fully present in the experiences that were planned for me. Soaking in it and revealing in this feeling of freedom and comfort, I let it wash over me.

A phrase kept surfacing in my mind.

I feel so adult.

It’s a ridiculous thought for someone who will be 40 in a few short years, yet it was there. It kept coming back and I realized what it was. I do everything with my kids. I have become so into their world that I forget sometimes that I do have choices and life OUTSIDE them.

It’s not that I don’t do anything adult. However, most of my “adult” things involve eating sweets and watching movies my kids are not allowed to. It’s almost like I’m a teenager and I “sneak” these little things as a way of rebelling against my parents.

I am an adult.

I am in charge of my life.

***

On the long plane ride home I sat in the middle seat. The man on my left was flying into S.F. for a job opportunity. He was young, maybe late 20s, he was full of optimism and hope for his future. The woman to my right was in her 50s and was visiting her only child away at college. She was so excited to see her and you could see the pride and love she had for her daughter radiating off her.

When we landed we all said our customary good-byes and headed our three separate routes.

As I walked off the plane I was filled with excitement to see my children. My heart started to pound and I could not wait to see them.

My daughter ran and leaped into my arms and peppered my face with kisses. My boy said “hey” and I got a glimpse at the teenager he will be soon. I gathered them both into my arms and kissed them.

I love my children more than anything in the world.

But I did not miss them.

And that’s OK.

me

The Big, Fat Turkey Lie OR Why I Have Always Hated Thanksgiving

First thing I heard this morning was my husband chuckling as he climbed back in bed.

“Go check out the kids,” he said. “They are snuggling for Thanksgiving.”

I tiptoed down the hall and peeked into my daughter’s room. They were, indeed, snuggled up in her bed but it wasn’t all cuteness. I know when those two are plotting something and I smelled a rat…two mice actually.

“Hi guys,” I said entering the room. “What are you planning?”

An eruption of giggles told me that I was right.

A mass of messy hair pops up and screeches, “I don’t want to tell you” and then darts back under the covers in hysterics. The blankets wiggle all around as they whisper conference about what to do. Both heads pop out with wide grins.

“We are mice,” my boy says. “We have underwear under the bed that we were about to put on our heads.”

“Socks for our hands too,” added his sister. “We were planning on sneaking cheese from the fridge.”

“I guess you aren’t interested in trying my homemade cinnamon rolls,” I say and walk away as they quickly converse and decide that sounds a bit better than sneaking cheese.

This is my family. We are silly, quirky and sometimes ridiculous. I love my family more than anything in the world, but this is the first Thanksgiving that I have not hated.

Thanksgiving has always felt like a big, fat lie. It has always left me feeling disappointed and sad.

Growing up I didn’t understand why we couldn’t have the Thanksgiving of the movies. You know the one, right? It starts with a long drive as the family happily sings “over the river and through the woods to grandmothers house we go.” Or maybe it’s a long plane ride to some beautiful city that is blanketed in snow. Once there, you are greeted by smiling family that remark on how much you’ve grown and how much they miss you.

The dining room is set with a large rectangular table with an elegant tablecloth, matching napkins with real silverware, platinum turkey place card holders with names written in calligraphy, gorgeous dishes in an assortment of fall colors and the centerpiece is a real cornucopia spilling out the most splendid fall produce. It would all make a Pottery Barn catalog jealous.

A large assortment of friends and family would arrive bringing homemade goodies for all. Everyone would look beautiful and would be so excited to see each other. The head of the family would carve the turkey and make a speech about being thankful and everyone would be filled with the Thanksgiving spirit. Then the family would all do the dishes together and head outdoors for a family game of football.

This is the Thanksgiving I’ve always been promised. This is what I’ve always imagined. But, for me, it’s a big lie.

Growing up it went like this: drive 20 minutes to my grandparents’ house, hear how we never visit and how much they are disappointed in us, enjoy a slightly awkward meal and then watch TV.

I thought that it would be like “Father of the Bride” and I’d marry into this amazing family that would host an elaborate Thanksgiving. It would be great.

Nope. Didn’t happen. No big family Thanksgiving.

After our wedding my parents divorced and my grandparents both died. Any hope I had of at least having a multi-generational Thanksgiving died with them.

The last 14 years I have spent silently hating Thanksgiving. I fake it pretty good. I always smile, cook, do all the dishes and even try to focus on being grateful. It’s been interesting:

*Our first Thanksgiving in our tiny studio apartment included a turkey that only halfway cooked because the oven only halfway worked. Served bloody turkey and stuffing. Yum.

*We were married Nov. 20, so we spent our first married Thanksgiving on honeymoon at Disneyland. We ended up getting room service because the crowds were terrible. Food was actually pretty good but cost like a million dollars.

*When our boy was four-years-old, we spent the entire day fussing over him as he ran an increasingly higher fever. Debated about going to the E.R. Did not go, but then found out days later he had strep. Poor kid.

Thanksgiving has never been horrible. Not even close. We have our little family and our health. I should be grateful. I should not be comparing and feeling sorry for myself. But I have spent so much time dreaming of that “perfect Thanksgiving” that real gratitude has eluded me.

It’s the EXPECTATION that has been killing the day for me.

After spending time last weekend at dance class dealing with letting go of expectations, I decided to put that into practice and let it ALL GO. I decided that I was going to embrace the day in whatever form it came. I didn’t even know when we would eat. Just figured when it was done we would eat.

Guess what? Today was great. Really, really great.

thanks1*The homemade cinnamon rolls and cranberry sauce (both firsts for me) turned out fabulous.

*Ended up riding bikes with both kids in the street followed by a surprise visit from my mom. There is nothing like your mommas hug to brighten your day.

*Watched the parade on my bed with some yummy cheese and salami. I was beaming with pride that my kids love the Broadway dances as much as I do.

*Took another, longer bike ride with my boy to see the neighbors on “Christmas Street” putting up their decorations. We rode and yelled, “would you look at that” to each other.

*Watched the national dog show and laughed my head off at how many times my kids said “he is soooo cute!”

*A family hike that was highlighted by holding my husbands hand and seeing three frolicking deer.

I had so many moments today that I just felt happy. I felt lightened of the burden that I’ve carried for so long. Today we had Thanksgiving our way and it was perfect.

Here’s to letting more expectations go and just living my life.