Friday, December 19, 2014

Believing in Santa

 And so it's begun.
The eldest Munchkin approached me earlier this week, in the midst of struggling to get a sweater that's long belonged in the 'donate' box over my head. We were late for school and I rushed the answer to a question I have been preparing for since my kids were born.
"Mom, is there really a Santa?"

oh god. my heart bottomed out somewhere around my colon. What a terrifying string of words. Christmas is far and away one of my favorite holidays. Not just for the presents, but for the lights, the baking, the family; the way everyone lights up with a  soft inner glow every evening as we wrap presents and arrange ornaments.

And I botched the answer. I stuttered and stammered and asked if she really wanted to know? And then we had a sit down on the floor of my closet and talked about Santa. and I walked away feeling like I'd failed on a conversation I'd had in my head a million times.

This letter is my attempt to fix that.

Hello, Sweet girl:

I wanted to clear up a few things about our conversation the other day.

You asked a very good question – and you are old enough to deserve a very good answer. I was just so surprised that I’m afraid I didn’t give you a very good answer.

Is Santa real?


Am I the one that puts the presents under the tree and in your stocking at Christmas?


Let me explain: I have always told you kids that I think it is important to believe in something bigger than  yourself. Santa is no exception. Santa is bigger than any one person. And his magic has gone on longer than you or I.  Yes, Your dad and I and Pat and Penny are responsible for your gifts on Christmas morning. Just like my parents were responsible for my presents when I was your age, and their parents were responsible for their presents when they were your age. (Yes, your grandparents were all once your age too).  

But Santa isn’t about presents. Christmas isn’t truly about presents either. Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus, and about displaying your love and appreciation for others. And Santa is about teaching people, especially children, to believe in something they can’t see or touch. Santa was your first lesson in believing in something bigger than yourself.

Believing is a big job. And it’s a hard one, beautiful girl. There are so many times in your life that I won’t be right there next to you, and you’ll need to believe in yourself for both of us. You’ll need to trust and believe in your friends and your family…you’ll need to put your faith in someone outside of yourself. And that’s a hard thing to do, but you’ve had practice. You’ll be all right.

So, now you know the whole truth.
I’m not Santa, but I’m on his team. And now? You are too.

Pay attention this year. Watch how your sister’s face lights up when you’re crowding around the tree Christmas morning. Watch how my face lights up to see you all so excited. How we all glow a little brighter when we turn the tree lights on every evening. I didn’t even know it was possible when I was a kid, but Christmas gets better the older you get.

I’m so proud of you for asking hard questions. I want you to keep asking hard questions. And I want you to keep accepting the answers with the calm smile that you did the other day. Your heart already knew the answer. Trust your heart.  I do.

Love always,

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Off its Hinges

And then...this happened...
And while it was, physically, easier to remove a door from its hinges than I thought it might be? Mentally it was like arming up for battle.
Sometimes? You've just got to stand your ground...

Monday, September 29, 2014

Hard Nights

Tonight was a hard night.

Nine-year-old boys are an entire species unto themselves, I’ve decided. They are at the same time hard and soft, decisive and indecisive, all arms and legs and emotions at once. And? There is no one right way to deal with them. Except to love them. Especially when they are unlovable.

Tonight? I backed myself into a verbal corner.
I saw it happening and was powerless to stop it.
The boychild had been pushing buttons since the word bedtime first left my lips. He wanted a snack but didn’t know what. He wanted a drink but nothing we had. He wanted a smore (no). He wanted a popsicle (no). He wanted cake (heck no). And when the 15 minute snack window had come and gone and he hadn’t fixed himself something he was furious. He was furious he had no snack. He was furious we didn’t have time to watch his movie. He was furious he has to live in a house full of girls. He was furious for every reason and no reason at all.
 AND then? He slammed the door.
AND he locked it.
AFTER removing the lockpick from atop his door lintel.
AND when I picked the lock anyway (because I’m badass like that.)? He screamed at me.
And it was the well-planned, long-rehearsed-in-his-head screamed rant guaranteed to break a mother's heart in a thousand pieces.

Now. I remember being young, and scared, and angry. But I also remembering thinking it was a cardinal sin to scream at my parents. So I’m unsure where I screwed things up along the way for this kid to think he was perfectly justified in screaming at me? But there it was. And there was nine-year-old hate in his eyes. And my heart broke. And I lashed out. The more he screamed, the calmer I became, and the more I started taking away. First? Minecraft. Two weeks (is there any greater punishment to a boy than this?). Second? Grounded from playdates and sleepovers for those same two weeks.  And he Kept. On. Arguing. And screaming. So next? His door. I mean, honestly, that was a given. Slammed and locked? Ohhh...that sucker was coming off. Just you wait...

And here, folks, is where I’d clearly bitten off more than I could chew. As soon as it was out of my mouth I knew I’d goofed. Because, kids? I’m not strong OR tall enough to remove the door from this kid’s bedroom. So I informed him it would happen in the morning (because I’m also assuming that these things take time and no small amount of noise to complete).
And he burst into tears. Still in the midst of telling me he hated me and I was the worst mother that ever existing, he was sobbing and hiccupping. And I was too bone-weary to fight any longer. I very quietly told him that he had made me very sad and that I was done arguing for the night. I closed the door and walked away. 

And I held strong.

I did.

For about 15-20 minutes.

The entire time, I was hiding out downstairs, consuming vast quantities of guilt-ridden Reeses that were on the top shelf of the pantry. I was wracking my brain wondering how much ground I’d lost as a parent…or if perhaps I’d won ground since I hadn’t dissolved into tears or yelling myself? Did I get points for staying calm? Did those points contribute to my overall ‘good parent’ quota? Or had HE, in fact, won that particular battle because I had to walk away with the door still on its hinges??
And after nearly 20 minutes and five Reeses, I realized that NEITHER of us had won that particular encounter.

NEITHER of us had gotten what we wanted out of that.

And so, I decided to swallow my pride and head back upstairs to my still-sobbing son.

 Because at this point neither of us were sleeping without a resolution. And sleep was worth more than my pride in the end (apparently).

So I crawled under his loft and laid down next to him.
And we breathed.

A lot of parenting manuals I’ve read (and trust me, I’ve read a few) will instruct you to have calm, rational conversations with your children in order to root out the source of their confusion or discord. And still other books will insist that you need to hold a hard line on rules and not go back on your word in order to maintain boundaries. And still others will insist that you need to allow your children the physical space to learn to process their emotions on their own. But sometimes? As people? We just need to know someone else is there. Sometimes we just need someone to breathe with us when we can't quite manage to do it on our own.

I didn’t apologize.

Neither did he.

I figure that can all come later, when we’ve calmed down.

But for tonight, just squeezing into his tiny loft area and curling up in a giant tangle of arms and legs was enough to get back on solid ground get our heartbeats back in sync.

Kids, I've never once pretended to have all the answers.
In fact, most parents I know are sort of bumbling through the whole process like me, just praying to god we haven't screwed up our babies irrevocably along the way.
But I know that going back up there tonight was not a sign of weakness. It was not going back on my word. It was not giving up. Discipline is only part of my job as a parent. It's not my whole job. And in a house where I frequently have to play both good cop & bad cop simultaneously, sometimes you have to choose. And friends? Choose love. You'll sleep better at night. I promise.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Pent up

I have not sewn in weeks.

Shortening the straps on the girls' new dresses by hand does NOT count.

The itch in my fingers is a palpable thing.
I have boxes upon boxes of fabric calling my name in the basement nook that will soon by my sewing desk. My poor machine is still in her box. I've pinned close to a hundred patterns and styles and sewing desk makeovers lately all in an attempt to quiet that inner voice that keeps whispering (seeeewwwwww something)

Haven't written.
Haven't sewn.
Haven't created.
No wonder I've been in such a crappy mood all week.
It's all bottled up in there driving me slowly insane...

Monday, August 11, 2014

moments worth noting

Some days, you blink, and look around, and things are good.
Really, really good.

And it's as if you're surfacing from a dream, where all the edges are just a little hazy...just a little unstable. And you're not sure when you woke up. You can't quite pinpoint when that clarity hit, just that it's there.

My life right now? It's that soft edge of waking.

And I wouldn't have it any other way.


 I remember when the kids were young... three under the age of four... and every deep breath I took hurt. Every moment my eyes were open was a struggle. But I remember it abstractly, as if I read it in a book and can recall it in muddied images. And I look back almost fondly now at those years; and wish I could remember with more clarity how my children looked, when they sweetly rubbed the sleep from their eyes, told me they loved me in the soft lisp of a two-year-old. But I know that it's just my body's self-defense mechanisms kicking in, protecting me from the sharp edges those memories also carry.

 And I don't want this year to be like that.

Years with extremes tend to be just that: Extreme.

And this year has been amazing. We've managed to compact years of joy and tears and firsts into just a few short months. And I am already afraid that ten years from now, I'll look back at this year with the soft edge of memory, forsaking all those brilliant sharp edges that made it worth remembering.

Those sharp edges? They give clarity. They extend meaning beyond the soft blur. They're the good stuff. Hell, sometimes they're the best stuff.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Tiny Heart Attacks

A hundred tiny heart attacks...for the next six weeks

New chapters in life are both terrifying and exhilarating.
And it is only right that they should be both.

How else will you know you're alive if you're not terrified of taking the next step every so often?

Thursday, May 22, 2014


If you had told me prior to this, that in less than a month after major spine surgery, The Monkey would not only be up and about like normal, but also running, jumping, wrestling with her brother, and playing violin on stage at Hilbert Circle Theatre again; I'd have called you a liar in a heartbeat.

I've been absent this blog too long. 

My apologies.

But life has this habit of getting in the way of things.

Exhibit A: The Monkey undergoing a Posterior Spinal Fusion at St. Vincent's Payton Manning Children's Hospital this April.

I'm not sure where April went, honestly. It flew by in a blur of hospital waiting rooms and family surgery centers and humming fluorescent room lights and reflective tile flooring and the soft buzz of sympathy and machinery hooked up to my child...

If you haven't hugged a nurse today? Do it. Right now. Those people are the strongest, most caring group of men and women I've ever had the privilege of being with. They are at the same time soft and hard, caring and insistent. They move mountains and wipe tears with the equilibrium of someone who has lived a thousand lifetimes. 

And, while I've purposefully left off grand details of The Monkey's particular ordeal, because the memories of that little body post-surgery still brings the sting of tears to the back of my throat, I will say that the capacity the human body has to heal has absolutely stunned me.

By all rights, this kid should still be in bed somewhere, and yet here we are...back in the thick of things again.  And, while I white-knuckled every new step she took post-surgery, I've finally come to the point where Sophia's back isn't my first and last waking thought. She's healing. In the way that only that scrappy little monkey can - at warp speed.

god help us all...I think that kid could do just about ANYthing she puts her mind to.

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