I started this blog five years ago, on Avery’s second birthday. In many ways it feels like an eternity has passed. An eternity that’s gone by in a blink of an eye. For years I wrote regularly, but as life took its twists and turns, blog posts became less frequent. But I’ll never miss a birthday post. It’s the way I document my kids growing up. Celebrating the little people, who’ve become big people so quickly.
Today is lucky #7 for my Avery. Oh, Avery. She takes my breath away sometimes. Her beauty and independence. Her passion. I often just watch her, sometimes frustrated, but always proud. She’s a strong little girl. She never tires, she’s up for anything, at any time. She has so many interests I can hardly keep them straight – dancing, singing, painting, soccer, swimming, dolls and animals. Her “favorite thing” changes with the wind, with the exception of the stuffed sea turtle that she’s clung to tightly to since her brother picked him out for her first birthday (and this year, she finally stopped sucking her thumb when sleeping with “Turtle”).
She’s one of those kids who is good at most things she tries. The type of kid I envied when I was young, wondering why everything came so easily to them. Besides some natural athletic and vocal ability (which she did not get from me), the reason Avery is good at things is because she’s willing to try anything. She gives 100 percent to all that she does. She’s not worried about what others think. She puts her heart into everything. She wants to do well. Good things happen to her because of that positive energy and hard work. I can only hope that continues with age.
As much as she loves being active, she values relationships above all else. She’s a good friend and sister. She has many “best friends” and a “boyfriend” and more than once I’ve seen her come to their defense. Kids can be mean, so watch out if you’re mean to one of Avery’s friends. Her brother is her true best friend. They still share a bed and on most Saturday mornings, we wake up to find them cuddled together on the couch. Even if they’re watching different “shows,” they’re under a blanket on the same couch cushion. Messy hair and sleepy smiles. For each other and for us.
We’re in a hotel room in L.A., after a fun birthday celebration at the American Girl store yesterday. We’re taking off to Florida today for our first-ever spring break trip. Beach time and junk food and family and friends. What a great way to celebrate lucky #7, for our very special Avery Gracie. Happy birthday, baby girl. We love you.
I’m the first to admit, I’ve done my share of complaining the past couple of weeks. I got sick on what was supposed to be a fun business trip, I worked a really long week last week and now we’re living in a construction zone because of work we’re having done on our house. Like every fall, when things are NUTS at work and home, I’m tired. I’ve missed out on activities for my kids. But really, how much do I take for granted? A LOT.
So that work trip? It was in Las Vegas! I saw amazing friends and business partners. I attended fantastic business sessions put on by a company that I am proud to represent, knowing we are on our way to becoming a billion dollar brand. So what if I puked (repeatedly) in my lovely hotel room bathroom? I’m healthy now. Some are not so lucky.
And work. Nearly 30 hours over two days is a lot. But how many people would take my place in a heartbeat? How many families are struggling to pay the bills while I put on a cocktail dress and chat with fascinating alumni of the amazing school where I am fortunate to work? I followed that event up having drinks with wonderful colleagues before spending the night at my in-laws’ beach house, so I could get a good night’s sleep. Though exhuasting at times, it’s hardly a rough gig.
My house. It’s a mess because I’m getting new floors. Something I’ve wanted since we moved in six years ago! It took some time to pick up for the installers, and the dust in there will make it feel like we’ve moved to the desert, but it’s going to look amazing, and we are lucky to have a roof over our heads, in a great neighborhood, in America’s finest city.
Missed kids’ activities. I missed three weekends of sports. Military parents and those with other work commitments miss out on far more. Others are not healthy enough to attend their kids’ games. I’ll be fine – and so will my kids.
I’ve written about this before, but as we are in this crazy fall, coming upon a season of thanksgiving and gratitude, I needed to write to remind myself to not take all I have for granted. For those who are struggling, in any aspect of your life, know that I’m thinking of you. And for those of you who get overwhelmed like I do – even though deep down you know how lucky you are – I understand. Let’s get through this crazy season together!
There is no greater range of emotions than those felt by parents on a daily basis. “I love her so much my heart could explode” can turn into “that child is a f-ing lunatic” in a matter of moments. Multiple times per day. Only someone you love this much could make a non-bipolar person feel both the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.
I had a work retreat yesterday, at a resort north of town. It was finished early, so I surprised the kids by picking them up right after school instead of from after-school care. I hid under a tree near Avery’s classroom, and her little face when she walked out and saw me could have lit up a room. She shrieked and jumped into my arms. We spun around and had a minute of pure bliss. I put her down for her to grab her backpack, and as we were walking away, she nonchalantly said, “You’re here – for once!”
She might as well have punched me in the stomach. I wanted to respond, indignantly. I wanted to shout: “I pick you up at 4:00, it’s not like you’re here all night!” “I’m at every special event at school!” “I took a vacation day to dress up as the Statue of Liberty’s for your brother’s class!” “I took the job I have, so I could have flexibility for my kids.”
Coincidentally, “active listening” was the topic in our sessions that morning. So instead of responding, I bit my tongue.
The truth is, the school year for me is just as busy as it is for them. So it’s true – I’m rarely there at 2:30. She was just stating the obvious, not intending to hurt my feelings.
So while my initial reaction was sadness and feeling defensive, I had to remind myself that Avery doesn’t care how often I’m there right at 2:30. She knows I’m there when it matters. She knows I do work I love and when she grows up she will remember me, like Chelsea Clinton remembers Hillary, that “regardless of what was happening in her life, she was always there for me.”
I hope both of my kids find passion in their careers. I hope that passion is strong enough to keep Avery in the workforce, even when she has children (assuming that’s what she wants to do). I hope that when her daughter says something flippantly, in a moment of excitement, that she doesn’t take it too personally.
At the end of the day, I know she knows I’ll be there for her forever, not for once. Forever just might not start at 2:30 on weekdays.
When things go just a little bit wrong in life, it’s so easy to feel sorry for yourself – or to complain about it. For some reason, minor life challenges have bothered me lately more than they should. Maybe it’s the post-vacation blues. Maybe it’s the pending start of another school year, which means craziness at home and at work.
I’ve told myself to have some perspective. But telling yourself to do something and actually doing it are two very different things.
Yesterday morning, a friend finished up her last breast cancer treatment, after a difficult year. Her best friend (who is also my friend) recently started chemo to treat the same terrible disease – and faces a year of challenges ahead.
Later in the day, a friend had skin cancer removed, at the same time she is dealing with a family member’s health issues.
Today, my boss called me at 6:30 a.m. When you work in communications, early morning phone calls from the boss can only mean one thing: crisis communication. A beloved teacher at our school passed away suddenly last night, while on vacation with his family. I felt physically ill as tears came to my eyes. He has two teenage children and my heart breaks for them.
The past two days have been a slap in the face, helping me to find the perspective I lost in a sea of stress over little things. Life is good. We are all healthy. Happy. Some aren’t so fortunate. For them, I pray. For myself, I’ve found the perspective I needed.
It’s August. How is that possible? What does August matter, you may ask? Well, in most places in the country, it’s the start of a new school year.
Yes, I realize the calendar year starts in January, but for people who have school age kids, August is the month when everything starts fresh. A new school year is exciting and fun – and overwhelming and expensive, exhausting and hard!
People complain that the holidays are busy (and I agree), but in direct comparison, I think the start of a new school year may be worse. It may very well be the most expensive – and time intensive – time of the year.
The expenses, oh, the expenses! New clothes. New shoes. PTA memberships. Classroom supply donations. Sports registration. After school care annual fee. New football and soccer cleats. School foundation donations. Hair cuts. Huge Costco bills. New back packs. Another set of new backpacks when the kids don’t like the first ones (I’m hoping this one doesn’t come true).
And the time. Buying the shoes and clothes. Back to school night. Practices. Sorting through 100 forms to fill out, per kid. Homework. Foundation board meetings. Costco shopping. More practices. More homework. More late nights and dark circles. More time applying eye cream (thank goodness I get this at wholesale cost).
Gone are the days of lounging by the pool every afternoon. Gone is the chance to make a 4:30 p.m. barre class with time to spare. Gone is the wiggle room in our budget for regular happy hours and family trips (see expenses above). Gone is drinking beer at the pool while the kids swim because you don’t have to drive anywhere else for the rest of the night. Gone are the days of calling grilled hot dogs “dinner” because you have them leftover from a weekend barbecue.
It’s all over, soon enough. But you know what’s here? Hopefully another great year for our munchkins. We’ll get back to normal and back on track with time and money soon enough…just in time for Christmas!
Yesterday, my Facebook memories reminded me of this post, from five years ago as we were approaching our fifth wedding anniversary.
I wrote a blog post about it then, but I just came across an article about marriage in the New York Times, where Dan Cole of the Gottman Institute said, “40 years of research on couples has taught us the difference between the ones who make it and the ones who don’t. There is an emotional connection that occurs when couples like, admire and respect each other. They talk to each other. They laugh together. When they speak to others about their partner they tend to brag about how great they are.”
Nearing our 10-year wedding anniversary, while I still think Chase is the right person for me, I now realize it’s because after all this time, we still have that emotional connection. There is no one I’d rather spend time with.
Full disclosure: like every married couple, we have our issues. I tell him what to do. He tells me (often in frustration) to leave him alone. He gets sleepy when he drinks. I try to wake him. Sometimes that works, sometimes he spends the night on the couch – and I’m secretly relieved. We aren’t always on the same page about which parenting issues are worth a battle and which ones aren’t. We don’t always agree on how to spend our money. We annoy each other and disagree, but…
There is no one I like more.
We spend every night talking in bed, like it’s the first time. We regularly stay up too late chatting and laughing, like we did when we first met 13 years ago – but back then it was on the phone. Last night we had a last minute dinner with friends, then came home and drank beer and talked for hours on the couch.
We have no secrets. And lots of mutual respect. We can agree to disagree. And clearly, I’m okay bragging about him. (I should probably apologize now for the razzing he will get from his friends for this post.)
I remember a quote from my matron-of-honor’s speech, who wished us the best on our wedding night and said it would be the night, “we loved each other the least,” which at the time I thought was odd. I get it now. I’ve never loved him more than I do now. Life changes – for the good and for the bad. People do too.
He’s still my favorite.
Tomorrow I’m sending my baby off to the last day of kindergarten, and I’m surprisingly emotional about it. In the early (and exhausting) years of parenting, you just hope you and your children will make it to kindergarten without a trip to the ER or the psych ward. That the Goldfish crackers smashed into the floor and the shitty diapers will magically disappear. And they do. Well, the diapers anyway. And when they hit five, your little prince or princess gets dressed and heads out the door for the place that will change them forever.
They learn to read and write, and add and subtract. They learn the same stuff we learned 30+ years ago and have since forgotten. It’s both amazing and humbling, to learn “new” things from a kindergartner.
They make new friends. Pack their backpacks themselves. Make good choices. Stand up for their friends. They get excited when they see an older sibling or neighbor in the cafeteria. Find new passions. They run to you when you pick them up at the end of the day, jumping into your arms, while they’re still small enough to do so.
I’m relieved our school does not label the completion of kindergarten as a “graduation.” Mostly because I don’t think it’s a huge accomplishment – they all should finish kindergarten. Don’t get me wrong, kindergarteners look adorable in mini caps and gowns, much cuter than they will at 18, but kids are rewarded for every little thing these days, so I think it’s a bit much. I’m also glad that Avery won’t be wearing that regalia because I’m not sure I could handle the finality of it.
My baby is done with kindergarten. She’s off to first grade, where she’ll probably learn to drive and get a tattoo. Kidding, of course, but working with high school parents, they tell me all the time how fast the time goes. Before I know it she’ll be wearing the real cap and gown, be taller than me, and drive her tattooed self to the ceremony.
In the meantime, we’ll celebrate the end of the school year the way my family always did – dinner out at a restaurant of their choice. And I’m going to remind myself to just slow down. Enjoy the hell out of summer, spending time with these little people who each year learn and grow so much. It’s our last day of kindergarten, ever, but the start of so much more.
Today, my firstborn turns eight. I read recently that eight is the age that’s right in between early childhood and older childhood, and that scared the hell out of me. When kids are young, it’s so easy to wish time away, but you don’t realize how quickly that crazy, exhausting time goes by. When your kids make the transition from early childhood to older childhood, you may actually miss the early days, as messy and as tiring as they were.
Part of me feels like it was just yesterday that Clay was a baby. But a quick glance at him reminds me that’s not the case. That tiny, premature baby is now one of the biggest kids in class. He comes up to my shoulders, and I’m not short. He eats more than me. He does his homework without my help. He tries new foods. He walks his sister to her classroom. When he disappears, I often find him in his room reading (or playing video games, he is eight after all). He rinses his own dishes. He’s officially old/big enough to not have a booster seat in the car, but he humors me and explains to his friends, “My mom is sort of obsessed with car safety.” He’s a good friend. He is compassionate. He loves sports. He is fiercely loyal to and protective of his family.
Working in a school, I’m always watching the older kids, wondering what my own kids will be like as teenagers. I think at just eight, Clay has given us a strong glimpse into the future. And I like what I see. He’s confident and funny. He has an incredible memory. He comes home and shares stories of his teacher and his friends. He’s a good teammate, and even though I was embarrassed when argued with a baseball umpire – and I get annoyed when he argues a point with me – I’m glad he’s comfortable standing up for himself, his friends and his family.
Clay has a very strong interest in going to college, which I find amusing for a child his age. Maybe it’s because Chase and I had such great college experiences, and we talk about them often. Or maybe it’s because the school where I work is so focused on college prep, and he asks me about the kids there a lot. He’s certain he’ll play baseball or football at a big name school. I see him at a big state school (FSU, maybe?) – as the student government president and the social chair of a fraternity, but we’ll see. Until then, it’s fun to talk about.
Just 10 short years from now, I will be getting ready to send my firstborn to college. I won’t be able to easily run my fingers through his hair, as he will tower over me. All four of us won’t be able to snuggle into the bed on a lazy Sunday morning as easily as we do now. The movies we watch on family movie night will change. Clay may not even want to do those things anymore.
But for now, he’s still eight. Straddling that line between younger child and older child. And eight is great.
Though I have no artistic talent whatsoever, music was always a part of my life because it was my dad’s passion. Songs from my childhood can bring me back in just a few chords. So it’s no surprise that, six years ago tomorrow, the day my dad died, I found myself on my bed, nursing an infant and listening to Let It Be over and over again. These words, somehow comforted me in those moments, enough to make it through the toughest time in my life.
When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
And in my hour of darkness
She is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
After growing up with rock music, I started listening to country a few years ago. I’d lost my job and was trying to figure out my next career move and the lyrics in country songs just spoke to me.
So here we are, six years later, and I’m on my bed. This time with a fluffy dog and a quiet house. Instead of The Beatles, I keep listening to Cole Swindell’s “You should be here.” I alternate between smiling and crying.
It’s perfect outside it’s like God let me dial up the weather
It’s another perfect San Diego day, and I started the day on a run with my beautiful daughter.
Got the whole crew here, I ain’t seen some of them in forever.
I’ve been talking to some high school friends (who my dad loved) about having a reunion.
It’s one of those never forget it, better stop and take it in kinda scenes.
Several times lately, I’ve caught my kids greeting each other with a kiss or randomly saying “I love you.” It makes my heart feel like it’s going to explode.
Everything’s just right yeah except for one thing.
My dad isn’t here.
You should be here, standing with your arm around me here.
He loved nothing more than to stand with an arm around someone he cared about, a smile on his face.
Cutting up, cracking a cold beer, saying cheers, hey y’all it’s sure been a good year.
It’s one of those moments, that’s got your name written all over it.
Like us, talking and laughing with friends, which we’ve been doing so often lately. We have so many good people in our lives. Maybe he’d even play beer pong with them, like he did with my mom and brother the last time I saw him. I laughed so hard that I cried that night.
And you know that if I had just one wish it’d be that you didn’t have to miss this
I have a pretty darn great life, but one thing is missing.
You should be here.
You’d be taking way too many pictures on your phone.
You always wanted to take pictures. It was annoying as a child and now I do it to my kids. Maybe that’s why. You’d be amazed with the capability of smart phone cameras now. You would have loved to see the kids grow up on Facebook and Instagram, since you lived so far away.
Showing them off to everybody that you know back home.
And even some you don’t yeah
You told everyone about us. Your poor coworkers. You talked so much to anyone and everyone. That’s why you’d take hours to just go to Target or Costco. You were probably telling the cashier about my new job or Michael’s business or Clay finally crawling.
They say now you’re in a better place
And I would be too if I could see your face.
Every time I think of you, it’s your smile I can picture so clearly in my head. The twinkle in your eyes. Michael has it. So do Clay and Avery. I stare at them sometimes because they all remind me of you. Especially Michael. With that beard. Wow.
You’d be loving this, you’d be freaking out, you’d be smiling, yeah
I know you’d be all about what’s going on right here right now.
My kids have become such interesting little people. You thought Clay was so great when he was not even two. He could talk, but the kids they’ve become, I know you could have spent endless hours with them. Even if they were annoying. Because you were patient and kind and LOVED to talk. Just like them. That smile on your face would be permanent. Because nothing made you happier than your family.
God I wish somehow you could be here.
Oh you should be here.
I miss and love you, Dad. Today and every day.
When Avery was a toddler, we joked that her expressions reminded us of a cartoon character. Every year, I “threaten” to take her to Hollywood and make her get a job (and might really do it this summer). Avery is all sparkle, all the time.
I love the sparkle of my sweet girl, who turns six today. She is everyone’s friend, cheerleader or nurse. Whatever anyone needs to feel better, she has it. She draws in boy moms, grandmas, babies and puppies with that sparkle. It’s like magic fairy dust. I wish I could bottle it because the world would be a better place with more people like her.
Last weekend we were on our traditional Sunday morning walk in our neighborhood, and she looked up at me and said, “Mommy, do you know what I do every day when I wake up?” When I asked her the answer, her reply was simple. “I get up happy.” How’s that for sparkle?
Happy sixth birthday to my Avery Gracie. If her day sparkles half as much as she does, it will be a success!