The House That Built Me

My parents are selling their house – my childhood home – after 40+ years of living there. My dad purchased what was then a cottage on Goose Rocks Beach in the mid-70's from an estate attorney. The majority of the transaction happened through the mail – certified letters and contracts going back and forth. Can you even imagine?

Since then, so many things have changed. My entire life has happened, the majority of it within the walls of that house. The house has been remodeled, has weathered more than a few storms, but has largely stood tall and proud throughout the years. It is like a beacon that calls to me the second the beach is in sight from the road – "you're almost home."

"The one with the triangle window," we always said. "Oh yes, I know the one!" people would reply.

Next week, the house will not be ours anymore. It remains to be seen whether it will be remodeled or torn down to make way for something bigger (and not, in my opinion, better). I am not sure which I would prefer, but it does not really matter, does it? At the end of the day, it will not belong to us anymore.

It is with a heavy heart that I say goodbye to 9 Sand Point Road, but at the same time, my heart is filled with gratitude. A property like that is one of a kind – with 200 feet of private beach front and an unobstructed view of Timber Island – and in a way I think I always felt like it was lent to us for safe keeping. Because you cannot truly own the beach, the sunrise over the Island, the sand under foot or the crashing surf. I am grateful that our family was entrusted with that piece of property for nearly half a century, and a piece of me will remain there always.

But greater than my gratitude for having called that amazing spot "home" is my gratitude for what it has afforded my family over the years. Tied up in that little investment my dad made all those years ago are so many things.

That house was fourteen drugstores called Freedom Drug plus two more called Economy Drug.
That house was my mom staying home with my sister and I when we were little and needed her most.
That house was two daycare centers where a bunch of other kiddos grew up with a whole lot of TLC.
That house was family vacations near and far.
That house was two little girls who grew up hearing "yes" far more than "no."
That house was a BA from Simmons College and a BS from the University of New England.
That house was the wedding of my dreams in Kennebunkport with the people I love most in the world.
That house was my sister staying home with her son when he was really little and needed her most.
That house was medical bills from that time my mom beat cancer.
That house has been the safety net that has caught us all and has never failed.
That house is our past, but it will also provide my parents with the very best future.

Thank you, Mom and Dad, for the amazing home you built for our family. I think it is safe to say that it was the best investment of your life.

And thank you, 9 Sand Point Road – you were so, so good to us.
 

9 Sand Point Road

When You Think They Aren’t Listening

Oh look, I still have a blog. Imagine that!

Over the past year while I wasn't writing I had another baby. (Yes, an entirely new human.) And my mom was diagnosed with cancer. (She is now cancer-free, athankyouverymuch.) Neither of those are reasons not to write; in fact, those events might have been catalysts for amazing writing.

But they weren't, not for me. Mostly I felt tired, and anxious, and like there is a whole lot of excess noise out there. And I didn't much feel like adding to it unless I had something to say that felt worth it. So I was very quiet, and I waited for something to happen that I wanted to tell you about. 

And let's be honest. "You", after a year of not writing, is probably my mom, my sister, a few cousins and a handful of good friends. Which is totally okay with me. I love you people and I'm glad you're still here. 

Today was A's last Star Student day. I have been operating under the assumption that sending my now-middle child to Kindergarten next fall will be easier than sending the oldest or the youngest. As I was handing over the Star Student bag and goodies to A's teacher "for the last time", I realized this is not likely to be the case. Luckily, before I could dwell too much on this "last", the teacher said she just had to tell me something about A.

Apparently during lunch yesterday, two little boys were discussing how they love chocolate so much they want to marry it. (Amen, little guys, amen.) Then they decided they should just marry each other instead. At which point another child pointed out that they could not, in fact, get married because they are both boys. So A interjected, "yes they can. Boys can marry boys, and girls can marry girls. You can marry whoever you love." 

Whoa.

Then I got into my car and I cried and cried. Because apparently, my children do hear me when I talk. Maybe not about the little things – flushing the toilet, picking up their toys, interrupting me incessantly, and so on and so on ad nauseum. But the big things? The "it is my responsibility to teach you to believe these things to the core of your being before I send you out into the world to be a contributing member of society" things? Turns out they are listening. They get it. 

A is only four, and when I cry at things that don't appear outwardly upsetting she gets confused and asks "Mommy, why does your voice sound like that? Why are you sad?" So I can't explain this to her. Instead, I will write it here and perhaps some day she will read it and know how important today is to me.

Thank you, my biggest little girl, for giving me a much-needed sign that I'm doing an okay job raising you. Thank you for being so brave. Don't ever let people tell you what you can and cannot do. (Unless it is me or your dad and you are doing something dangerous or illegal.) And thank you for being the thing I waited all year for – for giving me a reason to write again.

You are my little star. All the days.

Be You

What I Have Already Learned From Kindergarten

Kindergarten is a big milestone for T, yes. That I was expecting. What I wasn't expecting was for it – already, on the very first day – to be a big milestone for me as well. 

I have been agonizing over T's first day of kindergarten for longer than I would care to admit. I have been going through the "what-if's" and "not ready's" and the "if-only's" ad nauseum. I barely slept last night, and when I did I had nightmares about T's first day and all the things that could go wrong. I said I was "hoping for the best and preparing for the worst." I am a liar. I was totally expecting the worst. FOR NOTHING. Because today went fine.

We were out the door on time. I got pictures of my children with actual smiles on their faces at the same time in the same photo. We walked to school, and miraculously the rain held off. T was excited about all of it.

I didn't even cry. I DIDN'T EVEN CRY!

Multiple voicemails and text messages flooded in over the course of the morning. "How did he do? How did YOU do? Is everyone okay?" And I replied, "Great! Okay. YES!" (With a cat emoticon smiley face sometimes, because I have a little problem with overusing the cat emoticon.)

As the day wore on, I felt a little silly. Because I was totally okay. A little sad, a lot nostalgic, but really okay. I spent the better part of this summer dreading something that never ended up happening. No tears, no separation anxiety, nothing. What a waste of my time.

Kindergarten Lesson for the Mama #1: Stop worrying. It might just be fine. (And even if it's not fine, did worrying ever change an outcome?)

Now I want to back up a bit to last year at this time. T got invited to his first ever "friend birthday party" for a kid who I did not know. We went because he was so excited, and I spent the entire time feeling completely awkward and out of place. Everyone was very nice, but it felt like they all knew each other and I was the odd mom out. Yuck.

That was just one example. I have spent the better part of parenthood feeling like "the odd mom out." I had plenty of excuses for why this was – "We just don't know many people here, we're not "from" here, my best friends don't live near us and they're really more my people" – when in reality I was socially awkward and afraid of trying to make new friends.

I complained constantly about not having "people" locally. I envied my friends from away who managed to find their "people" in spite of also being new in town. I accepted the fact that I just wasn't going to have new friends.

Okay, now we can fast forward back to today. Remember that flood of text messages and voicemails I referenced? Some of them were from my friends. New friends that I've made in the past year. And not only that – I knew moms at school! Moms to say hello to, and chat with at drop off and pickup. It was amazing.

I came home and realized, "Ohmygosh all of a sudden I have people here! Yessssss!" And then I wondered, "when did that happen?" I realized it happened at pickup from preschool. And when I discovered that another mom from preschool had a little in A's music class. New neighbors moved in who have become wonderful friends. Through ballet and music and t-ball and soccer we suddenly know people. There are birthday parties and play dates and coffee and "mom's nights out" and new friends – for the kids and for me. (Except the coffee and mom's nights out. Those are just for me.)

Kindergarten Lesson for the Mama #2: You Are Finding Your "People."

So as I sit here, sipping my celebratory glass of wine and reflecting on the day, I am feeling unbelievably grateful. And almost excited for what else this kindergarten adventure might have in store – for T and for his mama.

Unexpected Perfection

Things have felt difficult lately. The kids are out of school and Camp Mommy is not going very well. I haven't been getting as much work done as I need to; Ry has had to do more than his share. Because we all do everything together – especially this summer – it has just been too much. It feels too hard. No one is having fun. 

"I need a break. We need a break." Every day, the same sentences.

And then came the holiday. Usually one of my favorites, but this year I just couldn't get excited about it. We let our plans go until the very last minute. "What do you want to do?" I would ask Ry and get the same question in response. Endlessly. 

But once in awhile, when I most need it and least expect it, something perfect happens. This time, perfection was made up of dozens of tiny moments, strung together into just what we needed.

It was taking the kids to the drive-in, hoping they would fall asleep before the second half of the double feature so that Ry and I could watch it – and they actually did.

It was the way that a day at the lake stretched into four days and three nights, because we just couldn't leave. 

It was watching T jump off the dock "all by himself" and not cry when he went under water.

It was hearing A say "Auntie La-la, can I feel the baby kick again?" 

It was sitting on the deck with four generations laughing, talking and remembering. (I won't mention the hair braiding and the ice cream truck, because then you will just think it was too perfect. And it almost was.)

It was sunset cruises on the pontoon boat, watching fireworks displays from all sides of the lake.

It was grandparents listening for little feet first thing in the morning, so they could wisk tiny humans away for breakfast before they woke up Mama and Dada. 

It was having no service on cell phones, being happily disconnected and unplugged.

It was seeing Ry relax and unwind, playing with the kids until their stomachs hurt from laughing so hard.

It was the way A tried to kiss the frog that Uncle Nick caught for her, and the way she proudly carried it around until it finally hopped away from her. 

It was watching the tiny humans play together, nicely, for most of the time.

It was completely disregarding bedtime, and being rewarded when they slept late the next morning.

It was being in the company of people with whom you can say anything or nothing at all and having both things be equally comfortable.

It was going to leave and having no idea where my shoes were, because I hadn't needed them for four days.

It was all those moments, and so many more. It was perfection. It was our much needed break. 

Tomorrow, we will go back to normal. I know there will be fall out of so many days with lax rules and nights with late bedtimes. But tonight – as I get ready to tuck them in for what I expect will the the easiest bedtime in recent history – it feels like it was worth whatever price they decide I will have to pay tomorrow.

 

Come on, Mamas

My sister is working on this project. This project to help us mamas celebrate ourselves. She is trying to put together this slide show with pictures of mamas with a quote saying what they've learned about themselves over the past year. As women. As mamas. As guardians of tiny – or not-so-tiny – humans. To lift us up, during the one time each year that we allow ourselves to do that.

Here's the problem: we're not worthy. We don't think we're worthy. What do I mean? 

My people – my people who are my go-to people, the ones who I call sobbing because I'm sad, or I'm frustrated, or I dyed my hair bright freaking red – are silent over this request. And, when I press them, they say "I just don't know what to say. I don't have any good photos of myself." What I hear is "I'm not enough. As a mama, I am never enough." 

I know this because my own photo isn't done. Because I feel like I'm not doing a good job. I am never doing a good enough job with these tiny humans who have been entrusted to my care. I am failing them. Every. Single. Day.

But if you asked me to do this for any of my people, I would be able to give at least five reasons why they are a great mama. Five things have learned from them over these last twelve months about being a mama. So, anonymously, I say these things to them, my favorite people in the world. They know who they are.

  • One of you learned that sometimes doing the right thing by your kid means that you move to a better school district, you make the best of what turned out to be not what you thought, and you try to move again really quickly before your kid notices just what kind of place you ended up moving to. 
  • One of you learned that sometimes life can change in an instant, and you end up feeling so grateful that it ended up being okay after all. But you hug your kids and especially your husband a little tighter every day, just in case.
  • One of you learned that you can do really hard things. Like be a "tough mudder" and put on a brave face when hard things happen – like losing your family pet or your kid breaking a bone. Because when you tell them it will be okay, your tiny humans believe you. And that is amazing.
  • One of you learned that the third baby is not "one more." It is a LOT more. It is EXPONENTIALLY more. Even so, you are now a "party of five." And it is perfect.
  • One of you learned that being a stay-at-home mom is harder than you thought, and kind of lonely. And you miss your extended family, especially your own mom. But you are rocking it anyway. 
  • One of you learned that you're going to join this crazy ride that we call motherhood, and I know you're going to be a natural at it. 
  • One of you learned that sometimes you have to stop making sacrifices for other people and do what is right for you. Because at the end of the day, if the mama isn't happy then the tiny humans aren't happy. They know. They always know. 

But still….I don't know what I will say on my own photo. But I imagine it will be something like this.

"This year, I learned to breathe more. To yell less. And to wake up tomorrow and try again. And again. And again. It never gets easier, but I am learning to go easier on myself and on my tiny humans." 

So, if I asked you to participate in this project, and you didn't think you could – please reconsider. And if I didn't ask you, please leave a comment and tell me you want to join our little project.

Because if you care enough to think you aren't enough, I am willing to bet that you most certainly are. Xo.

 


 

In honor of Mother's Day and this project, I am going to do my first giveaway. The ROPES Maine was kind enough to send me a couple of their bracelets to help promote the blog. Obviously, I was over the moon.

One, because this is my first giveaway. Two, because bracelets from The ROPES are on my very short list of absolute favorite things. I have many, and my wrist feels naked without at least one. And three, because any time I can talk about Maine and the awesome things Mainers do and what a cool state we live in, I want to do that.

Here's how this first giveaway is going to work. If you submit a photo (via email to alwaysperfectlyimperfectblog@gmail.com or on the Facebook page) for the Mother's Day project, you are entered. If you leave a comment below (you don't have to be a mama to comment!), you are entered. (Up to two entries per person – one for a photo, one for a comment.) The giveaway ends Monday at 9 pm EST, and I will send the winner the green and gold bracelet show on the far right.

If you don't want to take a chance that you're going to win a ROPES bracelet here, or you want one in time for Mother's Day, there are some great local shops selling these. My favorite is spaces kennebunkport. They have a phenomenal website, too, in case you aren't local. 


UPDATE: WE HAVE A WINNER!

A sincere thank you to everyone who participated in the Mother's Day video project. The final product is located here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jC7Vr_5ge6k&feature=youtu.be

Also, congratulations to Layne Woodward, our ROPES bracelet winner! Xo.

For A, On Her Third Birthday

A,

In spite of what you keep telling people, you are three today. Not five. I know T is five, and you want to be just like T, but you are my littlest one and I don't want you to rush anything.

You are the one who made all my dreams come true, little girl. You were the last piece of our puzzle, and when you arrived you made everything fit. I always wanted a little girl; I never expected you to be so…perfectly imperfect, just like me.

You are only three – three years, is that all – yet I feel like you have taught us so much already. You know things at three that most people struggle to figure out their entire lives. For example, 

  • You are a really big deal. I love your confidence and I promise to do everything I can to help you hold onto it.
  • Life is a special occasion. You wake up in the morning and insist to be changed out of pajamas and into a princess dress. With a tiara. At 7 am. Because anything worth doing – or wearing – is worth doing BIG. 
  • If at first you don't succeed… You are the most stubborn and tenacious person I know. At three. You can hold a grudge like no toddler I have ever seen. You even know when to pout and when to stomp your foot for emphasis. I think you can change the world if you set your mind to it. I think you are capable of anything once you set your mind to it.
  • You can't say "I love you" enough. Or, "I love you and like you." It makes me smile. Every time. Because no one ever looks back at the end of a life and says "I wish I said less 'I love yous'." 

From the second I knew you existed, I was convinced you were a girl. And from the second I met you, I knew you were meant to be mine. Thank you for turning our lives upside down and making us look at things an entirely different way than T prepared us for. Because there is only one you, and you do things your very own way.

I promise to do everything I can to encourage you to keep singing, dancing and imagining your way through this life the way you want it to be. I will always think you are the biggest deal. I love you and like you, little girl, more than anything.

xoxo, Mom

For T, As He Turns Five

T,

Wow, five years old. FIVE years old. No more baby. No more toddler. No more preschooler, even. You are a kid now, a little boy. You have been for awhile, but this makes it official. You are five years old. 

Even on the day you were born, as I held you in my arms and marveled at your perfect little features and inhaled your baby smell, I knew – our time together is short. "You will think the world revolves around me for a little while, and then you won't. But I will have you to myself, little one, until you are at least five," I thought.

So here we are. And these are the things I know, after five years of being your mama – 

  • I could not have held you any more than I did. I didn't miss one moment, not one milestone. I was there, and so was your dad, for every single thing. And it was a huge deal – every single thing you did was a huge deal. It still is.
  • You were an easy baby. I know this because of your little sister, who was not.
  • You were the one who made us a family. People get married; sometimes they get divorced. We will not, but still – you are the tie that binds your dad and I forever
  • You are sweet and thoughtful in a way I didn't think a little boy could be. You are also full of energy, more than I ever dreamed a little boy could be.
  • You are so, so smart. I will continue to be amazed by what you know and what you can do. Always. At the same time, I will believe you are capable of anything. Always.

My timing was off, five year old boy. You know the world is out there, beyond my arms, but you still like me an awful lot. You still cry for mama when you are really hurt, and you don't mind when I hold your hand or kiss you goodbye at school. You tell me you don't want to go to college because you don't want to stay overnight anywhere but here. I get to keep you to myself for a little longer.

Thank you, T, for being the most patient child while your dad and I figured out how to be your parents. We already knew how to love you, and the rest came pretty naturally after that. But still – it was our first time around, and you were so, so good to us. 

I hope you always want to take things apart to figure out how they work and get down on their level for a better look. I hope you are always sweet to your sister (even if only when you think no one is looking). I hope you never get too old to like us or to need us. And I hope you always remember, no matter what, that we love you to the moon and back. We will always remember that perfect baby, that five year old boy, and every age between and beyond who made our lives truly worth living. For some things there are no more words, so just know – we more than love you, T.

xoxo, Mom

‘Tis the Season for Charitable Giving

It is finally December. Around here, we've been in holiday mode since the day after Thanksgiving. But for some people, Christmastime doesn't begin until December. Either way – it is here. "The most wonderful time of the year." 

For me, it often also turns into the "most emotional time of the year." More love, more laughing, more fun but also more stress, more anxiety and more sadness. Most commercials make me cry and the voice inside my head is louder than usual, shouting at me to "do something for someone else. Now." 

We are very fortunate but we try to keep Christmas on the small side. Partially because these tiny humans do not need anything and partially because their birthdays happen so soon after Christmas. But still – they are spoiled, by us and our families. They get new things that they have asked for, and they always get more than they need. Don't we all, in this family?

Each time I pick up a little something for my kids, a nagging voice in the back of my head wonders "what if I couldn't afford this? What if we couldn't afford anything for the children at all? What if instead of this being "the most wonderful time of the year", it felt like the worst because I didn't have enough money for food for a holiday dinner or heat during the winter months, nevermind enough left over to put presents under the tree?"

Luckily, each year around this time, everything begins blowing up with charitable giving opportunities. We try to help, to do what we can, but there is always more that can be done. Especially now that the kids are at an age where they are more aware of the world around them, I want to focus on teaching the kids to give back. At the holidays, especially, but all the time. 

Some of the things we have done in the past around holiday charitable giving include:

  • Salvation Army: Such a simple one, but I try to make sure to carry cash at this time of year so that the kids can drop money into the red bucket. It doesn't have to be much – I know they appreciate every bit, and it reinforces the messages about charitable giving and teaching the kids to give back in a way they can actually see.
  • Supporting a Family: Every year since I was pregnant with T, we get the gender and ages of all the members of a particular family through DHS who could use a little help. It is the most fun when the kids are of ages that my kids can identify with because then I let them choose the gifts. 
  • Donating Gently Used Items: We usually do this in the fall – we go through our toys, books and clothes and round up things that another child would enjoy more than the kids are enjoying it. 
  • Gift Card Exchange: Last year a couple of my favorite blogs set up holiday charitable giving programs based solely on the honor system. If you needed help, you asked. If you could help, you said so. And these mommy bloggers worked day and night through the whole month pairing the "need help"s with the "can help"s. 

It is important to me that our tiny humans realize how lucky they are that there is food on the table at every meal (and what seems like every hour in between as well) and that they have a home to live in that is safe and warm. Not to mention the overabundance with which they live every day. It seems like the best way to teach the kids to give back is to practice charitable giving throughout the year but especially around the holidays. What we can afford to give may not be a lot, but I hope it feels like something to whoever receives it.

Now I have some "can help" emails to send.

 

Being Here (Gratitude, Final Days)

Thanksgiving has come and gone. I took a break from writing. It was unintentional, at first, then I realized that any time I took over the weekend to write the blog would be taking time away from something that I wanted to do more. So I didn't write; instead I focused on being here. Not just physically being present but really being here with the kids. Less iPhone and iPad time, less tv, more playing and laughing and talking and being. Okay, and a little online holiday shopping. Because I am still me.

Holiday Traditions

Now that we are past Thanksgiving, we are well into "the holidays." Some years I love this time, others I find it stressful and can't wait for it to be over already. This year I am loving it. 90% of my holiday shopping is done, the tree is up, the house is decorated, and I feel like for the next few weeks I can just sit back with the kids and focus on being here with them. 

T is closer to five than four now, and this age is the most fun we have seen for the holidays. He is really starting to "get" stuff like the Elf on the Shelf and other holiday traditions. For the first time ever, he sat with me while I addressed all of our holiday cards. We cranked up the Michael Buble holiday station on Pandora and T stamped and stickered every card while I addressed and return addressed them. It was like a holiday assembly line. And even though he was tired, T stuck it out and stamped and stickered every single card. We were both so proud of his handiwork. 

So for my final gratitude post, I am grateful for all the writing in did in November. I think it got me back on track. I look forward to writing more in the coming weeks, but not feeling like I have to write every day. I bet the next posts will be more genuine and representative of my real voice.

I am also grateful for the coming weeks and all the things we have to look foward to with our holiday traditions. Hopefully I can remind myself to focus on being here, creating holiday traditions for our little family and letting the other stuff go. 

 

Grandparents, In-Laws (Gratitude: Day 17)

Today I am grateful for my in-laws, the kids' grandparents. My mother-in-law has a special gift for recognizing the importance of R and I taking a break from the kids from time to time. So this weekend, she offered to pick the kids up on Friday afternoon and keep them for us until Sunday afternoon when we come up for an early Thanksgiving dinner.

I appreciate taking a break, but what makes it really feel like a break is that my kids adore their grandparents. They love staying at the lake and eating blueberry pancakes for every meal and wearing pajamas all day while they watch Spongebob Squarepants (Nina's house, Nina's rules). They love having their grandparents' undivided attention and rarely, if ever, hearing the word "no." 

From the time the kids leave to the time we pick them up, I don't have to worry whether they are having a good time or if they are missing me. I already know the answers – yes and no, respectively. No mommy guilt over taking a break, because they are on their own break from me. 

I could write thousands and thousands of words about my in-laws and the things they do for us and how grateful we are and it still would not scratch the surface. Sometimes, a picture is worth a thousand words, like this picture of A when her Nina arrived at the house to pick her up one day – 

That pure joy, love and adoration? That is how we all feel about the kids' grandparents. Sometimes two year olds are just so much better at expressing things than the rest of us.