What Kind of Party is Five?

When I found out I was unexpectedly expecting Baby #3, part of me began mourning the loss of the family of four. We had just reached "the sweet spot" with the big kids – everyone was using the toilet on their own, everyone was sleeping through the night, R and I were beginning to remember what we were like as people independent of "Mumma" and "Dadda." It was finally getting easier.

And then, just like that, we were starting over.

It goes without saying that we love the "bonus baby" and I am willing to bet that my biggest regret as a family of four would have been that we never had a third baby. We were meant to be a party of five, although I'm going to go ahead and put "party" in air quotes until further notice.

Because the stage we are in now is decidedly NOT the sweet spot. Whatever the opposite of the sweet spot is, that is where you will find us. I'm going to go ahead and set up camp here, because we may be here awhile. And this is what it looks like:

No One Gets Along with Everyone. Oldest and youngest are in a semi-permanent state of mutual admiration. Middle is sometimes granted a temporary pass, but rarely from both at the same time. I have a better chance of winning the lottery than I do of all three of my children getting along.

No One is on the Same Page. At the amusement park, the oldest can ride adult rides but not kiddie rides. The middle can ride kiddie rides only. The youngest cannot ride any of the rides, but rather than sitting in her stroller she'd prefer to push it into the back of my legs repeatedly while she waits, athankyouverymuch. Even if oldest and middle could hypothetically ride the same ride, the oldest refuses to ride with the middle. This is one example. I could give you six dozen more, but I won't. You get the idea. It's like those horrible word problems I vaguely remember from math class, except then at least I always had the option to leave it blank and go on to the next.

No One Hears My Voice Until it Reaches THIS VOLUME. Sometimes I look at R and say, "can you hear me? You can? Am I speaking English? Oh, I am? You're sure? Just checking. BECAUSE THE KIDS ONLY HEAR ME WHEN I'M THIS LOUD." And then it's "geez Mum, why are you always yelling at us?"

No One Gets What They Want When They Want It. My catch phrase is "give me a minute." (Spoiler alert! It's actually somewhere between five minutes and never.) If one child is getting something, it is most likely because one or more someone elses is going without. I've never worked in the medical profession but I imagine this is what triage is like – no one gets what they want but hopefully everyone gets what they need. Eventually.

This is why, if you'd asked me, I would have talked myself into the family of four and out of the party of five. Because I like to feel like I'm in control and I do not like to be outnumbered and overwhelmed. But here I am – with one big, one middle and one little – learning to let go of the little things and trying to keep track of the big things.

The day will come where we are once again in "the sweet spot." And it will be even sweeter, because now we have a whole extra person to love.

I’m Not Ready

My biggest little girl is starting kindergarten this week. All summer, people have been asking if we're ready, and all summer we have answered the same way. A says "I'm so excited!", and I say "She's so ready." What I do not say is "I'm not ready." I was not ready to send T, but I thought it would be different – I thought I would be different – with A. It is not. 

What will be easier is sending her to a teacher I know, in a class filled with children we know the majority of. I know so much more now than I knew two years ago. It should be easier. It is not.

A is my sweet, sensitive one. She does everything big – high highs and low lows, often within moments of each other, all day long. I worry about A being stuck in the middle, always tagging along with the older or the younger, rarely getting her own thing. As a result, she is the easy one in many ways but she's also the one who ends up just going along. I sometimes tease that she is the one who would go with a stranger who offered her a lollipop – because A is sweet, and trusting, and used to going along. I fear that in school A may not listen to herself because the voices of others are so often louder.

Mostly I am afraid of sending my girl out into a world I have not prepared her for. I have her things ready to go – her supplies are in her classroom, her backpack and coordinating lunchbox hanging on her hook, her new clothes washed and put away and I even sewed her a new dress. I think I am hoping that if I do these things – if she has all the things she needs – she will feel how much I love her and how I am probably thinking of her at that very moment.

But those are just things. I am scared of the things she cannot see but will certainly feel. What if I have not done enough, said enough, taught her enough to prepare her for the hard things that are surely coming her way?

BeautyI said to my sister once that having a daughter ruins you, even if in the best possible way. I fear for my girls in ways that I do not fear for their brother. The responsibility of raising women weighs heavy on my heart and mind. I spent so much time choosing her things for school because it will matter. I have spent five years explaining what it means to be brave and kind, and how sometimes other people will not be either of those things but she will have to be anyway. I have spent five years telling her she can so that maybe she will not believe it when she starts hearing she cannot. I have spent five years – her whole entire life – building her up in anticipation of a world that will try to tear her down in ways that her brother will never experience.

I hope kindergarten will not ruin my daughter. I hope she is as brave and as kind as she knows how to be. I hope that when kids are mean, when she feels sad or when someone says she can't, it is my voice she hears louder than anyone – "you are brave, you are kind, you can do and be anything. You are perfect just the way you are."

ASunset

 

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

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.

Don’t Open Pandora’s Box…And Other Dont’s

As previously discussed, this week T begins kindergarten. I am preparing for the worst while hoping for the best. And I am learning A LOT about what not to do with our last days together. For example…

DO NOT open the hope chest that contains mementos of everything from your own high school graduation to your child's preschool graduation. I don't care what you are looking for. If it is really that important, ask your husband for help. 

If you open aforementioned hope chest – which from this day forward will be known as Pandora's box in our house – DO NOT take out the baby books, old photos and Christmas cards. Or go through them with your children, marveling over how little they once were and how big they now are. (Note to self: fill in more information in A's baby book before a. you forget anything else or b. she notices that she is CLEARLY the second child.)

DO NOT take you children to Target on a last minute errand at 6 pm. (This is pretty much a good rule any day of the week.) Because they will behave poorly, but when they beg you for toys you won't even put up a fight because the trainwreck that is the voice in your head will say "it's your last time before kindergarten. It is the end of an ERA." And then you will spend 5x as much as usual due to your fragile emotional state.

DO NOT let them dictate their own bedtimes or have "sleepovers" in each other's rooms. It's not June. We don't have time to get "back on track." School starts in TWO DAYS and my kid is going to be an exhausted mess.

Finally, DO NOT drink more than one glass of wine on any given night. Otherwise, you may end up creepily staring at your sleeping almost kindergartener humming "You Are My Sunshine" while your mind plays a memory montage of your last 5+ years together. (As a side note, I think saving all those extra glasses of wine for the post-first day celebration is totally okay. Cheers!)

The Reasons I’m Not Writing

Because work feels crazy. Because I have carpal tunnel in both wrists. Because there is always someone who is hungry, or thirsty, or wanting something from me. Because would rather watch TV. Because I do not have make time. Because I am not ready to say what comes next, but I know I am running out of time.

My kid is going to kindergarten. He is ready. I am not ready. 

Since the day T was born, I have been counting down in my head the days until he begins kindergarten. It feels, by far, like the biggest and scariest milestone out there – I knew it even then. While it is a beginning of many things, it feels like an end. And I am not ready.

I am not ready for school bus rides and field trips where strangers take T and show him parts of the world that we haven't gotten to yet. 

I am not ready for hurt feelings and mean kids and T being left out on the playground. 

I am not ready for homework instead of playing outside after school.

I am not ready to abide by school vacations as the only weeks of the year when we are supposed to travel.

I am not ready to concede the fact that this part – the part where we are unequivocally in charge, and the world is largely what we have built it to be for T – is over.

Most of all, I am not ready to walk him to school, to wave goodbye and see my little boy disappear inside what seems like an awfully big school. And to realize that with each passing day, he will seem a little bigger and the school will seem a little smaller. Because he will be, and it will be.

And that is the way it is supposed to go. 

He is ready. I am not ready. 

 

For Boston

So, Boston. I've been keeping quiet, not watching the news, turning down the radio – basically burying my head in the sand over Boston. I claim Boston as my own the same way many of us do. I arrived in Boston when I was 18 and left when I was 24, and in those six years some of the very best times of my life happened. 

I feel the way about Boston that I bet many people do about home – the ones who don't return and settle a few towns away like I did. I don't visit enough, but when I do I feel like I'm reconnecting with something that I've lost track of, and I promise to come back sooner the next time.

This thing that happened hurts my heart. And I've decided that I'm going to let it. I don't want to get over it, not yet. I don't want to just be grateful for the fact that no one close to me was hurt or killed even though a few were thisclose. (But I am grateful. So, so grateful.) I want to acknowledge that a lot more was lost that day than lives and limbs. What happened Monday will change that city and that marathon forever. 

When I was in my early 20's, a friend from Boston was killed in a car accident. He was nineteen, and he was one of the best human beings I had ever known. It was a profound loss. The day of his funeral was a gorgeous sunny day, and that really pissed me off. In fact, everything that day pissed me off because the world didn't stop. Most of the world didn't even know  what it had lost. How dare the sun shine, how dare the world not stop when his life did?

I wonder if people feel that way in Boston. I cannot begin to imagine what the victims of this horrible thing and their families are feeling like, but I bet some of them feel like I did then. 

If I were still religious, I would pray but I think I've forgotten how to do even that. What I did instead, when I realized that this Boston thing was making me cry and lose sleep and not feeling better as the days go by, was go to the beach with the tiny humans. I don't even know if I realized why I was going until I got there. I could breathe easier. I could be quiet, and still, and figure it out.

And what I figured out is that to feel better, I've got to feel bad. In solidarity with my city, the city who gave me so much and made me the person that I am. I know Boston is strong. I know something like this can't break a place like that; but it can irrevocably change it. And that's what I'm most sad about. Boston is a city steeped in history – and this is a chapter that it just didn't need. Boston, you deserved so much better. 

I'm going to cry and be sad a little longer. Then I'm going to be brave and make plans to take the train into the city with the tiny humans. It's been too long since I've been "home", and something like this isn't going to keep me away.

 

 

5 Ways Kindergarten Info Night Was Like the First Day of Middle School (Mine)

Earlier in the week, I had to go to T's kindergarten information night. I was a little nervous, as I always am what I don't know what to expect. But one thing I did not expect at all  is the overwhelming sense of deja vu that came over me when I walked in. It was like my first day of middle school – which was not great, thankyouverymuch – all over again. Here's why: 

  • Little Fish, Big Pond: The town where I grew up doesn't have its own middle and high schools, which meant the friendly familiar elementary school faces on that first day of middle school were few and far between. Twentysomeodd years later, same deal with familiar preschool parent faces. Only much, much fewer. 
  • The Cool Kids: On the first day, there is always that group – that one group – that just exudes "cool." Whether as students in middle school or as parents at info night, they are the ones who effortlessly know exactly what to wear, exactly where to sit, and exactly what to do when. They are also sooo popular that instead of sitting at one of the designated tables, they take chairs out of a chair rack to put around their own, larger table near back of the room. Both so they have enough room for all their friends and so they can be closest to the room's prime real estate – like the exit and the sign up sheet for screening day. 
  • The Unfortunate Medical Condition: My first day of middle school, it was that I had just had oral surgery and could not eat, drink anything except water or brush my teeth for two weeks. Which pretty much meant that I was "that weird girl that didn't talk or eat", at least for awhile. This time around, I have some kind of respiratory infection and no voice. Again, "the weird girl that doesn't talk." Ah, timing is everything. 
  • Navigating the Social Scene: A couple of groups make presentations on first days, convincing you of both the benefits their club or organization provides and how swell it would be if you joined. This is a trick. Choose a club, choose a label. So choose carefully.
  • Anxiety: I have serious anxiety and am socially awkward. Once you know me, I am actually quite funny and we can joke about it. Until then, you either think I'm weird, standoffish, and/or have an obscure skin condition that causes me to spontaneously break out in hives. 

The good news is that I survived, both times. The even better news is that this time around it is not about me. T has made some great friends in preschool who will be going to kindergarten with him. He has an energy and exuberance that seem to endear him to other boys his age. And as most mamas do, I know I will put myself out there and rise to the occasion in ways that I didn't have the courage to the first time around. Because this time, it's for my kid. 

And there is not much I will not do for that kid.

Being Sick – The Silver Lining

Moms like to talk a lot about how we never get a sick day. And in large part, that is true. But every once in a great while, some bug or virus comes along that leaves us no choice but to succumb to being sick and take a sick day. No, it’s not the same kind of sick day it was before you were a mom – where you lay on the couch for hours on end watching Lifetime movies and drinking tea, not getting up until you feel ready. Still – it’s your body’s way of saying “hey, stop putting everything else first and ignoring me. I’m going on strike.”

Turns out there are actually good things about sick days, I realized today. A silver lining, if you will.

Asking for Help: No matter how old you are, most of us never get too old to want our moms when we’re sick. Yes, our moms – you know, the people who feel the same way about us as we do our tiny humans? And when you are close enough in proximity to your mom to send out an SOS call and have her come by? Bliss. And the fact that she dresses your kids, packs their lunches, brings them to school and leaves you a Dunkin’ Donuts coffee when she goes? Even bliss-er. (Yes, I am aware that is not a word.)

Not Asking for Help: And getting it anyway. Ry had already left for an early meeting when I realized I needed help yesterday morning, hence calling my mom. But since I didn't ask for his help at all yesterday and even managed to throw something into the crock pot for dinner, I got a pass out of feeding the kids dinner and bedtime. Heck yeah!

Skipping #itscocktailthirty: I go through a nightly "should I or shouldn't I have a glass of wine" routine. But since I'm trying to get back on track with eating healthy and working out, I've been struggling with not drinking as much. No problem the past two days – the only things I want to drink are coffee and tea. Oh, and entire bottles of Nyquil.spring flowers

Taking "Me" Time: When my mom left with the kids yesterday morning, I climbed back into bed with my coffee and watched The Bachelor. Then I took a super-long, super-hot shower.  I didn't return any work calls, because I literally can't speak. Later in the day, I didn't feel guilty about letting Ry do everything for the kids. Today, the only things on my agenda (aside from driving the mom taxi to and from school) are cuddling with my girl, watching shows and drinking hot beverages.

Karma, Baby: I believe in karma. Which made me grateful for the fact that I randomly bought myself flowers on Monday for a little color. It's like I knew I would need a "get well soon" bouquet – to me, from me. It also, strangely, made me grateful that I lost my voice and could not yell at kids. We all had enough yelling on Monday.

I miss talking to my friends on the phone. I felt like a weirdo at kindergarten information night grabbing my throat when I tried to talk in some weird "I have no voice" Ariel the Little Mermaid sign language. It is not fun being sick, but it is necessary, and for a couple days anyway I'm kind of okay with it. As long as I feel better by the weekend.

Things are looking good, though – A just declared "Mumma, I can hear your voice, you're better!" so it must be so. 

tea for two

 

 

Yelling Hangover

This morning could have – and should have – gone better. Everyone was up, dressed and ready to leave for school early. Everyone got enough sleep and no one is sick. We were set up, it seemed, for a brilliant start to the week.

Until I was halfway out the door. Literally – one foot on each side of the threshold. 

T: "I want to bring my iPad." (Which is not an iPad, but a VTech VReader, FYI.)
Me: "No. Put it down please." 
T: "But I want it."
Me: "Put it down."
T: "No."
Me: "Put it DOWN. NOW."
T: "NO!"
(Repeat previous exchange fourteen times. Because that's not insanity.)
Me: "PUT. IT. DOWN. NOW!" (Yelling. Super loud yelling. Meanest, loudest mommy voice.)
T: Now crying.

There was more yelling, followed by more crying, followed by door slamming. A text from R asking if I had lost my mind screaming that loud when he was on a work call. A profanity-laced return text. Deep breath. Sip of coffee. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

The rest of the way to school, the kids and I discussed using their listening ears and mommy not yelling so much. Apologies and promises to do better all around. But still. 

I am at a loss. I do not want to be a mom who screams at her kids all the time. I do not want us to start our days like that. But I don't know how else to express my frustration or get my point across sometimes. We are not people who spank our kids – I am not judging you if you do, but it is not for us. T has been spanked maybe twice in his life and it made me feel so horrible, particularly the last time, that I never did it again. I also know myself – I have a nasty temper. And if I give myself license to hit my children when I am angry, it is possible that I will hurt them. Slippery slope. No thanks.

So I yell. Loudly. With the intent to scare them. Cue the yelling hangover that I am going through now.

Tomorrow is another day. I will do better. Breathe deeper. Count to 10…20…125… Walk away. Other things. There have got to be other things. Right? Because this doesn't work for any of us.