And Then She Was 7

October 16, 2013 at 8:13 am | Posted in Lollipop | 21 Comments
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She’s been 7 for three days.

This girl, the one missing her front top teeth. The one who loves sequins almost as much as she loves rabbits. The one who graduated to chapter books when I wasn’t looking.

She roller skates. She backstrokes. She rides her bike, the one with the sparkly purple streamers, without training wheels.

She pirouettes.

She’s wise to this blog thing and suggested I write about “that funny growl Bun makes when he’s cranky, which is a lot, Mommy.”

She has a slight addiction to funny cat videos on YouTube.

She digs in the dirt. She makes her own mud. Her fingernails are a mess. She doesn’t care.

She does this thing now where she rolls her eyes and sighs when she’s exasperated. There’s usually an “aye yai yai” to go with it and, occasionally, a sassy hand-on-the-hip gesture.

She read a book on global warming this summer and decided to start an environmental club. There are 15 members and counting. So far, they’ve planted bean seeds, cleaned up the neighborhood park, and made nature collages. For the next meeting, she’s planning an autumn-focused sing-a-long and maybe some choreography.

She leaves me purple sticky notes on the kitchen counter with reminders like, “Please fix my bird’s wobbly beek” and “I prefer grape jelly for my luntch.”

When she grows up, she wants to run a store called Love Bunnies. She’s got a business plan partially drafted, complete with a social media component. She’ll sell real bunnies, stuffed bunnies, bunny clothes, bunny food, bunny snacks, bunny toys, and bunny bling. There may be a line of bunny ballet slippers. She will oversee things, and Giggles will be her minion. They are both okay with this arrangement.

Last week, she researched bats on the computer and wrote a nonfiction book about them because she had a little time before swim lessons. There may have been a glossary.

Last month, she got an award at school for, among other things, “general awesomeness.”

She’s 7. She’s amazing. And she’s mine.

I think I’ll celebrate with some choreography.

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V is for she’s growing up so very fast, it’s giving me vertigo. See more V’s at Jenny’s.

Jenny Matlock

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My Handsome

May 10, 2013 at 7:02 am | Posted in Bun | 15 Comments
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In Europe last summer, an orange crayon melted in our rental car. We may or may not have gotten a parking ticket in Madrid. And our youngest made many a Spanish woman weak in the knees.

With his blond curls. His chocolate eyes. His dimples.

mi Guapo

Que guapo, el guapo bebé! we heard. Over and over. Everywhere we went. In metro stations, souvenir shops, park benches, hotel lobbies, Burger Kings with free wi-fi, museums, and mercados. Guapo! Guapo! Guapo!

We joked that we were lucky he was only 2  at least all  the attention wouldn’t go to his head.

Today mi Guapo is three. He’s more worldy. He knows being cute can get him things, like extra lollipops and stickers and cookie samples. He pitches fits. He throws important things in the trash. He hordes rocks. He sits on the dog.

But he’s still my handsome baby.

The one whose best friend is his stuffed giraffe. The one who is my alarm clock, leaning over his crib rails and yelling, “Mom? Mooooom? Moooooooooom?” until I free him. The one who adores poot nacks.

Last summer, when the mosquitoes gobbled up his sweetness and turned him polka-dotted, I had to explain to everyone: “It’s not chicken pox. Or measles. Really, he’s not contagious. They are just mosquito bites.” Just. He was so miserable, and he didn’t know how to make it better. I started scratching the bites for him, gently, barely more than a tickle, just enough to soothe.

Now, it’s our thing. He’ll crawl in my lap and point to an imaginary spot on his arm. “Keeto bite here, Mom. Will you scratch it for me, will you?”

And I do. And we sit there. Quiet, together, close. Him, eyes and little feet drooping. Me, wishing every trouble could be fixed so easily. But I know that’s not my job. I’m to teach him to scratch his own bites, fight his own fights, mend his own heart.

And, through it all, to smile that handsome, contagious, soulful, full-bodied, jelly-faced smile. Just like that, mi Guapo, just like that.

What kind of smile does your kiddo have? What kind of accidental rituals do you share? And have you ever had to convince people your child does not, in fact, have a communicable disease?

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“Y” is for youngest … See more Ys at Jenny’s.

Jenny Matlock

On the Rocks

January 23, 2013 at 8:42 pm | Posted in Photo Tuesday, The Pups | 22 Comments
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1.

2.

3.

4.

“Happiness is a warm puppy.” — Charles M. Schulz

Just yesterday, he was a fluffy, wiggly furball with ears as big as his whole body. Today, he’s 9. There’s gray in his muzzle. He doesn’t chase a tennis ball with quite the tenacity he once did. But he still loves a good snooze, preferably in a soft lap. He still sits patiently, waiting for clumsy (or clever?) little fingers to drop goldfish or sandwich crusts or carrot sticks. He comes running at the sound of a snack bowl of Cheerios scattering across the kitchen tile. And he needs to be near us, wherever we are. The feeling is mutual. Happy Birthday, Rocky!

Do you have a 100-pound lap dog in your life? How do animals brighten your day? And do yours snarf up crumbs better than a vacuum cleaner?

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“J” is for just yesterday … See more Js at Jenny’s.

Jenny Matlock

My Half-Life

January 22, 2013 at 4:50 am | Posted in Family, Me | 14 Comments
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In exactly two months, I’ll be 35.

If I’m lucky, I still have half of my life to live. And if I’m not so lucky … well, I have less.

Contemplating that has led to a few heart palpitations in the shower, a few nightmares involving wildcats and curvy roads and getting lost in the grocery store.

What have I done with the time that’s gone? What haven’t I done? What do I want from the time that remains?

I have no idea. And no time to contemplate it between the loads of laundry, the sticky breakfast dishes, the cat puke, the potty training, the freelance work, the sleep I’m not getting, the calories I’m not burning, the endless piles of toys, and the downloaded movie queue I’ll never, ever make it through.

Or maybe I should put it this way. We have clothes to wear, meals to eat, and dishes to eat them on. We have healthy pets and healthy kids. We have work that pays the bills. We have more fun ways to spend our free time than we have actual free time. We have each other, and we are lucky. I am lucky.

But I still can’t ignore this emotional tug to take stock and re-prioritize, to dig around in my mental sandbox and see what’s buried in there. Won’t that ultimately make me better? A better woman, a better mother, a better partner, a better person?

Too many days, I feel myself bracing for the chaos and noise and dirty socks I know are coming. I wish for something to be different, but I’m not sure what. Or how. Or even why I want something to change.

Because I am lucky. I am. I know this.

Like the plastic gold coins my boys just unearthed in the playroom, my own treasures are already within reach.

How do you make time for a little honest-to-goodness soul-searching? What helps remind you that you’re lucky? And what’s been recently rediscovered in your family’s playroom?

Giggles and Grins

December 19, 2012 at 8:22 am | Posted in Giggles | 10 Comments
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My Giggles is 5 this week.

He’s almost a kindergartner. With feet the size of a fourth-grader. And a cowlick that makes him taller than his sister.

 

He loves poop. Rather, he loves to talk about poop. When he forgets to listen, it’s because there was too much poop in his ears. When Lollipop irritates him, he threatens to dump poop in her room. When he and Bun are playing trains, one of the freight cars is more often than not hauling poop. (Thankfully, it’s the imaginary kind.)

He is strangely fascinated with batteries. (“How do they work? Why do they have chemicals? What kind of chemicals? Why can’t you see the chemicals? Why do they die? What do they get turned into when you recycle them? Why are they different sizes? Can I sleep with one under my pillow?”)

He will not touch broccoli. Or sweet potatoes. Or peas. Or green beans. Or spinach. Or smoothies. He will devour bananas. And cherry yogurt. And kolaches. And Tic Tacs.

He is in love with my blue electric pencil sharpener.

He helps his little brother put on his shoes. And feed the cat. And build a Lego tower. And get a bowl Cheerios. And sneak Tootsie Rolls.

He has an uncanny knack for finding money wherever he goes. In the dirt at the Y. On the curb at Schlotzsky’s. Under the Great Value soda machine at Wal-Mart.

He does not like me to clean his peanut-butter face with the time-tested spit-wash method.

He keeps his treasures in the tiny drawer next to his socks. Bits of leaves. Acorn tops. Starbucks sleeves. Bouncy balls. An empty toothpaste box. Chuck E. Cheese coins. A zebra magnet. A pizza-restaurant flyer. Two orange slinkies.

His entire day is an adventure just waiting to be narrated. Which he does. With plenty of “That was awesome!” thrown in.

He’s so big, and so little. When he heaves himself onto the pool ledge at swim lessons, I’m absolutely certain his lanky arms won’t support him. They bend and sway like a fawn teetering in the clover.

But those arms always hold. Even with that brick-red train track of a scar, they hold.

And because they hold, I do.

What’s in your child’s treasure drawer? Are vegetables his sworn enemy? Is there too much poop in your ears today??

My Sunshine

October 13, 2012 at 6:48 am | Posted in Lollipop | 14 Comments
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I have a drawing on my dresser. Magenta and violet flowers — humongous and vibrant, the kind I grow only in my dreams — turn their petaled faces toward the azure sky. The canary-yellow sun smiles down on the pastoral scene. He is wearing sunglasses.

Lollipop made it for me.

With her purple-and-candy-corn Halloween pencil, she wrote, “I love you, Mommy. Love, Lollipop” except it really looks like this: I! LOVE! YOU! MOMMY! LOVE! LOLLIPOP! because she also loves exclamation marks.

 

She is 6 today. (She! is! 6!)

Every day is a reminder that she is exactly like me — creative, a rule-follower, a lover of broccoli and bulletin boards. And she is nothing like me — assertive, sequin-wearing, a lollipop-and-licorice girl to the sweet, sticky core.

She keeps an apron on the towel hook in the kitchen, a daily visual reminder to me that she wants to help with dinner. Measuring, pouring, mixing, these are her favorites.

She asks questions like “What is infinity plus pi?” and “Are okapis omnivores or herbivores?” and “When are you going to wash my socks with the purple ghosts on them?”

Give her some paper, pipe cleaners, tinfoil, and yarn and she will whip up a cat mobile or a bunny cave or a pot of rainbow soup.

She is our family’s goodwill ambassador, making friends with fellow restaurant patrons, post-office customers, and the lady in the stall next to us.

She takes her cheeseburger plain, her hot dog with ketchup, and her orange juice with ice.

She wears dresses — pink, purple, plaid, velvet, ruffles, buttons, bows, tulle, jewels, flowers, butterflies, Scottie dogs, you name it — 365 days a year. And twice on Sundays. And Tuesdays. And sometimes Fridays.

She corrals her brothers into tutus. She demands that they play school or pet store or hair salon with her. She is their fairy-winged handler, and they adoringly offer her tributes of marshmallows and pink chalk-nubs.

She is exactly who she is. I feel as though I’ve known her forever — and that I’ll never fully know her.

Like the dresses lined up in her closet, she is layer upon layer of goodness and grace, sweetness and smarts, keenness and kindness.

She is my! life’s! sparkliest! sequin!

Do you marvel at who your children are and are becoming? At how they are so alike — and so different — from you? At how they possibly got to be 6 already??

My Waterloo

May 9, 2012 at 10:29 am | Posted in Bun, Transylvania | 21 Comments
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I can’t write this post. I just can’t.

I sit. I check the laundry and the celebrity headlines. I stare at the cursor. Blink, blink, blink. No words come pouring out, as they usually (eventually) do. And with every hypnotizing pulse — blink, blink, blink — I talk myself out of a nap I desperately need.

Because today you are two.

And I want to write this. For you, for me, for all those future girlfriends (or boyfriends) I’m going to embarrass you in front of and (let’s be honest) never consider good enough.

I want to write this because I’m your mom. And you’re my baby. My perfect baby.

The one who takes the batteries out of my alarm clock.

The one we call Napoleon because you’re short and demanding. And because you make nasally, guttural growling sounds, just as le petit caporal must have done when his troops flanked left instead of right.

The one who scuttles about with your pacifier hanging out the corner of your mouth like a soggy, half-smoked stogie.

The one who throws stuff. Lidless markers. Tonka trucks. Cartons of mints from grocery store shelves. Rocks, socks, books, pants, cups, caps. All of it.

The one who turns the oven on and off and on and off and on and off when I’m not looking.

The one who eats no pasta. Or bread. Or beans. Or cheese. Or carrots. Or meat. Unless it’s called a McNugget and contains your recommended daily allowance of yuck.

The one who carries around a nub of blue chalk for hours and hours until you turn into a Smurf.

The one who charms the şosete off all the little old Romanian ladies waiting for the 35 bus on Calea Turzii.

The one who poops more than any other child I’ve ever known.

The one who barters hugs for crisps of cereal or chunks of pistachio and then adds an “Ohhhhhh! Love you!” to sweeten the deal.

The one who could stay in the bath all day long, filling and dumping and filling and dumping and filling and dumping your little yellow cup.

The one who climbs on the kitchen table so often that I forget to be surprised when I see you there, unwinding a roll of Scotch tape or poking leftover muffin crumbs with your toes.

Those perfect toes. My perfect baby.

Growl on, my little Napoleon. Growl on.

Happy 2, Bun! Want to read his birth story? And my husband’s take on it?

The Lady of Letters

April 27, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Posted in Guest Posts, Haiku Friday | 11 Comments
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Today? It’s a Small
World chez Fluffy Bunnies. E.’s
Our grand finale.

And she’s the real deal.
She’s got three letters after
Her name: M. F. A.

She’s got three kids, too:
O., N., and L. (That E., she
Does love her letters.)

This week? O.’s seven.
Teeth and his love for trains … gone.
Get out your hankies.

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Haiku for Seven by E.
for O.

Tomorrow, seven!
A big kid; it’s official.
How did this happen?

First boy of my heart,
whose newborn wails echo when
springtime windows open,

I miss morning nests
on the couch, reading Harry
and nursing, nursing.

I miss your backhoes,
trains, trucks, tractors, balls, and cranes.
Teach your brother soon.

Now when no kids wake
at night, it’s worry keeps me
up in the wee hours.

Thinking of you out
in the world, braving your way
on paths I won’t know.

This, the year you left
dinos for Pokemon, glad
animals still rule.

Fan of your break dance,
sibling kindness, fearless joy
on two wheels of bike.

I love your magic,
pranks and all; Tae kwon do moves;
your Tiger Cub hat.

Not so your fart jokes,
back talking, button pushing,
all that growing up.

Nighttime snuggles still
are needed for hours, it seems.
When patience is thin.

Not room for two there,
You flop and never settle.
“One more minute please?”

“How does coffee taste?
What makes a hearing aid work?
Why is some skin brown?”

Then you ask the one
all kids find their way to, and
answer for yourself.

“L. is the baby,
and N. is your girl, but
I made you a mom.”

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Don’t forget …
Comment in haiku
And you could win something cool …

From Transylvania!

The Bass Line

April 24, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Posted in Me, Transylvania | 30 Comments
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I’m at a place called Boom Party Club.

Pop music blares. The disco ball whirls. Preschoolers shimmy.

It’s a five-year-old’s birthday party in Cluj-Napoca, Romania.

While two child-minders in princess dresses lead imaginary dragon hunts and make balloon swords, the parents — me, a French couple, and 7 or 8 Romanians — relax in the back room around platters of schnitzel de pui and salata de cartofi.

After pleasantries in English and a round of gin and tonics, conversation turns to the usual adult fare: the economy, traffic, chicken pox, and the upcoming class trip to the football stadium.

There’s talk of a helicopter ride over the field.

At least, I think so.

At some point I don’t quite notice, the Romanians switch back to their native tongue, leaving me and the French couple swirling our empty gin glasses and reaching for more meatballs.

I catch words I know: grădiniţă, maşină, varicelă.

I laugh when I’m supposed to.

I chime in with a da, da! every once in a while.

But, honestly, I haven’t got a clue.

And it’s more refreshing than the salt-rimmed frozen margarita with fresh lime juice I haven’t had in 10 months.

Instead of wracking my brain for something to say about the latest Greece bailout, I admire the beadwork on one mother’s purse. I slip pretzels to the two-year-old in pigtails winding her way through our feet. I take a long but inconspicuous look at the woman across the room who I’ve heard has a newborn at home. She’s wearing high heels and mascara. Her hair is freshly blow-dried. I marvel.

Then I realize the room is quiet. Everyone is looking at me. I blink.

“American schools?” one of the dads asks. “Are they worth what you pay?”

I have no idea if he’s talking about preschools or primary schools or massage schools. I pause and say “um, well, uh” a few times before coming up with something vaguely intelligent. Or at least something vague.

Eventually, the English words dissolve back into Romanian ones, and I resume parceling out pretzels to the pig-tailed toddler. I wonder how many grown-ups are sitting in uncomfortable folding chairs in San Francisco and Duluth and Tulsa right this very moment, double-dipping potato chips into ramekins of ranch dressing and talking about the state of education. Or how the soccer team is doing. Or the latest economic bailout.

When the child-minders beckon, we sing to the birthday girl. We eat strawberry cake and bop to catchy Romanian standards like De Zuia Ta.

Under the sparkly shine of the disco ball, I collect kids, shoes, and party favors. We say thank you. Mulţumesc! And goodbye. La revedere! The hostess and I cheek-kiss, as you do in Europe.

And we slip out the door of Boom Party Club, where cultures ricochet off one another like the children moshing inside to the thumping bass.

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Today’s Five for Five topic is words. Join in at Momalom.

The Birthday Girl

March 21, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Posted in Me, Transylvania | 25 Comments
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My birthday is this week.

Maybe it’s because I’m so very far away from my family. Or because Romania doesn’t have buttercream icing. But I’ve found myself doing a lot of self-reflection as I cross another year off the calendar. It’s like I’m sorting through my mental manila file folders (I love those!) and clearing out my collection of memories. Keep? Toss? Share?

And this question: What’s missing?

In my 34 years, I’ve birthed three children, 943 blog posts, and countless magazine articles.

I’ve sold Girl Scout cookies and magazine subscriptions. I wasn’t very good at either.

I’ve seen Yellowstone and the Parthenon and kangaroos hopping across a golf course.

I’ve stood in the middle of Dachau and been crushed by the infinite sorrow of that place.

I once walked down the Champs-Élysées alone on an August afternoon and felt my soul slip into place. Like all the pieces finally, finally fit.

I’ve ridden a roller coaster and slept in a tent. If I never did either of those things again, I’d be just fine with that. Seriously.

I’ve run a half-marathon. The whole damn thing. Every single hill.

I fell off my bike and broke my wrist when I was 9. I fell off a Vespa and broke my leg when I was 33.

I’ve cleaned puke off train tracks and My Little Ponies and stuffed ducks in the middle of the night.

I’ve avoided more conflicts than I can count, like the time I hid in the bushes outside the library to avoid telling this really sweet guy that I didn’t want to go out with him. (He’s not reading, I’m sure. But just in case, I’m so, so sorry.)

I’ve taken 8,000 pictures and used up probably that many glue sticks.

I’ve spent hours worrying. Hours and hours. About car crashes and cancer and, well, everything.

I’ve never made a diorama or gotten poison ivy.

I’ve looked my children straight in the eye and told them that, no, Mommy is not eating chocolate.

I made straight A’s my whole entire life. And now I think, who cares?

I can’t really cook or sew or grow things. But I floss my teeth every day, and I’m pretty sure that counts for something.

As I type this list, as I think my way through this birthday week, I wonder … Is this enough? What does “enough” even mean?

After the cake is gone and the wrapping paper is in shreds under my chair, what really matters? It it enough that I love my husband? That I love my kids? That I try every day to love myself?

Is that enough? Am I enough?

And how do I know?

Have you ever given yourself the gift of introspection? Did you find clarity? Peace of mind? Renewed sense of purpose? Or did you just want another piece of birthday cake?

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