Truth #2

October 3, 2013 at 7:16 am | Posted in Bun, Giggles, Lollipop, Photo Tuesday | 16 Comments
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Time.

Training wheels (or lack thereof).

Tricycle.

Tenderness.

Tabletop.

“There is no such thing in anyone’s life as an unimportant day.” — Alexander Woollcott

Are the leaves and acorns falling off the trees where you are? What’s your learning-to-ride-a-bike story? And have you patted a fluffy bunny lately?

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T is for truth and training wheels and tenderness. See more T’s at Jenny’s.

Jenny Matlock

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Sea Asides

September 26, 2013 at 8:03 am | Posted in Bun, Family, Giggles, Lollipop | 16 Comments
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“Long before we saw the sea, its spray was on our lips, and showered salt rain upon us.” — Charles Dickens

When’s the last time you felt that lovely salty rain? Where’s the oddest place you found sand? And what’s the best treasure you brought home?

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S is for sea and sand and shells. See more S’s at Jenny’s.

Jenny Matlock

Here and There

July 7, 2013 at 10:03 am | Posted in Transylvania | 7 Comments
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Exactly 377 days ago, we flew over an ocean, over highways and skyscrapers, over cookie-cutter subdivisions with manicured lawns and pH-balanced pools, and landed on American soil. We put our driver’s licenses back in the slightly-too-small front slots of our wallets and relegated our Romanian identity cards to a souvenir box in the closet.

We were home. No longer expats. No longer foreigners in a foreign land.

Red, White, and Blue.

But, strangely, we found ourselves on unfamiliar ground: wide swaths of glorious, sole-burning asphalt offering up more parking spots than could ever be filled, except on the Biggest One-Day Shopping Event of the Year! Places (plural) to buy milk or batteries or pipe cleaners or whatever else we might need at 1:30 in the morning. Air conditioning. Clothes dryers. Cheetos.

Welcome home indeed.

Now, just over a year later, we’re repatriated. Completely.

I haven’t eaten cabbage in a year. Or smelled it. I lie awake at night willing dusty synapses to re-engage so that I can remember the Romanian words for “snow” and “strawberry” and “cable package.” I bake without rationing my chocolate chips. And it no longer feels right to kiss a friend’s cheek when I see her in the grocery store.

But I also keep a 10-bani coin in my wallet. I automatically say “Opa!” when Bun trips over his shoe and face-plants on the sidewalk. I prefer fizzy water, slightly warm with no ice, to the ice-cold still variety. And I tuck my children into bed with a whispered noapte bună.

Red, Yellow, and Blue.

All of it — the memories that have long since been deleted from my mental hard-drive alongside the ones indelibly imprinted there — makes my heart seize up as if I were navigating the roundabout in Mănăştur on my way to Cora.

Did we really live abroad for a year? In Romania? Did we really call taxis, order pizza (with corn and ketchup), and get used to frozen hair? Did we really break two bones, have two surgeries, and navigate health-care systems in four different languages? Did we really pick cherries and apples and blackberries and eat them, right then and there? And when did we stop noticing our perpetually vermilion thumbs?

If we really, truly did all of that — and I know we did; I’m still sorting through the 6,000 photos that document it — why has it been so easy to come home? To fall back into this land of the free public bathrooms and home of the brave parents who trudge to Walmart in the middle of the night for baby Tylenol, animal crackers, and a Red Bull?

A year there, a year back here. I wanted it to be hard. I needed it to be. Because if it wasn’t, how could our year abroad have meant anything?

I’m secretly and desperately afraid all I really have to show for it is some lovely handcrafted pottery. And an immense appreciation for Mark Zuckerberg, who makes it possible for me to stay in touch with friends from places like Sibiu and Alba Iulia.

But shouldn’t there be more?

Does home ever feel too “easy”? Where is your farthest-away Facebook friend? And do you know that smell I’m talking about, that cooked-cabbage-or-possibly-a-child-with-gas smell??

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

Help Wanted

April 23, 2013 at 11:32 pm | Posted in Bun, Giggles, Lollipop | 29 Comments
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It happens every day. At 2:42 p.m. Or thereabouts.

Mommy loses it.

It starts just after I pick up Lollipop from school. We pull into the driveway and tumble out of the car in various stages of undress. Because somebody couldn’t make it the three minutes home without shedding their socks. Or headband. Or pants.

Counting …

… my …

We burst into the house like the prelude to a fireworks show. Pop! … Pop! … Pop! … Only instead of smoke and color, we leave behind backpacks and sticky lunchboxes. Torn wisps of a junk-mail envelope. Acorns. Shriveled dandelions. A collection of seeds and a few slimy tissues.

Then somebody wants a snack. Goldfish. No, Cheerios. No, goldfish and Cheerios. Not the Honey Nut kind, the other kind. In the green bowl. No, in the yellow bowl. The other yellow bowl.

Then somebody else wants goldfish and Cheerios and it’s not fair that he got them fiiiiiiiiiiiirst.

Then somebody needs a bottom wiped. Or a booger extricated. Or a mosquito bite calamined.

Or a Barbie dress buttoned.

Or a marble removed from a matchbox car.

Or a marker lid fished out of the dog water.

Or a sticker unstuck from the kitchen table.

Or a pencil sharpened.

Or the yucky brown spot cut off the banana.

Or some batteries replaced.

… chaotic …

… blessings.

Or some pretend-cupcakes put in the real oven to pretend-cook.

Or a stamp for a letter that may or may not be a blank sheet of paper.

Or more goldfish and Cheerios in the yellow bowl (no, the other yellow bowl) that is now lodged under the couch. Between a giant dust bunny and the very last shred of my sanity.

And I invariably say something like, “Oh, for Pete’s sake, just go play outside!” Or “My ears can’t take it anymore!” Or “Mommy needs QUIET!” Or “Just go and watch TV and leave me ALONE for 5 minutes!”

And I think Did I really just order my children to watch television?

I hate that it comes to that. What’s more, I hate that it comes to that so often.

Tiny hands tugging on my shirt, always tugging.

Demands, some polite, yes. But some … not.

Shrill voices trying to out-shrill each other for my attention.

Tears. Fighting. Noise.

Mess.

Laundry that’s fluffing. Again.

Dinner that’s half-cooked or over-cooked. Or PBJ … again.

Mommy who’s grumpy. Again.

By the time my husband walks in the door, I’m ready to lock myself in our dark closet and curl up with my son’s yellow blankie. I crave silence. Darkness. Sensory deprivation. Recharged batteries. Sanity.

Oh, sweet sanity.

Help Wanted: How do you negotiate the blessing that is a chaotic family? How do you keep a fingernail’s hold on inner peace? And how many times have you locked yourself in a dark, quiet room?

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“W” is for Help Wanted … See more Ws at Jenny’s on Thursday.

Jenny Matlock

Between the Lines

March 23, 2013 at 12:38 am | Posted in Haiku Friday, Lollipop, Me | 10 Comments
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Haiku Friday: Between the Lines

26 voices
I’ve never heard echo through
tunnels in my brain. 

James loved hamburgers.
Josephine loved purple, and
Dawn mothered five girls. 

26 voices
I’ve never heard sing me to
sleep on the dark nights. 

Daniel played the drums;
Jessica was a cowgirl;
Jack loved his Giants.

26 voices
you’ll never hear whisper their
names in these pages. 

Any one of those boys and girls could have been my daughter, given slightly different geography. Perhaps that’s why the Sandy Hook massacre has weighed so heavy on me these last months. Every day since, I have sent a prayer of thanks to the stars, the gods, fate, that my daughter still comes home from kindergarten with tales of who brought chocolate pudding for lunch and what she worked on in art class. With ketchup on her sweater. With glitter in her eyebrows.

Every day, she comes home. And every day, 26 others don’t.

It’s impossible to comprehend. It wakes me up at night, and it pierces me in the heart when I’m shopping for juice boxes or fresh markers. I had to do something.

So I joined Ann Curry’s 26 Acts of Kindness movement. I pledged to donate one book for every Sandy Hook victim to my daughter’s school library. I read obituaries. I cried. I re-read and cried and re-read and cried. I researched children’s books and matched titles with hobbies — Vicki loved flamingos; Grace, the beach.  I e-mailed authors, publishers, anyone, who might help with my project.

And I did it. We did it. 26 voices, 26 books. Lost, found, remembered.

How has Sandy Hook impacted you? And what acts of kindness will you pay forward?

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Thank you so very much to these authors, illustrators, artists, and publishers, who donated their work to my 26 Acts of Kindness project:

Carin Bramsen
Denise Brennan-Nelson
Rob Buyea
Michele Craemer
Kelly Cunnane
Cori Doerrfeld
Brad Epstein
David Gifaldi
Jamie Harper
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Kate Kiesler
John McCutcheon
Erica Silverman
Janet Stevens
Audrey Vernick
Don Winn
Wong Herbert Yee

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On Duty

February 28, 2013 at 9:07 am | Posted in Bun, Photo Tuesday | 17 Comments
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Off duty.

Orange.

Organized …

… Occasionally.

An obsession, shared.

Life loves to be taken by the lapel and told: “I am with you, kid.  Let’s go.” — Maya Angelou

Some says, most days, I feel as though my life is, well, monotonous. I take kids places. I pour Cheerios and peel bananas. I wipe noses and bottoms. I put toys away. Half an hour later, I put them away again. Some days, if I’m honest, I just get tired of it all.

And then I see Bun carrying around an armful of prized rocks. Or racing his truck to an imaginary fire. Or staring at the prism that the cat’s tag and the afternoon sun are making on the kitchen floor. And I realize what a gift this is — to be able, day in and day out, to watch my children observe their world, learn from it, make it their own. And I want to tell them, “I am with you, kid. Let’s go.”

How do you handle monotony in your own life? How do you remind yourself to see it as a blessing? And do you (or someone you know) have a prize rock?

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“O” is for on duty (and off duty) and orange and obsession … See more Os 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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“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

In My Heart

January 11, 2013 at 12:02 am | Posted in Bun, Family, Giggles, Lollipop, Photo Tuesday | 17 Comments
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“here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)”
E. E. Cummings

What do you carry in your heart? Are you an E. E. Cummings fan? And is my little hobo adorable or what?

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“H” is for heart and holiday ornaments and hobo. See more H at Jenny’s.

Jenny Matlock

Life Lines

October 23, 2012 at 1:14 am | Posted in Family, Me | 14 Comments
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This mother just buried her son. This mother is dead. This one is losing a friend.

And I’m sitting here on my couch. Our old terrier is dreaming of squirrels and lunch meat beside me. I can hear my boys thundering through the backyard. The late afternoon sun beats down on the Yaupon holly, its red berries an anomaly of our hot, sticky autumn.

I have work to do. I’m tired. I have a kindergartner to pick up in 11 minutes.

 

I don’t care. Because all I can do is sit here, now, and soak up the sensations of my small life. My small, exhausting, hectic, happy, finite life.

Wouldn’t they have given anything for one more moment?

One more moment to smooth sweaty hair from a rosy-cheeked child. To wash and fold the silky threads of a beloved woobie. To stare into the pantry and magic something together from the cans and boxes inside. To run the vacuum, to run to the grocery store, to run out of patience. To laugh and love and live.

Why do I get the privilege of this moment? Of more moments? I feel certain I haven’t earned it. I’m always wishing for more energy and less noise, more manners and less mess, more time and less chaos. More. Less. Different.

I never think, This moment is enough.

This noise is enough.

This mess is enough. 

This chaos is enough.

This life is enough.

But today, the errands, the lists, the laundry — the ordinary — feel like a blessing. And I realize that I have the responsibility of savoring every moment in this life.

This small, exhausting, hectic, happy, finite life. No more, no less, no different.

What adjectives would you use to describe your life? How do you remember to appreciate it? How would you live differently if you knew when it would end?

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