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

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

With this Ring …

March 21, 2013 at 6:21 am | Posted in Bun, Giggles, Lollipop, Photo Tuesday | 16 Comments
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To keep your marriage brimming,
With love in the loving cup,
Whenever you’re wrong, admit it;
Whenever you’re right, shut up.
— Ogden Nash

My little ring bearers lost a shoe and forgot their way. My sweet flower girl forgot to sprinkle her petals. And they all went to bed with icing in their hair. The day couldn’t have been more perfect.

What funny things have your children done in family weddings? How do you get buttercream out of taffeta? And why do little boys look so stinking cute in suits??

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“R” is for “with this ring” … See more Rs at Jenny’s.

Jenny Matlock

A Love Letter: 26 Years Later

February 5, 2013 at 1:29 am | Posted in Me | 18 Comments
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Valentine’s Day — it’s a glittering light on the horizon during those dull, murky post-Christmas days of January when snowman wrapping paper that’s 70 80 90! percent off is finally replaced with boxes and boxes of chalky candy hearts.

And doilies. Nothing says Valentine’s Day like a hand-written “Be mine” and a few Snoopy stickers on a pink paper doily. Am I right?

When I was 8, I sat at my kitchen table with a stack of those doilies and a 64-pack of crayons. I wrote a different message for each kid in my third-grade class: UR 2 sweet, Love ya!, Friends 4-ever. It took me 7 episodes of Kids Incorporated to finish.

 

I brought them to school and carefully placed them in 16 decorated shoeboxes with holes cut in the top. I remember because this was also the year I found a love letter in my own foil-covered shoebox. From a secret admirer. Scrawled in freshly sharpened pencil on wide-ruled notebook paper was a poem I can’t remember and this: “With Love, K.S.”

With love! From K.S.! I glanced at the boys in my class with a nonchalance that belied my mere 8 years.

And then I saw him. A cutie named Kyle Scott. He had light brown hair and dimples. All of his permanent teeth had come in. His skin was bronze from soccer season. And? He. Liked. Me. I knew it.

But it wasn’t Kyle Smith. My teacher Mrs. Laughlin confirmed it. Something oozed out of my heart like the saccharin filling of a chocolate-covered cherry.

And then I really knew: Kniles. Kniles Smith.

He looked like you’d imagine a kid named Kniles to look. Short and mousey. Big beaver teeth. A brown bowl cut. He wore thick black glasses and made jokes about meteorology and BASIC. My heart oozed more goopy stuff.

When Mrs. Laughlin nodded her Barbie-blonde mane, I slid into my orange plastic chair. Stunned. Disappointed. Kniles.

I had enough manners to know I shouldn’t show how upset I was. But I just couldn’t help it. I felt like one of those overfilled heart-shaped balloons, the ones that never really look like hearts at all. Pop!

Even the Sixlets taped to the Care Bear and She-Ra valentines I dug from my shoebox didn’t cheer me up.

K.S. Kniles Smith. Pop!

But somewhere between the red-velvet cupcakes and the donning of my safety-patrol badge, I had an epiphany that third-grade Valentine’s Day — perhaps the first of my young Smurf-and-sticker-book-filled life. What a risk Kniles had taken writing me that poem. He had given me his heart, disguised as crooked mixed-case graphite couplets. He didn’t know how I would react. He hadn’t asked for anything in return. He just felt so strongly that the words had to come out, had to be shared, had to be folded into a pull-flap rectangle and dropped in a shoebox, my shoebox.

I saw Kniles Smith that day. Really saw him. Beyond the scrawny, awkward boy who knew more about fractions and food webs than anyone else in third grade, I saw someone with a brawny heart just as big as his brain. A Casanova, a Lord Byron, a Lloyd Dobler — on the inside, where it matters most.

For K.S, wherever you are.

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This post is part of Momalom’s 2013 Love Fest. See more love letters at Jen and Sarah’s.

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

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?

Sweetness and Light

January 7, 2013 at 10:26 pm | Posted in Family, The Pups | 29 Comments
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When our behemoth black Lab was a wee pup, just barely one year old, he ate our remote control. (I’m not kidding.) We didn’t have children yet. We both worked. And one ordinary Tuesday, he got bored while we were out bringing home the Bark’n Bac’n.

Shortly thereafter, we decided to get him a canine friend. Someone older, wiser, more mature. Someone who could teach him more manners than we’d been able to. (Because he had eaten the dog-training book, too.)

Yin and Yang.

My husband chose Polly from a local dog-rescue website. With her shaggy, blonde face smiling up at him, her brown eyes glittering with that Disney-dog aura of hers, I’m pretty sure he was a goner from the first click. And a few days later, she came to live with us.

Actually, she came for a weekend trial. It lasted for seven years.

Because she was the perfect foil for our Lab. She was calm and quiet and gentle. She allowed him to push past her, beat her to the top of the stairs, and bowl her over when he needed to be the alpha dog of someone, anyone, in this ever-more-chaotic house filled with pint-sized ear-pullers. And she never ate things she shouldn’t, save a few crayons, the occasional litter-box cookie, and, once, a bag of lollipops.

She also never barked, except in her sleep when the terrier in her subconscious romped with abandon after squirrels and rabbits. She snuffled when we trimmed her Gandalfian eyebrows. She smelled like fresh tortillas and charmed all the neighborhood postmen.

Sweetness and Light.

We lost her this weekend.

She settled down for the night on her worn green-and-brown bed and never woke up.

She was old. She had arthritis that made it terribly painful to stand up and lie down. She was mostly blind and mostly deaf.

So it was a blessing that she passed peacefully, at home, in her favorite spot.

I know that. I do. Still, I miss her. I wasn’t ready for her to go.

But she was ready.

I have to take comfort in that. Somehow, I have to.

Care to share a funny or sweet story about your pets? About the strangest thing they ever ate? About how your heart manages, somehow, to heal once they’re gone?

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??

The Fixer

November 10, 2012 at 8:19 am | Posted in Bun, Giggles, Haiku Friday, Lollipop | 6 Comments
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Haiku Friday: The Fixer

 

They yell for me when
they need the scissors or that
Green train that’s missing.

Upstairs, downstairs, on
The phone, or elbow-deep in
An epic diaper:

I can fix it all,
Even though what I want is
To fold the towels.

But the illusion
Of my perfection will fade
Like last year’s swimsuits.

They’ll grow up, grow wise.
They’ll see me — the mom behind
The tab-topped curtain.

The one who craves calm
And sleep and a day off to
Plow through a good book.

What toys can only you find? When’s the last time you had an uninterrupted phone conversation? And what would you do with a day off from mothering (or fathering)?

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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