Being 15

Kelli cake

Fifteen.

Fifteen years ago today, I held you in my belly for just a while longer…

You yearned to get out. You made that clear with your powerful kicks and incessant hiccups.

But I still had time.

I wasn’t really ready yet. I had been too busy to make up the crib with fresh sheets, or to set out your sweet little unisex onesies. You weren’t really due for almost two more weeks, and your four-year-old brother kept me on my toes every day, asking a billion questions that I, as the mother, was expected to know.

We were busy… busy in that sense of the word when Monday just blurs to Wednesday and then Sunday… and we are left wondering where the time went.

Kind of how life is now.

I wasn’t ready. I worried that I hadn’t taken the time to savor this second pregnancy, to just sit and feel you move and just be pregnant. Those fleeting months when I carried you seem like a blip in time.

I just wasn’t ready.

Second kid, you know.

But you had your own ideas.

And when labor started, I realized that I was ready… ready to meet you. Ready to try my hand at parenting yet another little one.

And when you surprised us — a girl! — I was both giddy and cautious. I was a boy mom, after all… fluent in dinosaurs and Legos and all things boy.

But a girl?

And then you taught me about raising girls… that girls can run and climb and break bones and laugh until they snort. Taught me that life was meant for running full-force ahead, for laughing with friends and for late nights reading in bed. That there is no day that can’t be improved with a bowl of ice cream, a piece of chocolate cake or a hug from a friend… that sometimes it’s better to let little things go than to worry. That when things don’t go your way you can always try a little harder.

Fifteen years. Where has the time gone, really?

Some days I think you have taught me more about life than I could ever teach you.

I am in awe of your confidence, your loyalty, your kind spirit and your fierce determination when obstacles stand in your path.

You make me smile, make me laugh, challenge me and call my bluff.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Happy 15th Birthday, sweet girl…

Enjoy being 15.

Kelli no braces

50 Stages of Motherhood

There is a progression of motherhood…a timeline we all follow. Some of us go through kicking and screaming, while others cheer louder with each smidge of progress towards the finish line.

Our children inch closer to adulthood, while we apparently inch closer to the floor.

I have lost 3/4 of an inch in height since my son left for college.

And with each new stage, each startling new trick or terrifying new skill we adjust our mothering to suit it.

  • He climbs trees? We add the Urgent Care Center to our speed dial.
  • Projectile vomiting? Nothing a Swiffer, rubber gloves and a few paper towels can’t handle.
  • He wants to dress himself? We buy all red, white and blue clothing so that he will always look patriotic even when he isn’t quite matching.
  • He wants to get his Driver’s License? We increase our blood pressure meds and buy a set of rosary beads.
  • He wants to live off-campus? We write rent checks and hope he has a decent meal now and then.

I have been through so many stages of motherhood with my college kid, I have lost count. There are days when I can barely remember those first few stages, the why-isn’t-he-sleeping-through-the-night stage or the just-stop-teething-already stage.

Some were particularly ugly.

But woven together, stacked one on top of the other year after year these stages make up the mother I am today. It’s too late to change any of the things we went through. No do-overs, no returns, no refunds and no time machine travel.

Would I have done anything differently? I’m not sure I even know that answer.

I am faced with the dilemma that I am not done mothering, not quite yet.

But there are days when I want to be done.

See, the problem with mothering is that you are never really finished. It’s not that I didn’t know this… I just didn’t understand.

Grown-up kids need parents too.

And in time, years from now, in those last stages of motherhood, I will need my kids more than they will need me.

They will finally be living their own lives as adults, possibly raising families of their own. And I will be able to relax and know that I did the very best job I could have done. I passed the final exam, graduated. Finished the last stage.

But I am pretty sure I will still find a way to keep on worrying.

 

This post originally ran on Moonfrye

On My Watch

The flag was the first thing I noticed. Half-staff and limp on this windless morning.

Mourning as we all were, refusing to wave or stand tall.

Driving into the staff parking lot, this familiar drive I have done countless times, my heart was in my throat.

The kids were pouring into school, running to catch their friends or sneak some playground time before the 8:30 bell. Moms and dads walked along behind them, the familiar march I see most weekdays. A bit more somber than usual, I sensed.

This school is home to me. I started here as a rookie kindergarten parent back in 1999, when my son was 5 years old and school seemed the safest place next to my arms.

Years passed, and both of my kids moved up the ranks from the kindergarten crowd to the upper grades.

I snagged an amazing job working with at-risk kids in small groups, teaching social skills and being someone they could count on to talk about their worries or help them deal with rough times at home.

I love these little ones. So fragile, so trusting and so amazingly resilient.

How will I face them today, when that same fragility that endears them to me now makes them seem so very vulnerable?

As I walk the campus after the bell, I feel like I’m on my watch. Every little thing that seems off is questioned. Doors are locked, gates secured and parents gathered in whispering groups, their eyes full of fear. One of them stops me for a tearful hug, thanking me for what we do.

It reminds me of September 11, when the nation’s eyes were glued to the television and our whole world changed. Our feeling of safety stripped from us as if we were no longer entitled to it. I still sent my kids to school that morning. Many did not, but I felt the intense need to move forward, to make it right.

To make my children believe that there is good and fairness and safety in our world.

How do we do that now?

I pick up my first little group — three adorable, full-of-life little kindergarten girls — and we laugh, we sing, we compare shoes and we learn about taking turns.

They are blissfully unaware that their parents had to make a choice this day. A choice to send them to school and to let them live without fear or worry. To trust that the adults in charge are doing everything they can to keep them safe. A choice to keep their lives normal during all of this chaos.

And the choice to just let kids be kids.

And on my watch, that is just what they will be.

Thankful for the Little Things

There wasn’t enough of it at first. Not for quite some time.

Her father fretted about it just a bit.

His baby girl had hardly any hair.

Granted, nobody ever questioned her gender. Her searing blue eyes matched her brother’s but her features were all girl.

By the time she was two-years-old or so, I could pull together a very small pony tail. More of a collection of wisps, gathered ever so carefully in a tiny hair tie…maybe a small hair clip holding the castaways that were too short to be gathered.

And then, it grew. Her hair got longer and longer, and gathering up a pony tail was easy. It wasn’t her favorite style, but I could coax one out of her before a soccer game or a day at the pool.

Until she decided to cut it off and donate it to someone with cancer.

I was in awe that this tiny little girl would willingly part with her hair. The same hair her father and I were certain would never grow in without that characteristic male-pattern-baldness look we had come to adore.

Her new bob was adorable. She was happy, her hair was easier to manage and life moved on.

And then, slowly…her hair grew back. She still preferred it more medium-length, not too long because it got in the way of climbing monkey bars and swimming and playing soccer.

She always loved to play.

But time marches on.

Mothers grow older, schedules get tight and Monday flows directly into Sunday if you aren’t careful.

I watched this little one of mine walk away from me today…towards the high school soccer field, where the newly chosen freshman team is meeting to practice.

Pony tail swinging confidently, head held high and the world at her feet.

I miss that little girl with the wispy little pony tail.

But I still see her now and then.

And today, I am thankful for pony tails.

 

Little Girl Lost

I’m not quite sure when it started to become so obvious to me.

Obvious that my little girl isn’t so little anymore.

Was it how her body seemed to stretch overnight, and I found myself almost eye-to-eye with her now? Maybe the slight eye-roll when I said something a bit too uncool? The swing of her hair when she walked down the hall?

Maybe it was the shoes.

The 8th grade promotion shoes. Her feet are small but her need to be big is fierce. We spent hours searching for the perfect shoes for her promotion dance and ceremony.

They had to be perfect.

But being the practical mom that I am, I had guidelines for these shoes. They couldn’t be too tall or too expensive, and she had to be able to walk in them.

Simple enough.

As we searched I watched her try each new pair on her tiny little feet, gazing at herself in the store mirror with an expression I hadn’t seen before.

Then she would walk. As I bit my lip and tried not to say a word, the shoes fought her and won every time.

Too tall; can’t walk in them.

Some lessons can’t be taught by a comment from mom or an I told you so.

We finally found the shoes online…a bit too tall, but she could walk in them and they were perfect with her dress.

The kind of shoes a high school girl wears.

And it hit me.

That little girl who used to run everywhere, who was fiercely independent, who hated naps and loved horses?

She’s gone.

But in her place, I’ve found a confident young lady who is polite, caring, funny, helpful and still fiercely independent.

And I can’t wait to see what high school has in store for her.

 

 

 

Return to Sender

I was sure they had made a mistake.

That letterhead was so familiar; the school logo prominent on the front of the envelope.

Why would the high school would be sending my son a letter now, over six months after he graduated? Had he forgotten to return a library book? Left stinky shoes in his PE locker? Received an amazing award and neglected to pick it up?

I wasn’t prepared for the real reason the high school sent a letter… To the parents of…

The Class of 2016

It’s my daughter’s turn at being the high school kid. They are already beginning the registration process for next August.

It’s not like I wasn’t aware that she is heading to high school; I just wasn’t ready to think about it yet.

Denial, maybe?

I still remember being a high school girl, and they aren’t the easiest people to live with. Boys, drama, clothes, more drama, friends, trips to the mall, school dances, more boys, more drama. When you’re the teenage girl dishing it out to your family, it’s no big deal.

But now? I’ll be on the receiving end of it all.

And while I think I’m a pretty cool mom, chances are slim that she shares that feeling. My clothing choices, makeup, phrases, and mode of transportation are all about to come into question.

By a teenage girl.

A girl who used to think I was pretty, smart, and fun. Who I could make laugh just by making a silly face or tickling the bottom of her foot. Now she’s discovered that I can’t understand Geometry, I have wrinkles around my eyes, and tickling her feet is on the don’t you dare list.

My days are numbered, I’m afraid. If you have any tips on being cool, please advise.

OMG.

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It’s Wednesday, so I’m over at Moonfrye today! I would love for you to click here and visit my post over there about how insane I used to get about my kid’s check-ups at the pediatrician…and how I got over that.

2011: The Year in Posts

Apparently 2011 ends tomorrow.

What a year it was around here! Since the year-end-wrap-up seems to be the hot ticket in Bloggyland, I thought I would follow along.

I’m easily persuaded by peer pressure. And shiny things.

I’ve picked my favorite posts from each month in 2011. So if you’re new around these parts, you might find something you enjoy. If you’re a relative of mine or one of those nice ladies I pay to read my blog, keep moving; there’s nothing new here.

January started with one of my very favorite guest posts Waiting for Departure over at my beautiful and talented friend Nichole’s blog In These Small Moments. She has since become a very cherished and dear friend of mine. This post was about watching my 15 year-old son pass through customs on his way to Germany; I still get choked up thinking about that small moment.

My favorite post about my tween daughter, I Still See Her, came later that month. I ended the month on a stressful note with Driven to Insanity, a post about adjusting to my son being a licensed driver. Makes my skin crawl just to think about it now.

In February Hubs and I were lucky enough to get away on a ski vacation with awesome friends and no kids. This prompted the post Worry which pretty much sums up how I feel when I leave my kids behind, no matter how much fun I will be having.

In March I wrote the tongue-in-cheek post Envy, which was later syndicated on BlogHer. What Mothers Remember was a post about a little girl who lost her mother, and how that touched me as a mom.

April found me thanking my first employer for training as a mother in the post Thanks, Jack! As my son’s high school graduation grew nearer, my mind was racing with images of his childhood, which prompted the post Photo Finish.

In May I wrote Dress Me Up Again, about dress-up clothes past and present. My daughter’s Sex Ed Unit at school prompted the post Booby Prize, about those girls we all love to hate. May was also the month I decided to move myself to WordPress, which went fine until the very end. I raised my white flag, screamed bloody murder, and called in the awesome Booyah’s Momma who took me across the finish line. Whew.

June was the month my son graduated from high school. First Door on the Right and Pomp and Circumstance were two of my favorite posts about this milestone. My Father’s Day tribute to hubs in the form of the post If You Give a Dad a Daughter still makes me smile.

In July I loved Do We Have Time? and Voices Unseen, two posts about how quickly time passes. Obviously I had issues this past summer.

A dear friend lost a dear friend of hers in August, which prompted me to write Milestones Lost. When my son also experienced a big loss in his life the same month, I wrote Mourning Lessons about his journey through the feelings of loss from toddlerhood to teen.

September found me getting ready to see my son off to college. The Sounds I Hear is about the relationship between he and his sister. Dreams is the first post I wrote after dropping my son off at college. It still makes me teary to read it now.

In early October I wrote about a funny going-away gift my son received in the post Gift Horse, and how life comes full circle in the post What You Wish For.

In November our house seemed a bit empty, but not all bad, as I noted in Table for Two.

December prompted me to write about my favorite Christmas gift of all, in the post My Christmas Secret.

 

Happy New Year to you all, and thank you for reading my words. I can’t wait for 2012.