Follow by Email

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Five years in the making

Dear Darlings,

Picture days come and go, and come and go, and come and go like waves in the ocean. One departs and the next one rolls gently in. School photos from those picture days rotate in and out of frames in our house. Each year builds upon the next. My office is lined with photos of all three kiddos as babies with their current picture directly above. It's one of the favorite things about my little space in our house.

In 2012 Zach was a junior in high school, Lucas was in eighth grade and Claire was in sixth. On picture day they all departed, their clothes pressed and smiles ready for the camera to capture their essence of that year. Their photos came back and were promptly put in their respective frames. The following year was nearly the same ritual, but with only Lucas and Claire getting ready for picture day (Zach was a senior so his session was upgraded to portrait day). Pictures came back and I went to replace the old with the new when I noticed something peculiar. And I giggled. The following year Lucas and Claire got ready for picture day and photos came back. I laughed. A blog needed to be written, but Lucas made me promise to sit on it until his senior year. So I did.

This year marks the end of a journey for Lucas and his red, white and blue plaid button down. Or it could even be considered the end of an era, really.

Lucas' shirt has accompanied him to picture day every year for the past five years. The first time was an accident. From then on, though, Lucas decided to run with it, to let this shirt be his mainstay, his mark on his yearbooks. When he made his pronouncement so many years ago Zach said to him, "If that shirt still fits you when  you're a senior, I'm going to punch you in the face." Ah, brotherly love. It still fits and there was not one punch to the face when the senior portraits came back with Lucas in his shirt. Instead this is what Zach had to say when Lucas posted this picture on Instagram...

The story of Lucas and his favorite shirt has been in the making for five years. Five years!

God, I love this crazy, sweet, blond boy of mine and his foresight in turning what, to some, could have been an embarrassing mistake into something so darn memorable.   


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Determined Sunshine

Dear Darlings,

16 years ago I was 37 weeks pregnant with our third baby. Lucas had just turned two. Zach was not quite five. I was exhausted beyond measure from taking care of two very active boys, and to top it all off, I looked like I swallowed a watermelon. I waddled when I walked and strained to bend over. I couldn't sleep because the baby kept shoving itself this way and that way, poking me, prodding me and causing me to continuously shift to move it from wherever it was lodged. I say, "it" only because 16 years ago we had no idea if the baby within was a boy or girl. We had no idea what to expect, we only knew our third baby was healthy. I didn't want to know. I wanted to be surprised when it was born. And I was.


22 days from today I delivered a healthy, hefty baby girl into her father's arms. And there was love. Instant, complete, enduring love. Claire Denise came screaming into this world.

Roaring, actually.

I thought third babies were supposed to go with the flow. I thought third babies were supposed to be easy. She was not.

Last week she, the baby who came roaring into this world, asked me to write a paragraph describing her personality for an AP Psychology project she has to complete by next week.  I gave you the background, and I now I give you the paragraph she will submit to her teacher.

From the very second Claire realized she could make noise and make demands, she did. She roared her way into our family, as the youngest of three. She was determined to make herself heard in a world of two older, and very loud brothers. Our entire family was loud, but she was louder. Fierce determination spread through her countenance day-by-day. She strove to keep up with those older brothers of hers and when she couldn't there was hell to pay. The roaring got louder. And then one day, the universe shifted, and Claire's greatest desire came to be. She left crawling behind, She learned to walk and then run. And she could keep up with her brothers. Her face lit up. She was beaming sunshine. Those two traits define who she is. Determination and sunshine. Claire Denise, the little girl who roared into this world has taken those two (very awesome) pieces of her personality and combined them to become determined sunshine for all who are lucky enough to meet her.


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Never hide your crazy

To my sweet baby girl,

The air stirred and swirled with electric currents as you came flying into the house. You were on fire. Angry flames danced around you as you began telling me the story of the transexual homecoming princess and the girls on the bus who wouldn't stop talking about her. They were gossipy and mean-spirited, you said. Their words didn't sit well with you, so you told them to knock it off. Curiosity and asking questions, when you don't understand someone else, is one thing, you said, talking about someone behind their back is another. Not caring that the person who was being talked about wasn't there to defend themselves, and knowing the comments spoken were never going to be said in front of the transexual homecoming princess, was your undoing. So your words reverberated through the bus, as I can only imagine your words doing. Your voice isn't quiet, or mellow. Your voice booms, in the best way possible.

We talked some more and as you turned to leave, lyrics began playing through my head. Miranda Lambert's raspy vocals started swirling from her song Mama's Broken Heart...

"Get a grip and bite your lip, just to save a little face. Cross your legs. Dot your i's and never let 'em see you cry."

"Powder your nose. Paint your toes. Line your lips and keep them closed."

"Run and hide your crazy and start acting like a lady. Cause I raised you better gotta keep it together even when you fall apart..."

I'm so glad none of this applies to you. I did raise you to be a lady, but not like this. I know you won't ever bite your lip just to save a little face, nor will you line your lips and keep them closed. But most of all I hope you never hide your crazy. The kind of lady I want you to be has you doing exactly what you did. Your kind of lady has you keeping it together, even when others let things fall apart. So go on and flaunt your your best way possible!


Friday, October 28, 2016


Dear Darlings,

I see you. I see each and every one of you. I see you on your phones, not paying attention. But more importantly than me seeing you, Claire sees you as well. She's learning to drive, and she sees you paying more attention to your phone than the road and the multi-thousand pound weapon you are driving.

This morning, I saw first hand what happens when you don't effing pay attention. I saw the accident you caused. I saw the damage to the cars. They're just cars, they're replaceable. But the people in the cars aren't.

I was minding my own business, driving home when it all played out right in front of me. An old gold Tahoe coming toward me jumped the curb, threw gravel all over the road, nearly flipped over and then came to land on all four tires. I pulled over as she stopped her car. Her face was frozen in pure, unadulterated terror. The tears began to streak down her face as she realized she was in one piece. I was across the street from her and I saw the carseat in the back. My hazard lights went on, and I jumped out to go to her.

"Are you okay?" I peaked in the back of the car, "No babies in here?" She was crying in earnest now.

She had just dropped her daughter off at daycare, she said. Her voice was hoarse and the words were stilted as she tried to absorb the shock of nearly flipping over. Thankful. Her daughter wasn't with her. But then she stepped out of the car. The baby bump was visible. She's 23 weeks pregnant with her second little one.

I brought her to the safety and warmth of my car. I sat with her, chatting with her and reassuring her that all was going to be well. She called her husband. He was on the way. She was getting ready to call her OBGYN. There were no visible injuries. Pray that the baby she's carrying is okay. Please.

The other car was a mangled mess. The hood was ripped off and the front end was completely smashed. The driver of the other car wasn't paying attention. She was looking for a meeting place. She wasn't from around here. She didn't see the stop sign. The other car. The mangled one. It t-boned the Tahoe.

She wasn't effing paying attention. Her car and the Tahoe are wrecked. That's insignificant compared to what could have happened. The human toll is what hit me today. Behind the wheel of every car is a person. A living, breathing person. Someone who means the world to their family. Someone who is depending on you to effing pay attention.

Watch for traffic signals. Stop at stop signs. Plan your escape route in every traffic situation. And get off your damn phones so you can fucking pay attention! There I said it. I want each and every one of you to fucking pay attention.

Today, hopefully, was a "lucky" day for all involved. Today, everyone walked away without a cut or bruise on them. Cars are replaceable. People aren't.


Saturday, October 15, 2016

Yesterday's bitter-sweet pang

To my sweet Man-Child,


It seems like just yesterday we were bringing you home from the hospital, teaching you how to ride a bike, watching you play in your last hockey game, walking across the football field on senior night and then watching you walk across the stage to get your high school diploma.


I was walking through the produce department at the grocery store when you called. I thought you were calling to talk about coming home this weekend. I thought maybe your plans had changed, making it so you couldn't come home. I thought wrong.


Your voice didn't give much away. You were calm and steady. And then you told me your news. The internship you worked so hard for is yours! The pride. My unbridled pride flowed through the phone connection. You said it hadn't quite hit you yet. But your excitement grew as we talked about your salary and where in the world this would take you, both figuratively and literally. Figuratively, this is the best starting point for your career. You landed an internship with a killer engineering firm. Literally, though, this opportunity is going to take to a place outside of Virginia. Away from home.


My voice bubbled with enthusiasm and excitement. This is what you worked so hard to achieve. My pride for you knew, and knows, no bounds. You are reaching for the stars, and working toward your dreams.


We said our good-byes and see-you-soons. I told you I couldn't wait to see you, and then we disconnected. I stood staring off into space on the periphery of the bulk food section as I absorbed the tremendous impact our conversation had on me. My tears came unbidden and unwanted, and they couldn't be stopped. I walked aimlessly through the aisles with tears trickling down my cheeks. I don't think I've ever being more thankful for a sun-visor and long sleeves, as I wiped one set of tears, only to find them replaced by another. You'll be going away next summer. You won't be here working for Darren. You'll be somewhere in the Southwest, working for someone else.


I realized that last summer may have been the last summer you'll ever live at home. You've done this to me before...when I realized after the fact that the last season of hockey you played was your last season. You didn't give me a head's up or a "hey, Mom, I'm thinking of quitting hockey." You just finished your last game, hung up your skates and moved on to the next thing. You didn't give me time to "grieve" the thought of you leaving the ice rink. You just moved on. And yesterday, you did the same. You didn't give me the time last summer to lament the thought of you leaving your room empty. You just worked for your dream. And I couldn't be more proud.


I looked back on your childhood, teenage years and your young adulthood with a bitter-sweet pang. I love the child you were, and I couldn't be more proud of the man you've become. My sweet Man-Child, the memories of your yesterdays are precious and all of the tomorrows before you are full of promise.


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Cosmically Courageous

Dear Darlings,

On of the things I love most about myself, is that I have the craziest dreams. And I do mean crazy. Vivid and detailed, they tell stories I could never imagine in my waking hours. My family indulges me in the mornings when they come downstairs for breakfast and I say, "I had a weird dream last night."

"Say it isn't so!"
"That's so weird. That never happens to you."

Those are their responses, and then they listen quietly as I go on to tell them every, minute detail about the dream that woke me from my sleep...actually, I'm pretty sure they just pretend to listen, but sometimes they catch on to a word or two and nod enthusiastically to make me feel like they're paying attention.

So, here's how any given morning progresses ~
"I had a weird dream last night..."
"WHAT! No WAY! That's crazy!"
"I know! So, last night I was in Philadelphia, and you two were with me," I say pointing to Lucas and Claire. "Dad was there too, but Zach wasn't. We were walking through the streets. It was chaos and pandemonium. People were running everywhere, trying to get away. There were cars splashing through muddy potholes. We turned this corner, onto this wide street, and just down a little bit were Daryl Dixon and Rick Grimes," I say, nearly swooning (they know Rick is my "boyfriend" and they all (including Stan) go along with my little fantasy). "They both have their guns drawn, but not at us...just in general. They're standing next to this old, silver lincoln town car, when all of the sudden these little pink ufo's descend from the sky and start dropping bubble guns down to the people on the street. It's all fun and games until the bubble guns start popping on people's faces and their skin starts to blister. It's then we realize the bubble guns are loaded with the outbreak virus. All of us start yelling at everyone to drop their bubble guns and stop shooting, but it's too late..."

They probably didn't hear the whole thing, but they heard enough to know it was a very. strange. dream.

Sometimes, though, my dreams really speak to me. Words, made up words and phrases, pop in my head. Last night was one of those nights, and my dream was a true gift. I got to hold on to a new idea, a new phrase. I'm going to take it and run with it.

I recently wrote a blog called Rambling thoughts on how I just need to be a little brave. Last night showed me, that in some instances I need to hold fast to cosmic courage. As soon as I woke up this morning, I went to the dictionary. I needed to feel those two words and grasp the deeper meaning behind them.



of or relating to the cosmos : 
cosmic laws.
characteristic of the cosmos or its phenomena:
cosmic events.
immeasurably extended in time and space; vast.
forming a part of the material universe, especially outside of the earth.

The third one. That's the one. Immeasurably extended in time and space; vast.


[kur-ij, kuhr-] 

the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty,danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.
Obsolete. the heart as the source of emotion.

Yes! The quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.

This! This is what I want. I want to be vastly brave. The thing is I don't have to be vastly brave every day. I just need to be a little brave every day. But sometimes when it comes to writing and sharing my stories with you, I need to be cosmically courageous. I started this blog almost six years ago, and have published one book (with more sitting in the pipeline). After all of these years, a dream finally made it clear to me that telling stories is sometimes the scariest thing I'll ever do.

So, for the love of my children...every now and again I'm going to be cosmically courageous. I only have to be vastly brave one day at a time. Tomorrow, if I want, I can go back to being just a little brave.


Thursday, September 29, 2016

I Wish

Dear Darlings,

The dreariness of the past weeks has sapped nearly every ounce of energy I'm trying so desperately to  keep in my clutches. My blog is suffering at the hands of this gray, dull weather. My brain power has dimmed, new ideas are few and far between. So today, I went looking for the lazy writers way out of this dearth of material, and I did what every writer in the history of writers has done (okay maybe not every writer, but a few...well, maybe it's just me). I went back to old material to see what I could spruce up and maybe make new. In doing this little exercise I went back to blogs that were mere shells, pieces that were half-written and then abandoned for newer, fresher, more relevant material ~ or at least what I thought was more relevant material.

And I have to say I wish I would have finished those old, discarded entries. I wish I knew what my brain was thinking ~ where we truly were at that point in our life together. Recently an old friend told me I was leaving a great legacy for my family by putting our life story to words. Legacy may be a bit of a stretch, but I do think I'm giving them a chance to peek back on our family, and offering them the chance to see why I made some of the parenting choices I did. They'll also get to read about my avalanche of parental mistakes, the intense, over-the-moon love I have for them (even when I'm mad), and how being their mom is my biggest wish come true. Hopefully, they'll feel the emotions I had bubbling inside of me as I wrote, that they'll know how intense and crazy and zany this life with them was and still is. I want this blog, this chronicle of our life, to be as much of a gift to them as it's been to me. Being able to look back, to really go back to that small snap-shot of a moment, is like a security blanket for me. And today, I wish I had all of the pieces of it.

So my darlings, don't wish. Finish.


Oh, for the love of my children...

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Rambling thoughts on how I just need to be a little brave

Dear Darlings,

Yesterday afternoon I was sitting at our kitchen counter when Claire came bursting through the door with unbridled enthusiasm. "MOM!" her was voice thick and rich with excitement, "My field trip was AWESOME!" It wasn't really a field trip for her, per se, since it was just in the school gym, but many other high schools were invited in to hear speakers fromJosten's Renaissance talk to the kids about how each and every one of them could make a wonderfully big difference in the life of someone at their school, someone who may feel isolated and alone. Claire talked and talked and talked about the speakers and their stories. She couldn't stop talking, and I couldn't stop listening to her passionate retelling of the narratives of the day. With a flourish, she finished her breathless spiel with an account one of the speakers told about taking his child to preschool for the first time, and how he, his wife and his young son all had the same mantra for the day..."I just need to be a little brave. I just need to be a little brave. I just need to be a little brave." The parents needed to find the bravery to let go a little. The son, well, he needed to find the bravery to be let go, test his wings a smidge and find a place to fit in. She told me how the parents sat and watched their little one from the car as he stood on the playground his first day of school, wishing with all of their hearts for him to find just one child to play with. They knew it wasn't up to them to find him a friend, the parents realized he had to do it on his own, that he had to be a little brave. They spied on him as he watched others running past him, playing tag and kickball and catch, until finally one little girl came up to him, grabbed his hand and pulled him to monkey bars. Their hearts lifted. It just took that one child a minute to reach out to their son and make him feel included.  Claire finished her stories and left me sitting at the kitchen counter to go do her homework. My head swirled as I continued to mull over her experience. I sat reflecting on one word out of the thousands she spoke. Brave. "I just need to be a little brave."

Today, I'm by our fire place watching the flames dance in front of me (not for warmth mind you, just for ambiance in trying to dispel the dreariness of the day), pondering the word that I can't get out of my head. I have my trusty teacup right beside me and sweet Bella at my feet, trying to find the right way to convey what I want to about being just a little brave, and then I did what I do every time I want to get closer to a word ~ to feel its meaning. I went to the dictionary. This is what I found..."Possessing or exhibiting courage or courageous endurance." That's the dictionary definition of brave, but the definition doesn't really lock into what I think bravery really means.There are so many tasks of every day life that require us to be just a little brave. I'm not talking big, bad, brave events. I'm talking first world bravery kind of incidents. The kind of bravery talked about in Claire's field trip, making you to want to be a better person, to want to do something for someone because you want to leave a better mark on this world, to want others to be proud of the kind of character you possess.

While I was perusing the dictionary and thesaurus this word of the day popped up...

uh-FLEY-tuh snoun
1:inspiration; an impelling mental force acting from within.

Its fit with my ramblings of today's blog is extraordinary to me. Claire told me yesterday that the main speaker said there are three types of people in this world...ones who imagine what it's like to take a step to change things, another who group who watch things happen and a third group who makes things happen. It all fits...inspiration and an impelling mental force acting from within must be what drives the third group. 

Today, I decided I don't want to be a part of the first two groups. I want to be a part of the third group. I want to make good things happen. I know exactly what I need to do, and how to do it. I just need find a little bravery to what I want to do into practice. But I have Claire's enthusiasm, and my own desire to make sure to leave a better mark on this world. And too many coincidences to ignore...sitting here looking at my fireplace, I see the pillow right beside me, with LOVE spelled out on it in big, glittery letters. And it hits me...bravery, in the sense it was discussed yesterday, leads to love. Today and always, we could all use a little bravery, because the world needs more of it. Being brave leads to love and love leads to really good things. 

Oh, for the love of my children...


Thursday, September 8, 2016

The light at the end of the tunnel

Dear Darlings,

That's what everyone keeps telling me..."There's a light at the end of the tunnel."
"Your kids are almost grown and gone," they say.
"There's a light right up ahead! How exciting for you!" they exclaim.

Two weeks ago, Zach started his junior year of college...that's right I said college. This past Tuesday, Lucas and Claire started their senior and sophomore years, respectively, in high school. So I can see where these people are getting this idea that there's a light at the end of my tunnel.

But that's not how I see it. At. All. I'm not planning to lament and bemoan the fact that my kids are growing up...right before my stinking eyes. I've done that enough, and what I've come to realize is I don't have a choice in the matter. They're gonna grow up, whether I like it or not. So I've had to come to accept this fact of life by focusing ~ focusing on them, the moment and being present in the here and now. I can't dwell on the past or dread the future. The only thing I can do is stay here.

This past summer the kids and I watched the entire series of The Office, (they watched it from beginning to end at least twice). And in the series finale Andy said something that I've draped over my shoulders and taken on as my mantra mantel.

I think this is really what I've been doing all along my parenting path. I've thoroughly enjoyed every stage of my kiddos' lives, and have always said, "This stage (whatever stage it may be), this stage is my favorite." I've loved every single minute of parenting these three crazy kiddos. It's been chaotic, cathartic, crazy, stressful and stress-filled, full of times of sunshine and torrential thunderstorms - which sometimes morphed into downright hurricanes, but the most important part of this parenting thing is that it's been filled with love and kind of light. It's not the light at the end of a tunnel. It's the light shining on the here and now, showing me that these are my good old days. And I haven't even left them.

Oh, for the love of my children...



Monday, September 5, 2016

Observations and musings from the last day of summer

Dear Darlings,

Today is our last official day of summer. I know many of you have been back to school for a couple of weeks, but our kiddos don't head back until tomorrow. So today, we spent our last summer day relaxing at the pool.

And today I spent some time musing about the fixation I have with summer days and the pool. This is what I found...

Little girls in watermelon swim suits are the cutest. 
Little kids who poop in the pool are not.

Tennis games are like potato chips. Once you start in, you want more and more and more. 

Little kids who giggle and splash around in the pool are so sweet.  Little kids who shrilly shriek and splash you are not. 

Sunshine, warm breezes and blue skies beckon you to the pool, sucking you in to a day of laziness.  

Nothing tastes better than a cold, crisp beer while you're sitting in a pool chair with cool water lapping at your feet. Nothing tastes worse than a warm, flat beer sitting on the table for too long. 

It should be illegal for ice cream eaten on the pool deck to have calories.

Bees are attracted to both beer and ice cream. 

Diving boards are belly flop magnets.

More and more kids wear swim shirts, keeping out those pesky UVA rays. Smart. Very Smart. 

The gadgets and gizmos out there for parents to keep their new babies cool and shady makes it so easy for them to actually take their little ones to the pool. I have to admit I'm a little jealous. 

Kids are much more subdued in the water on the last day of the pool than on the first. 

Sometimes the water in the pool is just as cold the last day of the season as it was the first day. 

Summer goes by way too quickly. 

Unstructured days are the bomb...for a while. 

I'm pretty sure I say I say this at the end of every summer, but I think this one has been the best ever. I got to spend the entirety of June and July driving Claire to and from work. It's the last summer I will have to take anyone anywhere. Claire will have her license next year, so my quality car time with her is almost at an end. This summer is truly the end of an era. It seems like just yesterday I was struggling to figure out a way to take a new baby to the pool, and now they'll all be able to drive themselves, deciding whether or not to come to the pool and participate in the joy of these hot, summer days. So I have to wonder, next year will I be a mere observer? I don't think I will. I think I'll still fully participate in my favorite season. And I gotta wonder...what kind of musings will I come up with then? 


Oh, for the love of my children...

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Senior --- Take Two

Dear Darlings,

Mornings seem to come earlier and earlier at this point in my life. My brain comes to life, and my eyes pop open somewhere around 4 o'clock every morning. It's then that thoughts come pouring in, reducing the desire for more sleep to mere wishes. I want to turn off the wheels which keep chugging in my head, but I can't get them to stop. The thoughts keep coming, unbidden and unwanted...these thoughts of Lucas assuming the role as a senior in high school. Three years ago I wrote a blog called The Senior ... my reflections about Zach's last year in high school. While I wasn't ready for him to be there, I'm completely, totally under-prepared for Lucas to take this ginormous step into being the oldest class. I'm really not ready for The Senior --- Take Two. Mornings are coming too quickly, marching me to that day where I'll watch Lucas drive to his last first day of high school.

Yesterday made it official. We went and paid his senior fees. Time has flown by. It's been just a blur, exactly like I thought it would be when I snapped these two pictures of trepidatious Lucas walking into his high school for the first time.

Yesterday ... it was a milestone, to be sure. Luckily, I was able to snap one, quick picture of him walking out of the school he has called his own for the past four years. The nervous teen who entered those doors four years ago was gone. There was no trepidation, no hesitation, only a self-assured young man who seems to have outgrown the walls of his high school. 

So maybe he really is ready to assume his role as The Senior.  But I'm not. I'm not ready for Take Two. Because in my mind's eye, this is how I still see my sweet, blond boy.

Oh, for the love of my children....


Monday, August 29, 2016

An Invitation

Dear Darlings,

This morning I was sitting at our kitchen counter with my cup of tea steaming beside me, ready to close up my computer and focus on the newspaper when an email caught my eye. It was from Lucas and the title was Invitation to Edit. My breath caught in my throat as I realized what it was. My sweet blond boy sent me his college essay and invited me in to have a peek. My tea and the newspaper were soon forgotten.

Lucas invited me in. He actually wants me to read what he's written before it's polished and pretty. To this day I've never seen the personal statement Zach wrote when he was applying to college. He and his English teacher worked together on it. I don't think he kept it from me intentionally, but he definitely didn't want me meddling, or maybe he was trying to keep me from thinking about him packing up and leaving our nest. Whatever the reason, it doesn't change the fact that I've never seen what he wrote. Here Lucas is working with a fabulous essay tutor and yet, he still he wants my input. Maybe he never should have asked me, and he may rue the day he invited me in. But I couldn't me more proud to be here...invited in.

My kitchen became a little cozier, my tea a little steamier and my day a little brighter all because of an invitation. Oh, for the love of my children...


PS. I really wasn't supposed to read it before it was all shiny and purty...Lucas forgot his tutor's little nugget of a rule. Ooops!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

I Need a Fricking Chicken Brake

Dear Darlings,

I've done this twice before so it really shouldn't be that big of a deal, but it is! She's my sweet baby girl, and now she's learning to drive. I have to say, she's pretty good at it. She can drive in straight lines, change lanes, use her turn signals and can almost park...she needs to pull all the way through to get my boat into a spot properly, but she can do it without parking like a jerk. So you would think this would truly be no big deal for me, but ~ really it is.


The one thing she does that has me cringing in my seat, grabbing the overhead strap and white-knuckling my way through a trip with her is the fact that she goes waaaaaaay too fast. She has an overly-strong attachment to the gas pedal, and she downright hates the brakes. She has always loved the feel of wind blowing through her hair when we're screaming down the highway with the windows down and the music cranked. She's the only one who will indulge me in this little joy of mine. It messes up Lucas' hair, and it's too loud for both Stan and Zach. So she's used to going fast, wind rushing through the car and the tunes pumping, but that's with me behind the wheel. She doesn't have the skill set to be able to do any or all of that at the same time, but she thinks she the gas pedal downs down, the speed goes up and the brakes are rarely applied in a timely manner (but, thankfully, the music is off).

The mantra I have beating out through my heart and in to her head to her is "Gotta slow down, Claire Bear...Gotta slow down, Claire Bear...Gotta slow down, Claire Bear." But gawd, do I need a fricking chicken brake because my words are not really working, and so it has me wondering if my mantra has turned into a metaphor. Is it that she's really going too fast or is it that she's growing up too fast? Is her speed a factor, or is it that I'm afraid we're racing toward some hazy finish-line she sees, and I don't? The one where she's off on her own, traveling the highways of life with the windows down, the music cranked and me in another car trailing slowly behind her.

I always thought the last kiddo would be the easiest, but it's not ~ and it never has been. Sending her off to kindergarten, brought as many tears to my eyes as it did with the boys. She was the one who sobbed hysterically at the thought of leaving elementary school and going on to middle school, which was never the case with her brothers ~ they both did celebratory moving-on dances before the seats of their elementary school desks had a chance to cool. Taking her to high school orientation last year was harder than it was with the boys probably because I now know how quickly these years fly by and are an absolute blur. Sooooo...I most definitely need a fricking chicken brake, because I really need her to slow down!

Oh, for the love of my children...


Friday, August 19, 2016

Two Years Ago

Dear Rat Mamas and Dads,

Two years ago I stood in your shoes. My son was about to become part of something much bigger and far harder than I ever envisioned for him. Two years ago right now, my oldest child was going off to a school where he was going to be shaped and recreated in ways I never imagined...I don't think he even really understood the magnitude of what he was about to undergo. Two years ago I wrote a blog entitled What I Gained. I added it below for the sake of ease. I hope it gives you some measure of peace as you think about tomorrow, the matriculation book and the intensity of what your sons and daughters will be enduring as they Meet Their Cadre and begin their adventure as rats at VMI.
This is a picture Zach's rat class which was in last year's calendar. He's the fourth one on the right.

Two years ago we left our son, Zach, with his company as he marched toward Barracks. We didn't stick around to hear the clanging of the gates as they locked the rats inside, nor did we stick around to hear the yelling of the cadre. We just had to trust in Zach and the system at VMI. 

What I Gained

It seems this year has been a year of losses for me. It seems I've been writing about heart wrenching/heart breaking bits and pieces of my life for the past eight months. From my dad's heart attacks, to his strokes and his death, to watching Zach graduate from high school and get ready to leave our nest, this year has proven to be a year of losses and "losses," but today I want to tell you about what I gained.

Today, we dropped Zach off at Virginia Military Institute. 

Last night was a night of revelry and tears. We spent the night with one of Zach's best friends and his parents at their house in Lexington, Virginia, who graciously invited us to stay so we could all have a relaxed morning getting our incoming cadets matriculated. As we celebrated them and shed our tears, Zach asked me to promise not to cry in front of him today. I told him I'd try my hardest.

Today, I kept my word. I didn't shed one tear he could see. And today I was rewarded for my strength. Today, I got to see Zach do exactly what he wanted to do with smile on his face (albeit with nerves jangling and a pit in the bottom of his stomach). He joined the corps of cadets at VMI as a rat.

Today, I was rewarded with a big hug and a photo op as Zach prepared to sign the matriculation book.

I was rewarded with his smiles, hugs and sweetness. And I was rewarded well for keeping my emotions in check. But today wasn't about being rewarded. Today was really about what I gained.

Today, I gained a son who is turning into a man. My man-child faded from view a little, which made  me a little sad, but the man I know he will become came bursting forth and made me smile with unbridled pride. 

Today I gained a little insight into what life is going to be like for Zach in the future. As we sat and listened to the speakers before all of the Rats were called to their companies, the President of the Class of 2015 said something to this effect, "You are now entering the toughest university in the nation." (Zach shuddered and leaned over to me saying, "I really have to pee now."God love him for his sense of humor.) He went on to say, "You all will rise to the challenges ahead of you and you will succeed. You are a reflection of your parents, and they have set you on a good path. When they see you next they will see changes in you. You will not have changed as a person. The person you were will still be there but your sterling qualities will become more apparent." I took those words to heart. I know Zach took them to heart too. Today I gained the knowledge that Zach will rise to the challenge and he will succeed. Today I also gained the insight that I'll rise to this challenge of letting our kids go, and I will succeed.

I've been rewarded a lot and gained even more, but there is one thing I gained today which is beyond priceless. As Zach marched off with his Brother Rats in Company H we stood on the sidelines and watched. He made sure to catch my eye and give me a wink and a smile. 

Today, I gained a son who understands what it means to not only be taken care of by your parents, but to take care of them as well. 

Oh, for the love of my children...

I do hope this has given you some comfort as you celebrate your last night together. And I promise when you see them at New Market they will be changed, and you will be proud. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

One Thing

Dear Darlings,

Have you ever had one of those moments when you knew, just knew, that the decision you were about to make was the absolute wrong one?

It was a hot summer night, and all I wanted to do was relax, have a glass of wine and watch some seriously mindless TV (the kids are re-watching The Office from start to finish and I got sucked into their binge, so it's completely, utterly mindless). The problem with my plan was that Claire needed to be picked up from volleyball tryouts at school. Zach offered to go in my place, and I was only too happy to accept.  All was well. I poured myself a glass of wine and prepared to sit back and relax. 


I couldn't relax. I knew she would be finding out if she made the team or not. I started pacing, second guessing my decision to have Zach pick her up. The mama needed to be there, of that I was absolutely certain. Either way...make the team or not. I needed to be the one to pick her up. I thanked Zach for his offer, and asked if he wanted to ride along. He deferred, but Lucas jumped at the chance to ride with me to their high school.

I pulled into the parking lot, with all of the other parents who were in the same boat as I was. Lucas' company was a welcome relief to the drudgery of waiting. We chatted, talking about school and how much he would miss it next year once he's outta there. And as our conversation progressed, I saw one mom and then another and another and another get out of their cars and head into the school. I knew we were all there for the same reason, picking up our girls from tryouts. I looked at Lucas and said, "Did I miss something? I don't think parents are supposed to go in. I didn't see anything about it. Claire didn't say anything. I'm pretty sure we're not supposed to go in. Should I go in? I really don't think I should! I think this is just for the girls. I think we're supposed to stay here and wait for them." Lucas assured me it was just for the girls. That parents aren't supposed to go in. Their daughters would be out soon enough. In my mind, I knew that was the case, but was glad to have Lucas back me up. So we sat.

And I said, "I may not have done everything perfectly, but I think that is one thing I've done right for you guys. I haven't been a helicopter. I've stood back and let you take control of what you've needed to." This was Claire's tryout. Not mine. I didn't need to insert myself into a situation that was hers to own. Lucas and I went on to talk about how many parents do such a disservice to their kids by trying to control, manage, shelter and thrust themselves into situations where they really don't belong. In my mind, and how Stan and I choose to parent, our kiddos have to take ownership of their lives. We are here to guide, advise, support, hug, love and propel them into a successful life. They can't do that if we are their constant crutch. 

It's one thing I think I've done right in parenting my three young adults. And I'm pretty dang proud of it. I have to say, I think my kiddos are pretty doggone happy with my hands' off approach as well. This, as always, I do for the love of my children...


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Just Do It!

Dear Darlings,

The sun beat down on us causing heat waves to appear like a mirage in the clay in front of me. I was standing in a puddle of sweat, with rivers running down the insides of my elbows. But my attention wasn't focused on how hot I was, nor the temperatures surrounding me. It was focused on the bright, fuzzy, yellow ball being hit back and forth. My racquet stood ready to take the next shot and the next and the next. Then all hell broke loose. Instead of my racquet taking the brunt of the impact from the ball, my face, or more specifically my eye, took the full force of my opponent's shot. It was a rocket, and all I remember is trying (unsuccessfully) out of duck out of the way. My visor flew back. My  sunglasses fell off, and I doubled over in excruciating pain. I was hit. Hard.

I've never been punched in the face, so I have no frame of reference for a direct hit with a fist. But I can imagine it felt a lot like what I just experienced. And it hurt. Like a mother effer. As I stood, doubled over in pain, my first thoughts began to form. First, I knew I was going to be sporting a major shiner. It was going to be epic (in my mind anyway), and I was going to wear it like a badge of honor. I took a direct shot to the face in the middle of a tennis match. I lived to tell about it and I continued to play. But then my thoughts shifted. And I was worried. Or maybe sad. Maybe concerned. But definitely very upset. And then I got mad, because my next thought was, "Shit! I'm going to have a black eye, and people, albeit strangers, are going to wonder if I'm an abused wife." (Okay, maybe the word "albeit" didn't enter my head, but that's basically what I was thinking.) My partner, my opponents and the ladies on the court beside us all rushed to get ice for my eye, knowing a big, ginormous, massive black eye was in my future.

As I iced my face, my thoughts kept going back to the fact that people who don't know me were going to be questioning why my eye was black. And yes, I know they shouldn't matter. They're strangers, and I know the truth. But I was pissed thinking that anyone would ever think anything less than good thoughts about Stan. He's the most stand up guy I've ever met. He knows that I've survived many forms of abuse in my life. He knows they were all things I had no control over....they were instances that truly turned me into a survivor rather than a victim, and he stood next to me so many times holding my hand as I recounted the pain and sorrow. He was the one to comfort me and lift me up when my spirits were low. He was, and is, my rock. So I was pissed, thinking that anyone would have the opportunity to think anything but good thoughts about him. Because, while I may have suffered at the hands of others when I had no control, I can guarantee you that I would never, ever let myself be a victim of domestic violence. The first time an old boyfriend showed signs of being an abuser I left faster than you could say, "Bob's your uncle." I had control over that situation, and I had no intention of being abused by someone who claimed to love me, but really just wanted to control me. I had no intention of letting someone abuse me when I had control over the situation.

So, yes, I'm pissed. I'm furious thinking the door has been cracked open for others to think I'm an abused wife. My stress level has been at an all time high when I run my errands. I wish I had a head band with a big, bold sign saying, "I was hit by a tennis ball. HARD!" My eye is that bad.

But as I look at it a little more. I'm beginning to see more than just a black eye. I'm beginning to see a Nike Swoosh. And I realize I should be wearing it like a badge of honor. I shouldn't have to feel shame or anger. I know the dang truth. I was hit by a tennis ball. And I played right through the pain. I may not have won the match, but I earned my Nike Swoosh! I just DID IT!

So, my darlings, don't let what other people think of you get you down. Don't hang your head lower than a swamp monster when you know the truth of a story. Stand tall and proud, and just do it!


Friday, May 20, 2016

I can only hope

Dear Darlings,

Fluffy pillows surrounded me in my cool, dark room. The light from my bedside table was warm and soft, throwing just enough light for me to become fully engrossed in reading my book until a sound down the hall caught my attention. Her voice was firm and deep, resonating through the space separating our rooms. I could hear her enunciate each word with the grace of a seasoned speaker, but I couldn't tell exactly what she was saying. The conviction of her words drew me out of the comfort of my bed and the pull of the story that had engrossed my attention only moments before.

My bare feet padded quietly down the hallway overlooking our great room, threads of moonlight streaming in the windows and leading me to her door. I stood noiselessly outside, listening to what she was saying. Was she on a phone call? Did someone Skype her? Who was her audience? And then it hit me, she was practicing her monologue for her English class. I knocked softly on her half-open door and was granted entrance.

She was sitting at her desk with her hair tied up in her signature messy bun going over the words that weren't written by her, but were quickly becoming her own. She was practicing If I should have a daughter, by Sarah Kay. And she was doing it with a beauty only she could put into it. I asked her if I could hear it, from start to finish. Her reluctance was palpable. I had to cajole a little, beg a lot and barter some more before she finally acquiesced and agreed to leave the confines of her room and let me be her audience.

My feet skipped lightly back down the long hallway to my bedroom, and I dove for the bed in a heap of glee, looking so forward to hearing the words Sarah Kay wrote and my daughter borrowed. I've heard it delivered many times, but this time was different. This time, it was my daughter telling me what she wants for her future daughter. I wish I had prepared myself a little more for the enormity of what I was about to hear coming from my sweet girl, but I didn't. I was just so excited to be her audience. I snuggled back in the warm deep pillows of my bed, and listened to Claire's deep, assured voice begin to deliver her monologue. Tears stung my eyes as her passion shone through the words she so effortlessly delivered. The lightness and excitement I felt just a few minutes earlier was replaced by an emotion I couldn't name as the time, but soon figured out. much pride in my girl for wanting to deliver this monologue and wanting to name what she desires for her future daughter.

She began her monologue..."If I should have a daughter, instead of 'Mom', she's gonna to call me Point B because that way, no matter what happens she can always find her way to me." As I sat listening to this very grown up version of a little girl I once knew, I could only sit back and hope that she knows how much chocolate and rain boots do truly work wonders to heal a wounded heart. I can only hope she knows sometimes Wonder Woman won't be there to rescue her, but that doesn't mean she has to wear the cape all by herself. I can only hope that she continues to live her life with the passion and love she has within her. I can only hope she never feels she has to apologize for letting her light shine on this whole wide world. But most of all, I can only hope she knows I will always be her point B.

Oh, for the love of my children...