Monday, June 19, 2017

If I were a Butterfly



This post may end up sounding cliche, but I just can't help myself this time.

See, we bought a butterfly hatching kit and so, needless to say, I've had the life cycle of a butterfly on my mind. I've always known the story of the butterfly - ugly caterpillar, transformation, beauty, yadda, yadda,  yadda, but I've never actually seen it all first hand.

So we got a jar of dirt and caterpillars. You all know I'm not the biggest fan of creepy crawlies, but fortunately they are delivered in such a way that you don't have to touch them until they are safely in their chrysalises (which, in my day, was called a cocoon, but times change I suppose). The whole caterpillar-to-chrysalis part of the project was quick and a little dirty. They trudge around in the dirt and get fat. Within a week there was slimy silk all over the jar and about 1/4 of the fuzzy caterpillar bodies all over the ground (parts they do not need apparently).

Then we waited. And waited. Another week of nothing - I wasn't even sure they were alive honestly and was hoping not to disappoint the little ones. But then, one morning as I was pouring coffee and staring out the window I saw it - an honest-to-God butterfly was in our netted habitat! I ran outside whooping and hollering like a little kid, rousing the fam out of bed to come and see. There it was, dripping with yucky red meconium and wrinkled and unsure - but it was as butterfly. It was colorless and essentially motionless.

Suddenly all around it little wings started busting out of those chrysalises left and right. We'd watch as one after the other, they struggled, fought, kicked (and maybe screamed in their tiny butterfly voices) to be released from their little safe haven. They'd stand up, colorless and confused and, no matter where they hatched, they stumbled to the side netting and climbed up to dry out and figure out this new life.

Slowly, one-by-one, they would start to get color in their wings, they start to crawl, start to try to fly. We placed fruit and nectar in the cage and they found it and drank and got bigger and stronger. Soon they were fluttering and flying all around their little habitat until, with both anticipation and a little sadness, they were ready to be set free. And when we released them, at least one came back to tell us goodbye. To thank us and for us to thank them.

See, as cliche as it sounds, life is like that - cyclical, with hard times and dark times. Sometimes we have to leave things behind, even go into hiding so-to-speak, become something different. And sometimes being that something different doesn't look as good as it sounds at first. We have to dry out our wings, get some color back in us, and then we are ready to fly. And much like our little painted ladies, our life is short too, so we have to fly.

I was so excited the girls got to have this nature experience but I'm also excited I did. I may not be a butterfly, but I do thank you God for giving me wings!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Only So Many Hours in a Day

Pumpkin asked me the other day, as I reminded her of the time for the fifth time that morning, why “grownups always lie about the time.” I stopped dead in my nagging tracks. “What do you mean?” “Well,” she started slowly explaining, “you said it was already 7:15 and it’s only 7:11. And you always do that. It’s like when you told me I had to start doing things for myself because I was 7 before I even turned 7.”

Talk about an early morning gut-check.

Why do grownups do that? Why do I do that? She, of course, in her complete innocence, didn’t realize the profound questions she was making me ask myself. Billy Joel’s “Vienna” starts playing in my head – a song that I often here in my states of over-stressed melancholy - reminding me to "slow down, you crazy child."

Here I am still reeling from the fact that she did actually turn 7 just two weeks ago and I spend so much time and energy hurrying her – hurrying them both – worried about the next appointment, the next event. Always worrying about what is coming, what I need to do, where we need to be – losing, in that worry, the moment. So caught up in keeping up with life that I miss out on living.

As much as I hate to admit it, it’s also reflected back at me by our little Bug, who in the middle of the most fun-imaginable day chock full of carnivals and candy and friends and games, will ask me, “what other fun thing are we going to do after this?” It makes me crazy. I try to tell her to just enjoy what we are doing, which is obviously sounding like Charlie Brown’s teacher to her – especially when she looks at my actions in always rushing, worrying, checking off boxes, and scheduling more “to dos.”

So I couldn’t explain to Pumpkin why grownups do that. But what I could do – and what I did – was promise her that we would have a slow-down summer. We have things planned, but they are not going to cause us stress. I’m not going to be so adamant about a schedule that I miss an opportunity. We are going to be bored and see what kind of fun we can create with that boredom. We are going to smell flowers – literally. And we are never, ever going to say that it’s a time that it isn’t. Those 4 extra minutes could hold magic for us.

Most importantly, mama is going to “cool it off before [she] burn[s] it out.”


And I hope this summer to find more time to write here and elsewhere; but I’m not going to stress if I don’t find that time because they are only this age once.

Monday, November 28, 2016

T'is the Season

Something about Advent – decking the halls in preparation for Santa, slowing our spirits down in preparation for the Christ-child – brings me back to this Blog again. It’s been a very long time since I’ve written. There is no way in this post or a dozen more that I could capture everything I’ve missed, but yesterday while decorating the tree I realized what a hole I’ve left in our memories by letting this blog go.

See, last year I was busy. Obviously, like anyone else with kids, jobs, lives, I could probably say that anytime. But last year I let busy-ness win. I hired out our Christmas decorating. I didn’t lift a finger and the kids didn’t hang a single ornament. First, let me say that my tree was department store gorgeous. There wasn’t a single personal memory on the tree. In fact, what I discovered yesterday while decorating the tree was that among those gorgeous ornaments were several small gold picture frame ornaments that had hung all last Christmas in my perfect tree. When I looked closer I realized the photos in those frames were the stock photos of someone else’s life. It literally brought tears to my eyes to recall a time in our lives when I didn’t slow down long enough to put pictures in frames. My tree was as beautiful as one at Macy’s and just as soul-less.

This year we decorated the most beautiful Griswald tree, full of memories and color. There are too many ornaments hung in a cluster at about 3-feet high because that is where the girls could reach. There are bright rainbows of colorful LED lights. There was hot chocolate and singing and laughter. There was frustration getting the tree in the door, more frustration getting the lights on the tree, and the angel is hung precariously on the top of a slightly tilted evergreen. But, in the end, it is the most amazing tree I’ve ever seen. The gold frames and all of the other gorgeous ornaments are back in the attic.

Luckily Bug told me she didn’t remember Christmas last year. Pumpkin on the other hand remembered every detail of where every decoration went (which was quite helpful for the other knick knacks and things I didn’t put up last year). But I hope they remember this year. I will strive this Advent to take time to make sure that each moment is memorable. That they always equate the holidays with slowing down and loving those close to you, even during the time of shopping and holiday parties.

Amidst all of this insight, a family friend sent me some photos of the girls she found on her phone from when they were so tiny they didn’t recognize themselves. It’s hard to believe it’s only been a couple of years and they’ve grown so much. That tiny little baby Bug is the same child who asked me questions yesterday about Heaven that were so profound I couldn’t find an answer for them. That big sister is the same one trying to read Harry Potter and writing stories of her own. I only thought they kept me on my toes back then. Now, it’s difficult to stay one step ahead of them mentally.


It’s hard to always set aside the hustle and bustle, not just during the holidays but year-round. My Advent practice and my New Year’s Resolution will be to strive each day to make memories, no matter how small, that let my family know that they are loved and that their home is a place of warmth, joy, and safety. If you are reading this, you are dear to me also and I pray for you the same peace. 

Friday, May 6, 2016

You Say It's Your Birthday! It's My Birthday Too, Yeah!


Six years ago today, almost to the minute now, I became a mommy.

Just typing those words makes the Earth stop spinning and my eyes well with tears.

Six years ago.

Pumpkin is not a baby anymore. She doesn't need me for every little thing. She doesn't need me for any little thing, really, although sometimes she still acts like she can't brush her own hair or tie her shoes.

But the truth is: she doesn't need me for any little thing.

She needs me now only for big, scary things.

I look back through these blogs and remember freaking out trying to find the right sippy cup, make sure she walked and talked on time, and that her ear infections stopped. All noble mommy causes in their own right.  All nerve-wracking and consuming in their own time. How I wish any one of them were my biggest concern now.

These days I lose sleep over much heavier mama burdens like which friends she will choose, what choices she will make when I'm not looking, how comfortable she will be telling me things that I might not like, making sure she follows her heart but keeps her head, convincing myself to clip her wings, while holding her close as long as I can.

This child - this person - that God entrusted us with is such a paradox of beauty and depth and passion and soul. She can brighten an entire room with her smile and she can just as quickly darken the world with her eyes. She feels and knows thing that are beyond her years and even her own ability to fully comprehend. She's wise. She's a seer and an artist. Yet, when she gets the giggles there is no music on Earth that can compete in the utter joyfulness of the sound.

Six years ago she made me a mommy. But more that that, she made me a better person. She gave me love, hope, joy, and faith. She has taught me to see the world with new eyes and to experience true wonder. She has taught me to slow down, to listen, to admit to my weakness and to believe in my strength. In many ways, I strive to be more like her and pray that she always wants to be and is her own beautiful, strong, amazing self.

Happy birthday Pumpkin. mommy and daddy love you. Eat cake, stay up late, and laugh a lot. But most of all enjoy every minute of your life.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Lord Prepare Me, to be a Sanctuary

I love Lent. I know Lent is not supposed to be a season of joy but the solemnity of penitence and ashes on Ash Wednesday, the anxiety of the knowledge of his death, the wonder of what those in the moment must have felt, and the anticipation of the joy of his resurrection brings my heart such fullness. I always look forward to the opportunity to slow down and just be. I am entering this Lent with a new hope that I have not felt before and I am excited and anxious to see how He will work through me.

Now, having espoused all of that great philosophy, let me get real for a minute. Flash back to that Ash Wednesday service barely 12-hours ago. I'm on my knees trying to get in my holy groove, confessing sins, yadda yadda yadda when no sooner had I invoked the "Most merciful Father" when I hear a slight chuckle behind me. I turn to my side and see Bug trying to take off her shirt in the middle of church. Luckily her belly was a road block and I was able to get her mostly covered. Realizing she had to stay dressed, Bug was undeterred and immediately began building a giant throne of hymnals and tried to hoist her little self onto the top of them - repeatedly. Of course, they slipped, she'd fall, she'd cry, and we would start all over again.

As my left arm is trying to save Bug's life, keep her dressed, and hold on to my prayer book, to my right I have Pumpkin trying to follow along with the prayer book, bulletin, hymnal and insert. She is constantly whispering for the correct book and page number and needs me to point to "where we are" every few seconds. She's melting my heart with her recitation of the Kyrie and the confession and she belts out the Lord's prayer. She even made a "card" for Jesus promising that "for Ash Wednesday" she will be "more nice to Maggie." I'm hoping she meant Lent, not just Ash Wednesday. A direct handwritten promise to Jesus is even better incentive for good behavior than the Elf on the Shelf.

Yet, despite not hearing every word of the homily (I heard most of it, I promise), despite not having a single moment of complete silence, despite all of our ashes being wiped off by chubby fingers before the Recessional - despite all of this, I got a glimpse of true holiness. Our every day lives, the mundane, the frustrating, it is His Sanctuary. It is where He works. Our Church family - and ours truly is a family - is a place of unconditional love and support. I can bring my greatest frustration, my most wearied secrets, and place them at His altar, surrounded by those folks, and know that I will leave with my burden lightened. And I did.

So, I wish you a Happy Lent. I know that isn't the right phrase, but I mean it - because in losing ourselves and finding Him we have the chance for true happiness that the world cannot bring us.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Smiled With the Rising Sun

A new year is always a good time for waxing nostalgic and this January 1st was no different. 

Christmas came and went in a whirlwind. It was the first Christmas where both girls could anticipate the magic and in their anticipation, expectation, and eventual joy I found so much happiness. There was nothing earth-shattering about their gifts, nothing monumental about our festivities, but in their peaceful simplicity I was gifted this unbelievable, absolute and utter joy. I like to think it was something like the exhausted and overwhelming love Mary must have felt on that dirt stable floor looking at the perfection of her Christ child. I felt his perfect love in this Christmas like none other before.

With the new year, I'm trying to hold on to that still, calm, joy. My heart is literally overflowing with the love I have for my sweet family. I have not made any formal 'resolutions' but I am sure trying my hardest to be present. That's it. Just present. In the moment. I'm learning after 30-something years that it's true what they say - my worry has no impact on the future and cannot change the past. I cannot control 99.9% of the things I worry about. The .1% that I can control, doesn't need my worry - only my action. 

So if I must resolve, I resolve for peace. I resolve to feel and embrace peace. I resolve to bring peace, to be a beacon of peace. The peace that passes all understanding. The peace He was born into this world to bring and the peace left with us.

The thought of a peace that passes understanding never made sense to me until I was a parent (and I'm not sure I can say it is even capable of complete comprehension). The peace that I believe passes understanding is the calm in the storm. It's the inner faith that, as Julian of Norwich said, "All shall be well." That has become my prayer mantra these past few weeks - all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.

For example, it passes understanding to find peace when a three-year old sounds like she is literally dying of a broken heart when her Elsa jammies or Elsa dress are in the wash. There is no peace offering that will respond to the toddler's refusal to understand why she cannot wear the same damn dress every single day (a dress that, mind you, is a bit snug to begin with). As I held her yesterday and wiped away those tears, I found a measure of happiness. Happiness in knowing that one day we will laugh hard about these things. Happiness too because, as Hubby pointed out, it is clear that Bug does not know real pain or heartache and for that I am so thankful. Her world was literally shattered with the realization that she had to wear a different Elsa nightgown. I want that to be her pain for as long as I can protect her from real sadness.

It passes understanding to find peace while doing yoga with a 5-year old who has a mean case of the giggles because her little sister is snapping pictures of us in our asanas. Laying in viparita karani unable to hear anything above the chuckles isn't anyone's idea of meditation, except maybe mine now. Rather than get frustrated or quit or demand silence, I let her laughter infect me. Soon we were both more peaceful and happier than a thousand deep restorative breaths.

Watching seemingly a million impromptu dance performances a day, negotiating daily on bathtimes and bedtimes and kid shows, counting bites, checking tooth and hair brush jobs and homework folders and, of course, washing those damn Elsa dresses are the things that right now, are making my heart full to bursting. And I know the feeling won't last. I know the frustration of life will creep back in, particularly now that we are back in a routine from the holidays. But I hope that I can keep some of that magic alive year round just by stopping and being, present, alive, and at peace with where I am in the moment.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Say What You Wanna Say



I communicate for a living. All day, every day, I communicate. I don’t just communicate, I persuade, convince, and argue. I’ve taken classes, read books, and paid consultants to make me better at communicating. I know that the message isn’t just the message, but the way it’s conveyed. I know what you say isn’t half as important as how you look saying it. I am by all accounts a professional communicator. Yet, sometimes, like this morning, when I realize that my most important message to my important audience is falling flat, it is all for naught.

This morning on the way to school after having a “which do we like better” music sampling amongst Beethoven, Mozart, and Bach (thank you Mrs. Burke’s kindergarten class composers of the month – she literally knows the difference), Pumpkin asked me matter-of-factly when I was going to quit work and be a babysitter mom. I explained to her that I enjoy my job and I work to make her proud and so we can do all the things she likes to do. I asked why she would want me to quit working and she told me so I would be a nicer mommy.

Ouch.

It hurt most, I think, because she was not being mean. In fact, she was in a great mood and we were having a great morning. She was just making an observation. Bratty mean-talk would have been easier to swallow.

And here I thought I had been doing so well working on not being stressed with the kids.

That is not the mom I want her to know or remember.

That is not the mom I want to be.

But I do love my job. I am good at my job. I do good things with my job. I help people. I wear the white hat. And, as a girl-mom, I think it is so important– that my girls see me work hard and succeed, that they are proud of me, and above all that know they can do and be anything they damn-well please.

Even more than that, though, they must know I that I love them. They may never know how much, but they must always know that I love them. Always. Above all else. I would quit my job, sell my house, and live in a cardboard box if it meant them knowing that.

After that gut-check, Pumpkin bounced out of the car, thrilled to work towards getting Super Student Status today and happy we weren’t “on brown” (i.e., tardy). She never thought twice about our conversation and I haven’t stopped thinking about it.

While my deep-thinking Pumpkin is keeping me in my head, Bug, per usual, is keeping me on my toes. It never ceases to amaze me how different those two kiddos are. Bug has two speeds – on and off. She’s either happy and hamming it up or angry and stomping. There is no in between, no moody, no brooding, no dark and deep. She is constantly light, constantly moving, and constantly narrating her every thought.

Last night I call out to her: “Maggie, it’s time for bed.” I look in Pumpkin’s door and she is lying snow-angel style on the middle of the carpet (apparently trying to blend in to it). She closes her eyes and says “Maggie not hewe, I da fwoor” (read: Maggie is not here, I am the floor).


What do you say to that? She’s the floor. Obviously. The talking floor.

I'm out of answers. All I got is love. Hope it's enough.