January 30, 2012
Today, you turned four years old. Four. I think I’m finally getting used to the notion that having a baby makes time seem to float away like fairy dust leaving tiny sparkles behind in the wake of each phase. A glimmer to replace the time spent eager for you to take your first steps and call me Mommy; a shimmer left for the moments I spent wondering when I could finally stop buying diapers; a speck of light for the nights I hoped you would learn to sleep in your own bed. And so the trail goes. And now you are four.
Even though you have been a Daddy’s Girl since infancy—because Lordy, does that man love you—I could never for a minute doubt that you are mine. You are tentative and shy in new situations and with new people, and you take a long time to warm up. But when you are you—completely uninhibited and happy and comfortable you—you are full of whimsy and giggles and silliness and love. You make up stories. You play with your dolls using different voices. You dance. You make up songs.
One of my favorite memories of you this year is when you got to open an early Christmas gift at Nonnie’s house—it was a guitar with a working microphone. We pulled it out of the box, and you immediately began to serenade us all with “Jingle Bell Rock” and other songs you were learning for your school’s Christmas concert. Of course, at the concert itself, singing with your classmates in front of all the parents, you were reserved and shy while you sang; but in front of your family, you were a ham.
We’ve had more change this year, but for the good. We moved into a new rental home this year—the first home of our own in New Jersey. We got to spend most of the summer having fun in the playground and swimming in the community pool at the end of our street. You love the water but are afraid of it, too. It took you all summer to work up the courage to jump in by yourself, even with me there to catch you. You’re not a girl who can be pushed to move faster. You do things in your own time, on your own terms.
You began a new school, and when I finally had to start a new full time job, it broke my heart to have to bring you to pre-school all day every day, even though I knew you would be fine and probably even benefit from it. You started to learn your numbers and letters and have struggled a bit with that, mostly because, like your mother, you’re not quite sure how to handle frustration, and sometimes choose to simply shut down. But together, we’re working on that one. Of course the first letter you really learned was “C” and you love to say, “C starts with me!” And now you know all the letters in your name and get so excited when you recognize them.
Yes, you’ve been such a little mirror for me this year, and you teach me so much about myself and about how to be a mother. In the way you hate to disappoint. In the way you want to know that you are safe. In the way you love and want to know that you are loved in return. In the way you want so much from the world and get frustrated when your arms aren’t big enough to hold it all at once.
Sometimes you sigh and say, “Mom, I really love you.” And I know that you mean it.
Mornings are still my favorite time with you. It’s tough getting you up on the weekdays for school because you still go to bed too late (and would rather someone sleep with you). But there’s just something about playful snuggling with you when the sun comes up that makes the perfect start to my days. I wonder when you are older if you’ll remember how I sing to you to wake you up. How I pretend to eat your nose and your ears and you laugh and say, “Hey give those back!” And then you lift up my shirt so you can pretend to retrieve them from my belly. And then you steal my nose. Usually, you’re nice enough to give it back before I bring you downstairs and Daddy gets you breakfast.
You’re a girly girl and insist on wearing skirts and dresses. You only wear pants when I force you to. Purple is your favorite color hands down, and when we went shopping for your birthday dress, well, naturally, it had to be purple. You’re better about letting me put your hair in ponytails now that we’ve added ribbons to the mix. Almost every day when we come home from school, you run to your playroom, strip out of your “real” clothes and put on dress-up clothes. In much the same way I come home and peel off my work clothes to put on sweats, play clothes are your idea of comfortable. You have a fairy costume, a Daphne (of Scooby Doo fame) dress, an array of princess costumes, and a few other random pieces of costumes. I love to see the combination you put on, because it’s rarely the same thing twice.
The princess phase kicked into high gear this year, and you now have all the princess dolls in two different sizes. But you have eclectic tastes and still love the monster movies Daddy shows you. You love the Wizard of Oz, and recently, you’ve really taken to Bat Girl from the original Batman television show that Daddy also shows you. You asked Santa for two things this year: a castle and a coffin. I had to tell you to be sure to tell Santa the coffin was for your Dracula doll you got for Halloween, and luckily Santa was a good sport! He brought you both.
You really understood the whole Santa thing this year. And you got what it means to have a birthday. You tell me how you are a “big gore” now and I know it’s true. Another year has come and gone. Sparkles and glimmers of those baby and toddler years float behind you; new milestones and wonders and worries take their place. As mother, I’m getting used to that.
But the time warp aside, what I still haven’t gotten used to is how I fall in love with you all over again every time I look at you or hear your voice. Every. Time. It’s not that I love you more each day because I can’t love you more, and I can’t love you less. But every day my heart is reminded just how full it is with that love, and it’s startling. I love that.
I really love you, Charlie. Happy Birthday.
I help her start to get into bed and under the covers. “What color kiss you want?” she asks with a smile.
“Hmmm…how about yellow.”
“Let me see if we have any.” She looks at the palm of her hand and starts scanning with two fingers of the other as if she’s flipping through the pages of a book. “Sorry, we runned out of yellow. How about purple?”
“What color hug you want?”
“Sorry,” she says shrugging her shoulders apologetically, “we don’t have pink. We have rainbow or golden.”
“I’ll take golden– with an extra squeeze, please.”
“Okay,” she smiles. With colors decided, she takes my face in her hands to deliver the order. “Purple kiss,” she says and then plants a big kiss on my lips. “And golden hug.” She wraps her arms around me and holds tight.
“Don’t forget the extra squeeze,” I say. We giggle.
“I love you, Baby. Now get some sleep.”
Charlie started that routine out of the blue one night. I have no idea where it came from, but it really doesn’t matter. They won’t be the last kisses or hugs of the night because she’ll call me in her room at least three more times before she finally falls asleep. But the first bedtime hugs and kisses– the ones with colors– those are my favorite.
First, let’s talk about the absolutely ridiculous weather Mother Nature threw in our path two days before Halloween. I honestly thought the weather guy on the radio must’ve been kidding when he said “snow.” Snow in October. C’mon now. I stayed in the denial stage right up until I saw the big fat flakes. But then I just went into a kind of modified denial. “Oh, it won’t stick,” I told my husband. “It’s just going to turn to rain.”
You can see where this is going, right? Down came the snow. As the anger phase set it, I begrudingly climbed up into our attic to get the bin of gloves and scarves and hats muttering on about how Mother Nature was fucking with my favorite season (that would be fall)
We had plans to go to my in-laws’ house and despite the blanket of white, we headed over. We weren’t on the road ten minutes when we got a call telling us that they lost power. Turns out that heavy wet snow + foliated trees = lots and lots of falling tree limbs that can’t handle the weight which then take out plenty of power lines during their tumble to the streets. The aftermath was worse than the days following Hurricane Irene. Let me share some images with you:
So that night, we ate dinner at my in-law’s by candlelight and headed back home where we were fortunate to not have lost power.
Two days later, it was Halloween. Or at least it was supposed to be. I had taken the day off so I could attend Muffin’s Halloween parade at school and then take her trick-or-treating before it got dark. Some of the snow had melted, but there were still plenty of power and cable lines and branches and lining the streets. But hey, Halloween must go on, right? Turns out not so much. First, the parade was cancelled, but at least she got to go to school in costume and have some fun there.
After school, we took Muffin to the in-laws (where they stayed without power for a total of five days) to do some trick-or treating there. The streets were strangely quiet and our first few hopeful knocks yielded nothing. I thought if we moved to the top half of the street where folks did have power, we’d have better luck. We did a little. But at our second or third house we leaned why the streets were void of the usual crowds of kids– we weren’t supposed to be trick-or-treating. Bloomfield postponed Halloween. My in-laws never got the message (and how would they would no phone or power?) Apparently the powers that be in several towns decided that it wasn’t a great idea for dressed up candy-seekin’ folk to be dodging branches and fallen power lines and hey, well, just do it Friday instead.
What the hell? You can’t postpone Halloween. I’m pretty sure ghosts and goblins and witches and stuff are all weather sorts, right?
We tried not to let the lonely streets dissuade us and we hedged our bets that enough people had candy and wouldn’t mind seeing a cute little Rapunzel.
We got enough candy to make my Muffin happy. We then went back to my in-laws where we all sat around my hubby’s computer in the cold dark house with no power to watch a scary movie before taking Charlie back home.
It was a strange Halloween. But it didn’t stop my Muffin from having fun.
So yeah, after posting for 39 days straight (*pats self on back) I decided I needed a break. And the first two days I took a break and did not post, I did not feel guilty. I felt good, in fact. Rested. But then the break turned into a week, and I know from experience how quickly a week can turn into two or three or a month, and the longer I go without writing, the harder it is to get back to, so tonight, I was all Kelly, get back to blogging and just post something already! (*smacks self upside the head). Okay, okay. So here I am. Dazed, but here.
Much as I hate writing the “so this is what I’ve been up to” type posts (unimaginative much?) for some reason, I feel like I should. Plus, it’s after midnight and my muses went to bed without me hours ago.
Tomorrow (or I guess it’s technically today now– whatever) will be the end of week two of my new job in Corporate America. And I feel it’s not too premature at this point to make the following declaration: Not. For. Me. Yes, I know I last wrote about it when I was having a bad day, and yes, things have gotten better, but still, at this point I can objectively rule out CubicleLand as my dream job.
Muffin had adjusted really well. Much better than I have. We prepared her for it as much as we could and talked it up with excitement the week before I started. “Mommy’s going to start a new job and you’re going to get to go to school and see your friends and Miss Kim and Miss Nikki every day!” The routine of going to school every day combined with the fact that the daddy’s girl now gets to leave the house with daddy in the mornings (he is on drop-off duty) has helped make it a relatively easy transition.
In fact, the other day, when I picked her up and I was making a big fuss about how much I missed her, she stared at me with ‘What’s your problem, lady?’ look and said, “I was just at school, Mom. It’s ooooh-kay.”
I love that kid.
Of course, it’s not all cake. Yesterday, she threw her first morning “I don’t want to get up!” tantrum. Then I had a tantrum myself because she was making me late (and there may or may not have been some shoe throwing) and the daddy had to take over, but she was fine by the time I left the house and did what she normally does–waved and blew me kisses from the kitchen window.
Did I say that I love that kid?
Anyway, the job involves sitting at a desk and staring at a computer screen and reading all day. I knew it would be a tough transition from classroom teaching (and then two years of being a SAHM) but woooaaaa. I mostly miss just moving. I am used to having blocks of time to present information and help and monitor and interact with students (none of which can really be accomplished by sitting at a desk) followed by blocks of time to buckle down and grade papers or plan lessons, or shoot the breeze with a co-worker, or sneak out to Starbucks for coffee, or catch up on email, followed by another block of time back with the kids…
But this sitting at a desk all day long? And all computer work? Ugh.
My eyes and my wrists are killing me. I am also adjusting to new glasses. They are progressive lenses– a fancy term for bifocals with no lines. Because apparently I’m old. (It’s also another reason I slacked off on the blogging. I need a break from staring at computer screens when I get home.)
And I am trying very hard to be present to my daughter at night when I with her because I only get about three or four hours from the time I pick her up until bed time. And I still need to lie down with her to get her to go to sleep.
So yeah. Waaa waaa waaa. Poor me. I know.
But that’s what I’ve been up to. Trying to get used to this new routine and still find the time to fit in my writing and work on other goals. The ones that will hopefully get me out of CubicleLand. It hasn’t been easy. I’m trying my darndest to hang in there. And I will.
But now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to join my muses in their slumber.
I am no pundit. Nope. Oh, I have my beliefs and my opinions, but never feel well-informed enough to take on political debate in any serious way. And of course, in typical middle child fashion, I prefer to play the diplomat and peacekeeper anyway.
But still, I’m a Democrat and will stand up for what I believe in when it matters.
I confess I’d gotten away from paying attention to politics. Sometimes it’s all too much. The country is a mess and folks in Washington are too busy with warring egos to really get things done. The system is so broken. So very broken.
But tonight, I tuned into President Obama’s speech about his jobs bill. The same president I voted for and believed in. And I still do. I don’t agree with everything he does, but at the core, I believe he’s a good man who really does want to do right by this county but is thwarted and fought and every turn.
And he’s tried to be the diplomat. Maybe too much. It’s been a little frustrating. Even I, who happen to love most of his speeches, was starting to tire of his carefully constructed sentences and his qualifying phrases and his tortured ways. I started to tune him out.
But tonight, as I listened, I found myself cheering him on– verbally yelling at the television, “You go, Obama!” He was strong. And he was finally FINALLY unapologetically Democrat.
Yes, I heard the oft repeated “Pass this bill.” But more importantly, it didn’t sound like, “Pass this bill, pretty please.” There were new undertones: This country needs us. I am a Democrat. This is what I believe is going to help. And I’m going to fight for it. Bring. It. On.
Oh, I have no illusions that this speech really did anything. The Republicans will still fight him, and he’ll have a tough time getting his jobs bill passed. But that would have happened no matter what. So I was just happy to hear him be who he is without qualifying it or apologizing for it on some level.
It’s about time.
The second day at my new job. Cubicle Land. Meh.
All day long, I am schizophrenic–
I can do this.
I can’t do this.
This isn’t so bad.
This is torture.
Hooray for structure.
Really? This? All day? Every day?
I miss my girl.
Finally it is 5:15 and time to go the hell home. To see my baby (who’s really not a baby).
IN THE CAR:
Cue the rain. Good God, more rain. And the traffic. Stop. Go. Stop. Go.
I feel each muscle tense with every minute. I check the clock with each step of the brake.
Shit, I’m going to be late.
And this urge, this incredible urge to get to my baby.
Stop. Go. Stop. Go.
My jaw clenches.
I try to distract myself by looking at the ducks in the newly created ponds along the parkway thanks to the relentless rain. But it’s no use. I check the clock again.
Shit. I can’t believe I’m going to be late. Daycare is closing and I am not there! Mother fucker.
I finally arrive and force my fingers to uncurl from the steering wheel. I run inside with no umbrella because I just want to see my baby. Need to see my girl and feel my arms around her. She is the only child left.
I smile big at her, finally exhaling. “Hey, Bug-a-boodle!”
She turns away from me. For the first time, she does not run to me with a giant hug. She turns away.
I try not to let the teacher see the tears well as I coax Charlie into her raincoat and apologize for running late.
THE RIDE HOME:
“So how was your day, Baby? What did you do at school today?”
But she can sense I’m upset.
“Mommy, do you sad?” (“Do” is her all purpose helping verb)
“A little sad, Honey, yes.”
“I just missed you, that’s all.”
“Don’t worry, Mommy. Daddy’s gonna be home soon. It’s okay.”
I discover the dog peed on the couch (because who can blame the poor thing home alone in the house for nine hours).
I notice the freezer had been left halfway open. Don’t ask me how. But everything is mush and Charlie cries as I try to throw away her melted popsicles. I give her a couple melted ones in a bowl with a spoon to calm her and that seems to do the trick.
Charlie asks me to put a movie on for her, but I can’t get one of the remotes to work. I try changing the batteries. No luck.
Then my husband calls to tell me he’s stuck in traffic.
Fucking route 4.
I start to cook dinner. My husband arrives home and we eat.
Shit, 8:00 already?
“Is it a bath night,” he asks.
It is, but I’m feeling too defeated to care.
I clean the kitchen while Greg gets Charlie ready for bed and they watch the end of a movie.
So this is my life now, huh?
Nothing about this feels right.
I’m exhausted. Charlie is in bed asking for me to snuggle.
At least I have that.
I know you are tired after your first day back to working full time and your first day ever working in Corporate America, but please don’t forget your dreams. Oh, maybe forget is the wrong word. Just don’t let them stay only dreams. Breathe life into them; nurture them; let them grow.
Easier said than done, I know.
We’ve been together a long time you and me. And I know I don’t tell you often enough, but you’re worth it, Kelly. You do deserve it.
You spend too much time listening to the Kelly over your shoulder instead of me, the one in your heart. You’re pretty tough on me, I’ve gotta say. But still, I’m here. And I’m stickin’ around.
Yes, you’ve got some work to do. No, it won’t be easy. But it does not mean you can’t do it.
Because you can.
Now go get some rest and gear up for tomorrow.
And call me if you need me.
Would that one year ago, I could have had the power of Rapunzel’s magic hair and healing song.
Flower gleam and glow
Let your powers shine
Make the clock reverse
Bring back what once was mine.
Heal what has been hurt
Change the fate’s design
Save what has been lost
Bring back what once was mine,
What once was mine…
I miss you, Daddy.
My world is not the same without you.
This past week, Charlie’s preschool was closed, so she was home with me. Me and the Muffin together. All five days.
We didn’t do anything too spectacular. We made trips to the mall to buy Charlie new shoes and me a new purse, and then to return the purse. We made a visit to grandma’s house. We made several trips to the park and the pool. We took walks around the neighborhood. We colored and practiced letters and numbers. We watched movies. Lots of movies (I wanted to cut down on the monster movies so the Peter Pan movies and “Tinkerbell” were the movies of choice this week). We met my friend Lisa for lunch. We played with her princess dolls. And we did a lot of snuggling and laughing.
Maybe a better mother would have planned more educational or exciting things, but me? I’m a bit of a homebody anyway, and the aftermath of Irene made me reluctant to venture out onto highways if I didn’t really need to. It seemed as though there were enough things to keep us busy around here while having a fun, albeit relatively low key week– just me and my girl. If Charlie were older and needed more to keep her entertained, I would have planned more. But no matter. It felt right.
The timing of the new job that I start next week makes it feel like the end of summer and the start of a new school year (even though I’m not a teacher anymore). The community pool will close after Monday. So now we’re in the midst of enjoying a long weekend with Daddy. (Charlie gets so excited when she learns that it’s the weekend and Daddy will be home with us!)
But it just occurred to me tonight– Muffin has been home with me all week. All five days. Mostly just the two of us. And there wasn’t one day that I needed to bolt from the house flailing and screaming as soon as Greg walked in the door.
I love my girl like nobody’s business. But I would be lying if I said that 24/7 Mom Duty didn’t send me over the edge sometimes. It’s part of the reason she’s been in preschool part time even when I’ve been out of work. I look forward to the times that she’s at school and I can have some alone time and remember that I’m more than just “Charlie’s mom.” While I haven’t always made the best use of that time, it’s helped me keep my sanity. And it’s helped me to be a better mom to her when I am home with her.
But this week was…different. I told her yesterday, “Charlie, you’ve been such a good listener this week. I am so proud of you!” I even took her to the Disney outlet store and let her pick out a toy. (She chose some clothes for her Princess Jasmine doll which I thought an odd choice for her because she usually strips the clothes off dolls immediately upon their arrival– but this set came with a little Abu.)
I had been trying to refrain from buying her new toys, so I wanted to make sure she understood that this one, she earned. As we stood in line at the store, I knelt down and asked, “Why are you getting this special present today?” And she smiled and said, “Because I was a good listener.”
Oh, she wasn’t perfect. She’s never a bad kid, but she’s just…three. And anyone with a three-year-old can tell you it ain’t always easy. Fits if I put milk on her cereal before she asks me to; tantrums if I make her do something crazy like wear real shoes to the park instead of her princess dress-up heels; tears if I take away a pen that she started to draw on a table with…you get the idea.
But this week, anytime she started to get fresh or throw a fit about something, she regrouped pretty quickly. Or at least rode it out. And so did I. Patience is definitely something I’ve had to work on, especially because Charlie does not respond well to my yelling or getting upset. Things escalate pretty quickly if I lose it, and I had to catch myself a few times this week.
Yeah, even with a three-and-a-half-year-old, the mother daughter relationship can get pretty complicated.
I’m not sure if it’s the “half” part of the three-and-a-half lending just that touch more of reasonableness, or if I’m simply learning to respond better to my daughter, or it it was maybe a little bit of both.
The snuggles and kisses this week have been plentiful and among the best because they’ve been so organic– grown from shared laughs and good days when I enjoyed her company and she enjoyed mine.
Yes. It was a good week.