I have had Emmie's first day of Kindergarten outfit picked out in my mind for weeks. Not sure if it's my active imagination or way of coping with the inevitable, but I could vividly picture her in it. She would be waving to me with her heart melting smile as she skipped into her class, her golden hair trailing behind her. All in slow motion, with a sweet soundtrack playing in the background, of course.
That did not happen. At all. None of it. And that's ok. Lately, more than ever, I've been much more aware of not placing expectations on the kids. We've heard it said, expectations breed resentment.. I am someone who is very aware of my wants and needs, likes and dislikes, hopes and fears. Emmie has all of those too, in her adorable pint size body. As it is becoming more and more apparent that she is my mini, several of those are similar, if not identical, to mine. I can relate when scraping noises bother her, because they bother me too. I can understand when she is shy and doesn't want to go up and start talking to someone by herself, because I have a hard time with that too. When she doesn't want anyone talking to her for the first 10 minutes she is awake, Its like looking into a mirror. Albeit, a much smaller one that cannot have coffee yet to help take the edge off. I am careful to not be dismissive just because it may be inconvenient. The saying "If you don't listen to the little things, they won't come to you with the big things" echos in my mind. This is not to say that we allow her to react however she wants. This just means that I have made a much more intentional effort to respect her feelings as well. She is shy, but when someone says "Hello" we are working on still being polite and making eye contact with some kind of response back. She prefers dresses, and while right now it is a challenge because most of her dresses are not "twirly" enough, we choose her clothes together. As school starts, we will pick out the whole weeks worth of clothes on Sunday night to minimize the clothing battles in the morning when we are all tired. She is allowed to be quiet and reflective, or angry and upset as long as she chooses to express herself respectfully.
So, this morning when she did not want anything at all to do with the outfit I wanted her to wear, I listened to her. She was not rude or dismissive, but instead held up the one she wanted explaining "I'd feel so pretty in this!". While it was not at all what I had envisioned and my selfish inner voice wanted to argue her into the other outfit, I understood. I know very well how feeling good in an outfit, or even as simple as loving the choice of underwear that day, can make all the difference in your confidence. And goodness knows we both needed all the confidence we could get for today. When I wanted to have her hair a certain way, she had a much different picture in mind. We compromised, because it is her head after all. And I do have to say, she did a pretty good job with her own style shining through.
We headed off to the school with our heads, and hopes, high. They stayed that way even after getting out of the car. (This little girl is so loved. Both her big brothers wanted to walk her to class with me. Especially since Daddy had to work.) She had a pep in her step and her gorgeous smile spread across her face while walking down the sidewalk. Entering the building, her pace slowed. We scooted over to the side of the hall and said a quick prayer for peace and courage. She perked up some, though still gripping my hand tightly. We were the second ones in classroom, right behind her new friend! (We met a sweet family at open house and exchanged numbers. A few days ago we met up at the park so that our girls would know someone in school when they started today!) While the parents sat down at the table filling out paperwork, Emmie and her new friend played and twirled on the carpet, showing off the skirts that they had both chosen. (They passed the twirl test.) After the paperwork was done and I stood up, pushing the chair in, Emmie was instantly glued to my side. We talked with the teacher some more, taking advantage that there would only be 5 children in class today with the staggered entry. When it was finally past the time we should have left, I knelt down for a hug. Pulling away from it, her sad face looked up at me and tears started to silently roll down her cheeks. I shifted into super Mama drive and I reassured her she would do great and have so much fun. To remember all the amazing things she did today because I could not wait to hear all about them. As she slid over to grab a tissue for her tears, I fought back my own. My sweet, strong girl was trying to hold it together. I hugged her again and didn't want to draw it out any longer, so we said our goodbyes and headed out the door. I peeked back one last time (never look back, ugh!) and she melted. I motioned for her to come give me one more hug in the doorway. We dried her eyes together, said another prayer, and after another big hug and affirmations her teacher took her hand and she headed into the class. When they say all the feels, they mean all the feels. I am so excited for this next chapter for her. She is going to do so well and make so many new friends. I can't wait to read bigger books with her and see her style come out in her projects. But, right now, I am anxiously looking at the clock, willing it to move faster to the time I can run out the door to go pick her up and hear all about her first day. I love the times when our kids are being challenged in a controlled environment and you can almost see their character growing. But, I hate them too. I wanted to scoop her up as she whispered into my ear "When will you pick me up? I want to be with you, Mama!" and run out the door with her in my arms. We don't really need school, do we? Letting go is hard. So tonight, when she gets home, I'm not going to. We are getting her choice of treat and I am snuggling up with my little girl and holding on tightly as she tells me about all of the new things in her life. And thanking God all the while that I have her to miss.
I am a lover of all things Autumn. The crisp air that makes me breathe in deep, the array of colors on the trees, the smell of smoke from the fires burning in the chimneys of my neighbors, Chai Tea lattes that warm my soul, hoodies, comfy jeans, the smell of fall candles. (Though, I may be the only female I know who does not like Pumpkin Spice lattes.) I have been waiting for Fall since the first 90 degree day we had in February. I would enjoy Spring a lot more if we had one for more than a few weeks, followed by 5 months of heat and humidity. My hair rebels and my skin misses the dry heat of the West Coast. I get through the summer months focusing on what is great about it instead of what I hate. I love summer thunderstorms, lightning bugs, the carnival we go to on the 4th of July, sundresses, watermelon, no homework or projects for the kids (can I get an AMEN?!), and not having to find matching socks for the kids are what first come to mind. But, while I am excited for the arrival of Autumn, this year is bittersweet.
Jordan started middle school on Monday. My sweet, energetic, talkative, smart, creative, silly boy with the best laugh you have ever heard is in 6th grade and I am having all the emotions. I am mourning the loss of who he used to be while completely loving who he is, and am so proud of who he is becoming. Parenting is not for the faint of heart. I've always daydreamed that we could freeze our children at two different ages throughout their life and get to keep those versions of them, while letting the authentic one continue to grow. Right now would for sure be one of the ages I would freeze Jordan at. The way his eyes light up when he is telling me about a new character he has made up for a book he wants to write. Or how he gives me a shy smirk as he pulls up the back of his shirt and lays his head on my lap, non-verbally asking me to scratch his back. The way his nose scrunches up when something is amusing to him. Or how he wants me to lay in his bed with him and just talk the night away, about anything and everything. I am constantly amazed by his intuition and complex thoughts for his compact 11 year old body. He is one of my most favorite people, and has taught me so much about myself as I parent him. And he is in middle school. Stop it. Slow down! He hugs me in front of his friends and waved sweetly to me as he headed into this next chapter of his story. I have not lost him yet.
Emmie Jane starts Kindergarten on Thursday, and those emotions are going haywire. I cannot believe my sweet angel face is old enough for school. Her backpack is so big on her, it goes down to the middle of her calves. Her smile is just as big with excitement. She is both shy and social. Energetic and laid back. Brave and timid. Girly and curious. Silly and sweet. A walking contradiction that has completely stolen my heart. She is her mama's mini in almost every way. I hear my words come out of her mouth daily, especially when telling the boys to do something I've already asked them to do. She loves Jesus, snuggles, holding my hand while we watch TV, making up her own songs (watch out Taylor Swift), dancing, asking a lot of questions, drawing, and has a the sweetest soul. I have put on a brave face for her while talking about school, and have talked about all of the good things because she is a little apprehensive. I know she will make many friends, because she comes home with some when we go to the grocery store. She sees the good in everyone, and has a brilliant imagination. She is going to change the world one day, but we have to start with going to school first.
If only you knew
The sunlight shines a little brighter,
The weight of the world’s a little lighter,
The stars lean in a little closer
All because of you.
I want to see
You lift your chin a little higher,
Open your eyes a little wider,
Speak your mind a little louder,
’cause you are royalty.
This is your kingdom,
This is your crown,
This is your story.
This is your moment,
Don’t look down..
You’re ready, born ready.
And all you gotta do
Is put one foot in front of you.
Our ceiling is your floor,
And all you gotta do
Is put one foot in front of you,
If only you knew.
"Daughter" - Sleeping At Last
Good luck to all the kiddos starting school! And good luck to the Mamas (and Daddys)! Enjoy each and every season with your littles before they are not so little anymore. This is just another season, in life and the weather.
Some moments shine brighter in my mind than others. As a dreamer, I often scroll through the library of memories and replay my favorites over and over. A smell, a sound, or a phrase will always surprise me with what starts to play in my mind.
My daughter followed me out to my car a few days ago. I'm loving this stage where Mommy is everything and I cannot even run to the car without her wanting to come too. With Emmie being my youngest, I know this won't last very long and I am soaking it up. After retrieving the item from my car, we headed back inside hand in hand.
"Look Mama! It's Nana!" I followed Emmie's pointed finger to the grass in front of us where a beautiful yellow butterfly sat staring back, trusting and radiant. My heart fluttered along with it's wings. Butterflies were my Nana's favorite, and Emmie must've remembered that. I took a snapshot with my memory polaroid. This moment was too perfect to forget. I know for years to come I will remember the warmth of the sun on my head, the touch of Emmie's hand in mine, the sound of the birds melody, and even my neighbor mowing his lawn sending over the smell of freshly cut grass.
My Nana passed away in May 3 years ago, and still I reach for my phone to call her with a great story or exciting news. She's still in my phone contacts, and will most likely always be. She was one of the few people in life I held closely, instead of at an introverted arms length. Some people, no matter how different they may be from you, just get you. Just accept you fully as you are with all of your flaws. That was my Nana for me. That was my Nana for so many people. She loved people.
I remember hearing stories from her many different jobs over the years. She loved to tell stories of her time as a pre-school teacher where she would often repeat the one of a boy with anger issues and she would tell him "I can't let you hit that other boy, but I can let you hit this pillow." She would smile and hold up a pillow. This sentence would be repeated to me when asking for advice about my children. It can be applied to so many different things, she would say. She also worked at a women's shelter. I remember going with her a few times and running my hands along the racks of clothing there, available to women in need. I would watch my Nana talking to the women and beam with how lucky I was that she was mine.
I loved when it was my turn to go spend the night at Nana's house. We would walk down to her pool where she would let me play until I was tired, never forcing me to go in before I was ready. We would watch Shirley Temple movies or, as I got older, watch Columbo and Murder She Wrote. That may be where my love for True Crime started. Nana loved crossword puzzles and over breakfast would even let me try to solve them with her. Since I was young, my phone calls with her have ended the same way. With Nana saying "I love you a bushel and a peck" and me responding with "and a hug around your neck." The Doris Day song plays as the soundtrack to most of my memories with Nana, though I'm sure it was not really there at the time. It's a funny thing, how memories can morph to our feelings.
Nana's love for God showed through in how she lived her life. In so many of my cards that I have saved over the years from her they are closed with "God loves you, and so do I." I now use this phrase myself with the teen girls small group I teach and with my own children. Is there a more perfect sentiment to tell someone? Small, but mighty.
She spoke her mind, often. (This may be where I get this from.) You knew where she stood. I can still hear her voice replying "Interesting" as she listened to something she may not have approved of. Processing it before responding. But, She stood by me and up for me in times of my life when I felt I didn't have many. And I am so very thankful that she knew and loved Jesus, because I know I will see her again someday. She was "tickled" when I told her Emmie's middle name would be Jane, the same as hers. I hope everyone is so lucky to have a Nana in their life. Grandmother or not, someone who is so unfailingly in your corner. I strive to be that for people because of what I have seen in her. Carol Jane, you are loved and I'll see you soon.
My favorite book growing up was The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. A great book, but an early sign that even as a child I had a love for the bittersweet. It taught things like go barefoot, focus more on what you need than what you want, and to just be in the moment. I was usually found outside in trees when I was younger. Just daydreaming, or reading a book. The silhouette of a tree against a twilight sky is one of my favorite sights.
We had a beautiful willow oak tree in our backyard for the last 14 years we've lived in our home. It is one of the biggest trees I have ever seen, California Redwoods aside. It has cast shade over our backyard in the scorching summers. It looks majestic covered in snow in the winter. It was the backdrop for so many photos of my children growing up. I would pull up the driveway and stare at it and how it towered protectively over our house. This tree was probably one of my illogical reasons for loving this house so much.
Until about a month and a half ago, when this happened. That is not the tree. That is one of the smallest branches on the tree. It missed our neighbors house by a foot and damaged the entire corner of our handmade fence. Our family felt the house shake when this branch fell to the ground after a rainstorm. We went running to find this. We didn't understand what was going on. The tree was healthy! It had bright green summer leaves all over it, with no damage in sight other than this limb that decided to jump ship. The rain immediately started again and my husband and oldest son spent the rest of the afternoon trying to clean up and at least get it off of the neighbor's property. The sound of the chainsaw rang out through the rest of the afternoon as they worked through the rain, dumbfounded by what just happened. Within the next few days we brought an Arborist out who confirmed our fear - the tree would have to come down. It was rotting from the inside, which is why we could not see any damage. But, we loved this tree! And, it would cost how much?? All of the memories we had in front of and under the tree danced around in my head. We had buried our sweet cat, Daisy, under the tree. Our sheltie, Jack, who had passed away just last December loved barking up the tree at whatever squirrel or bird was occupying it at that moment.
After figuring out a way to come up with the cost of a family vacation to Disney we have been dreaming about, we instead paid a group of men to take down one of my very favorite things yesterday. My heart is heavy over a tree. (and also the small fortune it cost to have it taken down) Does anyone else understand me on this? But, the fact is that every storm we had in between when the limb fell and yesterday had my imagination going wild with what could happen if that giant beauty decided to fall over. Our house (and everyone in it) would have been flattened. The insurance companies said they would not pay for any damage since it was now a known issue. It had to go.
So, we are choosing joy and making the best of it instead. Our backyard is large but with very little places that are level. Now that the tree is down, we have a place to put a fire-pit and a trampoline. Two things our family has wanted for a very long time, but could not have. After the tree was gone, we stared up at the sky for the first time from that spot in our backyard. So much light comes in, and as you look around there are several trees with no branches on one side because this tree took up all the living space. My heart is heavy for the loss of the tree, but I am now excited for the possibilities and the memories that our family will make where it used to sit. Talks around the fire-pit and camp outs on the trampoline. The sky is the limit. (And we can see it now too!)
Here's to our new view. On life, and our backyard.