An Open Letter to Summer, the season

IMG_7652-0.JPGEvery summer, I write a farewell. It’s a cathartic and pleasant experience for me ever since hitting motherhood. There’s the sappy and the reflective. This one might be a combination of both.

Dear Summer,

At the beginning of you, Summer, I was elated. As a teacher, I tend to appreciate you ever so much. But, at first, you weren’t all you were cracked up to be.

You brought me several mornings of timeouts and 4-year-old debates. Bartering and bribing, bribing and eventually, giving in.

You brought me quiet tears when I didn’t think I could manage another sibling fight.

You brought me all too many experiences of making my children food they barely eat. Bowls of mush scooped into the garbage. Sandwich triangles neglected and discarded.

You brought be a potty training regression that required me to go back to a sticker chart. Wet pants that brought tears.

You gave me my first real crying panic that I lost my child.

You gave me the occasional moments of self-loathing when I didn’t think I was doing the parenting thing right. Again.

You gave me a loud mornings when I could barely even open my eyes until I got an IV of strong, black, industrial-strength coffee.

You gave me grocery store meltdows and naptimes that never happened. Even though you wanted them to, so, so, so badly.

But…

You brought me morning cuddle parties. Whispers by the side of my bed, “Do you want a cuddle bug?”

You gave me painted rocks.

You brought me potty talk silly time which is worth breaking the rules just for the giggles.

You gave me sandy feet and sticky sunscreen hair.

You gave me sweet bedtime stories with a freshly bathed wet heads.

You gave me knock knock jokes.

You gave me lake swimming and dock jumping and chair floating.

You gave me nighttime narrations of Charlotte’s Web on a crowded bed.

You gave me visiting children of friends who allowed for actual adult conversation.

You gave me the magic of the ice cream man, the wonder of the Supermoon and the beauty of a sunset.

You gave me muddy puddles and skipping rocks.

You gave me live music that my children can sing and dance to.

You gave me the occasional babysitter, the occasional quiet evening, the occasional afternoon nap.

You gave me that look from my husband that you can only share with someone who loves your children as much as you do.

You gave me a heavy, sleeping child, sometimes two, on my shoulder as I walk up the stairs.

You gave me reflective questions in the car like, “How many years until I graduate?”

You gave me pajama walks.

You gave me cups of coffee while they played Legos in the screen room.

You gave me music in the car, dancing on the beach and popsicles in the shade.

Summer, you tend to bring out the most beautiful pieces of my life and my family and help me see them in a light that is radiant, a light that is humble, a light that is…just right.
So thank you, summer, for all of it.

Love, Bridgette

If We Are Lucky: Another Post About My Mom

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Emily and I circa 1995

“Making the decision to have a child – it’s momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking outside your body.”

– Elizabeth Stone

 

Recently, I went to pluck my four year old sweet boy out of bed. Upon entering his room, I heard the sweetest words that have ever been spoken.

“Mom, I’m pretty lucky to have you as a Mommy, right?”

Now, please. Don’t take this as a pat on my own back. Indeed I would like to think my children feel fortunate to have me as a mother. But, for some reason, as soon as I heard those words, I thought this.

I’ve taught him what being fortunate is. I’ve taught him that not everyone has the same people and things. I’ve taught him that the people in your life that you love need to be told. More than we remember to tell them.

I have been hugging my little people closer and cuddling with them longer ever since my oldest niece, Emily, went to study abroad in Australia. As proud and as excited I felt myself being for her, I had an outpouring of sympathy for my sister in letting her go.

My sister and I both studied abroad in college and remember well how we needed to get away, soak up the experience, the culture and the people. She went to Vienna, I went to London. Our trips abroad were a decade apart but had the same function.  Independence. Adventure. Freedom.

Then why did I find myself feeling so scared, so nervous, so sad about my niece going off to Australia? Why did I find myself crying to this song during naptime the day she left? Why did I feel so gosh darn sentimental about finding the picture at the head of this post recently?

Because now I am a Mom. And now a trip abroad is much, much more than just a rite of passage in college. It means that my sister’s heart will be walking on the outside of her body for a stint of six months— on another continent.

When I exchanged texts with my sister about how emotional she was that day, I commented, in jest: “At some point or another, we all turn into Mom.” The subtext was: Mom cried at everything, Mom had trouble letting us go. Mom was always so sappy about leaving us.

But it’s her quick response back that I will always remember (and what even brings tears to my eyes right now).

“If we are lucky.”

And that’s it, right? This blog has been nothing if not one large apology to my mother. Through my own experiences with my children, I have seen that my mother is the sole reason I am able to be the sweet, loving, encouraging person I am. She is the person behind those words that Parker said a couple mornings ago. He is lucky to have me because I was so lucky to have her.

Eventually, I want to write a book about my Mom, so I won’t give you any spoilers but one thing that has always amazed me about her is that her own mother left her when she was just four years old. Meaning, essentially, that everything she did with us and for us was—- winging it. She did not have her own model, her own blueprint of the person she has turned into. She was the mother she wanted to be possibly because she knew what she might have wanted as a child.

And upon realizing this, I have become the most weepy of Mommies lately. Whether it’s the new book I’m reading (which is introduced in a video here) or the fact that I have not seen my mother in much too long (since Christmas). Or just the idea that eventually my little girl will take off on her own adventure to a far away land and I will be on the phone to my sister about it, reliving this feeling.

If we are lucky, we have families (not just mothers or sisters or children) that hold us tight and help us remember who we are and where we came from. If we are lucky, we can joke about the faults (or peccadilloes, we’ll call them) of our mothers as fluidly as we joke about the faults of our friends. If we are lucky, we have a friend or a sister or a mother to call when we fill out Kindergarten paperwork, or college applications or passport paperwork to say, “Can you believe it’s already time for this?” If we are lucky, we have photos and cards and stories and videos that remind us again and again that we are lucky, we are rich and we are blessed to have people to share the crazy experience that has never been better described as your heart walking outside of your body.

 

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My December Social Media Diet: Week One

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The topic of this post is surprising even to me. And yes, I do realize the irony of what I am posting here.  I am prepared to be criticized and scoffed at. Ready to be called a hypocrite at any moment. Because in many ways I am.

About a month ago, my husband expressed his distaste for my Iphone use. I would check Facebook or Instagram casually as we watched TV, sometimes in the car when I was a passenger. In bed before going to sleep.  I mean, doesn’t everybody? I was defensive. Pointed out his laptop use, his addiction to podcasts, his love for amazon.

But deep down, I knew he was right.

When he sent me this video Monday morning, I had come to the realization that wherever there is defensiveness, there is truth. I was angry about the truth he presented to me about myself. I was mad that he thought the amount of likes on a blog post was measureable to my self-esteem. But I was mostly mad because I realized that I had become addicted to something that well, really, didn’t mean anything at all.

Scanning online garage sale sites for Christmas gifts, Pinteresting the upcoming holiday and looking for recipes were all things that I thought I needed to do right then, at the very second I had the opportunity to do them. These are things that Iphones were made for! Things that everyone does. Right?

But why does it make me feel icky that I am trying to justify my overuse of technology as “just a sign of the times?” Well, probably because I realized I have become one of these people. And I hated it.

I have chalked up my love for social media, blogging and snapping insta-pics  as “just the way I am.” A selfie taker from way back in ’93, no one would argue that I all of a sudden became obsessed with pictures and picture taking and filling those I love in about myself in 140 characters or less. I was the girl who sent a group email about my entire engagement story to everyone I knew. I was lucky to get pregnant just on the cusp of “My Baby Belly- Month by Month” being socially appropriate. I was someone who has always loved the written word and the captioned photo. Be they in an email, card, scrapbook, letter or on your Facebook wall.

But at age thirty-four, “it’s just they way I am” becomes kind of a lame excuse. It becomes sad that you are defending a life on social media against— a life not on social media (GASP!)—meaning the life you live in your own home, in your own living room, on your own couch with your husband. Undistracted, uninterrupted, life.

So on Monday, I deleted the apps of Facebook and Instagram off my phone (okay, so one HAS been reinstalled— I’m not COMPLETELY off the grid here people) and I decided to take a December Social Media Fast. Why? Because it’s the holidays and holidays are about family, not status messages. Because I wanted to show myself that I am more than just a status or a post or a cutely captioned and hashtagged photo. But also, I’ll admit it, because I had to prove my husband wrong.

And, almost immediately, I felt a click that can only be described as relief. No longer was I looking in envy at everyone’s perfectly placed and lit Christmas trees thinking, “Oh my goodness, I need to get our tree up TODAY!” and no longer was I tapping my way through dozens of perfectly posed Elf on the Shelf ideas that I will never, ever, have the time or energy to set up. I felt a click of — Wow, my mind is quiet. I felt a click of— Hey, we have a lot to talk about! I felt a click of Wow, I totally should have done this sooner.

Last night we observed one of my favorite holiday traditions, the Victorian Streetwalk. It was the most beautiful night and we walked along the decorated downtown with our two kids in tow. Saw friends, colleagues, families from preschool. It was a beautiful night of treats, hot cocoa, caroling and saxophone Santa. And I didn’t document not a word, not a photo of any of it. Not before. Not after. Not in the middle. Not in the bathroom (my classic hiding-posting spot), not before I went to bed. Not anywhere.

Because, as this poetry slam so eloquently illustrates we are becoming connected to machines more than we are becoming connected to each other. We are more concerned about the status we blasted to 250 friends than saying hi to the person on the sidewalk.

And yes, I have thought about the fact that I have a birthday party this weekend that I will want to capture and caption in real time as my soon-to-be four year old has the most amazing Superhero birthday party ever. But I am feeling less and less that this will mean anything about me and my Pinterest-worthy party throwing skills and feeling more than it will mean that an almost four year old little boy [and 15 guests J] will have my undivided attention for the only fourth birthday party he will ever have.

The Klepto-Hoarder and the Magical Spirit of the Season

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Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.

Maybe Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more.”
~ Dr. Seuss

 

The holiday strategizing has begun! You are shopping online, frantically planning Black Friday-Cyber Monday-Small Business Saturday- Broke Mommy Wednesday shopping tactics. You find yourself looking around at the toys from the last haze of holiday and, maybe even listing some poor toy souls on Craigslist to make a buck or two. You don’t have to be ashamed. This is what every thrifty and brilliant Mom does. The one in, one out policy. For every new toy we welcome, you can say sayonara to an old one. Many Moms need to adopt the “hiding” method. Hide a toy as experimentation. If child doesn’t ask for it, then sneak it into the trunk. Then find a poor new Mom to unload it on. Or donate it. Or make a time to meet another Mom to swap it. That’s my favorite.

Parker is very much a child who likes “stuff.” He has always had an affinity for every-stuffed-animal-under-the-sun. He loves figurines of every superhero-character-animal possible, and the littler the better. He likes to have a toy in transit at all times. One to bring downstairs, one to bring upstairs, one to bring in the car, one to bring into bed, one to bring to his friend’s house, one to bring back to his house. He is known to put things in his pocket for “safekeeping”– he’s found hiding places for hot dogs, given sticks a home under the covers of his bed and will carry around two quarters for days and days and days. This gift is compounded by the memory of an elephant. He is often able to pinpoint a McDonald’s toy he loved back in the Spring of 2011 will ask, with an indicting tone where it is. I answer a lot of his questions with, “it must be around here somewhere” and never, ever, ever utter the words “lost” or “thrown out.”

He’s a toy-a-holic. He is interested by them whether they be new, old, happy, sad, used, broken. He’s got the gift of play.

This is all pretty typical of kids (I think) except for this next part. He is not just a hoarder of toys that he owns, he also enjoys toys that are not his. I first was able to diagnose this problem when another boy left his stuffed dog (named Mustard) at our lake house. Ordinarily, a child would be just beside themselves to give the toy/comfort object back to their friend. Not Parker. My child was not blessed with the giving spirit. He saw this misstep of his young playmate as an opportunity. A Klepto-tunity. He now could steal a toy from someone without a punishment. “So, we don’t EVER have to give Mustard the dog back to Declan, right Mommy?” I heard this more than once as Mustrad took up residency in our home. Every time I got Mustard out to give back, he made a disappearing act under the bed or between the couch cushions. My little loving red headed boy had now taken to a life of crime. He’d become a klepto-hoarder.

On more than one occasion, Parker has made a trip home from a play date with a little toy in his pocket. “I have a superfast car in my pocket Mommy and it’s— not—mine!” He will find something usually very small that he can sneak into some crevice of his coat-pants-carseat-backpack and will readily admit his crime only minutes after (almost) getting away with it.

With this “stuff” obsession comes along a sort of anxiety that Mommy is going to sell, give away or throw away his toys. When he sees me going through a bin of old toys, he often says, “Mommy, why are you doing that!? Are you giving our toys to ANOTHER FAMILY?!!!” The lies I have made up to assuage his anxiety will be kept a secret until his college graduation. Or until I really, really need to embarrass him in front of some friends someday.

Last night we watched an old fashioned Santa cartoon with children in tattered clothes. Because their clothes were tattered, Parker kept calling them cavemen. I stopped for a minute and wondered if I should try to explain to him what a poor person was. There are so many moments as a Mom where you wonder if you should compromise their optimism and innocence for a cold, hard dose of reality. I was feeling brave.  I went for it.

I explained that everyone doesn’t have warm clothes and homes and beds and blankets. Some people don’t have the money to pay for them. Some people don’t have their pick of ten different stuffed animals to snuggle in bed with. And some children wish from Santa for things that he gets already everyday– a warm home, a warm bed and clothes that aren’t tattered.

This makes the holiday time hard for a four year old mind to grasp. Someone who loves to hoard toys, hide toys and steal toys for himself. Teaching him to give to other people and not just add items to his Christmas (and birthday– Dec 16th) list is tough for a little guy. I have to show a sense of reserve and parental wisdom when approaching matters of “getting” and “having.” But, deep in the heart of me, there is a little klepto-hoarder Mom. Looking to gather all the joy I can into this time of year. Looking to see bright little faces light up. Looking to see what other “stuff” my kids can spread all over the living room and then hoard the whole year through. Now that I am writing this, I am wondering– am I part of the solution or part of the problem? Sigh…

This season is full of magic. It’s the magic of beliefs, the magic of positive thinking, the magic of giving and the magic of family. We all play a little part in the magic. Whether it’s the magical cleaning out of the toy box or the magical appearance of just the right shade of red bicycle under the tree, we are all magical.

At some point in the end of the cartoon, the two children pulled  blankets with holes in them over themselves and they dozed off to sleep . They then dreamed of gumdrops and sugarplums. In their dreams, they danced around in a dreamy candyland — and their clothes were no longer tattered. Parker noticed it too. “Mama, they’re not caveman anymore!”

As I wrap my presents this year and complete my shopping, I will hold one value extra special close. While I am lucky that my son’s biggest problem is his love for toys and his addiction to them, I will not let him forget that this season is not about toys or cookies or treats or even Santa. This season is about taking care of each other. Whether it be in charitable ways or in your own personal way, I challenge you to teach children about the magic that comes when you help other people. And hopefully, ever so slowly,  you can help them to rehabilitate their little klepto-hoarder selves.

FYI Moms: We are in this together

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FYI Moms: We are in this together

Wow. I have never seen blog banter like I have the past few days. And like any shameless, opinionated blogger, I feel the need to weigh in.

But I’m not going to give you my take on whether teenage girls need a little education in social media or whether boys can only think of towel-clad girls after seeing such in photos. I will say this: all of these Moms are saying essentially the same things. To save you time from reading blog post after blog post, I have summarized them for you here:)

Dear Teenage Sons and Daughters of America,

Here’s a list of lessons I have gleaned from a set of blog posts from some very loving, thoughtful and respectable Moms. They have had a LOT to say, but I just gave you the bullet points here.

Respect yourself. And respect me enough to understand that some things I tell you won’t make sense until you are older.

Express yourself, just maybe not in a public forum or text or email via photograph. Choose wisely.

Don’t think a photograph represents everything you could possibly learn about someone. Or—don’t let a photograph be the exclusive reason you are attracted to any one person. I hope you like his/her personality, sense of humor, mind, values, etc.

Make mistakes and fix them. If you lose people along the way because of your mistakes and can’t mend the relationship, they probably weren’t worth it anyway.

Attention from your peers be they romantic, affectionate or something more is something every teenager wants. You just have to choose what type of attention you want to trump all others. You have many amazing traits and talents that have nothing to do with how you look, just so you know.

Protect your reputation. On your worst days, it’s all you’ve got. People will tell you to “live your life without regret” or “don’t care what anyone thinks.” These are things that people say who have a lot of regret and who also happen to care a lot about what people think.

If you see a girlfriend, sister or brother selling themselves short, in any way, clue them in.

Love yourself first. Don’t let any number of likes you receive on a photo be the metric of your worth.

If you are having a day when you are not loving yourself, call a friend, a brother, a sister or your Mom and Dad. Or anyone who you know will always love you unconditionally.

Don’t ever do whatever you call that thing Miley Cyrus did. Just don’t. Like ever. I mean it.

Beware of any man that talks about blurred lines. All boundaries having to do with you and your dignity should have very precise, crystal clear lines.

Remember who you are without having to look at a Facebook profile or Twitter handle for help. Know what you stand for in your real life face to face relationships. Because those are the only ones that will really ever matter.

And, while you’re at it– make sure you thank your mother for the 76 blog posts she read and commented on deliberating what were the most important values to instill in you. Because, she, like every Mom, wants the best for you and the people you may choose to love someday.

Sweet, Innocent Summer

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You can’t help having a pit in your stomach at the end of summer. The arrival of Labor Day reminds you of all the things you didn’t do that you wanted to, the people you didn’t get to visit with and the things you just couldn’t pack in–in time.

One summer of my childhood memory, my family was coming home from a rare trip out to dinner. There was a band playing at the park in my hometown. At some point, the band initiated a dance contest. I danced my little girl heart out hoping for first prize. It was a couples contest so my Dad was my partner. Slowly, couples were eliminated all around us. Then, much to my little girl expectations–we WON!

Is it my fondest memory of summer? Probably. It’s now a blur in my mind but I will always know for certain that one summer my Dad and I danced in Johnson park together and won a dance contest. It was pure. It was peaceful. It was innocent. It was summer.

Looking at my own children at the end of each summer unloads this same type of sappy overwhelming nostalgia. As parents, summers become emotional threads by which you hold onto your children. You tug gently on them, to pull them close, to take a mental snapshot, to keep them as the little people they are this summer.

But you also bear the burden of being the to ringmaster of their summer circus. You want the memories they have to fit the very carefully composed painting you have of the-perfect-summer-you-want-them-to-have.

My days this summer were filled with sandy feet, snarly hair, sticky fingers and sunscreened cheeks. I watched them wade in the lake, bury each other in the sand, suck on purple popsicles and race each other all over the beach. I saw, in them, what summer truly is: sweet; fleeting; precious.

You hope for their memories to be as sweet as your own. The hunt for “beautiful rocks” to add to our rock collection, the way you danced with them to “Wagon Wheel” with the Friday Night band. You want them to have your own memories and be able to say, “I had such great summers when I was a kid.”

But your memories, over time, will become their memories too. I will be able to tell Parker ten times over about the time he posed with the Asian family for a photo at Central Park Zoo. I will be able to tell Celia how she at two years old would putter around the shops with me and her grandmother, as if she were just another girl on the shopping trip, checking things out. I will tell them about our summer bucket list, our long car rides and even the struggles I had with them as a parent.

So, my sweet Parker and Celia, this is what I hope for you:

That you appreciate a refreshing swim in the lake, a stunning Adirondack view, a good hot dog with ketchup. That you carry the zest for playing– everything in your life and never grow tired of games of any kind. That you cherish quiet, long, pajama mornings as much as you love loud, boisterous family gatherings.

But mostly, I hope this summer and every summer you have is pure, peaceful and innocent. Just like that girl dancing in the village park.

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Goodbye Babyhood: Meditations on Moving On

In less than month, Celia Catherine turns two. And while I know she will always be my baby, I have been coming to the very real realization that the part of my life where I take care of babies, little sweet wrapped up in a blanket bundles is, well, over.

And before you say, “well, just have more then,” I must tell you: I have realized two big things summer. I am not cut out for stay at home motherhood and I am not ready for more than two. Or at least more than two of kids like mine.

It seems like just yesterday I was waddling around chasing Parker with a belly full of baby, ready to take on sleepless nights and swaddling and worries of weight gain (hers) and weight loss (mine).

And it seems like I was just a ball full of nerves and excitement the day when my two children got to have their first sniff of each other.

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The second child’s milestones blur in comparison to the first. You remember exactly how many months old the first child is, read up about their latest growing pains and can assess how far ahead or behind they are. With the second, keeping them clothed and fed is the priority and every once in a while you say, “Oh, I guess that phase is over. Wow, that was quick.”

When Celia was 5 months, I didn’t want to start her on solids. I had a lot of trouble and just wasn’t ready for it. I felt like the departure from the bottle was so ceremonious and meant the rest of her infancy would fly by. She gave up her bottle without a fight, slept in a big girl bed with little fanfare and eats everything and anything with a spoon, knife and fork. She’s a big girl more and more each day. And I feel a complicated mix of emotions about it. She’s growing up and I’m realizing a part of my life I thought I was just trying so hard to survive is almost–done.

It’s no wonder that the idea of potty training her makes me sad. I was all set to make it happen this summer, but felt like there are some things I am not just not ready for yet. It’s the last piece of her that is baby. Her sweet, little, puffy, diapered butt.

So in bidding farewell to babyhood, I have a laundry list of things I’ll miss. And I’ll try not to do the hiccuping ugly cry as I recite them for you here.

1. The noises. The little sighs and coos and snorts. Words are nice but nothing beats a good little baby sigh.

2. Baby nuzzle-cuddles. Parker used to rub his nose in my chest until he found just the right spot to sleep. He would do this in the middle of a work party, in the middle of a room full of kids, whatever. I miss it so much.

3. I loved the period of time before they could pull themselves up when you could just peek over the side of their crib and they would look at you all excited and surprised.

4. Baby talking like here.

5. Baby tricks like here and here.

6. The smell of baby laundry soap. And the smell of Burt’s Bees baby wash. And the smell of their little heads after a bath.

7. A baby falling asleep on you before you realize it’s bedtime.

8. The outfits. And the poses you could make them do.

9. Baby giggles and the discovery of their laughter with each other.

10. Middle of the night- just me and baby time. It may have been exhausting and hard. But nothing beats that type of cuddle time.

I am excited to be a mother of an almost two and almost four year old. But I will remember, so dearly, the blur of three years where I had two of the sweetest blabbering, cooing, crawling, toddling babies a Mommy could ever ask for.

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