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Year Five: A Letter

October 15, 2014

Dear Jude,

Five! I can hardly believe it. So many big things happen at five, and here you are. You are growing and learning, but the changes have slowed down a bit and are not as pronounced and obvious or as quick as they once were. So I have days – weeks even – when I lose track of how much you are learning until you say a reference or make a joke that seems far beyond your grasp of knowledge and humor.  Suddenly I am reminded that you are a little boy, a school kid. There is no toddler left.

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This has been such a fun year of watching your interests emerge and develop.  You are obsessed with Legos as your toy of choice, and superheroes are your favorite subject.  You create “projects” all the time – which, truth be told, are just bizarre creations of cut-up paper, glued on textures, and original drawings. But you see such stories and ideas in them, and I love to watch you create. At night you insist that we read three chapters from your books, and you call them “chapper books” instead of using the real word. “Chap” is a transitive verb for you, and you take pleasure in “chapping” the page by folding the corner down to mark your progress.  I know I should correct your error, but I can’t. There are so few remnants of the baby inside that I find myself holding on to a few fading mispronunciations and childish assumptions.  I know I’ll forget them one day, and that’s part of my reason for composing these letters for you. Most of all, I want you to know a little of what you were at these ages, but I want to remember these moments myself as well.

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You are always doing, always thinking, always exploring.  Your curiosity about the world around you, all corners of it, has me learning as well. You still don’t have a grasp on what it takes to go somewhere, so you’ll pause while brushing your teeth or putting on shoes to ask if we can go to Japan this weekend or visit Egypt soon.  It’s both hilarious and inspiring that you don’t see barriers on this planet for what they really are.  It’s a big wide world to you, and you share so much enthusiasm for other people’s landscapes and food and customs. Your curiosity motivates me to keep doing and dreaming and to stay curious myself.

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For all of your funny misconceptions and kid-centered assumptions, you have the kindest heart, and everyone around you notices.  You are one of the most energetic kids I’ve ever known, and you typically run at full speed – both literally and figuratively – at all hours of the day. But your outrageous energy is matched by such softness and kindness, and the contrast makes it all the sweeter. You consistently look out for your sister to be sure her voice is heard. And when I arrive to pick up the two of you from school, I usually find you both huddled at the fence that separates your two play areas, talking through the cracks and passing rocks and stickers back and forth.  I know you might reach an age one day when you are annoyed to have a sister meddling right behind you, but right now you guys are inseparable.

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Along with your kindness to Norah, you are still so affectionate to your Dad and me as well. You’ll huddle with him on weekend afternoons to watch a movie.  You hold our hands because you want to.  You hug like you mean it.  You say “I love you, mama” at least once everyday for no reason at all.  You won’t do these things forever, and it’s a gift every time.

In these past three weeks, I can’t help but notice that your age mirrors my own last days with my father, and it opens a new perspective for me.  I’m here and watching you grow, and the best is yet to come.  I feel so lucky just to have my feet hit the floor every morning, to wake up with the tasks of motherhood guiding my day, to have a healthy family and a list of mostly mundane worries.  One day you will move on to lots of moments I won’t share with you, and I can’t wait to hear your stories unfold. But for now, you are mine to have for a bit longer.

So here’s to more exploring and laughing, more dreaming and doing.  And to more special moments, even the little ones.  Happy five years, Jude!

Love,

Mama

Birthday at the Farm

October 6, 2014

Jude’s birthday is still a few days away, but we managed to snag an October Sunday afternoon at a local farm, so we celebrated a little early. The weather has been up and down and often rainy lately, so I worried a little. But Georgia fall delivered in all its splendor, and it was perfect.

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Jude enjoyed the day with cousins and friends, plus lots of wide open spaces and fall fun.

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a corn pit!

The kids got to enjoy a “corn pit” which was basically a sandbox with dried corn instead of sand. There were also a few bounce houses, playgrounds, and a small petting zoo. It made for such a memorable day. (Make the trip to Warbington Farms if you are in metro Atlanta. They are great!)

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The highlight was a tractor ride where the driver had Jude stand up for a birthday serenade and took us on a scenic drive around the farm, stopping to call for and feed the cows.

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mooooooooo.

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We followed that up with some birthday cake under the tent and a little more playtime.

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making a wish!!

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It was a perfect fall day to celebrate Jude’s fifth birthday. Five! I can hardly believe it. His actual birthday is another nine days away, so I’m sure the celebrations will continue this month. There’s so much to celebrate this season anyway. Apples, cooler mornings, pumpkin carving, local fairs, and Halloween dress-up around the corner. I am grateful for all of it – and for the people I get to share it with.

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Happy October, friends! Thanks for reading.

day by day

September 12, 2014
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I can’t believe it has almost been a month since I last posted.  August was crazy and not that fun, to be honest. The bumps and changes of back-to-school combined with some heavy travel for Scott.  And then my sweet grandmother fell and broke a hip. Again. It was major surgery for her and scary for all of us, and I’m glad the surgery was uneventful she is on the mend now, but she’s got a long road of therapy and healing ahead.

Old age is not for sissies – I’ve heard it said before.  I read a memoir this summer that gave me perspective on life’s changes and how hard it is to age and watch those around you grow older. Maybe it’s because I’m getting a little older, or maybe it’s that I see family and friends around me who are aging.  Whatever the reason, it’s been taking up a lot of my time and thoughts lately.  It is such a hard truth that we grow wiser as our bodies grow older and weaker.  I also received news this week about a high school friend of mine who lost her mother to ovarian cancer coupled with news of someone I admire professionally who was diagnosed with an aggressive liver cancer as well.

I’m glad that we live in an age of information and that I have the curiosity to read and learn. But sometimes I have to back off a little.  It’s almost too much for one human heart to consider, I think.  I’m trying to focus on what I can do to avoid physical trials and stay healthy – eat thoughtfully, make good choices, take notice of things I put on my body and in my home. But just as important, I think, is to use my healthy body while I have it and focus on how I can truly use my time to better my family, my children, and others around me, too.  Day by day, we can make little choices and accomplish so many small things that make us feel like our time is worth something.

Life sends rude wake-up calls sometimes.  It’s a finite thing we are doing here on Earth. I don’t want to take it for granted. In the meantime, these two are bringing lots of distractions and bright spots in my days.

 

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Because it has been six months since I posted my birthday list and because I am writing a bit about how to really do something with my time, I thought I’d check in on my 33 goals to hold myself accountable a bit.  I am already seeing some things that will not be done my next March. But I’ve made some progress, too.

Goals from the list that I’ve accomplished or made at least a little progress on….

  • Get an actual physical.  (I got this out of the way in July.)
  • Establish somewhat regular exercise.  (We joined the Y this summer, and my frequency has dropped since heading back to work in August, but I’ve made it in a few times.  Hoping to get better at this, but it’s a start!)
  • Travel somewhere I’ve never been before. (Our trip to Mexico in June filled that requirement.)
  • Start using my camera again – not just my iPhone.  (Baby steps.  I used it last weekend for Jude’s first soccer game and when we head out somewhere special, I’m trying to remember to bring it.)
  • Discover a new musician or two.  (Loving Walk the Moon these days)
  • See three movies in the theater.  ( Only one so far, but I loved Begin Again.)
  • Go on a few real dates. (Twice in recent months. None for the insane month of August.)
  • Blog more often, at least 24 more entries before I turn 34.  (Last month, I failed big time on this one. But on the whole I’ve increased my frequency around here.)
  • Have some fun new experiences with the kids. (We went to Tellus this summer, a few new parks, and I’m gearing up for fall festivals.)
  • Get to know our new farmer’s market this summer.  (We went often in June and July.  It was great!)
  • Create more time for reading and finish more books.  (I was good about this during the summer, and I just began Traveling Mercies. I love Anne Lamott so much, and it is just what I need right now.)
  • Establish some flowers and vegetables in our back yard. (I was sad to see that a fungus ate my squash in July, but I was excited to have lots of fresh herbs and tomatoes!  I’m hoping for some fall lettuces and greens soon.  Grow Boxes are making it pretty easy.)
  • Create a reading nook in our master bedroom. (We moved around a few book shelves and inherited some leather chairs from friends who downsized and moved recently.  I hope to add some comfy throw pillows and an ottoman, but it is shaping up.)
  • Get a better understanding of retirement savings and save more in general.  (We’ve finally begun college savings plans for the kids and started using Mint recently.  We made big strides in this area this summer.  I feel good about it!)
  • Go strawberry picking with the kids and enjoy the apple orchards again as we did last year.  (Strawberry picking was so fun, and apple season is around the corner!)
  • Make use of our screened porch and outside space.  (We did this a bit this summer, and I hope to do more as the weather cools down soon.  Fall is my favorite time for outside play in Georgia.)

So I’ve made progress on 16 goals which is pretty good.  It’s been a fun project and I might repeat it next year….and have to move a few things to next year’s list if they don’t happen soon.)

 

Thanks for reading, friends. I hope September is treating you well as a new season is around the corner.

First Day of School

August 13, 2014

We were out the door bright and early on Monday morning, but I managed to take a couple extra minutes to snap some photos of the kids. Norah wanted to tell us she is “TWO!”

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Jude was unbelievably excited about his new backpack (Star Wars!) but also pretty nervous about school, I think.  He was a mess of tears the night before about little things completely unrelated to school.  Then as we pulled in the parking lot on Monday, he said, “Mama, why does my tummy hurt?”  Apparently he is old enough to get nervous and unlucky enough to inherit mom’s intense brain-tummy connection.  It’s enough to make your heart sting when you hear fear in their little voices.

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But the second we walked in the class, he ran to play side-by-side at the blocks table with a friend he’s been missing this summer.  And as I picked them up on Monday, he said it was a “super fun day, Mom!”

 

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It always feels good to see your kids do scary things or hard tasks and come out feeling proud of their work and ready for the next day.  Here’s to a great school year and the thrill of new experiences!

summer discoveries

August 7, 2014

We’re enjoying our last few days of summer here, but I always feel a little guilty about the things that didn’t get done.  As a teacher, I tend to make a big long list of goals and projects when I see those weeks stretched before me and it seems like we have so much time off.  But then the days fly by, and though I’ve managed to get a lot done, there are inevitably things that didn’t happen.

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I’m focusing on what my friend calls the “ta-da list” instead of the to-do list though.  In hindsight, I managed to accomplish a lot – especially with two little kids underfoot.  I did some fun things with the family — we picked strawberries, spent a day at the science museum, explored the farmer’s market a few times, and of course ventured to Mexico for a little trip.  I read a good bit – for my current season of life at least.   An unlikely favorite was this non-fiction work I read.  I also loved Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things as a stand-out read of the summer.  I had a great anniversary date with Scott and a few just-because dates.  I hung out with girlfriends and nurtured friendships with a few outings and dinner clubs.

 

I’ve also been reading a lot about health and nutrition a lot these days as a new interest of mine.  I always hated science in school, biology included.  But sometimes I wish I could go back and see those classes with a different perspective now that I’ve gained an interest in childbirth and pediatrics and nutrition and food.  I heard a fascinating interview on NPR last weekend that made me want to buy the book and read more about the value of particular foods, so I downloaded it on my Kindle last night and have just begun reading it.  It’s interesting for me to consider how my eating habits have changed over the last few years and how it all happens in little steps.  But now that we are past the purge of processed food and such, I am reading and exploring about the more specific aspects of nutrition and especially those foods that fight cancer, inflammation, and chronic diseases.

 

On that note, I’ve been learning a lot more about gut health and it’s role in our immune systems, and at the encouragement of a friend, I started brewing my own water kefir which is not nearly as gross or complicated as it probably sounds.  One shot-sized portion is equal to something like 30 probiotic pills, and my kids are starting to request it by name.  Anything I can do to combat the germs of the school year is a must for me.  We spent so much time last winter sick, and I am really hoping for better results this year as it’s their second year in full-time school and I’ve added a few immune-boosting routines for us.

 

My other big discovery this summer has been playing around with essential oils.  I ordered a kit and became addicted to a lavender-cedarwood mix at night to enhance sleep.  There are also some pretty convincing studies out there connecting Thieves oil with immunity, so I’m willing to give that one a try during this school year as well.  It’s been a fun endeavor to experiment with different scents and combinations.

 

We head back to school on Monday, and I’m feeling rested and ready.  It’s been such a good summer, and like every other occasion lately, it slipped through my fingers so quickly.  I’m working hard to savor the months ahead in the fall and remember that even the bumpy transition of August can have its fun excitement.  I’m hoping to get in an evening swim, a donut date, and some back porch sippin’ this weekend as we count down to a new year.  Cheers, summer 2014.  You were a good one.

wrapping it all up

July 30, 2014

It’s been about two weeks since I last posted here.  We have eleven days of summer break left.  (But who’s counting?) Next week will be a combination of trying to squeeze out the last little bits of it and tackling a few tasks and appointments that meandered their way on my schedule without asking me first.

 

I have very mixed feelings about waving goodbye to summer.  As I type this, I just got Norah down for a nap, Jude is happily stringing beads I got for $7 at Wal-Mart recently which predictably scattered all over my hardwood floors, and my house is embarrassingly cluttered and messy in every single corner.  Working outside the home has its challenges, and I will miss leisurely mornings and lazy time with my kids.  But I also see them (especially Jude as the older one) craving social time and focused activity, and I am ready for our schedule again.

You know summer has run its course when you somewhat look forward to packed lunches again.  (In two months I won’t believe I ever said that!)  I’m consuming far too much coffee because it’s here for the taking, and staring blankly at the fridge at lunch time seems like a luxury at first, but it never results in something good when you have two kids underfoot and 90 seconds to put something together. Planning and routine and consistency and all of that practical stuff does hold a little comfort.  And as much as I hate the shock of August, I love the months to come.  September’s change of seasons is always welcome.

 

We’ve had so much fun this summer though.  A few memories I’m sharing here from the month of July so that I don’t forget them…..

 

Making mud pies and lots of backyard play time.

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An infected bug bite that landed us in the ER because apparently cellulitis can escalate quickly! A ridiculously strong antibiotic for ten days, and all is fine now.  It made for an memorable, if exhausting, evening for Jude and me.

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Afternoon naps in the oasis of air conditioning. There’s nothing like July in the deep south.

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The science museum in a superhero cape.

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And far too many mornings spent at the donut shop!

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I have so many other things I want to share, and I hope to write more soon. Enjoy the last bits of summer, wherever it finds you!

Sunflowers. And growing pains.

July 14, 2014

We heard about a local sunflower farm that is only a few minutes from our house and decided to check it out last weekend.

 

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I am trying to be conscious about being more present with my kids, in the truest sense – meaning not taking photos of everything all the time. It’s so easy to get caught-up in social media and taking photos when we have these little devices in our pockets all day and such cute little subjects. Sunday was an exception though in that the entire reason we went was simply to take photos of the kids and explore a local find. Jude picked out his own clothes that morning, so I just went with it and told him I’d put sister in blue to match.

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So we get there, and there were gorgeous fields of tall sunflowers as far as you could see. And barns and fences and old shady trees and every perfect photo spot you could imagine.

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But after three whole minutes of trying to snap a photo or two, Jude decided he would refuse to participate. And no amount of bribing or threatening or asking nicely or encouraging could work to convince him otherwise. So it might look picturesque, but here is the other [whole] story.

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It’s such a hard balance as a parent – deciding what hill you choose to die on, so to speak. What battles to pick.  Like do I really care all that much that he refuses to take photos when I ask him lately?  Or that he tells me “no, I don’t feel like it” when I ask him to hug grandparents goodbye as they leave?   Or that he has suddenly decided that every command and request on my part is a signal for refusal and negotiation?   The answer is yes and no.  It depends on what trait we’re talking about and what day you ask me.  Sometimes it feels like an important battle worth fighting.  Sometimes it doesn’t.

 

I read this great little essay last week, and number two really struck a chord with me.  I can see characteristics emerging in my two already.  Norah is incredibly shy in larger groups of people, and she has to warm up to new situations.  There is no amount of urging or expecting or being pushy that changes this, in fact those actions usually lead to worse behavior.  With Jude, I know that he doesn’t like taking photos, he has an abundance of physical energy and curiosity, he could not care less what other kids are doing, and he behaves best when his hands and brain are busy.  Is it a better idea for everyone involved to just accept these things and move on and focus on what he enjoys?  Or should I start trying, as he grows and emerges to school-age expectations of behavior, to slowly encourage a change in some of these things to adapt to social norms?  These are rhetorical questions that I don’t necessarily expect an answer to, but I’m just thinking out loud as I do so often in this space.

I know many of you are tackling similar issues as moms.  It’s such a tightrope we walk all the time, it seems.  A delicate balance as we try to encourage the best qualities in our kids and help them progress and understand social expectations, but also offer a message of unconditional acceptance.  There aren’t any easy answers.

This summer has been a little rough for him….An entire academic year of 8:30-3:30 friends and activities, and now we are home everyday. Plus he’s understanding so much more about the world around him and gaining emotional intelligence, so to speak. It leads to some growing pains, I think.  I ran across this quote on Pinterest recently.

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I’m trying my hardest to back off and let him bloom in his own way – with just a little gentle guidance. It’s harder some days than others.

 

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