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One wish, two wish, red wish, blue wish

1 Dec

Seven years ago my husband and I started a tradition. I received a Starbucks gift card from a student with an ornament attached; a tiny red felt envelope with the word “wish” embroidered in white on the flap.

Each Christmas we write down our hopes for the upcoming year on a small slip of paper, slide it inside the envelope, and hang it on the tree. It always makes me smile to find this fraying little treasure tucked amongst the bubble wrap of ornaments and lights. I corral all four of us onto one couch and read aloud our requests from years past before recording our new wishes and hanging the envelope in it’s rightful spot at the top of the tree by the star.

This year big brother wished for more doggies, and little bro wanted a toy papa. Papa wisely wished for more patience. And then it was my turn.

As I looked down at the paper-thin wishes piled in my lap there was one thing I knew for certain. It was time for a change.

Have you heard the Albert Einstein quote, Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”? Although I teeter on the brink of crazy every now and again, I will insist that complete insanity is still an exaggeration of my current state. This may not be the case forever. Still, being confronted with my hopes of years past made me wonder.

Each and every wish since the birth of my children had sounded like a desperate parental plea for help – more presence, less work, more time, less worry. And what I realized at this moment is that even with all the effort I seem to make, if I were to look back on this bundle of wishes twenty years from now and only find a redundant collection of should-have’s, I can only imagine the regret that I would feel.

Aren’t wishes supposed to be for the spectacular? The nearly unattainable? The far reaching almost impossible dreams of childhood? Wishing for more sleep and fewer dishes was certainly a sign of the times, but these are not the lofty hopes I’d like to look back on some day far from now.

So, you are wondering, what did I write down this year? Well, I recently heard a wise woman say that the key to happiness is to wake up each and every morning with the excitement of a child going to Disneyland. I was so struck by this idea that I wrote it on a post-it and slapped it onto the wall next to my bed a couple of months ago to see if she was right. I am happy to report that the best days are those when my eye catches sight of that little yellow square of genius before I tumble out of bed.

So, backstory complete, what I wrote down today was this totally average and mom-ish wish: “Take more trips to Disneyland and spend more lazy days at home with the boys”. And what it really means is this: “Just be excited to BE”.

Because while Disneyland is certainly adventurous, so are pajamas and Charlie Brown Christmas and egg nog. Chasing excitement is one thing, but finding excitement in the every day is the true stuff of life. Just being in my boys’ presence makes me a better person, regardless of the scenery. And while these are all things I completely and totally know as a mother, it stings a bit to admit that the best of intentions just don’t buy more hours in the day. There is no way to stall time or live it over again, as hard as I try with my trusty camera. Who my children are now is not who they will always be, yet now is the only chance I have to soak it all up. And somehow, for me, waking up excited just to be their mom is the best way I know how to make this year’s wish finally come true.

– Written for Peninsula Montessori School

On the menu: Two twenty pound turkeys

1 Nov

With the holidays fast approaching it seems that seconds are flying by faster than pumpkin pie lattes through the fingers of a barista.  And while I’ve gotten a running start on November’s festivities, tearing articles from Real Simple Magazine and Martha Stewart with preemptive excitement, I’m taking this pause now to remind myself of the ‘why’. To remind myself that if frenzy is creeping in now, while I’m still buzzing from the Halloween sugar rush, it’s time to hit pause and enjoy the changing scenery before it overtakes me and I wake up, dazed, in 2012.

Tonight, as the season begins, I’m putting down the meal planner and instead taking note of the weather freshening, fog slipping around the corner of our cul-de-sac. The sudden gust of wind that sends my hands plunging deep into the folds of my jacket or scarf, that ruffles the hair of my sons and ushers crisp leaves to the ground. I’m lighting a fire and tucking into fuzzy worn out slippers, snuggling up with the kids on the couch despite our TV-on-weekends-only rule. I’m setting aside the computer in favor of pumpkin carving, my to-do list in favor of family time. I’m enjoying the short-lived wonderment of California fall and the magic of our cooling ocean air.

From within this autumnal cocoon I am constructing a modicum of hope that tomorrow, when I face the do’s, should’s, and must’s scribbled in ink upon our November family calendar, I might gracefully endure that inevitable sinking feeling, the pit in my stomach, the churning internal battle between anticipation and distress.

Nope, scratch that.

From within this autumnal cocoon I am constructing a monument to hope, a definitive plan to preserve all that I hold dear during this, the most ‘thankful’ and ‘giving’ month of the year.

Because while I am acutely aware that the choice we make is to fill the holiday season with friends and spirit and all that we love, I also realize that our precious downtime, no matter how diminutive it may be, must now serve double duty. As my children grow older and time becomes harder to claim and impossible to reclaim, I’m beginning to understand the value of the precious in-between. Those tiny happenings that surprise us in unforgettable, restorative, and healing ways we never knew we needed.

So in reverence to these moments – unplanned and extraordinary – and to safeguard some degree of sanity throughout it all, I am creating an action plan this season. For myself, for my family…well, mostly for myself. And you can join me too, if you like. Strength in numbers! Oh right, sanity. Here goes:

I will breathe deeply, even if the cold air makes my lungs hurt. I’ll hug completely, with my whole self, because I mean it.  I’ll be present in every single waking moment with precious family and friends. I’ll talk with my kids in the car, instead of playing Justin Bieber; but if the radio is on, I’ll make sure we’re all singing along. We’ll cook often, and together. Help one another. I’ll search for peace within the frenetic hustle and bustle. I will be kind. If I love someone, I’ll tell them. If I appreciate someone, I’ll show them. Like giving my husband back scratches if he goes to sleep before me. I will take more family photos. And above all, this year I’m going to find time within those lofty little seconds. Enough time that when it’s all said and done, what I’ll remember isn’t the number and pounds of turkeys I roasted, but the tiny in-betweens that I lost track of counting.

– Written for Peninsula Montessori School

This season’s promise

3 Oct

Driving down Pacific Coast Highway last weekend I found myself staring out of the passenger side window at the countless storefronts lining the street. Each tiny shop window gleamed with promise of the possibility held between its walls. I felt an anticipatory sort of excitement as I considered the treasures, the beauty, the art that waited just behind their doors, and wondered whether anyone had ever driven this same road and experienced a similar attraction to the curious unknown hidden just out of reach. At that moment the world seemed full of possibility, of unnamed potential, and I held the key to imagining the limitless bounds of it all.

This, I thought to myself, is one moment that I will strive to remember. Not for the sake of returning to this place someday, not to purchase the fabulous vintage sofa on display, but rather because for one fleeting second I felt as if I were seeing the world as if through the starry eyes of my children.

Our earliest years of life are so blissfully perceived through the rosy lens of the imagination, and with Halloween fast approaching I am reminded daily of this fact. On this one singular day we allow ourselves the pleasure of transforming into the stuff of our dreams, into the realm our wildest imaginings. Astronaut, police officer, scuba diver – these were some of the popular choices in our household this year until my boys settled upon vampire and werewolf.

Which now makes me wonder – when did I stop believing? Believing in the impossible, the unrealistic, the not-for-sures? While I entertain a far many more what-if’s than my sweet reasonable husband, it is true that with age I have pulled closed the door of imagination so it’s now just a crack of streaming light that gets through. Only during moments of playtime, of daydream, of restless ambrosial hour sleep, does the imagined come alive for me again. And it’s heartbreaking, in a way, since I know that so relatively few years ago it was the five year old me who worked voraciously to complete the unending daily tasks of a superhero, princess, and veterinarian.

So this year I am recommitting myself – not to the psych ward, thank-you – but rather to the suspension of disbelief, to the simple acquiescence to all that is possible in this world and in others. This year, I promise, I will believe in promise itself. And I hope that you will too, with each and every storefront that rushes in a blur outside your window.

– Written for Peninsula Montessori School

Anticipating September

14 Sep

Amidst the lingering daylight of long summer evenings, week long vacations, weekend getaways, swim lessons, art camp, and summer school, I find myself anticipating with joy the month of September for one solitary reason…school supplies!

My heart flutters an extra beat at the thought of browsing aisles filled with crisp cool sheets of lined paper, nostalgic rows of peechee folders, and empty binders just waiting to be filled with fresh lessons, learning, and knowledge.

There’s a scene from my favorite movie, “You’ve Got Mail”, that always floats about in my mind at this time of year. Tom Hanks writes in an e-mail to autumn-loving Meg Ryan that he would “buy her a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils”, if only he knew where she lived. What a perfectly novel idea for a gal like me. My husband did this twice, the first time with a dozen tan Ticonderoga lead pencils wrapped in a yellow ribbon, and the second time with Prang colored pencils staked into the soil of some potted daffodils like a happy little rainbow picket fence.

I suppose this must bear witness to the fact that I am, at heart, ever the eager student. Stepping into the role of MPA president this year, I was blessed with the gift of re-organizing the volumes of paperwork accumulated by the last president over her glowing three year tenure. I have no doubt that those of you who don’t know me suppose that I’m speaking sarcastically here. But you would be wrong. I really, truly enjoyed the eight careful hours that it took to sort, stack, collate and staple the tangible evidence of so many people’s cumulative hard work. I reveled in hole punching each sheet and filing it behind the appropriately labeled index tab. It was an honor to be trusted with such precious records. And they are. Precious, that is. To me and so many others.

Because what this weathered hand-me-down filing box packed full of paper, notes, and numbers is proof of is that one thing which we all, as parents, hold in common: our deepest, most innate and immeasurable love for our children. The work of so many volunteers, so many hours, and for what? For the sake of our children. It is a remarkable myriad of parental talents that brought these volumes to rest here, beside my desk, therein affording me the opportunity to step, once again, into my favorite role: student. A student buying school supplies.

I hope that there are at least a few of you out there who can identify with this joy, albeit a bit odd. There is one thing that I can guarantee, however. If you watch the faces of your children as you accompany them into the air-conditioned bliss of your local office supply store this fall, I’ll bet that through the giddy grin on your child’s face the kindergartener within you will recognize her own. In the case of my family, I venture to bet that my smile might still be the brightest of the bunch come September.

– Written for Peninsula Montessori School

What’s in a name

15 Aug

After eight auspicious months as, the time has come for this blog to evolve because, well, it seems that change is upon us. Upon me, at least. I’ve been told that Mercury is in retrograde until August 26th. What the hell that means, I don’t know, but apparently there’s something out there in the universe that explains all the crazy I’ve been acting lately. Hurry, somebody tell my husband!

Example number one: This morning I arrived early to yoga after chauffeuring my little one to grammy’s and my oldest to art camp. Both had snacks and clean faces and were perfectly on-time. This is no small feat. I don’t think I’ve been less than 10 minutes late to anywhere since I became the overjoyed, overextended, and overly medicated mother of two.

I’ve also suddenly started taking my own advice. I know, crazy. Still at the top of my to-do list is to “be serene and joyful, content and at peace.” I periodically come back to this page of The Parent’s Tao Te Ching, hopeful that it will stick. It’s wrinkled and dog-eared, and I apparently loved those words enough to quote them on last year’s Christmas card. Then promptly forgot them. Well the year’s not over, and I’m now finding that serenity and peace fit me quote well, thank-you very much.

And while I know I just claimed to have begun taking my own advice, I have another ambition to start ignoring it; ignoring the advice of that nagging heartless little voice in my head, more like it. Not thin? Kiss my butt and hand me a cookie. Not strong? I am writing this from yoga, and I’m at least strong enough to kick your imaginary ass. I tell you, the liberation from that bitch in my brain is enough to make me karaoke! That, my friends, is certainly crazy.

So you’re now convinced things are changing here. And I suspect for you too, if you think about it hard enough. The point is that I, as a mother and all the other things I claim to be, have grown – this blog has grown – and now is the time to reassess. And rename. So, reader, meet Free the Mom. Same me, just better. Newer. Perhaps more productive? I’m hopeful, but making no promises.

I have to put out the disclaimer that I wondered if the new handle was a bit too “I’m caught in the trappings of motherhood, free me!”. My husband told me to shut up and go with it. So I did. And I think he and my first intuition were right. I don’t have to explain it to you any further. You’re reading this because you’re already smart. It will suffice to say that while I can admit to identifying with this loquacious cry for help on frequent occasion, I assure you, this is not the *sole* inference here. Think empowerment, people.

So there you have it, new name, new look. It should keep the freshly amended me placated for at least another eight months or so. In the meantime I hope to keep this most recent version of crazy going, and the old loony bin type at bay. And if not then it should, at the very least, make for good blogging. So keep reading! And thanks for all the recent love 🙂