Love of a Mother

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I wish I could describe the love of a mother, for those that don’t know first hand. There is a moment when your child is born…something physical happens. It is a love you’ve never felt before. No love you’ve ever felt for your parents, your spouse, your first love. It takes up your whole heart. And you think it could never be replicated for another child, but it is. To have your heart walking around outside of your body is a cliché, but it’s more than true. If someone asks you to choose between your child’s life, and your own, you will choose them every time. It explains how children can be so awful to their parents, and no matter what, they go on loving you.

Every moment of my day is spent worrying about what you’re doing, where you’re going. I make sure my phone is on me at all times when you’re at school, in the event that you should need me. Should something happen and I am not around, I feel nothing but guilt for not being there in your time of need.

I have had dreams for you. I have imagined you as president, world leader, ambassador, curer of cancer, veterinarian, pediatrician, paleontologist, fashion designer, famous dancer, Rockette, Disney Imagineer, marine biologist. I have probably imagined you in more jobs than you could imagine yourself.

I protect you where possible. Cushioning your blows. But life sucks at times. There’s no way around it. I can only try to equip you with a sense of humor and let you know that this too, shall pass. There is no problem too big or too small that we cannot work through together. I will not always approve your life choices. But I don’t ever want you to feel like you’ve done something I cannot forgive. That I would not support you in. If you told me you want to herd goats for a living in Afghanistan, I may advise you against it, but I will always support you. I want you to always know that no matter how bleak life looks, I will always be a shoulder for you to cry on. I will put on my pajamas with you and we will eat ice cream until our intestines rupture and we have burned all traces of that ex-boyfriends pictures. I will be there when college rejections letters come in. When the lure of drugs are introduced to you. When you can’t make your rent.

I will be there.

Suicide is an ugly word. It’s an ugly act. You always imagine it can’t happen to you. It can’t happen to people you know. It happens to families who don’t pay enough attention to their children. To families who’s children feel neglected. Those with mental illness problems. Addicts, who have no other road out. People in desperate financial straits who cannot see anything but red and final notices. People with secrets to hide that feel too big.

The truth is that suicide can happen to the perfect family. With the perfect children, who give their everything to their children, live for their children. People who are perfect parents. Parents who have been together since they were teenagers. Whose love is visible for the whole world. Suicide does not just happen in broken homes.

It does not happen only to people who have no one to love them. It does not always come with warning signs. Sometimes it happens on a clear blue day. Sometimes it happens on Christmas Eve.

Sarah, Olivia and Rosie are on Paige’s dance team. Their mom Kelley, is a permanent fixture at the dance studio. She helps with everything. The most giving person I know. She just had her 25th anniversary with her husband, who she’s been dating since high school.

She came home Christmas Eve to find her only son, and Olivia’s twin, hanging in his room. They cut him down and rushed him to one of the best hospitals in the country, only to be told that he was brain dead and there was no hope. They discussed options, and decided to donate his organs, as he had previously expressed an interest in doing should something ever happen to him.

They kept him on machines until matches could be made and teams could be assembled. And Christmas Day, Kelley and Rich pulled the life support for their only son, who turned 16 in September. I’m sure his twin will never have another birthday or Christmas when her mother is not sobbing inconsolably.

Please think about what you’re doing. Before you think you are not loved, that you are not cared for, please think about your mother having to pull the plug on you on Christmas Day. Please think about what you are doing to her for the rest of her life. The simple act of having to return your gifts to the stores…I cannot imagine….The gifts she put so much care and thought into. The gifts she wrapped and organized. The place she has for you at her table.

There is nothing you could have told your mother that she wouldn’t have accepted and helped you through.

My heart bleeds for your mother. I do not know you. I may have only seen you in the dance studio a few times. I know your sisters. I have watched them grow, admire them as dancers, your mother is amazing. When I got the news of your passing, I literally yelled out loud. I did not realize I was doing it. And then I cried. I cried for your mother, I cried for your father, I cried for your sisters, I cried especially, for Olivia, your twin. I cried for everything you could’ve been. I cried for everything you’re going to miss. I cried for every dream your parents ever had for you. I cried for every Christmas your mother will ever have to endure from now until the time of her death. And your sister’s as well, for that matter. The holiday will forever be tainted for them.

Six hundred forty eight. They started a memorial page for him, and that’s how many likes that page had in less than 24 hours. 648. 648 people you could’ve reached out to that would’ve helped you. Even if what you needed help with, was telling your parents some awful secret. 648 people who cared about you. Even if they didn’t all know you.

Please, if you are considering harming yourself, please pick up the phone and call your mother. Call your sibling. Call your best friend. Put on your favorite song and dance. Call a suicide hotline. You will not be judged, and they can give you the help you need. Don’t ever think you won’t be missed. Don’t think someone’s life wouldn’t be forever changed by your passing.

We need to take the stigma away from it. We need to stop putting suicide in a box. We need to understand that this happens in perfect families. To neighbors. To friends.

This time, this one hit far too close to home.


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High Fashion

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“What in Christ are you wearing?”

There’s a shrug, some long shirt underneath that doesn’t really go with it, a skirt, a pair of leopard print flats and a newsboy hat.  She’s clutching a fashion book that she picked up from one of our adventures, to her chest.

“What?!” she counters.

“You know what, Paige….whatever.  Wear whatever makes you happy.”

It’s a non-school day and this is the moment I choose to decide that this is not my battle today.  There will be other battles today.  However, if I don’t want to spend all day screaming and ripping my hair out in large wads from my head, I need to choose carefully.  She’s not going anywhere.  No one but my neighbors will see this horrendous outfit choice…not worth the battle today.

She’s about to head out the door when the light catches her.

“WAIT A MINUTE!  LET ME GET MY CAMERA!”

She’s not even startled by this outburst.  My kids are used to hearing it.  Instead, she heaves her shoulders and says, “Where do you want me standing?”

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Granted, I had to crop out most of the outfit.  But that hat suits her.

Move On

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Saturday morning sees Paige in the dance studio working on her technique classes.  She enjoys these classes, and even though she’s in the studio three days a week, I have yet to hear, “I don’t WANT to dance today.”

Last Saturday, as I watched from the waiting room, I see her clutching the side of her neck during barre exercises, and rolling it side to side.  Later, during floor work, I see the same thing.  In jazz technique class, I see her drop a plank to roll her neck and massage it out a minute, and then resume her plank position.

After her technique classes, we have a quick lunch, and then it’s back to the studio for auditions to see who is in which numbers for the competitions.

In the two hours of auditions, I see her rolling out her neck an additional three or four times.

On the ride home, I give her some tips about posture and kicks, and also tell her how excited I am about the Bollywood dance they’ll be in (everyone will be in that one).  They have started working on the Bollywood number and it is FAST.

“Can I practice dance when I get home?”

“You’ve been dancing since 9:00 am.  It’s now three in the afternoon.  You don’t think you’ve done enough for the day?”

“I just have a lot I need to be working on.”

“If I were you, I would work on that Bollywood dance because it doesn’t look like it’s slowing down any!” I encourage.  “Just don’t overdo it, okay?  By the way, what was going on with your neck today?  I saw you grabbing at it a few times.”

“I don’t know.  It started really bothering me a few minutes after I got into ballet.  But I heard your voice in my head saying, ‘Roll it out, suck it up and move on.'”

I laugh hysterically.

“Right?  Am I right?  I’m in the middle of a class.  Not much I can do about it except roll it out and get on with my life.”

I may need to introduce a little sympathy into my life.  Then again, I’m raising a couple of tough cookies.

Growing and Changing

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“Mommy, I have a project due!” Allie says one afternoon after kindergarten.

What I’m thinking is, Project due week three of kindergarten?  Give me a break. What I say is, “Oh fun!  What do we got?!”

Turns out it’s a “science” project.  They are learning about how things grow and change and they want to demonstrate that through now and then photos.  “Please send in a picture of your child when they were born, and then a recent picture.”

“I have just the picture!” I shout.  I am a photographer, so a lot of my children’s life has been spent in front of a camera lens.  Though I actually got my first DSLR camera just before Allie’s first birthday.

“Really?”  Allie in intrigued.  “Let me see?”

I pull up one of my favorite pictures of her.  It was taken on St. Patty’s Day 2010, which was her due date.  Thankfully for me, my OB was on vacation that week, so we scheduled the C-section for the previous week.

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“This one!” I yell.

Allie takes one look at the picture and laughs and laughs and laughs.  She is so hysterical from laughter, in fact, that she can hardly speak, and she’s no longer sitting upright. “Oh my God, I’m so funny!” she squeaks out.

I am just about to hit the print button when the laughter suddenly halts and she says, “…But no.  Good God you can’t send that in.”

“Really?!  But I love it!”

So we start scrolling through more pictures from the past.  She finally settles on this one:

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Also cute, but not as fabulous as my choice, clearly.

“Alright, now for the recent picture.  Which one have I taken of you recently that you want to send in?”

“The one from the other night.  At the fair!”

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She certainly doesn’t look like the raven haired chunky monkey that came out of me five years ago.  She’s a slimmed down, blond haired, blue eyed beauty.

My how you’ve grown, my love.

“A-Men.”

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School is in full swing.  Mornings are chaos trying to get two kids out of the house simultaneously.  Especially since the girls are already at that age where they race each other to the bathroom, slam and lock the door, and then take all blessed morning in there, just to annoy the other one.

The joys of sisters.

This morning, I have a photo shoot, which means I am also trying to vie for the bathroom.  You would think because I’m bigger, older and Mom that I would have the advantage.  Clearly, you’d be wrong.

I am the last one in, and trying to think of how likely electrocution is, as I plug my hair straightener in and lay it down on top of a soaked counter surface.

“I am so SICK of everything in this bathroom being soaking WET!” I scream, to no one in particular.  No one’s listening anyway, Mom’s, right?

I come out of the bathroom while my appliance is heating, and scream at the first kid I see, which happens to be Paige, “ARE YOU CLEANING MY BATHROOMS TODAY?!”

“You crazy?  I have to go to school.”

“THEN STOP LEAVING MESSES FOR ME TO CLEAN EVERYWHERE!!!”

“A-men,” I hear Allie say next to me.

‘Scuse me? Anything to throw her sister under a bus.

If we’re getting right down to it, she’s probably the one that soaked the counter to begin with.  I have never seen a kid more fascinated with running water.

And then, there was two kid free hours for me to finish up my packing for my photo shoot and get out the door.  In relative peace.  And my hair looks fabulous.  And I didn’t even get electrocuted!

My Baby

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She’s already so sneaky. She walks in the house, facing me, hands behind her back, evil smile on her face. She side-steps passed the dining room doorway, where I am set up with my laptop, working. Her eyes never leave mine.

“What are you doing?” I eye her suspiciously.

“Nuffin!” she says. The grin gets bigger. The twinkle in her eye gets sparklier. She makes a mad dash for the girls playroom in the back when she finally nears the edge of the doorway.

She’s wearing an off white dress with gray drawings of all breeds of doggies on it. It’s her favorite. My animal lover. It has a hot pink ribbon that ties around the waist and adds a bit of pop. Her hair is in a messy side pony, her bangs hanging in her face, as always. A side effect of those ill-fated bangs that she cut herself at Christmas. She has a black headband on her head, with two black, and one gray plaid hearts. She has put it on her hair, in the hopes of keeping her bangs back, but it’s failing miserably. She has a new pair of black and pink Twinkle Toe sneakers that she had her heart set on yesterday when she went back to school shopping.

“What do you have back there?” I inquire again, when I hear rustling coming from the back room.

“Nuffin!” she repeats. A little more attitude this time.

“Don’t lie to me Allie Elizabeth.”

“Fine then. I just have this container that I’m going to put on the counter right now!” She emerges from the room to show me she does, in fact, have a Tupperware container in her hands. The girls are forever swiping these and using them for their snacks.

This excuse may have worked had I not just been in the back room while they were outside and saw that particular container already shoved into a corner of the room. It cannot possibly be what she just snuck inside. “Yeah? What did you put down to pick that up?” Her grin gets bigger. She knows she’s been caught

“FINE! But don’t get mad! I took the clay outside! It’s all right here!”

She brings it to the table, lays it all out for me to see, and then goes about putting it away. Something I asked her to do an hour and a half ago.

She gets everything back into containers and put back away in the closet. Then she looks at me with blue eyes that take up real estate on almost her whole face and says, “Can you help me tie my shoe? I tried and tried, but I just don’t know how to do it yet!”

I bend down and show her the bunny ears, loop, swoop and pull. She watches, eager for information. In a hurry to grow up. Be seen as a big girl. Not be a baby. Able to do everything her sister does.

And I think, while I watch her process the information, no matter who this girl is going to be, no matter what kind of future she has ahead of her, we all needed to be guided at some point. We all had to learn how to fasten buttons. How to tie our shoes.

She is full of spirit. She has that kind of personality that draws a whole room of people to her. She’s the kind of child that makes perfect strangers come up to us and comment on her personality and kindness. At a recent birthday party, she made sure every adult had cake (whether they wanted it or not) before she sat down to eat her own. She is a caretaker, a healer. When I’m not feeling well, she always asks what she can get me, and checks in on me often (and sometimes for WEEKS!) about how I’m currently feeling.

She will be someone amazing someday. As much as I feared world domination when she was little, I can now see a nurse, a doctor, an EMT. A veterinarian with an intense love of animals.

But for now, she’s my baby. She still needs my guidance and a shoulder to snuggle into at night when she gets scared and has a bad dream. The little girl that draws me pictures at every opportunity just to make me smile. The little girl that tells me she’s going to make a million dollars some day so she can build me that dream house on the water.

The summer has gone so fast, and in a couple of short weeks (she starts a full week after Paige) she will be in school full time. No more days filled with Allie incessant chatter, her smiles, her bounciness. I spent five years counting down to this momentous occasion, thinking I could finally escape her endless energy. But I am now realizing just how much of a hole she is going to leave in my days. The house will be quiet again. Kylo (our large Bull Mastiff) will have no one to run laps with from 8:00-8:30 am after Paige gets on the bus. The dogs won’t have anyone that gives them dog cookies out of their mouth (yes, she really does that with our giant dogs). There will be no one to inform me how much milk there is left at the house when I’m grocery shopping. No one to bounce meal ideas off of at 2:00 pm when it comes time to begin dinner preparation.

My days will be quiet again.

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I sure will miss this face.

Clam Chowder Sandwiches

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At lunch yesterday, I made tuna sandwiches. Allie hates tuna, so I figured I’d have to make her a PB&J, for about the umpteen-millionth time. But when she asked me repeatedly what was for lunch, I just kept quiet. Frankly, she’s the question queen and I feel as if all I do all day long is field questions from her, like an infielder constantly in warm-up’s.

“Mom, what are we having for lunch? Mom? Lunch? What are we having? Why won’t you answer me? Just tell me what we’re having for lunch! What are we having? What are you making? What is that?”

I never stopped opening cans, draining water, scooping tuna and adding mayonnaise.

Finally, she had her own suggestion about what I could be making. “Are you making clam chowder sandwiches?” Allie loves clam chowder and basically anything that swims in the sea. But she claims to hate tuna. Basically because Paul does, I think.

“Yes,” I agreed, seeing a way to finally get her to try it. “Clam chowder sandwiches.”

Paige now joins the conversation, and let me interject here that Paige hates clam chowder, but can read a can. And can’t lie to save her life.

“Paige! We’re having clam chowder sandwiches!” Allie announces excitedly.

Paige looks at me with the most confused expression on her face. Like, what in heaven’s name is the crazy one spouting now. I elbow her hard in the ribs and say out of the side of my mouth quietly, “Shut. Up.”

She jumps right in. “Clam chowder sandwiches. Ugh.”

Allie happily takes off to the table, the proud owner of her very first clam chowder sandwich. I wonder how it will go. I give Paige her sandwich and she really hams it up by marching to the table and saying, “Clam chowder is so disgusting. I can’t believe you’re making me eat this!”

Now Allie starts making yummy noises, basically just to gross her sister out and inform her how much she’s enjoying her lunch.

Now Stephen (my step-Dad) comes into the mix. He grabs the bowl of left over tuna, a fork, and digs into the bowl. Allie says, “How do you like your clam chowder, Papa?”

He stops mid-chew. Glances at me. Looks down at his bowl. Then to Allie. Before he can say anything, I pipe in quickly, “Allie LOVES clam chowder sandwiches.”

Paige is now hysterical. There’s no getting her back.  Her laughter has passed funny and is bordering on suspicious.  For the life of me, I can’t figure out why she’s laughing.  If I were her, I’d be wondering how much of this crap I’ve pulled on her.  “Oh yeah?” Stephen says. “Does Allie like tuna sandwiches?”

“No she does not,” I reply back. Allie holds on small square of sandwich (Allie likes her sandwich cut into four equal squares, Paige, two triangles) and announces she is on her last piece, and gobbles it up quickly.

So, I guess we’ll be having a lot more clam chowder sandwiches around here. Or Allie will anyway. The rest of us will have about the same amount of them we’ve always had.

Parenting level: Expert

Things I Never Thought I Would Say Part 1

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“Please!  We don’t EAT our band-aids!”

“We don’t sniff our blood.”

“Why, oh why, is there a steak knife under the treadmill?”

“Did you just hit me with your sock?”

“Please get the reindeer off the table.”

“No, we need to get the dog’s foot out of our mouth.”

“Get off the top of the house!” (Play house, but still, it’s about 15 feet off the ground, at the very least!)

“We are not pumas.  We do not pounce on our sister from the top of the chair.”

I figure the list of insanity that spews from my mouth could be endless.  Best to make it an ongoing thing.  What kinds of crazy things have you said?

Happy Joke Day

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I wrote yesterday about the prank Paige planned to pull on her classmates.  And I actually gave her a piece of tin foil this morning, against better judgment, only because I’m curious to see if she can actually pull it off.  Oh to be a fly on the wall in the third grade classroom today.

I thought that would be the end of it.

But then I picked Allie up from school.

“Hey, Mom!  Do you know what today is?” Allie asked on our walk back to the car.

Surely the pre-school teachers wouldn’t tell the kids what today was and encourage pranks.  “What, Al?”

“It’s Joke Day!” She throws up her arms in proclamation.  Apparently I’d be mistaken if I thought they wouldn’t tell pre-schooler’s about April Fool’s Day.

“Oh yeah?” I remark back.  I show no excitement.  No emotion.  No anything to tell her I may be on board with this ridiculous notion.

“Yeah….Hey Mom, your shoe’s untied,” she points at my sneaker which is securely fastened in a double knot, because nothing annoys me more than an untied shoe.  I know.  First world problem.  One of my many weird pet peeves.  I don’t acknowledge her pointing finger.  I don’t look down.  But she still screams gleefully and says, “Gotcha!  Happy Joke Day!”

Hopefully, that’s the last of the pranks from the kids.  I have a feeling this won’t be the end of it.

April Foil

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“Mom, I just need to borrow a little bit of tin foil for an April Fool’s joke tomorrow,” Paige says at dinner.

“Paige, if you think I’m going to let you borrow tin foil to prank me, you’re out of your mind.”

“No!  Not you!  Okay, here’s what I’m going to do.  I’m going to roll the tin foil up into a ball and then at recess, me and Madison are going to play with it.  And when other girls come up to us and say, ‘What is that?’ we can tell them it’s a silver catch ball!  Then they’ll say, ‘Can we try?’ and we’ll say, ‘Sure!’  Then they’ll catch it and say, ‘Hey!  This isn’t a silver catch ball!’ And I’ll shout ‘APRIL FOIL!'”

I stare blankly.

“So can I?  Can I please borrow a piece of tin foil?”

I was kind of hoping the day would escape her all together.  But I guess there’s no such luck.