Gabby is graduating eighth grade.

This is from preschool; I used a photo from this series on Gabby's graduation party invitations. She still makes that exact face.

This is from Gabby’s preschool graduation. She still makes that exact face when she’s plotting something.

Gabby saw that photo while I was typing. About ten minutes later, she texted me this.

Gabby saw that photo while I was typing. About ten minutes later, she texted me this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next week, Gabby will graduate and move up to the high school with her brother. I’ll be interested to see how that goes… not because I worry about Gabby, but because she has been a whirlwind of Gabbulosity her entire life. Good luck, high school. Here are some facts about Gabby, which you might be interested in learning before she walks your halls:

  1. People tend to get swept quickly into her orbit. Example: Gabby went to her very first haunted house last fall. During the thirty minutes she stood in line, the cast fell in love with her, nicknamed her “Gabbulous the Fabulous,” and invited her to work there- a reaction to Gabby which is actually not that unusual.
  2. She founded a Creative Writing Club at her school this year, and wrote a poem which was accepted for publication in a student work collection. (Come over and ask me about it- the book is currently on my entryway table.) Needless to say, Gabby intends to join the CWC in high school, and possibly take it over.
  3. Yesterday, we were walking to the car with the scent of lilacs in the breeze. Suddenly Gabby remarked, “It smells like pollen and allergies out here.” She tosses off one-liners like this all. the. time. Be ready for that.
  4. Gabby has no patience for anyone’s BS. Last summer, she confronted a girl about things she had been saying about Gabby. Please note: Gabby wasn’t so much upset about the content of what was said; she was angry that anything had been said about her at all. Anyway that other kid- maybe overcome with guilt, or maybe trying to gain sympathy, who knows- started to cry. This did not work on Gabs. She told me later, “I was enraged at the first tear. I was like, ‘You did something to me. Why are you crying?’ ” –Which is an excellent question, if you think about it.
  5. You may think that Gabby has grown out of her habit of Irish dancing everywhere she goes. This is inaccurate. Good luck with that too, high school.

Gabby is a bright, talented, happy, confident tornado of a person, and every day the world is richer (and a little crazier) because she is in it. She is looking forward to high school and fully intends to make that school her own. I can’t wait to watch.

 

 


    It’s not the Stanley Cup.

    Cam was refereeing youth lacrosse games all day yesterday. He’s learning a lot from this experience, I think- sometimes all goes well and it’s a civilized game, and other times it doesn’t go as well and he has to deal with angry players or coaches or parents. He gets the opportunity to develop his already-impressive people skills, is what I tell myself when someone on the sidelines yells, “THAT WAS A TRIP!!!!!!!” (Otherwise I might walk over to that parent and say something like, “That’s my son, and he is doing his best to keep your player safe on the field. So I would appreciate it if you would gain some perspective and quit screaming like an asshole.” Also in one case yesterday I might have added, “And put out that cigarette.”) But most of the time, it’s fine. Parents and coaches and players are just there to watch the kids play. One exception from yesterday stands out for me, though, and I’m still uncomfortable about it.

    At Cam’s last game of the day- with a group of 10-11 year olds- one of the coaches was loud and blustery. This doesn’t bother me; in fact, at first I laughed a little at his, “Do you guys realize you’re playing a game right now?” As the game went on and his team racked up more and more points, winning handily, his angry behavior only increased. “LAZY!! YOU’RE LAZY!!!!! WHY ARE YOU EVEN HERE?!” he screamed when the other team scored their first goal. One of his players slipped and lost the ball; he yelled, “GET OFF THE FIELD!!” and the player subbed out, guilty of slipping on the wet grass. When the halftime whistle blew he screamed, “GET OVER HERE RIGHT NOW!!” The boys trudged to the sidelines, where I could occasionally hear his angry tones from where I stood. He went on and on, berating and belittling the boys as the halftime clock ticked on. One of the parents nearby said mildly, “I don’t think my son would be allowed to play for this guy.”

    At that point, this coach’s team was winning by 4 goals.

    During the second half, one of their players slid in the mud and hurt himself. Cam and the other ref stopped play and spoke to him for a second, and then both referees walked him toward the sidelines. Cam had his arm around the boy’s shoulders, which is very unusual. The coach stomped onto the field and met them before they could get to the sidelines. The adult referee paired with Cam said something to the coach, and he responded to the boy: “SUCK IT UP!” They had another few moments of conversation, and then the coach steered the kid right back into place, and play continued.

    Then I understood: Cam had his arm around the player because the boy was afraid to tell his coach he was hurt. This poor kid knew he would not be allowed to leave the field.

    They won the game by something like 8 goals. I guess you’d call it a success.


      Happy Mother’s Day!

      Knuckleheads.

      Knuckleheads.

      We have had a busy weekend! On Friday we celebrated my niece Emily’s 21st birthday- but not too late into the night, because we left the house at 5:30am the next morning for Cameron’s lacrosse tournament. Which his team won with ease- the championship game score was 10-1. Dave and I attended a work event when we got home, and brought back food for the kids (including cake. This makes us heroes).

      This morning I got up around 5:20, in order to make breakfast for Cam before he went off to caddy. There is a row of tiny animals, made out of clay, on the kitchen countertop- as well as the phrase “Happy Mother’s Day!” on the kitchen chalkboard. Everyone else is still asleep, the dog included. It’s going to be a gorgeous sunny day and I’ll see my mom and my family today. Today, I am grateful for all these people, my favorite people in the world. Also for the sign on the chalkboard, and the little clay octopus and snake and puppy on the countertop (the octopus in particular is pretty bomb). But mostly for this amazing boy and these amazing girls- three gorgeous fireworks who light up every day of my life. Thanks for being the best, guys. I am a better person because of the three of you.


        Happy Easter!

        Run, kid. Bunnies don't have tentacles.

        Run, kid. Bunnies don’t have tentacles.

        In a few minutes, the kids and I are headed to my mom’s to color Easter eggs, and I cannot stand the Easter holiday. I know I’ve told you that before; there’s just something lame about it and this tradition is one of my least favorites. So, in an attempt to not be such a crank, I”m listing a few things that make me happy:

        1. Dave just reloaded my Starbucks card.
        2. Gabby let me cut about 6″ off her hair.
        3. Cam is in the top 5 on his team for offensive points.
        4. The J and her friend won a spot in the talent show.
        5. Cadbury Mini-Eggs. (Not Creme Eggs, those are gross.)

        May you not spend tomorrow in a state of, “Ugh, I don’t like ham or jelly beans and I can’t remember where I hid all these damn eggs” like I probably will. Have a good weekend!

         


          “Don’t blink”

          One of the things that has always bothered me about parenting is that weird pressure to love every second of every day. “Don’t blink!” say parents of older kids. “Some day you’ll look back and wish you could do this again!” they admonish; if a parent dares to complain about some parental chore, another parent is apt to tell them. “You’ll miss this some day!”

          My God. Enough.

          My experience is that parenting, like every other part of life, is sometimes great and sometimes hard and sometimes tedious. And always changing. I remember being awake for 35-hour stretches; because Cameron was up either nursing or screaming all night long, and then I had to go to work the next day. I don’t miss that. Gabby was also up a lot at night- Dave and I spent many middle-of-the-night hours driving her around when that was the only way she would sleep. I would gladly have blinked those nights away. And actually, Addie J was a dream baby and my memories of her infancy are colored with sunshine and happiness… and I don’t miss those days either. I do remember fiercely loving them and being proud of every little thing they did… and those things are still part of my life. What is this insistence that we be grateful for everything, even colic and tantrums and diaper blowouts in Target? Why can’t I acknowledge that some aspects of parenthood kind of suck, and it’s okay to be glad when they’re over?

          I love being their mother. I LOVE it. Watching them grow into their own people is such a joy and a privilege, and I am in it for the whole process, not just the fleeting years where I get to buy hair bows and Hot Wheels. I don’t miss what it was like to be their mother then. Why would I? I am still their mother now. And, just like when they were tiny, sometimes it’s great and sometimes it’s hard and sometimes it’s tedious. They will continue to change and grow, and so will I.

          So quit telling me not to blink. Don’t insinuate that I should feel guilty because I hated pushing the kids on swings then, and sometimes I just don’t feel like driving them to their activities now. I’m not going to tap out when they turn 18. I’m their mother forever. It’s okay if sometimes I blink.


            Happy birthday, Sniffy!

            jilljuI was really lucky, growing up. I had one of everything: an older sister, an older brother, a younger sister, AND a younger brother. I know that my siblings and I, and my mom, are always there for each other. I know that-  like it or not- I will never have to go through anything alone. Because I have these people. Today, though, I want to talk about Jill. Jill is the one who gave my mom the most grey hairs as a kid. She is fun and funny, irreverent and firmly grounded… and she will gladly make sure you are grounded, as well.

            A few years ago, Jill and her family moved– from a place where they had deep roots to a place where they knew no one and nothing. Jill showed remarkable insight: choosing just the right neighborhood, in just the right town, to set down new roots. Then she set aside any uncertainties and just embraced their family’s new life– the good, the bad, the unknown. She put the girls into activities, she found out where to go and what to do. She didn’t just make new friends– she put herself right into the center of her new world. I have realized that, in addition to being fun and funny, Jill is also courageous and strong.

            I came home yesterday from a quick four-day visit with Jill and her family. Everyone is asking, “What did you do?” …Well: we made salmon-orange salad one day, and we went to lunch another day. I braided the girls’ hair. We watched Passengers and binged Mad Dogs. My niece had an awards ceremony, we went to Girls’ Night at Jill’s friend’s house, and on Saturday night all of us had an impromptu dance party in the kitchen. But what I tell people is, “Not much. We just hung out.”

            Today is Jill’s birthday, and we should celebrate that the world is brighter because of her light. I call her Sniffy although I no longer remember why– and so I would encourage you to contact Sniffy today, and wish her a happy birthday.


              Et tu, Guinness?

              They’re probably all about to start sneezing.

              Okay, when I was a kid I did not have allergies, except to cats. As an adult I do not have allergies, except to cats. Then I married Dave, who- for all his physical strength and toughness- is a total Milhouse in terms of seasonal allergies. Which season, you ask? –All of them.

              Enter our three children: Cam got the brunt of his dad’s allergies- hilariously, this seems to be the only physical trait passed down from Dave. Many years of shots and one surgery later, we seem to have a handle on them… however, the girls also inherited a tendency to seasonal allergies, both indoor and outdoor, like their brother. Their allergies are milder and guess what keeps them at bay?

              Washing their bedding weekly in hot water. Washing the dog’s bedding weekly in hot water. Washing their towels several times each week. Vacuuming the floors regularly. Cleaning the fresh air returns. Cleaning the ceiling fan blades. Never allowing laundry to pile up, either in their rooms or anywhere else in the house. Wiping the blinds. Dusting. Mopping. Scrubbing…. as we learned, the best way to keep allergies from overwhelming the kids is to keep an ironclad lid on the allergens that come into the house. (When they sleep elsewhere, it’s a crapshoot: sometimes they’re fine, other times…. not.)

              And then, recently, we looked at the dog and said, “Why is his eye almost swollen shut?” Yep: now the dog has uncontrollable allergies. A month of steroids later– that’s a month of steroids for the dog— and Guinness is okay, as long as he gets a bath every week in prescription dog shampoo. And irritatingly enough: last month when we missed a week, Guinness spent that week scratching.

              ALL I EVER HAVE TO DO IS NOT TOUCH ANY CATS AND I AM FINE FOREVER. HOW AM I SURROUNDED BY THESE SNEEZING, SNIFFLING LIVING CREATURES WHO REQUIRE SO MUCH HOUSECLEANING.


                I am so easily grossed out.

                This is just a note that I saw that article which is currently making the rounds, about Asian beetles (otherwise known as “those orange ladybugs”) infesting the roof of a dog’s mouth– and then I had nightmares all night and am now about 16% convinced that they’re also embedded in the heel of my left hand. Even though there are none there- but then I keep remembering how they were there in my dream and then I have to check AND WHY WOULD I BE CHECKING IF AT LEAST 16% OF ME DIDN’T THINK THEY MIGHT BE THERE THIS TIME? #fakenews

                If I could see gross things and not immediately figure out horrifying ways they might affect me personally, that would be great.


                  Sixteen Things About Cam

                  cammyI didn’t know whether I was having a boy or a girl when I was pregnant with Cameron- but with all my heart I was hoping for a boy. I think it’s because I wanted this boy- this handsome, strong, determined kid who makes our house livelier, happier, and has draped the place in lacrosse gear (but that’s another story). Today he is sixteen and I can’t believe it. Here are sixteen things to know about Cammy:

                  1. He plays midfielder and he also likes to face off. This is a really, really important part of who he is.
                  2. He retains that easy ability to relate to anyone and everyone he meets. This kid has never had an awkward conversation in his life.
                  3. It is very important to him that he does the right thing in a given situation.
                  4. He’s kind to his sisters in moments that no one sees except them.
                  5. After years of trying to rein in his unbelievable hair, Cam is letting it grow. Starting from fairly high and tight this fall, it’s probably 6-7 inches long now. I’m surprised by how well it suits him.
                  6. Also: it’s wavy. We had no idea.
                  7. This is the kind of person he is: Cam was having some friction with a peer, and it got pretty heated on both sides. Cam has to work with this peer, though- so he did something that many adults can’t do: he directly approached the person with an open and forward-thinking attitude, and he created a space where they could move past the friction. It didn’t work the first time, or the second; but Cam just kept working at it until he succeeded.
                  8. When we were in NOLA for Mardi Gras, an Elvis on a motorcycle told him he looked like he needed sunglasses and handed him a pair with Elvis sideburns attached. He wore them like a rock star for the rest of the day.
                  9. With the exception of leaving plates in his room until he was no longer allowed to eat upstairs: Cam keeps his room really clean. (If you overlook the aforementioned lacrosse gear.)
                  10. Cam and his friend Doug listen to old-school rock.
                  11. We’re going to the DMV to get his license this week. For the record: Cam is a good driver.
                  12. He and I spent a couple of hours on Friday, starting on a project he’s doing for chemistry class. He makes those things fun, just by being himself.
                  13. You know how Dave is physically super, super strong? …And how my dad was also incredibly strong? -Well, Cam got a double dose of that. He’ll come home and casually mention the weight he lifted in Human Performance that day and my first reaction is always, “By yourself??”
                  14. At our urging, Cameron chose to take French so that I could help him with the class. To my delight, he is able to have short conversations in French and is taking Honors French 3 in the fall.
                  15. Know what he does after dinner? -He says, “Thanks, Mom.” Almost every time.
                  16. I wanted a son of my own with all my heart– I didn’t need a houseful, I only needed one. When he was born, the doctor said, “It’s a beautiful boy!”

                  Cam is our oldest child. Every single day is a new parenting experience for us– including today, when he is sixteen (technically not until around 7:00pm though). He blazes the trail for his sisters, he leads us into brand new territory each day. Sometimes it’s really fun to be his mother… sometimes it’s really challenging. He is a sixteen-year-old boy for sure– and his heart is made of warm gold, big as the sky. Being his mother has made my own heart grow warmer, and I am so grateful to have Cameron, my beautiful boy.


                    Know what I like about having kids?

                    Image courtesy of Brandy Walsh Photography. www.brandywalshphotography.com

                    Image courtesy of Brandy Walsh Photography. www.brandywalshphotography.com

                    Thanks to the kids, there are so many things in our lives that Dave and I would never have had on our own. This month in particular it’s Irish dance shows for St. Patrick’s Day. You know how it’s fun to watch your kids do something they love? And it’s extra fun when your kids are good at that something? …For the first two weeks of March, we get to watch our daughter all lit up onstage, busy loving what she’s doing and being good at it…… while also drinking Guinness.

                    It’s really pretty ideal.


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