Category Archives: Moments

Where good intentions come to die.

The tagline of this blog (see title above) was chosen for a reason.

At the end of last school year, I made it a goal of mine to get the kids out hiking a bunch this summer. The woods are such a magical and sacred place; I have so many fond memories of hiking alone as a twenty-something and just being at home there. I love the smells of the earth, the quiet and isolation, the views that can be enjoyed when you decide to hike up a trail as opposed to just along one, and the way your muscles engage with every step and make you feel all powerful.

Well, want to know how many times we hiked this summer? Once. And that was today, the day before back-to-school. I am really cutting it close, huh? I always make all these grand plans, yet rarely do I follow through on any of them. This just happens to be my way.

I took the girls to Devil’s Hopyard State Park to hike a trail I did with some fourth graders  on a field trip this past spring. I knew it was going to be a challenge for them and it was. In the best possible way. Almost right away, the trail became pretty steep and Frances slipped and fell on a wet boulder. She slid down the rock a way and got a little banged up. She started to cry because I think it scared her (and me!), and also because she’s a pretty big wimp. To her credit, she did not ask to cover up her dirty/scraped leg with a towel, which she sometimes does, just so she doesn’t have to look at it and be reminded she is injured, no matter how slight. She got up, brushed off, and firmly reached out for my hand, which she held tightly for most of the rest of the climb, letting go only on the flat parts, where there were few rocks and roots.

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Nora was much more sure-footed. She took to the hill confidently, saying every few minutes, “This is really fun.” I was impressed and surprised with how well she did given that any time she’s ever attempted some kind of athletic endeavor—except for bike riding, which she seems to excel at—she flubs, leaving me wondering how two parents who were both three-sport athletes could’ve given birth to such an awkward and clumsy child.

The highlight of the hike on the way up was some felled trees that made a bridge across a small creek. The girls thought it was pretty cool they had to maneuver across and keep their balance to get to the other side, without falling in the water. Frances held tight to my hand on the way up, but rocked it like a pro going solo across on the way back down.

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At the top of the trail, as we were nearing the vista, Frances yelled, “Wow! I can see it! Look at all those trees!” This was the reason I had chosen this particular hike. I admired the view too when I had seen it, and thought the girls would be impressed. When we reached the clearing of the tree line, we came upon a young couple. The woman had been crying and was trying to wipe away her tears. I glanced with some concern at her quickly and then had the girls sit near the edge to take in the view and enjoy the trail mix I had made them. I turned around to look at the couple again and noticed the ring on the young woman’s finger.

I called to them, “Did you just get engaged?!”

They admitted they had, and I told them we were sorry for having interrupted their moment. Ha! I’m glad it had already happened and that we hadn’t come upon them sooner in the middle of the act! I offered to take their picture, and they returned the favor.

When we got back to the parking lot and our car, we decided to hike to another spot to see the falls. The girls were super impressed by the sight of these too and the turtle they spied sunning itself on a nearby rock.

On they way back to the car, we passed by a large creek. Nora, ever the explorer (not to be confused with her rhyming namesake, Dora), wanted to wade in and look for creatures. I let the girls take off their socks and shoes to wade around in the water, which soon turned into an underwear-only swim party. It was the highlight of the morning.

When we were driving away from the park I thanked the girls for spending such a special time with me doing something I love. I told them that I had had so much fun.

Frances said, “Well, I didn’t think it was really that much fun. It was so hot, I was sweating so much, and I was just exhausted coming down. And the bugs were getting me and the grass was too high sometimes. And I did fall on that rock, remember?”

Yeah, yeah. Well, it was fun for me. And we do get to cross off hiking on the unofficial summer bucket-list.

And now I can make grand plans to add some more hiking into this upcoming fall season, and then fail to actually make it happen. Because that is just my way. 🙂

 

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A day at the zoo.

Today seems as good a day as any to pick up pen and paper, so to speak, and begin writing again. If anything, it’s a way for my dad to keep tabs on our family, as I know he will faithfully read the blog. Hi, Dad!

Like most households in Connecticut with school-age kids, we are counting down the days until summer vacation ends and school begins. The kids seem ambivalent, and I am too. Though we are sad our time together will soon be changing and evolving, the kids are excited about new opportunities, and I am longing for us all to have a bit more routine and structure to our days.

We have had a summer full of beach days, house guests, play dates, day trips, and some travel. With so many people around and about, we’ve seldom had time to spend together, just us. So today, when we woke up and realized we had no plans, we decided to go to the zoo.

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A friend at work had recommended a smaller zoo in Massachusetts, so we drove the ninety minutes or so it took to get there. We all enjoyed seeing the animals and talking about where they come from, what they eat, and the kinds of habitats in which they live. I have to admit that I was astounded at how much background knowledge the kids—the girls especially—have about some of the zoo animals, thanks to the exposure they’ve gotten from the Wild Kratts show on PBS Kids. They were telling me all about sloths when we got to the sloth exhibit, and I was like, “How do you know all this?”

From Wild Kratts, mom. Like, duh. Well, they didn’t say like, duh. But they might as well have to illustrate just how disconnected I am from the content of their weekly TV intake.

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Watching the rhinos.

I delighted in really being present for once and watching the joy on the kids’ faces as they took in the sights and rode the rides. It was such a fun and easy day. It kind of makes me wish I had given in to more opportunities like this throughout the summer. And now the end is almost here.

 

The origin of the dingle pepper. 

The other night, as I was prepping for dinner, Frances offered to help, as she often does these days. I asked her to get me some onions and garlic, which she did. We then had a lengthy and very deep conversation about why garlic skin was white and onion skin brown. I was essentially making things up for which I had no answer, or like my friend Bridget claims about her own mother, faking my way through parenting.

Following that, I took a red bell pepper from the fridge. I asked Frances if she knew what kind of vegetable it was.

“A pepper!” she exclaimed proudly. (This from a kid, who when I asked her last week what her favorite vegetable was, replied—chocolate cake.)

I then asked her if she knew what kind of pepper it was. Her triumphant smile faded into a look of true puzzlement. 

“Dingle?” she replied, not nearly as certain as before.

“Huh?” I said, trying to conceal the laughter that was threatening to erupt (our girls are very sensitive to any kind of perceived mockery).

“A dingle pepper?” she repeated again, sounding slightly more confident.

It should be noted here that dingle is a word I have used, and Liam has adopted simply because of my overuse of it, to describe one of the kids doing or saying something foolish. Kind of like the way in which one would use the word doofus

As in: “That shoe is on the wrong foot, ya dingle.” 

Yes, I know. It sounds dangerously short for dingleberry. And I admit, that might have been my intention in using the moniker in the first place. However, at no time has that word ever been used to refer to a species of pepper we use to cook with weekly.

“Hmmm. I’ve never heard of that kind of pepper before,” I said, still dying inside, waiting for any adult to come through the door so I could relay the then-present conversation taking place.

“You know,” she continued, trying to substantiate her claim. “The kind we grew in the garden this summer. The dingle peppers?” she said.

What was this girl talking about?! 

“Ummm, no. We grew jalapeño peppers in the garden, but no dingle peppers that I can recall. This one is called a bell pepper,” I said.

“Oh, yeah. Now I remember,” Frances said, with a bashful little chuckle.

For the life of me, I cannot make the connection to explain her misunderstanding. And I’m usually pretty good at following those little kiddo lines of thought. Maybe bell pepper—which she couldn’t quite recall—made her think of Jingle Bells, and jingle rhymes with dingle?  That’s all I got.

In any case, it’s definitely sticking. Dingle pepper it is, from now on, folks. We just might even try to grow some in the garden this coming season.

Teachable moment: You should marry the one you love.

Nora asked me tonight as we were driving whether I thought she ought to marry a boy or a girl when she grows up. I told her she should marry whomever she loves. 

“But who mommy? A boy or a girl?” She really wanted me to give her a definitive answer.

“I can’t tell you that,” I said. “You’ll just have to wait and see.”

I’ll admit, it was really hard for me to just leave it at that. To not say something like: Well, most girls marry boys. I didn’t want to color my thinking—and therefore, her developing worldview—one way or the other. 

Most of the married couples close to Nora are ones who are involved in heterosexual relationships. However, we’ve spoken briefly about the many kinds of relationships that exist between people, both romantic and platonic. It’s natural she’d ask since we haven’t conditioned her to think one way or another.

Although marriage is a long way away, it’s important to me that Nora be aware of and accepting of all healthy and loving relationships, no matter the gender of couples involved. Most importantly, I want her to learn from an early age that she can express her feelings freely—always—without worrying she will be judged by me. 

I did put my foot down, though, when Nora next told me that she was going to marry forty people when she grows up.

“Oh no, dear,” I said. “The rule is, you only get to choose one.”

Who we used to be. Before we were ‘we.’

Every now and then we experience these wondrous moments where we are able to stop, let go, and recognize the people we once were, not so long ago—or maybe a long time ago—before we had so many responsibilities. Before children. Before stress and anxiety, technology, and the fast-pace of our lives threatened to consume us all.

This afternoon I enjoyed one such moment. Liam offered to walk the kids to the park down the road so I could finish the mammoth task of folding and putting away about ten load’s worth of laundry. Once I finished, we planned on me meeting everyone at the park so that we could all grab a quick bite for dinner. 

When I got to the park, I set about wrangling the two littlest so I could change diapers before getting back in the car. When I looked up after changing the baby to see where everyone had gone, I noticed Liam had found a basketball and was shooting hoops at the court across the playground. I could hear him trying to cajole the girls into being his rebounders. 

A slow but strong smile spread across my face. I laughed out loud not only at the cuteness of them all, but because I knew I was going to go over there and attempt to steal the ball from someone so I could get in on the action too.

After I got closer and put down the baby, I did just that, much to the chagrin of Nora, who was not impressed, but rather downright offended I would think to do such a thing to her. Sucka!

There’s nothing quite like the feel of a basketball rolling off your fingertips on its way to the hoop, especially when you can feel it’s going to go in before it actually does.

My first thought after I shot the ball was: Man. Remember when I used to be fun? To have fun? 

And just like that, Liam and I were transported back in time. Taking jump shots (and bricking them hard). Making lay ups. Passing and laughing like we were kids in high school. All while the kids yelled around us, “Give it to me! Pass it to me! Mommy! Daddy! Come on!”

Basketball is an experience Liam and I both share. Only, I didn’t know him in high school. Never got to see him play. So, in this brief moment, I was able to watch him as a fun-loving thirty-six-year-old, and imagine his “other life,” the one in which he existed before me. It was like a small glimpse into his past. And maybe even our future. One in which we coach the kids and try to impart any meaningful advice we can still remember from those days gone by.
Isn’t it just SO COOL when these kinds of moments stop us in our tracks? Make us think back about how we used to be? Make us imagine what others might have been like? And make us look ahead at all that we have to look forward to with our own children?

I sure think so.  

Frances and her books.

The main intention of this blog was and is to create a space for me to have a consistent writing practice. Although the past year has seen its ups and downs in terms of writing for me, I’ll admit I’m pleased with the overall effort given my prior attempts at journaling.

A secondary purpose of the blog is a means to record moments as memories, to be read over and over again as the months and years speed on by.

I remember reading the following quote in graduate school years ago by the Cuban American author Anaïs Nin, and I always, always come back to it when someone asks me why I write.

It goes like this:

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment, and in retrospect.”

“Yes!” I thought when I read it. This is why I write. 

Tonight’s memory will be one I share with Frances as she gets older and can appreciate my mockery.
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When she was a baby, I couldn’t get Frances to sit still and listen to a book. Not for anything. Unlike her older sister, Nora, who was practically reading right out of the womb, Frances crawled immediately away once settled in my lap in front of a book, or else delighted in swatting away the pages and covers with all her infant might.

Although I was concerned she’d grow up to be a simpleton, I continued the practice of diligently reading aloud to Nora in the hopes that Frances might soak up some of it through her periphery. 

After she turned a year old, I had a little success engaging Frances with books that had texture and other sensory materials. Lift-the-flap books like Where’s Spot? were a big hit. Still, I found myself just accepting Frances was going to be a jock or a comedian instead of a Harvard grad when she hightailed it outta my lap anytime an ordinary board book or picture book came her way. (I jest you know—there’s nothing wrong with being a jock. Both Liam and I were three-sport athletes and humor is one of my more redeeming qualities. I only label and judge my children to get a laugh. Besides, just today my Harvard grad, Nora, told me she wanted to be a recycling man—yes, man—when she grows up, so she can ride on the side of the truck. I will love them however and whatever my children turn out to be.)

Anyway, back to Frances. Around eighteen months, or maybe a little thereafter, she finally, FINALLY, started to show an interest in listening to stories read aloud. She began to sit still and delight in looking at pictures and hearing the written word.

Several months later, a little before she turned two, Frances’s vocabulary just exploded. Again, prior to this happening, I was concerned that my girl of few words might have to rely on looks alone, not brains, in order to get ahead in this world. (KIDDING!)

I needn’t have worried. These days, the girl has more words than she knows what to do with. And watch out, because when she gets talking about something she’s excited about, there’s no stopping her.

Back then, though, I suddenly found myself pleasantly surprised when  Frances—not Nora—was finishing sentences aloud when I intentionally left a word or two hanging off the end. Unbeknownst to me, she HAD been soaking things up through osmosis! She had memorized parts of the books we’d been reading. It was all very exciting for me. Maybe, just maybe, she’d be Harvard-bound after all! (BTW, I’m not even a big fan of Harvard, although it’s campus is very beautiful.)

These days Frances is never far from a book. She likes to ask me or her dad to read her a book, and then—once we finish—she’ll ask for another story, but will insist on taking back the first book so she can hold it and flip through the pages as she listens to the second story. She alternates between flipping and looking at one book and listening to the other. It’s very funny. Almost OCD in the way she does it EVERY time we sit down to read.

Frances is also fond of taking books to bed with her so she can look at their pages before she falls asleep. I’ve found many-a-book under the covers where she sleeps when making the bed in the morning.

Her latest thing is to walk around the house with a chapter book, and then sit somewhere and pretend to read. Today I noticed her carrying both Trumpet of the Swan and Island of the Blue Dolphins. Only, she was pretend reading something about a mama and a baby bear and how they had to clean up the house before dinnertime.

I’ve so enjoyed watching Frances’s love affair with books blossom the way it has. I have high hopes now for Rowan, child number three, who just turned one, and who might’ve just been introduced to a book by his mother a couple of weeks ago. 

Come on! Cut me some slack. Child number three, I said. Not to worry. If he’s anything like Frances, he’ll be toting around James Joyce novels before too long and babbling on about ocean characters who meet monsters at a picnic he “reads” in their pages.

Weaning Frances

After nearly three years—1,074 days, to be exact—my middle gal is no longer nursing. I wasn’t sure it was going to happen. There were times I wondered if she’d be going into kindergarten in two years still nursing and wearing diapers. At least now I only have to concern myself with potty training—a feat I’m not looking forward to on account of the fact that girlfriend in TERRIFIED of sitting on the toilet. Always has been.

Anyway, two weeks ago I had to drive back to Pennsylvania for my sister’s last-minute wedding. Since we had just been back for Easter weekend, I didn’t really want to make a second quick trip with ALL of the kids in tow. I thought I’d just take Rowan with me and have Liam stay behind with the girls. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to wean.

Up until that point, Frances had only been nursing one time before bed each evening. It was something she VERY much looked forward to. Often, she tried to tell me she was ready for bed at 7:30, even though she’d napped and likely wouldn’t be ready to fall asleep before 9. Most times I indulged her, because the look about her was pure joy—bright smile, wide eyes, excited limbs.

We’d go upstairs to nurse in bed, she’d do her thing, and then she’d proclaim in the most awake voice, “I’m not ready for bed, mama. I wanna go back downstairs.”  Uh-huh. Just as I suspected. A fake-out just to get her nursing on.

When I contemplated weaning, I wavered back and forth about whether or not it was time. She’s only doing it once a day. That’s not so bad. I mean, I could keep going. She loves it so much. And it’s still such an important connecting time for us given she’s such an attached and emotionally needy child, not to mention the continued health benefits.

But then, there’d be an evening when she wouldn’t fall asleep nursing. And I’d have to unlatch and disconnect her because I was done nursing. Then she would whine and yell and have her little tantrum, and I’d be all: OK. We need to be done. Like, yesterday.

The decision was made. I needed to be resolute. I talked to Frances the entire week before I left for PA. I explained what was going to happen when I went away and then after. She definitely understood. Some days she seemed to share in my excitement about her becoming a ‘big girl’; other days she went into Cranky Franky mode and exclaimed she was still a baby, and was NOT going to give up nursing, ever again.

I was a little emotional the night before my trip—the last night Frances nursed. She and I had been connected in this relationship for so long. However, any sadness I felt was NOTHING compared to the grief I felt when I nursed Nora for the last time at 20 months of age—a sure sign I wasn’t truly ready. However, I’d been four-and-a-half months pregnant with Frances and nursing was painful. I also hadn’t had the benefit of watching a fellow mama nurse throughout her pregnancy and then tandem breastfeed both her infant and toddler like I did when I was expecting Frances and had Candace (our old babysitter) in our lives. Had I an opportunity to do it all over again, I would have suffered through the pain to get to the other side.

Frances did great the weekend I was away. She didn’t ask to nurse once. (I’m assuming it’s because she knew there was no supply available from her father, despite the fact that he’s jokingly offered to nurse her many times in my place over the years. She never once took him up on his offer. Wise girl, that Frances). Liam did mention, however, that she was very clingy and wanted to be held the whole weekend. Likewise, I did fine in Pennsylvania. I had no residual sadness. Only fond memories. And relief, I might add, to just be nursing one child instead of two.

Since I’ve been back—almost two weeks now—Frances still has not asked to nurse or mentioned one time anything about our past experiences breastfeeding. She is very clingy and whiny though. More so than usual. And a little extra cranky, especially around bedtime. Now that we don’t have that special nighttime routine, she has small fits with me when I’m the one to put her to bed. She insists on lying on top of me in order to fall asleep. When Liam does bedtime, things go better for him. I imagine it will take some time for Frances to settle emotionally, even though she’s not vocalizing what she’s working through. I’m trying to be patient and extra sensitive—giving lots of hugs and cuddle time. I know this is what she needs, and not a neck-wringing like I’d sometimes like to do when the whining and tantrumming push me to a breaking point.

Our middle gal will be three in eight days. The last birthday of our birthday season. She may not be ready for little girl undies any time soon, but she reached her weaning milestone no problem. Go, you big brave girl, go!