Thursday, May 24, 2012

Ends and Beginnings

Today, Sadie graduated from Pre-K, ending her four years at First Baptist Weekday Preschool, just a few blocks up from where we live on Monument Avenue. The first day of pre-school, she was 18 months old and looked like this (top left).  Today, she looked like this (bottom left). The first one she was leaving her sheltered life at home. And today, she left her sheltered life at this neighborhood school.  I remember fretting as I left her that first day of preschool. Like every mother in the hall, I was tearing up, knowing exactly which screaming child was indeed mine, calling for me. Wondering if she was too young for school, wondering if she needed me. She wasn't too young. She needed them, and all that the school provided, not more time with me.

Today, she hugged her teachers and her friends, and proudly told her teachers that she was excited to go to Collegiate next year, and that one day she was going to be a doctor when she grew up. Some of the girls said that they were going to be mothers. I asked Sadie afterwards what she thought about being a mother one day "Yes, all of the girls will be mothers and all of the boys will be fathers. The question was what else I was going to be Mom."  So, I have indeed taught her something in all of this. That it was ok to do more than one thing. Even though we haven't always been balanced. Even though I still often wonder what I am going to be when I grow up, I have taught my child that she can be anything too.

Four years ago, and a thousand days between then and now, I find myself so proud of this little person. Just last week she begged to join the swim team, and was not at all daunted with her knowledge that she had not yet swam across the whole pool. And then last weekend, she learned to balance in and paddle a canoe and to ride her bike without training wheels. These days, she is not fearful of new challenges. She greets them with a wonderful mix of 10% confidence and 90% optimism. She isn't yet bratty or someone that compares herself to her peers. But she has learned how wonderful it feels to be proud of yourself. We saw it this summer when she ran the 1 mile race for the Monument Avenue 10k, and I felt like I bottled that image while I ran beside her and she rode her bike for a block without me holding on to the back of the seat. That priceless look of Look at me, Mom!!  I didn't catch it on the camera... for once I was looking at her instead of through the lens when something like this happened. I don't regret that, for the unfiltered view was tremendous.

 Mark and I fret about the 25 minute commute to her new school come late August, and how we will manage without a nanny for the first time ever. How we will get out to Collegiate for class at 7:50 in the morning and how Sadie will manage to stay out there until 6 pm at night, all without dropping from exhaustion.  But it is the plan. It is the reason I went part-time two years ago next month - to be more involved during these upcoming elementary school years. I am excited to be the one to get her from school (hopefully closer to 3 pm than our back-up for extended day/after care that allows for 6 pm).

And so, this end... it is also a beginning. And for a few months, it will be a time of relaxation and fun. As she told me today "I can't wait to stay in my pajamas all day tomorrow. Well, until swim team time that is!"

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Why I am Glad I Married Mr. Big

"I'm someone who is looking for love. Real love. Ridiculous, inconvenient,consuming, can't-live-without-each-other love. And I don't think that love is here in this expensive suite in this lovely hotel in Paris."- Carrie Bradshaw, said to The Russian An American Girl in Paris: Part Deux (2004)

Mark and I were out to dinner last Friday night with a couple, the wife in which Mark and I have been friends with for just as long as we have known each other. Note, it took me about 10 minutes to do this calculation on my finger and one check with a friend who was pregnant when I met Mark to verify how old her daughter is now, but I am now sure when I type this that Mark and I met and went out on our first date just over 15 years ago. Anyway, the wife was reminiscing as we were finishing our second bottle of wine and saying that she always knew that Mark and I would end up married because we were so deeply connected. I laughed... as our friends find different ways to deal with the fact that Mark and I dated, broke up, dated, broke up, dated, then got engaged and then got married. There's no shame in admitting that there may have been some doubt that our connection would lead us to the altar. 

As I have blogged about before, I think we were a bit like the characters of Sex And The City in that we were a product of our lifestyle. We both worked all the time, in the same field, and when we weren't working, we were out at the same bars with wonderful groups of friends. None of our group had children yet, and few were married (those that were are largely divorced). Mark and I had some great travels, went to New York for work and the Open and other great dinners, wonderful dates with lots of passion and then very sad breakups.  Actually planning for the future and settling-down was just not the next thing coming.

Until then, it was.

And then this happily-ever-after girl stood up at the altar. And unlike the Sex And The City movie, my husband stood there with me. Then later he stood up in front of the whole reception and toasted me and with a completely straight face told a fib and announced that he was grateful that I had finally accepted his marriage proposal since he proposed years before and I had turned him down. The look on my mother's face!!! (She believed him!!).

But the look in my husband's eye... his wink, his smile. He told me I was his left wing, that I made him the person that he was. And he was everything that I had ever hoped for in my whole life. I indeed was marrying real love-ridiculous-time-consuming-can't-live-without-each-other-love.

It is nice to be taken back to that feeling. Real life can get in the way. The boulders that we have had to handle recently have been large. The days go quickly at work, short dinners full of five year old chitter chatter, and then family phone calls start coming in until bedtime. Stresses. Things that we expected would be short-lived and have gone on for more than a year. Things that might go on a lot longer.  And there is a world of unknowns. Mark's parents are both very ill. Last night I walked the dog after learning that my father drove to John's Hopkins yesterday and ended up having a hole in his retina quickly repaired. What happens when my family needs me? I thought to myself. Who is going to be strong for me?

But today I was back there, almost eight years ago, remembering what it was like to marry my Mr. Big.

Indeed, almost 8 years later, it is ridiculous and inconvenient. And talk about time-consuming. This life is exhausting.

But it is still a can't-live-without-each-other kind of love. And that's a good thing. When I squeeze my eyes shut, I can remember our faces at our wedding reception without our wrinkles, our tired eyes, our worried expressions, our faces of exasperation. And instead remember the optimism that we had then, and the commitment that we made. Life may have been easier with someone steadier than my Mr. Big. But I wouldn't have had as much fun along the way.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


I have a friend whose infant daughter just got a DOC band. Until I had a niece who also required one two years ago, I thought those were "helmets" for babies who had flat spots on their heads.  Having now known a few mothers whose children required them, I flinch at my own ingnorance.

In any event though, now being four weeks and one day on the other side of Sadie's surgery (not that I am counting or anything), as I hear my friend go through the worry and grieving process knowing that her daughter will be wearing the band for months and months, full time, I have had lots of memories of when Sadie and her birthmark were very new... and overwhelming. Sadie's mark was much smaller than the DOC band, but she too was going to be wearing it "all the time" and it garnered lots of comments by observers. And we didn't know if it would last a year, less, or more, or what we would do to remove it. I certainly don't feel like we spent five long years worrying about it, but it was an underlying concern, to state it mildly.

I told my friend to make sure that she takes pictures of her daughter, for her benefit and for the benefit of her five year old daughter who needed her parents to model that this was not a tragedy.  I remembered that there were a few weeks when Sadie was a newborn when I didn't take any pictures, when the birthmark was growing every single day and I was terrified. My parents visited one time in that period and my mother took my father's digital camera and insisted that he take several pictures of Sadie. She had funny faces in each of them -- and just looking at them now makes me recall that she always had so much personality.  She then printed them out and gave them to me in a small photo brag book album.  "Take pictures of your beautiful daughter!" she admonished me. I did again, and again, and again!  In the very room where I am typing this, we have 27 80-page albums for Sadie's five year life. I am definitely not short on pictures of her life.

It is a different kind of challenge that I have faced this week, since Sadie's derma bond (layer of superglue that was applied on top of her suture in lieu of stitches) peeled off last Friday. Along with the derma bond, off came the thin red line of dried blood from the incision as well as the purple-ish hue that used to be her  surface birthmark. Kind of like when you first take a cast off your arm or leg and the underlying skin is pale and almost new looking? We were stunned, Sadie's birthmark is all but gone. And there is no "angry red incision" that we had been expecting to be dealing with for months or even a year.

And my, has the camera been snapping. I can't get enough pictures of it, to be candid. I can't stop looking at the pictures. I can't stop looking at both cheeks and seeing how similar they are now. It is stunning to see her face without that birthmark. Sure, from day to day you can see more or less of the scar or the surface birthmark. But most of the time, in natural sunlight, there is nothing there. For the first time in five years, one cheek looks like the other.

This makes me want to laugh and cry at the same time!  How silly am I?  I mean, I am completely neurotic here. But it is so weird to feel this way. And Mark and I take great lengths to try not to express this in front of Sadie... but she will catch us looking at her, eyes kind of squinty in deep concentration, wholly focused on her cheek. "Stop looking at my cheek" she will say.  She never said that, ever, in the five years that she had the birthmark... when every child and adult was looking at her cheek!  She never ever uttered stop, then.  Now she is older. And it is gone.

I am not sure what to make of all of this.

So I am thankful that the days pass, and with each new day we see so many changes happening right outside our doors. Every morning and every night after dinner we check the progress of the red bud tree we have in our backyard. The purple flowers on each branch were quick to pop out and had the most lovely hue, but now the little tiny heart shaped leaves are replacing the flowers. It is still stunning to watch, with our bright sunshine and recent rain, the tree changes before our very eyes. It has been a great study for all of us. We look forward to the next change, but are also taking the time to talk about the beauty in what is there right then. Living in the now.

Leave it to a five year old to teach a nearly 43 year old some important lessons.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Turning Five

Every birthday is a milestone... both for the child who was birthed, and the parents who did the birthing, so to speak (let's be honest... Mark didn't do much birthing himself, but I am not sure that things were actually easier from his viewing point than from mine).

I remember when I realized that we had made it through the first week of Sadie's life. Mark and I were both exhausted, and Lily and Daisy both looked shell-shocked as well.  Sadie was not a bad baby, she was not a crier, and everyone marveled at how much she slept and how easily she went down (at that time, awake). But still, it was SO MUCH WORK. All the laundry, all the schedules, eating and diaper changing. All the bottles to wash, hands to wash, things to wipe down and sterilize. We were exhausted. Then Mark traveled to Houston for work a few times, for 10 days at a stretch, and we got a family of baby birds stuck in the chimney in our kitchen. And I really did wonder if we were going to survive ourselves (let alone the fate of birds). I remember when Sadie turned a month, and I was getting more used to it all. I wouldn't say I was enjoying the experience then. I remember asking one of my best friends "Why didn't you tell me how hard this was?" and she said "No one warns other people... if they did, then no one would ever have a first child."

But one week and one month... turned into one year. And then two, three, four, and now five. The first night home with Sadie lasted an eternity (she did not sleep for but an hour that night). And the last two years of her life have flown by in what seems like an hour.

Physical exhaustion is replaced by mental worrying about this, that or the other thing. No more or less than any of you worry about your children, your aging parents, your wayward friends.

As taxing as parenting is as a job, it produces reward in tenfold. As much as I fret about some things, I couldn't be more confident in so many others. My daughter is full of spirit and sass and drama, and I couldn't be prouder. She has character and determination and one day she will get in loads of trouble, just like I did.  My greatest wish is that she have at least one daughter so she can experience, first hand, the gift that her being gave to me.  To know that no matter how difficult I probably was as a teenager myself, and how many times I made the wrong choices as a young adult, that I still got the chance to walk this life with her.

And until she has that daughter one day, I will keep on enjoying these days. The sense of both things changing and staying the same. The knowledge that there is a greater Being in charge of our lives and He is putting me in this role as Mother-Wife-Worker-Attorney-Forty-two-Year-Old-Athlete-Lover-of-Fun-But-Not-of-Housework so I will learn something and along the way, teach something to someone else. I love learning from Sadie and watching her grow and change. And I love the kiss that I get from the very lips that were connected to that face that I saw and kissed for the first time five years ago today.

We have quite a journey left together my child. May you always know how much fun it is to go on it with you

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Reflections on... reflections

I paused this morning when I realized that we were actually one week following Sadie's surgery. Several times over the last week, I have thought "I should really blog about it all."  I mean, so many of you rode the waves with us as we were wondering whether or not to operate, and so many of you prayed during the surgery. Surely you deserve a hindsight report, right?

I was going to blog about how it felt to watch Sadie come out of anesthesia (simply put, scary and awful). I was going to write about how grateful we were to have her home with us that afternoon. But truthfully, we are always grateful for her. And honestly, she had some rotten moments in the afternoon, barking commands from her position on the couch after six hours of television. I was grateful, but I was also really tired at the end of the day.

So all week, as we watched the bruising turn different colors (pretty yellow most recently), and we watched the swelling come down, I thought I would get on here and write about the emotions that we were all going through.

But I kept realizing... the emotions were not really about the surgery.  It was just living again. Winter to spring. Four years old to five years old. Ready for kindergarten, forms to fill out, taxes to do.

Thursday, Sadie was still swollen but determined to spend the whole day in the 80 degree sunshine and was loving life. On Friday, she went back to school with no issues at all. Saturday, we went to Urbanna for the day and she ran down the street to the playground without any hesitation. Sunday was similarly normal.

Now we prepare for her fifth birthday this week. And while it snowed yesterday and is chilly today, we are ready to be in the 70s later this week. Both of us have taken to wearing short sleeves around the house, no matter what the temperature is outside. We have shunned our winter clothes!  We are ready for summertime, baby!

I need more ... hindsight ... to give the surgery report in hindsight.  It is a liberating feeling not to be focusing on the birthmark in so many ways. Sure she is swollen, and sure there is still a bump, maybe there always will be? Certainly a scar, as well. But some chapter closed for us, sometime in the last week, and another one began. Not to mean that I am not looking back at all... but just to mean that I am not right now. Someone asked "did they get it all?" the other day, and my honest answer is "we don't know."  It wasn't as easy as taking out a tumor that had clearly identifiable edges. But it wasn't as hard as, let's say, fighting cancer in a child.  Surgery took a lot longer than we had expected. And recovery took a lot shorter. Kids are amazing. Parents lag behind, tear up a lot, struggle and cry and ask for security and guidance and certainty.  I have decided to try to take a lesson from my kid, and not from my own inclinations.

We are grateful of where we are. And we are moving forward. Make sense?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


I was creating Sadie's annual Shutterfly photo book since her birthday is one short month from today, and I came across these wonderful pictures that Sadie's best friend Bella's wonderful nanny Sarah had taken on her camera over the past year.

The one with the butterfly on Bella's hand captures the innocence and wonder that these girls experience every day. Summer was full of swimming and camps, bike rides and fun music to dance too, smoothies for lunch and more pool time in the afternoon. What a wonderful life! And of course a butterfly lands on your hand.... Your lives are indeed wonderful!

But when I saw this next picture, from the Little family wrapped in a frame and presented on Christmas Eve, I gasped with laughter. This picture is who these girls just ARE!  Fashionistas. Full of Sass. Hams for the camera. Dancing queens. They are 5 going on 22. One day I may regret relishing in this... but they are no toddlers in tieras as or anything. It is just who they are. So confident. One day the world will knock their confidence down a peg or more. But until then, I am just tickled with who they both are.

Sadie asked me the other day if I was fancier when I was younger. I was standing there in my Lululemon workout pants (which I consider to be fancy, as well as fashionable, for a pretty penny!) which I had changed into after coming home from work.  I told her I would have to show her some pictures of when I was a little girl and she could decide herself if her mother was fancier now as a grown up or when I was 5 too. Can you show them to me now, she begged. Aren't they just on your phone?

Oh the life you lead, little one. Thinking that if there is a picture out there, it must be digital and accessible by an iPhone. Makes me giggle. And as always, grateful.

Friday, February 3, 2012

And Onto February

One thing I consciously try to do is to be present in the moment. It is a daily struggle for me and has been for as long as I can remember. But it is mostly a struggle in the winter time. As much as we absolutely adore the holidays (which run from Halloween until New Year's Eve), I get the winter blahs come the morning of January 1. The more fun the Christmas season is, I feel like the harder I crash. It is kind of like the day after Sadie was born when I was in the hospital and the doctor came in to ask me "What is your pain level today, from a 1 to a 10, and 10 being the worst?"  "A NEGATIVE TWENTY" I assured him, as I held my perfect new baby girl in my arms, and smiled ear to ear, in a room full of flowers and well wishing guests all around. "Let me just warn you," he told me "You are going to crash really hard."  And he was right.

I have the same problems with January every year. I generally don't like cold weather, but I do love a good walk in the snow. We have had none of that in Richmond, notwithstanding Sadie praying for it most evenings. It hasn't necessarily been an early spring either... just kind of moderately chilly. Not cold enough for gloves, but too cold for bare hands. It is just kind of... .January-like.

But January is over now, and we have quite an exciting February lined up. First, Valentine's Day -- and if there is a reason for decorations, we make them!  Then we hear back from the private schools we have applied for kindergarten on February 18th, and thereafter will know the school where Sadie will hopefully be spending the next 13 years of her life. And then on the 28th, we have surgery on Sadie's birthmark.

My sweet little girl has done a complete reversal on her opinions about her surgery and says that she is looking forward to it. We don't sense any anxiety from her (though surely as the date approaches, there will be normal fear and apprehension from her, and from us). She knows that she will get to spend a few days laying on our couch and watching as much television as she wants while eating ice cream for every meal if she so chooses (not something that the doctor has said will be necessary, but her only experience with surgeries is friends who have gotten their tonsils out so why shouldn't we adopt their course of recovery).  She knows that she will have special visitors in the hospital and no doubt to the house after she comes home if she feels like it. And she knows that everyone is excited for her. When we told our pediatrician on Monday that she was having the surgery, in front of Sadie, Dr. Nelson's response was a huge grin, a high five to Sadie and "Terrific!" exclaimed. Every single person Sadie encounters projects confidence and positivity on this, not fear or uncertainty. It has really been incredible to watch Sadie's turn-about.

And in the midst of all of this, Sadie has two very loose bottom front teeth. I discovered these after a trip across the country a few weeks ago, having come home to see that her bottom teeth were really no longer evenly spaced. I reached out and wiggled it... and I am not sure if Sadie or I was more stunned, and each of us felt like we might throw up!  It took some getting used to, but it has been exciting to watch the new tooth peak through and both of the old ones get looser and looser.  I look at her most nights and am struck that my newborn will be five years old in just over a month. 

So we are looking forward. We are trying to enjoy the days between this and that by staying healthy (or in each of our situations, getting healthy as Mark and Sadie are on antibiotics for sinus infections and I am not far behind with a bad cold and next to no voice). With hopefully a few sweet treats, a visit from the tooth fairy, and some positive news on the school front, the end of the month will be here before we know it. And thereafter--- SPRING will bring with it a five year birthday. Life is indeed, blessed.