Tag Archives: Audrey

Running too fast

Dear Spoon,

We played hooky from school yesterday. We’ve never done that before. But a too-late visit with your grandparents at the airport and too much exhaustion and stress in our house made for a decent excuse. Besides, I missed you.

We slept late, all of us. Then you and Connor and I went out to breakfast and for a hike. I don’t remember the last time we did that. Maybe not since before Connor was born. You’re still the best person in the world to hang out with. And each day I see less and less of the baby and toddler you were as more of who you will be shows through in ungainly long arms and legs, a thinning face, and grin nearly completely absent of front teeth. There is no other word for it — you are gangly, in that wonderful way that elementary kids can be. But so much more than that: you are witty, and goofy, and vibrant. You are sensitive, and sometimes mercurial, and you are oh so hard on yourself. We talked about that a lot yesterday. I wish you could see you as I see you, and know how really amazing you are.

You raced down the trail ahead of me, laughing as the dog followed at your heels, and I caught myself shouting, “Slow down!” as you reached the rocky bend near the river. It occurred to me how that one phrase is becoming a mantra when I think of you. You are so, so smart. You are often bored at school, and race through your math homework, often making a silly mistake, for which you berate yourself. Or you read one of your chapter books in an hour, but can’t really tell us what it’s about. “Slow down. There’s no extra points for finishing first.” I tell you over and over when you cry over missing a question on your math test. “Be gentle with yourself. There’s no such thing as perfect.” You are already one grade level ahead in school, and based on your most recent tests, you should skip the next one, too. But I won’t let you. Conversely, the school district has a silly rule about birthdates, which causes them to insist that you repeat first grade next year, even though you are testing at the end of second grade. To me this seems purely cruel. Slow down, but don’t go backwards. Consequently, we are wrestling with what to do for you next year.

Among our options, I am considering homeschooling you. The premise of this is overwhelming, because I am finishing my own schoolwork to return to work full time, and I’m certain I’ll still freelance here and there, and take care of you and Connor and the house, and grow our food, and… teach you? I’m not sure I have it in me, but I know I’d pull the sun from the sky if you needed me to. On the other hand, maybe homeschooling would help? No more rushing to get you out the door in the morning, and arguing with you because you don’t want to go. No more driving, driving, driving, every day. And maybe you would learn even more if you weren’t in a room with 25 other voices, some of whom you have told me that you are afraid of? Is this, perhaps, how we slow down?

Looking back over this, I realize I am writing this letter more for myself than for you. I may not show this one to you. Maybe I’ll just tell you that I want to encapsulate this time with you, because I feel you tugging farther and farther away, and I know it scares you too sometimes. I’ll just tell you that I love you, and you’re the coolest person I know, and I want you to forgive yourself for being a kid sometimes. I want you to see yourself as I see you, because at six years old, you are already your worst critic. I want to put your laughter in a bottle that I can take off the shelf and open one day when one of us needs to hear it and remember the important things, like sun and butterflies, and wading in the muddy edges of the river. When we need to stop running so fast.

I love you.

Mama

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Slow down

Dear Spoon,

You started Kindergarten today.

You were so very excited, you came running into my room at 6:30 this morning, determined not to be late by even a moment. Overjoyed by the newness of it all — new backpack, new shoes, new school, you floated through the morning.

Once we reached the school, you led the way across the meadow to your classroom, shouting over your shoulder, “Come on, Mom!” You ran up to every kid who was about your size on the way and introduced yourself, asking each of them if they were in your class. A few minutes on the playground before the bell rang, and you already had a pack of new friends.

How did you grow up so much, so fast?

The bell rang, and I asked if I could give you a hug goodbye. “Oh, okay, Mom. If you have to.” Already worried about what the other kids might think. “I have to.” I said, and I gave you a quick hug and kiss, wondering how my baby had suddenly decided to become a preteen overnight as you ran to your classroom.

Once I was back in the car, the silence was so foreign. I thought about you all day, and tried not to feel sad that in your excitement, in your sudden maturity, my status had somehow shifted. I am so happy for the person I see you becoming, and feel so grateful for every opportunity you have which I am fortunate enough to witness.

So this is the difference between parenting a toddler and parenting a kid: watching from the sidelines, and quietly cheering.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t overjoyed when I met you at the end of the day and you flung yourself into my arms, words coming at a tumble: “MAMA! I missed you, Mama! I had the best day ever! We went on a hunt for a raccoon and there were clues! I have a new best friend! School is great! I love you, Mama! My teacher is awesome!”

These are the times when I get to hold tight to your smallness, and bite my tongue a little to keep from whispering, “Slow down. Stay little.”

I love you, little one.

xo,

Mama

 

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Four

Snowshoeing at Yule 2014

Dear Spoon,

It has been so long since I wrote you a letter. The moments spill into days, the days into weeks, and each evening I find we both collapse in a pile as though there is simply nothing left of us. You turned four about a week ago, and this year has been busy for you. Each day you tumble into my bed between 5 and 6 in the morning, demanding snuggles and sleep, but really wanting to tell me everything about anything. Do I remember the toy you had as a baby? There was a deer outside. You had a silly dream where you rode on a dragon’s back and ate marshmallows with him. Do I like your pink blanket? She really is the softest blanket, and therefore, you are fairly certain she is magical.

You love helping in the kitchen, and helping around the house. Sometimes, you are a little too eager to help, and make a huge mess, or get yourself into a bit of a pickle. Other days you surprise me by saying things like, “Pi cat was hungry so I fed her.” All by yourself, no big deal. Your independence will carry you far I know, though sometimes it is a source of frustration for both of us. You are caught in that place between baby and child right now, and want desperately to “be big”, while at the same time, you are scared of not being little. So I snuggle you and tell you that you will be my baby when you are 106, and let you crack the eggs for breakfast.

You started preschool this year, and you have taken it by storm. You are reading in earnest now, and you love spending time in the greenhouse and library at your school. You also love making art and “doing science to things”. You have made many friends at school, which is good, since I was very worried when we left our Iowa home to come to Colorado that you would miss your friends in Iowa. While you have missed them, you have developed so many more friendships here that you cherish.

For your birthday, you wanted to have an ice skating party, so we invited some of your school friends and their families to join us at Evergreen Lake and then have pizza at Beau Jo’s. Within ten minutes on skates, you were skating circles around everyone, and you and the other kids held hands and danced as you skated around the rink. You declared it the best day ever, and I have to agree. We got you an aquarium for your birthday, and you are so excited because you want to learn more about fish. You still want to be a marine biologist, so maybe that will stick. You picked out a few freshwater fish for your tank, and you take such good care of them. You remember to feed them, and often spend an hour at a time just watching them swim circles among the plastic castle and brightly colored rocks you placed there.

You have become quite the naturalist since we moved to Colorado. You are learning all the native trees, you identify birds with me, gather rocks and pinecones, and you are the first to spot herds of deer or elk, or the shadow of a fox slinking between the aspens. You love going on hikes with the dogs, and you recently tried snowshoes, which you also took to faster than your dad or I ever could. You still love gardening with me and at your preschool, and we are planning to put in a flower bed and a greenhouse this next spring. In the meantime, you have been bringing home forced bulbs and baby houseplants that you have started at school, and between the two of us, our house has become quite a jungle while it snows outside.

You love music, and play songs for us on your ukelele and on my old guitar. You make up songs about your friends, about the cat, about pink blanket. Your favorite song is Wailin’ Jenny’s Glory Bound — we sing it and play it over and over for you.¬†You love board games right now, and reading stories together, and playing dress up. When people meet you, they are struck by your intelligence and your kind heart, and I couldn’t agree more. I couldn’t be prouder of you.

I love you,

Mama

Ice Skating at Evergreen Lake 2014

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Prizes

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We have all been there, on one side or the other, though we may not remember it. I certainly don’t. Based upon all of the books written by all of the “experts” out there, it’s probably for the best. I’m pretty sure my mother screwed up somewhere. I’m nearly positive I already have. And yes, I am one of those mothers who reads all of the books.

At her own insistence, we began this Monday afternoon. Fascination won out. And now my little tiny girl sits perched on her potty seat, flipping through a Time magazine. Seriously, Time. To be fair, she is enamored with a photo of Prince Somebody on a polo pony. I grind my teeth a little when she asks me to read Cinderella for the 17th time. I’m worried that not only has she decided to grow up too fast, but she really wants to be a princess.

So sometimes I tell her my own version of Cinderella. The version where Cinderella grew up in the projects and saved her babysitting money to buy a used sewing machine and drafting table and made clothes. This Cinderella wins a scholarship to some internationally acclaimed university and gets her MBA; now she owns a multi-billion dollar company making handbags. (My apologies to Coach, Dolce & Gabana, and all the rest.) There is no prince. Cinderella simply doesn’t have time for polo ponies.

Luckily, she seems to enjoy both versions. Not nearly as much, though, as her hard-earned Hello Kitty underpants or the M&Ms I pop into her mouth after what feels like hours of waiting. The wonderful part about this week is I can see that she is totally in control (of herself, me, daddy, everything) and she loves it. It is a wonderful game. And I know that if she approaches life the way she is approaching this, she will be okay.

Now, if I can just stop drinking coffee and eating M&Ms all day, everything will be right with the world.

(crossposted from Cowbird)

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I want to remember this when I am very old.

You wander bow-legged up and down the hallway, too nervous to stray from the ledge on the wainscoting, trying all the doors. When you can’t open them, you knock. When you can, you squeal, giggle, and tumble into the next room. Every day in this house is a new exploration for you, and this is your favorite game. You chatter all the time, gathering new words like shiny rocks placed in pockets next to string and a leaf you found. You sing songs and periodically shout, “happy!” You are desperate to know how everything works, and want to be in the middle of it all. Sometime during the last fourteen months, I blinked and you grew from a baby into a child.

Your hair is always a crazy rat’s nest — too long in the front and back, too short on the sides, and I dare not cut it. You are often sporting the latest bruise on your forehead from trying to run before you really felt ready to walk (so like me in that regard), and your face and hands are always grubby. Baby gates and outlet covers have become polite requests to you, rather than barricades, and you say, “no, no” to yourself as you remove them. You are joyful and curious, and mercurial in the way that comes naturally and easily to young children. You sit beside me and empty papers from the recycle bin, examining each one, discussing it in your secret language, and arranging them on the floor around you. When you find one you really like, you stop to giggle. So this is toddlerhood.

You still love me, but your sun rises and sets around your Daddy right now, and the little stuffed dog we can never pry from your hands for a much-needed laundering. I am slowly learning to share the messy baby kisses and gleeful smiles a little more each day. I am filing away in my memory the smell of your hair as you snuggle under my chin and your sing-song cries of “Ma-ma! Ma-ma!”, as I begin to realize that this time exists to teach me that you won’t always be so tiny, and you won’t always be just mine. But this evening, I will tuck you under the covers of my bed, and hold you close, a tiny furnace; and we will stare at the slowly moving blades of the ceiling fan until your eyes droop and your breathing is slow and deep. Blessed be, little one.

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Paint the world in joy

Dear Audrey,

Today you are one. You woke today as you usually do, babbling and laughing in your crib. We carried you into our bed and sang “Happy birthday” to you. You seemed to think that was the best thing ever. Later, presents, macaroni and cheese, the first taste of cake, and the resultant mid-day bath made this a pretty great day for you, I think.

You are boundless joy and determination at this age. You know several words, and are determined to learn more each day. I watch you consistently working through phonemes, and wonder when you really started to work out those first few words: “Mama”, “Dada”, “Cat”, “Hi”… It seems you may have started practicing those on day one. You practice all those things you really want to try; you often whisper a words for days before you say it, and you have spent the last month and a half almost walking. I’m fairly certain that you can walk at any moment, as soon as you realize you can. I also know that you will not be the child to quietly let go of our hands and take a few tentative steps — you will only be happy if you can suddenly stand up and cross the room on your own. So, I continue to offer my hand and wait until you are ready. And you grin and giggle as you stumble alongside of me. My big girl.

You love people; you constantly wave at strangers and you have an uncanny knack for finding those who will not only wave back, but will play with you for several minutes. You also love dogs of all sorts, and I occasionally worry that you will crawl up to one and begin chewing on it and petting it before we can explain to you that it may be less receptive than your dog, whom you call “Day-dee”.

We spend our days exploring the house, playing with your toys, and playing the piano. You are absolutely in love with music, and often sit on our laps while we play the piano so you can play a “duet”. You also sing to us, your silly songs of made up baby sounds, which occasionally echo the lullabies I sing to you and make me do a double take. Not much gets past you these days.

In all, the world is a wonderful place for you, and I am so happy for that. You seem to have fun no matter where you are or what is happening; you always find a way to play and learn, and your laughter and squeals brighten every room you visit. This last year has certainly had its ups and downs for all three of us, but I am so happy that you are here to show me how wonderful and joyful the world really is. You are my light.

Happy birthday, Spoonie. I love you all the way to the moon and back.

xo,
mama.

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Feeding the child.

You carry her, grinning, into the kitchen.
Pull the highchair out with one hand,
Slide her into it, rearrange her feet, help her to sit.
Untangle her fingers from your hair.
Standing, you push her chair closer to
The honey-glaze of the heavy wooden table.
You remember cutting each board.

Next blocks, a rattle, a wooden spoon.
Keep her busy while you locate a bowl.
Every morning is oatmeal. Mixed quickly and microwaved —
Grateful to find a use for the thing.
From across the room she drops the spoon,
Bursting into a cascade of baby chirps and giggles.
Gravity is hilarious this week.

You hand her the spoon, kiss her forehead,
Sit beside her at the table. She smells like sunshine.
Every morning oatmeal. She likes hers with cinnamon —
And with bananas on the side.
She smiles between spoonfuls, and mushes her fingers in
It is paint, it is sculpture, it is joy.
Oatmeal covers her face and hair.

You’ve given up on burp cloths.
Mop her face with a kitchen towel.
Sneak sips of coffee between messy bites,
Gently move her hand away from your cup.
She grabs your hair, pulls your face closer to hers,
Oatmeal kisses.
It is time for a bath.

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