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Releasing My Heart into the Wild Kingdom of Kindergarten

I am the mom of three kids and my oldest, my 5-year-old, always seems SO BIG to me.  She towers over her brother and sister and orders them around as though she is a queen and makes friends with a simple, “Wanna be my friend?” and uses big words like “hypothesis” and “crustacean.” She can wipe her own butt! She can write her own name! She can read the word “No.” She sits in a booster seat and FASTENS her own seat belt. She seems so big all of the time, that some days I have to remind myself she’s *only* five. Much of the time, it feels as if her high school graduation is right around the corner.

But then we walked into that kindergarten classroom on the first day of school and she was unsure of where to hang her backpack and where to sit. She seemed uncharacteristically timid and reserved, was dwarfed by her tall teacher, and looked lost in that sea of twenty-five children. And in that moment, she seemed so SMALL to me. HUGE in my heart, but so very small in the big picture of life.

She put on a brave face, though, and gave me a smile that didn’t look real and said “‘Bye, Mom” in the tiniest, shakiest voice.

I left her there, coloring her picture, with tears in my eyes. I walked away, feeling vulnerable. Fragile. She was the one who was in a new environment, without me as her safety net, but I was the one who had just released a piece of her heart into a foreign land of bullies and peer pressure and influences of which I have no control. I now have to fully rely on others to look out for her well being and I am terrified.

Her first day of school went well, as did her second. She may have been nervous, but shed no tears at my departure and, at the end of the day, she ran to me with wild, joyful abandon and said, “I had so much fun, Mom!”

But the third day? She wept when I dropped her off. She hugged me fiercely and mumbled into my shoulder, “I’m going to miss you. Don’t be gone all day.”

I dried her tears and stepped away, only to watch them fall again. They started and stopped over and over as we waited for her teacher to come out of the classroom and lead the line of children inside for the start of another day.

My heart ached watching her, ached as it maybe never has before. My brave child, my social butterfly, my big personality, my fearless diva who walks into a room and owns it…here she was, showing her weakness and vulnerability at last. Here were her tears, proof positive that she still needs me.

And I, her.

Because as she walked away from me, wiping her eyes, following the other kids into her classroom, she tugged my heart along with her and I felt empty and lonely and unsteady in its absence. It stayed with her all day and returned to me only at 3:40pm, when that sweet child’s hand was back in my own.

I didn’t know it would be like this. I thought I was stronger. I thought I was ready for this. I thought, maybe, horribly, that our bond just wasn’t that great. That, maybe, her growing up and going to school all day every day would be a relief to both of us.

As it turns out, we are no more ready for this transition than anyone else and she still needs me and I need her and we’re in this together.

And that realization is a relief, and a gift, in itself.

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An Update, Because I Have Nothing Better to Discuss

Why, hello there.

It’s been a while. Or at least, it feels like it has. I’ve been so busy lately and I just haven’t had the energy, ability, or desire to write something worthwhile. At least not here, in this venue. But I’m feeding Poppy right now while binge-watching Army Wives, and I thought it would be a good time to pop in for a quick update on all the happenings in the Dash home.

So, here we go…

ME:

  • My mom left on Monday after spending eleven days with us. It was a glorious visit filled with lots of fun and laughter and very little strife, but I was on the go every second she was here. There were days I was only at home to sleep. I am exhausted. And lonely once again now that she is gone. Getting back into our old routine is always a little hard.
  • Breastfeeding continues and I donate hundreds of ounces every month to a set of twins who were born just a week after Poppy. Have I mentioned that before? I’m glad my body does this one thing right. And thankful that is has helped me to reach my goal weight earlier than I ever have postpartum, despite the copious amounts of sugar I’ve been eating. Breastfeeding cravings are seriously no joke!
  • Another essay of mine will be published on Scary Mommy on June 15th. This one will be published under “Anonymous” (to protect my kids) and is a bit more controversial than the last. I’m nervous about some of the hate it will surely get, but plan to brush it off and embrace the moment.
  • I’ve been thinking a lot about the future. This is really another post for another day, but I’m getting the itch to start “trying” again. We’ll be waiting until next spring, but I feel hopeful and scared and anxious for it all at once. I’m ready for it. But I’m not. But I am. But I’m not. And on and on it goes and always, at the back of my mind, there’s the question of whether I’ll ever even have the chance to have a fourth, ready or not.

HONEY:

  • We should hear any day or minute about what kind of raise or promotion he will or will not be getting. He recently retained a mega-million-dollar account for his company and worked his ass off to do it, so we’re hopeful they will compensate him accordingly and we will be deeply disappointed if they decide not to.
  • He’s always and ever an incredible husband and father. Hard-working. Jovial. Steady. The rock of our family. I’m the one who stays at home and yet he does so much to help me. Every day, I am reminded how lucky I am.

CUPCAKE:

  • She is about to graduate from preschool and I feel excited and a teensy sad to be staring kindergarten straight in the face. She looks forward to school every day, though, and I really, really hope that continues. It reminds me so much of myself.
  • That Scary Mommy essay I mentioned earlier? It’s about her. About how difficult it can be to be her mother, with the amount of attitude and grief that she throws at me on a daily basis. I really hope I don’t regret being so very honest in such a public format. Mom-guilt is real and constant and I’m already feeling it over this. Especially considering that, since writing this, she hasn’t given me many problems at all. I’m thankful for that, but it’s also very…curious. Could she be outgrowing it, after all? Or am I just immune to it after all these years?
  • The other day, she said to me out of the blue, “Mommy, I know you want another baby, but if you can’t have one, I’ll let you play with some of my dolls.” If only it were that easy, sweetheart. If only. And also…please don’t let this be some sign of what is — or is not — to come.

SKITTLE:

  • We just embarked on potty-training not long ago. We haven’t had many successes yet, but not many accidents either. Apparently, this kid has a bladder of steel.
  • She’s starting to talk, act, look, and walk more like a little girl than a baby. It breaks my heart, but I am enjoying every minute of this age with her. Everything she does is adorable. My favorite is when she dramatically throws herself onto the floor and says, “It’s no fair!” Any guesses where she learned that from?

POPPY:

  • Still no teeth. Still screaming in the middle of some nights and at random times during the day as if they will be arriving any moment. And he’s also taken to clamping down — hard — while nursing. This period of teething is so fun.
  • In the last week, he has gone from rolling around and getting stuck in odd places and then screaming for help to efficiently army crawling and getting to exactly what he wants. The dog food & water bowls now remain on the countertop during Poppy’s waking hours.
  • He had a prolonged cough and wheeze for months and there was talk of asthma, but the cough and wheeze are now almost entirely gone. Fingers crossed they stay that way!

WHAT ELSE:

  • We have started the home selling/buying process. At three bedrooms and 1500 square feet, we are maxed out on space here. I feel sentimental over leaving the only home our three children have ever known, a home that has seen me through some of my best and worst life moments, but we desperately need more space. I’m excited for what is to come, but I feel overwhelmed and stressed about the whole process. There’s so much to do! And how does anyone accomplish all of it with KIDS?!
  • Poppy and I will be flying to Idaho in a few weeks to visit my mom for a long weekend. And, later in the summer, we have two short beach getaways planned. We really should be spending our weekends and money getting our house ready to be put on the market, but quality family time is important. Or at least that’s what I tell myself every time I start to feel guilty about it.

So with all of that going on, I’m not really sure when I’ll be returning here. It may be in a week, or a month, or a year. I want this to be a place I can turn to, a release, a diary, but not an obligation. I’ll be back, maybe at the peak of craziness when I crave a shoulder to lean on, or maybe once the dust settles. This summer is going to be a whirlwind. And no matter what yours has in store for you, I hope you all are able to take a few minutes to enjoy a mojito and the sun on your face. Life is beautiful. Even when it’s hard, it’s beautiful.

Be well, friends. I’ll see you again soon. xo

Siblings Side-by-Side

Friends, I try to never let more than a week or two go by without checking in here, but I’m finding that’s getting harder and harder. I’m busier these days and also, apparently, I’m running out of things to say. Poppy did just turn six months, though, and as soon as I get his 6-month photos back, I’ll do a post to update you all about our insanely sweet, social, smiley, and silly baby boy.

Today, though, I wanted to share a comparison photo of our three little ones. I posted this on Facebook and thought it would be fun to do the same here:

That’s Cupcake on the left in 2011, Skittle in the middle in 2014, and Poppy on the right just a couple weeks ago, all of them taken around the age of six months. See the resemblance?? I’ve always thought Poppy looks more like Cupcake did as a babe, but in this side-by-side, I feel he looks more like Skittle. And, at the same time, has his own unique look.

What do you think? And for those of you who have more than one child, did your babies look alike in infancy? Do they resemble each other now?

#MicroblogMondays: Sister-Friends

On Saturday, our family of five drove three hours one way for my niece’s birthday party. Cah-razy. But it was a fun event at a cool pizza parlor that had bumper cars, a bouncy house, a ginormous play structure (I can’t even adequately describe to you how BIG it was or how HIGH those slides were) and a small corner filled with a bunch of toys for the littlest ones.

My two-year-old, however, wanted nothing to do with that corner and, instead, really, really wanted to play on that play structure that was “recommended” for four and up. And at the same time, there were so many big kids there and it was such a confusing maze inside, she was scared to go alone. So we asked her five-year-old sister if she might be willing to take Skittle along with her and wouldn’t you know it, she said yes with such gusto, that alone was shocking as she is the type of kid who typically says no to any request we make on principal alone, I think.

And then we watched as those two sisters spent the next two hours climbing up and sliding down that play structure together, working as a team to help little Skittle get from one tall platform to the next (Cupcake would go first and then slide her arms under Skittle’s armpits and pull her up), relying on one another to find their way through the maze of colorful steel pipes, trusting each other totally. It brought tears to my eyes to see and made every squabble over who would hold my left hand and which DVD we would watch on the drive home worth it. For those two hours, they were sisters, partners, and best friends. It was the most beautiful thing.

Mostly Sad

Two weeks ago, my once-dear, but now non-friend Lillian and I were in the same place at the same time, for the first time in an entire year. We were both attending a birthday party for the son of our mutual friend, Leigh. In addition to being a party guest, I had also been asked to be the official party photographer, which I was thankful for. It was a small mercy Leigh gave me, asking me to do that, giving me an excuse for not socializing, giving me a shield of protective armor to hide behind.

Lillian’s dark hair was shaped into the same short, spunky cut that she’d had for a while, but she looked different to me. Maybe she’d lost a little weight? And she was wearing a scarf and stylish ballet flats that seemed so different from what I remembered as her style. She looked good, but acted more subdued and reserved than the bold, loud, laughing Lillian I knew. I could practically see the wall she’d built around herself and, if it hadn’t been for my friendly, loving Cupcake running up to greet her and talk her ear off (because somehow, over a year and half later, my big girl still remembers Lillian and her daughter), I probably wouldn’t have heard her voice at all. She was quiet. Reserved. Guarded. I felt it, and I know my husband and Leigh did too.

When Lillian entered the party room, she gave me a little wave and when she left two hours later, she did the same, but other than that, she ignored me completely. Didn’t even look my way. We both moved about the room, her focused so completely and intentionally on her two little ones and me hiding behind my camera and snapping away. By the way we barely acknowledged one another, never connecting like the identical poles of two magnets, you wouldn’t know that we have a history. You wouldn’t know that she was there for me, one of the few IRL, when I miscarried. You wouldn’t know that I was one of the first to know when she found out she was pregnant with the baby she lost or the one she gave birth to a few months after Skittle. You wouldn’t know that we went on weekend getaways together, that she threw a baby shower for me, that she attended our gender reveal party, and that Cupcake spent the night at her house while I went to the hospital to have Skittle. You’d have no idea because there, at that party, it was like we didn’t know each other at all.

Which is freaking sad, ya’ll.

I felt awkward and nervous and unsure and confused and surprised and insecure and reserved that day. But most of all, I felt sad. I wanted to feel indifferent. Or at the very least, mad. But I just felt mostly sad.

Sad because Lillian was once my go-to girl when it came to grieving my loss. She was my greatest support and my greatest cheerleader in the year or two that followed as I fought to bring Skittle safely into our lives. Having suffered RPL, she knew better than anyone else what I did and did not need from her. And she helped me. She helped me so much.

Sad because, if things had gone differently, it would have been Leigh, Lillian, and I working together to make that party a success…and then standing against the wall, laughing and eating the fattest pieces of cake we could eat while still being socially acceptable.

Sad because it was never more clear that my daughter, precious 5-year-old Cupcake, had lost someone, too. Lillian was in her life from the ages of one to four and then she, and her daughter (whom Cupcake had regular playdates with), were gone. And when Cupcake saw them both that day at the party, her face lit up, and she ran to them, and held hands with little Mini-Lillian, and it was almost as though nothing had changed at all.

Sad because while Cupcake knows and remembers Lillian very well, Skittle does not. My friendship with Lillian started unraveling sometime around Skittle’s first birthday. Skittle doesn’t know her much at all. And Poppy just doesn’t know her. Period.

Sad because, all this time later, I still don’t exactly understand how it all fell apart, or why it had to, or what it was that made Lillian start to hate me so.

Sad because, all this time later, I’m still affected by it. Still mad. Still hurt. Still sad.

And maybe that makes me terribly pathetic. Or maybe it just makes me human. And maybe I’ll write more about all of this as I continue to process. Or maybe I’ll just keep it close to my heart forevermore.

I honestly don’t even know what the point of this post is. Except to express how amazing and incredibly unbelievable it is to me that someone whom is not family and was in my life for a relatively short amount of time (3-4 years) can have this much power over me. Except, she was there during one of my greatest crises. And she does know things about me that most others do not. And I did once see her on a weekly, if not daily, basis — so much more than most anyone else, except for my most immediate family. So I guess that probably explains it.

But still, it’s sad. Sad how quickly things can change. And sad that, once they do, there’s no going back. This can’t be undone. I don’t know what the future holds or if some event or turning point, big or small, will reunite us. I just know that what’s been said and done is permanent. It’s left a lasting mark. If not on the universe, at least on my heart.

#Microblog Mondays: Wishful Thinking

Tomorrow, an old professor of mine will be coming for a visit. He and his wife are in town, passing through after weeks of travel in Asia, and asked to stop by. My husband and I first met in this professor’s class long ago (almost exactly ten years ago if we want to talk specifics) and he came to our wedding. He is a bit of an odd duck, but he is very dear to us.

But suddenly, I am wishing we were more successful and doing something of value with our college degree. I’m wishing we had a bigger house and our children were better behaved. I don’t know why the opinion of this man from our past matters at all, but it does. I want to impress him. I want to still be one of his favorites. I want him to look at us, nod and think to himself, “I done good.”

That’s what I’d really like, but I’d settle for my 5-year-old, who doesn’t possess a single shy bone in her body and has NO filter whatsoever, behaving like the polite, delightful, poised young lady that I know she can be if she tries very, very hard. And please, my darling girl. Please. Whatever you do, please don’t talk about my vagina.

Update: 37 Weeks and Not Yet Ready

I’m 37 weeks now, which sounds and seems INSANE, and it’s time for another update. There’s so much happening around here! Let’s make this easy. Bullet-point easy:

  • I’m feeling really, really good so far. I think I look HUGE, but I feel fantastic. So far, no hemorrhoid flare-ups. The nausea is FINALLY gone. I’m tired, but not overly so. Still sleeping pretty well at night. No swelling. Sometimes achy, but it comes and goes. I’m good! And it’s amazing. Earlier in this pregnancy, I was miserable. Now? Not so much. And fingers are crossed that this continues right up until delivery day…
  • I had another prenatal appointment today. My blood pressure has been mostly really great (around 105/65). Until today. Today, it was 130/70. That’s not that high and my doctor seemed un-phased by it, but it’s got me feeling pretty down. I remember my last pregnancy and the high BP numbers and the multiple NSTs and twice weekly appointments and growth ultrasounds and tears and stress and worry… We’re in the home stretch of this pregnancy now, much later than I was when my BP first went in the crapper while pregnant with Skittle, so I’m feeling fairly confident that this won’t get out of control. But still. I really just want everything to go smoothly. Just this once. Guess we’ll just wait and see what next week brings.
  • I’m starting to worry that, after this baby comes and especially after my mom goes home (she’ll be with us for five weeks, starting on Sept 30), I’m going to feel very isolated and alone on a day-to-day basis. I don’t have a lot of local friends, and even less since my mother’s group kind of fell apart and Lillian ended our friendship. And it will be cold/flu season, which means even less opportunities to see the friends we do have because it seems someone is always sick. So I’ll be at home all day with three kids and no adult conversation and possibly trapped there for weeks on end because of all the germs…that sounds like a desperately lonely place to be in. And I’m not sure what to do about it. 😦
  • I’m not quite ready for this boy to arrive yet! Hospital bags are packed and I’m making progress on the nursery, but it’s not DONE. And I really want it done before he gets here! And I want to make some truffles to put in the freezer, finish some party decorations for Cupcake’s 5th birthday (in November) so that I don’t have to complete them after Poppy’s arrival, stock up on a few more baby boy clothes, prep the diaper bag, crochet several more baby hats (I’m going a little crazy with that!), and fit in a few more nights out with friends. I’m planning for him to arrive a week or two after my due date, which of course means he’ll be coming early, right?! Really hoping that’s not so!
  • Because this pregnancy has seemed to drag, I’ve been expecting to feel very ready for it to be over. For this baby to be here. So far, that’s not the case. Instead, I’m feeling a little sad that this time is coming to an end. I’m excited to meet our son, but sad that this magical, mystical, mysterious, precious experience is nearly over. We plan to try for one more baby after this one, but my child-bearing years are drawing to a close. I don’t have many (or maybe any?) times that lay ahead where I will get to relive this. That’s a relief, on one hand, and very, very bittersweet on the other.
  • I’m also feeling that I’m still struggling a bit with the thought of having a boy. Remember this post? I thought most of those feelings had passed. And maybe they had, but now they are returning as we get closer and closer to delivery day. Does this make me an awful person and an awful mother? I fear it does. I’m ashamed and embarrassed to feel this way. It’s very hard to admit that I do, even on this blog. Or especially on this blog. I’m now clinging to the hope that, should we be so lucky to have a fourth child, it will be a girl. But if it’s not? I fear I’ll want to try for a 5th. Or a 6th. Or a 7th. Until I get just one more baby girl. Which is ridiculous, I know. And I hate feeling like that. Feeling like we HAVE to have another baby in order for me to be happy and our family to be complete. Even more, I hate feeling like any baby — this one or the next or the next — is not enough. Because he is! This baby is enough. More than enough. A miracle. A gift. A dream come true in a multitude of ways. I owe him better than my heart is giving right now, and I hate that. I hate me…and yet this is honest. Maybe more honest than I’ve ever been. This probably deserves its own post rather than a simple bullet point, but I just feel like I have to say this right now or maybe I never will. I love this baby — and that’s a plain and simple truth too — but I’m scared I don’t or won’t love him enough. I’m scared that this mixed bag of feelings will make the bonding more difficult, that I won’t bond as quickly, as deeply, or as fiercely. I’m scared that my ingrained, cultural, stereotypical ideas of what it means to be a man will keep me from giving this sweet child all my affection and the freedom to feel his emotions as he should. And I’m scared that this is just the perfect storm for some form of postpartum depression to find its way into my life after Poppy arrives, especially if he ends up being a difficult baby or I begin to feel as isolated and lonely as I fear I will. Please don’t think I’m a horrible person. Or maybe you should, because that’s what I deserve. But my great hope is that a natural birth and some prolonged skin-to-skin contact will make me more bonded to this baby boy than I ever imagined possible….that I will feel my undying love for him instantly in the very depths of my soul and all of these fears will be washed away with the tears I will surely cry. I pray for that every day.
  • On a much happier note, we spent our recent holiday weekend on a beach getaway on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state. It was positively lovely. We spent time exploring the beach every day. I crocheted on the deck of our rental house while the girls napped. We drove into the mountains, took a little hike and met some wild deer. We also fed some domesticated deer, and smelled some yak breath, and got slobbered on by bison, and more. (That was all at a game farm — don’t think we have wild bison and yak roaming around here!) We relaxed, and ate too much, and laughed, and played, and snuggled, just the four of us. It felt like the grand finale to being a family of four…a sweet, happy ending. A perfect ending. I couldn’t have asked for much more.

So that’s it for me! For now. But I’ll be back with more updates soon (I’m sure?) and a letter to Poppy (I hope). Hoping the start of September is being good to all of you! And tell me, who is excited for fall? And who’s sad for summer to end?!?! It’s surely a mix of both here, though I do love me some pumpkin spice lattes, warm sweaters, candy corn, and changing leaves…

And now I’ll leave you with a few photos from our little weekend getaway:

So many deer in the mountains!

So many deer in the mountains!

Cupcake and Honey, stopping to enjoy the view on our mountain hike

Cupcake and Honey, stopping to enjoy the view on our mountain hike

Gorgeous view from the mountaintop!

Gorgeous view from the mountaintop!

Oooo, those eyelashes! I'm slightly obsessed with photographing them.

Oooo, those eyelashes! I’m slightly obsessed with photographing them.

Lady in Red...

Lady in Red…

Hello, Mr. Yak.

Hello, Mr. Yak.

The view from our back deck...see the lighthouse in the distance?

The view from our back deck…see the lighthouse in the distance?

Crocheting with a view

Crocheting with a view

One of Cupcake's favorite parts of the trip...finding and burying treasure on the beach.

One of Cupcake’s favorite parts of the trip…finding and burying treasure on the beach.

My sweet little family, our puppy Junebug included.

My sweet little family, our puppy Junebug included.

Cupcake adored her walk with Junebug on the beach.

Cupcake adored her walk with Junebug on the beach.

morning sunrise

morning sunrise

The view from our front porch...see the hot air balloon?

The view from our front porch…see the hot air balloon?

a crane, at low tide

a crane, at low tide

Honey...calf-deep at

Honey…calf-deep at “low tide”

One of many hand-in-hand walks Skittle and Honey took on the beach

One of many hand-in-hand walks Skittle and Honey took on the beach