The Kindergarten Blues

I can’t believe this is really happening. How did 4 years go by so fast???

I am sitting at my daughter’s “Welcome to Kindergarten” meeting for parents, which is being held 8 months before school officially starts. They begin by showing one of those sentimental school videos, where the kids frolic on the playground, set to sappy elevator music. Normally, those types of videos would make me snicker, but this one is different. This time, all I can do is picture my baby girl as one of those frolicing children. Thank heavens I am in the back row, because it is all I can do to keep the waterworks from flowing.

A little while later, they are talking about doing lockdown drills with the children. Apparently by law, they have to do so many a year. Just in case, you know, someone marches into the school with a gun. Oh great, and up until now, by biggest worry was bullies on the playground.

Oh, how I adore this little school. It is the first school I ever taught at, and years later, I ended up living in a house where I could literally see it from my kitchen window every day. My daughter has been playing here since she was old enough to walk. Many hours have been spent here already, splashing in mud puddles, going down slides, picking apples and berries from the trees. So as I leave the meeting and head out for the short walk home, I am trying very hard to push down the feeling that this school is suddenly the enemy. That it is in some way stealing my daughter away from me.

Luckily I come to my senses – after my very short, yet seemingly endless walk – and realize that it is not actually school that is the enemy, but life itself. Going to school is only the first step in a never-ending staircase that will see her growing up, and growing away from me. At least when she’s in school, I can look out and see her from our kitchen window. Life, however, will take her on journeys much further away, where I am not always within walking distance.

My Epiphany in the Costco Parking Lot


But every so often, I’ll have, like, a moment, when just being myself, in my life, right where I am, is, like, enough.” (“Pressure,” My So-Called Life, ABC. Dec 1, 1994.)

I had been stressed – as usual – from most things in my life for awhile. I had started a new job a few months back, and dealing with the daily trials and tribulations of having a toddler. And of course, my ever-so-constant tendency to over-think, over-worry, and over-panic didn’t help all that much. And, oh, did I mention I rarely sleep through the night? Well that hadn’t been helping things either.

In short, I was burnt out.

But then something weird happened. I was just sitting in my car, waiting for my dad to come out of Costco, as we were on our way to a family birthday party. Sipping my diet Dr. Pepper, listening to Keith Urban on the stereo, I caught myself feeling…wait for it…relaxed. But how could this be? I hadn’t recalled feeling that way in a very long time. I had been trying to find ways to de-stress, without much success. And all it took was 10 minutes, alone in my car, essentially just doing nothing at all.

But that was the point…in that moment, I wasn’t trying – I was just being. It was such a little moment, for a very brief time, but it was a huge awakening for me.

We spend so much of our time in circumstances that we can’t control, being stressed out, and feeling powerless to change anything. And sadly, in many cases, we simply can’t change the circumstances in our life, or the things that stress us out. We have kids, jobs, spouses, friends, and a life that depends on us showing up MOST of the time.

But we can make room in our lives for little moments SOME of the time when we can opt out, take a breather, chill out, and just be. If we can eke out enough of these little moments, however fleeting, maybe, just maybe, our lives would be so much more tolerable. Maybe even enjoyable. Maybe even inspiring.


Confronting My Second Worst Fear

Every parent’s worst fear is the death of their child. Every parent’s second worst fear is that they themselves will die, and leave their child to grow up without them.

Tonight I am confronted with a harsh reality no parent every wants to contemplate. I am watching my beautiful little girl swim in the fading sunlight, her happy little smile an image I want to hold tight in my memory. And I am thinking, what if something happened to me, and my beautiful little girl had to suddenly grow up without me?

This morning, four innocent people lost their lives in our quiet little city. Four people gunned down, two of them police officers. One of the police officers was Sara, a mother of three boys, a girl I first met as a child in school. Sara and the other victims will not get to go home to their children ever again. There will be moments missed, memories not made, and huge voids in lives that will never be filled.

There will be moments missed, memories not made, and huge voids in lives that will never be filled.

Every parent’s worst fear is the death of their child. Every parent’s second worst fear is that they themselves will die, and leave their child to grow up without them.

As my daughter swims and plays, she is thankfully completely oblivious to the dark events of today, or the unsettling thoughts lurking around in my head. And this is as is should be. No child should ever have to be burdened with the thought of losing their parents, and no child should ever have to be confronted with this reality, either. But it happens, every day, in the blink of an eye.

And no parent should ever have to be burdened with these thoughts, either. But when tragic things happen, you are suddenly forced against your will to confront the horrific realities of life. Mainly, that it is far too short, and precious moments are fleeting.

But when tragic things happen, you are suddenly forced against your will to confront the horrific realities of life. Mainly, that it is far too short, and precious moments are fleeting.

So I am going to watch my daughter swim and enjoy the look of sheer happiness on her face. I am going to try and soak in all the fleeting little moments of her life. I am going to try and make happy memories for her, so that if something ever happens to me, she can at least look back and smile when she thinks of our time together.

Because in the end, as parents, that is all we can really do.

Things I Want My Daughter to Know About Life

To my beautiful little girl,

I hope I am lucky enough to watch you grow up. I hope we get to experience all the highs and lows of life together, to soak up every experience possible.

Sometimes, though, life changes suddenly, and tomorrow is never guaranteed. Or we get so busy with day-to-day tasks that we forget to really talk and connect the way that we should.

So just in case I forget, or am not able to tell you later on, here are some things I want you to know as you navigate your way through life:

You alone are enough. You don’t need anyone or anything else to complete you.

Falling in love is one of the best – and worst – experiences in life. Don’t try to fight it or analyze it to death. You love who you love, whether it’s right or wrong. Just enjoy the journey and don’t worry about the destination.

Normal is boring. Different is colorful, vibrant, and a crazy fun ride. So be different, be unique, be weird. Let your freak flag fly. You will never, ever regret it – trust me.

“Normal is boring. Different is colorful, vibrant, and a crazy fun ride…”

Family is everything. Go and do what you need to do in life, but never lose touch with your family of origin. And never get so busy that you neglect to create a second chosen family for yourself – whether that means a husband and children, or a family of good friends.

To be successful in all areas of life, you need to be hard-working, fun, and kind. If you really pay attention, you will notice that the best people in life possess all three traits.

Money DOES buy happiness. Most people say the opposite is true, but if you are broke and in debt up to your eyeballs, you will be miserable. You don’t have to be rich to be happy, but you do need to make enough so that you can pay all your bills, put a little away, and still have room to treat yourself from time to time.

Do what you love, whether you get paid for it or not. A hobby may turn into a career, or it may not. Just find something that makes you sparkle inside, and find ways to fit it into your life as much as possible.

“Just find something that makes you sparkle inside, and find ways to fit it into your life…”

Live a life of no regrets. If you are not sure if you should do something, stop and ask yourself this question: If I don’t do this, will I regret it on my deathbed? If the answer is yes, then go for it.

You don’t need anyone’s permission to change. Change is vital and necessary in life to keep growing and moving forward. Surround yourself with people who support and encourage this, and remove people from your life who don’t.

Everyone is someone’s child. Therefore, everyone is the center of someone’s universe, and every life matters. Treat every person equally, and with dignity and respect. But also demand that others treat you the same in return.

Because you are the center of my universe, and always will be.

Feeling Good vs Feeling Good ABOUT YOURSELF

“When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. And that’s my religion.” -Abraham Lincoln

I can’t believe I’m in my forties and only am now starting to understand what feeling good about myself means. The realization slowly dawned on me lately as I’ve been trying….yet again…for the 525th time…to kick my compulsive eating habit. I feel good when I get to eat my favorite snacks, but I feel good about myself when I can summon the willpower to stay away from them. Or at least only have a small mouthful (ahemm….okay a small handful…or if it’s ice cream, half a tub instead of…okay, you get the picture).

This is so hard because I friggin’ love to eat. I don’t have to be hungry to eat…just happy/tired/bored/stressed/[insert any other emotion here]. Food has always been my kryptonite (along with very cute boys, but that’s a whole separate blog post).

I also love to exercise, but when you work full time and have a toddler, time and energy are in short supply. I have always been able to eat pretty much what I want as long as I exercise, but once I went back to work after mat leave was over, the pounds started creeping back…so I basically lost all my baby weight, then gained it back, plus 10 pounds (okay, so it was closer to 20 pounds…my bad).

So I guess that feeling good means enjoying things in the moment, even though they are not always good for me…eating/drinking too much; lounging on the couch instead of going for a walk; binge watching TV shows when I could be writing that best-selling novel (hey, I can dream, right??).

And that means that feeling good about myself means sometimes not enjoying things in the moment…skipping the extra snacks; pushing myself to exercise when I am dog tired; skipping the boob tube to do something more productive…but I feel better in the long run because I have accomplished something that makes me feel good about myself – which is something that each and every one of us wholeheartedly deserves.

So now that I have been productive and finished this blog post that makes me feel good about myself, I may just reward myself with a teeny, tiny treat…but only a couple of bites.

Life Lessons From a Dog

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.
-John Lennon

“Are you sure it’s a dog? It looks like a giant rat.”

At the age of 37, the breeder handed me my very first dog. All 1.5 pounds of him.

We named him Bandit because he kept stealing and hiding things – mostly slippers. A Yorkipoo, he looked like a Yorkshire Terrier but with curly, soft, brownish-grey Poodle hair.

Completely Clueless

To say Bandit rocked my world is an understatement. Having never owned a dog before, I was completely clueless. Poor Bandit was my first test subject, and I made so many mistakes.

“Socialization,” I kept reading, was necessary for puppies, to expose them to the larger world. So I set out to expose Bandit to as much life and variety as I could.

We took him on trips, got him out and about as much as possible. I even took him through a car wash, which I think traumatized him for life.

However, in my quest to socialize him, I overlooked a few things. Most importantly, the fact that he got carsick – every single car trip was a disaster. Plus, he was a very anxious dog, and craved routine and familiarity – not adventure and long car trips.

Big Changes

Funny thing about dogs though – in my many hair-brained attempts to expose him to life and all its complexities, he was actually changing me more than I was changing him.

The changes were slow and subtle. I knew something was up when out for a morning run, I thought “I really should be cutting my runs down so I can spend more time with Bandit before work.”  Then I started worrying that I wasn’t bonding enough with him. Before I knew it, I was head over heels, crazy in love with my new pint-sized fur baby.

Then came the real shocker – my fur baby got me thinking about having a real baby. Not that I didn’t want children necessarily – I had just never been in a hurry, had always taken a wait-and-see approach. I was hardly the maternal type – or so I thought. I craved independence, freedom, my own space. Or did I?

Apparently not, because two years later, I had not one, but three babies – two fur, one real.

Animal Love

I am not sure what would have happened if Bandit hadn’t come into my life. He seemed to take everything I thought I understood about myself and flip it completely upside down and inside out. I was never a huge fan of animals until he came along, but he showed me the amazing bond that can happen between humans and animals, and the depth of my ability to love and care for others.

All these big lessons from such a tiny little dog. But as the saying goes, “good things come in small packages.” Or in my case, with small fur babies.


Don’t Take Everyday Routines for Granted

Tonight I was walking our dog Roxy down by the school and suddenly felt a pang of sadness. Since we had turned back the clock a few days ago, the nights were now getting dark at suppertime. This was the second day we weren’t able to do our nightly after supper ritual – playing at the school.

After supper, you would grab your little pink purse, full of animal finger puppets and a few Fisher Price Little People, and we would “skip” down to the school (note: fun for kids; embarrassing as hell for adults). It was always the same routine – you climbing up to the top of the slide for a game of “Get” (a.k.a. throwing everything in your purse down the slide, and instructing me to “get” them and give them back to you). Then you’d run around the school and make us chase you. Then back to the slide. Then you’d hide in the big rubber tires and I’d have to “find” you. Then you’d run down to the big, colorful, painted rocks at the end of the soccer field and point to every one (“red, yellow, blue…”). Then, if there were puddles, there was splashing and throwing rocks in the water.

Finally, you’d get tired and say “home,” meaning you were too tired to walk, so your dad or I would have to carry you (all the while, muttering, “Why didn’t we bring the friggin’ bike?”).

Seeing the school surrounded by darkness, and knowing it was the end of our nightly ritual, just reminded me how I can’t afford to take all of our little “routines” for granted – they are so short and fleeting, and change in a heartbeat. Of course we’ll be back at the school again when the days are longer, but the routine will inevitably be different, and will keep changing.

You have always been one to follow a very exact routine for weeks, sometimes months at a time, then abruptly shift and start a completely new one. There was the “running back and forth between mommy in living room and daddy in kitchen” phase, the “take me everywhere in my little red wagon” phase, the “mommy has to take me to the swings every day on her lunch break” phase….etc…etc…

It is hard as a parent to realize how fleeting your time is with your child, and that someday they will be gone, and you will be left with the memories of all those little “routines”…and wish you could do every single one all over again.