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Take Another Little Piece of My Heart Now Baby

18 Jul

The story about how my daughter broke my heart…

Ava lost her first tooth yesterday. Yesterday morning she woke up and said her tooth was really “wobbly.” I checked…sure enough it was. I thought I had time. I thought it wouldn’t come out for a few days at least. It wasn’t that wobbly. Mike took her to swim lessons and she told him that her tooth felt really weird and that she kept trying to push it back in but it wasn’t working. Sitting on the bench, waiting to get in the pool Mike hears her say, “OH! My tooth just came out!” She hands it to him. I get this goofy, toothless picture at work and all I can think is, “My baby girl is growing up!”

I posted this picture on Facebook and immediately realize I am not prepared for the tooth fairy to visit. Apparently the tooth fairy of 2012 brings fairy dust and gold coins? I did not know this. So after the wee one goes to bed, the rumor is that the tooth fairy was hard at work trying to do more than just slip a $5 bill under Ava’s pillow. I think the tooth fairy did a fairly decent job with the limited supplies she had.

It’s a milestone losing your first tooth. I remember losing mine. I remember being so excited for the tooth fairy to come. As a parent of a child who loses their first tooth, it’s also a milestone. She lost her baby tooth…her baby tooth! She lost the tooth that kept me up at night when she was a baby. It’s these little markers of babyhood that keep falling away and reminding me that my baby girl isn’t as much baby as she is girl now.

And then there was this morning. She woke up excited to see what the tooth fairy left. We read the note and she decided she would use the money to buy herself a toy. We got ready for school. Usually when I drop her off in the morning, I walk her all the way to the classroom and give her a hug and a kiss. She hugs for a long time…she’s not a big fan of drop-off. She doesn’t like me to leave her. Until this morning.

We walked through the gate and another one of her classmates was walking in at the same time. I went to the office to sign her in and she kept walking. I stopped and said, “Ava, aren’t you going to wait for me?” She said, “No mom. I’m going to walk with my friend.” Watching her walk away I said, “Well, aren’t you going to say goodbye?” And she glanced over her right shoulder and nonchalantly said, “Bye mom!” And she kept on walking.

I stood there staring at her back. Making sure she wasn’t going to turn back around. Making sure she wasn’t going to run back for a hug. Making sure she was okay. I worried she would realize in 2o minutes that we didn’t say goodbye…at least not in our traditional way. I walked into the office a little teary-eyed with the other child’s mom and she said, “And so it begins…”And my heart was torn. On the one hand I was so proud of her independence, and on the other I thought, “There goes my baby.” Two big milestones in a 24 hour period…my heart can only take so much.

And I do feel like this is how it happens with Ava. With each milestone she reaches, she gains more confidence in being a big kid and she lets go of me a little more. And I know that this is the way it’s supposed to be. I know that my parents watched me grow and gain independence until one day I was 32 with a daughter of my own. They gave me the freedom to grow and let me know that it was okay to let go a little at a time. But how they dealt with it, well, I’m still trying to figure that one out because my heart hurts a little today.

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What Were They Thinking?

21 Jun

“You’re so ugly, your kid should kill themselves.” Klein said her son committed suicide 10 years ago. 

I sat down to eat my lunch today and thought I’d catch up on the news. I really hate reading the news because it gets my blood boiling. Especially today. I’m sure by now most of you have heard about the 68-year-old school bus monitor who was bullied by a bunch of middle-school kids on their bus ride home. If you haven’t, her name is Karen Huff Klein, and you can read all about it here. I was beyond disgusted and beyond angry when I saw this and heard the horrible things they were saying to this woman. I felt ashamed of kids I didn’t know and embarrassed for how she must have felt. The suicide comment above must have hit so close to home for her that it made me cry.

It is incidents like these that make me so worried my own daughter and school. Because this is happening. This bullying is real. The sheer fact that there are so many avenues to bully people now just overwhelms me. Four different kids took videos of what they did to this woman and then decided to share it with the world. As if being bullied wasn’t humiliating enough, now the whole world knows. And maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe it will open the door for us, as parents, to talk to our children and reiterate what is appropriate behavior and what is not.

How this woman handled it with such dignity is beyond me. I felt rage and wanted to scream at them for her. I wanted to yank those kids off the bus and march them up to their homes and have a talk with their parents. This is a 68-year-old woman and I’m sure their words hurt very much. At 68 I think she possesses the maturity and understanding to know her life is worth living. That she shouldn’t kill herself. But what about a 10-year-old? This is what scares me.

I don’t know what I would do if Ava were on the receiving end of treatment like this. Lord knows I’ve bought a few books to try and learn how to raise a happy, confident girl. I hope that if that day ever comes where she’s bullied or sees someone being bullied, she stands up and stops it. I hope that she is always 100% certain that her life is worth living. I do know this, if she EVER treated an elderly person (or peer) the way the children in this video treated Ms. Klein, she better be prepared for eight hours a day, five days a week volunteering at the local nursing home over summer break. She better be prepared to change bedpans and get to know the people who have come before her; people who have shaped this world she lives in.

I don’t know the types of homes these children came from. For all I know, they have great parents who are really, really angry at them right now. I can only hope that’s the case. I hope that the parents make these children right what they’ve done wrong. I hope that these children are taught a lesson they will never forget. I hope we are all taught a lesson we will never forget. Treat people with respect.

“Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.” – Haile Selassie

What I Want for Mother’s Day

10 May

Mother’s Day is coming. I know this because I get a dozen emails a day about sending mom flowers, buying mom the perfect gift or taking mom to dinner. I also get asked by the husband what I want for Mother’s Day at least once a day. My answer is simple, even if it might not be what most moms wish for on Mother’s Day.

I want to spend the day with my friends and family. I want to have a bbq. I want to cook for them. I want to open good wine. I want to turn on some classic rock. I want to sit outside in the sunshine. I want to laugh. I want to be with the people I love. I want them to feel loved. I want them to feel cherished.

Because it really does take a village. I have not done this alone. First and foremost, I have an AMAZING partner. I can’t even begin to explain the amount of daily tasks Mike takes on around the house…I am blessed beyond belief. From bath-time, to packed lunches, to parks, to homework and dinner. The man is truly a partner in all things, especially parenting. He is hands-on. He is involved. And 99% of the time I don’t have to ask for help. I am lucky to have him. And sometimes I can’t help but hear this lyric in the back of my mind, “I have been blessed. With so much more than I deserve…”

And then there’s my family saving the day with sleepovers and play dates. Seriously…I have had to leave Ava with a babysitter once in 5 1/2 years. Do you know how much peace I get in the fact that she’s with people who truly love her? I’m so grateful for that. I am grateful for the advice, perspective and experience that each set of parents bring to the table. I am grateful to have a family that is supportive without being overbearing. I’m grateful that I can pick up the phone and say, “What did you do when _____ happened?” and always have an answer. I’m lucky, but more importantly Ava is lucky to be so loved.

Then there’s my girlfriends. Always ready and willing to help regardless of when or why. I’ve dropped Ava at their houses at 7am on Saturdays so I can get my long training run in. They have picked her up from school when I got stuck in traffic. They offer to bring soup when I’m sick and bring dinner when Mike is out of town. They are always there to offer advice and to help when I need it. But mostly they are there to listen when I’m trying to juggle it all. And sometimes, when all else fails and I drop all the balls, they show up with a bottle of wine and a big, fat hug.

So yes, what I want for Mother’s day is time with the people who help me on the journey…because I haven’t done this alone. I want a good playlist, phenomenal food, great friends, my family, sunshine and a good bottle of red. I want to say thanks.

Don’t Panic

7 Jul

“The ultimate key to freedom is recognizing that everything is a choice.”

I read this today and it caught my attention. I struggle with anxiety. Ninety percent of the time, I am fine. It’s that other ten percent that grabs hold and really takes control and causes me to reach a point of panic. Have you ever had a panic attack? If you’ve ever been in labor, it’s kind of the same sensation as a contraction. You can feel the panic building and your mind is saying “No, no, no, no, no…not now….please stop,” but there’s not a damn thing I can do to stop it. I have to let it come and know that it passes…pretty quickly at that. But it’s embarrassing. Having them in front of my husband is embarrassing. I feel weak and completely irrational.

So what brought this on? Well, Ava has a field trip to Sea Side Lagoon next week and I’m worried. Mike’s worried. There’s water involved. And Ava, well, she “thinks” she can swim. She’s in swim lessons and she’s learning, but I still don’t consider her safe in the water. So while we were lying in bed last night, we started talking about whether or not we should let her go. And Mike said, “I don’t want her to go. I don’t want to end up with a dead child.” And so the contraction began. And don’t mistake me here, I’m not blaming him at all for the panic attack. It just happens and it’s not easily explained other than when he said “dead child” my brain processed it and saw it as if it would happen. My mind imagined her dead, imagined the feelings I would have and then actually had the feelings.  And then my heart sped up and my breathing became erratic while my Mike looked on. Awesome.

This is the part of parenting that I have the hardest time with. As I’m sure most parents do. I want her to go on her field trip. I want her to have a great time with her friends. I want her to come home from school smelling like sunshine and saltwater. I want to hear all about her exciting day. I want to be the parent that doesn’t have the long list of things that could go wrong playing on repeat in my head.I have a daughter who is adventurous. She doesn’t dip her toes in the water…she cannonballs into the deep end. She doesn’t know quiet or slow or be careful. It’s not in her nature. She is so much like her daddy in this respect…let’s go as fast as we can, as hard as we can and get as much out of it as we can.

How do I keep her safe without completely sheltering her from the entire world? How do I make sure that the people I trust to watch her know how much it would devastate me to lose her? How do I make them promise to keep her safe? How do I control everything because clearly that’s the only solution? Haha! More importantly, how do I free myself from these fears? Because that’s the issue here…my fears are justified…but I can’t control them and I can’t let them control me. I can’t shelter her so much that she can’t do anything. So after talking to my own parents this morning and talking to Mike again, we are letting her go on the field trip. We decided she has to wear a life jacket at all times and that one of us may even go to chaperone. So while I can’t control the fears that I have, I do have control over the decisions I make to try to put my mind at ease.

How do you handle parenting fears? I’m not the only person who has them, right?

She’s Ready…Me…Not So Much

4 May

I am so overcome with emotion…it’s that kind of emotion that just washes over me and I can’t seem to right myself from it. We are moving Ava to a new preschool. Not because there is anything wrong with her current preschool, it’s just that we want her to go to one closer to home and hopefully with kids she will go on to kindergarten with. The preschool is attached to the elementary school we want her to attend. It all makes perfect sense…it’s all completely logical…I know I’m doing the right thing. She’s so excited about her new school. She’s been talking about it for two weeks straight, counting down the days and trying to figure out how she can bring her current school friends and teachers with her to her new school. Her first idea was to add four driver’s seats to the car for the teachers and then put her friends in the trunk. I love her. And as logical as it all is, it doesn’t remove the emotion from the situation.

She is absolutely ready for this change. But that’s Ava…she embraces change and sees it as an adventure to experience. As adults, change is frightening. We stick to what we know, what’s comfortable and what will cause the least amount of ripples in our lives. We do this because it’s easy. And the minute we decide to make a change, we begin to question it. At least I do. But alas, I know I’m doing the right thing.

The school newsletter arrives and Ms. Jennifer, her current teacher, talks about Ava leaving and how much she and the class will miss her and how everyone needs to come say goodbye. Thus begins my trail of tears.

This morning I showed up to drop Ava off at school and was greeted by one of her teachers, Ms. Mal, and she started talking about how much she is going to miss Ava and I got a little choked up and told her that I couldn’t talk about it or I would start crying. So she leaned down and started giving Ava hugs and kisses…I think having her talk to me would’ve been easier than watching her love on Ava. Because you see, she really does love my child.

After dropping Ava with Ms. Mal, I went to Ava’s classroom to drop off her lunch bag and sign her in and I see this big white envelope in her folder with her name on it. So I grab it thinking it’s artwork and such. I walk to my car feeling a little nostalgic and sad. I open the envelope to find books and stickers and a card from another teacher, Ms. Lupe, and what she wrote on the card just touched me and the waterworks started:

Ava Jane Caruso

A fabulous child, amazingly intelligent, sweet and lovable.

I will miss you. I truly wish the best of the best for you in life and I believe you will be a successful child wherever you go. You have been a child that has touched my heart with your kindness and all the fantastic qualities you have.

 – Ms. Lupe

This was her first school…her first school friends…where she first learned to write her name….and to share (sometimes better than others). These teachers dealt with her sweet ways and her (sometimes very) bad days. They kissed boo-boos and broke up fights. They put her in time out when she misbehaved and rewarded her with praise when she didn’t. They stood by day in and day out to encourage her to learn and to work through her frustration when she couldn’t quite grasp concepts. 

In short, they mothered her…when I was working and couldn’t, they stepped in and they did oh so well. I’m so incredibly grateful for that.

I Lost Weight and My Daughter _________ed!

11 Mar

I could do a post about Japan and the tragic events…but I just can’t people. There’s nothing I can say that would convey my sadness…natural disasters are horrible and tragic. So I’m just going to send some prayers out. Send some with me.

Friday…who doesn’t L.O.V.E. Friday? I find it fascinating that little kids really have no concept of the meaning of the actual days of the week. They don’t loathe Mondays, they don’t say “Happy Hump Day” and Friday, well, it’s just another day to them. I wake up in a good mood on Fridays…it’s ingrained. This morning started off great…stepped on the scale and I lost some weight!!! Woohoo! So Ava is lying in my bed and I start doing a happy dance and singing a song that went something like, “I lost some WAY-ATE! I lost some WAY-ATE!” I may or may not have been doing the cabbage patch. Whatever. Don’t judge me. Ava decides to join in. Her version of the song, “I just FAR-TED! I just FAR-TED!” I FELL OVER LAUGHING. I love kids.

Anyway…back to Friday. I was so happy…I’m lighter, it’s Friday. So I say to her, “I don’t know about you, but I am so happy it’s Friday!” She says, “Why, mommy?” I said, “Well, because it’s the start of the weekend.” She smiles and we continue getting ready for school/work.

We get in the car and start backing out of the driveway. And here is where it all falls apart:

Ava: Mom, where are we going?
Me: What do you mean where are we going? We’re going to school.
Ava: (crying) What do you mean we’re going to school? You said it was Friday!”
Me: I know. We go to school on Friday.
Ava: But you said it was the start of the weekend!
Me: Well, it is…but the weekend starts later.
Ava: Before my naptime at school or after my naptime at school?
Me: Daddy will pick you up after your naptime.
Ava: (WAILING) Please call daddy. Call him now please. Please tell him to pick me up before my nap. Not after. Before. Please mommy.
Me: No honey. Daddy is going to pick you up after naptime.
Ava: No mommy. No. I don’t like school.
Me: Ava, you love school. Stop.
Ava: I don’t like my teacher
Me: (Amused now) You don’t like your teacher? What don’t you like about your teacher?”
Ava: Myoko pinches my cheeks.
Me: What? I thought we were talking about your teacher.
Ava: Now we’re talking about Myoko.
Me: Well, I’ll talk to Miss Jennifer at school.

But the whole exchange just reminded me of how literal she is at this age. When I said it was the start of the weekend, that meant it was the START of the weekend. No work. No school. Just fun times. And the one thing I got out of our exchange this morning…put her on Mike’s side of the bed in the morning….she can toot over there.

Goodbye to Stinky!

7 Dec

So Sunday marked a big day in our house. We had been preparing Ava for months that when she turned 4 she had to give up her pacifiers, which we call stinkies. The weeks leading up to Sunday Mike and I would both remind her that the day was fast approaching and she would say, “Mom, you don’t have to keep reminding me.” Almost like it hurt to think about it.

Sunday morning arrived and we hear her in her room waking up, so we both climb into bed with her to snuggle and she pops the stinky out of her mouth and hands it to me. I didn’t even have to ask. Now I know how this works…this moment of pride will be crushed at some point when she begs for it back, but at that moment I’m full of pride. She’s trying to be big and brave and do this four-year-old thing. So I take it and I feel the lump in my throat and my eyes sting. We walk around the house, check the cars and collect all the stinkies we can find…her much more enthusiastically than me.  

We had decided that we would send the pacifiers to Santa so he could deliver them to new babies on Christmas. So we made a beautiful envelope to put them in and she bravely put them all inside with a smile on her face. We dropped them in the mail and got ready for her birthday party.

That night at bedtime she was a little upset…she cried a little and said, “I don’t want my stinky mom…I just want something to suck on.” Her solution was maybe a lollipop…I may have given said lollipop to her. What? I felt bad and sad. But she did it…she went to sleep…until about 11pm when she woke up and it all finally came crashing down on her. She was inconsolable for almost an hour. So  much so that Mike came marching into her room with a pacifier and I chased him out saying, “No way dude!” It’s one hard week or waiting for her to decide at 42 she’s ready to give it up.

So last night was night #2…and she did awesome!!!! She didn’t ask for it…she didn’t wake up…all was quiet and this morning she was still so very proud of herself. For me…this was one of my hardest parenting moments. This marks the end of everything that made her a baby. The pacifier was the last link to babyhood. And while I’m really happy and proud of her for giving it up, I think my heart aches a little for my baby girl…I have to finally accept that she’s no longer a baby. Tomorrow she turns 4 and I just can’t believe how quickly it goes…I’m not ready for this.