Saturday Magic

It’s Saturday. I mean, It’s Saturday!!! The sun is shining, which is no small feat for an Inland Northwest March morning. It’s beautiful. It feels as though the sun has somehow managed to fill every crack of our century old house. As if even the air is lit up with the excitement of Spring.

It’s Saturday. My children linger in their pajamas, the shadows of crankiness from the night before gone. They are fresh, reborn in the light of day. As am I, coffee in hand. I stand in the kitchen, making the kind of breakfast people my age pay $15 to go to a restaurant and eat. It takes me an hour, even with a full size griddle, to prepare enough of each thing to feed my large family. And I love it. I relish that hour. It’s the time I don’t have on any other morning. An hour typically spent rushing children into clothes, through bowls of cereal, toothbrushes, hairbrushes, socks and shoes, seatbelts, and hugs in front of the school.

Today, there is no rush. Only the sound of my children’s laughter from the other room, and the questions they keep coming to me with as I season the hash browns, turn the sausage, hull the strawberries, then flip the French toast. My husband is here. The sounds of his guitar float around the house. He is playing with the door closed, but that never seems to matter. Music bounces through the walls, loudly, rivaled only by my twin five year olds skipping in the dining room.

It’s one of the only times my mind is quiet. I usually think too much, too fast, too long about things. But it is Saturday. My heart is so full that only one thought can fit. I am blessed. They say you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone. But I do. I see it. I hear it. I feel it. I have tasted it. Life is beautiful. It is unexpected and crazy and heart achingly raw at times. But it’s here. And I get to live it. Get to stop racing long enough to appreciate it. Not only catch my breath, but hold it, then breath again and again. There is nothing else that I absolutely have to do, because it’s Saturday.

Baking Humble Pie

There is a reason one of the most hardcore swear words begins with Mother-. To be a Mom you have to be fierce. You have to be strong. You have to be creative and passionate, tenacious and sharp. You won’t make it through the first year unless you have a strong stomach and the ability to numb your gag reflex. Mommying is messy. It is glorious, beautiful, amazing, and filled with wonder. But it’s messy.

I alternate between viewing my role as a Mommy in either a sepia tinged, twilight time, sentimental, everything means everything, look at her little hand in mine kind of focus, or in a take no prisoners, Pat Benatar was understating it, put on the Sephora war paint and let’s go, kind of outlook. Either way I look at things, I am constantly surprised.

There are just so many things I don’t know. So many things I can’t remember. So many times a day where I feel like I don’t quite measure up. So many more Moms at the park that look better than me & whose children are wearing matching socks and an actual ribbon in their perfectly brushed hair. But there’s also a thousand tiny victories that keep spurring me forward. Failure is not an option. Quitting is out of the question. There are no take-backs.

If this were any other area of my life, I would have given up by now. Partly because I have always been good at quitting, and partly because it’s just so hard to be a good Mommy. And I don’t even want to be a good Mommy, I want to be great. If you google Mommy Greatness, I want pictures of my smiling children in Pinterest-worthy pictures to pop up. With re-shares and a million likes. But it doesn’t always happen that way, at least, not for me.

I’m not always who I want to be. Sometimes I am selfish and unkind in ways that embarrass me. I share the cookie with my child, but take the bigger half. I raise my voice so that he can hear me when I tell him to stop yelling at his sister. I turn more than one page at a time when reading a long bedtime story, thinking they won’t notice that the princess is suddenly out of the tower she got locked in the page before… on and on.

But they love me. I mean, they really love me. And I love them. These little people with their own minds and will and ways of doing and learning.  These future adults that I have been trusted with and given the responsibility to help refine their rough edges. Children I get to have a hand in building up so that life cannot break them down. Children who are honest and stand for something. Children who stand up for what is right, even if that means calling me out on my mistakes. Children who will come alongside the lonely child on the playground and be their friend. My children have already become people who do things that most adults struggle to do.  They are better than I could have ever imagined. They are thoughtful and forgiving. They are artists and fearless dancers. They know how to love. As challenged as I am by some of their choices, I am more challenged by the deep reserves of love that they pour out on those around them. Especially me.

At the end of the day, I know that I have not earned what I have been given. I have not said enough, done enough, loved enough to deserve these five beautiful little people who call me Mommy. There is no reason that I should have my arms and lap so full, when others find their arms empty. I did not plan for this to be my life, and yet, it is. Now that I have met them, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Getting to this part of my life has taken everything I had in me, all my courage, strength,  conviction, and tenacity. I will continue to fight for my children and love them with a primal fierceness that surprises even myself. I find that, day after day, what humbles and surprises me most is how much these amazing little kiddos love me. It’s amazing how the thing that means the most to you is the thing that brings you to your knees. But, it can also be the thing worth getting back up for.

 

Cutting Rapunzel’s Hair..

She’d been asking for over a year. “Mommy, can I have a haircut?” And for a year, I’d been stalling. “I just want you to make sure…” But, really, I wasn’t ready.

I told myself, it’s just hair. Just dead skin cells that are coming out of the body. It doesn’t mean anything. But it did, to me. Having a five year old with long, beautiful hair meant so many things. It meant that I got an extra five minutes with her after bath times where we would sit and talk while I brushed her locks into submission, then braided them together in the tradition of so many generations before us. It meant that she was THAT girl. The girl whose mother had the time to delight in her. The girl so put together, that even her hair was beautiful, braided, bunned, French braided into a crown. Her crowning glory. And a little bit mine.

But brushing out tangles day after day, well, that has a way of undoing motherly resolve. So, Tuesday was the day. I had brushed her hair in the morning and by noon it appeared as though she was growing dreadlocks. “Do you still want short hair?” “YES!” she replied, lit up with the thought. “Okay, let’s do it.” And so we sat, on wooden chairs in the kitchen. Mother and daughter. And began the cut.

I will admit that it took me 6 tries before I actually cut any hair. I held the scissors up and put them back down 5 times. How am I so vain? But, finally, I did it. We did it. Twenty minutes later, and eleven inches of hair less, she was finished. She reached behind her and for the first time in years, there was no hair on her back. I shrunk inside myself, she’s going to cry, I just know it… And she laughed. She opened her eyes wide in wonder and laughed and laughed. The deep belly laugh she has, where it sounds like everything in her is in on the joke; where she is so taken with joy that it makes her whole body join in. Contagious laughter. I couldn’t resist. With tears in my eyes, I met her there.

She’s been bouncing around ever since. Even telling the crossing guards at her school that she got a haircut. She loves it. She looks for her reflection in everything, smiles when she finds herself. And I find myself smiling too. “I look like you now, Mommy!” she says with a glee that might not follow that statement in ten years. So I bask, I wade into her joy, and let it envelop me. She looks like me, now. All this time I thought it made me a better Mommy for her to have what I didn’t. I was wrong.

I am not a good Mommy because I can sustain waist length hair on a five year old. She is not beautiful because she has fairy tale hair. Cutting Rapunzel’s hair has turned into the key that unlocked us both and set us free from the tower I had built. I just needed to let the princess lead the way.

Let Them Have Cake….

Well, we finally did it. We broke our own record. I didn’t think it was possible, but we did it. This morning we were later than we have ever been getting the kids to school. Now, you might be thinking, “What is the big deal?” So, I’ll tell you.

I am the very happy/tired/proud Mommy of five of the most beautiful kids the world has ever seen. They are also the children most determined to never get to school early. We have been early, on occasion, or when I forget about late start day. But for the most part, we resemble a pack of stressed out circus clowns trying to fit into a white minivan, racing toward the school at a barely legal speed. Cue the calliope…

But today was different. I’m working on being better. At everything. (Aren’t we always?) Better homemaker, better wife, better with money, better Mommy, and generally, healthier in every way. It’s as exhausting as it sounds, and an exhausted Mommy tends to be a cranky Mommy. But as tired as I am from being and doing, I am even more tired of being a stressed Mommy. So I made a decision. I could snap at my kids and try to make them buckle their seatbelts at the speed of light, and strive and strive the duration of the drive to their school, while rehashing everything they did that made us late, or….? Or, I could just relax, and have fun with it. My kids are growing up, so fast I don’t always feel like I can catch up. Yes, it’s hard having 5 children under the age of ten, but they won’t always be. Before I know it they’ll be getting ready for much more than elementary school.

So, I laughed. At myself. At us. At our always running late. At what the secretary at their school must think of my parenting. At all of it. I turned around and really looked at my children, trying so hard to get in the van as quickly as possible, and saw them. Maybe for the first time this morning. And I smiled as I proclaimed, “Hey guys, we did it! We are later than we have ever been before!” Then I unbuckled myself and high-fived them all while giving detailed congratulations. “Good job, Ellie! Man, you really helped us. If you wouldn’t have thrown that fit about wearing socks, we couldn’t have made it.” “Nicely done, Jonah! You were so great at misplacing your homework and glasses! We really needed that to be this late.” And so on. Not sarcastic. Just really glorying in what our life looks like. Knowing who we are right now and celebrating it. By the time I was done talking, the kids were all laughing and smiling. The twins added in little ways they had helped us be late & made sure they got proper recognition for their endeavors. And we laughed, all the way to school.

We also decided that like every record-breaking event, we needed to make a cake to commemorate the occasion. So, tonight we are eating Late Cake. It’s cooling now, just waiting for the chocolate frosting. But we already got to taste the sweetness of living in the moment. It would not have changed their lives for my children to have been on time for school this morning, not much anyway. But having a Mommy who makes sure they know that her love is unconditional, well, that just might. I am so excited to eat Late Cake for dessert, instead of gnawing regret.

The things we tell our children…

She is watching me. Her smile goes all the way to her eyes and back again. And she is watching me. “You are lovely”, I say. “Yes, my mommy,” as she keeps smiling. I tell her this, often. Everyday. Because it’s a gift that she can carry with her for her whole life, long after I am gone and she has found herself outside of my shadow. It’s something that no one can ever take from her unless she gives it away willingly. She is lovely, and she knows it.

I was thirty years old before I remember anyone ever telling me that I am lovely. One of my closest friends was living in Australia for four years at the time. And skyped me to say it. “You are lovely,” she said. “People say it all the time here. Men are always telling their wives, and women tell other women. And they really believe it!” It was so simple, but it changed everything. I was standing in my kitchen, pregnant with my fourth child, cooking lunch while chatting via laptop. My chest ached with the beauty of her words, so long in coming, from so far away.

Months later, when I held my newest baby in my arms, it was repeated by my own voice. “You are lovely.” I said, even as the tears were starting. “You are lovely.” I repeated. It was the first thing anyone ever said to my daughter after she was born. It was her legacy. And it became my job to make sure she knew it. Not only that she is loved. Not only that she is worthy of love. But that she is lovely. She is two years old now. She has auburn hair that curls in perfect spirals to her shoulders and bounces as she walks. She has large Disney princess eyes that are impossibly green/gray/gold hazel. She has an amazing sense of humor. She is brilliant. If you google “strong-willed” her picture will probably pop up. I truly believe that she will grow up to be something and someone amazing. There is nothing she can’t do.

They say you are not supposed to tell little girls that they are pretty, that you should tell them they are smart. I say that they are wrong. Do you know a woman who doesn’t want to be considered pretty, at least by someone? I see what they’re saying (ish), but I disagree. So I tell her the truth. You are beautiful. You are strong. You are brilliant. You have courage. You are amazing. You are loved. You are lovely.

I hope that when other voices try to compete with mine, that I will have said these things so frequently that they will play on repeat in her own voice. Not only for herself, but for others. Isn’t that how it always works anyway? The things we tell our children, become the tools they possess to build or tear down their own lives, and those around them.