My High-Spirited Girl

She has always been my high-spirited child.

And, yes.  That has always been our more politically-correct way of saying she’s all fire and ice.

From the moment she came into this world, she made her presence known.  With a vengeance.

She was the tiny little bundle that screamed, almost non-stop, for the first four months of her life.  The colic.  The howls.  The wails.  It always shocked me how such a ruckus could come out of something so tiny.

And once the colic ended, another persona emerged.  One that was equally as spirited.

We soon found that, as a toddler, her voice was just as strong.  One minute, she could be the sweetest child you would ever meet.  And in the blink of an eye, she became stubborn, willful, and impossibly obstinate.  She was like a lot of toddlers, maybe.  Except with the amplification turned up.

As she got older, we thought perhaps her mood swings would even themselves out.  But they have not.  If anything, they’ve become more pronounced.  (A foreshadowing of what her teenage years will be, perhaps?)

As an almost-six-year-old, she still swings hot and cold at a pace that makes me dizzy.  She loves ferociously, and throws temper tantrums with a passion that still surprises me.

But maybe it should not surprise me.  Because I know where it comes from.

As much as I hate to admit it, she’s just like her momma.

I am stubborn.  I love those around me ferociously, but I can also snap at them with a passion that is somewhat scary.    Patience is once of the things I constantly have to work on.  I have a quick temper and a sharp tongue, both of which often lead me to regret some of the things I say.  It’s a trait I’ve always disliked in myself.

So, I cannot blame her for what she is.  I know exactly where she gets it.

Would I change what she is?  I can say, unequivocally, that even if I could, I would not.

Not in a million years.

She is my high-spirited child.  And, difficult as that is sometimes, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

But perhaps, one of the hardest lessons to-date that I am learning as a parent is this:  part of loving her unconditionally might mean accepting in her the traits that I least like in her mother.

And, perhaps, that also means learning to embrace, accept and improve upon those same traits in myself.

What to do when someone gives you the bird

When we got married twelve years ago, we received some interesting wedding gifts.

A dust buster, slightly used.

A set of gaudy, crystal and gold frames that looked straight out of the Liberace museum.

An Amway coupon.

And then there was the person that gave us the bird.

No, not figuratively.  Literally.

Meet “The Bird”.

The Bird was a present from a relative who, for the sake of anonymity, we’ll just call Aunt Betty.  I admit, we had kind of a “WTH?” moment when we opened the tiny little package and discovered the painted ceramic creature.

We’re not really bird people.  Or ceramic people.  Or ceramic bird people, for that matter.

Nevertheless, I firmly believed it was the thought that mattered.  So we wrote Aunt Betty a nice little note, thanking her for thinking of us.  And then we put The Bird on a bookshelf somewhere, where the little guy quickly made fast friends with the dust bunnies.

And there he remained.

Until one day, The Bird went AWOL.

I didn’t notice his absence at first.  It wasn’t until several weeks later, when I was watering the plants, that I stumbled upon our little friend.   He was tucked in the flower pot of a big palm in our living room, peeking out from behind the leaves.

“Did you put Aunt Betty’s bird in the flower pot?” I asked my husband later that night.

“Yeah.  That thing was just so ugly,” Jay answered back, nonchalantly.  “So I decided to hide the bird.  I thought we could take turns putting it somewhere in the house.”

Again, I encountered another “WTH??” moment.

I’ll never quite know what inspired my husband to hide The Bird in the first place.  But his quirky little idea caught on.  And soon, it evolved into a game.  We began trying to one-up each other, to see who could hide The Bird in the most bizarre location in the house.

It went on for months.  Until one day, The Bird was hidden in such an obscure place, it remained hidden.  And he was forgotten.

Recently, however… a few years and a couple of kidlets later, The Bird mysteriously resurfaced.

And the rousing game of “Hide the Bird” has once again resumed in our house.  Only this time, there are four of us playing.

Can you find the bird?

The bird can often be found reading the classics. He's well-read.
... and sneaky...
And he also knows all the best spots in the house. This is totally where I'd hide if I were him.
And, sometimes, when he's hidden by a two year-old, he can be found right under your nose.

Ironically, I figure that The Bird has actually gotten more use than any other wedding present we received.  Maybe my aunt knew something we didn’t.

So, thank you, Aunt Betty.  Yours is truly the gift that’s kept on giving.

I’d love to hear: What’s the “best” wedding gift you received?

iPhone Photo Phun

Fuse beads: The good, the bad, and the ugly.

If your child has not yet discovered Fuse Beads, you’re in for a treat.  These colorful little plastic beads are a great way to keep your child busy on a rainy day.  And believe me, we have plenty of those around here.  Bobo is literally obsessed with the things right now.

But, as I’ve discovered, there is a downside to our newly-found craft project.  And, sometimes, there is a really, really big downside.

Before you venture into the world of Fuse Beads, be forewarned.  There is a good, a bad and an ugly to these little suckers.

The Good: Fuse beads will keep Child A quietly entertained for hours.  OK.  Maybe not hours.  But at least for a good 30 minutes while you attempt to make dinner.

The Bad: Once the fuse bead masterpiece has been completed, Child A will insist that her work of art be ironed.  Immediately.  Because the sky will fall if you don’t.   It makes no difference that you’re still in the middle of making dinner.  Fuse beads wait for no one.

The Good: You admit, as you iron the little piece, that fuse beads are an excellent way of encouraging counting, sorting and pattern-making with young children.  Your child may surprise you with their ability to create elaborate pieces of artwork.  And you might “ooh” and “aah” like it’s the best thing since sliced bread.  Because, of course, it is.

The Bad: Your “oohs” and “aahs” will pique the interest of Child B.  Whatever Child A does, Child B must also do.  And even though you try valiantly to work on patterns with him (“Can you do a blue and then a green?”), it’s far more fun for a two year-old to grab huge handfuls of the beads and mix the colors together.  Or try to sneak beads from his sister’s pile.

The Good: Both children are quietly occupied again (Child A making the beads, Child B attempting to steal beads from Child A).  You resume making dinner.

The Ugly: Child B starts coughing.  You rush over to where he is.

“What’s wrong,” you say?

“I gotta boogey up there,” Child B says, rubbing his nose.

But on closer inspection you realize that he didn’t say “boogey,” but rather, “bead.”    Apparently, he tried to create his own fuse bead masterpiece.  Up his nose.

The Good: Child B, distracted by a Disney movie, allows you to pin him down on the ground while you go fuse bead hunting with a pair of tweezers.

The Bad: After retrieving the first fuse bead (a green one!), you discover Child B has actually stuck multiple beads up his nose.

The Good: When asked, “How many beads did you stick up here???” Child B responds back quickly and gleefully, “OneTwoFree!”  You figure that at least we’re working on counting skills while we’re fishing them out.

The Ugly: You discover, after fishing out the third fuse bead, that Child B cannot actually count after all.  Or, that perhaps he just lost count after the third.  So much for child geniuses.  As you proceed to extract the fuse beads out from the depths of his little nose, you wonder how a nose so little could hold so many beads.  It’s kind of like the clowns coming out of the tiny car at the circus… how DO they all fit in there?

The Good: You discover, as you’re counting the line of snot-covered beads pulled from your little one’s nose, that he actually inserted them in a very specific order up his nose.




Yellow…  No wait, that last one was a booger.


It was a pattern!  He was listening to what you said after all.  Despite your distress over having to perform surgical extraction on your son, a small part of you beams with pride.  What a smart cookie.

And you begin to reconsider that maybe he is a child genius after all.

A child genius who just so happens to like to stick small colorful objects, in copious amounts, up his nose.

She doesn’t remember

The Matchbox car that lies haphazardly on the kitchen floor digs into my foot as I step on it.

I screech out a four letter word in a very un-motherly fashion, and wince with pain.  I’m thankful the kids aren’t home to hear it.  I look down in disgust at the discarded toy, the same one I’ve reprimanded her countless times to not leave lying around for someone to step on.

She doesn’t remember to pick up her toys like I always ask.  I’m annoyed.

Screaming penetrates the air.  I’ve just gotten home from work, and am exhausted.  I yearn for a few minutes of peace and quiet.   But, yet, she cavorts throughout the house on a tear, howling and giggling with abandon.

“Inside voices!” I yell at her, losing my cool already.  I’ve told her a thousand times that screaming in the house is not allowed.

She doesn’t remember to use her inside voice.  Again.  I’m impatient.

She tears into our bedroom like a tornado.  It’s 5:30 in the morning.  Way too early for me to be muffling a her loud preschooler cackles.  And what makes it doubly worse is that I haven’t yet had my first cup of coffee.

We trudge downstairs.  Her feet stomping on the floor sound a wild elephant herd running through the house, and the pitter-patter is anything but tiny.  I’m quite certain, in fact, that the noise can be heard from the next county.

“Quiet!”  I hiss.  “Do you want to wake up your brother?”

She doesn’t remember that we need to be respectful of other people.  Especially at the butt crack of dawn. When they’re sleeping.  I’m perturbed.

We go to see my grandma.  It’s a visit that is long overdue, and one that I’ve been subconsciously putting off for far too long.

When we get there, I see Grandma sitting on the couch, staring vacantly off into the distance.  We go up to her, and hug her.  She smiles faintly, but I can tell she doesn’t recognize us.  As if it would help her remember, I proceed to babble incessantly about what’s been going on in our lives.  Grandma stares through me, and mumbles something incoherently.

She doesn’t remember who we are.  To say that I feel sadness would be an understatement.

In the car ride on the way home, we talk about it.  I tell my daughter that Grandma has a hard time remembering things now.  But she is special to mommy.  And it’s important that we go visit.  Even if it’s hard.

“Maybe we can go visit Grandma together sometime soon,” I offer.  “Just me and you?”

“Sure, mom,” she replies, absently.

“But she won’t remember,” I think to myself.  And almost immediately after we get home, the thought vanishes from my own mind.   I get wrapped up in every day life.  I forget about visiting.  I forget about the promises I made.

And then, I enter her preschool room.

“Look what I did today!” she exclaims excitedly when I walk in.  She motions to the folder bulging with artwork.

I absently leaf through the piles of construction paper and scribbles.  The crayon markings blur together in a Crayola haze, until I get to one in particular that catches my eye.

“Dear Grandma” is written in awkward, cramped lettering on one of the pieces.

“She’s been working hard on this today,” her teacher explains.  “She said she wanted to draw a special picture for her Grandma, because Grandma doesn’t remember very well.”

As I look at the artwork, I feel an unexpected lump in my throat.

“Turn it over, mommy!” she continues.  “I wrote my name on the back.  So it would help Grandma remember who I was.  Can we take it to her?”

And right then and there, I lose it.

Not because I’m annoyed, impatient, perturbed or saddened.

But because my daughter remembered.

It wasn’t a little thing.

It was a huge thing.  An important thing.

Some things, she doesn’t remember.  But I know that there is a part of her that remembers that which is truly important.

And the other things that are forgotten?  Maybe that’s okay.  Because even if she doesn’t remember, someone else will.

But we always knew.

Tonight, we celebrated.

Three kids, their spouses, and nine grandkids gathered for a party.  We celebrated the birthday of the woman who brought some of us into the world, who welcomed others of us into the family, and who was a mother to all of us.  She’ll turn 70 years young later this week.

Besides good food, a few beers, and some shenanigans with the slip-n-slide that turned my back yard into a gigantic mud puddle, there was a time for reminiscing.  We shared old pictures, took some walks down memory lane, and exchanged stories about the things we did behind our parents’ backs in our crazier younger years.

There was a lot of love crammed around that backyard table tonight.  You could feel it in the air.

But we didn’t say the words.

You see, growing up, in my family, it wasn’t something that was said.  Emotions weren’t often expressed.  Affections weren’t verbalized.  The words “I love you” were not ones we heard my mother utter very often when we were younger.

But here’s the thing.  We always knew.

We knew by the way she’d take us school shopping and always opted for the practical, yet heinously ugly Buster Browns.  She wouldn’t give in and buy us Jellies to be cool like the other kids, because she knew those cheap pieces of plastic crap would fall apart and give us blisters.  And, as we tromped home in our comfortably atrocious shoes, we knew she was right.  We also knew she wasn’t trying to make us wear hideous shoes because she wanted her kids to be fashion victims, but rather, because she loved us.  (And, possibly, because she didn’t want to hear us whine about how much our feet hurt.)

We knew by the way she’d pepper us with questions before we went anywhere.  Where are you going?  When will you be home?  Who will be there?  Who’s driving?  What’s the square root of 364? Even as teenagers, we knew why she was asking.  And we knew she asked out of love.

Some days, when my older brother and sister were at school and dad was at work, mom would make liver and onions for the two of us at home.  Most kids would wretch at the idea.  But for me, it was a special treat.  And I knew that a house that reeked of liver smell was just another way my mom said “I love you,” in her own special way.

We knew by the way she’d roust herself out of bed at 5 am every year on Black Friday to take us shopping for socks.  We knew that only two things could get my mom out of bed that early: love of a good deal, and love for her kids.

We knew because she was always at every game, tournament, competition and match.  I can recall only a few times throughout my teens that she wasn’t at an event, whether we wanted her there or not.  Sometimes she’d watch from afar.  But she was there.  And we always knew.

Sometimes it was a handwritten note slipped into a tennis racquet cover the night before a big match.  Words like “Good luck!  Do your best!  Mom and Dad” would be scribbled on a little Suzy’s Zoo sticky note.  And as I geared up to play, I knew.

Even if the words weren’t articulated often, we always knew how much our mother loved us.  A thousand tiny events, little gestures and seemingly insignificant details over the years epitomized the words that weren’t always spoken.

Now that I’m a mother myself, I can doubly appreciate the symbolism of her actions.  And I understand now what it all meant.  In reality, I always knew.

She was saying “I love you.”

We love you, too, Mom.  Happy 70th.