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Dear New Daddy,

You didn’t know it (or you might have, who knows?), but I watched you the other day. Not in a creepy stalker way, although my husband may disagree, but I couldn’t help myself.

We were guests at a wedding, an absolutely wonderful time filled with love and laughter. At the reception, across the room from our table, you were holding your new daughter who, I found out later from her grandmother, was ten weeks old. She was adorable, this little bitty peanut in a navy blue dress with the obligatory giant bow on her little head.

If you know me at all, you know that I am powerless in the presence of babies. In my family, I have the reputation of being the baby-stealer. I adore them. Every maternal instinct in me cries out to cuddle those little snug-a-bugs and I don’t care who knows it. Social anxiety be damned, it’s no match for my baby fever. I lose all inhibitions at the chance of eliciting one little gummy smile from a cherub face, of wiggling an irresistible toe. Your baby was one of many little ones that day, adding even more joy to a wonderful day.

While your baby was reason enough for me to be admiring her, it was your interaction with your little one that made me keep on stealing glances.

You had her tiny head cradled in one of your big daddy hands, her little diaper butt in the other. You were engaging her, talking to her, smiling at her, making those goofy faces that adults only make when we talk to babies, and she was fully into watching you, those bottomless eyes watching one of her favorite people in the world. I love when people talk to their children like that; no texting or other cell phone distractions, just pure parent/child time together. The thing that touched me so much that I decided to write about it, though, was the love in your eyes as you looked at your baby girl. For that moment, nothing else mattered to you; she was your whole world, a wee girl and her Daddy. It gave my heart the warm fuzzies to watch. My eyes still well up when I think about it.

Why am I gushing on about this? It’s simple. I want you to remember. I want you to remember that exact moment when it was just you and her in your own little world, not noticing themusic, the cake, or the baby-crazy lady a few tables over. You connected, you were bonding, you were loving this adorable little human with everything in your soul. Remember this, Daddy, because there will be times in the next eighteen years when you don’t feel quite as close to her. Buckle up, Buttercup, because parenting is no joke.

There will be sass, hopefully less rather than more, but at some point, she will assert herself and it will completely take you by surprise. I still remember hearing that first, “I don’t have to listen to you!” pop out of the mouth of my sweet boy and it rocking my world. Oh, yes, there will be sass and the bigger they are, the worse it can get. Prepare yourself.

There will be slammed doors, maybe from her, maybe from you. (I am guilty of this after losing my temper because of, you guessed it: sass.) There will be angry tears, cries of, “You’re SO unfair!”, and rolled eyes. There will be friends of hers that you can’t stand, hours of PBS Kids, and endless messes to clean up. There will be times when you wonder what you were thinking. It is so important that during those difficult times, you remember those beautiful moments, the moments like I witnessed, where all is right in your world. Those are the moments that will get you through those tough ones, like when you’re trying to figure out how to get nail polish off of a wall or dealing with explosive diarrhea in the middle of the night. (All over the bathroom. Enough to where you have to get entirely new bath rugs, towels, and shower curtain and spend two hours bleaching everything else. I’m not kidding. Seriously, I have PTSD from that night.)

There are moments that I hold onto now, with Youngest Child being a teenager. Teenagers, you see, are their own special category. They can be both extremely frustrating and incredibly lovable, often in the same day. The same teenager that whines and moans about emptying the dishwasher or cleaning the lizard cage can say something profoundly sweet in the next minute, sometimes without an ulterior motive. In a word, they can be a challenge. I digress…

One of the moments that I hold onto with Youngest Child is when he fell asleep on my chest on the couch. He was around six months old, still a little bobble-head, and had been having a difficult time settling down to his nap. He wanted to be with his mama, and snuggled up to sleep so sweetly in my arms that I just let him take his entire nap on me. He little cheeks were so soft and he was so warm and cuddly that I couldn’t bear to take him up to his crib. My heart was full, in that moment, life couldn’t have gotten any better for me. When he woke, he realized where he was and smiled at me so happily that it melted my heart even more. It was perfect.

I remember that moment, and many others, when he comes home covered in mud on my clean floors, when he stalls so he doesn’t have to clean his room, when he “forgets” to let me know who he was with. Those moments remind you that you can get through this, that you do have this bond with your child. And, lest I completely scare you off, it does get better. They start understanding why you made the rules that you did and, as they get more independent, they understand you better. We’re experiencing this with Oldest Child right now and, let me tell you, it is balm for a parent’s soul when they have to clean their own place.

New Daddy, these moments you have right now are precious, something that you will look back at with misty eyes the older she gets. I still can’t watch family videos without tearing up. You’ll make tons of wonderful memories, plenty to draw from during those difficult times, but I’m telling you to not take those moments for granted. Treasure them, cherish them, just as you do that baby girl of yours. Children should be cherished, they should be loved with our whole hearts, even when they make us crazy. We have to take a step back, cool down, and remember. Remember that toothless grin, that grip of a tiny fist around one of our fingers, the sloppy, open-mouthed kisses, the first, “I love you”. spoken in a tiny voice.

You’ve got a good thing going, New Daddy. I wish you and your little girl much love. Thank you for letting me be a witness.

 

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I’m becoming jaded by the news and I don’t like it. I detest the ugliness, racism, misogyny, lies, and disregard for the environment in our country today and it makes me feel hopeless. I don’t understand why people intentionally ignore facts, excuse blatant wrongs, hurt each other, and don’t take responsibility for their actions. I don’t understand why adults ridicule traumatized children. This country needs a big dose of Dr. Phil and/or God right now, but I have to focus on something else for a minute. I have to, or else the anxiety becomes my whole world. I have to focus on good, beautiful things that I love. Here are some of them.

  • My husband, for so many things, but his hand on my hip as we sleep is something that makes me love him all the more. I’m a light sleeper and I have a lot of bad dreams. Most of the time, when I wake up, Marty is there, a reassuring presence who makes everything alright. (Even if he is snoring loudly.)
  • My boys, individually and all together. They’re so unique, I love talking with each of them alone. And then, when they’re together, it’s like having a heap of puppies romping through the house, except the puppies shoot dart guns, play baseball, and creatively insult each other.
  • Fuzzy kittens. Enough said.
  • My neighborhood party store. Brothers Steve and Randy know me and sell me my weekly MegaMillions ticket on my runs. It’s like Cheers, but not a bar.
  • My theatre. Well, not my theatre. My niece thought I owned it, but no, lol. It’s a place where I’m accepted and I can be myself. I can express myself. A nice place to be.
  • My penpal/dear friend, Sabrina. She lives an ocean away, but is such a kindred spirit. And she puts up with my crappy Italian.
  • Music. It gives so much meaning to life. Hamilton, Pentatonix, and Lindsey Stirling are my current obsessions.
  • Writing. I have an outlet. I’m sort of good at it, but still have a lot to learn. This week, I completed a novel on Bessie Blount, the real one, not the sleazy HBO version. Accomplishment.
  • Babies. Babies are my heart, my joy. Incredible innocence. They’re a promise that life goes on.
  • My church. My church is progressive, including people of all races and sexual identities. I love that.
  • London. London is my dream, my hope, my destiny. I’ve never felt more at home anywhere in the world. Six years now… it’s been too long.
  • Italy. Italy is life to the tenth power. I can’t wait to get back.
  • Cadbury Mini-Eggs. Can’t help it, I adore them.
  • History
  • My therapist, Renee. She’s listened to me for seven years now and I adore her. Most of the time. Not when she’s telling me something that I don’t want to hear, but I know it’s for my own good, but, yeah, she’s awesome.
  • Ireland. Such fond memories of an impossibly beautiful place where I went with some amazing people.
  • Genealogy. I’m a sucker for historic records and long-ago grandparents.
  • Easter candy. Right now, this is an essential part of my diet.
  • God. I saved the best for last. Prayer is essential in these times of confusion/craziness and God remains my rock, every day. My spirituality keeps me centered, grounded, and keeps me sane.

Take some some time and reflect on what makes you happy. Leave it as a comment if you like. I’d love to hear what you love.

Until next time, a presto.

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I have dear friends, a married couple, who have very recently become parents to an absolutely beautiful baby boy. This little boy is so loved by all, surrounded by adoring family members, and will undoubtedly have an amazing life. It’s wonderful to see them so happy, excited by their sweet boy, ready to be the best parents that they can possibly be.

Seeing their joy has made me reminisce a lot about my own baby boys. I’ve loved all (well, most of) my boys’ growing stages, but there’s something so special about those few couple of years, something that you can never get back. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of stressful times, but the sweet and the stressful work together to make a family.

I’ve always loved babies, anyone in my family or circle of friends can tell you that. I have quite the reputation for being a baby stealer at family events, loving to hold those tiny warm cherubs, talking to them and rocking them to sleep. It’s nothing that I can explain, but I see a baby and my heart just melts into a puddle.

I was the oldest sister and the oldest cousin in all of my family branches so I was naturally the babysitter when I was old enough. I remember telling my mother that I wanted ten babies when I grew up and feeling totally insulted when she laughed at that. I think I was around nine years old when I said it, so I, understandably, had no concept of what it would take to raise ten babies, but my nine-year-old heart just knew that babies equaled love.

By the time I had my first baby, I had had more than ten years of experience with newborns and was quite comfortable with their wobbly heads and changing poopy diapers. Still, there are things that babysitting doesn’t prepare you for, the most important being sleep deprivation. I remember waking up with Oldest Child at some ungodly hour and trying to get him back to sleep when all he wanted to do was play, his bright blue eyes staring at all the shadows. I eventually sort of got used to running on broken sleep and the zombie feeling that came with it until they began to sleep through the night.

That was a whole new world, as was the necessary evil of taking my babies to get their shots. They would be so happy at first, cooing at the doctor while she checked them out and playing until the nurse came in. The nurses were always apologetic for what they were about to do. quickly swabbing with alcohol and then doing the deed as quickly as possible, but it never failed. Their eyes would open wide, their bottom lips would quiver, and then a heartbreaking wail would ensue, communicating their pain to the entire office and often setting up a chain reaction before I would guiltily swoop them up to comfort them.

The worst was when they had to get more than one shot. The element of surprise could only happen once, so the nurses had their work cut out for them. Middle Child, in particular, had set himself against needles since he was born. When he was two weeks old, he contracted RSV and was hospitalized for three days. Before the doctors knew that it was RSV, however, they wanted to test him for meningitis, which required a spinal tap. They wouldn’t even let me in the room, so I sat rocking in a chair in the hospital hallway just outside the door listening to my precious boy rage at the indignities being foisted upon him, tears uncontrollably streaming down my face, physically holding onto the chair to prevent myself from just running in and scooping him off the table.

A few minutes later, the doctor came out, shaking her head as she pulled off her latex gloves.

“We’re not going to be able to do the spinal tap”, she said. “He won’t let us.” As traumatized as I was, I also felt a twinge of pride the my two-week-old had the moxie to refuse to let a team of doctors stick a needle in his spine. I was a little less prideful when four years later, Marty had to take Middle Child to get a shot of antibiotics for an infection in his foot. When they returned home, I asked Marty how it had gone.

He fixed me with a withering look and said, “You mean you couldn’t hear him?” Apparently, it had taken three nurses to hold him down for one injection, something that he’s still proud of to this day.

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I miss how unbelievably curious they were as babies. Everything was fascinating. Everything needed to be explored. Knocking block towers over was endlessly funny, as was playing peek-a-boo with an urp cloth. Watching them grasp things for the first time, both literally and figuratively, was a joy to see. I am blessed that my family is very much a family that loves small children and takes the time to really be with them, so watching my family members, especially my grandparents, interact with my babies has given me memories that I will treasure forever.

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The best thing about having babies, though, were the snuggly bonding times, often right after feeding and before a nap. There’s just something so precious about that time, when your baby is looking you right in the eyes and you can feel that they’re saying a million things to you with their eyes, you feel that love just well up in your heart like nothing you ever felt before and you recognize that these moments are fleeting and will soon be gone. You feel the curl of those chubby little fingers close over your thumb (or your ear, in Middle Child’s case) and watch their eyelids flutter closed, then snap back open because they want to keep looking at you, but sleep is winning out and they finally can’t fight it anymore. Their whole little body relaxes against you and even when you know that it’s safe to move them to their crib, you don’t want to because you just want to capture that moment forever and ever. Eventually, though, you gently kiss that chubby cheek and lay them down so that you can get something done around the house, but there’s always a tinge of regret about it.

Nap times aren’t always like that. There were plenty of times when they just cried and cried themselves to sleep as we walked/bounced them around the house, or we were too impatient to appreciate the moment, especially if they were being stubborn about taking a much-needed nap and we had things to do. Youngest Child was notorious for his twenty-minute naps, or for waking up the moment he was laid down in his crib, but when they did happen that way, it was beautiful and special.

I know that babyhood isn’t glamorous and I’ve romanticized it here a bit. There are plenty of messy, frustrating, moments, too, like the crying for no reason, diaper explosions, stuffy noses, projectile vomiting, and messy baby food in the hair, but I tend to forget those; not completely, but the rough times aren’t the first things that I think about when I remember how my boys have grown up. Then there were crazy times that have turned into funny stories now, like when Middle Child completely dismantled Marty’s Easter basket. Or when Youngest Child had such a bad diaper blowout in an Indiana restaurant that I had to throw away his clothes and give him an impromptu bath in the restaurant sink. (Sorry, Perkins.) All three boys urped into Marty’s mouth at least once each and Oldest Child’s diaper leaked onto my Grandma’s pantsuit at a party, leaving a big wet spot. Good times, but better stories now.

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I have no doubt that my friends will have their share of moments, too: sweet ones, funny ones, and incredibly frustrating ones. Parenting is not for the fainthearted and there will be tons of mistakes made, things that they will wish they could do over again, feelings hurt, doubts raised. There will be boo-boos kissed, songs to sing, and wet, sloppy, open mouth kisses. I’m excited for them and all that they have yet to experience.

Through all of my own parenting journey, I know one thing for sure: my nine-year-old self was right.

Babies equal love.

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Dear Child (Any particular one),

There are things that I’m thinking about when I look at you and you say, “What?”. Here’s some insight as to what may be running through my mind. You see, memories from when you were very new stay with me, and I love to go back and revisit the flashes of you that I still see today.

Things like:

– Taking a pregnancy test to prove your father wrong, happily finding out that it was me who was wrong.

– Going to the doctor because I thought I broke a rib riding horseback, only to find out I would be a mama.

– Taking a pregnancy test because The Wizard of Oz made me sob.

– The secret, flutterby, kicks that made me smile.

-The never-ending waiting for you to be born. Christmas doesn’t hold a candle to a due date.

– Tiny. So, so, very tiny.

– Baby sighs and phantom smiles in your sleep.

– Those baby giggles when I pretended to sneeze.

– The absolute contentment when you would fall asleep on my chest, warm and cozy.

– Baby feet.

– The smell of your baby skin. Intoxicating.

– The way you wanted only me, reaching your chubby little arms out, saying, “Mama!”

– The protective instinct. I could quite easily kill anyone who hurt you, even now.

– Picking you up from preschool. You were so happy to see me, unashamed to hug me as tight as you could and tell me all about your day.

– The first time another kid rejected you. I never wanted to hit a 7-year-old before. (Just to clarify, I would never hit a 7-year-old.)

– The joy of your joy, whether it was a bug friend, a song you sang to me, or a baby lamb, the sight of you deliriously happy was my whole world.

-You sleeping in a fuzzy blanket, dark lashes on pale cheeks.

-The three of you on the couch arms and legs entwined like a pile of puppies while watching tv.

– The ache of watching you become more independent, knowing that every accomplishment takes you a small step away from me, but knowing that it is meant to be.

So when you catch me staring at you, with a funny look on my face, chances are something like these thoughts are racing through my brain. It’s because I love you. I love who you are, I love who you were, and I love who you are becoming.

Mama

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Last week I wrote about pet peeves, things that drive us insane at times. I do like to keep things balanced, so this week I’m writing about things that bring me joy.

Joy is different than happiness, a term that I use in to describe my constant feelings about certain parts of my life. For example, I have happiness in my marriage. That’s something that is all the time; a state, if you will, rather than a moment. Do I have moments of joy in my marriage? Undoubtedly, yes! But in my mind, joy is one of those things that happens spontaneously, a moment that catches you off-guard and can take your breath away while filling you with, well, joy!

For me, joy can be elusive. It’s not that I want to be joyless, but depression makes it hard to feel good things sometimes. Therefore, when I do experience something that brings true joy, the feeling is so profound that it stays with me. Moments of joy give me hope and keep me going. From the silly to the sacred, reactions vary from genuine laughter from deep inside to quiet awe and reverence. Here are some of my favorite things that bring me joy.

When Marty Man does something romantic. We’ve been married a long time, but he still has that power to make my heart flutter. It can be the surprise book that he ordered for me because he knew I would want it, the spontaneous, “I love you” that drifts across the couch, or even just a look that he sends my way. My husband brings me joy.

Connecting with my kids. I love my boys, always, but when we have a moment, whether it’s snuggle time or a good conversation, it makes my heart swell. They get closer to being on their own every day, which makes those moments precious to me.

Baby belly giggles. Completely unresistable. Hands down one of my favorite sounds in the entire world. I dissolve into a puddle of joy. It’s so real, so genuine. I can take on the world after hearing a baby lose it in laughter.

The ocean. Wild, raw, powerful, untamable. I love being around water in any case, but something about the ocean just fills my whole being when I watch it. I could stand there for hours.

Travel. Not necessarily the nitty-gritty parts of it, but the very thought of going somewhere, especially somewhere on my bucket list, is more exciting than Christmas morning. Right now, I’m looking forward to Italy. One month from today I’ll be in Rome. The anticipation is wonderful, but the reality will be even better. Even the opportunity to drive someone else to or from the airport makes me giddy, because it’s a wonderful place. I know, I’m a dork, but that’s okay.

Sleeping babies in my arms. I can’t even explain. Settling a baby down so that he or she is sleeping in your arms is amazing. They’re just so perfect, so innocent and beautiful.

Feeling God’s presence or understanding when He’s at work. When I’m reading the Bible or something related and a point just hits home, there’s no mistaking it, especially after I’ve been through a rough patch and the result is something that I never would have expected or planned for, but I know is right. The awareness that comes through and the feeling of being close to Him is indescribable, but joy is in that mix so it definitely belongs on my list. He is my everything.

Seeing the sun and clear blue sky after several cloudy ones. Relief, just pure relief and joy. I don’t know if this is a depression thing, but I do know that people, in general, feel better when it’s sunny out. It’s especially joy-inducing when it has been hot, awful, and muggy. I hate muggy. It makes my skin crawl, so when that lifts after several days and the sky is that clear, clear blue, it’s heavenly.

Music. I don’t know where I’d be without music. It helps to cope with or enhance every emotion, from the dark deep holes I can get into to the best moments in my life. There is a song for every feeling, every day, every time. Music understands.

Writing. I amost didn’t include this one, because when I write, I have to fight the nagging feeling at the back of my mind that tells me I should be doing laundry, or cleaning, or something else mundane because writing feels like such a guilty pleasure, but the times when I really just put that on the back burner and allow myself to get lost in my story or my blog are really full of joy. I love to write and I wish that I could make more time to do it. A work in progress, yes?

I’d love to know what brings you joy. Life is hard, joy gets us through.

Until next time.

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It has been quite the week, so I’m blowing off some steam today, on the less serious side. Well, some of them are kind of serious when they happen. It’s sometimes hard to forget that they are just that: pet peeves. Still, they’re annoying as heck. Here are some of my biggest ones.

Not using a turn signal when driving. You are not James Bond. You are not evading or tailing a super spy. You do not need to hide your movements. I promise that I will let you over (unless you’re driving like a jackass) and I’d much prefer to know that you are moving into my lane rather than be surprised. This turn signal thing also bugs me when I’m waiting to turn onto a street and I’m waiting for a car to pass, only to have the car turn a few blocks before it gets to me. Super-annoying. My time is wasted and now I’m irritated, thank you very much. Really, how much of your time does it take to flip the little lever on your steering wheel? Sheesh.

People who talk during any kind of performance. As an actor and as a mom with kids who are involved in school performances, I see this a lot and it’s really rage-inducing. If your conversation is important, TAKE IT OUTSIDE!!! I want to hear what the performers have practiced for weeks or months, not a random conversation on someone’s extended family. It’s really, really, rude, not to mention distracting, to talk during a performance, whether it’s a band concert, a community theatre play, or a movie. Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Bicyclists who ride in the street but don’t follow the rules. This really burns me and it falls under the serious category. This is DETROIT, not the Tour de France, although one would think so from how these folks are dressed. You do not need to be aerodynamic in the city. If you are riding in the road, you MUST stop at stop signs and lights. It’s the LAW. I once sat at a green light while a 50-bike blob decided to go right through their red light like they were a funeral procession. A fast funeral procession in neon spandex and pointy helmets. Look, folks, this is Outer Drive, not the French countryside. I hope, I hope that a police officer caught up with them at some point and gave them all humongous tickets. Look, I’m all for bike lanes and giving bicyclists a wide berth. I wish I could ride to work. It’s great for the environment, it’s healthy, and it’s fun, but follow the frickin’ rules. It’s just not safe, in fact, it’s downright arrogant, to zip through a red light and assume that traffic will stop for you. Plus, the spandex looks stupid. (Sorry, but it does.)

And while we’re on the topic of driving…

Driving under the speed limit. Oh. My. Gosh. We have places to go. If something is wrong with your car, turn on your hazard lights and get thee to the nearest service station. Otherwise, drive the posted speed (at least), especially during rush hour.

Loud, obnoxious swearing in public. I’m no angel. I swear on occasion, but it’s not terribly often and very rarely in public. I’m not talking about that kind of swearing, when one is with friends or in the heat of anger. I’m talking about the people who swear like they’re twelve years old and out of earshot of mom, who think that every other word in public should be a loud f-bomb or something similar. Really, it makes one sound uneducated and ridiculous. There is a time and a place for such things and Target or your local family diner is not it, especially when there are kids around. Manners, folks, manners.

Parents who yap on their phones instead of parenting. Another serious one, I think I blogged on this at some point. This makes me crazy, especially when the child is being a hellion and no discipline is happening. Hang up and stop your angel from wreaking havoc in the restaurant or on the playground. It makes me sad when I see a parent pushing their baby in a stroller and all they’re doing is talking on the phone. Talk to your BABY! A baby’s brain is primed and ready to soak up knowledge. It’s amazing how they respond to you. Studies show over and again that talking to you baby promotes language development in the brain, it teaches babies how to read facial expressions and how to interact with other humans, and increases literacy potential. Those baby and toddler years are so precious and go by so fast, please don’t waste them on the cell phone. Really, who is more important than your child? Be a parent.

Using all of the toilet paper on the roll and not replacing it. My children. You know who you are.

And last but certainly not least,

Memes on Facebook that tell you to share this in the next twenty minutes and you’ll get money, share if you love Jesus, if you love God, share and you’ll have good luck, etc. God doesn’t care if I share a Facebook post and I would venture to say that Jesus doesn’t either. Not one friend who has ever shared these posts has ever suddenly become rich or lucky. Just saying.

That’s all for now. Of course, there are more, but people who complain too much are also on the list, so I’ll end here. Until next time.

Peace and love.

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