Tuesday, May 29, 2012

8th Grade Dance

"Oh, that's cute," I said as I watched Logan strut into the school.

"What?!" said Jesse from the backseat. "How could Logan be cute?"

Logan was heading in to the end-of-year eighth grade dance, busy popping the collar and pushing up the sleeves of the shirt I had just bought him. He had combed his long, blonde hair til it shone golden. He reeked of Axe.

I remember dressing up for my eighth grade dance. My talented (and long-suffering) mother had made a dress to my specifications. It was a retro-looking drop-waist style made from a loud, vintage orange floral. I still maintain that it was a very cute dress. But not at all something one could buy off the rack. I believe this was the beginning of the quirky fashion sense that only blossomed through my high school and college years. (Until I hit a fashion roadblock as a young mother who couldn't quite pull off the Grateful Dead bell bottoms any longer.)

When I came downstairs in my new dress, ready to head to the dance, my parents surprised me with a pair of white leather kitten heels. I loved them. So much so that I wore them even though they were too small and pinched my feet horribly. In fact, I wore those too-small shoes all the way through high school, even taking them to a shoe shop to get the heels repaired when I had worn them through.

I don't remember much about the dance. I'm pretty sure Wham!'s Careless Whisper was played. But I do remember the dress and the shoes, and the message my parents were sending through them.

Last night, Logan told me about this shirt he had seen at the store. After school today, I let him convince me to swing by the store on the way to the dance so he could pick it up. And he's right, it is a cool shirt. It's a black button-up with stripes in shades of purple. Okay, my contribution isn't as awesome as sewing a dress and surprising my daughter with the perfect shoes. But I hope Logan will remember this little gesture of mine as buying into what matters to him. I hope he fondly remembers the dance, and the shirt, and the mom who drove him there, and even the little kids tagging along in the backseat.

"I still just don't understand how Logan could be cute!" Jesse said.

For the record, other awesome outfits my mother sewed to my exacting specifications:

- off-white linen skirt in a sort of wraparound style with kick pleats down the front.
- bluish-gray plaid skirt from the same pattern with slits in the front and back.
- Bermuda shorts made from Escher-esque fishy fabric.
- Bermuda shorts made from aqua-colored floral.
- white Bermuda shorts from the same pattern.
- pinkish floral sleeveless shell to be worn with the white shorts.
- over-the-top cream-colored taffeta formal with poofy sleeves and full skirt.
- purple satin Prom dress with oriental collar.
- full purple skirt with cool bandanna-style waistband.
- gorgeous wedding dress with simple round collar and princess seams.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


Through the kitchen window, I'm watching Jesse and Betsy roll like cubs on the trampoline.

And I'm having a hard time thinking of anything more lovely than healthy, safe, well-fed children happy in their leisure.

Today is sort of our first day of summer. The other kids have another week of school, but Jesse is already out (kindergarten testing). So when Betsy slept poorly last night, then was grumpy by nine this morning, I just put her down to nap with no worries about coordinating her sleep schedule with carpool duties.

I always confront summer vacation with fear. I'll never have another moment of privacy until next fall! How on earth will I get anything done? But once summer begins I always realize how wonderful it is to be free of the tyranny of school schedules. I'm looking forward to more space to teach the kids what I think they need.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Motherhood Is...

Before my oldest son was born, I took both Lamaze and Bradley Method classes to prepare for a medication-free childbirth. Even so, I was blown away by the pain of labor--and its complete irrelevance. No sacrifice or inconvenience mattered one whit compared with this child’s well-being. The jewel of his tiny face was like a universe to me. I loved him not for who he was, or what he did, or any other measure. Motherhood is loving a person for the pure fact of their existence.

Our second son was born at nine pounds and came with an out-sized personality to match. Though I dream of being a mother whose radiant love brings cooperation from grateful children, with him I’ve learned to outline limits and consequences. When he was small, we told him that bad behavior would result in a three-minute time-out. If he refused to go to time-out when asked or to sit quietly for the duration, another minute would be added. That day, he earned three hours of time-out. One minute at a time. But every day thereafter, he went to time-out as asked. Motherhood is playing bad cop to the person you wish only to please.

My mother says that child number three is where the fun starts. No longer are parents worrying about rules or developmental milestones. My third son is bright like the sun. He teaches me to let go of schedules, rules, and expectations. To enjoy whatever unfolds. Motherhood is throwing up your arms as you ride the roller coaster.

My first daughter came to us as a foster child when she was two years old. Her birth mother loved her deeply but failed, repeatedly, to provide basic care. After shuttling from place to place before finally arriving on our doorstep, this daughter struggles to accept my love and limits. But to my dying breath I will fight to give her everything good I can muster, no matter how it is received. Motherhood is giving good gifts, free of charge.

My fourth pregnancy was a miscarriage, and my fifth was a fiasco. When this son was born with a head full of curly red hair, his one-in-a-million appearance pointed up the one-in-a-million good fortune of his safe arrival. I’ve never gotten over the feeling that every day in a world with him is infinitely better than any day without him. Motherhood is winning the lottery. 

When I was thirty-eight, I became pregnant one last time. After giving birth to four boys in a row, I laughed in glee when the ultrasound tech showed us those pretty little girl parts on the screen. God sent me five beautiful children, each in His own time and in His own way. And then He added a sixth, the cherry on top. Motherhood is a blessing.

* Written for NieNie's Mother's Day essay contest.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

That's a wrap

I’m done.  I haven’t nursed Betsy since last Wednesday, and I now declare myself officially done. So that’s it. No more pregnancies, no more nursing. (Knock on wood.) It’s over.

This body certainly is worse for the wear. The huge pregnancy bellies, the hours of nursing, the long labors have all taken their tolls. I do not look like I did when I got married twenty years ago. I do not look like anyone you’ll see on a magazine cover. We live in a world that disdains women's bodies that show any signs of real life as a woman. But when I think of my body, imperfections and all, mostly I feel grateful. And proud.

This body has done exactly what it is supposed to do--something I'll never take for granted. It grew my children’s beautiful, healthy bodies and minds. It fed and nurtured them. Look at the wonderful people I made! In the whole eternal scheme of things, this body has filled the measure of its creation. 

I'm certainly planning on getting lots more mileage out of this body and keeping it healthy and happy for years to come. But as I finish this stage of the race, let me say: Thank you, body. Job well done.