May 27, 2015
by Tricia
1 Comment

Notes from the middle

feet and chair

We took the last high chair away at dinner time.

Not while cleaning out. Not in the midst of a mid-afternoon wander around the house, taking care of those things we meant to do but never quite did. Not, as I usually do, after weeks of working up to it, mourning the loss of it before it’s actually gone so that the actual removal doesn’t hurt as badly.

No, we took it right out from under him between bites of chicken. At his request, of course. We moved it to the corner (because I can look past its placement and emptiness and still think of it as a thing we’ll use) and moved one of our spare dining table chairs in it’s place. He hopped on, smiled big, and that was that.

The big high chair sayonara came at the end of his first day of potty training. After a day of wearing undies and telling me on every trip to the bathroom, “Me big. Me go potty!” (The caveman speak and frequent accidents did little to convince me that he isn’t just as big as he thinks he is, growing just as rapidly as he wants to). It came just hours after her last Daisy meeting. The last time I dropped her off at the big school in the big kid classroom for just an hour because soon she’ll spend all day long in that kind of room, surrounded by desks and backpacks. (The way she clung to me as I tried to leave did little to convince me that she is not just as big as she thinks she is, growing more and more independent every day). It was promptly followed by discussion of the next big goodbye – the crib. We all sat there on the same kind of chair, using the same kind of forks, all of us wearing underwear (which oddly feels like the thing that makes us equals) and we talked about his big boy bed.

And we stared at them for a minute. Because yikes, there they are. People. Little people growing real fast and growing all the time but most of the time we don’t realize it. So when the moment smacks you in the face, when suddenly you look and realize that they’re just a bit bigger, just a bit older today than they were yesterday, you have to stop and stare. Just for a minute. Take it all in. Savor it, the wonder of them and everything you know that came before to get you to this moment, just for a breath. Because, of course, in the next minute there will be bickering because her hand is on his chair or whining because she doesn’t want to eat, or wet undies because it’s still day 1, or any of a dozen things that remind you that yes, they are growing real fast and growing all the time but they are still small and young and babies in the grand scheme of things. Soon you’ll have no need for diapers.com. Soon the crib you watched arrive with anticipation, holding your big belly and feeling excited and terrified all at the same time, will be reduced to a collection of pieces and handed off to someone else. Soon sitting together at dinner, all of you wearing underwear and sitting on chairs without buckles won’t be such a novel thing. It will be the thing you do and it will be comfortable and exciting and amazing because it will be the kind of family moment you dreamed of. Soon these things will happen but today, we’re still in the middle of the ride.

It’s been, and will continue to be, one of those years for our family. One of those in which all of the ‘soons’ become ‘nows.’ One of those in which big changes happen at a dizzying rate, all of us reaching and growing and changing and taking on big things. Our growth curves won’t level out until 2015 comes to a close, when we’re three months into first grade and preschool, several months into new jobs and more time spent on career, half a year without the baby supplies tucked into every corner of our home. It seems wild and crazy that so much will be packed into just one year, that just six months from now, our life will look completely different than it did when we toasted to the new year. That right this very minute we’re grown in some places and completely unchanged in others and we’re feeling the awkward growing pains here caught in mid-transformation. But this seems to be the way with young ones. So much growth happens in these first handfuls of years, our little people morph right before our eyes and we have no choice but to change right along side them, experiencing the pain and the beauty of it all.

I used to run to escape the pain of it all. I used to close my eyes and pretend nothing had changed until everything was done and the change seemed irrelevant because the new routines and ways and feelings had already taken their place. Of course, in running to escape the pain, I also evaded the beauty. The pain and the beauty are a bit like play dough, you know? You try to keep the colors separate but really, they are meant to be melded and mixed and blended. And once you bring them together, there is no getting them apart.

So these days, I’m working hard to let myself feel it all. I’m taking a minute when the realizations hit and I’m letting my heart ache at goodbyes and farewells and sayonaras. I’m letting the ache linger and I’m sitting with it, even curling up in it a little. When I remember that tomorrow starts her last two weeks of Kindergarten, her last two weeks in the sweet little school where she has grown so much and that has loved her and nurtured her, I don’t push away the pain of saying goodbye. I let the pain mingle with the delight that, today, it’s not over yet. When I count the number of days I have left at home with him, playing away the hours and living the sweet, toddler life, I linger in the sadness. I linger and smile because, it’s not over yet. I mix it all together because I’m starting to realize that letting myself feel every feeling that goes along with it all is the only way to really live it.

May 19, 2015
by Tricia
1 Comment

Not goodbye

kids at creek

photo credit: Miss N.

Almost five years ago, we interviewed our first nanny as my belly swelled in front of me and my mind danced with a chaos that made me dizzy. I spent weeks in the middle of my pregnancy preparing and planning ahead for the complete unknown, as we all do. I talked to women and tried to suss out whether they’d take good care of my little girl before I even knew what that meant. To think back and come to terms with the fact that I chose a near stranger to take care of my baby before I even knew the color of my little girl’s eyes, the shape of her nose, the shade of her hair, (that she was a she and not a he) feels impossibly awkward and scary to me now. To remember how that first nanny did not work out feels painful and, yet, with the perspective of years, makes sense.

Almost four years ago, we interviewed our second nanny. I remember more about the second time around – the people we met, the questions we asked. We knew more. We knew what we wanted and, more importantly, what we didn’t. We interviewed so many very lovely women, sitting at our dining room table with our little girl balanced on our knees. But what stands out to me most is the one line that most of them said as we talked about qualifications and expectations. It went something like, “I’ll make sure your little girl is loved and cared for while you aren’t able to be here.”

No doubt they all worded that better but it hurt every time. I wanted to work but I didn’t want to be away. I wanted to pursue my career but I wanted to be the one loving and caring for my baby. I didn’t want to think about someone else doing that job. I didn’t want to think about someone else making my little girl giggle and laugh, watching her play and soothing her to sleep. I wanted those things to happen. I knew they needed to happen without me. I just didn’t want to think about them.

Whether Miss N. said those exact words or not, I don’t remember. What I do remember is knowing, as soon as we met, that I did, in fact, want her to take care of my little girl when I couldn’t. To be honest, I kind of wanted her to take care of me too. I wanted to hang around home for art projects and music and outings to the park and story time and trips to the old caboose that sits in the field about a mile away. I wanted mornings at the creek, hands dipped in paint to make decorations for every holiday, afternoon dance parties in the living room. If I had written down a list of the things I really wanted for my little girl, the things it felt silly to say out loud because these were the things that were icing on the cake and not solid care requirements, I’d have checked every one off the day we met Miss N. She had it all. I knew that she’d nurture in my little girl all of the things that were important to me and that, in doing so, she’d push me. I knew she’d push me to up my game, let go of my fear of messes, my need for control, my tentative nature and tendencies to tip toe into new waters. She’d introduce my little girl to the feeling of paint between her fingers and mud between her toes. She’d teach her to launch into the world and go bravely with her head held high. She find seeds of passions and interests in my baby and she’d carefully care for them and make them grow.

I knew that she’d push me towards the mother I wanted to be. She’d push me to be a better mama.

And I trusted my still new motherhood instincts enough to know that I needed and wanted that pushing.

It’s a completely underrated responsibility of motherhood – the responsibility of choosing the people who become a part of our children’s lives, the people who will weave themselves into the fabric of our babies’ childhoods and make a difference there. For a short time in our children’s lives, we get to choose who joins their inner circles, we have some degree of control over who gets to know them well enough to fall in love with them. It’s a huge responsibility and it’s so easy to mess it up. I have. Twice. Probably more than twice.

But there was this one time that I got it right. So right. And that time is up there as one of the best decisions I’ve made since my children were born.

Miss N did care for my little girl when I wasn’t able to be there. And my little boy too. She cared for them selflessly and wholeheartedly and she did it more than I ever imagined. I grew to love the idea of her being there when I wasn’t, experiencing things with them that I didn’t, being the one to love them in person when I couldn’t. And she did take care of me too. She helped my kids become the people they are today and helped me become the mother I am today. But most importantly, she taught me how about the magic that happens when you open your heart and let the right person into your family.

Miss N moves away this week. She has big things ahead and I’ll be watching closely because I know her one precious, wild life only gets better from here. And though there is an empty space in our home these days that we will never fill, I’m reminding myself and my little ones that this is not goodbye. Because she will always be part of us.

May 13, 2015
by Tricia
3 Comments

Life is a wild moment

little boy at college

I used to walk those paths a million years ago. Lifetimes ago I lived there. I knew the buildings and how to get from one place to another via the most efficient routes. I didn’t get lost. I ran across the quad. I stopped for coffee whenever I could. I smiled hellos and exchanged hugs along the way with people that now I haven’t seen in over a decade. I dreamed dreams because that was a time of dreaming. The whole world felt big and available and my whole life spread before me in a giant blank canvas. Or, at least, that’s how it felt at the time. So big and overwhelmingly white and looking at all of the colors I might paint with made me dizzy. I quickly narrowed down my options while assuring my dream-self that they were still all there. She didn’t want to be confined but I didn’t want to get lost. Such a unique moment it is, when you feel as though you are on the brink of life.

And then I left. I’ve lived no more than a twenty minute drive from the place for the last twelve (oh my goodness it’s been twelve) years. But I didn’t go back. Why would I? There is nothing there but memories. And I keep the memories with me. I don’t need to go looking for them. So I moved forward, and didn’t look back.

Until the day it felt right to take them there. Just for an outing. For something different than the park or the zoo or the typical weekend escapades. It felt right to bring them there, show them this place. Walk with them on those paths, show them the buildings, reminisce about the dreams and the memories in their presence. Because one of the things I offer them is the connection to me and to my past. Because they love to hear stories about when I was small, a kid just like them, or, as it goes, not at all like them. They love to know more. And I love to tell them. They’ve seen the place where I spent my childhood. It made sense to show them where I grew up.

So we walked around and it felt so strange. Like walking into a vaguely familiar world, one with memories around every corner but, also, one that had changed so drastically that no one moment felt quite tangible enough for me to lay a finger on. I didn’t remember the paths or the buildings. The places I had stopped for coffee were no longer there. It shouldn’t have surprised me. The millions upon millions of ways I’ve changed since those days are staggering. I couldn’t expect this one place to stay the same. Everything changes. And it’s ok. Good even.

So we wandered and got lost and wandered some more. I let them run across the grass, remembering the morning I stretched a blanket there to study with a friend. I gazed at the steps where we waited for class to start. The railing we slid down in caps and gowns on the day we worked so hard to reach.

And I tried to take it all in. Seeing them in that space, where a much younger me hadn’t even dared to dream of them. I couldn’t have known that this is how I’d come back and who I’d bring with me. And if I had known, if someone had somehow shown me this future moment in a glimpse of a dream, I’m not sure I would have been extraordinarily happy. This isn’t the place I believed I was headed when I walked off those grounds for the last time. I thought, in those young, naive, innocent days, that my life would play out differently.

But life is wild that way, isn’t it?

~~~~~

linking up with Lisa.

May 11, 2015
by Tricia
6 Comments

On a cloud

ltym_necklace

It isn’t just that last week was wild. That I moved straight from stage back to life with a speed that made my heart ache. It isn’t that life has been loud lately with big decisions and big changes and so much big. It is so loud inside my head that I feel like I couldn’t find the quiet if I tried. (And it isn’t just that I haven’t been trying. Though I haven’t). It isn’t that time to reflect and soak up a moment is a luxury in these small years and this has not been the kind of time for little luxuries.

That I haven’t yet written about my Listen to Your Mother experience is not about time or chaos or life. It’s that I have struggled for a week now to find the words to adequately capture this experience.

To be honest, I’m not sure there are words. There is just emotion. And connection. And stories. Beautiful, amazing, eloquently captured stories told by people who I finally met for the first time on the big day but who are now dear friends. Oh those stories. I got to hear them twice you know and I’d listen to them a hundred more times for all of the tears and laughs and all of the feels.

I wanted to be so fully present for the day, for the moment. And, yet, I felt a little like I was on a cloud the whole time. Perhaps that is just the way it is when you are actually living your own dream in real life. Perhaps there is always a little bit of haze you just can’t break through – the haze of “I can’t believe I’m really doing this.”

Still, through the haze, there are moments that stand out to me so crystal clear.

The moments when I stood in front of my mirror, curling my hair for the first time in so many years, while taking deep breaths and giant gulps of water, reminding myself what I was about to do.

The moment when I drove to the theater, across the bridge that I cross every time I make my way into the city, the bridge I crossed for years to get to work, but that always calls back big moments when I’m crossing for a big event. I almost cried on that bridge on Sunday.

The moment when I ran outside to take a pre-show selfie before heading backstage. It’s a little odd to me that taking a selfie before heading in felt so important to me. But it did. Capture the moment.

ltym_selfie

The moment when I finally made my way backstage and these women whose stories I’d heard but whom I’d never met greeted me with hugs as if we’d known each other for years. Stories bond us. This experience bonds us. We were part of a family now and it didn’t matter that we were in the same room for the first time that day. We knew each other already.

The moment when I walked out on stage for the first time and saw a string of faces – the faces of some of my most favorite people in the world – beaming at me from the second row right in the center of the theater. I’m not sure there is any feeling quite like the one you get when you stand on a stage and look out at those you love and respect and whose friendships you cherish, to see nothing put pure joy in their eyes. Joy at being there to support you and be in this moment with you. Not everyone gets to experience that feeling, I know I am lucky. It is a feeling I’ll never forget.

And, of course, the moment when I looked down to see my little girl there, right in the middle of that row, wearing her fancy dress and surrounded by my favorite people, grinning ear to ear, her eyes shining. I’ve joked that she was more excited than I was that day. Later, a friend would write to me about what an amazing thing I had done for my little girl, to give her this memory of sitting in an audience to watch her Mommy stand up and tell a story while people listened and responded and applauded. I didn’t actually cry on the bridge, or on stage, or when walking off stage even though I felt like I might. But I cried when I read those words and I still cry when I think about that. Of all of the things I’ve ever wanted to give my girl, the hard and fast proof that she can do anything and dreams can come true is among them. Sharing this day with her is one of my proudest moments.

ltym_onstage

And, finally, the moment when I stood there, looking out at the audience, though let’s be honest, all I could really see was lights beyond the first few rows. I remember taking a deep breath, a moment to take it all in, before launching into my first lines. I remember feeling a little bit like I was on auto-pilot, mostly so that I couldn’t cry, mostly so that I could get it all out. All of it. And I did.

I still don’t feel like these words do any justice to what is still bursting in my heart a week later. There are parts of this day that I’ll just never be able to translate. But thankfully, if I ever need to reminisce with someone who just gets it without perfectly structured words and phrases, I don’t have to look far.

CastPicture-600x428

April 29, 2015
by Tricia
7 Comments

In the show (where show = Listen to Your Mother)

“Oh I thought of something else!” she said as I reached above her head to turn off the light on her bedside table. We had just finished saying her prayers and, as always, she had struggled to find things in her day to be thankful for. I make her reflect on her day every night but gratitude is a muscle that takes time to grow. I’m still growing mine.

“Oh? What is it?” I asked.

“I’m also thankful for helping you try on dresses tonight!”

I smiled. “I’m thankful for that too.”

“On the day of your show, I’m going to have so many favorite parts!”

Oh, my love, me too.

On a beautiful spring-like day this past January, I left my house at nap time and made my way into the city. With a shaking voice and tears I did not expect, I read my story to Listen to Your Mother DC producers Kate and Stephanie. We talked, we wiped tears from our eyes, and then it was over. In the two weeks between my audition and the day they would announce the cast, I tried to put the whole thing out of my mind. The temptation to dream of getting a spot on that stage was too much. I’ve got enough experience, now, in putting myself out there that I know quite well how to distract myself in the space between submitting and hearing back.

My daughter, however, does not. She asked me nearly every blessed day during those two weeks whether or not I would be ‘in the show.’ So, naturally, she was the first person I told when I found out that yes, I will be ‘in the show.’

I’ve been in love with Listen to Your Mother for years. I remember thinking, the first time I saw a blog post about it three years ago, that this is a thing I need to be a part of. People on a stage sharing their beautiful stories of motherhood in front of a live audience is every dream of mine come true. Oh to be in that room but, even more, to be on that stage. I imagined that the experience would break my heart into pieces and then put it back together all in the span of one afternoon spent with storytellers just like me (and, perhaps, not at all like me in all the best ways). I craved that kind of heartbreak in my life.

So, two years ago, I auditioned. And I didn’t make it.

I took a couple of years after that, watching LTYM from a distance. It wasn’t resentment for the rejection (I know because I know that feeling fairly well). I still loved the show and everything about it. I still followed and liked and shared and cheered on friends who stood up to tell their stories. I still aimed for that stage. But I needed a little space.

In the space between audition 1 and audition 2, I realized that needing that kind of heartbreak and being ready to withstand it, to make it through it well and be ready to do something with it, are different things. Two years ago, I hadn’t written enough of my story to be able to stand up and tell it. My heart hadn’t learned how to soften in heartbreak rather than harden. I was incredibly distracted with a three-year-old and three-month-old and my hands were full. I wouldn’t have been able to accept the gift even if it had been held out to me. Motherhood had (and still has) so much more for me.

I strongly believe that we are ready for different things at different points in our lives. We can talk ourselves into believing we are ready when, really, we aren’t but the universe will figure out a way to tell us to slow down, take our time, get ready for the experience to be all that it needs to be. I believe that only when we are really, truly ready in the deepest parts of our hearts, will the transformational experience we crave really have the power to transform. I believe in being ready for life’s big moments.

And I’m ready now.

Of course, being ready for the experience and feeling ready to get up on stage in front of my family and friends (and lots of other people’s family and friends) are also very different things. My stomach flips when I think ahead to Sunday afternoon and two nights ago I dreamed that I showed up for my big day in my pajamas. I’m distracting my mind with choosing between dresses and trying to figure out how to apply bronzer so I don’t look like a ghost on stage. (Got tips!? Seriously, I’m taking tips!)

But mostly, because I’m ready, I’m curling up in this moment. I’m letting the nerves and excitement and awe wash over me and I’m taking it all in. I’m closing my eyes and picturing myself on stage and dreaming of all of the ways I will fully live every one of those minutes up there. I’m taking the time to watch my daughter get so excited about her Mommy going up on stage, seeing her eyes light up and knowing that, because I am ready, this moment is one that will stand out for her. This is one of those moments when I show her all that we can be.

And, yes, I’ve already started crying and we’re still five days from go-time. Maybe I shouldn’t wear mascara this weekend…

But the nerves, the excitement, the dreaming and the crying, those are life. Those come with standing up and being ready and taking part. And I’m ready to be in the show.

~~~~~

LTYM-logoI couldn’t have ever even dreamed of being ready without Kate and Stephanie and all they do for LTYM-DC. They make this experience every amazing thing that it is and I’m so honored to do this with them. You can check out all of the latest news about our Sunday showtime and the amazing sponsors they’ve lined up right here.

 

 

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