December 2, 2014
by Tricia
2 Comments

Pulling Words

pickingleaves

“Just like those early days of parenthood when I read every book, subscribed to every newsletter, bookmarked every website with an ounce of information about the sleeping and eating patterns of newborns and infants, I submerged myself in data, research, and the words of the experts. I highlighted, tabbed, and made notes in the margins of articles. And, just like in those early days, I’d come away so dizzy and overwhelmed that I could barely form a word myself. I’d close the book and take tentative steps, scared to make a wrong move or say the wrong thing. I’d question every activity, lest my actions today prevent us from ever unlocking that box where he keeps his voice.”

I’m over at Brain, Child today, looking back on the summer and all of the time I spent worrying and altogether consumed by pulling words out of my little guy.

I wrote this a few months ago. These days, he is talking more. I’m pulling less. Not all of his words are readily recognizable but he is trying. Oh my is he trying. As I reread these words this morning it occurred to me that I rarely feel that very specific pulling-words-exhaustion that I used to feel. He, now, is the one worn out by the end of the day. Forming his mouth around new words, refining the formations to make different sounds. It comes naturally to us but for him it is such hard work. We celebrate his milestones. Each time a new word appears we cheer as if he’s just completed an award-winning performance. Which, of course, as far as all of us are concerned, he has. A lot of the time, we let slide the mispronunciations, the missing endings of words. But his speech therapist isn’t so lenient. She drills and she prompts and she works those words and sounds like a sculptor works a mass of unformed clay. Pushing and pulling and kneading. Most of the time, he keeps up. Lets her push him. And then we come home and he eats lunch and sleeps hard.

Still, I’m finding, as I did when I wrote this months ago, that the real magic comes in the living.

I’d love for you to join me at Brain, Child today. It took me a while to get to the point of being able to write this piece and, now, it’s one of my favorites.

November 26, 2014
by Tricia
8 Comments

Thank you

I haven’t been here on a Friday in weeks. Maybe it’s months by now. It’s not, of course, that I don’t have anything to be grateful for. Just the opposite is true. But I haven’t made the time.

I’ve always sort of been that way. Going a little bit against the grain, though not at all meaning to. November is the month of giving thanks. An entire day devoted to gratitude and, thanks to the Internet and Pinterest and all the rest, we ramp up early with gratitude trees and jars and instilling practices in our families that we hope will last the whole year through. So, of course, this is when I unintentionally de-prioritize the time I spend each week reflecting on my blessings and noting the good that fills up my cup. I still don’t know if it’s that November just gets busy and, this year in particular, my mind turned to other things because there are a great many other things. Or if the idea of making gratitude such a big deal overwhelms me and feels so unattainable, the way it’s pictured in magazines and blogs, that I put all thoughts of it aside. I still have to work, every day, at remembering that perfect is the enemy of the good. And there is always so much good to be done.

So here we are, on the eve of Thanksgiving, and I am out of practice at giving thanks. Rusty on the act of closing my eyes and reflecting on the day, the week, my life, and gathering around me the ways in which I am blessed. And it’s not just tomorrow I’m thinking about. The holidays are right there too. We’ve been working to get ahead of the game this season, making lists and buying gifts early so that we won’t find ourselves scrambling at the last minute and missing the best parts of the holiday. And that is very good. But it brings me into a mindset of things. Things to do. Things I don’t have. Things I want. And suddenly I’ve lost sight of the season before it’s begun.

red leaves

So I’m slowing down. Right here, right now. Before it all gets out of hand.

And I hope you will too.

This year, I am thankful for the words that have started to flow from my little boy’s mouth and the speech therapist who helps release them. I am thankful for the teacher who looks after my girl and reaches out if something is even a little bit off so that we can help set things back in place. I am thankful for the time I have each week to sit and work and write and build my dream into a career. I am thankful that the end of another year finds my little family healthy and together and looking towards the future while working at enjoying the moment.

But, most of all, this year I am thankful for friendship. Friends that I can see and catch up with over a cup of coffee, or lunch, or the cacophony of our children playing. And friends whose voices I’ve never heard, who faces I know only through a handful of photos, who I may never meet for coffee but whose words I read while I sipping mine alone in my office. These friendships fulfill me and sustain me in a way I never thought possible.

Thank you. And Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours.

 

November 24, 2014
by Tricia
6 Comments

Last call

golden leaves

I’ve never really had this luxury before. This space to move my work and life back and forth along a continuum. One giving way when the other needs more, the whole bar shifting back and forth at will. Not so much giving up one when the other needs more than it’s share. It’s not, of course, all or nothing. Nothing really ever is. It’s more prioritizing. Subconsciously. A little less work so that family can expand as it needs to. And, always, vice versa. It’s not giving up writing while kids are sick or abandoning my computer when I feel the pull to nest or snuggle in with my people. And it’s not giving up time with their sweet faces in front of mine or missing the feel of their arms wrapped around me when the words are tumbling out and need to find their way to a blank page. It’s a flex. A give and take. It’s a focus on the things that matter and a momentary farewell to the things that are wonderful and fulfilling in normal times but must always be the first to shift when the winds change.

Family has needed me more lately. Or, maybe more to the point, I’ve needed it more. Needed them more. I worry, a little, that this is it for me. This pull to the world of tending and nesting and preparing our home day in and day out, I worry it is consuming me. Intoxicating me with it’s way. The way our mornings run more smoothly when I’m present in our home rather than burying my head in my laptop. The way the evenings feel warmer when I’m lighting candles and cooking to the soundtrack of living room playtime rather than checking my email and jotting down notes for ideas and articles. The way I’d much rather curl up on the couch at night, wrapping his arms around me, than layering sweatshirts to keep warm in my cold office. Yes, I’m falling in love with home and the simpler life of just loving my family. And I worry that this spells the end, the absolute last call, of productive work time and the career driven life that I used to pursue with feelings of pride. I worry that my life has been headed in this direction for years and it’s just now pulling into the station.

sunthroughtrees

Of course, I’ve always preferred to end my year this way. Slower. Calmer. Focused more inward than out. Call it the first chill in the air that sends me burrowing deep inside. I used to think of it as the exhaustion of a year gone by. I’m tired in November. I’m fulfilled, satisfied with the year. No more big plans. Let’s just make a graceful exit. Even when career drove me from day to day and month to month and year to year, I’d still seek slow as the leaves began to fall. No new projects, please. No new work. Let’s just coast to the finish line.

That is the way it’s always been. So maybe I have nothing to worry about. Maybe January will come, as it does, in with it’s newness and freshness and I’ll look at that blank slate and plan a year of goals and work and I’ll sit here with renewed energy, my fingers flying fast. Maybe I’ll be ready to recommit again to my words. Allow home to shift a little so that work can expand again. That’s the way it usually happens. So maybe I have nothing to worry about.

Maybe I’m just feeling my way through this more luxurious life. Adjusting to the freedoms that I didn’t have before. I like to think it’s only natural, the pulls themselves are natural and my responses to them should be as well. Knowing when to give in, let the shift happen or help it along versus when to resist, keep everything in its place, that will come with time. Maybe I’m getting there.

boywithrake

November 20, 2014
by Tricia
13 Comments

Growing Together: Lara of Joy, Lovely Joy

growing together

There are writers whose words inspire me to breathe deeply, take a moment, and give into the power that softly lilting phrases have over me. There are bloggers and people who I talk with on Twitter and think about as I wander through the pages of the book I’m reading. And then there are people like Lara. She is both. I am honored that she is here today for Growing Together, sharing a beautiful story of growth with her little girl. A story that will speak to you, I’m sure, as it did me.

Enjoy her story here today and be sure to visit her at Joy, Lovely Joy!

~~~~~

My daughter clambered through the front door after school one day, spun into the kitchen, and slapped a piece of paper on the counter in front of me. “You need to sign this,” she said. I glanced down and saw Talent Show Auditions printed at the top of the page.

“The talent show? What are you going to do?”

“I dunno,” she said, still spinning across the hardwoods. She stopped to grab a granola bar from the pantry. “But I want to do it.”

This would be the third year she’s announced that she wants to do the talent show only to change her mind a few days later. I didn’t think this year would be any different. The paper sat in an accumulating pile of papers on the kitchen counter until the day before audition forms were due.

“Mommy, you need to sign the form,” she said as I tucked her into bed. “Tomorrow’s the last day to turn them in.”

I had assumed she’d changed her mind. I also assumed she didn’t really understand what she was getting herself into.

“You know that you’ll be on stage in front of teachers and your classmates?”

I told myself that I wanted her to be prepared so she wouldn’t freeze with shock when her turn came. In hindsight I realize that I was steering her away from auditioning in an attempt to protect her from disappointment.

“Mommy,” she said, drawing out the ‘o’ in mommy, a sure sign of annoyance or exasperation. “Of course I know that.”

Lately, I’ve needed to remind Mia that when someone speaks to her she needs to speak back. When someone says hello or good morning, it’s kind to reciprocate. And when she does do these things, I need to remind her to speak up. Her voice that has no trouble carrying through the house suddenly becomes mouseling-quiet in front of strangers or people she doesn’t know very well. I had a difficult time melding together this child and the one who claimed to want to stand on stage alone in front of her entire school to perform an as-of-yet unstated talent.

“I’ll sign the form,” I said. “But what are you going to do?”

“Jump rope,” she said, and when she smiled I saw two grown-up teeth poking through the space previously occupied by chiclet baby teeth.

A few days later Mia received an audition day and time, and then she promptly forgot about it.

“Don’t you need to practice?” I would ask her. “Do you have a routine? Are you using music?”

She brushed me off. Once in a while I would catch her jumping rope on the back deck, but whether or not she jumped with her audition in mind I couldn’t say. I was at once frustrated that she wasn’t preparing more and in awe of her self-confidence.

The night before the audition, she informed me of the song she planned to jump to, and I spent the next hour trying to track it down on iTunes or elsewhere, all the while gently scolding her for not thinking of it sooner. The truth is, up until that point I still believed she would back out. I even tried to prompt discussion that would allow her an out, but she wasn’t biting.

Finally, I asked, “Don’t you think you’ll get nervous?” And that’s when my husband wisely stepped in.

“It’s okay if she gets nervous,” he said, throwing a cutting glance in my direction that told me to back off. He was right, of course.

When I tucked her into bed that night, I asked her if she was ready. She nodded, kneading her blanket in her palm the way she’s done since a toddler, the CD that’s lulled her to sleep every night for the past seven years playing in the background.

“I’m ready,” she said, and I realized with an aching clarity that I wasn’t. I listened to the lyrics wafting through her room, the same lyrics I listened to as I rocked her as a newborn, and marveled at the girl whose unruly tendrils spilled onto the pillow, whose fingernails were painted sparkle blue, whose legs had slimmed and lengthened, whose feet could now fit into my socks. Mia’s childhood is something buttery slipping through my fingers even as I try to grasp at it.

Her audition was scheduled for 4:05. I pulled into the parking lot at 3:55 and raced into school. I peeked through the closed doors of the audition room only to see Mia on stage and out of breath. She was done. But when I stepped into the room, she caught my eye and smiled that cavernous, gap-toothed smile. She was beaming.

“I messed up,” she told me. “I dropped the rope and tripped a few times.”

“Did you have fun?” I asked.

“Yeah,” she said. “But I don’t think I’ll make it.” Then she let go of my hand to catch up with her friend.

As I watched her skip ahead of me, I started to pick up on the lesson my daughter was teaching me. While I worried over her lack of preparation and wondered if her ability to jump rope was stretching the word talent a bit too far; while I fretted over stage fright and possible peer reactions and resulting disappointment, she raced straight into the ring, jumped her heart out, and had fun. I realized that the worries I tried to project onto her in the name of protection were my own fears, not hers.

And so this is where I’m growing, little by little. I’m learning to let her feel the buzz of butterflies and the sting of a fall and the electric charge of stepping outside her comfort zone. I’m learning that those lengthening legs will carry her out my door one day and into a world of her own making, and as much as I would rather pack her in bubble wrap and stick her into my pocket for safe keeping, that’s no life for a girl. No, it’s best to race into the ring, feeling the zip and zing of it all against her skin.

~~~~~

lara anderson

I’m a freelance writer and editor, lover of books and coffee, collector of words, mama to three, and blogger at Joy, Lovely Joy. Soon after we survived that arduous first year with twins I felt a fog lift and could see the outline of a routine begin to take shape. I started blogging then as a creative outlet, not realizing the connections I would make with like-minded mothers and writers who get me thinking and laughing and asking questions. I love this community and would love to connect with you at Joy, Lovely Joy. You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. P.S. She made the talent show.

November 19, 2014
by Tricia
3 Comments

A Thanksgiving Roast Beef

“What should we do for Thanksgiving this year?” he asked as we drove along, each of us gazing out the window, watching the world pass by as we made our way home.

We had already declined invitations and decided to stay home. With illness and travel and just the bustle of daily life in the Fall with its birthday parties and Halloween festivities and all the rest, I longed for a day to just stay. Just see my three people. And that’s it. We needed it, I believed, if we were to make it through the holiday season. So I knew he was asking about the meal. What should we eat? His question, however, wasn’t as clear to the car-seat bound behind us.

“What do you mean?”

“Well on Thanksgiving, people usually eat turkey.” he went on. But then he paused. And then he said the words that should logically come next when you are trying to teach your children to be open-minded, make the world your own, don’t be bound by convention. Except, of course, when convention is a tradition so deeply engrained that it seems to be not just synonymous with the holiday but actually becomes the holiday itself.

fall decor - turkey candle holder

He said, “But we don’t have to eat turkey.”

“I don’t want to eat turkey.” she said, without missing a beat. Call it the Indian blood coursing through her veins that makes her one of the only kids I know to crave chicken tikka (with naan, of course). Or call it typical kid pickiness. But she’s never liked turkey. Or mashed potatoes. Or cranberries. She’ll even pass on the pumpkin pie. The meal that people gorge themselves on, filling plates with second helpings of things that only seem to grace the table for a few months at a time, she could, and does, go without.

And so it began. Our non-traditional Thanksgiving meal planning. By the time we arrived home we had planned a meal of beef with a side of pasta with red sauce and green beans, only because we required her to pick a vegetable. Corn bread is the only traditional Thanksgiving staple to have survived and it was non-negotiable.

There have been times in my life when this would have appalled me. I wouldn’t have stood for it. Because there was a time when everything had to fit nicely into a box. Everything had to be done just the way it always had been done. Turkey for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Ham for Easter. The list, of course, covered much more than just food. And I’d continue listing here for you if I could. But, the truth is, I threw those boxes away long ago.

[Tweet “What really matters? The people matter.”]

Kids break the boxes. With their wants and needs and complete ignorance of the way things have always been done (or maybe it’s that they just don’t care), they break the boxes we set up to organize our lives. They call everything into question. What really matters? What is worth fighting for? Which boxes are worth repairing again and again with tape and staples, bubble gum and bandaids, and which are ok to just collapse because they weren’t all that useful anyway?

What really matters?

Does it matter that this year, as everyone else we know carves a turkey and breaks a wishbone, we roast beef? Does it matter that we’re calling it quits on pumpkin early this year and will, instead, probably indulge in something dripping in chocolate at the end of our meal? Or does it matter that on Thanksgiving evening, the four of us will gather around our table, happy and excited about sharing a meal together? That we’ll sit and use our words to talk and connect and share what we’re grateful for rather than counting bites and begging little people to “just try it.”

fall decor - pumpkin candle holder

What really matters? The people matter. And believe me, I know it’s hard, this time of year especially, to focus on the people. Never does the way things have always been tempt us more than during the holidays. Tradition marks our lives all year long but it really goes big right now and we begin to believe that it won’t be Thanksgiving without the turkey. So we force it and we make it happen because that’s just what you do to make the holiday real. But the truth is, Thanksgiving is a celebration. It’s coming together. Being with family. Giving thanks. It’s the gratitude and the love that make Thanksgiving a true celebration. No matter what you’re giving thanks for and what you’re stuffing in your face as you give it.

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