Catskills: Part I

What do you mean you pack for him? The criticism was at the forefront of my mind as the cabin doors were closing and I stared at the vacant seat across the aisle from me.  I had chuckled at the idea of my friend packing for her husband on their trips, believing a grown man should be doing this for himself.  Except in the moment when my husband was still maneuvering TSA and our flight was securing its doors, I wished I had just packed his bag.

We arrived at the airport early, like the kind of early I will only wake for travel.  We were traveling as a family with my parents to my sister’s wedding in the Catskills of New York.  To say I was eager to get there is minimizing the feeling, I was ecstatic, the wedding celebrations were all I had been thinking about for weeks.  The anticipation of a year and a half engagement, ten-year relationship and all the suspense in sharing details for where in the world the ceremony would be had amounted to the peak of mania.  Who would have known the airport would have been buzzing with business before six o’clock AM, lines seemed longer than I’ve seen them in years for our convenient Midwestern airport. My parents and I adjusted baggage, ensured my four year-old Parker was holding a hand and prepared to find our way to the terminal.  My husband slowed with a look of confused concern, “I have to check my bag.” He borrowed a garment bag for the trip so that he could carry his suit neatly for the wedding.  My mom stepped in to reassure him the bag can be a carry-on and will fit in the overhead bin.  The concerned expression continued as he realized even if the size would fit he made packing errors which would make it impossible to bring it as a carry-on and began making his trek to the airline counter.

Security agents and airline personnel were as pleasant and accommodating as a box of hungry hedgehogs.  We watched him through the glass standing in the TSA line making slow progress to get closer to where we were.  I boarded the plane with Parker and my parents knowing my husband had not yet taken his shoes off but was literally a few sprints from where I sat.  The stewardess ignored my attention seeking as if it was impossible to stop checking seat belts to address a customer.  When she finally returned to my panic, she frankly reported “The plane is finished boarding.”  On the phone, my husband’s irritation was growing as he explained how they had only one line to accommodate security screens and chose him for a random search.  He added he was one of six people getting slowed down by processes who were meant to board the same flight.

By the time the flight was in the air I was fighting tears, all the excitement I had building about this amazing weekend were starting with a major absence.  I didn’t know what to be more mad about: TSA for only having one line to screen people, the airline for not ushering people who needed to get to flights, the fact that more than 2 oz of body wash is treated like gun powder to carry onto the plane, my perfectly-planned-for-travel pixie pants creating a sad muffin top or that I should have just packed the damn bag and avoided this.  By the time we got to flying over Washington DC (our connecting airport) and circling over for twenty minutes, then landing only to taxi for an additional 15 minutes; I decided my aggression was focused on US Airlines for insisting we had an on-time departure from Kansas City and leaving behind 6 passengers the 35 wasted minutes could have helped.

There was nothing I could do to remedy the situation so I focused on making sure Parker was comfortable with the flying experience, thankfully she laid her head in my lap and caught up on the early morning missed sleep.  One more quick flight and we landed in Albany for the long anticipated weekend.  We drove south down the interstate and then west to our destination in the Catskills.  I don’t think I had clearly envisioned what it would be likeIL01 in upstate New York, though I would have been wrong in a lot of ways.  The rolling hills of bright autumn leaves, picture perfect streams and creeks in the valleys all seemed familiar and foreign at the same time.  And even though my searches on maps and for rental properties showed limited occupied area, I guess I still imagined New York as a heavily populated land mass and was shocked at how rural living looked in the state.  The rich fall colors still clung to some trees when we arrived and by the end of the weekend most seemed to have fallen.

We checked into our hotel and waited for my sister and her fiancé to meet us after their wedding prep errands.  She was radiating energy to see us, screams of excitement and long tight-squeezing hugs.  Even her fiancé, with a typical all about business demeanor, showed a glowing smile of enthusiasm which stayed joyfully plastered throughout the weekend.  We followed them into Phoenicia, the nearest town where the main street consisted of a few restaurants, some gift shops and one pitiful grocery store.  My sister pointed out where we would be eating for dinner on Friday night at Brio’s.  I quickly realized the Brio in the Catskills is nothing like the Brio in Kansas City and I seriously overestimated the formality of my wardrobe.

The infinitely happy couple had dreamed of having their wedding ceremony in this outdoorsy romantic location.  They wanted their vows to be spoken in front of immediate family on the deck of his uncles’ resort like cabin retreat from city life.  All of the planning and organizing was finally coming to fruition, they were busy with final arrangements and checking into their own secluded cabin to meet up with us later.

In the haze of fatigue and frustration from the missed flight fiasco I omitted the discussion of plans for the evening and focused on the relief of knowing my husband would be flying out on the next available flight in the morning.  (This was paid for by the airline for recognizing their error in IL02abandoning six passengers.)  Finally when I clued in that dinner plans needed to be created a quick search lead me to finding a restaurant my sister and fiancé had never tried in their trips to the upstate getaway.

We met up with them for dinner at Peekamoose, an adorable spot further up 28.  The restaurant had a dining room, a playroom, a tavern and a patio off the side where you could enjoy a complimentary s’more after a meal.  We sat in the tavern where unique furniture, an eclectic grouping of artwork and tree trunks tastefully strung with white lights made for cozy gathering spaces.  The food exceeded expectations

A meal described as the cheese part of ravioli without the confinement of the pasta. Yum!

A meal described as the cheese part of ravioli without the confinement of the pasta. Yum!

starting with appetizers, bread and spreads.  I even took a picture of my meal, uncharacteristic of me, in the pleasure of the restaurant, the trip and the pending event.  Topping of the décor and the food was the entertainment of the night.  My daughter, deliriously excited and tired, interacting with her equally excited uncle.  At some points it was difficult to tell who was laughing more and by the end it was contagious to other tables at Peekamoose.

peekamoosegroup

Parker and I went directly to bed after dinner and both slept a solid twelve hours.  In the morning when we were nearly ready my parents came into the hotel room talking on speaker phone with my sister.  She added her fiancé’s uncle to the conversation to provide directions to the cabin where we would help them with wedding set-up.  He described turns, streets, crossing bridges, up hills, down hills and crossing back bridges.  IL04Between mascara brushes I watched my parents listening intently as the directions continued to mount.  Our morningIL05 chore was to pick up pumpkins before going to the cabin.  We found a market on the side of the highway to buy pumpkins and have a photo-op with a bear.  Then fearing my parents didn’t write a thing down in addition to no cell phone reception in these remote parts of New York, I didn’t think we would make it to the cabin.  To my surprise, like a comedic skit about two people who have been married for forty years, they bantered about the directions all the way up the mountain following my mom’s lead until we pulled into the driveway of the cabin – not making a single mistake.

Sister, fiancé and uncle were outdoors and dirty to greet us in the middle of potting flowers for the deck.  Not long after we arrived the fiancé’s family, also traveled the day before from Kansas City, got to the cabin.  After all the greeting and explaining why my hubby was not present, everyone jumped into tasks of moving, mowing, and decorating.  The cabin in the woods had a stunning kitchen, a magazine quality bathroom with soaker tub and the deck opened to views of a pond complete with a fountain.  My dad took my husband’s travel delay as an opportunity to escape the wedding prep and we left for lunch at the Phoenicia Diner and then a trip back to Albany with Parker.  At the Peekamoose I was impressed by the emphasis on local foods, then at the diner I realized this was just the norm in the area.

There was no chain restaurants and no franchise locations near the Catskills, it was a refreshing reprieve from my normal.  Except on the way back from Albany, after being reunited with my husband, I needed to kill my chai craving and made my dad stop at Starbucks.  I guess others felt the same withdrawal from franchise addictions because it was the longest lines and wait of any Starbucks I have been to.

By the time we made it back to the cabin, wedding preparations were complete for the day and there wasn’t anything to do except wait for dinner.  My sister was proposed to on her fiancé’s birthday and together they thought it would be fitting to get married on her birthday.  Since there wouldn’t be an opportunity on Saturday for the birthday celebration, we all planned to gather for a thirtieth birthday dinner in town on Friday night.  I left the dress I had brought hanging in the closet and opted for a more casual “weekend in the woods,” attire.  At Brio, our long table of family enjoyed beer and pizza.  Parker plopped herself down in the chair by her cousins where she colored and played contently throughout the meal.  My sister opened gifts and blew out candles.  It was clear her thirtieth birthday would be an unforgettable celebration and it was barely getting started.

IL06

Next: The Wedding Day

 

 

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Red Hair Equals Mermaid

I will admit, Halloween really crept up on me this year.  I know, it’s the same October 31st I look forward to every year, except this year we had taken three trips out of town in two months and had what felt like the rest of the month of October absorbed in my sister’s wedding.  It was the weekend before Halloween when people started questioning my daughter what she was going to be for Halloween when I figured I had better pull something together.

She wavered between costume ideas, initially stating her destiny to be a princess.  Of course not related to any of the princess costumes we already have at home to regularly get dressed up in.  Then one morning during our typical getting the hair done routine…  This consists of PJ isolated sitting on the dresser, holding my phone tuned into Youtube Cimorelli videos (Cimorelli is a girls group from California who cover major pop songs in a PG version – perfect for little ears – and Parker learns and loves all of these pop songs.)  After the combing, pulling, braiding, twisting and rubber bands she eventually earns a marshmallow for cooperating.  During this morning, as she is scrolling through videos and singing along to the teen lyrics in a slurred unclear of all the words kind of way, I asked her if she wanted to be a pop star for Halloween.

Of course the answer was yes.  And then it was up to me to figure out what a pop star looks like in age appropriate four-year old kind of way.  I figured she had some pop-star-ish clothes and we could just pick up some accessories like a microphone, play jewelry, and a wig.  With her participation, she was getting into the idea of what a singer would wear on stage and loved picking out some blingy $0.50 rings.

On Friday afternoon I took Parker to school to trick or treat with her class.  She had already made it clear she was not a fan of the wig during our trying out the costume at home so I brought bobby pins to staple it to her head.  And when the moment came to walk into her school she began refusing the rest of her costume accessories fusing about the headphones, jewelry and handed me her microphone.  In her classroom she appeared as the whiny girl, fashionable dressed with red hair – to which most people assumed she was going as Ariel the Little Mermaid.  I’ve never seen Ariel in a cheetah print top, but lesson learned red hair equates to mermaid.

On Friday evening I had high hopes of capturing an image to show the true pop star image my four-year old can emulate.  I imagined a scene with her in the foreground posing as she loves to do garnishing all of the pop star accessories we had planned.  She’s pop out her hip, throw her arms in the air and belt out a song.  Then in the background her daddy would be dressed as the bodyguard in his decade old workout shirt labeled “SECURITY,” a dark suit jacket, sunglasses and an ear piece.  Then I would be standing next to him as the manager holding a clipboard, two phones and talking on 08one more.  I envisioned this legendary Halloween 2014 picture and when it came down to it all I got was one cranky looking wild girl ready to go out and hit the streets for candy.  Oh well, there’s always next year.

On Saturday we had a family adventure to the Louisburg Cider Mill.  It was their final weekend for the fall festivities so PJ got ample time on the jumping pillow; it was nice to be able to stand on the sidelines and watch her enjoying herself without having to be Jumping Pillowholding hands with her.  We took a hay rack ride, I found out it is my husband’s favorite fall activity.  And we found our way through the giant corn maze.  We let Parker take the lead and choose the paths, my husband and I played behind her tossing dried corn cobs at each other.  I may have chucked one a touch too hard and his retaliation cob throw ended up with a rip in the back of my pants.  “It’s not so bad, you’re wearing pink underwear right?” he said.  Unfortunately it was my bare butt and a day I wish I had worn a longer shirt.  The adventure ended with hot cider and apple cider donuts which made up for the end of life for my pants. Jumping Pillow2 Corn Maze Louisburg Cider Mill

 

Happy Day

Sisters & FriendsAn older sister should be a positive influence, a leader, a helper and an inspiration.  An older sister should be a support, a nurturer, and a defender.  She should be calm and rational during times of adversity, she should be fun and creative the rest of the time.  An older sister should have wisdom and ability, she should be motivated and disciplined.  She should love with her whole heart, and not just her family and friends but her fur babies too.

In my family, I am the older sister, except these characteristics are things I look up to in my younger sister.  My younger sister is someone to admire, she is strong, beautiful and has a bosses’ dream work ethic.  Today she turns another year (and decade) older and I am so proud this amazing woman is my sister. I am bursting with excitement to be able to spend the whole weekend with her and with family.  Because, today is not just her birthday, it is also her wedding day.

They are a perfect pair, complimentary in everyway.  Their communication is enviable, they have amazing adventures around the world together, and have supported each other to fulfil their own individual goals.  He knows just what to do to make her giggle, which in turn makes him giggle.  The whole scene just makes you want to gag except all you can do is try to contain your own giggles, because they are so adorably wonderful together.  I’m so excited to be sharing this happy day with them.  I can’t wait to see what the next thirty years will bring.

I LOVE YOU SISTER!

Camping Cheers and Six Years

Camp Site“This is one of Mommy and Daddy’s favorite things to do.  We want to share it with you and have fun together.”  I explained to Parker as she completed round 2 of timeouts in the car.  She nodded and smiled, apologized for whining and fussing, and we returned to blissfulness at the picnic table.

Camping is one of our favorite past times and this was our practice run for Parker.  My husband figured it would be better to start with a day trip to a camp site and see how she managed.  Although, right away she began asking where is the tent and how are we going to sleep?  Her curious mind was satisfied with our explanations to only stay out a while and not all night, then she jumped right into collecting twigs for helping Daddy to start a fire.

For a four year old, who seems constantly stimulated by toys, puzzles, books, electronics, music etc.  It was quite an adjustment for her to create her own fun, to explore in nature and to sit still to watch the fire (for about 20 second intervals at a time).  In hindsight, I could have brought more toys to help her stay content.  After all, there are only so many times you can fill a hallowed acorn shell with water for the Frozen Anna doll before that gets old.  Or maybe it was just a perfect way to demonstrate to her, you don’t need “things” to have a good time with people you love.  During our camping adventure, Parker and I hiked in the woods.  Or On Our Adventure Hike Lake Clintonshould I say she waddled down to the lake and then clung to my back like a koala bear while I clawed my way back up the steep ravine.  She assisted Daddy with gathering supplies and cleaning up.  She observed other camp goers and commented on the super swanky RV’s, “Can we get one of those?” And of course, she devoured the always necessary camping dessert.  Except as soon as her s’more started falling apart and getting her fingers sticky, I had to be the holder while she took bites and then carefully wiped her fingers and lips back to unsticky perfection.

Smores Attack

It was a wonderful idea my husband initiated on a beautiful fall day.  The outing was a reminder of what we do together when we are having fun, being adventurous and working well together as a team.  On our sixth wedding anniversary, I am so thankful to continue to do the things we love to do together and to get to share this experience with our daughter.  Cheers to six years, to camping out, to cheese and crackers, to being more of the best and less of the rest, cheers to daily celebrations of happiness and to many more anniversaries (and campouts) in the future.

Camp Kiss

Happily Ever After In The Present

Sam Smith’s song “Stay With Me,” will forever be my anthem for the summer of 2014.  Despite my belting out I’m on my knees only to realize much later the actual lyrics are You’re all I need.  The month of August came and went blasting me into new perspectives and refreshed determination.  I started securely and ended with so much uncertainty.  I lost my job and I thought my marriage was over.

Through the last two months I have been blessed with compassion and understanding from so many connections.  My appreciation for friends, family and colleagues who reached out, both in direct and subtle ways, can never be explained.  I am truly honored for all of the people in my life, those who are still present and those whose paths crossed at opportune times.  The lessons I have learned through stressful times and challenges difficult to overcome, have been invaluable.

Thank you to my family for unconditional love and support. For encouraging me when I was down, for special unexpected deliveries, for sharing your own personal stories of heartache, for offering reading material, opening your home to me and for being a faithful ear. I am so thankful for an incredibly unique cast of characters I get to call my family.

Thank you to my friends who are like family.  Attending a stress relieving happy hour, receiving a letter or phone call, and meeting up for a meal has been powerful tools in helping me maintain sanity.  I know in the last year I have lost my emphasis at staying connected to friends as my energy has been devoted elsewhere. I am touched to have so many friends who intentionally make themselves available for me.

Thank you to former colleagues in my recent position. I have regrets with how things unraveled and I didn’t have the closure I wanted with the team members, residents and families I had grown so attached to. I appreciate hearing there is no animosity directed towards me, only understanding it couldn’t have been any different, so I will continue trying to make peace with it.  The connections I made there, my advocacy for the team and their hard work was all genuine.  My hope is some of the progress we had made will stick beyond my employment.

Thank you to my daughter for tolerating the uncertainty in our lives in stride.  She was during this time and continues to be my everlasting joy.

And thank to my husband for clearing the muddy waters, for recommitting to why we are together and the future we will develop successfully.  If there is anything we have learned in our six loooooonnnnggg years of marriage, it’s that it takes work.  I know we are prepared to put in the overtime necessary to get life back on track and we are already well on our way.

Life happens for a reason and the challenges we are presented with have purpose.  I know this to be true and in the midst of crisis, this reminder came from my friends and family.  Because of the love I felt during the hard times, August was the both the best and the worst month, and I felt so much happiness despite my life’s circumstances.

Live Happily Ever After Now

Happy Birthday Grammy

To a woman,

Daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother,

Saleswoman and business owner always in a suit and heels,

Lover of her family, Minnesota sports teams, travel, birds, gardening and politics,

Smart wit and great humor,

Polish and of Catholic faith,

Attentive to details and taking great care in cooking and cleaning,

Inspiring each live she has touched to be a little more gentle, a little more understanding and to act with love.

Happy 100th Birthday to my Grammy, I love you.

This is her first birthday our family will be remembering her without her present.  I know her lessons will last my lifetime and will continue to have a powerful influence on future generations of our family.  After her passing in December 2012 (link) I took some of her photo albums, as pictures are so important to me.  Here are a few of my favorites.

Daycare Nightmare to New School Padebure

“Mommy whatcha talken bout?” Parker inquired about the phone call I had just ended.  The closer we approach the age of three, the questions have tripled.  No matter how complete and thorough an answer might be it will always be followed with another ‘why’.  My latest tactic has been to return the questions to her and insist she tell me what she thinks.  Sometimes this is effective and sometimes it prompts her to change the subject.

“That was Mommy’s new boss, I’m going to start a new job.”  I began to explain expecting to have to expand a lot more on what this means.  It’s been almost three years since I have been employed at a full-time job, and I have appreciated getting to be home with Parker as much as possible.  It was a deeply personal choice for me to be there in the early years, to feel responsible for her development and to know she was protected before she could talk.  The idea of returning to work carries a lot of excitement for independence, professional building, and real regular adult conversation.  Of course with it comes the anxiety of change, of missing important moments, and of not getting to be present to have fun with her all day.

After a short pause, out came her reply without any question.  “Don’t leave me mom,”  She said with the raw honest emotion we both share.  I wanted to cave, say I agree, and retract my acceptance immediately.  My convincing her it would be fun to go to school, to meet new friends and it’d be okay to be away from Mommy helped to mask my nerves.

We found Parker a nationally accredited child care center in a location close to my parent’s house for the days my mom might need to pick her up.  During our tour of the facility Parker got to join in on watching a puppet show and demonstrated no concern about being with strangers or the classroom.  Still apprehensive about the life adjustments Parker and I were about the embrace, my husband and I felt confident in the choice to start her there the following week.

Prepared with a new Hello Kitty backpack, curly Qs in pony tails and excited about her first day of school we cracked the door to the Bumble Bee classroom.  An overwhelming aroma of left over processed food breakfast hit my nose just after the screaming from the child hanging off the assistant teacher’s leg stung my ears.  Kids were all over the room digging in papers, pulling things from cubbies, and dumping out toy bins.  If anything would have been hung from the ceiling I am sure there would have been kids climbing it.  Disturbed by the vision so starkly contrasted from our tour just days ago and not wanting to feed into my fears, we slipped in and followed the teacher to where Parker’s cubby would be to hang her things.  I knew Parker’s shock must have subsided quickly since she was off to the other side of the room to play before she even said goodbye.

I did, as most parents do when they drop their child off at a center for the first time, left the room and cried.

My husband and I both called to check in on her the first day.  He called the following three days as well.  Each time we were told everything is fine, she was getting along well, and each day seemed better than the previous.  My first day getting to pick up Parker I fully expected a running happy hug, instead the whole first week every time I walked in she stopped what she was doing and began to melt down.  It was as if the stress of the day had built up and she was crying from relief I was back for her.  Parker continued the sour emotional state through the evening too, she was not napping in her new environment so by the end of the day the screaming fits and mood swings were taking a toll on me.  This is temporary, she will adjust, I will adjust and it will be fine, other people do this all the time I kept being told.

After the first week there seemed to be improvements.  Parker did successfully sleep for 45 minutes one day.  She verbalized happiness to Daddy about returning to the center when he was dropping her off one morning.  And the meltdown greetings stopped, I was finally seeing a smiling, excited child at the end of the day.  For me, there never came a feeling of being adjusted or knowing it would be okay.  Because while some things were getting better, her first month in this new arrangement she grew increasingly defiant, wild and aggressive at home.  In addition, my newly potty trained child started having accidents twice a day.  At first I reasoned maybe some of this extra defiance was related to her age and we would just have to increase our structure and consistency at home.  Then when she turned to biting and pulling hair for not getting her way, I knew there had to be more going on.

One afternoon when I went to pick up Parker she happened to be on the playground with half of her class and one part-time teenage staff member who was minimally supervising the three-year olds.  Once she

On a weekend trip to Minnesota, PJ demonstrated the worst behavior in public she has ever had.  Trips are always hard with a lack of sleep, on this trip even a butterfly would make her cry.  A family brunch with 5 timeouts required made me want to cry too.

On a weekend trip to Minnesota, PJ demonstrated the worst behavior in public she has ever had. Trips are always hard with a lack of sleep, on this trip even a butterfly would make her cry. A family brunch with 5 timeouts required made me want to cry too.

finally noticed me standing there, she stood up from her hidden spot and greeted me.  I told her about Parker’s recent aggression at home and asked the employee about aggression taking place in her classroom.  It’s what I dreaded most about putting my daughter in a setting where I am not present, angered at the thought of anyone putting a hand on my daughter even if it is a peer.  The inexperienced employee gave me an honest and dissatisfactory answer, explaining if a child aggresses and leaves a mark on another child both parents will be notified.  The key phrase which said it all was when it leaves a mark, knowing staff at the facility will avoid an incident report if there is no physical evidence.  Just behind our conversation I had to point out the child crying who had just been hit on the head by another child, before taking my daughter’s hand to walk out.

It was incredibly difficult to return the next day with no back up option.  I didn’t know for sure if my daughter had been aggressed on by a peer at the child care center, I knew at minimum she was witnessing it and bringing it home.  My husband and others tried to reassure me by saying it happens everywhere and she will have to get used to it.  This was no reassurance to me, in my mind it is unacceptable to happen anywhere and if aggression does happen it needs to be addressed in a way which will deter the behavior from continuing.  For a child who has never witnessed violence, hadn’t been pushed or hit, the bullying Parker saw was impacting her a lot.  The obvious lack of structure and discipline in the room was also providing for negative learning opportunities.

Through word of mouth I began hearing the new agency I started with also operates a Montessori school offering half price tuition for employees.  With some concern about whether making a transition would be harmful for Parker and not wanting to base the decision entirely on cost, we decided to tour the Montessori School.  In Montessori Schools the learning is at your own pace so children engage in activities at their level and ages in classrooms are all integrated to provide for peer role models.  This school offers extracurricular activities like ballet, soccer and spanish.  The environment of the rooms are quiet and calm, the kids wear slippers and practice family style dining of passing the food and trying everything.  There is life skills learning, books being read and flowers in vases as centerpieces on their tiny tables.  My husband and I left the tour separately as he had to rush off to an appointment.  When he called later to say he wanted Parker to go there I had a secret celebratory dance.

We gave a thirty-day notice at the child care center, she only attended another week.  On her last day she didn’t come home with the Hello Kitty backpack or pillow, and calls to locate them were unsuccessful.  Parker got a one week break from school and childcare getting to play with Nana and even coming to work a few days with Mommy.  Her behavior began improving immediately and my cooperative, sweet child was returning.

Parker and I went to pick out a new backpack and hyped up her new school experience.  The morning of her first day she wavered between not wanting to go and being excited.  She told me she didn’t want to go because she can’t sleep, which is reasonable considering the chaos happening in her previous classroom.  We talked about the fun she will have making new friends and all of the things to learn and grow smarter.  By school time Parker marched in and joined her class without fear, and when I got to peak in the window later that morning she was smiling peacefully in a circle with her peers.

On her first day she even got to participate in the ballet class.  After school, I asked her what she learned in dance class.  Parker quickly reported “Had a good day Mommy.”  I tried to reiterate I was asking for what she did and she again responded “Had a good day.”  Stopping to give her my full attention and look at her directly I asked again.  “Had a good day.”  It sounded like she said…  Then I realized her frustration at my not understanding.  My little ballerina was telling me she learned a padebure.

Parker greets me with a smile everyday, she is taking naps, she is engaged with learning and she has not had an accident or tried to bite or pull hair since starting.  It will continue to be an adjustment for both of us after spending the last three years together, now we are finally on the right track.

merrygoround


My Sister and My Friend

You know the old cliché about being born sisters and choosing to be friends? I am fortunate to have this be true in my relationship with my sister. She was born a little over two years after me and I cannot remember a time before she was in my life. In childhood we varied from the best playmates to typical sibling rivalry. There were times, being the older sibling, I used to get so irritated having a tag along sister invading my time with friends. And there were times I was overjoyed to have her to team up against our older brother, only to have it later being the two of them teaming up against me. As teenagers, it became more difficult to get along consistently. Both of us exercising independence and unique interests, it became easy to judge and criticize each other unfairly. As we matured and both moved past high school our relationship strengthened again. It became clear while each of us had our own great friends we are really best friends. Friends who laugh at nonsense, finish each others song lyrics, work to repair arguments, travel to see each other anywhere in the world the other may be, and friends who are honest, supportive and do their best to help each other. My sister and I are mirrors in so many ways and complete opposites at the same time.

My sister has been an inspiration to me for a long time and especially in the last year as it seems everything she touches turns to gold. She is emotional, yet passionate. She is impossible to wake up, yet never late. She loves people, though maybe animals more. And she is dedicated and hard-working even when it doesn’t come easy. My sister is talented, creative, popular and fun. She is exactly the kind of person I would choose as a friend.

In the last year she has had so many successes and reasons for celebration. Sometimes the success and celebration comes with heartache, well it does for me anyway. As I write, she is riding across the country to New York City where she and her fiance will make their home, or shoe box as it is in NYC. She left early this morning, on my birthday no less, for the start of the next chapter. And while I am thrilled for her adventure, living it big in the city, I can’t help but be sad. No more spontaneous meeting up for dinner, drinks or frozen yogurt and it will be a long time between hugs. She just left and I already miss her.

Cooperation At Two

I often write about my daughter.  About how funny, how brilliant, how inspirational and how fantastic it is to be her mom.  Even though all these things are true, our days aren’t always filled with cotton candy, rainbows and sunshine, lovey-dovey happiness.  Oh no, far from it.  Parker is a product of my husband and I and shows for it with all the independent stubbornness capable of being supported in her two and a half-year old frame.

Today was one of those days where every direction, limitation and plea for cooperation was met with equal or greater opposition.  If I said here, she went there.  If I said up, she went down.  And when I said no, she took it as a yes with a running head start.  Battle after battle, talking it out followed by Parker’s apologies and eventual follow-through with requests.  It seems on days like today I have to work twice as hard to maintain my patience and consistency to prove I’m not going to give in, hoping it will curb tomorrow’s behavior.

By the end of the day I was exhausted counting down the minutes until bed-time and still prepared for Parker’s next challenge.  She had dumped out a large bag of foam blocks to play with and after a short while abandoned the blocks for crayons and paper.  “Parker, you need to put the blocks away before coloring,” I instructed her.heycrazylady

She looked up at me with a Crazy Lady Leave Me Alone glare and said, “Mommy you not cooperating!”

Yes, exactly what I have been telling her all day.

The Ants Go Marching

suttaMy Basics of Buddhism class finished last week at the Rime Buddhist Center in Kansas City.  I’d highly recommend taking the course if you are interested in becoming Buddhist, are spiritually/religiously curious, or just need an excuse to commit to get out of the house once a week for twelve weeks – which all three was the case for me.

Since learning the basics, I recognize my thinking about life and relationships matches well with Buddhism.  I know my Buddha-nature is begging to come with the combination of cultivating wisdom and generating loving compassion.  Ultimately meditation is critical and needs to be part of my life as much as food.

Yet, while I agree with so many of the Buddhist philosophies I cannot call myself Buddhist and cannot accept all of the vows.  As part of the vows taken by a wanna-be Buddhist, Eight Mahayana Precepts are agreed upon.  The first precept is not killing and this is a no brainer when it comes to humans, and even most animals for this vegetarian.  Except in the Buddhist tradition not killing includes all sentient beings, from the largest whale to the smallest maggot.  According to the teachings, one-act of killing can carry 500 lifetimes of karmic retribution.

I learned about these vows several weeks back and they were steady on my mind while I was out raking one day.  The spring weather was finally getting warm consistently so I knew the conditions were finally right for the garter snakes to be emerging.  The snake population in my neighborhood is so high it could fill a hundred reptile centers and still have snakes left roaming.  I have wanted them gone since the first sighting.  After four years of living in my home the surprise in seeing them slinking around the grass, sunning on the bushes, and climbing up my fire pit chimney has worn off.  I no longer get the chills or feel the need to run screaming, okay maybe I do get the chills and stay at least five feet away.  On this day out in the yard I pondered how a Buddhist would view the snake problem, accept them as part of nature and not be ill willed towards them?  Sure enough, when my raking was nearly done I turned back towards what I had already cleared to see a garter snake freshly risen from his winter estate.

Feeling as if this was a test I had predicted for myself, I gave the snake a half-smile and decided it would be Buddha-like enough to help him move out of my raking path to the other side of the fence.  I gently used my rake to encourage him to the fence line where he briskly slithered through the chain-link.  Pleased with my acceptance of nature and assistance

The actual snake from my yard, picture taken from a safe distance away by camera phone.

The actual snake from my yard, picture taken from a safe distance away by camera phone.

towards my not so favorite creature I went on with my chore until I heard some rustling in the area I had sent the snake. What a miracle it would be if another animal had found the snake to make a meal out of.  It would still mean good karma for me since I helped him with good intention, I figured as I made my way to the fence to check.

Peaking over, it was clear my original prediction was far from true.  I had helped the snake move directly into the path of another snake waiting and ready to mate.  My practice at being more Buddha-like was resulting in snake babies.  Challenged and not defeated by the incident with the snake, I continued to try to make efforts in my daily life to consider what would a Buddhist do?  And the challenges grew from an abundance of hated snakes to hundreds of seemingly insignificant ants.  I first spotted one ant on my kitchen floor.  Then a few ants on the floor.  Then an ant on my kitchen counter and two in my bathroom.

In the Buddhist tradition, each living creature has a connection to you and through the cycle of death and rebirth each living creature has shared a past life.  Meaning the ants, the snakes and my least favorite people in the world have all been my mother and have all been your mother in a past life.  This newly learned belief was present on my mind while I wiped them clean off the counter and rinsed them down the sink, feeling slightly more guilty about a few deaths in the insect world.

I tried to keep my killing to a minimum, except this past weekend I couldn’t take it any longer.  The ants must have sensed my trepidation and had infiltrated my kitchen, marching in one long line up my dining room wall and along a floorboard.  All apprehension of killing living beings and any thought to the ants being my loved ones was lost in the excitement of wanting them all dead.  I excessively laid out poison and gleefully spoke to my tiny relatives – “Drink up guys and bring your friends.”

Buddhist, I am not.  And if I am reincarnated into an ant for my karmic retribution, I promise to stay out of your kitchen.

Other Posts Reflecting My Experience in the Class: