KINDGERGARTEN round up day!

It’s here; it’s here! I can’t believe the day is here.

I’m trying so very hard to focus on the excitement of today — Miles gets to meet his new teacher, see his new classroom, visit is new school!

Yep, I keep repeating those things in my head — fun, exciting, new!

Fun!

Exciting!

New!

Fun! (Did we make the right decision?)

Exciting! (Is he ready?)

New! (Will he fit in?)

I’m going to throw up!

first day of pre-k 2015

Seriously, I’m not just saying that. My stomach has been doing flip-flops all day. I’ve done so much anxious toe-tapping and ankle jiggling that my feet are for sure going to be beach ready. All that’s missing is the pacing, and the closer it gets to 4:30 (start time for round-up) the more likely I am to be worked up to a full-on panicked, pacing parent.

Michael won’t be able to join me; he has to work. Thankfully my aunt is going to watch Owen so I don’t have to juggle into everything 1 1/2 year old extraordinaire and I can 100 percent focus on Miles, who is 100 percent unfazed by this daunting undertaking.

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“Kindergarten, cool,” he said this morning.

I’m sure we made the right decision. OK, maybe we didn’t. Who knows? We’ll never know. We’ll always second guess. EVERY DECISION, right. I think that comes with the territory.

We will ALWAYS wonder if he is ready. Again, I think that’s parenting 101 and totally a moving target. I still wonder if I’m ready. I often turn around and say, “What, I own a house? I’m someone’s boss? I have to adult today? Am I ready for all that?”

And I’m terrified about him fitting in. Heck, I don’t know if I fit in or if I want him to fit in… How I want him to fit in? This parenting stuff is SO HARD!

Back in the saddle

miles momCan I blame being a working parent for the fact that I haven’t kept up with my blog about being a working parent?

I’m the worst; I’m sorry.

But I’m vowing to be better.

My admission about being the worst is the first step. You see, what happens is is that I say, “OK, it’s been three days since you last posted.. what’s one more day?” Then it is four days… and then five. And then I’m like, “Yikes, it’s been two weeks since you last posted. You have to post. And it’s been so long it has to be incredible. It has to be so good. Your legions of fans (AKA your mom, well maybe not even your mom anymore because I think you still haven’t rebookmarked the page after she got a new laptop and your mom knows nothing about RSS feeds — let’s be real, you know nothing about RSS feeds) have been waiting.” So those huge expectations are tough.

And a couple of weeks turn until nearly a month.

So I put a stop to it! I bit the bullet. Instead, I’m writing about… not writing. Yep; I’m that cool. Here I am, blogging about being a terrible blogger. And, once again, vowing to not be so terrible.

I’ll fail, again.

If you read between the lines, this is pretty true to real life, at least for me. Life is kind of like this. We expect things to go one way. And for a good long while they do; they go swimmingly well — perfect, smooth sailing. Daily (or mostly daily) blog posts, or whatever life’s equivalent of that is to you. And then there is some small hiccup. A busier than normal day and you don’t get a blog post up. Life throws a curve ball at you; a unexpected bill, an illness, a child does something you never expected. That small bump in the road gets a bit bigger, and in what seems like an instant it turns into a giant pot hole.

And in the right circumstances it could turn into the Grand Canyon. Man, I’ve been there.

But we have to realize that it’s OK.

We’ll be OK.

We can pick up the pieces.

We can start again.

What is important is to be forgiving of ourselves and to remember that as we need support and forgiveness in the times of chaos and turmoil in our lives, we too need to provide that support to those around us who may be facing bumps of their own.

Be kind.

Parental amnesia

Parental amnesia — it’s a thing. Honestly, without it the world would cease to exist. If we didn’t forget lots of things (the swollen feet, contractions, sleeping in 20 minute intervals, discovering crusty spit up 2 hours into your work day) we’d never venture back into the baby making business. But it doesn’t stop at those early first few months. Oh no…

Just the other day, Michael and I were having a rough day and I thought, “We should go out to dinner, a nice treat.”

Hahahahaha!!!!!

I know, I know, I know. Those of you not suffering from parental amnesia or in the throes of living in my world who haven’t blocked out what it’s really like know how silly of a thought that really was.

“Honey, let’s go out to eat. It’ll give us a break from dishes, cooking. You wanted Mexican the other night. Let’s go!”

We walk in and are immediately seated in the “kids section” which started to rouse me from my parental amnesia.

I looked over at the nice couple with the well behaved, I’m guessing 6-year-old girl, dining quietly. There was an entire row of empty seats and the host sat us literally RIGHT ACROSS FROM THEM. Owen could nearly swat them with his grubby little hands.

“I’m so sorry,” I said.

This is the kind of dining we'll stick to...

This is the kind of dining we’ll stick to…

I didn’t say this with my eyes. Nope, I meant it so much I said it with my words, an apologetic smile and my eyes. Throughout the meal as my amnesia quickly cleared away I was tempted to apologize by pulling out my wallet.

There was running around. There was lots of non-inside voice usage. There was food tossing. There were beans smeared in hair. Very little food was eaten. Very little adult conversation was had. The only thing I think Michael and I felt treated to was some judgement from other diners.

How quickly we forgot our pledge to never leave the house with toddlers again. If I look back on this very blog I will see similar posts written about similar outings taken with just one kiddo. Now that my amnesia has lifted I recall one trip quit vividly… there were several spilled drinks, countless tantrums and I can’t count how many times I picked his cup up off the floor… But the other day, I’d blocked that out completely. I’d blocked out the promise Michael and I had made to ourselves and all Tri-State dinners to stay home so everyone could eat in peace.

So, once again, we take the pledge.

Until parental amnesia sets in again…

 

 

Ready for kindergarten?!?

It can’t be possible.

Just yesterday I was encouraging him to walk.

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Wasn’t it last week that he was smearing a peanut butter sandwich in his baby soft ringlet-filled hair?

PB miles

But it is… and I have to.

Today, this afternoon, in about three hours I’m registering my kid for kindergarten.

I CAN’T BELIEVE I JUST TYPED THAT OUT. I still haven’t been able to say it aloud. That makes it real, right? It becomes a thing if I verbalize it, right? (And we all know what happens when it becomes a real, live thing, right? I cry. I cry a lot!)

In addition to not feeling like it is possible that my little guy is growing up, I also have conflicted thoughts. Is he ready for this? I’m a planner (shocking I know) and in my head he was going to be in preschool another year.

That was the plan. Well it wasn’t always the plan…

miles grad

The original plan was for him to start preschool at 3 (he started nine days after his third birthday actually) and to go two years, the first just a few days a week and the second on a more fulltime basis to prepare him for Kindergarten.

first and last

It was all planned out in my own head. But then the outside world weighed in.

“Oh, you can’t start him in school this young!” “Boys need more time to mature before starting school.” “You’re setting him up for failure!” “Let him have more time to just be a kid and play; there’s plenty of time for school.” “He’ll never be ready for kindergarten that young!”

Shhhhhewwwwww….. (that’s the sound of the wind releasing from my sails.)

So, I did some Googling (I know, it’s a terrible idea) and found all kinds of articles to support the idea that boys who are a “young 5” struggle with the adjustment and are better off being “held back” a year. Miles’ July 20 birthday puts him just 11 days before the cut off.

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I was convinced. He CAN’T possibly be ready for Kindergarten. The new plan was hatched.

Fast forward nearly two years… I stop by the office at my son’s preschool asking about registering him for next year.

first day

“Won’t he be 5 by the cutoff?” the secretary asks me.

“Yes, but we’re choosing for him to stay in preschool an extra year,” I respond plainly… doesn’t she get that that’s the plan? It’s already been established.

“You can’t do that. It’s not an option.”

CRASH. SLAM. BOOM.

There goes my plan.

Several panicked phone calls, some more Googling and a few tears. I learn she’s right. We could choose to enroll Miles in private preschool but if we want him to stay in the public school system he will be starting kindergarten this year. GASP.

I once again opened myself up to advice and insight. Some of the same folks who two years ago thought it would be a terrible idea gave me encouraging thoughts. They knew Miles and said he was ready. His current preschool teacher was supportive, other family and friends calmed my fears as well.

And guess what, the good ol’ Google found me several articles supporting the fact that my kiddo actually will survive. And maybe, just maybe, mom will too.

3 weeks miles

So… moral of the story, heck I don’t know. I’m too worried about registering for Kindergarten to make any sense today!

Treasure life, it goes so fast

It went so fast.

Each day he was robbed of something. One day he was walking fine, the next he needed a cane. The day after that a walker. And after another day a wheelchair.

My dad rarely did anything small. He negotiated traffic like a half-crazed lunatic. He once fearlessly pretended to be a roadie at a Buddy Miles concert just to get himself backstage — and totally pulled it off. He met my then-boyfriend for the first time ever wearing a child’s tutu on his head.

Now, this larger-than-life man was losing his battle with a monster — the cancer that had started in his liver less than a year earlier and had spread everywhere.

ab dad and sarah

We knew what was going to happen. The hospice people had explained to us that death was a process and that by being with him in his final days we would help him accept what was happening, and in turn be able to accept it ourselves.

Still, it went so fast.

I left work on a January afternoon with plans to be gone for a few days, spend some time with him and then go back to work. I never made it back to work before he died.
It went that fast.

dad book

Me and my dad

Me and my dad

Yet when it did finally happen, those last breaths … it went so slow.

That morning we sensed it was coming so we all piled into the hospital bed in his makeshift room — the office space that had for so long been his sanctuary. He was surrounded by all of his music and sports memorabilia, family pictures like the one of my sister Sarah and I hanging baby faced from the monkey bars at the park, his pet lizard Cassidy, tchotchkes from family adventures.

family pre baby

None of us had slept much in days. The hours all kind of ran together. My mom hadn’t left his side, afraid even to blink lest she not be there for him. It had been a rough morning; his pain was intense. The hospice aid had just arrived, helping us convince our mom to take a few minutes, brush her teeth, change her clothes, have a moment.

It went so fast.

Sarah and I were still lying next to him in bed when what had been labored breathing suddenly turned into fighting, struggling breathing.

“Mom,” I shrieked up the stairs.

She came running down, toothbrush still in her mouth.

It was time.

We all huddled together crying and telling dad we loved him. It was OK. He could go.

And he did.

It went so fast.

It’s so hard to describe that moment. My grief was unbearable. We were devastated. The idea of going on without dad seemed impossible, unfathomable. But — and this is that thing no one feels like they can say out loud — there was relief.

dad back

Watching someone you love suffer is excruciating. I know our pain couldn’t hold a candle to what dad was going through. But it was so difficult. I was grateful his pain was gone. I was thankful that I could be there with him, along with my mom and sister, in those final moments, helping him say goodbye.

dad and mom

The past five years have zoomed by. So much has happened since Jan. 28, 2011.
I’ve had both of my boys, my sister her own son. Michael and I bought a house. Mom bought a house and moved to Newburgh. I’ve taken a new job. Sarah became a CPA.
There are the little things — we’ve taken family vacations, created new and silly family traditions, sent Miles off to school for the first time … things that I never imagined doing without my dad.

ab dad dance

Although we’ve lived the last five years without dad here, he’s continued to impact all of us. When faced with difficult decisions, I’ve often asked myself what dad would do, what advice he’d give. I’ve talked things out with him, listening for and looking for signs of his thoughts. It’s hard to get together as a family without laughing and sharing stories about dad. We miss him so much.

And my 30 years with him, well, they went so fast.

Never alone; thanks mom

This time of year is tough.

In just 15 days it’ll be five years since we lost dad.

This day a couple decades ago (I won’t say how many) my amazing, strong, resilient and rock star mom was born.

mom13

It’s so hard to look at any of the days this month without having the countdown to Jan. 28. And, selfishly, I hate that amazing days — mom’s birthday, my sister and I’s birthday, my nephew’s birthday — are almost marred with this terrible, unimaginable thing.

But that’s life, right?

I fear sometimes that in my desire to honor and keep my dad’s memory alive — because let’s get real, he was an out of this world, over the top, loving, caring, awesome dad, husband, friend and advocate — that the stellar, shinning status of my mom is overshadowed.

mom

So, today, on the anniversary of the day of her birth, I’d like to shout from the rooftops — MY MOM ROCKS! I, without a doubt, would not be here today without her. And when I say that, I’m not talking about the fact that she birthed me (which she did, along with my twin sister in natural birth super star style.) What I mean is, I wouldn’t be the functioning successfulish adult that I am today. I wouldn’t be the loving, caring, trying to be patient, fun and rock star in training mom that I am today. I wouldn’t be a committed and passionate community advocate/volunteer.

mom3 mom12

Yep, without her I would never be where I am today with my amazing family, a great job and an over-committed (but great) life. She’s been an incredible example for me showing me what it takes to be a powerhouse in the workplace and supportive, loving mom at home. She’s shown me the importance of having hobbies and passions and following through on them. She’s shown me how rewarding a life of service is and always modeled an accepting and tolerant sensibility.

mom4 mom2

Without her unending support — emotional, financial and physical — I would have never graduated from college, become a peace corps volunteer, have a rewarding marriage and amazing children and countless other things.

Phone calls, tear-soaked shoulders, boxes and boxes of “just because I believe in you and love you” cards, silent but clear signs of support and encouragement… I truly have no idea what life would be like without her.

mom11 mom1

I’m lucky. I celebrate. I love.

So as these next few weeks drag on, and I’m flooded with the memories of those last days with dad that I simultaneously want to never let go of and also bury far away, I’m going to try to remember that this month isn’t all bad. It gave me a lot, and most importantly, it gave me my momma.

mom6

This note in a card — the woman has single-handedly kept Hallmark and the U.S. Postal service in business — sums up her never-ending support and dogged belief in me, even in my jerkiest of childhood/teen years:

“Nothing would be the same without you being in my life. Be the special person that you are. Let everyone see what I see! Love Mom”

mom5

 

Blast from the past

My mom called me a while back, talking through fits of laughter.

“I found this box of yours that said, ‘Do not open,’ with threats of death if I did. Of course I didn’t open it, but I really want to know what’s inside!”

box5

It turns out, she exaggerated a little — the box threatened a surprise attack by a cow (what was I thinking? It wouldn’t be much of a surprise with the warning proclaimed in purple marker.) I was kind of a strange kid. In addition to the cow warnings (which I put in three separate places) I had drawn my childhood dog Molly, a giant rainbow, two hot air balloons, a unicorn …box

Inside was an amazing collection of items dating back to at least 1991, though I suspect many are much older.

There were silly things like rocks, a plastic spoon (still in the plastic bag) and two straws from McDonald’s, buttons cheering on my alma mater, postcards I’d collected since elementary school, letters from friends at church camp, memorabilia from church youth trips, newspaper clippings mentioning my name, a hospital bracelet, my first-ever hair color box (Glints, gingergold), a papier-mâché bracelet I made from a cereal box, pictures from a million years ago including some terribly embarrassing prom pictures, stickers from every imaginable environmental group (I was a tree hugger even then) and a Biore pore strip (unused, thankfully) with Lilith Fair branding. Those all made me laugh, a lot, and cringe a little. box4

box2

But under all those silly treasures and memories was some incredibly important stuff — things I thought I’d not ever have again.

It’s been a year and a half since we lost many of our belongings in a fire. I was frustrated and angry about the loss of furniture, clothes and other valuables. But I was devastated by the loss of memories — photos, keepsakes from my adventures overseas, cards and letters (including from my dad who had passed away three years before then), photos, my son’s baby book and all of the mementos from his first two years of life … None of that can be replaced, and emotions were intensified by the fact that I was about six months pregnant with Owen at the time of the blaze.

So this treasure trove of unrelated items of “junk” is the best Christmas gift I could have ever imagined. I’ve been given some physical reminders of my amazing childhood memories.

box3

In the box, there were about a dozen cards and letters from my mom and dad. Some of my favorite tidbits from the letters and cards from my dad: 10/31/91 “Hi honey. I have been very busy at the workshop, but not so busy that I don’t have time to think about you. I realize how important you are to me when I go away. I realize how much I love you. Remember, it is who you are that I love and am proud of, no matter what you do.”

In that same envelope — written on stationary from an Omni hotel — was a nomination letter: “After long and careful thinking, the board of directors and I have decided that you would make the best choice as Daughter of a Lifetime. We decided this based on how frequently and effectively you prove how wonderful a girl you are. Your honesty, sensitivity, intelligence and beauty set you apart. Your mother and I are lucky; we love you. Respectfully, Daddy, co-chairman of the Brown Family Board.”

Card upon leaving for camp: “Show those girls what you’re made of, play tough, be fair, have fun.”

A just because card: “It’s amazing to me how often I tell somebody else how lucky I am, how great you are, how you are more adult and responsible than I am, how I wouldn’t know what to do without 1/3 of the best family a guy could have. You’re special, you belong here and I do love you.”

box1

I am incredibly lucky. I was, and still am, so loved. And, thankfully, my parents were willing and able to illustrate that love. The impact of these cards on me now — decades after they were written — are more powerful than I think can be imagined. And obviously they affected me when they were first written or I wouldn’t have had them tucked away and protected by an imaginary attack cow.

These were a reminder of how important it is for me to do the same for my boys. I heard my mom and dad tell me how special I was, how loved I was. And I truly heard those words; I felt their hugs. But reading it, being able to turn the cards over in my hands back then, today and decades down the road — it’s an incredible reminder of those facts when real life self-doubt and hate inevitably creep in. I am special. I am loved.

In this digital age I need to be sure I’m putting these same kinds of things onto something my boys can squirrel away in their room. So 20 years down the road I can give them their metal Paw Patrol lunchbox sealed shut with duct tape and a “do not enter” message.

And they can have those same laughs, tears and cringes and be reminded just how important they are to me, their dad and the world.

They are special. They are loved.

Wordless Wednesday

Merry Christmas from the Doyles. I made three Christmas cards (people only received one of each, I’m not that silly) because I couldn’t pick my favorite. And if you are on my Christmas card list… queen of procrastination didn’t get them out in time for pre-Christmas delivery. But they are, as the saying goes, “in the mail.”

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Miles’ angel boy

Raising a grateful child is so important to me. Raising a generous child is a priority. And raising an empathetic child is a must.

And those three things are extra important this time of the year but it seems as if during the holiday season it is even more difficult to instill or renew those values.

The “I wants” can be overwhelming when what I wish I could hear was, “I’m grateful for…” or “I want to help…”

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I’m sure that as a kid I was the same. I vividly remember sitting on the floor with a giant Sears catalog atop my knees and an ink pen between my teeth poised to circle ALL OF THE STUFF I wanted. But I also, with ease, can recall shopping for less fortunate children with my parents and combing through our toys and clothes to find things that we no longer played with or wore to donate to area charities.
Those lessons — the ones about how there were many who went without — stuck with me. I remember getting a warm, gushy feeling doing that shopping with my mom and dad or packing up some items to take to the Salvation Army.
I am hopeful to pass that message, that greater meaning to this season, on to my own children. So this year Miles — the only one of my two kiddos who’s capable of saying, “I want, I want, I want” — and I chose a little paper angel off of the tree at our church filled with children in need of some help for a brighter Christmas. I looked for a child as close to Miles’ age as possible — we found an 8-year-old boy.
Yesterday afternoon we decided to go shopping, but before I left I picked Miles’ up and pulled him on to my lap.
“Let’s talk,” I said, in my serious tone.
“What mom?” he said in his goofy tone but doing his best to look me in the eye with a serious face (it looked more like a rabid dog, his eyes all wild and crazy and his jaw set.)
“We are going to go to the store but we aren’t going to be buying anything for Miles or Owen or anyone else in our family, OK?”
“Aww, man!”
“Now wait, listen,” I say, pleading he’ll hear this message. “There’s this little boy, and he might not have any presents under his tree for Christmas this year.”
“That’s so sad,” Miles said, truly looking forlorn, his eyes even wetting. “What can we do?”
“We are going to buy him some presents and clothes and food. Do you want to do that?”
“Yes!”
So we took off with our paper angel cut-out in tow. Miles gripped on to it tightly, repeatedly telling nearby shoppers we were shopping for his “angel boy.” Toys, clothes and a food essentials as well as a stocking and some candy and other snacks, that Miles proceeded to stuff inside the stocking. He kept holding the angel cut out up to the bright, blue, oversized sock saying, “He wants to see his stocking!”
When we checked out, Miles plainly explained to the cashier what we were doing.
“My angel boy, he didn’t have presents under his tree. So we got him some.”
I’m not going to lie… We didn’t make it out of the toy section without a few protests over why Miles couldn’t get something too. But, after a few deep breaths (on both of our parts) and a reminder of why we were there, he was OK with it.
It’s just one tiny part of a lifetime of lessons about privilege, the joy of giving, civic responsibility and empathy. But I definitely walked out of the store feeling like we’d made some progress. And Miles, even hours later, talked about his angel boy.

Thankful thoughts

I try to do a pretty good job recognizing how good I have it in the moment. And I’m pretty blessed that I have it pretty good most of the time.

Even with that, though, I could use a reminder about gratefulness, appreciation and acknowledgment.

And what better way (and day, since it is THANKSgiving today) to do that than offering my fellow Features staffers a chance to talk about what they are thankful for and for me to do the same.

IMG_4904Kids — I really hit the lottery with this one. And I’m not talking about the cursed lotto either where you squander your riches and find yourself sad and broken in the corner. I am so lucky. As crazy as my boys can make me feel sometimes (it is very difficult raising a mini-version of my hardheaded, strong-willed self), I am the luckiest woman alive that they lovingly (usually) call me Mama. There are days when mere thoughts of them make me cry from overwhelming joy.

IMG_2842Family — I am so lucky that I have a husband who not only loves, but also (mostly) tolerates the me who completely overbooks and overcommits herself and hurriedly comes home greeted, many nights, to dinner. You love me, and you love our boys. It doesn’t get much better than that. The rest of my family is also pretty amazing, with my super heroesque mom who can pretty much do anything and has spent 34 years putting up with me (we’ve started the sainthood process already.)

Meet our toddler chicks -- Mocalotive, Choo Choo, Stella, Olive, Foghorn Leghorn and Chicken Little

Chickens — Yes, they can be stinky (you were right, Michael) and being a chicken mom in the pouring rain and freezing winter hasn’t been awesome, but I’m so grateful that I finally have them. And I’m kind of a farmer now, which is awesome.

Co-workers — It’s been nearly a year since I took this position. I’m thankful to have amazing co-workers that not only make the job easier but who also make my day better just by being a part of my life. I am grateful to my former boss who helped prepare me for this position and championed me to others, and most importantly, to myself.

New opportunities — There are several of these on the horizon. And I’m stoked. It will mean good things for me and my family, and I’m thankful. And while I’m aware of a few opportunities in the works, I know there are many, many more to come — that’s one of the best things about life!

Comfort — When I roll down my window handing a dollar to the homeless man, see a family waiting at the bus stop in the freezing rain or hear about families who are juggling whether to pay their electric bill or buy groceries, I’m smacked in the face with my own privilege and comfort. It shouldn’t take those reminders, or even worse the never-ending stories from across the world of need, to be thankful for things as simple as clean water or shoes.

I’m thankful.

Features writer Kelly Gifford is thankful, too.

“I am thankful for the new beginnings that my family has been through in these recent months. My parents said goodbye to our childhood home in Bloomington and now live just down the street from my sister and her family in Newburgh. This move has taken a toll on our whole family but has given us a new chapter that will be full of memories and experiences with one another.

“I’m thankful for having met a pretty neat boy, who’s introduced me to a large and wonderful family who resembles my own in many ways. I’ll be forever changed by them all, especially him.

“Lastly, I’m thankful for having spent the first year of my journalism career at this paper, in a newsroom full of journalists who are dedicated to informing our community with the best reporting and writing around.

“It’s been a great first year.”

Features intern James Vaughn is grateful, also.

“I am thankful, first and foremost, for my opportunity to receive an education. I am thankful for friends and family who never fail to support me or lift me up when I’m down. I am thankful, especially this year, for the sense of freedom and hopefulness that I enjoy the comfort of, but too often take for granted. I am thankful to live day to day without immense fear. I am thankful for the roof over my head and the food in my mouth.

“I am thankful for my dog, Gigi, whose pure love gets me through most days. And last but not least, I am thankful for the opportunity to be telling you, our readers, what I’m thankful for, including this platform to share your stories.”

Please share what you are thankful for @abbeyrd99, @kelgiffo or @jamesrlvaughn on Twitter.