Second grade super tooth

So, following the tooth fairy story, I have to give equal time to Alex.

He was ever my unconventional child. If Stephanie is the type-A firstborn, Alex is an out-of-the-box free spirit. He marched to his own drummer as a child, and still does to this day.

His early tooth adventures were uneventful, as I recall. Or rather, don’t recall; the point being that they must have been pretty ordinary, or I would still be slightly twitching. (That’s what repeated childhood dental trauma does, causes the mom to twitch.)

It was second grade that marked me.

He was in a new school, we had just moved, and we were in that phase when we wanted to make a great impression. You know, when you hope your shining parenting skills are showing every day, hoping your little cherub is fitting in and doing well.

I knew he had a loose tooth, knew it was just a matter of time till it was out. We were going through the familiar routine…

“Just let me check it…how loose is it? Let me help you pull it.” “No!” “Let your dad look at it.” “No!” “Let Stephanie look at it.” “No!” “OK, just keep wiggling it,”

Every day, the same conversation after school. “Let me see, still got it?” “Yep!”

Finally, one morning, a few minutes before time for school, Alex came running into the kitchen. I was deep in lunch boxes, not looking at him, just listening. I heard the escalating tone of voice.

“Mommy, look!”

“Mommy, look!!”

I turned around and saw this horrifying sight…his loose front tooth was turned around backward. It was still attached, and it was backward in his head.

My little guy, cute as he could be, was suddenly slightly frightening. Have you ever seen a tooth facing backward? Made me feel queasy just looking at it.

I didn’t even know such a thing was possible, and now here it was in my second grader. And it was almost time for school.

The only thing I could think was, he was not going to school with a backward tooth in his head. That just wasn’t right. I remember feeling indignant. How could he do this?! What was he thinking?

Of course he wasn’t thinking, he was just being a second-grader. I’m sure he was just as shocked as I was. Neither of us expected this turn of events…literally, this turn of events.

I must have sounded like someone out of a comedy show. I think I said something like “You can pull that tooth or turn it around, but you’re not going to school like that!”

I have to admit, I don’t know why it seemed so unacceptable to me that he would show up with a backward facing tooth. I’m sure no one at school would have thought we planned this, or thought we thought this was the new style for loose tooth management. But in that moment it seemed unthinkable. Nor did I see myself keeping him home from school for a loose tooth, much less a backward facing loose tooth.

I briefly rehearsed explaining the reason for his absence to the intimidating woman who answered the school attendance line…no, unthinkable. I was not going to find myself explaining this to her. I could almost feel disapproval as I imagined the scene in my mind.

“You allowed your son to turn his tooth backward?!”

I hadn’t allowed him to do it, and I was pretty sure he was surprised as well.

I hadn’t read about this in my parenting books! Now what?

Such are the thoughts that race through a mom’s mind when confronted with a backward-facing-toothed second-grader.

It was traumatic, I tell you!

He seemed to accept that he had to make a choice with the tooth and he ran out of the kitchen. I thought the answer was obvious, and as I hurriedly wrapped up lunch prep, I confidently expected to see him come back, new gap in his smile, tooth in hand.

But Alex was rarely predictable. Imagine my surprise when he ran back in, all smiles, ready to go, tooth turned around and facing the right way again.

I couldn’t believe he could have turned it backward and it still hung on, and now he’d managed to turn it back around, and it was still there. Was this super tooth or something?!

Well, he got to go to school. And the tooth came out in due time. Not much more time, but not that morning either. It was a resilient loose tooth!

Wish I’d  made a photo!

 

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He’s on the way!

Look who I found at the Seattle airport last night, headed north!

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We came down to be part of this:

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I told Riley and Jack Santa was making a last minute stop in Seattle to check on the kids here…see how they’re doing, before heading out on his Christmas Eve trip.

This morning we did a few last-minute errands…stocking stuffers, an impulse buy or two. This afternoon we’re cooking, and watching holiday movies, getting excited.

Oh, it’s the good stuff!

The boy is three, just this month, and the girl is five. Perfect ages to drink in the fun, the rituals, the excitement. Jack occupies himself with checking out the gifts under the tree, asking if it’s time to open yet, hearing (again) we have to wait until Christmas morning; he wonders which are for him. He shakes them and looks at them, identifies what belongs to who, makes stacks of his boxes.

It’s a hard thing to wait until the time is right, when you’re three.

Riley sings favorite songs, “Rudolph,” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” She absorbs the traditions, knows we have to put out cookies tonight.

They’re ready. The adults are not quite. But we will be, before the littles get up tomorrow, bright and early.

Stockings wait to be filled, cinnamon rolls will be made tonight, ready to pop in the oven in the morning.

Is it perfect? No, it’s never perfect.

Is it magic? Yes.

They’re five and three. And that’s magic enough for me.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

~ Sheila

 

 

 

Bibbity Bobbity Boo!

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It was a weekend with the Littles, and two weeks out from Halloween, it was a weekend to visit the pumpkin patch and pick the perfect ones to carve for the big event.

Riley and Jack take me to my childhood, and to memories of my kids’ childhoods. What a joy, this third time around to experience the magic and the firsts.

And even though this Halloween isn’t a true first for either of them, they’re young enough that each year is still fresh, a new experience of abilities, awareness, and memory.

They’re at that tender age when their traditions are forming. They’re beginning to know what they do “every” year. Riley, especially, is reaching the age to anticipate, to forecast, to know.

She knows Halloween is coming, that Christmas is around the corner, and that her next birthday is on the horizon.

Jack parrots Riley, so even though he doesn’t have a lot of understanding about dates and events yet, he pipes up with the right words. He copies what she says, and how she says it, right down to the tone of voice and the emphasis and excitement.

It’s delicious to be around them, to hear the baby wisdom. To hear Riley say yesterday that she would “just be the bigger person!” Of course she wasn’t…she was immediately the smaller person, in response to something Jack had done. But she’s working on it. She’s got the words, and she knows when to use them. She just has to perfect her follow through. I recognize pieces of Riley through my first-born self and my first-born daughter, and now another of us. Riley mothers, and orders, and knows. She knows what she wants. And she understands how life works, even at five.

And Jack! That boy, he’s stolen my heart with his laugh, his energy, his very joy of living. He’s almost never still, until suddenly he is, passed out in a heap of exhaustion.

We wait for that moment, every night. He’s precious, but he’s a busy one. And at his bedtime, I think you can hear an audible “aaahhh.” It’s just a wee victory, Jack quiet and down for the night.

His language is growing, every day. But he still has some of the charming baby phrasing I find so irresistible. Two months short of three, he sometimes sounds like a little boy version of Riley, who sometimes sounds like a little girl version of a teenager.

Such is the power of culture. She picks up the tone and phrases, and he learns from her.

But he’s still a Little, too. Often throughout the day he comes to announce, “I hungry!” Like the book he loves about the hungry caterpillar, he eats and eats and eats. And he runs. He’s a runner, and a jumper.

As always, any time they’re in my keeping, the goal is to pass them back safely. Bones intact, no stitches. 🙂

Tonight we’re done, getting ready for bed, the Littles are home with parents. But we’ll see them in a couple of weeks, gear up for another few days of being in their world, their routines, remember the rhythm and the magic.

We’ll carve the pumpkins and buy candy to hand out at the door, feel the building excitement of Halloween for little kids…the non-scary, candy collecting, neighborhood walking event.

It’s a charm-filled time in their little lives, and I’m so thankful to share it.

Happy 5th Birthday Riley-girl!

Riley March 2015

It’s a big day for this little. She’s a whole handful today. Just like when it was her mom turning five, I can’t believe it’s come so quickly.

I’ve watched her for five years, and she’s been a joy. What a bundle of energy, and what a funny little girl she is. She’s always got something to say, and most of the time it’s dramatic and unexpected.

She’s an old soul in a five-year old form.

She’s a fancy Nancy, loves frills and twirly skirts.

She’s a beauty, full of childish charm and perfection.

She’s Riley-girl, and she’s a gift.

Happy Birthday to my favorite girl!

The Good Lives On

I recently found this poignant story of a woman whose talent for photography was discovered after her death. You can scroll through the linked slide show to see some of her beautiful work.

Discovering Vivian Maier

What’s striking, beyond the technical beauty of the photos, is the theme that comes through in so many of them: glimpses of every day scenes from city streets, a look into the lives of people who must have been strangers to Vivian, but were captured in a flash of time and old fashioned black and white film. And now these people have their moment of fame, because Vivian Maier is finally being celebrated as an artist.

Vivian Maier was a nanny for 40 years, and I’m sure that the impact of her life on the children she cared for is still being felt, because what we do matters, whether we are “discovered” or not, famous or not.

Her photography was discovered because her possessions were auctioned off before she died.

Today her work would make her rich.

Well, perhaps it did make her rich in her lifetime. It’s possible we just can’t recognize the currency of that wealth to her.

I rarely watch the Oscars. Usually I haven’t seen many of the movies up for awards, and that’s certainly the case this year.

But tonight I’ll be watching, and hoping that the film that celebrates this woman’s work, and life, wins the award for best documentary. It will be a good thing to see a life marked and honored, the work of a woman who saw a lot more than anyone guessed.

This story makes me think: what am I doing that will live on? What do I do that may seem insignificant to me, but still matters, touches lives, leaves a mark?

We all leave marks.

Some lives burn brighter and seem bigger than others. That’s part of the draw of an event like the Oscars…a peek into the world of celebrity. It’s a world most people only know from the outside, looking in.

But Vivian’s story hits home. I’m making photos every day…not like the ones she captured, but snapshots of my life, my touch on the lives around me. And my work has an imprint.

What would that look like if it was suddenly viewable, put on the screen for the world to see?

I hope it would be as beautiful as these photos, and capture the right moments.

I click through the images in the slide show, and I think to myself: give us eyes to see the real, and the important.

 

Some days

Back working in Alaska again for a stretch, and picking up the threads of all my projects. I seem to have a never-ending list! Not that I think I’m alone in that. Who doesn’t have a list?

Lately my list has been a little fuller. I’m brushing off some long-unused skills and trying to recall what I’ve ever known of design programs. Admittedly most of my knowledge was via on-the-job learning. Back in the day, when I was in college, Adobe products weren’t even a glint in a designer’s eye. Now I’m learning with books, and the ever-helpful tutorials that abound online. I’m doing this as part of a multi-prong approach to creating digital income, and it occurred to me that it would be helpful to have a few more skills in the digital world.

So there’s that, and my second Kindle book which has been languishing for the past several weeks, waiting for me to pull it out again. Then my blog is wondering if I moved away and forgot to pack it along.

And there’s work, as in, what I am actually paid real money to do.

I’m so grateful to live in a time when so much is at my fingertips. It’s a rich experience, learning and growing, all at the touch of a few buttons and some time and effort.

But, I remind myself, life exists off-line as well. It’s easy to get sucked in by the vast world that lives behind my screen.

And if I’m always looking that direction, I miss so much.

Like this:

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Riley and Pete the Cat, preschool mascot

Or this:

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The boy, blowing bubbles for Gram

I don’t get bubbles from my laptop. I don’t know…maybe I don’t visit the right sites?

Nothing replaces reality. I can do a lot from my sofa, and learn a lot without going into a classroom. But on days when I feel like I haven’t looked up, I stretch and yawn and remember:

What I’m really invested in is out there, the people in my life.

I’ve always been able to draw that line between my work and personal life. I find it a little more challenging when work can follow me home, follow me to the sofa, be in front of me as soon as I click on my screen.

It takes discipline to create income out of hobbies, out of interests that have potential. And I want to be one of the people that finds that key to unlock the door.

But I don’t want to get sucked dry by the process, consumed by the ease of access.

I realize, now while I still am in the formative stage of creating online work, I need to set boundaries and schedules. Yes, I want to be able to work from anywhere, and anytime I choose.

But I don’t want to find myself working everywhere, all the time.

That’s not the plan.

Is it?

Aaahhh…there’s a difference in convenience and flexibility, and being consumed by the tool I’m using.

I don’t want the dream of creating my work world to become the monster that devours me.

For now, that isn’t likely to happen. For one thing, I can’t generate income without a regular job, which keeps me grounded and tied to a somewhat regular schedule. These thoughts are really about the future.

But this is the time to plan. What do I want more of? Endless time online?

Or bubbles?

Which do you think I picked?

Happy Sunday!  ~ Sheila

Stephanie’s day

Happy birthday to Stephanie!

I’m a fortunate woman to know the joy of motherhood and the joy of adult children. And when I say “joy,” I mean just that.

It takes a while for the transition to occur…and I’ll speak for myself, and not the whole world of mothers here…for a long time I thought of myself in relation to my kids as “mom.” And of course that’s natural. That’s the beginning of the relationship, and for 18-plus years that was the defining role I experienced with them. And it continues, in the biological sense. Sometimes I slip into that mindset for a particular conversation or situation.

But mostly, now, I feel like we’re friends. And that’s a rich reservoir of emotion and experience.

And though I know that friendship between mother and children, mother and daughter, is not uncommon, it’s not a given. So I’m grateful it’s been given to me.

It’s an amazing thing to watch the flowering of adults, the only ones in the world that I’ve known so intimately since birth, and to be privileged to see their lives unfold, develop, mature…there’s an enduring bond that ties my heart to theirs.

Stephanie has been a gift to my life, the beginning of seeing the world through the eyes of a child, teaching me responsibility and forcing me to grow up in ways I couldn’t anticipate, until I found myself doing and stretching, learning because I was on the job and had to rise to the occasion, whatever the occasion might be.

She still teaches me, shares with me, makes me beam with pride.

She’s a daughter who is a mother, and a great one. She’s a daughter who is a friend, and a special one. She’s a daughter who is a woman, and an amazing one.

She’s my Stephanie, and a part of my heart that is walking around outside my body.

“Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ”
― Elizabeth Stone

Stephanie's Birthday card

Visits and birthdays, the good stuff

It’s a busy month for us. Stephanie, Riley, and Jack are up for a summer visit, so we’ve temporarily gone into kid-land. All the breakables and anything that looks likely to become a missile in the hands of 18 month old Jack have been moved to higher ground. He’s a climber, but there are still a few spaces out of his reach. Yesterday he disappeared into the kitchen for a minute. When I walked in, he was sitting in the middle of the breakfast table, and as soon as he saw me walking toward him, he stood up, quite proud of himself and reaching out his little arms for a lift down. Gave me a mini heart attack, but didn’t phase him at all. He’s fearless and fast, and a boy…always a dangerous combination! But he’s so stinking cute, we forgive him all the rest and just follow him around to protect him from himself.

 

Fearless Jack!

Fearless Jack!

Riley is in one of the golden ages of childhood. Four year olds are old enough to do a lot, still young enough to be funny without knowing why (endlessly amusing to the adults :). Her speech is clear as a bell, but she has a few Riley-isms that we can’t bear to correct…she’ll grow out of them soon enough. Princess doll gloves are “glubs,” and she asks if I “memember” something that happened yesterday.  Sometimes she notices that we’re laughing at her, which we always deny immediately, but can’t help. She’s just too funny, in the sweet little-kid way of being funny-when-serious.

Riley the First-born

Riley the First-born

She’s a talker. With her gene pool, she could hardly escape that. We have long and interesting conversations that are wide-ranging. We discuss everything from princess fashions to the dangers of zombie attack (thanks, older kid at day care, for introducing her to the concept) to playdough creations. She’s learning to write the alphabet, gearing up for pre-school in the fall. She’s also standard issue first-born, bossing Jack around and clearly expecting to be in charge of life. But the other side to her personality is sensitive and affectionate, so just when you think she’s verging on teenager, she’s a sweet little girl again, charming and disarming.

I never really stood a chance. The grands have planted their flag.

It’s also a month of birthdays. I counted up, and between immediate and extended family, we have seven people celebrating in June. Today is Alex’s birthday, number 27. We sent several gifts his way already. I wish we had the gift of his presence so we could enjoy a birthday dinner together. But not to be this year. Still, it’s a moment to mark and remember. In his honor we’ll eat some bacon (his favorite) and have a family pass-the-phone-around conversation tonight. I’m always fantasizing that we’ll spend more of our big days together, and maybe someday we’ll be able to do that again. But for today, we’ll have to content ourselves with a digital connection.

Alex, happy 27!

Alex, happy 27!

Alaska is cooperating with some beautiful weather. The water is so blue when the sun is shining on it, and such a gun-metal gray when skies are overcast. We watched cruise ships yesterday, and float planes, kayakers, small boats, and fishing vessels, all from the front windows of the house. The Tongass Narrows is bustling this time of year, and my only complaint is the float planes start buzzing waaay too early in the morning. They’re out by 5:00 am, taking advantage of the extra hours of daylight this time of year. (Sunrise today was at 4:04, sunset tonight will be 9:31, with twilight lingering a little beyond.) And while float planes are noisy any time of day, they are particularly noticeable and obnoxious before coffee. That’s really my only complaint of summer here. Well, that, and the days that are summer on the calendar and fall by thermometer. But hey, as long as my heat isn’t kicking on, that’s a good day 🙂 (Not many places that statement defines a good summer day!)

Blue water!

Blue water and Ketchikan

Pacific Airways

Pacific Airways, local transport

 

So, off to play, and rescue small people from high places, and feed, and strap into car seats, and make photos….lots of photos! We’re looking for bears, and fish, and a souvenir or two…because what kid ever visited grandparents and didn’t go home with a little something to show for it? Here’s hoping for blue water and clear skies!

 

Thanks to the Dads

To all the dads I know: may your day be wonderful and full of the good stuff: laughter, and words that touch the heart, hugs, and the moments that become snapshots in memory. The years fly by, but the good stuff somehow lasts, photos of the mind that take us back, connecting through time and distance.

I have those mental snapshots of my grandfathers, my dad, father-in-law, my husband, brothers, uncles, son-in-law. Watching these men over the years as they fathered…some in more traditional ways, others more hands on and involved…I’ve seen a breadth of styles and relationships. Above all, I appreciate their commitment and integrity.  Just like me as a young mom, I’m quite sure they were making it up on the fly, figuring out how to be a dad in the midst of all the other demands life was throwing. Does anyone have the luxury of learning to parent at leisure?

There are a lot of words of wisdom that fly around on these days, and anyone can learn from the example of others. But words fall away in the face of actions. It is the actions of these men that I reflect on today. Watching them interact, sometimes at the high points of life, others in the valleys, I see men who were able to connect with their kids, be there when it counted, when the going was rough. I see men who have been quiet heroes to their families, not perfect, but trying. I see men who stayed, fathers who lived up to the name.

I see dads, and I see kids…young ones, adults, and everything in between…who have relationships. And they’re good ones. Thank you to these men, the men of my family.

But more broadly, thanks to the men everywhere who are fathers, and who make a difference, not just in the lives of their children, but in the lives of all of us. Fathers doing a good job make all of us stronger, and better, and healthier.

Enjoy your day, and celebrate the good stuff. And feel proud: you’re doing your job, you’re making a difference. And we love you for it.

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PB and Riley

 

 

Mother’s Day and other adventures

So, thinking I would treat myself to a little face to face with my son, I flew to Denver yesterday. It’s not often that I get one-on-one time with my kids, and when I have a window of opportunity, I figure I should take advantage.

I reserved a car so I wouldn’t disrupt Alex’s work day with the need for an airport pick up. Since I’m by myself, I reserved a compact size. Imagine my surprise when I checked in at Hertz and was told they had a Ram pick up for me! Now, I’ve driven mini-vans, and I’ve driven a Suburban, and I even drove our Class C RV for a stretch of about 10 miles one time…my first and last time to do that. (I had a standing plan that if anything happened to Rob while he was driving it…death or stroke or any little thing that took him out of the driver’s seat, I would put a for sale sign out and abandon it on the spot. I am not comfortable driving 30 ft vehicles. 🙂 )

The customer service agent assured me that I would like driving the truck…you’re up high, he said. You’ll have a better view, he said. I said it would be fine as long as it was an automatic. My upbringing did not include learning to drive a standard transmission. I was not going to admit to the rep that I would prefer a nice comfortable compact when I could get higher and better for the same price. No, no, I have my pride.

Well I was up high, all right. I’m short, and I had to do a little climbing to get in the thing. You know those running boards are not just cosmetic. I was a little insecure driving something that long. (This is a full size 2 ton truck…at least I think it’s 2 ton. Maybe it’s 1 1/2 ton. I’ve heard of those too. But what do I know? Vehicles with numbers are largely over my head.) But it’s true, I had a great view.  I think the other drivers I passed just wanted to stay out of my way.

I proceeded cautiously to the interstate. Now keep in mind, I live in VERY SMALL TOWN Alaska, so I’m not used to driving in heavy traffic these days. I used to be pretty fearless, but now that I don’t do it that often…well, I’m a little intimidated. I can do it, but I prefer to maneuver with a vehicle that’s more my size. I felt like I was in a semi, barreling down the road, peering over the steering wheel.

I don’t have blue hair, and I don’t think anyone would call me a little old lady. But I’ll be ready when the time comes. I know what that feels like now.

I made it to the hotel, and I parked. Alex lives about half a block away, so he’s able to do the driving for the weekend in his car. I’m just glad I don’t have to get in the beast again until Monday, when I go back to the airport. Good thing it was a great rate. Cheaper than a cab or shuttle as it turned out!

And oh yes, the customer service rep mentioned the truck would be good in the snow. Snow? I didn’t expect snow this weekend! I did not pack for a Rocky Mountain spring storm. Guess it’s a shopping opportunity for a sleeve or two. Wonder what else is coming my way?

Happy Mother’s Day to all the women who wear that title and love, nurture, and parent. It’s not a task for the faint of heart. But it’s one of the best jobs around. And I’m glad to celebrate this one with Alex, even if it means driving a big truck. I’m funny that way…I’ll do anything to see my kids!

That son of mine

That son of mine

My ride for the weekend

My ride for the weekend

Generations: My mom, my daughter, my granddaughter

Generations: My mom, my daughter, my granddaughter

The Jack & Riley show

The Jack & Riley show

Riley girl

Riley girl

Little Jack

Little Jack