Yesterday, I took Kara to the bounce house again. I’m not sure there exists an expression of joy quite as complete as that of Kara when she runs across the floor at breakneck speed, climbs into the house of her choice, and starts jumping.
We hadn’t been there long when two other, older kids—siblings, I think—joined us. Almost immediately, Kara started following them around, as she usually does. It’s been a pretty effective method of earning friends in the past. They didn’t seem quite as interested in playing with her, whether because she was too young or because they had each other, but they didn’t seem to mind her tagging along.
They’d all been playing together for a while when I saw Kara dart around the corner and squat down by one of the arcade machines. She saw me looking at her and happily exclaimed, “I’m playing hide-and-seek!”
An unexpected maelstrom of emotions hit me then. My heart swelled to see her so happy, enjoying herself to the utmost, learning to play games with rules and interact with people all by herself, without me as a buffer or interpreter. But my heart simultaneously broke with the realization that, with that joy of learning to interact with others comes the possibility for a world of hurt she’s never known before: exclusion, rejection. Not necessarily in that precise instance, although I honestly wasn’t sure the other kids knew that Kara thought she was playing. But for the rest of her life, now, there will come times when she will be hurt by her peers, and my heart is already bracing to break on those days.
Fortunately, yesterday was not that day. Yesterday was the day for three hours of nonstop bouncy fun, playing with other kids without Mommy hanging around. Yesterday, those blue eyes were full of joy and mischief.
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Just a few things I’ve learned, or re-learned, in the last few months.
- I cannot read in moderation. There’s no point in trying. No matter what promises I make to myself, no matter how I try to ration my reading time, I get absorbed and forget to do small tasks like, you know, take care of my kid. Self, stop trying to read during the day. Maybe you shouldn’t even do it after the kid is asleep unless you’re absolutely so physically exhausted that your body is simply not capable of staying awake all night to read “one more chapter.” Possibly some deep nonfiction could be slowly digested, but fiction and fantasy? They’re the donuts of my reading universe—don’t even try one, because you know you won’t be able to stop until you’ve finished the box. Or book. Or series. Whatever.
- Worms are the most resilient pets on the planet. Mine have been living outside during this winter, and every time the weather warms up after a frost, I go outside to feed them, expecting them all to be dead, and they’re thriving. Seriously, the first thing I saw when I lifted the lid was about 4 worms getting ready to lay eggs. These worms are doing better than my indoor plants.
- Getting kids involved in chores makes chore time playtime. To Kara, mashing up bananas for granola bars is just as much fun as painting. It makes everything take longer, but who cares? You’re spending quality time with the kid AND keeping the house from falling into chaos. Well, maybe keeping one small step ahead of complete chaos. If you’re very fortunate, you may even happen upon a task that the kid loves doing so much that you can let her keep at it while you do things you’d rather not have her “help” with. Kara, for example, LOVES mopping. And vacuuming.
- Exercise makes it easier to get moving doing anything else. I know this. My brain has learned this lesson quite well. But when I’m cold and wearing 3 layers of clothing and all I want to do is stay under a blanket and, you know, maybe read or something ( ;) ), or sleep for a couple days, the last thing I want to do is change into workout clothes. Sure, I may warm up right quick once I start a workout, but that first step is hard. And yet, once I do that, it’s so much easier to do all those other things I have to do, like make dinner and do dishes and bake bread and, yes, play with my kid. And yet I keep skipping out on my workout. I’ll let you know when I figure out how that makes sense.
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I have a gorgeous baby girl. Well, not so much a baby anymore, as she lets me know at every available opportunity. She’s a “big girl.” She can do everything “all my by herself.”
But she’s amazing. Cute, of course, but also beautiful. Stunning. Gorgeous. Blue eyes that are not just a beautiful color, but also amazing for the thought behind them. Blond hair, turning darker, with the perfect bouncy waves. Perfect hands that already love coloring, petting animals, and climbing.
And in the last couple months especially, people keep saying she looks just like me.
I’ve never been one to set a huge store on physical appearance. I don’t say that to try to make myself sound superior; it’s just never been that important to me. I say that to emphasize that my appearance has never been a giant part of my self-identity. I consider myself not hideous, and that’s always been plenty for me.
But my angel is gorgeous. And if she looks like me… then I’m beautiful too.
And that comes to me, not as an ego boost (or not only that), but also as a responsibility. Because there’s a good chance that if she looks so much like me now, that she’ll keep looking just like me. And she’ll keep hearing about it. So if I have any insecurities about my physical appearance, well, I need to get over myself. For her. Because she’s beautiful, and she looks like me. So it’s time for me to know I’m beautiful too.
For her, I can be beautiful.
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Kara: “There’s no nothing in something.”
Me: “Kara, you’re so sweet!”
Kara: “But I’m not for eating!”
Me: “No? But I’m gonna gobble you up!”
Kara: “But I’m too big to go in your mouth.”
Kara, pointing to a picture in a book: “What do this does?” (“does” pronounced “dews,” as in, “do” with an “s” added)
Whenever we watch a movie or read a story and someone doesn’t look happy, “What do he don’t like?” She asked that a LOT in Finding Nemo (or Catching Nemo, as she calls it).
Speaking of Finding Nemo, she spent most of the time in her bath last night singing, “Just keep swimming.”
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Yesterday, Kara helped me make granola bars. And ranch. And honey mustard. And bread. I started thinking about what I’ll do when Kara goes to school. Will I get a job and make some money, or will I stay home and keep saving money?
If I stayed home, I could do even more to save money. I could have a garden! The fact that I’ve never been able to keep green things alive is beside the point. I’ll put my vermicompost on my vegetable garden and have the biggest most awesome vegetables you’ve ever seen! I’ll be able to barter them at local farms for things like… I don’t know… milk? Wool? I can learn to spin my own yarn! etc. etc. etc.
Then I thought about what it would take to make my own mayonnaise. I’m already making so many dressings… why not make the condiment that’s the base for most of them? Eggs! That’s it, I’ll have a chicken coop, and the chickens will eat whatever scraps my worms don’t eat! And if you have chickens, you’ll probably need a dog…
And before you know it, I’ve built us a mini farm in my head.
Steve, meanwhile, is already planning on the awesome computer he’s going to build. And in his dreams, we have a garage, and he can build his dream desk that can convert from a standing desk to a sitting desk. He’ll also build a mini computer for the living room whose sole purpose will be for media, so we can still watch stuff from online and play our emulators in the living room.
Before I know it, he’s set up his own personal Tiger Direct in our garage.
How do we end up on such opposite sides of the spectrum?
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Yesterday, our local MOMs Club had an impromptu gathering at the “bounce house”—an indoor playground with inflatables. It’s been a while since we’ve been, so I asked Kara if she wanted to go. She said yes and did the typical toddler thing, which she doesn’t actually do often, of asking every 45 seconds if we were at the bounce house yet (it’s kind of a long drive).
After we got inside and paid and took off her shoes and coat and my shoes and backpack and coat and scarf, her anticipation levels were so high I thought she might actually explode. When I finally gave her the go-ahead to play, she ran as fast as I’ve ever seen her run, arms pumping, legs high, going so fast her head was actually leaning back from the rest of her body. She scrambled into the first inflatable and started jumping, laughing with her precious toddler belly-laugh, generally looking certifiably insane but in the happiest possible way.
She did almost everything “all my by herself,” even those things she’d previously been too small or scared to do, like the huge slide and some of the darker castles. We stayed for over two hours and she played harder than I’d have thought possible the whole time.
All in all, 2014 is off to a pretty great start.
What happy memories are you making?
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Steve and I were sitting at the computer together, doing something really important like browsing Imgur or something. An ad in the sidebar caught our eye, something to the effect of “Three words guaranteed to turn her on.”
Steve snorted dismissively. “I already know that.”
I raised an eyebrow.
He started with, “Dishes are done.” “Dinner is ready.”
I’m sure there were a couple more, but the point is, ladies, he gets it.
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