Dear Emily June,

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Before coffee, before the alarm even went off this morning we sat down and I read to you.  Letters from previous birthdays. You were sitting on the kitchen table behind me.  We got to the year you turned five when I turned around and you had tears rolling down your face. “Stop after this one.  I am going to be sobbing when the bus comes.” Oh, my dear, sweet girl, we are cut from the same sappy cloth.  xxoo

 

Dear Emily June,

Yesterday morning when you looked at me and said “Last morning of being eight” I think you were disappointed that I didn’t leap over the kitchen counter and scoop you up in my arms and tell you that you will always be my baby. The truth is that I couldn’t get it out of my mouth without crying.

This year I have shed more tears over your birthday than I usually do (and we both know that I get a little sappy around your birthday.) I have tried to figure out what it is that has me so verklempt.  And here it is, kiddo.  The good, the bad and the ugly.

Sometimes I write you letters and I give them to you. Sometimes I write you letters and I know that I won’t give them to you for many years to come.  This is one that I will hang onto for a awhile.  This has been a big, big year for us.  We have had lots of big, scary conversations. You pushed hard on me about the truth about my marriage to your father.  You were ready to ask me hard questions about divorce and love.  For the most part, I think I was ready to answer them.  I had planned on answering them someday.  And the someday just showed up and we ran with it.

We have talked about how sometimes two people just aren’t happy anymore and you have to let go. But here’s the thing – sometimes we were happy.  I don’t really talk about that part much because it opens the little girl door to “why didn’t you just try harder” or “see, maybe you could have stayed married.”   I know both of those doors because if I am honest with myself I still peek inside them from time to time. And one of those times is your birthday.

Because the truth is, Emily, that Jeremy and I let each other down.  We did.  But for at least a few incredible picture-perfect weeks we had it in the bag.  I was enormously pregnant and your dad was on stand-by.  Your dad, who is allergic to answering his cell phone, picked up in the middle of the first ring.  Every time.   The weeks surrounding your birth continue to be some of the best days of my life.  And whether I like to think about it or not, he was a huge part of that.  And that’s hard for me to think about.

It’s weird. I know exactly what to do with the feelings of resentment, anger, sadness and disappointment surrounding a divorce.  I am not really sure what I am supposed to do with the good memories, though.  They break my heart a bit, every year.  I have been struggling with all of these feelings, the good memories that surface surrounding your birthday, since 2011. You were turning six and you were seamlessly sliding into this new life, a new house, a new baby.  A few years later and I still can’t seem to figure out how to feel happy and sad all at once.

You are so much stronger and smarter than me.  You love and forgive and look forward.  I have so much to learn from you.  I am trying so hard not to lean on you, sweet girl.  It is hard enough to grow up, you don’t need to be worrying about me.  I will grow up, too, in my own time.

Last week I had a tantrum on a Sunday morning.  Your dad and your sister left for church and we stayed home for a few extra minutes.  Wordlessly, you just started helping me pick up toys and make order.  You know that I think more clearly when things aren’t a mess.  I was trying to clear the counters of your dad’s canning shenanigans and I might have been screaming about jalapenos and you said so quietly “But it makes him happy.” I just sat down on the floor in the kitchen and cried.  I wanted to have clean counters and you just wanted the people who you love to be happy.  See? You are smarter than me.

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Every day I look at you and I am amazed that you are so big.  Your sister is just the same size as you when it was just you and me and our big, scary, new life. When she slides into the crook of my arm at night and I press my head against hers I can close my eyes and see your face.  It is almost impossible not to run up the stairs and climb into your bed.  You’re so smack dab in the middle of being little and big.  I wish you would climb in my bed and let me hold you while you sleep but I wish I could pour you a glass of wine and spill my guts, too.

This is the messiest, sloppiest birthday letter yet.  And I am afraid it is more about me than you.   I used to write you birthday letters that tried to sum up who you were that year so that we could look back and remember exactly who you were when you were two, three, four years old.  I guess nine is the magic age when I don’t feel like I can write that down for you. I know how you make me feel.  I know how I feel about your birthday.  But I don’t really know that I can say “This, this is who Emily is” anymore.  That’s on you.

Oh, Emily… there is nobody like you.  You are the sweetest, kindest person I have ever known.  I am smiling through my tears as I write this.  My 20th high school reunion is in a little over a week, and here I am writing a letter to my oldest daughter and I am tempted to sign it like a yearbook…. “Don’t ever change, LYLAS, Mom.”

Because I do, love you like a sister.  I never had one growing up, but I imagine this is what it might be like, growing up side by side with someone who understands parts of you that you can’t explain. Like it or not, I am still growing up, too, right along with you. And really, if I had one wish for you…. do not ever, ever change, Em.  You are unfuckingbelievably cool, just the way you are.  You are kind and funny.  And in my book, that’s pretty much where it’s at.

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I love you, baby girl.  Every day more than the day before. You turned everything I thought I knew inside out and I never looked back. Keep being awesome, Ems.  You got this.

Love,

Mom

Last day…

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She sat down at the counter for breakfast and smirked.  “Last day of being eight.”

She was waiting for me to say something sappy.  “Get your backpack, babe, and get packed for school. Let’s get totally ready for the bus and then we can ruminate on the matter of your birth.” She rolled her eyes.

As she packed her stuff she said “I am going to be nine tomorrow but I am still very immature.” I looked up from making lunches. “We are studying the duties of local government and every time…” that’s as far as she got before I started laughing.  “I know, right?  Duties.  I am the only that laughs.  In my whole class.”

“Do you think you will still laugh when you’re nine?” I asked her.

“Yeah.  Because that is only one day from now and we have state duties and national duties to talk about still.  But I’ll laugh really quiet.”

I am not sure how to break it to her.  There is an incredibly good chance that she will not ever grow out of this potty humor phase.  At 38 years old I am still yukking it up over here.

Emily June,

You will get an appropriate birthday letter this week but for today – enjoy being eight. Maturity is overrated.  Pierced ears will surely fulfill your need to grow up a bit, no need to stop laughing at poop jokes abruptly.

Love you,

Mom

If you give a kid a car nap…

If you give a kid a car nap than you might be stuck sitting in the car.

If you are in your car in the driveway you might just watch Breaking Bad on your phone.

But if you finished Breaking Bad yesterday you might not be ready for another commitment.

If you’re not ready for a commitment you might just sit in the front seat and look out the window.

If you look out the window you might start to think about how much you really, truly hate lariope.

If you hate lariope, you might decide to just pull a little up.

If you pull out a little you might find yourself digging up shit loads of lariope while your kid naps in the air-conditioned car.

IMG_2460You might have made a list for Home Depot by the time the bus gets home.

And when the bus gets home you might go buy a roll of weed mat and eight bags of mulch.

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And everyone knows if you only buy eight bags you will go back for four more.

And now it is 5:30 and there is nothing but one glass of wine in the fridge and no dinner. Who works here? What did she do all day? Because she sure didn’t make anything for dinner.

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Special thanks to Laura Numeroff and  If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. 

In Sickness and in Health

IMAGE_3940-MIX“Well, now you have something to write about,” he said.  And he smiled.

He kind of half-smiled.  The half of his face that wasn’t drooping and looking half in the bag smiled.

“So, if you’re not having a stroke, we can make fun of you again, right?  Because you look really crazy.”

On the other side of the curtain in our emergency room the girls were giggling, playing hide and seek.  I’d like to pretend that they were both blissfully unaware of the tension that had been in the room but Emily is too smart.

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Earlier in the day  I called MQD and said “Guess what I have to do right now? Nothing.  The house is clean and Lu and I are just goofing off.”  We FaceTimed while we ate lunch. I climbed in bed with her at nap time and MQD called again.  “Let me call you when I get her down,” and I cut him off.  I assumed he was just calling to tell me how wonderful I am or how much he loves me (because he does that just all of the time!)  In truth, we were having one of those perfect days, those rare married days when you text back and forth about how lucky you are to be married to one another instead of “get milk” and “do you see my wallet on the counter?”

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MQD didn’t wait for me to call him back.  Instead, he texted me to say that a co-worker noticed that he was only blinking with one eye and that he was experiencing numbness in his face.  He was “concerned.”  I tried not to react emotionally.  I simply called him, “Call your doctor.  You need to go in right now.”

When he called back shortly to report that his GP wasn’t in, that is when I was afraid.  “Do you want me to find an Urgent Care or figure out what you should do?”  MQD, this man who usually doesn’t let me get him a glass of water said simply, “Yes.  Please.”

Lucy was asleep.  Em was at school.  I called the school secretary and asked to have Emily ready in the lobby. I filled my bag with snacks, I dressed Lucy (because she strips the moment we walk back in the door lately)  and I left to get my big girl.

We walked to the car and Emily asked me “Are you scared?”

“Of course, I am.  I love you guys very much.”

She thought for a moment in the backseat of the car. “But should we be worried?’

“I don’t think so, not yet.  But I think we are going to get your dad and go straight to the hospital so that if we do have to worry we don’t have to go to a different waiting room and start all over.”

The kids were in the car so we didn’t really talk much on the way there.  In retrospect that was a blessing. How many times and how many ways can you say “So, do you think you are having a fucking stroke?” We tried to talk ourselves into thinking it was a migraine, a terrible migraine.

It wasn’t long before the first nurse looked at him, watched him waggle his eyebrows and try to blink and said “I think it’s Bell’s Palsy.  How’s that?  A diagnosis and I am not even a doctor?!”  She threw her arms in the air and said “You can do the Happy Dance now, I really don’t think it’s a stroke.”

Six hours, five doctors, three nurses, a pair of neurologists and the best damn french fries in Chapel Hill (garlic fries from Tyler’s aside) later and we were back in the car.

At around 10am today I sent MQD a text.   I was emotional and overwhelmed with just how much I loved this man and how lucky I was.  IMAGE_3935 (1)

At noon I was afraid that loving him might not be as simple as it was just two hours before.

Someday we will laugh and say “Man, remember that day we thought you were having a stroke and you just had Bell’s Palsy?” But today I will watch you sleep and write it all down.  Because I feel like I want to hold onto this day so tightly, the day that I loved you so fucking much and everything turned out okay.

MQD, I love you like crazy.  In our wedding vows we exchanged Tom Robbins’ words “My love for you has no strings attached. I love you for free.”  We never said “in sickness and in health.”  That goes without saying. But god damn, if this was some kind of weird test, I think I passed.  You scared the shit out of me today and I just kept loving you.  So, now that you aren’t going to drop dead can you please try to do something about your face?  Because my 20th high school reunion is in just about a month and you look like Popeye when you smile. Yours, Kel

Race Recap: Boys on the Left

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Another excellent sprint triathlon put on by FS Series this past weekend! My race preparation was not what I wanted it to be.  The previous week included the consumption of a lot more pizza and beer than is ideal and the night before featured a long phone call with Poison Control (Thanks, Lucy!) but in spite of the lack of proper fueling and sleep I had a great time.

I am ready to take on the Olympic Distance triathlon next season.  I have two more sprints this summer before I switch gears into half marathon mode for the fall and winter.  So, now that I have more than a handful of sprints under my belt I feel like I can make an observation.

Answer me this, friends.  Why don’t the men tell you before they pass you on the bike?  Are they trying to kill me?

I am a novice cyclist.  It is super obvious.  If you don’t notice my white knuckled death grip on my handlebars than certainly you can see my somewhat swervy riding style, even from behind.  And if all of that escapes you – I am on a 35 year old, $200 bike.  That ought to tip you off.

I get passed on the bike.  I have made peace with this fact.  The bike is my weakest part of a triathlon.  Of the dozen  people who passed me – eight of them were men. Eight times I thought I was going to die as they zipped past me on my left.  Four of the people that passed me were women.  All four of them shouted “Left!” as they zipped past me.  What gives?

Is it just some kind of competitive streak? Maybe.  But I can’t say that the men aren’t supportive. As I was returning on this moderately hilly out and bike course every single man that I rode by while I was giving it all I had up a hill said something to the effect of “Yeah, get it, girl!”

It seems like the fellas like to see you work hard.  I understand the idea of having a little skin in the game, but, guys, do you want to see my skin on the street?  Because really I all but leap out of my bike seat when you whizz by.

Question for the cycylists – I get the etiquette for a group ride.  Do the same rules not apply for racing? I can see why they wouldn’t but it seems odd that everyone has plenty of lung capacity to shout out words of encouragement but can’t seem to yell out “Left!” to keep me from possibly wrecking us both.

So, that’s what’s on my mind. Summer is wrapping up.  School starts Monday.  Backpack is full of supplies.  Lots of debate about the first day of school ensemble is happening.  Pictures are forthcoming.

What’s on your to-do list as the summer winds down?  I still need to paint the kitchen in my ceiling before I can tell you about our summer kitchen reno.  That’s I have got!

 

 

It’s way past my bedtime…

You can’t just give someone a kiss goodbye and leave for work and walk back in the door five weeks later and expect there to be dinner on the table. “Where the fuck have you been” is a lot more likely than “Make yourself a drink while I pull the roast out of the oven, dear.”

So, pretend I just strolled in the door.  You toss me a dirty look that means “where the fuck have you been” and I just stare blankly.  The truth is I wasn’t at work.  “So, where have you been?”

And the answer unfolds like a teenage explanation for being out past curfew.  I went to the pool a bunch of times and I joined Costco and everyone knows that Costco takes forever because you have to eat all of the samples and I have had a few super fun triathlons and actually did I mention that I ran my fastest mile ever and Emily did a kid triathlon but it rained before she could run and speaking of the kids Lucy is getting so big it is crazy, really big, I mean we took the kids to an amusement park and she went on a water slide by herself. Oh, right.  Where have I been?  I don’t know.  Just hanging around, doing whatever.

This evening we had dinner with friends and they mentioned the blog and I felt myself flush.  “Well, yeah.  I mean, I have a blog…” and I felt the rest of the sentence forming in my mouth like bile. But I haven’t written a damn thing in months.  I showed you some pictures.  I prattled on a bit about triathlons and birthdays and anniversaries.  But I haven’t said anything worth a damn in a long, long time.

It’s scaring me.  Do you lose your voice?  Your courage? Do you just shut your laptop one day and then when you open it back up it doesn’t fit like a pair of jeans that used to be your favorite and then all of a sudden they feel like they belong to someone else?  Something is changing.

The kids are changing.  I have not wanted to spend time in front of the computer while Em is home from school.  I painted the kitchen and we finished a pretty big kitchen project.  But those are all excuses.  A bunch of excuses that add up to “I don’t know what to write about right now.”

For a long time the things that mattered  to me were Great Big Things.  I was falling in love, I was finalizing my divorce, I was afraid to try and have a baby, I was pregnant, I had a newborn, I was learning to be a wife and a mother to two children.  This is Big Stuff, big, dramatic, relatable, meaningful Stuff that I needed to say out loud so I could understand it.

Somehow the blog posts about Tempo Runs vs High Intensity Interval Training or Painting the Inside of My New Kitchen Cabinets Sucked Ass but I am Glad I Did It just don’t bubble up inside me and demand that I make the time to get them out.

Don’t be fooled.  I have passion for scribbling triathlon training schedules on notecards and I have graphs showing the number of miles I have run this year (graphs, people!) I have tremendous zeal for Purdy paint brushes and I could talk about them all day.  But I don’t need to write it down. I just don’t.

Funny things still happen.  I bought MQD a pack of underwear a few weeks ago and I thought Emily was going to die in the store.  I tried so hard to just be cool, casually strolling up and down the aisle, avoiding eye contact with her.  As we left the final endcap and all of their male pelvic area glory she quietly says “That was very weird.  I am never going near men’s underwear again.” When I turned to look at her and contemplated making a joke she went on to say “It’s just weird seeing men I don’t even know standing there in their underpants looking clueless.” The post almost writes itself.  That is some comedy gold right there, but it is her story.  It’s not mine.

Poignant things happen.  A kid pushed Lucy on the playground the other day and I had to pretend that I had something in my eye when Emily whipped around and scooped her up and said “We don’t push our friends” loudly.  I have never in my lifetime seen Emily’s tiny self so filled with rage. I could write about that.

Potty Training.  That happened this summer. I was afraid to say anything about it for fear that publicly announcing our success would result in a cosmic shitstorm.

IMAGE_3458I take zillions of sweaty selfies as I am beaming, grinning ear to ear.  I have run my ass off this summer.  I am proud of myself. I am cobbling together a game plan to take on a Half Iron Man before my 40th birthday.  I sit down to write a race recap and think “Nah, I am not a “fitness blogger.” And then another voice says “Right, you have no niche at all you just do what you do and you write it all down, you just write shit down, so write it.”

But then I make another trip to Costco and we go to the pool and I have wine for dinner so I can’t exactly write after the kids go to bed and then we have company again and then…

Long ago I decided it would be therapeutic to write but I didn’t want to pigeon hole my subject matter.  I decided to tackle “This Book Will Change Your Life.” I petered out after Day 93: Practice Cosmic Humility.  Writing had become a habit and I no longer needed the book to help me practice hysterical living.

But I need a kick in the ass.  I am losing a part of myself.  I am filling up my days with tasks and letting those tasks define me.  I am a mother, a triathlete, a volunteer, a part-time employee.  But I am losing my grip on Kelly, the girl who needed no additional instruction when it came to hysterical living.

I am calling this Day 94: Avoid Electromagnetic Energy.  I have avoided my laptop for much of this summer.

It’s time to get back in the saddle.  I am rusty.  And unsure of where I am headed. But I promise that I will embarrass myself again soon.  Thanks for hanging in there with me.

 

 

 

It is my ‘lone!

20140710-192152-69712565.jpgNearing completion with my kitchen renovation.  The girls have been very patient with all of the errands it has required for the most part.

However, today they were reaching the end of their rope and to be honest I was, too.  “Emily, just get out of her face, man.  Leave her alone.”

Lucy cries out “Leave me alone!”

Emily says “You leave me alone!” (I will speak with her later about her crappy ass comeback.)

Lucy yells “NO!  It is my lone!!”

In other news, when you are a woman who wears glasses and your kids decide that glasses are an important accessory it makes you feel like deep down underneath it all they must think you’re cool.

Something substantial is coming. Soon.  Soon-ish.

 

 

 

“Pearls are always appropriate,” Jackie O.

If you’ve never had the pleasure of sitting across a table from me and having a drink – this is pretty close to the experience.

You can dress me up but you can’t take me out.

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Summertime

Just checking in…. kitchen renovation is happening.  Painting and finishing is on deck and I am chomping at the bit to get things finished.  My mother asked me today “So, when exactly do you want me to come down and help you get things finished?  This afternoon?” She was only kind of joking.  I am feeling very Veruca Salt about this whole scenario.  I want it all and I want it now.

But it is summertime.  And summertime deserves a certain reverence.  So, instead of painting and figuring out how to make a  perfect mitered corner in the baseboards I need to replace I am eating watermelon and letting my kids eat popsicles at the pool moments before we go home for dinner and staying up too late and running too little and getting excited when Tone Loc is on the radio and occasionally misbehaving.  Because it is Summertime, guys.

But I miss y’all.  So, I am checking in.

Overheard just now from the living room:

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Lucy was terrorizing Emily. Emily yells out “Mom!!! Can you help me? Stick a boob in her face or something?!”

pool breastfeedingShe has a point.  It does tend to chill her out.

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I hope you are all enjoying your Summer.  Tell me, what is keeping you busy?

 

I’m really not very busy.

hot mama tattooIt’s not that I haven’t had anything on my mind. I have tons and tons of things to say. Most of it is not private or scandalous or even very interesting.  I look at the images in my phone and I think “what is THAT a picture of?” and I am reminded that I took it because I didn’t want to forget to tell you something.

I just haven’t gotten around to writing it all down.  And it’s not because I have been busy.

I wanted to tell you about all the things I learned by having a ridiculous temporary tattoo for Mother’s Day.

20140603-130408-47048082.jpgI wanted to explain that we have finally started renovating our kitchen and that my life is upside down and I can’t find anything and that it is so incredibly hard to keep vacuuming the carpet that we are tearing out in a matter of weeks.  Ripping out this shelf paper from my kitchen cabinets is like removing a little tiny piece of 1987 and the sweet old people who used to live here.  It makes me happy that this room that I inhabit a bazillion hours a day will finally feel like mine but all in the same breath I am reminded of this little old couple that owned our house.  There is a ramp to my kitchen door for a wheelchair and I wonder if the older fellow that went up and down that ramp is even still around to enjoy this warm weather and here I am just gleefully ripping out their shelf paper.

I keep seeing weird stuff.  Truly weird stuff, like underpants on the ground that do not belong to my toddler (who by the way is totally wearing underpants now, OMG, don’t talk about it or it will all disappear in a puff of smoke like a dream.) I saw a lighter in the water bottle holder at the gym today, who has a lighter in their pocket at the gym?  I keep seeing things and I want to tell you about them and say something funny.  Screen Shot 2014-06-03 at 1.23.23 PM

Other things are happening, too.  In my attempts to run 1000 miles this year I am kicking major ass.  I hit 500 miles before the end of May and I am up 8.87% for the year, not that I am keeping track.  I ran my fastest 5K last weekend after staying up too late and drinking Tuaca with an old friend and it felt really good.  It is still not crazy fast but it is faster than I have done it before.  Measurable results.  That really gets me excited.

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I am not any busier than I usually am. Not really. There are the same 24 hours and the same two small people who need me.  I am not too busy to sit down and tell you about how I think that my Hooters hat is old enough to drink beer now. 20140603-130404-47044077.jpg I stole this hat from my brother in 1993.  My dad won it in a golf tournament and gave it to my brother.  I stole it from him because I love him and that is how you show the feelings to the sibling.  You steal their shit and wear it, right? I wore this hat all the time in the years that I drove a convertible and the inside is so disgustingly sweat-stained but I can’t seem to let it go.

So, if I am not busy why don’t I have the time to write all the mundane nonsense that keeps me feeling grounded?  Even if I subtract the 871 hours I have spent sitting on the floor in the bathroom saying “Close your eyes and pee, baby.  Just close your eyes and pee….” I really should be able to make time.  So, what has changed? I wondered for a few days if maybe I had lost my voice or I had nothing to say or maybe I had such Big Things to say that I wasn’t ready to put the words down yet.  Nope.

I have just been moving slow.  I stopped hurrying.  My house is upside down and it’s ok. There is laundry in my dryer and dishes in my sink and no one is freaking out.  I spent 40 minutes walking to the car today from the gym.  40 minutes.  We walked along the edge of the brick retaining wall and we looked at rocks.  Lucy and I stopped and smelled actual roses and rest assured I snickered.

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There is only one week of school left and homework is over for the year.  We just have to read every day. Yesterday, instead of having Em sit at the kitchen table and read to me while I make dinner and sweep up and double-check the calendar and write a blog posts and check emails I decided to just lie on the floor and listen.  And then we went to the pool and we stayed longer than I had planned and bedtime was late and dinner was a sandwich but it felt so good.

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It’s so easy to want to hurry up and get to the good part.  Sometimes for me “the good part” is this selfish time that I click click click at the keyboard and record the trivial details of my day so that someday when I realize that this was the good part I can look back and remember how it all went down.  Very occasionally I manage to really be present.  I am trying.

A few of you have emailed to say “Hey, how are you? What have you been up to?” and part of me felt like I was supposed to explain that I have been busy.  But I haven’t. In fact, I am actively trying to be less busy.

Try it. I dare you.