five minute friday: fly

…where a brave and beautiful bunch gather every week to find out what comes out when we all spend five minutes writing on the same topic and then sharing ‘em over here.

Go:

2 leavesI look down at my phone just as the digits turn to the 7 minute mark. The grin that starts to spread across my cheeks so wide and bright, it actually hurts. The grin hurts. Not my feet, my legs, my 3-times-a-momma-belly or butt. I can do this. I can run. Kicking up a pile of yellow leaves from a puddle as I turn and dart across the street I make my way back past the charming North Main houses I have been running by for the past 5 weeks.

I’m 40 now. I’m not getting any younger. Or thinner. Or fitter. Or more energized. I eat my vegetables. I drink my water and take my medication. I go to work and pay my bills. I can take care of this body of mine so that I live a long life full of the privilege of cuddling the grandchildren I one day long to have and hold. It’s not about me.

And yet it is.

I wasn’t a strong swimmer. I had to take the Red Cross swim classes more than one time to pass them in the town tunneled into the upper mitten of Michigan. I wasn’t an athletic gym student. I was the last one to come up the line of the mile run every Friday of high school gym class. As a post-college grad, my well-meaning and good-living Midwestern friends were so clever to kidnap me and pay the fee so that I would be on the soccer team they loved. Each week, pulling into the parking lot of the Big Bend studio in St. Louis, I was always huffing and puffing, ever in a hurry, to settle in and relax through my yoga class at the end of the day, despite my redundant promises to be better prepared next time

I’m not competitive. I‘ve never looked forward to sweating.

But now…

That grin was the second I’ve experienced in this past month.  It brought back the squeal of excitement as I raced across the first grade school playground jumping effortlessly onto the merry-go-round joining the schoolgirl chant, “Boys push! Boys push!” The exhilaration as my hands smoothed over the ancient metal bars on the third grade playground as my friends and I wound around them in penny-drop after penny-drop. The smell and feel of the wind streaming my brown locks out behind me as I pumped the pedals of my bicycle across town to the pool each summer afternoon. That wild and free feeling of enjoying my own momentum. My own ability to fly. To be fully present in the years of my own children’s swift growth, that’s what I want to own once again. That’s what I’m after. That’s why I want to fly. That’s why I run.

Stop.

five minute friday: truth

…where a brave and beautiful bunch gather every week to find out what comes out when we all spend five minutes writing on the same topic and then sharing ‘em over here.

Go:

“NOOOOOOOOO!!!!”

Her hand reached out and slapped mine with a quick reflex reaction to my own hands reaching out to turn off the TV. We had just gotten home from work and school and I wanted everyone in the tubby to wash off the mental anxiety brought in with cold and flu season. They know the routine. This has been an expectation for years now. But still. She has to push. She has to assert. She has to insist that she doesn’t HAVE to do what I want when I want it. In my own flash of anger I smacked back at her small hand as it struck mine a second time. The moment we touched each other I felt the bewilderment of what she was feeling wash over me. I stepped back turning the TV off as I went.

“To time-out. Now. Time to cool down.”

Her voice rose in protest as big tears leaked out of her sad eyes. Her anger had flared at me in the blink of an eye. Just 5 minutes earlier she had been leaping over the piles of oak leaves in our driveway as she chattered on about how she was chosen to run for president in her first grade classroom. The time change this past week, it means it is dark and they are tired when we pull up at home each weeknight. It means we feel an urgency to get in the house and hibernate with no obligations ahead of us for the night. It means we want to eat and read books and watch TV cuddled up together on the living room couch. The order we do that in though, well it matters to me. But pretty much only to me. I want us to come home and get done the things we have to get done before we do the things we want to do. The truth is- that’s all me. The truth is- I’m not as flexible about it as the girls would like. The truth is, I have reasons why I make us do things in the order I do each night. The truth is, those reasons don’t mean much to the independent and strong-willed seven-year-old I live with. She’s spent the day, the week, the month doing what her teachers ask. And at the end of the day spent apart from Momma, she doesn’t always want to hand those reigns of independence back over. She knows she’s capable of making her own good decisions.

This give and take as she grows, it’s hard on me just as much as it’s hard on her. How to not discuss Every. Single. Living. Thing. But how to discuss enough of the things so that she knows her opinions matter. How to teach her to respect others’ authority, while not just believing everything she hears. How to know truth when she hears it and tell it from the fiction that circles her world. How to talk and how to listen.

Our anger set the baby off. She ran to me to be picked up, only to then lean in and bite my shoulder in protest. Setting her down in a second time-out spot I turned to the Quail. She with her high emotional intelligence looked at me solemnly. “Zuzu angry. “ I nodded as her sign for angry shifted to a tracing of tears down her own dry cheeks.  “Sug sad.” These weren’t questions. They were observations. Crossing my legs to sit down on the floor in front of her she leans over and wraps her arms around my neck. “My momma.”

My momma. Their momma. I hug her back and go to call the other two out of time out, turn on the water to the tub and begin again.

Stop.

five minute friday: grace

…where a brave and beautiful bunch gather every week to find out what comes out when we all spend five minutes writing on the same topic and then sharing ‘em over here.

 

Go:

The soft fleece of the blanket curled by my head being pulled out from under my cheek gets caught in my hair and I try to hide the wince of pain. Too late. The baby’s chant of momma shifts into a shriek and I open my eye a millimeter to see the red flash of the clock as it changes from 4:44 to 4:45. Just early enough to irritate me. Just late enough to wake the other girls if I ignore her request. Her third request. Anytime the first one comes before midnight I can pretty much see the future of the night without pulling out a crystal ball. We will be up again. And again. Drawing in a deeper breath I push down the frustration and lack of sleep and reach for her.

 

I need grace.

 

“NO!!!!” Her well-articulated anger pierces the otherwise quiet house and a swish of my coffee spills onto the cream carpet. I clamp my mouth shut for the moment it takes for her to throw herself on the floor in protest. “You know the routine Quail first potty, then…” I start to try again as she cuts me off with a swipe of her hand on my cheek while I’m bent  to the ground wiping up my liquid energy from the formerly cream colored carpet. I feel the heat rise in my cheeks. My anger now matching hers. I stand up, trying to not spill my coffee again as I set it on the wooden desk. This time I walk away. It’s too early to start a loud argument. And it’s too late to have a drawn out explanation for what all needs to be done in the next 15 minutes before I have to leave for work.

 

I need grace.

 

“I don’t want to wear sneakers!!! NO! NO! NO!!!!!! You don’t know anything. Ms. Young wasn’t angry at Ahlivia when she wore her sparkly shoes!!!” She kicks the sneakers I had set down in front of her minutes earlier and the bright twinkling of the lit-up toes mocks our anger as it sets off the third migraine I’ve had this week.” I start to reply with a too early life lesson about how in our house we follow the rules and it doesn’t matter what Ahlivia’s family is ok with, but her door slams before I can finish the sentence.

 

I need grace.

 

Squeezing my eyes shut I pause in the dark hallway. The Keurig presses its last drops out loudly as  Lovey’s voice appears in front of me. “Come on, you gotta go. The car is running and here, this will help.” He hands me a steel travel mug and my purse. “Drive carefully.” Just as he calls out for the girl’s to come say goodbye, their bedroom door flies open and two matching sets of bare feet come tumbling down the hall and little hands twine themselves around my legs as their voices compete with each other. Mommma. My Momma. Breathing deep I bend down to kiss their small heads and begin again.

 

Stop.

 

 

 

31 for 21: day 30: corner view: all the small things

Corner view is a weekly Wednesday gathering, originally hosted by Jane, now by Francesca. A topic is given and you can see impressions; be it photographic or writerly in form, from around the world. Come see the world’s corner view via the links on the sidebar!

View More: http://mollyflanaganphotography.pass.us/starkey-family-2013

Go:

The delicate lock of strawberry blonde hair that grew swifter than the rest and swirled on top of her sweet newborn head eventually growing to a lengthy thickness that she barely lets me run my fingers through these days. The soft arch of her eyebrows that curve delicately together over the sparkle in her deep blue almond eyes. The petite rounding of her small nose that just now at four and a half has the smallest smattering of freckles skipping across the bridge of it. The big apple cheeks that pull back wide and smooth with each grin that comes from her mouth that is a mirror image of my own. The contagious giggle that the baby has clearly caught and imitates when they are together. The practiced interpretive dance of her starfish hands as they come together in explanation of her tenacious speech approximations. And then their tight grip as they fist around my neck and pull me down to her, with soft, warm palms  as she leans her face in close, nose to nose and cupping my cheeks asks if I’m sad. The fury in her well-articulated “No Mommas” when she hears me say it’s time to brush her hair, do her bite-bites, go potty or turn off Barney. The delight in her questioning tone and gesturing hands that she puts up to her chest in a question of inclusion when I suggest we go to the park, the store, make cookies or read a book. The mischievous turn of her head back over a rounded shoulder as she lets me in on whatever rascally prank she’s gotten away with. The hesitant stomps and claps as she stands behind her sister mimicking her dance and cheer moves. The plaintive tone of her cries for, “My Momma” as she collapses in frustration on the kitchen floor when I leave the house too quickly on a weekday morning without her. The rounding of the consonants and vowels as her sister’s names rolls off her carefully positioned tongue in her seeking of them while they still sleep early each morning. The soft hum of pleasure that she unconsciously sings whenever there is bread or cookies with dinner. The persistent insistence of time for swinging the minute we get out of the car at the park. The persuasive and hopeful tones dancing on her lips as she tries to distract us from nap or bed time with a request for one more book.  The focused myopic daily search through her dresser drawers for a bit of purple to wear with her ensemble. The happy whispers as she pats the pillow next to her at nap time urging me to not just kiss her night-night but actually lay down with her. The cheer of excitement at the suggestion of just about any activity that includes all of her family as she runs to tell her sisters all about it. The firm and confident look she pierces you with as she stands her ground waiting for you to catch up to her intention.

These are all the small things that I think of when I picture her dear face througout my day.

Stop.

 

31 for 21: Day 29: pause

View More: http://mollyflanaganphotography.pass.us/starkey-family-2013

Go:

As I sit down on the little red ottoman in the girl’s room to help the Quail put her shoes on, I raise my voice in irritation for Zuzu to just get in here already. We offered to take the girls to the park and have spent the last 30 minutes gathering ourselves for what was intended to be a trip of that same amount of time just to burn off some extra energy.  Zuzu with her selective hearing is bounding through the house gathering the toys to bring along that she already knows we’ll tell her to put back. She’ll push anyways. Making sure that not bringing our inside toys to the park is indeed a rule and not just a guideline we’re likely to waver from given enough chipping away at it on her part.  As she prepares her already lawyerly defense as to why the little ponies have to come with us to the park, I interrupt her to tell her again to just put the toys down and put her shoes on. The Quail, having watched the look on my face and hearing the tone in my voice, turns from her spot on the floor and starts barking “No” to Zuzu. Clear what the rule is herself. Hearing my own gruffness reflected back through her tiny self I feel my cheeks heat up with embarrassment. Looking out over the Quail’s head into the dark hall I see Zuzu finally rummaging through the box for something with velcro just as Sugarplum toddles in to the bedroom, shoes in hand and plops down just about on top of the Quail.

“Shoe.”

The Quail repeats the word, now with as gentle a voice as the look she reads off of my face at the sight of the baby and starts to pull away from me to “help” her as I manage to press her own straps closed. Sugarplum shrieking at the Quail’s advances has apparently forgotten that she chose to sit so close to her oh, so helpful sister. Running away before the baby’s tiny hand can land in protest on her, the older girls start to dance around each other lit up by the twinkling of Zuzu’s fluorescent toes. The Quail starts pulling Zuzu’s arm away from the pile of pony’s to where the coats lay on the ground, urging her to finish getting ready in her own way.

I pull Sugarplum up into my lap and lean in to smell her freshly diapered self. That pause is enough to bring me back down. That warm, compliant, sugar sack weight of a baby on my lap with her little blonde wisps springing out of the tiny plastic heart barrette is enough to deflate my previous irritation. To remind me to look for the intention behind their actions, not just at each action. Last year when I would drop the Quail off at school I would ask how she was doing and hear examples of how she was always trying to tell the other children what to do. She was bothered when someone else wasn’t doing their work or following directions. They would frequently have to remind her to only worry about herself. It was usually told in the form a seemingly good-natured story.  Come the final IEP of the year though, those same tales were told with a decidedly different tone. They were explained to us as examples of her easy distraction, her being too hands-on with the other children. They were seen as problems.  Reasons why she shouldn’t be around the other “typical” children. This year though when I check in with the teacher what I’m told is what a good classmate the Quail is. How she takes care of anyone who is sad or hurt. She’s seen as nurturing and popular with her friends. How they love that about her and wish all the children were adjusting as well as she is.

I reach around and find Sugarplum’s tickle spot as she pulls away from me giggling then leans back in raising her arm imperceptibly for more tickles. Now smiling I repeat the word, “Shoe” waiting for her to parrot it back before strapping it on to her small foot. Setting her down the red shoes squeak with each toddle as she takes off out of the room hollering her sister’s names trying to catch up to them.

Turning off the light I head out to the car. Ready to move on.

Stop.