Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Weekend

Sounded like:  Little girls shrieking, boats on the lake, soft rain on the roof overnight, guitar, babbling brook, Billy Joel in the car.

Smelled like:  woodsmoke, apple blossoms, sunscreen, chocolate.

Felt like:  bubble baths, running with gravel underfoot, pages turning, buttery corn cobs, holding hands.

Tasted like:  ribs, goat cheese, Arnold Palmers, cold beer, ice cream.

Looked like:

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Good Things, May 2011

  • A giant bunch of lilacs on my dining room table.
  • The happy return of the favorite babysitter, home from college for the summer
  • Relatedly, an impromptu date night of Thai food and beers outside at The Meanwhile just in the nick of time, after a few long weeks of too much communication-by-text-message and falling-asleep-on-the-couch-without-talking-at-all.
  • Watching the Last! Episode! Ever! of Oprah yesterday, wine in hand, friends sniffling right alongside me while we bribed our kids to stay in the basement with popsicles.  It's been YEARS since I've watched the show regularly, but I'll always carry with me her message that everyone just wants to be seen and heard, as well as a single episode I saw with Tracy Gold in 2004 or 2005 that has effectively prevented me from ever driving while even the teeniest, tiniest, only-had-two-glasses-of-wine way ever since.
  • Jemma's preschool teacher's prediction at her last-day-of-school picnic (WAH!) that she will read Jemma's name in the paper someday for academic excellence, which does help my fear that it is not normal for her to still be asking things like, "Is it yesterday?" and "When is it lunch time?" at 7:00 p.m.
  • Portfolio Night at Annie's school, wherein she proudly showed me just how far she has come this year in first grade by way of drastically improved writing samples, amazingly creative art projects, increasingly complex math skills, and an actual PowerPoint presentation that she and a partner created themselves, complete with animal classification and corresponding pictures.
  • The garden, freshly tilled and ready to plant tomorrow (if it would only STOP RAINING).
  • An actual close date on the South Haven house (!) and subsequent Big Dreams about a family cottage in our future.
  • Celebrating my dad's 65th birthday tonight with a family dinner.
  • Plans to see cousins this weekend.
  • The outdoor pool opening in two short days!

Saturday, May 21, 2011


In case you're wondering when your little girl starts to seem less like a little girl and more like a small version of the teenager and young woman she's going to be become, the answer is first grade.

Kindergarten did little to taint her innocence; even at the end of last year, she was still wholly ours, still wrapped in the bubble of the shows we'd let her watch and the music we let her hear and the stories we'd told her ourselves.  When school is only three hours a day with just one recess, the peer group doesn't hold much sway.

One year later, though, we have an independent little person on our hands.  For one thing, she can read absolutely everything, so billboards, newspaper headlines, and news tickers crawling across the bottom of the television are all fair game for questions.  She wants to know about earthquakes and cancer, God and charities for local hungry kids, tennis and divorce.

She has her first crush (on her friend's big brother, no less).  We don't call it that, per se - don't even talk about it in front of her, really - but that's what it is.  There's giggling in his presence, reporting that he gave her a high-five on the playground, and confiding, "B is weird.  In a good way."  I find her yearbook splayed open to his picture on her bed, and I want to sigh that first grade is Far Too Young for an honest-to-goodness crush, but then I remember jokingly trying to tackle a boy from behind while waiting in line for the drinking fountain in first grade, my own awkward ways of trying to get his attention, the list I kept in my diary of the cutest boys in the class.  In my first grade world, girls chased boys on the playground, and she does that, too.

She goes home from school with friends or has friends come over, and there is music in the bedroom and whispered secrets.  She knows, somehow, which songs Justin Bieber sings even though we own zero of his music.  She plays math games on the computer with no help from us at all.  She can count change at her lemonade stand.  She cares what her hair looks like when she goes to a birthday party.  She has lost another tooth.  She paints her own nails.

There are things she doesn't want to tell me, things that she writes in her diary or just plain refuses to talk about when I ask.  I'll ask what I think is an innocent, chatty question about a friend at school or who she talked to at lunch, and she'll say, "Moooo-ooooom."  Two syllables, and never 'Mommy,' anymore.  So I have to wonder what she's doing, saying, thinking when she's not with us.

I drove yesterday for her class field trip to the zoo, wearing my khaki shorts, my sensible closed-toe shoes, and my school name tag - feeling for all the world like the stereotypical suburban class mom.  While we were still at school, waiting for all the kids to use the bathroom and wash their hands before the caravan drove to the zoo, another mom/driver who I don't know well sidled up to me.

"I have to tell you," she said, "when C got his yearbook, he drew a heart around Annie's picture in it.  He said, 'Mom, she's just the prettiest, nicest girl in the whole class.'"

There are only three weeks left of first grade, and she's not wholly ours anymore.  She's leaving us, bit by bit, because that's what children do.  But we think she's turning out pretty great.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Two Conversations in the Car

Driving to Jason's office with both girls in the car:

A:  How much longer until we get there?
Me:  Only two more minutes!


A:   . . . fifty-nine, sixty!  That's one minute!  One, two, three . . .
Me:  Uh, well, about two minutes.
A:  You didn't say about!  You said two!
Me:  I know.  But there are stoplights.  See?  We're at a red light now.
A:  I'll pause.


Driving down Wealthy Street with Jemma:

J:  Why is the road so bumpy here?
Me:  Well, it's made of bricks.  Isn't that cool?
J:  Why is it made of bumpy bricks?
Me:  A long time ago, roads were always made of dirt, when there were more horses than cars.  Then people started to use hard things to make the roads, and one of the things they used was bricks.  Most roads are made of hard, smooth things now.
J:  Oh.

*one minute of silence, followed by Jemma's laughter*

Me:  What?
J, still laughing happily:  I was just thinking, What if the road was made OF BANANAS???!!!!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Things I Have Been Doing Instead of Blogging

Watching spring dance recitals;

trying to get the girls to stop raiding the piles of garage-sale items;

celebrating a beautiful, happy Mother's Day with breakfast in Saugatuck, a hike in the dunes, and time on the beach finding ladybugs;

seeing the tulips in Holland with my parents;

watching a thunderstorm roll in just before bedtime and reading stories on the front stoop;

getting ready for the garage sale; sobbing by myself upstairs; having the garage sale;

watching technology and pop culture collide in the scene below, where Jemma was talking on the phone "to Sleeping Beauty" and Annie was "downloading a Justin Bieber song on my laptop."

Thursday, May 5, 2011


Jason and I spent part of Saturday afternoon going through an inordinate amount of junk in the basement in preparation for our upcoming garage sale.  Because Jason has pack-rat tendencies and I have the procrastinator's philosophy of "Don't do it at all until you can do it right," and because both sets of our own parents dumped boxes of our childhood things on us soon after we settled into this home, there was a lot to go through.

A small sampling of interesting things I found:

  • My batons (yes, there were two) from my days of middle-school band-nerd baton-twirliness, which I had to immediately demo for the girls, finger-twirling and fancy throwing and all.
  • The yearbook from my senior year in high school, containing much photo evidence that I was still rocking much-curled and much-Aqua-Netted bangs even in 1995.  (Too late, Stephanie.  Far too late.)
  • An old journal I kept from 1992, in which I apparently decided that it would be cool to begin each entry with "Dear Ashleigh," instead of just "Dear Diary." (I hope it is clear here that I did not actually KNOW anyone named Ashely, or "Ashleigh.")
  • One of my dog's teeth.
  • A jewelry box full of giant, geometric, gold earrings.
  • The saddest, ugliest, most stretched-out collection of maternity underwear and nursing bras ever.
  • A box containing all my folders and notes from college, including the twenty-page Worldview Paper called "Finding Satisfaction in Everydayness" I wrote at the end of my Senior Seminar, which I read through and which I still mostly agree with.
  • A box containing some of my folders and notes from high school, most notably papers I wrote in AP Biology and Chemistry with titles like "Characteristics of Epinephrine and Norepinephrine," dissection notes from my fetal pig, a study guide I made myself before a Pre-Calculus exam that had equations on it approximately like "(n+1) (n-1)! = 2n(n)," and other indecipherable bullshit that I literally don't even remember my own brain knowing.
  • My cassette tape collection, which involved a lot of Debbie Gibson, Salt N Pepa, En Vogue, Whitney Houston, Garth Brooks, Wham!, Michael W. Smith, and mix-tapes that I made straight off the radio with a little bit of Casey Kasem's voice at the beginning of each song.
  • The notecards with the written text of the speech I gave at my high school graduation.
Jason and I took our time paging through stuff, laughing, remembering, and then we threw almost all of it away.  It felt good to recycle boxes and boxes of things that we don't truly need or use, and the basement looks bigger and brighter without all that junk.  I'm not sad to see it go, because I have the important memories tucked away.  But I am a little sad to think about all the things I used to know and be and do that are completely lost.  I used to know the periodic table!  I used to speak in front of stadiums full of people!  I used to write properly-annotated twenty-page papers!  I used to play the piano and clarinet in Solo & Ensemble competitions and march, twirling my baton, in the band as it moved down Main Street.  I used to wear sorority letters, then nursing bras.  I used to teach kids to read and coach girls' track!  And none of those skills or roles are a part of my life any more.

It's an awkward time in my life, right now.  The girls are growing more independent each day.  "One, two, skip a few, ninety-nine, a hundred!" Annie sings from the bathtub, and I remember singing that same song and feeling oh-so-clever about it years ago.  I see how this is all going to go by faster and faster, how already their need for me is less urgent or frequent than it was even a year ago.  Next year, Jemma will be at school four mornings a week, then in kindergarten the year after that, and then both girls will be gone from 8:00 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. every day.  There is time, now, where there didn't used to be time, and I am not sure how to fill it.

So I stand in the basement, lazily twirling the old silver baton with the white rubber star-shaped ends, surrounded by the artifacts from the person I used to be ten or fifteen years ago, and I wonder who I am going to be next.  One, two, skip a few, ninety-nine, a hundred.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Life List: Publish a Poem

Today I got an email that began like so:

Dear Stephanie,

We thoroughly enjoyed your poems “Her Hands” and “Cinderella,” which eloquently identify meaning in small flashes of quotidian life. I’m pleased to inform you that they will be published in the forthcoming Bear River Review.

They're pleased to inform me; I'm pleased to be informed:  everyone is pleased!

Neither has been previously published, though I did post "Cinderella" here shortly after I wrote it last June (scroll down; it's at the end of that post).  "Her Hands" is about my maternal grandmother.  She's no longer able to remember much, so I am glad that a little piece of her is going to be published for posterity.  I think I'll wait and link to it when the publication comes out.  

Also:  TWO poems!  Take that, Life List!