All she wants to do is dance

I came home from a Target trip with this tutu swimsuit for Bella. I anticipated that she'd be a dancerbug when we put it on her.

I didn't anticipate that she'd demand to wear it immediately and then never want to take it off. I also didn't anticipate that she'd force us to play Bobby da Nutcwackah on repeat. Suffice it to say, the swimsuit is going into hiding very, very soon.

Who needs magic shoes when you have a magic tutu? Especially one that you just can't stand still in.

Even when you try extra hard and even lean back against the couch to help curb the desire to dance, dance, dance...

Until you're so worn out you just have to crash out somewhere.

Until the need to dance wells up again, and you're off.

Honestly? I love it.

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QOTD: On Wednesday

I left my house at 4:45 pm yesterday to pick up my friend, my mom, and my mom's friend and make our way two counties over to see The Color Purple (which was fantastic). I didn't get home until 12:45 am and wasn't asleep until 1:30 am.

Hence, I was seriously dragging this morning. At what felt ridiculously early but was really 8 am, I opened my eyes and there was a big girl moon face one centimeter from my nose. I have no idea how long she had been there, but she was just staring at me. I jerked back and she said, "Hey mama! I got my Wensnay!"

Me: Your what?
Bella: My Wensnay! WENSNAY!

I decided to leave it alone and just began the process of getting us both out the door and to her school in time. Every time I'd try to move her along (let's get dressed, hold still so I can fix your hair, yes you have to brush your teeth), she'd say "I sure do yub my Wensnay!"

Finally we were ready to go. I was buckling her into her car seat when it came to a head.

Bella: You yike my wensnay, mom?

Me: Honey, I don't know what your wensnay is.

Bella: No. My WENSNAY.

Me: Your Wednesday?

Bella: Yep. I yub it.

Me: Today is Wednesday. You love today?

Bella: No, not today! My wensnay. It my favowite.

Me: Where is your Wednesday?

And that child. That child of mine. Totally pointed at her vagina, which we call her 'china' and which she's been obsessed with lately ... to the point that the Mountain Man has threatened to put it in a box and lock it in a closet.

She pointed at it said, "My daddy told me I gotta pud away my 'shynah, so I callin dis my wensnay!"

Lord help us.

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10 Questions

This weekend was filled with the farmer's market (where I was sad to learn our area is out of strawberries), children playing in the town fountain, birthday parties, dinners away (which meant I actually got to enjoy someone cooking for me), and chicken coop building (okay, only the Mountain Man did that one).

And yet none of this inspires a blog post. Not a single one. Which means I'll fulfill my duties as a blogosphere participant and finally take care of some memes and awards. You have been warned.


First up, my friend Cheri tagged me with these questions:

What is your happy color? Red-Orange! (Not to be confused with Tennessee Vols' orange.) I used to have the most amazing orange sundress that I wore with brown clogs as I stomped my way around Boston in grad school. That dress brought amazing amounts of attention. I happen to believe that was because it matched my aura so well. Someone stole that dress out of a bath house at the lake a few years back. Completely broke my heart.

What one product could you live without but wouldn't want to? I'm going with Palmer's Cocoa Butter in the big stick. I used to carry chapstick in every pocket, but now I'm a Palmer's girl. Bella loves it as well and often has a Palmer's ring around the lower half of her face.

What is your guilty pleasure? Some people read celebrity mags or trash tv. I stalk. I have to keep myself from spending too much time checking Twitter streams and Facebook statuses for old friends and lovers. I can also pull a mean Google and know way too much about people who don't really matter anymore.

If you could travel anyplace in the world, where would you want to go and why? This doesn't sound glamorous, but given the opportunity, I would love to take my family (nephews included) to San Francisco to meet my grandmother. I haven't seen her since I was a young teen and the great grandchildren have never met her at all (and one of them will be 15 this year). I'd love to find a way to afford the trip and necessary lodging for all of us.

Favorite t.v. show? I watch too much tv and freely admit it. I love the good reality shows: Top Chef, Project Runway, Intervention, Hoarders, etc. Also am a huge Gleek and literally laugh out loud at Modern Family. I'm sad that Lost is over and really hope Grey's can live up to its finale. I stumbled on 9 by Design this weekend and love it! I can't wait for Flipped Out to come back on. That's another one that makes me laugh loudly (and I agree with Jeff regarding Ryan. Just fyi).

You have 24 hours of free time with no expectations, no work, no cleaning, no fixing meals, just free time. How will you spend it? This is so, so wrong, but first I'd try to finally catch up on all the unread blog posts in my reader. Then I'd go to Target (because it's an hour away and the kids usually beg for everything they see, so we normally stay away). After that, I'd go chill with friends by the pool and have a luxurious and carefree picnic. Yes, I'm boring and I know it.

You are being given the gift of one super-power. What super-power do you choose and why? I would choose invisibility. You can get so much accomplished when people can't see you coming and don't know when you're there.

Favorite quote? Right now it's, "Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves," which is from The Four Agreements, a book that saved my life. My mantra is, "It's not my business what other people think of me," which I first read in Codependent No More.

Describe one of your funniest/silliest/most embarrassing moments? I fall. A lot. Each and every one of my most embarrassing moments also happens to be my funniest and silliest because I'd fall in some humiliating way in front of a chorus of people and have no choice but to laugh at myself. I mean, what else was I going to do? Here's another quote, "You have to laugh at yourself because you'd cry your eyes out if you didn't," Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls.

Optimist or Pessimist? Be honest. I'm a total optimist. I'm a skeptic but that's because I choose to see the practical side of things, but even when I'm doubtful, I still hope for the best possible outcome. And I can find some super-silver linings in the darkest of clouds. That's a gift.

I'd love to hear everyone's answers to these questions, so let me know when you get around to it!


Next up, my friend Janine and her Sunshine award. I've done this one before, so I'm going to take the cheaters way out and link it up. Hey, I'm saving someone some precious time here!


Lastly, my friend Dolly has shown her appreciation for my content's honesty and perspective with the Blog Monster award.
Those given this award "aren't afraid to take a bite" out of life. Thank you so much lady!

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They've hatched!
Is it wrong to want to name them? I tried to get a better picture but a certain mama thrasher came running out from under our deck and attacked my feet. I told the Mountain Man I totally understand what it feels like to brave the wilds of Africa for a rare animal sighting. He said, "Of course you do."

Also, yesterday was our 4th wedding anniversary and 8th dativersary. I realized we moved in together approximately 1 month into our relationship and American Idol started about a month later. I had never made that connection before. (And, yes, I watch too much tv). However, I'm rectifying that situation thanks to a certain novelist.

And, my kid scored 4.0s on his EOGs!!! Dude. That deserves another set of !!! I am so proud of him, and his teachers, for working so diligently over the past few months. Please excuse me why I yell a big ol' SUCK IT to ADHD.

!!! for Friday!

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My voice vs those in my head

I am doing this thing. This thing called vlogging. I'm doing it to be brave and because I've thinking about it for awhile. And because Sarah will do it and that seems brave.

I did it knowing that I critique and criticize my voice, my hair, my face, my wrinkly forehead, my squinty eyes, my cheeks, the way I move my mouth when I speak, the words I stumble over trying to seem like I'm not scared out of my mind.

And I'm posting it anyway. Because Five for Ten is over and I've learned so much about courage and happiness and memory and lust and yes. I feel so blessed to have been a part this second round. And I'm ready for Conalom (Momalonf? Party5410?).

Why do I feel like if I can do this, I can do anything?

You know what would be wonderful? If we all made a 5 for 10 vlog. At least then I'd feel less ... naked.

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Saying no

I was a YES person. I said it loudly, both with shame and without, in exuberant and quiet ways, my entire life.

In all the wrong ways.

Yes to little boys who wanted to see beneath my clothing. Yes to the guilt and pain of adults whose lives weren't going the way they'd dreamed. Yes to fumbling teenage boys who wanted to explore and exploit my body, which blossomed with womanly curves while I was still a child. Yes to the burden of strangers and family. Yes to the anxiety and shame and fear of other people's mistakes. Yes to anyone who promised, pretended, to love me.

Yes in perilous and broken ways. With trembling and falsely confident steps.

Until I learned to say no. Until some crucial component of my core broke free and knocked around inside my body until it settled in my heart and mind. That struggling little revelation opened me up to my truth. And my truth is that my body is mine and should only be used in ways that make me happier, my decisions and beliefs are mine and should never be used to validate or invalidate someone else's choices, and my heart -- that valuable and broken center -- deserves nothing but honesty and protection from those who surround it.

And so I am a No person.

I say no in proud and confident ways, heart singing and hands open to those around me. I say no to shame and guilt and fear -- the kind others try to place on me and the kind I try to place on myself. I speak and act with intentions that are true and loving.

When I throw my head back and bask in my husband kneeling in front of me, his kisses praising each stretch mark etched into my soft belly that cupped and protected his daughter.

When I resist the deep training to rush in and fix, overlook, make better, the consequences of someone else's reckless and irresponsible decisions.

When I stare into my own eyes in the mirror without flinching and see nothing but my own admirable, amazing, and authentic self, a self that was almost crushed under the weight of those long years of yes.

When I open my mouth and say yes, yes, yes to all the feelings and actions that fill me with light and hope: blowing bubbles with my wolfgirl, watching my sweet boy canon ball into crystal blue water, opening myself to my husband's strong body at the end of an averagely hectic day, the sun on my skin as I float through the morning after...

To these and more, I will always say Yes.


**This post is part of Five for Ten, where we're giving each other five minutes a day for ten days. Won't you join us?**

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Inside All of Us is a Wild Thing

My smart and creative son (who is currently taking his very first EOG) had a piece of pottery in our school district's Cultural Arts Festival. Despite no air conditioning in the pre-war gymnasium of the local high school, we enjoyed perusing all the colorful and interesting works from students of all grade levels.

Most especially, we loved this guy:

And we love this guy who really loved that guy:

But all the interesting pieces couldn't distract this girl:

Who cried and whined and freaked out over this door:

Because, apparently, that's where a wild wolf lives. Little does she realize, there's a wolf inside all of us. I can see it in the haggard expression on the face jug, the Mountain Man's shoulders pulled up to his ears and his eyes scouting the exit, and my perilous levels of patience.

One day, she may see the truth of herself, of us all, in art like this:

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Three Lovers

You, the beautiful myth, distant and shimmering,
you join me as his constant lover, see me curve into
and against him, my calves meeting at the small
of his back, my fingers contrasting brown
against his pale skin.

You and I, a tangle of sheets and jealousy
and painful desire for the same man. Yet, here,
with only your fantasy to soothe me,
I ask if my tongue could desire a nipple
other than yours, would it stand the salt
of any other skin?

There is a question in the imprint my lips left
just above the soft line where your hair kisses
his smooth belly when you glide up and over him.
Do you know that when his strong fingers slide
into me, it is your moist warmth he feels, your swollen
mouth that opens on the deep moan?

As he moves further into me, he comes infinitely closer
to your glorious depth. And as my dark lips take his length,
it is only your taste I swallow. Your body is a luscious
and lasting dream as my thick thighs straddle him,
my breasts full and soft casting shadows against the sheets
and his eyes squeezed shut.

Each time I arch, hair like water falling away
from my face, eyes black, mouth dry and gasping,
I conjure your clasping hands and heaving breasts
as I rise and rise and rise until
it is your name we scream.


**This post is part of Five for Ten, where we're giving each other five minutes a day for ten days. Won't you join us?**

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Every night was the same: boys and drinks and going too far. Always waking up with heavy head and a sick stomach. My roommate and I stretching our tired bodies into the memory of the night's debauchery, smiling with satisfaction and licking our lips at the thought of the next daring night.

But then the phone rang one morning and the conversation ripped me into the present: Your sister is pregnant. She's decided not to keep the baby. He'll be born in two weeks, but she didn't want any of us to know. What are we going to do?

I promised to think about it and disconnected the call, letting the phone drop as I rolled over and went back to my life.


Quickly, every conversation turns to the baby. The baby she's not keeping. The baby she doesn't want.

I know from the edge in my mother's voice as she calls again and again that I'm supposed to fix this, to make it right -- for her, for my sister, for that unborn child who they say will be a girl. But I can't quite figure out how. I turn it over and over, run through theories with my roommate who is closer to me than family.

I am afraid to say aloud the only solution that seems right for everyone. Everyone except me, and possibly my sister.


Finally, I call my sister for the first time in more than a year. I cry and press against her resolve with lies and guilt: I cannot bear my own children. I've always wanted a child. If you do this for me, all the other stuff won't matter.

She tries to put up a wall. She talks about the family she's chosen for the child and that she never wants to see the baby again once its born, or she'll never be able to follow through. But I am a gale-force wind battering against her defenses. Please. Please give me this gift, I say through tears.

I don't know whether my sobs are from joy or sadness as I feel her giving in. An hour later I am booked on a flight home, knowing that there's no turning back.


My sister picks me up from the airport. I try to make small talk with her, but we are like skittish birds, flying close and then soaring away, never coming close enough for a real conversation.

The car ride to my mother's house is tense and music-filled. We move in wide circles for the next two weeks as her due date marches past us and I begin to believe the baby will never come.

The southern December air is both crisp and mild, yet my chest is always tight as I struggle for deep, cleansing breaths.


The call comes in the middle of the day. She's in labor and headed for the hospital. She says you can be in the delivery room if you want. She'll call you when the baby's born if you aren't there. 

One hand holds her leg up and out, the other holds her hand. She stops breathing and the nurses call out for oxygen. She fades in and out as pain washes over her. Hours pass. A new doctor comes in, reaches inside of her while saying something about sunny side up. I am focused on my pale sister, who is too weak to push.

Suddenly the baby is crowning. An eternity passes in a flash and they are whisking the baby to a heater. I hesitate, unsure of where I belong. The doctor exclaims, You have a boy! Disoriented, I look to my sister for guidance.

She yells out the name I'd chosen if the baby happened to be born a boy. I move slowly away from her and toward my son.


She leaves the hospital as soon as she's able. I build a nest in the waiting room so that I can stay with my baby boy for the two days he must remain in the hospital.

The daytime labor and delivery staff treat me like trash and make a point of making it uncomfortable for me to feed and care for my son. The nighttime staff reminds me that I am strong and that it's going to be okay. I take visitors, lighting up with pride each time someone exclaims over my boy's perfect body and smooshed face.

I feel something pure growing inside of me.


When we are discharged, my sister is there to drive us home.

She doesn't look at my son, the rage rolls off her in waves. I am afraid so I ride in the back with the car seat. She whips around curves and brakes too hard. She watches me from the rear view mirror.

In a too-quiet voice, she lets me know that if she drove off the road, she'd kill us all.


I mentally count down the days until our flight away from her.

She disappears for days at a time as I struggle to get my son to sleep and eat. I wonder why she's mad at me when she's the one who decided to give away her child.

When I leave, I make no contact with her. Six months later, I am back in the South -- this time for good.


The half-year's time has allowed the rage to mellow into a quiet seething. My sister tap dances around us, trying to never be alone with us. I need her help and finally ask for it. She comes to us slowly and I have the urge to hide.

She takes my sweet chunky boy into her arms. Nuzzles his cheek. Coos down at him as he reaches for her face. I am forgotten as she turns away and finds a quiet spot to sit with him. Fear bubbles up in me as I watch her bond with him, but I stamp it down and leave them alone.

The days turn into months and years. She becomes Nahnee instead of Auntie. She spends time alone with him, introduces him to her oldest son. We are with her when she delivers a third child only 14 months from the second. We give her cards and flowers on Mother's day, thank her for being brave and strong and selfless.


He is nine years old and knows that his Nahnee carried him in her tummy. He loves that he has two brothers, feels special to have so many families when most only have one.

But then it happens. She drags him into her destructive patterns. Looks him in the eyes and says You can never tell. This is our secret. Your parents will be mad at us if you tell. My son inevitably spills the secret he should never have been asked to keep.

My tiny family closes to her.


Mother's day comes and I have to resist the urge to reach out to her. My heart is heavy as I explain to the son she gave me that we will not be seeing her or talking to her today.

His eyes are large and sad. I think back to her anger and hurt in the days after his birth and wonder how much time we'll need to heal this wound. I say a silent prayer of gratitude for her gift so many years ago and turn to comfort my son. I let the memory of her holding him for the first time wash over me.

I imagine I am holding him with both his mothers' hands as we sit quietly together, letting the time pass.


**This post is part of Five for Ten, where we're giving each other five minutes a day for ten days. Won't you join us?**

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Fowl Confession

Remember how I hate birds? Well ... not only did I get a cardinal, I got a whole family of them.

I can recognize their weird squeak-chirps without ever laying eyes on them and I've researched what food they prefer (sunflower seeds and shells). At dinner time, the whole family sits quietly and waits for the squeak-chirp to come. Then we sit in awe of the skittish red bird gracing us with its presence. Unfortunately, I've yet to get a good photo of any of them. Just turning on my camera startles them.

With the cardinals have come chickadees, tufted titmice, nuthatches, and robins. And one other bird that I'd never really noticed until we discovered a complicated, dense nest in a bush next to our back deck. The bird protecting it was slightly different from the others -- it was a duller brown color and had wide, piercing eyes.

After much research, turns out this is a brown thrasher. A bird I'd never even heard of, but which is one of the more populous birds in our region. Known for fading into the background, the brown thrasher is sort of the middle child of birds. Perhaps that's why it has snagged a piece of our hearts. We check on the nest daily and have moved food closer to it.

Then yesterday we were fascinated to realize there are two birds. (Obviously we are totally clueless about bird culture because we assumed the mama was a single parent struggling all by her lonesome with her clutch of babies.) A mama and a daddy, tag teaming their speckled brown eggs, one coming as the other goes, both focused solely on these babies.

No wonder we feel so connected to them. I am on the lookout for brown thrashers now. I know they're out there, sitting back and giving the limelight to the flashy red cardinals, assertive blue jays, and adorable little chickadees. But they, like me (and every other middle child), deserve recognition and admiration for their contribution to the show.

And I am way too excited for those little babies to emerge from their shells and fill our tiny back yard world with their cries. Is it weird to feel like they're my babies, too? (You don't have to answer that.)

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Capturing Happiness

For years, I've chased happiness, wished for it, envied those who seem to have it. But then something inside of me shifted, settled, and I stopped the chase. Happiness isn't a thing I can hold onto with both grasping hands; it's a choice, a decision, a step forward in faith rather than one backward in fear.

Yesterday, I was in tears over something I couldn't control. I felt powerless. And then Javi kept asking me which word rhymes with "sour" -- "fow-er" or "ow-or." I was crying and distracted, but he pursued an answer. Finally, I looked at him and said, "Fow-er? How do you spell that?" He brought me his paper and I saw it: Four. The child was so wrapped up in choosing the right o-u word to rhyme with sour that he read "four" as "fow-er."

I laughed like I hadn't laughed in days. Long and hard and with my whole body. He laughed, too, with humility and grace. I chose happiness, then. I made the decision to soak in the "fow-er" and reject the helpless, hapless anger and disappointment.

We hugged as the laughter began to subside and my big boy said, "I just can't believe I did that." And I said back to him, "I think it's fantastic. We'll make it our code word for when we need to remember the good stuff."

Happiness. A word, a touch, a glance, a feeling. A choice we make in both the light and the dark. A decision to know and love and trust even when it hurts. He and his sister are a lifeline to mine.

**This post is part of Wordful Wednesdays and Five for Ten, where we're giving each other five minutes a day for ten days. Won't you join us?**

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Lazy Sundays

Yesterday was quiet and beautiful. I spent the day in the company of my children -- one young, one younger -- who love me unconditionally. They committed their whole hearts and day to showering me with love. What a day it was. I'm starting a movement to make every day as bright and beautiful. Here's a recap:

Bella and my mama singing "yummy, yummy, I have love in my tummy."

Javi and his big brother/cousin/who-he-wants-to-be-when-grows-up Matt:

My mama and her grandbabies (minus youngest grandson E):

Bella loving the tiny Chihuahua that now lives at my mama's house:

Bella with her little hand tucked into E's as he walked back with us:

Sweet little fledgling plants sowed into soil (and Bella who won't stay away from the tomatoes):

New life living quietly (for now) in a bush beside our deck:

Zinnias and honeysuckle from my children:

We had a glorious day. I hope you did, too.

**This post is part of the 30-minute blog challenge.**

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For my mama

I didn't post on Mother's Day because I was busy being a mother and a daughter. However, it's been brought to my attention that some people in this world believe that I believe my mother did it wrong, that she failed at parenting my sisters and I, that I actively work to not be the kind of mother she was (is).

Example A: This sentence in my previous post: "I had to do what my mom didn't know how to do, and what I have spent a lifetime trying to learn." For those who don't participate in my circle of writerly friends, I suppose this sentence could be read to mean that my mother was inadequate. I am very angry with this interpretation of my words, but I will allow that if taken out of context, it could be read that way.

My explanation: I was (am) a fearful person. As a child, I shrank back in social situations. I sucked my thumb and sat in the corner. I refused to speak in public. I never went anywhere alone. I deferred to my sisters, hid behind my friends, kept my head down when walking into a room. I never learned to ride a bike because I was afraid of falling. Fear. It ruled me. To an extent, it still does. I must coach and bolster myself in every situation and remind myself that the world will not end if ... someone doesn't like me, I say something dumb, I fail at a project, etc.

Another mother might have pushed and cajoled me into facing all of those fears. She might have forced me through doors and propelled me into situations where I'd be forced to use my voice and speak up for myself. But the mother God gave me was gentler than that. She finger curled my hair and allowed me to sit quietly in her lap. When I was too old for that, she offered me situations that would allow me to build up my courage, but she never pushed me out of the nest. Instead, she gave me opportunities to test my wings. And when I was ready, I used them on my own.

I am cautious about how protective I am of my children because I don't want them to live every day afraid, the way I have. I worry constantly that I will crush their beautiful spirits with the weight of my own insecurities. I don't know whether my mother had that fear. I think what she always wanted was for me to feel safe and loved. She did that. My job is to find a balance between them knowing they are safe and me allowing them to be free.

My fears or worries about how I parent aren't about my mother. I am not parenting in contrast to her. In fact, I see so much of my mother in how I protect and nurture my children. She is the only parent I ever knew, and she taught me so much about how to sacrifice and support those you love. When I have to decide what kind of mother to be, I don't think about my mother because she is so much a part of me.

What I think about is the version of me I want to influence them most. Do I want them to see the scared, fearful, afraid-to-fail version of me that I still struggle with? No. God, no. I want them to see the version of me that lets them take risks, that pushes them gently and allows them to push themselves, that closes her eyes and sends up a prayer but doesn't hold them back from doing something that I would never have the courage to do.

My life isn't about my mother. It's about me. Me finding myself and giving the best parts of me to my children and my husband. Whether they know it now or not, the best parts of me are parts that were shaped by my Mama. And I can only say that in so many ways.

My example: I entered a contest for Mother's day. The contest rules were to write what makes your mother special in 100 words or less. This was my entry:
My mother embodies the word love, but I didn’t understand that until she handed me her dog-eared copy of The Color Purple, which I’d been trying to sneak for days. She had drawn through every inappropriate word until the book was safe for my young eyes. Since then, I’ve seen hundreds more examples of her love and support for those around her — her family, her community, her special-needs students, the customers at her part-time job. My mother is a beacon of light for everyone who knows her and we are all better for having her magnificent spirit in our lives.
That's my Mama. That's the Grandma my children love so much. That's the woman who tried so hard to both love and protect me. And when people think about my relationship with her, it's what I hope they can finally understand. I am still angry with those who twist my words or who want to use them against my mom, but I feel better having said my piece.

And you know what helps? I won that contest. My mother now has four tickets to see The Color Purple on stage. That will be a full-circle moment for me, and hopefully for her as well. It is part of my hope that she'll know what her sacrifice and love and tenacity means to me, that she'll see herself in how I parent my children, and that she'll know how unbelievably proud of her I am.

I didn't say it here yesterday, so I'll say it now: Happy Mother's Day, mama. We love you.

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My Fearful Heart

I am sitting quietly this morning, still reveling in the magic of my beautiful mother's day and treasuring the lesson taught to me by my little wolf-girl last night as we set off -- she and Javi on wheels, me on foot -- to squeeze just a little more delight out of a lazy Sunday.

Bella was a ball of nerves and jealousy as Javi kept riding far ahead of us. She would yell out to him at regular intervals, "Javi, come back here with us! You get back here!" Her plump, brown legs couldn't move fast enough to keep up with him, and wouldn't give in to my constant encouragement that she was doing a great job even at her slower pace. And so I knew when I saw Javi ride to the top of a neighbor's steep driveway, perch at the top of it and then rocket down it, that my fearless girl would demand to do the same.

She watched him do it again and again as we slowly made our way to the bottom of that small hill. She gave me her wolf-heart smile as she climbed off her trike and pushed it slowly up the concrete driveway. I watched her with my fearful heart sitting in my throat. The reasons to stop her and endure the tantrum were many: she's still a baby, her trike too unstable, the hill too high, the terrain too rocky... And yet there was her brave face,  the sure set of her shoulders, the bright confidence in her eyes. I did the only thing I knew to do -- I bit down on my fear and watch her push off, hair flying as she whipped down the incline.

Nearly halfway down, she let gravity take over. She threw her arms out and lifted her feet off the pedals, her body alive and fearless as her trike cut through the air. Just as I began releasing the stress and fear, just as I began to revel in her magnificent spirit, her front wheel hit a rock and the trike careened off course. The momentum caused her to fly slightly out of her seat, which sent her trike into a tumble. Suddenly she was skidding on the concrete and the trike was on top of her.

In a fluid arc of motion, I raced to her. There was no sound as I pulled her off the trike and into my arms. I could feel her heart thud, and the rocks and dirt crunch under my feet, as I found a spot to flop down with her. For a split second, I worried that she was unconcious, but then she found her breath and let out a peal of screams. I rocked and soothed and cradled her until the cries died down. We sat still for another minute, Javi crouching beside us, his face creased with worry. Bella flexed and stretched and allowed us to check for broken bones and skin. We all realized that nothing on her was so much as scraped. She had flown and tumbled and skidded and yet the only thing wounded was her spirit.

I gathered our things up to go, but my wolf child had a different plan. With one hand on the handlebars and one on the seat, she began pushing her trike back up that steep incline. I tried to dissuade her, but she tossed her tangled curls over her shoulder, dug in her heels, and kept pushing. When she got to the top of the hill, she put her trike in place, sat on it and waited. She wanted to try it again, but I had no idea what the next right choice was: Do I stop my child from doing something that will hurt her, or do I allow her to persist at hard things until she conquers them? I had to make a choice and fast. Would I be a "keep at it" mom or a "play it safe" mom?

The answer became clear. I had to do what my mom didn't know how to do, and what I have spent a lifetime trying to learn. I had to allow my child to face down what was scary and unknown, and be the person who doesn't turn away in fear. I had to borrow my daughter's courage and allow her to keep trying. My job was to be her safety net at the bottom of the hill, her soft place to nurse her bruises and lick her wounds, her quiet haven where she could take stock of her hurts and find the courage to step out again.

I didn't stop her from pushing off. And this time she kept her feet on the pedals and her hands on the handlebars. She used her weight to keep the trike on course and her feet to keep the pedals from spinning wildly. She still flew down the incline, but she was cautious and steady. At the bottom, rather than landing in a heap, she sailed out onto the flat ground and came to a stop. Then she looked around with wide, disbelieving eyes and a wolfy face full of pride.

Not a day goes by that she doesn't teach me something new and profound. On that hill, she sprouted a tiny seed of courage in my heart. With it comes the knowledge that to best parent her wild spirit -- and to shore up her brother's more gentle one -- I must give that seed room to grow. Most importantly, I must nurture the field of bravery and courage and healthy fear that already grows lush and powerful in her heart.

As I battle my fearful heart, never can I allow it to turn either of them away from trying hard things. I will allow them to feel the wind on their faces as they soar toward their destinies -- even when I have no way to predict whether those destinies will bring joy or pain. That is my solemn oath and legacy for my children, and it's the best gift I'll ever give them.

**This post is part of Five for Ten, where we're giving each other five minutes a day for ten days. Won't you join us?**

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Good things

I've had a busy week. Well, busy for me considering I usually sit at home and write write write edit until the kids and man get home. And then I clean cook eat clean in a mad frenzy of trying to get it all done by 7 pm so that we can lay around together for an hour before bedtime.

But being busy was good this week. I did some good things and close the week feeling pretty good about myself. Who doesn't like that feeling?

Earlier this week, I stepped in as a last-minute babysitter for a friend with three beautiful and well-behaved children. Actually, they were well behaved. Mine were not. Javi ran and yelled and kicked and sassed. Bella whined and demanded and forced.

But at the end of it, the three children yelled out to use from their dad's car windows, "Can we come back soon?!" And Javi and Bella yelled back at their disappearing car, "Yes!"

And then today, I shopped for Mother's Day at several local stores, which makes my heart happy. I'm a big believer in supporting the local economy, which is why we buy our produce from a local CSA and the farmers' market and do most of our shopping in locally owned stores.

But while I was out, I picked up a gift certificate to thank one of our local voters who won a contest through my other endeavor, SocialSanford. I loved buying something local to give to someone local for supporting local politics. It literally made me smile from ear-to-ear, so much so that the winner asked if I ever stop smiling. Actually? No, not often. Isn't she cute with her little gift?
And then, when the Mountain Man got home from work, he came in bearing gifts. Specifically, the exact gift I asked him to get me Mother's Day. Do you understand the significance? The EXACT gift. Not his interpretation of what I said I wanted. Not a rain check with the promise of a very similar gift in two weeks. The exact, self-same gift that I've been wanting.

And I'm so in love with it. Because, yes, I ripped the package open and immediately fastened it around my neck. Because that's how I roll. Isn't it pretty?
Yes, I know you can't see it well, but can you see how happy I am to be wearing it? Because I really don't wear any jewelry except my wedding ring (nope, not even earrings) but I never want to take this necklace off. Big thanks to La Bella Jewels for making such a thing in the first place. (And, yes, it sort of hurt my heart to not buy it locally, but buying from Etsy is sort of just as good, right?)

Lastly, I saw this super-cute craft idea for the kids to do for their grandmothers this weekend. You know, after we go to a festival I'm helping run with my local Jaycees chapter and get our veggies in the ground and take naps and ... well, you get it. At any rate, Shannon never fails to find and present really great ideas for helping kids play and learn at age-appropriate levels. If you go over there, you will be sucked in. This is fair warning.

So, it's been a busy week, but a good one. I hope you can say the same. If not, go flash a smile at a stranger or make something special for your loved ones or take a walk with five adorable children. Any one of these are guaranteed to lift your heart a little. I promise.

**This post is part of Feel Good Fridays and  Make New Friends Friday (which technically ended, but is still fun).**

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Memory Lane

My babyshop is closed. Like closed closed. No more babies, ever.

But sometimes I wish I could rewind a few years and experience my children differently. When that feeling takes over, I like to take a little stroll down memory lane via my Flickr account. Today, these blasts from the past made my heart happy and grateful that things were as they were.

Any do-overs or time manipulations might have erased these moments, and that would be a tragedy. This is how I curb my baby-years cravings. How do you?

**This post is part of Wordful Wednesday, Works for Me Wednesday, Wordless Wednesday, and Wayback Wednesday.**

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My children believe in miracles and magic. They believe that with the right mix of sun and water and soil and love, tiny things can erupt into something big and beautiful and strong. They believe they are capable of the same transformation.

They believe it because they held small things in their hands, tucked those small things into soil, added water, and hoped with their whole hearts. And now, where that tiny thing was, something beautiful and brave grows.

If there was ever evidence of the power of nature, this is it.

**This post is part of the 30-minute blog challenge.**

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Honestly yours

Kristin at A Few Things to Say wants my honesty. So you have only her to blame.

My job is to share 10 things about myself and then ask you to do the same. Without further ado, here are 10 things you wish I'd kept private:

1. I sometimes put a pillow over the Mountain Man's face when he's sleeping because he snores so damned loudly that it wakes me up out of my sleep. I get an evil thrill out of placing the pillow just right. Often, he'll lay there with it on his face all night.

2. Sometimes when I don't want to burp out loud, I'll burp in my throat. According to my husband, that's just as gross.

3. One of the reasons I love working from home is I don't have to find a deserted restroom for my daily constitutional. Also, I can keep all the good reading material at the ready because who can poop without a great book?

4. And Sudoku done in pencil. Sometimes a girl needs numbers along with her words.

5. I had to take Bella into the women's restroom at McDonald's yesterday. The woman who came out of the stall we went into hadn't flushed. I taught Bella to say, "that's disgusting!" really loudly and enjoyed that the woman could hear us. Who does that?

6. I can't think of any more bathroom talk for your Monday reading pleasure. Moving on, the MM and Javi went man camping this weekend and I didn't miss them at all. Judge away.

7. I haven't been completely kid- or husband-free for a whole night in YEARS. And I tried hard but couldn't find anyone willing to keep Bella one night this weekend. Yes, I was bitter about it.

8. When Bella peed in her bed twice on Saturday (both when she woke up and when she took a nap), I honestly wondered if I'd make it.

9. I was only slightly disappointed when MM stayed home from work today to recover from camping. At least he's been napping all morning. It's sort of like finally being alone for the first time days.

10. I am already encouraging another man camping trip. Only this time, I'm sending Bella along with them!

Now. Your turn. Spill it!

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My amazing husband took my sweet soon Man Camping this weekend. There was fake-meat sandwiches, honeybuns, hikes to search for wild animals, swimming, wakeboarding, and no sunscreen or baths to be found. Meanwhile, Bella and I had fun the way we do. We shopped at the Farmers' Market for fresh strawberries, asparagus, and bread. Then we oohed and ahhed over pottery at the local pottery festival.

But there wasn't much time for blogging. So I'll have to share pictures of our day soon, but not tonight. Tonight, I'm accepting the torch from Jill and re-posting my very first blog post ever (July, 2001):
i've been awake for a total of seventeen hours today, but it feels like decades. javi has a cold, so every once in a while he punctuates the silence of small-town nighttime with a wheeze or sigh. i wonder if i'll ever get used to the quiet again.

i remember lying in bed one morning in boston with mike and trying to figure what the noise was. not cars, not glass shattering, not my roommate having sex in the other room, and definitely not a variety of languages and accents filtering in from the street. you know what it was? crickets. i had forgotten what it was to hear crickets when things are soft and quiet outside. that's what it is like here, now, just crickets and the occasional bullfrog (i live near water, so lots of that).

have you ever felt that no matter where you are, or who you're with, you just can't get comfortable? i am like that these days. if i'm not too open then i'm too reserved, if not too chatty then too quiet. i've only felt completely and utterly comfortable in my skin with one person and he'll never know what that meant to me. july 4th made a year since we first stumbled into a friendship and i've not yet met another person who instilled in me the kind of hope and faith in myself and my future that i gained from this friendship.

my wish for today is that i find a way to recapture that thing he made real for me. i'd love to find it within myself, but i'll take it any way it comes. when i do find it, i will hold on to it and recognize it for the sacred emotion that it is. i will store it in my heart, and by doing so, i will truly be free.

goodnight, moon.
Reading it made me slightly weepy and nostalgic. I was so alone back then, still six months from re-connecting with my Mountain Man. Javi and I on our own in our little trailer island where I'd sit at night and sob after hanging up from phone conversations with the wrong person. I remember one night saying out loud to no one but God, "why does it hurt like this?"

I need to go love on my husband now, the answer to my wish that night. He ushered in a new, profoundly different life for us. We are whole and happy and loved. Javi and I were an island and now we're a continent flanked by the most gorgeous scenery you can imagine. And there's a sprite named Bella living in our orbit now. She burns bright like a flame starting around 7 am each day.

I'm just so thankful for it all (and asking everyone to play along with the meme).

Read more about "Firsts"...