“I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.”
– Diane Ackerman.
It’s all about the width, people. I have found this to be true in many aspects. Just saying…
“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.”
~Louise Erdich, The Painted Drum
I think this explains perfectly the wonderful, painful journey of parenthood. For nothing fills your soul, breaks your heart and swallows you up more than being a parent.
Ah the holidays. A time of peace, joy and magic. Of sparkling lights, cheesy music, fattening food and beautifully wrapped gifts. And don’t forget the stress that comes from making, buying and planning all of the above. There are houses to be cleaned and decorated, cards to be bought and sent, cookies to be baked and delivered, events to be planned and attended, traditions to be created and upheld, and gifts to be purchased, wrapped and shipped… all in the name of peace, joy and magic. It’s enough to make a girl long for New Years. Or at least to keep her up all night, ticking off endless lists in her head, while she stresses about stupid things like does she have enough scotch tape.
Yes, there is much to be done during the holidays. But the thing we all forget to do is the most critical thing of all… to stop and enjoy it. What good is a perfectly trimmed tree if you don’t have time to sit in front of it with a glass of wine? What good are those homemade latkes or Christmas cookies if you don’t taste them? What fun is a holiday party if you spend it stressing about making it to the next one? What does it matter if you find the perfect toys for your children if you don’t take the time to play with them?
This year my holiday wish for you all is for you not to have a happy holiday, but instead to ENJOY a happy holiday. I wish for you to enjoy many nights drinking hot chocolate (and by hot chocolate I mean wine) with your loved ones in front of the fireplace… or if you live in LA, in front of your flat screen TV and simulated fire DVD. I wish for you to share a wonderful meal with your best friends and to laugh until the wee hours. To delight in the pure glee on your little-ones’ faces when every gift is unwrapped. To spend hours walking around and enjoying the beauty of the season. To savor each bite of food, every moment with your family and all of the wonderful gifts you are given. To ENJOY a holiday season full of peace, joy and magic rather than stress, greed and guilt.
So this year if my holiday cards don’t arrive until January, or my cookies come from the grocery store, or I don’t attend every holiday party, or my jeans don’t zip up, or my presents arrive in ugly gift bags instead of beautifully wrapped packages or perhaps don’t even arrive at all… don’t blame me. Blame the peace, joy and magic.
I spend most of my days teaching my daughter stuff. Important stuff like words, numbers, colors, how to read, how to poopoo in the potty, and how to say “Cheerio mate!” with a British accent. But as much as I teach her, I swear that she teaches me more. Yesterday’s lesson: How to Make Your Day Kick Ass!
You know those nights when you come home after a long, tiring day and just want to flop down on the couch, shovel carbs into your face hole and stare blankly at the TV? Or perhaps you have been home with your kids for an equally long, tiring day and you just want to flop down on the couch, shovel carbs into your face hole and stare blankly at the TV. But instead of some well-deserved couch time you get to do the Evening Scramble because there is dinner to be made, baths to be given, and finicky husbands – I mean children – to feed. You know those nights? Well, that was where I was last night.
It was a Monday, and a Monday after a vacation, at that. My husband had just gotten home from work, tired and hungry. I was scrambling to clean up the aftermath of the natural disaster that is my daughter’s dinner (can I get some FEMA up in here?) while simultaneously making a fabulous dinner – ok a dinner – for my husband and I. My daughter was running around, begging for attention. So, to distract her for the 2.4 minutes I needed to finish cleaning up, I turned on some music. It was Foster The People Pandora if you must know (I’ve had it up to HERE with Elmo singing! Maybe the next Elmo could have a less annoying voice, huh? And perhaps not be a pedophile. ALLEGEDLY**) Anyway, I cranked up the tunes and got back to the Evening Scramble.
A few minutes later I turned around to check on my daughter, and saw that she was dancing. Beautifully, maniacally, joyfully, hand-clappingly, booty-shakingly dancing with all her might. If you have never seen a one-year-old dance, there is truly nothing better in the world. Usually I don’t make a habit of posting many photos or videos of my daughter, because I feel like she deserves some semblance of privacy. Although, for some reason it doesn’t bother me to share her every word, action and fart with the world, but hey, it’s my blog and I will share if I want to. Anyway, I don’t usually share videos, but this video of her dancing is pure happiness, so I feel like it is my duty to share it with the world. Check it out on my Facebook page (and like my page while you are there!) If you can watch this video and not smile, then you are dead inside. Pack your shit and go try out for The Real Housewives.
So last night my daughter was dancing in her amazing way, and as my husband and I stood watching her, she ran over and grabbed our hands and pulled us to the dance floor (aka living room). Yes, the kitchen was still a mess and the dinner was beginning to burn, but when a kid commands you to shake your ass, your ass gets shaken. So we danced. And then we danced some more. At first, I was trying to teach my daughter some dance moves, but she looked at me like I was crazy and kept doing her thing. So instead I let her teach me. I copied HER moves, and man was it fun! And now, in yet another act of kindness, I will teach you.
Step One: Put on some booty-shaking music. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as gets your booty bouncing.
Step Two: Turn it up!
Step Three: Turn it up more!
Step Four: Turn it down already! Do you want to make your child deaf?! What kind of parent are you anyway?
Step Five: Close your eyes. Start to move your body. No one is watching you. No one cares if you are on-beat, in-time, or cool at all. Freeing right?
Step Six: Now that no one is watching you, just relax and let your body take you where it wants to go. Clap your hands, jump up and down, kick your legs, twirl around until you fall down, laugh until you cry.
Step Six: Repeat until your heart is beating out of your chest or the fire alarm goes off… whichever comes first.
We all danced like that for another 20 minutes or so, until it was time to get back to the business of life. You always have to get back to business eventually, that is the way that life works. But when I got back to making my (slightly charred) dinner, I was doing it with a smile on my face and my ass still twitching to the beat. I felt more energized and much happier than if I had flopped down on the couch as I had wanted to. It was a great way to end the day, and I am going to try it as often as possible. And then, when I am done dancing and my heart is doing the samba and my stomach aches from laughter, only then I will flop down on the couch, shovel carbs into my face hole and stare blankly at the TV.
**Don’t sue me Elmo!!
As of late I know that I have made many references to time, or lack thereof. And as much as I post about it, I actually whine about it about even more (sorry friends, family and random strangers who mistakenly ask me how my day is going!) In my life there is barely enough time to do all the things I HAVE to do, such as eating, sleeping, changing diapers and teaching my daughter all the dance moves to “Call Me Maybe”. So, if there is barely enough time for the things I must do, there is rarely enough time for the things I SHOULD do, like shower, exercise, grocery shop, clean, and connect with friends and family every now and then to let them know that I am just really busy, not dead. If there is rarely enough time for the things I should do, forget the things that I WANT to do like… hmmmm… what did I used to like to do anyway?
It’s no secret that when you are a parent, there is just never enough time. But it is not simply the lack of time that bothers me, it is also how quickly the time that I do have goes. My daughter is now 16 months old. She is walking, running, talking, playing and feeding herself (more food usually ends up on the face/hands/hair/clothes/floor/ceiling/mom’s shirt than in her mouth, but it still counts!) However, it seems like only yesterday she was a snuggly little bundle curled up on my chest, reliant on me for absolutely everything. And even though it has been less than a year and a half since all this madness started, for the life of me I can’t remember half of it. It has all become such a blur. What was her first word? Was it “Lyla” or “Hi” ? (Yes my daughter’s first word was her own name, if that says anything about her.) When did she start sitting up? Was it 4 months or 6 months? When did she begin to crawl? What was her first food?
When did she start sleeping through the night? When was her first smile, giggle, and full-out laugh? It all blends together in some kind of wonderful, exhausting, beautiful life-smoothie.
Some of these things I wrote down in a baby book, but there are many things that I didn’t write down because either I thought that they were not important enough to count as “milestones” or because I thought they were things that I would never forget. What I failed to realize is that a child’s life is full of so many major milestones that sometimes the smaller things get lost along the way. And while the day that Lyla took her first step is very important (that one I do remember… 10 months and one day) there are so many more small but wonderful things she does that I never want to forget. The Small Things are not the milestones that you find in books or that you brag about to Grandma or that you use to compare notes with your friends. No, the Small Things can sometimes seem insignificant in a lifetime of achievements, but often it is the Small Things that make a big life. They are Things that only you know, Things that only you recognize. They are the Things that can’t be captured in a story or on video or in a photo. They are the Things that make you tear up with love, smile with pride, and laugh till you wet yourself (c’mon, you know that if you had a baby come out of your JJ this happens.)
But as important as the Small Things are, they are often the first things forgotten in a busy life full of memories. So, in recognition of these magical Small Things I am going to write a few of them down here and now so they will be recorded for all of time… or at least as long as the internet is around. And if you ask me, the Internet is here to stay.
TODAY’S SMALL THINGS:
– The way that Lyla “reads” a book to herself, all in her own language. Pointing at the things, as I do, and usually saying “shhhh” and “noooo” they way I do when I read to her.
– Her favorite word “Missibah”. I have no idea what it means, but it seems that Lyla does.
– How every color is currently “bu!” (blue)
– The way she sometimes looks up at me, smiles and presses her nose against mine. It’s our own special kiss and it always brings tears to my eyes.
– How, the second I pull her out from the car, she says “hi” and waves, just in case anyone is around who she might need to say hi to.
– The exact way she smells right at this moment: baby shampoo, laundry detergent, Vick’s Baby Chest rub (she has a cold), fruit, milk breath and Lyla.
– The way she shrugs her shoulders and scrunches her face up when I ask her where anything is.
– How tightly she hugs me around my neck and then kisses me directly on the mouth with a wet, slobbery kiss.
– The way she contentedly twirls her hair with her fingers while she is drinking her bottle.
Ok, so these are a few of my Small Things. Now it’s your turn! What are the little things that your child or children do that you never want to forget but probably will. Feel free to record them here for all of the world… or at least all of my followers… to read. And if you don’t want to share them with me, write them down for yourself every once in a while.
Cheers to the Small Things!
“The joys of motherhood are never fully experienced until the children are in bed.”
So true. No matter how exhausting the day or how crabby the daughter, everything always seems better when I can reflect on it in a quiet house with wine in hand. No matter what the day was like, by the time we go to bed my husband and I spend at least 30 minutes talking about how wonderful/smart/funny/perfect Lyla is. Unless of course, she is up crying…
When you are a parent, joy comes at the most unexpected (and often needed moments.) Like when you’ve had a rough day, and your child runs to greet you when you get home. Or when you are at your wit’s end with her, and she suddenly just gives you a big hug. Even an expected smile can fill your heart with more joy than you thought possible.
Or like yesterday: While waiting forever for someone to help us at Babies R Us (don’t even get me started,) out of nowhere my daughter starts booty dancing and then moshing to some random 80’s song playing in the store. She was dancing so hard that she fell down numerous times, and then picked herself up and started again. She didn’t even notice my husband and I laughing our asses off nearby. Her pure joy in dancing was transferred to us both. Those 3 minutes made my whole weekend and made up for any other annoyances and exasperation that I felt.
I know that it is cliché (like that’s ever stopped me before) but truly, life with kids is about finding joy in the little things. It is the little moments that make a big life.