Little Bargains

Two nights ago, I heard my daughter Cate whispering to our dog, Chase Muttley. She was kneeling down, very close to his face her little hands scratching him behind his tall ears. I couldn’t begin to guess what she was saying but I assumed her murmurs to be sweet nothings or puppy/baby talk. She finished speaking to him, sat up far enough to kiss him on the head, and skipped back over to the couch where I was sitting. She jumped and spun to land with a plop next to me, smiling like a fool and buried herself under the blanket to finish watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas on television with me.

Her cheeky return to the couch had me curious as to what they’d been “discussing.” She gave no indication of sharing with me. Minutes passed and I finally had to ask her, “What were you and Chase talking about?”

“I was telling him to sleep well tonight.” She said matter-of-factly.

“Oh did you?” I said back. “How sweet of you.”

Her little mouth quivered at the edges, as if there were more to the story…

“I told him to sleep well, cuz, I was probably going to be sneaking into your room after you went to bed and I didn’t want him to scratch around his kennel so you could hear me coming!” Her eyes were bright and shiny by the time she finished speaking. She then erupted into giggles. Her little cackle filling the room.

“And how do you know he will listen to you?” I asked.

“Because mom, I asked him very, very nicely, gave him lots of kisses and promised I’d give him treats. Chase LOOOOOOOVES treats!”

I’m not sure if she followed through on her end of the bargain, but Chase didn’t make a peep all night and I woke up with that little blondie sleeping soundly next to me in the morning.


Cate Turns Eight

My beautiful daughter, Cate, turned eight on the 21st. I feel like I blinked and there she was standing in front of me her wild blonde hair
and crooked teeth. As a mother, this experience isn’t unique. There isn’t anyone out there that has children that hasn’t felt how I felt today watching her blow out her candles, another year older. I can’t help but feel enormous joy with a slight sting of sadness. She’s such a remarkable little person – I’m so proud of how she’s grown and the young lady that she’s becoming. But gone is my little baby who needed my help to stand, to walk, to read. She still holds my hands, she still reaches for me to hug and squeeze and cuddle – I know those days of generous affection are numbered…

I often take moments looking at her and her big sister and try to burn the images into my mind of what they are in these moments. The unbrushed hair, the untucked shirt, the frosting on her cheek she missed or the fingerprint I can see on the edge of her glasses that she smudged as she was pushing them up her sweaty nose after a hot night of bouncing on the trampoline.

I have heard how the days seem long but the years are short and it couldn’t be more true. My sweet, sweet Cate is another year older and before long there will be nine candles on the cake. How lucky I am to be her mother. How lucky I am to have eight years of Cate in my life.

Stepping into the Spotlight

Cate_SpotlightOn Saturday night Cate had her fourth dance recital since she has started dancing. Like every year before this one, we curled her blonde hair and dabbed on her recital make-up. We ironed her costumes and laid out bobby pins, safety pins, hairspray and needle and thread (just in case.) Like every year before, we went to her rehearsal and sat for several hours in the auditorium waiting for her turn.

Unlike every year before this, Taylor was not performing with Cate. Taylor decided this year to focus on soccer and so she spent her recital this year in the audience cheering on Caitlyn’s two numbers. Never one to shy away, Cate confidently danced her two routines, with big smiles and giggles. So many of Cate’s adventures are alongside her big sister… this time she got to take the spotlight all by herself and step out from under her sister’s shadow and shine. 

The Language of Tears

Last night we watched, “Land Before Time” with my sweet seven and a half year old, Cate.  While at Target picking up a birthday gift, we saw the movie on sale for $5 and bought it immediately. It is a favorite childhood movie of mine that reminds me of collecting the hand puppets from Pizza Hut of the characters and quoted the lines of the adorable rag tag dinosaurs who ended up unlikely friends.  “Yep, yep, yep!” I couldn’t wait for Cate to see it.
Normally, Cate spends part of her evening watching her iPad or playing games on my phone but tonight I convinced her to watch the movie with us, and as she snuggled in my lap I was excited to spend quality time with her.  Like many movies of its kind, there is always an event that propels the protagonist to an early self-actualization, generally in the form of the mother being killed off in some horrible fashion. In my excitement to watch it, I nearly forgot that part of the story.  So… as the harrowing battle between sharp tooth and Little Foot’s mother unfolded, Cate grabbed me tightly and her eyes were wide with fear.  Then something incredible happened…  As the mother lay dying on the rocks sacrificing herself to save her young son saying her good-bye’s and comforting him as she knew she was going to die, Cate began to openly weep.
It got me thinking…

Tears are the language of the soul.  The expression of something do deeply felt we can only weep at the thought. How often do we actually look at one another and feel something so completely soul crushingly strong that we are reminded of the fragility of humanity or see something so beautiful it renders us speechless? It seems so rare these days… especially for our children being raised in the information dynasty where communication is choreographed 160 characters at a time.
As human beings, we are becoming conditioned to retract when things become unbearable and even just mildly uncomfortable these days.  We don’t want to face the things that are hard.  But you can’t have the good without the bad.  The bad is what makes the good so good. You can’t have one without the other.  You can’t have the love without the loss, or the light without the darkness that overtakes it each night – the burnt ends of a sunrise holding on as long as it can before relinquishing the color to the night… it is why we love to see the sunrise, when the light returns to our eyes.   Things are only beautiful because they are not permanent.  You can’t appreciate your life without knowing that one day it will end.  You can’t love deeply without the knowledge that it won’t always be there so it must be treasured.

In a scene that lasted less than two minutes, Cate experienced something deeply stirring that made her own life seem more precious.  The lesson was a brutal one – administered with a sharp, sad, sting. That night, she clung more tightly to me her small hands holding my hands and her head nuzzled into my neck.  She craved being close after being exposed to her own precious and fragile humanity… a humanity that can sometimes only be recognized through tears.

Squeeze Twice

When my girls were learning to walk they would hold my hand for support. Their tiny hands in mine, I would tell them that if they were unsure, scared, or if they needed me, they just needed to “squeeze twice” and I’d know to pay attention. When they started a new school, a new activity, a scary doctor’s appointment, anything, I’d tell them the same, “squeeze twice,” no matter how many people are around and what is going on… because I’d know what they were feeling. It was how they could tell me that they needed me without having to say a word.

Today, I picked Cate up from school and she took my hand as we started up the hill to where I was parked. We chatted about her day, she told me about her field trip, and then suddenly I felt the unmistakable two squeezes in our grip. We both smiled in the same moment as it happened. We stopped walking, I leaned over, got close to her face, and whispered, “Yes?” and she said, “I’m okay, mom. That was for you. Just in case you needed me this time.”

Squeeze twice.