Advice from Dad

FD-4I’m always happy for good advice. I love those little signs with wise sayings you find on Etsy. What I love even more is the advice my dad left me with.

I miss my dad every day, not just on Father’s Day, which is coming up quickly. As the years go by, I feel closer to him in some ways than I did when he was alive. He left me when I was 27, armed with fantastic advice that didn’t make sense until I had more time under my belt.

It’s been 8 years since he died, and also nearly 8 years since I found out I was going to be a mother. Talk about the circle of life playing out all at once. Nine days after my dad died, I found out I was pregnant. Fast forward to now. The brood has grown to three. My babies have helped heal me, salve for the incredible loss of a parent, and have forced me to grow and change as a person in ways I could never have imagined.  Since becoming a parent, I’ve had more than a few chances to reflect on the advice my father gave me. Parent to child, it all sank in.

PSA/Warning:  My father wasn’t a warm and fuzzy sitcom Danny Tanner kind of guy. His words of wisdom, and the delivery thereof, were nothing short of unconventional. This was part of his charm. Offended? Sorry, not sorry. His advice has turned out to be the kind that I have only realized the value and weight of through experience in an epiphany ah-ha kind of moment later on, where I suddenly feel 85% smarter than I was second before.

FD-2

Here’s the highlight reel:

# 1

Picture my first day of high school, September 1994, the days of thigh highs and pseudo-Catholic girl skirts, thanks to Britney (“Oh bae bae bae beeeey-beeee.”) I just turned 14. My dad drove me home, sparing me from me trudging in the 90-something degree heat and nearly 100 percent humidity that NJ never fails for during the first week of school.

Like all good parents do, he asked the standard question: “So, how was the first day?”

Me: “Meh.” (Standard socially acceptable answer from a teenager.)

Silence. And we waited together, watching the blinking amber traffic light at the cross section through his work van’s windshield, air conditioner humming, the tools still swaying in the back of the van.  He broke the silence: “Remember honey…only the sluts have fun in high school.” BAM. I know I opened my mouth to say something, but nothing came out. Sit on that one. The traffic cleared, and we crossed.

Translation: Don’t compromise your values for popularity.

FD-5

# 2

Dinner at the potential father in-law’s, circa 1999. I’m 19. I was heading out the door, fluffing my hair, doing the 1, 2, 3, “how do I look” inspection in the mirror in our foyer. I saw him watching me from the couch in the reflection, trying not to smudge my eyeliner.

Dad: “What are you bringing?”

Me: “Bread.”

Dad: “Good. Because only assholes show up empty handed.”

Me. “Bye, Dad!”

Translation:  Be generous.

FD-3

# 3

September, 2006. I’m 26 in a few days. When my dad was going from specialist to treatments and back again trying to get better, I’d sometimes go along to keep him company. This, a gorgeous early day, was one of those days. He had to get a biopsy on his leg that day, and knew that he’d be in pain later. Despite using crutches at that point, he insisted on driving – and parking, and refusing to use the handicap hang tag. Stubborn? Yup.

He’s driving his Sprinter Van, and scouting parking:

Me: “Dad, you parked in a no parking zone. (Gesturing to the more than obvious sign next to his van) You’ll get a ticket.”

Him: “And if I park in that parking garage down the street, (gesturing to the more than obvious lot down the street),  I’ll pay $40, at least. If I park here, when I hobble out later after this biopsy, I’ll have, say, a $30 ticket and I won’t have to walk as far. Screw ‘em.”

Translation: Take calculated risks, and don’t look back.

FD-6

My dad was not a Hallmark card talking, let me-take-you-to-your-ballet-lesson, can I come to the Girl Scout dance type of guy, though I more often than not wished for some after-school TV special version of that father as a girl. Now, I wouldn’t have wished him any other way. The day before he died, our last conversation, I held his hand and told him that he was the perfect dad for me. He tried to tell me of the mistakes he made and what he should have done better through an oxygen mask, and I shushed him. I didn’t mean he was the perfect dad – he was perfect for me. He knew that his daughter, who followed his advice and was a good girl in high school and didn’t have *too* much fun, meant it.

Three little words

Three little words mean so much. Maybe you hear them, or say them – or both – all the time. You guessed it. “I love you.”

So much emphasis placed on those three little words. They’re the marker for a new level of commitment in a new relationship. Who said it first? A check-in reminder for an established couple; Love you, bye. What you say to warm, sleepy babies drifting off to sleep or bigger ones running into school, backpacks swinging. Three words that you whisper as you say goodbye, sometimes forever. It’s the catch phrase professed by the teenager who doesn’t even understand what it means, then takes it back. I’m not sure… Three little words carry weight and make or break hearts. So versatile.

What’s more important than words is action. As the adage goes, and let’s be cliche for a minute, actions speak louder than words. What you have to give more than love, that intangible, subjectively definable thing that means one thing to me and another to you, is you, your time. Three little words just as important as “I love you” are “I’ll be there.”

These three little words mean that I’ll show up when I say I will. I won’t make plans with you and break them, then BS you and say how much I miss you. They mean call me, day or night. Send me never ending text messages asking the most ridiculous questions and run some crazy what-if scenarios. I’ll listen. You can talk. Tell me a story. I’ll look at the pictures you drew me, the notes you’re learning to write for me, I’ll come to your performances and your games. We can walk for some extra time together, because when it comes down to it, all we have and all we are is time. I’ll put my phone away. Yes, the rest can wait. We’ll make the time and keep it, because I know being alone isn’t something you like to be. I’ll hold your hand. Stay up late with you. Hear good and bad news with you. Be happy, sad and really pissed for you as we’re sitting on a park bench when you tell me about your week from hell. I’ll be action and not all talk. I won’t flake out, I promise. I love you, yes, and I’ll be there. 

sedona 700-76

 

 

My (possibly unreasonable) fear list.

Recently, a good friend of mine and I escaped for late night lattes and got to talking about fears. She also insisted that I write all of mine down, because she’s just as visual as me, and one in particular freaked her out so badly that she wanted to know the rest. So here’s to you, Kathy! I’m not going to give you the generic fear list that that comes along with having babies, the one that’s packaged up and handed to you at the same time with mommy guilt, but just a surface list of semi-shallow ones. In no particular order, here they are! Drumroll……

Spiders – WHY anything needs 8 legs is beyond me, but it horrifies me. If they jump, all the worse. I’ve bolted out of rooms because of them and refused to come back in until I saw the body. AS IF I’d kill it myself. It may jump ON me, no. No….ugh I’m crawly now. Ask #theman (yes I just did that) about the day I saw what looked like a small pet peeking out from under the washing machine. Instinct took over. Basically, I round-housed the machine, Van Damme style. Like that would do anything. No luck. The machine had to be moved (again, #theman), the area cleared. NO spider or spider body was found. I did laundry in rain boots for months. “They’re more scared of you than you are of them.” (BS, Mom…BS!)

Extreme Heights – Hey, tight rope walkers in between buildings…whhhhhyyyy? To each his or her own, but, really…heights even in movies make my palms sweat. You won’t find this girl skydiving, but I’m working on this part of the list. Maybe forcing myself into something semi de-sensitizing. That’s either gonna do the trick or make this so, so much worse. More on that later. Either way, it will be well documented. Stay tuned.

The Lurker – AKA pulling back the curtains and just seeing breath on the window – Kathy, this one’s for you. Let me set this one up for ya’ll. Picture it + tremble: Maybe the living room window is open just a ‘lil bit. You hear rustling. A light, cool breeze moves the curtain. Let’s make it fall, so you hear crunched leaves outside. You’re semi-suspicious, and get up the nerve to pull that curtain back, aaaand you see nothing. Nothing but where someone or SOMETHING was just breathing on the glass. I think someone vs something is scarier, so let’s just leave it there. You’re welcome.

Machines posing as humans – Ok, just no. If you’re a child of the 80′s, you know exactly how seeing the unnatural red glow of Terminator’s eye for the first time made you feel. I’m still that child when it comes to this, and the moment when the Terminator rose up from the fire is burned.into.my.mind. “Come with me if you want to live.” Thanks, no. I’ll stay right here in 1988 under my covers, paralyzed with fear, gripping my charm necklace, stuffed unicorn + humming a Tiffany song.

Machines taking over – It’s just a matter of time. See above. ^^^ I’ll be in the “humans-only” refugee camp, possibly running it, probably being starved out by faster, smarter and more-ruthless-than-humans machines. Hopefully they won’t delete all my blog posts.

untitled-2

^^^That’s what they think of my list.

 

 

The ladies in winter

Well, it’s been a long blogging hiatus. Understatement! Happy to say I’ve surfaced, + for the first time in a long time, the girls and I had one of our Mommy and me photo shoots. Let’s be clear – Gwen and I had a photo shoot in a gorgeous dress given to her by a wonderful friend. Teagan, after getting all dolled up and making me wish I had her hair, tormented me with crazy faces and hysterical laughter, followed by rapid cartwheels. Typical Tea! So glad she enjoyed it. Ha. Hope you enjoy too. Much more in the works! Expect lots more of Gwen in front of the lens! *Teaser!*

More and more, the girls who once insisted on dressing the same and having the same toys are SUCH individuals now with well defined likes and dislikes + opinions of their own. Tea’s logical with the ability to reason her way around anything; Gwen is charming and will compliment you till the sun goes down. Tea babies any baby she can get her hands on. Gwen builds elaborate mini architectural structures all over the place. I love watching them grow, shift, change, mature. These images are a testament to what every parent tells me – it goes so fast! It does. It really, really does. And I’m slowing down to take it all in.

Gwen and Tea-9Gwen and Tea-8Gwen and Tea-11Gwen and Tea-17Gwen and Tea-5 Gwen and Tea-16Mommy’s little hippie!Gwen and Tea-18Gwen and Tea-14Caught in a rare moment of not messing with Mommy. Oh, those eyes! Just like her Daddy’s – they’ll get her in and out of trouble.Gwen and Tea-12

Gluten-free good for you spinach ice pops!

Why are they “good for you?” Because they have spinach in them. More raw spinach than I could convince my kids to eat if I promised a pony would walk up our driveway. Yes, my kids eat vegetables. They know “food from the earth” is healthy, but sometimes, they need a little convincing. This time, there was no gentle encouragement to finish-your-veggies. No. As they were moved into the freezer, all 3 of of my brood were begging for their fun green ice pops. Begging to eat their veggies. Pleading for spinach. Couldn’t wait. Oh, the sweet, sweet satisfaction! #winformom.

Here’s what you need:

  • 2 cups of baby spinach
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1 cup of mango juice
  • 1.5 cups of gluten free almond milk
  • 1 thinly sliced kiwi

Here’s what to do:

Throw everything but the kiwi in a blender until it’s liquified. Place the kiwi slices in the bottom of the ice pop molds. Pour the mix into the ice pop molds. Freeze, eat, enjoy! Have left over mix? It’s a fantastic smoothie.

Here’s what the process looked like with my 3 little helpers:

The ingredients:

ice popsice pops-2

The ingredients with one of my helpers, ready to go to the lake:

ice pops-3ice pops-5ice pops-4

Add it all minus the kiwi, and blend!

ice pops-6

Liquefied!

ice pops-8ice pops-7

Add the sliced kiwi…

ice pops-9

And voila!

ice pops-10

In bloom

Just some pics of my little millennial hippy, taking in the sunset just before she went to her Girl Scout Daddy-daughter dance a few weeks ago. Super simple, nothing more. This is my “baby,” my first little one – and she’s not little anymore! Am I going to blink and be taking prom pictures? AH! For now, we’re here. Let’s freeze time a while. My little girl happy, bubbly, loved and loving. Flower crowns suit her. Enjoy spring, all! It’s my favorite, for sure.

G2-10G2-4G2-5G2-7G2

This is what love looks like

Before Gwen was even speaking in sentences, she decided that she was head over heels for the small, stuffed horse that her Aunt Colleen gave her. She took it everywhere with her, couldn’t sleep without it, and cuddled it day and night. One of Gwen’s gifts is an amazingly sharp visual memory. She always knows where her little horse is. I’ve gone looking for her companion at bedtime, always to find him just where she told me he was “hiding.” In the toy kitchen’s oven. Under the living room chair. In the car. “His” name is Cimmeron, after a horse in a movie that looks pretty similar. “Cim,” or “Cimmy” as she nicknamed him, has been a faithful companion for years. He’s been through a lot. He looks it too.

cimmeron-9

His eyes are chipped. His once fluffy coat is this and spotty from so many dryer tumbles on a low, cool setting. His mane is patchy. His hooves – I can’t say how many nights I’ve sewn them back together in whatever color thread Gwen requested. Each time he breaks, Cimmeron looses a couple more of the beads that once made him fuller.

cimmeron-2cimmeron-3cimmeron-4cimmeron-8He’s been dragged all around her waddler, toddler and pre-k years, stuffed into small toy purses, pushed on park swings, attended countless tea and birthday parties, gone on family vacations & is held tight and close when thunder rumbles on a warm spring night. He has a voice too.

He’s beat up, no arguing. But I will argue that this is what love is – it’s worn, used, tested & full of stitches and imperfections that are ultimately perfect and make it stronger with each bump, scrape and scar. This is love. And this is what love looks like.

cimmeron-10

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

– Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

Not a box of chocolates this Valentine’s Day <3

As much as everyone and anyone loves chocolate, since I’ve pushed Girl Scout cookies on anyone with a pulse lately, I’ll let up on the calories and switch it up for Valentine’s Day this year with some unique items via some of my favorite Etsy shops. I love giving hand made gifts made by people with an entrepreneurial spirit, hence a natural infatuation with Etsy. Here’s (in no particular order) a highlight reel for gifts I’m giving the ladies (big and small) in my life! (…No idea what to give Phil or Hudson yet…)

East Meets West Soap’s “Love Ewe” soap set

Let me say how amazing this adorable set smells! It’s also SUPER kind on my winter-ravaged hands (Must….must get back to Florida…), and leaves them soft. Made of goat milk, lavender & tea tree essential oils, this set is a now-favorite in our house. Straight from Vermont from the East Meets West Family Farm, how our family loves EWE!

etsy-8

Maks Chic Bowtique’s Toddler Diva Bow Bling Chunky Bracelet

Yep, I’m that mom. The one who will look for just about anything BUT candy to gift her kids. Look no further! Maks Chic Bowtique has you covered. If the little fashionista (or toddler diva) in your life is like mine, anything that sparkles and shines makes her SMILE! Tea adores her new bling! She’s spreading the love. (Her middle name is Love! No joke!)

PicMonkey Collage

Sweet Tee’s Apparel‘s Love slouchy shirt

Love is in the air! And it’s the message on this slouchy lightweight French Terry sweatshirt from Sweet Tee Apparel! Super soft, comfy and versatile, I’m going to be wearing this one all year round, once I pull it off my gorgeous sister. Want to switch it up? It also comes in pink and gray.

etsy2-10

Jamberry Nails

Nope, these aren’t from ESTY, but you can check them out here. Remember when I said there is one thing I like to give myself? Jamberry nails! Jamberry nails stay on at least 2 weeks, and I punish them with however many hand washes X 3 kids a day + dishes + photography +life in general. They’re super easy to apply, there are a ton of styles to choose from. Happy Valentines day to me! (And to you!)

PicMonkey Collage 2

How did you get so big?

It’s a question I ask the kiddos all the time – how did you get SO big? No, but really? I thought it yesterday when Teagan was walking in front of me – seeing how her stride was longer than I remember, because her legs are getting so long and thin now. We’re convinced Gwen grew about an inch one night last week when she demanded to go to bed at 6:00 pm: (um, ok!) “I’m exhausted.” Hudson is a whirling dervish right now, and it’s only when that little human is looking back at me in one of my images that I really get a good look at him. Today was one of those days.

Today we sported super-comfy organic cotton creations from Spiritex, locally made in Asheville, NC. Miss Tea is SUPER picky (hideous understatement as I’m having flashbacks of her thrashing on her bedroom floor, accusing pants of “choking” her legs.”) about her clothing and fits and feels, and I’m 100% happy to report that she was delighted with her Heart’s in My Pocket tunic and Little Leggins. Hint, hint, Valentine’s Day is coming!

Spiritex Spiritex-3 Spiritex-5  Spiritex-13 Spiritex-8 Spiritex-9

Ok, Who’s this KID looking at me? Where’s my baby boy? Why can I picture him at 10 here, not nearly 3? When I ask Hudson how he got “so big” his answer is always the same: “Because I IS.” I can’t go grammar-psycho on him. Just can’t. You keep on with your subject-verb agreement error. It’s way cute. Watch out, pre-k girls, watch out. Stud-muffin is donning his Explorer Hoodie and pants. Uber cozy for a freeeezing cold (insert frozen face emoticon) NJ winter day. PS – He likes warm hugs.

Spiritex-12Spiritex-11

 

 

Florida –> dawn till dusk + some fireworks!

Can 3 kids under age 6 endure a 22 hour drive with the promise of unlimited sunshine, swimming, bike rides, time with family and a visit to Disney? They can, and they did.

These images aren’t all from the same day, but I chose them because they crystallize moments of our trip, and I’m arranging them dawn to dusk (and a lot in between) for the sake of narration.

Below is my grandma’s back yard around 6:45 am. I tiptoed out at sunrise one morning before anyone was up, including the fire ants. I haven’t seen the sunrise (without a baby in my arms who didn’t realize that only vampires like to be up all night) in I don’t know how long! This morning will stay with me for a long, long time:

20142014-22014-32014-52014-7

Behold the textbook toddler. This little man learned that he could escape outside into the warm air as soon as he opened his eyes, which he did in his pj’s around 7 am every day. He learned how to free dogs from their pen, drive his cousin’s Barbie jeep like a boss, pin the pedal on an electric golf cart, and how to commandeer his great-grandma’s Jazzy.

2014-62014-382014-36

This is the ONE and only Disney photo of the pumpkins and their cousins. We went the day after Christmas, undeniably the busiest day in the ENTIRE year to go. “The” camera was under wraps (meaning Phil had to lug it around in his lap top bag all day) since I could have zero distractions. No children were temporarily lost during this visit. Win! Oh, and if you visit, don’t take small children to the Haunted Mansion first. Parenting learning curve.

2014-8

Oh palm trees, how I love you.

2014-102014-9

All hail the Punta Gorda splash park!

2014-11

The Peace River

 

2014-152014-14

This little girl learned how to swim in the “deep deep” end of her great-grandma’s pool. She was very, very proud of her new skills, and we are too. She wanted “everyone” to know she can swim, so now you know!

2014-16

Green plants and flowers: northerners, do you remember what this looks like!?2014-132014-12

This kiddo told her Daddy to take off her training wheels without ever having them off before. He did, and she took off without looking back. (Insert tear emoticon!)

2014-172014-29

2014-23

Sanibel Island seashells

2014-39

Sanibel Island mermaids!

2014-402014-412014-19

These two little ladies are part of mom’s dachshund collection that made the NJ –> Florida trip. Ginger and Bella soaked up the rays.

2014-22

Oranges and grapefruit all picked from my grandma’s yard!

2014-18

Christmas lights sewn to a sunset.

2014-212014-20

~ Clouds on fire ~

2014-262014-25

New Year’s Eve sparkled on its way out.

2014-282014-27

…And 2015 came in with a BANG! (Many bangs because Phil and my cousin put on QUITE a show.) Good thing the neighbors like my grandma.

2014-332014-312014-32

We filled our paper lanterns with wishes and sent them up, up and away into the night sky. Here’s to hoping all of yours come true too.