Tuesday, November 19, 2013


With Thanksgiving coming up there is so much focus on being thankful. I feel like gratitude is the single most important gift I can give my children. Taking inventory every day is something I do before I go to bed each night when I write at least five things I am grateful for, even if one of those things is "I'm going to sleep now." Every day at dinner time we say what we are thankful for and the list usually includes our families, friends, school, and some random statements like "this dinner, or gymnastics". Whenever  I think that I might be slighting my children by not giving them much in the way of religion, I think about gratitude. In a way I feel like that simple pause to think about people and things that we have in our lives is something that will serve them well on a personal and spiritual level.

My daughter comes home with drawings from school of Pilgrims and Native Americans. She learns poems about fat turkeys and has art projects with feathers. She learned the Pledge of Allegiance, and before Veteran's Day she came home with an American Flag that she painted with a poem about American pride. I also remember a lot of these things from school growing up, but I don't know how much of it I agree with, or how much I actually absorbed. I thought maybe my child wasn't getting enough of the gratitude at school and then yesterday I saw some of the work she brought home and changed my tune. She is getting a perfect balance of the political stuff (which she can question when she gets old enough). mixed with the good moral rich, sensitive, critical thinking stuff that will prepare her well for the real world.

Just as I was in the middle of writing this, she came home from school with a worksheet that has pictures of kids posing as Pilgrims back in the day. Each picture has a comment under it stating what the child is grateful for and then a question. "I am grateful for my family" followed by, "Are you grateful for your family?", then the option of "yes" or "no." I looked for the statement about being grateful we stole this country from the poor Native Americans, but I didn't see it. I'm glad they left that out since that can not be answered quite so easily.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


As I went to put my daughters clothes away while she was at school yesterday, I noticed her pet fish lying upside-down among the plastic gems that decorate the bowl. We had an idea this was coming as I had found him (Dorothy was a Beta so he is a boy) a few times in funny positions down near the gems. I had called the pet store and they said he was getting old. They congratulated us for keeping him alive as long as we did because we had him almost a year and a half. I informed Twig that Dorothy was sick and that it was a possibility that she might die soon. That was a few weeks ago, and it seemed everytime Dorothy floated funny Twig would tap the bowl and Dorothy would swim around again. When I went in yesterday it was clear her swimming was over.

We got this fish for her for sleeping through the night without calling out. She earned her because she wanted company in her room. Dorothy was the first pet we ever had here as a family. Every Sunday Twig and I cleaned out her bowl. I would carefully move the fish to a cup and then empty the bowl then She would scrub the bowl. I would fill it, she would add the solution and the gems and then I would put the fish back in. This was her first introduction to responsibility and chores. Every morning it was her job to feed Dorothy and most days she didn't need any reminders.

Yesterday when I found Dorothy, I thought to get rid of her right away. It was a strange feeling being around death. Even in such a tiny creature, something felt odd about the spirit of it gone yet its body was lying limp in front of me. I quickly realized that it wasn't my fish to get rid of, and that my daughter needs to process this loss. It reminded me of when I never came home from England to go to my Grandmothers funeral and to this day I don't think I fully accepted she was gone. This was a very obvious remedy to that. Keep her in the bowl until after school.

As I left the house to get her at dismissal, I felt a wave of nerves through my stomach. I began rehearsing in my head how I would let her know. I let her play with her friends and dilly dally a bit before we walked home. When we got close to our door, I told her we needed to talk. She thought she had done something wrong and asked if it was good or bad. I said it wasn't good but it wasn't anything she did. I told her Dorothy died today and that I left her in her bowl if she wanted to see her. We walked in together and I watched her stand with her face close up to the bowl. She tapped it once, twice, waited, and then jiggled the bowl a bit. She did this a few times, and then I realized she wasn't convinced Dorothy wasn't going to swim. She repeated this as my eyes began to well. When she realized the fish was still she sobbed, her hand still on the bowl she had trouble catching her breath. I took her in my arms and my tears fell down my cheeks as hers fell down my chest. I held her and fought every urge to try to say anything to her. I though about telling her how lucky we were to have her this long or that we could get a new fish. Instead of trying to help her feel better I decided to just help her just "feel."

She did take this much harder than I expected but she really did process the loss. She went through her steps of grief and asked if we could keep her in a cup so she could still see her from time to time. I told her we couldn't but instead we drew a picture and wrote Dorothy a love note. I gave her a choice to bury Dorothy or send her to meet her family in the ocean by flushing down the toilet. We said goodbye to him and transferred him from one bowl to another. Before I flushed I asked to take a good look so she could always remember what he looked like. I reminded her that even though he is gone he will never disappear in your mind or heart.

Time does heal, and for children perhaps much less time is needed. She asked for a lizard this morning.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

A Peek Into The Future

This week Twig had a dentist appointment. It was the first one since she turned 5, so they took some X-rays. She was brave and patient while they took the pictures. I stood behind and when I came back in, the X-rays of her teeth were displayed on a giant monitor. I couldn't believe my eyes. Right above her teeth were her adult teeth hovering, waiting for their time to come down.

I stood staring. They were right there and I began to imagine what her face would look like with them. It was mostly exciting but also a little sad to realize that her beautiful little teeth will all fall out. Yet another reminder of how fleeting this time is. This face of hers will not stay like this very long, and that the next phase is just around the corner.

There are some phases that I will gladly welcome the end of, but so many are so sweet, and yet so temporary. I took my boy to the grocery store the other day and a woman cooed over him and then said, "Enjoy him now because you will lose him to a woman one day." I had never thought of it like that. I certainly don't think my mother-in law thinks she lost her son to me. She went on to say that boys you have to let go of, but girls you can have forever. I don't know if this woman was in her right mind, but some of this kind of resonated with me. I am pretty sure my mom is closer with the grandchildren she has from my sister and me, than my brother's son. It not intentional but it just sort of works that way. I think about the nights that I get to sleep beside my little girl. We cuddle, snuggle, tell stories and giggle. I can see doing this for years to come. Not so with my boy.

This year has been full of big firsts for all of us in this family. New school, new friends, new home, new job, new teeth. I continue to remain as present as possible, but that sneak peak ahead was wild. I hope those new set of teeth grow into the same sweet heart of a girl I have, and that we get to be one of those few mother daughter teams that have a friendship that lasts a lifetime.