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On behalf of all of us (my dad, Ross, Will, John and me) thank you all so much for being here.   My mother would be honored and delighted to know that all of you were together to celebrate her life. I have no doubt that each and every one of you shared a moment of laughter with my Mom and, next to her love for family, there was nothing she held more precious than a good hearty laugh. So, thank you each or being there for her to laugh with then. And thank you for being here for us today.

Shortly after my mother passed away, I received a piece of advice from Missy McKenzie, whose comfort and kind words have meant more to me over the past few months than I can explain. Missy, who has also lost a beloved parent much too soon, said this…”Write your eulogy now. While it’s all still fresh in your mind. You’ll be so glad you did.”   I valued Missy’s advice that day. But, unfortunately, I ignored it.

Weeks went by and, while visiting my Dad in Dorset, he welcomed me to go through my mother’s things and determine what I would like to keep as my own.   I’m sure he meant I should go through the boxes he set aside and the closets and dressers that we all knew to be hers. But, I’m an only child. I spent countless hours of my childhood exploring (ok, maybe snooping) in the darkest corners and crevices of that house on the West Road. And, I knew…the good stuff wasn’t in those boxes or in those drawers.

And, sure enough, I left Dorset that weekend with many precious things my father generously and intentionally shared with me. I gratefully wear her rings every day. I have many beautiful pictures that I look forward to sharing with my children to keep her memory as alive as possible. I wear a Dorset Field Club fleece on the sidelines of their games and think of how much she’d love to be watching them, too. But, I also left with something almost more valuable that day. I left with her words.

Many of you likely know that my mother was a beautiful writer. And while her sisters made very successful careers of their talent for the written word, my mother’s words were most famously known to bring laughter to her friends in the form of her clever, rhyming poems at countless events and celebrations.   But, she didn’t only write for public consumption.   As is the case with many writers, she also wrote to express her deepest, less-public feelings. Her greatest prides and her greatest sorrows. And, as that snoopy only child digging around the house, I knew that when I came across that yellow lined pad of paper I’d hit the jackpot.

There were never any secrets discovered in the reading of those notepads…but I loved reading her words. I loved feeling even closer to her (which hardly seemed possible) than I did on a regular day.

So, I owe her yet another thank you on top of the countless thanks I give to her every day for the things she gave me. Because she also gave me…my eulogy.

These are my mother’s words written in September of 1985, the fall I went to boarding school.   And, while she wasn’t experiencing grief in its truest sense, her words could not more accurately echo my feelings of loss today.

From my Mom’s yellow pad: 9/9/1985

“…and now she is gone from me. I never let myself think, beforehand, about exactly how I would feel. I let myself muse very shortly and not very often and never in depth how sad I would feel and how different it would be.

But, I never never thought it would feel like this. I am bereft.

So many things bring tears now – songs, stuffed animals, friends, pets, photographs – and I feel guilty and foolish for crying. But, I also feel I need to cry. I have earned the right to mourn the passing of this part of our lives.

To have such feelings is a gift – the feelings themselves lift me to a higher plane. I know somehow I am fulfilling the greatest of human needs – to love and be loved and to treasure every moment of the caring.

Having these feelings means we did it right. We grew up together and built a loving bond that will never be broken.”

Thank you.

For the last few weeks, Little Brother has been eyeballing me carefully and asking “Mommy, are you losing weight?” He says it mostly when we’re out walking somewhere together. I’ve enjoyed it, of course, but today I finally said “That’s very nice of you to say, but I’m pretty sure I’m not losing any weight.” He replied, looking up at me with his hand above his head, that I definitely was because he’s getting closer and closer to my shoulder. Turns out he didn’t mean I was losing weight. He meant I was shrinking.

Husband was away last weekend.   I had both kids and no milk, no bread and no (gasp!) wine.  Which meant I was bound to take the dreaded trip to the local grocery store for a few provisions…and countless “can we get..?”, “can I have…”s as I try my best to get out unscathed.

I went in, this time, with a new tactic in mind.  I gave the kids a small cart and a list of their own.  With instructions not to run over anyone, I sent them off in search of frozen waffles, shredded cheddar and two cans of cream of mushroom soup.  Happily, off they went.

A few minutes later, Big Brother found me in Aisle Three.  A jar of spaghetti sauce (with mushrooms!) in his hands and a questioning look on his face.

“Nope.  That’s not it.  Look for a red and white can.”  And off he went again.

I met up with them in the final aisle.  Their cart contained, to my surprise, shredded cheddar (orange not white but who cares), frozen waffles (he told me he got “honeysuckle” flavor which was actual “homestyle”) and two cans of the proper soup.  Oh, and some contraband Dove bars.  Fine.

As I headed to the check-out line I was stopped by an older man who was stocking shelves.  “Excuse me,” he said.  “I just want to let you know that your boys approached me asking where the frozen waffles were.”

Oh no.  I thought.

“And I just want to tell you how polite they were.  They said “excuse me and thank you and even called me ‘sir’.  I’m just so glad to see that there are parents out there who still work at this stuff.”

Made my day.  Almost made my week.

But then…there was yesterday

__________

Big Brother has a gift certificate.  A $10 gift certificate to a local Sports Shop.  The gift certificate has been burning a hole in his pocket for well over a month and I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that he would ask me every.single.time we drove past this store (in the center of town) “when can we use my gift certificate?!”

So, yesterday I relented.  After much consideration, Big Brother selected a $5 t-shirt that he designed himself.  Bright orange (at least he’ll be easy to spot on the playground when I do drive-by spying) with a football ironed on the front and a soccer ball ironed on the back.  With $5 left to play, he chose a pack of Orange Quench Gum for himself and one for Little Brother.  $1 left.

“What do you have for $1?”  he asked the store owner.

“Not much,” he replies.  “But, here’s a real dollar for you to take away.  Now, you can spend it wherever you want.”

Dollar in hand, the minute our feet hit the sidewalk Big Brother asks, “Can we go to the Candy Shoppe?”

I shocked the pants off him when I said “yes.”

We have a fabulous new candy store in town.  Lots of penny candy, old-fashioned candy, light up candies and, we discovered, a NEW feature.  A GIANT 25-cent gum ball machine with hundreds of technicolor gum balls (and a few GOLDEN gum balls!) inside.  Get a golden gum ball, get a $5 gift certificate.  Big Brother was intrigued.  His little right-brained mind a-whirling, I could see him doing the math.  Risk versus reward of spending ALL FOUR quarters on gum balls in search of the golden one.

Then, I stepped in.  “Bud, I’m sorry but you just got two giant packs of gum at the Sports Shop.  No more gum.”

I’m pretty much anti-gum, I should tell you.  I never had it as a kid.  I hate the open-mouthed gum chewer.  I’ll have it occasionally but really more as a bad breath combatant than anything else.

Anyway, I put the kibosh on the gum ball machine and continued my chat with the shop owner.

Moments later, I look over and Big Brother has his whole arm up the eye-level quarter slot.

“Hey!  Stop!  Step away from the gum ball machine and go pick out something else,” I demand.   He pulls out his arm.  And then I turn away.

And, do you want to guess what happened ten seconds later?

The giant gum ball machine FELL OVER with a loud crash.  Big Brother is lucky his arm, stuffed inside, didn’t break at the elbow.  Little Brother is lucky he wasn’t crushed by the weight of this thing.   They’re both lucky I didn’t kill them.

I was able to right the thing back onto its stand.  Mortified, we left.

But, we returned about a half hour later.  I parked outside and watched from the car as Big Brother marched himself inside, apology note in hand, looked the owner in the eye as he said “I’m sorry” and handed her his letter.

She gave him a serious look and accepted his note graciously.

As he turned and headed back towards the door, she smiled at me through the glass and waved.

_________

So, I suppose, when dealing with 7-year olds (and probably any-year olds), you’re going to win some and you’re going lose some.  A good impression made on the shelf-stocker can be quickly balanced out by a pretty bad one with a candy store owner.  Here’s hoping the good ones, eventually, outweigh the bad.

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All the money in the world at their disposal and Kim and Kanye choose to dress like they belong on the back of a Good Humor truck.

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I also find it interesting that Kanye has such a firm grip on the area next to his…umm, pocket.

Do you think perhaps the stem of the gourd he has stuffed in there slipped a bit to the right?

Just sayin’.

In July of 2010, I posted a blog titled “Are We Raising Softies” (read it here) in which I brought up how it bothered me that we seem to have done away with the idea that WINNING is actually important.  I was referring to the fact that every competition out there for our kids today comes with a prize.  That a “participant” ribbon is carried home with the same weighty pride of the old school “1st Place” trophy.  I considered the idea that it might be weakening our kids.  Taking away that drive to be the best.  The alpha dog.  A real go-getter with the drive and determination that will one day be required of them in “the real world.”

I think I’ve changed my mind.

Yesterday, Big Brother was in a swim meet.  His first.

Long before the meet, Husband and I were well aware that Big Brother didn’t have much aggression in him.  He plays baseball and soccer.  Basketball and flag football.  He also plays golf and takes sailing lessons.   Interestingly, he approaches all these sports with the same manner.  He’s social.  He’s willing to learn  He’s a deep thinker.  But, aggressive?  Not so much.

And thinking, while an excellent quality when reading the wind in sailing or the greens in golf, isn’t necessarily the first attribute required for football.

He’d sooner keep his hands planted firmly in his pockets and happily root from the sidelines than get in there and rip a flag off a runner’s belt.   He wants to win, don’t get me wrong.  He hates losing.  But, he doesn’t want to get in there and really FIGHT for it.  In Big Brother’s mind, if there’s another guy on the team who’s more QUALIFIED to rip off that flag, well then why in the world would Big Brother go in instead?

See what I mean?  Logical, yes.  Aggressive?   Not so much.

But, he’s always been a very capable swimmer.  A kid who grew up around boats and water, he’s been in the ocean and in pools his whole life.   He’ll fearlessly race into the ocean at the first signs of spring (despite bitter temperatures) to become a founding member of what his uncle and Dad refer to as the “Polar Bear Club.”   He loves it.

So, when the opportunity arose to enter him in a Swim Meet, I figured that chances were he’d be just fine.

A little overwhelmed by large crowds and booming microphones in the beginning, he shied from the get go and wouldn’t get in the water for practice.  But, after some coaxing from his best friend and the swimming coach, in he went.  With his usual careful and precise swimming stroke, he warmed up beautifully.  Calm.  Cool.   Precise.

Calm.  Precise.  Yup, that’s Big Brother.

RACE TIME!

And, they’re off!

Water splashing everywhere.  Kicks and reaches, pulls and gasps for breath throughout the pool.  Anxious Moms scan the lanes.

And there’s Big Brother.   Looking excellent.

Graceful.  Precise.  Calm.   Smooth.

Umm, and also?   Slow.

And dead last.

Twice.

After each race, there were lots of people around the pool heaping praise on him for a job well done.

Big Brother beamed.  Not at all phased by where he placed in the race.  Completely oblivious.  He swam well.  He was proud of himself.

And I was proud of him, too.

And, I’ll tell you this, folks.

Afterwards?  I was damn grateful for that Participant ribbon.

What is love?

Those who follow me on Facebook already know about my stellar Valentine’s Day gift from Husband.  He swung by the local spa on his way home from work to pick up a gift certificate for a massage.  The spa was closed.  So, I wound up with Twizzlers.  In a handy reusable pencil holder.

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‘Cause nothin’ says I love you like a pencil holder.

Seriously, though, I’m in the “It’s a Hallmark Holiday” camp and don’t really feel the need for senseless money to be spent on Valentine’s Day.  I know Husband loves me.  He knows I love him.  And, I think it’s the conversations and moments that we share on the days that aren’t commercialized that really matter.

For instance.  I was making dinner a few nights ago.  The kids were watching a movie in the living room, sitting together in front of a fire in the fireplace.  Husband and I were in the kitchen, each enjoying a glass of wine.  Dinner would be ready soon and we’d sit, as we always do, at the kitchen counter and watch Jeopardy! together over dinner.  We’d give our answers out loud, acknowledge a particularly good get by the other, make snarky comments about the contestants and usually, by the time Trebek was shaking hands with the winner, we’d be cleaning up and getting ready to put the boys to bed.

I don’t know what made me say it.  Maybe it’s the fact that a friend of mine is going through some really tough marital struggles right now.  Maybe it was the simple comfort of my own home.  The ease of the night.   I’m not sure.   But, as I stirred pasta, I looked at my husband and said:

Do you remember when we were dating and we asked each other if we’d ever been in love before?  

Yes.

And we both said that yes, we had been.  

Umm hmm.

I think I’d change my answer if you asked me today.  If I was ever in love before you.  I don’t think I’d say yes anymore. 

How come?

Because I think that back then I really had no idea what really being in love felt like.  No idea what it really was.  What it could be.  I mean, back then, before you, I was so uninvested.  Love was such a simple, blank canvas.  And now, it’s like love is something else entirely.  It’s me and you as a family.  It’s those kids.  It’s our home.  Our LIFE.   None of this is anything without you.  Without “us”.   Love is just so different today.  It just means so much more.  It’s so much more valuable.  You know?

Husband agreed completely.

_____

Dinner was delicious.  We were happy to see the “College Tournament” come to an end.   Husband and I each put one of our sleepy children to bed with a bedtime story and a kiss.  Then, we met back in the living room.  As we settled into our chairs next to each other, the fire burning out slowly in the fireplace, I looked lovingly over at the man I married almost ten years ago and thought…

Man.  I really wish I had some Twizzlers right now.  

_____

M-I-L-K

Dinner time.   Big and Little Brother take their seats.  Plates in front of them.

Mom from kitchen:  Guys?  What would you like to drink — milk or water?

Big Brother:  M-I-L-K!     M-I-L-K!

Little Brother:   M-I-L-K!   M-I-L-K!

Overheard from kitchen, Little Brother quietly to Big Brother:

Is M-I-L-K milk?  Or water?

______

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