Tonight, I am tired. My children are all grown with children of their own, yet my mothering is not yet finished. I don’t want it to ever be finished. In the last 24 hours, I have had conversations with each of my children and my husband. I am no expert on any of the topics below, but I found it interesting when I stopped to consider the content of our conversations. It’s no wonder I’m tired.
Topics discussed in no particular order:
Zillow listings for purchase of a house. Zestimates. Is it a bad idea to finance a down payment? The Landlord called. Rent increase because of 13% HOA increase. A baby’s projectile vomiting. Kindergarten interview for admission to a private school. Summer jobs for teens. Receiving tenure as a professor. Gallbladder attack and acute cholecystitis. Recommendation of a surgeon. Pandemic weariness. Misinformation and mask controversies. Spring break with stepchildren. What’s for dinner? Medical records for taxes. A1C numbers. Anti-inflammatory diets. Gauge swatches for knitting. What’s for dinner? Again.
Today was the day to resume regular routines after my trip to visit my daughter and grandchildren. Before I retired, I often stayed up too late on Sunday evening getting my ducks in a row for Monday morning. Last night, I found myself doing the same thing. It was well after midnight before I slept. Did I really need to do that much preparation? Why do Mondays still feel like first days after so many years? I’ll figure that out another day.
Alice signed on to Zoom and we picked up where we left off. She had been struggling with rhyming, but today, she nailed it. Yes! We moved on to the other parts of the lesson. Again, she was strong! Yahooo! Then we re-read a book from 10 days ago. She read beautifully with expression.
“Alice, did you practice this book while I was gone?” I asked.
“No, I didn’t really read much. Sorry, Grandma!”
“Well, you are doing great today! Let’s pick another book!”
She beamed. We picked another, because there are always more books.
In Jon Acuff’s book FINISH: GIVE YOURSELF THE GIFT OF DONE, he addresses the many ways perfectionism and its accompanying reflection, procrastination, can influence our productivity and sense of well-being. He says that the most important day is the day after you have messed up or broken a streak in a habit you want to create.
The habit I’m working to improve is daily writing. For the last seven years, I have had 100% days of writing and posting a slice of life during the month of March. This is the first year in my eight years of the March SOLSC that I have neglected to write on a day in March. This year, I have already not written three times. I have to pause and ask, “Why did I let that day go by without writing?” Being away from home, playing with grandchildren, and evening fatigue all contributed to my not writing. But I think there was more.
Maybe I didn’t write because I let myself believe I didn’t have anything to say. Maybe I didn’t write because writing can bring up feelings that I’m too afraid to put in print. Maybe I didn’t write because I couldn’t be as clever, as interesting, or as spot on as my fellow slicers.
I used to think that I was the only one who ever felt this way. Now I know that all writers face these questions and challenges at some point in their writing process. What matters is how we respond.
I’m getting back up on the horse today. I’m giving myself the gift of Done and recognizing that no one is asking that I be perfect. No one is requiring that I write like Wallace Stegner or Robert Frost. It’s okay to put words on the page each day, even if they are not amazing words, because someone, somewhere may be needing my words today. Even if it’s only me that needs to write and read them.
Visiting Texas, I’m very aware of the difference in land and plants from my home in Virginia. We hiked today through Mother Neff State Park. I wondered who Mother Neff was and how the park got its name. Perhaps I’ll research that another time. However, since it is late, here is a six-word-memoir for today.
Maggie loves to draw, paint, and color just like many Kindergarteners do. I wanted to encourage her so I brought her a sketchbook when I came to visit. This morning, she had her sketchbook and pencil all ready for our outing to the zoo. This was totally her decision. I thought, “I wonder if she will really use it today.”
I was delighted when she stopped to draw the cougar, the monkey with the baby on its back, and the turtle swimming in the aquarium. She was serious and working hard to draw what she saw. I hope that she will not lose confidence in her drawing and will continue to work at observing and noticing.
Tonight I told her about my friend who started keeping notebooks at a young age and now has 89 notebooks. Maggie’s eyes got big. Perhaps she’s starting to identify with being someone who writes and draws in a notebook. I couldn’t be more pleased.
My love affair with my granddaughter, Maggie, who is almost 6, is real and unexplainable. Maybe it is that she is the first baby of my last baby. Maybe it’s that I adore the name, Maggie. Maybe it’s that she is exuberant about life and makes me laugh. Maybe it’s that she talks so fast she can barely breathe and can always think of a fun game to play. Or maybe it’s that we have grown our relationship this past year with talking bitmojis, FaceTime, cards, and letters.
Those of you who know me, know that I am not a morning person. However, today I got up at 4:30 a.m. so I could be on a 7:00 a.m. flight to Texas to see Maggie, Johnny, and their new baby sister, Molly. (Are you also thinking of the e.e. cummings poem “maggie and milly and molly and may?” For your enjoyment, you can read it here.)
After a quick lunch at the local “Whataburger,” we drove to the Whistle Stop playground in Temple, Texas and played hide-and-seek. I pushed the kids on the swings until I thought my arms would fall off. It was a glorious, sunshiny day to be outside. A really, really long train rumbled past which gave some credence to the name of the park.
May I tell you how Maggie won my heart today? Well, there are a number of ways. She is starting to read. She knew th is called a digraph. She gave up her room for me to sleep in and left a love note on my pillow. And so sweetly, during the blessing on the food at dinner, she gently rested her head on my arm. What more could a grandma ask for?
She opened her red and white striped canvas tote. Gently, she lifted a bright array of colors, prints, rickrack, and ribbons. It was a riot of color and joy. You see, my sister has always loved to sew. It is her love language, I believe. She expresses herself in fabric, the way others might on an instrument or page. She touches fabric the way a mother strokes her baby. She can envision what it might become.
Evelyn had made 3 little sundresses for my new granddaughter, Molly. I’m leaving to visit them tomorrow, and Evelyn wanted me to bring her gift with me. I could cry when I think about the time she spent, the creativity she unleashed, and the pure delight these summer dresses will bring. They are perfect for hot summer days in Waco, Texas. She even gave me extra ribbon for Maggie, Molly’s older sister, to wear in her hair.
Tomorrow, I’ll be writing from Texas, which just might feel like heaven.
In September, I started teaching my granddaughter to read over Zoom. It’s one of the blessings of being retired. I have the time to build a relationship with Alice that I missed with her older siblings all the years I was working full-time at school. Alice has come a long way from not knowing all her letters and sounds to this week’s lessons using -nk.
Some of you may recognize this drill for teaching students word parts. Alice and I have been working with this pattern. She was ready to give it a try in a book called Stink Bugs.
We were reading along and Alice was decoding very well. She decoded rostrums which was pretty impressive. Did you know that a stink bug has a rostrum which is like a long straw for a mouth? It can stick its rostrum into berries and flowers to drink. When not eating, it tucks the rostrum under its belly between its legs. Pretty handy.
Next we read about the life cycle of the stink bug. The pictures were vivid. I was having a great time learning about stink bugs (which have migrated to Virginia only recently). Alice clearly wasn’t having as much fun.
“Excuse me, Grandma. I don’t mean to be rude, but why are we reading THIS book?” She was so earnest. I had to chuckle a little as I explained that we were reading it to practice -nk words. Then I mentioned that it’s good to read nonfiction because we can learn cool stuff. “But Grandma, stink bugs are gross and icky!”
Feeling somewhat depleted, I absent-mindedly scrolled through Facebook for the umpteenth time. I stopped when I saw that my granddaughter’s kindergarten teacher had posted a new photo. I always love seeing Maggie no matter the setting. Today’s picture was celebrating “Colorful Day.” Mrs. S. is a young teacher in her second year of her career. I have been so impressed with how she has navigated this school year so that Maggie is happy and having a great introduction to school.
I touched the picture and spread my fingers to get a closer look. Where was my Maggie in this crowd of kindergarteners? “Ah, there she is!” I thought and smiled.
Then, imagine my delight when I could see that Maggie was holding hands with her friend, Kenzie. Is there anything more heartening than kindergarten friendships? It just made me so happy. For a moment, I wasn’t afraid she would get sick, or that she was breaking a rule. For a moment, I saw only kindergarten love.