It Takes a Little Time

I had a bad day last week. “Bad” is relative, of course. Someone else, somewhere, experienced a much worse set of circumstances. But, personally speaking, one day last week could have been better.

That day, the girls and I headed over to the Y for open swim. Swimming is such a fun, lifelong sport. Swimming with kids—that’s a whole other playing field, friends.

First, there’s the getting ready. Finding everyone’s swim suits, getting them on. Locating the heavy-duty canvas bag. Filling it with (clean, if possible) towels, sippy cups and snacks. Then outfitting yourself, which is usually a production.

“Mom, I like your blue bathing suit better.”

“Boo! Boo!”

“Girls, would you give me some privacy, please?”

“Mom, what a round belly you have.”

“Belly! Belly! Belly!”

“Girls…please give me some privacy.”

“Here, I’ll close the door.” Slam.

“Can you go outside the door, girls?”

“We love being with you, Mom.”

“MOMMY! Hold meeeee!”

So…there’s the getting ready.

On that day, we eventually arrived at the Y. The friendly staff checked us in. The girls and I slipped off our cover-ups. I secured a life jacket around Anna. Grace adjusted her goggles. We got into the pool.

Three minutes later… “Thunder! Everybody out!”

I looked at the lifeguard. “Really?” She nodded: Really.

“Why?” Grace wondered.

“Nooooo!” Anna protested. Roll of thunder, hear my cry.

“The pool needs to close,” I said. “I promise we’ll find another fun thing to do.”

“Really?” Grace asked, with the same disbelief I had just demonstrated to the lifeguard.

“NOOOOO!”

After leaving the Y, I began driving back home when another car, with a seemingly impatient driver, nearly made contact with us. The lady continued driving unsafely behind us for several miles. “Unbelievable,” I said.

It could have been a better day.

Glass Marbles 8-6-17

Luckily, the next day was. The weather was beautiful. Grace, Anna and I didn’t run into any unpleasant drivers on the roadways. We spent the entire afternoon swimming and splash-padding at the town pool complex.

After having a “bad” day, it was refreshing to have a good one.

I remember our first summer with Anna. She was about 3 months old; Grace was turning 4. Everyday life then was so much harder than it is now, this summer. I worried about having Anna outside in the heat, so instead of the pool, I took Grace to an indoor “jumpy place.”

She loved it, not minding the earsplitting noise of the machines that kept the inflatable castles, pirate ships and slides afloat. That white noise also lulled Anna to sleep against my chest. For me, though…my head throbbed, nonstop.

It takes a little time, sometimes, for family life to find its rhythm—for things to fall into place. I don’t know if anyone ever reaches the point where they say, “This is it!” and hang up an “Arrived” sign. Because often, there’s always something. Something to work through, or toward. Until things feel manageable, even good.

It just takes a little time, sometimes.

There’s a ‘90s song called just that, “Takes a Little Time,” by Amy Grant. I love this song; the girls and I often listen to it. (It’s on our morning playlist alongside Eric Church’s “Springsteen” and “Collide” by Howie Day.)

We’ve listened to it enough (and danced around the kitchen in our PJs to it enough) that we can harmonize pretty well on the chorus: “It takes a little time sometimes / But baby, you’re not going down / It takes more than you’ve got right now / Give it, give it time.”

Welcoming a newborn. Becoming a family. Earning a living. Building a life. Moving into a new house, making it a home.

At some point, maybe taking care of the person who once cared for you.

We fall into our roles, sometimes. Fall into our lives. Things don’t always make sense in the moment, right off the bat. We stumble; we struggle. We hold out hope for a rhythm.

You might know that my favorite book is “A River Runs Through It” by Norman Maclean. Mr. Maclean speaks to this rhythm of life in his book, especially when he writes, “To [my father], all good things, trout as well as eternal salvation, come by grace. And grace comes by art. And art does not come easy.”

It does not come easy, friends. It does not.

There’s an art to becoming a patient parent. An art to becoming a safe driver. An art to living life with grace—to choosing gratitude.

My Grace will be 6 this week. I remember the day she was born. I remember holding her, in awe of her. And I remember thinking, “I don’t know what to do.” What do I do?

I still think that sometimes. Maybe you do too. What do I do?

(Something else I think: Where did that time go? How did all that time get away from me…just like that?)

The truth is, each day is a leap of faith. You get up—you show up—you hope for the best, and you do your best. You work toward a rhythm.

Finding that rhythm may take a little time. So give yourself that time. And don’t give up.

Wishing you the best, friends.

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.

Measures of Success and MUCH

Anna, our 2-year-old, has a knack for making Stanton and me smile. First, like many 2-year-olds, she’s a ball of energy, up for riding her new trike around the neighborhood one minute and practicing her t-ball swing the next. She’s a lot of fun. Throw in her big dimples and mischief-making grin, and we can’t help but smile.

We tell both girls, often, “I love you.” Grace replies with, “I love you too,” while Anna merely smacks her lips at us—kiss. When we say, “I love you so much,” Anna has her own shorthand for this expression too: “Much!”

In the morning, as Stanton is heading out, Anna scurries over to him, wraps her little arms around his leg and declares, “Much!” She accompanies her sweet farewell with a Cinnamon Toast Crunch-coated smooch to his crisp dress pants. Sticky kisses to clean clothes—the price we pay for the privilege of such wholehearted love.

As I was writing this piece, this Emerson quote popped into my head (bold emphasis mine):

“To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”

Anna’s “Much!” expression, and her good-bye kisses to Stanton, made me think of this quote. Here, Emerson is giving us his definition of success: laughter, strength of character, gratitude, positive energy, service. All these things, of course, can’t be measured—at least, not easily.

It’s easier for us to measure “success” with numbers (we think). When we’re young, we take tests at school that assign us grades, scores and percentiles—how well we did on the tests. When we’re older, we think in terms of hourly wages, salaries and project fees—how good we are, our value to a company.

Life requires some level of quantifiable measurement. Test scores and, later, salaries work toward that objectivity. Unfortunately, numbers leave little room for bigger pictures, so to speak. They can’t tell us when a student arrives at school on an empty stomach, thinking about hunger instead of multiple-choice questions. They can’t help us understand why firefighters earn an average of $47,000 annually, while political strategists can take home six figures.

Sticky kisses to clean clothes—the price we pay for the privilege of such wholehearted love.

Stanton volunteers as a coach for Grace’s preschool soccer team. Yesterday, I was scheduled to fill in for him at the weekly soccer practice because he had a work commitment. I joked with Grace, “You can call me Coach, all right?”

Grace smiled and said, “I’m going to call you Mom.”

Both my daughters teach me so much. In that moment, I realized that whatever we might accomplish in our lives—whatever titles we might answer to, whether Coach, or Doctor, or Mayor, or Pastor, or Professor—we’ll still answer to Mom, or Dad, or Aunt Jenna, or Uncle Brian to the handful of people in the world who mean the most to us.

And this handful of people, these kids of ours… Chances are, they’ll be the ones least impressed by our SAT scores (if we even remember them), diplomas and W-2 forms. In my experience anyway, this is just how life works.

Measures of Success Picture 6-13-17

When I was growing up, my dad won various awards from his company for his work. Once, our hometown newspaper featured an article about my mom, a teacher, for developing a “try other things besides TV” educational program. I have so much respect and appreciation for both my parents.

When my parents and I talk, though, what we talk about most are all the times we had together. The funny moments, the family vacations, the movie quotes that have become part of our family lore. (“Well, they say geniuses pick green. But you didn’t pick it.”) The awards and newspaper articles don’t come up.

I imagine the same, or something similar, is true for you and your family too.

A few years ago, I read this article on CNN’s faith blog, regarding “What people talk about before they die.” The article has stayed with me all this time. The author, a hospice chaplain, answers the question her article poses: “Mostly, they talk about their families.”

She goes on to add, “They talk about the love they felt, and the love they gave…They talk about how they learned what love is, and what it is not. And sometimes, when they are actively dying…they reach their hands out to things I cannot see, and they call out to their parents: Mama, Daddy.”

This article speaks to what we remember on our last days. We remember our families. We remember “Much!”

I was reading the book “Fancy Nancy: Stellar Stargazer!” to the girls one day recently. In the story, the title character and her lovable little sister, JoJo, pretend to be astronauts and blast off to explore the moon. Afterward, Grace announced she would like to be an astronaut when she grows up.

“Sounds great,” I said. “You’ll be a wonderful astronaut.”

Maybe Grace will be an astronaut someday. Maybe she’ll change her mind, as 5-year-olds often do, and embark upon another path instead. Stanton and I will encourage the girls to do their best in whatever interests them.

I’ll also encourage the girls to make time for the ones they love. To sit down to dinner with their families. To celebrate their friends’ weddings. To take trips, just because. Because…I know that moon landing will be awesome.

And I’m pretty sure, too, that the moments they’ll remember with the greatest joy—the moments that will carry them through their darkest days, and give them peace on their final days—are the ones like when a little person wraps their arms around you, smears a Cinnamon Toast Crunch kiss on your clean clothes and declares, “Much!”

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.

10 Things I’ve Learned From Children’s Books

Almost every day, I read a book called “Ruby the Copycat” to Anna. Maybe you’ve read this book to your child, or a child in your life, too. My copy of this story is nearly 30 years old; my mom introduced it to me once upon a time.

Anna loves this book. It’s about a girl, Ruby, who becomes enamored with her classmate, Angela, and begins copying everything about her—from the red bow in Angela’s hair to the poem she writes for a class assignment.

By the end of the story, Ruby learns the valuable lesson that her kind teacher, Miss Hart, imparts to her: “[You] don’t need to copy everything Angela does. You can be anything you want to be, but be Ruby first. I like Ruby.”

By the end of the story, Ruby and Angela also have become friends. Every time I read the last line of the book—“And at noon, Ruby and Angela hopped home for lunch”—Anna smiles and pronounces, “Happy.”

Children’s stories deserve happy endings.

Children's Books

At this point, I’ve probably read “Ruby the Copycat”—and I’m just guesstimating here—about 150 times. It hasn’t gotten old…yet. Not Miss Hart’s good advice (“be Ruby first”) or Anna’s literary analysis of the closing scene (“Happy”).

Maybe it’s just the writer in me. Or maybe we all can take away something meaningful from our children’s favorite stories.

Here are a few more lessons I’ve learned from the stories I’ve been reading and rereading to Anna and Grace lately. (What about you, friends?)

2. “The Adventures of Taxi Dog” – My sister gifted this book to the girls one Christmas. They love it. It’s about a homeless dog named Maxi who teams up with Jim, a taxi driver in New York City. Together, Maxi and Jim meet lots of interesting people and have adventure upon adventure.

That’s the moral of the story: You never know who might become a great friend, or which path may lead to amazing discoveries. Get out, make friends out of strangers, and discover.

3. “The Cat in the Hat” – We all know this one, right? Similar in theme to “The Adventures of Taxi Dog,” The Cat in the Hat encourages young readers to make their own fun, even when circumstances are less than ideal (a rainy day). Attitude is everything.

4. “The Day the Crayons Quit” – Have you heard of this clever tale? If not, check it out! Who knew crayons have personalities (and pet peeves) just like us?

For example, Red Crayon leaves this message for Duncan, the main character: “We need to talk. You make me work harder than any of your other crayons. All year long I wear myself out coloring fire engines, apples, strawberries and everything else that’s red. I even work on holidays!” (The following page shows a red-filled picture of Santa.)

The underlying message: Think outside the (crayon) box.

5. “Goodnight Moon” – Ahh, the children’s classic so many of us love. We delight in the poetry of the story, the way the words soothe us. When I read “Goodnight Moon,” Anna points at the pictures, finding the different objects being referenced—the red balloon, the kittens and mittens.

There are some pictures, though, that don’t match up with Anna’s understanding of the words. Case in point: “telephone.” The telephone pictured is an old-fashioned rotary landline, not a cell phone. My 2-year-old and I have had several conversations about how the rotary phone is, in fact, another kind of phone.

Lesson learned from “Goodnight Moon”: Some things are true classics; they’ll never go out of style, like “Goodnight Moon” itself. Other things have expiration dates. (Good night and good luck, rotary phone.)

6. The “Fancy Nancy” series – Some life lessons from this super-cute and intricately illustrated series about a girl whose favorite expression is “Ooh la la!”: Any occasion can be a special one; you just need the right accessories or décor. You can never have too many glitter pens, or wear too much fuchsia. Despite the messes little sisters may cause, they’re better than the best dress-up clothes.

7. “Corduroy”Friends, family, home—these are the things that matter.

8. “The Princess and the Pizza” – Witty, fun and better than any Disney princess story I’ve read or seen. The big idea: Ladies, you don’t need a Prince Charming to make your dreams come true. Be the hero(ine) of your own story.

9. “Chocolatina”As unbelievable as it seems, there is such a thing as too much chocolate. (Sorry, girls.)

10. “Harold and the Purple Crayon” – Possibly my favorite children’s book, ever, and the girls enjoy it too. We love little Harold and his adventure-seeking imagination. This story celebrates creativity, roads less traveled and “thinking fast.”

What this story taught me: Dream big. Set sail. Climb high. Rest when you need to. Keep your wits (and your purple crayon).

And whenever you get the chance, go for walks in the moonlight.

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.

Do You Know You’re Lucky?

This past Thursday, the girls and I drove to our local Y, as we usually do. I practice yoga in a morning class there, while Grace and Anna play in the Kids’ Korner with other little ones and several sweet (and patient!) babysitters. The essential principle of yoga is breath—breathe deeply and consciously; be present in the moment—but, ironically, many Thursday mornings are a breathless rush to get everyone fed, dressed and packed up before banging out the back door.

On this particular Thursday morning, I parked the car. Slung my yoga bag and the diaper bag over my left shoulder. Hoisted Anna up in my left arm, grabbed Grace’s left hand in my right and clicked the car locked.

“Fun!” Anna yelled as the three of us hustled across the parking lot, the spring breeze tousling our hair. (Grace sometimes observes that she and Anna have “gold” hair, while, “You got some gray in yours, Mom.”) Anna flung her arms up in the air. I stumbled, then steadied myself. Anna, in pure Anna fashion, threw her hands around my neck and laughed, causing Grace to laugh, too.

An older lady was walking toward us. She smiled and said, “Aren’t you lucky to have your hands full?”

“Yes,” I agreed, smiling back at her. I am lucky.

Do you ever stop and remember you’re lucky, friends?

It might be hard to consider ourselves lucky. We think about the challenges of day-to-day life. We think about how things could be better. We worry about our aging loved ones—our jobs, our bills—the world we’re leaving for our children.

Do You Know You're Lucky

In the fall, I happened to hear a missionary speak. He quoted a news report (this one, I think) that reported that the world’s average salary, based on the data available, is about $18,000 a year. Another statistic: More than one-third of the world’s population lives on less than $2 a day.

I don’t know your personal or professional statistics. I do know, though, that you have Internet access. You can read; you’re educated. You have access to food, water, warmth. You have time.

You’re lucky, right? All things considered…the answer is probably yes.

Some of us use the words “lucky” and “blessed” as synonyms. I’m not sure they are. But I do appreciate this sentiment from Albert Einstein (who called himself agnostic): “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

Life, we know, is more complicated than that—miracle or not; black or white; all or nothing. Whatever our life philosophies or spiritual perspectives, though, we understand the concept of “glass half full.”

Those of us who struggle with emotional or mental health can grasp for the glass half full, and not find it. I empathize with this struggle. It’s not always easy—not always possible—to simply “snap out of it” and “count our blessings.”

This is true as Mother’s Day approaches. Mother’s Day can be a difficult time for those of us who have lost our mothers, or our children, or a vision we once had of “family.”

I’ve shared before that my first pregnancy, before Grace, ended in miscarriage. I’d rather not bring this experience up in my writing anymore—I don’t want to exploit it for the purposes of telling a story, or making a point. I bring it up now, though, because I still remember, vividly, a time in my life when I felt very, very sad.

Two evenings ago, I watched the FRONTLINE/NPR documentary on “Poverty, Politics and Profit.” Maybe you saw it too. The lead journalist reported on several families’ struggle to find affordable housing. She also reported on corruption within the low-income housing industry—corruption within both federal agencies and private companies. The documentary ended with an image of several elementary-aged children watching as their mother’s minivan was repossessed because she had fallen behind on the car payment. When these kids and their mom weren’t able to find space at a homeless shelter, or stay with family and friends, the minivan was where they slept—until that moment.

It can be hard, for all sorts of reasons, to feel lucky.

But I am.

And if you’re reading this, you probably are too.

Be well, friends.

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.

Being There for Dinner

The boiling water bubbled over the saucepan. Sssssss! The stovetop hissed.

Grace screamed. Anna followed suit.

“Everything’s OK,” I said, grabbing the pot. I drained the just-cooked pasta in the colander in the sink.

The timer on the oven began beeping: the meatballs. The girls crowded into the kitchen.

“Girls, you need to move…”

The front door opened, then closed. “Dad!” The girls rushed out of the kitchen. Someone tripped and fell on the way; crying ensued.

Welcome to the end of the weekday in many families’ homes, right? Mine. Maybe yours too.

For a while, I would finish making dinner around 6 o’clock. Stanton usually would be home by then. I’d set the food on the dining room table, encourage my family to help themselves, and then retreat to the kitchen to begin cleaning up everything that had gone into preparing the meal.

And, I won’t lie: I often would enjoy a few minutes’ peace to eat by myself without one of the girls climbing into my lap or grabbing from my plate.

Then one evening, about a month ago, I glanced at the dining room table. Anna was sitting on Stanton’s lap, snuggling against his chest. Smudging his dress shirt with her sticky fingers, but they looked cozy and happy nevertheless. Grace was talking about her day at preschool, her eyes wide and excited.

I glanced at that dining room table, and…I missed my family. I wanted to join them. Pots and pans and even some Play-Doh littered the kitchen countertops, but I ignored the chaos in the kitchen and sat down with my family for dinner.

Such a little thing, such a Captain Obvious moment—to sit down for dinner with the people you love the most. Probably not even worthy of being written about, right? But I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed doing it. Clearly, I hadn’t done it all that much, because it resonated with me. Sitting face-to-face with my family, instead of standing alone a room away—what a difference.

Pots and pans and even some Play-Doh littered the kitchen countertops, but I ignored the chaos in the kitchen and sat down with my family for dinner.

A couple of weeks later, I was at the library and came across this book title: “The Surprising Power of Family Meals” by Miriam Weinstein. It was calling my name; I checked it out. During the next few days, I read through it. This book has a wealth of insights, but the ones that most struck me were these passages in which the author quotes theologian Bill Huebsch:

“‘Things work out when you cook and wash dishes together. It’s hard to sit down to table with someone you haven’t forgiven…In most of our lives, meals are also memorials. Almost everyone, when they speak of their lives, they speak about meals’” (pages 146-147).

Wow, I thought. And, yes.

Family, food, forgiveness, memory, life—all intertwined.

When my daughters are older, I’m not sure what they’ll remember about their childhood, or our family dinners. Like all parents, I hope they have many happy memories. I do know, though, that I want them to remember that I was there, at the table with them, instead of missing in action in the kitchen.

I’ve been trying to make this happen. Not every evening…but more often than not. Because life can get hectic. You can’t always be the ideal version of yourself.

Yet.

Being There for Dinner

“Don’t Blink” was a hit country song by Kenny Chesney, about 10 years ago. I heard it just the other day, and these lyrics have been replaying in my head ever since:

“…When your hourglass runs out of sand
You can’t flip it over and start again”

The theme of the song, of course, is that time goes by in the blink of an eye.

When I’ve been sitting down with my family now, I’ve been looking at them, really seeing them. There’s something beautiful about making eye contact with someone you love, and holding that gaze, and connecting. Really connecting.

“‘It’s the facing each other that’s important’” in how we eat, according to scholar Witold Rybczynski in “The Surprising Power of Family Meals.” “It’s the fact of sitting face-to-face, inviting interaction, give-and-take, that matters most” (page 87).

Family—food—face-to-face. Pretty simple.

Something I’ve learned, as I’ve gotten older, is that the simple stuff is the good stuff. This past Sunday, I made Hamburger Helper for Stanton and the girls for lunch—Stanton’s request. “It’s been years since I’ve had Hamburger Helper,” Stanton said.

“Huh, I wonder why,” the foodie in me replied (the foodie in me can be a bit stuck-up, and not much fun).

For years now, I’ve been experimenting with gourmet and/or novel recipes for my family—herbed lamp chops with homemade ketchup, lime chicken tacos, everything I wrote about here. Why would I bother with Hamburger Helper, when I could prepare something amazing from scratch?

…the foodie in me can be a bit stuck-up, and not much fun…

I made the Hamburger Helper. Sat down with Stanton and the girls. Anna took a bite: “Mmm!” Stanton was ready for a second helping within, it seemed, seconds. And Grace declared that she liked my Hamburger Helper almost as much as the frozen pizza I “make.”

The simple stuff is the good stuff. Family. Food. Face-to-face. Hamburger Helper or herbed lamp chops with homemade ketchup, it doesn’t matter.

As long as you’re there.

I want to be there.

What about you, friends?

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.

Struggling as Not-a-Morning-Person When You Have Little Kids

It was a weekday, about 7:30 a.m. My husband slung his briefcase over his shoulder and grabbed his keys. “Have a great day, girls,” he said.

“Da!” Anna exclaimed, throwing her little 2-year-old arms around one leg.

“Me too!” yelled Grace, stronghold-ing his other leg.

“I love you guys too,” Stanton said. “Have a great day with Mom.”

Grace pouted. “I wish we could come with you.”

Anna imitated her big sister’s pout. “Da, Da, Da.”

Scenes like these are always an ego boost for me. “Come on, girls,” I said, pouring myself a cup of coffee. “We’re going to have a fun day.”

Stanton escaped out the front door. Our daughters trudged over to me. “So what are we doing today, Mom?” Grace asked, as I sat down.

“Ma, Ma, Ma.” Anna climbed into my lap. She smiled at the bowl of Cheerios I’d poured for myself. “Yum, yum, yum.” Grabbing my spoon, she began shoveling cereal into her mouth.

“Anna…” I sighed. “Can’t Mom eat her breakfast?”

Anna shook her head. I shook my head too, and reached for my coffee.

“What are we doing today, Mom?” Grace repeated.

“Well, you have school…”

“Yay!” Grace said. “I want to pick out my clothes.”

I frowned at her. “Excuse me. Is that how you ask to do something?”

“Please can I pick out my clothes?”

Anna munched on Cheerios.

“We’ll pick them out together,” I told Grace.

Grace exhaled, deeply. “Fine. I want us to do that now…please?”

“I need to drink my coffee first.”

Grace kicked at the floor. “All you do is drink coffee,” she grumbled.

“Excuse me?” Before I could go on, something cold, wet and mushy fell into my lap. I looked down. Anna, meanwhile, looked up. She had tipped over the bowl of Cheerios.

“Anna,” I groaned, getting up.

“Aaahhh,” she said, stepping into the cereal on the floor.

“No!” I said, reaching over to grab her. I deposited her away from the spill. “This happens all…the…time,” I said, wiping at my previously clean pair of pants with a napkin.

“Don’t whine, Mom—solve the problem,” Grace said.

This is something I say to her, but it’s not something I want to hear, uncaffeinated, at 7:35 a.m.

not-a-morning-person-photo

Fact: I am not a morning person.

Another fact: Most mornings, I struggle as not-a-morning-person with my two little kids.

Mainly, I struggle to be patient.

I struggle to be patient when my toddler spills my bowl of cereal on the floor for the third or fourth or 40th morning a row.

I struggle to be patient when my preschooler accuses me of “only drinking coffee,” when I was up until midnight the night before working on a writing project, folding laundry and filling out her application for spring soccer.

I’m working on becoming a more patient mom, especially in the morning.

Mornings when Stanton is out of town for work can be particularly trying. These are usually the mornings that Grace picks to greet me at 5:45 a.m. with urgent questions like, “Mom, where’s my purple glue stick?” and “For our summer vacation, can we go to the moon?”

I answer—“I don’t know;” “No”—only to be asked the same follow-up question multiple times in a row. Yes, you guessed it: the ever-popular, never-ending “Why?”

“Why, Mom?

“Why?

“Why? Why? WHY?”

Oh. My. Goodness.

On one such husband-out-of-town morning, I set the girls up in Grace’s room with plenty of fun activities—sticker books, “pretend and play” doctor kits, blocks—so that I could take a shower. About a minute after I turned the water on, the girls poked their heads inside the shower curtain, pointed at me and began laughing hysterically.

Let me just tell you, friends: I’m in my 30s. Could be in better shape, stretch marks—you know how it goes. To wake up, begin showering and then see the reasons for those stretch marks point at you and laugh hysterically—there are more rewarding feelings than that, I have to say.

Another morning I was brushing my teeth. I reached behind the bathroom door for my towel—at which point the door suddenly slammed my head against the wall. “Aaahhh!” I cried. What had just happened?

Then I saw Anna looking up at me. She smiled. “Ma!”

“We found you!” Grace shouted from behind her.

“Guys. Guys.” I willed myself not to raise my voice. “Did you see what just happened? My head is killing me!”

“Mom,” Grace hissed. “Remember, you don’t like that word.”

I closed my eyes.

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning, the girls and I do our best to get Grace to preschool on time. The wild card, though: Anna. Some mornings we’ll be ready to go, with everything we need—my diaper bag, Grace’s backpack, water for the girls and coffee for me—when Anna throws a fit when I try to put her jacket on. Or she takes her pants off. Or wants to wear Grace’s tap shoes.

(What to wear. The majority of my conflicts and time sucks with my daughters revolve around what to wear.)

Eventually, we’ll get out the front door. Get in the car and on our way.

A couple of minutes later…

“Spill! Spill!” Anna.

“Mom! Anna had a spill.” Grace.

I glance back. Anna’s sippy cup of water, marketed as leak-proof, is in fact not. Water soaks her pants.

“Off! Off!” Anna.

“Mom! Anna wants to take her pants off.”

Of course she does.

I reach for my coffee. “As soon as we stop, I’ll change Anna’s clothes.”

“Off! Off!” Anna’s voice is becoming increasingly strident.

“Mom! Anna wants to take her pants off now!”

The clock says 8:26 a.m. I gulp down some coffee. “Let me find a song on the radio, girls.”

“Off! Off! OFF!!!”

I turn on the radio. It’s in the middle of a song we all like. “Keep it here!” Grace yells.

“OFF!” Anna keeps yelling. Maybe by the chorus, she’ll have settled down.

I have some more coffee.

Yes, I struggle as not-a-morning-person. But I’m working on it, one daybreak at a time. Sometimes you have to fake it till you make it, right, friends?

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.

Catching Up With My Dad: 5 Moments

This past week, my mom and dad visited with the girls and me for a couple of days. Stanton was out of town for work, and Anna had just turned 2—great timing for a catch-up. They would give me a hand with the girls, and also deliver some belated birthday presents to Anna.

*

When my parents arrived, my dad hauled a cooler into the house. The cooler contained a huge amount of food that my mom had prepared for my family and me: stuffed shells, minestrone soup, coconut chicken, zucchini fritters, and lots and lots of cookies. There’s a custom, I think: When you grow up Italian-American, you bring your loved ones homemade cookies.

And in my family, it’s customary that my mom handles the cooking and baking, while my dad hauls the cooler.

Teamwork.

*

On Wednesday, I encouraged my dad to come along with me to pick up Grace from preschool. “There’s a McDonald’s drive-thru on the way, so we can stop to get coffee,” I added. Ever a fan of Micky D’s, Dad agreed.

When we got to McDonald’s, I pulled into the drive-thru. “You know, it’s faster to order inside,” my dad said.

“All we’re getting is two coffees,” I replied.

“I’m just saying…”

“By the way,” I interrupted, “do you have any small bills? Because I only have a twenty…”

“Sure, honey,” my dad said, reaching for his wallet. You have to love dads.

I ordered our coffees, Dad paid, and then we pulled up to pick up our order. A lady opened the window and said, “I’m so sorry, we just ran out of coffee. But we’re brewing a new pot.

“It’ll be ready in two minutes…maybe three.”

I sighed. We might be late picking Grace up.

“It’s faster to order inside,” Dad repeated.

I looked over at him. “You know you’re aggravating me.”

Dad smiled. “I know you very well, and yes, I know I’m aggravating you.”

*

The next day, Thursday, the Capital Region saw its first real snowstorm of the season: about 11 inches. Dad did a few rounds of shoveling the sidewalk and driveway. Then I bundled Grace up so that she and her “Pop” could play in the snow for a bit.

My mom and I watched them through the windows (Anna was napping). I smiled as Grace and my dad chased each other through the still-falling snowflakes, tossed snowballs at each other, and shook tufts of snow off the pine trees.

After 15 minutes, they hustled back inside. Grace requested hot chocolate. “Me, too!” my dad said.

“Since when do you drink hot chocolate?” I wondered.

“Hot chocolate would hit the spot right now,” Dad said.

Later that day, he told me he only asked for some because Grace was having it. But I think he really did want hot chocolate that day. (Sorry, McDonald’s drive-thru.)

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*

That evening, my parents headed back to their hotel. They always stay in hotels because Dad snores loudly and, thus, can be a noisy houseguest. “Thanks for all your help,” I told them.

Later that night, I noticed that my dad had dragged the trash cart out for pickup in the morning. I do this when Stanton’s traveling for work, and I can do this—but Dad’s small, thoughtful gesture touched my heart.

I called him to tell him so.

“You’re welcome, honey,” he said. “We’ll see you in the morning to say goodbye.”

*

In the morning, my dad and I dropped Grace off at preschool. On the way back, we chatted about driving in winter-weather conditions, something I’m not practiced at after 11 years in Virginia and Texas.

“If you feel your car slipping on ice, don’t brake hard,” Dad said.

“Take your time; go slow,” he added. “Don’t worry about what the car behind you is doing.”

Good advice in general, right?

Thanks, Dad. P.S. Love you.

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.