She Should be Here.

She should be here

In all of the adventures of late my brain keeps repeating this… she should be here. She should. She should have had 65+ more years to do her important work. She should get to go to middle school, write essays, go to prom, graduate… go to college and create her own life. She should get to become what she wanted and was made to become…

Every picture I snapped while at the lake or on an adventure this summer my brain repeated this song. While I clicked and watched and laughed and played- I felt just below the surface those words. She should be here.

When we sit to eat together, Amelia and I with our healthy dinner and Lucy with her junky version, we say ‘Grace’ and eat. It feels empty. It is just me and my 2 girls… not at all the way I imagined. It feels like we are lacking the extra praying hands, that extra plate- that extra raspy voice. I don’t really like to eat dinner at my table anymore, but we have to. It is the right place to eat dinner…

I line people up to take pictures of their family silhouettes at the lake, but I no longer do mine. I snap pictures of my girls, but I will never line us up and take those pictures. It is a solid reminder she should be here.

We collect rocks and shells and paint them… instead of her participating we bring them to Maddie’s Spot and they just sit there for her. We bring back sand and dirt from our adventures, we pour the dirt onto her Spot and we hang out there for a picnic. All the time we do this, I am reminded of the fact that instead of Madeline collecting and choosing her dirt- we do it for her. I am reminded that she should be here.

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I see girls that were in Kindergarten with Madeline, they keep growing. They perform in Orchestra or Choir, they play sports and do gymnastics. They do field days and summer camps. Those girls are entering Middle School next week, a whole new school. They are worried about locker combinations and new schedules. They school shopped at more grown up stores, searching for the ‘in’ thing. I don’t even know what the ‘in’ thing is… I bet in Middle School pencil cases and crayons are optional. There is no crazy supply list, because the work isn’t cut and paste kind of things… it is different. So I wait until next year to see what kind of supply list Amelia will need… I live in the dark as to what Middle School is like for girls to enter… because as we all know- she should be here.

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In my world Madeline will always be a 5 ½ year old, a Kindergartener. She will forever have all of her baby teeth, though she longed to lose one. Madeline will forever have only read a tiny book in Kindergarten, she will never read Harry Potter or The Boxcar Children. Madeline even lost some of her favorite independent things to do- buttoning her crisp and neat cardigans and tying her twinkle toes. Her fingers didn’t work well enough in the end. My lovely will never get to join orchestra and practice her violin (and as hard as it is to hear while they are starting I miss it). Madeline will forever only go to Bradt, only to one school and only for 5 months. I can open Madeline’s crayon box at any time and smell her crayons. I love them. She had her treasured Angry Bird Eraser in there. She will never choose a fancy book bag and shop at a teenager store. Her forever favorite sneakers will be Twinkle Toes- no fancy Nike’s or whatever kids where these days.

I remind myself that there is a gift in her forever innocence. There is a gift in her never experiencing the hard parts of Middle School and High School. There is a gift that she never felt the pain of this divorce. She is forever 5 and lovely and young and innocent. She will never have a friend take advantage of her or a person hurt her. Her favorite shows will never be inappropriate and dangerous. Her favorite music was simple and light- young… not full of junk. Her writing is simple and full of ‘I love you mom’… drawings of rainbows and her sisters. She is forever 5 1/2 … forever young.

I know she should be here, and for most part I know she is where she is supposed to be. Her journey was and is different. I wish I could have her back, but she is safe and okay, she is where her story brought her. Lucy asked me, while sitting on my couch, if I had a genie what would I wish for. I started thinking of the movies and things I saw about genies and how wishes never go as you mean them to. She said she would wish for unlimited wishes- I told her it is against the rules. Lucy responded- I wish for Sparky to live forever, I reminded her that forever means Madeline will never see her again AND she didn’t request that she live forever healthy and not peeing everywhere. She agreed, and then wished for Madeline to come back and live forever. I told her forever is a long time… I kind of want to go to heaven don’t you think Madeline would too. Her last wish she thought about- Madeline comes back AND our whole family lives forever. I said what if death isn’t so bad lovely… what is forever on Earth stinks? Then she changed the question, like a child can and asked me about my favorite Dr. Seuss book. Of course, Mr. Brown Can Moo and Mulberry St. So I read to her, and thought about all the times I read those books to my girls when they were little. I remember reading to just Madeline because I knew I should, but when she was little there was nothing else to do through the day.

I know she should be here, but she is there. I know, I know. I will forever wish she could be here, but I will forever know that she is there. There is quite close to here… heaven melds with Earth. Lately I just miss the Madeline I don’t get to know, to see and to build.

The thing is… I know there is something we can do about some of this missing. I know that Childhood Cancer stole her future. I know that it can change for others, my lovely is gone and she should be here. There are many that STILL CAN BE HERE, if we can change this childhood cancer journey. What if… because of Madeline and so many others who should be here… we changed this. It is my hope. I would love to know that Madeline’s story and our world today could help others not leave here… not lose those 65 good years to build amazing stories, not lose out on prom shopping and college and marriage or even retirement.

Maybe, just maybe because she isn’t here, but she should be- we can help others get to be here, get to grow here and get to stay right here with their mommas and daddys…

Do your kids a favor… stop doing favors

Do your kids a favor parents… stop doing your kids favors. Plain and simple. In all aspects of life I see this and it is driving me crazy. I just keep asking myself “what are they looking to build?”.

Parenting is building. We are building our people that God gifted us to be good, kind, smart and responsible adults. I know I want my girls to go out and live in the world. I want them to leave the shadows of home and see things. I want them to be freaking kind, that’s it I will take kind over rich any.single.day. I want my girls to use their brains to do good, to use their history to make better choices for their future. I want those girls to be accountable for their life. If they fail a test, so be it… if they get in trouble and there are repercussions- you better believe they will get them. I am their builder… not their friend. I am not doing favors for the people I am building if I remove all the hard stuff, the responsibility or the accountability.

Parenting is NOT about making it easier… or feeling bad for the experiences a child has gone through. It IS about love those children big, offering tools to help them get through the hard stuff in their past, being damn grateful you can offer that love right now and working to build great adults that CAN do hard things. Guess what??!!!???

LIFE IS HARD.

There I said it.

It is hard today, it was hard yesterday and it was hard 50 years ago. Judging by history and God’s plan not at all lining up with our own, I think life will always be hard. So let’s stop making life easy for our children… let’s make people who can do that hard things.

This not doing favors starts young… encourage independence. I work with elementary kids… do you know how many kids can’t cut because adults didn’t let them? Let your kids make messes with markers and food- help them clean it up. Do not keep spoon feeding your people, they can do it themselves…

Don’t insert yourself into the school world and expect favors… no you do not need to call the band teacher and let them know it is your fault your child forgot the clarinet. If your child’s paper is late and they talked to their teacher about it- let it be. Let your child fail… let them be disappointed. Let them be accountable.

FOLLOW THROUGH. This one is a tough one. It is not a favor to your child’s future self if you don’t follow through… if you take away a playdate you.do.not.go. If your child had a really bad day at school and ran or bit… do not reward them with TV and an iPad. If you told your child no cell phone until … and they beg you because they are the only one without follow through. Seriously… remind them that you are not all.the.other.people. The biggest thing is follow through even when it’s hard for you- know that your future self as a parent will be so grateful. We are the builders…

Don’t try to control your children’s friendships, friendships are a skill we learn. We are not born to be good friends, hang out with a 2 year old. We develop friendship skills, and we need those for the world after school. Monitor and listen to your child, but don’t do any of that bull crap where involve yourself in the friendship. Keep your kids in the safest relationships and encourage them to talk things through with a friend, or what not. I see this so much in many areas of our society now, we want our child to never be excluded, always be welcomed and never be hurt. I mean I hate seeing my child hurting, but I hurt sometimes too… and I know how to handle it. I know what it is like to be excluded, I became an includer because of that. I developed friendship skills. I have been the not-so-nice friend and had to apologize, and I have been the hurt friend. It is all a learning and developmental experience- one that parents should not control. It is not a favor, it is not a builder…

Think about the person you want to create, that you as a parent want to mold… what are they? Are they a person who uses a hard story as a crutch, or expects people to take care of them because they are owed that? I doubt it. I bet you just like me want to build kind, strong, loving, smart, responsible adults to take on this hard world we live in. We all have a story, we all have a past. We can make excuses or we can carry it on as part of us.

My girls lost their sister. Their parents divorced. This is part of their story. The rest of their story will have hurt, death and hard. They will have joy and struggle. I want them to continue building their story as they carry those parts of their story. I don’t look at this hard life as something anyone should feel bad about… it is just their story. I will keep building them to accountable, responsible, kind and smart- until they start building themselves with the tools I gave them. Tools for stress, anxiety, hurt, joy and life…

Ask yourself what are you building your people to be? What tools can I help my child build so that as life keeps going and keeps being hard they can manage and be kind, smart, accountable and responsible adults? What favors can I stop doing for my kids…

… a little runaway- run, run, run, runaway…

Sometimes we just need to run away from it all. Sometimes we need to just walk in on Monday morning and take Tuesday off… then after work you pack up your camping gear and head out. In this version of the story you better believe Lucy forgot the blankets, but thankfully we shared our tent with my friend and her 5 kiddos and we all stayed warm. We needed a runaway… not at all as fancy as a getaway.

I feel like Summer has flown by and soon the bus will pull up and my girls will head to school and I will go to work and life will just keep moving through the seasons. I don’t at all dread that part, I just missed the Summer’s we were used to. This is the first Summer I have worked since I had Madeline… many moons ago. I know some might think I am all spoiled like a Summer home is no work. It is A LOT of work… but it had lots more play in it. We had a schedule together… get up hang out, go to the gym, find an adventure come home play in the back yard, make dinner and maybe get ice cream. Then this work thing kind of set that off… I barely got workouts in, I miss my friends, I miss the fun during the day and I really miss travelling around and learning at the Pinebush Preserve and Indian Ladder, or hiking and swimming all day at Thompson’s Lake. I miss going to friends for playdates that turned into impromptu BBQ’s. I miss taking the girls to the pools, sometimes I would have to fish the dead frogs out for everyone… I miss that part.

So we ran away… for like 22 hours we neglected all at home responsibilities, we ate hot dogs more than once, we did.not.brush.our.teeth, the girls hair was itchy with sand and they woke up to play board games at 6am. We 3 mommas did it we wrangled 10 kiddos at 9:45 in the dark through the woods to the bathroom, we pitched tents, Betthany made a fire and we roughed it. I mean roughed it… I slept on a twin air mattress that deflated early in the night. I am old. This may have made me older…

It felt good. I sat in the morning on the beach and even with 10 kids running around I still felt peace. I felt that peace of knowing I didn’t need to be anywhere else right then. I felt just far away from home to not feel connected to the responsibilities there. I know there were dishes to be done, floors to be vacuumed and a dog who would most like leave a poop in the house… only I just didn’t think about it. If Doctor’s could write prescriptions for it I am sure mine would have… who knows maybe I need to ask is insurance would cover this kind of medical importance.

As I sat around the camp and watched my girls play and 10 kiddos get along pretty much the whole time- I saw a comfort that only comes in a herd. I saw trust in other mom’s to help handle situations, I saw no judgement for the fact that I don’t care if my kids brush their teeth in the wilderness, we talked about important parenting things that many would have opinions about… but we just offered support and ideas. I know the world says ‘It takes a village’… but I think ‘It takes a herd’. I don’t need a village, I need a herd. I need a herd who is willing to pack up life on a Monday night and head out. I need a group of moms who build each other not break each other. I need a herd I can trust to help build my girls to be respectful and responsible and accountable.

I.freaking.love.my.herd…

I also love to runaway ❤ but I am looking forward to a getaway with my Mr. Rick, for that one I might even get a pedicure and shave.

 

PS.  The nice Park Ranger helped the kiddos build a better river with more features, he took time out of his day.  He could have walked on by… but he stayed and helped a bunch of kids build better.  Kudos to Park Ranger Joe- a reminder that grown ups can be good, kind and authority can kneel down and help build a child up ❤

… Believe them the first time

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I saw this quote a few weeks ago, I find myself thinking about it a lot. It makes sense. I even hear myself saying it lots to others when we are talking about life and relationships. I look back at many relationships in my life history and wish in some ways I could have heard this then. I wish I could have listened ‘the first time’. I remind myself though, that I cannot be this very me without every day in my history happening just.the.way.it.has. I try to bring it along for my right now and my future.

Sitting on the beach with my friends while our kiddos played in the sand and tried to catch minnows we talked about everything. The conversations were sometimes interrupted by a kiddo coming for a snacks or the occasional “Keep the sand down!!!”… but it was one of those catch up days. I feel like many instances deserved this quote- When people show you who they believe them. Old friends, new friends, family members, coworkers, all of it… I love those days. They get me, I get them… and I see who they are showing me.

I felt a little repetitive and like I stole a quote- but then I knew that Maya wanted people to remember this. Our world would be better… if we walked away from those who showed their negative and corrupt and unkind. We could focus our light and energy and kindness to those who need it, not those who don’t. Imagine if I heard this quote while my marriage was breaking and I could have stepped off the rollercoaster sooner… or not felt betrayed by friends- instead I could have reminded myself that I could see who they were before. I just wanted them to be better…

I have been reading Glennon Melton’s Book Love Warrior, today what I read resonated with this quote. She was in church just after leaving her husband being told by a church member basically told her that God would not be okay with her for divorce- that she was breaking her children. In true Glennon form she had a great set of words to gift that ‘Christ loving woman’… and she left that church. She stood there being judged by humans who judged like they were God- that woman showed her who she really was and Glennon listened… she walked away and found real. When people show you who they are believe them…

This is true in ALL areas… right now there are protests in the south. There are terrorists and peacekeepers and love and hate are riding right next to each other. There are people standing with their ‘pitch forks’, actually the idiots are using tiki torches like they are celebrating… and they are raising hate. Their actions show who they are- they might be a great dentist, nurses, business owners, teachers… they are all members of communities and they showed us who they are. We must listen.

They have shown us who they are and we must listen. They are hate. They are evil. They are bad. Their voices need to be silent- not one word that comes out of their mouths deserves respect or listening. We need to build a circle of love… for the ones brave enough to stand next to this rally and be a peacekeeper, for the law enforcement keeping the peace and safety. Their voice needs to be silent in our memories- no hate comes along. Fuck them.

I can’t be there to help. I see who they are though… and I will preach love. We all have a job here- do not support those haters. When they go home to their communities help them fail- don’t use their business, switch dentists, work to get them out of your child’s school and make them fail.

Remember we cannot fight darkness with darkness- only light. Be a lantern… snuff out those tiki torches. Travel on in this scary world and remember who has shown you who they are- be it gossipy, careless with your heart, evil, or fake… listen the first time.

Funny Story…

Funny Story…

Well we can see it as funny today- Sunday it was one of those reminders of stress, a bad mood and some gratefulness. The girls and I travelled back home this past weekend, through some crazy storms and torrential rain we made it for one of those dinners that was not only tasty but full. I got to catch up with my best friend and cousin… and there was an abundance of kids. I was pooped and reminded of that time not-so-long-ago that my girls were all so little… It was a good Friday night in Clayton, NY.

I love home… I love the pace, wake up and eat breakfast right before my Dad comes home on his bike for lunch… then find some adventure. This weekend was one full of no plans working, but a great day rolling out. We met up with JoJo and worked on some Best Day Ever work, visited our friends at the lake and then met my parents for dinner and icecream. It was a FULL day. We were pulling into the driveway Saturday night and my Dad told us “Quick go get your sneakers I want to show you something”. So we did, I ran inside and grabbed my sneakers and returned to my parents car for a late night adventure (well 10pm…). I rushed, but enjoyed…

Sunday morning we woke up and prepped to head back to Albany. I was ready to head out and meet my sisters to say good bye and eat some eggs in Clayton- but I could not find my keys. At first I wasn’t stressed- I looked in my purse, on the counter, in the seat cushions… then I got frantic. I unpacked the bags of clothes, I looked under seats, looked in my Mom’s car, rechecked the house… we spent hours looking. It was SO FRUSTRATING. I messaged my sister that we would miss breakfast, she said she would head over with her boys.  My mom kept praying to St. Anthony, St. Jude and Madeline… she told Amelia that she thought Maddie must be busy at the playground, since she normally helps. I took a break. I drank coffee and caught up with my Mary… and then rechecked all the spots I could. I finally asked Mr. Rick…

I asked Mr. Rick to bring my spare key to Watertown for me. I hate asking people for favors, let alone asking someone to drive 3 hours one way and 3 hours back to bring a 1” by 3” key to start my vehicle… I hate it. He did though. He brought me my key. I was, how does it go?…. Sad.Mad.Glad. I was grateful. I am grateful. I did treat him to a pitcher of margaritas and a scrumptious Mexican meal- but the thing is he didn’t need a ‘big thank’. He is just kind. I think I am most thankful for that… I have never had that.

Mr. Rick headed out to bring the key north and I was gifted a few hours with my little nephews. We took a walk to the playground and low and behold… a monarch butterfly was flying around. Amelia said “Mommy look- Madeline is on the playground.”… I told her to stop being a terd and help my find my keys.

The playground was great it reminded me of lots… the hill I used to roll down and the places I played. Then I reminisced… I remember when mine were little… they were so hard, so needy and so freaking cool. Everything was new to them, they were terrible friends and they loved every moment of attention they got from me… I miss that. My girls thought I was the world, I was the best entertainment and my smile was everything. Now my girls are independent… and I love it. They are themselves… they love me but it is different now. I got a few hours of the ‘before’ kind of love and curiosity- and I got to see my girls love up on those little ones. My little nephews are 1 and 2… everything is a learning experience, everything is new and amazing. I love it. I love those tiny teeth when they grin, I love how they cross their arms when they are all mad at us. They are not my kiddos to punish so I can smile at the moments when they are terds. I love their simple love though. I love seeing my sister be a mom. She will be a cool mom… and a good one too. I never knew that part of her before. Anyway… I’ll stop babbling.

I got a few hours with some cool itty bitty people and it filled my bucket. I miss those boys, I wish Albany was 2 hours closer… but it isn’t. So we just enjoy what we have. I think my favorite days with my family are the easy unplanned days… my sister would stop down with my niece and nephew and now my other sister brings her boys and sometimes we might get lucky and my brother’s kids are free. It is the best, way better than big holidays. I love seeing them all together. They are all linked with genetics and life and stories…

So…

We got back to Albany and had to unpack and deliver fabric for a Best Day Ever. I unloaded the car and headed to make the delivery, a day’s work is never done. We got home and I took apart all the bags and things that were in the car. I threw some laundry in the washer and felt accomplished. I may have felt a little cocky… like “look at this I lost my key and still completed the day”. I tried not to feel bummed about only having one key and the fact that the Maddie’s Mark PO box key was on that ring. I just reminded myself… Little deal Erin. Relax.

Mr. Rick went home and the girls and I settled in to catch up on Gilmore Girls.

I opened the cooler to grab some seltzers, and opened the Hannaford bag with empty cans to recycle them. I heard a metallic clinking that didn’t sound like cans. Madeline, St. Anthony and St. Jude decided that this was my moment to find my missing keys. Those 3 have a great sense of humor…

I laughed and called Mr. Rick… told him I had a ‘funny story’ and hoped like crazy he would think it was funny too. The thing is he does not get mad at me for things like this, it is refreshing. I made a mistake, it happens- Little deal. That is a gift. I tried to call my mom, but I think she will discover that I found my missing keys in this post because I couldn’t get her. I was embarrassed and annoyed at myself, but I know there is a gift in life in just laughing at a mistake. I honestly hope the next mistake isn’t losing my keys… that would suck.

In a day that did not go as planned (do they ever?)… I got some extra snuggles, kisses, cars thrown at me, and lots of cute words. I got an unplanned day and a long car ride chat with Mr. Rick. I got to make sure my spare key still works. I got to get a little embarrassed and be humbled a bit. I also got to see my favorite Jeep key that is attached to my PO box key… praise the Lord. I told Madeline, St. Anthony and St. Jude to ‘do their jobs’ next time and not waste so much gas in the process…

SO… all and all there was some stressed, some mad, some annoyed, some frustrated and some impatient that rode right next to some happy, some loved, some grateful, some laid back and some curious… and all of that is just how life is.

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