Remember when Alma was born? Or her first day of preschool? Yesterday, right? Well, here’s our little baby all ready for kindergarten.
How did this happen? I mean, I totally get it. She’s 5 1/2. She’s becoming such a big kid. She is generous and kind. She’s excited to learn how to read and how to do math. She loves making new friends more than anything. She’s totally ready for kindergarten.
Harriet, on the other hand, isn’t quite ready for Alma to be in kindergarten. She’s already asked when Alma’s coming home – twenty times or so. They have a special bond, for sure. I’m so excited for next year, when Harriet is in elementary school with Alma.
This morning we all walked Alma down to her bus stop. We had to wait for a while, but Alma never seemed nervous or worried. She did complain about her backpack being uncomfortable. Guess we should break it in a little bit.
Alma hopped right on the bus without a look back (until her bus driver told her to turn around for a photo). She is such a courageous, smart, friendly, and fun girl.
Harriet and I ended up driving to the school to meet her. I wanted to make sure it all made sense to her, and she asked if we could meet her there. Boy am I glad we did. We went to the cafeteria to get breakfast, and it was a madhouse. We ran into our friend, Kenton, who’s a 1st grader, but new to the school, and who looked a bit lost. We all headed to the (long) breakfast line and got some food. The cafeteria was loud and crowded, but some of Alma’s fun 5th grade friends came to make sure she was doing okay.
I got Alma connected with her teacher, and on her way to music class, then we headed out.
Now I’m just counting the hours and minutes until her bus drops her off. I’m just glad it’s an early release day so she’ll be home an hour earlier. I can’t wait to hear all about her day and who she played with and if they had outdoor recess and if she liked the lunch I packed her and and and everything everything everything!
Apologize: to offer an apology or excuse for some fault, insult, failure, or injury
Lately Alma has been doing something that concerns me. She will say something silly, or do something goofy, and immediately say, “Sorry ’bout dat,” with a shrug and a self-depreciating eye roll. For example, she will pronounce a word wrong, or mix up her words, or stumble a little bit. Something about which she absolutely doesn’t need to feel sorry.
It reminds me of those studies that show that women, in group meetings or classes, will say, “I’m sorry…” then ask their question or make their comment. I’m pretty sure I read about this in Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, but I’ve been thinking about it for a long time.
It’s a hedge, something we say to fill space or make excuses. How many times have you said your opinion and finished up with, “…but that’s just what I think,” in order to avoid a confrontation. That’s a hedge. So is saying you’re sorry, oftentimes.
And this phenomenon is certainly more common with women than with men. I have been around groups of women who constantly apologize to each other, for every little thing. Even if it’s the other person’s fault. Even if it’s nobody’s fault. How many times have you asked someone who was blocking your way to move by first saying sorry? Why do we apologize to someone who is standing in the doorway, or blocking the thing we need, when it’s obvious that they’re in the wrong?
The act of saying you’re sorry when you’ve done nothing wrong makes us look weak. It is admitting that we have no power in our situation. It is admitting that we feel that what we have to say, or do, is less important than others.
I don’t want my daughters to believe this about themselves. I want them to own their opinions, their actions, and their questions. They are strong, and their voices are important. I want them to know that they can ask their question, or make a correction, or add an opinion without being perceived as aggressive. Moreover, I want them to know that it’s okay to be aggressive. If they make a mistake, they can own it without apologizing, especially if it doesn’t affect anyone else, like when Alma mispronounces a word.
Raising daughters, this goes even further. I don’t want my girls to ever apologize for not wanting to hug or kiss someone. I’ve written before about how I never make them hug or kiss anyone if they don’t want to. I want them to be strong and feel like they don’t ever have to apologize for this. When they’re teenagers and young adults, I want them to be confident that they can turn down sexual advances without an apology. They don’t have to do anything they don’t want to do, and they don’t have to apologize for it.
This all isn’t to say that I never want my kids to apologize. I certainly want them to say they’re sorry when they’ve hurt someone. I’ve started saying, “Only apologize when you’ve done something wrong” whenever Alma does this. I want to break the habit. There is a line in Sarah Kay’s poem “Point B” that says “always apologize when you’ve done something wrong but don’t you ever apologize for the way your eyes refuse to stop shining.” And that’s really it, isn’t it? I just want my girls to shine and not have to apologize about it.
January 3rd is a very special day to me. Not only is it the day you were born, but it is the day that I became a mother. I don’t know why, but this past year, I’ve been thinking about that a lot.
Yesterday, I asked you if you knew that I wasn’t a mommy before I had you. You looked surprised and asked me, “What were you?” I told you I was just Carolyn and that seemed to make sense.
Whenever I talk about things I did before you were born, you always say, “And I was in your tummy.” I used to explain that no, not yet. Now I don’t correct you. Maybe it’s because you’ve been here so long that it’s almost hard to image who Carolyn was before you made me into Mommy. Maybe it’s because I’ve realized that in some way, you have always been with me.
There’s a song that I’m listening to on repeat right now. It’s from a new musical by Sara Bareilles about a woman, who, in the end has a baby. She looks into her baby’s eyes and instantly becomes a mother.
I know that everything changed when I had you, Alma. Everything.
I used to be able to read books about children without crying. Now, I’m a mess reading to you. I can’t read Rosie Revere without thinking about how you need to know how capable you are. I can’t read On the Night You Were Born without thinking about how important you are. Even books I used to love have changed. When I read From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, I see the story from the parents’ perspective, and it makes the book much less enjoyable.
Anyway, Alma, this is all to say that 4 year ago everything changed. I changed. The whole world changed. This world used to be full of possibilities for my life, now it’s full of so much more. It’s full of a whole lifetime of possibilities for you.
This past year you have really become a person to me. You have grown up so much. You can express yourself perfectly. You have such a funny sense of humor. You are confident and strong. [Today you went up in front of our whole church, by yourself, and said “I’m Alma. Today’s my birthday. I’m four. I got a lot of presents.”]
I know that this letter is a little bit jumbled, but I have so much I want to say to you today, on your 4th birthday. I love you. I’m proud of you. I thank God for you. I am happy to guide you. I am sorry for when I’m not the best mother I can be. I need your help to get it all right. I appreciate your spirit. You are my girl. You are special. You are strong. You are brave. You are beautiful.
I couldn’t love you any more than I do, and I couldn’t be more proud,
Today’s a day like any other But I am changed I am a mother
Oh in an instant
And who I was has disappeared
It doesn’t matter, now you’re here
So innocent I was lost for you to find And now I’m yours and you are mine
Two tiny hands, a pair of eyes An unsung melody is mine for safekeeping And I will guard it with my life
I’d hang the moon for it to shine on her sleeping
Starting here and starting now
I can feel the heart of how
My heart’s at the wheel now
And all my mistakes
They make sense when I turn them around
What I thought was so permanent fades And I swear I’ll remember to say we were both born today
Oh, and it’s true
What did I do to deserve you
I didn’t know, but now I see
Sometimes what is, is meant to be
You saved me
My blurry lines, my messy life
Come into focus in a tied, maybe
I can heal and I can breathe
‘Cause I can feel myself believe
That everything changes
My heart’s at the wheel now
And all my mistakes
They make sense when I turn them around
What I thought was so permanent fades And I swear I’ll remember to say we were both born today Oh, and it’s true What did I do to deserve you Thank God for you
Last Christmas, Alma’s gift from my mom and step-dad was a camping trip with her cousin Liam and their dads. They decided to go to Silver Fall State Park. Of course, it turned out to be the first rainy weekend in months. They went anyway, and decided to play the camping part by ear.
When they got to the park, it was sunny and warm. They hiked around the waterfalls, in the woods, and had lots of fun. They had a picnic lunch in the lodge and hiked some more. Alma and Liam are just a few months apart in age, so it was fun for them to get to spend so much time together. One of the stories they came home with was from the caves. Alma said to Liam, “Will you protect me?” and Liam replied, “I AM SCARED.” Alma has been looking forward to her camping trip for months. She would tell me, “I’m going camping with Grams and Grandpa. You are not coming. Harriet is not coming. Daddy is coming.” She was very clear about this. There was no way I was going to sneak into the car. Of course, the rain showed up. They embraced the water and got soaked. At this point, it didn’t matter if the rain was falling, or the creek was splashing. It was warm enough that it was still fun. It was so wet, though, that everyone decided to head home. They realized they would have just spent the whole night in their tents as a fire would have been impossible and everything would be too wet to sit on. I don’t think Alma was too disappointed. They got to do all the fun things of camping without sleeping on the wet ground. I can’t wait for this to be an annual tradition. Maybe next year Grams and Grandpa will take Alma and Liam without their parents… maybe they’ll take Harriet, too!
The photos in this post were all taken by Jesse. He did a great job, didn’t he?
I got this idea from my friend Jodie (wife of author Anthony St. Clair). Jodie is a beautiful artist of many things. She is always creating, and her Instagram account is totally inspiring. I mean, I never thought I’d want to take up cross-stitch again, but she has me thinking about it. You should totally follow her.
She is homeschooling her son who is Alma’s age. She posted this photo a few weeks back:
I thought this was a great idea, but that Alma didn’t really need it. Then I started listening to Alma. Ever since my parents told her they were taking her camping, she’s been packing and talking all about it. I have to constantly remind her, “No, Alma, not today. Not this weekend… in 7 weeks!” and so on.
Today, on the way home from my mom’s house, I ran through EVERYTHING we’re doing in the next three months… “Okay, on Thursday we’re going apple picking. Then on Saturday you’ll see cousin Liam. Then we’re having friends over…. (etc etc etc)… then it’s Christmas, then dad’s birthday, then new year’s, then your birthday.” I think it might have overwhelmed her a little. Ha!
Anyway, Jodie’s calendar popped into my mind and I asked Alma if she’d like me to make one for her. Of course she said yes. So I did. I’ll add things as they come up, and she can cross off the days. I hope this helps!
We’ll put it on the kitchen door where we have lots of other important lists and stuff. She said she wants it in her room, but her room is crazy town right now, so I know it will get lost or destroyed in there.
There are some things we do in our lives that seem to define us. For me, ballet is one of those things. I danced from when I was three until high school, and a little in college. So much of who I am stems from my dancing. The way I walk, the way I move, the way I hear music, the way I stretch.
I was never particularly great, but I didn’t know that. To me, my dream of being a real ballerina was a possibility. A real possibility. I loved all of ballet, but I especially loved the leaps. I would do leap turns around and around the studio, trying to get higher, faster.
When we finally learned to do fouette turns, and I felt like I was finally a real ballerina. I could hop onto pointe, use my other leg to send me in turn after turn after turn.
My dance recitals are some of my favorite memories of childhood. I loved the preparation as our teacher would choreograph and teach us the moves. We would pour over the costume catalogs and memorize our music. Then we would practice. Those days were the best. We would do our barre work, then rush to practice.
Dress rehearsals and photographs meant the recital was almost there.
Then the day came.
We would go in the stage door of the Hult Center (like real ballerinas). We would go to the dressing rooms (like real ballerinas). We would go up to the wings and wait for our music to start (like real ballerinas).
Then, for a few minutes, with the stage lights shining, we were real ballerinas. The audience was watching us, counting our fouettes, cheering us on.
Those things, those experiences, made me who I am today.
Those things are helping make my children who they are today.
Last weekend was Alma’s first ballet recital. Those moments that I experienced over and over in my childhood were upon us in Alma’s young childhood. I was backstage with Alma and her group. I got to watch her experience those same things. She watched as the big girls got their hair done. She had a woman put her crown in her hair. She posed for the photographer. She was silly with her friends. She went into the wings. She watched the dancers. She saw magic happen before her eyes. She heard her music and went on stage. She heard the audience react to what she was doing. She was a ballerina.And the whole experience is making her into a person, a girl, a woman, a ballerina. And it’s changing who I am, too.
The things we are doing are defining who Alma will become. It’s magical.
(Alma is second from right, at least in the beginning… I told her to jump up and down if she forgot the steps…)
Another one of my 35 before 35 items was to list a new product each month on Etsy. I get to check this month off early! I made Alma a Belle dress and want to sell them to lots of other little girls. This post will be photo heavy, but I couldn’t help myself. Alma just loves to play in these new dresses I’ve been making for her.
If you’d like to check out the listing in my shop, please follow this link. To see my whole shop, please follow this link.
Of course I had her pose with a book, because Belle. Of course the threw it, because Alma. What a goof. Seriously. A goof.I can’t wait to see what this summer sunshine is going to do to these sweet freckles, and how it will lighten her pretty hair.
Standing in the dark, holding Alma, watching the curtain call of an amazing children’s theatre production of Beauty and the Beast. I had to fight back tears. It obviously isn’t an overly emotional play, but I found myself overcome with emotion. It happened a few months before, watching the curtain call of another children’s production of Peter Pan with Alma.
There’s always been something magical about live theater. The way that I get to watch such talented people put their hearts and souls into the performances. The way that the composer’s passion is played so beautifully. The way that the audience experiences something, all together in the dark. The way that the actors feed off the energy in the auditorium. It’s magic.
And to share it with my daughter. Magic. Watching Alma become so enraptured with what’s happening. The way that her eyes don’t leave the stage. The way that she reacts to all the shocking moments, the scary things, the funny jokes, the soaring high notes. She lives it, and she loves it.
Watching musicals with Alma adds another layer to the emotions on stage. It feels so special to share one of my passions with my little daughter. She eats it up, and I couldn’t be happier. I love to share the shows with her, but I also can’t help but glimpse a possible future of watching her on the stage, pouring her heart out.
Today, we played a little game. I’d sing a few lines from some of the shows and movie musicals she’s seen. She can identify the movie within a few lines, if not a few notes. It sort of blows me away. Alma really hears the songs, and understands their importance. She identified one of the Beauty and the Beast songs, and she had only heard it once, when we saw the play. These songs are leaving their mark on Alma. They are becoming the soundtrack of her life.
The soundtracks of West Side Story, Music Man, Peter Pan, My Fair Lady, The King and I are among the soundtracks of my childhood. My adolescence consisted of Phantom, Les Mis, Ragtime, Beauty and the Beast, Miss Saigon, and of course, Rent. Add Oklahoma, 42nd Street, Once Upon a Mattress, and Pajama Game from my school drama program. My young adulthood added Wicked, Lights in the Piazza, Little Women, Urinetown. My middle adulthood is all of those, plus Next to Normal, Ordinary Days, The Last 5 Years. When I hear a song from a musical, I am transported back to the time in my life when the song was played on repeat. It is fair to say that these will always make up the soundtrack of my life. And I love that they are playing in my kids’ lives, too.
These dresses are so great because they are made to be worn. Like really, really worn. They are cotton, so they aren’t itchy. They have sparkles, so they’re still fun. They are durable, so you can machine wash and dry them. They twirl, breathe, sparkle, and shine. Just like the little girls who will be wearing them.
Alma wore hers all day long at Disneyland and never got uncomfortable or hot. Plus, the ketchup she spilled at lunch totally came out of it in the wash.