Thursday, February 5

THREE CHEERS FOR 3!

To my sweet Sol:


You're sleeping as I type this.  I'm sitting in the rocking chair in your bedroom, sipping a giant mug of hot chocolate (an embarrassingly rich cocoa-to-water ratio, in reality).  I can see and hear you breathing.  Your gentle snores are a comforting sound, keeping time with the rise and fall of your back.  Today is Wednesday; it's been a long day, and this is a surreally peaceful way to wind down. After work today, I brought you home from daycare, made a quick exchange with our dear friend Ally, and scooted right back out the door to sit through my weekly 3-hour lecture about strategic management (which is about as riveting as it sounds).  By the time I got home, you were asleep, which was just as well, since I was overdue for an appointment with the snowblower anyway.  (Oh, and um... shouldn't a single mom get bonus points for owning & operating a snowblower??)

Wednesdays are inherently long days, but they're especially tough for me.  And probably for you, too.  I'd love to explain to you that I'm not really choosing to leave you every Wednesday, that this is just something that I have to do; but a part of me doesn't think you'll understand, and maybe it's easier to just masquerade each Wednesday as a recurring playdate.  Yes.  Yes, I think we'll go with that and leave the MBA part out of it.

I'm gone on Wednesdays, but not because of you.  I'm gone on Wednesdays for you.  Like so many other things, going to school is something I do for you.  I so badly want to give you a beautiful life.  I want you to learn manners, and I want gratitude to be second nature to you.  I want you to be smart and happy.  I want you to appreciate every good thing (especially every little thing) that comes your way in life.  And I want you to grow into a beautiful young lady, someone who inspires and is admired by those around you.  I want every choice you make to be a good choice (a little optimistic, perhaps, but I'll aim high).  And if when you do make a poor choice, please don't waste a moment regretting it.  I want you to accept responsibility for your choices, acknowledge that you are shaped by each choice you make in life, and I want you to learn from those choices-- both good and bad.

I can tell you from experience that it's a complete waste of time to regret choices you've made.  I know this well.  I think of the days, weeks, and months I spent hating myself for being pregnant.  I remember meticulously and angrily counting every single penny that flowed in or out of my bank account for 9 months, desperate to save enough to cover expenses over an unpaid maternity leave.  I recall countless nights spent alone in my bed, crying into an already-tear-stained pillow, wallowing in loneliness and wishing life had gone differently.  Too often, I replay horrible conversations in my mind: angry words from an angry man who told me I could never do this alone.

But this week was proof that all those moments of regret were pointless.  On Monday we celebrated your 3rd birthday.  Your THIRD BIRTHDAY.  Saying it out loud incites a strange, painful awareness within me, in the deepest hollow of my heart.  The awareness that only a mother knows, whether she is a mother, once was a mother, or desperately hopes to be a mother.  She knows the bittersweet sensation that accompanies her daily routine.  She knows the internal struggle between rushing through the day and begging time to creep more slowly, in hopes that The Clock might afford her a few extra minutes here and there, allowing her to savor the sweetest moments in life.  I'm guilty of both: begging The Clock to move more quickly, and pleading with that same Clock to slow down.

I can't believe we're here again, celebrating another trip around the sun.  You have been such an enchanting addition to my life, each day validating the cliche thrown at every expectant mother: You won't remember what life was like before Baby was born.

It's true.  I honestly can't remember.  Sure, I'll occasionally feel a tiny twinge of jealousy when I hear my friends' tales of Tuesday Night Trivia at the local brewery.  Do I hate missing a coworker's 5:01 shindig so that I can pick you up from daycare?  Absolutely.  Do I spend my lunch break at the grocery store because I have solemnly sworn to never again tote a screaming toddler down the produce aisle?  Without a doubt.  But I make these choices for you, not because of you.

My sweet Sol, I  can never thank you enough for showing me how wonderful and fulfilling life should be.  I have so enjoyed spending the last few years with you, and I am both excited and terrified to see you continue growing into the person you're destined to be.

I can't wait to regale a more grown-up Sol someday with tales of the wonderful little girl I know today.  I hope to sit with you in a few years and show you photos of a 3-year-old Sol donning a baseball cap and pretending to be "the pizza man" (arousing a chuckle, while simultaneously sparking panic: How often do we have pizza delivered?  Do we ever eat anything healthy?  Could this be why she named her baby doll 'Papa John?').  I imagine snuggling together on a rainy Saturday afternoon, watching Aladdin and laughing as I tell you how you received that movie for your 3rd birthday, you were adamant that Aladdin was Ariel's dad, and I couldn't convince you otherwise.  I think about our future conversations that will revolve around very serious things and will no longer include 3-year vocabulary like "rest'runk" (restaurant) or "Heavy-Fairy" (February).

Above all else, my wish for you is that as you grow, you will remember only the good things, and none of the bad.  Please forget the hours we've spent in reversed roles, you patting the back of a lonely single mother crumpled on the living room floor after yet another rough day, telling her not to be sad, that it's okay and you'll take care of her.  I hope you remember the evenings spent with a cheerful mom who has time to sit down and be served a 27-course meal from the kitchen in your playroom.  May you forget our semi-nightly arguments that ensue after you've eaten only 2 bites of your actual dinner; but please remember being so thrilled over a bowl of yogurt that you're too excited to actually eat it.  I hope you forget the tears that hit your pillow on those rare nights when you refuse to go to sleep, and I hope you begin each and every morning filled with the delight that I see in you now, the excitement in your eyes as you start a new day.

I look forward to waking you up every morning for as long as you will let me, and sharing your excitement about starting a new day.  I look forward to rocking you to sleep every night and whispering "I love you" in your ear until we're both too tired to keep our eyes open.  Thank you, my sweet Sol, for being you, and for sharing your life with me.

Wednesday, April 16

THE CURIOUS CASE OF THE DEVIL, A WASHING MACHINE, AND A CHILD NAMED WHISKEY.

As you know, Sol and I just bought a new casa.  We are in the process of moving.  It is anything but fun.

ALL.
THAT.
STUFF.

I am officially not moving for the next 30+ years, because ho-ly cow, I have too much stuff.  (oh, and the tiny caveat of now being in a long-term relationship with a mortgage.) 

So yeah, I need to whittle down.  In the interest of getting rid of stuff (as opposed to moving it), I am most definitely trying to unload a few things that I will no longer need.

Exhibit A: one washing machine and one rusty dryer.



I am happy to confirm that our new casa comes fully equipped with a snappy new washer and dryer that work beautifully.  Therefore, I'm utilizing Craigslist to attract some interested buyers to take the old ones off my hands.

<< This beauty of a Maytag attracted plenty of attention, but the lucky winner of that bidding war (insert sarcastic 'ha.ha.ha.' here) was a man named Jack. I arranged for Jack to stop over yesterday, since I would be at our former residence anyway to pack up the last few things.  

When he finally arrived in a noisy Dodge, I opened the door to greet a grimy young man covered with tattoos and sporting one pirate-esque silver hoop in his left ear that glinted in the late afternoon sun and seemed to be the only shiny thing about him.  Tagging along behind him was a sweet little blonde boy dressed in flannel Elmo PJ's and firetruck slippers, gnawing on a mammoth hunk of greasy fried chicken.

I am never one to judge a book by his or her cover, so I smiled as I shook Jack's hand, and I crouched down with Sol to say hello to the little carnivore on my doorstep. They stepped inside, and just before I closed the door I caught a glimpse of a bold green "S" adorning his license plate.  Oh.  State fan.  Neat.

Fear not, friends: I was not alone.  I had enlisted the help of a friend (let's call him Curtiss) to a) be present for the transaction, and b) help tote the washing machine up the rickety basement steps and out the door. 

As Curtiss and Jack were hauling the appliance up the stairs, I waited in the kitchen with Sol and the little blonde boy, who was chattering away about something, but I was unable to make out anything but his age (3 yrs), and his name (Whiskey).   Wait, what?  I couldn't possibly have heard him correctly...  

I fought the urge to gag as I watched him tear the greasy skin off his fried chicken (probably the only time there's ever been fried chicken in my kitchen).  I asked him if he liked chicken.

"Yeah-sure," he said in between gnaws.  He then proceeded to tell me the story of that chicken breast, and how it made its way to his little hand. 

Per Whiskey: It comes from a farm, and the farmer finds the very best chicken and that farmer says to the chicken, "You're next," and he chops the chicken's head off and then the chicken goes to the store and then the chicken goes from the store to the house and that's how our 3-yr-old friend wound up with that piece of chicken.  (Imagine, if you will, the look of horror upon my face, and Sol's tiny hands fighting to pull my hands off her ears, trying to protect her vegetarian ears from hearing the atrocities of the poultry industry.)

I asked him if there was possibly any other food that he liked... apples... or... carrots, perhaps?  He said no, and at that moment we saw a Maytag washer cresting the top of the stairs, followed by a grimy pirate with a shiny earring and poor Curtiss, who had volunteered to help but apparently did not realize what he had gotten himself into.

They carried the washer outside and loaded it atop the tailgate of an otherwise-packed truck.  From inside the house, Curtiss and I watched as Jack tied the Maytag down with some straps.

"Nice guy," I muttered.
"Did you see his license plate?" Curtiss asked.
"Yeah, he's a State fan," I replied.
"Look again," Curtiss instructed.

I looked out the window and gasped as I saw the license plate.  It was still sporting the green "S" in support of his favorite team (I guess), but as I looked closer, I noticed the letters that followed: A-T-A-N.

There he was.  The devil was out there, loading my washing machine into his truck.

"He wants a receipt," Curtiss said. 

I grabbed some paper and a pen to write the receipt, and paused.  "...What do I put for his name?" I asked.  (Lucifer?)

"Jack, I guess," Curtiss replied.  "Don't write your last name on that receipt.  Just... don't."  Curtiss volunteered to run the receipt out to the devil-truck (hallelujah -- no pun intended), and I watched as Mr. Satan strapped his son into the carseat and drove off.

"Did that really say Satan?" I asked.
"Yep," Curtiss replied.
"Did you happen to hear what his son's name was?"  I asked.
"Yep."
"Did you hear 'Whiskey'?" I asked.
"Yep."
"Did I just sell my washing machine to Satan and his son Whiskey?"
"Yep."
"That's... creepy," I said as I looked up at the copper cross hanging in my kitchen.
"Yep."

Apparently the devil has dirty laundry too.


Friday, April 11

AMID ALL THE UNPLANS, A PLAN!

I know I've been absent.

I'm sorry.  Believe me, I miss this beautiful little piece of the World Wide Web -- this perfect little haven where my thoughts flow freely through my fingers tapping away on an overused keyboard in the hopes of sharing the highs and lows, the funny and the not-so-funny, the triumphs and tears of this little circus I call Life.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I've been ridiculously swamped.  Especially at work.  And when I'm not at work, I'm caring for Sol.  When I'm not with Sol, I'm attending MBA classes (insert various 4-letter expletives here).  When I'm not attending classes, I'm working on reading a stack of books for my management class, or translating Corporate Finance into a language I understand (because oh yes, for some reason I thought I could whiz through 2 classes in one semester, while working full-time and being a full-time single mom).  When I'm not reading or studying, I'm taking an exam or writing a paper.  And somewhere in there, I feed myself and Sol, and somewhere in there our laundry gets done.  And I think the dishes have been washed once or twice in the last few months.

Busy, right?

But not busy enough.  Because a couple months ago I decided to sit down with my good friend Brandon and sign some papers.


And then a couple weeks ago I decided to sit down with him and sign some more papers.  Followed by a little happy dance in front of a building that looked a little something like this:

 
Doesn't YOUR realtor take selfies??
 Oh yeah, on top of everything else I decided to buy a house.  The process?  Smooth and relatively easy.  (<--bonus!!)

For a first-time homebuyer who's already got her fair share of stress on a daily basis, 'smooth and easy' is music to my ears.  So every morning I've been packing my car with a laptop, a Corporate Finance book, a Jekyl-and-Hyde 2-year-old, and a trunkload of little things in the interest of moving a mountain one stone at a time.
  *the 'mountain' being our household, the 'stone' being a trunkload of 'why do I even have this in the first place??'

Smooth sailing indeed... until I headed over there a few days ago and found this:


Obviously my first thought was Yard Crashers.  Wasn't that nice of the City to come and give my landscaping a makeover?  Clarification: they were not Yard-Crashing my casa... they were fixing a broken water main that just happened to be right-smack-dab in my front yard.  Tore. That. Place. UP.
 
Water mains aside, the process was smooth and easy. 

And it's been intense.  Like, I can't even really confirm that I've managed anything over the last couple weeks.  It's been late nights and early mornings and waking up at the kitchen table at 1am, face-first in finance homework, and breakfast in the car and late-again-to-work and personal budgets and budget reviews and budget re-reviews and 'Do I really want to sign that?' and toddler tantrums and falling face-first into my actual bed with all my clothes on because I'm mentally and physically exhausted.

But last night was different.  Last night, we were home.  In a place that doesn't feel quite like home just yet, but it's most definitely got potential.  Our living room consists of a couch and a TV on a shelf and 2 fake plants that we inherited from the former residents and I just can't wait to get rid of.  My bed is there and Sol's bed is there. My dresses are on their hangers but laying on the floor, and I can't find Sol's diapers to save my life.  Our cupboards are semi-stocked but I'm not sure what to make for dinner or when to make it (hooray for Taco Bell).  The floors are wooden and creaky and the plaster walls are not painted to my liking just yet.  I'm still not always sure what's flashing in the hallway at 2am (smoke detector, by the way).  The basement is sort of very creepy and I'm terrified to park in the garage yet because I can't even remember the last time I parked in a garage and can I even maneuver the car correctly?

But we're home.  Finally home.  We've survived so much unplanned, but Sol and I are finally realizing a PLAN.  2-year-old Sol will finally (for the first time) sleep in a room that was chosen and painted specifically for her, and this summer she'll be playing in a backyard that was basically selected with her in mind (10 bonus points for the mini-playground in our backyard).  We're home.

So last night, I sat with Sol in a surreally silent living room that contained a sofa, a TV, 2 house plants, and a whole lotta love.  We snuggled next to a cozy fire and ate fresh-baked oatmeal raisin cookies and washed them down with water and read Monster Nursery Rhymes and (as always) Good Night Moon.  I sat there and smoothed her hair and told her about everything I want for her, and all the adventures I envision us having in this new house.  We sat there, the two of us, mother and daughter, and we were finally home.


Friday, March 21

YOU SAY SO-LAY-AH, I SAY SO-LIE-AH

So to refresh your memory, about a year ago I was shopping around feverishly for a new daycare (remember this?). I was delighted to find a daycare center that was basically on the way to work.  The facility was clean, bright, and cheerful -- and so were the employees.  (Hooray!)

Before you jump to any conclusions, hear this: we are still very happy there.  Everything is dandy. 

I never have any issues getting Sol ready for "school."  She loves it.  Granted, she went through a little spell of early-terrible-2's last summer.  She went on a hitting rampage for a few weeks -- which no parent wants to hear about.  And for some reason she really, really, really disliked one of the teachers; Sol would actually take her own socks off and shove them in the teacher's mouth for absolutely no reason at all.  {I cannot make that up, and yes, I laughed when the director informed me of the first sock/mouth incident, and by the way, she is very much in love with that particular teacher at present.}

But seriously, she loves it now.  She's one of the veteran toddlers there, and she's their biggest helper when it comes to cleaning up the classroom at the end of the day.  She knows everyone by first name (a truly stellar talent because I mean she knows ev-er-y-one's name... even her classmates' parents).  The daycare director is super flexible and very understanding of all types of situations (*ahem* even the unique ones *ahem*).  They accommodate her vegetarian diet.  They know and appreciate the friends/family who occasionally often help me out by picking Sol up.  They send me photos throughout the day of my darling daughter, so it's *almost* like I"m there.

They're fantastic.

However...

Let's rewind about 1 year, to Sol's first day at that center.

I walk in, carrying Sol.
One of the teachers greets us.
I say, "Good morning.  This is Sol's first day."
The teacher asked, "Sol?"
Another teacher comes along and says, "Isn't that pretty?  It's Spanish for sun."
I hand our enrollment form to the director, who says, "Yes, it's short for Solaya."
    (which she pronounced "So-lay-ah."  Vital information: I pronounce Sol's name "So-lie-ah.")
To which I reply, correcting her, "Oh, it's pronounced  So-lie-ah." 
  >> Only I didn't say that.  I didn't correct her.
I brush it off and continue down the hall with the director.
She opens the door to Sol's classroom and introduces her to the two teachers in there, saying, "Everyone, meet So-lay-ah."
I say, "Yes, this is Sol's first day."
  >> Again, I didn't correct her. 
The two teachers say, "Welcome, So-lay-ah!"
To which I reply, correcting them, "Oh, it's pronounced So-lie-ah."
  >> Only I didn't say that.  I didn't correct them this time either. 
The two teachers introduce Sol to the other kids in the Waddler classroom, "Friends, this is So-lay-ah.  Can everyone say hi to So-lay-ah?"
To which I reply, correcting them, "Oh, it's pronounced So-lie-ah."
  >> Only I didn't say that.  I didn't correct them. 

    (Do you see where this is going?)

Fast-forward to today, which marks about one year of Sol spending ~51% of her waking hours at the daycare facility.

I walk in this morning, carrying Sol.
I instruct my daughter, "Sol, say good morning!"
Sol says, "Gah mah-nan, soo!" [loosely translated: Good morning, school!]
The director greets us, "Good morning So-lay-ah!"

    (Do you see where this went?)

So... that's where we are.  On the first day, I was - I don't know - too shy/nervous/fill-in-the-blank to correct anyone.  I thought, I'll correct them tomorrow.  And then "tomorrow" happened.  Only I didn't correct them that day either.  "So-lay-ah" went viral.   And why not?  It's a pretty name; it's just not her name.  I thought about correcting them the next week, but I thought, They've been calling her So-lay-ah for a week; they're going to think I'm stupid if I correct them now.  <-- which may or may not have been the case, but that's irrelevant at this point.

Because here I find myself, a year later, taking my daughter to a daycare we adore, but where I have allowed the staff to call my daughter by the wrong name.  FOR A YEAR.  At home, I find myself calling her by her full name, saying "Solaya (so-lie-ah) Haven!" -- to which she responds, "No Sa-yi-ah. Sa-yay-ah."  And now, a year later, I absolutely cannot correct the daycare staff, because THAT DOES MAKE ME STUPID and let's just face it, I'm mortified.  I mean, imagine if you worked with someone all day, every day, for a year, and then you find out that you're not pronouncing their name correctly.  You would wonder why they failed to correct you the first day.  Or the second day.  Or the second week.  Or a month into it.

Awesome.

On that note, I welcome any and all advice.  And no worries, I'm surprisingly lighthearted about this.  Only it's bound to be a problem here in the next couple months.  The girl is talking now.

Thursday, March 20

HOW LUCKY AM I?


I've always loved St. Patrick's Day.  One of my favorite days of the year -- and to be perfectly honest, I don't know why.  This year was no exception.  I celebrated with my little sunshine.  She and I, paying tribute to Erin Go Bragh and all that sort of thing, donned our green and had ourselves a most delightful little St. Patrick's Day. 
 

We started early, doing our due diligence on pre-Patrick's weekend, by attending the St. Patrick's Day parade downtown. This year seemed different somehow.  Granted, it had been a couple years since I attended... but for starters, the temperature outside was a whopping 40-50 degrees lower than we had seen 2 years ago.  Aside from that, the parade was just missing something.  Sure, parade participants were waving their Irish flags and sporting glittery green polyester coifs and tossing candy at any child who shouted their way.  But there were no bagpipes, no fife-and-drum corps... just... disappointing, you know?  The sad parade ended, the last green/white/orange had waved its last hurrah, and we hurried down the chilly sidewalks of Downtown Kalamazoo and made our way to a local pub for some lunch and green beer.  In all her festive glory, we sat in a westward booth in the afternoon sun, my little Sol (as usual) drawing the attention of the local crowd, sitting like a perfect Irish princess and chattering cheerfully to anyone who might listen.  After a couple boats of fresh-popped popcorn, some lunch, and a green beer, we headed home, back to regular life and anticipation of the actual St. Patrick's Day.




Monday arrived, and I dressed Sol again in her St. Patrick's garb.  As per usual, I had every intention of making some wondrously festive, Irish-themed snack to send along to daycare with Sol, but as per usual I awoke on Monday morning to see the shamrock cupcake liners were still sitting, empty, on the kitchen counter, exactly where I had left them the night before (I swear, one of these nights, the kitchen fairy will come to visit and whip up something **amazing** while I'm sleeping).

Since St. Patrick's Day isn't a public holiday (remind me to write Mr. Obama a strongly worded letter about that one), Sol went to daycare and I went to work.  By 5pm, I was just itching to leave the office and head home with my darling Sol to celebrate a holiday that really has no true/substantial meaning for us, but of which I am so fond. 

As I zipped up Sol's green coat to head home, I told her we were going to have a very special dinner.  As we walked out to the car, I continued: We were going to eat something Irish and fabulous, we were going to make a green cake, and we were going to watch Lord of the Dance.  Says she to me: "Loh-uh-dannnz?"  I said, "We're going to watch people dancing."  The whoooooole way home was filled with a refrain from Sol: "Peo-puh...DAN-CINNN!  Cake!  Peo-puh...DAN-cinnn!"  She wanted to watch those people dancing.
So we got home,
slapped on some aprons,
and started making a green cake.
Mama apron, Solly apron.
We love aprons 'round here.


Rule #1 when cooking with a toddler: NEVER tell them what you're making until it's out of the oven and ready to eat.  A toddler will not understand the concept of "making a cake" if you still have to mix the ingredients and put it in the oven for 40 minutes.  Otherwise, grin and bear it.



Grin and bear it, I did.  We mixed up a green cake, put it in the oven, and then ate a marvelously un-Irish meal of microwaved cornbread and [vegetarian] chili (that's almost the same as corned beef and cabbage, right?). 


 

We ate that green cake like it was our job, and then we watched the "peo-puhhh dan-cinnn" for about 8-9 glorious minutes before 2-yr-old Sol was on the loose again.  Bathtime, PJ time, book time.  

Snuggling to Lord of the Dance.
Not pictured: my pure elation when
Sol pointed to the beautiful blonde heroine
and said, "Mommy? Mommy dan-cinn?"
Why yes, Sol, that is me.  In fact, I am that talented and beautiful.
For the first time in I-don't-know-how-long, Sol and I lay together in my bed, her head resting against my chest as I regaled her with tales from her favorite book.  As per usual, I was reading to Sol but my thoughts were consumed with the never-ending "to-do" list that seems to run circles around me (laundry, dishes, homework, vacuuming, Did I lock the front door?, meetings today, meetings tomorrow, meetings next week, bills, Seriously, did I lock the front door?, homework, homework, I should clean my room, homework, etc.).



And then Sol did something she's never done before.  She reached up, and with her tiny, perfect hands, took my left hand and interlaced her tiny fingers among mine.  By some magical force that she has, she pushed every single "to-do" out of my head and shifted my focus to the lucky charm lying next to me on the bed.  The lucky charm pointing to everything I asked her to point to, and reciting every familiar part of the storybook.  I wish I were able to push that "to-do" list out of my head more often, but I just can't.  That list contains the drudgery, doubts, and struggles of parenting, the caveats that come with a grown-up life. And this 30-lb miracle in my arms, she has the power to make me forget all those things, even if only for 30 minutes at a time, and remind me once more that life is still beautiful.  



As I watched her embrace my hand so gently, I realized just how lucky I am.  Our situation is so unique, and yet I take that for granted.  Sol belongs to me -- JUST me.  How many mothers can say that?  All the love she has, it comes straight to me.  She loves me madly... probably more than I deserve.  I am not stuck with a child whom I have to raise by myself.  I am blessed with a daughter whom I get to raise on my own.  I am so very lucky to have this magnificent little person in my life, this amazingly brilliant mind whose vocabulary seems to double every day, this wonderfully compassionate little girl who walks up to me when I'm sad, pats me on the back, and says "Ya o-kayyyy, Mommy?"  She knows me, and she knows me well.  She knows when I'm happy ("Mom-my hap-py?") and she knows when I'm excited ("Mom-my 'cited?  Reeeaaa-dy, Mom-my?").  She knows when I'm sick ("Fee bet-teh, Mom-my," as she pats my aching stomach).  

This tiny human is growing so much every day, and in every way.  She's growing quickly -- and while that makes me sad, I'm more proud of her than I ever could have imagined.  She is so smart, so kind, so important (10 points if you smiled at that) -- and for that, I'm lucky.


Thank you, my beautiful Sol, for being you.






Monday, December 16

THE DAY I HURT US BOTH

Weekday mornings in our household can be chaotic.  But I have a pretty strict regimen: I wake up, get ready, brave the near-zero windchill to brush off my windows, start the car, glance at the daycare lunch calendar to see whether I need to send a meatless meal for my little vegetarian, toss a purple sippy cup into my bag alongside my laptop, run back upstairs, wake Sol up, get her dressed for the day, and then we leave.

Lucky for me, Sol is usually asleep during the first part of that.  Usually.  And when she sleeps through my daily prep, life is easy.  Simple and sweet. 

Then there are days when she wakes up during my routine.  But she'll sit in front of the mirror and chatter cheerfully to the Sol staring back at her, pointing out elbows and ears, noses and toes.  On these days, brushing my hair to the soundtrack of her monologue, I turn and smile at my Mini-Me chatting with her reflection.  I say, "Love you, Sol."  She turns to look at me and says, "Luzh-yewwww."  From there, I pack things up and we're on our way.  Still pretty easy.

And then there are days like this morning.  I woke up on time, and in the middle of my shower, I heard the first cry from the nursery.  As I turned the water off, the cries got louder.  As I got dressed, the cries turned into wails.  I ran into Sol's room, turned the lamp on, and stepped over to the crib.  There stood my daughter, illuminated by the lamp's soft glow, rubbing her teary eyes and nuzzling her pink bunny against her sleepy face, crowned by the most delightful bedhead.  She reached her arms out to me and I freed her from the confines of her crib. 

However, she did not want her pajamas removed. 
She did not want her pajamas zipped up.
She did not want her legs in her pajamas.  Just her arms.
She did not want lotion on her dry winter legs.
She did not want to be dressed for school.
She did not want the comb.
She did not want a hug.

I gritted my teeth and left her in her room... after all, I had things to do.  In my bedroom, as I was putting my shoes on, Cranky Little Sol came toddling in to my room, wailing angrily at me and wearing only the top-half of her unzipped footie pajamas, the pajama legs dragging along the floor behind her.  I reached over to my nightstand and pulled out a book about colors,  Sol sat down in my lap and I read it to her.  We put the book back and I told her I needed to finish getting ready.  Cranky Sol started wailing again, holding another book out to me, asking me: "Read? Read?"

My status was quickly transitioning from "on time" to "late."  I told Sol no, we couldn't read another book, and I walked away.  Sol ran after me, her pajama legs still trailing behind her, sobbing as she pulled at my legs.  Very sternly, I requested that she use her words and tell me what she wanted, but the only response was more sobs. Once more she picked up her book and begged me to read to her.  Stepping over her, I continued getting ready for work as I tried to tune out her shrieks of frustration. 

We walked together to her room.  I wrestled her into some pants and a shirt.  I grabbed my phone to check the time.  Officially late.  Sol ran after me: "Hold?? Hold??"  I told her I couldn't hold her.  We were LATE.  I ran down to the kitchen to pack our bags, my angry daughter making her way down the steps behind me, still shrieking in frustration.  She came up to me and clutched my legs. 

I pried her arms off and sarcastically thanked her very much for making me late today.  Her response?  Sobs.
She did not want to wear her coat.
She did not want to wear her hat.

She screamed at me: "Hold?  Hold??"  I flipped my wrist up to check my watch.  LATE.  I told her I could not hold her, and it was cold outside, so could she please put her coat on because in case she's forgotten, I have a job and she has school and we were late.  Again, she shrugged her coat off, tears streaming down her pudgy cheeks, and she said: "Hold!  Hold!!!!"  Again, I checked the time.  LATE-LATE-LATE.  My stern, slow, 'follow-these-instructions' voice was now a furious yell.  In frustration, I shouted angrily at her to put her coat on, and that she was making my life very difficult, and now we were late, and I don't understand why she can't follow instructions, and I hoped she was happy. 

She gasped one final gasp, sobbed one last sob, and then she was still.  She hung her head in silence as she offered her left arm to me, then her right, in a joint effort to put her coat on.  I grabbed my bags angrily and stormed out to the car without her to throw the bags in the front seat.  As I walked back up to the house, I saw her standing in the doorway, watching me with the saddest, most terrible look: a grief-stricken mixture of confusion and remorse. 
She was not crying.  But this was worse.  Suddenly, my baby was gone, replaced by a tiny person who understood the horror behind an actual angry shout.  Standing before me was a small human with feelings... feelings that were hurt.  This morning, in my frustration, I hurt Sol.  And for the first time ever, I could see that.  For the first time ever, I watched my angry words work their terrible magic across my daughter's face.  I saw my rant tracing lines of fear and shame around Sol's eyes, around her quivering lips.  In response to a frantic, furious mother raising her voice, tiny Sol raised her tiny fist and, in her own version of sign language, rubbed that fist gently on my knee with a defeated apology.  "Sogg-yy." 

Never before had such a small apology taken such a toll on me.  My knees buckled and I knelt down in front of her.  Taking a slow step toward me, Sol put her arms gently around my neck and apologized again: "Sogg-y."  Wrecked, I wrapped my arms around her, hoping this embrace would allow every ounce of remorse and love in my being to flow from me to her in some extraordinary connection, reassuring her that everything was okay.

But she dropped her arms and looked away.  I asked her to look at me.  She looked at me.  I told her I loved her and I was very sorry.  She said nothing and looked down again.  Stunned, I asked her for a kiss.  She walked away from me, toward the door.  I picked her up, carried her out to the car, and buckled her into her carseat.  The ride to school was silent from her end.  She would neither look at me nor talk to me, this child who has been [otherwise] jabbering endlessly.  Upon arriving to her daycare center, she remained silent.  I kissed her and pulled her close to me as we entered her classroom.  She took her coat off and ran to the opposite side of the room.  I called after her to say good-bye and I loved her (which is always followed by a hearty wave and a "luzh-yeww" in response), but she stayed focused on her blocks, refusing to look at me.  She may as well have been twisting a dagger into my heart as I left for work, without so much as a glance from my beloved Sol as I backed out the door. 

The drive to work was equally silent.  I threw emotional punches at myself for losing my cool and hurting Sol.  I repeated , "I love you, Sol," nearly a million times on the 10-minute drive,  as though it would somehow patch the wounds my words had left on little Sol, as though it would soothe away any sadness.  As I blinked away tears, I recalled that I had a work engagement this evening, and my sister would be picking Sol up from daycare.  I couldn't bear to think of the sadness in Sol's face when she saw that Angry Mommy wasn't even taking her home from daycare tonight... would she think I had abandoned her?

I arrived to work and sat at my desk, looking up at the photos of my beautiful, smiling daughter.  I thought again of her reaction on the doorstep at home.  Remorse took over me; my eyes filled with tears again as I thought frantically about what I could do.  I called her daycare and told them I would be picking Sol up for lunch today. 

Upon walking into her classroom a few hours later, I was greeted by a glowing, chubby-cheeked little lady with the brightest eyes I'd ever seen -- as if she were somehow surprised that I came back for her.  She beamed as she ran into my arms.  I scooped her up and stood there with her, my arms folded around her as if I could protect her from anything else that might ever cause her pain.  I murmured one more "I love you" through her golden locks as I carried her out the door to our lunch date.

As we sat together at a red-and-white checkered table, all I could do was gaze at my daughter and whisper a thousand apologies to the air between us, hoping that one of them would reach her and she would understand how much I love her, how it was killing me that I hurt her.  Perhaps weekday mornings will always be hectic.  Maybe I will always be wrestling her into her clothes and/or jacket.  Surely there will be other mornings where we're running a half hour late.  But I will never again do anything to her to cause the sadness I saw this morning.  I will do whatever I can to protect this girl, this tiny piece of myself, even if that means sitting down for 10 minutes in the morning to read the same book 5 times over. 

They say you can't choose your family, but that's not true.  I made a choice, and I chose Sol.  I chose frantic mornings, noxious diapers, messy dining room floors, cluttered living rooms, tight budgets, and limited freedom.  I chose warm hugs, kissable toes, holding hands through parking lots, belly laughs, boundless loyalty, and perfect love.  I will never allow myself to forget that I chose her. 


 ^^ She's shaking the salt and pepper shakers like they're maracas.  FYI.