Sophie’s First Day of Kindergarten

She said she hardly slept but I know that’s not true. I know that, because I hardly slept and I checked on her several times throughout the night, catching her fast asleep in her bed and later, in the early hours of the morning, in our bed.

When she did wake she wanted to go.

“It’s not time,” I said. “It’s too early.”

“We’ll walk slow,” she said. “Really, really slow. I promise.”

I showered and dressed. She put on the outfit she had picked out the night before, the one we had gone shopping for the week prior, the one I actually took the time to iron last night.

Andy clasped a new necklace around her neck, one that Grandma had made. I clasped an identical one around my neck. I gave them to her the night before, and explained the idea behind a worry stone. She chose the pink heart to be her worry stone. She rubbed it.

“Do you think we might rub it at the exact same time tomorrow?” she asked.

“I bet so,” I said.

We read The Kissing Hand.

Back to this morning. After we had had our cereal, and as I was pouring my coffee into a thermal cup she said, “You’re going to take that with you, right?” The idea of sitting around waiting for me to drink a cup of coffee was just too much.

“Yes,” I said.

We took pictures on the front porch. Owen and James sung their goodbye song to her. And we started to walk.

She clutched my hand and skipped. And yelled “wa-hoo!” several times during our walk. I love her life wa-hoos.

Halfway through she stopped and reached for her necklace, but not for her worry stone—rather she reached for another, silver, charm. “This,” she said, “is our excited stone. It’s what we’ll rub when we’re excited.”

I squeezed her hand and smiled.

We continued to walk. More parents and children donning backpacks filled the sidewalks. The entrance to the school was packed with children, parents and siblings.

She ran into friends made during preschool.

The principal opened the doors. Everyone poured in. There were balloons everywhere. I was delighted to learn that, at least on this day, we were able to walk her directly to her room.

Sophie became more quiet, her mouth sometimes set in that butterfly mixture of anxiety and excitement.

We found her classroom.

Her desk and her name tag.

Her cubby.

I hugged her goodbye.

As I left, she was rubbing a stone. I don’t know which one.

Despite the thick fog, I put on my sunglasses. And breathed deeply. And wondered why I was so teary. I knew I would be a little teary, but honestly, I didn’t expect the need to constantly wipe my cheek the entire walk home.

Andy was completely perplexed by all this.

“It’s just the start of school,” he said.

But it’s more. It’s the start of something new. She’s part of something bigger now. Daily she’ll experience, learn, see and do things I won’t ever know about—as she should.

And part, I think, is that she’s now doing something I vividly remember doing. And I’m done doing that. And she’s just starting. I saw the look on her face, that butterfly mixture of emotions and remembered. Something about our walk to school together this morning really reinforced the cyclical nature of life and the life seasons so many of us are lucky to experience.

My tears this morning weren’t because I was sad that I wasn’t spending this morning—and many future mornings—with her. Rather they were from someplace deeper. That place is mostly filled with joy and gratitude. But pockets of sadness hide in the corners of that place, too. It’s a deeper sadness, something bigger than “I’ll miss you.” Rather it’s a sadness that what she’s experiencing in life right now I’ve already done. And someday, she’ll have done it, too. And while I’d much rather move forward versus go back, the finality of our life phases can weigh heavy at times. So I think about what Kahlil Gibran wrote, “When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”

Now, I’m fine. Completely and totally (mostly) fine. And so excited to walk back to the school with Owen and James, pick her up, and ask her questions all the way home—or at least until she tires of me asking them.

Goodbyes, to people, to periods of time, are hard. But those goodbyes make the hellos even sweeter.

“The Universe is one great kindergarten for man. Everything that exists has brought with it its own peculiar lesson.” —Orison Swett Marden

Woodfill’s Big Top Festival (Year Three)

I love everything about this festival. I love how kid-centered it is. I love how inexpensive it is (although as the kids get older, we’re discovering it becomes more and more costly). I love how everything is run by volunteers. I love how all the money earned benefits the school. I love how excited my kids get over cheap plastic rings and lollipops. I love that we can walk to it. I love the community feel of it. I love that afterwards, we can walk to a local park and meet good friends and then walk to Anita’s with said good friends for good Mexican food.

I spent most of my childhood living in houses on land. That land was surrounded by more land and everything was so open. Views, from everywhere, included fields and tree lines and yard, yard, yard. Often, in Fort Thomas, I feel closed in. The neighbors (as much as I love them) seem too close. The traffic from 27 sounds too loud. The lights from the gas station on the corner seem too bright. The fact that there’s a pseudo-junkyard behind our privacy fence, which you can see from our second-floor windows when the leaves are down, drives me insane. I lament how few stars I can see—my children can see—and that it’s impossible for my children to play tag football or softball in my backyard. As much as I’m crazy-in-love with my house, I wish I could move it to LAND. (Although, while I’m wishing for things, a first-floor laundry room and garage would be nice, too.)

But there are advantages to living so close to the city. A short work commute for Andy (something I strongly believe in). Sidewalks. The ability to walk to parks, restaurants, the library, school, the local Y, farmers’ markets and shops. A sense of community (we will long be newcomers in Fort Thomas but already I feel like I know—and am friends with—many). Accessibility to everything Cincinnati has to offer (the zoo, museums, restaurants, sports, the river). Afternoons and evenings spent like the one pictured here.

It could be better, I say. But I think, no matter where I was, I’d think it could always be better. I’m working on that, about myself. It’s slow-going. And the truth is, it could also, easily, be a lot worse. Practicing, working on, gratefulness.

“The grass is not, in fact, always greener on the other side of the fence. Not at all. Fences have nothing to do with it. The grass is greenest where it is watered. When crossing over fences, carry water with you and tend the grass wherever you may be.” —Robert Fulghum


My HipstaPrint 0 (1)

The boys didn’t nap today, which doesn’t make any sense because they didn’t sleep well last night. The weather, however, was thankfully, unusually warm so right about the time we were all ready to kill each other we put on our shoes and coats and walked to the small park down the street.

We were having a lovely time at the park … until I looked at Sophie climbing up a ladder and noticed that the back of her pants were soaking wet. She didn’t even tell me she had had an accident.

So I told her we had to go home. I reminded her that she was almost 4. “No, we cannot come back to the park after we change your pants,” I said. “I’m not very happy with you right now,” I added.

Halfway home she ran over to some grass and picked a dandelion (in January). She spotted another. “No,” I said. “We’re not stopping every 10 seconds to pick dandelions and pinecones. You’re soaking wet. We have to go home.” I reminded her that I wasn’t happy.

We walked for a little while as she clung to her little dandelion.

“Mama?” she said.

“Yes?” I said.

“Do you know who I picked this dandelion for?” she said.

“Who?” I said.

“You,” she said.

I thanked her. We kept walking.

A few moments later she said, “Does that make you just a little bit happier?”

It is so difficult to be mad at her sometimes.

“It gives one a sudden start in going down a barren, stony street, to see upon a narrow strip of grass, just within the iron fence, the radiant dandelion, shining in the grass, like a spark dropped from the sun.” —Henry Ward Beecher