These are letters to Jack, my son, and my daughter, Audrey. You have given me the gift of motherhood. This is just a little gift back. I want to share my experiences with you of your childhood from my perspective of watching you grow - of being your Mom.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Getting in Touch with our Roots


We recently made a trek back to Wisconsin. My Grandmother, Jane, who passed away earlier this year – was born in Wisconsin to Irish parents. Her family for the majority, still lives in that area and almost all of them have family dairy farms. So traveling to Wisconsin is getting in touch with our roots in more ways than one. There is the family and there is the getting back to food in it’s raw form, so literal roots.

You are at a good age for this kind of experience. I want you to be a child that recognizes food as the raw vegetables, fruits that grow from the dirt and feed themselves through photosynthesis (that miracle of life) and animals that forage and graze.In other words, I don’t want you to think that food comes from a plastic bag or from the grocery store where it magically just appears. You might think this is silly now knowing what you know already, but how would you know any different? If your only exposure to food was the bag of chips you grabbed to munch on or the #2 in the paper bag that you got from a fast food drive thru, food may be a bit of an "unknown" to you and food is too important to be ignorant of.So – off we went to Wisconsin!We visited three different dairy farms owned by family and they were incredibly gracious and waited for our arrival to go about their daily morning tasks of milking.On the dairy farms, the cows are always either pregnant or nursing from a recent calf which is kept outside of the pen away from it’s mother and bottle fed. Thus the cow continues to produce milk, but the milk goes to us and the calf suckles on bottles of the milk that is not going to be consumed by humans. My understanding of this is that some of the milk has to be released from cows that they aren’t going to collect for human consumption whether that is because a cow is older, or it’s body temperature is past a certain point or one of a million reasons. Milk always must be released but under very specific circumstances that dairy farmers are vigilant about.The calf pens are filled with mooing little calves that cry out for their mothers and wag their butts back and forth excitedly when you come over to greet them. One of their favorite things is to suckle on your fingers or your entire hand. It’s calming like a pacifier is to a child and you get to pet their necks and heads while they pacify themselves this way. I found the experience to be very sweet and tender.You weren’t as taken with the calves as I would have thought you would be, but you were fascinated by the barn cats. Barn cats are abundant on the dairy farms. Reasons are obvious – the farmers grow corn feed for the livestock in their fields along with hay, etc, and therefore, there are mice. The cats help control the rodent population and the grateful farmers provide bowls of runnover milk – those not being consumed by the calves - to the eager and swarming barn cats.The barn cats also procreate with abandon. Therefore there are swarms of litters of kittens – these wild and tumbling balls of fluff - that follow their mothers around the barns and outside, but not wandering too far. You reminded me of Ace Ventura wandering around with a kitten in your arms and talking to it “don’t worry – I gonna take you to see baby cows. See? See baby cows? Don’t worry – see your momma? See? I gonna take you to tractor….” And so on. You were so caring and cute and the babies would struggle and finally just give in because your will was much stronger than theirs and they would eventually surrender to you as their new momma.As much as you loved the kittens, you hated the flies just as intensely and there are an abundance of flies on diary farms. With all that animal and manure everywhere, it is fly heaven. You were horrified by this to say the least and spent most of your time exclaiming for me to “look mommy! There fly on you! FLY ON ME, MOMMY! SAVE ME!”My incredibly generous and kind relatives that we were visiting were so incredibly nice that they didn’t even show any sign of surprise or shock that a child would be this afraid of a fly-something that is an everyday reality to them. And you couldn't seem to focus on much else but keeping track of the flies that were around and vocalizing everytime they landed on someone in our group seeing as the rest of us didn't have enough sense to be as vigilant as yourself.I just smiled at them and said “city folk.”

What are you gonna do. Can’t live with us, can’t kill us for cattle fodder. :)

My cousin Jerry was good enough to take you for a ride on an enormous tractor up and down the driveway and you were thrilled. He even let you steer! And, with gas prices what they are and the enormous amount of gas this baby must take to operate, that right there shows how generous my kin are!Also, he let me actually milk a cow. Yeah, that’s right. I milked a cow. I did it first by hand and cleared the udders and then by machine. I’m so impressed with myself right now – I hope you are, too!

The end of the visit culminated with a big family reunion at a nearby park. As it happens, I had my camera for the reunion, but had forgotten it for every other part of the visit up until that point. I was having that much fun that I totally forgot to take pictures!

I wish we could move there and be dairy farmers! I’m telling you, it’s so incredibly beautiful and calming on the farm which probably shows you just how much being a visitor differs from the life of a farmer because it's a lot of work.

I am so grateful that we have family willing to open their farms and homes up to us so we all could have that experience. I think we’ll be better people for it!



Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Battling Chaos


Sometimes I feel like I’m locked in a knock-down, drag-out, bare-knuckles fight of my life with chaos. Chaos is a formidable opponent and can take form at any and every part of life. Bills to be paid, house to be cleaned, the wildlife of the backyard demanding attention, pets to be played with and loved which should be enjoyable but “things” come up. For instance, the bowel and bladder control problems due to canine aging lead to more time spent in cleaning and upkeep which unfortunately seem to zap that desire and leave less time for the more enjoyable things. School looms, work demands, and through it all I sometimes feel like I’m on the verge of drowning and I thrash about trying to keep my head above water.

Sometimes the chaos feels like a turbulent sea of water that threatens to engulf me and my attempt to maintain some control over the chaos feels like a Herculean and sometimes almost futile thrashing-about attempt to keep my head or even just my nose and mouth above that water so I’m not entirely consumed. Some piece of me feels that if the chaos washed over me, I would not be able to breath. Not be able to keep myself and everything together. It would all be destroyed in the resulting flood. It’s an awful feeling of panic and anxiety as my “to do” list that I run over and build up in my head begins to seem more like a volume of an encyclopedia than something that I could accomplish.

I feel like maybe I need to force myself to put my head under the water and give it a try. Maybe chaos isn’t like water EXACTLY. Maybe I CAN breathe under it if I just decide that the constant battle for control is too much work. How much more enjoyable would life be if I just went with the flow? After all, how much am I really accomplishing when I look back on my daily battle with chaos? Am I winning?

But it’s easier said than done and I know it. How do you teach yourself to let go and pick your battles so you can enjoy things a little more. How do you convince yourself to take that leap of faith and try to breathe underwater?



Friday, July 04, 2008



Buckle up, little buddy - embarrassment coming at you at 100 mph.

Okay - I have debated blogging this, but have decided with it being part of life and all - anyone that would tease you about it is only lying that they haven't struggled with these same things, so call them a F*&^%ING LIAR and move on without them!

I have to blog about one of the latest developments you are undergoing.

Okay - first off - potty training? Almost complete.

You only need diapers at nap and bedtime and I'm about to cut the cord on them at nap, too.

Soooooo.... what comes along with moving out of diapers and into big boy pants? FREEDOM! Freedom to use the potty when you need to and not when Mommy puts you there. Freedom to be dry and clean and not have to sit in your own messes until they are noticed.

Oh, and did I mention, freedom of ..... choice?

No way to put this delicately, is there?

Lately you are discovering a new world that you never really realized existed until the diapers came off. And you are absolutely fascinated. And not shy about talking about it. In public and at school. Oh, and showing people.


Along with this territory comes a very delicate territory that I simply don't know how to navigate.

I'll also preface the remainder of this post stating that I have always called your privates what they are and not made up cutsie names for them as though I was trying to dress everything up to be more palatable to - everyone? I see this as an act that could inspire shame. It kind of gives the impression that there is something wrong with our privates. Some horrible unspeakableness that we can't even call our privates by their real names.

But, as I continue this post, I fear for your security above all and would hate for someone to google the word and land HERE, so I'm going to refer to it here on out as your "peanut".

So, this new freedom that you have has made you very curious. New sensations that you are aware of now that your previously padded existence kept from your scope of investigation. And in all different situations.

We are at the pool down at the lake surrounded by other families swimming and in the middle of the pool, you get a very serious expression on your face "Mommy? Can I touch my "peanut?"

My take on this has been to tell you that privates are called "privates" for a reason. I tell you that your peanut is part of your body so it's your choice when you touch it, but because it's a private thing, you should really only do so when you are alone or with your Mommy and Daddy. I debated whether I should include myself and your Daddy in this privacy zone, but decided that you need examples of reactions that are not horrified (just kindly and calmly ignoring the behavior) in order to verify that it's okay and really not awful. This is in order to balance out the reactions you have already had evoked by your teachers and others when you forget this rule or are simply unable to resist the temptation.

Already your teachers have instilled in you the thought that you can't touch yourself without someone else's permission which drives me a little batty. Sure - it allows them prevention and embarrassment in school, but a short term solution that works may not be the best long term solution.

I have just taken to either advising you to wait until you have privacy or telling you when you have privacy that it's your body and you may when others aren't around.

Of course, that doesn't always work.

"Mommy? Can I get OUT of the pool and touch my peanut?"

"Ummmmm. Nooooooo, because there are still other people around. You need to wait until you are alone without others around."

"Mommy - can I go over THERE and touch my peanut?"

sigh...... "Jack? Do you want to go back to the room?"


I kind of try to prepare friends and family that aren't aware of this recent fascination so they are prepared and don't scream out if your hands disappear while you are talking to them. I'm mostly wishing to achieve friendly reminders from those you love and trust that this if for alone time and not jaw dropping, eye popping, harsh words of discouragement, etc.

But, not knowing who is around while you go through this time in your young life, I have started wondering if I need to start talking to you also about stranger danger and stuff like that. I worry about the stranger that witnesses this and - if I catch their eye - I cast suspicious and eye narrowing anger in their direction as though just witnessing this innocence makes them evil. My Momma Bear comes out at full force and people are guilty until proven innocent. I'll back away with you and take an extra long and crazy walk back to our home in order to protect you from the invisible threat I worry could possibly harm you at such a young and vulnerable time in your life.

To put it mildly, FREEDOM brings with it great responsibility and my brain is boggled by the long term repercussions of mishandling such a topic. It is laden with dangerous possibilities all over the place. I want a child that is aware of himself in a realistic way - that we all go through this and it's normal - who doesn't absorb or attach moral judgements to these feelings as this can cause a child to grow up wondering what is wrong with them and if they are bad or naughty for experiencing things that we all experience.

And yet - at the same time - some healthy caution because you just don't know who is out there. Who is watching or taking note.

I just wish I knew the perfect thing to say and do here, cutie. But above all, know that I take this responsibility very seriously and I'll do my best on all fronts. Happy 4th of July, Buddy, and welcome to your first step towards independence.