The Open and the Close (Seventh grade)

"I open at the close" - JK Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

The day of Caitlin's sixth grade promotion, all I could think about was the line, "I open at the close". JK Rowling is the master of feelings and emotions, so it seemed appropriate that it became my mantra for the day and the summer that followed. With every ending is a new beginning, so standing at the close, meant that soon enough there would be an open. I had to keep telling myself this, otherwise my emotions overwhelmed me. I did not adequately anticipate the feelings of that day or the days leading up to the end of her sixth grade year. In the back of my mind, seventh grade, "JR HIGH", was a whole year away. In fact, a year ago this week, the idea of having a child in seventh grade was a funny joke that I laughed off because how ridiculous the notion? Until, that unusually overcast day in June, Sixth Grade Promotion Day, I found myself at the close. For most, and many parents I talked to, the end of sixth grade is just that, simply the end of another school year. No promotion or graduation needed, but for me the end seemed monumental. It still seems monumental today, being I dropped her off at her new school this morning. A school that seems impossibly big for my baby girl. My baby who is laughably almost taller than I am. 

The memories that flowed at the end of sixth grade brought along a deluge of other memories. That surprised me. Motherhood is incredible in that way. It allows for self reflection at the most inopportune times. When you have to be happy and celebratory, and all you want to do is reflect and curl into a ball and cry. Here I was at the 'close', thinking about all of the wonderful and amazing things my daughter accomplished this year, while simultaneously thinking about how incredibly insane it felt that she actually did those things. Caitlin is my daughter that didn't sleep or latch. She cried many days and nights, while I spent most of those same days and nights in my rocking chair, almost catatonic. Wondering if she would ever stop, sleep, or even eat. She eventually stopped and ate, but has only taken five naps in her lifetime, maybe. She cried every day of preschool and every day of first grade. (Kindergarten was obviously a gap year for her.) She refused to participate in choir performances her first and third grade years. Caitlin was the child that wouldn't let me leave her at a birthday party, a dance class, or even with family members at times. Her separation anxiety was such that I rarely went anywhere the first two years of her life, and when I did, I was so stressed that I didn't even enjoy myself. Caitlin has always been the child that challenges me in every possible way and pushes every damn button possible. Why would I share any of this out loud? Because...

That same child full of fear and anxiety was the first student up on the zip line at sixth grade camp this year. I watched her climb the pole and across the tiny high wire to the platform, then off she went into the great unknown. Well not really the unknown, but I have a great video to prove it where you can hear me audibly sigh at the end of the video, because she did it and also she was still alive! I was also proud and amazed that she was so brave. So confident and so sure of herself. It was breathtaking. The same child that refused to sing in the school choir for two years, tried out for a solo for the spring concert and was picked for a duet. She sang her heart out that night, and will be in the concert choir at her new Jr High. The same girl who cried at drop off all those mornings was the same girl who ran for leadership secretary. She volunteered in multiple lower grade classrooms working with kids on reading and math. She performed with her schools pep and cheer teams. She also accepted a class assignment with the Autism class at her school to help with their exercise program, requiring a twice monthly bus ride off site. That same baby who didn't sleep. The same child who cried every day. The same child who wouldn't let me leave the house without her ever... did all of these things. Twelve years ago, sitting in my rocking chair trying to soothe her never ending cries, I would have never dreamed of such things. I don't think I could have dreamed such things, because everything seemed so hard and far away in those days. I had no idea that we would come so far in so little time.

I've been standing at the close for the entire summer. Reflecting on the past twelve years. Twelve years of motherhood and growth, life lessons and milestones. How is it possible that as the milestones become few and farther between, they carry so much more weight. These days the milestones are solid. My daughter finished sixth grade. The elementary school where I've dropped her off for over six years is no longer her school. Milestones that are just as important as cutting a tooth or taking first steps, but today's milestones feel concrete. Permanent and strategic for optimum emotion.

Today we are at the open, my daughter and I, whether she realizes it or not. Seventh grade is the beginning. A new school. Seven classes with seven teachers I may never meet. Seven different homework assignments at any time. Today is the open, new activities, new electives, new friends to be made, new challenges to be met in the years to come. At the open, my oldest daughter looks every bit the part of the teenager. At the open, the drop off goodbyes are shorter, no more lingering for a second kiss goodbye. At the open, she sends me text messages of funny tik tok videos and selfies. Text messages that allow us to communicate in a way that pushes zero buttons. Today, at the open, she called me to let me know her science teacher is cool, she is dropping her zero period class, and she sounds absolutely fine at that impossibly big school.

At the open, I'm the mom of a seventh grader wondering how I got here on minimum sleep and maximum emotion. It just doesn't seem possible. 

Staying True

How do you tell a story that isn’t yours?

You don’t.

It’s not a trick question, it’s a real and honest one.

In 2011, when I started this blog, the only requirement I had for myself was to be honest. To tell the truth, even if it was hard and ugly. At the time, and over the years, I’ve done that. Sharing stories about my life as a mother and a friend; sometimes as a wife and a daughter. I took great strides to be relatable. To make my readers feel included and invited. I didn’t want anyone to feel alone. My blog was a way for me to shout, Here I am, I’m doing this too.

And for most of these years, I’ve been here. Doing this too.

Until recently.

For about a year and a half, I’ve had to censor myself. I’ve had feelings to share, but to do so would hurt other people in my life. It would shed light on things that are ugly and, while relatable, hurtful. I thought that ignoring these feelings wouldn’t impact me creatively at all. I thought, naively, I would just write about something else.

I didn’t. I couldn’t. 

I felt that anything I wrote never sounded as authentic as me being ugly and raw with my words. I’ve written things in this last year and a half. Ugly things. Hurtful things. But they are on paper or stuck in my email somewhere. Those scraps and snippets sound authentic to my ears. Still, I have yet to publish those.

I can’t publish those. 

Well. I can. Though at this time it would be costly and hurtful. 

Instead I’ve paused. Spending more time in fictional worlds. Reading and writing. Watching Netflix, because right now fictional worlds are easier to live in.

In avoiding my authentic voice of non fiction, I have cultivated a voice of fiction. I had not visited any of those stories in months, but today, I read pieces that I had done. Surprised to see that they are coherent and thoughtful. A small world I could live in. Albeit a fake one. 

I’m fine. I promise. Honestly sometimes the emotional weight of things is just that. Weight. To be completely honest, not all the weight belongs to me. Its shared. But this space here is not shared, so I hit pause. 

I’m hoping, little by little I can share more of my authentic self. Once you stop writing it’s like anything else. It’s hard to start again. By writing this I feel it’s a start. A first step. 

To tell a story that is half way mine. 

DIYMFA writing prompt. Check it out

Becoming a Writer

Since I haven't been able to get my writing groove back, I've decided to participate in the DIY MFA Book Club. You can find more info out here. There are writing prompts that push you to think, and more importantly, write. Cheers to a new year, and cheers to new content in this space. 

I don’t remember becoming a writer. For as long as I can remember, I've always been writing a story in my head. When I was a kid, I would come up with my own movie endings and music videos. My crayon drawings always had elaborate back stories. Somehow I wanted a larger life than the one I was living. I guess that’s how you start writing fiction. 

It seems that I've always kept a journal. Writing short stories in middle school and poems in high school. In high school I worked on the school paper and enjoyed every minute. In college I was the only student in the required upper division writing class that was excited to be there. I wrote seven papers that semester, to me it was heaven.

After college I grew up. Worked in retailing because that was my degree said I was to so, and soon became a wife and then a mother.

That’s where my writing life took a turn.

Modern motherhood can be a lonely place if you’re not perfect. That was my truth ten years ago when I became a mother. The requirements were many, breast feeding, sleeping through the night at 8 weeks, no nipple confusion, no co sleeping, Ferberizing. You had to follow ridiculous rules to prove your worth. Not only was I lonely but I felt like a failure. I talked endlessly with my best friend, who thankfully didn’t co sign for the modern rules of motherhood. Still, we couldn’t be the only moms in the world struggling and adjusting to this life. There had to be more moms out there in the world co sleeping and bottle feeding. 

There were. I realized by joining Facebook. Friends I had in high school, college roommates, and friends of friends. Sharing online was thrilling and affirming. I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t a failure. I didn’t have to be perfect, I could just be me. As soon as I realized that, I found my words and started a blog.

My blog, this one you are reading, began as a place to tell funny/semi serious stories about motherhood. To be honest about living the stay at home mom dream. To deal with everyday disasters that were small but sometimes deflating. The more I wrote the better I felt. I was finally a writer.

I had finally found my voice. Finally I had something to say. 

So I said it. I’m still saying it, about motherhood and so much more. I’ve taken brakes. Fallen off the wagon. Suffered writers block. But like any good and great love, I always come back for more. 

How did I become I writer? 

I started writing. 

Busy {a four letter word}

Every time I'm asked, "How are you today?", my default answer is, "Busy".

I'm busy. My kids are busy. My husband is busy. Everyone in this household is busy.

And it's summer. Summer of all the times of the year! I have vague memories of me planning to have a no bullshit, laid back summer. We just had to make it to the end of dance season which was quite literally June 30th. Make it to June 30th and we'd have the rest of the summer to relax.The plan was to take a few dance classes, lounge by the pool, casually drop in at Starbucks, browse the aisles of Target. Summer was going to save us all and allow us to relax and be lazy...

But June 30th came and went and here we are almost July 30th and we are still busy. 

Busy has become a four letter word.

Back when I first started blogging and Pinning (what did I actually do before Pinterest? Oh yeah, laundry), I remember seeing this quote, "Stop the Glorification of Busy". I googled it a few weeks ago, and the origin of it is a little spotty, but this article seems to have quoted it first. Why are people everywhere glorifying the fact that they are busy. It feels like the biggest one-ups-manship contest on Earth. Tell someone what you are doing, they will tell you they are doing the same, but like three more things. As if that makes us super human. Are we any happier cramming every second of the day with an activity? Does it make a difference if we keep ourselves and our families so busy? Do we look better as mothers or parents if our kids are in sixteen activities over the summer? I hope not, because we have skipped so much dance this year to swim or go to the movies, I'm worried about being voted off the "island". It's like we are trained to show off just how busy we are. Look at my Instagram feed and I will tell you everything I did on any given day all before nine in the morning, in addition to a fantastic selfie. Does that make me a champion? Only when other people who follow my account tell me what a good job I'm doing. And sometimes that feels kind of gross. Look at me, I'm so awesome because I've already made three dozen cookies, folded two loads of laundry, and got my kids to school on time... Eww. I hate that person. I hate a humble brag, especially when that humble brag is me. Gross, and yet, I'll probably do it tomorrow. I'm so busy damn it, look at me!

One Wednesday near the of the school year I went and sat for my usual three hours at dance. Our longest dance day of the week. With just a few weeks to go before the end of the year, I had my PTC notebook, my Girl Scout notebook, and my planner. I was making list. Calling and emailing. Organizing the end of the year dance and practice schedule. Another mom sitting near me said, "I don't know how you do it", and I said, "I don't know either, and I don't even work".

Now looking back I have an idea of how I "do it".

The answer is simple, I "don't" do a lot of other things.

For example, in order to make sure all this years school spirit wear is ordered, my dining room table is covered in things. Crap, if you will, that needs to find homes. That may not find homes for another week. While I'm doing Girl Scout planning at my co-leader's house, the dishes in my sink continue to marinate making what can only be described as the worlds most disgusting and deadly brew of Kombucha ever. If you see me volunteering anywhere, you can bet my laundry is clean and piled like Mt. Everest on my bed, and when I go to climb into said bed, the mountain will be moved to the chair by the window that I promised would not serve as a place to pile laundry. You can bet that my bathrooms look like someone stepped on a tube of toothpaste (courtesy of the children), there are always dishes, and laundry in the dryer that gets ironed by turning it on.

So how do I do "it"?

Chaotically. Messily. By the seat of my Old Navy "mom" shorts. 

I'm not proud of the busy, but I'll admit that I would have been a few years ago. When my girls were little, busy seemed like a badge of honor. Good moms, the gold star moms, were busy. They were always on the go, kids dressed and ready, every activity under the sun, and "Busy Moms" always dressed the part. Yoga pant sweat suits, jeans and tunics, and sometimes dresses. (Dresses!) I envied those moms back then, with their perfectly packed diaper bags, yogurt melts and Cheerios at the ready. I was always the hot mess mom, only able to make it to one activity (baby gym), hair rarely combed, make up never a thought. I saw those buys moms and wondered if I'd ever be there, ever able to carry it off with such ease. Little did I know there was no ease about it. Being a busy mom is fucking hard. It takes time and effort, and a lot of messes left in the wake. 

I'm a smart enough now to understand that motherhood never stops. I'm just surprised that I'm busier now than I have ever been.  I used to think that once my kids were older, motherhood would be so much easier. Sure they can get their own breakfast and let me sleep in on weekends, but they need a taxi driver to cheer and dance, and those four birthday parties that all fall on the same Saturday of the month. It's a never ending ride, or as all the cliche quotes will tell you... It's a marathon, not a race. Insert eye roll here. Not because I don't believe it, but because I know it all too well.

Two thousand seventeen has proven to be the busiest year on record. Maybe because I'm older and care about such things. Maybe because I'm old and tired and want to cut out any and all bullshit. At this breakneck speed, my house is always in disaster mode, not sorry. There are currently dishes in my sink and clothes my the dryer. Also, not sorry. The flip side, the school spirit wear shirts are ready to go to print, my Girls Scout troop calendar and budget are done for the next year, and we pretty much have our dance schedule locked in. I'm also working more hours this summer to bank away some funds. It appears that yes, this house hold is doing "it". Just don't ask to use my bathroom when you come over. Kind of sorry.

Today was my day off. I did my best to stretch out our lazy time. We lounged around and slept and read books and of course my oldest daughter made slime, because if your kids aren't making slime at any given time are you even a mother? I've tried really hard to make sure we have those kind of days at least once a week this summer. The Netflix binge kind of days. The, let's melt our brains on bad TV and horrible food kind of days. I want my kids to relax and have some lazy fun. Summer is only like twelve weeks, the rest of the time they are over scheduled and over stimulated. I want them to find joy in staying up late and sleeping in the next day. The joy of ice cream for dinner. The joy of doing absolutely nothing. 

Because most days we are busy.

Which has become the dirtiest four letter word I know.

XOXO - Meg

March/April/May {a recap}

I realize it's been years (not really but feels like it) since I've blogged. It's weird because I think about this blog daily. As if it's one of my kids, and in a way it is. Some days I feel bad about being away from this spot, but most days I'm just too tired and too busy to have more than a fleeting thought. Now as the school year ends and summer begins, I feel like I need to come back to this spot, even if it's just once a month. My goal is once a week (go ahead and laugh, you probably won't see me until August). Here is a quick recap of the last three months.

Muffins with Mom in March.
I wore my Super Hero shirt!

I turned 39 in march. To me it was a very "non birthday". Just noting a 365 day count down to 40. Still my husband and one of my best friends planned a surprise party for me. I was surprised considering I was just going to spend a quiet evening at home. March was a great month filled with Birthday celebrations and lots of love from friends and family. But March brought more than that. Turning 39 brought some unexpected comfort, an exhale of all the birthdays before. Turning 39 forced me to realize I have laugh lines and wrinkles in my forehead. My hair is more grey than brown (thanks to hair dye it's not that obvious). I'm at a weight that I think I'm destined to stay at for now. The comfort came in being okay with all of it. I look every bit of the middle aged mom that I am, and for the first time in my life I'm not worried about it. Sure I have bad hair days, tight waist band days, eat everything in the kitchen days. Being 39 means that I'm at an age that I can look in the mirror and know, this is me. I grew into this me. I recognize who I am. That's a good thing. I'm finally done trying to be someone else.

Mac turned SEVEN!

A very nice and very casual Easter

Mac turned seven in the most uneventful way. My sassiest child is also my easiest. For her class party she wanted cupcakes and it was almost humanly impossible to bake anything that week. Instead of being disappointed, she asked for her most favorite and coveted snack cake, Twinkies. I took 3 boxes of Twinkies and three boxes of Capri Sun unapologetically to her first grade class. Second kids really knock me out. With my first I would have been devastated at my lack of baked goods to present to teacher and parents alike. Let's face it, the kids always tell their parents about the treats. I would have been so embarrassed years ago if any kid would have said, "Mrs. Crutchfield brought Twinkies". The great thing about second kids, you don't care anymore. I almost had this sense of pride, "Hey look at me, I brought Twinkies with zero guilt!". You know the saying is, "everything happens for a reason", well I believe in every kid happens for a reason. We get the children we do because of the lessons they teach. Mac has been schooling me in good parenting for seven years. I am a good mom, homemade baked goods or not.

School Carnival on Cinco de Mayo!

A rare date night for me and the Hubbs.

Rock - Paper - Scissors at Starbucks before Mom has work!

What can you say about the last full month before school is out other than it's chaotic. I barely remember the first weekend, let alone the last (which was literally two days ago). Between dance competitions, school carnival, orthodontist appointments, allergies kicking all our asses, and oh yeah school and work, we are exhausted. Our nights keep getting later and later. Our mornings earlier. We are flying by our seats just to make it to the end. As of today, there are 9 days left. Nine. We are so ready to welcome summer. To sleep in and have lazy days, wearing our pajamas to Starbucks, only changing our clothes to jump in the pool. Late night treats of Popsicles. Not having a schedule at all. The countdown is on. Still I'm grateful for what the last month before school brings. Last minute decision to go to baseball games. Weekends packed with dance competitions, birthday parties, and neighborhood BBQs. I'm grateful for the life we life and who we live it with. I'm exhausted, but we can all see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Dance competitions that take over our weekends.

School is almost out!
It was great to visit blog friends. I feel like I should say "Have a nice Summer" and "KIT". Because if I have learned anything about having a blog, you have to live life, to share life. Have a nice summer blog friends, make those memories.

Keep up with me and my fam on Instagram!