Saturday, May 25, 2013

Small moments add up to big changes in our children’s lives

It happened overnight, without warning. Our 11-year-old daughter’s feet grew one size bigger than mine. When she told me she needed new shoes we went to have her feet measured, and when the woman announced the size I immediately told her that she must be wrong. (Bless her heart … she has to put up with crazy moms like me every day, I’m sure.)

I was completely caught off guard. When did this happen? Just at Christmas she was wearing a size smaller than me, but in a few short months’ time she now surpasses me in shoe size.

It wasn’t the fact that her feet grew bigger than mine that got to me; it was the fact that I didn’t realize that the day before was the last day she’d be smaller than me in every way.

There are so many events in our lives as parents that are milestones, and their celebrations mark their passing: birthdays, graduations, driver’s test, a kid’s last summer home before college…

But there are equally important milestones that come and go without fanfare, which makes the passing a little harder for me to handle. I think it’s because they lack a sense of closure, a rite of passage.

For example, I still remember the evening not long ago when I realized that our sleepy seven-year-old daughter was too big for me to carry from our bed to her own bed. I wish someone would have caught me the time before that and whispered in my ear, “This is the last time you’ll ever carry her in your arms like a little girl again. Enjoy every minute of it.”

On Mother’s Day a few years ago we went on a hike up the Umpqua Trail. In each family picture that day, our son had his arm around the top of my shoulder, forcing me to admit that he was officially taller than me. And yet we don’t throw a party and bake a cake celebrating “The day Nathaniel reached 5’8”!”

I truly believe that the less our kids need their father and me as they get older the better job of parenting we’re doing. All I’m saying is that I wish there were an early warning system in place that would notify me, “This is the last diaper you’re ever going to change because she’ll be fully potty trained tomorrow” … “This is the last day with training wheels because he’s going to learn to ride without them after dinner” … “This is the last bottle you’ll ever prepare because she’s graduating to a sippy cup” … or “This is the last time you’ll read ‘Goodnight Moon’ (even if you’ve already read it 4,520 times) to this little person on your lap who calls you ‘mommy.’”

Time marches on and in between the hours great changes are occurring in our children. I simply want to learn to embrace those in-between moments more, because I don’t know if they’ll ever come around again.

I love what C.S. Lewis wrote in his book “The Four Loves” and I think it’s applicable to the love I feel toward my kids: “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken."

So, as I move forward with birthdays, holidays, violin concerts, family vacations and high school graduations, I hope and pray that my heart stays soft, even when it feels like it might break at the loveliness of it all. Carpe Diem … seize the day.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Please pass the pepper down to Cellblock 99

In an attempt to become even more organized than we already are – which is hilarious because I can NEVER even find the scissors - Craig decided to organize our file cabinet which holds all of our documents, taxes, letters, photos and operating instructions from the last 21 years of marriage. I agreed it was a good idea, as long as he was the one organizing while I read a book on the back porch. Drinking a cold soda. And napping in between.

Which is exactly what I was doing last weekend while he and 11-year-old Lily were upstairs sitting amidst a huge pile of papers, organizing.

I’d come in periodically to get a drink and overhear, “Is this a LOVE LETTER from you to mom? Ew, gross!”

Or “Did you really dress like that when you were a teenager?”

But one conversation took me completely by surprise. I had slipped in quietly and my presence in the kitchen below was unknown to either of them. Here’s what I overheard.

“When was mom arrested?” Lily asked.

“What?” asked Craig, in a voice that was, I’m sad to say, not startled in the least.

“Why does mom have a mug shot?”

“Oh, that’s from mom’s darker years during her time in jail.”


I instantly ran to the bottom of the stairs and screeched, “WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?”

Craig, laughing, yelled down, “Lily found your ‘before’ picture from the orthodontist – you know, the one they take so they can take the ‘after’ picture when you get your braces off? Well, she thought it was a mug shot. She knows I’m joking.”

Does she? DOES SHE?

Because now I’m wondering how many other “stories” this man has told our children over the years when I’ve truly been out of earshot.

They already know the embarrassing parts from my own self-deprecating story telling:

• Mom was once a singer in a garage band in high school. (We actually practiced in a converted car port, but it’s not very cool to say, “Yeah, I’m a singer in a converted car port band,” is it? Not a lot of street cred there.)

• Mom had Pat Benetar hair in high school.

• Mom once asked her own mother if she could legally change her name from Eileen to Pepper after the main character on “Police Woman,” Angie Dickinson. Because Pepper is most definitely cooler than Eileen, right?

• Mom was once a member of the Tiger Beat Scott Baio fan club.

Besides, does Craig really want to go down the path of telling stories on one another? Because I have a mullet, VW van and a pierced ear that says he doesn’t.

The most disturbing thing is that this occurred while I was at home, albeit outside. What happens when I leave town for work for a few days? He could be telling them all kinds of tales.

What if I come home from a trip and Lily eyes me suspiciously before asking me if I’ve ever been friends with a band of pirates?

I think I’ll just answer, “Oh sure … when I was in prison.”

Eileen Burmeister is a freelance writer who lives in Winchester, Ore. She can be reached at or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.

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