Friday, May 23, 2014

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

I’ve written some version of this article every year around graduation time, especially the last few years as I’ve watched our friends’ children reach the age where they are graduating from high school. This year is especially poignant as we send our oldest off to college in August.

I still remember the day four years ago when Natty gave me a hug and I realized he had passed me in height. I was completely caught off guard. When did this happen? Just yesterday he was shorter than me, but like Jack’s beanstalk, he just took off without warning.

It wasn’t the fact that he grew taller than me that got to me; it was the fact that I didn’t realize that the day before was the last day he’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 night 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.”

Natty used to reach out and grab my hand as I walked him into his elementary school. One day it just stopped without warning, as it should, but had I known that that was the last time we’d hold hands on the way into school, I would have squeezed his hand a little tighter and longer.

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, high school graduations and college Parents’ Weekends, 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.

Eileen Burmeister is a Winchester-based freelance writer. You can contact her at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.

Friday, May 9, 2014

I can't be trusted with a DIY project

I am not cut out for do-it-yourself projects. Never have been; never will be. I’ve heard it said that the healing process can begin when you admit your shortcomings, so I’m going public with my admission.

My inability to do-it-myself once again became crystal clear while designing my own graduation announcements for our oldest child’s graduation in June. I saw the prices for the announcements through the school’s vendor and thought, “That’s too expensive! I’m creative, I can do this myself.”

That statement, right there – “I can do this myself” - is the slippery slope that leads me to the DIY trash heap, resulting in wasted money, time and effort.

Here’s what happened. I scanned pictures, I placed the pictures using the handy online tool and chose the kind of card stock I wanted to use for the invitations. I added the information about the graduation party we’re planning with three other families, and clicked ORDER.

Then two days later I realized I had ordered 75 invitations for the WRONG DAY.

Forty-eight dollars later, I placed my re-order for the very same invitations with the correct date. See how I saved us some money there? Yeah, me neither.

I wish I could report that this if the first instance of my DIY projects going awry, but my son would be the first to tell on me and my history of DIY nightmares. Sadly, he’s been the brunt of most of these.

Exhibit A: The Great Home Haircut Nightmare of 1998: By the time Natty turned two, he already needed monthly haircuts, which added up quickly. It was a simple haircut, so I naively assumed “I can do this myself!” and bought some hair clippers at WalMart. I didn’t read the instructions because “I don’t do instructions” (another article altogether) and instead pulled out the clippers and started “trimming.” Instead, I shaved a strip on the back of his head bald before realizing that there were attachments for how many inches you want to cut off. Craig came home, gently took the clippers out of my hands, and said, “Please just pay for the haircuts.” I’ve never seen those clippers again.

Exhibit B: The Great Halloween Costume Debacle of 1999. Natty loved the Veggie Tales videos as a child, so for his third Halloween I decided he would go as Bob the Tomato. Sure, they sold costumes, but they were ridiculously overpriced and we were on a tight budget so I thought “I can do this myself!” I found an orange felt pumpkin costume on clearance at Kmart and bought some red spray paint. I decided I would spray paint the orange pumpkin to make it red, put some cut-out felt eyes and mouth on it and – voila! –our very own Bob the Tomato costume. Well, I’m here to tell you that spray paint does not go on felt smoothly, which made him look a little like Bob the orange/reddish squash. Then it started raining while we were trick or treating, so the paint started running down Natty’s legs. The next year, I bought a costume.

Exhibit C: The Great Birthday Cake Apocalypse of 2002: I’m one of those people that see a picture in a cookbook and think “I can do this myself!” True, most of my baking does TASTE good, it just ends up not looking even remotely close to the picture. I tried to do a Star Wars cake for Natty’s sixth birthday and … long story short … ended up at Fred Meyer Bakery that morning buying a sheet cake in time for his party.

In a few short weeks, Natty will be picking up his graduation gown and mortar board, but I’ve been thinking that those would be super easy to sew myself. I mean, I took a sewing class in the seventh grade, so how hard could this be?

I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Eileen Burmeister is a Winchester-based freelance writer. She can be reached at burmeistereileen@gmail.com or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.