Monday, December 29, 2014

Spreading Her Wings

Our oldest daughter leaves today for a year (or more) of teaching English in Korea.  She and her husband have been planning to do this type of travel since long before they were married.  Now, today they leave.

We said our good-byes to them Friday morning before we departed for a pre-planned trip to Toad Hall, our second home.  This trip includes several other family members and friends, so changing our plans because of their departure date didn’t seem feasible. I’ve been pretty stoic about their leaving.  After all, she’s an adult, a married woman.  But she’s also my daughter.

Coincidentally, I am reading a memoir right now about a mother and her grown daughter (Traveling with Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor). As I sat quietly reading early this morning, my phone indicated an incoming text message.  I clicked on it to see a photo of Son #2, his girlfriend and our oldest daughter at the airport with the message, “Sending her off right.”  It turns out our son and his girlfriend surprised our daughter (and me) by showing up at the airport this morning to send her off.  All my stoicism disappeared in tears.

I cried because I’m so proud of my son for showing up for his sister.  I cried because my daughter is leaving for an entire year.  I cried because I’m so happy she and her husband are heading off on this adventure – an adventure I hope will provide an even stronger foundation for their relationship as they rely on one another to navigate the unknowns.  I cried because I know strengthening their relationship will lead to less reliance on me.  I cried because I realize their adventure is the beginning of many for them, while my adventures – though I still plan to have many – are more limited in number.  My adventures will also not be the type that take me away for a year.  Like a young runner easily accomplishes a marathon, an older runner is often happy conquering a 10k.

On an emotional level, I, like the mother in the book, am afraid of losing my daughter.  I also realize her growing up means I am growing older.  However, on a rational level, I understand this is all part of the process of life. I understand they will return eventually.  I understand I have not become an old crone simply because my daughter is spreading her wings. What I don’t understand is why I cannot stop the tears from flowing.

Sunday, November 9, 2014


My own lovely daughter doing the "pose"
Over the past few years I’ve noticed most girls and young women pose in a hand-on-hip stance when getting their picture taken. They stand at a slight angle to the camera with one hip out just a bit and their hand on that hip. It’s sort of a model’s pose and it’s become the norm. I suppose it’s supposed to make one look thinner in the camera’s eye. Years ago I read something in O, The Oprah Magazine about how to pose for a photo.  The instructions went something like “chin up, shoulders back and breasts to the sun”. I have no desire to take on the hands-on-hip pose of the teens and twenty-somethings, but Oprah’s instructions have carried me through my forties and into my fifties.

Me doing the "grandma pose"
Yesterday I realized there’s a new pose in vogue.  It’s a pose for those of us in the grandparent years and I see it over and over in photos friends post with their infant grandchildren.  Yesterday I had my husband take a first photo of me with our new grandson.  When I looked at it later as I was posting to Facebook, sure enough, there I was doing the “Grandma” pose – body turned slightly from the camera, baby cuddled up against my chest, me looking at the camera with, of course, a huge smile on my face.  This pose may not make me look thinner and, with a baby in my arms, it’s tough to tell what might be happening with my breasts, but holding my grandson for the first time and realizing I am embarking on a wondrous new journey, left me unconcerned about shoulders, hips and chins, yet completely camera-ready.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Layers of Love

As we await the arrival of our first grandchild, friends who are already grandparents have been telling us about the wonders we are about to experience. They have gushed about the warm, wondrous ways of grandchildren. We’ve been told the relationship with this new person will be like no other. I think of how dramatically our son and daughter-in-law’s life will change and, yet, I’m told ours will as well. I’m already feeling an extreme level of love and concern and what I’ve realized, and this is, perhaps, the basis of the intense feelings we’re told we’re about to experience, is that my love and concern come in layers. I not only worry about a myriad of possibilities regarding the yet-to-be-born grandchild (because worrying is part of what I do), but I also worry about my son and daughter-in-law.  I not only love my yet-to-be-born grandchild (because love is also part of what I do), I also love my son and daughter-in-law.  It’s as if every joy, every concern, every laugh, every tear is amplified because it affects not only this new little person, but also two adults I love.

I didn’t set out to have seven kids.  I loved the first one with what I thought was all my heart.  Yet, with each additional child, the love volume of my heart grew correspondingly. Now, as we anticipate this new relationship, it’s as if an entirely new annex has opened up in my heart and the path to this annex is through the layer of love and family already there.

Open the door – I’m going in.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Bundt Cake

There’s a new energy swirling around our family. It’s affecting our actions, our talk, and our plans.  Our family has always been pretty tight, but this energy is bringing us even closer.  Everyone, teenagers included, shows up for a day of work without complaining, we all sit around a table talking for hours before making a group decision, and we all have the same focus sitting excitedly, expectantly at the forefront of our thoughts.  The best way I can describe this energy flow is as if there were a Bundt cake – you know, the kind with the curved top and the hole in the middle – and all of this energy (aka love) is flowing in, like frosting, from all directions and down through the center of this cake.  And the source of all this energy?  A different kind of “Bundt”.  Bunt (without the “d”) means “a small hit” in baseball terms and it is the in utero name we’ve given (that was the group decision mentioned above) to our oldest son and his wife’s baby, expected next month.  Bunt will be the first through the door to the next generation of our family.

While Bunt lies blissfully in utero – growing, moving, and preparing for life outside, the rest of us are agog with wonder and excitement.  I’m sure Bunt has no idea about the commotion going on out here or about the massive amount of loving energy flowing into that Bundt cake.  But Bunt will soon find out.  And with all that loving energy pouring in, how can our little Bunt fail to grow into anything other than a Home Run?

Friday, August 8, 2014

Our Little Girl

I was asked to write something about adoption for Rainbow Kids (, an adoption resource website. This is what I came up with.

Our friend began singing the words to Tim McGraw’s My Little Girl

“Gotta hold on easy as I let you go.
Gonna tell you how much I love you, though you think you already know.”

I hadn’t expected to cry, but as I watched my husband and our oldest daughter on the dance floor, the tears leaked out.  I watched the two of them and thought of that tiny little preemie pictured in our assignment paperwork and the surprisingly fat-cheeked baby my husband carried off the plane.  We learned later that her fat cheeks were a result of the drugs that helped her premature lungs develop.  As the song continued, “I thought you looked like an angel wrapped in pink so soft and warm,” I remember my husband saying he felt like he was stealing a national treasure as he made his way through Seoul’s Gimpo Airport.  And what a treasure she is!

Tiny but mighty (her father-in-law describes her as a Mini Cooper with machine guns), this preemie became a fiercely competitive athlete even when four knee surgeries sidelined her for much of her school career.  Never afraid to step out and look silly, she brought a new energy to our family dynamics.

The song continued, “You’ve had me wrapped around your finger since the day you were born.”  Well, not exactly since that day, but certainly since the day we first saw her picture.  For her 13th birthday my husband gave her a ring to symbolize he’s always been wrapped around her finger.

“You’re beautiful baby from the outside in.”  My husband always took this line to mean she’d come from outside our family, but the truth is, with her birth mother’s facial features and small frame and her birth father’s muscular build, she is beautiful on the outside and, I like to think, with the values with which she was raised, she is indeed beautiful inside as well.

As the dance continued and our friend sang, “Someday a boy will come and ask me for your hand,” I looked over at her groom and saw the awe and love on his face.  Would he be good enough for her?  Would he appreciate the unique person she is?  Do we ever stop worrying about our children?

My husband and our daughter were still swaying on the dance floor as our friend sang the last line of the song, “Go on, take on this whole world, but to me, you know, you’ll always be my little girl.”  Born to other parents on a different continent, but placed in our arms when hardship caused their lives to tailspin, she has been loved since the day she was born – first by her birth family and then by us.  She has built a bridge between two cultures as she’s celebrated being Korean as well as being part of our family.  Did we know how intense our feelings would be as we filled out the mountains of paperwork 20-some years ago?  No, but as my husband and our daughter, the bride, exited the dance floor and I wiped the tears from my eyes, I had no doubt in my heart this has all been right and she will always be, “our little girl.”

Friday, May 16, 2014

Mrs. Toad's Wild Ride

One week ago today, on the first morning of a much-anticipated four-day vacation in Disneyland with all of our children and their significant others, our oldest son’s wife handed me a card.  At first I thought it was an early Mother’s Day card, but then I saw my husband’s name was also on the card.  With suspicion I opened the envelope and delicately pulled out the card that had beautiful cut-paper flowers on the front.  I didn’t even read the words as I opened the card.  I saw the picture, screamed, then hugged my daughter-in-law and my son.  The picture?  It was an ultrasound image!  They’re having a baby and we’re going to be grandparents.

I’ve been waiting for this, for quite some time.  I am old enough, I am wise enough and I am ready.  I have plans for being an awesome grandma.  I have several pieces of small wooden furniture put away waiting to create a child-size living room (hmm, maybe I need a small kitchen cabinet, too).  I’ve saved all our favorite books from my children’s childhood, waiting for the chance to sit and rock a child while reading a beloved book.  I even have a Mickey Mouse themed bedroom at Toad Hall, our forever home.  Yet, along with my overwhelming excitement and joy for my son and daughter-in-law, I’m also realizing this is a non-age-related marker of aging.  While I did not physically age as a result of their announcement, I did age as I suddenly went from being a mom (a title I’ve held for more than 30 years) to being a grandma.  I don’t feel any different, I don’t look any different, but suddenly there is another branch shooting off our family tree, another generation pushing up my place in our family’s lineage.  As if to signify this change, when we walked into Disneyland that morning, my daughter-in-law dutifully collected each person’s Park-Hopper Pass for safekeeping, a task I have done inside the Park’s gates every time we’ve visited.  I teased my daughter-in-law about taking over, but it’s actually quite significant – with this new generation she, and our other children when it’s their time, will become the ones in charge, the parents.    We will be the grandparents – no longer in charge, just along for the ride.  I expect it to be a wild, fun, and joyful ride – an E-Ticket ride, “Grandma Toad’s Wild Ride”!

Monday, April 21, 2014

I Know

Approaching a young couple in the mall yesterday, I smiled.  The woman was pushing a double stroller carrying a toddler and an assortment of baby baggage.  The man was carrying an infant who was, apparently, not happy riding in the stroller.   I smiled, not just because I usually smile at approaching people, but also because I know.  I know how crazy in love the couple is with the toddler and the infant.  I know how just plain crazy their lives seem at this time.  I know they’re exhausted from the effort of caring for another person (or two) 24/7, yet I also know that care is one of the joys in their lives.  I know that all too soon those two little ones will be out of the stroller.  They’ll be running circles around the couple or, perhaps, riding bicycles in front of them.  I know that their lives will still seem crazy and, yet, watching their children grow and develop will leave them in awe.  I know that with a few extra breaths, the children will turn into adolescents and may no longer want to circle around their parents.  They’ll walk separately in preparation for the time when their lives will become separate, though always, at the core, joined.

As I smiled at the young couple I wondered, Do they know why I smile?  No.  No, they can’t possibly know all that is in store for them, but I know.