Forty-one

Woke to the birds singing outside my window. Cool breeze wafting in through my window. Ahhh. My birthday.

And then, suddenly, high pitched screams of my 6-year old saying, “You’re the worst sister in the world!” only to be followed with “Well, I hate you and wish I didn’t have a sister!!” The sound of a door slamming. Then another door. I gathered my chicks in the hallway – neutral ground – tried to coach them through it. Hug it out perhaps? No takers.

“Hey ladies. Guess what today is?”

Chloe looks at me like a fox might look at a rabbit just before it goes for the jugular.

Hope does The Thinker. “I don’t know. What? It’s your birthday?” she says.

“YES. And so I’d like some peace for my birthday. Which means no arguing before 7AM.”

Hope, exasperated, says in a flat tone: “Fine. Happy birthday.” Slams her door.

Chloe slams hers, too, and manages to say through the door: “I’m not in the mood to say happy birthday to you right now. I might be later.”

Ellen, ___________.

Forty is fast approaching for me. I’m not scared of it. Not wishing to be 30. Nor 21. I’m ready to meet it head on, to embrace it, even. But like most people, I can’t help but be reflective. What have I accomplished? Have I made my mark? Have I made A mark?? My resume is choppy, zigging here, zagging there.

So many cities, so many business cards.

PR, marketing, business writing, magazine writing.

Telluride, San Francisco, Syracuse, Portland, Seattle, Manhattan. The list goes on.

And with what to show for it?

I grew up presuming there would be a comma after my name, showcasing my special skill.

Ellen, actress.

Ellen, writer.

Teacher.

Landscaper.

Interior Designer.

Ellen, ___________.

That looks kind of sad.

But I fell in love at 24 and cashed in my not yet earned chips to follow my man around the whole US of A. By the time we landed almost a decade later, I was pregnant and delighted to become a mother. Delighted to make a home for our little growing family.

Eight years and two beautiful children later, friends are asking me if I’m scared of turning 40. I’m not. Because each time I’m swallowed up by the depths of my almost-40 am-I-making-a-difference despair, I imagine the word “mother” in that empty space after my name. I am one. Mother to two bright, shiny children —  they are currently my job. When I was young, my parents divorced and my mom began to work hard — very hard —  to juggle being a mama to my brother and me but also to teach her students and to teach them well. She hustled and managed to make a difference at home and also at school, to shape the minds of her children and of her dozens of students. Year in, year out.

BRAVO to that.

6cd00de226c2a42354658a83d2e9a2bd

I looked up to her and still do. Very much. I know at times her life was frenetic. Sometimes turbulent. And tireless.

As I approach 40, I am living this life on a most cellular level. Getting my hands dirty in the garden or sticky with glue from craft projects. Driving to and from school or dance lessons, running again to the grocery store where I buy from the same mind-numbingly repetitive list. I’m not always good at it. Some days are better than others. Some are…well, turbulent. Some days, my patience wears thin. But I am thankful for the opportunity to even stay home. [Thanks to my sweet husband, who makes it possible by providing for his three ladies. We are your biggest fans.] THANKFUL.

I’m doing my best to take it all in. Knowing that I won’t be wiping  bottoms for much longer, that my children will grow older and not rely on me so heavily. Or that my 7-year old won’t always want to share with me the intimate details of her day.

So then I will make time for that line after the comma. Make time for those other life skills.

But — for now — no beating myself up about it. Because I beat myself up enough for the the wrinkles around my eyes. So, here’s to embracing 40.

And for embracing this:         Ellen, mother.

Little Privacy

Our 7-year old runs off the bus today, right past me and into the house, her jeggings and sherpa-lined boots a blur as she drops her backpack, flies up the stairs to her bedroom. Slam, goes the door. Our younger child, aged 5, looks at me. I look at her.

Hmm. Welcome home.

A minute passes. The door opens.

“MOM!” Can you dial Alex’s number for me, please?”

“Um, I guess so?” I say, unsure of the phone transaction about to go down. I mean, you’re 7. What will you talk about? How awesome gym was today? How funny that Scooby episode was? How the very large wooden Nutcracker you’ve been sleeping with – since Christmas – fell off your bed last night, making such a big thud that I thought there was a perp in the house?

I dial. Hand it to her. She retreats into her room. Closes the door, giving me one last look as if to say, Um. Little privacy, please?

If someone had answered on the other end, would I have pressed my ear to the door? Eavesdropped on the juicy first grade gossip? Hard to say. (Pretty sure that’s a yes.) Luckily the door opens, she comes out. “No answer,” she says.

We walk downstairs and within minutes, she is playing with her sister. Playing babies.

Sigh. A moment of relief. Not yet a teenager, not even a tween, but my sunny 7-year old.

“Okay,” she says to her sister. “I’ll be Nancy, and you be Lily again. Okay? Sound good?” Little sister nods, grateful for girl time. She hikes up her jeggings. Those friggin’ jeggings. I resist the urge to unearth a onesie, see if it will stretch over her long torso, over those crazy long gams. Could I fold her up and stuff her back in my womb?

I sigh and do that crazy math where I start adding up the years, seeing how old I will be when they are a certain age. Or how old they will be in X amount of years.

7 doubled. Teenager. Hates me.

7 tripled. Dear God, drinking age. [How can she be closer to 21 than me? How can I be closer to FIFTY than she is to 21? Dear God. Need drink.]

I close the door on that worm hole and sit next to them, listen to their playtime. Knowing I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be want to be 21 again if you paid me, knowing fully well I would rather be here than anywhere else on Earth.

For serious, really.

Getting my blog up and running again has only taken me, oh, about five years. Longer. And now that it’s set up, I admit, it makes me nervous to think that I need to provide content. Not just type out what I had for breakfast, but maybe come up with little vignettes. Funny ones. Or useful ones, making your time spent here worth it. Then I remembered why I started this in the first place. To log some memories, pics, adventures. It’s not as easy, however, to find the time to sit down at the computer whilst my girls require, say, parental attention. The other day I sat down to try to bang out a couple of lines and then…my vignette. You should know, we are fairly JV in the tech department when it comes to our kids, but we do have iPhones and an iPad so my kids can swipe with the best of them. As I sat staring at the computer on my desk, empty-headed thoughts beginning to rise from the dead, I caught my youngest, age 5, attempting to alter something on the screen of our quite ancient cathode ray tube TV sitting behind me. She was swiping away on the dusty screen until I said, “Oh, no, honey, that’s not a touch screen.”

“I totally knew that,” she said, walking away.

Remember. She’s 5.

“Totally, huh. You did?” Because why the heck doesn’t every screen in the world operate like a smartphone?

“Yep. For serious,” she said. “Really. I just thought if I tried hard enough, I could make it into one.”

Well, gee whiz, with that confidence, you probably can.

Tap tap tap

Is this thing on?

Good grief, I’m nervous. Sweating a little. I took public speaking in college only to develop a horrifyingly giant fear of speaking in public.

Deep breaths.

I haven’t blogged in 7 or 8 years and while back then I posted little vignettes about life in Manhattan as a temp where I worked in the Office –I’m not kidding, I was Pam. I’m now a stay-at-home mom in a suburb in, well, let’s just say it’s not Manhattan. So my question is: who is going to read this?

Sigh. I’m gonna give it a go. So bear with me if it’s awful. Or if I’m boring you with awful recipes. Or pics of my living room. Or maybe some paint swatches. Maybe some sh#$ my kids say. Because they produce some funny sh#$.

Hopefully I will, too.