My favorite flower

I’d like to introduce you to my favorite flower.  Don’t misunderstand.  Tulips are not my favorite type of flower: that’s an iris.  This specific tulip is my favorite flower.   My husband and I have owned our house for almost 18 years.  I believe this flower came with the house, or at least I don’t remember planting it, and I don’t remember a spring when it didn’t bloom.  It’s a big tulip, the flower probably four inches tall, and it can’t decide if it wants to be pink, orange, salmon or all of them at once.  In a garden filled with blossoms it commands attention.

The spring before my daughter was born I remember checking on my favorite flower each morning wondering if my baby or flower would arrive first.  The flower bloomed a month before my due date, and my visions of enjoying it’s beauty with my baby evaporated when it’s petals fell and I was still pregnant.  Seasons, flowers and babies have their own timelines.

Now every spring I remember the anticipation, anxiety, and excitement of those last weeks of pregnancy.  With my favorite flower’s arrival comes reflection on my decade of motherhood.  I tell the story of the flower to my daughter, and we remember our springs together.  My favorite flower makes me pause to remember and appreciate the wonder filled life I’ve been given.

Unexpected Parenting Nostalgia

Being a parent is weird.  Everything is going along great.  You love your kid and she is growing up, doing amazing things.  Then unexpected parenting nostalgia hits.  It snuck up on me after a doctor’s appointment  that confirmed the ear infection I knew my daughter had two days before at the same doctor’s office, but whatever.  The fateful question came as the physicians assistant was writing up the prescription for the magical antibiotic that would allow her and me to sleep through the night.  “Do you want liquid or pills?”

I was surprised.  My 8 year old could take pills?  I mean, we had practiced swallowing M&Ms whole, preparing for this day, but it was really time for pills?

My daughter was ecstatic.  She hates the “disgusting pink medicine” and chose pills.  I, of course, played the part of the supportive mom.  “Oh, wow, you are so big now.  I’m so proud of you.” Inside my heart was breaking.  The medication of her childhood passed through my mind.  I remembered the tiny syringes of dye free cherry flavored Tylenol for late night teething.  I recalled how the syringes grew along with her and provided antibiotics, or bubble gum flavored Motrin.  The doses increased and we needed the big measuring spoons or cups.  Moving to chewable Tylenol, well that wasn’t a big deal but pills?  This was it.  The final step.  Once she took a pill she was effectively a grown up in the medicine taking realm.  She’d reached the pinnacle.  Sure, she might some day swallow down a handful of vitamins, but plenty of grownups take one pill at a time – like her dad.  With no fear or hesitation my daughter swallowed the giant amoxicillin pill and I checked one item off my list of parenting to dos.  For the rest of her life she’ll be able to take medicine without my help.

I’ve gotta admit, I cried a bit that night and then did a scavenging hunt through all the nooks and corners of medicine cabinets and closets and bins of random crap.  I found all the medication tools from infant until now.  I marveled at how far we’d come in 8 years.  I remembered the horror of infant wails and never knowing what was wrong and the guilt when I gave her Tylenol.  I remembered the endless ear infections.  I marveled at how long ago all that was and how quickly time had passed.  Finally, with pride, I put all the tools back in the bin of random crap, wiped my eyes, blew my nose, and thought, “Nice work mom.  When your kid has a wicked hangover in college she’s not going to need you.”  And that’s good.

Afthead Holiday Party

I’ve just finished cleaning up from my third annual holiday party.  Yep, me, the introverted Afthead throws a holiday party every year, but it’s my kind of party.  I pick up five of my daughters friends after school and we craft for four hours.  I am their hostess, their coach and their mentor as they learn new skills making gift for themselves, their friends, and their families.

Every year I have a plan.  I buy supplies: yarn, pipe cleaners, beads, and Popsicle sticks.  In the days before the party my daughter and I make sample projects and test out what is too hard, what doesn’t really come together, and what we can reuse from last year.  The event begins with an after school snack while I casually lay out the demo items we’ve created, showing what they could make for their mom, sister, dad, or grandpa.  Some things grab their attention, and some things don’t, but ten minutes into the party it isn’t about me anymore: it becomes all about them.  I hand them each a gift bag to store their loot and they start crafting.

It is a marvel to behold, an experiment in personalities.  We hand select friends who can sit and craft for four hours with breaks only for food and to find the scissors.  Learning from our past mistakes girls who want to be the center of attention or who can’t sit still aren’t invited back, because there are lots of parties where you can dance on the table, chase friends or wear pretty dresses.  This party is different; I and the girls love it.

This year we hit the perfect mix of guests.  There were two new girls on the invite list.  I taught one to finger knit and she was a prodigy.  Four hours she stood in her snow boots looping yarn over her tiny fingers.  She went home with three scarves.  The second new girl sat on the floor cross-legged making pom-pom after pom-pom: methodically winding the yarn around one arm of the puffball maker, closing it; winding the other arm, closing it; finding the good scissors, cutting the loops; and tying the yarn around the middle.  She’d wiggle the contraption apart and out would pop another pom pom.  Then she’d find another yarn and do the whole process again.

The evening’s transition is magical.  They start the day calling for my help.  Every one of them needs me, my hands, and my expertise.  Impatiently they wait calling out Coach Johanna, Jo Jo, Mom, Mrs. Johanna, but by the end they are helping each other and I am forgotten.  Today, with an hour left in the party, I was unexpectedly called.  They explained that a timer needed so the girls could prepare for a rendezvous.  Having no idea what they were talking about they explained, with the condescension of children, what they are learning about Colorado history right now.  In case you are also ignorant:

Rocky Mountain Rendezvous (in trapper jargon) was an annual gathering (1825–1840) at various locations held by a fur trading company at which trappers and mountain men sold their furs and hides and replenished their supplies.

The timer rang, and the girls set up shop to trade their precious crafts with each other.  There were no fights, no arguments, lots of compliments, and it was all their idea.  I contributed cookies to the event, which they appreciated, while letting me know my presence was not needed.

I learn so much from them.  Beyond expanding my knowledge of western history, I learn perspective about  my daughter’s own strengths and weaknesses in the light of her friends.  I learn more about the challenges and struggles they each have and they have together.  I learn how each of them has grown and changed since I last had concentrated time with them.  But I get to teach too.  I teach them that it is important to be kind to each other.  I teach them that we don’t have and Elf on the Shelf, because our family thinks the elves are creepy, but we don’t judge their family for having one.   I teach about our joint Christmas and Hanukkah celebration.  I teach them the wonder of making something with your own two hands and using your brain to take an idea and make it your own.  I hope I teach them that even as a grown up there are lots of different ways of having fun with your friends.

This is the one party every year when I don’t worry about what to wear, I don’t need a drink to loosen me up, and I don’t want to hide in my basement to recover.  Cleaning up from the event I love the dustpan full of yarn bits and googly eyes.  My daughter, having helped and chatted with her friends, starts her projects in earnest when everyone leaves.  She’s watched her friends and picked her favorite ideas to make over and over.  My extroverted daughter and her introverted momma are both energized when the evening comes to a close.

You can have your cocktail dresses, your high heeled shoes, your signature drinks, and your white elephant gifts.  Me?  I’ll take a group of kids and some glue for as long as they will have me.