Maxine is four!

 

Dear Maxine,

We have been counting down to this day for about 75 days. It’s your fourth birthday!

It’s hard for me to describe how much I love you. I am proud of the way you have been putting away your toys when you are all done playing, without being asked. This shows what a big girl you are becoming! I enjoy playing games with you, and it’s a lot of fun to play in the sand with you, too! You are a very creative, artistic girl with a natural talent for art and creating, and you quite enjoy this type of activity. I hope as you get older that you continue to practice and build your artistic talents.

We have seen many changes this year. Grandma and Grandpa Morrow went home in April. We sold our house and bought a new house in a new neighborhood. You got a new bedroom. You got a new bicycle, which you were not sure about riding but now you love. You’ve moved up classrooms a couple of times in preschool. You have learned to memorize and sing songs, books, and movies. Thanks to one of your preschool teachers, Ms. Stacy, you love story time and the library. Your favorite color is purple, and you find joy in your My Little Ponies, in unicorns, rainbows, PJ Masks, and Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, cereal with rainbows (Lucky Charms) and “bars” (granola bars). Your favorite food is still pancakes, which I agree is a magical food, and I believe that you will always love sweets and treats, your favorite thing to ask for.

Just in the last two days, you have received 12 tokens for following rules, helping around the house, and being kind. That’s so many tokens for just two days, quite an accomplishment.

Along with all of your wonderful traits, you bring me challenges daily. This helps me to grow and learn new ways of being a mom to you, and to learn to adapt to your way of being in this world, which can be a challenging place to live right now. And my goal is to help you to learn how to live in it in ways that are productive and meaningful to you. I hope you grow to be kind and helpful toward others, and to be adventurous in a world that can be intimidating and feels limiting at times. I see my job as your mama as a guide or role model, which is actually the toughest job I have ever had.

Thank you for finally coming down from heaven to be with me, with our family, and for being the hardest teacher I’ve ever had. I will always love you, even if you say I’m “not [your] best friend!”

Love, Mama

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Life lately: Home land

I’m already seeing back-to-school displays, and it feels like the summer just started. Hard to believe August here.

We spent May and June selling our south Seattle house and buying one in Renton, a suburb south of the city. Selling was no trouble as the buyers we worked with were eager and excited to buy our house, and they were genuinely nice people and easy to work with throughout the process.

The buying process, on the other hand, was just short of a nightmare. The sellers of our new house were unpleasant and difficult. After a few unforeseen complications, we finally closed on July 3rd and have been unpacking and getting settled ever since.

All that being said, we absolutely love this house. And more than just the house, we love the neighborhood, the neighbors and having a private backyard. Even the small annoying things, like the one toilet we can’t get to work in the very outdated bathroom, doesn’t bother me. I couldn’t say that about our Seattle house. No matter how updated the rooms became, there were so many things that just didn’t feel right: the flow from room to room, the layout of various rooms, that it was taking forever to fix up and update…the lack of neighborhood, community and yard privacy, among other issues.

But THIS house feels like–no, IS, HOME. The moment I walked in, I knew it. We were touring the master bedroom when I said to our broker: This is it. This is the house. He asked what about the house made me feel that way. “Everything,” I said. “The smell, the energy, the layout of rooms, the clean design, the mid-century bones updated timelessly. The yard.”

The yard was important because Maxine has so much extra energy to burn off, it provides her fresh air to do that. It provides her with a garden to meet fairies, to plant trees or fruits, to pick berries and apples and figs. It provides her a safe space to explore and pretend. And it allows us as a family a space to be outside more, to eat outside, to host outside. We absolutely treasure the backyard.

I’m sitting outside on the covered patio under cafe lights, listening to Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington. In the back of the garden, I can see the fairy house Maxie put out last week, with (LED) tea lights, to attract our flighty friends. Our neighbors are social but respectfully quiet. It’s truly a magical experience to live here, and I am grateful every day for the opportunity.

 

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Flora is one

 

It’s official: Flora is one!

Parents will tell you that every child has their own personality and siblings can be vastly different from one another. Now, a year into being Mom of Two, I see it’s really true. How do two children from the same parents have wildly different personalities and abilities. It’s amazing.

Flora has blossomed into the sweetest soul. She is affectionate, gentle, and sensitive. She loves to give kisses and head-butts (“loves”). At a year old, she says five words (Mama, Dada, Hi, Papa, and All Done); stacks blocks up to five high; turns the pages of books and studies the pictures; sorts shapes and small items into a slot with ease; and is close to cruising but not quite there yet. She loves stories, and playing whatever anyone else is playing, including sissy. And speaking of sissy, Maxine is still coming to terms with having to share and play with Flora, and every once in a while, Flora will shove or pull on Maxine’s shirt sleeve to express frustration or displeasure at being excluded or having a toy taken from her hands. It’s actually really cute and amusing to watch, but I try to not laugh out loud because I don’t want to encourage either of their behaviors.

Flora, One | February 2018
Flora, One | February 2018

It is complete joy being Flora’s mom. She has brought confidence back to my role as a mother. She restored my confidence in myself as a person, a woman, a scholar. She is the reason I chose to go back and get a Masters. And she reminds me what it is to be joyful and loving and full of the love the Spirit has for each of us. She helps me be a better mother to Maxine, which I’ve likely documented here on this blog as a challenge (more on this in a future post). Flora reminds me to be safer, to make the right decisions, to lean in. She reminds me to be gentle with others and myself. And she makes me love motherhood more than I thought possible. My favorite part of the day is walking through the door saying, “Helloooo, Baby!”, and seeing her raise her arms up for a hug. I absolutely love playing with her. She shows determination and perseverance and already has a love for learning. She watches us do something and catches on like she’s been doing it for 100 years.

I feel so proud to be the mom of this little girl, and I’m looking forward to sharing more of her (and Maxine’s) growth in this space. Take a look below at her first year.

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Grown-up Storytime: Ballistic Missile Inbound to Hawaii

I am starting a new series called Grown-up Storytime because we all need to engage in the social and cultural activity of sharing stories. Creating a communal space for sharing and discussing and learning from others is the exception now, not the rule. My goal is to eventually have guest bloggers share their stories here and later create a live community space for folks to come together and share stories. In the meantime, join me on this inaugural story as I tell you about the ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii in January 2018 and how my husband and I were affected by the horrifying false alarm. 

Maui, Hawaii | January 2018 | Photo taken only hours after the ballistic missile emergency alert/false alarm.

It is a beautiful and warm Saturday morning in Maui. My husband and I sit down and order breakfast at a local diner. We are winding down from a rejuvenating, kid-free week on the island while gearing up to head back the next day to rainy Seattle and to our daughters. Our parents are caring for Maxine (three), and Florence (10-months-old).

Prior to leaving Seattle for this trip to Maui, I was a little reticent about vacationing on the island. If you know me, you know I tend to lean into the safe side of life, which means no extreme sports, no roller coasters, and no one bathing my kids but me just in case of an accident. Also: flying is not my favorite activity. In days leading up to our vacation, the U.S. president taunted North Korea and its leadership over whose ballistic missile button was larger and easiest to push. So it’s safe to say that I was concerned about traveling to Hawaii during this politically contentious time. Because WHAT IF a missile was fired and hit Hawaii? But, before we cozied into our upgraded seats on the plane to Maui, I talked myself into a state of calm and comfort. Our plane wasn’t going to go down. Nothing would happen to the girls while we were gone. And Hawaii would still be standing when we left the island the following week.

So here we sit in this diner. My husband takes a phone call from a colleague at the same time I feel my phone vibrate next to me. I ignore it. Then I hear a siren. I look around seeking the expressions and reactions of other diners, trying to figure out what made that sound. No one seems alarmed, so feeling my phone continue to buzz, I pick it up to see two text messages and an emergency alert.

BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.

“INBOUND TO HAWAII.” The words felt like a mean prank. I mean, I’m on Hawaii right now, I thought. This isn’t happening.

I stare at the message as if I am the star in a movie, waiting for Will Smith to sweep me up to safety. But movies never feel this terrifying. And actors don’t do justice to this kind of true fear, or the deep sadness in believing you won’t see your children again. Or the possibility of being separated from your spouse among tsunami waves – or worse, vaporizing radiation.

I stand up to see what other diners are doing. Many gaze at their phones, some continue to enjoy their breakfast blissfully ignorant of surrounding events. Neither of these scenarios give me a clear sign of what to do so I approach my server. “I don’t know what to do!” she says. “I have goosebumps. This is not good.” As the server turns away, a father and his young son run passed me, calling his wife and daughter to immediately get up and leave with him. They do.

Feeling the blood drain from my face, I walk over to show my husband, still on the phone call, the alert. A sense of severe panic and dread come over me. I remember standing there, my voice shaking, telling him, “It’s not a drill. They say it’s not a drill! Oh my god, what do we do?” I am lost. I feel completely hopeless. There is nowhere to go. Nowhere to hide.

No one around us knows what to do. The restaurant management is nowhere in sight. The staff stands around in bewilderment and fear. In paying attention to the news, I know that after a missile launch, civilians have maybe 20 minutes to seek shelter. While this is all happening in a matter of seconds, every second feels like a lifetime and I have no idea how fast or slow time is truly going. I only know that the panic continues to sweep through my body, clouding my mind. I am overwhelmed and drowning in fear.

My husband grabs me and tells me to follow him to the car. “What are we going to do?” I keep repeating this question expecting it to eventually compel my husband with a suddenly brilliant and life-saving answer, which it does not. Our only option is to drive up the large hill across the highway as high as we can go. And so we do.

Driving up against this hill, we see a man on a walk. My husband pulls the car up next to him and asks if he has any information on the emergency alert. He tells us to go sit on a beach and just wait for the waves. This absolutely kills my spirit, and I start to cry. By this point, I am beyond fear and panic. I am distraught. I am grieving my children, imagining them at home with their grandparents, never seeing them again. I hate myself for coming to Hawaii when I intuitively felt that we’d be in the cross-hairs of a war with North Korea. And now we are going to die here, I think to myself.

To find any possibility of hope that this missile wouldn’t affect us, my husband turns on the radio and I start Googling for news headlines. Nothing. The radio has nothing but commercials and songs. The internet takes a lifetime to load pages, which also lead us to dead ends.

What I haven’t mentioned this far is that my sister and her husband are also on this trip with us. They are in their hotel room and hadn’t joined us for breakfast. As I search for information on my iPhone, my sister sends a text that she also isn’t having luck with the Internet but that minutes after the alert, hotel guests were running through the halls yelling to seek shelter. My sister, she says, is sitting at the edge of the bed, not sure what to else to do.

A few more minutes pass. My sister calls back to tell us that the hotel staff have just announced that the alert was a false alarm. “Are you sure?” I ask. “Are you sure? It was fake?” Yes, she was sure. Yes, it was fake. Many minutes after that, maybe a half hour later, the false alarm alert shows up on my phone and confirms it.

“There is no missile threat or danger to the State of Hawaii. Repeat. False Alarm.”

I cried for an hour.

Even though we didn’t technically cheat death that day, it feels that way because the fear, panic, sadness and hopelessness of the inevitable was right there at our fingertips, even if only deceptively. My husband and I arrived back home to Seattle that Sunday evening at around midnight. Our girls were hours into their bedtimes by then, asleep soundly. Each of us went in, lifted them from their beds and gave them a long hug, so happy to know that we were back with them.

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