“Then they will call HER and tell her she won?”

Riding in the car this morning after the presidential debate, Charlotte asked me why I was listening to so much news.  I started to explain about the election in very general terms, telling her that two people were trying to earn votes to become our leader in the U.S.  I didn’t mention Trump, Clinton, any specifics, or any opinions.  This is the conversation that ensued:

Mom:  “So on a special day in a few weeks, everyone will have a chance to go vote for who they want to be our leader.  It will be a very important day, and a very important chance to vote for what we want.”

Charlotte: “Oh.  Just like how we have a chance to vote on books at school, to see which one everyone wants to read.”

M:  “Yes!  Same idea.”

C: “So then after everyone votes, they will call her and tell her she won, right?”

She wasn’t talking about Hillary; she doesn’t know Hillary’s name, let alone the fact that one male and one female are running for office!  We don’t have the TV on at home [very often], we don’t talk about politics when the kids are awake [very much], and I hadn’t mentioned Hillary or Trump’s name in this car conversation.

But Charlotte said SHE.  “They will call her and tell HER that SHE won”.

My daughter lives in a world where she expects that women will lead!  That women will win!  That it’s completely obvious and simply normal that a woman would have a very important job.  Of course, this is her three-year-old world, where she hasn’t yet experienced any gender differences.  But I took a pause in the conversation right there to marvel to myself how lucky she is–she’s growing up in a world that will empower her, and one in which she’ll someday ask me “Wait, when I was three, you voted for the FIRST woman president? Why weren’t women leading before that?”

The incredulity that I know will accompany this question–whether she asks it in two years, or twelve years–will just be proof of how far we’ve come.  The time when women didn’t lead, or couldn’t lead, will be such a distant memory that it will be hard for her to believe.  I can teach my daughter all I want that women are powerful, intelligent, and successful…and I do.  But it’s time she starts seeing women doing, being, and leading so that it continues to just be normal and expected for her as she grows up in this world.


Dear Charlotte: happy three!

Dear Charlotte/Chucky/Cha Cha:

It doesn’t seem possible that my baby is three.  My baby–my original baby–is certainly not a baby and barely even a toddler.  I wrote in your birthday letter last year that we had changed from calling you “Baby Bee” to “Little Bee”.  But now, big three year old, you are simply just “Bee” to us, or sometimes “Chucky”.  (Though you hilariously called yourself “Sucky” for a few months until you could say the ch-sound!)

If the theme of last year’s birthday letter was all the changes in our life, the theme of this year has been independence.  You are a highly verbal and talkative young lady, which has exploded since your 2nd birthday.  So, here are some words straight from your own mouth.  I hope that someday you’ll have a good laugh about the funny three year old you were; but also, that you’ll find some little glimmer or nugget of how you are then reflected so early on in how you are now.  I know that each funny phrase or earnest admonishing you give me is a peek into the future Charlotte, into the teenager and grown up that you’re going to be.  You are building your personality and your character with each passing moment, and we have the gift of watching the pieces evolve along the way.

1) While eating a kiwi the other morning, you told me:  “Mommy! This fruit is kind of like an apple.  They are both green.  And sour.  But this kiwi has a lot of seeds and the apple doesn’t really have a lot.”  

Let’s move beyond the obvious here: that my barely-three-year-old can compare and contrast.  Without prompting.  The point evenmoreso is that you’re always thinking and talking about what you’re doing in the moment.  You love to label things, talk about them, describe them, and give them voice.  “I can hear the wind soaring through the trees” or “Oh! I can see the sunset is coming out!  Look at that beautiful, beautiful sunset!” you’ll exclaim.  You see beauty and interest in the every day things like fruit, weather, and the sky.  Most of us miss it because we are too busy and moving too fast.  This is what I love and will miss most about toddlerhood: the ability and the persuasion to just.move.slowly.  You drink it all in, talk about it, observe it, and love it.  You remind me to just slow down.  How I wish I didn’t have to go work, and could just be slow with you!

2)  “Daddy, I just want to have some privacy.”

You told Dad that you were going to use the potty.  When he followed you in, you turned around and gently–but decisively–said he wasn’t welcome.  You know your own mind, dear Chucky.  I love you for being strong enough to say what you want.  But you do it in a gentle way and with quiet persistence that we follow your requests.  “I’m just not feeling like talking right now” is a frequent refrain when we ask about school.  “Smile, Mommy!  Be happy!” after I’ve just gotten upset with you.  You’re kind, but insistent.  Some may call it bossy.  I say that bossy is a good thing for a girl to be.

While the above examples make me proud, they also make me pause.  We’re finding that you need us less and less.  You clear your own plate from the table, and you’re starting to serve yourself food.  You hang up your jacket, help to feed Pippa, pick out your own clothes and can do your undies, pants, and socks…shirt will be coming soon.  And now, with the recognition that we don’t need to help you with #2 on the potty, we’ve accomplished so many of the toddlerhood milestones.  You just don’t need us in the ways that you used to.

I know that motherhood is all about this gradual release of responsibility.  But it’s hard when you step back to look, and a lot has passed you by since the last time you were aware of it.  In a strange way, time does not move linearly to a mother.  As I wrote to you last year, the greatest gift you can give is to make someone feel needed.  I know it’s developmental, and I know it’s normal.  The ways in which you will need us are going to change hundreds of times in our lives.  But something about the release of these tangible, everyday responsibilities is a hard pill to swallow.

3) You know 18 letters.  

Nobody would ever believe me, but Betsy the literacy specialist is NOT teaching her 3 year old the alphabet.  You have somehow learned 18 letters on your very own, just by picking up on environmental print, and reading as you so love to do.  Your favorite activity for us to “play” with you is reading you a book.  You’re diligent–we cannot skip a page!  You’ll often jump in and read the story along with us, or supply the missing words.  You are so in love with literature, but you’re starting to talk about how you “can’t read” or “don’t know how to read the words yet.”

Hear this*, Chucky: you will be reading in no time.  Look at all the things you CAN do!  You’re already doing the things that pre-readers do: retelling stories and predicting, you can rhyme and make up your own songs in rhythm, and sing word play games like ‘Willabee wallabee Waxter! An elephant sat on Baxter!”

(* “Hear this, Mommy!” is one of your favorite calls to attention).

4)  “Can you put some music on Daddy?”  and “That’s me in the corner!”

A new favorite activity lately is dance parties!  You love to have music on, and it has to be fast enough for you to dance crazily to!  Your current favorites are “That’s me in the corner” by R.E.M. and “Martha my dear” by the Beatles.  You hear a song once, and you can sing it.  You hear a song twice, and you can make up words that fit the same beat.   Dare I say that you may have a musical bone in your body?! A hand-me-down from your mom, perhaps.  (A dancing bone, not so much.  You don’t appear to have your father’s gift for that…yet.)

You are growing and morphing into this wonderfully kind, introspective, curious, and outgoing little girl.  Dad and I both love to take you out for “special Charlotte time” because we always have so much fun.  I am so proud to be your Mommy, and I wish I could pause time to hang onto these toddler moments forever.  They are my favorite. You are my best, best girl!





Missing my Auntie

A couple weeks ago, we lost my special Auntie–Aunt Karen.  Lately during my quiet drives to school, I’ve found myself thinking of her and missing her quite a lot.  One morning I thought to text her a video of Baxter crawling, because she’d love it.  Another morning I realized that it’s Memorial Day weekend, and for nearly every year I can ever remember, I watched the parade and ate lobster with auntie.

Both of these thoughts made me sad, and feeling a little empty.  It’s hard to lose a part of your support system, and especially when the nature of those supports has grown and changed over the years.  During my childhood, Aunt Karen was my second mother/cool friend/special aunt.  It was exciting when she came to visit, and she came for everything!  Halloween, school concerts, track meets, Sunday afternoons.

When I got a little older, she painted my nails before every school dance, took me to my first concert [Alanis Morrissette], and chaperoned my 8th grade social because I wouldn’t let my parents within a 100-foot radius.  When I was in college, she’d drive to Brunswick once a month and take me out to dinner–just to have some family time, off-campus, a break from the dining hall.

In adulthood, and especially motherhood, I didn’t see her as often.  But the little ways she still reached out and supported my children were immeasurable–finding the perfect “speedy” turtle outfit for Bax after his speedy entrance into the world; sending a book about special Aunts that she wanted Charlotte to have; recording a book for both Charlotte and Baxter with her voice reading the story…so that they may always know they had a great Auntie that loved them; planning a 2nd birthday train party for Charlotte when she couldn’t attend the train party at our house–and made sure that she found the best, most colorful, and most interesting train books to add to Charlotte’s shelf, knowing that she is such a little reader.  And above all, always letting me know that she loved me, believed in me, and was thinking of me.

My best recent memory of Aunt K was that she was sitting right beside me (eating lobster!) at the moment I went into labor with Baxter.  The contractions started slow and mild, and between each one she’d squeeze my leg, remind me to eat, or refill my water.  “I don’t know if I’m REALLY in labor” I kept saying (HA!)  But she seemed to know.  And she quietly helped get me the things I didn’t even know I needed.  A few hours later, when everyone came to the hospital, it was a crowded and overwhelming room.  Aunt K took Charlotte by the hand, and they went on a quiet walk down the hallway.  She just knew that Charlotte needed a quiet moment and some special attention.  That was what she did best–knowing what everyone else needed, and making it happen.

I wish I could tell her that I miss her, I love her, and I always thought I’d have the chance to say goodbye.  When someone is dying, you never really know when the end is coming.  And I messed that one up.  I had stuff I wanted to say, and things I wanted her to know.  I’d been feeling pretty rotten about this, until I saw this quote shared by my Aunt Lauree (Karen’s sister).  It doesn’t change the circumstances, but it does give me a little lighter heart and some peace with the reminder that we can–and should–still talk of her, laugh, and love her.

Death is nothing at all.  It does not count.  I have only slipped away into the next room.  Nothing has happened.  Everything remains exactly as it was.  I am I, and you are you, and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged.  Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.  call me by my old familiar name.  Speak of me in the easy way which you always used.  Put not difference into your tone.  Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.  Laugh as we always laughed at the things that we enjoyed together.  Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.  Let my name be ever the household name it always was.  Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it.  Life means all it ever meant.  It is the same as it ever was.  There is absolute and unbroken continuity.  What is this death but a negligible accident?  Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?  I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just around the corner.  All is well.

-Henry Scott Holland

I love you Auntie.

Aunts at Christmas

Happy (grand)mother’s day!

In honor of mother’s day, I thought I’d go back a couple weeks to a very special vacation week, where we had visits from not one…not two…but all three great grandmothers!  All within one week!  Memere came first, all the way from Fort Kent on a bus by herself.  She and Charlotte got to watch trucks and tractors run wild around our backyard, as we had our living room jacked up and a new patio installed.

Nana came next, also on a bus all by herself!  Baxter thought Nana was pretty hilarious, and she and Charlotte read tons and tons of books.  It took Charlotte no time at all to warm up to Nana, and climb into her lap for some reading.  Nana even helped babysit while Fred and I took care of some business!

Finally, Bunna came to round out our week.  Charlotte, Nanny, and Bunna went to get Charlotte’s very first big girl haircut.  She looks like such a little girl now, and I am missing her long blonde ringlets.  Bunna joined us for take out supper at home, where Charlotte demanded that Bunna sit right next to her.

We are so lucky to have wonderful family nearby, and I love it when the kids get to visit and make memories with them.

Dear Little ‘Bee, Happy Birthday! (chugga chugga TWO TWO!)

Dear Charlotte,

I can’t believe you are TWO years old.  We’re having a train party for you this weekend, but today I’m continuing my series of birthday letters to you… Last year I wrote that we should start calling you Little ‘Bee instead of Baby ‘Bee when you turned one.  You’re growing up so fast!  You are my independent-minded, thoughtful, curious, and happy Little ‘Bee.  Here are some of my favorite memories between years one and two:

1) The day I picked you up from daycare, and you were walking about as if you owned the place at 15 months...proud of yourself, and gaining momentum with every step and cheer.  We had wanted you to walk on your own SO badly, for SO many months.  But my cautious Little ‘Bee , you just wouldn’t let go until you were a perfect walker.  Your diligent practice was so illustrative of your personality.  You’re a careful planner, you are incredibly observant, and you want things to be just right before you do them.  [I’m sorry~you get that from me!]

I dropped you off that Monday morning as a baby, but I picked you up at 4pm as a toddler.  “She just let go of the couch, and hasn’t stopped since!” Connie told me.  The other children were cheering you on, and your smile was as bright as the sun.  I finally knew what it feels like when your heart explodes with pride.

2) The day we brought Baxter home from the hospital.

Dad and I were only gone for 24 hours, but the moment we arrived back home, you hugged me as if your life depended on it.  You were 19 months old, and didn’t have the words to explain that you missed us, you were confused, and you were nervous because of all the changes.  So instead, you just grabbed my neck and hung on for dear life.  I knew that newborn Baxter needed me, but this was such a poignant reminder that my Little ‘Bee still needed me more than ever.  Being needed is one of the best gifts you can give to someone.

3) The first time I saw you hug Baxter.  And every time since.

Jealous?  No. Acting out in rebellion?  Not once.  You are so in love with your baby Baxter, and you are his fierce protector.  You greet him each morning with a smile and eagerly welcome him into your bed.  “Got Mommy’s two babies!” you tell me every time.  When he goes to sleep at 6pm, you tell him “Goodnight Bax, have sweet dreams”.  You help with his pacifier, his burp rag, and cheer for him when he rolls over.  

Your tenderness and sense of duty is astonishing to me–I mistakenly thought that you’d be jealous and impatient.  When we went to my mother’s group playdate a few weeks ago, about 15 toddlers crowded around Baxter.  You subtly pushed your way through the crowd, and stepped between Bax and the mass of toddlers.  No hands were going to touch your baby.  I hope you always continue protecting him and loving him to pieces.  

3) When I hear you say things like “Cut this orange, it’s too much big!” or “Charlotte watching football with Mommy and Daddy and Baxter.”  You were walking in complete sentences well before age two.  I can’t tell you how often my jaw drops; the length of your sentences and the sophistication of your vocabulary amazes me.  You are a little sponge, picking things up from books, music, and the world around you.  I’m not exaggerating even a little bit when I say that you knew all your colors, you are starting to count, and you sing songs like “ABCs”, “Happy Birthday”, and “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” from about 22 months.  Your favorite phrases lately?

Anytime we mention nap/bed/sleep, you indignantly shout “No!  Just woke up!”

You greet your brother each morning with “Hi Bax, how you today?  You fine?”

And you can be a little bit bossy: “Just put it right here.  No, over here!”

4) The small things we do together, just Mommy and Charlotte…like “girl time” or reading books before bed.

What a treat for Mommy to do things with only you.  Our lives are so busy that I miss my one-on-one time with you.  A trip to Target or Hannaford is an adventure when it’s just the two of us, and you make everything more fun.  The rare chance to put you to bed now is such a gift, and you make it even sweeter by rubbing my hand as we read, and giving Eskimo kisses before sleep.

Nearly every night since you were born, I have sung “Goodnight Charlotte” and “You are my sunshine” to you.  The first time you joined in on “You ahh my wunshine!  My onwy wunshine!” my heart was so full that I thought it might burst.  I could have stayed there in the rocking chair with you all night, ignoring the dirty dishes that awaited me.

5) Your first time walking on Higgins Beach.  

Seeing your determined little run as you laughed at the waves and chased after seagulls was worth every penny that we spent on our new house.  The whole world was open to you!  You were free to run, spin, jump, roll, and laugh all over that beach–how different than our tiny apartment in Portland!  We went nearly every day during our first summer at Pleasant Hill Road.  And every time, Dad and I knew we’d made the right decision to move.

6) The day two older men held the doors for us at Pat’s Pizza.  And then you looked up at them, started doing your old man walk, and said “olllld man.  OOLLLLD man!”  Also, the day you pooped on the potty for the first time.  Then proceeded to ride around Hannaford in the cart, loudly singing “Poop, poop, I love poop!”

Safe to say that life with a two-year-old gets more entertaining and more fun each day, and I have a built-in playmate.  The best part of my day is hearing “MOMMY!” when I return home and feeling your tiny arms wrap me up in a hug.  I told some friends the other day that I am pretty much obsessed with my children.  And it’s true.  You and Baxter make my world go ’round.

Happy 2nd Birthday.  You are my sunshine ‘Bee, my “onwy wunshine!”



Facebook, Frigid temperatures, and Follansbee Family Fun

I’ve realized lately that I do a lot of complaining about not having any time.  In fact, I just blogged about it last week, and then a lightbulb went off: if I want more time, I need to stop wasting time!!  I need to take all those random, seemingly harmless minutes that I spent on Facebook, and put them to good use.  Do I really need to know what Sally Smith ate for breakfast?  Do I really care what John Johnson thinks about the Patriots’ win?  Do I even remember somebody-something-or-other that I worked with for a couple months nine years ago??  No!

So lately, when I have the urge to go on Facebook, I’ve been forcing myself to fold laundry.  Write a blog post.  Search for a new crock pot recipe.  Whip up a new activity for Charlotte.

It’s been frigidly cold lately.  Which translates to a lot of indoor time for Charlotte ‘Bee.  So here is what we’ve been doing to brave the cold, stay busy, and learn something along the way.  All activities brought to you by the increased time I have, now that I am not spending it on Facebook 🙂

1) Giant Christmas tree/ giant snowman “puzzle”

Felt-on-felt pieces need no extra adhesive!  It’s a little modern-artsy, but Charlotte can make and re-make her puzzles over and over again!


2)  Snow paint

Combine equal parts shaving cream and elmers glue, then add a bit of food coloring.  VERY fun and oozy!


3)  Colored rice/sensory bins

Food coloring, vinegar, and white rice…shake in a bag and then let dry overnight.  Pour all the different colors into a plastic bin together, and you have a wonderful, cooling, sensory experience.  Charlotte loves to scoop, pour, sift, and shake the rice.  Sometimes it even becomes the ingredients in her pretend meal that she’s cooking us.  We also have a dried pasta sensory bin (same idea), and soon to be some more additions!

4)  Water play, and helping in the kitchen

I can’t take full credit for this one, as Fred did all the woodworking.  But we built her a “learning platform” (fancy Mommy blogger name for a stool).  Now she can “help” cook dinner by washing the vegetables, pouring ingredients into the mixing bowl, or stirring things [violently].

She also LOVES standing at a sink full of water and “cleaning the dirty things”.  She thinks she’s washing the dishes, and we praise her for being “such a good helper” but really she’s just pouring water from one vessel to another and getting her shirt soaked.  Such fun!

4)  Memory game

I blew up photos of family faces, then printed two copies.  Mounted on card stock, and Charlotte will have a large Family Memory game to play!  She’s really into finding matches, or things that look alike, so I think she’ll love finding matching faces.  This will be a birthday present…shh  🙂

IMG_1579Next things to try are shaving cream “paint” for the bath tub, a water tub with floating/sinking objects, and I’m working on a homemade photo book of all her favorite people and things that she can “read” to herself.  Oh, and what about extra time for myself?  I’m going to sleep a little earlier, I’m making healthier and more creative lunches for myself, and working hard at using easy-to-prep weeknight meals.  That pays off by more time for all of us to play after supper!


I WUV you mummy

The first time your baby tells you they love you, you feel like a million bucks.  Charlotte has been playing around with the words for a few weeks now, but never said them to anyone, and never as one complete sentence.  But today, as I lay on the couch sick she was getting snow pants on with Daddy.  She walked on her “pip toes” over to me, rubbed my arm, and said “I WUV you mummy!”  With such conviction in her voice, yet tenderness with her tiny hands!

Let me tell you, crying because you are happy is a real thing.  [It also confuses your toddler, who thinks they have done something good.]  How did my tiny little baby become an almost-two-year-old, with such a full personality and a wide-open heart?

In fact, there were quite a few gems from Charlotte’s mouth today:

“Home is where the heart is!” as she and Daddy returned home after gymnastics.

“Grampie…he’s a good guy” after Grampie dropped off some soup.

And now, for some reason, she has started referring to herself as “Waka Bee”.  It’s her approximation of “Charlotte ‘Bee”, which we call her often.   But every time I hear her say “Waka Bee’s pants” or “Waka Bee watch signing time with mummy!” I laugh because I can’t help but picture a little muppet.

She’s a cute little muppet.  Quite literally, my pride and joy!