Sunday, June 2, 2013

Pomp & Circumstance

I'm writing this on the eve of our last day of preschool. Ever. Tomorrow my second child, (aka: my last child), will "graduate" from the hallowed halls of early childhood education and wing her way into Kindergarten. After six years of one or both of my kids attending preschool, it's now almost over.

And I feel like I'm "graduating", too.

The momma I was then and the momma I am now, well, there's no comparison. That pre- preschool momma had lots more time and lots more patience (and one less kid), for starters. But she also had lots more doubts and lots more anxiety. She had much higher expectations (read: impossible) and read far too many parenting books. And she was lonely. Very lonely.

Preschool changed all that.

Before I walked Liam into preschool that first day in September of 2007,  I could honestly say that I had only one friend with a baby/child. One. And we didn't really get to see each other too much.  Instead, I was that mom that would stalk the Starbucks by our house looking for women who were also accompanied by small shrieking humans, desperate to have a conversation with another adult, maybe make a friend.  A practice I employed (mostly unsuccessfully) for 2 years.

I wish I was kidding.  But a lonely momma has no pride.

So, there I was holding the small, adorable, pudgy hand of my 2 1/2 year old, my one and only, my heart and soul, feeling both dread and excitement for this big new step of "preschool". And then I saw them. The mommas. All holding the small, adorable, pudgy hands of THEIR precious ones. And my life changed forever. There is something about being flung together during life's most important yet traumatic (and exciting) years that create bonds that become deep and unbreakable. High school, college and, without a doubt, parenthood. Friendships rooted in survival. And that is what these first years of parenting feel like a good amount of the time. Survival. Wondrous? Yes. Joyous? You betcha. But mostly, it's survival. 

And I made it with a little help from my friends. 

These women that held my hand, crying with me, on the first morning I said good-bye and dropped my sweet boy off by himself. I didn't have to say a word. They just knew. And they didn't judge and they didn't point out the obvious. They just let me mourn that moment for what it was, let me feel what I needed to feel. And then they bought me Starbucks. 

These women who listened to my anxiety and worry over the changes a second baby would bring and who then held that baby so that I could give Liam that extra long squeeze he needed or linger over a goodbye. These women who hugged me as I watched Liam struggle then hugged me even tighter as I celebrated his victories. These women who took my kid(s) so I could attend a field trip, go to the dentist, grocery shop solo or lay in bed sick with the flu. 

These women who knew what it felt like to be brought to their knees by a 4 year old. Whose backseat held as many fishy crackers and rogue sippy cups as mine. Who knew when it was time for a bitch session. Or wine. Or laughter. Or solitude. 

These women who expected honesty and gave it in return. Who made it okay to feel overwhelmed, unsure, inadequate. Who listened. Who counseled. Who said just the right thing or nothing at all. 

These women who have walked this road with me. Who have been in the trenches with me. Who have sheltered me. Supported me. Loved me. 

Just like Annie, it is time for me to wing my way into a new beginning. Wiser than I was six years ago, better for having had this time to develop my skills as a parent. And blessed beyond measure by the women I have met along the way. These women whose hearts I take with me. Who will get me through the teen years, who will watch my kids graduate high school, who will let me cry then get me drunk when those same kids leave home, and who will ooh and ahh appreciatively when I pull out 500 pictures of my beautiful grandbabies. 

These women. My friends. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

(almost) thirty-nine

I'm (almost) 39, though I don't feel 39. Well, okay, some days I do. But I don't really think I look 39., yeah. But I definitely don't cart around any angst about turning 39. Mostly I feel gloriously liberated from all the crap that weighed me down in my twenties and early thirties. Like every second that ticks closer to the big 4-0 leaves me lighter, less burdened. It's not apathy. Not even close. It's freedom, it's perspective, it's acceptance. 

Dare I say, it's wisdom.

I now carry with me (almost) 39 years of life experience and I'd like to think that allows me to stake at least a small claim on a little bit of wisdom. Not great aunt Stella wisdom and nothing even close to grandma/mom wisdom. But enough to move  past the small stuff without getting too bogged down in all the unimportant details. And certainly enough to be honest with myself about my strengths and weaknesses and, ultimately this past year, to let go of the life I hoped for so I can fully embrace the life I've been blessed with. 

I know, heavy, right?

A few people know, and even more don't, that a little over a year ago Scott and I decided to go forth and multiply. Again. One last time. This wasn't a decision made on a whim, in fact, it involved everything but a PowerPoint presentation on my part to win Scott over on the matter. But ultimately we agreed and that was that. 

Or not.

Funny thing. Deciding in my brain (and in my heart) to have a baby did not mean a damn thing to my lady parts. Check that. It did not mean a damn thing to my geriatric lady parts. Because this is not a sweet and funny tongue-in-cheek blog post to announce the fertilization and implantation of yet another Missy & Scott creation. Nope. In fact, it's the exact opposite. It is my reproductive swan song. I am hanging up my ovaries, if you will, and getting out of the baby-making business for good. 

And I am so relieved. 

No, really. I am.

Now, I know that many of you out there have or know someone who has gotten pregnant at 38 and beyond. It's not that old. I know this. And honestly, according to the people who are on a first name basis with my reproductive organs, it's more likely than not to happen for me too, should I keep on keeping on. But I'm tired. People. I AM (almost) 39 YEARS OLD AND I AM TIRED. And for the first time since this journey began I am able to admit this: I do not want another baby. I'm done. That season of my life has passed and I am okay with it. Now. 

But I feel old. For the first time, in, really, EVER, I feel old. 

And kind of like a failure. (Go ahead - smack me).

But knowing that my body is not able to procreate with the ease and efficiency it once did makes me feel old. Everything still works just fine, technically speaking,  just slower and with a little less oomph. And it would appear that that oomph is rather important here. And all of this is a natural process, as natural as, well, aging. It's "the nature of the beast" as my fabulous OB so plainly put it. Blah-dee-blah-dee-blah. Whatever. It completely sucks. And what's more, I, Melissa Shields, set out to do something and FAILED.  This does not sit well with a dyed in the wool Type A over-achiever like myself. 

*cough* control freak *cough*.'s been a rough few months of hard choices and big decisions. But remember up at the top there? Wisdom. With wisdom comes perspective. And while these sorts of things are not necessarily easy to work through, once you are honest with yourself and you do work through them, you get to acceptance and man, that ROCKS! And this is what acceptance meant for me:  as much as I wanted to add to our family a year ago, that desire waned with each month that passed. I got discouraged and frustrated. Elated then heart-broken. I was pregnant... until I wasn't. Life became a math and science experiment. I worked with a naturopath and an acupuncturist. I made myself crazy and all the while, unbeknownst to me, I was slowly but surely working my way toward this truth: I'm ready to be done. I don't want to start over.  I fought this. I talked myself out of it.  I never imagined that I would ever find myself ready to be done with babies. Oh, how I loved my babies. Loved that time with them. And as much as I struggled with that first year, transitioning from full time career to full time motherhood, it is what has defined my life for 7 years now and I wear it like a badge of honor. I am a mother of small children. Or rather, I was a mother of small children. Because something else happened during the time I spent trying to conceive: my "little" kids became "big" and I moved effortlessly from mother of small children to mother of school age children. 

And I liked it.

Life got easier. There were no more diapers. No more naps. No more giant bag of everything lugged everywhere. They played independently (sort of). They didn't need me less, just differently. And for the first time ever it felt like we were all doing something together. It wasn't me schlepping them to play dates or parks or activities and watching them do their thing while I got my grown-up fix with other parents. We were doing things together and creating memories as a family. Not just pictures in a scrapbook, but actual memories. It was a revelation. And it made me realize that this - this memory making - is what I have been looking forward to. What I have been waiting for. I want to show my kids the world and I want to start now. And when I finally stopped staring at those pee sticks long enough to really take a look at my sweet little family,  it dawned on me, clear as day - we are complete.

In my (almost) 39 years and counting  I will inevitably find myself at other crossroads, when one life stage ends and another begins. It is a cycle that is as old as time itself and though usually hard won, brings with it experience and knowledge. And in my case, a rock star husband and the two most amazing little people I have ever known. But despite it's inevitability,  change is hard. So, it's okay to be sad. It's okay to move on. It's okay to honor how hard my body has worked for 8 years and it's okay to take a break. It's okay to sit back and enjoy the ride for awhile. It's okay to want more and it's okay to say "enough". It's okay to hold my babies tight and it's okay to let them go.

If I've learned anything in these (almost) 39 years, it's this: Time is fleeting. There are no guarantees. Life will pass you by if you spend too much of it mucking around in the details. Babies grow at the speed of light but big kids bring their own special brand of joy and despite the fact that your brain tells you that you are still 22,  you are decidedly NOT. Most importantly, don't stop thinking about tomorrow. Don't stop, it'll soon be here. It'll be here, better than before. Yesterday's gone, yesterday's gone. 

See? Wisdom.

P.S. That song is stuck in your head now, isn't it? You're welcome.

Monday, January 31, 2011


Liam -

In just a couple of hours, you will officially turn six, though given the amount of celebrating that has occurred over the past 3 days, the exact time of your birth is probably of little consequence to you. But to me, that exact hour and minute is the most monumental moment in my life. I became a momma, your momma, at 10:46pm. On a Monday, just like today. And for some reason, this year, I have thought about that all day long.  

Maybe it's because when I look at you now, there is very little "baby" left in that beautiful face of yours. You still have the same dimples, the same gorgeous blue eyes and dreamy, long, dark eye lashes, but nevertheless,  you are growing up right before my eyes. Maybe I just needed to let myself drift back to that night that I first laid eyes on you . First held you close and kissed your head. To remember how impossibly in love I was with you and how impossibly small you seemed. Those days (and nights) seemed to last forever, good grief. Even so,  I am pretty sure I would go back in heartbeat...if only just for a few days...because now I know how quickly time will pass. 

But let me just set the record straight. No way, no how would I want to stay there back in the past with the littler, squirmy-er, screamy-er, needy-er, baby-er you. Nope. Because I am absolutely CRAZY about your 6 year old self. Truly. You are quite a character. Funny. Clever. Often more profound than any 6 year old has a right to be. You question everything and are a voracious seeker of knowledge. You are insatiable. And I love every last drop of it. 

Momma and Daddy decided that you should wait an extra year to start Kindergarten this year. It is a decision that I worry you will one day be self-conscious or embarrassed of. Maybe even angry about. Please just know that sometimes mommies and daddies have to make choices for their kids, hard choices, choices that don't always have clear consequences. But they always make them with their child's best interest in mind and heart. And so it went for us. It was a tough decision, but one that I have never, ever regretted. You have blossomed, flourished, bloomed....completely and utterly come into your own and your self-confidence just shines through in all you do. I believe with all my heart that it is one of the best gifts we have ever given you.

We have learned so much about you this year. How you see the world. More importantly, how you feel the world. When you were four we confirmed that your body and brain process the world differently than most kids. Some things don't feel safe to you. Some things don't feel good to you. Some things you want more of and can't get, some things you get too much of and can't stop. And some things are just plain harder for you. As a result, walking around in your body was sometimes just too unpredictable and you let us know by getting angry, or sad, or frustrated, or loud. Luckily we found some really awesome people who have helped you and your body learn how to feel better, safer, calmer. It has been wonderful and you have come a long, long way. 

As you have made so much progress, we began to notice that some things were still really tricky for you and we weren't sure why. Once again we were able to find another awesome person who talked with you, listened to you, worked with you, and learned from you just how your amazing brain works. And, sweet boy, it works HARD. Never have I seen a brain work as hard as yours. What we learned is that there are some things that are really easy for your brain to figure out and other things that, no matter how hard your brain works, it just can't seem to do it's job the way it should. And because of that, there are some things that are really hard for even a very, very smart boy like yourself. No momma ever wants to see her child struggle and hearing how hard you work for things that are often easy for other kids your age, well, it really just broke my heart. But only for a little bit. Because very soon I realized how determined you are. How resilient. How willing you are to keep chugging away even though smoke might be coming out your ears. And my heartbreak quickly turned to admiration. Admiration of your perseverance in the face of what surely must be frustration a great amount of the time. I am ridiculously proud of you and I promise, cross my heart, that we will pull you through this and you will continue to blaze a trail. 

This year has seen your already tender heart become even kinder. You are a wonderful friend, brother and son. You love to shower the special people in your life with compliments and good deeds. You love when something you do or say brings a smile to someones face. You are proud of being capable and industrious and are forever asking for jobs and chores around the house. Quite often you insist that they be on your terms, which can often lead to conflict, as "stubborn" is a trait that has stuck with you over the years too. But mostly you are just happy to help in anyway possible. 

That is not to say that everything is just sunshine and butterflies around here. Oh, heavens no.  We are forever dealing with a little something we like to call "sass". You are a pro at giving lip. A PRO. And we have many, many, many discussion about things like "disrespect", "inappropriate" and "rude". You get it, you just like to exercise your mouth muscle and end up in hot water a great deal of the time. I won't say anymore on this topic beyond this: no matter how many time you say, yell, scream "I hate you", it will never, ever be okay to backtalk, name call or dis your parents. So, you know, hate away. 

A letter about this last year of your life would be sorely lacking if we did not also discuss Annabel. Annie, Annie, Annie. The two of you have a love-hate relationship if there ever was one. I have to give you credit, Liam, you are incredibly patient with her most of the time. She is a handful. When you do get fed up with her and fight it out, I am the first to admit she is almost always asking for it.  You exhibit tremendous self-control, very rarely striking out at her even as she is coming at you, arms rounding like a windmill. I am proud of you for that. I know you love her because you tell me so. I know you are irritated by her because you tell me that too. A lot. And I get it. I really do. She is in your business all the time and then when she is not in your business and you try and play with her, she can be kind of, well....crabby. Let's just go with that. Trust me when I say that you were exactly the same way when you were her age, almost 3. Only you didn't have a brother or sister to take it out on or try to keep up with. She wants so much to be able to do everything just like you and it can be incredibly frustrating for her when she can't or isn't allowed to. So, it's just a little tough for her right now.  Let me tell you, though, when you guys are on, you're on. You laugh and chase and hug and sing. You "read" her books and you show her the ropes. I promise she won't be this way forever (well..we may have to revisit this when she about 11) and all of your kindness, patience and love toward her will pay off one day. You're in the thick of things right now, but when I see the two of play, talk, dance....even fight, I see how very close and connected you are to each other. It's a real gift. 

I would love to talk about the clever things you say and I think I could probably write a book just with your comments, questions, insights...your "Liam-isms" if you will. I try to keep a running inventory but won't bore you with the details here. Suffice it to say, they are real nuggets and are a testament to what a bright shiny star you are. You have a way with people, you charm them, you entertain them, you connect with them in a way that makes them want to do right by you. It is an amazing phenomena to behold. 

When you were much younger, if someone were to ask me to describe you in one word, I would, without hesitation, say: tenacious. You were dogged. Irrationally stubborn. In some ways you still are, but I am beginning to see a glimmer of hope and where once those traits were exhausting, infuriating, maddening....they now show strength and character. You are not one to back down when you sense injustice. That is an admirable quality.

And so, tonight, as you are just teetering on the cusp of 6, if someone were to ask me that same question, my answer, without hesitation, would be: remarkable.  You are remarkable in every sense of the word. Beautiful and bright and so full of promise. And I am so happy that you're mine. 

Happy birthday, sweet Li-Li.  I love you.


P.S. Six minutes til your six. How cool is that?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Gratitude: Part 2

I came awfully close to losing my baby girl today. I wasn't present at the scene, but I know by the quaking of my husband's voice when he called me after the fact and the look in his eyes when I returned home, that it was a close call.  If he had been a few feet further away from her, if our neighbor had been listening to his radio or been looking over his other shoulder as he backed out, he wouldn't have seen or heard Scott in time. Annabel would have been creamed. As it stands, she was only knocked off her bike. Only. Ha. Tell that to her daddy's heart. To her momma's peace of mind. 

Close calls are a part of growing up, I get that, and something I should probably resign myself to given what a daredevil, wild child my second born is. But it will never be easy. My heart will never *not* worry about my babies. Ever. That's the bitter with the sweet part of this parenting gig.

Nevertheless, the gravity of what went down this morning did not actually hit me until I was putting Annie down for her nap this afternoon. I was rocking her like usual and she kept saying "seep, momma, go bed" like usual (her subtle cue that she wants me to leave her the hell alone). But I couldn't. Not today. I kept holding her, snuggling her, smelling her and blatantly ignoring her continued insistence that she wanted to go to bed until she finally just gave up and fell asleep in my arms. And then I cried quiet tears of both fear and gratitude. 

What would I do without my happy, crazy birdie girl?

I pray I never know. 

P.S. It goes without saying, I know, but humor me:

Thursday, June 3, 2010


Liam's last day of preschool is tomorrow. The LAST DAY. I have been so focused on his "graduation" on Monday (an emotional day to be sure) that I never even thought about the fact that tomorrow morning will be the last time I pack his snack for preschool. The last morning I will give him a hug goodbye at the 1/2 door and watch him make a B-line for the sensory table. Three years down. How did they go by so quickly? How could it be that the clever, talkative, confident boy that now strides through that classroom door was once a scared little toddler who cried every time we left the house and barely spoke at school. How could this era of our lives already be over when it seems like it's hardly began?

I will never forget the first day I left Liam at school. The first time I really left him alone, ever, in his whole life. I will never, ever forget how my heart about cracked in two or the feeling in the pit of my stomach as I walked back across the parking lot without him. Or how I cried and cried and cried while sitting in my car in that parking lot. I don't think Liam would be the proud and confident boy he is now without that school or those teachers. They understood the gift I was giving them when I left my baby in their caring and capable hands. The gift of trust. And in turn, they give me the gift of "letting go". It has been a beautiful thing. 

Thank you.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Zen of Steve....Redux

Annie has reached the delightful & challenging age of 18 months (more on that at some point...her birthday letter is still in draft status. Way to go momma). She is finally at a point in which my memories of Liam at the same age are not as vague. So, when she does something like, say, pull the checkbook out of my purse, wave it around and announce that she has it ("MOMMAAA!!") then run and wedge herself under the farthest corner of the dining room table to alternately shred/eat the carbon copies of my checks, shrieking "NOOOOOOO" and deftly slipping out of my grasp as I grunt and writhe around on the floor trying to reach her, I now have a much clearer frame of reference.

Since I wrote A LOT when Liam was a tot, I decided to go back into the archives to see what I could dig up from back in the day when he was first starting to feel his oats a bit. It was funny and honest and made me realize that I could have written those same stories about this wee little girl who has me feeling like I am chasing my tail most days. These crazy kids of mine. Head strong and clever and sweet as honey. A lethal combination.

Here is one from when Liam was exactly Annie's age. It pretty much sums up........ yesterday.

The Zen of Steve
Aug. 6, 2006

This morning brought with it a foul mood and I have been a supreme grouch since the moment my eyes grudgingly struggled awake at dawn. Oscar has got nothing on me today. Working on 3 hours of fractured sleep, I am a force to be reckoned with. Working on slightly more, but still fractured sleep himself, Liam is a whirling dervish of naughtiness and no's. We are not a happy pair.

We slowly circled each other all morning...Liam pushing his luck and me barking at him to "cool it" while working on my 2nd pot of coffee, hoping to feel the euphoric rush of caffeine and clarity at *any* moment. While taking a brief respite in the bathroom, I heard several crashes and hastily ran into the kitchen, sans shorts, to find that Liam had pulled up a chair to the sink and was systematically emptying it of dirty pots and pans....and knives. Christ.

At the very moment that I was beginning to ask myself if leashing Liam to the dining room table would technically be considered abuse, I looked at the clock and realized that it was 11:00. Or rather, Blue's Clues o'clock. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I planted Liam in his little chair, turned on the boob tube and went to retrieve my britches and yet another cup of joe. Twenty minutes of kid friendly cleverness were headed our way and I was ecstatic.

Today's lesson: Frustration. How apropos. Steve helped his little friends Bucket and Pail work through some sort of frustrating task, after which he turned, looked deep into my eyes and asked, "Do you ever feel frustrated?". He patiently waited for my response. How nice. "Oh, Steve, Steve, Steve", I answered back, "If you only knew."

Always so calm and steady in his green on green rugby, Steve went on to tell me that when I am frustrated, all I need to do is: STOP. BREATHE. and THINK. That's it. Seems pretty simple and I need simple right now. I immediately began to imagine all the opportunities I would have to put this handy advice to use:
  • Spend half an hour working on a meal that Liam *might* deem edible just to have him feed it to the dog? STOP. BREATHE. THINK.
  • Liam is screaming at the top of his lungs while pointing to the ceiling and I have no earthly clue what he wants because, no, he is still not talking? STOP. BREATHE. THINK.
  • Find an entire roll of TP unfurled and stuffed into the toilet...again? STOP. BREATHE. THINK.
  • Successfully intervene when Liam is throwing toys at the dog only to have him turn around and brain the dog with a book instead? STOP. BREATHE. THINK.
  • Liam wakes at 2AM *starving* because he refused to eat anything all day? STOP. BREATHE. THINK.
  • Lying in bed awake while the rest of the world sleeps because husband's snoring could wake the dead? STOP. BREATHE. THINK.
The possibilities are endless. At my current rate, I'll probably be hyperventilating by 10AM what with all this extra breathing, but it's certainly worth a shot. As luck would have it, I was given the opportunity to put this new skill into practice as soon as Blue & Steve had bid us adieu. Upon being presented with his lunch, Liam dumped the entire plate onto the floor and I promptly removed him from the table with the admonishment that lunch was over....too bad. But before I could get to it myself, Liam was on the floor shoveling the food in his mouth, dog hair and all.

STOP. BREATHE. THINK. least he ate. And a quick glance at the microwave told me that NAP was only 22 minutes away. I could do this, I thought. Feeling triumphant, I looked down to see Liam juicing the remaining watermelon through the rush seat of the dining room chair.


Awwww...yes...this is working. Who would have thought that the path to inner peace led right through Blue's Clues?

Children's programming has come a long way.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Lucid Moment

Sick boy.
Fever for nearly a week now.
103 this afternoon.
Lethargic, cranky, demanding.
Fell asleep watching Franklin (gasp).
Bribed to take Tylenol (please, please baby!).
Fever breaking.
Sweaty hair.
Covers kicked off.
More tears.
Crying ball of despair.
Do you want momma to run you a bath?
Yes please, but carry me up.
Please momma my whole skin hurts.
That's too cold.
That's too hot.
Can you wash my back?
Oh. That feels warm.
your skin hurt when you are sick?
Yep, when I have a fever my whole body hurts.
Is snot like throw up that comes out your nose?
Something like that.
What baby?
You're doing a good job taking care of me.
Thanks buddy.
I always love you, but sometimes I get angry at you too.
I know.
Sometimes you don't give me lots of attention.
Sometimes you don't always play with me.
You're right.
Does that make you angry?
I don't like it when we fight.
Me neither, buddy.
It hurts my feelings.
I'm sorry.
Momma, I don't like being sick.
I don't like you being sick either.
But I appreciate you playing nice with me tonight.
I'm glad.
Should we pinky promise to play nice all days?
I love you best, Momma.
I love you best too, Liam.