My Mother’s Day

(Yes, I realize we are nearly a week past Mother’s Day. Where does the time go?)MeandMia




“Are you awake?”


“Is it morning yet?”



Mia snuggled closer to me and flung her arm around my neck, wisps of her wild hair tickling my lips. The night before — on Mother’s Day Eve — she could barely contain herself, so excited was she to give me her presents. I already knew that one of these presents was a small bag from her room, which she used to collect random things from around the house — hair ties, a paperweight, a picture she had colored, and a Clementine book (“So you have something to do when I’m not here”). Just when Mia fell back to sleep, the boys woke up, and no one knows so well how to wake up a house — screaming and laughing and babbling back and forth. I grabbed my bathrobe, hurried to their room and took them downstairs so they wouldn’t wake Mia.

Zach made coffee and told me to go back to bed, but I sat down on the couch instead and two little boys proceeded to climb on top of me. Wyatt did that thing that toddlers do — he sort of patted my arm and beamed up at me. And while I was beaming back at Wyatt, Luke grabbed my face and planted a sloppy and lingering kiss on my mouth. I decided I didn’t need to go back to bed.

A little while later, Mia came downstairs and jumped up and down while I opened my presents from her — the aforementioned bag and a flower pot she made at school.

Zach made pancakes for the kids while I sat at the table with my coffee.

Later, we went to lunch with my family where my grandparents announced that they both have cancer in the way someone might announce that a mutual acquaintance has cancer. They were more concerned about the lack of butter on our table than the disease infiltrating their bodies. My grandfather’s is skin cancer and from what I can gather, treatable. My grandmother’s is also believed to be a form of skin cancer at this point, but she’s having the lump removed next week and we’ll know more then.

After lunch, the boys took a nap and Mia and I left to hang out with my mom. We got cupcakes and went to the bookstore and we didn’t talk about cancer.



That evening after I got Mia to bed, I wandered into the boys’ room and was thinking they looked like giants sprawled out in their cribs, when I heard Mia crying from her room. I found her curled on her side, clutching her bunny and blanket, and whimpering like a starved kitten. I turned her to me and pushed the hair out of her eyes.

“I don’t want to leave Kindergarten,” she said, her whimpering escalating to a hard, gasping cry. “I don’t want to leave Mrs. B’s class and I don’t want to go to first grade.”

What could I say? Because the truth is, I’m not ready for first grade either. Wasn’t it just yesterday that she climbed onto the bus for the first time? I look at her and think she’s still so little. She’s still my baby. But first grade sounds so big. I didn’t say this to her. I didn’t say much of anything for fear of the crack in my voice that would give me away, so instead I held her and let her cry.

“I don’t want to go to first grade,” she cried into my hair, “Because you have to do hard things in first grade.”

So this is what I told her:

You can do hard things. How do I know this?

Once, you were terrified to put your head under water, but you practiced little by little. You took swim lessons and let your teacher help you. And one day you were ready so you took a deep breath and submerged your face in the water, and you were so proud of yourself when you came up for air.

Last year around this time, you didn’t want to leave your preschool friends. “What if I don’t have any friends in Kindergarten?” you asked. But that first day you ran down from the bus and announced that you made 25 new friends.

Unlike reading, math does not come without challenges for you. You want so badly to pass Math Challenge, so we worked together and talked about taking your time and checking your work, and last week you passed level 2 of Math Challenge.

You take care of your brothers without being conscious of your mothering instinct. You share with them your snacks and toys and books. You let them sleep with things you like to cuddle. You read to them. You teach them. You run back for kisses from the morning bus stop when they call your name.

And you (usually) do all these things with grace and kindness and very little bribing from my end.

So we can do first grade, you and I, because we can do hard things.

I took a deep breath as I finished my spiel and waited for Mia to say something, but when I looked down at my lap where she was resting her head, I realized she was barely hanging on to this side of awake.



“Are you awake?” …

**If you follow me on Instagram you’ve already seen these pictures, so I apologize for the repeat. P.S. I haven’t figured out how to add an Instagram button but if you’re on Instagram you can find me at lara_joylovelyjoy.

Paper Man: he’s a survivor

Allow me to introduce you to Paper Man, one of Mia’s latest school projects.

I believe the assignment was benign enough: construct a figure, draw a face, glue on some hearts and eyes (What eyes, you ask? We’ll get to that in a minute), etc. It was only when Mia brought Paper Man to the table after dinner one night that we learned his backstory. And what a riveting story it is.

Turns out Paper Man has been attacked by bull sharks and great whites. 200 times. See that splotch by his left arm that trails down to his foot? That’s his bleeding heart. Those eyes you were wondering about? Gone. Replaced by makeshift eyes that “don’t work, but he gots to have eyes.” The squiggly mass inside the circle on his right knee? His brain. Every other noticeable marking is either bone, stitches, dried blood or skin grafts (or as Mia says, “They had to make new skin for him because the sharks ate it all”). Oh, and if you thought that triangular shape on top of his head is a hat you’d be wrong. It’s a cone, as in conehead. As if the guy didn’t have enough troubles.

Mia assures me Paper Man is done with the water. He’s had enough. He’s going to travel the world in a hot air balloon now. Good call, Paper Man. Good call.

*In totally unrelated news, Zach let her watch Shark Week this summer. I’m so relieved it didn’t have an effect on her at all.

**In his defense, he didn’t let her watch the attack shows, only the ones where they dive with sharks, study them, etc. Still, we’re both banned from ever going into the ocean again per Mia.


Dear Mia,
Here we are, six months into 5 and part of me is still clinging to 4. While you jumped happily to 5 I quietly stole glances at a baby you in my rear view mirror.

I know why you left 4 behind without so much as a glance over your shoulder. I get it. 4 brought not one but two baby brothers. Two baby brothers who cried at all hours of the night, waking you up at midnight, 3 a.m., 6 a.m. Two baby brothers whose round eyes and tiny fingers tempted visitors away from you. Two baby brothers who needed me to hold them, feed them, change them, walk with them. And there were never enough arms. There was never enough sleep. There was never enough me. 4 was a blur. 4 is the year I wish I could do over. Somehow I would make more time. But I didn’t, and I can’t, and now I’m left with vague memories and few pictures.
The one defining memory of your year of 4 was when we took you to New York for the first time last fall, leaving your grandmothers to split duty between the boys. The joy in your smile, your step, the way you nuzzled the back of my hand with your nose, filled me to overflowing but also made it painfully clear how much we had not been with you, not devoted ourselves to you. That trip was a blessing, the way we were able to pause life as it had become, and just be. This is the reason I started this blog, really. To capture you and your brothers in the moment, to be present, to remember.
5 has brought attitude, independence, a certain lilt to your voice slanting surely to 16. You check the tags of your clothing now to be sure they say 5, though XS is acceptable. 6 is better, 4 suddenly too small. You choose your own outfits and won’t be edited so I don’t try (mostly). You talk about boyfriends and love. You tell me a boy in your class is your boyfriend and I ask what that means. “It means we play together and have fun.” And this is true so we don’t say anymore about it as you toss the stone and skip to 5 on our hopscotch.
When you were 3 you asked when you could ride a school bus. “When you’re five,” I said. And then I blinked and you were climbing the steps of the bus, waving at me from your seat. The one without a seat belt. The one whose driver I did not know. This was the first of letting go. The first of trusting the world and fate to hold you and carry you home to me.
Every day you take one more step away from 4, one more closer to 6, and I continue to play catch-up. But tonight you will still ask for an “appletizer” before dinner. Spanish-speaking people will still be from Spanishland. And you will still ask if five minutes is a short time or a long time (and won’t accept my answer of “It depends”). Tonight I will lay in bed with you and sing Winter Wonderland as I have every night for the past five and a half years, embracing our version that has morphed through the years into a Katy Perry Christmas mix.