Before I was a mother I wondered why my sister-in-law always wore her sunglasses on top of her head? When I look at the pictures I have taken of her over the years, in ninety percent of the photos she has her iconic sunglasses perched on top of her head. One of the few photographs I have of her (sans the sunglasses) is a family portrait taken on the day I married her baby brother.
Maybe the sunglasses serve as some sort of headband or she is prone to losing her glasses and by placing them on top of her head they are never far away? Perhaps she is trying to begin a new fashion trend? Although, I doubt that is true because she doesn’t wear designer glasses and once bought a replacement pair at an aging gas station. Whatever the reason it became a quandary that I never figured out… until I became a mommy!
In preparing for motherhood I read a lot about parenting but I never found the topic of sunglasses in any of the books. The sunglass topic came up once when I was pregnant with Lillian. I remember my co-worker Sara telling me, “Enjoy your designer sunglasses now. When you have your baby girl she will rip your sunglasses off of your face and they will never be the same again! I have one word for you, Target.”
When my “mini me” was a baby I realized Sara had given me some wonderful advice and I’m glad I purchased several pair of inexpensive sunglasses. Lillian loved reaching for my glasses and found great satisfaction in playing peek-a-boo by pulling them away from my face. With popped out lenses and stretched out frames my little one has caused several pair of sunglasses to meet an early demise. And in her toddler years she hasn’t proved to be any gentler. She adores my sunglasses and enjoys trying to fit the oversized lenses on her petite face. Like my sister-in-law I frequently found myself putting my sunglasses on top of my head in an attempt to protect them. I quickly learned what all of the veteran mommas already know, babies love sunglasses!
The other day I spent a few hours at Chicago’s Midway Airport during a layover on my way home from Cincinnati. One of my layover rituals is to initiate a FaceTime call with my mom so I can surprise my little girl. That’s when I was astounded to see the video image of myself. Staring back at me was a woman sporting a pair of sunglasses perched on top of her head! The sun had already set and after a plane ride and a layover it had been hours since I had been outside. I quickly swept the airport to see if I could spot anyone else wearing sunglasses on top of their head and after looking at dozens of passengers the only person I spotted with sunglasses was a pilot ready to naviagate a flight. To passerbys did I appear to be a pilot in training or a busy super mommy (like my sister-in-law) who juggles motherhood and a career and simply has too much on her mind?
I am prone to losing my sunglasses and many have become buried in the bottom of my bag. Before Lillian was born several pair have been left behind in rental cars or abandoned in hotel rooms. I continue to question, “Where are my sunglasses?” but now that I am a mother I always know where to find them. I think about my sister-in-law, raise my arm and pat my head and that is where I find my sunglasses, sitting proudly on top of my head!
When I was in the 5th grade I had a beloved sticker collection. Each newly acquired sticker was kept in tact and pristinely placed into a giant photo album where it was safely kept under the shiny plastic to be admired over and over again. I never used any of my stickers (like actually stuck them on anything) and the bigger, puffier and shinier the sticker; the more it was valued. Unicorns and rainbows were hot commodities along with the amazing sheets of scratch and sniff stickers found at the local teacher aid store. Gift shops and drug stores would sell individual designer stickers by Lisa Frank, Suzy’s Zoo (my favorite) and Sandra Boyton. I would save my money so I could buy these special stickers for my collection. It was a big event to go to the mall to buy new stickers. What a thrill to tear the newly found sticker off of the roll and then find the perfect spot for it in my book!
Other coveted stickers in my collection included Garfield, Pac Man and Snoopy. My friends and I would trade stickers on the playground during recess and get together to admire our collections after school. I belonged to the Lisa Frank fan club where I was matched with a sticker pen pal. We wrote letters to each other and even traded stickers through the mail! I was the shining example of a ten-year old sticker addict!
Fast forward thirty-five years and I am a forty something with a two-year old little girl who is obsessed with stickers! But unlike her mommy, Lillian gets a thrill from eagerly ripping the stickers off of the sheet and sticking them onto everything! Every time I see her do this my ten-year old self (who never dared to use any of her stickers) cries out with a silent Aggghhh!!! She puts stickers on her clothes, on her beloved stuffed Sweetie Pie, and all over her toys. So there are stickers everywhere! Stickers are stuck to our hardwood floors, in the carpet and one night I even found a sticker in my hair!
Lillian likes to share her stickers with the people she loves; never expecting anything in return. Visitors leave our house adorned with stickers. I have shown up to multiple rehearsals with a sticker clad shirt and daddy went to work one day only to discover at lunch that he had spent the entire morning sporting a Minnie Mouse sticker on his tie!
And she doesn’t discriminate when it comes to stickers. As long as they are sticky she is in love! In fact anything adhesive is viewed as a sticker. Last week we went to our local post office to mail a package. While there I picked up a sheet of stamps. Not even thinking I let Lillian pick them out. She got the biggest grin on her face when the nice lady behind the counter handed her a new sheet of “stickers.” She began to rip the expensive stickers off of the sheet while I frantically explained these were special stickers, called stamps, that are used to mail things to people. To my relief, she willingly traded her new sheet of “stickers” for some Goldfish crackers and I celebrated the fact that I successfully prevented a $9.80 mistake from happening!
A huge smile appears on her face when the cashier at Target, or one of the grocery stores we frequent, gives her a sticker as we pass through the check out. The little girl in me gets excited when we go to Trader Joe’s. Trader Joe’s has the best stickers! They give each tiny shopper an entire roll of stickers and the stickers are often seasonal and witty, so there is something to be enjoyed on multiple levels. For Thanksgiving they gave out scratch and sniff stickers (for free) and the little 80’s girl who used to save her money to buy stickers could barely contain her excitement! Back in the day the stickers Trader Joe’s gives out would have been a coveted addition to my growing sticker collection! My old sticker collection is a childhood treasure I am excited to pass down to Lillian. I plan to wait a few years before I give her my cherished possession. Although I would enjoy seeing the excitement on her sweet little face, I would find absolutely no joy in peeling my beloved collection off of our hardwood floors!
Life with a two year old is truly unpredictable. I never know what the day has in store for us! Will my little one wake up and willingly get ready for the day ahead or will she delay the start by challenging every aspect of our morning routine? I have to be prepared for either because I never know which little girl will greet me each day. Will she be a Beauty or The Beast?
I often feel like I am negotiating every aspect of the day. “Would you like to wear the Minnie Mouse shirt or the shirt with the pup on it… would you like apples or yogurt for snack… do you want to drink out of your St. Louis Cardinal cup or your Kentucky Wildcat cup?” I wish it was always that easy, giving the little princess two choices and she picks one and we happily move along. Sometimes she doesn’t like either choice of clothing and she will run around the house in her diaper. I try to negotaiate and plead with her to get dressed until I become frustrated and both of us end up in tears as we find we are once again late for our appointment. I will never judge a parent whose child is seen in public wearing snow boots in May or a pajama top with her leggings or mix matched clothes of any kind. Some days the victory comes in getting the child clothed! Once she requested toast with butter and cinnamon sugar for snack. This request was easy to fulfill and I even had her help me spread the butter and sprinkle the cinnamon. But then I cut the toast into strips instead of little squares and she refused to eat; throwing the bowl of sweet crispness on the floor. I will never scorn a parent who gives her child a Pop Tart for breakfast because sometimes getting the little person to eat anything is a true accomplishment! And one day sweet Lillian requested to drink milk from a cup that was in the dishwasher, ready to be cleaned, and when I tried to explain this she threw a tantrum because that was the only cup she wanted to drink from that day!
Although I have read the worst thing to do is to give in to her demands, out of pure desperation I have resorted to negotiation and pure bribery. The incident occurred in the garage on a sunny Tuesday morning in May. Feeling accomplished after passing the first hurdle of getting her dressed, she suddenly stalled when we got to the car by refusing to get buckled into her car seat. She arched her back, kicked her legs and cried, “No Mommy, no!” Blood curdling screams accompanied by crocodile tears rang out of our garage. I’m surprised the lady taking a lesurly morning walk nearby didn’t call the police out of fear. I tried everything, “We can go to the park if you let mommy buckle you in… Girls who get buckled in their seats get a new Minnie Mouse toy.. Please sweet Jesus help me get this little person into the car seat! And after all of the drama and the sweat and the tears (from both of us) we never ended up leaving the house that day.
I know this is “just a phase” and that at two years of age children are testing their independence and navigating all of life’s demands. When I mentioned these episodes to the “library girls” I was comforted to know they were experiencing the same behaviors with their little ones. I read a few articles online and my “mommy mentor” gave me some helpful advice. Her best suggestion, “Did you try turning her car seat around to forward facing from rear facing?” When Lillian was told she was going to ride in the car like a “big girl” I am happy to report there hasn’t been another car seat fiasco!
We had two rough weeks where she challenged everything but then my little Beauty started to show her sweet face once again. She still experiences tantrums now and then but I am better prepared for them. Although her tantrums are as unpredictable as a summer storm and often reach a grand crescendo; they are short bursts that swell in sound and after ringing loudly, slowly return to a normal volume. One day our house will be filled with silence and I know I will yearn for her musical performances, the ones that frustrated me and grated on my last nerve but until then I have invested in a set of high quality earplugs! Several people have told me that once you master one stage in your child’s growth and development they move on to the next. I am preparing myself because I have already been warned about the “threeanger” and their unpredictable personalities!
I never wanted my daughter to have a pacifier. After my daughter’s birth I specifically told the nurses I didn’t want my baby to have a pacifier, so they honored my wish and put a card in her bassinet that said NO PACIFIER. Everything was going as planned until she came back from a visit to the nursery with a bright green pacifier in her cute little mouth!
It would have been easy to mention something to the nurses and to stick to my original “no pacifier plan” but my daughter was born with something to say. She has no volume control and when she cries everyone hears her! In fact, I bet everyone in the entire hospital heard her cries! When her pediatrician, Dr. Hartman, examined her at a mere day old, she couldn’t hear her heartbeat because her crying was so loud. Dr. Hartman asked, “Do you have a pacifier for her?” The doctor continued, “She sure has a healthy set of lungs!” I’m thinking she may be a future opera singer or a Broadway Baby who can belt out a tune without a microphone. Or maybe she’ll be a cheerleader who can easily be heard by the fans in the stands. So against my original plan, my baby left the hospital addicted to her paci. The brand they use at the hospital are called Soothies. Probably a marketing ploy to make parents feel better about giving their little ones a pacifier. And that is the brand she has preferred from newborn to infant and into toddler-hood.
I have to admit the paci was a lifesaver during those first months. Like it’s name implies, it soothed my little girl while she slept and was irreplaceable when we sleep trained her at a year old. Lillian became obsessed with her pacifier. She never left home without it and always had it in her mouth when she went to bed. It soothed her during stressful situations like long road trips, airline flights and meeting new people. It brought security when she met her idol, Mickey Mouse and comforted her when she was separated from mommy. I even recall her saying on several occasions, “I love my paci!” I knew weening her off of her beloved paci would be a challenging task.
After our trip to Disneyland, where she relied on her paci more than I would have preferred, I decided to begin the weening process. Since Lillian is an auditory learner who comprehends everything she hears, I began to talk about a “paci free world.” She had a tendency to bite through her pacifiers so I told her when this happened she would have to throw the paci away. She would walk around the house saying, “Mamma throw my paci away.” She had two pink pacifiers left and then she bit through one and to my surprise willingly threw that one away. I also began talking about replacing the pacifier with a tank full of goldfish. She loves the small aquarium at the library so I was hoping the thought of having a tank of her own would be the motivation she needed to let go of the last paci. So for weeks I talked about this proposition. I could tell she was processing the scenario because on several occasions Lillian inquired, “I would still have my Sweetie Pie and blanket?”
Sometimes things happen when you least expect them. After a fun filled day exploring Purina Farms, my family and I returned to the car to find that Lillian’s last pacifier was missing. In a panic I searched the car high and low and was unable to locate it. So my dad said, “The pups at Purina Farms must have taken your paci.” Lillian was distraught and clearly missed her paci but since it was really lost there was nothing that could be done. She had a difficult time falling asleep that first night but since she still had her Sweetie Pie and her blanket she successfully soothed herself to sleep. So just like that she was weened. With her wild imagination and problem solving skills she comments regularly, “Sweetie Pie will fly and get my paci.” But as each day passes she mentions it less and less.
I am proud of my little girl and never imagined that entering a “no paci world” would go so smoothly. Now it is time to tackle another toddler right of passage, potty training.
When I accepted an assignment to train teachers in California I got the brilliant idea of taking little Lillian with me. So I invitied my parents to tag along. My husband even flew in for a few days.
Since our little Lillian is obsessed with all things Minnie Mouse we decided to extend our California trip with a two day visit to Disneyland.
During our California adventure we were in constant communication with Ken’s parents regarding the condition of Grandma Talley. Her health was deteriating after a debilitating bout of pneumonia. Early in the morning, hours before our first day at Disneyland, we got a call that Grandma Talley had passed on. Although we were filled with sadness, we also gave thanks for her 97 years of life. She experienced a lot in her 97 years, including multiple visits to various theme parks. One of my favorite photos of her was taken at Six-Flags Over Mid America when she was in St. Louis visiting my husband and his family. The fun filled memories of a day of pure joy were clearly captured in the photos shared with me years later.
So my husband and I began our Disneyland trip attempting to capture some of the joy we remember from our childhoods. But I would be lying if I said our entire trip was magical. It wasn’t. There was no magic in changing diapers in a warm, crowded bathroom. And there was a little less magic as the day wore on and we became tired and overheated, our feet aching from walking from one side of the park to the other. But weeks later as I reflect on our trip I barely remember any of the unpleasantries. For the good times overshadow any of the inconviences we experienced. Instead, we are left with happy memories of an excited two year old meeting Mickey Mouse for the very first time. And we are reminded of the bright eyed toddler who was mesmerized by thousands of glowing lights in the electrical light parade. We remember how exciting it was for Nana to ride Dumbo with her daughter and her granddaughter, bringing back memories of when she rode on Dumbo with her own mother a few years after Disneyland opened. Our memories are filled with the face of a little girl smiling from ear to ear as she twirled with her Pops on the tea cups and squealed with delight as she rode the carousel with her Daddy. Our little princess had so much fun she didn’t want the magic to end. After riding on the carousel she held up one finger and asked her Daddy in the sweetest voice, “One more time.”
A day after we came home from Disneyland we packed the mini van and traveled to Magnolia, Kentucky for Grandma Talley’s funeral. As we drove, my husband and I reflected on all of the wonderful memories we had with grandma. We reminisced the entire drive and my husband shared wonderful stories of summers spent on the farm. I had more recent memories of Grandma Talley smiling at our little Lillian, her namesake, for the first time. We both commented on how weird it felt being in Disneyland and then just days later traveling to Kentucky to say goodbye to Grandma Talley. Although we all secretly wished we could be with Grandma Talley “One more time,”we gave thanks for her blessed life and the time we had together.
My family and I may have spent two days at the happiest place on Earth but Grandma Talley is now in an even happier place. A place that is better than a million Disneylands put together! A place where there is no pain, no suffering and no hurt. She is in heaven where she was reunited with family and friends. While we spent two days at Disneyland, the happiest place on Earth, I feel comforted to know that grandma will have eternal happiness with her Lord and Savior in heaven.
I spend most of my days as a stay at home mommy, which I absolutely love! After resigning from McGraw-Hill, when the miracle baby was born, I was offered the opportunity to come back as a per diem consultant. Although the job still requires travel, the arrangement is great. I get to pick how much I want to work and can either accept or decline job assignments presented to me. I try to work a few days each month and sometimes my parents and my little girl travel with me. I am blessed to have the best babysitters in the world (my parents and in-laws).
I wrote this letter to my little girl on February 3 when I traveled to Washington state.
I see you in the passengers I encounter along the way. You are in the face of the bright eyed toddler embarking on her first airplane adventure with her family. Your enthusiasm for life is seen in the excited teenage girl jetting off on a shopping weekend with her mother. And I feel your love for me through the actions of the middle aged woman helping her elderly mother depart the airport shuttle.
When I reach the hotel you are there. You speak to me at breakfast when I see the dispenser overflowing with Cheerios and discover that the bananas aren’t too mushy or too green but perfectly ripe, just the way you like them. While I walk on the hotel treadmill my eyes are drawn to the electrical outlets because they are missing the familiar childproof caps I have become accustomed to. When I flip through the channels on the television I hear your giggles and see you enthusiastically clap your hands when Mickey Mouse appears on the screen.
And when I look in the hotel mirror I see a reflection of you in the bright blue eyes staring back at me. I see the hard working women who have come before us and those who will follow. I see the shy little girl who over time grew into a strong, independent woman filled with determination. A woman with a sense of family and a passion for the arts. A woman who has a calling to share the gifts God has given her by instructing educators across the country. A woman who strives to be a positive role model to her young daughter.
Although we may be 1,699 miles from each other and are two time zones apart, my sweet Lillian, you are with me. You are part of me and when you were born my life changed…for the better. I miss you terribly when my work takes me away from you but you are always on my mind and forever in my heart.