The Princess Has Left The Room

Holding the silky white pieces of fabric, shaped like medieval banners, tinged in pink with golden symbols and connected to each other with soft pink ribbon, was causing my heart to ache. This fabric of childhood dreams and fantasy, once the subject of delight and joy needed to be folded and put away. This banner accompanied by light purple, gauzy draperies wrapped around the posts of a four poster bed, once daintily draped the top of my daughter’s white canopy bed. The fabric, slightly faded and stained, was showing it’s age.

I embraced the solemness of the moment as I folded. I gave myself permission to reminisce and honor the princess who once slept and dreamed of her kingdom in a bed adorned by princess draperies, It was time to accept the princess was no longer in residence.

Watching little princesses grow into strong, confident women is not a new experience for me. This was the fourth princess in my life to disappear. I knew to not be shocked or even surprised, but darn it if this moment didn’t catch me by surprise and take my breath away for just a moment.

This casual moment of redecorating, changing the princess canopy out for shiny, colorful marbleized globe lights, was placed too close in a week’s timeline that began with dropping the next oldest sister at college in North Carolina. Time, slippery and unforgiving, was continually marching forth, changing princesses to teenagers to college undergrads. I was feeling the full force of it and it was causing my heart to hurt.

I calmed my heart and finished my work. I took a moment to survey the bedroom and understand I needed to make space for new memories. The princess may have left the room, but a beautiful, artistic, blossoming young woman was taking residence. She is making this former Princess bedroom her own. She is in the process of finding her voice and unique sense of style. If I’m lucky, if I pay attention closely, she will invite me to her world and show me all the goodness that can be found there.

The princess may have left, but the kingdom remains cloaked in globe lights, photos of friends, dirty clothes, books, an overstuffed school backpack, pointe shoes, strength, and beauty. She is destined for greatness.

I won!

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Photo Credit: Micah Spoerndle, photographer extraordinaire

I jumped into the water and it paid off. I read about a writing contest sponsored by a fellow WordPress blogger and knew I had to submit. I keep saying, “Someday, I’ll get around to submitting work”, but never do. I usually have a thousand excuses, none of which really hold water. The contest deadline was scheduled for my daughter’s birthday. The submission detail easy and efficient. I opened an email, attached the file and clicked “send”.

Too late to retrieve it. It was out in cyberspace and the deed was done. Good for me! Or was it?

My effort was rewarded. My work recognized. Thank you, Luann for sponsoring this contest. Thank you for encouraging me to remember writing is meant to be shared. Thank  you for my honorable mention.

Read more here: http://writersite.org/2013/09/30/honorable-mention-for-ian/

Feeling blessed 

Baby Books

Some things just slip off the radar when you enter Grad school in the midst of raising six kids. Cleaning my youngest son’s bedroom was one of those things. This past December, I decided the time had come to tackle this 9 x 12 section of my home that held enough contents to fill a room twice its size.

My son was at school, making it safe to enter the room with a large black trash bag, all-purpose cleaner, and paper towels. I was determined to downsize, clean and organize the remains.  After filling the trash bag, and two large plastic toy bin drawers, I faced the worst part of the job, a large, white, pressed wood, floor-to- ceiling shelf unit serving as toy/book storage.

As the youngest of six, Aidan had inherited all the children’s books and toys that ever graced the entrance to our home. His shelving unit was filled with a mass of childhood treasures, but mostly books. If I tossed old, long forgotten, and disregarded books, Aidan might have room for his burgeoning Lego collection. Throwing away old books seemed like a reasonable idea, in theory.

Fortunately, only my oldest daughter has inherited my obsession for books. The other children, when streamlining their bedrooms, rationally place outgrown, copies of Dr. Seuss or Corduroy the Bear, in donation bags with old clothes.  I routinely follow up by foraging through the donation bags, motivated by a desire to rescue precious texts. I helpfully suggest a more practical and responsible act would include giving the books to a younger sibling.  This “pass it on” practice saves me the agony of wrestling with bibliophile issues. Salvation ended, however when I ran out of children.  As I look at Aidan’s messy shelves, I realize they represent twenty-two years of childhood.

Sighing deeply, I know what needs to happen.  I begin to sort, wondering how I can part from board books filled with“special edition” illustrations drawn by former two year olds. Their worn edges and cracked binding tell a story of a different time. Countless Scholastic paperbacks with missing pages hold reminders of young children pouring over thin newsprint catalogs, dreaming of a new book to call their own.  A worn copy of Five Little Monkeys delivers a memory of distant bath-times and squeaky -clean toddlers with wet heads smelling of coconut. I remember the feeling of little warm bodies pressed against my chest as I rocked and read. And this. Moo, Baa, La, La, La– Didn’t I recite this for at least 1,000 naptime reads in the middle of the day, while guiltily wishing for a break? Even then I knew I needed to savor the moment. I knew this day would come.

The toddlers that once held these books are now in high school fretting over AP exams and college choices.  The pre-schoolers are in college fretting over GPA’s, tuition prices, and graduation requirements. The baby is eight years old. It is time to deal with reality and place these books, these memories, where they belong.

I realize I am fortunate.  By having six children, I have managed to extend cuddly reading time, the life of these books, way past a normal experience of the average family.  But now, the truth lies in my hands.  The books are aged and truly need to be discarded. The little children who once held them, read them, and treasured them have moved forward in life.

I survey the remnants of childhood and feel their power.  These pieces of cardboard, paper, ink, staples and glue are so much more. They are the gentle sway of a rocking chair and a warm, snuggling child on my lap. They are a Christmas morning squeal, a Spot the Dog birthday celebration, a naptime, and bedtime ritual. These seemingly insignificant, worn texts hold within their pages treasured memories; a record of childhood and early motherhood.

As I pick through familiar titles of stories once memorized, I am overwhelmed with emotion. The brevity and shifting evolution of life is an ominous foe. These little pieces of literature remind me of snuggles in bed before a thousand kisses and “I love you”s to chase away the monsters. They speak of giggles and joy bursting forth from a shared love of poetry and prose. They reflect long afternoons of “just one more story” that I thought would never end. These treasures are the captivating peace and beauty of a sleeping child whose breathing slows as you whisper, “And good night to the old lady whispering…hush”

I dust off the titles gently and place them in neat stacks on the floor. These books are my Velveteen Rabbit of mothering.  They are precious and loved because they no longer represent crisp, pristine copies of unknown stories and adventure. They are precious because they remind me of the power of language, the written word, and my great love of reading,. This love, shared and transferred to my children, is a powerful force. This love has transformed raggedy books into real, precious artifacts of life.

The streamlining of childhood toys will have to wait. I need to find a tote box to house the worn, tattered books. For some day, I hope to sit in a rocking chair and once again hold a precious child. I will smell their sweet, wet head and enjoy the weight of their body resting on my chest. I will gaze at the miracle of life and patiently recite the words held on the pages “one more time”. I will stroke their hair as they drift off to sleep and know what only a grandmother can know. Time races forward, but through written words we freeze it in a perfect, precious memory.

Science Fair Saturday

She did it!

My 11 year old daughter proclaimed herself a scientist and received a “Superior” rating for her efforts. The reward? A trip to the Regional Science Fair this Saturday.

Before you step back in awe and amazement, let me assure you Einstein’s position in history as one of the greatest geniuses of all time is pretty well secure. Sierra’s Science Fair project, “Get Ready…. Get Set…. Chew!” is all about chewing gum. Her participants, (read family), tested five different chewing gums to determine which one had the longest lasting flavor. The hypothesis declared a particular brand and amazingly was proven correct. No great, life changing discovery, unless you work for Wrigley, Cadbury, or one of the other manufacturers of chewing gum.

This Science Fair project offered another type of education, however. It empowered my timid little girl giving her a huge boost of confidence and self esteem. Sierra is a bit of a late bloomer and a day dreamer. If I had to predict her future I would pigeonhole her as an artist or wistful poet. No one would ever accuse her of being too academic. In contrast, she is surrounded by older siblings, who tend to be high achievers. Being one of the youngest in a large brood, and especially being a girl on the brink of adolescence, can be a recipe for self esteem drags rather than boosts. The Science Fair, however is evolving as a bit of a turning point for Sierra in her journey of claiming her individuality and catching up. She is the first Spoerndle to ever attend such an event. We are all very proud.

After a mountain of bureaucratic paperwork to get her registered, and a hefty (in my opinion) registration fee, Sierra is ready for the Regional competition. It’s an all day affair complete with fancy awards. The Superior rated students will travel on to the State level and beyond that who knows? It’s a dream almost too big to contemplate, even for my little day dreamer. You never know though. Perhaps the biggest lesson this competition will teach my daughter is that if you can dream it, you can be it!

You go girl!

The Fight

“You are just going to have to deal with it Mom. You’ve raised us to be strong women and we are going to have our own opinions on some things!”

It was meant to sting. It was meant as retaliation in the midst of a disagreement. But, those words spoke to my heart. Those magic words, “You’ve raised us to be strong women….” rang in my ears and my head over and over. It was a clear, defining moment of parenthood.

My oldest daughter spoke them in defense of her not so much younger sister. We were in the midst of a disagreement; or let’s just face it, a knock down, drag out fight. I couldn’t agree with their opinion of the moment. We were divided and angry. And then the moment shifted with that simple statement.

Strong women! It was one of those rare paycheck moments of parenting. I held onto the truth of her utterance and savored it.

When you are a stay at home Mom, especially a stay at home, homeschooling Mom for most of your adult life, you don’t get many pats on the back from the world. In fact, you spend most of your days helping your kids and most of your evenings doubting if it is really worth the struggle. There is no paycheck, no awards dinner; no public recognition. In fact, most of your friends, and often your family, think you are crazy, or worse, wasting your life. It’s a constant state of struggle to maintain your self-esteem and fortitude to continue. The reward is at the end of the journey, and the journey, is long.

But then, one day you are standing in your daughter’s bedroom door, in the midst of a struggle, and words are spoken to reward the work. One day, your daughters  stand before you, in the face of adversity, and declare they are strong women! A defining statement, uttered in the heat of battle, becomes a gift. For despite the difficulties, despite the countless moments of doubt, insecurity, and negative messages from the world, you are reminded that it was worth the struggle.

Standing in the midst of middle age, I do not have a fabulous career. I don’t even have a real job. I am still working on my education and trying to determine my future. I am full of insecurities, self doubt, and live in a constant state of struggle with the world. I am riddled with questions of why.

I have taken the “road less traveled” and sometimes feel like I am paying dearly for it. And then suddenly, unexpectedly, the truth appears.

Despite many wrong turns, despite self doubt and worry; I have done one thing right. I have taught my daughters to be strong women.

I savor the moment; the parenting paycheck, and feel unbelievably blessed.