Category Archives: Essays

Eleanor Roosevelt Quote

Be scared and listen


Almost one year ago –

Ella steps to the corner of the mat.  Her coach is with her whispering a few last minute bits of advice before the announcer calls her name.  She is about to execute her first routine in her first gymnastics meet.  The butterflies in my belly morph into the winged monkeys from oz.  Darren and the kids stayed at home due to the fact that we had to drive an hour and a half to attend and also due to Liam’s inability to sit for the duration.  I chat with a few other parents and text with Darren and Kelsey to express my pent up emotion.  I am scared for her.  She expressly let me know that she did not want to compete and she only wanted to do gymnastics for fun.  She had made the team in the spring and it turns out that if you are going to practice with the team you have to compete with the team in at least one meet.  She stands at the edge of the floor ready to fulfill her duty as a team member.  I am already proud of her for sticking with it and doing something so far out of her comfort zone.  At this point in her life  it is common for Ella to say “no” to something new or different or risky.  If she cannot predict the outcome with a 95% certainty factor the answer is no thank you. Today, because of her love of gymnastics she is doing something scary and uncomfortable without complaint. 

My only wish for Ella as she stands at the edge of the mat is for her to feel good at the end of it.  My greatest fear is that if she felt she did poorly, it will be a set back in the other things in life that require courage to put herself out there and take a risk.   I want so much for her to grab onto her days and the opportunities that come her way and know that sometimes we win and sometimes we lose and that’s okay because it’s all about being richer for the experience. 

She salutes the judges and the walks out to wait for the music.  I have not yet seen her do the routine all the way through so I am curious and terrified. She completes some choreographed dance elements and some strength elements.  I am a first time gymnastics mom and I have no idea of the routine or for what skills the judges are looking so based on my in-depth knowledge as her mother I would have to say that she did great.  She pauses and collects herself for the tumble.  I want to scream.  “GO ELLA YOU GOT THIS!!” but I refrain and sit there motionless and wordless.  She has only landed her round off back hand spring three weeks ago for the first time and then we went on a week-long vacation with absolutely no gym practice.  She runs and tumbles and BAM she sticks the landing.  She completes the routine and it was beautiful and I hope that she is as happy as I am, but I won’t know because I can’t talk to her until the end of the meet.  This is  a good thing because I want to say way too much and now I have time to counsel myself into saying very little and letting her do the talking if that is what she wants. 

After floor comes bars, then beam then vault.  She falls off the beam and can’t get some move on the bar that seems to be important.  Her vault is decent.  At the end of a very long evening we reunite and make our way to the car.  I resist every urge to say too much and simply tell her that she did such a great job and ask her if it was fun.  “It was so fun, Mom.”  Her usual modus operandi is to not offer up details.  I get a lot of one word answers to my probing questions – good, yes, no, not really.  Instead of asking her questions, I say nothing listening to my inner counselor who is working overtime.  She talks about her routines and emotions and the good and the bad and next time she will do this differently and so on.  Next time?   Then she says, “You know what, Mom?  I am going to stop saying that I don’t want to do things before trying them because that was so completely awesome and I said I didn’t want to do it.  And like the hay ride that I said I didn’t want to do when we were in Philly, I ended up doing it and that was awesome too. 

I almost cry, but I don’t.  I say, “That is really great, honey.  I am so happy that you were able to figure that out. I bet it feels so good.” The rest of the way my motherly heart sings with admiration for my oldest daughter and for myself.   She is not only growing up, but she is growing up great. She is learning about testing her limits and that awesomeness can come from moving away from her comfortable sure thing into scary and not so comfortable.  I know now that she is going to learn this with or without me or maybe even in spite of me.  As for me I, I finally shut my mouth and listened.  I have a moment of  – DUH – why had I not started listening a long time ago.  I guess I never really realized I wasn’t listening.   I move away from the inner self flogging and enjoy the moment in the car alone with my girl.  I had not asked her what she learned or told her what she should take away from her experience.  I had let her have her experience and learn from it.  I realize how much more valuable this moment was without my voice.  We are learning together and this simple fact inspires me to be better – and to listen.


Storms in Rocky Mountain National Park

Fatherly Moments

My heart skips a beat at the sight of his red and white gingham shorts.   This could only mean one thing.  He was going to go swimming with us, a black swan event.  My little sister beams as we make our way to the pool.  The cement burns my toes, but I don’t care.  He is going swimming with us. “Daddy will you throw me?!” I shout.  “Then me!” Susan chimes in.  “How far do you want to go?” he asks with a smile.  “All the way to the deep end!”  He submerges his fluffy brown hair.  I place my feet expertly in his hands as I have done so many times before with my teenage cousins.  He launches me through the air.  I am flying.  I am happy.

Her metal clad feet create the perfect four beat rhythm against the pavement.  I am at home on her back as we make our way into the cornfield across the street.  It is my church, my escape, my everything.  His figure approaches.  My grip on the reins tightens slightly.  He surprises me because he rarely walks farther than his car, but today he walks to the edge of the drive to retrieve his papers.  “You are one lucky little girl,” he says.  “What do you mean?” I ask regretting the question as soon as it leaves my lips.  “I mean, look at you riding your horse. You are lucky.”  I ride off into the field breaking into a trot shaking off our conversation with every step.Sunset over the foothills

The smell of a very well done hamburger pries at my heart and creeps into my soul.  I hear the ice cubes twist against the glass and the evening song of critters come alive in the humidity.   The local headlines of the Evening Phoenix block my view of him.  I just sit swaying on my Grandmother’s love seat glider thinking hard of something to say.   I am not even sure he knows I am there, but he says, “Leenie, go tell your Mother five minutes.”  It was the dinner warning.   As I walk into the den the blast of cold air gives me relief and chatter lightens my mood.  “Dad says dinner in five.”  My mother delegates orders in the final push for dinner on the deck.  It is Sunday.

He flies at me with rage in his face.  I am too slow to react and can only back up against the headboard and brace myself for a blow.  He doesn’t hit me.  He shakes my head between his hands screaming at me, “STOP STRESSING YOUR MOTHER OUT!” He lets me go and I run for my car keys.  I hate him.

Granby Lake

The weight of his arm on my shoulder almost breaks me.  I find the strength within myself to stay upright and guide him to the sofa.  He is drunk and he is sobbing.  “It’s going to be, ok.”  My words are cheap and un-profound.  I know that it is not going to be ok for a very long time.  “Do you want to know something, Leenie?” he says holding his head in his hands now. “I was enamored of her since she was 15 years old.”  He slurs and smiles through his tears.  “I know,” I say the knot in my throat coming undone.   “It is going to be ok.”   He tries to collect himself.  We sit on the sofa in our den, the one that she slipcovered over and over and try to make sense of our bizarre reality.

The phone is ringing and, for a moment, I think about the tactic of avoidance.  A warning from my sister has clued me into his call.  It’s always awkward and difficult.  We run through the standard Father and Daughter topics and I say it, “I hear that you met someone that you really like.”  His long distance demeanor turns almost goofy as he describes his new friend.  He corrects me when I say girlfriend because it is childish.  “Are you going to marry her?” I ask.  “I think I probably will, ” he says. Our roles reverse as he runs through his list of justifications for his intentions.  My heart is in conflict.  “I am so happy for you, Dad, ” I say truly meaning the words.  We hang up. The knot in my throat comes undone.  He is enamored again.  I am happy.

Storms in Rocky Mountain National Park

He looks good dressed up in his tux.  His fluffy brown hair twists and turns among the gray.  He is calm.  He has done this before.  He stands with his hands folded in front of him, while a couple of hundred people wait for us to emerge.  Why didn’t I elope? This questions runs through my mind over and over.  The stage is not my friend.  I miss my mother.  “Are you ready to do this?’ he says with a smile.  “Let’s do it,”  I reply.  They are the only words we exchange.  We link arms and he walks me to my love.

He watches my new baby as she is passed around the room.  He is calm.  He has done this before.  She is cute.  She is chubby.  She looks like her Dad.  I know what kind of grandfather he will be – that he already is.  I still want to make him proud.  She buys gifts and sends cards.  She tries for him.

    Sunset over the foothills

He smiles as I walk into the hospital room.  He says something inarticulate as I lean into hug him.  He recognizes me.  He keeps talking, but I understand nothing.  I run through questions.  His expressions hint at me through the chatter.  Our futile routine continues over the next few days.  He breathes.  He sleeps.  He moans.  He is dying.  The rhythm of the machines is steady.   My soul resists getting drawn into the darkness with every breath.  My plane leaves in two hours.  I know I will never see him again, but it’s too late for words.  The ice cream makes him calm.  I help him raise the spoon to his mouth.




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Finding Balance

Everyday I wake up with anticipation deep in my belly.  Our upcoming move is looming.

The girls both expressed they thought our new house was ugly.

What do you think it is ugly?  I asked.  The inside or the outside?
In unison they replied, Both!

When I was a child, my father would threaten to move on a regular basis.  I thought that my world might come to an end if he ever followed through with his threat.  He never did.   The anticipation I wake up with these days could probably be categorized as guilt.  They don’t want to move.  They are happy here.  It’s Mommy that is driving this train, but I know it’s going to be awesome or I would not be disrupting our lives with the act of moving. There is also that little voice in my head that exists only to whisper, what if it’s not awesome and you screw up everyone’s life including your own? Then my much stronger, confident inner self stomps the shit out of the little voice and we keep moving forward.  HHHmmmmm…perhaps instead of moving to a new home, I should move directly to the loony bin.

Currently, I am reading Mindful Parenting by Kristin Race, Ph.D.  I was drawn to the Colorado author simply by the fact that she was educated in the field of Child Psychology and she dumped the big city for a small town in search of a simpler life.  Reject the rat race.  I can fully relate to this philosophy.  She specializes in mindful parenting but has also made a career of helping children learn to be mindful.  One of her examples that resonates with me when talking to your children about mindfulness is that of a garden.  She writes that we have seeds in our brains of all kinds: sadness, disappointment, jealousy and discontentment.  We also have seeds of peace and happiness.  Like in any garden the seeds we pay attention to and nourish are the seeds that will flourish.

Mindful Parenting

When the girls get sad about the move and let me know they are not happy with me and turn negative because they are truly scared of literally moving out of their comfort zone, I remind them of the seeds.  If they focus on the great things about this house and all the positives it will make it a little bit easier to embrace the idea of leaving their home and creating a new one.  My own brain garden needs some nourishing so I have been practicing. I have realized something interesting.  It is way easier to focus on the negative seeds in your brain.  I think it is because the negative seeds of discontentment are good at nagging and the happy and peaceful seeds sit quietly and wait to be nourished.  It is an interesting experiment.  I am hoping to practice hard enough so that I can all but kill off the negative, bad seeds and the happy seeds will multiply and grow.

Liam is not ready for the brain garden analogy yet so we have been practicing finding balance this week.  He all of the sudden got the hang of his skoot bike and is now training for our local spring bike race series.  You think I am kidding, but I am not.  I believe my little man is ready for pedals!

Liam finding balance. from Kathleen Tremblay on Vimeo.


10th Birthday

Counting Backwards

This week Ella turned ten. I have been thinking about this double-digit milestone for a few months. She keeps growing taller and a few days ago, asked if she could read The Hunger Games. It makes me realize that in a few short years I will be the parent of a teenager. Then I stop and remind myself that she still plays make believe with her friends and sometimes can be found mothering a baby doll.


Some of the most significant memories of my Mother are of those years when my older sisters where teenagers. I remember seeing her struggle with parenting and even though I did not know all the details, I remember knowing that it was hard for her. As I transformed into a teenager myself she transformed into my unreasonable mother. I was now the center of my own universe.

When I was 21, I flew home from Colorado to spend Christmas with my family. It was on this visit that I realized my teenage self was morphing into a young adult. It felt good to hang out with my mother in this new chapter of my life. I found a new appreciation for her and I sensed she felt the same. As I packed to return back to school she started to cry. It caught me a little off guard because by this point she was used to seeing me come and go and our good byes usually resembled those of two people parting for the weekend.

Why are you crying? I asked. We are going to see each other again in May.

I just hate saying good-bye to my children, she said.

May is right around the corner, I said.

My mother was experienced with the comings and goings of her grown children. On prior visits she couldn’t wait to see us, but then sometimes I think by the end she couldn’t wait for us to leave. I like to think this visit was different. We liked each other again and I had arrived as an adult.

Maybe she knew that we were not going to see each other again. Maybe a part of her knew that this would be it. She died that March.

As I count backwards on my first ten years as parent of young children and contemplate my future with teenage girls, I wonder what it would be like to mother with my own mother at my side. I miss the advice she would deliver, the advice I would heed and reject, the stories of her own mother and the chance we missed to be friends again beyond that one Christmas visit. She gave me the best and worst parts of myself and for that I am grateful.

She is still with me, though mostly in the quiet of the night when I am reflecting on the defeats and triumphs of the day. She is in the deepest parts of my soul and sometimes it is her voice that escapes my lips. Each day on this journey as a parent more is revealed to me about my mother even though she is not here to answer the questions, give me advice or defend her choices. I judge less and understand more. She is my mother, totally flawed and perfect at the same time.  She made a path for me as her mother did for her.

As I close out a decade of being a parent, I realize that now more than ever I am contributing to the path that the mothers before me created. I am shaping and planting and trying to make a beautiful foundation for my girls. I want to skip more and trudge less. I want there to be laughter and grace, but mostly I want to pass on the love that I still feel from my mother 20 years after her death.

It’s a Very Good Place to Start

WordPress told me this was my first post so I thought I would go with it.  I have wanted to do this for so long and here I am doing it.  I have always been a late bloomer.   I already blog with my crazy sisters over at The Mary Sisters on all sorts of things, but  I wanted a place where I could document everything for my family.  I want them to be able to look back on these pages to be reminded that they are loved and remember the little things.  I want to remember the little things.  I’ve tried doing this in a paper journal, but I have never be able to pull it off so I am hoping that the prospect of somebody actually reading will help with my sticktoitiveness.

My mom suddenly passed away when I was 21 and I have nothing of her thoughts, her feelings about me or anything for that matter documented except a few journal entries my sister found.  They were very depressing.  I know from experience we tend to want to write when things are hard.  I have the college journals to prove it.  This blog is not going to focus on the hard stuff and that’s not to say I will never write about it, but I want to focus on the beauty.

A record of life to look back is a great thing, but more importantly is the now.  At this point in my life I want to write.  This is my space for that.