Saturday, April 19, 2014

Happy 8th Birthday, Elaina!

April 19th, 2014

Dear Elaina,

I have the hardest time starting these annual birthday letters.  When I wrote the very first one in 2007 it started as simple way for me to commemorate the first year of life, sort of a reminder of how far you had come in just 12 months.  I’m not sure I ever intended for it to become an annual tradition at the beginning, but now I’ll admit they have become one of my very favorite parts of the year.  It’s bittersweet, of course.  I love looking back at all you have done and how much you have grown since the last letter I wrote to you, but it breaks me to realize that over the course of only eight letters you have changed so completely from this tiny little human dependent on me and your dad for everything to this independent girl with a mind and destiny all her own.  It’s everthing I could have wished and hoped for of course, but it doesn’t dull the pain any to realize once again how quickly these years are flying.

It took me a long time to think about what I wanted to say to you in this birthday letter; I've been working on it for almost a week.  What sticks out about the last 365 days with you?  What have you accomplished, what amazing things have you done, what funny things have you said?  There are too many moments to count.  Sadly, I'll admit, there are too many moments to remember the details of them all, and my blogging and picture taking - two tricks I often rely on to aid my failing memory - have both been lacking over the last year and a half.  What is it that defines the last trip around the sun with you at my side?  

This I am certain of:  you continue to be a bright light in my life, my little ray of sunshine.  You keep us on our toes as always and are as unpredictable as ever when it comes to what might come out of your mouth.  You are energetic and creative and sassy.  You love style, fashion, glitz and glamor, and you are borderline obsessed with all things Frozen (I'm finishing this letter as the movie plays in the background, your freshly primped and pampered friends fighting off sleep at your Coronation Day spa slumber party).  "Let It Go" is your jam and you belt it out with all the feeling your tall, lean body can muster (which is a lot).  I could watch and listen to you sing that song all day long.

Thinking back on this last year with you, it suddenly became very clear to me what I wanted to say to you to commemorate this birthday just this afternoon.  In recent months you've expressed on more than few occasions - usually in moments when you are either in trouble or feeling ignored in some way - that you are trying to change.  The first time you said this to me I sort of brushed it off.  The second time I knew about this declaration was from a conversation you had with Papa.  I chalked it up again to a little Drama Queen moment (yes, there continues to be no shortage of those with you), but it didn't sit quite right with me.  What is it that she's trying to change?  Why is she trying to change and what is prompting this desire?  These were the thoughts that ran through my head the entire drive back home from El Paso.  The third time you said this to me directly, just about a month ago.  You were upset after I reprimanded you for lying to me about brushing your teeth before bed (note:  don't lie to your parents, but if you're going to lie pick something worth getting in trouble for.  Consider that a life lesson I won't tell you in person).  During the "debriefing session" to make sure you understood why I was so upset our conversation took a turn that I did not see coming.  Through sobs, your tear soaked faced turned to face me and with the voice of pure heartbreak you said, "I'm trying so hard to change.  I want to be different but it's just so hard!  I just feel like people want me to be a different person".  I couldn't understand it still even after hearing it for the third time, and I got kind of mad.  Not mad at you, believe me; my heart in that moment was filled with nothing but love and compassion for you.  It was that last sentence that woke the fierce momma bear in me.  

Elaina, I told you then and I'm going to say in again now.  Any person - ANY PERSON - that expects you to change is not worthy of your friendship.  They are not deserving of knowing the passion and energy that you exude with every breath.  They are not worth your time, or your love, or your kindness, or your generosity.  Those people are not your friends; they are soul suckers and spirit killers and leaches on all the goodness that you embody.  The idea that you would try to conform to someone else's standards for what you should be makes me so angry I could scream because you, my little Lainie Bug, are one of the most incredible people I have ever had the honor and privilege of knowing and loving.  Anybody that doesn't recognize that is blind.

I'm going to let you in on a little secret.  I'm not sure I've ever fully shared this with anyone other than maybe your dad, but I think it's important for you to know this.  I had a vision for what my life would be like as a wife and mother.  I always pictured myself being married with two kids, a girl and a boy.  When I closed my eyes and pictured what my life would look like as an adult that's always the vision that came into my head.  The girl was older by a couple of years.  So, naturally, when we found out I was pregnant with a little girl, McKenna, I was pleased that my vision was coming to life.  Just after McKenna's first birthday I found out I was pregnant again.  Thrilled to be adding to our family, one step closer to my life long vision for what life would hold, I was certain you would be a boy.  That my pregnancy with you was much different from my pregnancy with McKenna only served as further proof that I was pregnant with the last piece to my dream life, a little boy.  You had to be a boy because I thought that's what would make my life complete.

Oh my God, was I so wrong.

I thought I knew what I wanted but what I needed was you, and I didn't fully realize that until you were mine.  Sweet, sassy, funny, dramatic, emotional, energetic, independent, artistic, loud, girly, spirited YOU.  You complete me in ways that I didn't know I needed completed.  You fill a place in my heart that I didn't realize was empty.  You give me exactly what I need in every moment - a funny face when I need to laugh, a generous and heartfelt "thank you" when I need to feel appreciated, a hug when I need to feel loved, a helping hand when I need to feel supported.  Elaina, I can not begin to explain how much I love you for exactly who you are.  You are everything I couldn't begin to dream of because something as perfect as you surely wasn't possible.  You are so much better than anything I could have envisioned when I closed my eyes and tried to peek into what my future would hold.  Your spirit is beautiful and to try to be anything other that what you are would be a loss for all who know and love you and those you will someday encounter.

I don't tell you this enough, but you are fascinating.  You are smart.  You are capable of so much more than I give you credit for.  You are going to move mountains someday, of this I am sure.  I smile every time Cari calls to tell me that "we have another Elaina on our hands" when Ella does something slightly naughty (but equally amusing) because another Elaina is exactly what we need more of in this world.

Elaina Rae, I wonder every day how it is possible that I am deserving of all the wonderful things in my life, and you - along with your Dad and sister - are at the very top of that list.  As your mom,  I vow to work harder with every passing day to make you realize how valuable you are to me and to everyone around you.  I will try to discipline you in a way that makes you realize I'm trying to teach you how to be a better version of who you already are, not a different version of what I think you should be.  I will make every effort to make you understand how much I appreciate you for exactly who you are so that you never consider it a possibility to change in order to make someone else happy.  Take a page from your anthem and Let It Go:

"It's funny how some distance,

makes everything seem small.
And the fears that once controlled me, can't get to me at all
It's time to see what I can do,
to test the limits and break through.
No right, no wrong, no rules for me.
I'm free!"
I love you so much, my silly girl.  You are an incredible human being and one of the greatest things that have ever come into my life.  Thank you for being the life force responsible for bringing light into my life and joy into my heart every single day.

All my love,

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

She Was Always Destined To Be On Camera

Last week I was cheerfully walking into the elementary school office, minding my own business on my way to check my mailbox.  Three steps into the office I see the building principal walk out of the nurse's office where he immediately said, "Oh, good!  You've saved me a trip.  I was just coming to talk to you.  So, Elaina . . ."

And that's when the fear of God shot straight from the top of my head to the tip of my toes.  My heart skipped a beat and I immediately felt a little light headed.  I had been waiting for this moment since the instant my second born stepped foot in one of our district's schools.  The honeymoon was over.  The gig was up.  They were on to us, and her sweet, cheerful facade could no longer fool them.  She'd finally shown her true colors and now it was time to pay the piper.  

Slowly I regained consciousness from my momentary fear induced blackout, and I casually stated, "Oh my God, what did she do?".  The principal and social worker, who also happened to be standing nearby, both started to laugh.  The assured me that everything was fine, that in fact they had chosen her as one of the students to meet with ABC7 meteorologist Tracy Butler on her upcoming visit to our school for a little weather segment that would air later next month.

And that's when I momentarily lost consciousness again.

My spunky, sassy, sometimes unpredictable, drama queen of a daughter meeting with a television personality?  With cameras to capture the entire event?  Aired on local television for thousands in the Chicagoland area to view?  I mean, anyone who knows Elaina realizes immediately that she was born for this kind of opportunity.  She has the blood of an entertainer running deep through her veins.  I didn't hesitate to say that of course she could participate, but there was only one other pressing questions I had to ask as I was signing the waiver for her to appear on television:  by signing this waiver, I was in no way held responsible for what came out of her mouth, right?  That whatever crazy thing she might do to ensure camera time that may or may not negatively tarnish the reputation of our school district could not be held against me, her mother, either personally or professionally?  Because again, anyone who has seen her at her music concerts know that when the spotlight is on all predictability and sense of appropriateness is left behind the stage risers.

So Monday morning arrived and as we spent some extra time making sure she was camera ready, I noticed she seemed a less than excited.  In fact, she was a little surly to be honest.  I asked her what was wrong, if she was nervous, if she felt okay.  After some mild huffing and puffing she finally admitted that she wished it wasn't St. Patrick's Day.  I didn't quite make the connection initially, but then it dawned on me.  "Are you annoyed because I'm making you wear green today?" to which she responded with a heavy sigh, "Well, hot pink really is more of my signature color".  Seriously.  Some gold beads and a clunky green bracelet as accessories, once added to her hair bow, seemed to brighten her mood a bit.

I was in a different building seeing students yesterday, so I wasn't able to be there when she met Tracy Butler.  After she got off the bus, she was quick to give me the complete rundown which basically amounted to this:  Tracy Butler (always referred to by her full name any conversation) is REALLY nice, she gave all the kids a rainbow loom bracelet and a weather workbook, Elaina missed lunch with her class, the camera man zoomed in on her so she's sure she'll end up on TV, and they talked about the tornado a lot.  


She was also very excited to show us the autographed headshot she received, something that I told her would make her gramma very proud since she's a celebrity autograph hound herself.

Overall, it seems as though Elaina's first brush with fame was a big success, signature color or not.  It also appears as though she did not tarnish the family name with any ridiculous questions, stories, or antics but I guess we'll have to wait to find out for sure when the segment airs on April 26th.

(As a side note, I should mention that The General, when told she was going to meet Tracy Butler, explained to Elaina, "I don't think I know who she is.  She's on Channel 7?  Yeah, we're more of a Brandt Miller Channel 5 news and weather family".  I continue to pray that she forgot that little nugget of information and failed to include that soundbite in yesterday's filming.)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Like Sands Through The Hour Glass

McKenna decided a week or so ago that she wanted to attend the high school Science Club's Science Night, an event exclusively for 4th through 8th graders.  Unlike Family Reading Night which we had attended the week before, this was just for her and her peers.  No parents, no younger siblings.  Just the big timers with the even bigger timers (and some teachers for supervision and safety purposes, of course) learning about physics and biology.

As we walked up to the east entrance of the school, she skipped merrily ahead of me.  At first it struck me as sort of odd that my nine year old would be skipping.  I'll be honest, it seemed a little juvenile.  But just as quick as the thought entered my head, the nice voice said to the mean voice, "Chill out, lady.  Let her skip if she wants too.  You should be grateful that she's so happy and light in her heart that her feet might carry her so lightly as a result".

I got her checked in, took note of the details of when I was supposed to pick her up, and then with barely a glance backwards she followed her peers down the hall to the gym.  That same girl who was casually skipping toward the building now walked with purpose down the corridor, glancing sideways at her friends and chatting with a huge smile on her face, looking and acting all her nine years (and more).  As I watched her disappear with her classmates, I had the sudden gut-punch reality that in less than five years she'll be walking down those same halls as a student there.  A high schooler.  Less than five years from now.  My little blue-eyed, chubby cheeked baby girl.  Cue tummy flutters and increased heart rate of the "This Can't Be Happening" variety.

Last night's discussion of bras did little to ease my worried tummy about how fast time is flying past me.  There are days when I can't wait for them to grow up, to watch them continue to evolve into these amazing human beings, to selfishly have a little bit more "us" time with The General.  And then there are moments like the ones experienced this week - moments that admittedly happen with much greater frequency - that make me what to scream with frustration at how fast they're growing up and how little I pay attention to them in the moment.  Talking to them one-on-one takes my breath away at the realization of how grown up they are already.

I think it's time for me to quit making wishes for time to hurry up or time to slow down.  Instead, it's way past the time for me to just enjoy each moment in the now, each second that is


as it's happening.  That seems so much easier than finding a way to rewind time to live it again.  Live in the moment.  Live for today.  Right now.  What a concept!

Monday, November 25, 2013

This Year For Christmas You're Getting The Gift of Sarcasm and A Jaded View Of Reality



I am a recovering Pinterest addict.  The obsession started as a very slow burn and then without warning exploded in an apocalyptic fashion, raining the debris of recipes and crafts and school activities and parenting advice and home improvements all over my computer screen and home.  Over the past year the passion has fizzled and what was once a several hours a day activity now only occupies about an hour of my time a week, if that.  There are still many awesome things to peruse and glean from the hundreds of pins I've collected and I'm grateful to have such a great resource at  my fingertips, but I think I've come to learn that I will never - not ever - rise to the level that the majority of pinners display.

Recent case in point:  the "Is there really a Santa Claus" letter that shows up multiple times a week this time of year.  The idea behind it is fantastic, and in a perfectly scripted world maybe I would have attempted this approach.  But our house is not Pinterest level perfection, and instead of a well planned, expertly executed approach like this:

We instead end up with something like this:

Her:  (as I'm closing her bedroom door after tucking her in) Hey, mom, a couple of kids at school said the tooth fairy isn't real and that it's actually you and dad.  Is that true?

Me:  (open mouth, look of terror in my eyes)  Um, what?

Her:  Is the Tooth Fair real?

Me:  (walking slowly back to her bed) Well . . . why would you ask me that?

Her:  I was talking about my loose tooth the other day and I said something about the Tooth Fairy coming and some kids in my class said, "You know the Tooth Fairy isn't real, right?  That it's really your parents?" and I was like, "Uh, no.  I didn't know that".  So it is really you?

Me:  Well, what you do you think?

Her:  I don't know!

Me:  Um, okay.  Hang on just a second, I'll be right back.

*running to living room to find The General*

Me: (frantic under the breath shouty-whispering) Uh, you might want to come back here.  She just asked me if the Tooth Fairy is real.

Him:  And did you tell her?

Me:  No!

Him:  So she asked you and you just ran out of her room, leaving her there all alone, to find me without telling her the truth?!

Me:  No!  Well, sort of!  I asked her what she thought was true and she said she didn't know and I thought I better get you because, you know, this could lead to other conversations.

So, we returned to her room as a team and destroyed every childhood story in which she ever believed.  The End.

She actually took the news of the Tooth Fairy's true identity very well.  I don't think she was too bothered by the idea that we had made her believe some mystical fairy flitted into her room to fetch nasty teeth leaving four quarters as the prize especially when we assured her she'd still be receiving the handsome reward for random body parts falling out of her mouth.

The General and I have had several conversations in recent years about the when and how logistics for breaking the news about "The Guardians".  He has been itching to tell her the real story for at least a year and was slightly discouraged to see any belief solidified after our Elf on the Shelf's debut last year. I kept saying she wasn't ready, not yet, let's give it some more time, she'll let us know when she's ready to hear it.  During the Tooth Fairy conversation, The General kept gently leading her, asking at least three or four times, "So, do you have any other questions?  Is there anything else you want to ask us about?", and it took some time before she finally looked at him with those big blue, trusting eyes and said, "Don't tell me Santa isn't real".  And what happened then instantly became simultaneously one of the most hilarious and devastating moments of my life as a mother.

The General slowly scrunched up his face, stretched his arms out slowly, and apologetically stated, "Merry Christmas?" to which McKenna's immediate reaction was eyes filling with tears and the release of what can only be described as a nearly manic belly laugh that lasted almost a minute.  Her laughter kept me from breaking into sobs, but those teary eyes betrayed her if only slightly which completely broke my heart.

We explained all the ins and outs, fully disclosing the years of betrayal.  We assured her that she would still receive presents, explained that she was now in on a very important secret and that we were trusting her to help us keep Elaina in the bubble of belief, and asked repeatedly if she was okay.  Finally, she asked the last question, "Please don't say you are Elfiebell too".  Of all the truths told that night I think that blow hurt the most.  As we discussed all the behind the scenes tales of her beloved Elf on the Shelf she made a connection between a moment that now made total sense:

Her:  So that time when Addyson's elf fell over and then they came back into the room Buddy was sitting back up, that was Adam or Steph that moved him?

Me:  Yes.

Her:  Because you actually can touch the elf.

Me:  Right.

Him:  Is that a rule?  You aren't supposed to touch the elf?

Her:  No, because if you touch it all the magic wears off.

Now, read that exchange again and picture McKenna using the most perfect use of air quotes around the word "magic" with a slight eye roll and you can image the pride her father felt at her immediate descent into the world of sarcasm.

Shortly after that we left her room.  Basically immediately after that I started crying, concerned that she was now laying scared and alone in her room crying her eyes out and wondering what other lies we've led her to believe for nine consecutive years.  Dave instructed me to go back and check on her (more for me than for her) and I found her there, wheels turning, totally calm and collected.  Dave checked on her again after me and they both had a good laugh at what an emotional train wreck I am.

I've played out this scene in my heads dozens of time, always picturing it ending with McKenna in sobs and devastation.  It goes to show that I don't give her nearly enough credit for how mature and grown up she can be - she handled this news like a champion.  She has taken on this new responsibility of being in on a huge secret with enthusiasm and expertise, and yet again my heart swells with pride at the amazing human being we have the privilege of raising.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Legacy Continues

Here's what I learned during yesterday's exciting - albeit sort of stressful - day:  there is a reason I was destined for two scheduled c-sections.  I can not handle the impending birth of a child in my life without knowing an exact date and time for his or her arrival.  Although I love surprises, unscheduled births cause me too much anxiety.

My sister-in-law Cari's due date for baby number two was Thanskgiving, but her doctors told her early in pregnancy that she'd never go that long.  Between her petite frame and the baby's big measurements, we were all certain he'd be here early to mid-November.  Her mind was definitely ready for baby's arrival, and her body was showing signs that it was ready too.  So we waited.  And waited.  And waited.  I will admit patience was not a virtue I was embodying during the past two weeks.  I begged and bargained a little bit.  I stalked Cari via text.  I might have even gotten a little bit angry with this baby's time table.  But in the end, the saying is true as always:  all good things come to those who wait.

May I introduce you to the new man in my life, Cayden Edwin Pokarney, born yesterday at 12:34 pm weighing 8 pounds 9 ounces, 20.25 inches.  He is the fourth generation to carry the middle name in addition to carrying on the family name, an exciting legacy to be sure.

As the girls said, still riding their Mary Poppins high, he is practically perfect in every way.

Practically perfect and also already sporting all the latest fashion trends.  Rainbow loom bracelet for newborns are totally in right now.  He rocked the look.

Of course I was not the only female in our house anxiously awaiting Cayden's arrival.  Big Cousins McKenna and Elaina were almost as excited as I was to go meet him yesterday afternoon.  The bonus of getting in some time with the new Big Sister was an added motivator for getting to Bloomington as fast as possible.

As for Miss Ella, she is as hilarious, sassy, and entertaining as ever.  Just as her shirt announces, she is definitely filling the role of awesome big sister as she watched suspiciously while the pediatrician and nurse examined her baby brother (she was not a fan of them making him cry) and blew him kisses to make him feel better.

Of course the novelty of just about anything when you're two wears off pretty quickly.  I have a series of classic pictures that pretty much sums up what she really thinks about all this new baby hoopla.  It's going to be so much fun watching from the sidelines as she grows into this new role.

I could have held and snuggled and loved on that beautiful boy all night long.  His picture is already prominently displayed on my desk at work and I'm counting down the days until I get to love on him again.  I've mentioned it before, but there really is little in this life that brings me as much joy as being an aunt.  The first time, the sixth time, the twelfth time, all those times in-between and however many times might come after . . . it is one of the proudest, most amazing roles I am honored to hold.

Congratulations, Erik and Cari.  He is perfection wrapped in a little blue blanket.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Days 4 and 5

Yesterday I was thankful for the Bears game which allowed me to feel totally not guilty about going to bed at 9 pm.  If it weren't for that Monday night game I would have ignored my sleepiness for late night TV viewing courtesy of DVR and Netflix with The General.  Also, I'm thankful the Bears won.  Bear victories = a happy husband.

Today I'm thankful for all the gorgeous fall colors still on display.  Leaves are dropping quickly now with the wind and rain we had today, but I am appreciative of the late-into-the-season splashes of yellows, oranges, and reds.  Mother Nature has put on quite the show this fall.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Day 3

Today we spent time with The General's family in celebrating The White Tornado and Elizabeth Taylor's confirmation.  Due to 76 others being confirmed, seating was at a premium and limited to only immediate family.  The One Carbon Hill crew took over babysitting duties for the four youngest Seventh Heaven munchkins.  It was a tough gig (not).

I am so thankful for every one of my nieces and nephews.  To have watched them grow up has been easily one of the greatest joys in my life.  They are all spectacular human beings and I am so proud of them all.  I would be so lost without these beautiful smiles in my life.

(Please note:  I'm grateful for George and Vince and Pebbles and Baby Poke too - they just weren't at the party yesterday, missing a great opportunity for Aunt Mrs. to be all up in their face with the camera.  Next time, kids.)


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