On Advancing Age

When I was expecting my daughter, my driver’s license put me in the category of “advanced maternal age.” My doctor never made a big deal about it, which helped an anxious mom-to-be. But the fact remained: I definitely was older than the average American woman giving birth for the first time. One high school classmate had already become a grandmother. A very young one, of course, but nevertheless, you can see that I got a late start.

I did not seem old, apparently. Coworkers guessed my age at ten years younger (I choose to believe that was due to my appearance rather than maturity level). I didn’t really notice any wrinkles. My hair remained dark blond, with no signs of gray.

Likewise, I did not feel old. I was accustomed to playing ultimate Frisbee, a sport that requires sprinting up and down a field. (I’ll admit that my knees creaked at times, but they still did their job.) I started a graduate program that required an hour-long drive each way–which wore me out a bit, but bear in mind that I was pregnant, too.

Now, here I am. Five years older than when I learned I was pregnant with our girl. I don’t play ultimate anymore, but I have enjoyed Zumba and also completed a 5K last year, the first I’d run since the age of 28. My knees still creak but don’t give out. A much-younger mom friend guessed me at her age initially and was shocked when the Internet revealed otherwise.

But I am older now, and I think it shows. The skin hangs more loosely around my elbows and knees. My eyebrows are becoming unwieldy, and some of the new hairs sprouting up are (gulp!) gray. I’ve had a few abnormal moles removed. My hair has darkened so that no one would really call it blond anymore, except around the edges in summer. My younger brother has visible wrinkles around his eyes; mine are masked somewhat by the eyeglasses I wear, and vanity is one reason I continue to choose glasses over contact lenses. Vanity also keeps me from capitulating to the bifocals I really could use.

AARP will welcome me far sooner than I care to admit. At about the same time, a local church would gladly accept me into its active seniors group. I laughed when I saw the notice in the bulletin…because when I am eligible for that group, I may have a first-grader.

If all goes well, this older mama will welcome a new little one within the next month.

I guess it wasn’t menopause, after all.

New Milestones

It’s been a while since I wrote here. My little girl is three and a half. She says things that are hilarious all the time, but often they are part of very long sentences (sometimes the complexity of the sentence is what makes her comments so funny…but also hard to remember long enough to get them written down). She also has had few milestones lately, other than the start of preschool last fall.

The past weeks, though, have included some big steps for our little girl.

Just after Christmas, she had the opportunity to go to the beach for the first time. It was a pleasant day on the Gulf coast of Florida with relatives. She enjoyed jumping over gentle waves and playing in the white sand. What she remembers most is the seagull who sneaked up and boldly snatched food from her aunt’s hand when the aunt was not looking.

On January 2nd, she went sledding for the first time, accompanied by Mom and two intrepid uncles. I was ready to send her down the big hill all alone, but one uncle convinced me to walk around the park toward a miniature hill. When we got there, our girl wanted even flatter terrain. Finally she agreed to sled with grownups holding her hands and running beside her. Then she graduated to just one adult keeping up with her. Then, slowly, we let her go on her own. After a few rides, she learned how to adjust her balance mid-slide to keep from toppling over.

As the sun crept toward the horizon, she grinned up at us and suggested, “How about…five more times?” Five became ten. We walked toward the big hill and one uncle pointed out the slightly higher slope we had bypassed earlier. He mentioned that she might tackle that when she’s five years old. But suddenly, that longer ride looked fun, so she did it then. She kept going until after the sun set. Sledding was a hit.

Today (the 7th in Mountain Time), she did something that amazed her mother. We noticed a stop sign in the morning. She pointed it out, and I asked what it said. “Stop,” she replied. (She used to say it said “stop sign,” which is why I asked.) In the afternoon as we were driving, she began to sound it out.

“Sss. S.”

Long pause. Mom bites her tongue, waiting to see what will happen next.

“Tih. T.

“Ah. O.

“Puh. P.”

It was the first time she had chosen to sound out a word on her own.

And then, with the letters only in her head, not visible in front of her, she said, “S-T-O-P spells ‘stop.'”

Now there was a milestone worth noting. Proud mama here.

Up and Away

Of course they are growing up and eventually away from before they are born. But I don’t think parents really feel that until later in the children’s development.

Take my girl. When she was born–hooray! We certainly celebrated that first cry and initial separation.

Walking?! Terrific!

Potty trained? Whew!

First “school” day away from Mama?

Um… excuse me a moment. *sniff, sniff*

Sure, that’s… good.


Waaaah! (Mama crying, not the three-year-old.)

Of course it’s only vacation Bible school, and sure, it’s only for four mornings. But for me, this was a significant step in the growing up and away process. I’ve never just left her somewhere for group instruction. She’s been in nurseries while I stayed on site. Relatives, friends and neighbors have watched her. But today, we went our separate ways while a teacher supervised her.

Good grief, I might tear up again.

I’ve noticed a few other things lately, too. She holds my hand instead of just one finger. She opens the screen door and holds it for me–sweet. And when we go to the park, she might end up socializing with an older girl and almost forget about me.

When the class was over today and she saw me, she scurried toward me for a big hug. She said, “I waited and waited for you to come pick me up.” However, she was not at all sad. She had fun, played and learned. All good things.

But this Mama was very glad for a tight hug, anyway.

How to characterize a human being

Seeing my girl at the age of three, I find myself musing about nature vs. nurture and what makes up a personality and character. All I know is how difficult it would be to put her in a “box” (metaphorically, of course — literally, she’s so small that it would be easy).

Speaking of boxes, one thing she loves is cages. Ever since the mean rhinos in the Babar film put elephants into cages — and ever since she’s been introduced to the world of “time outs” — she plays a lot with cages. She loves her toy animal carrier. For toys that won’t fit in there, she’ll find a different box, or use her closet. And when Daddy or Grandma play along, she enjoys dragging them into another room for their time outs.

At the gym nursery, no one would believe she might have such a dark side. The staff members always tell me how sweet she is. She spends most of her time there caring gently for baby dolls.

Our girl is not skittish. When Daddy got the garden ready this spring, she stood outside for hours digging up and burying worms. She picks up “roly-poly” bugs and lets them crawl on her hand. She even hugged one the other day.

Would anyone call her a tomboy? Perhaps, after she happily pulled in her first catfish, or when she eagerly watched great-uncles vaccinating calves on the ranch. But then, she loves to have her nails painted, as well as to paint Mama’s (we have approximately equal skill in these manicures, I’d say).

She loves having others read with her. Just recently she started flipping through the pictures in books; previously, when I suggested she read herself, she replied, “But I don’t know how to read yet.”

But is she bookish? Well, she also loves to do flips, bounce, dance and run. Oh, and her run — from the time she started running, she has maintained a unique stride, ardently pumping her left arm but not the right. Of course, Eric Liddell (at least in the movie version) had an unusual style of running, and he won Olympic medals. Instead of races, this child prefers to run in pursuit of bunnies and birds. Daddy is glad when she chases the rabbits away from his vegetables.

Some characteristics right now seem typical of the age, from what other moms tell me. For example, she chats. A lot. When she runs out of anything else to mention, she will remember how the catfish did not want to be pulled into the boat. Also, she wants to do things on her own terms.: I suggest riding her tricycle, but she has to stop every three feet to move a bug out of harm’s way; I ask her to say something in a foreign language, but she smiles and crawls under the kitchen table.

We are fortunate not to endure many tantrums. However, she has honed a serious glare. It might work better if it didn’t make me laugh. Here is an early version, half her lifetime ago:


Where have all the flowers gone?

I’ve been contemplating just how quickly this whole parenting thing goes by. I can not grasp, fully, that the baby years are completely behind us. Our wee one is three and nowhere near a baby. She never will be again.

She no longer always wants to sit on my lap or hold my hand, if other options are available.

Her time to warm up to a new person has drastically declined. Upon meeting one teenaged family member, she walked right over and invited her to play in the sandbox. She isn’t intimidated by her great-uncles anymore; in fact, she looooooves Uncle Joe and named her toy cowboy after him.

I always like to note her conversations. I don’t recall how this one began, whether Grandma made an assertion or asked a question. But my girl’s reply was, “Well, not necessarily.”

While I laughed, Grandma paused and carefully considered how to respond. “I suppose there might be extenuating circumstances,” she said.


Three? How Can It Be?!

Our wee girl is about to turn three.

I walked through the baby clothes aisle at Target today and got a little teary. I can’t believe she used to be that small! The prospect of giving away her size 2T clothing also makes me realize just how big she is. (Relatively speaking, of course, since she’s still underneath the curves on the growth chart for weight.)

She’s also a great deal of fun.

This morning, she made a sound that was half sigh, half “whoosh” — so I asked, “What did that mean?” She said, “That’s in German [sic] for Mama.”

She shows how much she has grown socially. At a birthday party today, she joined hands with me and a smattering of fellow toddlers for a raucous game of “Ring Around the Rosy.” She has a “best” peer friend now. We just took pictures of the two of them playing, and they looked like sisters with their blue eyes and identical blond haircuts. They have little conversations together and can play on their own, whereas before she ignored people her own age.

If you asked her yesterday, she’d tell you that her favorite video was Thomas the Train… but if she saw something different today, that all could change. She still is fixated on elephants and calls them her favorite animal. (Did I mention that she named her feet Babar and Celeste? I can never remember which is which, though.) She likes princesses even though she doesn’t know what they are, and she specifically wants to wear her Cinderella socks. I wish she had more than one pair…

She thinks things that sometimes surprise me. She was painting watercolors last week, and I prompted her to consider giving the paintings as presents. She said she wanted to give one to Don and Fred. I said that would be nice, and they really did appreciate her artwork — Don and Fred being the construction workers who have been finishing her grandparents’ basement.

We talked today about a pair of words she likes to mix up (on purpose); she’ll say that we live in Avocado instead of Colorado. I mentioned that they rhymed and talked about what that meant. Later, she was enjoying artichokes (possibly her new favorite food) when a family member said the heart was the best part. “That rhymes!” she said. “Heart and part.”

I think I love her more all the time. Here she is blowing bubbles this week. Note the blue fingernails.


Learning All Over

Since our girl is not in preschool, I think of our activities together as homeschooling. But it’s not really that, either… it’s more that kids this age learn constantly. I find it fun to provide varied opportunities for her to keep learning, and this week was full of terrific events for us.

On Monday, we attended Tiny Tots Inside the Orchestra at a local museum. Orchestra members sat in a horseshoe shape around the room, while families sat in the middle. We got an up-close-and-personal view of the musicians performing. Anything new caught my daughter’s attention: the opera singer who joined in for an excerpt from “The Marriage of Figaro,” the chance to act out growing motions to “Thus Spake Zarathustra,” and the sleigh bells during another song. The tickets were just $7.50 each (free for those with genuine financial need) and felt quite worthwhile for a first-time, family-friendly experience with an orchestra.

Tuesday was our usual tumbling class. My girl tried a few new things, including the prep work for future cartwheels, but she still refused to walk backwards on the balance beam. I don’t know why she boycotts that activity. Then we went to Ikea for lunch since they have free kid meals on Tuesday. I’m not sure how that is educational, except for the social aspect since we went with some other families from tumbling class.

On Wednesday, we had some quieter play time together at home, which she loves. Later, I bought her a more extensive children’s Bible than her simple “creation, Noah, David, Daniel, Jesus” version. That night, her great-uncle J came to town to help nearby relatives with some projects around the house — and the relatives decided it would be fun to surprise us. So he just showed up, and we were indeed surprised. Our girl took to Uncle J immediately. Her first words to him were, “I’m two and a half. My birthday is…” Since then, she’s been offering to help him in and out of cars and wanting to hold his hand. It’s very cute.

(In all candor, though, I hope my girl won’t pick up too much of her great-uncle’s rustic language. Mama would have a lot of undoing ahead of her.)

On Thursday, some friends came to play and eat with us. On Friday, we went to our city’s aquarium. My little one was not too sure that the scarier-looking fish, not to mention sharks, would stay behind what I kept telling her was glass. She kept her distance. She almost worked up the courage to touch a few that were ready for handling but changed her mind. Next to the aquarium was a park, so we played there before the weather turned on the following day.

Then today, Saturday, was super fun. A nearby museum hosted an early childhood fair and an Iditarod special event. And we got to see both of those, plus general museum admission, for just two dollars! For the two of us! She played with balls, tried a tricycle (legs are still too short), petted service dogs, saw domesticated half-wolves, enjoyed watching turtles eating their food, pointed out alligator jaws, pushed buttons to hear bird songs, squeezed out glitter glue, strung beads to make a bookmark, and much more.

At the fair was a science station. The kids sprayed water on a paper towel, then wrapped seeds in it and put them into a plastic bag. We’re supposed to leave the bag next to a sunny window. I asked my not-quite-three-year-old what she thought would happen to the seeds; she replied, “They will sprout.”

The woman at that station asked, “Does she go to preschool?” she asked. No, I replied, we read a lot. She had a very puzzled look on her face, as if that simply did not compute. I mentioned Nancy Wallace’s books in particular, and the woman knew the author, who focuses on science in nature at a preschool read-aloud level. The woman said she was a teacher in the county preschools and gave us a flier.

I found myself feeling a little offended, though I’m sure that’s not an appropriate response. Did she think that preschool was the only place a child could learn the word “sprout” or the concept behind it? Why did educational experts need to be the ones to pass along that information? What about Daddy’s annual vegetable garden and all our girl learns from that, as well as the books we enjoy together? I guess, as surprised as she was to hear my child say those words, I was as surprised to consider that some see preschool as entirely necessary.

We are, of course, very lucky. We had the means this week to pay for museum trips and special classes. We have an excellent library system with extensive children’s materials. And my child has no known disabilities impeding her learning at this time. We are blessed and lucky.

Looking back at our “homeschooling” this week, I see several subject areas covered: gross and fine motor skills, language arts, science and nature, art, music, a bit of math, and more. It was a fun week together.

Taking Care of Family

Our girl already says she is a doctor. She especially helps with Grandpa’s leg as it recovers. She helps take the “boot” off and put lotion on the leg. She even has kissed his boot — a little unsanitary, but that sweet gesture happens too quickly for anyone to stop her, and it’s precious. She’s still at the age where a kiss can make things better.

The other night, pointing at various family members, she said, “I’m taking care of you, and you, and you, and you!” (I asked if she wanted brothers and sisters to help her with all that caretaking, but she said no.)

When Daddy left the house recently, he told our toddler to take care of Mama. Now it seems she takes that job seriously. As we walk on winter sidewalks, I grasp her hand, and then she starts encouraging me: “I’ve gotcha. It’s OK, Mom. You won’t slip. You can do it. Be careful, Mom. I’ll hold you up. Don’t worry.”

More Conversations

It’s very difficult to capture the kinds of words our wee one uses now. Her sentences can be lengthy, which makes remembering them hard. But I just overheard a conversation and wanted to record the gist of it before I forget.

I was telling our child about the people who were coming to dinner. She happily starting listing others she thought belonged with that group, like Aunt H and Uncle K. “And Aunt D,” she added.

“I don’t know if she’ll be there,” I replied. “You’ll have to ask Daddy.”

“Dad,” she said, “will Aunt D be there, too?”

“No, baby,” said Daddy. “I don’t think so. She’ll be in Nebraska. Of course, she has been known to surprise people sometimes, but I think she’ll be in Nebraska.”

“I would like to go to Nebraska sometime soon,” my girl said thoughtfully.


Every morning when I wake my girl, she rolls out of her toddler bed into my arms and cuddles with me. Often she reaches up to play with my hair.

Yesterday, she handed me some hair from my own head and said, “Here’s some hair for you, Mom.”

I thanked her with a grin. Then she instructed, “Now wrap it around your finger. Wrap it around your finger like a Band-Aid.”

I love listening to her conversations.

Today we had our play group at our home. Another girl, Maddy, told my daughter, “Come here.” She looked very insistent, almost angry, and my little one just looked at her and kept her distance. Finally she asked, “What do you want, Maddy?” A perfectly valid question, I thought.

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