Sunday, January 10, 2016

Dear Avery -- girls scout cookies

Dear Avery,

You amaze me kiddo. When you told me your cookie goal this year was 200 boxes I thought you were crazy. I told you maybe 100 was more realistic. Nope. You wanted to beat her last-year's sales of 167. I suggested 168. Nope. You said 200 was way cooler. 

As of this past Friday you had sold 73 boxes and there were only a few days to go. I never thought you would get there, and even suggested modifying your goal. But you never flinched. You dragged me all over town -- walgreens, dry cleaners, train station -- trying to sell your cookies. You got way more rejections than sales but you never once got discouraged. That smile never left your face. You made a poster, set up a stand in our driveway and then when that didn't pan out you dragged me door-to-door with you to every house on our street until well after dark. You were ready to keep going today. You just don't give up.

You earned every one of those 200 boxes and I couldn't be more proud. I keep telling you that Daddy and I will always help you reach your goals, but the work will have to be your own. It feels so much better that way anyway. You were nervous and shy at every single one of those doors, but you said it all yourself. YOU made the sales, not me. I was just there to ring doorbells.

You are going to go places, my friend. And I'll ring all the doorbells you ever need me to along the way. I love you so much.


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Dear Avery -- is Santa real?

Dear Avery,

We are in the height of the Christmas season. Our house is filled to the brim with green and red and sparkles and lights.  We have made cookies and gingerbread houses and ornaments and crafts. We have stamped, addressed and mailed our cards. We have sung Jingle Bells at the top of our lungs. We have read all of the Christmas classics and have watched all of the movies -- at least twice. The gifts are wrapped. The groceries are sitting in the fridge ready to go. Nana and Papa will be here tomorrow morning. Christmas is two days away.

A few weeks ago you told me that you really wanted to believe in Santa but your gut said no. I was able to skirt around the issue and leave it with "well, what do you believe?" and then seamlessly changed the subject to something less risky like magic tricks and rainbows. I sighed a big silent sigh of relief and thought to myself, "phew...that was a close one." I thought your doubt had been cleared. I thought it was over. You went right back to writing your list and searching for Elmer and all of the other magical things that come with Christmas to a 7-year-old.

Yesterday Tyler was on a playdate, and you and I were hanging out in the kitchen having a snack. Out of the blue you looked up at me with your big brown curious eyes, and you said, "Mom, are you Santa?"

My heart sunk into my stomach. I was not expecting this. I have always told myself that I will never straight-up lie to you. Daddy and I have been honest and open with many of your grown-up questions along the way...9/11 and the Boston Marathon and Sandy Hook...and even childbirth.

But this one felt different. You are still my baby. You are only seven. You are in the FIRST grade. And CHRISTMAS IS IN TWO DAYS!!!!

You had me cornered. You begged me to tell you the truth. You promised you wouldn't tell anyone. You even accused me of smirking -- when really I was just too stunned to say a thing. I wanted to cry. I wanted to freeze time and figure out the right thing to say to you. I wanted to phone a friend. I wanted to strangle the parent of the kid who told you there was no such thing. I wanted to go back in time to when you were four.

But in the end I did what I had to do. I said, "No, absolutely not" with the straightest face I could muster. I told you my smirk was because I thought it was hilarious that you could even think that dad and I would have enough money for all those presents. I promised you over and over that Santa is real and that he is not me.

And after taking a few hours to process, I am sure I did the right thing. I didn't lie to you. I am not Santa. Santa is far bigger than me. Santa is magic and innocence and imagination. He is kindness and generosity and compassion. Santa is the anonymous person who paid off all of the lay-away items at Toys-R-us for the 3rd year in a row. Santa is the man standing outside of Market Basket in the cold ringing the bell to collect money for the Salvation Army. Santa is the lady passing out hats and scarves to all of the homeless people in Boston. Santa is you and your brother when you secretly drop off your "pay it forward" bags all over town each year.

Santa is the belief that goodness still exists in this world...even with the horrors like 9/11, the Boston Marathon and Sandy Hook. Santa is the belief that small acts of kindness can actually make the world a better place. Santa is the belief that YOU have the power to make this world a better place.

So, no honey, I alone am not Santa. We are all Santa. And no matter how old I get, I will always believe.

Some day I hope you thank me for responding to you the way I did. Maybe you'll even see it as the great gift that it was...the gift of being a child. I promise you, another year of the big man in the red suit will do you no harm. You're seven. Enjoy the magic. Merry Christmas.


Monday, December 7, 2015

Dear Avery & Tyler -- wealth

Dear Avery & Tyler,

Yesterday we kicked off Hanukkah with our annual Jacobs family party in South Dartmouth. Tyler, you loved playing football with your big cousins. And Avery, you and Hadley had so much fun with your American Girl Dolls.

My cousin Wendy was there. I love her dearly and always have. She and I grew up close. We played together like sisters at every family party, just like you do with your cousins. She and I have climbed Mt. Washington together several times, we have jumped into freezing cold lakes with our sports bras and underwear, we have shared the horror stories of first dates...and the joy of our wedding days.

Wendy is bubbly, hilarious, loving and beautiful. She is also rich. Not just a little rich. She is filthy, filthy rich. She had a conversation with her mother yesterday that I couldn't help but overhear. I was, after all, squished right next to them on the couch. Apparently she is in the process of building a new home (her 4th to be exact) and apparently it is costing her more than 5 million dollars.

I can't begin to imagine what 5 million dollars even looks like, nor do I really want to. I actually had to get up and walk outside. She may have mistaken my abrupt exit as some sort of jealousy, and that's fine if she did. But I want to be clear with the two of you. Jealousy was not the culprit. Not at all. It was the opposite actually. I feel bad for her. She thinks that yachts and trips around the world and $5 million dollar houses are the things that are going to make her happy in life. But they never will.

She will never be a mother. She will never look down at a tiny infant and know the true definition of love at first sight. She will never stare into the eyes of her little girl and see herself staring back. She will never be asked by a 6-year-old boy to meet her under the mistletoe. She will never be the most beautiful person in the entire world. She will never be loved as sweetly and purely and enormously as a child loves his mother. And she will never get to love anyone that enormously either.

She may have money and she may have things, but in the big picture of life, what does she have that really matters?

Last night after you were both sound asleep tucked cozy into your beds, I lay down with each of you and whispered into your ear, "I would never trade this life for anything."

I am the wealthiest woman in the world.

"I did it all
I owned every second that this world could give
I saw so many places, the things that I did
With every broken bone, I swear I lived
I hope you spend your days and they all add up
And when that sun goes down
I hope you raise your cup..."


Letter from Santa

Dear Avery & Tyler,

Merry Christmas! The elves and I are very busy getting ready for Christmas, and I’m really excited that we’ll be visiting your home in Norfolk, MA.

I’ve been making a list and checking it twice, and it says you you’ve both been nice! I’m very proud of both of you. I like bringing toys to children who are kind to others, listen to their parents and do their best in school. I can’t promise that you’ll get everything you asked for, but I’m positive there will be a few presents from me under the tree and that your stockings will be full!

Please remember, though, that Christmas is not about how many presents are under the tree. There are so many children in this world who are not fortunate enough to have clean clothes, a cozy bed or enough food to fill their bellies. I will be working very hard this year to bring more toys to those who have none. I know you are old enough now to understand, and I know you will be appreciative. The true spirit of Christmas is giving…not getting. Remember that!

Christmas is also about family and friends and all the great people and blessings you have in your life. These are the most important things to celebrate. As long as you have love surrounding you, that’s worth more than all the toys in the world. 

Have a very merry Christmas!

Santa Claus
P.S. Your house is one of my first stops this year so be sure to go to bed early. The magic only works if you’re sleeping!

A letter to your dad -- Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving 2015

Dear Phil,

I am thankful for our home. As much as I complain about our stupid cabinets and our tiny ugly bathrooms, I am grateful for the roof over our head and the backyard we can call our own. Mostly though, I am thankful for the noises that fill it. I am thankful for the laughter, the giggles, the squeals of delight. I am thankful for the whispered conversations between our children as they drift off to sleep. I am thankful for their never-ending questions…for their curiosity and daily evidence of learning and growing. I am even thankful for the arguments, the screaming, the crying, the stomping. A silent house is an empty one. I am thankful that we have filled ours with life…and all it’s glory.

I am thankful for my job. As much as I complain about the politics of teaching, when I step into the confines of those 4 walls of my little classroom, I get to do what I love. I get to do what inspires me, and I get to inspire others. I get to put my little stamp on this world and be somebody. Not everyone is so lucky.

I am thankful for your job. I know that you hate it. And I really hate that you hate it. But I am thankful that you can hate something and still get paid well for doing it. I am thankful that we have enough money for that roof over our head. As much as this roller coaster has been bumpy and tough, I am thankful for it. I know we will look back on it one day and realize we came out of it a hell of a lot stronger than we went in. It’s only a matter of time.

I am thankful for your parents and for mine. I am thankful that our children have six grandparents who love them so unconditionally. I am thankful for each of their unique gifts and own special ways of expressing generosity. I am thankful for the cousins our children get to grow up with. I am also thankful for the ones that they can’t grow up with. They have offered a perspective of the world our children wouldn’t have otherwise seen. They have made them wiser, more compassionate, more thoughtful, more understanding.

I am thankful for the grandparents that I lost. Even though my grief over the last year or so has broken my heart and turned me inside out, I am thankful for the experience that has left me stronger and more appreciative. I am thankful for all the years I did have and for all the gifts they left me with.

I am thankful for our health. I take it for granted, I know. Every time I mutter the words, “why does everything have to be so hard,” I am shamed even before they finish coming out of my mouth. I know things could be SO much harder. SO MUCH HARDER. As much as I complain about the never-ending laundry, I am thankful that our children are healthy enough to play outside and get dirty. I am thankful that they keep growing.

More than anything, though, I am thankful for you. I am thankful for your love, your devotion, your sense of humor and your forgiveness. Raising children is the biggest, most important job of our lives. We haven’t done it perfectly. But when I see our children playing gently with their baby cousin or hugging their great-aunt or thanking their grandparents or delivering the Thanksgiving speech or cuddling with their daddy on the couch, I know that we are doing it well.  We are raising good, confident, solid people. Nothing about it is easy, but I am so grateful to be doing it all with you by my side.

With every sigh of frustration or roll of my eyes, I know deep down I am lucky. Beneath all of it, I am thankful. Always.

I love you,


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Dear Tyler -- 6 years old

Dear Tyler,

Another birthday in the books. You are the epitome of 6 -- joyful, inquisitive, full of energy, hilarious and incredibly loving. All that and a giant toothless grin to top it off.

You describe yourself as a mathematician who loves his momma...and a vegetarian who doesn't eat vegetables. See, you're hilarious. You are toying with being either an engineer, a professional football player or a paranormal expert when you grow up. Decisions decisions. You love rap music and you have dance moves like no other. Your heroes are Tom Brady, Matty B. and your father.

You didn't want a birthday party. It's not your style. You don't like commotion, crowds or chaos. You are just like your daddy. All you've ever asked for is a little attention, a big piece of cake and your family by your side. You are a smart boy.

Daddy is on a trip right now and it just about broke his heart to miss your birthday. But you took it in stride and forgave him instantly. It wouldn't be like you to hold a grudge. You know you are loved and that's all you need.

Since we gave you a new bike around Avery's birthday, we only had little things for you today. This morning you opened your pokemon cards and a Tom Brady shirt and hat. It was as if I had given you a million dollars. Sheer joy, excitement and appreciation. It doesn't take much to make you happy. After school I took you and Avery to the movies to see "Goosebumps". You loved every single second of it and couldn't have been any cuter in your 3D glasses.

My favorite part of today was visiting you at kindergarten. The normal birthday protocol is for the mom to bring her child's favorite book to read to the class. Since the only book you would even consider was your brand new chapter book that you excitedly purchased at the School Book Fair this week, "I Survived the Joplin Tornado 2011", I decided maybe we would change things up a bit and go with plan B. I'm not sure how many other kindergartners share your passion for gruesome non-fiction.

So we decided to bring a few of your favorite magic tricks instead. I have to admit I was a little nervous. Last week, Avery's friend Emmette caught on to the secret of one of your tricks, and in her excitement, she threw you under the bus. To say you were devastated would be an understatement. You threw a full-blown lie-on-the-floor-and-kick-your-legs tantrum and told me through huge, sad crocodile tears that nobody will think you are amazing anymore.

Well let me tell you, sweetheart, they all thought you were amazing today. It was one of your best shining moments. You made cards appear and hankies disappear. You guessed numbers correctly and made balls pass through solid cups. You even pulled your thumb off of your hand. Every single child in your class was in complete awe of you. You were the star. And you glowed from the inside out. I have never been so proud.

And even if the kids hadn't thought you were amazing (and someday maybe they won't), let me assure you that at least one person always will. Everything you do and everything you are amazes me -- your incredible math brain, your curiosity about everything around you, your fierce determination and drive to master new skills, your unbelievable strength, your compassion for others, your impeccable manners in public, your constant warmth and affection and your unwavering loyalty to your sister. You are truly an amazing little boy who I know will grow up to do amazing things. There is no question.

I love you a million jillion gazillion patrillion bavillion...and even more than that.


Monday, October 12, 2015

Dear Avery -- 7 years old

Dear Avery,

I don't know how the time keeps slipping away. Your birthday was a few weeks ago already. You decided this year to invite just two friends (Rylan and Ashley) to Rock On Adventures and then out to dinner. You insisted on dinner at Bertucci's and THEN ice cream at Friendly's. Dad and I tried to convince you to make it a one-stop event but the princess could not be swayed.

You are a girl who knows what you want, and you will accept nothing less. At age 7 this quality can get you into trouble. Dad and I are constantly having to remind you that you are not in charge. We have to tell you again and again that you are not Tyler's mother...that you are not the adult. We have had power struggles with you that have lasted for hours. We have removed your bedroom door because of one too many slams. We have gone to the ends of the earth to teach who how to comply and respect authority. You do not back down easily.

At 7 it can be tough. But someday this quality will serve you well. You will be the CEO of a big company or the superintendent of a school district or the mayor of a city. Or something entirely different. I just know you will be something big. You will be somebody powerful and amazing. You will move mountains. I have no doubt you will make this world a more beautiful place.

And in the meantime, you will be our strong-willed, creative, sassy, powerful bigger-than-life 7-year-old daughter. You will shriek with excitement over your rapidly growing collection of Shopkins. You will dance to Taylor Swift and sing your little heart out. You will cartwheel all over every room of our house. You will watch endless Youtube videos of other little girls your age doing all sorts of creative things. You will continue taking your own videos and introduce yourself every time with "Hi guys, this is Avery from Avery's channel." You will run around the yard with your brother and come inside with dirty feet and leaves in your hair. You will kick him in the stomach and tell him you love him all in the same breath. You will sleep on the floor next to our bed every night and mutter under your breath at me every morning. You will love me. You will hate me. You will need me. You will want me gone. You will beg me to stay.

Don't you worry baby doll, I'm not going anywhere. Through every bit of it, I will love you. Every foot stomp and eye roll...I will love you. Until the end of time. I am proud to be your mother and can think of no dream bigger than this one.

I love you so much.