Wednesday, December 17, 2014

really?

The other day I said to my eldest, "Come on you & I are going for a walk."  You would have thought I had just suggested he maim himself in some way by the dramatic reaction he had.  Falling to the ground saying " A walk?!  A walk is the worst thing ever!"  Really?  Really?  If a walk is the worst thing my son had to deal with on that gorgeous December day then I'd say his life is pretty fantastic.

Fast forward to an hour later upon our return from said walk when he admits that it was actually pretty great.  Ha!  I thought with great satisfaction. You see!  If only you'd not be such a punk when something is put before you.  You know it typically is good for you & has your best interests at heart  So there.  Oh.  Crap.  Maybe it's just me but I am pretty sure I throw a mean fit to whenever Something catches me off guard or is out of my comfort zone. I may not be weeping & wailing (at least as far as you can tell) but I can stomp my foot with the best of them.

Isn't that the way we are?  We hear that still, small voice.  It asks us to initiate something with someone or to put ourselves out there.  But, we don't want to so we throw a tantrum in our own way by being busy or ignoring it until it is harder & harder to hear.  We throw ourselves into other projects or relationships without a backward glance.  We may be missing out on the very thing that is for our good & has our best interests at heart but not even know it.   Unless you all are much more mature then me & it's just me who does this.

Sometimes Most times what I hear myself say to my kids as I am parenting them is something that I myself need to hear.  Be Kind (as I say through gritted teeth)  Don't yell ( as I shout it down the hallway)  Be sure to share (as I check my creamer situation out carefully wondering if my husband "snuck" some.)

Encouraging my kids to be open to situations & what you can learn from them is no different.  That is something I need to be reminded of even as a middle-aged woman.  Yes, middle-age there is no sense in denying it any longer.  Baah!  Being middle-age is awesome!  There is so much freedom in it.  You wan't to wear your walking shoes with your jeans?  Do it!  Your feet will thank you.  You think to yourself, but that's a mom thing.  Newsflash you.are.a.mom.  No shame.   Same goes for mom jeans & mom cuts.  Which I don't  even know what a mom cut looks like or if that's even a real thing, but I recently heard a hair-dresser laugh saying no one had ever asked for a "mom cut" from her before.  Dude.  If you are a lady & you have kids & you have hair you have a mom-cut.  No way around it.

All that to say the next time my kiddo has an all-out-fit about something new or different I think I have to wonder if that is something he is learning from me.  Does he sense my foot being stomped every time there is something new afoot?  Does he notice that I drag my feet when a new opportunity is put before me?  Maybe.  Or maybe kids just come this way.  Either way it will do us all a lot of good to slow our responses & be encouraged that it may just turn out to be pretty great after-all.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

wouldn't that be something.

I've spent the morning delivering Christmas presents to people I don't know.  I've peeked past a barely opened door into a dark & smelly apartment.  I've stood just beyond the produce section at Fred Meyer crying & hugging a young mom.  When  you are put in a position to really see people it can be a sobering thing; read as I have been sobbing all morning (which isn't helped by the fact that I'm hangry because I'm trying to be better about portions & snacking which basically just means I'm starving all-the-live-long-day but that's really besides the point.)  I realize how insignificant it is to get frustrated in the drop-off line at school just because the parent ignores the rules & gets out of their car to hug their kiddo one last time before they go  off to school.  When have I ever done that? Taken the time to give one last hug even at the cost of upsetting 100 other drivers behind them just because my kiddo may need it?  I am more of the slow & roll kind of mom.  Making sure my kiddo unbuckles & is ready to jump out the moment of approach.  The thing is I don't know the story of the mom who is getting out to give her kid a hug.  I've no idea what transpired at their house that morning anymore than I know why the mom in the dark apartment with downcast eyes is so sad.  It is so easy to talk the talk about everyone having a story, but to truly live like you believe that in every single interaction you have is another thing all-together.  What if?  What if we truly lived it?  What if our kids grew up knowing no different?  What if they knew you gave everyone you came into contact with grace because that's just how it's done?  What if they knew you just looked for a common thread with people because that is how connections are made. Sound a bit out of your comfort zone?  Mine too. But what if there's a chance that if we slow down & see those around us we may be surprised to learn they aren't so different than us after all? Wouldn't that be something.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Christmas time is here again.

Christmas time is here again & for some that can mean life gets a whole lot harder.  We know, because the past few years has been trying for my husband & I.   We had started to dread that sure-to-come question "So, are you guys all ready for Christmas?"  While I know it always came from well-meaning people who were full of anticipation for the season it fell upon our ears as another reminder that we weren't going to be able to provide gifts for our kids.  Having been in lean financial times( for what seems like forever) Christmas gifts just weren't a reality for us.  We were more concerned about keeping the lights on & the heat going. When our kids were really young we didn't give it much thought.  We knew kids that age were more into empty boxes than the actual item inside so we just considered ourselves minimalists (read as that made us feel better) & chose to focus more on what the season meant & less on the stuff.

Fast forward to when they were a bit older & thanks to some truly AMAZING people.  Two different years two different groups of AMAZING there were gifts under the tree for our kiddos.  We were surrounded by such kind & generous & loving communities that loved on us & our kiddos & turned what could have been a really hard time into a time of joy & thanksgiving!  It was never about the stuff or the lack of stuff.  It was about the joy & anticipation & excitement that any parent wants to be able to provide for their kiddo.

This year marks the first year we are able to buy presents for our kiddos.  And we are excited! Unless you've never been able to you may not grasp the excitement but let me tell you it's on like donkey-kong! As we started thinking about Christmas & our kids & bringing them a bit of joy we naturally thought & talked about the prior years & how we were so loved on.  It got us to thinking how much more difficult this time of year must be for people who don't have a supportive community around them.  Maybe they don't have anyone to admit through a tear-stained face how hard it is.  Maybe they don't have anyone to let in & share how alls they really want is a matching pair of Christmas pjs for their kiddos.  Maybe they can't get over the pride of how hard it is to tell someone it's hard.  You live & breath it the last thing you want to do is to hear yourself talk about it. We knew we wanted to be able to do a bit for one other family, but realistically we also knew we couldn't do much more than that but maybe, just maybe, their were families like ours who wanted to do something for other families.  So with these families in mind....The ones who are working, but it's never enough.  The ones who are working & in school & raising their babies on their own.  The ones who lost jobs & are new in town & just don't have anyone.  With them in mind we launched our 1st Gift for Kids Program.  And as per usual I dived right in.  Spread the word with out really thinking it through & without having lined up people to help provide gifts to be sponsors or donors or what have you.  So then I panicked & thought this will never work & asked my friend (who knows how I dive in without thinking all.the.time.) to please pray because I had names of kids coming in who needed to be  matched with donors & whatifnoonecameforward I didn't want to ruin anyone's Christmas & I should have just kept my mouth shut & who do I think I am to help anybody anyways?! Sheesh.  She prayed. I prayed. Names came in & people wrote it saying they wanted to help & how could they help & could they please help.  Seriously.  It was beyond me.  The entire thing came together so effortlessly I didn't need to do a thing except show up to turn the computer on.  I remember telling my husband shortly before launching the Gift for Kids program that I would be stoked if at least one family was matched with another.  You know what?  Enough families came forward wanting to bless & were matched with 21 kids who's families are struggling & who admitted it's hard.  A.ma.zing. Some of the names came from the moms themselves & they brokenly shared a bit of their stories with me.  Some of the names came from other people who nominated them (for lack of a better word) because they knew it was hard.

 Now the gifts are starting to trickle in.  I keep thinking how excited I am to have my kids apart of delivering all these gifts to the families who are trying so hard.  So that it would be a good reminder to them to be thankful & to think of others.  But...Let's be real the reminder is for me.  It's so easy to get amnesia about letting people in, about finding joy through being thankful & about thinking of how to love on others. The thing I didn't know when we were on the receiving end was that not only did my family feel the love but those who acted out on the tug of their hearts they got to feel it too. Thankful for these brave families who by letting people in a bit are in turn making all of our Christmas seasons that much brighter.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Old yeller

We had one of those mornings up in here.  You know the ones where you make at least one of your kiddos cry, you cry, & then your late to school.  And being late to school is a real feat for us as we literally live just down the street.

Some mornings are just like that.  Your kid says they aren't having fun & why are you being so mean to them.  That makes you even more frustrated because all you did was nag them for the 40th time about getting dressed even though they have a chart and the whole point of the chart is to.not.have.to.nag.  Yet some days the chart doesn't cut it.  Your kiddo should be able to get dressed in a timely matter since this is what you do five-days-a-week.  Over & Over.  Yet some days it's like they've never even been in this situation before.  Get dressed?  What is this you speak of?  School?  Hmm...not sure what you're talking about.  For.The.Love.  It is enough to make this mama go cuckoo.  Or go out of recovery & let a yell out.

I have been on a journey to not yell as much at my kiddos for what seems like forever.  I know that can't be because typically you don't have much reason to yell at a newborn. Could you imagine?  "Stop sleeping so much!"  "WHY ARE YOU SO ADORABLE?!"  No the yelling for me came a bit later.  Once they began to reason & be defiant & be you know  thinking for themselves. That is when I lost it.  That is when I became a crazed mama who could loose it at the drop of a hat.  Or lego or army man.  Whatever.  I would loose it quick.  I would feel them not complying with me & feel the rage start creeping up. There wasn't typically anytime (or so it felt) to squelch it before it came spewing  out in a loud & angry volcanic rush.

I've prayed, I've cried, I've put my head in a freezer.  Because really who wants to be a yeller?  Especially at their kiddos who they love & longed for. Pretty sure not one mama ever played with her dollies thinking how she couldn't wait to grow up & have kids of her own so she could yell at them.  Yet it happens.  All the time.  Maybe not to all of us (lucky) but to a lot of us.  We try & yell in pillows, or count to 10, or walk away, or breath deeply. We lock ourselves in garages & bathrooms & closets.  Yet still we yell.  It isn't something we can will away.  It isn't something we can quick-fix.  We can call it our "outside voice" & yet a yell is a yell.  It isn't pretty & it is totally humbling.  It often ends in an ugly cry.

So even though this morning was a re-lapse into yelling for me I am not going to let that define me or even my day.  Even though my kiddo said through a tear streaked face " I thought you weren't going to yell anymore" I am done calling myself a yeller.  Being a yeller isn't who I am it is something I do. (Maybe. Sometimes.Not as often as i used to.)  Not every day here is going to be one the Walton's would be proud of nor is it going to be totally terrible.  We are aiming for mostly good.  And on the not-so-good days where it is glaringly obvious that mom messed up those are the days I squat down look at the tear stained face & ask for forgiveness.  Those are the days I admit to being a human & show my kids that when we mess up we own it and we ask for forgiveness & we try again.  We talked about just how he is learning to always be truthful I am leaning how to use my "inside voice."  I don't think its the worst thing for them to get a glimpse of our fragility & our struggles.  I think maybe, just maybe, it may take the pressure off of them a bit.  At least that is what I am hoping they glean from all of this.  Wouldn't it be a great thing for our kiddos to grow up & go into the world knowing how to extend grace & seek forgiveness from the people around them? To know that messing up isn't the same thing as failing-it's falling.  To know that when you fall you can always get back up.  You may not be able to do it on your own.  You may need a hand.  But you can get back up & try again.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

To fear or not?

As a mama who has two little ones, which means my heart lives outside of my body, there is so much to fear.  The world is full of Ebola, school shootings, kids being snatched.  As a parent it is difficult to live a day without having something that could cause fear to well up inside of you. Then there are the everyday kind of fears like will your kid fall off the monkey bars?  Not doing the monkey bars mind  you but literally fall off the top of the monkey bars?  Since your lil' monkey has decided he must climb & conquer the tallest point of the playground.  Will another kiddo do or say something that will make your kiddo cry or feel bad about themselves?  You fear that until it happens & then your mama-bear instinct kicks in & you hope the perpetrator other child starts to feel the fear (maybe it's just me.)  In this day & age when there is so much reported how are we to respond if moving your family to the Alaskan wild where your biggest concern is where you should relocate your outhouse next spring isn't a possibility?  When actually making your kids live in a real bubble is frowned upon?  How to insulate them from all the negative & how to do so without your own fear being a burden upon their childhood?  How to protect them & allow them to still have some freedom & adventure?  Honestly, sanitizing cart wipes are a necessary evil & I use them every time, but how limiting is it when we can't even walk freely into a grocery store without first stopping & preparing before moving forward.  Not much of an adventure there.  Do kids even get to ride under the cart anymore?  I know I have gotten a look or two when I even just allow my kids to ride holding on to the side of the cart.  Because, you know, they could fall off & be squished.  For the love.

This whole fearful living thing doesn't come naturally to me.  Growing up & in my young adult life I was kind of void of fear.  Spontaneity beckoned me & I typically answered without much thought or concern of what could or couldn't happen.  I hitchhiked, I went on solo trips across country (all with out a cell phone.)  I threw myself off of cliffs into the water below just for the thrill of it.  Now I get nervous & clammy driving over high bridges or when my kids get to close to the edge of a ledge over looking the water below.  Even though said ledge towers above them & there is literally no foreseeable way they could fall in.  Still clammy.  Still sometimes hold onto the hood of my youngest least a sea creature from down below leaps up & decides he'd make a tasty treat.  Okay maybe not that last one so much but you can see how easily it is to ride the train of "what-if's" (no ticket required.) And these are just for the run-of-the-mill fears.  Not the life threatening "what-ifs" about contracting a life-threatening disease or coming into a life-threatening danger just eating lunch in the school cafeteria. It really does make the kid-in-a-bubble thing sound not so bad.

My husband & I constantly go back & forth over whether the times we grew up in (the 70's if you must know) were actually safer than now or whether it's just that we instantly hear all of the bad news right when it happens now.  The statistics would show that things are actually "safer" now but even if that's true it certainty doesn't feel like it.  As a young kiddo myself I would ride my bike miles to the store to get some candy unattended & out of sight.  Fast forward to know & I have no idea when I will be comfortable enough for my sons to ride a bike unattended & out of sight (never.)  The very idea of it sounds preposterous because I know all the possible outcomes of what could go down & yet I'm also supposed to raise them so they will have confidence & be capable to go out into the world on their own.  Speaking to a woman the other day she was telling me how her child starting riding the public bus system all around town by herself by the time she was 10.  She said she didn't want to raise a "tea-cup" child.  Someone who goes off to college or out on their own & breaks because they don't know how to care for themselves.  You guys.  This is a thing.  Teacup parenting.  I thought we only have to be concerned if we were a helicopter or free-range parent but now we can be raising tea-cups that may break too.  For reals. It's too much.

It's all too much.  There is too much to fear & there is too much that could go wrong.  But if we let fear win then we are going to miss out on too much joy. Too much love. Too much spontaneity & too much good. Life is hard enough as it is that we don't need to be saddled down by any additional weight of worry. What is a mama to do other then to spend time on her knees & trust the One who gave her these two who cause her heart to live outside of her body.  Living each day one day at a time.  Not looking too far ahead but rather just soaking up the moment and the gift that it is.  Easier said than done?  Yep.  A little too naive?  Maybe.  But I don't want fear to get an inch more than it deserves.  It has it's place & it is a good emotion to have when say you run into a grizzly bear (say should you relocate to Alaska.)  But day in & day out I want my emotions  to know that I'm in charge.  They can just take a seat & stop running around on me all nilly-willy or is it willy-nilly?  That kid who climbs atop the highest point of the playground?  That is incredibly brave.  These ones we are raising up are going to need all the braveness they can muster.  And maybe it's just me but as far as I can tell they take a lot of their ques from us.  They look to us before they have a reaction.  They cry harder if we gasp when they fall.  They look more triumphant after seeing our smile.  They need to know that we think they got this.   They also need to know that we've got this.  That we will keep showing up.  That we will cry out for the courage & braveness & peace  & love needed to keep the fear it it's place.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

not scary at all.

As I sit here on Day 1 of summer vacation I have a trillion of thoughts swirling through my head : thoughts about summer activities we should or shouldn't do, lazy days, wondering why it isn't sunny out today, will the weather be nicer for our swimming lessons in the outdoor pool, how many times is reasonably okay to eat smores in a few months time, how I am so glad both of my kiddos are here together, how I hope I feel that way all summer long, how I am ecstatic that there were no alarms going off this morning, how it feels awesome & lazy at the same time to still be in pj's at 9:52 a.m., how it is kind of strange that we haven't yet ventured outside, but also I am glad we haven't walked down the road & back to school, so on & so forth.  I hope to be able to block some of these random thoughts out and reflect back on the past year.  On the first year of public school & having my eldest away at kindergarten.  Back in August of last year I was feeling a flood of  emotions & really had no idea of what to expect sending my son forth out in the world ( literally only 2 blocks away) so I am talking about more of a under influence of others leaving his safe bubble sort-of-a-way.

I have learned that there are a ton of germs swirling around the school (shocker!)  If there was anything we could get we did get.  Flu-check twice survived the puking-off-the-top-bunk in the middle of the night episode.  Colds-check more than I could count one even won us a trip to the x-ray room to see if it had developed into pneumonia.  Pink eye-check.  Two cases, Well one, but in each eye so I am counting that as two because it was just as gross in each peeper.   The only thing we didn't get a chance to enjoy was lice.  Not that we didn't get an opportunity to have it's presence around us we just didn't personally have it as an unwelcome guest in our home.  Super thankful for that as I was a wee bit paranoid (read totally obsessed with any preventative measure I could get my hands on) Tea-tree shampoo, tea tree oil (applied generously to the scalp, coats & back packs on a semi-regular basis) coats thrust into the dryer on the highest heat possible immediately after entering the house after school.  And the creme de la creme of paranoia was the spray my dear friend gave me called "Lice knowing you" Love that stuff smells good & makes me feel like a real lice warrior.  This would liberally spray hoods, coats, & backpacks on a regular basis.  And no I didn't read the ingredients don't even want to know.  Point is I think it works.  So I have a pretty good system down & am guessing it will need to be repeated for only the next 11 years or so.  Then the kid is on his own.

I learned that my sometimes shy kiddo doesn't need me around to facilitate conversation.  He was constantly coming home to tell me that he played with so & so or he talked to so & so about this & that.  These were kiddos not even in the same class!  How in the world did the kid who used to & sometimes still does hide behind my legs & turn a shade of pink when spoken to how did that kid become mister social at recess time?!  How I wish I could have been a fly on the err... soccer ball or monkey bars for those initial introductions.  " Hi."  "Hi."  "Wanna play super-hero ninja warriors?"  "You're it!"  Boom.  Instant friends until the next recess.

I am thankful for the new experiences he has had, the amazing (2!) teachers he was fortunate to have been placed with, the new friendships ,that I know as I am still friends with a dear one I went to kindergarten with, may last a lifetime, the conflicts he had & the choices he learned to to make to help come up with a solution for those, the appreciation he found for his little brother whom he missed being around each day, his feelings that were hurt so that he knows what it is like to be on the receiving end when a big first grader is making fun of your soccer skills (or lack of let's just have a moment of honesty here.  But, the kid can THROW a baseball.  Isn't it kind of a disservice to our kids to make them think they are awesome at everything?  Maybe?  Still trying to figure out how to finesse that whole thing. ) so that next fall when he is the big first grader he will hopefully recall that & extend a little more kindness to the kindergartner who is being brave out on the field, the books he was exposed to, the writing he acquired, the different languages he heard, the different shades of skin he sat by, the music he sang & danced to & the thirst for knowledge that continues to grow.

All in all it was a pretty great year.  Not nearly as scary as I thought it would be.  Isn't that the way though often the things that are unknown to us seem so scary, but once we step out & see what we are dealing with it isn't scary at all.  We often even end up enjoying it & always seem to learn something from it.  Now the trick will be to remember that when my youngest starts pre-school in the fall thus beginning a new season of time.by.myself. which is something that sounds thrilling & scary unknown to me all over again.



Tuesday, April 22, 2014

being a mama

Never have I been more humbled than on this journey of parenthood.  Whether it is walking out of a restaurant with your kiddos poopie undies in the pocket of your hoodie (yep did that the other day) or coming face-to-face with some less than desirable personality traits reflected back at you it is a non-stop-always-and-forever-learning process.  You revisit things time & time again. You forgive & are forgiven.  You cry out & are constantly cried at.  Most nights you can't wait for bedtime & then other nights you go in their rooms after they are asleep because you miss them & want to watch them sleep.  You basically feel like a crazy person all of time because you can't remember anything & you are being pulled at talked at all day long.  You clap with excitement over lego creations & then curse later as you step on them.  You long for a night out with girlfriends & then spend the time talking about your little ones. You can't wait for free time & then when you get it you don't know what to do with your bad self.  It is all this & more.  It is nothing at all like I thought it would be.  It is terrific & sometimes terrifying.

It is real, messy, sometimes so beautiful & in-your-face you can't stand it, it makes your blood boil, and you love with both a fierceness & gentleness you didn't know existed.  You want to protect them & allow them to make mistakes all in the same day.  That and track on their sugar intake.  How is this possible?  How is it possible to train, parent, guard, love, cherish, discipline & enjoy all day long? Sometimes I just need to take a moment & reflect on the magnitude of being a mama. It is so much more than making sure we have milk & super-hero band aids. It is more than making sure the blankies are clean & the bedtime routine isn't forgotten.  It is more than platitudes & greeting cards could ever capture.  Moment by moment.  Day by day.  Step by step.  Then we wake up & start again.  Full on joy & mess coming at us the moment we arise.  It is more than words can say.  It is a feeling all to it's own.  It is being a mama.