13 years. That’s how long it had been since I’d gone to the grocery store all by myself. 13 years of two little feet dangling off the front of the cart, 13 years of being talked into Fruity Pebbles and finding mystery items on my receipts that had been slipped into the cart while I was distracted. 13 years of temper tantrums in isle nine, 13 years of chasing a giggling toddler darting between carts and disgusted fellow shoppers. 13 years, and suddenly, it was over.
My youngest started kindergarten this past fall. For the first time in over a decade I had no kids at home during the school hours. With tears in my eyes, I hugged him fiercly and watched his tiny legs climb those steps nearly half his height onto the bus. As it drove away, I wiped my eyes, gave one last wave, and skipped up the driveway, secretly screaming in my mind, “freeeeeeddddooooommmm!!!” and imagining all that I could get done in 6 glorious hours all to myself. I went to the grocery store all alone, I folded laundry, I mowed the lawn, I organized toys, I even read some books. I played the piano again, I started a little photography business, and worked on illustrations for a book I’d written and put asside for the past 10 years waiting for the “right season of life.” That season was officically here! The past 13 years of taking care of little children came to a sudden and abrupt hault. All the “someday-I-will-have-time-for-that-again” items on my to-do list were at my fingertips. It was exhilerating, exciting, and freeing.
a bit depressing. Change is always a little uncomfortable, and after 13 years of having kids at home, this change was a big one. No one warned me this would be so hard.
It hit me the other day while I was cleaning out my 6-year-old’s closet, getting rid of the clothes that don’t fit him any more and putting them in a “give away pile” because there’s no one left to pass them down to. It hit me mid-closet clean as my phone let out a “ping!” with an invitation to a playgroup the following day– 9 am. For a split second I thought, “Oh! Playdate! Fun! Haven’t been to one of those in a while!” only to immediately be followed by the sinking realization that I would be a total creep to go because people who usually go to playgroups have diaper bags, snacks, and, well, children in tow. And, though tempting, I suppose the school district might frown upon a mother keeping her child home from kindergarten once a week so that she can pretend she isn’t a weirdo desperate for a social life and has no idea of how to achieve that without attending a playgroup where other moms discuss potty training and breast feeding.
It hit me that I am at that awkward stage of motherhood where I just don’t fit in. It’s like middle school all over again, only instead of pimples and braces it’s the onset of wrinkles and grey hair. And sadly (unlike those misserable–yet fleeting– years between elementary and high school), it will likely only get worse. I’m too old for “mommy and me” playdates, too young for knitting groups. I’m stuck right smack-dab in no-man’s land. Those years of discussing how little sleep I got the night before and diaper brands are now in the past or are yet to come.
For the last seven months I’ve been trying to figure out who I am without a child to hide behind. Trying to remember who I was before kids came along, who I will become with them no longer the center of all that I do. After 13 years of being “so-and-so’s mom,” I can finally be just me, and while that idea is exciting and freeing, I’m just not sure I quite know who that’s supposed to be.
Young motherhood is a strange thing — it hijacks your identity and changes all of your views. It steals your heart, takes over all of your waking – and sleeping – moments, makes you question every decision you’ve ever made, pressures you into doing seriously crazy things, and spits you back out on the other side a completely different person. And what’s even more weird is that we are totally ok with it. More than ok! That version of you after little kids is a far better one than the version that would have existed without them. Who knew spit-up and baby talk was the best self-help advice you could find?
I guess as I come out the other side of young motherhood, recovering from all those years of sleep-deprivation and diaper changes, snotty noses, and time-outs, I’m realizing what an incredible ride that was. I’m realizing that I’m not the same person I was before little kids, that I will never be that person again no matter how hard I try. And maybe that’s ok. I’m realizing that while those little kid years are becoming a thing of my past, I can take what I’ve learned and build on the person I was shaped into. I’m at the beginning of a new season: sad to watch slip away, but full of new possibilities, exciting propositions, and big changes. Playdates have been exchanged for baseball games, orchestra concerts, books, actually finishing projects, and solo grocery shopping trips. No diapers, no potty training, just enough sleep. Maybe, just maybe, I can figure out these “middle school” years of motherhood, discover who I’m supposed to be, find the self-discipline to not eat the entire pan of brownies when no one is around, and learn how the heck to age gracefully. And maybe middle school doesn’t have to be all that bad.
It’s been a little while since I’ve written. In fact, the last time I wrote a post was May 17th, which correlates rather nicely with the time baseball season really started to pick up speed. Coincidence? Perhaps not. If you were to ask me what I’ve been up to on any given day at any given time, my answer would likely be, “Oh, you know. Just trying to get stains out of baseball pants.” It’s really a shame that there isn’t a high paying occupation that is centered around the ability to get all manner of stains out of material, because I think I just might be a perfect candidate for the position. I suppose I might have some tight competition with all the other baseball moms out there, but my resume could boast of grass stains, blood stains, Gatorade stains, chocolate ice cream stains, mud stains (of all different types and colors), little black turf ball stains, watermelon stains, and a long list of stains from uncertain origin. Perhaps the real question is: WHO in their right mind thought to themselves, “Hey, I know! Let’s put a bunch of little kids in white pants and tell them to slide around in the grass and dirt?” The person with that brilliant idea was not a mom, of that I’m certain.
Equally as likely as finding me attempting to scrub brown splotched pants back to gleaming white in the laundry room (only to turn around and do the same thing over again in 24 hours), is finding four freckly boys playing baseball in our front yard. Or on the field. Or in our living room. Or pretty much anywhere they can find enough space (or not, as our living room definitely doesn’t fit that criteria). Baseball is a big deal around here, and when our youngest found out that he would get to actually play on a real team this summer like his older brothers, he was delirious with joy. Luckily for my sanity, our youngest two would get to play on the same team, giving us only three teams to juggle.
Shortly after the season had started, I dropped our 5- and 8-year-old off at their practice and settled in next to the other parents to watch on the grass. As we all chatted, an older lady walking her dog stopped to watch the budding athletes throw, catch and hit balls around the park. She chatted animatedly about the cute kids and how she played baseball as a young girl. As practice came to a close, the sweet lady approached me and asked, “Is that your little boy in the red and black shirt?” I confirmed that it was our youngest, and she then went on, “can I get his autograph? He’s just so into the game! I want to be the first to get his signature before he hits the big leagues!” I laughed and agreed, completely taken aback by this woman’s request. I rummaged through our disastrous car and found a spare baseball and a permanent marker then handed them to my son, who excitedly struggled to form the letters he can hardly create on paper, let alone a curved surface. She smiled and handed him a crisp $10 bill she insisted he take. As her car disappeared around the corner, she leaned out the window and yelled, “Remember me when you’re famous!” leaving a dumbstruck mom and a little boy who couldn’t have been more thrilled if he’d been handed the keys to a new Lamborghini. She’d asked him for his autograph!
As a proud, biased, (possibly slightly) delusional mom, I totally see his future in the major league, waving to his devoted crowds, making millions and doing commercials for laundry soap. But if I’m totally honest with myself, what that lady saw was more likely a little boy who just intensely loves baseball, was working hard, and had a little bit of skill for a very small 5-year-old guy. She probably thought asking him for his autograph would put a smile on his face, make him feel special, and give him a boost of encouragement. Mission accomplished. I never found out that lady’s name, where she lived, how old she was, or even remember what she looked like. But I will never forget the shock on my son’s face and how he lit up with happiness at her request.
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” -Maya Angelou
What if, as adults, we all saw these young, budding athletes, entrepreneurs, negotiators, builders, gardeners, jokesters, dancers, and dreamers as destined for greatness? What if all they need is someone to believe in them, to encourage them, to smile at them, to give them a chance? The world has enough doubters, disagreers, haters, and just down-right grumps. Enough people find ways to tear kids (and everyone else) down. I wonder what would happen if every child, just once in her life, could be asked for her autograph by an adoring fan. What kind of a difference could that simple thing make in her little world—and maybe even in ours?
“The belief that [a child] can’t succeed will hold him back more than any obstacle, disability, or lack of talent.” -Amy Morin
Instead of seeing kids (you know, that pesky one at the park who keeps climbing up the slide when your precious little one is trying to go down?) as delinquents with no hope, what if we saw them as what they are—just kids trying to figure out life with all its complications with what they’ve been given? What if we tried to give them a little bit of grace, love and compassion? In a world full of hate, polarized sides and unkindness, could we at least do that for them? Maybe all that untapped potential is just waiting to be unleashed by a kind gesture. It’s likely they won’t become the next Babe Ruth or Ty Cobb. But who knows? They might become better, kinder people because of something as small as one person believing in them. Seems like it’s worth a shot.
For all the time I’ve spent and blisters I’ve popped scrubbing stains out of white (honestly, why not ever black??) baseball pants, I would do it a thousand times more for the experience of my five-year-old signing an old, used baseball to an adoring fan. No matter what happens in his future, I’m sure that small kindness will shape him into something better.
Let’s try to create a world where every kid is asked for his autograph at least once in his life. That’s the kind of world I’d like to live in.
If someone were to make a pie chart of what has been the source of all of the times my husband and I have argued, a rather large slice would be labeled “navigation.” Before GPS and Google Maps, our trips more often than not went something like this:
Husband (in driver’s seat): Where am I supposed to turn?
Me (passenger): Uhhhh…
Husband: Get the map out! Quick!
Me: Which map?
Husband: The one in the glove box! Hurry!
Me: (pulling map out and fumbling to get it open) Where are we?
Husband: I don’t know, look at that street sign. The turn is coming up, better figure it out quick!
Me: Did that say Ash or Cash? I couldn’t read it with that truck in the way.
Husand: Ash! It said Ash!
Me: What side of town are we on?
Husband: Ahhhhh! Seriously?
Me: Found it! Ok, turn right here.
Husband: (turning right)
Me: No turn left!
Husband: You said turn right!
Me: I meant turn LEFT right here.
Husband: (making u-turn) Then why didn’t you say that???
By the time we would reach our destination, my husband would have smoke coming out of his ears while I would be missing patches of hair from pulling it out. Then along came the glorious invention of the Global Positioning System. I can’t decide if I owe that bodiless woman in Google Maps giving us directions a huge thank you card attached to a lifetime supply of chocolate, or if I should be insanely jealous. My husband has made it abundantly clear on countless occasions that he prefers to hear her voice directing us around town over mine. Regardless, I’m thankful we now arrive at our destination without wanting to tear each other apart limb-for-limb.
I grew up in a small town with only one stop light. The need for GPS or maps was pretty much null due to the fact that we only ever drove six places, all basically within 4 blocks of each other. Sure, I could have walked, but I was oh, so cool driving around in my beat-up, red Geo Tracker with no heat or air conditioning.
Before leaving for college the summer after my high school senior year, some friends and I from that little town decided to put together a time capsule to be opened every 10 years after graduation. We gathered up newspaper articles, old high school trinkets, awards, and we filled out a bunch of papers we’d printed on what we planned to accomplish and where we saw ourselves in the years ahead, along with predictions we had for each other. We might have even sung some Disney Karaoke that night and ate a ridiculous amount of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Skittles (because when you have an 18-year-old metabolism, why the heck not?) until an unspeakable morning hour my nearly middle-aged body shudders to think of. All six of us girls had some pretty ambitious goals. At 18, life was calling to us, and we were ready to answer. We were going to conquer the world! Those papers hidden away in a box at the back of my closet are proof of our confidence and optimism… and possibly naivety about what the world was going to dish up.
Somehow back then I pictured life following a nice, tidy set of maps, possibly even with Google Lady giving me easy, straightforward directions to follow in her monotonous voice: “At the next intersection, take College Street. Take a left to continue on Family Avenue. Exit here and continue on Career Parkway for 45 miles.” No re-routing, no U-turns.
Since our final hurrah as high school buddies we’ve all taken different roads. And despite our best predictions, I’m positive not a single one of our drives has been perfectly in line with how we imagined when we tucked the papers away in our time capsule. But I think we would all agree, with its unexpected turns, flat tires and speed bumps, the road has been good.
Maybe life is less like a highway and more like a series of one-way streets, wrong turns, u-turns, side roads, traffic jams, pot holes, missed exits, and detours. Maybe life was never meant to follow a GPS. Maybe concrete plans were meant to be broken. Maybe we were meant to scream from time to time, “Crap! I didn’t want to exit here!” so that we can experience that scenic byway we had no idea was on the other side of the hill. And maybe we are even occasionally supposed to find ourselves unpleasantly in a dark alleyway on the wrong side of town so we can someday help navigate someone else to the wide open streets again.
“I don’t want to drive up to the pearly gates in a shiny sports car, wearing beautifully, tailored clothes, my hair expertly coiffed, and with long, perfectly manicured fingernails.
I want to drive up in a station wagon that has mud on the wheels from taking kids to scout camp.
I want to be there with a smudge of peanut butter on my shirt from making sandwiches for a sick neighbors children.
I want to be there with a little dirt under my fingernails from helping to weed someone’s garden.
I want to be there with children’s sticky kisses on my cheeks and the tears of a friend on my shoulder.
I want the Lord to know I was really here and that I really lived.”
― Marjorie Pay Hinckley
While my husband might think it’s sound advice to beg every starry-eyed newly-married couple to “…just always use the GPS!” (who knows? Maybe such words of wisdom will, in fact, save a marriage or two), I believe life in general is meant for experiencing the unexpected, getting a little lost, going down a one-way street, and parking for a second on the top of the mountain to watch the sunset. So next time you find yourself metaphorically cussing at the guy in front of you going 35 in a 65 mph zone or miraculously finding a rest stop right as your recently potty-trained 2-year old starts to wail that he needs to go, just remember, good or bad, life is meant for moments just like this.
Humans share approximately 80 percent of their DNA with cows. 61 percent can also be found in fruit flies, and 92 percent in mice. Possibly even more crazy than that, you and I, along with every other human on planet earth, share 99.9 percent of our DNA. That .1 percent that’s left accounts for all of your uniqueness. .1 percent! Occasionally when I’m feeling particularly pessimistic, I see posts or signs or memes telling people how special they are, and I cringe. “Yeah, I’m special, just like everyone else!”
2020 was a strange year for all of us. When we rang in 2021, I’m sure most of us cheered, “good riddance!” Like a guest that had over-stayed his welcome, ate all of the Cinnamon Life cereal and left stinky socks on the stairs, it was high time he skidaddled. But after such an eventful year, for us it seemed ’21 just couldn’t bear the thought of being outdone. In January, one of our boys came to my husband and me complaining of his tail bone hurting. Thinking it was from falling while ice skating, we patted him on the back and sent him on his way. When he complained of pain in his thighs after basketball practice a few days later, we chalked it up as a pulled muscle and gave him an ice pack. “He’s a really active kid!” we reasoned, just as any good parent denying the obvious would do. Finally, when he woke up one day looking like a geriatric patient barely managing to shuffle his way across the kitchen, we decided to take him to the doctor and find out what the heck was going on.
I’ve always hated February. All the chocolate and roses in the world couldn’t redeem it of it’s horrible qualities. Its only saving grace is that it’s a manageable 28 days long (29 in a particularly bad year). This year, however, I’m pretty sure February lasted 3,528 days. We took our son to the doctor at the beginning of what was soon to be one of the longest months of my life thinking, slipped disk? Broken tail bone? Nothing a few stretches and time can’t fix! After numerous doctor appointments, xrays, labs, an MRI, a few trips to Children’s Hospital, CT scan, a bone biopsy, and several misdiagnosis, we found out our son has a rare autoimmune disease called Chronic Recurrent Multifocal Osteomyelitis (say that 5 times fast! Or just call it CRMO) that attacks his bones. Despite sharing 99.9 percent of his DNA with every other kid on the planet, our son is officially one-in-a-million. One in six million if you consider he’s a boy.
Because CRMO presents in similar ways to a few different cancers, some particularly difficult and sleepless weeks were spent speculating, worrying, and waiting for test results. I had spent many nights praying and pleading, reminding myself over and over that prayers are often answered differently than we are wanting, but always how we need. One night our son was sick with what I hoped was a stomach bug and not another symptom of something more serious. Overwhelmed with lack of sleep and worry, I prayed yet another prayer asking that I would get sick (no one else!) so we could just attribute it to a bug and move on. Sometimes the answers to our prayers come later, sometimes in ways different than we had anticipated. This time, however, my answer was swift and exact. That stomach bug hit me like a freight train and lasted days. And, just as I had asked, no one else got it (which, as anyone with more than a couple kids can attest, is, without question, a miracle!). Each time I rushed to the bathroom that week, I was beyond grateful for a violent bout of stomach flu, three children that managed to miraculously avoid it, and a prompt, clear-cut answer to a prayer just when I needed to know He was listening. I never thought I would pray for a stomach bug, then cry tears of gratitude while kneeling over the toilet seat puking my guts out. Despite the billions of other prayers He had heard that day, He answered mine. Maybe we are all special after all.
February might forever be my least favorite month, and having a child with an autoimmune disease is not what I would have ever asked for. But this winter brought so many blessings. Modern medicine, amazing doctors, a kid that won’t even let a life-changing diagnosis dampen his mischievous and easy-going spirit, friends and family that texted and listened and loved us, a difficult decision months earlier to home school making it easier to get to all the appointments, and answers to so many prayers. Even if we do share 80 percent of our DNA with cows, even if we are all 99.9 percent alike, there’s that .1 percent that makes us something unique, something important, and something different than every other person. And that .1 percent is what makes us all one-in-a-million in the eyes of the One who listens and answers our prayers, no matter how or when that might be.
And for anyone wondering, our son was able to get on a treatment plan and is no longer shuffling around the house. He’s actually chasing and diving (diving!) for baseballs again. Improvement has been slow, but truly miraculous. We’re optimistic and looking forward to lots of adventures this summer!
When I was a kid, we had a cat named Lally. Lally was your typical cat, really taking no mind to anyone else and caring only about herself and her well-being. She shed everywhere, woke us up at ungodly hours to be let outside, and generally went about her day with an attitude of the world revolving around her. Despite her rather prickly personality, we loved her. Late one summer evening my parents left to take our dog for a walk, and oddly, our cat decided to follow. About a half-mile in, another dog chased Lally up a tree. Hoping she would eventually make her way back across town, my parents finished their walk and came home. Hours past, and Lally still hadn’t returned. After several minutes of incessant pleading from my sister and me, my dad decided to take our dog back out in the dwindling daylight hours and find our cat. Sure enough, he found her clinging to a branch high up in the same tree located between the sidewalk and the road just in front of a cute, little house. I can just imagine my dad first calling softly to our stubborn cat, then pleading, then demanding for her to come down, all to no avail. Finally, leaving our dog at the base of the tree, he began to climb. As he reached the top branches, a car pulled up right in front of the tree and parked. A middle-aged woman got out and immediately spotted our obedient dog waiting patiently. She wagged her tail to say hello, then returned to her post under the tree. “Well, hello, you cute dog! Why are you here?” My dad clinged to his little branch, rather uncomfortable with the situation he found himself in. As the lady chatted with our dog, questioning who she belonged to, how she got there, and what they should do with her, my dad’s mind raced. Should he say something? Should he stay quiet and hope that the lady would eventually go away? He took his chances with the latter option, hoping to save some of his dignity and not startle this unexpecting woman. By now it was dark, and his perch was quite hidden in the branches. The petting and chatting continued, and soon the lady followed our dog’s gaze up the trunk of the tree. “Oh! There’s a cat! You BAD dog! What have you done?! Poor kitty, did you get chased up this tree? Bad dog. BAD dog!” If my dad was concerned before, now he was mortified. Only a few branches separated him from the cat, and he knew it was likely only a few moments before he would be spotted. On to plan B. Clearing his throat, he said, “Um, excuse me, Ma’am?” She started to scream.
After a few minutes of panic and threats, my dad was finally able to explain the situation to the lady, climb out of the tree, and make his way home. I don’t remember if he was able to recover the cat, but regardless she escaped the tree eventually, no worse for the wear, completely oblivious and totally ungrateful for the awkward and humiliating predicament she had put my father in.
If I had to choose one person that I thought quietly went about making the world a better place, it would be my dad. Chances are, if you know my dad well, you just really like him. I grew up in a small town, and I’m pretty sure my dad had stopped and chatted with every person that lived there at some point. He likes to say “Howdy!” when he passes people, give big smiles that reach his eyes making you always feel like he genuinely means it, and is always willing to help anyone. Growing up, he was a dad to the kids who didn’t have a dad in their lives, stepping in to go to scout camps and on hikes, hiring them to do little jobs so that they could learn to work. He spent his career as a high school special education teacher, which, in my opinion, speaks volumes about the type of person he is. Every time we visit, he creates a treasure hunt for my boys accompanied by an outlandish story often involving robbers or pirates, always leading to a treasure chest full of candy. He will drop everything and drive two hours to help me fix a chicken coop (and by help, I really mean do everything), play with my kids while I go to an appointment, or bring up something he’s built for us. He quietly serves everyone, yet expects no praise.
We often talk about how moms are the unsung heroes of today, but I often think that fathers deserve this lofty title as well. It’s so easy for us to recognize the behind-the-scenes work mothers do for their children, but the work a father does is no less exhausting, important, and hidden from the view of the world. We should be ever thankful for the men who come home after a long, sometimes frustrating day at work and tussle with the kids. That take their children on adventures, lend a hand with dishes after a meal, and tuck the kids in at night. The men who stress about making sure the bills get paid and the family is safe, that their kids are learning to be good people. It makes me sad when I hear others make fun of the role dads play, making light of their contribution to the family and treating them like they are incapable of doing the day-to-day tasks of raising children. Today, more than ever, we need men who take their responsibility as fathers seriously. Who fiercely love their family, who teach the hard lessons, who listen, who sacrifice and work and play. We need men who transcend the false mold of fathers that society has given them. Dads, we need you so much, and we respect and appreciate all that you do. Thank you for taking on the thankless job of father.
A good father is one of the most unsung, unpraised, unnoticed, and yet one of the most valuable assets in our society. -Billy Graham
I’m thankful for my husband, who continuously strives to be an awesome dad, who puts our well-being above his own, and who makes life so much better for all of us. He makes us laugh, he takes us on crazy adventures, and he spends time making each of us feel loved. He goes out of his way to help and serve others. And I will forever be thankful for my own dad: Treasure hunt creator, chicken coop fixer, listener, wood worker, teacher, kindness and service exemplar, and cat rescuer. Amazing men like this are the very type of unsung hero the world desperately needs.
Fried grasshoppers for lunch? Hey, if it means I don’t have to cook…
In 20 years when my children are asked what they remember about the coronavirus pandemic, I imagine their response going something like this: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity. It was the season when our mother went completely crazy. And… we ate a lot of icecream.”
Seriously. We’ve ate a TON of icecream. And does anyone else feel like Charles Dickens was perfectly describing Covid America as he opened A Tale of Two Cities!? It’s like we’re riding on a giant pendulum. Best, worst. Wisdom, foolishness. Belief, incredulity. Can we not make up our minds??
I’m hoping my kids will remember this experience as one great adventure, but I have to wonder if they will look back and think, “It was fun, but, man, our mom totally lost it for a few months there.” I feel like I’m usually a relatively steady person, but life in quarintine has made me feel like a walking contradiction, much like this crazy world around us. Here are a few examples:
Me: I’m going to take all this extra time and get a good exercise routine going!
Also me: Oooh, the boys’ hidden stash of Halloween candy…whoa, is that a Twix??
Me: Yay! Homeschool is so much fun! Hey kids, Let’s make an edible model of the layers if the earth!
Also me: What do you mean its only Tuesday?? Snow day everyone. No school. …Yes, an 85 degree snow day. Outside, Now!
Me: You know, this has actually been such a blessing to our family. We’ve been able to really spend quality time together. We’ve grown so much closer!
Also me: Please don’t touch your brother. Don’t look at your brother. Just don’t even breathe in the same room as your brother. You know what? I’m going to water the flowers. I don’t care what you do, just please don’t kill each other.
Me: I just got enough groceries to last us the entire month. No more grocery store runs until JUNE!
Also me: (2 days later) I have absolutely nothing to make for dinner.
Me: I have so many books to read, I don’t need people!
Also me: (Laying awake in bed at midnight staring at the celing) Do you realize we haven’t seen another human being in 22 days, 14 hours, and 36 minutes…
Me: All this extra time, I’m going to get so much done!
Also me: Huh, I haven’t folded clothes since March 16th.
Me: Hey, face masks are kinda cute! They’re like an accessory, and–bonus!–they hide my pimple.
Also me: Face masks are TERRIBLE!! How do you even breathe in this thing??
Me: No more rushed mornings, we are going to eat good breakfasts. Waffles, crepes, eggs, toast…no excuses!
Also me: Child: Hey Mom, what’s for breakfast? Me: Cereal.
Me: With nothing to rush off to, we are going to have good dinners. No excuses!
Also me: Child: Hey Mom, what’s for dinner? Me: Dinner? We have to eat again??
Me: We are going to save so much money with all the stores closed!
Also me: *grunting as I pull 10 amazon boxes off the porch.
Me: Ahh, no appointments, no meetings. This is so nice!
Also me: …And today we have a zoom meeting at 11 with your teacher, zoom class at 2, zoom doctor at 3, zoom with Grandma at 5, piano zoom at 6, zoom youth group at 7…
Me: Will this quarentine ever end!?
Also me: Oh no, they’re opening things up again. Back to civilization?? Nooo, no, no. I’m not ready yet!
Covid life has been a jumble of emotions. I’m just about to head out the door to take my son to an orthodontist appointment–an actual drive there, walk in the door appointment!–and I’m bubbling over with feelings. Honestly, appointments like this used to fill me with dread. But, is this excitement I’m feeling?? Or, maybe its trepidation. Unease? Angst? Fright? Foreboding? Thrill? Well, reguardless, I’m off to enter civilization. With other human beings. In a face mask. And, I actually shaved my arm pits. Best of times, worst of times. But at least I can count on a big bowl of ice cream tonight.
And… maybe even some grasshoppers.
I have washed approximately 980 plates since the coronavirus upended our lives. No joke. I just did the math. If you round that, it’s practically 1,000. Yeah, I know all about rounding because as my 4th grader’s stand-in teacher, I’ve got it all figured out. Like, “Ahh! for the 245th time, 32 is closer to 30!” figured out. I’m a 4th grade rounding expert. And if you include silverware, bowls, pots, pans and cups, let’s just say we’re stacking up into the trillions.
And another thing. For some crazy reason these five other people sharing my house think that they need to eat food every 4 to 6 hours. As the house chef, let me tell you. That, my friends, is a lot of well-rounded meals that don’t just dream up themselves. I’ve made one grocery store run in the past four weeks and thought of at least 13 new uses for refried beans. It’s not like we really ever ate out to begin with, but every single meal at home? No school hot lunch or catered meals at work? The meal planning part of my brain is starting to turn to mush.
Being quarantined certainly has created some new challenges and ways of life. Like getting creative with what to do when you run out of floss (apparently toilet paper wasn’t the only item in high demand), figuring out how to zoom a piano lesson (who even knew what zoom was before all this anyway??), and humbly accepting that your 6th grader can navigate the computer about 2 million times better than you.
I know the past month has been devastating for many. My heart and prayers go out to those people. No matter how and to what degree you’ve been affected, I think we can all agree that when life goes back to normal, normal might not be the same again. And while there’s so many aspects of that to regret, I can’t help but hope that we will come out of this with a new perspective and a stronger sense of what really matters most. For me, this past month hasn’t just been making endless meals or doing stacks of dishes or using every trick known to humankind to get my kids to understand math that I can hardly remember myself. It hasn’t just been about suppressing an overwhelming desire to take a bat to the computer screen because getting that stupid thing to cooperate with our “online learning” is currently the bane my existence. For us it’s also been about game nights and jumping on the trampoline, about snowball fights in the middle of the day with Dad, about eating breakfast together and not being in a hurry to get out the door. It’s been about building faith and strengthening family bonds.
In many ways I am looking forward to life going back to before. But when life returns to how it was, I hope our new normal will be a little less rushed.
I hope it includes a few more books read curled up on the couch.
Lunch breaks filled with building snowmen with our kids.
Connecting. Even when it’s hard. Especially when hard.
Living in the moment.
Little hands that help to chop up the carrots for dinner.
Bedtime stories late into the night.
Game nights and popcorn and laughter.
Long days outside.
Goodies left on a neighbor’s porch.
More awe and gratitude for those that work tirelessly for our safety, our health, and our children’s education.
Prayers that are a little more sincere.
Compassion that is felt a little deeper.
And happiness for what we have, who we have, and what we have to give.
A little more frugality.
A little more home.
A little more mindfulness.
A little more simplicity.
A little more kindness.
This month has been surreal. Surreal because of all that has changed so quickly, all that we’ve given up, all the chaos going on around us. But also wonderful in so, so many ways. Being forced to slow down, to be with family, to put life on hold, and to take a look at what really matters has been a huge blessing to me. As strange as it’s been, I don’t want what we’ve gained from all this loss to go away. So when this is all over, my goal is to not let things just go back to how they were. Let’s try a little harder to be a little better. Let’s remember what we’ve learned, and let’s not let the rush of life get in the way of those things that truly matter most.
“It is often in the trial of adversity that we learn the most critical lessons that form our character and shape our destiny.” Dieter F. Uchtdorf
To be completely honest, I even hope my new normal includes a few more meals to dream up, a few less grocery store runs, more refried beans, and plenty of dishes piled in the sink.
In the last 11 years, I’ve spent endless hours playing with my kids at the playground. In every park we’ve explored, I’ve discovered that there are few crimes more hainous in parenting than that of allowing your children to go up the slide. Indeed, mothers and fathers everywhere can be heard chastising their children from the woodchips, “honey, slides are for going down, not up!”
What kind of a terrible parent would allow such reckless, abhorrent behavior? A delinquent child who participates in such activities will certainly land himself behind bars in years down the road. And the parent who turns a blind eye to this atrocity?! The nerve.
Well, I let my children climb up the slide. In fact, I encourage it. Of course, if other children are going down then that’s another story. But as long as they have the slide to themselves, I say climb away!
I also let them spin in the swings. I let them climb trees, go barefoot in the grass, get muddy, and play with sticks.
Let me tell you why…
Its good for them! Getting kids outside, allowing them to move unrestrained, and giving them opportunities to challenge their bodies in new ways is not only good, but vital to their development. Going up the slide improves motor control and strengthens muscles in the upper body. Using the slide in ways that are often “wrong,” like going down head first or feet first on the belly activates different parts of a child’s brain.
Many preschool curriculums have lessons teaching children about their five senses. But did you know there are more senses than the five we focus on? Two often overlooked and so very important are our proprioception (an awareness of the position and movement of the body) and vestibular sense (the sense of balance). All of our senses, combined with other factors, are significant to development, and when they aren’t used and developed, or are overused, studies have shown that problems can occur–emotionally, physically, mentally, and socially. Something that is increasing at an alarming rate in our schools.
In Angela Hanscom’s book, Balanced and Barefoot (which is one of my all-time favorites) she says:
There is a common thread that runs through the development of healthy motor, sensory, social-emotional, and cognitive skills. Any time there is a kink in that thread, typically a result of not getting enough time spent exercising these skills, your child is at risk for a range of problems, from having difficulty making friends to paying attention in school to controlling emotions to even losing the ability to imagine– not to mention being at risk for a range of physical injuries.
So what can we do? I’m no expert, and my kids are a far cry from perfect. But I’ve seen the positive effects that getting out in nature can have–on me and on my four boys. I’ve witnessed how unstructured play has benefited their development in so many areas, especially emotionally. Experiencing the outdoors with all their senses, and even exploring playground equipment in ways that might go against what is seen as socially acceptable has given them stability, balance and confidence. I’m a firm believer in developing the vestibular and proprioception senses, and when we encourage our kids in these ways, we are doing just that. (and, side note, vestibular is just a cool word to say, right??)
I’m sure you’ve seen the numbers. The average 8- to 18-year-old spends more than seven hours with a screen in front of them each day. Experts say children should spend at least three hours actively playing outdoors. For toddlers and preschoolers, the recommendation is five to eight hours outside actively playing. In a society where phones, tablets, computers, and TVs are our constant companions and children are found more often indoors and sedentary than ever before, I challenge you to give nature a try. Give them room to explore without the constant need to correct or redirect. Let them climb in a tree, jump across across a stream, scramble around some rocks, balance on a log, spin in the grass. Let them use all their senses to experience the world. And if you’re feeling extra rebellious, let them climb up the slide.
Long ago, while I was a mom to just one little boy, I had a friend. She had five kids, and had grown up with nine brothers and sisters. She made parenting seem like a cinch. One day while I was visiting with her, she said to me, “You know, you just aren’t really a mom until you have two kids.” I gaped at her wondering why on earth anyone would say such a thing to a new mom with only one child. My mind was reeling. Not really a mom?? I am running on 2-hour incraments of sleep every night and averaging 3 showers a week. I change at least 8 diapers a day, cook with a baby on my hip, and get mother goose rhymes stuck in my head on a regular basis. How could you say I’m not really a mom?? I tried not to take it personally. Coming from her, I knew she wasn’t trying to be rude or condescending, she was simply stating what she saw as fact.
Three kids later, I think I finally understand what she was trying to tell me. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say you aren’t really a mom when you have one child, but you are certainly an entirely different kind of parent than you would be if (or when) you have more.
When I had my first son, I was young and naive. My knowledge of infants was limited to a couple parenting books and the advice of wiser, more experienced mamas. Babysitting didn’t prepare me near enough for what I was experiencing, and I was trying so hard to do the right thing, thinking I had finally figured something out, only to find myself back at the drawing board. I worried about EVERYTHING. I thought I had to be perfect, my son had to fit the text-book description with each benchmark, and that if another mom had a differing opinion on parenting then I must be doing it wrong. I tried to please everyone. Sometimes I looked at other moms who had it all put together with complete awe, while on other occasions I saw parents and turned a judgemental eye thinking that I had it figured out so much better.
I think that the biggest difference between then and now is that I thought I had to be perfect and have perfect kids. Once I went from man-to-man defense to zone, I found that neither will ever happen, and that’s totally ok!
If I could sit down with that naive, young mom I was back then, I’d love to tell her a few things. Not that I have it all figured out now or that I’m better at this parenting thing than I was back then, but each new child and 10 years have given me a little more experience.
1. Don’t worry so much about what everyone else thinks. If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a mom, it’s that everyone has an opinion on parenting. Not only that, everyone has an opinion on how YOU are parenting. When it comes to being a parent, you will rarely (if ever) be able to please everyone. Back then, I remember feeling like I was drowning in everyone else’s opinions and feeling terrible and dejected when someone thought I’d made a wrong parenting decision. Not much has changed today, but now I’m trying harder to focus more on what I feel is right for my own family and following that inspiration. Maybe my 90-year-old self will have this figured out!
2. The best gift you could ever give is time. “Sometimes in life we become so focused on the finish line that we fail to find joy in the journey.” Dieter F. Uchtdorf
The journey of motherhood goes so fast, I wish I could go back and remind myself to give more time to those that occupy my heart and less to the distractions that seem to take up more than they should.
3. Don’t judge. You just never know. You never know what is going on in that person’s life. You never know when you will be in the same position.
4. Kids don’t know everything. The other day I asked my 4-year-old to clean up some spilled milk. “Just grab a washcloth and wipe it up!” He rummaged through the drawer and pulled out a giant towel. “A washcloth, T! Not a towel.” Turns out, he had no idea what a washcloth is…how, I have no idea. Sometimes I find myself expecting my kids to know things, like how to act in certain situations or how to do something that seems so simple, when they’ve never been taught. I forget that they aren’t little adults, and there are things that they simply need to know and practice before I can have expectations.
5. Your kid has his own personality. Let him be him. I have four boys with vastly different natures. Learning to appreciate each one and not expecting them to be something that aren’t has been monumental in the way I interact with my kids. It certainly isn’t easy, but I hope in the end they will be glad for who they are and not try to be something they’re not.
6. Average is a good place to be. I spent way too much time worrying that my kids would be top of the class. That they would potty train early, know their abc’s, tie their shoes, and be reading before any of their classmates. I wanted them to be the best. I’m so thankful that I quickly learned the beauty of letting go of all that pressure, on them and on me. Middle-of-the-road is a great (and I’d argue healthy) place to be!
7. Water the flowers, not the weeds. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve chanted this to myself as my toddler has thrown himself into a tantrum or my older kids have frantically done their forgotten homework minutes before the bus arrives. Finding and pointing out the good in others, especially our kids, I really believe could change the world.
8. Be the kind of mom that’s YOU. Don’t try to be something you aren’t. The day I realized I just wasn’t the kind of mom who threw giant birthday parties for her kids was both a disappointment and a relief. As much as I wanted to be that kind of mom, it just wasn’t me. I realized that I could do other things to make my kids feel loved. We all have our strengths, even in raising little human beings. Capitalize on that!
9. Appreciate the moment. Savor the good. Motherhood just isn’t all roses and sunshine. But so many roses and sunshine do come! Taking time to really savor those moments makes the harder times not seem so bad. And when the clouds cover the sun and the roses seem to wilt, those better memories can remind us that the roses will bloom and the sun will shine again.
10. Forgive yourself. “Motherhood is a choice you make everyday, to put someone else’s happiness and well-being ahead of your own, to teach the hard lessons, to do the right thing even when you’re not sure what the right thing is…and to forgive yourself, over and over again, for doing everything wrong.” Donna Ball
If I could go back in time, I would tell myself that so many exciting things are ahead. I’d tell myself that this will stretch me in ways I didn’t know possible, that I will be a different mom down the road than I am right then. And that’s ok.
I’d tell myself that motherhood is embarking on the grandest adventure anyone could imagine. The waters are deep and the waves can be mountainous, but the journey is one that you will never regret.
So, I can juggle. And not to brag or anything, but I’m pretty darn good. I’m talking four balls in the air, pins, rings, with a partner, bouncing… Yep. I’ve got some mad skills. I helped start a juggling club in elementary school called the J.I.V.E team (acronym for Juggling Is very Educational–pretty catchy, eh?) back in the day. We performed at countless nursing homes and elementary schools over my grade school years.
Fourth grade was the height of my juggling career. I remember pulling out the rings and making my way to the front of that nursing home crowd. In my mind’s eye I saw my future before me: on stage to thousands chanting my name, flames bursting from the end of my pins. All I needed was that Barnum and Bailey scout to discover me!
To be fair, all students who attended Ms. Finnigan’s and Ms. Steffy’s PE classes also became accomplished in the art of throwing and catching objects. Our teachers had a serious passion for juggling. One of my earliest memories of school was music blaring and brightly colored scarves littering the air of our little gym. Once scarves were mastered, beanbags began to fly. Before we hit second grade, almost all of my classmates could have been recruited to the circus.
Today, my audience consists of four little boys and their occasional friends who stop by. They smile and roll their eyes. If only my kids knew how totally awesome their mom once was, juggling to a roaring crowd of 80-year-old grandparents. Yep, those were the days.
The important thing is, Ms. Steffy and Ms. Finnigan left a legacy. Their passion for juggling influenced hundreds of children, and that totally random skill is now a part of a next generation’s lives.
Other teachers, mentors, and friends have left their passions imprinted on me as well. In 3rd grade, Mrs. Chamberlain gave an awkward, shy girl with a hideous bowl cut a chance to shine. She cared about making others feel important, especially those who needed a little extra love. Her legacy: Compassion. Mrs. Miller and Mrs. Schenk in 9th grade spent years encouraging and engaging many hesitant writers and readers. I’m sure Mr. Catt thought it was hilarious teaching me, a quiet, follow-the-rules, straight A soccer player, Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin on the guitar. He showed me I didn’t have to fit a mold. Regina, my boss through High School, is the hardest working person I know. Her way of giving her all and treating her workers with respect is a trait I’ve always admired. Mrs. Alexander helped me see potential in the kids I student-taught, even when it sometimes felt hard to see. My dad: patience and service. My mom: listening and kindness. My sister: humor, positivity and friendship.
When my grandkids sit around a table recalling memories of their old Grandma Chelsi, maybe they will smile when they remember my mad juggling skills. More than that, I hope they will remember me for the things I’ve learned from amazing people that have had an impact on my life. Kindness, patience, compassion, positivity, service, a listening ear, a friend, a hard worker, someone to cheer others on. I certainly have a long ways to go and have made more than my share of mistakes, and sometimes I feel as far from reaching that as juggling in Barnum and Bailey Circus. But that, more than anything else, is what I hope I can leave behind.
What kind of legacy will you leave?
A couple nights back I was talking to a mom at my son’s 4th grade basketball practice. In the course of our conversation she asked how old my other boys were. When I told her that I have a middle schooler, her response was, “Oh! Well then, you have this little kid stuff all figured out!” “Why yes,” I replied. “I am well versed in all things little kid and know all the answers.”
Haha! Just kidding. I most definitely didn’t say that! No, no, no. I laughed and thought instantly of how my preschooler had just thrown me for a total loop that morning with his stubborn determination to not go to gymnastics because it’s boring, thank you very much. And, naturally, with my wealth of knowledge and extensive experience in little boy, in addition to just finishing How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will talk by Adele Faber, I handled every little bit of it wrong. Coincidentally, the book even went through a scenario earily similar to the very one I was seeing play out in front of me. and what did I do? The very thing that she covered in the “Don’t Ever Do This” section.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in parenting, it’s that every time I smugly think to myself, “I have this parenting thing all figured out!” my children make it their sole purpose in life to prove me wrong.
This morning I’ve been thinking of other things we adults like to say that would probably just be better left unsaid. You never know when you could have to eat those words later. Here are a few:
My child will NEVER… Unless this sentament is followed by “…never have the anatomy of a caterpillar” its probably best to just completely remove this thought from your mind. As an independently thinking human being, you have NO idea, pre-toddler, if said future toddler will sprawl out in the grocery store and throw a tantrum over ice cream sprinkles. You just don’t. And until you’ve been there, it’s safe to say you might handle it entirely differently than you think you will. Rule of thumb, unless you’re raising a robot…just don’t go there.
What that kid needs is a good… talking to? Spanking? Take your pick, as long as it is in reference to what a parent is, in your opinion, doing wrong. Instead, it could be more helpful to try, what that parent needs is… a friend, some encouragement, the benefit ofthe doubt, an extra hand, a couple hours to take a shower and feel human again, a smile, a text, a meal, a playmate for her kid, to cut you in line at the grocery store, a hug, monetary help, a listening ear…
I’m going to enjoy every minute of being a mom! Being a mom is incredible. So is marriage, playing an instrument, running a race, or playing a sport (though not all on the same level of incredible, of course). I think we can all agree that these things have challenges, hurtles, and frustrations. That doesn’t make them any less important or you less skilled at it. And doesn’t overcoming all of the challenges and experiencing such a breadth of emotions make it all the more worth it? I wonder if parenting were completely and utterly wonderful every second, if we would find it so deeply rewarding and amazing as it is.
My kid is such a good sleeper. Jinx! I’m 93% sure my kids always take this sentence as permission to wake me up 5 times the next night. “Good sleeper, eh?” They smugly say to themselves. “I’ll show her!”
Another baby? You do know how that happens, don’t you? “Well, no! Please do enlighten us!” Said no one ever.
When you have kids you’ll understand. I was talking to a friend a while back who hasn’t been able to have children after several years of trying. She confided in me about how much it hurt when someone has made this comment. She would love to understand, but for whatever reason, the opportunity had not come yet. I hope we will all make an effort to not be one who causes pain for others because of our words.
Sometimes I think how much easier it would be if I could just program my kids like a robot to do and act exactly how I want. Or, if I could just read a parenting book and have it filed away into my brain so I knew precisely what to say in each and every scenatio. Maybe part of a healthy parenting diet is eating some of our words every day. I have certainly ate my fill! This parenting gig is complicated, and getting it all figured out can feel like trying to reach the top of an escalator that’s taking you down. But, if you ask my kids, that is wildly more exciting, fun, and satisfying than just letting the escalator take you in the direction it’s going! And maybe that’s how parenting is too.
The Clock had just chimed 11pm when my husband and I finished brushing our teeth and we heard the faint sound of music. It was a school night and our oldest, then a 4th grader and notorious for never wanting to sleep, was singing. Seriously?! Exhausted, I trudged my way across the hall and harshly whispered to him for the sixth time that night to just go to sleep. The trouble was, R wasn’t just singing to himself. All four of our boys shared a bedroom.
Yep, all four. It sounds crazy, I know. But, apart from the occasional 11pm solos, it worked! Sure, when one woke up at 5am, all 4 were up at 5am. When one pair of socks got left on the floor, suddenly we were swimming knee high in little boy clothes. When toothpaste got on the counter, toothpaste was covering every surface imaginable. When pillow fights ensued, it was full on war. When we sent them to their room to get pjs on, we might as well have announced it was time for WWF wrestling. Someone was always complaining about the bedtime story choice (especially a certain 4-year-old that is so vehemently opposed to Harry Potter you’d think he were a supporter of You-Know-Who). And the shoes! Do you know how many feet four boys have, and how many shoes that equates to?? They were always missing shoes, finding shoes in random places, and wearing the same shoe but in two different sizes.
Ok, maybe it was a little crazy. But they were contained. Their toys were contained. I liked having them all in one spot near us in case some crazed lunatic broke into our house. Bedtime could all be done in one fell swoop–stories, prayers, lights out, done. And I attribute the fact that they all could sleep through a zombie apocalypse to their shared living quarters. I would have happily continued on that way forever. But…
Over winter break we decided it was finally time. We had talked about moving the older two to the spare bedroom downstairs for years, and they were beyond ready for their own space. After several delightful hours of moving beds and furnature here and there (few things in life elicit such joy for me than rearranging a room, much to my husband’s constant frustration), our boys and all their belongings were separated. The delight lasted just long enough to organize the closet, and then the reality began to sink in. I didn’t expect it to be a sad occasion, but as we climbed into bed that night, I couldn’t help but feel a tinge of gloom creep through me. We had talked for years about moving bedrooms when they were older. Older! How did all that time pass, and how did our four little boys grow up to be not so little any more? While moving rooms wasn’t a terribly significant change in the grand scheme of things, for me it represented in a small way moving on to a new stage of life.
The art of life lies in a constant readjustment to our surroundings.Kakuzu Okakura, The Book of Tea
Whether our current changes are getting married, starting a family, sending a child off to their first day of kindergarten or college, going from full house to empty nest, retirement, and whether it is welcome or not, change can be brutal. Time is relentless about bringing a new stage of life, and that’s just something I may never be able to get used to.
I’ve also found, however, that each change has brought new and exciting experiences, unexpected adventures, and hidden blessings. As much as I’ve wished for my kids to stay little, the awesomeness of having boys that can go on adventures, carry on a intellegent and interesting conversation, and be so independent is definitely undeniable. While I miss having a toddler to chase after, I love who my kids are growing up to be and getting to be a part of that. And I wouldn’t change that for the world!
No matter what crossroads you find yourself, I hope you can appreciate where you’ve been, relish the memories you’ve made, and recognize the knowledge you’ve gained. I hope you can live in the moment, because too soon it will be in the past. And I hope you can look to the future with a brightness of hope, because “there are far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” C.S. Lewis
And tonight I’m going to be thankful that my boys have so many fun memories and plenty of lessons learned from sharing a room all together. I’ll be relieved that now if R decides to grace us with a rendition of Row, Row, Row Your Boat at midnight he will only be waking up one brother. And I’ll look forward to tomorrow, knowing it will bring new changes that, whether I like it or not, will add to this beautiful tapestry of life.
I have a confession. I’m not on the PTA. I still have my Christmas decorations up, I ate a piece of chocolate at 7:05 this morning, and my biggest accomplishment this past year has been organizing my linen closet and reading bedtime stories. Some days I don’t even get a shower.
And I absolutely hate the question, “so…what’s new with you?”
To be fair, it’s not so much the question as the lack of an answer I seem to have at this point in my life. There isn’t much glamor in explaining in excited detail how you discovered how to fold a fitted sheet. And when everyone else seems to be accomplishing so much and lighting the world on fire, that question is especially hard to swallow.
Sometimes I wish success was measured in how many scrapes you’ve doctored and kissed, the numer of times you’ve googled how to do a 3rd grade math problem, or the number of legos you’ve tripped over in your lifetime. Then I’d be feeling pretty darn accomplished.
This morning alone I’ve thought of at least 20 things I should do. I should try to exercise, I should offer to babysit for a friend. I should bring dinner to our neighbor, volunteer at the homeless shelter, clean the bathrooms, get my responsibilities done for church, invite a new family over for games, finish at least one of the books in that pile a mile high, go for a run, help out at the kids’ schools, work on the alphabet with my preschooler, find a face cream that will get rid of wrinkles, practice the piano, take my kids for a bike ride, get a job, go back to school, remodel our very 70s house, plan an exotic vacation, solve world hunger, and invent a cure for cancer. Not to mention get a shower. Then I’d have a good response to what I’ve been up to. And, as I come up with more and more shoulds, I feel more and more guilty for how little I feel I do.
I was recently visiting with a group of friends. One amazing lady, who has given so much and spent her entire life serving others, expressed how she felt like she was being pulled a million different ways and should be doing this and that. Meanwhile, her husband is undergoing serious cancer treatments and her focus for the last couple years has been getting him healthy and helping him every day. One of our friends interupted. “Stop shoulding on yourself! Right now your only should is exactly what you’re doing.”
Stop shoulding on yourself. I can’t tell you how many days I’ve needed to hear that! I think we often feel stretched across miles and miles of “shoulds” and forget that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with focusing on the things that need our attention most of all. How often do we should and should our days away, making ourselves feel guilty, exhausted, and unsuccessful? How often does the weight of the world seem to only rest on us, and we feel no one else can carry that load?
The truth that maybe we all need to learn is that there will always be shoulds that we shouldn’t get to.
The truth is that it’s ok to say no.
It’s ok to ask for help.
It’s ok to do what you can and let some things slide.
It’s ok to take care of yourself a little. It’s hard to draw from an empty bucket.
The truth is, maybe we all need to stop shoulding ouselves and just do the best we can, then when we feel we can do more, try to lighten someone else’s load who feels they are drowning in the shoulds of their day.
We aren’t meant to do this alone, and we aren’t meant to kill ourselves trying to do it all. When you’re asked “so…what’s new with you?” and you wish you could answer something grand and awe-inspiring but only come up with a closet of nicely folded sheets and a pile of picture books, that’s totally ok. You aren’t failing, and what you’re doing is important.
Maybe success should be measured in how many scrapes you’ve doctored and kissed, the numer of times you’ve googled how to do a 3rd grade math problem, or the number of legos you’ve tripped over in your lifetime. Maybe it should be measured in how you’ve cared of a sick family member, the love you’ve given over a lifetime, or the words of encouragement you gave to someone younger and less experienced than you. Because, though it sounds so mundane and lackluster, those are the shoulds in life that really shouldn’t wait.
Years ago when I was in high school, our church youth group decided to go caroling. We made up several plates of Christmas goodies, and our leaders put together a list of houses we could sing to. The night came, and we loaded up into cars. Excited and looking forward to spreading a little Christmas cheer, we jumped out of the vehicles and knocked on the first door. As we heard locks sliding and the door creaked open, we began our first song. Not three words in, the door slammed in our smiling, eager faces. Shocked and confused, we placed our first plate of goodies on the porch and returned to the cars. The next house proved to be even less friendly. As we knocked and began caroling, we found our voices drowned out by rock music being blasted through the front window. House after house we were rejected one way or another. A lady rushed past us with a hurried apology as we sang and she jumped in her car and drove away. Another slammed door, a porch light being turned off and curtains pulled closed immediately after we knocked. By the time we reached the last house, all of the girls were in tears. We felt so rejected, so hated, and so incredibly discouraged. Who were those unkind people, and how could they be so cruel? With the encouragement of our leaders we skeptically approached the final house. As the door opened, we slowly started to sing. Our carol grew louder and more confident as the couple at the door stood smiling, and joy filled our battered souls. With little pause between songs, our voices rang out, “Hark the harold Angel’s sing…” and the couple stepped out on the porch and beckoned us to follow them around their house. We had just finished our second song and had just started “Silent Night” when we stepped into their barn next to their horse pasture. Tears streamed down our faces as we all crowded around the scene a young couple dressed in wool clothes holding a baby swaddled in a small blanket, shepherds kneeling next to the manger. I’m not sure how those visitors had felt those many years ago that had come to see the baby that would be the savior of the world, but after such a traumatic night, the warmth and love in that moment standing in that barn felt so real.
When our song was finished, the man who had answered the door explained to us how Jesus was often rejected. How he had a message so wonderful and amazing, yet people often didn’t recognize how important it was or didn’t think they had time. Just like then, today the same message of hope and love is available to all of us. Christ is knocking, but it is up to us to let him in.
This week as I’ve reflected on that experience as a teenager, I’ve thought about how often I’ve been too busy or distracted to allow Christ into my life. When I’ve rushed out the door without a prayer, when scriptures lay unopened for days, when unkind thoughts of others fill my mind. I think about times when my actions were unchristlike and my goals didn’t reflect the life He would want me to lead. But then my thoughts have turned to those times when I’ve felt my Savior’s love envelope me, when I’ve made Him a priority and turned to Him for help. When I’ve felt His forgiveness and I’ve allowed him in. I want my life to be filled with more of those moments.
20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.Revelation 3:20
As we remember His miraculous birth over the next few days, I hope His example, His love, and the hope He can bring will carry us through our happy and difficult days. I hope we will welcome Him in.
At the end of our night of caroling, we noticed several of the people we had attempted to Carol to and been rejected by also standing in the barn. Many asked us to forgive them and explained that closing that door and seeing our sad faces was so incredibly hard. It turns out our leaders had planned the entire thing and arranged for those people to treat us unkindly. I’m thankful for those people that participated in that experience 15 years ago and helped us as teenagers to recognize our Savior’s love. Most especially, I’m thankful for Him, who so patiently waits for me, as flawed and human as I am, to simply let Him in.
From our family to yours, we hope you have a wonderful Christmas and a year filled with happiness!!
I have a love/hate relationship with the holiday season. Love because, well, its Christmas! Everything is magical and wonderful and everyone has holiday cheer twinkling in their eyes. The Scrooge in me hates it because all the Christmas trimmings seem to always come with those disgusting, horrible, joy-sucking cold and flu germs.
Over Thanksgiving break we apparently unpacked plenty of those nasty critters along with our ornaments and mistletoe because all four of my boys spent more than a week laying on the couch, wrapped up in a blanket, acting like they’ve been hit by a train. And–bonus!–they infected just about everyone around the Thanksgiving table, including my cute 1-year-old niece. Nothing like sharing germs to express your gratitude for your family.
If there’s one good thing about having sick kids around the holidays its that you have ample opportunities to read all of those Christmas pictures books you’ve had waiting in a box the last 11 months. Reading Christmas stories to my kids all through December is definitely my favorite holiday tradition. And snotty noses or not, my kids love it too.
I thought I’d share with you our 10 favorites this year, and I’d love to hear what you’re reading this season! We always love finding new Christmas books to add to our collection. And hopefully you are enjoying your books cough and fever free. We’re hoping to soon!
I would love to hear what books your kiddos are enjoying snuggled up around the Christmas Tree this year!
I always knew it was only a matter of time. It runs in my family. My dad was in his late 20s. My grandma, story goes, was in her early 20s. I guess I should count my lucky stars that the years have been kind to me. But as I stood staring in the bathroom mirror, I realized that the clock was ticking, and my time was running short. Two white hairs. That brought the total up to 11. In the last five years I’ve pulled out 11 thick, white hairs! As I stared at the strands in my hand, I cursed my thin, strawberry blonde head and wondered if something had triggered this fate. Then the realization washed over me like an ice-cold shower.
THE SCIENCE FAIR.
In the past five years, I have helped my children with no less than 11 science fair projects. I quickly did the math in my head. 11 white hairs. 11 science fair projects. Coincidence? I think not. It added up too nicely, and the fact that I had just yesterday drug my battered and bruised body out of the science fair ring for the fifth year in a row seemed a little fishy.
I think that the science fair is somewhat like delivering a baby. The first fair you just don’t have a clue. You go in all gung-ho and excited, dreaming of that gleaming 1st place trophy that is most certainly going to be his. You google and google and google, asking your child which project they like (“No. No. No. Not that one. No. No. Nope. Maybe. No.”) until your fingers are sore and that perfect project is uncovered from your 157th open tab on your computer screen. After weeks of finding subjects to test, putting together the perfect questions, and carrying out the experiment, you wipe the sweat off your brow and beam at your child for accomplishing what you are sure is the hardest part of the project.
But it doesn’t take long for you to realize how very wrong you were.
Suddenly the science fair is a mere three days away, and you quickly realize that you forgot to get the science fair board. You rush to three different stores, only to discover that the last board in town is about a foot smaller on all sides than the ones your child will be competing with. That’s ok though, because he can spruce it up with amazing embelishments and creative paper. Who needs a big board, anyway? 56 boxes of scotch tape, 3 packages of cardstock, 97 glue sticks, 2 containers of glitter, one roll of string, 5 pages of chemistry stickers, 1 small science fair board, and a diminished bank account later, you are on your way home. You drag all 9 bags into the house and pull the child (the one who convinced you two months before that he desperately wanted to enter the science fair) kicking and screaming off the trampoline to finish his project.
As the next seven laborious hours crawl by, you find your patience wearing dangerously thin. By three hours in, you and all of your surroundings are covered in purple glue. Tape is in your hair, shreds of paper cover the carpet like confetti. Not to mention the glitter (need I say more?). Your child types away at a rousing two words per minute on the computer letting out sad groans and whimpers. By hour six, as he lays on the floor and your voice is hoarse from more nagging than you have ever done in all his six years of exhistance put together, you question if you are cut out to be a science fair parent. You wonder how you ever were talked into this, what your child would think if you curled up in a corner and cried, how you get glue out of carpet, and what kind of horrible person invented the science fair anyway. And, worst of all, why you EVER bought glitter. But then, just when your relationship with your child is on the brink of disintegrating, he tapes on that final piece of computer paper. You decide to overlook that he spelled “Conclusion” wrong, and throw yourself on the floor with a heavy sigh of relief. You promise yourself you will bribe your child with anything, ANYTHING it takes next year to NOT enter that extra curricular activity from you-know-where.
Finally the day comes. You peek through the crack in the door and see the judges buzzing around the gym like little bees. You spot your child standing next to his masterpiece, and sneak a quick wave. He gives you two thumbs up and flashes a nervous, “Look at me, Mom!” smile. As you approach the table, you hear him chatting amiably with his neighbor about photosynthesis and androgynous plants. He throws around the words “etiolated” and “herbaceous” (what the heck does that mean again? You’ll have to ask him later) and you realize he just might have learned something after all! After sneakily googling what requirements he will need to get into Harvard, you admire the other posters and wonder if the moms behind those projects just about lost their souls in the process as well. Then the principal announces the awards. Everyone crowds around, and you cross your fingers for good measure. Doggonit, with all the nagging your child endured,
you he desserves one of those trophies!
When you pull out of the school parking lot, your future scientist is positively beaming buckled in the back seat holding his second place trophy. You, misty-eyed and bursting with pride, are happily brainstorming ideas with him for what his project should be next year, having lost all memory of the last hellish 72 hours.
Of course after delivering a baby you are left with something inexsplicably more wonderful than a trophy. And for that, I totally understand why the pain becomes irrevelant after you hold that sweet little bundle in your arms and you would do it again in a heartbeat. But I don’t quite understand why there’s something about exiting the doors of the science fair that brings similar amnesic results. Beyond all reason, you begin plotting the next project. A strange phenomina that baffles me to no end.
I suppose looking back I should simply be grateful that I have hair left to turn white–that I didn’t yank it all out in the days leading up to the fair. I should be glad that my children want (at least initially) to do something challenging, that in the end they learn something new, and that their confidence gets a little boost as they accomplish something kinda cool and talk about it to others.
I can’t help but wonder if all the parents helping their children with a science fair project should get an award too. Like a sticker. Or a candy bar. Or a luxerious weekend getaway with massage and unlimited netflix included… Just some food for thought, Science Fair Organizers.
For better or worse, I very likely have a decade of science fairs left. My hair might be white as snow, but I have a feeling that won’t stop us. Science fair, here we come!
P.S. To all my fellow science fair project parents, you have my deepest empathy. I feel your pain.
Projects we’ve done in the past if you need some inspiration!
-Cracking Geodes: Can you tell what’s inside a Geode from how the outside looks?
-Rockets: What shape of parachute is better?
-Rockets: What shape of rocket nose makes the rocket go higher? The year of the rockets was hands down my favorite! I’m 99% sure my kids would agree.
-Do Left Handers have a better memory than Right Handers? This was my second favorite, mostly because I’m left-handed. And yes, according to our results, we do!
-Code Breakers: How scrambled can letters be before you can’t read easily any more?
-Boats: which keel keeps the boat from tipping best?
-Can you tell what something is just by the smell?
-Mindstorm Lego Robots: How to build a robot.
-Mindstorm Lego Robots: How to program a robot to do a maze.
-Moldy Bread: What area of the house is the dirtiest?
-Magnetic Magic: Making a pencil stand up and spin on it’s own using magnetism.
A few months ago while visiting my sister and her family, we had a conversation about how sometimes bad things that happen end up making really funny stories later on. My sister chimed in. “Like just the other day when I was…” She glanced over at my brother-in-law, who was giving her the death stare, and trailed off. “Nope.” He shook his head. “Needs more time. Not funny yet!” Turns out they had just bought a new bike carrier to go on the roof of their car. My sister had taken the kids on a bike ride across town, and when they arrived home, she’d forgotten that with the bike rack she needed an extra 3 feet to clear the garage door. The bikes and bike rack stripped off the top like a banana peel. Both the car and the rack were in bad shape, resulting in weeks of car repairs and a new mode of transporting bikes needing purchased.
I’m not sure that anything really good came of that sad situation, but it did eventually make for good story material once enough time had passed for the funny factor to finally sink in. Looking back, so many things in my life that once felt like a hard or horrible experience ended up being much more than I had expected at the time, whether it became comic relief, gratitude that it wasn’t any worse, or a blessing in disguise.
“It’s funny how, when things seem the darkest, moments of beauty present themselves in the most unexpected places.” Karen Marie Moning
My Grandma passed away a little over two years ago from cancer. Like most battling that monster, she had spent the last few exhausting years in and out of doctor appointments, chemo treatments, and hospital stays. The summer before she left, she and my grandpa made the decision to forego treatments and spend the little time they had traveling and focusing on family. While I was down visiting one weekend, I sat in the car alone with my grandma. “Chelsi,” she said, “I know I’m going to die. But I want you to know that I’m not scared. I’m not worried. I will be fine.” Earlier on after her diagnosis I remember her saying, when referring to her children who had grown distant from each other, “If this experience brings my family closer together, it will all have been worth it.” At her funeral a few short weeks after my visit, all seven of her children greeted each other with loving embraces, shared memories, and tears of both loss and gratitude. I’m sure Grandma was up in heaven smiling.
Watching my grandma fight a loosing battle was never easy, but I’m so thankful that I had the opportunity to see a side of her I hadn’t quite realized was there. The quiet courage, fierce determination, graceful resolve, and strong faith set in her face that day in the car has strengthened me many times since.
“To live greatly, we must develop the capacity to face trouble with courage, disappointment with cheerfulness, and triumph with humility.” Thomas S. Monson
It’s funny how often the most difficult times and bitterest trials end up teaching and shaping us to be stronger, more compassionate, more caring, more brave, more grateful, or more determined. While I’d never wish for some the difficult things I’ve experienced or have watched loved ones face, I am grateful for the silver linings that somehow always seem to find their way through the gloom.
This Thanksgiving I’m thankful for those undesirable situations that make for great stories later on. I’m thankful that time can make bad situations seem better, if not occasionally humorous. And I’m thankful that when the clouds come, there’s silver lining to make it just a little easier.
“No matter our circumstances, no matter our challenges or trials, there is something in each day to embrace and cherish. There is something in each day that can bring gratitude and joy if only we will see and appreciate it.” “Dieter F. Uchtdorf
I love personality tests. Not the “Which Downton Abbey Character Are You?” type. I’m talking the real deal. Myers Briggs, Winslow Personality Assessment, Keirsey Temperament Sorter… The ones that leave you feeling completely exposed, like someone just dug out your soul and splattered it across the computer screen.
When my mom sent me this test that she’d taken in a class, I dropped everything I was doing and sat down at the computer. Take a look into the depths of my innermost being? I just couldn’t resist.
Turns out I’m a mediator. Any other mediators out there? As I read the description I couldn’t help but wonder if Professor Trelawney and Luna Lovegood would run in the same crowd as me. Guess it could be worse…
Of course once you’ve found out who you are, you must convince everyone you come in contact with to give it a try too. I quickly recruited my husband. If you know my husband, you might understand how comical answering some of these questions would be. For example, one question says, “After a long and exhausting week, a fun party is just what you need.” “Fun party” is a complete oxymoron in his mind. And adding his name to a sentence with party?” That’s just ludicrous (at least when considered in the sense most would define a party). Even the assumption had my kids rolling in their seats with laughter.
We both lean toward the introvert side, but that’s pretty much where our personality similarities stop. Apparently I live in a fantasy world while my husband is a realist. He is analytical, I’m unsystematic. He’s blunt, I avoid any and all conflict. He’s focused and driven, I’m indecisive. If we aren’t a testament to the saying “opposites attract,” I’m not sure what is.
I think what I love so much about personality tests is seeing how different everyone is. Each letter represents an entirely different way of thinking, living, and experiencing life. How cool is that? Some people actually find it relaxing to go to a wild party after an exhausting week? Mind blown (I have to agree with my husband there). The fact that my husband is more direct and blunt is wonderful when a salesman comes to the door. If it weren’t for him, we’d have a lifetime supply of Girl Scout cookies and Hoover vacuums crammed in every closet.
Years ago I taught an adult class in church with another lady who happened to be very dynamic. She was funny, clever, and just incredibly likeable. I picture her Myers-Briggs test coming back as a charismatic, social butterfly. Me? Most definitely not. I loved working with her, but I couldn’t help but wonder if it was a disappointment to my class when it came my turn to teach. Her lessons were amazing and full of funny stories, insightful thoughts, and keen observations. My goal each Sunday, on the other hand, was to talk as little as possible and have everyone else’s comments do the teaching. The less I had to be in the limelight, the better. Then one day, as I prepared my lesson, I had this thought hit me like a ton of bricks. “You aren’t Alice (name changed). You aren’t meant to be her. You are meant to be YOU. And someone in that class needs you. Someone needs the quiet, reserved, awkward, and thoughtful you. Stop doubting, stop apologizing, and start being who you are meant to be!” Letting go of our insecurities is such a difficult thing. I still have a ways to go to being comfortable in my own skin, but what an incredible, freeing feeling to not be encumbered with the self-doubt and constant comparison.
“Don’t compare yourself with others. That is a battle you will never win.” Michelle Parsons
We all are meant to be different. Imagine if we all acted, dressed, thought, and performed the same as everyone else? What a disaster that would be. I’m thankful for the people in my life that balance me out and push me to be a little more. Not to mention to fill in the gaps that I just cannot fill. We are given the traits we have in order to make a difference in this world: a difference unlike any another person can give. And that, my friends, is a truly wonderful, magical, and beautiful thing.
If you take the personality test, I would love to hear what you get! Let me know in the comments. The questions only takes a few minutes and the results are really quite in depth. And you don’t even have to give out your email.
When my husband proposed we take our boys on a backpacking trip over Labor Day weekend, I was all in. Our kids are experienced hikers and campers, and we had done a couple little backpacking trips earlier that summer. Over this last year we discovered that we have reached a magical stage in our boys’ lives where we are no longer encumbered with diapers, baby carriers, nursing, or other baby needs (for the first time in 11 years!! Woohoo!), and we are loving it. A backpacking trip? Why not?? The plan was three miles in, three miles out, a couple days in between to play.
My husband grew up backpacking, canoeing, and exploring the Wind Rivers in Wyoming with his dad, so that’s where we planned to go. Maps stretched over our table like a tablecloth, we finally decided on Shoshone Lake near Lander. A couple weeks later we packed up our car, picked up grandpa, and we were off!
We arrived at (almost) the trail head around 1am, and after a rather hurried night sleep (and patching up a flat tire) we loaded back up in the car. My husband and father-in-law had fond memories of hiking near Shoshone Lake 25 years ago and had vague memories of driving up a bumpy road, parking the car when it narrowed into a trail, and hiking the remainder to a lookout over the lake. After being thrown around the rocks for ten minutes, we realized that 25 years had done a number on what they remembered as a rather disastrous but passable road. With ten miles left to go, we parked the car, slipped into our backpacks and, with smiling, cheery faces, started our ascent into the mountains. What’s seven more miles than we had planned?
Appearently a lot to someone who has only been on this planet for four short years. Even with the essential responsibility of carrying the Snickers bars in his super-awesome, camo fanny-pack, Ty was miserable. Mis-er-a-ble! By four steep miles in he had asked to be carried no less than 143 times. Of course that would have been impossible because between the steep incline and my 40 pound pack, I also thought I might die.
At 6:00 that evening we summited our mountain, and down in the valley we could see the lake. It was incredible! In an instant all of our aches and pains seemed to melt away. Ok, that’s definitely a gross exaggeration. Everything hurt. Period. Absolutely nothing was doing any sort of melting as the temperature had suddenly plunged to what felt like thirty degrees and the wind just about swept us back down the mountain. But now that we could finally see our destination, everyone had a renewed determination. And that’s all we needed. Two more miles (finally downhill!) to go, and we would be to the lake!
The sun was just going down as we found a spot to camp. The lake was beautiful, the stars were numbering in the trillions, and after ten exhausting miles we had all made it alive!
We spent the next two days at and around the lake fishing, kayaking in an inflatable kayak grandpa had brought, exploring the rivers all around, and relaxing. By the next morning all of the kids (Ty included) had forgotten all about the arduous journey we had taken to get there.
Ten miles in, ten miles exploring over two days, then ten miles out. The trip out always proves to be quicker. Though it was no less difficult, our packs were lighter (or at least the boys’ — we ate all of Ty’s snickers in addition to the food the other boys had carried) and the prospect of getting to rest in the car carried us forward. Nine hours after we started, we finally spotted the car. Now that was a welcome sight!
For weeks after we returned home, all the boys could talk about was Shoshone Lake, the fish they caught, the treasures they found, and how THEY had hiked ten miles in, ten miles out, and ten miles in between. Now the talk is how they might be able to do 70 miles across the entire Wind Rivers next summer…what???
In our family we tease that there are three types of fun. Type 1: Disneyland. Pure pleasure. Type 2: Experiencing fun through someone else’s eyes. I.E. Watching your kids at the park. Type 3: Torture that somehow ends up being satisfying in a, “That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done!” kind of way, say a marathon. Around here we prefer the type three, torturous, “that was so fun, my legs feel like rubber!” type, and I suppose our trip to Shoshone Lake had all the elements of “fun” that we love. While it certainly was a challenge, the satisfaction of doing something difficult and getting a little fishing in while we were at it proved to make it one of our most memorable trips yet.
Backpacking as a family definitely has it’s challenges. Because this was our first experience backpacking more than a few miles with our entire family of six, plus Grandpa, we learned quite a bit along the way. Here are a few tricks we learned:
What tricks do you have up your sleeve when you take your little ones on adventures? I’d love to hear!
Hello, old friends!
I haven’t even logged on to my blog in over three years. I stopped for a variety of reasons, but mostly it just sort of…fizzled. I never thought I’d be back, but here I am!
Sometimes when you’re deep in the trenches of parenting it’s easy to loose yourself. Between diaper changes and trips to the park, naps and rushing to pediatrician appointments, matching lost socks and cleaning up spilled cheerios, somehow you forget who you are. Of course, you will never be the same person you once were after having children, and that’s without question a beautiful thing. But recently I had to introduce myself to a group of strangers and I realized I didn’t even know what to say! Beyond being a mom to four boys, I drew a blank. My identity had been so wrapped up in these kids I love so much for over eleven years that I no longer had something to identify with outside of them. A question I keep getting asked lately is, “What are you going to do when Ty (my youngest) goes to school in the next year or two?” With no definite answer to give them, I’ve found myself doing lots of soul searching.
I came across a box the other day full of little children’s books I’d written years ago while blogging. As I read though them, I was reminded of Catching Crawfish and all time and passion I put into the hundreds of posts. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I really do love to write. I’ve missed it! I’ve missed connecting with old friends, making new ones, taking a quick break from the dishes to jot down an idea for a post or a picture book. So here I am. Honestly, It’s a bit terrifying to be back, (what if people don’t like me? What if I don’t fit in??) but kind of exciting all at the same time!
I’ve given it a lot of thought and I’ve decided I want to take a somewhat different direction with Catching Crawfish. Instead of always writing about life lessons I hope my boys will learn, I’m going to focus on living and raising a family in the county, about helping kids to love the outdoors, and anything else that seems to fit. When we moved 20 minutes from town almost seven years ago it was our intent to inspire our boys to love the outdoors and for them to experience all that comes with country life. The longer we live here, the more passionate I feel about getting kids to experience fresh air and the thrill of being outside.
I still have plenty of life lessons I hope my boys will learn. I feel like my time to help them experience all they need to is slipping through my fingers (I have a middle schooler this year, how did that happen??). But I also feel that as they grow older those strories are no longer mine to share to anyone who happens to come across my blog. It’s time for a change to Catching Crawfish, and I’m excited for this new adventure!
PS I should add that I’m still making changes to the blog to fit it’s new purpose, so if you click on something and there’s nothing there, please know it’s still a work in progress!
I have never met a one-year-old that I didn’t find completely and utterly adorable. Their pudgy sausage fingers, their squeals of delight, their hilarious interpretations of new words that will, for better or worse, follow them the remainder of their lives (raga-lo-li-lo-li will forever be on our menu for busy Tuesday nights!) One-year-olds are, without a doubt, the best.
Unless, of course, you happen to take a one-year-old to the grocery store. Hell hath no fury like a toddler who has had enough of the canned tomato isle. King Soopers is a dark and lonely place for a mother who dares to venture to get food with a toddler in tow.
Today happened to be such an occasion for my four boys and me. Despite my inner conscience screaming, “Nooo! Don’t do it. Have you forgotten last time? Is there no other way??” I loaded them up and off we went. As expected, not two isles in my one-year-old went Dr. Jekyll on me. By the yoghurt section I was carrying him potato-sack style with his hands flailing to reach the string cheese on the other side. By the time we miraculously reached the checkout, I’d been the gracious receiver of no less than seven “Wow, you sure have your hands full!” Five “FOUR boys!? Oh, you poor thing.” Two “Bet if you tried for a girl you’d just get another boy.” and one “Oh, Mama, go buy yourself some flowers. You deserve it.” Not to mention numerous eyebrow-furled stares.
Minutes later as I wrestled my toddler into his car seat and the other boys unloaded the bags out of the cart, I thought about how those grocery shoppers had just witnessed my sweet, little one-kin-stine at his very worst. No doubt about it, he was a monster for those 45 miserable minutes.
But in those two-second exchanges, they missed so much. They missed ten adorable, pudgy fingers. Fingers that learned to snap when he was just nine months old. They missed how he loves dogs, how he won’t even say his brothers’ names, but can say Howard (our English Shepard) almost perfectly. How he thinks his big brothers are hilarious and loves to steal their toys; how he loves to jump on the trampoline and would spend every waking moment outside given the opportunity. How he climbs on everything and loves to ride in the laundry basket when Mom does the laundry. They missed his big, toothy grin he gets when his dad gives him piggy-back rides and how his brothers always fight over who gets to sit by him every single time we get in the car. He refuses to wear shoes and he’s ticklish on the bottoms of his feet. They missed that too.
Essentially, they missed that he really isn’t a monster. Not at all.
But I didn’t. I didn’t miss for a minute that these four crazy boys make me one incredibly lucky mom. That when I look at them I feel blessed far beyond what I deserve. And I never ever want those boys to think I forgot. So next time a fellow grocery shopper acknowledges me and my wild brood, I’ll smile and, in all sincerity say,
“Yes. And I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you might vaguely remember a post many years ago about National Talk Like a Pirate Day. It was titled Take Some Risks and Follow Yer Dreams, Me Harties! My pirate vernacular left much to be desired, but it did have this super cute picture of my now-teenager back when he was little and sweet and would let me take pictures of him all dressed up in his pirate swag… or just let me take pictures of him at all. I wrote that blog post exactly 8 years ago, because today, my friends, is once again National Talk Like a Pirate Day!!
After 8 years, I can FINALLY say that I followed that dream and published my book. It’s just self-published, not at all perfect, and actually illustrated by… me. Despite what I said back then about art not being my forte, I decided that I’d give it a try. And surprisingly, I found that I really, really enjoyed it! You can read a little more about The Legend of Captain McGray here, and you can find it here on amazon.
As you can tell, this book has been many years in the making. Actually, I admit lots of years it was tucked away in a folder collecting dust on a bookshelf in our spare bedroom while I focused on getting kids to eat their broccoli and not kill their little brothers. Last August I finally dusted off that folder, gathered up some art supplies, invested in a really good pencil sharpener, and made a goal to finish what I’d started almost a decade before.
When it came time to hit the publish button, I kind of freaked out. What if people don’t like it? What if they think my art looks like a first grader drew it? What if no one buys it? What if people spend all that money to buy it and then decide it was a waste? What if better writers -real writers- read it and think it’s stupid? What if…? My self-talk went something like this: “Seriously, Chelsi. Who do you think you are? You’ve only ever been a mom. You don’t know how to write. And you DEFINITELY don’t know how to draw. This was just a stupid idea anyway. Just tuck it away, no one will ever know you just wasted 4 months of your life drawing pictures at your kitchen table and sharpening colored pencils while your kids were at school.”
Luckily, I have a very logical husband. When I mentioned this idea of just sticking it back into the folder and letting it collect many more years of dust on our bookshelf, he looked at me with disgust. “You just spent four months working on a project. All you have to do is click the ‘publish’ button, and you aren’t going to see it through?? Who cares if anyone buys it. Who cares if no one likes it.Who cares what anyone else thinks! Do this for you.” So, I published it.
I wonder if there is a human alive that is a pro at being vulnerable. Putting yourself out there, not knowing what kind of reception the world is going to give is such a scary feeling. The world can be a pretty brutal place! But there are a few things I’ve been reminded of since clicking that publish button a few months ago.
I published a book. It took 8 long years, but I can now watch my kids sit on the couch and flip through the pages. How fun is that?! It’s only a book. It’s just about pirates and gardening. I don’t expect it to sell thousands of copies. Probably not even hundreds. I don’t anticipate it changing someone’s life. But the simple act of pressing “publish” has shaped mine. So, on this day dedicated to buccaneers both young and old, take some risks and follow your dreams, because the world needs YOU!
Happy National Talk Like a Pirate Day!!!!
Bonus! Here’s a sneak-peak of a few of the pages.
My kids have been obsessed with palindromes lately. In case 7th grade English class is as far back in your memory as it is for me, a palindrome is a word that is spelled the same forward as it is backward, like race car, kayak, level, or tattarattat. Their absolute favorite one to say though is “mom.” They like it so much they have been known to scream it from every corner of the house, chant it to me while I’m on the phone, and whisper it in the middle of the night, clad in pjs from my bedroom door. I’m telling you, they really, really love to say that word.
It’s just three letters, one simple syllable. Sometimes when I’m distracted and they are uttering that word to me, they will resort to spelling it just in case I didn’t quite catch what they were getting at. “M-O-M!” Why yes, I do have quite clever children. I’m anxiously anticipating the day that they will all be national spelling bee champions.*
Astonishingly, all children seem to have this innate ability to take that little palindrome and constrew it to have an abundance of meanings. This not only makes “mom” a palindrome, but also a homonym. (Many thanks to Coronavirus and home school with my 7th grader for teaching me so much!)
Here are a few examples of the multiple meanings of our lovely little palindrome/homonym that my children (and I imagine yours too) have come up with.
Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom!
Often heard over loud and incessant knocking at the bathroom door right as you step in the shower.
Better dry off quick and get those clothes back on because all chaos has broken loose. Your child has either just put a bead up his nose or his brother is running loose around the house brandishing an uncapped perminant marker. In fact, just ditch the clothes. A towel is all you have time for. Come on, you are a mom. For pete’s sake, who said you could shower?
Usually accompanied with an eye-roll and/or an “uh” at the end.
Congratulations! You are the most humiliating human on the face of this planet. Often used in public places because that’s where you excel at being embarrassing.
Either someone just spotted a spider on the celing or a limb is no longer attached to a body.
Mo-um. (Not to be mistakened with mo-om)
Could be used in reference to your lack of knowledge about the computer. Or of a sport. Or of a band instrument. In summary, you just pretty much have the brains of an ape.
Ok. Deep breath. Something is broken. Most likely it is a very valuable object. Possibly an heirloom. Sadly, it definitely cannot be replaced.
Tone is friendly. Said quickly and usually as two or more children run through the kitchen.
This is the signal to check hands. They probably are holding snails (or, heaven forbid, a snake) and are making a break for their bedroom to relocate them to a new home (aka said bedroom). The “hi” is simply a distraction from the matter at hand.
You are about to hear a confession. Their conscience is eating them alive, and their future hinges on this moment. Your response to this will shape their exhistance from this day on. No pressure.
Also known as the stalling tactic.
Typically the time will read around 8:30pm, right after you’ve tucked everyone into bed and are thoroughly looking forward to reading a book or watching a show.
Brace yourself, you are about to be bombarded with 3.2 million questions. Bedtime? Haha! Nice try.
You are about to hear every single miniscule detail of the world’s next greatest inventions. From lazer cutting lawn mowers to teleportation, this is big stuff. No need to stop your chores, they will happily follow you from room to room for hours. A periodic nod and “uh huh” should suffice.
Sharp and crisp, only one syllable.
You’re distracted and they are pulling you back to reality, maybe at a stoplight because you just looked down and it’s already been green for two WHOLE seconds. It could also be after they’ve utilized the “Hey, Mom!” homonym and have been discussing for the last 47 minutes the highly engaging topic of which Jedi planet would be the coolest place to go on vacation. They have stopped mid-sentence to ask you a question, and your response was NOT appropriate. I.E. they might ask, “Which planet would you choose, Mom?” to which you might respond “Wow, yeah.” Naturally, “Mom!” would be their reaction.
And then we have this. This is the reason that you decided to give life to this little human. This will probably be preceeded by a little body plopping down into the kitchen stool while you are making dinner. You will hang on their every word, and you will likely look at them and notice how their little face is just so perfect, how their freckles are so darn cute, and you just really like the person that they are. You will undoubtedly feel an overpowering sense of love and gratitude for that child, that they say the word, “mom,” and that when they do (no matter how), they are talking about you.
It’s pretty awesome to be associated with such a versitile, amazing word. There really isn’t any other word out there like it. Happy Mother’s Day!
*And for the record, my children unfortunately inherited my spelling genes, guaranteeing they will NEVER make it to any spelling bee of any sort in their lives.