Posts Tagged With: children

We Get By with a Little Help from our Friends

My sister-in-law, Cheri Mitchell, a super-star woman with incredible energy and optimism who’s also a nurse, took off for Nairobi, Kenya a month ago to see what she could do to help lighten the load and smooth the path for a few people there.

The photos she’s sent and the status updates she’s posted have added perspective and angst to my life. I feel so decadent here in America when I see and read about life in the orphanage where she’s volunteering.

Today, I’m sharing a tiny part of what she’s experienced so far, gleaned with her permission, from her Facebook page.

 

 

“Some of the very happy sweet kids at the KCC Slum project. Also a pic of their water supply. Volunteers built a filtration system to clean it. Some previous volunteers started a school there and are doing amazing work. Living conditions are below poverty level yet they are all smiling. I don’t think I have a thing to complain about…Feeling grateful.” 
tents“Same day Thursday, we also visited an IDP camp (internally displaced persons), they live in “tents” made of what ever they can find, old rice bags, plastic sacks, sticks, cardboard, tin, etc. It was truly heartbreaking for me. Overwhelmed with the cycle of poverty, yet again, smiling. The children were so happy to see volunteers and have new people to play with. We played soccer, and some of them taught us some songs.”

“We brought flour with us for the families, bagged it and distributed it to them. They were very grateful and appreciative, some of them did little dances of joy.  Wish we could have brought more… Very humbling day.”
“A clean pit latrine…”
pit latrine

“First day at Wakimai children home.. with Jorge. They need lots of love and play time…there was also puppies and kittens, and baby chickens.”

mortuary sign“Today was the funeral service and burial for a baby boy from the orphanage we are at, he died on Tuesday at the hospital. Somber experience, and very close to home. Heaven has another Angel — feeling sad.”

 

“Today we did some good.  Yesterday we bought cleaning supplies, blankets, diapers and baby goods and we went back to the house today to clean and organize. We swept and mopped and got rid of all the broken and destroyed shoes that didn’t have mates and reorganize their shoe shelves. Folded laundry, hung laundry, fed and played with the kids. Then we went to market… what an awesome experience. Purchased huge bags of corn, beans and an enormous bag of potatoes for the orphanage. It is pictured in the back of the truck.”

“Water tank project..gutters on, tank plot cleared, now waiting on tank..hmmm. african standard time.”

 

doctors and clinic workers“Another help for the wonderful people who selflessly serve at the Uthiru dispensary. They were in need of a foetal heart Doppler. Thanks to donations, the doctor, nurses as well as the expectant mothers can now hear their babies heartbeats in utero. This will help them feel closer to their newborns and encourage them to seek proper prenatal care. God bless contributors. And THANK YOU!!!”

 

Dr. Ester and the wonderful staff at Uthiru dispensary free clinic, with the fetal heart doppler that donations paid for, and medications received from NVS. Thank you so much contributors. God Bless you.”

“They could really benefit from some more donations, quickly. There are some incredible stories here, some miraculous, mostly sad tho. The kids range from 2 months to 14 yrs. There’s 62 kids and one sweet woman with a helper to run the place. It isn’t funded by government and relies on volunteer help and donations.”

Cheri and Stephi

Cheri and Stefi

“We have done some things here to greatly increase the quality of life for these children.”

“So much more can be done. Winter is here and not all children have blankets. Our donations even helped get a little boy, who was hit by an angry neighbor, a CT Scan. He has been ill since the incident.”
“Thank you again for all who have donated and if you still want to, and can, here is the site again. God bless you, we only have a couple more weeks here and I really want to make a difference for these sweet children.”
I hope you can help her to help these sweet children. 
Maybe we could skip one morning’s latte’ this week, or go without an afternoon smoothie, forego tomorrow’s burger and fries and brown bag it, or rent a movie instead of going out and send the difference. Just that much can go so far. Every bit helps Cheri to help them immediately and directly.

 

 

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Categories: Love, People, The World | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Baffled by the White Van of Life

Friday Letter to My Kids

Dear J, J, L and L,

Do you remember that white van we owned? The gutless wonder that could barely make it up an overpass without overheating? The one little L christened on our first road trip by barfing all over the middle seat? The same van big J ran over the high school parking lot curbing with and blew out two, or was it three, tires in.

Ours didn't look this bad on the outside. The problems were all mechanical.

Ours didn’t look this bad. The problems were all mechanical.

Yeah, that one.

It had all sorts of fun problems. The muffler issue comes to mind lately. The world could hear us coming in that vehicle from a good half mile away. Not sure why we didn’t replace or repair the muffler. Actually, I’m pretty sure we didn’t have the money to fix it for a while.

When either of the J’s would finally come home from wherever you’d been, work, a friend’s house, an unapproved “date,” we’d definitely hear the van coming. That is until one of you thought you’d figured out we wouldn’t hear the unmuffled engine if you turned it off before coasting around the corner and into the driveway.

Problem was we’d still hear the van coming from further out in the neighborhood, before the engine was turned off. Also, that sort of parking style raised some eyebrows from neighbors who were out and about late at night who mentioned it to us. We should have come down harder on you, grounded you from driving. Seems like most discipline had little to no effect on you.

Go figure.

The most infamous sneaking about done by any of you came from little J.

You climbed out your second story window onto the strategically placed garbage bins below the roofline and out to frolic in the middle of the night. The funny part happened when you couldn’t climb back the way you climbed out and had to ring the doorbell to get inside the house at, what was it, three a.m. Your story that you forgot your key after “going for a walk to be alone” missed the fact that we had a deadbolt lock on that door that could only be locked with a key.

You gotta love the logic of teenagers whose brains haven’t quite yet fully developed.

Honestly, you all know at this point that true logic doesn’t really even exist in a teenage brain. It’s all hormone driven coupled with the “logic” of a three-year old.

I’ve been hanging out with our favorite three-year old lately and she reminds me so much of each of you as teenagers. The main themes are as follows:

  1. I want it.
  2. I want it now.
  3. No I can’t wait.
  4. I need to go pout and feel sorry for myself if I can’t have items one through three and I’ll make your life miserable until I get what I want.
  5. The way I see the world is reality and nothing you say will change that. If I say a dinosaur lives behind the desk that’s the truth of the matter.
  6. Why?
  7. Why not?

Pam, from Oklahoma, used to say about teenagers. “You don’t like them very much for about five years, but you still somehow manage to love them.”

That stage lasted longer for some of you than others.

Honestly, you all weren’t horrific all the time. You each seemed to need to take your turn being difficult to live with in one way or another. And I hate to lump you all together in one crowd because you’ve each behaved so differently from each other.

speed bumpsI remember big J saying you’d bring your friends over to the house if only we had a VCR and a decent TV. So we scrounged and sprung for both and you still didn’t bring your friends over. Much later we learned the real reason you didn’t bring your friends over. Still shaking my head over that stuff.

Little J had such charm and charisma I’m afraid she got away with way too much on cuteness alone. Changing clothes after leaving the house and “losing” your pager come to mind as just a couple of minor sneaky things you did.

Big L used to purposely incite skirmishes with little L out of sheer boredom or revenge. It didn’t matter than I begged you not to bother the sleeping giant, you did it anyway. And yes, I can still hear your revengeful heh heh hehhing in my head.

Little L you provided the final exam to my parenting experiences with the other three. Since I’d learned a few things by then, you had to pull out some never before seen situations that I’m still reeling a bit from. Your need for TIGHT bed covers that never were tight enough and your other need for an always spotlessly clean and organized house, which I failed to provide, come to mind.

Sorry, I didn’t measure up.

Most of what I feel about all of your teen angst and rebellion and mistakes is regret that I couldn’t save you from going through it. I’d have given anything to keep you safe from your own teen dingbattedness. Somewhere I fell short with each of you and that, oh man, that really stings.

And yet, what makes me smile, other than the fact that I somehow managed to get through those parenting years without scarring any of you too badly, lies in the promise that each of you will get to experience parenting teens yourself.

Heh, heh, heh.

I was no saint as a teen. Oh my. Not. At. All. So I probably, well okay, definitely, deserved the thrashing I got from parenting all of you through those same years. You’d think I’d have done better, seen the warning signs, been harder on you, or gentler, as needed. My own experiences should have taught me to be a better parent than I managed.

Didn’t work out that way. Dang. Turns out being a teenager does little to prepare you for raising one.

To quote Pumbaa who’s misquoting Timon, “Ya gotta put your behind in the past.”

So what did I learn from not applying what I’d learned as a teen to my parenting career?

  • I wish I’d been more direct with each of you.
  • There’s no such thing as balance between parents. There needs to be agreement. One parent’s hardness can’t be softened by the other parent’s squishiness. And vice versa. Bad cop, good cop only works on TV shows and the movies.
  • I’m the grownup in the relationship with my kids.
  • It’s okay to expect the best, but I should have been more eyes-wide-open about reality. It’s not easy reconciling the two. It can hurt, big time.

If all parents learned from the mistakes they made as teens, we’d have a perfected society by now. Obviously, we’re all slow learners.

I take heart in seeing what kind, patient (mostly), generous, optimistic and loving adults you each have turned into. Ya’ll came preprogrammed with some great stuff that sat latent for a while. Now look at you.

I couldn’t be more proud.

engine interior

It may as well be Greek, engines baffle me.

That white van reminds me of teenage life. It got us where we ultimately needed to get to, most of the time, but not without some bumpiness and noise, breakdowns and mind-boggling struggles. I can’t tell you how often I stood before the open hood of that van completely snookered as to what went wrong and what I could do to fix it. Same goes for each of you. I’d stand there looking into your face and wonder “what the flippin’ heck can I do to make this work?”

I wish you well in your personal parenting adventures, especially the teen-fraught years. I hope your own version of a white van serves you better than mine did.

Good luck with that. I’ll be praying for you.

 

All my love,

Mom

photo-23 copy 5

 “Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.” ~ Robert Fulghum

 

Categories: Family, Friday Letters, parenting | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Climbing, Shredding and Burning

Friday Letter to my Kids

Dear J, J, L and L,

I’ve been “on vacation” for the past two weeks. As you know from personal experience that means, (ninety-five percent chance) staying with relatives. That’s not a bad thing; it simply means that most of our vacations involve family, not visiting Europe or going on a cruise or hitting the slopes or the beach.

We did do some of that. We had some good times on the slopes for a few years. In fact big J practically emerged from the womb skiing, and little J took to skiing like a seed to dirt. I still get this ache in my stomach about J breaking his collarbone on the first day of a four-day ski trip. No more snowboarding that season. The pain of the break, I’m guessing, felt like nothing compared to the pain of watching everyone else racing down the mountain while you had to lounge around at the lodge every day.

Ouch! I hope you’ve made up in quality what you missed in quantity on that trip.

Given that you put yourself to sleep at night by boarding down a specific run makes me feel pretty good about all the days you managed to get in on the mountain after that.

We never made it to the ocean with all of us together. L and L enjoyed that singular experience. Spring break, we found out the hard way, isn’t really the ideal time to hang out in the Pacific. Chilly, fierce waves, a strong undertow, but plenty of space on the beach. We managed to get a sunburn, sand stuck in every imaginable and unimaginable spot including the sleeping bags. One of my other favorite photos ever? The sun setting orange over the ocean in a thirty mile an hour breeze, and L and L silhouetted just so. Good times, good times.

More than a few of our camping trips involved rain, a couple of them fairly significant amounts. North Carolina rains pale only in comparison to Oklahoma rains. Either way, we ended up soaked, clothes hanging everywhere inside the tent, muddy boots, big smiles, flooded lakes or streams. Good thing we cooked over a backpacking stove or we’d have eaten cold food all those times. I loved big L’s computer drawing, back in the dark ages of computer graphics, of one of our camping in the rain events. Wish we could find that. It’d make a great children’s book. Especially the mud monster part.

Let’s not forget, L and L, Queen of the Flame and Little Muddy Foot. Those two young girls will forever be tender spots in my heart of camping hearts.

Rock climbing and rappelling figure prominently in our getaways. Little did I know what I set in motion when I took that wilderness adventure course. I look back now and shake my head in amazement that I looked on as your Dad roped you in and let you climb at Index or scrambled all over Spire Rock or swing suspended from whatever boulder, cliff or mountain happened to be handy. Dad still refers to little J as “our Arachnid” for your epic climbing abilities.

Yes, most of our vacations involved camping in a tent, which isn’t bad at all.

You also got plenty of experience with airline travel, surprisingly, which has come in handy tons of times, and has become old hat for others. Little J had the chutzpah to backpack Europe once and visit Paris another time. Big J now travels regularly for work, getting around airports and big cities as if they’re simply different runs at a ski resort.

Many of our vacations involved road trips as well. But that, oh my, that is another story or ten for another day and another letter.

Wish we’d taken you to Yellowstone. And I’m sorry, but I never could make myself feel comfortable with taking you to Grand Canyon, even though it’s been less than half a day’s drive for the past eighteen years. My heart couldn’t bear the thought of you anywhere near the edge of an impossible precipice. And Disneyland remains elusive as a family getaway, even though most of you have managed to get there on your own.

I’d like to think we’ll somehow manage one last ginormous family vacation with all the spouses and *babygrands. Maybe that’s why family reunions happen; attempts at reliving or making up for the past.

I’m pretty sure we made good use of our weekends, summers and holidays. I hope you feel the same. Those rank as some of my favorite memories together.

Would surely love some more evenings by a campfire with ya’ll again sometime.

All my love,

Mom

 

*babygrands = grandbabies or grandchildren

photo-23 copy 5

 

 

“…there ain’t no journey what don’t change you some.”

~ David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

 

 

 

Categories: Friday Letters, Fun, Memory Lane, Outdoors, parenting | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Friday Letter: Aliens and Velcro

Dear J, J, L and L,

I keep thinking about what little clingons you were.

You all know I’m not talking about the Star Trek alien race. Although sometimes it did feel like I had an alien life form(s) attached to my body on a semi-permanent basis. Such clingy kids, you hated being out of sight or out of touch from me for any amount of time.

UnknownTrying to do aerobics in front of the twelve-inch black and white TV seemed like an exercise in futility more than an effort to get my heart rate up for a specific amount of time. Either I’d have a kid holding to one of my legs while I attempted to run or jump in place, or I’d have two kids crying while trying to escape the kitchen chair fence I’d created to keep you away from me for twenty-eight precious minutes.

Even funnier was attempting to get a workout done on the mini-trampoline. Remember that thing? You all spent more time “working out” on it than I ever did.

Playing softball with a women’s league seemed an innocent enough pastime. Other kids played on the sidelines and behind the backstop while their mothers batted, threw, caught and ran. But no, J and J, my two oldest and mostly independent kids, you stood there, fingers wrapped around the chain link fence sobbing uncontrollably as I tried to bat. You screamed in unison as I took to the outfield. You were only happy if I sat waiting for my turn at bat. Then, of course, you’d play with the other kids.

Did I do something to make you think I’d abandon you if I were more than five feet away with a clear path between us? Or was I just so irresistible that you couldn’t bear being apart from me? I hope you didn’t feel I was somehow pushing you away. Maybe that’s just normal behavior. I had no idea what normal was.

Maybe I was ahead of my time. Was I practicing attachment parenting without intentionally trying to?

velcroAnd then my second set of kidlets…ah, my little velcro babies. You were always attached at the hip. For.Ev.Er. Nonstop. Day in and day out.

I’m not sure why you found me so indispensable. A food source, sure. But beyond that, I’m certain I’d never heard of children being quite so attached as the two of you. Detaching your little warm bodies from me felt very much like separating velcro from itself. I swear I could even hear that familiar ripping sound of millions of little hooks and loops pull away from each other whenever I tried to set you down somewhere.

To this day I still sleep on the very edge of the kingsized bed. A habit I got into when Little L couldn’t sleep unless some part of her was touching some part of me. So I compromised and let my arm dangle down to the mattress on the floor where you slept. You calmed and settled in for a restful sleep as long as you felt my touch, all night long.

A super upclose view of Velcro. Looks kind of like an alien life form, huh?

Microscopic view of Velcro. Looks kind of like an alien life form…

I wonder how I survived all those early years of constant companionship, constant touching, constant needing.

I also wonder if I could have given you something more.

Or something different.

I guess we’ll never know.

Here’s the ironic thing. It’s all reversed now. I miss you when you’re gone, want to hang out longer than I should when I’m with you, can’t seem to get enough of your smiles, conversation, hugs and friendship.

If I start acting like an alien or seem overly attached, just tell me and I’ll back off.

I sure love you!

Mom

klingon

 

 

 

 

Categories: Family, Friday Letters | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Friday Letters: Pancakes and Waffles and Children, Oh My!

Dear J, J, L and L,

So today’s the day. My first official Friday Letter to my kids. I guess I’ll just jump in with both feet.

We’ve eaten some interesting foods over the years, many of which became favorites. A few we discarded before they even had time to cool completely. But, you gotta admit, I can cook up a pretty good meal.

I apologize for the Salmon Patties. That involved some desperation and not much experience or innovation. Luckily, the Spinach Lasagna incident only two of you had to endure. I’ve since learned that better recipes exist for those particular concoctions that turn out deliciously edible. Let’s not forget the forgotten corn from Thanksgiving that we discovered the day after. And those flaming peas in the microwave made quite a stench. I think I’ve blocked out most of the other gastronomic catastrophes. Feel free to remind me in a private message or an email. No need to share them all in public.

Not Denny's or IHOP.

Not Denny’s or IHOP.

My pancakes never made it up to snuff in my opinion. There’s that whole practice pancake idea that irks me some. You know, the first pancake will simply turn out raw on the inside, burnt on the outside or funky and not very yummy looking. All those pancakes after the first turn out great. Or in the case of my particular pancake cooking abilities, edible but not stellar.

Shouldn’t every pancake turn out the same every time? Why does that first one have to serve as a sacrifice for the rest of the batter that follows? And then, even after that first pancake, I never felt like mine had the delightful taste and texture of Denny’s or IHOP. (Too high of a standard maybe?)  So I rarely ate the pancakes I cooked. If we had homemade raspberry jam, then, okay, I had a couple. Bacon on the side served as a kind of apology for the lack of quality in the pancakes.

There’s a theory out there in parenting that equates first children to practice pancakes. The idea plays out with the idea that parenting gaffes and goofs and idiocy only happens with the first child, who somehow survives or becomes scarred for life, but the rest of the children that follow turn out okay because of the sacrifice endured by the firstborn and lessons consequently learned by the parent.

Nonsense.

Children and food don’t compare in any way, shape or form. Food doesn’t interact, respond or run and hide in a closet. Food doesn’t cry in the middle of the night. Food doesn’t snuggle with you and make you feel like everything’s going to be all right in spite of the chaos and mess.

Apology or bonus? It depends.

Bacon. Apology or bonus? It depends.

Even if you accepted the food/child comparison, parents learn only the first couple of chapters of parenting wisdom from that first child. For instance, we learned to relax a little bit after stumbling through J1 and arriving at J2.  (Yes, I know, emphasis on the word little.) One of your parents learned to relax sooner and more convincingly than the other one. There are lessons learned with each child, some more dramatically or hysterically than others. Each of you came with your own ‘lessons Dad and Mom need to learn from parenting me’ agenda. Rarely did one child-raising experience intersect or lend itself to the child-rearing experience of the others.

Sad, but true.

I have a different theory, a better one than the practice pancake theory. It’s more like how my waffles turn out.

Oooo….waffles.

Oooo….waffles.

Spectacular!

Yes. Every single waffle a masterpiece, delicious, fluffy, crisp and tender, warm and welcoming. I can practically smell the melted butter in each little square, the warm syrup puddling. Bacon is optional with waffles. Perfection.

That is until that final waffle.

I always, always, always burn the last waffle. I sit down at the table, dig into the succulence of waffle nirvana and forget to check on the last one. Even if I set a timer, I’m so enamored of my plate of perfection that I think to myself, I’ll get to that in another bite or two. Before I know it I’m dishing up another waffle, downing a glass of milk, reveling in the particular happiness of breakfast carb overload. Then I realize, too late, that the last waffle has crisped to a dark, dreadful crunch that shatters on fork approach.

Curses!

What does that have to do with parenting children?

Each one of you have been your own kind of sumptuous waffle delight to me. I’ve gotten so caught up in the joys and work and business of parenting at times that I’ve neglected or ignored the warning signs, the red flags, the obvious pitfalls. Yup, I’ve made mistakes. Probably the same ones over and over, without learning from them. But you all turned out amazing in spite of your parents, not because of us.

Pay attention to the timer.

Pay attention to the timer.

And, no bacon required, no apology needed.

Now, you’ve all added a delightful side dish of a companion who adds dimension and delight to our family. Like, bonus bacon!

I feel like a master chef. The secret is you’ve all managed to do your own cooking, I just stirred up a few ingredients and look how you turned out!

So, what about that last waffle?

Oh.

Well, that’s me. I never really learned to pay attention to my own needs. I tended to push myself past my limits until I got a bit burned out. Staying up too late, getting up too early, saying yes to every request, trying to do it all and be it all. That’s not a smart way to function. It leads to dysfunction. Sorry about that part of things. I wasn’t always at my best for you.

I’m hoping you learn not to burn that last waffle. I hope you pay attention to your own internal timers, bells, whistles, needs and wants. Keep things balanced and enjoy your own life as you raise your own little munchkins. Good luck with that.

Thanks for letting me experiment in the kitchen of life with ya’ll. It’s quite a delicious and always surprising treat.

Until next Friday, I’ll be thinking about you, worrying about you and loving you!

Love,

Mom

 

 

 

Categories: Food, Friday Letters, parenting | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Friday Letters to my Children

Dear J, J, L and L,

I’m not using your full names to protect you from my nonsense. I’ve been inspired by these four Dads whose blog is simply letters to their little kids. After reading their blog for a month or so, I suddenly thought, “I should do that!“ Except, you kids are all grown and flown. And you know me, the epic procrastinator of the century, I’d probably get around to an individual letter to each of you sometime around my ninetieth year, which is half a century-ish away.

So instead of my usual procrastination I’m going to have a weekly post of a letter to my children. One week it may speak to only one of you. Other weeks the letters may seem so off-kilter you’ll wonder why I even started it with the words, “Dear Kids.”

photo by Heinrich Böll Stiftung

photo by Heinrich Böll Stiftung

I just know that if I really want to get something done, then attaching it somehow to my blog and my writing will ensure that it happens. I hope you don’t mind the public nature of this undertaking. It seems a little weird, but also for me somehow, it feels safe. I don’t have that many readers anyway. And the few I do have seem sincere and kind and know me pretty well, or they’re related to me.

Another reason I want to do this came about after spending a week with Baby N and her Mom and Dad. I fluctuated between incredible pride at what a phenomenal Mom she already is and remembering what an epic failure I felt like as a new mom the first five years of motherhood. Rather than wallowing in my self-pity and semi-inaccurate view of my past life, I thought writing about it in specifics might help me paint a clearer picture of my life as a Mother. Maybe through this writing process I can forgive myself for those failures of naiveté, youth and inexperience. That’d be a bonus for me.

It’s been an evolutionary process to raise the four of you. I’ve learned things no university could ever hope to instill. I’ve felt some of the most exalted and some of the most heart-wrenching emotions as a mother. Most of it has been somewhere between the two extremes.

The other part of this Friday Letters to My Kids thing would be to paint a clearer picture for you of who your mother is. Or who I was back then. It’s not like I’m ever going to stop being your Mom. Hardly. It’s a lifetime buy-in that I’m ever so glad I stumbled on.

No names, but you gotta admit these are some cute kids!!

No names, but you gotta admit these are some cute kids!!

With that long preamble said, for today all I want to say is “Thank you!” I am a blessed woman to have the four of you in my life. I’m proud of each one of you for being true to who you are, for being kind, loving, fun, caring, responsible people. You’ve turned out better than my wildest dreams.

You’ve also made me who I am: a little nuts, a lot of worrier and a deep thinker, and someone who needs a ton of laughter for balance and sanity.

I promise I won’t ask you here to pack or move any boxes. I really won’t expect you to do any inventory, or yard work, or dishes, or organizing. A family campout might be in order someday. Can you imagine all of us, with the babies out camping? In the rain?

Oh, and most important of all, I promise, no naked baby pictures!

I look forward to our Fridays. I’m a little scared as well, but I think it’ll be a great ride. It can’t be any worse than being raised by me and your Dad, right? How embarrassing was that? Oh. Right. “Speedos,” thongs, who-hair, family singing and sewing projects. I’ll try to avoid anything that horrifying.

I love you,

Mom

P.S. (I know, I know, it isn’t actually Friday, but it will be in a few days. This is just the introduction anyway. It’s not really an official letter.)

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Family, Friday Letters, parenting | Tags: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The Perks of Parental Survival

Every parent understands the yin/yang, good/evil, adorable/despicable, sweet/smelly, insane/delightful opposites of raising children. Enough books, essays, blog posts, magazine articles and late night journal entries exist to fill the Library of Congress twice over on the topic.

This is not that topic. Not exactly.

A beacon...

A beacon of light…

Today I share a beacon of light for those of you somewhere between conception and empty nest.

One of my children, who shall remain nameless said the following, and I paraphrase due to my utter and complete lack of brain cells used up by said child and siblings.

“I’ve realized that all that stuff that just magically appeared at Christmas time and other holidays was done by you, Mother. It dawned on me that now if I want that stuff to happen, I have to do it myself.”

Do you hear that? That’s the sound of vindication Angelic Choirs breaking forth in song and shouts of hallelujah and Amen.

*angelic choir music*

*cue angelic choir music* (Photo credit: Crispy Lettuce)

I’ve walked on clouds since that phone call this morning. My feet have not touched terra firma, my heart has wings, light glows like a halo on everyone I see, well, almost everyone.

What’s this emotion I feel?

Satisfaction? Success? Relief? Surprise? Sorrow? Exaltation? Insanity?

Yes.

What a sensation to feel as if I’m… not exactly finished, but…on the other side of a long dark scary twisty rollicking hilariously terrifying ride called parenthood.

Oh sure, I still worry about each of my kids multiplied by two or three or four, but not in an in-my-face-constantly-what-was-that-siren-and-where-is-my-kid kind of way.

Animation of the structure of a section of DNA...

Animation of the structure of a section of DNA…kinda magical and scary at the same time, huh? (Thanks Wikipedia)

I’m so glad I didn’t give up a few years ago when it was oh so tempting! You laugh, but I was seriously considering moving in with my sister and leaving MSH to deal with it all by himself. But something in me, that DNA connection or something more powerful than the need for sanity, wouldn’t let me go through with my threat. I stayed. I stuck it out. I survived.

Even to this day there are times in my parenthood history that I can’t mentally revisit without tears, or maniacal laughter, or brushing up against near insanity, or absolute and total shock at my stupidity. That my children survived me at all is itself a miracle. That we all still speak to one another and love each other clearly stands as another marvel.

I’m not bragging. Oh, by no means, no. I’m just saying, if I got to this point, then almost anyone can get here. Really!

I haven’t figured out how yet, but here I am, on the other side of the tunnel.

Ever so tired.

But glowing.

I think I need a really long nap.

Categories: Family, Humor, parenting | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

I Would Have

I’m using the Sandwich theory today. When you have to tell someone bad news slip it in between two good things. Not that the middle thing is bad news. Really it’s just something we hear in various forms but we don’t really listen.

Or is that we listen to but don’t really hear?

Whatever. Pay attention to the middle today, okay?

This sandwich is kind of like a good and healthy middle filling that we should choose to eat, enclosed by homemade bread.

Here’s one slice of bread:

20131013-171146.jpg

I didn’t promise the bread would be delicious, did I? Oh well, it’s a classic anyway.

Here’s the flavor packed protein filled goodness of today’s sandwich:

Erma Bombeck wrote this back in 1979 at the same age I am now, and many, many years before she passed away..

“Someone asked me the other day if I had my life to live over would I change anything. My answer was no, but then I thought about it and changed my mind.

If I had my life to live over again I would have waxed less and listened more.

Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy and complaining about the shadow over my feet, I’d have cherished every minute of it and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was to be my only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.

I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.

I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded.

I would have eaten popcorn in the “good” living room and worried less about the dirt when you lit the fireplace.

I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth.

I would have burnt the pink candle that was sculptured like a rose before it melted while being stored.

I would have sat cross-legged on the lawn with my children and never worried about grass stains.

I would have cried and laughed less while watching television … and more while watching real life.

I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband which I took for granted.

I would have eaten less cottage cheese and more ice cream.

I would have gone to bed when I was sick, instead of pretending the Earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren’t there for a day.

I would never have bought ANYTHING just because it was practical/wouldn’t show soil/ guaranteed to last a lifetime.

When my child kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, “Later. Now, go get washed up for dinner.”

There would have been more I love yous … more I’m sorrys … more I’m listenings … but mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute of it … look at it and really see it … try it on … live it … exhaust it … and never give that minute back until there was nothing left of it.”

Here’s the other slice of bread:

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Insert your own rimshot at this point.

Hey, you can’t always take life too seriously. Nobody gets out alive anyway.

Just three little somethings to let your brain chew on for a while.

Happy Sunday!

Categories: Humor, People, Relationships | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Accessing My Inner Two Year-Old

Two Year-old kids get a bad rap. 

Oh sure, I’ve seen the meltdowns in the grocery store, the toy wars in the sandbox, the frazzled parents trying to get a tot cooperatively moving in the direction and speed they need to go. I also raised a few two year-old kids myself, although, admittedly that is ancient history.

I suppose it’s a case of the squeaky wheel when it comes to two year-old behavior. What most people see and experience is the negatives, of which admittedly, there exist quite a few.

There are redeeming qualities in two year-olds, apart from their general cuteness, and their adorable options in the clothing department. What is up with that anyway? How come little kids have such fun, bright, practical and comfortable pants, shirts, shoes and even sock options? Can we please just design a few of those in adult sizes? I have a particular fondness for Osh Kosh B’gosh styles which I think I’d look great in. Or not.

Sorry, I got sidetracked.

That right there is a two-year-old trait. Easily sidetracked. It’s one of those plus/minus categories. It can work for you or against you. Distraction is particularly important as you maneuver past any grocery items that might not be healthy choices. If I could distract my attention away from the donuts, soda and ice cream I’d leave the store with healthier options and a bit more cash left in my wallet. Dropping some niggling problem like a two year-old changes gears could help out my stress levels. Worry, worry, worry, oh look, something shiny, no worries. If only.

Two year-olds are usually a friendly sort. They’ll wave and smile at most people who say hello or smile at them. They’re eager to play with almost any willing playpal. I’ve seen two’s dance for an hour at a wedding reception without ever exchanging names or phone numbers. They were just happy dancing! That distraction thing then kicks in when punch and cake show up and the evening plays off as a massive success.

Double the fun with a two-year-old

Double the fun with a two-year-old

Here and Now

Two’s live in the moment. This very moment. There is no “in a few minutes.” Everything is now. That’s an enviable trait to copy. This right now takes all my attention. No yesterday haunts me as I do what I’m doing. Tomorrow doesn’t loom because I’m living the moment I’m in. Sure, that leans to the negative if taken to extremes, but so can overplanning, over scheduling and overdoing.

Empathy Abounds

One particular two year-old I know acts quickly to literally wipe away tears when her mom or sister cry. If the tears last long enough she’ll run for the tissues and bring some to help staunch the flow. Then she gives a wonderful full on hug and a kiss on the cheek. What a perfect response. Twos get it. They feel that full range of emotion loud and clear and when they hear or see it in someone else their empathy sensors kick in to high gear. “I see you’re sad. Let me help, even if I don’t understand why you’re sad, I’m gonna do what I can right now to give love, attention and solace.” Perfect. Those Two’s notice, care and respond to grief, sadness and unfairness with a quick hand.

Honest to a T

Honesty abounds in two year-old, mostly. They let you know when something is “yucky” or they “don’t like it.” There’s no fudging around, wondering what the correct response should be. Yes or no rule. Maybe doesn’t exist. Count on them for a real answer. I’d like the bravery to act and speak so definitively.

The advantages of being a house dog in a home ...

Two two-year-olds sharing with the dog. (Photo credit: EraPhernalia Vintage . . . (playin’ hook-y ;o))

It’s MINE! Except when I share it

Amazingly, the mine, mine, mine mindset that two year-olds often operate from can sometimes magically morph into sharing. Fairly generous sharing if you don’t mind half a mashed cookie or squishy banana bites. They don’t wonder if the gift they’re offering is good enough, measures up to your expectations and standards, or even if you want or need it. They just give and let it go at that. Good idea, I think, to apply to my life.

And surprisingly, there are times when the “mine” mentality needs implementing. Getting adequate sleep, eating well, meeting our basic emotional and physical needs so we can give from a position of strength rather than giving until we fizzle out.

Simplicity Rules

Simple things easily entertain a two year old. No need to buy elaborate toys when they’d prefer the box the toy comes in. The top of a soft drink cup can keep some kids going for a good fifteen minutes, popping and unpopping the “bubbles” for coke, diet, and other over and over and over. This is another two year-old trait I’d like to emulate. Not that I’m simple minded, but I’d like satisfaction to come by simple, pure sorts of things that require imagination and activity rather than sitting and being spoon-fed couch potato food. I don’t need or want bells and whistles and flash and bang. A great book, a walk in the woods, a discussion with friends,  music, bike riding, art, thinking. The more basic, the better.

Wall-e and Two’s

Recently, while watching “Wall-e” my daughter pointed out that little robotic dude behaves in many ways just like a two year-old. She was right. Focused, and yet easily distracted. Curious and driven. Playful and loyal. Simply entertained, generous, direct as possible, happy to help.

I’m lucky to have a two year-old in my life. She’s teaching me to be a better, calmer, generous, happier, responsive, more in the moment me. When I access those great traits I find a simple joy in life. It’s something to keep in mind. Food for thought.

Two-year-old’s: worthy of emulation.

Categories: Humor, People | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Awash in a Torrent

It’s Gratituesday! Today gratitude washes over me when I consider my children. All four of them were in town to celebrate at the wedding reception this past weekend. A whole lifetime of sweet memories, struggles, laughs, sorrows, silliness, sadness, good times and the insanity of family life flooded over me in wave after wave of remembering.

waterfall

(Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

When the house emptied out after a weekend of overflowing joy I recognized more than ever what a blessing each of them have been.

Let’s be honest, with parenting, it’s sink or swim. So you flail your arms about, kick your legs, gasp for breath every chance you get and eventually you have something that moves your through the water of parenthood. It wasn’t all roses. It’s a ton of hard work and sleepless nights, worry and tears.

But, there is a flip side.

rain dancing

(Photo credit: amboo who?)

We had some great times that surely balanced out the challenges. Swings, and slides, sandpiles and diving boards. Cooking and organizing, camping, rock climbing, hiking. Summer crafts and  road trips, summer library challenges. Sidewalk chalk, sleepovers, baking. Hide and seek, shooting baskets, building blanket forts, picnics, parks and playgrounds. Camping in the rain, puddle jumping, dancing in the rain. Skiing, snowboarding, sledding, snow walks and snowmen. Car rides to lessons, activities, games, practices, friends houses, camps. Let’s not forget story time and bath time, movies and barbies, hot wheels and ninetendo, legos, dress up clothes, sliding banisters, cats and parakeets, tire swings, singing, exploring. And so much more!

From that first dark-haired baby boy that I was clueless about, to the golden-blond independent caboose baby, I’ve learned how to be a real person from all four of them. They’ve shaped who I am today.

And them? Wow!!!  In spite of all the parental goofs, gaffs, trial and error and outright mistakes, they’ve become wonderful, kind, thoughtful, hardworking beautiful adults that I’m happy to treat as equals, friends and confidants.

Monsoon

(Photo credit: lokenrc)

This weekend felt like much more than a celebration of a marriage. It felt like a commemoration of life. The monsoon downpour of rain we had as we sent the blissfully wedding couple off into their happily ever after was a grand metaphor of the blessings of my life showering down on me.

Awash in blessings beyond anything I deserve, here’s a toast to the four of you! Thank you J, J, L and L. Being your Mom is an honor and the greatest joy of my life!

Categories: Family, Gratitude, Gratituesday | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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