Posts Tagged With: parenting

 
 

The Things You Learn Whether You Know You’re Learning Them or Not

It’s Gratituesday! I’ve thought this one over for a while. I’m grateful to my parents for teaching me some cool stuff.

For instance, Mom taught me to sew as a little bitty thing. I remember sewing little drawstring bags and carrying my treasures in them. Not sure what had more value, the bag or the things in the bag. I’ve since sewn a few thousand things. I’ve made  quilts, baby blankets, skirts, dresses, shirts from scraps, pillowcases and a zillion other projects. I’ve hemmed countless pants and dresses, and altered clothing beyond imagining. I even made a living for a while using my sewing skills. How about that?

By Dongui (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo By Dongui (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Mom also taught me the basics of playing the piano. Then Dad and Mom both put up with listening to me crank out bad versions of pop songs and classical music. And Dad, he paid for lessons from Mrs. Kump, since they  thought I’d learn better from a different teacher for a while. I’ve played for a zillion different things and have even segued into playing the organ occasionally, which rocks, in case you’ve ever wondered. Of course, this lead naturally to a love of all these musical.

Mom sang in a music group and I learned to sing alto by listening to her practice as well as by sitting next to her while we sang hymns in church.

Dad instilled a love of all things gardening and growing. I still recall his engineering quality maps of our yard with every single plant mapped out in amazing detail. I loved getting my hands in the dirt, watching the veggies grown, picking fresh raspberries, mowing the lawn. I still prefer doing yard work to house work, even in Arizona.

They also taught me, indirectly, the satisfaction that comes from serving others. I learned, without words, that you stay and help clean up after an event. By example they let me see and feel the joy of helping others whether by bringing in a meal, helping shovel a neighbor’s driveway or listening to someone’s worries with genuine concern. Some of my happiest memories link to volunteer work, freely giving of my time and being available to share my talents just like I saw them do so often in my childhood.

Photo By Joe Tordiff [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo By Joe Tordiff [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Both Dad and Mom gave me experiences that brought me to love the outdoors. As a family we went on hikes, motorbike rides, sledding, camping, horseback rides, trips to Yellowstone and Grand Canyon and countless other state and national parks. We got out on snowmobiles and hung out in a canoe fishing. We build snowmen like no one else could. We had an epic treehouse that Dad designed and built complete with a sandbox, both of which fueled out imaginations. We spent tons of time in the mountains, which feel like a second home to me.

Mom taught me the basics of canning and preserving food. We used to make the yummiest apricot fruit leather this side of anywhere! I still get kind of puckery in my cheeks remembering that sweet/sour taste. Her pickled beets are the bomb. And no one, and I mean nobody anywhere, makes raspberry freezer jam like my mom does. I’ve tried and mine’s only a close second.

I learned to laugh from both Mom and Dad. Raising all of us kids wasn’t easy, to put it mildly, so to hear them laugh out loud was a treat. Their laughter dispelled some of the tension that inevitably snuck into family life and always reminded me that recreation and relaxation and daily laughter help balance out the tough times.

Photo By dave_7 from Lethbridge, Canada (VW Van) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo By dave_7 from Lethbridge, Canada (VW Van) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons (Not the one I actually drove.)

I know how to drive a stick shift! How many people do you know can drive a vehicle with a manual transmission nowadays? I learned to drive on hills in a dual wheel converted flatbed truck as well as in a VW van. Because of that, driving the largest rental moving van across the country wasn’t all that intimidating a few years later.

I love to read and learn new things. I got that from both of them. That right there is probably key to all the rest of the stuff they taught me. And even now, they’re still learning new tricks, as Dad likes to call it. I hope I’m still soaking in the knowledge when i reach my grownup years like them.

These few things I learned from Dad and Mom have bounced around my head lately. I’m sure grateful to have learned so much. I think I turned out okay, so far at least. They must have done a good job.

P.S.

I’d still like to learn how to whistle like Dad does. Maybe this summer he can teach me.

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Naked Crayons and Other Sunny Things

By Simsala111 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0]

By Simsala111 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0]

Spending time lately with my favorite three-year old I picked up on some of her personalized words and phrases. She’s smart! And I’m not just biased.

Here’s proof.

I mean look at this first word. She says:

Hanitizer” instead of hand sanitizer 

That makes perfect sense and in fact ought to replace the two-word equivalent, don’t you agree?

She hasn’t quite mastered the art of “f” and “v” so she uses an “s” instead.  So, when she asks:

“Please can I have some Sruit Snacks?”

I try to remember to add an “f” or a “v” in place of an “s.” And, voila’ I know she really wants Fruit Snacks.

I think, again, she’s stumbled on something brilliant, since those little bite-sized pieces of candy-like substance have about as much to do with fruit as her version of the word does.

One of her favorite pastimes is watching videos or:

Mooies” also known as movies.

At my house she gets away with watching more than she does at her own house. I’m thinking of hiding “Aladdin” and “Bug’s Life” because I can’t seem to get them out of my head.

By Glamhag (Glass slippers) [CC-BY-SA-2.0]

By Glamhag (Glass slippers) [CC-BY-SA-2.0]

Oddly, she refuses to watch “Cinderella” or as she calls it:

“Cindergrilla.”

Sounds like a Planet of the Apes version of the glass slipper story, doesn’t it? It once served as her Mom’s favorite movie as a kid and led to the naming of a semi-adopted cat named “Suffer” (another appropriate word-twist.) Someday I’ll convince her to watch it.

When she colors with crayons she prefers the newer ones that haven’t had the paper wrappers ripped off of them. When I recently handed her an orange crayon without the paper around it she laughed and then she said:

You want this book!

You want this book!

“It’s a Naked Crayon!”

Then I laughed, too. Her Mom said she probably got the term from a book they’d read from the library called, “The Day the Crayons Quit” by Oliver Jeffers.

You’d like the book, too, even if you don’t hang out with three-year olds. Drop in to the library and look at it sometime, or buy a copy for your own favorite three-year old. And then next time you pick up a naked crayon, you’ll get to laugh as well.

What a great sense of humor this particular three-year old possesses. I’ve learned to see things with a twist when get to I spend time with her. When she thinks something’s hilarious she even says so:

“Haha, that’s sunny!”

Then I remember to replace the “s” with an “f” and I know she’s found something funny!

Funny and sunny definitely seem related. The more sun I include in my days, the funner my life feels. Likewise, the more fun I remember to schedule in, the sunnier my days.

See, isn’t she brilliant? I sure think so.

Naked Crayons!!!

Naked Crayons!!!

Categories: Family, Humor, parenting | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

At School In Your Underwear?

“Always follow your dream! Unless it’s the one where you’re at school in your underwear during a fire drill.”

~Friday Letter to my Kids~

Dear J, J, L and L,

That joke illustrates how I feel about advice. I’ve never liked the one about following your dreams especially. I have some pretty bizarre dreams!

When you started fleeing the nest I promised myself one thing:

“I will not give my grown children advice.”

Maybe, if you asked for it, then I would venture an opinion. Maybe. Otherwise, my lips stay sealed, my tongue unmoved, my pen silent.

If my parenting served you well at all, my advice got hardwired into you as you grew. Any nagging, suggestions or ideas I might throw out at this point in the game act as so much dust on the wind.

Honestly, y’all outdo me so far as parents, as spouses, as decent people in general. By time I was your age, clueless and flailing best describe how I navigated life. Scary thought.

What little advice or tidbits I’ve gleaned and could pass on over the years hang on the walls in my house or I simply live it.

(Except for the bit about you getting adequate education and being fully prepared to support yourself and your family, male or female. Maybe you learned that more from life’s hard knocks. I’m certain I also hammered it in verbally during particularly trying seasons and episodes of our ongoing dramedy.)

Y’all already get it. I think I just need to reassure myself that I actually taught you something. So here’s some of the advice I’m hoping you learned before rocketing into the jetstream of adulthood, in no particular order:

Non-Advice Advice

  1. Laugh every single day if you can.photo 5 copy 3
  2. Sing often and off-key if necessary.photo-26 copy 2
  3. Kindness matters more than you know.photo 2-2 copy 19
  4. Back door friends are the best and necessary.photo 3-4 copy 10
  5. Learn to say no if you need to, and yet…
  6. Pay attention to and follow that gut instinct you get about certain things.photo-24 copy 23
  7. Say yes when you can…photo 1-4 copy 17
  8. Mom loves you forever and always.photo-24 copy 24
  9. Family comes first.photo 2-4 copy 2
  10. Count blessings daily.photo 3-5 copy 3
  11. Learn as much as you can.photo 2-5
  12. Read, read, read.photo 1-7
  13. People outrank stuff every time.photo 1-5 copy 5
  14. When you’re lost or uncertain, look at a map.photo 1-6 copy 2 
  15. Love much and deeply.photo-25 copy 5

 

I’m glad you’ve busted free of some of the not so good behaviors (i.e. bad advice) you could have picked up from growing up as a child of mine. For instance…

You’re all waaaaaay better than me at:

  • living organized
  • having less clutter
  • managing your money
  • getting educated
  • making friends
  • working as a team with your spouse
  • kindness and generosity
  • being like a duck (little things stay little things)
  • sticking to your goals
  • stability
  • optimism

Basically you’re exceeding my wildest hopes and expectations. I couldn’t be prouder of or happier for each of you.

You make my promise to never give advice an easy one to keep. You don’t need any advice. You’ve got this. No worries.

Love ya tons,

Mom

"Bluebird of Happymess"

“Bluebird of Happymess”

 

 “I always advise people never to give advice.” ~ P.G. Wodehouse

~~~~~

 “The quality of any advice anybody has to offer has to be judged against the quality of life they actually lead.” ~ Douglas Adams

~~~~~

“I am glad that I paid so little attention to good advice; had I abided by it I might have been saved from some of my most valuable mistakes.” ~ Edna St. Vincent Millay

 

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

Who-Hair and Other Facts of Life

A few of the Who Ville folk.

A few of the Who Ville folk.

Friday Letter to my Kids

Dear J, J, L and L,

I love your Dad. Three decades plus of being together grows Lego-like connections that only fit each other, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, mentally. I can talk to him about ANY thing and he doesn’t go ballistic or get out of whack. He’s a great listener and so very caring and concerned and generous.

MSH, also known as Dad or Pa at our house, loves you more than you can ever know. It’s one of those things you only understand when you’re halfway through your life and have gone through a few things. So just trust me on this one.

I preface today’s letter with those reassurances for lots of reasons, some of them having to do with thongs, hair brushes, speedos, who-hair, corduroy, delegation, advice and perfectionism. Not necessarily in that order. It’s all kind of a twisty mess.

Dad's alter ego?

Dad’s alter ego?

Yes, a twisty mess, kind of like Dad’s hair. I affectionately call it “Who-hair,” as in Dr. Seuss’s amazing little creatures. When your Dad wakes up who knows what his hair will have formed itself into. Bedhead hair is normal for most people. The name who-hair stuck because he so often simply doesn’t bother to comb his hair at all. That’s one of those benefits/dangers of working from home most of the time. All day long he sports a pillow-designed coif, answering the door, sometimes running errands, looking every bit like he just woke up. It’s kind of endearing, don’t you think? A little Einstein-ish.

Funny thing is when I met your father he, quite frankly, was a little vain. He took a lot of pride in how he looked. Always had a comb in his pocket. Checked the mirror frequently. He had this brown velvet jacket that he looked stunning in. Oh my! Takes my breath away even thinking about it this many years later. Yes. Your father cared how he presented himself to the world. I’m not sure when that changed, but it surely did, from day to night. I will add, the corduroy pants have been and will always be part of who he is.

These particular footwear were known as thongs (made in the 70s and 80's)

These set of footwear are called thongs (made in the 70s and 80’s)

That said, he doesn’t change very much. Doesn’t want to. That’s a big part of why flip-flops, those sandal-like shoe things we wear on our feet, will always and forever be thongs in his vocabulary. Known as thongs back in the day, he will call them that to his dying breath. Ironic that his one surviving pair that he loves are, yes, rainbow colors. I find it sad that the world has changed so much that basic innocent words and other things have taken on such odd and disconnected meanings from their origins.

Here’s two things you must remember. And this isn’t just your Dad, it’s most Dads.

Advice = Love

You need to… = I love you

When a sentence from his mouth begins with the words, “you need to,” just know those are really the three little words everyone longs to hear, just in Dad language.

All Dads see part of their role as a fixer, a repairer and an answer man.

If you actually ask for his advice on a topic you’ll make his day. You’re light years ahead if you can simply accept his advice knowing that it really means that he loves you. You don’t have to go along with the advice, but thank him for it, sincerely.  Appreciate the meaning behind what he says. I know that’s a really tough pill for some of you to swallow, but truth nonetheless.

The other Dad-unique thing he’s done is spend time with us watching TV or movies. Just being in the room together, sharing some popcorn or a snack, for him says Love. Dad isn’t  alone in that. I’ve heard of other men who are the same way. It’s not a disconnect in their minds, it’s an indirect way of sharing time and space. And shared time and space equals Love.

Shared Time and Space = Love

One of my most cherished memories is of Big J as a three-year old coming out of your bedroom after an hour of pretend sleeping. Dad would say, “do you need some time with your Dad?” And J, you’d say, “yeah,” in your sleepy voice, trying to hide a grin.

Best reruns ever.

Best reruns ever.

So Dad would break out the chips and salsa and the two of your would sit on the ugly orange plaid sofa munching while watching M*A*S*H reruns. Then you’d snuggle up. Dad would be in his classic pose of lying sideways, legs taking up most of the room on the couch, and Big J would perch on top of him in perfect imitation and fall instantly to sleep.

If that wasn’t love, I don’t know what is.

And girls, those times when your Dad went along with your idea to play beauty parlor, shows his sense of humor as well as his love. He even posed for photos with those bobby pins, barrettes, curlers and bows all over his head. Yet another example of his looking every bit the part of a Who from Who Ville. What a good sport he was. And still is.

I’m rethinking sharing the speedo and hairbrush stories, for now. And the delegation, perfectionism and creativity can wait for another day, too.

If I could sum up your Dad, it’d be in an equation that looks like this.

Dad = Love

It’s true. He’s not like any other Dad on the planet or in the galaxy. He hasn’t ever been a sports dude, or a nine to five guy, but he’s got a ton of love for each of you. More than you’ll ever know. Believe me, that’s the reality of it.

Tons of Love from,

Mom

and

from your Dad

photo-23 copy 5
“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.” ~ Umberto Eco

 

 

 

 

Categories: Family, Friday Letters, parenting | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 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

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

Giving In and Saying It Anyway

The earth somehow keeps spinning.

The earth somehow keeps spinning.

I’ve resisted as long as I can.

The voices have occupied my head for a day or more now. Ignoring them makes them grow louder. Sometimes what you want and what you need oppose each other like two big scary dogs, teeth bared, back hunched, a low growl, narrowed eyes, hackles up.

Fine. I give in. Here it is. The thoughts that have raced through my head the past twenty-four hours.

I’m not a Mother’s Day fan.

There. I said it.

What?

You want an explanation? Do I really need to give one?

Seriously, this year I decided to let go of that whiney, complaining, high expectations, nonsense that surrounds a holiday to celebrate motherhood. I had determined to embrace the joy, the beauty, the gift of life attitude of this greeting card holiday.

I nearly lost my Mom this past year. Twice. Heart stopping in its possibility, that thought has haunted me the past day. Haunted me since last July the first time it happened.

I’m sorry, but I can’t let my mother die. That can’t, won’t, shouldn’t, couldn’t ever never ever never happen. My life would come to an end if that happened. You see, there’s this spiritual umbilical cord-like thing that attaches her life to mine and mine to hers. Her blood beats in my body. I’m part of her and she is part of me, in more ways than the merely physical.

We might go a week or two or even a month without talking on the phone and six months or more without seeing one another, but the connection of daughter to mother is strong and undeniable and filled with comfort and power and this undefinable somethingness I can’t find a word for.

How does anyone survive the death of their own mother? And then, how much more pain is there on Mother’s Day when your mother isn’t there to call on the phone, or have over for dinner, or send a card to?

I don’t ever want to find out.

When my best friend died five months ago part of me broke loose and has rattled around inside me trying to find a landing-place. So far it just keeps banging around, running into things, pinching, jabbing, stabbing, clanging about.

She left behind four children who today celebrate, mourn, cry, thrash, scream, yowl, sob, pretend, remember, deny, cherish, ache. My heart hurts for them, for their unspeakable pain and loss.

Then I think about all the mother’s that might have passed away this year, last year, all the years and such sorrow washes over me. How does the world keep spinning in the face of such things?

I have no idea.

I do know that Mothers possess a singular sort of magic.

Maybe it’s sort of like this. Some thing in the power of motherhood pushes life forward, keeps this impossible ball spinning on its axis, gives us strength and will to put one foot ahead of the other, and whispers in our ears, “Live!”

 

 

Categories: Death, parenting, Relationships, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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

Laundry Days

I’ve become reacquainted with the sheets and pillows on my bed thanks to the flu. About all I can do is sleep lately. And edit this bit of writing I did before “Ambush of the Virus Crud” started playing on infinite loop. Enjoy while I go back to sleep some more.

Laundry.

Everyone talks about it but no one does anything about it.

Oh, wait. That’s the weather.

I’m sure there’s some awesome correlations there. But that’s another day.

photo by Michael Gäbler

photo by Michael Gäbler

Actually, I have some ethereal memories of laundry drying on the line when I was a young child. I remember especially the sheets catching the breeze and snapping in the gusts. Walking between the rows of semi-damp jeans, socks, pillow cases, towels, t-shirts and diapers felt adventurous. Getting a face full of sun and air-dried sheet filled my head with the scent of clean. Not some corporate version of “fresh linen” or “mountain air” fakeness.

I yearn for that real smell to envelop me when I snuggle into the covers at night. Imagine dreaming with that oxygen-rich sensation filling your lungs and heart. Imagine being surrounded by a fresh, smooth sun-infused sheet as you drift off each night.

Wondrous.

The other laundry smell I remember with fondness happened indoors and coincided with the sound of soap operas. All that sun and air-dried laundry ended up wrinkly and needing the coaxing of heat and steam to smooth out the creases and lines inherent in mostly cotton fabric. Mom had a bottle with small holes she’d fill with water then sprinkle over a pile of laundry to dampen it before setting to work with the iron. She could miraculously turn that dampness into flat, smooth freshly pressed handkerchiefs, workshirts, skirts, dresses and tablecloths in no time.

Or it seemed like no time to me.

Actually the long rather boring long process went faster to the accompaniment of a soap opera or two. I simply recall the steamy scent of fresh laundry filling the house as I sat at the kitchen table eating a tuna sandwich before heading off to kindergarten. Those smells speak of surety and safety, security and softness. I have only to remember Mom standing in the kitchen on those days to instill a sense of all’s right with the world in the center of me.

I don’t know about that idea of “cleanliness being next to godliness,” but I do know that smell of outdoor dried laundry seems like a bit of heaven on earth.

I think it’s against the CC&R’s in our HOA. (Translation: CC&R Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions HOA: Home Owner’s Association.)

No, really, I think it’s against the rules to hang laundry outside in your very own, enclosed and walled in backyard here in my little town. Trashy looking apparently.

To be honest, it’s a ton of work to hang laundry outside. I’ve done it before in a non-HOA environment.  In Oklahoma, I think. I felt ultra domestic. It didn’t last long. We had a spell of  bad weather, or the dryer got fixed or I came to my senses.

Crunchy?

Nowadays it would maybe land me at a one on the crunchy mom scale. And then this other thing I used to do might make me extra “crunchy.”

I used cloth diapers back in the day for my first two kids. Not to save the environment, but because we couldn’t afford the fairly new and very pricey luxury of disposable diapers for two children at the same time. Not sure we could even afford them for one child.

I still shudder when I think of washing diapers. That smell memory nearly knocks me off my feet. I did a load of diapers every single day. You can’t let a babe sit around in a soggy cloth diaper without causing actual physical harm to that delicate skin.

To this day, a quarter century later, if I have to use a safety-pin for something I automatically run it through my hair (to pick up a bit of natural oil) so it will slide through the fabric easier. That’s what I did countless times a day for years with the diaper pins I used.

The shudder of that remembered smell still, rather oddly, carries with it sweet memories of two of my babies. I push the negative cloud aside and reach instead for the sound of laughter in the bathtub before bedtime. I see two red noses and chubby cheeks bundled in winter coats and gloves being pulled behind a saucer sled in the snow. I see a sandbox filled with sand castles, roads, water and then little tanned bodies splashing in a plastic play pool.

photo by Hyena (Wikicommons)

photo by Hyena (Wikicommons)

All those fun things we did together created more laundry to wash and dry and fold and put away. And, honestly and truly, it was worth every minute of the work.

I’m in awe at the speed those those far distant and not so distant days disappeared and became these I walk through now.

Amazing. And wonder filled.

Categories: Family, Memory Lane, parenting | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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