Author Archives: Bridget

twenty-one seconds

This morning as we were rushing out the door – we’re always rushing out the door – the littlest cried, “I don’t have my hat!” She was already buckled in so I darted back inside to grab it. It was in my bathroom, of course, because who doesn’t leave their hat in someone else’s bathroom? As I was coming back out, my big girl shouted, “Can you get my Amelia Earhart hat?” Ugh! She didn’t even say please. (She’s going to be Amelia Earhart for a school presentation in the spring and we’re grabbing bits and pieces of costume as we go along).

One of my biggest parenting goals is to teach my children to be self-sufficient while also having enough self-confidence to ask for help when they get stuck and really can’t do it on their own. Dancing around the details of exactly how to do that, I often find myself tripping over my own feet. It’s a major struggle for me as a mother, and I get so incredibly frustrated with them about it. So when she called out to me, my initial reaction dripped with bitter extract de annoyance. I caught myself just before I screamed at her to get it herself. Then I decided that maybe I should just pretend that I never heard her. If she went in to get it, it would take forever. If I went back in, it’d probably take half as long but still…we were late! Late, I tell you! But, ya know…we’re always late, I thought to myself. So as my foot hit the last step, I turned sharply and dashed back up the stairs.

It took me twenty-one seconds to run up the stairs, grab the hat, and come back down. Twenty-one seconds. I know because I counted. And with each second I realized that we were going to be late anyway, so what would twenty-one seconds matter? Or thirty-one? Or even ninety-one or more? We’re not talking about a life or death situation here. Just preschool drop-off.

I hit my arm on the car door as I jumped into my seat, mumbled a bad word, and tossed the hat back to her. She smiled and said thanks. As I drove I started thinking about how many times I’ve asked people to do things that I’m perfectly capable of doing myself, of how many times I’ve quickly tossed out a, “Hey! Could you grab my (phone, drink, book, etc.)?” It doesn’t mean that I’m not self-sufficient. It doesn’t mean that I’m rude and lazy. It’s just something we do for the ones we love.  And I want to teach my children that, too. Maybe the dance is beginning to get just a little bit easier.

(P.S. She didn’t even wear the damn hat).

I can do hard things!

She is a very diligent student. She is thorough and determined. She’s also incredibly sensitive. And when she doesn’t understand something, even a brand new something, she gets upset about it. I don’t know where she gets that. ;-) And it’s difficult for me. I don’t want to downplay her fears and feelings, but at the same time I don’t want to not push her. If we’re never pushed, we never move forward. It’s tricky.

Sometimes I take pictures when my children are feeling vulnerable, when they are struggling with something. These are pictures I never share with others. These are sacred moments between mother and child. These are pictures of conflict that beg for resolution. I don’t capture these moments to be mean, I do it so that I can show these pictures to them later. I want to remind them that once upon a time walking was hard for them. Once upon a time riding a bike was hard. Once upon a time adding seemed impossible. And look at you! You did those things! Was it easy to start walking, riding, or adding? No. But you did it! You did hard things! And it’s then…then they can really see themselves for who they are: someone who can do hard things.

On the dreadfully difficult days, this becomes our mantra: I can do hard things. It usually starts with me saying it quietly, reminding this determined little child of mine that she can indeed do whatever it is that we’re working on. I prod a few times and she whispers it along with me. We say it again, a little stronger this time. And stronger and stronger and stronger…until the tears are gone and we believe it. We both really believe it! And even once we’ve reached the pinnacle of belief, we keep shouting because once you know that you can do hard things, it’s hard to stop.

*This phrase isn’t just between me and my 8 year old, though she’s the one mentioned here. Some days find all 5 of us chanting it, cheering each other on. And I can promise you that there are days when I am shouting loudest of all. 

in the kitchen

I stand in the kitchen and listen to the quiet. The children are walking around the neighborhood, a freedom they’ve recently earned. The older two are now responsible enough to make sure the little two make wise choices, something we talk about over and over and over throughout our days. I relish the quiet now, but I can see myself standing in the kitchen years from now, making chicken and green beans and wild rice, but only for two. Then in the quiet I’ll hear my memories laughing and squealing and having fun. I’ve learned that it’s rare for memories not to become sugar-coated over the years.

I snap the beans two or three at a time and wish they’d come straight from the garden. One day, I tell myself, I’ll have a garden. One that actually produces enough to make it worth it. But by then I won’t need as much and I’ll (maybe) have more time, so that should work out nicely. I want peas, maybe purple hulls or lady peas or both. I want to sit on the front porch, rocking back and forth, shelling until my fingers are raw.

The pot sizzles at me as I move it onto the burner and I snap back to now. Even in the quiet, there is a cacophony of sound.
Snap.
Sizzle.
Hiss.
Hum.
Swish.
Bubble, bubble, bubble.

I love my todays. Sometimes they are exhausting. Other times, exhilarating. We laugh, guffaw even, together often. Occasionally we catch tears running down each other’s cheeks, overwhelmed by the moments.

I love my yesterdays. Drenched in sunshine and rainbows, they smile back at me. A few dark clouds hover in the background, the moments that will never go away but drift farther and farther away.

I love my tomorrows. Full of hope and promise. I love to dream and think about what will be, knowing darn well that nothing happens exactly as planned. It’s the swoops and swirls of life that make life what it is, makes us who we are.

I wonder who I’ll be then.
I wonder, too, who I am now.
But I do know this: we are more than just a collection of memories, more than a bucketful of dreams.
We are bits of this and bits of that, full of stardust and matter and imagination.
We have always been and always will be.
Matter is neither created or destroyed, remember.
Created in the image of God, I stand in the kitchen and wonder…

 

Bigger Than The Stars

We spin and spin and spin, one child after another and my head swirls as I fall into the grass. It’s been way too long since I let them wrap their arms around me and swing them ’round. One squeals in delight, one screams in exhilaration, one goes aaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh with his voice wavering up and down, and one laughs and laughs and laughs. My heart races, but not from the spinning. I love their unbridled happiness, how each one does their own thing, personalities gleaming through the swish and swirl.

I’ve been listening a lot more lately. I laid in the grass so long one night that dew settled on top of me, soft, almost imperceptible. I looked up at the sky and watched the clouds pass, some scurrying along and others dragging, tired and sluggish. It is night, after all. And when they all had gone their own way, there was nothing left but me and the stars. I’m not sure where the moon ran off to. Maybe playing hide and seek with the horizon. I found myself spinning and spinning and spinning, heart racing and full. Here I am, just a girl in the grass. The stars seem so teeny tiny and I so big. Everything is relative, isn’t it?

As I sunk into the ground, I felt the grass cradling me. I heard the air, really heard it barely sweeping by. A bird. A car far off in the distance. Crickets going and going and going. Do they ever stop? A bullfrog joins the song and there’s a symphony of sounds in the silence. If we only stop spinning long enough to listen.

 

See what you’ll see. Be who you’ll be.

It’s been so long since I’ve written here. I wonder if my children will look back one day and say, “What happened? She just faded away”. But the truth is that life got in the way. Things got crazy and busy and words needed to come, but they didn’t. Maybe I wouldn’t let them, or maybe they were just stuck. I can’t really tell. Either way, I feel them coming back. My fingers are dancing over the keys now, happy to be clicking and clacking away. My heart pumps hard with all the thoughts I want to share. There have been so many moments – splendidly amazing moments, painfully agonizing moments, and a million moments in between. I can never go back and recapture them, but sometimes you don’t need words to feel the moment as it was, as you remember it.

The moment below needed words. I want…no I need to catch his words and bottle them – the sound of his tiny voice, the way he stumbles over a word here and there, those big trusting eyes that look right into my heart. Oh, these precious children of mine. I do love them so. I like them so, too.

photoDate night with my funny little fellow. He ordered grilled cheese with broccoli because the other option was fries and fries are made from tomatoes. No, not tomatoes. Amatoes…ugh! What is it, Mommy? Oh, yeah…potatoes. And I laughed on the inside, but not the out because I never want to hurt his big feelings that are smooshed into that little body. I had a salad with chicken and a delightfully tangy vinaigrette and all the fruits I love best. I finished well before he did, even though he only ate one piece of broccoli and all of his sandwich except for the crust. (I don’t like crust either). We sat in silence for a while, and it made me think of so many meals I’ve shared with Marshall; just sitting together and being quiet. We’ve laughed before how other diners probably think we’re mad at one another or have just run out of things to say, but the truth is that my brain is always going, going, going and so are my words and I’m surrounded by a cacophony of sound all the time and it really is such a release to just sit and be.

We were there together because he’d had a rough day. He yelled in anger at his sister, and when I butted my head into the conversation he teared up and said, “But I never get to be alone!” And gush! My heart gate flooded because I know (oh, how I know) exactly how he feels. I love having my family around me. I love being with them. But sometimes it’s just too much. I need quiet and focus and {deep breath} just to breathe. So I asked him if he’d like to go on a date. Just the two of us and he grinned and picked the restaurant that had the best grilled cheese.

On the way out the door, I reached out for his hand. He’s taken to rejecting my hand by saying, “I’m brave enough, Mommy” as we cross the parking lot, but this time he obliged. I looked down at him. “Thanks for holding my hand. I love holding your hand”. “I love holding your hand, too, Mommy”. And almost imperceptibly , he sighed out, “I like you”. “I like you, too, love”, I whispered back. Oof.

As were were coming home, the sun was shouting goodbye as loudly as she could. She waved to us between every tiny crack and crevice of the forest. And he held his cup up to his eye – his big, beautiful eye - and looked out at the world around us. “Whatcha doin”? “Oh, just looking at the world in a different way. I like to do that sometimes”.

{Me, too}.

The Long & Short of It

If you just want the short version, scroll down.

The Long:
I’ve told the story a hundred times but it never gets old to me. Does it for any mother? The hours I pushed. How he seemed to be stuck. And then POP! (I actually felt a pop, unlike anything I’ve ever felt before or since). And then he tumbled into this world, and it was there but no one saw it. You can see it clearly when you look at the pictures. It’s funny how pictures capture things you never noticed in the moment. They cleaned him up and there were some whispers. The nurses noticed quickly and paged the on-call pediatric nurse practitioner. She swooped in, swaddled him, and brought him over to me. She held him near me, talked of abnormalities and what they knew and what they didn’t know. He is healthy, she said, but there’s this one thing. And she danced around the one thing for what seemed like ages. It may or may not be related to any other issues. We don’t know. It’s nothing I’ve personally ever seen before, she said. And, y’all, my honest thought was that he had an extra head growing out of his neck. It seems ridiculous now, but that’s what I thought. I’ve always had an (over)active imagination. She finally got around to telling me about this “abnormality” and I laughed. I laughed! And then she looked at me like I had an extra head growing out of my neck! She’s prepped it as some big, awful thing and I was just so grateful he didn’t have a neck-head that I laughed. So he was born with 10 tiny fingers and 8 tiny toes. Even then, I never worried. And I can usually compete in the national championship of worrying, but with this it just was. The pediatrician came in the next day and said that sometimes some syndromes can be connected with limb deformities but my heart-gut knew that he was syndrome-free. My very first baby, I (of course) thought he was perfect. I was (and am) proud of his special foot and I love that he embraces it as what makes him unique.

We saw a few specialists after he was born (thankfully we were living near an academic medical center that has great doctors and many resources) and it was decided that we would do nothing for now. Nothing can be done to add extra toes (and there’s no need, really). But eventually, when he was around 10, something would need to be done about the discrepancy between his leg lengths. When he started walking, they said, he may need a shoe lift. But he walked well without it and the difference in length wasn’t enough to harm his hips and so we just let it go. We’ve always had to buy two pairs of shoes to create one “Carter pair” but that’s manageable. Last year it was decided that the difference was enough to warrant a shoe lift - a pretty significant one at about 3/4in. And so we bought four pairs of shoes (to make two pairs) and took them to the orthopedic shoe place where they sent them off and had them custom-made. It wasn’t difficult, but it wasn’t cheap either. But you do what you have to do and move on with it, I suppose.

A few weeks ago I noticed that his gait had returned to a limp-step, much like he’d had right before we started with the lifts. So I called his orthopedic’s office and asked what I needed to do to get a new lift prescription. They told me I needed to bring him in and be measured again. So yesterday a friend (thank goodness she was able to go!) piled into the car with me and the kids and we drove to his office, which is about 2 hours away. I assumed we’d be in and out like normal. It didn’t happen quite like that. I won’t go into all the details of the visit because although it’s an adorable story, it’s not my story to tell. Maybe one day Carter will share with you but it’ll be up to him whether or not he shares that part. I will say this much. When the doctor first suggested that it was time to do the procedure, Carter wasn’t very thrilled with the idea. The doctor, resident, and I talked over the options and I made the choice on how and when to proceed. In retrospect, I should have included him then, but I didn’t. I’ll just blame that on the fact that I was a little surprised that we were here already. Last year we’d been told his bone age wasn’t anywhere close to where it needed to be for surgery. I knew he’d grown significantly in the past year, but I didn’t realize it was that much. So I called Marshall and was going over things with him when I noticed that Carter was sitting there, stunned. I  quickly hung up the phone and sent my friend out to the waiting room with the other children so that he and I can talk. It was then that I realized that I hadn’t included him in the conversation at all. I try to be cognizant about keeping my kids in the know about things that will affect them and I felt really awful that I’d just breezed through this without ever talking to him. I asked him what questions he had and he had some really great questions. Questions that I, honestly, probably should have asked before consenting to such a big procedure. So I asked if the doctor could come back in and answer some questions. The resident came in and was so very wonderful with him as he asked a handful of really thoughtful and specific questions. I told him later that I was proud of how logical he was about it all and how professional he sounded when he asked his questions. He didn’t shy away. He knew what he wanted to know and he asked.

The Short:
So here we are. After a lifetime of knowing that this was coming, it kinda slapped me in the face when it got here. I was expecting another prescription for a new shoe lift; I left with a surgery scheduled for a little more than two weeks away. The procedure is called an epiphysiodesis. The epiphysis is the big, rounded end of your leg bone. Between that big, rounded end and the long, straight part of the bone is an area called the epiphyseal plate, or (as most of us would call it) the growth plate. They will use an eight-plate, which is (as you may have guessed) a plate that’s shaped like an 8. And they’ll use this plate to essentially hold the big, round end of the bone and the long, straight part of the bone together so that the growth plate can’t grow. This will allow the shorter leg to catch up to the longer leg. It will mean that he’ll be shorter than he would have been otherwise, but that’s much better than having wonky hips and a lifetime of hip problems.

He’ll go in early on June 12 and they will do it as an outpatient procedure. After that we’ll come home with him on crutches for a few days, maybe a week. And he’ll have to take it easy for a little while. I’ve explained to him that it will hurt some but that the benefits far outweigh the risks and long-term effects of not doing the surgery. He is a little nervous (as is normal) but pretty excited about having unlimited electronics time. I, oddly, have been pretty calm about it all so far. We have been seeing the same doctor for almost his entire life and have developed a bit of a rapport with him. He is an excellent surgeon and I have complete confidence in him. I was a little taken aback initially that we were at this point already, but I’ve yet to be nervous. It’s one of those times when I hear Marley singing in my head, “every little thing…is gonna be alright.” And it is. It’s all gonna be alright.

 

Mornings aren’t what they used to be.

Things are changing around here. My kids are becoming more self-sufficient, and I can catch a few more minutes of sleep without having to worry that someone is going to break something (or break themselves). I wrote about it on The Simple Moms but still wanted to share it here. The contest I mention at the bottom of that post is over, but our story isn’t. Things will keep changing but I’ll still want to remember this.
#momishere

just.like.that.

2010 & 2014

We were there.
And now we’re here.
just.like.that.
And I wonder just how it happened.

“The days are long, but the years are short.”
I always come back to that.
Again and again.

On the longest of days, I find myself crying.
Crying out of irritation.
Crying out of frustration.
Crying out for bedtime.
I watch the clock, counting down the minutes until the chaos begins to fade.
Deep breaths, Mama. Deep breaths.

But when the reality of how short the years are really hits, I find myself crying too.
Crying because sometimes it’s all so beautiful and so perfect and so wonderful
that my heart BOOMS extra hard,
and it all just bubbles up out of my eyes and runs down my cheeks.
And my heart is so full and I want these moments -
these moments when I can fix all the things,
and kiss away all the pains,
and fill their every need
- to last forever.

The years are short.
And it feels like they’re getting shorter.
So I’ll do my best to stretch out each moment and fill it with as much
beauty
and love
and grace
as I can muster.
(And sometimes that might not be much)
(But I will try)
Because before I know it
now will be then
just.like.that.

It’s Okay to Make Magic

disney1

I recently saw a post from a mother saying that she is done trying to make her children’s childhood magical. Many of you posted links to it, moved by what the author was saying. As I read along, I found myself nodding along with you all. But then, in the back of my mind, I heard a little something. “But you like crafting with your children,” it said. “And you loved watching their faces light up at Disney World.” And I started feeling a little uncomfortable because I wanted to agree with her, I wanted to give it the virtual equivalent of a knowing nod of approval by linking to it…but it just didn’t sit well with me. I wrestled with my thoughts off and on all day. And, finally, I caught my thoughts long enough to take a look at them. Childhood is indeed happy and wonderful and even magical (for most kids) without the aid of any extra toys or games or crafts or events. But you know what isn’t always happy and wonderful and magical? Adulthood. And maybe it’s self-centered to admit this, but those fun crafts that we do and those “adventures” we go on? They aren’t always really just for the children. Sometimes they’re for me.

I do crafts with my children not to compete with the mom down the street. I do crafts with my children because I love to be there to watch their minds spin and whirl around the possibilities. I love to watch them try something new and see their eyes light up when what they’d dreamed up came true. I (sometimes) even love to watch them try things and fail. Maybe that’s awful of me. But I love to see how they respond when things don’t turn out like they thought they would. I love being there when they want to give up and I get to cheer them on. I love being there when they realize that they don’t actually need me, but that they can do it on their own. Those moments? Those moments are what I consider magical. And maybe they won’t remember it, but I will.

I take my children on adventures to musicals and plays and Disney World, not because I know they will remember it (though, honestly, I hope they will), but because I love to see them over the moon in the moment. I love the sparkle in their eyes and the grin on their faces when they meet their favorite character. I love the way her voice goes up an octave when she tells others about meeting Ariel or Sophia or Jake. And I love how all of his words try to come out at once when he tells about fighting Darth Maul. Maybe after a few years (or maybe even weeks) they won’t remember it, but I will. And I’ll be grateful that I had the opportunity to be a part of the magic.

I do a lot of “magical” things with my children and I put a lot of effort into keeping things lively around our house. But at the same time, I completely agree with so much of what the author said. Kids need unstructured, unsupervised time where they can explore and play and learn without adults (and adult biases) getting in the way. (One of my favorite scientists, Dr. Neil Degrasse Tyson, talks about this a lot). I agree that we shouldn’t plan all of the minutes. I agree that sometimes we (the parents) get so wrapped up in providing ample opportunities for our kids to learn and play that we forget to pencil in down time. We forget to give them time to do nothing. We don’t allow them time to sit and get bored! We’ve bought into the idea that if they get bored, they’ll get in trouble. And while that can certainly be true in some cases, often times the “trouble” isn’t all that bad and the pay off for what they’ve learned is well worth it in the long run.

Ultimately what I’m saying is that I think the author is right…we often put too much pressure on ourselves to make life magical and perfect for our kids…and it’s not necessary. They don’t need any of it. But if creating these moments brings you and your children joy? Then, by all means, go ahead. Grandparents have been doing that for decades! :-)

Over.

I just need today to be over.
It’s one of those days where I feel bad for complaining because it’s really not so bad
but SERIOUSLY with all the little things just slamming me in the shin over and over again.
And I think, “I should be able to handle this.”
But instead of rolling off my back, it puddles up at my ankles and rises slowly
until my nose is just very barely above the waterline
and if I open my mouth, it will all rush in and I don’t have time to clean up that kind of mess.

And every little thing, every.single.little.thing.
crawls under my skin and burrows there
And I try to close my eyes and take a deep breath
but even that doesn’t work today.

I just need today to be over.
After all…tomorrow is another day.
(Isn’t that what all Southerners say)?
Preferably one with lots of sunshine.
(Literal sunshine).
I think that will help.