Category Archives: Parenting

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! :-)

goodnight, my love…

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Heart-to-heart and skin-to-skin calms your soul (and mine).
I trace your face with my finger, pulling your eyelids down low.
Swoosh down the bridge of your nose and land on your tiny, plump lips.
You pull your head towards my chest ever-so-slightly and sigh.
Your arms intertwined with mine jump then loosen as you dive into your dreams.
Goodnight, my love.
Sweet dreams.

three.

My baby turned three today. Three, y’all. Oof. (She’s still “the baby” though).

birthday girl

A few years ago, my oldest daughter turned 5 and we were going to go to Build-a-Bear for her birthday and so I didn’t have a gift to hand her that morning but I still wanted to give her something. So I wrote down five things I love about her and hid them all over the house. Each one had a clue on how to find the next one. She smiled and laughed the whole time. She is a words of encouragement kinda girl. I’d honestly forgotten about that until we were at Disney and she mentioned it when we were talking about all the different ways we’ve celebrated birthdays.

jan birthdays

We celebrated most of “the baby’s” birthday two weeks ago when we did the big January birthday celebration. (We have 3 January birthdays in our family. I somehow managed to only get one dinky little picture of Marshall.) And we celebrated a little more at Disney World last week. But today we made pink cupcakes with pink icing and let her pick the meal (which she hardly touched). We saved out one toy from the celebration for her to have today. A Little People Cinderella with her coach to go with her favorite toy ever. I never dreamed I’d have such girly girls…

After we’d given her the gift we saved, her big sister proclaimed, “I have one more gift!” And she proudly led her around the house on a little scavenger hunt like I’d done for her.

birthday notes searchJust look at these sweet notes. Oh, my heart.

birthday notes

1. You are my favorite sister.
2. I love how you sing.
3. I love what you play.

My heart is so, so very full.

Five.

Oh my sweet, big boy,

I want to say all those Mommy-things about how I can’t believe you’re already five. FIVE! And about how much you’ve grown and how big you’ve gotten. I want to go back and look at pictures of teeny tiny you and reminisce about the day you were born and the moment when your siblings first saw you and coming home from the hospital and cuddling in my chair with all three of you in my lap. Did you know that when we left the hospital, we didn’t take you straight home? We stopped at church. It was Christmas Eve and that’s one of my favorite services of the year and it was about to start, so we slipped in the back – you in your carseat and covered with a blanket. I don’t remember much about that service, honestly, but I remember staring at you and thinking of how similar me looking at you must have been to how Mary looked at Jesus. A mother’s love. Oof.

20082013.jpg
And some how we went from that to this in 2.6 seconds. I loved that little baby, but I love this little fella even more. Because this guy? This guy is a trip! I never know exactly how to describe you. Laid-back? Friendly? Exuberant, maybe? Yes! Yes, that’s it! Exuberant – joyously unrestrained and enthusiastic. You have an energy about you that pulls people in and makes everyone feel important. You are so full of joy and light, your smile is infectious, and you’ve never met a stranger. You are tough as nails when you need to be, but you are empathetic and sensitive as well. You can be quite mischievous sometimes, but those long lashes and big ol’ eyes keep you out of trouble (probably more often than it should).

I love the things you come up with. You will do anything for a laugh, which sometimes isn’t the best of ideas, and you very often succeed. And your laugh is just the best! I love it so much that I recorded it and turned it into a ringtone for my phone.

You are starting to sound out words and can read some things. While we were wrapping Christmas gifts you sounded out “Dddddd…D. Aaah…aaah…A. Ddddd. D. Eeeee. E. Daddy is D-A-D-E!” I probably should have corrected you but you were so proud and it was so totally you and I just couldn’t. Kinda like with the word remember. One day I’ll miss you saying “binimber”.

I’ll binimber you for always, little buddy.
I love you soSOsoSOsoSO very much.
Love,
Mommy

Creative Liberties: Holiday Edition

St. Nick's Night

Have you ever heard the story of the holiday ham? A young woman is hosting the holiday dinner at her new home and she gets the turkey started in the oven and then pulls out the ham, cuts it in half, and puts both halves in the oven. Her new husband asks why she went through all that work to cut the ham in half and she looks at him as if he were a fool and says, “That’s the way you’re supposed to do it.” The young man wasn’t so sure about that answer but he was sure that he didn’t want to get her all riled up before everyone got there so he dropped it and went on his way. But his question stayed with the young woman all morning long and when the young woman’s mother arrived the daughter asked, “Mom? Why do you cut the ham in half before you cook it?” “That’s just the way you do it,” answered her mother. “It…it cooks faster that way, I think.” But the young woman’s mother wasn’t really satisfied with her own answer and thought about it off and on the whole day until her mother arrived for dinner. While Grandmother was in the kitchen looking at all the delicious food, the Mother said, “This morning Susie asked me why you have to cut the ham in half before you cook it and I realized I don’t really know why. I’ve just always done it that way.” Grandmother begins to snicker as she says, “Well, I don’t know why you do it that way, but did it that way because I didn’t have one big pan to fit the whole ham on so I put one half on each of my two smaller pans.”

How many “traditions” started just like this. (I’d venture to say more than we realize)! Someone makes a split second decision and they run with it, not imagining that it will have much consequence but someone else latches onto it and whoops…now it’s tradition. “Well, that’s just how things happened” becomes “That’s the way we’ve always done it!”

Saint Nicholas Night happened like that for us. Several years ago a friend of mine told me about the Catholic tradition of St. Nicholas Feast Day which, long story short, is a day to celebrate St. Nicholas and his generosity. To celebrate, some children leave their shoes out by the hearth and St. Nicholas drops by and leaves them small toys and/or coins tucked inside. We decided to further that idea and leave out toys for St. Nick to pick up and take to the North Pole, refurbish, and then redistribute to other children for Christmas. That’s a Win-Win-Win in my book. Clear out old toys, teach the children about giving to others, and make it not so obvious if/when Santa brings pre-loved toys on Christmas morn. So we did it one year and then, quite honestly, I forgot about it.

The next year I saw a friend post about St. Nicholas on the morning of December 6. Whoops. We missed it! So we rounded up our toys (and I made a quick run to the store for goodies) and I told the children that St. Nicholas day was indeed December 6, but he didn’t come until that night. Carter was old enough that apparently that stuck in his brain and we’ve been doing it on the night of December 6 since. Thanks, Catholicism, for letting us borrow your Saint’s feast day. We’ve taken some creative liberties with how it should be celebrated and changed it around a bit. We call it St. Nick’s Night and he brings candy instead of small toys or coins. I love how it’s teaching our kids to think of others, to clear out some space and pass along what they’re aren’t using anymore, and to be mindful that pre-loved toys are just as lovely (sometimes even more so) as brand-new-in-the-box toys. This little tradition makes me happy and I wonder how (or if) it will change over time. Most things do, I suppose. But this is one idea that I’d like to keep around for as long as we can.

Happy St. Nick’s night, y’all!

 

 

Breastmilk Boo(hoo)

It always catches me off-guard, that moment when the scab is ripped off. I’d completely forgotten about it and then I hear a conversation or read a post and it all comes rushing back to me. And I know that the people who share these words do it out of love. They believe whole-heartedly that breast is best and they want you to believe it, too. And here’s the thing, I agree with them. In other circumstances, I might even be one of them. I might be the one rattling off all the benefits and calling for others to try harder, go longer. But I’m not because I couldn’t be. I couldn’t nurse my babies. And I see them now and I know – I know beyond a shadow of a doubt – that my babies are growing up to be smart, productive (tiny) citizens of society. But still it haunts me, this ache that has lessened with time but never completely goes away. I wanted to breastfeed my babies and I couldn’t. I did it all, tried it all, gave it my all (and then some) and it just.didn’t.work. I don’t think I’ve ever cried more over a single thing in my life. Giving up broke my heart every single time, even after I promised myself I wouldn’t get my hopes up. I always found myself daydreaming of a nursing newborn and how wonderful it would be, but things rarely turn out like they do in our daydreams, I suppose.

Of all the things in my life that I wish had maybekindasorta been a little different, this is what I wish I could change the most. I bottle fed skin-to-skin. I made lots of eye contact. I did everything I could to make bottle feeding as much like breast feeding as I could and yet I still feel like I missed something. And, as illogical as I know it is, I still feel like I did something wrong. That it was my fault. That I didn’t try hard enough. That I gave up too quickly. That I didn’t try more things. Even though I know damn well that’s not what happened. The mind is a funny thing, isn’t it? 

I know this much though: my children are pretty darn smart and imaginative, even without that liquid gold. I mean, what 4 year old asks to be the man in the moon for Halloween? That’s some serious thinking outside the box.
the ivey league halloween 2013