Category Archives: Parenting

Good morning, Mommy

He slipped into our big bed and he didn’t look little any more. He’s nearly as long as I am now. I heard his teeth chattering and asked if he wanted to cuddle. “I was just about to do that,” he mumbled sleepily and slid over. Hooking one arm around my neck, he rested the other on my arm, laid his head down on my cheek, and I wondered just how many times this would ever happen again.

His arms, still scrawny and small, feel stronger than I remember them being. He rubs his fingers gently on my arm for a minute and then stops, takes my hand and places it on his arm. Tap. Tap. He thumps me as if to say “my turn” and I run my fingers up and down. My other hand instinctively moves, too, and I am rubbing his back as well. Remnants of mod podge on my fingers snag on his tee shirt. My jaw starts to ache from where the curve of his head doesn’t fit perfectly against mine, but I dare not move.

Moments into Memories

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i.

We walked on the beach where just hours ago we would have been underwater two-fold or maybe three. The sun slid down the sky, rushing to meet the horizon and we paused to watch. It was one of those big-ball-of-fire sunsets that made me wish I had my ‘real’ camera with me; one that dwarfs the clouds and the trees and the world and leaves you feeling a bit like an ant. An awe-inspired and happy ant, but an ant none-the-less. She looked away to splash in the waves and Oops! It was gone. “Maybe tomorrow,” she says. “Maybe…” I say and we still look ahead, afraid to look away lest we miss something else.

ii.

He lost the chance to get a treat last night. It doesn’t matter what he did or what the treat was, really. Just that it happened and that then it was gone. He tried to hide his hurt, to pretend like he didn’t care but as the darkness of bedtime began to wrap around him, I heard the sniffles. Cuddles helped but still he hurt. I know it’s necessary sometimes – this proving your point, following through, teaching consequences – but it doesn’t mean it’s easy. Each tear tore at my heart. But I do believe it worked. Because today? Today he was full of kindness and goodness and gentleness and self-control. Some days I feel like maybe, just maybe, I’m at least getting a few things right.

iii.

I grab both sides and she grasps tighter. I pull her back and WOOSH she flies. Back and forth. Back and forth. “Adin, Mommy! Adin!”  And I lean in for more. We go like this, over and over, until we both wear out. It’s not often that we find ourselves in this moment with no interruptions, no one else stealing the show or snatching my attention and it’s as neither of us really know how to tie it up and move it from now to memory. She looks up and smiles. Little teeth stretched out into a big smile and I grasp the moment and squeeze it tighter, ready for the back and forth, back and forth that is sure to come.

iv.

I look up just in time to see another adult warn him to be careful. He’s climbed up on top of the slide. Again. He’s been climbing since before he could walk, so I’m not surprised. Nor am I particularly worried about him climbing up there. He’s fallen before (and only been broken once).  But I do suppose that it’s setting a bit of a bad example, so I call to him. “Hey, bud…get down, okay? There are lots of other kids here and we don’t want someone to get hurt.” And even as I say I feel like I’ve caved in to peer pressure. If that dad hadn’t spoken to him, I never would have said a word. I saw him. He was fine, not hurting anyone else. But…but…well, I get it. I do. And I really don’t mind that he said anything. He was genuinely concerned, I could tell. Which makes it even harder to be the parent at the playground who isn’t playing with her kids, who isn’t even watching them very well. And I feel this ridiculous need to make sure that everyone knows that I’ve been with them all day, giving them every ounce of my attention and now? Well, now they’re in an enclosed space created for children and I just need to sit and breathe and read and think and not be rightherewithyouallthetimeMommy. Why is it that no matter which way we choose to do things as parents, we always feel this need to justify our choice? It’s exhausting, really. Why is it that no matter how much we give, it never seems like enough? The push to do more, be more is hard to ignore.

v.

We were the last ones to leave the playground. It was late, even for us. Not all that long ago, had I seen children out so late on a school night I would have rolled my eyes or at least given the disapproving glare. (I have to remind myself of that when I’m the recipient of such looks). But this is the freedom I love about our life as we are living it right now. Memories made in the yellow glow of streetlamps shine brighter than those made in the light of day. I’m not quite sure how that works, but I believe it’s true. These are the things that they’ll remember – the things that stray from the norm, the things we only do on vacation. Piling on the floor to watch a movie that started well after bed time. Ice cream for dinner. Skipping school to enjoy a beautiful day. (And learning even when they don’t realize it). Singing at the top of our lungs to cheesy songs that are, quite frankly, musically awful but full of all the things I want them to know, to believe, to live. I won’t control the radio for much longer. Or the late nights. Or their dinner choices. Or a million other things. So for now, while it’s my choice to make, I’m doing the best that I can (and today it feels like I’m doing just fine).

Seven Wishes

This year I started writing wishes to each of my children on their birthday. One day – maybe when they turn 18 or 21 or possibly for some special event like graduation or a wedding – I hope I’ll be able to put them all together in a book for them as a gift.

For you I wish…
i. that when you need it to be, your voice will be strong and not waver.

ii. that when other’s words are too strong &make you waver, you will not let it sink your soul.

iii. that when your soul is shaken, you will know where to turn.

iv. that when you turn there, you will find comfort.

v. that if you don’t find comfort, you will not become bitter.

vi. that if bitterness finds you, you will seek out the bittersweet instead.

vii. and that if all else fails, you will know that you are loved no matter what.

with Kit-1

Happy birthday, sweet girl!
I love you so.
Love, Mommy

 

My Girl & Me

Mommy & Me1Mommy&Me2Lydia and I went to Mother-Daughter camp this past weekend with our church. It’s the same camp I went to as a child and although there are new buildings and new cabins (thank goodness!) most things hadn’t really changed. There were, of course, new people and new songs. But there were also some of the same songs and the same people. Nurse Judy is still there and she still greets each cabin with a rousing rendition of the little birdies song. And the chapel is still beautiful in its simplicity.

We walked around the lake (and got our feet ridiculously muddy because it’s been raining there like it’s been raining here) and she found a giant snail. She couldn’t wait to tell Carter all about it!Mommy&Me4.jpg

I loved laughing with her and watching her laugh and seeing her step outside of her comfort zone a time or two.
We found a leaf on the road that had been crushed over and over by cars and she carefully peeled it from the street and we brought it home. I’m trying to figure out how to preserve it. Frame it maybe?

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We spent a bit of our quiet time on the swings by the lake. Talking about bits of this and that, I tried to memorize the sound of her voice. It won’t be this small for much longer. We stood on the dock and watched raindrops fall onto the water, like diamonds splashing down, and stood amazed at how sparkly it was.
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We took a walk and took pictures and talked about photography. I taught her about lens flare and I’m fairly certain she will be taking thousands of pictures with lens flare. All of the pictures immediately above and below were taken by her except the black and white one (obviously).

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The last night while we were making s’mores and singing camp songs, I couldn’t take my eyes off the sky. It went from this to this in about 30 seconds. No filter on either of these. Isn’t that wild?

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Oh, I know you’ve probably seen enough of the Mommy & me selfies, but I’m going to keep on taking them as long as she’ll let me.

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Gosh, I surely do love this girl of mine! And I loved being alone with her, no brothers or sister to steal my attention away. Nothing but the two of us, each having a chance to revel in the moments of only mother and daughter, not sister or friend or wife or anything else. Just us. And I loved it. She did, too. She’s already asked if we could go back next year. You bet, my love! Absolutely!

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I hope that I can remember to stop and see her more. Really see her. Just her. To see her world, to see her find her place in this world, and to see our world through her eyes.

 

His Special Foot

If you ask Carter to show you his “special foot” he’ll rush over and pull of his shoe and slide his right foot close to you. It doesn’t take long to see what makes his foot “special”. It’s skinny and bony and it only has 3 toes. We don’t know why it’s like that, but (so far) it doesn’t seem to be connected with any other anomalies or syndromes.

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When he was still in utero, we saw 10 perfect little fingers on the ultrasound. And 5 perfect little toes on a perfect little foot, but the other foot was folded up under his behind and we couldn’t see it. No big deal, we thought.

After he was born and they were cleaning him up, a nurse noticed that he only had 3 toes. They called the pediatric nurse practitioner in and she brought him to my bedside all clean and swaddled. She started talking, “Well…blahblahblah…the nurses called me in to take a look at something and…blahblahblah…there seems to be a small abnormality and…blahblahblah…he only has three toes on this one little foot.” It seemed like she talked for 10 minutes and when she showed me his adorable little foot, do you know what I did? I laughed. I laughed! And then she looked at me like I was nuts. “Ha! That’s kinda funny!” I remember saying. But I said that because she had built it up to be so huge and scary that I honest-to-goodness thought that he had an extra head growing out of his neck. (I have an active and odd imagination).

Off and on for the next few months, we spent time talking to orthopedic specialists. They looked around to see if they could find any reason for this to have happened, trying to make sure there were no other associated problems that hadn’t surfaced yet. They watched the leg growth and did x-rays and watched it grow some more. They told us when he was little that there wouldn’t be much to do about the foot. Apparently it’s not very easy to add toes to a foot. I don’t know why! But the problem that they did foresee was that the leg with the special foot was also shorter. For a long time the length difference was negligible. But recently we began to notice that the long leg had gotten a lot longer. His gait changed and he was standing sideways and the worry is that he could injure his hip and/or spine. So we go today to visit the orthopedist again.

When he was little they told us that the plan was to wait until he was older and hit a big growth spurt and at that point they’d do surgery to staple the growth plate of the long leg and give the short leg a chance to catch up. I’m not sure if they’ve had any advances in medicine in the past 8 years that would change that plan or not. I guess we’ll find that out today. Either way, I’m oddly not nervous about it. I’ve talked to him about it and he seems so okay with whatever might happen. (I think if I were more nervous, he would be more nervous). Maybe it’s naive of me; I don’t know. But I do have a peace about it that I can’t quite explain, and I am grateful for that! I find myself humming “Que sera, sera” every time I think about it because it is true: what will be, will be. And we’ll figure out one step at a time and trust that in the end it’ll all be okay. (But I won’t turn down a prayer or two if you have one to spare).

A little mad…

A crazy convo shortened for your benefit.

Me, to 4yo: Is that pee under you train table?
4yo: Uuummm…yes?
Me: Why would you pee on the floor?
4yo: Because I was a little mad.
Me: You peed on the floor because you were mad?
4yo: Yes.
Me: Well, I’m pretty mad about finding pee on the floor . Let’s go talk to your Daddy.

Me, to Marshall: He peed on the floor!
Marshall: You peed on the floor? Why?
4yo: Because I wanted to know what color it would be?
Marshall: You wanted to know what color it would be?
4yo:
Yes.
Marshall: Well, what color was it?
4yo: Peach.
Marshall: What?
4yo: Dark peach.

At that point I may have snorted, which confused the poor child and made him giggle.

Marshall: Don’t laugh at that. Peeing on floors does not make me happy.

Then I really lost it. That boy…lawdy…he’s a mess.

{He cleaned up the pee and all is well.}

War of the Wills

I have a hardheaded child. (Who would have every guess that I would have a hardheaded child, right)? He likes to tip toe around the edge of what he knows is unacceptable behavior. He makes up his mind about something and will not be swayed. He has very selective hearing and he’s also very loud. We actually had his hearing checked because of those two things. It’s fine. He’s just – you guessed it – hardheaded. And that hardheadedness has put me to the test more than a few times. But here’s the thing: I stick to my guns. I might not get a lot of things right when it comes to this parenting gig but if I give an ultimatum then you sure as hang better believe I’m going to follow through.

We’ve been struggling at meal times with him for a long time. He doesn’t want to eat what’s served. At our house, you eat what the rest of us are eating or you don’t eat at all. So far, every child has eventually eaten something. Until last night. I think I tempted fate when I talked to a friend about the same problem with her little boy. Last night the children helped me pick green beans from the garden. They helped me cook up the rice and chicken and other veggies. The logic was that if they helped make dinner, they’d eat it. And that’s been a pretty good tactic for a while now. My six and eight year olds have gotten to the point where they help me meal plan some weeks and can do a decent amount of simple cooking on their own. But no parenting plan is fail-proof. He didn’t want to eat. He didn’t even try the food but it was deemed ‘gross’. (No amount of logic will persuade a 4 year old, so I didn’t even try to reason through that).

But after everyone else was finished eating I made banana “ice cream” with mixed berries. Everyone was welcome to have some once they’d eaten enough. The big two got two scoops each. The baby quickly finished her dinner when she saw the bigs eating ice cream and she got two scoops. And Asa just sat there staring at his bowl, whimpering like a puppy. I know that some people don’t like some foods. I’m okay with that fact. I don’t like seafood. I’ll very likely gag if I’m made to eat it, so I get that. But you can’t not like every food except sugar. And if I know that a particular child really hates a certain food, I won’t make them eat it. I think that’s fairly reasonable. But Asa had gotten to the point that every meal was an endless stream of reminders to take another bite and him gagging and sometimes even throwing up because he didn’t ‘like it’. But last night we hit a whole new level. The other kids ate up their two scoops and wanted more. Asa wasn’t anywhere near being done (read: he hadn’t taken a single bite). So I gave the others the last scoops. All. Gone. Cue crazy screaming and weeping and gnashing of teeth. Also cue bedtime. I gave him the opportunity to stop flipping out and eat or go to bed. He slinked away from the table and crawled into bed. (I didn’t really expect that to happen, for the record).

After we’d done the dishes, I went to his room and cuddled up next to him. We talked about the situation and there were big, hiccuping sobs from him and maybe a few tears welling up in my eyes. His prayers were sprinkled with those after-sob sniffs. I’ll admit it. I was feeling pretty guilty at this point. I gave him one last chance to eat his dinner still sitting on the dining room table. He said no and rolled over, ready for sleep.

This could easily be a post about why kids sometimes don’t eat and about how I don’t get overly picky about what they eat meal-to-meal (as long as we get in a decent amount of fruits and veggies within the week or two). I could talk about making sure you do what you said you were going to do, which is harder than it seems sometimes. I could talk about Mommy guilt from sending your child to bed without dinner (because OH, BOY was there some). But what I really want to talk about is this: One of the hardest parts of parenting is watching your child ignore your advice and make a choice that you know will lead to heartache and/or tears. The older they get, the harder and more complicated it gets. And that stinks. It really does. It stinks when they are at the playground and ignore your warnings that they shouldn’t go any higher and then they fall. It stinks when they go to bed without dinner. It stinks when they don’t turn in the assignment that you reminded them to get done. Or when they fall in love with the wrong kind of person and you see what’s coming but they don’t. But in all that stink, there are lots of lessons. I hope that I’m teaching them natural consequences of their choices. I hope I’m giving them enough freedom to explore cause and effect without getting really hurt. That’s a really hard line to balance on.

That boy….he may very well be the one who pushes my buttons the most and runs me all the way out to my wit’s end. But he also has the biggest heart and the sweetest smile and the most perfect eyes ever, so there’s that. I mean just look at this kid!

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Sparkly journals showed up on my doorstep and my heart went BOOM!

Earlier in the week my 6 year old lost her second tooth. She’d been wiggling it for weeks and then her sister tripped and knocked the little sucker out. (The tooth, not Lydia!) She came running to me with a grinning bloody mouth. We cleaned her up and washed off the tooth, she pulled out her little tooth box, and I put it up high so no one would touch it until bedtime. All day long she hemmed and hawed on what to write to the tooth fairy. She wanted to leave a note but couldn’t figure out what to say.

Before bed they watched a little bit of one of the TinkerBell movies – the one where the dad studies butterflies and gives the girl a journal to record facts. She fills the book with pictures of fairies, which are real but her dad doesn’t believe her. So at the last second, Lydia scrambled for a pencil and paper and wrote this:
8761078033_ce3abac7f0_oIn case you can’t see it, it says:

Dear Toothfairy,
Hope you are getting pretty teeth! Could I please have another golden doller? I’v alwaz wished to have a jornol of my own that I cold draw all the fairies in. I bet your pixedust will glitter as you fly around the room. 

She tucked the tooth box and note under her pillow and went to sleep. I tiptoed into the room with the golden dollar and a stack of towels that I could claim to be putting away if I got caught in action. I thought I made a smooth transition but as I was leaving I heard a cough and when I closed the door I heard movement. Drats! A little while later I came back in with the same towels to put them away (read: check and see who was moving around) and I found her big brother (who is 8) with eyes squeezed tight.

“Hey. Whatcha doin, buddy? It’s late.”
“I was just checking to see if the tooth fairy had come.”
“Well?”
“She did.”
“Good.”
“Did you see her?”
“Nope. I thought Daddy came in the room, but I guess I was dreaming.”

I know he’s at the point where he’s figured it out, but he also hasn’t quite let go of believing. I’m okay with that. I tucked him back in and said goodnight. I couldn’t resist taking one more look in on them before I went to bed. And since he was asleep, I couldn’t stop myself from tossing around a little pixie dust (gold glitter that I had in my craft supplies) to hopefully help him keep the magic alive a little longer.

She squealed with delight over the gold dollar and the pixie dust – some even stuck to her very own cheek! – and rushed into my bedroom the next morning but wondered where the journal could be. We decided that journals were too heavy for such a tiny fairy to lug around.

Then today I opened the front door and on my doorstep was a box addressed to my girl. It rattled a bit and I read the return address: Opal the Fairy. Opal the Fairy happens to live in the same city – the same house actually – as one of my friends I met online several years ago. She has the kindest spirit and the most beautiful family.

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There were journals, pens, and a note…as well as a giant smile in my girl’s face. She read the note aloud to us.
It said:

Dear Lydia, 
My Name is Opal.

I am a fairy. I live next door to the Tooth Fairy (she is my best friend)!

This morning we were having tea and cookies together. She told me about the letter you left her with you tooth.

Guess what? I collect journals!
I knew that I had to send you one in the mail! I don’t fly very well right now because I have a sore wing. (I wasn’t watching where I was flying! Oops!)

Keep the fairies in your heart forever. You will always been in mine!

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And then I had to blink away the tears.

As I was leaving the room I heard her say to Carter, “See? I told you fairies were real!”

I hope they always will be for her, because they are for me. But now instead of little flying pixies, it’s internet fairies who send gifts to my children and angels who hold the door when I’m struggling to get all the kids inside or who stop and smile at me when I have multiple children melting down in the grocery store check out line.

“Do you believe in fairies? Say quick that you believe. If you believe, clap your hands!”
~Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

Happy-Go-Lucky Lad Who Was Sad

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If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you may have noticed that recently I’ve posted pictures of one of my children more than I’ve posted of the other three. Here’s the thing: having a big family is hard. Having a big family means sometimes things and people get lost in the shuffle. Having a big family means that everyone has to help out, but often it’s the squeaky wheel who garners the most attention.

Lately I’d noticed my sweet Asa crying a lot more, coming up with more and more elaborate stories, and talking even louder than normal. If you know him, he’s already loud enough at his “normal” volume. It was the combination of all those things that made me really start to notice that he was struggling. My happy-go-lucky little lad just wanted my attention. The baby is a fit pitcher (what two year old isn’t?), his big sister is usually my shopping companion, and his big brother is very often bending my ear about science or Star Wars or something like that. He just wants to be heard. And so I’m trying very hard to stop and listen, even when a stuttering three word sentence takes two minutes for him to say.

I got a sitter when I went to his school program so that I could focus on just him and we ate lunch together and danced in the parking lot on the way to the car. He helped me cook dinner and he made dessert for the whole family. I cuddled up with him when he needed a nap and we laughed and giggled and nuzzled noses before we drifted off to dreamland. I watched him ride his bike all the way up the drive and back while the others were still inside. Little things, really, but not to him.

He’s not the squeaky wheel. At least not until recently. And I’d found myself frustrated with him for all the whining and crying and now? Now I feel awful because I realize he just wanted me to see him, to hear him. I try to celebrate them all. I try to make them all feel special sometimes. We go on dates and do one-on-one things together, but sometimes I miss the mark.

I’m trying really hard to see them as individuals and not as one unit. I’m trying to praise each one for what they do best and to help them understand that everyone is different and that that’s okay. I’m trying my best to make the everyday moments ones that lift their little spirits. It’s only fair, really, because they all certainly lift mine.

Crying in the Kitchen

Head rolling side to side, she begins to whimper. I hear her and wait, trying to pick the perfect time to go to her. Too early and she’ll still be asleep; she’ll moan and shriek. Too late and she’ll be frustrated and angry. If I hit my mark, she’ll wake up happy and cheerful.

I hear someone else call my name and by the time I’ve gotten back, I’ve missed my window. She’s terribly cranky. Arms stretching out, I pick her up. Appeased for a moment, she nestles into her favorite spot but my necklace scratches her face and she throws back her head nearly toppling both of us over. I put her down, but that’s wrong, too. She wants milk! No…juice! No…milk! Really she wants nothing at all. At least nothing from me. I discard the still-empty cup and hold her in my arms, her weight a reminder that she’s not a baby anymore.

Knowing this may take a while, I flop down on the floor. It doesn’t even matter that we’re in the kitchen. Her cries ebb and flow because even she isn’t sure how she feels. (I’m the same way when I wake).

She snuggles in and catches a few soft snores. “Just one more minute, Mom,” I imagine her teenage self mumbling from beneath a pile of blankets. The girl does love a good blanket. (I do, too).

I rub my fingers gently across her back and she bucks if I stop. She periodically rubs my arm in rhythm with my strokes back and forth on her back and legs.

There’s so much I should be doing. There are so many other things that need to be done. Dishes. Laundry. Dinner. And yet I sit on the kitchen floor with a baby-no-more, tears in my eyes and hers.

Babies don’t keep, I think. Babies don’t keep.

The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
For children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.
~Ruth Hulburt Hamilton

I don’t always get it right, but this time I’m pretty sure I did.