Monthly Archives: August 2014

For Now Let’s Let Birds Be Birds and Bees Be Bees

“Today I learned about the birds and the bees!!” M beamed proudly. My husband shot me a look from the driver’s seat and we both stifled a little chuckle. Having taught the three-year-old sunday school class at church myself, I knew nothing in the curriculum would lead to such a discussion. “Oh really?” I asked. “Tell us about it.” His enthusiasm filled the car as he showed us a bird puppet he’d made and a jar covered in stickers of bugs for catching insects. Out of curiosity I looked up the title of the lesson when we got home. “I Am Thankful For Birds and Insects.” Nothing too risqué about that!

In my boys’ little world, a crazy night party involves mom and dad staying up late watching the old James Bond and snacking on fruity pebbles. Maybe chocolatey swirl peanut butter ice cream. That is, of course, after dishes are done, table’s washed and chickens are safely tucked in their coop for the night. They’re pretty convinced that the vilest, meanest person living has a hook and takes residence on a ship in Neverland, and the only difference between boys and girls is (very generally speaking) that girls sing Frozen ALL the time and tend to choose the color pink over blue.
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I know, I know. I can’t shelter them forever. But now? Really?? Sometimes the world seems to be rushing them into an adult life. Things that are totally inappropriate for them at such an innocent age. The birds and the bees are attacking, buzzing in their ears, pecking at them every chance they get. It’s thrown in their face at the grocery store, on billboards, on the TV, and at school (tabloids, maybe? Carl’s Jr commercials perhaps??). Even I, as an adult, often find it disgusting and degrading. A friend was telling me recently about the experience she’d have every day as she picked her daughter up from kindergarden. Teenagers who had just been let off the bus from the high school would rather conspicuously “make out” just a few feet away. Plain sight for all the little girls and boys (not to mention all their younger siblings) to witness. Boys and girls, girls and girls, all exposing young minds to something they aren’t emotionally or mentally ready for. In case we forget, “kindergardener” means kids who have only been on this earth five or six years. Children who still sleep with teddy bears and watch Sesame Street, pretend to be doggies and dinosaurs, and read picture books.

Of course the day will come when we will have to sit down and have a chat. I know they will hear things at school, see things at the store, and question what the song is really trying to say. I just hope they can be kids for a while longer. I hope they can rise above the crowd and know when to back out of a conversation. I hope they can stand up when no one else is standing. Some things are meant to wait. Let them be kids…believe in the unbelievable, run around with a cape, dig in the dirt with miniature tractors, and eat Mac and cheese. Someday the time will be right. They will need to know about those adult topics. But let’s not rush it. I am convinced exposure to such things at such a young and vulnerable age can bring absolutely nothing good.

For now let’s let birds be birds and bees be bees. Let them fill their imagination with pirates and fairies, not lustful, provocative pictures. It’s a harsh, scary world out there. We have to prepare them for it, but we don’t have to throw them to the wolves. Let’s enjoy their innocence and help them navigate the bombardment that is bound to come. Then maybe, as we work together and help our kids through, they can develop healthy habits, strong values, and a better idea of what “the birds and the bees” is all about.
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To All Those That Worry–Today I Choose Joy

I couldn’t tell how big the snake was. Maybe four feet. No doubt it had a rattle on the end. I had just glanced outside to check on our boys playing with the dog in the front when I spotted it, curled up on our porch. That’s when panic set in. I raced for the door just as N, our not-quite-two-year-old rounded the corner and caught a glance of that slithering monster. In two-year-old curious fashion, he took a few steps closer to get a better look. “No, stay back! Don’t come, N!” The snake coiled and began to hiss. I was hysterical. That rattle and the 4-foot long, scaly body sat between me and my son, and I felt helpless. N inched a little closer, my screams became more distressed as I could see the snake bare his fangs at that tiny boy.

I sat up straight in bed. I could hear crickets out the window and see the moon through our sliding glass door. No snakes. No children’s laughter. My heart was pounding. Just a dream, right? I jumped out of bed and ran to my boys’ room. Every inch of my body tingled with the aftershock of what I’d just imagined. My eyes strained to see N sleeping soundly through the darkness. Just a dream. A horrible, nasty One. Unfortunately it could very well have been real, but tonight it was just my mind conjuring up what I’ve dreaded so many times.

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Sometimes I wonder if worrying is something that automatically comes with motherhood. The baby, the worry, it’s a package deal. Usually it’s just a little nagging feeling on the back of your mind, other times it becomes so strong it overwhelms you. It probably wouldn’t be normal if we didn’t have a little concern, those moments before the nurse hands you that little miracle for the first time, waiting to know results for something questionable about their health, when you wonder if they will ever sleep through the night so you can become sane again. When they walk into their first day of kindergarden, crash their bike for the first time, or get their drivers license, go on their first date, go off to college states away, and become parents of their own. The uncertainty never ends!

Maybe I worry more than the normal mom, but I have a feeling I’m not alone. We love our kids and want the best for them, so naturally we are concerned for their well-being. But on the occasions when we feel overcome with this anxiety, when it is totally out of our control, faith is the only remedy. Faith, hope and love. I came across this quote a while back and have since put it up on our fridge to read every day.

 “Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.”
― Leo Buscaglia

A year ago a rather unpleasant turn of events left it so I was in constant uneasiness for an entire month. I couldn’t get the “what if’s” out of my mind. It involved my health, which has always been just great, but suddenly I wasn’t sure. Suddenly life seemed upside-down and I was running scenarios in my mind. What would my kids do if I were gone? Who would take care of them? Love them? Who would make my husband dinner every night or go on walks with him? It consumed me. I suddenly, for the first time in my life, felt so incredibly mortal. That worry sapped too many days of joy as we waited for answers.

My only comfort that month of waiting was my faith in a loving Heavenly Father. I knew whatever happened, he was in control. He was my anchor, and I realized he was the ONLY anchor that could hold us steady during turbulent times. I was so very thankful for that.

We later found that everything was fine and my worry had all been for naught. I had been robbed of the joy those days could have held.

That snake from my dreams lingers in the back of my mind like the poison it’s venom contained. I won’t allow such things out of my control to sap my days any more. Today I’ve decided to let faith win. Let hope be the deciding factor in how I will live. When we anchor our lives in the one thing that will hold, when we give our worry to the master of all, the fiercest of storms can try beat us down, but we will not sink. We will come out victorious.
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So today I choose joy. What about you?

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If I could figure out how it insert this movie in, I definitely would. It’s wonderful. It’s 5 minutes and worth the watch. But, with my pathetic technical skill, I don’t know how, so here’s the link:

Mountains to Climb

And an article that has helped me:

“I Will Not Fail Thee, nor Forsake Thee”

 

Categories: Motherhood, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Love Is Not a Jar of Peanut Butter

My grandparents raised seven children. Five girls, two boys. The perfect number for a baseball team. I’m sure if you were to ask them they’d tell you that life was a bit crazy back then. A bit crazy, a bit chaotic, but wonderful all at the same time. I love to hear their stories. One of my absolute favorite that Grandpa tells is of how the whole family, all nine of them, would pack into their little station wagon and go for a drive. When they’d come to a stop, the driver next to them would gape at the old station wagon with wide eyes. Grandpa could see their minds start to turn as they counted all the little blonde heads. one, two, three…little hands in the back seats would then shoot up holding the number seven next to the window, saving them the headache of trying to get a proper calculation. Then slowly the driver would pull away as fourteen eyes stared back.

Every time I go to the grocery store I hear the same phrase at least three times, if not a dozen. “Boy, you sure have your hands full!” It’s not that it bothers me, it really doesn’t. I’ve even caught myself saying the same thing to other moms and dads. I can only imagine the comments my grandma got when she braved the grocery store with her seven.

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The scary thing about going from two to three is that your thrown from a comfortable one-on-one defense into zone. It’s six little, quick, curious hands versus four. All those well-meaning (or not so well-meaning) grocery shoppers are totally right. We have our hands full. Our nights non-stop, our cars packed, our heads racing, our emotions on edge, our days unpredictable, and our laundry never-ending. What those grocery shoppers may or may not know is that nothing in this world could make us go back. A friend of mine always responds with a smile and says, “Yep. Full hands and a full heart.”

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No, I don’t mind the never ending barrage of having full hands. What does get to me just a bit is the people who like to make comments to the effect that having more than one or two means you won’t love them all as much. Like love is a jar of peanut butter that can only be spread so thin. I hope I would never make the assumption that someone who has fewer children loves their children less, just as I hope others don’t assume the same of our family. Love should never be given in quantity, whether it’s given to one or twenty one. When my third son was born, I can assure you I never once told my older two, “I’m sorry boys, I can’t hug you today. I’ve given all my love to the baby. Come back in the morning when I’ve found some more.” Love is not a finite number, and limiting it as such would make this world such a sad, sad place.

“Love is not a thing, it is not lost when given. You can offer your love completely to hundreds of people and still retain the same love you had originally.”
― Leo Buscaglia

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As parents I feel like sometimes we tend to look at other moms and dads and compare. If they do anything different from what we do or what we would like to do, we think they’re wrong. One child or seven children are neither necessarily indicators of a less loving, caring family. No child is the same, no circumstance has a single fix-all solution. Families all function differently, and that’s ok!

When we moved to the country, we weighed the pros and cons. We made lists on what it would mean for our children and for us and what it would mean for our family’s future. When we took the plunge, we ultimately did it for our children. We did it so that they could grow up hiking in their back yard, fishing, sailing, and watching wildlife out their bedroom window. We did it so that they could learn the value of hard work and helping the family and helping others. We did it for all the open space to run around in and get muddy. We made the decision weighing heavily on our love for our children.

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Others might find the city way of life suits their family better. Out of love for their children they might move within walking distance to schools, pools, little league practice, and in a neighborhood full of kids. Barbecues on summer Saturday nights, kids riding bikes and roller blading down the sidewalks, and picnicing every day at a park across the street.

Two very different lives, two very different families. Neither more right than the other, both parents doing what they feel is best for their children and their families. Doing it out of love.

When I sit at the table at my grandparents’ house eating a chicken salad sandwich and listening to the crazy stories of the good old days with a house full of girls and a couple boys, I wonder how on earth they survived. I wonder if they ever got a wink of sleep, if they could even count the number of band aids they went through, if they had even a second to themselves. I wonder how on earth they did it. But NEVER ever have I wondered if they loved all their kids, because I know they did. Just as I love my three, just as others love their one. I’m sure they made decisions different from what I make with my little family, but no doubt they weighed the pros and cons and decided what was best for them and their seven.

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We all make different decisions, have different values and dreams for our children. But for the most part those decisions are made out of love and with the best of intentions. Thank goodness love isn’t like peanut butter, that no child is the same, and that families can do what they feel is best for them under their circumstances. Thank goodness we can appreciate different parenting and respect other’s decisions even when they’re different from our own. Let’s try to do less assuming and remember we’re doing the best we can. It’s totally ok to disagree, but let’s choose to love, because there’s no limit to that.

Categories: Motherhood | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Superhero Dad

Daddy read me stories please!” Just barely two years old. Five simple words. On that night years ago that little phrase changed everything. I’d been waiting to hear those words for quite some time, but when that little voice cut into the silence, a million emotions flooded my mind. Bitter-sweet. So very bitter-sweet.

As I looked on from the doorway and my little boy climbed into his daddy’s lap for bedtime stories, I realized that those first two years were unique. He was mine. All mine. He wanted me. He needed me. Then all at once he grew up. Suddenly I would have taken back every thought of wishing he’d let someone else hold him, play with him, feed him, read to him, change him, dress him… Just for a minute. That’s all. Just long enough to make dinner, clean the bathrooms, take a shower…

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Those five simple words that night triggered a landslide into a new way of life for our family. My role as mother took on a whole new meaning.

Grocery store with mom–Obscene and extreme torture beyond anything you could possibly imagine.
Hardware store with dad–Best day EVER! When can we go again, Dad?

Helping mom water the garden and pull weeds–Eh. Do I have to?
Picking up dog poop with dad before he mows the lawn–Ok! I’ll get the pooper scooper!

Mom helping wash hair–Ahhhhhhh!
Dad helping wash hair–You do it so much better than Mommy. Can you do it every time?

Mom getting the kids to eat broccoli–Ugh. I can’t eat it, Mom! Please, please, please don’t make me!
Dad getting the kids to eat broccoli–You like it, Daddy? Really?? Me tooooo!!!!!

Mom’s lasagna she spent half the day making–Thanks for dinner mom. That was good.
Dad’s concoction thrown together out of desperation in two minutes (including, but not limited to hot dogs, hash browns, onions, lots of salt, pepper and katsup, and  any other leftover in the fridge)–Dad. This is AMAZING!! This is my new favorite food. I LOVED it! When can we have you cook again?!
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I admit it. The transition from Momma’s boy to Daddy’s little buddy was just a bit difficult for me at first. Suddenly Dad was the chosen one. For everything. That man had a little boy shadow everywhere he went, a little parrot mimicking phrases, expressions, and words at every turn. I was finally left with all the time I’d wished for during those first two years, but it just wasn’t what I had imagined it would be. I missed it. But instead of jealousy or sadness, I suddenly found myself watching on the sidelines in wonder as my husband took that little hand. I realized that as hard as it was, nothing could have been so amazing to witness and so important to my sons, then and forever.
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Dads, do you know what you have? Do you realize the powers that you hold? In the eyes of a little boy, you’re a superhero. You are the very person they want to become. You can do anything, be anywhere, accomplish the impossible. You have a child that wants nothing more in this world than your love. They need your love. Sure, they need their moms too, but a dad is something different. A dad can toss them over their shoulder and carry them around like a sack of potatoes. He can talk to them about “guy stuff” and show them how to treat a woman. A dad can take them on a father-son camp out and tell the funny stories and jokes that guys tell when they’re in the wild around a campfire. A father is there to confide in when certain discussion require someone who truly understands. A mom can teach a son how to be a gentleman, but a dad can show him through his actions.
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They need YOU. They need that superhero to teach them, guide them, and help them to someday become that incredible man to a child of their own.
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I know not all circumstances allow for both mother and father in the home. Sometimes things just don’t work out that way, for one reason or another. I believe that when one is missing, a hole is left that must be filled. Sometimes those superheroes aren’t dads, but are extended family, church leaders, teachers, coaches, friends or neighbors. When you take on that role, you’re taking a child’s heart and mending it where it’s been torn. Maybe not perfectly, but they need that. You will mean more to them than you know.
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That bitter-sweet night those years ago still hangs in my memory. A two-year-old boy holding his giraffe in his dad’s lap, listening to Brown Bear, Brown Bear, his eyes beginning to droop. I witnessed it again as my next youngest rushed to find his shoes to follow his dad around the yard. Now my third. Bitter-sweet. I will be forever grateful to the dad of my boys who fills in where I can’t.

Fathers, you may never know the impact you have on those boys’ lives. When you take his hand, you take his mind, his heart, and his future. He will remember the baseball games, the fishing trips, the bike rides, and the times working with your tools out in the garage to help with a project. Probably most of all he’ll remember the rides in the car, the nights at the dinner table, and the simple every-day chores he helped you with. Even if it doesn’t seem like he cares, he does. He will always remember the way you made him feel.
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Yours is a role unparalleled to any other. Thank you for teaching our children and showing them what we as mothers can’t (or at least not as efficiently and easily). Thank you for being that dad.

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The Curse of the Not-So-Green Thumb (Don’t give up!)

Everyone says that I look like my dad. Pale and freckly skin, dirty-blonde hair with a bit of a red tint, blue eyes. I like to think that I inherited his patience, but truth is, well, It’s more wishful thinking most days. I have my mom’s nose, her competitive spirit, and her love of the outdoors. I wish I could say that I got her ability to spell, but unfortunately in that I take after my dad (thank goodness for spell check!). Of all the traits I inherited from my parents, much to my dismay a green thumb was not one of them.

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My dad is a master gardener. Nothing in this world could beat his brilliant red tomatoes and spicy peppers. He can grow green beans like nobody’s business and pickle cucumbers with the best of ’em. Not a summer went by as a kid that we didn’t sit on the back porch eating a tomato straight from the yard, nor a fall without a gigantic pumpkin we picked out ourselves and carved. He knows his gardening stuff.

When I grew up, I was sure that I had green running through my veins. I was my father’s daughter after all, right? One year for Valentines Day my husband gave me a beautiful African Violet. He claimed it was so much better than any cut flower because it would stay alive forever. Sadly, it lasted just a few months before I murdered it. Brutally. And it was totally on accident. My husband never let me live that down. “I see how it is. Just like that poor African Violet I gave you with all my love.”

Before moving to the country we had a year of semi-success. I thought just maybe I was shaking my curse and rising to become the gardener I knew I was meant to be. 10 pumpkins, a handful of peas, several tomatoes, and probably a half dozen zucchini. Not to mention enough strawberries to keep my kids munching on them every time we played outside (thanks to a wasp nest that kept all living, breathing, strawberry-loving animal away). Looking back, that year was most likely the result of beginner’s luck.

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When we moved to the country, I had high hopes we would have the greenest, most lush garden in the whole county. We’d take the blue ribbon home for zucchini, potatoes, tomatoes, peas, green beans, AND rhubarb. We’d be the envy of the town. We had a nice little sunny spot, some dirt, and seeds. I might as well have written to Better Homes and Gardens right then and there. I was certain of our success. Summer came, little seedlings began to sprout. Then slowly we watched them shrivel and shrink. Not a single flower, not a teensy, tiny fruit. Even with all of my amazing gardening skills I inherited from my father or my fancy watering can could I make that garden grow. It was a painful time of truth. My thumb was not green and I had nothing to show.

Feeling defeated but not totally run down, I decided to give it one more year. I so desperately wanted to be a gardener, it almost hurt. We amended the soil, my husband built garden boxes to keep wildlife out, and I faithfully watered. The plants began to grow. Not huge, but they grew! Flowers came, and fruit appeared. Not much, but they were there!

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Built by my dad. I wish I would have listened when he tried to teach me about gardening AND woodworking as a kid!

Built by my dad. I wish I would have listened when he tried to teach me about gardening AND woodworking as a kid!

 

Tonight we picked our first tomato. Red, delicious, and probably only one of a handful that we’ll get this year. After fighting off mice, rats, raccoons, bunnies, deer, and Howard (that dumb dog!), and continuously trying to turn our mountain clay soil into something productive, our garden this summer is most definitely not something to brag about. When comparing it to my parents’ garden, it’s plum pathetic. But that tomato gives me hope. I might not have been born with a green thumb, but by golly, I’m going to turn it green if it drives me (and/or my husband) insane. Next year maybe we’ll pick a dozen tomatoes, a box full of potatoes, and enough strawberries to bake a pie. And someday maybe, just maybe, we’ll open a vegetable stand. Wouldn’t that be fantastic? Someday (as my oh-so supportive husband rolls his eyes).

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Dear boys, some things might not come easy like you think they should. Some days you might want nothing more than to sit down and give up.

“What’s wrong with this block tower?? It won’t stay UP!”

“This bike-riding business is just not for me!”

“Do you really need to know how to read to get by in life?”

“Girls have cooties! I can’t even talk to them. Why on earth would I want to take one to the prom?” (ok. so that’s a problem I might secretly not mind if you have for a little while!)

“That college diploma. I just don’t think I can do it.”

But keep trying. Keep hoping. It may not be easy, you may not be the best. You may never be the best, and that’s ok. But if you try, slowly, slowly, you’ll have success. It might come in surprising ways, but it will come. That little green tomato will grow, and when you pick it, You will taste the most delicious fruit you’ve ever had.

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Categories: country life, Life Lessons | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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