Life Lessons

Unfinished

M came down the stairs this morning in pants that would have been fantastic for some clam digging on the beach. I could have swore that just yesterday I had to roll up those same pants to keep them from dragging on the ground. I used to cringe when sweet ladies at the grocery store would stop me and whisper the old cliché, “Oh, they just grow up so fast!” I’d wonder, does she not realize she is the sixth person to tell me that in this visit to the store??

IMG_20150905_151926_298Then suddenly I blinked and there stood a five-year-old in his clam diggers and over-sized backpack ready for the bus.

In my closet I have boxes and boxes of fabric, each carefully labeled, “Black dress,” “R’s quilt,” “Quiet book,”Giraffe growth chart.” Fabric all cut and waiting, some pieces even sewed together. In the garage sits wood sanded and queued to be built into a shelf, a bench, a frame, a spice rack. Ideas penned in notebooks lay scattered all around the house for a picture book, another blog post, a letter to a friend. Bookmarks keep spots in dozens of started and unfinished books. Clothes fill my closet waiting to fit again, for when I will set aside the time to run and get rid of this lingering baby fat.

Recipes I want to try.
Songs tucked away to be learned on our neglected piano.
A guitar untouched for years.
Pictures waiting to go in scrapbooks.
A list of friends I would love to call and hear their voices again.

Unfinished projects. Sometimes I feel like my life is made up of dozens and dozens of unfinished projects. Skills I would love to learn, chores only halfway accomplished, hobbies and ideas and dreams started and set aside. All waiting. For tomorrow. For the weekend. For when the baby stops fussing, the kids are fed, the spilled cereal is swept, the tickle war is over, the scrape is doctored, the kids are in bed.

IMG_20150909_152418_320And there stands my not-so-little-anymore boy in clam diggers that I’m almost positive fit him just yesterday.

There will come a time when I no longer have the interruptions of spilled cereal to clean. These little ones will eventually brush their teeth without help, and they will no longer beg for the momster to set aside yard work and chase them around the trampoline. Slap Jack will eventually loose its appeal, and scrapes will no longer need mom’s kiss. And when that day comes, when I suddenly have the time for all the projects I’ve started and set aside, I hope I never look back and feel like they, these sweet boys, were yet another unfinished project because I was too busy trying to finish all the others.

IMG_20150921_143823_871They grow up so fast. Their pants seems to shrink from one day to the next. But projects can wait. Someday, moms, the time will be ours. The nights will be longer, the little chatter that fills our homes will come much less often than we wish. And all those unfinished projects will fill our time. But now, now is theirs. Now is about slap jack and monsters and spilled milk. Now is the greatest project, the most amazing adventure we will ever embark on. And I’m sure we will never regret making sure that this one isn’t set aside, put on the back-burner, forgotten and left unfinished. Because, moms, in everything that can wait, this one can’t. Let’s give our today to them.

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Categories: children, Family, Life Lessons, Motherhood | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Beauty in EVERY Moment

My husband’s Grandma Jane made the BEST cinnamon rolls in the world. years ago on one particular visit I decided I was determined to learn her sticky bun magic. Pen and paper out, I jotted down everything, from the type of spoon she used to the number of times she stirred the dough. How she sprinkled on the sugar and cinnamon and the color of the pan she cooked them in. With my careful calculations and particular care I took in writing everything down I just knew I would be pulling out the most golden, soft, moist cinnamon rolls when we got home.

The batches that followed never quite measured up. Rock hard. Too crunchy, too doughy, not sweet enough. Even when following the directions I so carefully jotted down that day I have yet to master her perfect rolls.

Every spring I make a Little Shutterfly book for the previous year. Last July Grandma Jane passed away quickly and unexpectedly. While I looked through pictures to create our annual book and tried to decide what to say for the summer months, I thought about all that I wished I had learned from her before she left. If I could have watched her make those cinnamon rolls one more time I just might have discovered her magic. Just maybe.

IMG_0414But as amazing as her cinnamon rolls were, they dimmed in comparison to the other life lessons I wish I could have learned. In her funeral program is something she wrote.

“Every moment is beautiful and captures the attention.”

Right after our third son was born I remember feeling exhausted, exasperated, and at the end of my rope. Our then four-year-old and two-year-old had demanded one too many things and made far too many messes. I took the baby and locked myself in the bedroom. I could hear the two little criminal master minds contemplating how to break in as I sat with the baby in the rocking chair and cried. Whoever came up with the saying not to cry over spilled milk must have understood mother-dom well. That cup of spilled milk has reduced me to tears far more often than I would like to admit.

THAT moment was not my prettiest, nor what I would have called beautiful.

For months we fought a whitey tighty war against our middle son. Every time he woke up, every time he used the bathroom, every time he escaped my view I had to ask him, “M, are you wearing underwear?” and that was always, always followed by, “Please go get your underwear on.” Sometimes my response was anything but beautiful. Sometimes I was so tired of the constant questioning that it was downright mean. One day M came running down the stairs. “DAD! DAD! Guess what?? I remembered underwear! Wanna see?” With that he pulled down his pants, revealing a naked little bottom. His shocked face was priceless as he yanked up his pants and scampered back up the stairs.

As a mom I can’t say that I find every moment beautiful. Sure, it often captures the attention, but all-too-often in a “You spilled your milk AGAIN?!” sort of way. The scraped knees, the toddler tantrums, the cleaning up after every single messy meal. The legos that I always manage to step on and the beds that never get made. Frankly, motherhood often leaves me a grumpy old witch.

But Grandma Jane didn’t just write that every moment was beautiful. They were so much more than words. I have no doubt that she felt it. She really and truly believed it. Every moment DID seem beautiful to her and did capture her attention. She had an incredible way of finding the best in even the most rotten person or crummy situation. Grandma Jane left behind a legacy of finding beauty.

HPIM0657Some moments might not seem beautiful as a mom. Some moments are downright dirty. But I am sure that with effort we can, like Grandma Jane, find beauty in even the ugliest moment.

Maybe it will take a healthy dose of humor.
I’m sure we will have to seek for a good measure of forgiveness.
We occasionally will have to throw common sense to the wind, forget we’re adults and jump in the mud with the kids.
Sometimes it might mean taking a step back and just being thankful that it wasn’t worse than it was. We might have to be grateful for those that help us through those particularly hard days.

Beauty is there for the finding. We often just might have to look extra hard. And eventually I hope it will get easier and easier for the beauty to capture the attention instead of the mess.

Someday I will master her cinnamon roll recipe. It might take years to achieve the ooy-gooy Grandma Jane-y goodness, but someday I’m determined to serve up a plate of the best rolls you have ever tasted. And today, today I’m going to try to look on life with such Grandma Jane optimism, such happiness, such joy. And I will try to find beauty in every moment.

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Categories: Happiness, Life Lessons | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

A Little More

The hostess slipped two menus off the desk. “Right this way, please.” I smiled to myself as we passed by the high chairs. That’s right, two. No high chairs for us. No crayons, no kiddie menus no over-priced macaroni, no bibs. Just a table for two. I could count on one hand the times in the last three years my husband and I had been out on a true, blue, honest-to-goodness date. You know, not the ones that involve doing dishes together after the kids are asleep then watching the much-anticipated episode of Downton Abbey. An actual date!

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That day I had spent crunching numbers. My husband had spent the day attempting to do his work while making dozens of phone calls to the county. Our septic system has been on the fritz since we moved in, and that week’s batch of laundry seemed to have done it in. Like all unexpected expenses, I can’t say we were any too thrilled about this rather large project, nor the amount it would cost. Financially we would be just fine, but it certainly wouldn’t be convenient. I could think of dozens of ways I’d prefer to spend our savings, but so goes life.

We dropped the boys off at our friends’ house for a fun pizza and movie night and continued our conversation of worries in the car. Spending money on dinner seemed a little silly considering our newest rather large expense looming in the near future, but we had planned it all week, and this was an outing that we rarely had a chance to take.

We settled in the booth and vowed to not talk any more about that blasted septic system and just enjoy our night away. Instead, our conversation turned to our kids (what else?) and then to the kindness people have shown us and how we want to be more like them. From our friends offering to watch our kids for the night, to grandparents and aunts and uncles who do so much, to the small acts of service we’ve witnessed over the years. As we were getting ready to leave, the waitress came to our table. “Would you like any dessert?” We shook our heads and thanked her. “Well, you are all set to go. That couple over there paid for your tab. Yes, all of it. You can just go when you are ready.” I turned away hoping the waitress didn’t see the tears welling up in my eyes. The two generous people were slipping their jackets on and briskly walking to the door before we could catch them. I had read about things like that in the paper, but to actually be the recipient touched me to the core.

Out of all the couples sitting in that restaurant, why had they chosen us? They didn’t know about our unexpected septic system expense or that we rarely got a chance to go out as a couple. They didn’t hear our conversation about selfless kindness, but they gave us yet another example of goodness to add to our list.

A little more. It’s amazing what a difference a small act of kindness can make. It doesn’t have to be money. Share a little more smiles, be a little more patient, say a little more kind words, listen a little more closely. Give a little more love, offer a little more help, be a little more conscientious. A little more. That’s all it would take, just a little more every day. We have no idea what story is hidden in each person. We don’t know what they are experiencing. Why not show them, give them, just a little more? I’m grateful for wonderful examples of kindness I have so often witnessed. To that kind couple who slipped away at the restaurant on Friday night before we could offer our thanks, your kindness warmed my heart.

This is one of my favorite little clips on kindness. I hope you can take a second and watch it!

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By Small and Simple Things

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One of my favorite Christmas traditions every year (and possibly one of yours too!) is curling up on the couch with family and watching It’s a Wonderful Life. Jimmy Stewart in pure 1946 black-and-white splendor. At the end of the movie when the credits are rolling, tears are being wiped away from every eye in the room, I always wonder what it would be like to have George Bailey’s wish…to see what the world would be like without me. What difference has my simple, small life really made?

George Bailey: [George hears a train whistle] There she blows. You know what the three most exciting sounds in the world are?

Uncle Billy: Uh huh. Breakfast is served; lunch is served; dinner…

George Bailey: No no no no. Anchor chains, plane motors and train whistles.

No doubt about it, It’s a Wonderful Life is a Christmas classic, a beloved movie in many, many homes. And maybe that’s because we all have a bit of George Bailey in us. We all want to do BIG things. We want to explore the world, make our mark, leave it for the better. We want to be good at something, known for something, have people remember our names after we have gone. And so often we feel like the whistle blows, the plane starts up it’s motor, the anchor is hoisted, and we’re left watching from the station. But I wonder if we realize, just as George Bailey had the opportunity to find out, no matter how insignificant, how small and simple our lives feel at times, we are making differences. Our lives are intertwined into so many others. We make ripples, and even the smallest ones touch more than we could ever imagine.

Clarence: Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?

I wonder if we could all see, if only we could know what we have done. If only we knew…

I think who I have become is ultimately a collection of small moments I have shared with others.

I think who I have become is ultimately a collection of small moments I have shared with others.

If only Mrs. Chamberlain knew. An awkward tom-boy with a hideous bowl cut and no self-esteem was completely changed in her third-grade class. If only she knew how many elementary ed professors read about how every child deserves to have a teacher like her, who gives them a chance, believes in them, and loves them.

If only Regina, the owner and boss of the best family-owned burger joint around, knew. Those who have worked for her over the years would all agree she taught us far more than how to make a killer Ladybug shake or count back change. She taught us about being kind, giving people a chance, and serving others with a smile. Always. She taught us to truly care about others and think more of them than of ourselves.

Yeah, we lost almost every game. We weren’t the best in the league, but we loved soccer. We loved it because we had amazing coaches. Their pep talks when the score board read 5-0 might have seemed to fall on deaf ears, but their encouragement went far. To this day we are all changed because they taught us to love the game, to be a team, to have fun and be good sports…even if we could never seem to get the ball in the net.

If only friends from long ago knew. If only they could feel the way their simple messages, phone calls, letters, have made me feel on a bad day. If only they realized how much their friendship has meant to me over these many, many years.

If only the kind lady at the grocery store realized how far-reaching the effects of her simple gesture of allowing us to go ahead of her at the checkout counter meant. Not just to the hungry, crying baby and the exhausted mother, but countless others who I have shared her story with. I want to be her someday when I don’t have the anxious kids in tow.

If only…if only Mrs. M knew how scared my son was to start the first grade. How he didn’t like to read, how he despised writing. How he has blossomed and reads every night, writes stories on the bus, and talks about her at every meal. She is his hero. She is MY hero.

He’s only the custodian, but Mr. Mike creates ripples. The kids love him. The way he teases them in the lunch room making each one giggle with delight. He makes a difference. Every single day. They will remember that forever. If only he knew.

If only each one of us could know.

Each day, each moment, our small actions touch others. Sometimes in very big ways when we don’t even know it. We may never do really big, grand things. We may never have an audience of millions, have stadiums or buildings named after us, or have our photo on the cover of magazines or in books. We may never be the best. But life really is wonderful, and you and me, all of us, even in our small and simple ways, make a difference.

Clarence: You see, George, you’ve really had a wonderful life. Don’t you see what a mistake it would be to throw it away?

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The Terrible/Wonderful Twos–Loving Whatever Life Throws Our Way

Our youngest son recently turned two. TWO! Every time I’ve had a two-year-old I can distinctly remember thinking to myself, “Could I possibly love this kid any more?? If I could only freeze time, I’d freeze him at this age, right here, right now.” I LOVE two. It is my favorite, favorite, favorite age.

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Yesterday was a moment I would have froze if I could. We were putting Christmas decorations up, and N (that cute little two-year-old), enthusiastic about all the festiveness in a way only a two-year-old can be, grabbed the angel from a Melissa and Doug nativity set and ran to my husband. “See, Daddy? See? This Mommy! Mommy a angel.”

My heart turned to mush.

Obviously he’d totally forgot about how I was the meanest mom on the planet an hour before for not letting him try a bite of the uncooked chicken I was cutting up for dinner…

While I would freeze each of my children at the age of two for eternity if I could, There’s no doubt in my mind that the “terrible twos” are real. Oh, so very real. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” It was the age of pure joy, it was the age of temper tantrums. It was the season of laughter and squeals, it was the season of never-ending potty training. It was the time of ‘do it myself’ (hooray!), it was the time of ‘do it myself’ (ahh! No!!). Two is, without a doubt, a paradox. It’s a year thick and thin with inconsistency.

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But, the more I’ve thought about it, maybe that’s just life. We live in a world of ups and downs. Mountains and valleys are ever present in all of our lives, wether we are in the thick of raising a child in the terrible/wonderful twos, or if our children are states away with families of their own. Some mountains in our lives may seem so incredible they touch the skies, some valleys may seem so deep we feel we may never rise again. Regardless of where we find ourselves, a lesson I learned years ago from a talk has stuck with me.

“Come what may and love it.

“…every life has peaks and shadows and times when it seems that the birds don’t sing and bells don’t ring. Yet in spite of discouragement and adversity, those who are happiest seem to have a way of learning from difficult times, becoming stronger, wiser, and happier as a result.” —Joseph B. Wirthlin

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Having a two-year-old around again has reminded me of that advice. Most days are the absolute best. My mountain seem higher than the clouds. Others, well, I’ve simply had to remind myself to laugh…

“The next time you’re tempted to groan, you might try to laugh instead. It will extend your life and make the lives of all those around you more enjoyable.”

…and “seek for the eternal.”

“Because Jesus Christ suffered greatly, He understands our suffering. He understands our grief. We experience hard things so that we too may have increased compassion and understanding for others.” –Wirthlin

Whatever our lives bring, I hope we can tell ourselves, “Come what may, and love it.” I hope we can laugh at our blunders, at the little frustrations, at the uncomfortable situations. And when our valleys are deep and we are too far down to laugh, may we look up and seek for His help. Only through Him can we be made whole.

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Categories: children, Life Lessons | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Believe

“Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things that a man needs to believe in the most: that people are basically good; that honor, courage, and virtue mean everything; that power and money, money and power mean nothing; that good always triumphs over evil; and I want you to remember this, that love, true love, never dies… No matter if they’re true or not, a man should believe in those things because those are the things worth believing in.” –Secondhand Lions

We see things in the news every day. Disasters, scary things. People making unwise decisions and the consequences of their actions hurting others. We see it on tv. We read it in the paper. I stand in the checkout line at the grocery store and, glancing over at the tabloids, I almost feel sick.

“Exclusive: What drove a popular boy to commit mass murder.”

“The Ultimate Betrayal”

“So-and-so and another actor split. Who gets the kids? The fight begins.”

“Secret Lies Exposed”

“Hollywood’s Worst Bodies.”

Wait. This is news? Really? Do we honestly enjoy this gossip? Reading about how other human beings’ lives have been destroyed? Their faces plastered across the front page, their anguish three columns in length for the world to peruse.

And then I return home and I look out my kitchen window while I make dinner. I see my boys playing pirates. No doubt the bad guys will loose, the good guys win. They always do. Good always triumphs over evil. Honor, courage and virtue still exist. People are generally good. They know because they are around goodness and kindness every day. Teachers, bus drivers, librarians, parents, the lady at the grocery store that digs through her purse to find a penny to ride the horse. Money and power simply don’t matter. And love. True, selfless love: they’ve seen it. They see it in grandparents and great-grandparents, and they’ve felt it from all the good people. They know. It’s real. IMG_0795 Their faith is so pure, their innocence refreshing. Their view of life uninhibited and clear.

And again I believe.

Categories: children, Life Lessons | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

You can Create

“I wanna be a Brontosaurus!” “Mom, can I be a train conductor?” Thank goodness for pinterest, I thought to myself. A vague memory from the year before of me venting to my husband after all the Halloween festivities were over, “Next year we BUY the costumes!” floated back to my mind. I brushed it off, like I do every year. Eh, last year was different, and it really wasn’t THAT bad, was it? M, dressed up as the “Red Barron” even won the costume contest. That had to have been worth something. The hours and hours of work to create a plane out of cardboard boxes and duct tape resulted in one exhausted mom, three tuckered out kids, and a $5 coupon to the ice cream shop for winning grand prize. Totally worth it.

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We scoured pinterest for a couple minutes, and soon they’d decided on pirates. No, lions. Firefighters? Cowboys!! Cowboys. It was settled. R and N would be cowboys, M would be the horse, Dad would be the bad guy, and mom would be the “Damsel in distress?” I offered. “No, Mom. You can be the cactus.” Ok, the cactus. The cowboys we found in our closets, and the horse head we paper mached half of a milk jug and painted brown with a mess of yarn hot glued to the top.

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I threw myself on our couch and sat back to admire our work. Then, like every year, the thought came back. “Why do I go through this every single October? It would be easier, cheaper, and loads faster to just go buy them.” And then words from one of my favorite talks came to my mind.

The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul. No matter our talents, education, backgrounds, or abilities, we each have an inherent wish to create something that did not exist before.

Everyone can create. You don’t need money, position, or influence in order to create something of substance or beauty.

Creation brings deep satisfaction and fulfillment. We develop ourselves and others when we take unorganized matter into our hands and mold it into something of beauty…”

It seemed silly, really. I’m just creating Halloween costumes, I’m not generating amazing pieces of art for the world to enjoy. I’m not serenading visitors with beautiful melodies flowing from my fingers or my voice.

You may think you don’t have talents, but that is a false assumption, for we all have talents and gifts, every one of us. The bounds of creativity extend far beyond the limits of a canvas or a sheet of paper and do not require a brush, a pen, or the keys of a piano. Creation means bringing into existence something that did not exist before—colorful gardens, harmonious homes, family memories, flowing laughter.

What you create doesn’t have to be perfect. So what if the eggs are greasy or the toast is burned? Don’t let fear of failure discourage you. Don’t let the voice of critics paralyze you—whether that voice comes from the outside or the inside.”

Creating is an inherent trait we received from the greatest Creator of all. Whether it is Halloween costumes, happy homes, loving children, meals for our family, or lovely paint strokes on a canvas. We often get down on ourselves and feel like we don’t measure up. But even when our contributions seem small, when our works fall short of a masterpiece, they still make a difference. And we must keep trying.

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Peggy is older and lives in a small house all on her own. Chances are you have never heard of her. I only met her a handful of times, but her story of creation will forever be with me. Gram would visit her often, helping with grocery shopping, housework, and whatever else she needed. That’s how her story became a part of my life. You see, she is completely blind. She was diagnosed with MS and has suffered for years from the effects, but that never slows her down. Even with her loss of eyesight, she continues to bake bread for those in her small town. Gram would often get phone calls from Peggy asking her to deliver a loaf of bread to this family or that, one having just returned from the hospital with a new baby, another simply needing a friendly gesture. Her bread doesn’t always look perfect, but her creations bless the lives of all who receive it. It’s a simple act of love that she shares with others. A few weeks after Gram passed away, we received a note in the mail. It was from Peggy, someone we vaguely knew. The writing was slanted and some words went over the others. She so kindly sent her sympathy and expressed her love for the amazing woman we all would so dearly miss. That simple note was not written with beautiful penmanship. It was difficult to make out the words as they jumbled together. But that card touched us so deeply.

If you still feel incapable of creating, start small. Try to see how many smiles you can create, write a letter of appreciation, learn a new skill, identify a space and beautify it…”

In the end, the number of prayers we say may contribute to our happiness, but the number of prayers we answer may be of even greater importance. Let us open our eyes and see the heavy hearts, notice the loneliness and despair; let us feel the silent prayers of others around us, and let us be an instrument in the hands of the Lord to answer those prayers.”

YOU are an artist. You can create masterpieces, you can touch lives. Maybe you don’t feel like your medium is a paintbrush, a hammer, a keyboard, a cooking spoon, or the ivory keys of a piano. Start with a smile, and go from there. Don’t worry if it isn’t perfect, if it doesn’t measure up to that of others. Even if our Red Barron hadn’t won the costume contest last year, it would have still been worth the time we spent together duct taping, cutting, and painting, laughing, working, and talking. Don’t allow yourself to feel like your contributions are small. Even if your efforts only touch one, that one is worth it. Even if that one is simply you.

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All quotes taken from a talk given by Dieter F. Uchtdorf (Happiness, Your Heritage October 2008)

A really great 2 minute video!! Please watch: Create

 

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How to Catch a Crawfish–Be Yourself!

Every few days a poor, misguided soul will come across my blog looking for answers about crawfish.

How do you catch a crawfish?

Crawfish in septic system

Can crawfish climb stairs?

Dreams about crawfish

Crawfish recipes

Every time I see these searches I feel a tinge of guilt. Their quest for answers about these lobster-like creatures has brought them to my page about raising little boys. Something I’m sure they didn’t intend to find. I imagine them clicking on my link in the Google search and seeing the picture of my boys walking along the pond. They breathe a disappointed sigh, maybe grumble in frustration, and finally close out of my site to continue their search. To those who have accidentally stumbled across my little corner of the blogsphere in search of answers about crawfish, you have my sincerest apologies. I never intended to trick you into clicking on my site.

When I started this blog, I had several ideas for names swirling around in my mind. I knew I wanted to write about people we met who made a difference in our lives and also about lessons that I hope my sons will learn as they navigate life. Here were some I considered.

Don’t Eat your Boogers (…and other life lessons I hope my sons will learn) –my husband said this was too hillbilly, but truth be told, I kinda liked it the best.

Quest for Good

Becoming Country Boys (life lessons I hope my sons will learn) –We moved to the country going on two years ago, and our adventures here have shaped many of my posts.

Slugs And Snails (life with all boys)

Obviously, Catching Crawfish (life lessons I hope my sons will learn) was the winner, and just like that a new parenting blog was born. Out of all the names, this one stood out to me because it represented many happy memories of walking along our little pond searching for crawfish. Our frequent quests represented so many afternoons of time together learning about life. We’ve never tasted crawfish, we’ve never fried them, boiled them, buttered them up for the grill, or even raised them as pets. But you can bet your bottom dollar we’ve caught them. And here’s how, for all you curious google searchers who land on my site by chance:

My boys carefully turn rocks over until one happens to be resting there in the water. Their quick little hands cup around them (if they’re small), or grab below their pinchers using their thumb and pointer fingers. A hot dog on the end of a stick also does the trick. That’s it! Pretty simple.

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My site address is slightly misleading. It really doesn’t have anything to do with catching crawfish. The name is not exactly what it is. How often is this the case in life? Do we occasionally put on a façade and pretend to be something we aren’t just to get friends, to be popular, to make money, to get something we want, to make us feel better about ourselves…?

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” –Ralph Waldo Emmerson

My name is Chelsi, and I’m the face behind Catching Crawfish. This is me:

  • I’m a mom to three fun boys and a wife to a great man. I grew up in a small town with one sister that I adore and parents that I love.
  • I’m adjusting to country life and really do love it, but I miss PEOPLE! I miss my sweet neighbors, waving to them and visiting (friends, come visit any time!).
  • I’m an introvert.
  • I absolutely love organized sports, especially frisbee, soccer and volleyball. I also enjoy running.
  • I’m a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints. I’m a Mormon. I believe that our relationships in this life can last into eternities. I’m so thankful for my faith in families being forever.
  • I love to write.
  • I’m far from perfect and sometimes wish I could go back and change things in the past. But I know I am who I am today as much (or more) because of my trials, failures and mistakes as my successes and accomplishments.
  • I graduated in Elementary Education, but secretly dream of writing children’s books and being a librarian.

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To my dear, crazy, silly, one-of-a-kind boys, I hope you will always be yourselves, no matter what pressures you face to be someone different. Allow others to help you reach your potential. Learn from example. Emulate those that make the world better. But don’t allow anyone to make you into something you’re not. Don’t loose that twinkle in your eye, that mischievous grin, that unfaltering faith. You are so unique, so special, so loved, JUST the way you are. Never forget that!

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In the Moment

“Remember then that there is only one important time, and that time is now. The most important one is always the one you are with. And the most important thing is to do good for the one who is standing at your side. This is why we are here.”

–Jon J. Muth, The Three Questions

Her name is the Caddis, and I can promise you it was certainly not love at first sight. My experiences with sailing up to that point had been tainted with memories of my husband and brother-in-law spending my birthday in the ER for hypothermia. Not to mention the $300 bill from the hospital a month later (Maiden Spring Voyage). “But this one will be safer,” my husband promised. “2,000 pounds of lead. There’s no way this one will ever topple over. Besides, it will be so great for the boys. Think of the experiences they will have!” I finally gave in. The boat was shipped from Michigan a few weeks later.

It took a bit of coaxing, but soon I was spending one evening a week on a sailboat with an instructor and three others taking classes. I never really got the hang of it, nor did I catch the “sailing bug” while under those majestic, white sails. Although it was admittedly enjoyable to feel the cool breeze against my face and watch the sunset reflect on the water.

Every week as a family we took our new boat out at least once. We spent many nights tied up to the mooring watching the millions of stars, many mornings sipping hot cocoa and reading books inside our sleeping bags. On the fourth of July the boys joined in the annual parade and strung lights across the bow and up the mast and silently motored around the lake.

IMG_0649It may not have been love at first sight, but eventually I did fall in love. It wasn’t the sails unfurled under the deep blue sky. It wasn’t even the boat heeling into the water, splashing our feet as we dangled them over the edge. To be honest, it really wasn’t the sailing at all.

It was us.

It was no phones to answer. No texts to respond to. No emails, no TV, no worries of laundry or grass to mow, no dirty floors or prior engagements. No worries of tomorrow.

IMG_0664When we’re on the boat, it’s just those other bodies occupying that small space. Nothing else, simply breathing each other–our real selves–in. We laugh, we tussle, we sing, we read. We play Go Fish, we swim, we grill hot dogs and dangle our poles over the water. We admire God’s creations around us. We count the stars and wake up to the morning sun. We wave at the other sailors as they tack and jibe around our very own little world.

IMG_0672A few days ago as we sailed for the last time this season I was reading to my boys from our “sailing library” and found The Three Questions by Jon J. Muth. When we first put the books on the boat, we tried to keep the theme of boats and all things water. Somehow this one got in the mix. As I silently lamented the end of another wonderful sailing season and wished for more magical moments on the water with my family, this book hit me hard. It seemed so fitting. The Caddis has become a refuge for us, where nothing else matters but the people we are with. Time stands still and we can finally truly enjoy each other, pure and undiluted. Its a unique feeling in this fast-paced technology-run world.

IMG_0663“When is the best time to do things?”

“Who is the most important one?”

“What is the right thing to do?”

Somehow the Caddis puts it in perspective for me. It suddenly all makes sense. I love sailing not because of the thrill or the water, the adventure or the skill, but because of all that it represents for our family. This time, these relationships, this is why we are here.

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All pictures my boys draw have a sailboat. They have fallen hook, line and sinker for every bit of sailing.

All pictures my boys draw have a sailboat. They have fallen hook, line and sinker for every bit of sailing.

What is your refuge from the crazy hustle and bustle of life, where you can give your everything to those you love?

Categories: Life Lessons | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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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