Posts Tagged With: Growing up

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

Sibling Love

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Having a new baby in the house is always such an exciting, wonderful time. Exciting, wonderful, magical, surreal, exhausting, frustrating, confusing…and adding three older siblings into the mix, well, amplifies ALL of these emotions by about 1,324,067%. I can’t tell you the happiness that surges through me when I see my two-year-old quietly singing a sweet lullaby to the baby and gently rubbing his newborn hair. Or when our seven- and five-year-old tell the baby stories and make him smile. Thank goodness for those moments, because the other extremes sometimes exhaust my patience. Having a new baby I’m convinced has had strange effects on my dear boys’ listening skills. In fact, sometimes I’m pretty sure they must hear something entirely different than the words coming out of my mouth. Let me demonstrate. Maybe all you mamas and papas can relate…

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M as a baby and R as a toddler…

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Baby T with M.

When I say…
“Please don’t wake the baby.”
They must hear…
“Go sit by the baby and pat his head and rub his feet and wiggle his ears and wipe his nose. That will help him sleep better for sure.”

When I say…
“Let’s play a quiet game, the baby is sleeping.”
They must hear…
“I know the perfect game to play. Run through the house like a maniac and scream as loud as possible. That sounds super fun now that the baby’s finally asleep!”

When I say…
“Please don’t even touch the sleeping baby.”
They must hear…
“Would you please put your peanutbuttery cheeks as close to his as humanly possible so that you wake him up with your peanutbuttery breath?”

When I say…
“Could you please run upstairs and grab a diaper from the bathroom? We’re all out down here. And try to be quick, he kind of exploded.”
They must hear…
“Could you run upstairs and grab a diaper? Wait. Scratch that. Can you make him a space ship out of Legos instead? That’ll really save the day with this mess all the way up his back.”

When I say…
“Do you want to pick an outfit out for the baby this morning? We have that church activity, so try to find a cute one.”
They must hear…
“Hey, can you go find that one outfit that will serve as perfect blackmail material when he’s 16? Since we’re going somewhere nice we want to really make an impression.”

When I say…
“I’m going to nurse the baby. Bring over some books and we can read!”
They must hear…
“I’m going to nurse the baby. Now would be a perfect time to pretend mom is a human jungle gym.”

When I say…

“Uh oh. Cover your cough so the baby doesn’t catch your cold.”
They must hear…
“Oh, no! Instead of coughing right into the baby’s face why don’t you suck on your finger then stick it in the baby’s mouth. That’ll do the job of spreading germs much faster and more effectively.”

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The good thing is that the baby will forgive and forget. And besides that pesky stuffy nose his brother so generously shared with him, he’s no worse for the ware. In fact, I would venture to even go so far as to say that he might possibly be the luckiest little boy in the world because he has three brothers that incessantly want to give him love. As crazy as it can get around here with three older brothers, there really is no better playmate, no better friend than a sibling.

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Categories: Family | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Traditions

It starts subtly. So subtle it’s sometimes difficult to even notice. Just a tiny bud here, a little, white flower there. Then it grows. Green splashes the trees, and soon they are covered in a beautiful canopy of leaves. They wave proudly throughout the summer, then, as the weather cools, the leaves burst into a beautiful spectacle of color. The grand finale. Reds, oranges, browns, yellows…it’s as if the trees are celebrating another glorious year. Finally, almost overnight, the fireworks are over. The leaves lay still on the ground, waiting for one last breath of life as a child rakes them up to jump in before they disappear under a carpet of snow.

The grand finale. That’s my favorite.

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The crisp air, the jackets, the hot cocoa, the pumpkins dotting the otherwise barren fields, the corn mazes, the scarves, the harvest moon, the decorations.

The leaves. The beautiful leaves.

I don’t usually get nostalgic, happy feelings while walking into the grocery store, but last night I did. As I bundled my almost-two-year-old in my jacketed arms to protect him from the crisp air and raced towards the front door, the pumpkins lining the entrance and the mums adding a splash of color took hold of my breath. Fall is here. My heart almost burst with joy. Fall brings me joy because it brings back so many wonderful memories. So many fun traditions from my childhood flooded my mind.

Every year as a kid my parents would host a fall party. The kids would wear their costumes, the parents would stand around chatting and eating chili from the pumpkin we’d hollowed out earlier that day. We’d bob for apples or play in my dad’s box maze, then we’d sit around a bonfire in our back yard telling stories and eating homemade doughnuts with our hot cocoa or apple cider. Sweet memories, vivid in my mind like the leaves in autumn.

I’ve been reading a book by Stephanie Nielson titled Heaven Is Here. Have you heard her story? She is amazing. Her story is incredible, inspiring, and full of hope. In 2008 she and her husband were in a plane crash, which burned 80% of her body. She and her husband were, through countless miracles, able to return to their four young children and she was able to continue her journey as a mother.

She writes a blog: nieniedialogues.blogspot.com

…and here’s a clip about her story: My New Life (I bawled through the entire thing. It’s 8 minutes and SO worth it!)

Much of her book she shares how traditions played a big part in her life, as a child, and later as a mother. We’ve slacked off majorly in the tradition department lately, and I’ve decided this week to work harder at those we have and try to begin some new ones that my children can look back on as fondly as I do those in the falls of my childhood.

One I stole from Stephanie’s blog is to have a “Family Theme.” Throughout the year it becomes the focus. She begins each school year with a fancy dinner where they introduce the family theme. I’m a little late, but I think this weekend we’ll give this new tradition a try.

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Our 2014-2015 family theme. Idea stolen from nieniedialogues.blogspot.com

Just like the tiny buds in the spring, I hope that our family traditions can start out small and simple, then catch on and grow until they become a part of us. I hope that when my children look back on their memories, it will be like the autumn grand finale, full of color and beauty.

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Happy fall, everyone!

What are traditions your family has that bring you joy? I’d love to hear them!

Categories: children, Family | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

The Lesser Known Reasons You Should Have Children

A few days ago I published Murphy’s Laws of Motherhood. As I finished listing all of the ironies, I realized anyone contemplating motherhood might read that and say, “EEK! Kids? No thank you. That sounds like a nightmare!” If you’ve read my blog before, you know that I am a FIRM believer in the blessings of parenthood, despite all the madness and craziness.

In  case you don’t know:

The Bedtime Battle
The Green-eyed Monster
Observations of a Mother
Dreams
Common Sense Life Lessons I Hope My Sons Will Learn
The “Real” Job

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Being a mother has been the most amazing, miraculous, wonderful adventure of my life, and they could spill fifty billion jugs of orange juice on my newly mopped floor and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. ANYTHING! So I thought before I scare anyone from the wonderful (albeit exhausting) life of motherhood, here are some reasons to have kids that you just might not have considered.

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Pest Control

“Mom, come check out this spider! It’s HUGE!!!! It’s literally as big as my hand. You’ve got to see…Oh, never mind. N just smooshed it with his foot. No, he doesn’t have shoes or socks on. Why do you ask?”

Your own personal Jiminee Cricket

“Auntie Chelsi, you said STUPID again! Stupid is a bad word. You really, really shouldn’t say it.”

Anti splurge helper

“Why do you need a new hat, Mom? Your other one looks really good on you! I like your other one better. Waaay better. You don’t need a new one.”

Er…Splurging helper

“Mom, can we please get the good kind of cereal? We have been soooo good and helpful. You haven’t got this kind in forever. It’s YOUR favorite too, remember?? It’s ok. You can get it just this once.”

Honest opinion giver

“No, I don’t like that dress. It looks kinda funny. Mommy? Are you gonna have a baby again? Cause that dress kinda makes you look like you are. That’d be so cool!!! If you are, can I have a baby sister this time?”

Help to keep life in perspective

“Mom, you can clean the bathrooms later. Come build a lego city with us.”

Make you feel super-cool even in your incredible dorkyness.

“You should see my mom. She can JUGGLE! She’s soooo good!”

“Wow, Mom! Do that dance again! I didn’t know you knew the Penguin Polka! Can you teach it to us?”

An opportunity to really hone your skills

“Mommy, will you please make me a paper airplane? Yeah, I know you’ve already made me six this morning, but this time I want it to be smaller and faster. It’s ok, it’s a science experiment!

Appreciation for the little things in life

(Me) “Hey, guys! Look out your window! Quick! Cows! Did you see em?”

A reason to get out of bed every morning

“Moooom! N (age one) is in my bunk bed again!”

Better Health

(Me) “Hmm. If I snitch a cookie, they’ll run in and want one too. Apple it is.”

Humility

“Mom! M’s going to the bathroom on that tree by the playground!”

A better understanding of your parents

(Me) “It is so past your bedtime! You need to get in bed right now!” (in my mind) “Wow, did I really just say that? I sounded just like my mom!”

A renewed sense of adventure

“Mmmm. Pickle, peanut butter, and honey sandwich. You really should try this, Mom!”

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And here are a few more if you were hoping for more serious reasons to consider when contemplating children.

Loving someone more than life itself

That rare and beautiful moment when you walk in their room, hear that steady, sleepy breathing, the silence, and see their perfect little faces, eyelashes brushing against their cheeks. Then you think to yourself, “They are mine! How on earth did I get so incredibly lucky?”

Witnessing miracles every single day

Every little accomplishment, every tiny discovery will leave you in awe.

Their unwavering faith as a reminder of the courage you need to face life’s most difficult challenges

“Mommy? Why are you crying? It’s ok. We’ll see her again. Remember, Mommy? Families are forever!”

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

The Chase is On…(Helping My Boys *Eventually* Navigate the World of Girls)

This year was certain to be different. As my six-year-old son climbed those big bus steps and waved goodbye, I couldn’t help but think he looked so grown-up. His first time at school ALL day, first time eating lunch in the cafeteria, first time riding the bus to and from school…First grade certainly would be a year of firsts. The youngest boys and I anxiously waited for him to come home. Afternoon seemed to take forever to arrive, and by noon M had asked me at least a dozen times when school would be done. Finally it was time. With a big grin on his face, R raced up our driveway.

As we sat outside eating cookies, In typical motherly fashion I bombarded him with the string of questions that had been flooding my mind all day. “So buddy, who do you sit by? Did you go to PE? Is your teacher nice? Did you make any new friends? Who’d you ride with on the bus? Did you remember to thank the bus driver? Did you read any books? What’d you do at recess?” In typical first grade boy fashion, he responded, “Andrew. Yep. She’s nice. Yep. Tyler. Yep. Yep. Played soccer.” And continued chowing down on his cookie. Realizing that I wouldn’t be able to coax much out of him while cookies were around, I gave it a rest. Not a few minutes later, he added, “Oh, and at lunch recess the girls chased us around. They were trying to kiss us, Mom! But don’t worry. I ran too fast for them. I bet we’ll have to do that a lot this year.”

When he told me that, this is what I saw in my mind...

When he told me that, this is what I saw in my mind…

...But I'm afraid this is reality. When did this happen???

…But I’m afraid this is reality. When did this happen???

Kindergarten year was a unique one for R. By the last month of school, his class only consisted of six kids. Five boys and one girl. It started out with 12 (still only one girl), but slowly dwindled down. GIRLS. That would be a new dynamic this year I hadn’t even considered.

When my husband got home from work that night and the boys were all asleep, I told him what R had done at recess. “Oh!” he exclaimed. “I remember that game in elementary school. That was fun.” I gave him a death stare. “Hey, I always ran fast enough to keep away! You mean you didn’t play that? I thought everyone played it.” Our first grade boy was being chased by girls to get kissed, and apparently I wasn’t cool enough to chase the boys when I was a kid. This was devastating news to a mom of three boys. Girls? First grade?? That cutesy little chant, “…so-and-so and what’s her name, sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g.” came into my mind. My son was running away from girls, and according to my husband it was totally normal.

Before I sound like a lunatic mother with a little cootie-phobia, Let me clarify. Of course I wasn’t afraid of my son getting caught and kissed. He’s pretty darn fast, even I can hardly catch him! Ok, ok. And I suppose a little peck on the playground in first grade doesn’t exactly spell out matrimony. But suddenly in my mind I was imagining a little boy ten years older taking a girl on his first date. Eight years after that bringing a girl home from college to “meet the parents,” and only a matter of time before a full blown wedding would be planned. Whew! Those years sure flew by in my mind! Playing chase on the playground, simply the beginning.

As my husband and I brushed our teeth that night, I concocted a plan. We have so many friends with adorable little girls. How about an arranged marriage? It worked wonders for so many of my husband’s co-workers from other countries. Why not give it a try? My husband was less than keen on that idea. Since that was out, I was left with only one option. Let my boys make their own decisions and teach them to be good kids the best I can. Darn. I still kinda like the arranged marriage idea (any takers?? 🙂 ).

I remember coming home from college and going on walks with my mom. We’d come to a piece of garbage on the ground, and every time my mom would pick it up and say, “Chelsi, a nice boy would never throw garbage on the ground.” She’d then always add, “and when you meet someone you think might be the one, watch how he treats his mom, because that’s important. That’s very possibly how he will treat you. Does he put the cart back into the cart spot at the grocery store? Does he listen to what you have to say? Can you talk to him?” Those words of advice stuck with me, and when I found my husband, I was pleased to be able to say yes to every one on my mom’s list, plus so much more.
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So, my boys, though you won’t need this list for many, many years, here’s your mother’s two cents of what I hope you can remember when the girls are doing a bit more than chasing you on the playground.

How does she talk not only to, but also about her family? Does she speak of them kindly?

Does she have good spending habits? Is she wise with her money?

Does she have a healthy view of her body and appearance?

Does she listen?

Similar interests?

How does she treat the waiter/waitress? Is she kind to others?

Does she return the grocery cart to the appropriate spot?

For now I will just try to teach my boys and help them to develop good habits that will attract a kind, considerate, happy girl. I’ll do my very best to teach them that garbage always goes in the garbage can, carts should never be left anywhere but the appropriate “cart designated” spots, and people should always be treated with respect, especially women and girls. I’ll try to help them to be good listeners, that potty talk is incredibly unattractive, and to chew with their mouths closed. And for now, I’ll remind my sons to run as fast as they can and try not to let those girls catch them!

I'm afraid my boys will forever be in my mind as this...

I’m afraid my boys will forever be in my mind as this…

...and this...

…and this…

...and this. Just sweet, little boys. Always little. Maybe that's just the way a mom's mind works.

…and this. Just sweet, little boys. Always little. Maybe that’s just the way a mom’s mind works.

Moms of those sweet little girls, I promise to do my best at raising sons worthy of your daughters. Will you do the same? And 20 years from now we can both be thrilled that they have found each other.

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

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

Common Sense Life Lessons I Hope My Sons Will Learn (and FAST!)

A wise mother once told me that the early years of raising children has the longest days and the shortest weeks.

When my oldest boys were about 1 1/2 and 3 1/2 my husband went on a two-week-long work trip. Being the dead of winter and hovering below ten degrees most days, my boys and I were pretty much confined to our house. On one particular day during those two weeks, I remember my patience had been exhausted and my creative juices had completely run dry. Knowing it was a little early, but not quite sure how much, I started our bedtime routine. Fed, bathed, teeth brushed, stories read, I was just about to tuck them in to their warm covers when I glanced at the clock. 4:30. 4:30?? I can’t remember for sure, but I just might have cried.

That cold, long, winter afternoon seems like just yesterday. IMG_2843Six short years ago this week I became a mother. Holding that sweet little miracle in my arms I remember feeling an overwhelming responsibility to teach him as he grew up. To help him reach his potential, to be a kind, considerate, healthy, smart person who went out in the world humble yet confident. Who could make a difference for the better. HPIM0821 HPIM0883Every long day, every short week, every year that flies by I still feel that overwhelming responsibility and I question if I have done a good enough job. I imagine that feeling never really goes away. IMG_5718 IMG_4479Feeding on that desire to teach my children and help them as they navigate this crazy life, six months ago I started this blog. I started it with the intention to write about the life lessons I hope my three sons will learn. My hope was that by writing them down, I could organize my thoughts and record stories that have shaped our lives. Maybe even someday my boys will care to read them and see the vision and faith I had in them and who they could become. Or just roll their eyes at their bizarre mother and all her ridiculousness.

In honor of our oldest’s birthday this week and our next one’s coming up this month too, plus Catching Crawfish’s half-birthday, over the past four days my husband and I have kept a list of some of the more (what we thought to be) common sense life lessons we hope our sons will learn. Here are the top 17 things we’ve caught ourselves saying to our sons in desperate hopes that they will learn… And honestly, I hope they learn them FAST!

1. I try to feed you well. You really don’t have to sample the worms in our garden.

2. You’re supposed to pull your pants down when you get TO the bathroom, not on the way THERE!

3. Straws go in your mouth, not your nose.

4. Please don’t lick my hair.

5. I’m sorry, we don’t eat ice cream for breakfast.

6. Wipe, flush, dress, wash.

7. Did you remember to flush?

8. If you wear your underpants backwards you’ll get a wedgie. Yep, wedgies aren’t much fun, are they?

9. Really? A huge spider with your bare hands?! No thanks, I wouldn’t care to hold it.

10. Ahh! Don’t drink the nasty pond water!

11. It’s called a hitch, not a “hooker.” Especially when you loudly request Dad to draw one during a silent moment at church. A HITCH.

12. Please use a tissue.

13. Peas go in your mouth, not your nose.

14. Sucking on your toe was cute when you were 3 months old. It lost it’s cuteness long ago.

15. You can pick your friends, you can pick your boogers (though I’d really prefer you didn’t), but you just can’t pick your friend’s (or your baby brother’s) boogers. It’s gross.

16. Singing “Old MacDonald” at the top of your lungs while you use the bathroom is totally fine at home. But maybe hold off when we’re in the Target restroom with a dozen other people. Or at least whisper it.

17. Sure, it works to play the recorder with your nose. But it’s kinda gross and I’d really rather you don’t try. Especially when you have a stuffy nose. IMG_3187image
I have high hopes that my boys will grow up to be gentlemen. That they say please, thank you, are kind, considerate, conscientious, patient, smart, and healthy. And that they don’t eat their boogers or worms, use utensils the correct way with the correct body parts, and learn the correct vocabulary lest they embarrass themselves. And/or their parents. Is that too much to ask? Maybe. We shall see!IMG_1937 What common sense life lessons do you catch yourself reminding your kids of in hopes they’ll figure it out sooner rather than later?

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Murder in the Hen House (a lesson on leaving the safety of our values)

If it weren’t for the fact that he had two rather large bird legs dangling from his jaws, the mysterious disappearance of our three baby chicks might have remained a mystery. That, and the sheepish, guilty puppy eyes he gave me when I confronted him. Our three newly hatched baby chicks had been murdered in cold blood. The culprit: all evidence pointed to the one and only Howard, our 95 pound, one-year-old English Shephard.

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Let me take you back about a year. The story begins with seven adorable, fuzzy chicks. As we drove home from the local ranch store with seven Rhode Island Reds the boys chattered away at what they should name all of them. The coop was decked out with incandescent light, hay, feeder and all. A puppy, seven chickens… yessiree, we were well on our way to a real rootin’ tootin’ miniature farm fit for none other than Old MacDonald himself.

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It was amazing how fast those darling little chicks grew up. Within a few short weeks and a couple distinct cock-a-doodle-doos we were sure Henrietta and Birdita were in fact Henry and Bert. Two roosters. And they were not about to compete for those Hens. Sadly, we found our two roosters could not peacefully coexist, and Henry landed himself, well, you can take a look for yourself…

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Bert was now the king of the roost, and he let all who came near know. Living where many predictors would gladly have a chicken dinner, we decided it was wise to keep mean old Bert around. And even better, with a rooster, we could hatch our own eggs! A year after bringing our first chickens home we decided to give it a try.

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13 eggs, 21 days, and a steady 99.5 degrees later, we found ourselves awestruck at seven adorable chicks. Watching their little heads pop out of the shells was amazing and so exciting! After giving four of our chicks to Great Grandpa E, we kept the remaining three and had just begun to integrate them into our little flock when disaster struck.

I had just walked into our kitchen to make dinner and happened to glance outside as Howard rounded the corner with two rather large bird feet dangling from his K9 teeth, slobber dripping from his lips. I knew right away this wasn’t just any bird, and this wasn’t just any accident. I slipped on my shoes and raced around the house as Howard dropped the limp body into a hole. His two-syllable name typically used in an exasperated tone (“How-ard! You dumb dog! Why did you have to go and swallow M’s sock??” Or “How-ard! Did you really have to find that dead, stinky, rotted squirl and drag it to our porch during our barbecue??”) Was now being screamed in a hysterical, maniac sort of way. A string of kindergarten-worthy explicatives flew from my mouth. “How-ard! Oh, you rotten, lousy, stinky, heartless, Turkey-dog jerk! You ate them!” I was furious. He’d brutally murdered our three helpless chicks.

As I played Sherlock Holmes around the coop I pieced together the tragedy. The coop had one tiny, obscure spot that had a bit larger gap than the rest of the fence. The chicks had apparently weaselled their way through the fence and served themselves to our eager dog. Sad? YES. A tragedy? Certainly. Completely Howard’s fault? Debatable. If only the chicks had known that the fence was their safety! They hadn’t realized that just beyond what they may have viewed as their prison waited snakes, coyotes, mountain lions, bobcats, skunks, rats, and… Howard. All eager to devour them.

My boys are still young. The moral dilemmas they face every day typically involve cookie jars, brother’s new toys from the dentist, and whether or not to repeat the potty talk they hear from friends at school. Every day I try to help them build fences, protect them from the dangers outside. But what happens when they are older? When the world, for good or for bad, can be found right at their fingertips? When the words and stories they hear in the boys’ locker room and even in the hall at school are far worse than the mean names their mother shouts at the dog? When friends go to parties, make unwise decisions, and the pressure to do likewise is so strong? If my children can learn anything from their mother, I hope it’s this: Dare to stand alone. When the world seems to be outside the fence, when the grass appears greener, I hope that they can have the bravery and moral strength to keep their fence strong. To not give in to the temptation to wander out. To not view their standards, their boundaries as a cage. Being a teenager can be rough. I know because I’ve been there. We all have. We all know what it’s like to desperately want to be cool, accepted, and have fun. But if it comes at the expense of our freedom, our immediate or latter happiness, our health, or (heaven forbid) our lives, then it’s not worth wandering beyond the fence. What I hope my boys can learn is that by staying inside the fence, by keeping to their standards and values, they will be far more free, more happy, and more able to do what they like than if they don’t.

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Three baby chicks decided to wander beyond the boundaries. Maybe it was the green grass. Maybe it was curiosity of the unknown. Maybe it was just plain old stupidity. Regardless the reason, it cost them their lives. If only…what sad words. Peep, Mo, and Winger, we will miss you. We’re sorry we didn’t protect you better. And my sons, I hope you can learn from the sad story of our wandering chicks and remember to stand alone when others explore beyond the fence.

 

Categories: country life, Life Lessons, Motherhood | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The Land of the Free

I have no idea where my husband read or watched it, but years ago he saw an interview with an astronaut. The man being interviewed was asked what it took to do all that he does, and his response was something along the lines of, “It’s like when you’re exhausted and want nothing more than to go to bed. You must have the stamina to get up and do the pile of dishes sitting in the sink. No matter what, you never leave them for the morning.”‘

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For years now when I am just about to collapse and can barely muster up the energy to climb the stairs and curl up under the covers after a full day of chasing little rascals around, my husband reminds me, “Well, you just wouldn’t make the cut tonight then. No trips to the moon for you.” To be honest, on nights such as these a bowl of chocolate ice cream would motivate me much more than the reminder of the failed opportunity to be the first person on Mars. But once upon a time back in third grade with Mrs. Chamberlain, his attempt at inspiring me just might have worked. I dreamed of climbing into that rocket, listening to the countdown, blasting through the atmosphere, and experiencing that weightlessness known only to the few who have been there before. How amazing would it be to look down at the world and see the swirling clouds, the blue oceans, and the white, snow-capped mountains? Being an astronaut was my deepest eight-year-old desire.

I also dreamed of becoming a ballerina dancing on stage in a pretty pink tutu. A magician, a lawyer, an explorer, an English teacher, a soccer coach, a journalist, a children’s book author, a financial advisor, and an elementary school teacher. Throughout my life I’ve imagined many futures for myself, but none could compare to that of being a mom.

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My boys dream of being farmers. They imagine driving the big tractors, milking their cows, caring for their chickens, and picking award-winning potatoes from their rows of produce. Possibly even raising dinosaurs. But that’s not all. They want to fly airplanes just like Great-Grandpa E, become astronauts, builders like Grandpa T, inventors just like Dad and Grandpa W. They have lofty aspirations, grand plans, and big imaginations. 

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And why not? Sure, it would take lots of hard work, education, dedication, sacrifice, and time. But they could do it. The opportunity is there. The opportunity is there because thousands have made it so. They have recognized that freedom to choose and opportunity for anyone to succeed is the American dream, and it’s a dream worth dying for. I feel so blessed to raise my children in a country that has those freedoms, because many are not so fortunate.

The freedoms we enjoy in America is something to be proud of, to celebrate, and to give us hope. We can choose. Because of that, men and women who may not have succeeded had they not been given that opportunity to rise above their circumstances have changed our world. In our country, unlike so many others, anyone can get an education, anyone can work, anyone can change their fate. Choices are everywhere waiting to be made.

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So my sons, whether it be a farmer, a builder, an astronaut, or a pilot. A butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker. You can. Dream big and work hard. Generations of men and women have sacrificed so that you can make a future for yourself, so don’t let them down. You have opportunities so many others will never imagine. What you have is special, unique, and truly amazing. You have freedom to choose. Freedom to create a life you want to live. Freedom to worship, freedom to dream. Dear boys, please never take that for granted.

 

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