School for the Escape Artists

The first social media outlet to go was Twitter. I never even tried Pinterest. Now, Facebook‘s days may be coming to an end.

It’s not them; it’s me, really. I still have my Twitter account, and I think I even have a Pinterest account (though, I’ve never logged on), but I can’t allow myself to use them. I know myself, and I know I’ll start the comparison game. I’ll find all the reasons I’m not doing life right or depriving my children of the perfect childhood, so I’ve decided to spare myself the torture.

I had never thought I’d treat Facebook the same way, but last night I started to reconsider my previous position. Post after post after post were from moms commenting on their children’s first day of school, and the moms were all crying. Those moms whose children won’t start until next week were squeezing their babies tighter, not wanting that dreadful day to come.

My first thought was, What the heck is wrong with them?! However, after reading how many moms were crying, I then thought, What the heck is wrong with me?!

My son starts first grade tomorrow, and the only emotion I feel is excitement. Yesterday, we visited his classroom, cute little desks filled with brand new workbooks and the hermit crab class pet to complete the perfection, and I wanted to start school with him. My daughter starts kindergarten in a week, and the very mention of school brings a smile to her face. When I visualize her wearing her plaid uniform and hair bow, I smile with her.

I know I’m not a bad mom for looking at school as an exciting time, but I can’t help wondering why I’m not more sentimental….

Last night, I lay in bed for a good while before I fell asleep. My mind was full of random thoughts, ranging from the sermon I heard two weeks ago to the bedtime routine of my kiddos when they were three. My mind stayed on the latter.

None of my children transitioned to the toddler bed well, and nap times were extremely difficult. At one point, we resorted to turning the doorknobs around so that we could lock the door from the outside and trap our kids on the inside in hopes of forcing them to sleep.

Caleb was the first child to defy nap time. I remember feeling like the victor after changing the knobs, knowing that I would finally have the ‘mommy time’ to clean or pay bills or just sit for a minute while he rested quietly in his room. That is until I saw him make his way down the stairs. How in the world did he get out? I wondered. After putting Caleb back in his room, re-locking his door, and finding this little boy down the stairs again, I repeated the routine but stayed camped out in front of his room. I would crack the code.

As I sat, I watched the lock magically turn to the horizontal position, and there stood my three-year-old, having pushed open his door with his Lightning McQueen suitcase in hand. I was baffled–until I saw that he was holding the zipper. Yes, my little boy learned how to pick a lock with the zipper on a suitcase.

I promptly removed the suitcase and locked his door again, but Caleb knew that his jeans also had zippers. I couldn’t even lock my son in his room.

I knew Caleb was clever, but I was hoping for different results with his sister. Hannah Grace, however, proved that she, too, had the criminal gene and picked her lock with the prongs of her nightlight. Chloe’s room had a dutch door so that we could see in her room while she was locked out. She didn’t mess with picking locks. Instead, she dumped out the baskets that held her shoes and simply stood on them, reached over, and unlocked her door. Pillows, dolls, and laundry baskets could also give her the extra height if she needed it. When all such items were removed, Chloe flung her body, catching her forearms on the top of her door. She would use every bit of her strength to wiggle up and over the top.

I was no match for them.

locked in

I’m not sure what started the train of thought that led me to thinking about those dreadful days. However, I did figure out why I wasn’t crying about school starting–I was all cried out.

What emotions did you experience when your children started school? Were any of you out there a successful escape artist as a child, or do you have an escape artist of your own?

*photo courtesty of Trevin Shirey via Flickr ‘Creative Commons.’

Content

I don’t typically write without knowing where I’m going or having a point neatly wrapped up in the midst of one of my stories about marker-stained carpet or stolen peaches. However, today I felt the need to just write. I’m not sure where this post will end, but I wanted to begin, nonetheless.

The last few weeks, I’ve felt this overwhelming surge of happiness. I’ve tried to attribute the source–a vacation with Matt that worked, prayer that had been answered, the right dosage of medicine, visits with the chiropractor to get my body working properly–but I’m not sure what/who is to thank; maybe all of the above.

All I know is that I feel wonderful. I still wake up feeling like I could go right back to sleep, but I’m able to shake that cloudiness once I get going. I’m not sure that happiness and feeling wonderful are even the right words to describe where I am. Perhaps, content is a better description.

Most of the factors in my life that caused me grief before are still here–Matt’s long hours at work, a constant feeling of being overwhelmed by the kids and house–but I have a sense of ‘okay’ with all of them–not that I’m okay with those factors but that I am okay, we will be okay.

I’ve been looking at my children a lot lately–obviously, I see them every day–but looking at that little spark that makes them them. I can’t help but smile when I see it.

A few weeks ago, I wanted to write a post about all that I had forgotten. We had found some home videos of the kids when they were babies and toddlers. Caleb on his second birthday–I had forgotten his little voice, the way he sounded when he said ‘hanga-burger’ for  ‘hamburger;’ Hannah Grace, how beautifully sweet and how deep her voice was, even as a little baby as she said ‘Bye-i;’ Chloe and the first time she ate the carrots that I hadn’t quite pureed enough, Caleb laughing a weird, throaty laugh in the background. That night, my heart and insides literally ached for those days, not because I wanted them back, but because I couldn’t remember. I grieved for those little babies and wanted one more time to squeeze them and suck in every detail, memorize the sounds and smells so that I would never forget.

I guess that’s the consequence of having baby after baby after baby–one loses brain cell after brain cell after brain cell, and I just couldn’t take in all those details that I now miss. I think that feeling of loss is why I’m drinking in their uniqueness now.

I look at Hannah Grace, and I marvel. This child has captured a part of my heart. Boy, she is stubborn, but that sweetness inside of her–I’ve never met another with it. I took her to a trial gymnastics class the other day, and I prepared a water bottle for her. When I told Hannah Grace that this bottle was hers if she was thirsty after class, she just looked at me for a moment, paused and smiled. She slightly cocked her head to one side and quietly said, “thank you.” Looking at her face, one would’ve thought I told her that we deeded her the house when she turns 30. It was as if in her little heart she thought, How am I so special? and Now it’s my turn after a year and a half of watching her brother’s baseball games. The gratitude quietly shone through her.

It was a small moment, quick and quiet, but my heart warmed all the same. I love this little girl.

We watched Annie the other night with the girls, and I realized, if Hannah Grace is my Punky Brewster,’ Chloe is my ‘Annie.’ I never understood why the babies of families tend to be spoiled; I’m starting to get a sense of it now. The other day, Hannah Grace called her little sister ‘stupid’ from the top bunk of her bed. Well, if that little three-year-old didn’t get to her feet and start climbing the ladder ready to pound her sister. I pulled Chloe off the ladder, chuckling inside at my little tiger. If Caleb had reacted that way, I would’ve been horrified. When I pray at night, I pray my feisty little girl will turn that confidence and fighting spirit away from people’s noses and toward her Lord and convictions.

Last night, Caleb helped me put away the dishes. He told me that I could sit down; he would do them for me. I told him we could make the chore go quickly if we did it together. And that’s my boy–emotional and sensitive and ever the people-pleaser. Too much like me. Sometimes, I look at him and want to yell, “No! You don’t want to be like me!” but then I remember how he wanted to go to the pool when it was busy so that he could make new friends. Yeah, he’s not totally his mommy, after all.

Sometimes I look ahead and wonder what scar I will have left on their skin. I picture my kids in therapy relating, “My mom just couldn’t ___”, or “My mom always ____.” I’m far from perfect, but I hope these three know how my heart swells when I look at them, how I think they are the most beautifully unique people I have ever met.

And then there’s Matt. He brought me flowers last week…and a few weeks before that. I’ve been trying to show more attention to his work shirts. We kiss a little longer in the mornings and smile a little more often when we look at each other. It’s the little things, and the sense that we’re both working together, for each other, that makes the work worth it.

Anyone who reads my blog knows that I don’t hold back from sharing the ugly in my life. But writing authentically means I share the beautiful, too, and I’m finding the beauty in just living contentedly. I’m not complacent–I know God shakes things up often–but for the first time in a while, I feel different.

I spent some time with a good friend a week or so ago, and, after our visit, she said, “You sound good. You sound light.” I feel light. I want to see those little glimmers in the everyday, those ordinary moments, and like Hannah Grace taking her water bottle, I want to smile and say, ‘thank you.’

Linking up with Michelle and Jen. I’d love to read your glimmers of content in the comments below.


 

Perspective

I sat on the edge of the bottom bunk listening to Chloe pray. I love the sound of her little munchkin voice talking to God, the sweet innocence of a three-year-old. She rattled off family and friends, not leaving out one member of each family unit. I kept my head bowed and smiled.

But then she ruined it.

“And I thank you for Ella and Ellie. Thank you for their cat and the dog. I pray for their daddy…”

I’ve never had a problem with imaginary friends, but now they had entered her prayer life, and I had a moment of panic.

“…and their mommy and the baby in her tummy…”

“Yes, her mommy has a baby in her tummy,” Hannah Grace chimed in.

Great, I thought. Two crazies. Should I stop them? How far should I let this imaginary world go? We were supposed to be praying to God, not continuing our play from the day.

But I let the little voice continue as she learned to lay that which was most important to her at the feet of her Lord.

“…and I pray, I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

The infamous girls pretending to be fierce warriors.

Linking up with the Gypsy Mama for her 5 Minute Friday. When is a time that you had to change your perspective?

 

 

Motherhood Summed Up in One Story

The last few weeks have been packed full–spring programs at preschool, sick visits to the doctor, tee-ball practice, birthday parties and holidays–the norm once the warm weather hits. In the midst of all the running, I cut out the trips to the gym. The gym would still be there after all the programs were over, so I would start back into a regular routine after spring break.

Monday was my first day back, and I strangely enjoyed the soreness and stiff muscles that accompanied me on my Tuesday consisting of a parent-teacher conference and excessively long oil change. Wednesday I would visit the gym again.

In the meantime, I finished out my Tuesday with Matt on the couch. We were both drained after a busy day and decided to numb our minds with a little tv before dragging ourselves up the stairs to bed. We had a little company, though. Chloe complained of a tummy ache, so we let her lie down on the couch next to us. Of course she didn’t fall asleep as we had hoped; the thrill of getting her way kept her up and excited, but the intermittent cries over her tummy were enough for me to pull a wastebasket near.

I had passed the last 30 minutes or so half-listening to the tv while trying to achieve something impressive in my games of ‘Words with Friends.’ Matt and I gave each other the look that said it was time to get off our butts and call it a night, so we each promptly moved an inch and settled into a new position on the couch. Chloe also fought the idea of moving upstairs and crawled into my lap.

Of course she would have crawled into my lap before it happened.

I heard the groan but didn’t realize what was happening until it was too late. And then I felt what was happening–all over my arm, all over my shirt, all over my pants. I couldn’t concern myself with me, though; that’s what the husband sitting next to me was for. Instead, I rubbed Chloe’s back, trying to calm her, while I waited for Matt to help me move her to the trashcan.

“It’s okay, baby,” I offered in my most soothing voice. I tried to move Chloe away, but I was in an awkward position and dripping with vomit. I did my best to not drip on any undisturbed part of the couch or carpet and thought how much easier this task would be if Matt just lifted Chloe for me.

Surely, Matt would intervene before the second upheaval. Surely he would help me turn her around. Surely.

Unless, of course, my husband was completely unaware that his daughter was throwing up all over his wife because he was checking his Tweets.

As the second upheaval was happening, I turned to see Matt holding his phone in front of his face, not even offering a glance in our direction.

“Seriously?!?!?!” I yelled at him.

Just like that, the Twitter trance was broken.

“She’s throwing up all over the place! How do you not notice?!”

Matt had already scrambled to get paper towels. I wiped the face of Chloe who was still screaming and then grabbed a towel from Matt to clean my wet arm. I decided it would be easiest for the two of us to strip down to our underwear and throw our clothes straight into the washing machine.

As I was delicately lifting the vomit-covered shirts over our heads, I heard a gag sound coming from the couch. I looked over to see my husband cleaning up with a paper towel.

“Matt!” I called out in a tone that spoke ‘you better surpress all gags from here on out since I am the one wearing the throw-up.’

“I know,” he answered, knowing exactly what the tone meant.

I couldn’t really be mad, though. After all, he was cleaning up vomit.

We all made our way upstairs after the evidence of the night was cleaned away, and I washed and dressed Chloe. I took a shower, and then I made my way to bed where Matt and Chloe had already found sleep. I snuggled in next to my baby knowing that, once again, I would delay getting back into a routine at the gym.

I couldn’t help but laugh to myself at the life of a mother. We get to wear the brunt of the throw-up and  have to change our plans daily while, many times, our husbands are clueless as to the chaos of our everyday.

The next morning, I let Chloe sleep and wrapped her warm body in a blanket when it was time to take the other two to school. We spent the first part of the day snuggling as we listened to Elmo’s laughs and Strawberry Shortcake’s retelling of Cinderella, and we gave each other lots of hugs and kisses. And I had to admit, vomit aside, this morning ended up being much better than any day at the gym.

 

How would you sum up motherhood? Dads, how would you describe being a father?

Tender

As we drove back from the hair salon, my neighbor Joann thanked me again for driving her.

“You’re very calm, and I like that. Some people aren’t when they drive.”

I smiled a little because ‘calm’ and ‘patient’ are words that many have used to describe me, but, in the last three years, they are words that to me seem the furthest away. I’ve wanted to reclaim them so that my kids would see what others have seen. I’ve gotten a little help along the way, but I’ve also learned a new trick.

I study them, and I savor their uniqueness. Last night, I watched as Chloe ate her ice cream cone. She took a napkin and delicately wrapped it around the cone to keep the melted mess from running down her hands. And I watched her little tongue. She stuck out that little tongue just over the top of the napkin that came up a little too high, and she found the soft cream below. Oh, how she enjoyed that ice cream!

Watching that sweet face, my heart couldn’t help but turn tender. So I watch my children now, and I send up a note of thanks for every ‘Punky Brewster’ style outfit, every nonchalant attitude toward another 100% on a spelling test, and every silly expression that comes out of her mouth. And this heart turns to mush every time I do.

Linking up with the Gypsy Mama for her Five Minute Friday where we write what comes to our minds whether or not it’s exactly right. We spend five minutes getting down those thoughts and don’t change once they’re here. Click below to play along. What makes your heart tender?

 

I Brush Her Hair

Last night, I ran the brush through her hair. Gently, I endeavored to get out the knots–without tears– that gather so easily at the end of her long strands. I stopped suddenly, mid-stroke, and stared at Chloe’s hair. The back of her head looked a little less blonde than those baby days when white hair rested atop her head. And I had one of those feelings common in parenthood, or during those visits with relatives far away, when I know the moment will end soon.

Honestly, I couldn’t care less if any of my children have blonde hair. I’m a brunette who has always been happy with her color. I’ve shied away from highlights for fear of turning platinum, and, if anything, my quests to cover gray have ended with hair darker than my natural color.

But standing there, looking at Chloe’s blonde streaks, I knew I had to take that moment to stare because, before my eyes, she was changing. I don’t worry about Chloe’s hair color–I worry about forgetting.

I have a horrible memory. I frustrate my parents when I can’t remember special trips we took as a family or that Christmas when so-and-so did such-and-such. I’ve thought that perhaps Matt had a girlfriend on the side with whom he was confusing me when he swears I saw a movie with him in the theater that I’ve never heard of before. I thank God that I didn’t do drugs in school–I might not remember my name if I did.

So when I look at Chloe’s hair, still blonde but not as blonde, I am reminded that she is changing before my eyes. I am reminded that I can’t quite remember Caleb’s cheerful voice or giggle as a rambunctious two-year-old. I am reminded that I can’t remember much at all of Hannah Grace as a baby; her baby years were during a very stressful time in our life. I am reminded that I need to take note, hold tight in my memory, those precious moments that seem insignificant but make each child unique.

I want to remember Chloe’s white hair.

I want to remember the death stare she gives relatives when she’s not amused.

I want to remember how she jumped from beds and chairs and stairs and anything that she could use to give her a few more inches off the ground.

I want to remember how Chloe talks better than any two-year-old I’ve ever met and uses complete sentences to answer most questions. And I even want to remember when her voice got a little squeaky and could give me a headache by the end of the day.

I want to remember, “Supergirl to the rescue!” and black Sharpie marker all over her forehead and hair and bottom and far too many other places.

And I want to remember when she would wrap her arms around my neck, her legs around my waist, and lay her head on my shoulder while saying, “I love you so much.”

There are so many things I want to remember, and I fear my memory won’t do her justice.

So, baby girl, when I brush your hair for a few minutes longer than I have to, I’m not trying to annoy you--I just don’t want to forget.


I hope you’ll indulge me this week as I devote one post to each child. I looked over my last few posts, and very few were about them. However, I have some events that I need to record because I will forget–but they are worth remembering.

I’ll Never Trade

As my children take another step toward independence, I breathe a sigh of relief. I look back at pictures from just a year ago, and they each were noticeably chubbier, indelibly cute in their baby-like appearances, yet I can’t help but admit that I’d easily trade the cuteness for less craziness every day. I’d trade washing diapers for princess panties in a heartbeat, and I’d trade drawer and cabinet child-proof locks (which only seem to attract children) for the peace of mind that my new make-up will remain in its case or on my face.

But there are some things that I just can’t let go that easily….

His laugh. His most perfect laugh that starts in his belly and tickles him all the way up until he makes a sound of pure delight. I’ve never heard such a joyous noise, a sound that produces a smile on my own lips every time I hear it.

And their carefree spirits. Spirits that have them abandon their clothes before I have time to realize they’ve been summoned by the sprinkler watering the garden. Spirits that allow them to run through freezing water, screaming and laughing, compelling even me to run through a time or two fully-clothed.

And as I watch their play, I’m beginning to learn. I see my little girl, my child who wants to be in control, my child who causes me to pull out my hair every time she cuts her own, and I see that this spirit who compels her to cut hair and draw on walls and paint on carpet is the same spirit that allows her to run through fountains for hours without care for the coldness of water. A spirit that allows her to leap with abandon as screams and a never-ending smile come to her lips and water soaks her small body. A spirit that allows her to embrace life fully.

And, oh, how I hope she never trades that quality for anything.

I won’t miss tantrums and disobedience and time-outs and the knot in my stomach as the four of us venture out alone in public. But I know as they grow life will change; these times of craziness will become few and far between. But his laugh. Her spirit. Oh, how I pray I’ll never have to miss them.

What characteristics of your loved ones are the most charming? Have you ever had a moment of clarity when you realized the quality of your child or spouse that drives you crazy is the same one that makes him wonderful?

Why I Celebrate: Chloe’s Second Birthday

As a child, I never understood birthdays. Sure, I loved getting presents and a chance to choose my favorite meal for dinner, so I didn’t question the tradition too much–but why a day to celebrate that I was born? I didn’t do anything to make the day happen, so why a day for me?

But after having children, I understood the answer.

Chloe, I look at you, and I realize that birthdays are just as much for those throwing the party as the one throwing the wrapping paper.

They are a chance to thank God for the precious gift of you while you enjoy all of yours.

They give a reason to spend one more day together as a family, laughing and loving; one more day to remember how the family changed for the better two years before.

And they are a day to remember the beautiful colors this life contains and how you made each of them a little brighter.

Happy Birthday, sweet Chloe. You truly are God’s gift.

Journeys

How does your family celebrate birthdays? What do birthdays mean to you?

Ten Things My Daughter Says

For the second night in a row, my husband and I are up at 11 p.m. and cannot  go to bed. Last night, we were held captive by the power of Easter candy sugar highs on our son and daughter, obviously tired but unable to fall asleep. Tonight, we are subject to the tears of our little girl brought on by a lost binky. And since that daughter is rolling all over my lap, unable to sleep without her precious pacifier but fully capable of spewing out sentences that her not quite two-year-old self can already say, I decided to write this post in her honor : Ten Things My Daughter Says

10. Mommy, where’s my bing-kee? (Oh, how I wish I knew)

9. I want ‘andy. (candy)

8. I want choc-it (chocolate–are you noticing a pattern?)

7. Mommy, Hammah Gyace is spit-in on me! (Hannah Grace is spitting on me)

6. Mommy, Ha-yub is hittin’ me! ( I was so relieved to learn that she could tattle on both her sister and brother, Caleb)

5. I do it! (Of course you do. How silly of me to think you needed help)

4. Mommy, hep me, peas. (help me, please. And dear Lord, help me, please, too)

3. I need to go potty (any time she wants to get down from her highchair, stroller, or out of bed)

2. Two minutes. (Her request for her mommy or daddy to stay in her room for just two more minutes at bedtime)

1. Hammah Gyace–look ah me! What happen? (to her three-year-old sister having a tantrum)

Clearly we have a very bright, independent, and, perhaps, bossy little girl. Now if she would just stop talking, I’d love to go to sleep. Linking up with Oh Amanda for her Top Ten Tuesday.

Top Ten {Tuesday}

The Sacrifice I Couldn’t Make

I remember standing on that stage, my fellow officers beside me. And while I can’t remember what was said at that moment, I’ll never forget the well-spring of emotions bubbling inside of me.

Some minutes before, I raised my right hand and promised to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States,” and the smile stretched across my face as I uttered, “So help me God.” The captain commented on how smiley I had gotten at the end, and the audience chuckled. And now standing there in the row, knowing that I had changed the course of my life by taking that vow, I felt a pride that I rarely feel for myself.

I was joining the ranks of those who sacrifice for their country every day. My dresses and skirts were now replaced with a blue uniform, my jeans with camouflage, and the career with discipline at its core was now mine to embrace.

And I was brought back to this moment when she called my name. Something in her voice as she called, “Mommy,” the desperate need for me to hold her, to comfort her as the doctor squeezed her arm.

Standing on that stage together, we all heard the little baby cry, “Mommy!” as she saw clearly her mother on that stage, the woman who was my roommate for the last twelve weeks. And all of the emotion I had suppressed gushed out of my eyes. The three months of stress I harbored as I worked under the watchful eyes of  those wanting to catch us in a mistake, the three months of sleeping in my single bed instead of the arms of my husband, the three months of having to earn any freedom I had instead of deciding my own liberties–that three months of tension burst out from me.

I looked out and saw my own mother in the crowd, a veteran before me, and our tear-filled eyes connected. I cried like an idiot because I heard the word, “Mommy” and knew the tears that that mommy had shed; I cried because I couldn’t stop.

And as I held my own daughter yesterday, I remembered that officer who went months without holding hers. I thought of those who have gone years.

Before I joined the military, I knew this career would be a ‘before children’ career. I was willing to sacrifice for my country, even my life, but not them.

I held my daughter close yesterday and, with gratitude, thought of my fellow officer, my former roommate, and the sacrifices she had to make. The sacrifice that I couldn’t.