What We Need

This little  photo popped  up in my Facebook news feed today and it resonates with me.

I woke up thinking about my grandma. The weather is starting to warm up and thoughts of short sleeve gingham dresses, bare powdered feet running across freshly swept floors, and cherry kool-aid ice pops are so fresh in my mind I can taste them. Warm evenings with windows open and my grandma singing old hymns like I’ll Fly Away while she prepares dinner and washes dishes are so real that the memories leak out of my eyes in big droplets, landing on cheeks that long to be kissed by the sun and cuddled up in those familiar arms.
Life is so fleeting. We keep putting off things until tomorrow, forgetting that we’re making our children’s memories now and memories never wait. Life will never be perfect, but we can be what someone needs just the way we are today.
Today, I need my grandma and the woman she was all through my childhood. So today when I pick my kids up, I’ll try to remember that she always let us have a treat after school before homework. I’ll remember that she wasn’t impatient when we asked for the same books to be read over and over, as my daughter shoves a well read book into my face while I’m ‘busy’. I’ll remember that she prepared us meals and treats daily, even if we each wanted something different. She’d place ice in the jello so it’d set faster for us and stir and stir and stir. And I’ll remember her laugh and how it made her eyes crinkle up.

Today, I’ll try my best to be their familiar arms, their special treat. At least a little part of what they need…

Mama I Will Be

I’ve thought A LOT about what I want to do when all the kids are in school, I still have a little under four years to decide.
I need creativity in my life somehow. I still think freelancing in journalism is the best fit. It would let me work in graphic arts AND write. But I also want to keep sewing. So maybe I can find a job for a crafting magazine or at least steady freelance work in that area.
I need a degree. The curriculum for the early childhood associates degree is a bit different from when I was in school a few years ago, instead of the ONE semester I had left, I’d be looking at another year or more to finish a degree I’m not sure I want. Unless I want to try being a teacher’s assistant part-time, or subbing. It looks like most schools require you to drive a bus if you’re a TA now-a-days and I’m not doing that. Have you seen me drive a car? Bahaha, no buses in my future.
I do know that once they’re all in school, I’m still their mama. I will still need to be present to help with speech therapy, homework, extra curricular activities. And while the inner girl who still wants to be a rock star has fought it, I’ll probably end up being a PTO mom. Because darn it, I do care about this stuff. I care about ALL OF IT.MamaIWIllBe
I will still need to be available to my kids as I have always been. That’s my main ‘career’, mama! I’ve seen how far my kids can go when I immerse myself in their lives and it’s worth it. Do I get a salary? No, but I’m making a difference in this world. Yes, B’s speech therapists and his teachers play a big role in his success. But, so do I. He and I have sat at our kitchen table, sometimes both working through tears, to master new words, blends, fine motor tasks. I have seen my son’s eyes LIGHT UP when he finally gets what we’ve worked so hard at. That wouldn’t happen without a parent there to help it happen, it wouldn’t.
So, where ever I land, it’s going to be with them first. These children will be grown so quickly. Ya know, then, I might write that book I’ve always wanted to. I may never get to retire because this world won’t count my years of being a stay-at-home towards social security or any of that. I’ll know that I had value, even when I had no monetary contribution to give. My children will know too.
Scoff at me, call my old fashion. But mama was, and is, and has always been my calling. It has been the one thing I have striven for from the get go. Infertility,miscarriage, I BEAT THAT. I beat that so many times to get these three. And they were worth it. They may leave me tired, frustrated, almost hollow some days. More often, they leave me laughing, filled with love, and joy. No career will give me that. I was built to be ‘mama’. And so mama I will be.

Mother’s Day Memories

On this #TBT, I did something a little different.
Instead of a picture, I’m going to share some of my favorite memories of the special ‘moms’ in my life.
1. Christmas with my mom. Especially as a child although she does it just the same for me as an adult. I figured out Santa very early on, I was always a little wise beyond my years in some areas, others not so much. When I figured it out around 5yo she let me help her with wrapping ALL the presents and would buy me one special small something to play with while we stayed up late on weekends doing all the wrapping. Now, if you know my mama, you know Christmas is her thing. There was not a corner of our house not decorated, she even wrapped the range hood in wrapping paper and let me tell you, to see our house so transformed at Christmas was just magical to me. I always love remembering those late Friday nights, her bedroom strewn with toys and gifts while she taught me how to properly wrap a present and let me ‘test’ our Christmas gifts. She also always took us shopping for a new outfit before every field trip. It was always special to me.
2. My grandma had a big impression on me. We stayed with her in the summer, anytime school was out, and after school. She lived right next to us. I’m so sad that dementia is not letting my kids see the granny I grew up with. It’s a hard thing for me to come to terms with. My granny taught me to do chores first thing in the mornings. We’d sweep, polish furniture, wash dishes, all sorts of things. She’d french braid my hair and I thought that was the most relaxing soothing thing I’d ever felt. I still long for that relaxed, pampered feeling some days. Every day mama would pack us a ‘satchel’ full of books and my granny would put both my sister and I on her lap and read us every last one of those books. When it stormed, she’d turn all the lights off reminding us her house wasn’t ‘grounded’. Then she’d have us sit in the floor, away from the windows, and she’d tell us ghost stories for hours. She’d tell us all about her daddy coming home in the rain, lighting matches and seeing horses that weren’t there. Dogs that turned into balls of fire. My granny was the best ghost story-teller I’ve ever come in contact with. And every time it storms, I long to sit down in the floor, Indian style, and listen to her tell me a story. I probably chose to be a stay at home mom in hopes of recreating such a rich childhood like she did for us. There is such beauty in the simplicity that is motherhood and it’s something I have treasured from very early on.
3. Aunt Vickie. My aunt also lived next door to us for much of my childhood and we spent a lot of time with her. As I’ve grown older she is more like a second mother than an aunt. And my children think of her as another grandma. She would take us for rides in her meticulously cleaned and waxed car. The leather seats were well oiled and if we didn’t buckle up, we’d go sliding across the back which we thought was fun. She’d take us down ‘spooky’ dirt roads and tell us stories about the ghosts on them. This tradition she has passed along to my boys and they absolutely love it. She’d let us listen to her HUGE collection of CDs and play VHS tapes of The Monkees for us. And she’d let us come to work with her at the library in the summer which was an adventure for us. We’d get to desensitize discarded magazines and books and hide out in the work stations. Of course she’d let us watch our very favorite ghost story tape in the media room too. And I STILL miss those stories! She still spoils my kids and I rotten.
4. I miss watching my Granny Ollie quilt by hand. She also liked to tell us stories about growing up which we loved.
5. My aunt Anna used to bring my cousins down every Friday so we could play. And we’d often all pile into one car and ride to the Dollar Tree which we loved.
6. My aunt Jane would let us come to her house to swim and we spent many Sundays playing at Granny’s with Colby.
7. While not part of my childhood, I am very happy that Becky is a part my children’s. They love going to Nana’s house and I love that they are so richly loved and cared for when there.
No family is perfect, but I am blessed with ‘mothers’ who care, love, teach, instill values, and let us have fun. I am not a perfect mother, but I try very hard to be a good one. And these women taught me how to do that. Thank you all.

I Miss…

I MissI Miss….

   …summer nights and lightning bugs…

      …bonfires and flaming marshmallows…

         …bare legs swinging over a front porch…

               …frozen cherry koolaid in pop bottles…
                         …tomato sandwiches fresh from the garden…

I Miss….

   …thunderstorms and power outages…

     …slanting clapboard sheds full of make-believe…

         …camping out in backyards…

                …ghost stories passed down from older generations…
                          …cackling chickens in their old-fashioned houses….

I Miss…

   …hot summer nights in cool sheets…

      …talking into fans and giggling at our voices…

         …babies playing on hand sewn quilts on hardwood floors…

                 …popping bushels of beans accompanied by gossip and tales…
                           …rubber balls rolled back and forth across a living room floor…

I Miss…

   …pickup trucks and dirt roads…

      …tractor rides and creek beds…

          …climbing hay bails and trees…

                  …oil barrel chalkboards and cinder block classrooms…
                          …hay barn apartments and straw brooms…

I Miss…

   …childhood dreams made real…

      …grandma’s lap and a book…

         …grandpa’s cattle trailer turned make-believe school bus…

                …barefoot summer days on squeaky floors…
                       …a carefree childhood full of imagination and wonder…

Ten Things I Miss About Life Before Kids…And Ten I Don’t

WithoutKidsOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAhhh, I feel like I can barely remember the days before we had kids.  It seems like I spent forever pining away for children thinking that they would make our life magical.  And that they did.  But, there was a lot to love about married life with no kids.  Here are my top ten.

  1. Sleeping in on days off.  Sometimes past noon.
  2. Weekend getaways that were a spur of the moment decision.
  3. Being able to go an entire week without using a vacuum or broom.
  4. Getting away with using a mop once a month…sometimes longer.
  5. Running the dishwasher once or twice a week.
  6. Going out to dinner and eating in peace.
  7. Impromptu movie dates.
  8. Indulging myself in new clothes whenever I felt like it.
  9. Vacations that were actually relaxing.
  10. Running in and out of a store in a matter of minutes.

WithKidsAnd while I’d love to do any of those things now, I wouldn’t trade these messy, loud, needy children for anything.  Sometimes I need a reminder, the grass is always greener.  The top ten reasons to keep these lovely little mess makers?

  1. They’re hilarious without even trying.  My kids have NO filter.  They will say or do whatever pops into their brains.  And while often embarrassing, it is also purely delightful to watch.
  2. They always want to help.  They’ll go get me whatever I ask for if I turn it into a game.
  3. The bring out the kid in me.  From blowing bubbles to playing tag, they put energy and light into all they do and you can’t help but be pulled in.
  4. They remind me of what is truly important in life.  Not money or material things, but love and family.
  5. They give my life meaning and purpose.
  6. They took all the boredom out of our lives.  You cannot be bored with children in the house, you just can’t.
  7. The endless hugs and kisses.  They love to give them and get them.
  8. A love deeper than anything you’ve ever known.  You won’t get it until you have them.  And once you have it, you won’t trade it for anything.
  9. They humble you and empower you all at once.  From giving birth to raising them in everyday life.  They embarrass you, they push you to limits you didn’t know you had.  You’ll find a strength greater than yourself and you’ll realize just how short your time with them really is.
  10. They made me forget the pain of miscarriage and infertility.  My journey to my boys was a hard one.  Full of pain, doubt, and fear.  There were losses and there was a time when hope was gone.  My children renewed my faith and my hope.  They brought me back to life.

The Best Years of Your Life

TheBestYearsWhile in highschool, I remember being told over and over to enjoy it because these years would be the best years of my life…And inside I always screamed, “God, I hope not.”  Luckily, everyone that told me that was wrong.

Sure, there are aspects of my overall childhood that were amazing.  Playing was my job.  That in itself is just an amazing thing.  Highlights that I always remember fondly:

  • Frozen cherry Kool-Aid in recycled Coke bottles.  Thank you Granny for that perfect summer treat.  I still crave these if I’ve been working outside or if I’ve been swimming.
  • My sister and I playing school in my Pa’s hay barn.  There wasn’t much as magical as seeing hay stacked up to the ceiling and stacking other bales to climb upon it.
  • Bean snapping day week.  Buckets and buckets of beans to be stringed and snapped.  My Granny and Granny Ollie (my great-grandmother) all gathered around the kitchen table working on those beans.
  • Playing volleyball with my grandparent’s house.  Always being told not to hit the windows, but not being told to stop it.
  • Mama letting me play grocery store as we put away all the groceries every week.  Not fussing as I took my time to ‘scan’ each item and put it away.
  • Hours spent on our swing set.  I still remember Mama putting it together.  Showing her how I could ‘skin a cat’ on the bars AND from the top of the swing set.
  • Playing tag with Mama, quickly turning around to go the opposite way to catch her as she exclaimed, “You’re so smart.”
  • Middle school sleepovers full of candy, Teen magazine, Backstreet Boys, and ‘N Sync.
  • School dances where no one wanted to dance at first, someone ended up crying in the bathroom, and then we actually danced and never wanted to stop.
  • Fall festivals and helping put them together.
  • Innocent first kisses and hand holding.
  • Trips with friends to skating rinks and the movies.
  • Friday night football games.

So, yes, childhood was awesome.  And even some of those high school years weren’t that bad.  But the best?  Nope.  I think I’m living my best right here.

Why?  Because I’m watching my children do all those things that I loved so much to do.  I see the joy in their eyes when I say we’re going to grandma’s.  I see the love of discovering the world and the carefree abandon as they play.  Through them, I see a return to innocence.  I see them live in worlds where they don’t know wrong can happen.

As my children grow, part of me aches for my babies.  I long for them to be so tiny that I can hold them in a little ball at my chest.  I also beam with pride at the people they are becoming.  Each, “Thank you,” “Excuse me,” “Let me help you…” leaves me happy that they are learning what I have tried to teach them.  I am excited for school, sleepovers, school sports, dances, and fall festivals.  I am terrified of first dates and learner’s permits.   I know that while I sit at home digging through old photos, they’ll be having the same fun and making similar memories as those that I did.  And if I’m lucky, and I do my job as their parent well, they’ll come home and share at least a small snippet with me.

The best years of your life won’t be the nine you spend in elementary and middle school.  They won’t be the four you spend in high school, or the four in college.  The best years of your life will be the eighteen you spend raising each child.

A whole world traverses across those eighteen years.  You watch the birth, the development, and the discovery of every single basic part of life we know.  You’ll see love, heartbreak, defeat, and triumph.  You’ll offer support, courage, camaraderie…love.

This stage of my life may not be the richest, the calmest, or the most put together but make no mistake it is the best.  I am reaping the richest rewards I will ever know and it is thanks to being their mother.

Leaving Babyhood

Sweet Brenan. Just six days into his journey.

Sweet Brenan. Just six days into his journey.

There was a baby or toddler in a crib in my home for a continuous 3 years and 7 days.  Yesterday, that ended.  My youngest son graduated to the transitional setup of his crib.  And it makes me very sad.

With my oldest son, we had several failed attempts to transition him before he permanently moved to a toddler bed around 22 months old.  Then little brother took over the crib.  Now little brother, at not quite 17 months, transitioned in one day. Not a fight, not a tear. *sigh*

I’ve mentioned before that I feel like I rushed through my oldest son’s ‘infancy’ and those early wobbly toddler months. I enjoyed them thoroughly, but being a new mom I was always waiting for ‘what’s next’.  I haven’t done that with my youngest. I don’t think about milestones and when he’s going to hit them, it all sneaks up on me.  One second I’m enjoying cuddles with a squishy baby, the next second he’s telling me he won’t eat without a fork.

Hey there handsome!

Hey there handsome!

I want to cling to his baby days so badly.  With my oldest, I knew I was ready for my second child before was even one.  With nineteen months between the two of them, I really love how close they are.  I’m not ready for my third yet.  It’s not because I feel overwhelmed or worry about having them so close together. It’s just a feeling. Our family is complete for now.  I do want a third, I just want to wait for when the time feels right.

Knowing that another baby likely won’t grace our crib for a few years is bittersweet. My children have both been sleeping through the night for well over a year. I haven’t washed a bottle in almost seven months.  Baby food is long gone.  I don’t get to buy tiny outfits now, it’s all toddler stuff.  But I enjoy one son who always talks to me about everything and one who is starting to pick up lots of words.  They both like to help me cook.  I get two little boys who play chase, tag, and ask me to read 100 times a day.  I can let them play independently for a small amount of time.

Ah...I knew the end of crib days were near when they started 'sleepovers'.

Ah…I knew the end of crib days were near when they started ‘sleepovers’.

I’m embracing motherhood and all these ‘stages’.  They’re best enjoyed when you don’t even realize what stage you’re in or what’s coming.  I will still be that mother who is a crying, blubbering mess on the first day of school.  I will be so sad to see them leaving our little nest even for a few hours.  I will be told to enjoy the freedom…and perhaps I will.  Likely I will sift through photos and stare at the clock.  Arrive an hour early and be the first one in the pick up line.  I will pray they had fun, made a friend. And I will hang on their every word as they tell me all about.

The days fly by…enjoy them.