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Saturday, January 24, 2015

An Amazing Mama

I was sitting at my computer writing and texting back and forth with one of my favorite friends. We were in the process of  discussing health challenges (nothing life threatening or scary, just challenges) our kiddos face and she sent me  a text that read, "You are an amazing mama." I stopped.

Am I really?

I ask that question knowing I'm not looking for accolades, pats on the back or affirmations. But I have been thinking lately about my kids and ways I may have come up a little short in my motherhood role.

As my role in raising kids morphed from changing diapers, to keeping the peace between siblings, to maintaining a working calendar of who has to be at one event while the other parent raced to another, to a little more freedom, I've had some time to look back over ways I may have failed a little in my role of mother.

And this is what I've come up with...

1. I've never been that mama who has a perfectly decorated house for every holiday. Goodness knows I've tried, but I never seemed to find the time, nor have I had the interest, to go up in the attic and pull down the many Halloween decorations we have. I've never been the one to decorate the bare branches of a tree for Easter. I don't do well with Valentine's Day or Fourth of July or any other holiday, except for Christmas. I always wanted to have the best decorations, treats and little surprises for every holiday. My intentions were always there but my spirit was lacking. I hope I didn't scar my kiddos too much by not having  the perfectly dressed house at every holiday.

2. Did I spend enough time with them, doing things they liked? Or did I blow that one? With everyone retreating to their rooms in the evenings now I have to ask myself, did I do everything I could to keep them here and engaged or did I let time slip away? I hope I didn't screw up too badly and leave them feeling like their wants and needs weren't important.

3. Did I scar them with my temper and yelling? Or will they understand, someday, that sometimes yelling was the only way to get their attention? They used to be so wild and loud and unruly. They used to be little kids with lots and lots of energy. Sometimes it was too much for me, and I would let shouts slip out. They would bubble and brew until they burst forth, and I would blow. I hope they someday understand that it was my temper and my yelling. It wasn't because they weren't loved. They were, and always will be, loved.

4. Did I screw up by not making them do enough or by making them do too much? Are their lives too easy? Will they be able to handle the real world? I hope so, because if they can't, I really and truly have screwed up.

5. Did I love them enough? Did I love them too much? I don't think any parent could ever love a child too much. I don't think I suffocated them with my affections, though. But even if I did I wouldn't change this one. So they'll just have to suck it up.

All of this being said, it's plain to see I've screwed up a little in my time with my kiddos. I think every mama out there has screwed up a time or two...for me it's been multiple times. I'm not sure I'd put myself in the "amazing mama" catagory everyday, but one thing I've done extremely well, is to surround myself with friends who pull me up, encourage me, make me see that it's ok to screw up, and it's ok to not be a perfect mama.

It's in accepting your faults, asking for forgiveness, trying hard, harder, hardest each day that we can all, for a little smidge of time, accept that role as an amazing mama.

Oh, for the love of my children...

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Hellos and Goodbyes

The five of us huddled around my laptop on the kitchen counter, every now and again glancing at the forward movement of the clock. A video of the boys' last hunting trip played across the screen. I don't think any of us cared about about the video. We just sat together, quietly. None of us wanted the time to end. But yet, the clock ticked and ticked and ticked off minutes and our three blissful weeks of being together as a whole family came screeching to an end. 

Zach sat like a prisoner ready to head to the executioner. He knew it was time to head back to the loveless land of Virginia Military Institute.  Lucas and Claire knew the time had come to say their good-byes to their big brother. Stan felt it too. We all enjoyed our time together and it felt like it came crashing to an end with no preparation. We all worked so hard to stay focused on the present and not look toward the inevitable day Zach would leave us.

My throat constricted and my eyes blinked back tears that were coming, unbidden. I promised Zach the day of matriculation in August, the day he became a Rat, I wouldn't cry. He said it would make it so much harder on him if I cried as he marched away. So I kept my promise on the day he left us for the first time. This time, though, I wasn't expecting to be overcome with tears. I thought I was now a seasoned pro, a mom who was used to her oldest not being in her nest anymore. I was wrong. 

This time was so much harder, because now I know. 

I know now that our family life is now, and forever will be, punctuated by a series of Hellos and Goodbyes. We'll be the Pokeys, sometimes...when Zach comes home for breaks and vacations. But we won't always be the five of us anymore. Zach will come home, he'll say, "Hello," and then sooner than I'll ever like, he'll have to go back to wherever he needs to be and we'll say our goodbyes. It's a different kind of family life and one I'm not sure I like. Maybe someday I will, but right now I'd love nothing more than to forget about punctuating life with Hellos and Goodbyes.

Hugging Zach goodbye and seeing the love he gave to all of us made things a little easier.

But watching the truck drive away with Zach inside, knowing he was going back to his reality, brought the tears back to my eyes. A piece of my heart rode away inside that truck. Maybe that's just part of being a mom. And if it is, I'll take it. I'll take the love I get, wholeheartedly, from my sweet, man-child and I'll cherish it. 

Right now, I'd like nothing more than to forget the Goodbyes and focus on the Hellos, for the love of my children...

Thursday, January 8, 2015


This morning I came downstairs to the best surprise. Every morning I have the same routine. The rabbit gets fed first and then the cats get fed, followed by taking the dog outside to take care of business and grab the newspaper. Bella and I come in for her breakfast and I sit down with the newspaper and my tea for just a few minutes before I get to work. Every morning at 6:35 Claire pops her head over the balcony with a sleepy, "Good morning." And that's when I know it's time to truly get busy with the day.

After taking care of the animals, my first chore is always to unload the dishwasher. This morning, it was already done. I did a mental happy dance and threw up my hands in appreciation for the small, kind, thoughtful gesture.

Usually, I'm the last one up at night. Just like most mamas I need to make sure things are taken care of and ready to roll for the next morning. Throw in a load of laundry. Start making lunches. Fill the cats' bowls. Refill the dog's water bowl. Fold a load of laundry. Start the dishwasher. Lock up the house. But last night, I was beyond exhausted and all I wanted was to sink into a deep, warm tub.  And I left most of those chores undone, except for starting the dishwasher. Last night, I was one of the first ones upstairs.

When I cam down this morning, and I saw the dishwasher was already unloaded, I wondered who did it. I know it's just a little thing; the dishwasher being unloaded. But the thoughtfulness of this little gesture was just what I needed.

I knew Stan didn't do it, not because I don't think he's thoughtful enough to do it, but because he was in our room as I luxuriated in the tub. I kind of wished it was Zach, but I didn't think so. Part of me really wanted it to be Lucas, but it seemed a far stretch. I knew in my heart it had to be Claire. She had to have been the kind and thoughtful soul who saw I needed a little pampering myself.

When Claire came down for breakfast she confirmed my suspicions when she said, "Did you like my surprise? I unloaded the dishwasher for you!" I threw my arms around her, thanked her profusely and finished getting everyone ready for the morning. Her thoughtful gesture got me to thinking why it is my girl kiddo seems to understand, and embody, thoughtfulness more than my boy kiddos.

Is it this way in every family? Or is it just ours? Are boys more inherently thoughtless or did I just raise mine this way?  And how I can I change it so that the future women in their lives don't curse me up one side and down the other for raising thoughtless boys?

I think I have some work to do...for the love of my children.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Inside or Outside

Over Christmas break I pulled a sweet, tattered piece of paper out of the cabinet where it has been taped ever since September of 2007. Claire was stuck, and she needed a little nudging as she sat pondering what to write for one of three essays she had to work on for her high school applications. As a little background, in our school district, some eighth grade students apply to different specialty centers which focus on areas of interest to them as they move into high school and beyond. Claire's top choice for high school is the education and human development school where she has the chance to immerse herself in an area of extreme interest and passion. 

I posted this picture to my Facebook wall yesterday, a little stunned that a seven year-old piece of paper could be the premise for Claire's high school applications. Her fabulous first grade teacher passed these papers out during the first week of school. She had her students decorate them and bring them home to show their parents. I still remember when Claire brought these words home. I remember how very proud she was of them and what they meant. "Mrs. Hodges number 1 rule...Never hurt anyone on the inside or the outside." She signed it, "Love, Claire". She was so enamored of her teacher. Mrs. Hodges was her role model and if anyone could make these words ring true, Mrs. Hodges could do it. These words have stuck with Claire since then, still hanging in the very spot she picked out for them when she first brought them home. 

These are the words that clinched it for Claire. This is what lead her to want to pursue education. She has wanted to be a teacher since she was in first grade with Mrs. Hodges. And as she pondered what to write about for her essay, this kind rule popped into my head when I read the prompt for the education center. It asked for an experience the student had in the past that impacted them positively or negatively and how they responded to it. This rule fit in perfectly with what Claire wanted to say in her essay because it was given to her by one of her favorite teachers and it embodies what she believes about how teachers should lead their classes. 

This rule was ingrained in Claire during her first grade year and beyond, and I hope it was reinforced to all three of my kiddos, with my own version of this rule...You don't have to be everyone's best friend, but you have to be kind to everyone (and if you accidentally mess this rule up ~ apologize). 

I absolutely adore these rules. I try hard to live by them and set a good example for my kids. I know I don't always do a perfect job, but I try hard everyday to do the best I absolutely can. I try hard to avoid hurting other people's feelings, or brushing people off, or making them feel like they don't matter. I may not always succeed, but I do work hard at it. I want everyone I come into contact with, the people I love and adore, to always know I would never intentionally try to hurt them on the inside or outside. I want the people in my life to know how much I work to be kind and to teach Zach, Lucas and Claire the same. I want all of us, in this home, to strive to never hurt anyone on the inside or outside. 

Oh, for the love of my children...