When I’m out with my children, I like to be able to have my eyes on them pretty much all the time. You might say it’s a control issue, but mostly it’s a mom instinct that has me wanting to watch them like a hawk and keep them safe. I don’t necessarily think kidnappers are lurking at every corner. But I know they’re out there. I also want to be aware if they get hurt. I have tripped and hurt myself in so many places and in so many ways that I sometimes project that onto my children — both justly and unjustly so. Somehow I think that if I can see them nothing bad will happen to them. I’m pretty sure I’ll get over that a bit as they get older, though I make no promises.
As they were running through the flags, however, there were times I couldn’t see them. At 19 months, my son couldn’t be trusted to not wander out of the flag area and into the road or parking lot or over the edge of the garden wall down onto the walking path below. My mom and I made sure that one of us was with him and often holding onto his hand at all times. My daughter, at almost 5, was more advantageous and more trustworthy. I knew if I told her not to climb on the stone wall or leave the area then she wouldn’t. I still wanted to keep an eye on her, though.
A few times she was completely out of my sight thanks to the flags whipping through the breeze. In such a large space, she could also get out of the range of my hearing. I had a few moments when my mom and I were together with my son and I couldn’t get eyes or ears on my daughter in any way. Though she faced no real danger, my heart still skipped a beat and my stomach knotted. Within 30 seconds, I’d spot or hear her again.
She was having a grand time. I knew the issue was mine alone and she needed no admonishment. I began reflecting a bit then and continued to later on when I wasn’t chasing children about. I realized a few things. First, it was a lesson in trust. I like to think that if I can see my children at all times I can keep them safe. That’s 100 percent false. I don’t have that kind of power. Yes, I can do everything I can to keep them safe, but at the end of the day my best efforts are only that — efforts. There are no guarantees. I felt God reminding me gently the importance of entrusting my children to Him, the only One who can actually protect them. I am blessed and immensely grateful that I’ve only had one other time when I had to completely trust Him with my child’s safety when my son was born not breathing. However, I know that in many ways every single day He is protecting them in ways I cannot see or fathom and I’m thankful for that. I’m beyond thankful for that. I need to always remember that. He is in control. Any sense of control I think I have is really nothing. There is not much I can truly control. When my daughter disappeared a few times on me, I had to trust that He was watching out for her as well. When she is out of my sight at preschool or children’s church or with her grandparents, I have to trust in others taking care of her and in God watching over her. While I think I am learning to let go in little ways many times over, I’m really just slowly learning how little control I truly have anyway.
The other thing I’ve been pondering is the symbol of the American flag itself. The timing coinciding with the anniversary of the terrorist attacks was no coincidence. My son was clueless as the flags that were flapping around him and what they stood for. He just liked to watch them moving in the breeze and feel them gently caressing his skin as he ran by. My daughter has a small understanding of the flag. She knows it represents her country and she can recite the pledge of allegiance, but she doesn’t know much more than that just yet. She doesn’t know, as my mother did walking through those same rows of flags with us, what it is like to send a new husband to war in a jungle on the other side of the globe and pray every minute for his protection after he was drafted to represent that flag. She doesn’t know what happened 13 years ago in New York City, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., when our feelings of safety and power came grinding to a halt. She wasn’t born. She won’t remember that firsthand.
I am thankful for my country. I am thankful for all the sacrifices those flags represent. I am thankful that while God is ultimately the protector of my children and me that there are also men and women who have and continue to sacrifice so very much to protect us as well so that my children can run carefree through a grassy field of flags and not have to worry about being attacked or stepping on a landmine. I am thankful that my mom and I can take them on our own and enjoy them without having to have a male escort or be weighted down with clothes we must cover ourselves from head to toe with.
I must say I didn’t expect a field of flags to have that many lessons for me. I expected that we’d go and have a good time and let the kids play. Who knew what insight awaited me? All I can do is give thanks to my God and to my country. I am blessed.]]>
As I’ve watched him cart that doll all through our house and into the car and weep for her when we take her away at bedtime or mealtime, I’ve smiled. He’s just so cute the way he hugs her and pats her. He’s learning to be gentle. He’s learning to take care of her. He’s mimicking some of the things my husband and I do to take care of him. And I’m not going to put a stop to it.
I have no issue with my son playing with a doll and one that is so very feminine at that. I’m not a raging feminist myself. I see the differences between men and women, boys and girls. I appreciate those differences and try to celebrate them. My husband and I have different strengths and different ways of thinking. Together it works quite nicely for our family. I think to be gentle with our children; he thinks to turn them upside down and tickle them. (He’s also gentle and loving with them as well.) We’re different and it works. The kids love both. I love both kissing their heads as we snuggle and hearing their laughter as they play with dad. I celebrate that my son already works differently than my daughter, both because of his personality and because of his gender. He is more physical; she is more verbal.
When it comes to toys, I don’t have much preference in what they want to play with. My daughter plays with superheroes, Ninja Turtles and cars. She also plays with princesses, baby dolls and Barbies. It’s up to her what she picks. I feel the same with my son. He loves helping his sister cook in the play kitchen (though he’s not super great at following her instructions, yet, much to her chagrin). And he loves playing with baby dolls. He carries them, he pats their backs and he is gentle with them like he isn’t with other toys. This one baby doll in particular has become his favorite. He also plays with cars, balls and blocks.
Toys are just toys, but they are also something more. They are what my children first use to develop and learn about the world around them. I make sure they have appropriate toys (as in their toys are safe), but otherwise, I’m hands off. I want them to be free to explore and to learn. I want my son to have a chance to explore his more gentle side in taking care of a baby doll as well as explore his more aggressive side in splashing the water in the bathtub as hard as he can.
I very much want and plan to raise a strong, confident man. I also want to raise a man with a good heart who has compassion. He won’t learn that if I only let him play with “boy” toys. He can’t explore gentle play if I forbid him from playing with his sister’s dolls. Neither can my daughter learn to assert herself if I teach her only to be gentle. I want her to be gentle and caring, but I also want her to be confident in herself and be aggressive when she needs to in order to fulfill her life’s purpose. She can’t explore those aspects by only playing with dolls.
I’m not a fan of labeling toys as gender specific. I’ve long balked at that idea. I don’t think my son will be less of a man because he spent a few weeks as a toddler lugging around a pink baby doll. In fact, I think he’ll be a better man for having had the opportunity to do so. He’ll be a better father one of these days if he knows how to be gentle and loving.]]>
I can rattle off a list of facts about IC a mile long. I’ve interviewed leading IC researchers for articles. As a journalist, I’ve attended urology meetings discussing the latest research. I can tell you startling things like how one study found the pain and quality of life of severe IC patients is comparable to people with end stage renal failure. I can tell you other facts like how food and beverages (even soaps and fabrics) can irritate an IC bladder and make it worse. However, what I most want to tell you today is the good side of IC. I’ve been working to find this side. I still work to find the positives almost daily. Not much feels positive about dealing with IC, but the fact remains that I have some good things in my life because I live with this disease.
1. Some people call themselves IC survivors. I am not a fan of that term because a survivor is someone who has gotten through something, not someone who is still in the trenches with their enemy. I call myself an IC thriver. I have learned to live and thrive despite my bladder. I have more confidence in myself because I know my ability to survive and thrive in the midst of adversity.
2. I have a high pain tolerance. And along with that, I know how I handle pain. This information really came in handy when I was developing my birth plan with both kids. I know that when I don’t feel well, I don’t want to talk and I don’t want too many people around. This trait has also come in handy other times when I endure something physically challenging. Pain is a part of life. I have a good handle on how I manage with it.
3. I know a lot of awesome people. I can’t count the number of people I know because of IC. I’ve met a lot of folks through the years both in person and online. There is something that binds you together when you’re fighting the same beast. Even though we come from different walks of life and may have different symptoms sometimes, different dietary triggers or different treatment plans, we’re all teammates in the same game. I’ve been blessed by my fellow ICers many times.
4. I know my dietary triggers. That doesn’t sound super positive, but it is. While I would sometimes love to forget about avoiding citrus, caffeine and vinegar (do you know how many places that stuff can be hidden?!), I also am glad to know what bothers me so that I can avoid it.
5. I’ve gotten to know compassionate doctors. I’ve not always had compassionate urologists. I had some with rough bedside manners when I was 13. Fortunately, my parents worked to find me better help. Since then I’ve been blessed to find doctors and medical staff who have been caring and compassionate. In attending urology meetings and listening to the leading IC researchers talk about how hard they are working to find better diagnostic and treatment options for us patients makes me want to hug them. Seriously. Their devotion to IC makes me grateful.
6. I’ve learned to appreciate the small things, like going to the grocery store. I’ve had times where going to the grocery store just wasn’t an option. I remember a day about 10 years ago, before I had children and my symptoms were at their all-time worst when I stopped by Target to pick up a few things. I didn’t even get inside the door before I turned around and went back to my car to head home. I just couldn’t be on my feet that long because I felt so bad. I still have days that I have to sit more than stand, but I sure do appreciate the times that I can do regular things like grocery shop.
7. I’ve developed more compassion. I feel like I’ve always been a pretty compassionate person. I’m a sensitive person who picks up on others’ feelings many times. Having dealt with chronic pain, I feel so much more compassion for people dealing with health issues. I know the challenges and struggles that come with not feeling well, being stuck at home and working to find hope and joy in the midst of pain.
8. My faith has grown. I’ve loved God from an early age. In church-speak, I was saved when I was 10. God and I have always been close, but I have continued to draw closer to Him through dealing with my pain. I firmly believe that God could heal my bladder. And maybe one day He will, but I don’t think that’s His will. I thank Him that His strength is made perfect in my weakness. I pray that through my struggle He can be glorified. Please don’t think I say these things flippantly. I don’t. I have wrestled with God about this many times. It has taken me years to get to this place that I can feel any sort of thankfulness for IC.
9. I have gotten more time to just sit and play with my children. When I feel at my best, sometimes I can get busy running our household and doing the things that need done. That’s not a bad thing. We definitely need our clothes washed, house cleaned, food prepared and errands run. I still do all of those things, but I have learned that I need to not push myself too hard or I will pay the price. I have learned that sometimes I can just sit. And so I do. I sit on the floor and read books, play cars, play dolls, build towers and whatever my children want to do. At 19 months and almost 5, they are already growing too fast. IC reminds me to slow down sometimes and just enjoy them.
10. I have had professional opportunities I wouldn’t have otherwise. I write regularly for IC Optimist magazine, the publication of the IC Network. While I enjoy having the opportunity to get paid to research and write about something of personal interest to me, what I most enjoy is the chance to help other patients. I feel honored and thankful to get to put together articles about issues patients are facing and dealing with and need help with. I feel blessed to in some very small way let other ICers know they aren’t alone and there are doctors doing research trying to help us and there are other patients out there going through the same struggles.
IC is a part of my life. I am aware of it every single day to some extent. Lately I’ve been aware of it even more as my bladder has been kicking and screaming at me. And I’ve been motivated now more than ever to find the best treatment options for me. I have two little ones who need their mama to feel as well as she can to take care of them the best she can. I have spent quite a few years not talking about my personal struggles with IC very openly. I feel like I’m over that phase. IC is a part of my life. It’s not the best part of my life, but it is there. And I will not be defeated by it. I will not go down in this battle. I will continue to find ways to live my life and thrive in spite of my bladder. I am an IC thriver.
For more information about interstitial cystitis, including how to make donations to help forward IC education and research, please visit www.icawareness.org.]]>
This apologizing and excusing comes into play in motherhood as well. Some moms feel the need to justify their decisions and their child-rearing to their friends and even random strangers. We may be confident in what we’ve chosen. We may firmly believe that we’re doing the best we can for our families. Yet, seeing another mom doing something differently or a stranger just looking at us a certain way and we feel like we ought to explain. I’m sure psychologists have lots of theories and explanations for this. I’m sure I could delve deep into my psyche and perhaps my past experiences and come up with some reasons as well. But that’s not what this blog post is about. This post is about me learning to do something about all of this unnecessary apologizing and explaining.
In the last few years, I have been pushing myself to just shut my mouth. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I almost always still feel the urge to explain myself or to apologize. However, I am learning to stifle that urge more and more. This is for myself, but it’s also for my children, especially my daughter. I don’t want her to apologize for things that aren’t her fault. I don’t want her to feel the need to explain herself to anyone who doesn’t need to know why she’s made the decisions she has. I want her to be bold and confident. And I know that everything I do, every interaction I have that she is watching and learning. Just as she talks to her brother in the same tone of voice and using the same words that I do, so will she mimic this behavior. I’m sorry, but that’s not OK with me. No, wait. I’m not sorry.
You, mama, don’t have to be sorry either. You don’t have to apologize and you don’t have to explain yourself. We other moms probably aren’t judging you nearly as harshly (if at all!) as you think we are. If we are, then unfriend us. Nobody needs that negativity in her life. Here are some things of late for which I refuse to apologize or explain. You can judge me if you want. Go ahead. I really, truly don’t care. If it bothers you enough, click away to another Web site.
- I’m not sorry for feeding my children chicken nuggets for lunch every couple of weeks or so. I recently had a friend visiting and found myself starting to explain why we were having chicken nuggets that day. And then I stopped. She didn’t care.
- I’m not sorry for ordering my food a certain way at a restaurant because I have dietary restrictions I don’t always care to discuss.
- I’m not sorry for picking my son up off the floor at the hair salon when he started throwing a temper tantrum and distract him by looking out the window instead of disciplining him. It was the moment. And it was the right decision at the time. Trust me. That doesn’t happen all the time.
- I’m not sorry for my dog jumping on you at the vet’s office when you got him all excited.
- I’m not sorry for letting my daughter watch a third episode of “Daniel Tiger” so I could have a few minutes to myself.
- I’m not sorry that I need downtime. I don’t need to justify it.
- I’m not going to explain why the one afternoon I had a break from my children recently that I spent the time reading and napping instead of cleaning my house that was verging on a disaster zone.
- I’m not going to apologize for the three minutes I spent checking Facebook on my iPhone during lunch with my children with whom I had been interacting with constantly for the previous four hours.
- I’m not going to explain why my daughter isn’t taking another dance class this fall.
- I have no need to explain why sometimes we eat canned Spaghetti-Os for dinner and my children gobble it up better than if I spent an hour cooking.
- I’m not going to explain why my children are in the car seats they are or facing the direction they’re facing. They are safe.
Every day this list could change, evolve and grow. And every day, someone in my life who I think may be caring about a decision I made or judging me is most likely too worried about themselves to even start to care about my decisions or judge me for them. I don’t have to be constantly sorry. I am not responsible for the happiness of the entire world. I cannot control every single thing in every single situation. I am not perfect.
I’m not even sorry for my imperfection. My imperfection is what makes me human. My imperfection is what reminds me that I need God. My imperfection makes me real and gives me goals to work toward. My imperfection gives me opportunities to teach my children about how to make mistakes and take responsibility for them. I am not sorry for being me even though sometimes I wish I were a better version of me. I also do not owe people an explanation as to why I am the way I am or have made the choices I have.
To some, this is not earth shattering news. That is awesome. To others like me who have struggled with this tendency throughout life, I ask you to join me. Partner with me in working to sometimes just be quiet instead of apologize. Remind yourself that you aren’t responsible for the happiness of the whole world. Remember that you don’t owe anyone explanations. Remember that sometimes you can just keep quiet and that’s OK. You don’t have to apologize or explain. Join me in silence. You won’t be sorry that you did. ;-)]]>
- I get to see sweet smiles every morning and throughout the day every day. Nothing makes my heart happier than having happy children. When they’re happy and smiling, I can’t help but join them. One of my favorite things right now is going to get my son up in the morning or from his nap. When I enter the room he’s so happy to see me that he not only smiles, he laughs. It’s pure joy. To know that my mere presence can cause that in another person makes my heart swell. I usually giggle back at him.
- I get to listen to their stories. Well, this is mostly true just for my preschooler, but more and more my toddler is communicating. I spent so long wondering what they were going to be like and what they thought about that now that they can communicate it to me is such a joy. Yes, I get tired of incessant talking sometimes, but for the most part, my children entertain me and delight my heart as I see them growing into the people they are.
- I get to laugh — a lot. Seriously, I don’t think I ever laughed this much or this often before I had children. My kids are funny. They do funny things. They say funny things. We laugh a lot. And their laughter makes my heart burst with joy no matter what I’m dealing with.
- I get to see my children form their own relationships. I love seeing them interact with their grandparents and other relatives. Even more I love seeing them interact with one another. Sure I have to be a referee sometimes, but more often they are loving on each other. They love to snuggle with each other. Every night at bedtime, my son climbs into my daughter’s bed yelling, “Sister!” over and over. Then she pulls him over to her and they hug tight and kiss good night. Every night my heart melts and my eyes tear up. Man, it’s good stuff!
- I get snuggles. Boy do I ever! While it can sometimes be a bit crazy when they are both vying for my lap and I kind of, sort of just want to be able to sit by myself, I cannot resist the feel of little arms around me or little lips smooching my cheek. I melt. Having a baby, toddler or small child snuggle into you just soothes your soul.
- I always have a snack handy. I carry stuff with me like Teddy Grahams or crackers or fruit. I almost always have some sort of snack somewhere on my person or in my car. It’s great for the kids. It’s come in handy a few times for me, too. Just the other day, I was starving and snatched a couple of the oyster crackers my son had dropped in his car seat as I was getting him out of the car.
- Speaking of having things handy, I almost always can offer you a wipe to clean something with, a baby spoon, a napkin, a hat, a blanket, a pair of small sunglasses, sunscreen, adhesive placemats, toys, books and almost anything else you can think of. I never had stuff like that with me before having kids. It all comes in handy.
- I have a built-in excuse for downtime. Don’t blast me for being so honest about this. When I was pumping or nursing, I got away often with and without the baby. As an introvert, those small breaks were sometimes so very precious to me. Even now there are times when my son needs a diaper change or a nap and I have to go that I’m not all so disappointed to get a break myself. I promise I don’t dislike people, but I do sometimes just need a minute to breathe.
- I get to be blessed by other people in new ways. Before I had children, I didn’t talk to nearly as many people, but now people stop me to talk about and to my children often. I also get to experience the blessing of someone being good to my children. If you’re good to me, I’m happy. If you’re good to my babies, then I’m over-the-moon and likely to be your friend for life. I’m so blessed when others bless my children by being kind to them or going out of their way to make them feel special.
- I get to experience the world afresh all over again. My son is learning more about everything around him every day. My daughter is constantly learning and asking all sorts of questions. I see the world through their eyes. I see the novelty of small things like watching the rain. I am challenged by the questions my daughter has about important issues of faith. I am blessed and awestruck at their pureness and untainted view of the world and other people.
- Probably a minimum of five times a day I say or think how cute my children are. Sometimes the level of cuteness in my house overwhelms me, especially when you add our cute pooch and my cute husband. Gah! I can’t stand it and I love every minute of it. I may be humble in many ways, but I will tell you outright that my husband and I make the most adorable children (thanks for that also goes to God, of course!).
- I get to read some fun books. I’m not to this stage with my son, yet. With him I’m stuck in the read-this-same-book-10-times-in-a-row phase. But my almost 5-year-old is a different story. For a year or so, we’ve been able to read chapter books. I’ve been able to share some of my favorites with her and we’ve found some new favorites together. I love reading. I love books. I love sharing them with my children. I love good books for kids.
These are just a few of the benefits of motherhood I can think of for now. Do you agree? What would you add? Share the with me!]]>
In my life, I have mentioned going to Gen Con to others who have no clue what I’m talking about and still think I’m a bit crazy or maybe even weird once I explain it to them. That’s OK. I get that. I lived that. I wasn’t always a gamer. I wasn’t always this woman who sits around a table with six other people (give or take) pretending to be someone else in a fictional situation who’s movements and decisions rely on rolling the right number on dice. I spent years as a gamer’s wife. And that was OK, too. But, slowly through the last 15 years of being a wife, I have evolved into a gaming wife. I’m glad. I enjoy playing games with my husband and seeing his creativity. I enjoy getting a peek at how his brain works outside of our regular daily life together raising two small children. This transformation took place during the Gen Con years, in fact. The first year we attended, my goal was to write about the event as a journalist since my husband was interested in going anyway. We went only one day. I didn’t know what to expect, but I’ve learned. I’ve become a gamer and we’ve learned the ins and outs of Gen Con. We know how to get into games, we know where to park based on where we’ll be, we know where to go for food and we know where the press room is. My husband has spent time working in downtown Indianapolis and, in living an hour away, we’ve visited there often, so we’re quite familiar with the area, but navigating Gen Con is sort of its own beast.
While the games draw me to the convention, the people also do. And by people, we’re talking more than 49,000 of them. Gen Con attendees flood downtown Indianapolis. They fill up all the hotel rooms. They take up seats in the restaurants. There are lots and lots and lots of gamers. They interest me nearly as much as the games. My view of them has shifted through the years as well. The first year we went to Gen Con, I had no idea what to expect and had preconceived notions of finding mostly a male crowd maybe in their teens and 20s. I anticipated awkward, stereotypical, geeky gamers. I now hang my head in shame for that notion. Gamers are so much more.
I’ve learned that gamers come from all walks of life. I’ve encountered people of all ages at Gen Con from babies to college students to fellow mid-lifers to senior citizens. Some are married; some aren’t. Some have children; some don’t. Some are working professionals; some are students. Some have traveled across the country; some have traveled mere minutes. Some of them dress as their favorite characters; some wear their everyday clothes. But they are all there because they love games of some kind or all kinds. Gen Con is a draw for people who play role playing games, board games, card games, video games, computer games and pretty much any game you can think of. There are rooms upon rooms of people sitting around playing games. There are even rooms of people acting out games.
While all the gamers are different in many ways from gender to age to religion to occupation, they are all the same in so many ways as well. I’ve never met friendlier people. I say that as someone who was born and raised by southern influenced folks and who has spent a fair amount of time in the friendly state of Tennessee. Gamers are friendlier. The stereotypical gamer is a quiet person who might not be all that social. I fall into that category. I’m quiet. I’m a total introvert. I don’t seek out people I don’t know to talk with. That’s not my personality. But that doesn’t matter at Gen Con. Conversations happen all over the place, all the time. There was the grandma who I chatted with while waiting in line to get into the Paizo booth. We talked about my children and her grandchildren while we watched an adorable little 1-year-old go crazy for a man dressed as Gandolf from Lord of the Rings. There were the two gamers from the East Coast who we chatted with while waiting to get into a game about the new Dungeons & Dragons system and what our commutes were like. There were the fellow attendees who chatted with us when we ventured over to a movie theater to watch a screening of the 1986 movie “Aliens.” (My husband was beside himself to see that movie on the big screen since he was too young to see it on the big screen the first time around.)
Gamers are helpful. This is true both outside and inside of gaming. We had an unexpected adventure with a few other gamers coming up in the elevator from the parking garage when the door to get outside was locked early on Saturday morning. We worked together to figure out where we were going and how to get out. Another gamer offered advice when he overheard my husband and I talking about the new spinning dice ring my husband had purchased. During different game sessions when players had questions about their character or the game mechanics, others were quick to offer help and advice. It makes sense to me because so much of gaming, especially of the role playing variety, is based around helping people out. Gamers are fighting in-game for the common good of a population. That extends in real life so that when I was playing a wizard and didn’t know what all my spells did, other gamers at the table were happy to help me with information. When that same wizard had some bad luck thanks to the roll of the dice and ended up dead on the bottom of a pit, those same gamers used their characters to come down and save me. Later one even gave me his health potion in-game when my character was failing yet again. Gamers are good people.
Gamers are polite. Usually in a crowded space like the exhibit hall is, people tend to push and shove. They tend to bump into one another and not acknowledge having done so. I’ve not had that issue at Gen Con. It’s busy. People are everywhere, but they remain civil and cordial and pretty darn polite.
Gamers are nice. I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone make fun of someone else at Gen Con. I have heard a vendor or two talk negatively about gamers before (I didn’t patronize those booths). Most vendors are gamers themselves who love fellow gamers even just for the fact they are buying their products. But for the most part, gamers are nice to each other and don’t laugh at the way someone is dressed or what they’re doing. Of course we may laugh at someone’s antics in game when they do something crazy, but never in a derogatory manner.
I think overall that these people, these fellow gamers — my people — are a big part of why I enjoy Gen Con so much. For four days we band together. We fight imaginary battles. We right imaginary wrongs. We take breaks from being who we are the rest of the time. I take a break from being a mom of young children (our kids don’t go with us, but there are definitely plenty of kids to be found at Gen Con). I still do wear my journalist hat somewhat in doing interviews and writing while at Gen Con, but I also get breaks from that. We come together. We share laughs and victories. We share common interests. We spend four days running around the convention center and adjacent hotels and restaurants wearing ourselves out and having fun. We make up the people of Gen Con. I have become one of them and I am honored. Game on! Time to start thinking about Gen Con 2015. Who’s with me?!]]>
And those differing phases were exactly what I was thinking about. Not long after we moved in, this neighbor’s grandchildren rang our doorbell to sell something for their school. They were elementary-aged then. A decade later, they must be mostly grown, I realized. So I got to thinking about time flying. It does with children. My daughter will be 5 in October and, yet, I still feel like she was just born. My son is almost 18 months old and, yet, I still feel like he was just born. I was struck in that moment at the difference in our lives, my neighbor and I. I was also struck by the similarities. I marveled that it was 8 p.m. and she was out and about while I am never out and about at 8 p.m. That’s bedtime for my kids. But, she is beyond that phase. Maybe she misses it; maybe she doesn’t. Maybe it’s a combination of both.
What struck me for the first time is how short-lived this motherhood thing is. I will be a mother the rest of my life no matter how long I live or what happens. It is a part of my identity. It is part of me and it won’t ever go away. However, I won’t be consumed by motherhood the rest of my life. Right now I’m in the thick of it with a toddler and preschooler who need so much from me. But, they are both gaining more independence almost daily. They will slowly and steadily need less of me. In 17 years, my baby boy will graduate high school and move on to college. I will have an empty nest. 17 years! That span of time both seems like forever and also like a blink of an eye. When I think that next month my husband and I will celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary, I realize again how fast time goes.
And so I was left to realize that in the midst of all the pressing needs of mothering small children, I must cling to pieces of myself where I can find them. While I need to give myself to my children, I also need to take breaks and give myself to me and to my husband. They really are only with us a short time. I won’t stop being their mom when they are 18. No switch flips like that. My own parents haven’t stopped being my parents now that I’m a grown-up, but our relationship is vastly different now than it was 30 years ago when I was my daughter’s age. I think about what it will be like when my babies are grown. I can’t quite wrap my head around it. I don’t know exactly what choices they’ll make and how they’ll turn out. I don’t know how I will feel when my time of really rearing them is complete. But I do know I will be left with myself and I don’t want to lose her.
It’s very easy to be consumed by motherhood and perhaps it’s completely necessary. However, it’s also quite taxing and leaves little room for much else. Sometimes I forget that I am more than a mom because I simply don’t have the energy left at the end of the day to be anything else. I think that’s OK for now, mostly because it just has to be. I just want to make sure that I don’t completely disappear over these next 17 years. I will change, I’m sure. I have already changed and I wouldn’t go back. I love being a mother. I love being defined as a mother. I love the person my children have made me. I pray and long to be good enough to raise these little ones as they deserve. I pray for strength to be the best me I can be for them. They are my world. But my world is one day going to not be so tight. My world is one day going to go out on its own. I don’t want to forget the Stacey I am underneath the mother I am.
I can only smile as I think about my neighbor and her oblivion to what just seeing her out and about 8 p.m. sparked in me. We don’t know each other well. I won’t ever share this with her. That’s OK. I find myself wondering now whether she has any regrets from her child-rearing days. I wonder how she was left to define or redefine herself when her children were grown. Maybe it’s an abrupt change and maybe it’s gradual. I will see one of these days. But for now I’m going to keep snatching small pieces of myself here and there amidst the chaos and joy of mothering small children.]]>
But, it’s not the town or the food that gets me. It’s the lake. Byrdstown is perched right beside Dale Hollow Lake. This man-made creation is huge. It has a multitude of docks. It has a city still buried beneath it from the old days. It has a history all to itself that is fascinating, but my history is what I think of when I look out over the waters of Dale Hollow and smell that lake water. I have vivid memories of good times with family and I feel as if I’m come full circle now that I’m able to make new memories there with my own family. Both of my kids swam for their very first time in the lake. For me, our vacation is relaxing but it also swirls together past and present for me.
I smell the lake water and I remember swimming off a dock with my family as a small child and my grandpa soaping up in the lake. I smell the boat engines and think of the many, many fishing trips I’ve taken with my dad, grandpa and older brother. We didn’t always say so much, but we were together. We made memories. We laughed when someone went “squirrel fishing” and got their line caught in a tree. We whooped when anyone reeled in a fish of significant size. Heck, if I’m being completely honest I even remember the coffee can I’d use for the bathroom when I was little as all the guys turned their heads the other way before I really even understood that much about modesty.
The lull of curvy roads (which are quickly disappearing) reminds me of rolling around in the back of my dad’s camper truck with my brother and cousin as we wound our way down to the lake. A visit to a local restaurant reminds me how we’d often get to share a hot fudge cake sundae on vacation. It also reminds me of being a child and ordering my breakfast for the first time with one egg scrambled and one fried. My family laughed about that. The waitress look at me like I had two heads. To this day, when I make eggs for myself that’s exactly how I make them. I no longer try getting them that way in a restaurant, though.
While so much remains the same, a lot has changed as well. When we drive along the “new” highway, I remember when I was a child and it was being built. I remember one particular trip with my grandparents, brother and cousin where we walked along the dirt that had been pressed down in preparation for the new road going in. It’s much straighter than the old road and makes loads more sense, I suppose. But it’s different than it used to be.
I also have new memories sneaking in with the old ones. When I look at the ducks and fish swimming off of Sunset Dock, I think of my pooch and how much he likes to bark at them and swim beside them. This trip he stayed home with my in-laws who have his littermate brother and only met us at the end of the trip at a family reunion, but he usually goes with us. He had a back injury flare up, so we knew he’d be better off not going.
When my daughter and I feed the ducks, fish and turtles from the dock, I think of my mom who loves doing that very thing with us. I remember last summer when my daughter was finally old enough to start feeding the fish with us and how much she enjoyed it. I chuckle when I think of making bread balls to sink down to the fish and my husband and daughter telling the fish to enjoy their “spicy meatballs.” It makes no sense, but it is a funny memory to me.
When I watch my son splashing his hands on top of the water at the beach, I remember his sister in her green watermelon two-piece bathing suit doing the same thing.
When I look at the bunk beds where we stay, I remember how for two summers now my daughter hasn’t been allowed to sleep on the top bunk, but she’s loved climbing up there and sitting atop the comforter to read her bedtime stories.
I have so many vacation memories. I have distant ones from childhood. I have ones that are bittersweet as I think of my grandpa who is now in heaven and my grandma who I’m not sure will ever make the trip south again. I have closer ones from recent years. And this year, I’ve added to my collection of memories. I’ll remember my daughter lighting up with joy when we stopped at nearby Dinosaur World on the way down. I’ll remember my son feeling very unsure about the sand between his toes. I’ll remember my daughter snuggling beside her dad on the loveseat watching episodes of Transformers from the 1980s. I’ll remember my son wanting a hat on most of the trip. I’ll remember my daughter being way more excited about the stuffed unicorn she got at a candy store instead of caring about the actual candy we bought. I’ll remember my son already learning to climb up to the top bunk and how my heart skipped a beat when I realized he could as I stood behind him ready to catch him at any moment. I’ll remember the few moments of peace on the dock as the four of us sat together eating ice cream and watching the sun sink lower into the sky. I’ll remember hanging out with my husband watching movies and reading after the kids were fast asleep. I’ll remember the night he got out around 11 p.m. to go find WiFi to download a book for my Kindle.
Of everything, I’ll remember the love and the laughter. We definitely had some cranky moments from all of us. We had a few small challenges here and there, but those are already fading in my memory less than a week after returning. I’m sure there were cranky moments when I was a child as well, but those have also faded.
Along with all of my specific memories, trips to Byrdstown and Dale Hollow leave me with a memory of peace and love. I feel more at peace on the lake than I do anywhere else. I have had moments of struggle and physical pain in my life where I’ve stopped and envisioned being on the lake to soothe my weary soul. All of these feelings and memories are wrapped up in a tiny Tennessee town that feels like a homecoming to me, though I’ve never lived there. I count myself blessed to have fallen in love with this place and even more blessed to be able to continue to share it with the people I love.]]>
As a journalist, one of my favorite things about this country is the whole free speech thing. However, it is sometimes one of my least favorite parts as well just because I get to hear so many opinions and mindless thoughts that would be better off left unsaid many times. Political and religious happenings this week have brought out the best and worst in people. I’ve heard all sorts of opinions and thoughts. I have my own opinions and thoughts, of course, but I don’t feel the need to enter the fray and noise of it all.
So, in honor of free speech, I offer some random thoughts from my head that have nothing to do with pretty much anything. (And, in full disclosure, I’m running low on topic ideas at the moment. So there!)
- I’m still marveling that the boys are 5 today. That’s just not possible.
- I think I’m completely becoming a geek. Last night my husband and I were discussing our upcoming vacation. He mentioned that he’d like to visit a cave in the area sometime. I told him it’d been years since I’d been in a cave and now it would remind me of the Underdark (a complete D&D reference thanks in great part to The Legend of Drizzt series by R.A. Salvatore).
- I have a very long to-do list for today. I’m making a decent dent in it thus far at least.
- I bought a new purse yesterday for the first time in a couple of years. It’s nothing fancy, but I’m quite excited about it. My daughter gave it rave reviews. I like that about her at 4. I know that will change in about 10 years, so I’m enjoying her constant support for now.
- I got my hair cut yesterday. And when I say cut, I really mean trim. I almost never make dramatic hair changes. It freaks me out for some reason. But, I’m happy enough with the trim. And now I need to tweeze my eyebrows a bit since my bangs aren’t covering them so much.
- I need a vacation from getting ready for vacation. And I’m not going to pretend that a vacation is nearly as relaxing now with a 1 and 4-year-old as it used to be before they were born. But, that’s OK, too.
- I am thinking very seriously about having dinner out tonight since we have to get out for a trip to the drug store anyway. I know. Earth shattering information!
- About three weeks ago, I went for the second pedicure I’ve had in my life and got purple sparkly toes. I quite enjoy purple sparkly anything. One of my nine piggies got chipped, though. Unsurprisingly, I had a huge amount of purple nail polish in my drawer to wade through and touch it up. It now looks pretty much like the other nine toes and has bought me some time for redoing them. Sweet!
- I decided not to buy my son a 4th of July shirt this year. My daughter’s from last year still fits her. My son, however, will be patriotic with Spider-man. I mean, superhero red and blue is pretty darn patriotic, right? It is for my family!
- I am perplexed that it is 2014 and no one has come up with a good design for baby bibs to keep them in place and from being pulled off by determined toddlers. I should come up with something and make a fortune. But then again, I’m far from an inventor.
- My husband has a bag of rubber bands. I thought it was party mix and got excited. I may need a life. Or a snack. Or both.
- Sometimes I get an extra five minutes to myself before getting my son up from his nap or for the day simply by turning off the baby monitor. (He’s happy and playing in his crib. I’d be right in there if he were upset.)
- I realized earlier today that I had given my daughter expired children’s Benadryl when she was sick last week. It was only expired by a few months, but I still feel bad about it.
- Speaking of expired, a few years ago I found a container of Parmesan cheese in my parents’ pantry that had expired something like six years before. Evidently once I got married and moved out they didn’t go through very much Parmesan cheese. This is still true and for my birthday in May, my mom sent me home with the small container she’d bought just for my birthday dinner. What’s wrong with those people? Who doesn’t love Parmesan cheese?! I’m happy to report that though my husband doesn’t like it, my daughter has the same affinity for it that I do.
- I think I may talk about food too much when it comes to random thoughts I post on here.
- I’d better stop typing now and go get the boy out of his crib before he tries to jump out of it or something. That kid. He is going to give me a heart attack with all his daredevil attempts!
And thanks to living in the land of the free and the home of the brave, I can share these random thoughts freely without worry. Happy birthday, America, on Friday! I also need to call three little guys so their cousins and I can wish them a happy birthday today!]]>
The good news is that neither kid has been hit super hard with this virus, just enough to make them tired, a bit grumpy and clingy. It could be way worse. However, it’s also highly contagious. Somehow they shared their germs with my mom who hasn’t seen them in more than a week. Fortunately no one else has come down with it. We’re staying in and missing out on a good week of activities to keep our germs to ourselves. Maybe by this weekend we’ll be all clear of contagions. I can’t wait. Sick kids aren’t super fun, but being sick isn’t super fun, so I don’t blame them.
Last evening, though, my son was feeling better but still grumpy. He started getting back into things he hasn’t in weeks, like the dog’s water dish, over and over again. He was climbing on the table. He wanted to simultaneously be in my lap and on the floor. My daughter wanted to play. Her ideas were having me mimic her dance moves. I was tired. It had been a long day. It was the kind of day that lasted longer than my patience. I debated about loading everyone in the car in their pajamas just to go for a ride. I didn’t care where, I just needed to be out of the house and not have someone hanging off of me.
It was also raining. My husband had recently repaired a gutter and went outside to check on it. Lucky duck, I thought. At least he got to get out of the house. (My son might not have been the only grumpy one!) He came back in and said he had something neat to show our daughter. She slipped on shoes with her nightgown. I scooped up the baby and we went out, too. It was raining, but we have a covered patio. The “neat thing” my husband had to show off was an intricate spider web. My son could care less, I didn’t care much and my daughter thought it was pretty cool. However, we were out of the house! We sat on the patio, listening to the rain on the metal roof for a little while. It was the change of scenery that I think we all needed.
Sometimes it’s the simple parts in life that make it so good. I wouldn’t say that this has been an overall great week. It hasn’t be horrible and could definitely have been worse, but it also could certainly have been better. My daughter is missing out on her first experience with Vacation Bible School thanks to being sick. She has literally been counting down the days for a month and was looking forward to having me be with her leading around the preschoolers. I was looking forward to her having fun and learning more about God. She is so very interested in God and Bible stories right now. She has a love for Him that makes my heart burst. I don’t want to quash that. I want to encourage and nurture that. I thought VBS would be one way to do that. However, God had different ideas. And I’d be lying if I said I understood completely or knew what He was thinking. I don’t. In fact, I’ve cried about it this week a couple of times. I’ve prayed about it. In fact, as soon as my son got sick, I prayed that somehow my daughter and I wouldn’t so we could still go. I firmly believe God heard my prayer; He just said no. Sometimes no is a hard answer to hear. I think I’m more disappointed than my daughter is. But, I do know that always God has a plan. I do know that always God is in control. I do trust that I can trust Him even when hardships — whether small or big — don’t make sense.
I’ve learned that lesson time and again even when I doubt. I’ve learned that in living with a chronic illness when I’ve not understood reasons for suffering. I’ve learned that when proverbial doors not only closed on me but slammed shut in my face and smashed some fingers in the process. God doesn’t always make sense. And sometimes in my humanity, I get mad about it. Sometimes I get my feelings hurt. Sometimes I get so frustrated that in trying to do the right thing and making choices God has led me to make that I still can get punched in the face with a hardship. It’s not always fair. But, God never said life would be fair and therein lies the rub. Therein lies the difficulty.
However, I have always learned that even when life doesn’t make sense, God does make sense. I have told my daughter time and again that she doesn’t always need to understand why my husband and I ask her to do something, she just needs to do it because we said so. (Trust me, the girl wants us to explain everything all the time and sometimes she just needs to trust us.) Just like I’d never lead my children astray, just like I have valid reasons for disciplining them when they do something wrong, so does God do the same for me. At the end of the long, hard day even through my hurt, frustration and tears, all I have left (all I really had to begin with) is to trust God and lean fully on Him.
I can look back now other major hardships in my life and see how He worked them for my good. I can look back at other hard times and still not understand them, but I trust that just like I look out for my children, He is looking out for me. My toddler and preschooler can’t understand as much as I do at age 35. I can’t understand as much as God does as the maker of the universe and creator of everything in it. I just have to trust in One Who loves me more than I can fathom.
And so even in small hardships like having temporarily sick kiddos who are missing out on things they were looking forward to, I can trust. I can know that God really does work all things to the good of those who love Him even when little things (and big things!) don’t make sense.
While I wouldn’t mind a bit of a break in the craziness of life this week, I am working to be thankful in all circumstances at all times. Because God really is good all the time.]]>