Family

Is It Really Vacation With Kids?

Lighthouse

Ah vacation. Time to relax. No work, school or responsibilities. iPhones are forgotten. The beach beckons. Hear the seagulls. Feel the warm breeze. And…here comes the hurricane. Not a literal hurricane. I’m talking about my three children.

I never appreciated a child free vacation until I couldn’t go on one anymore. There are five of us now and despite the gift of being in the beautiful South, I’m well aware of how much work a vacation with kids can be. The slathering on of sunscreen multiple times a day, the coercing them out of the pool after three hours, the junk food, the rain that traps us indoors for days, trying to keep my fearless three-year old from drowning in the undertow. You get the picture. By bedtime, I’m ready to collapse or scream.

Vacation

On the flip side, I get to spend lots of quality time with my family. We are blessed to be able to go on vacation. We are lucky to have beautiful weather today. The biggest decision of the day is beach or pool. I wake up to chocolate chip waffles and good coffee. I’m reading a really inspiring book. Life is good.

Vacation with kids? Yeah. We’ll do it again.  We are making memories. And those are worth all the work.

Yoga With Kids

The house has been full of the sounds of Namaste lately.  We’ve been doing yoga with the kids, which is pretty much like anything else with children; slow going, two steps forward and one step back, frustrations flair then enlightenment.  Well, almost.

At the end of each session of downward facing dogs and sun salutations, we fold our hands in prayer and say Namaste.  My two-year-old loves yoga. He lasts through a 20 minute session with relative ease.  He likes to be included, so he chimes in with his own version; Mamaste.  We all smile.  Enlightenment for sure.

Do You Still Believe In The Magic Of Childhood?

Every parent knows with the passing of every child-centered holiday that one day their child will come to them with The Question.

“Mommy, is the (Easter Bunny, Santa, Tooth Fairy, etc.) real?”

My oldest daughter B. is eight years old.  I though this might be the year she calls my bluff.  After all, she spotted all the stuffed animals we bought from IKEA last Christmas.  My retort, “Maybe the elves were too busy this year and had to swing by IKEA for backup.”

The Tooth Fairy didn’t even leave a note when B.’s most recent baby tooth fell out.  “She must have been tired from flying around all night carrying a bag full of teeth.”  That child has no idea how tired the tooth fairy is.  Really.

B. found wrappers in the garbage can from the sneaky leprechaun who visited in March.  I was annoyed at my failing by this point, “He’s really sneaky leaving it out in the open like that.”  (My mother would have NEVER let that happen.  She was and still is the master of holiday hiding spots.  I bow to your wise ways Mom.)

I thought maybe the older children she hangs out with would spill the beans, but apparently nobody is talking.  So we carry on our traditions of baskets and candy, letters and presents; traditions my husband and I grew up with sprinkled in with a few of our own.  I dread the day I am confronted with The Question.  But I know what I’ll say.  It’s the same thing my own mother told me.  As long as you believe, it will always be real.

Why should we, as grownups, stop believing in the magic of childhood?  I love seeing my kids’ eyes light up at the sight of a handwritten letter from Santa or hear their squeals of delight upon seeing a big chocolate Easter bunny.  It doesn’t get old, it’s bittersweet and it’s fleeting.  With a two-year old under our roof, I have a few years left of making these memories with my children.  And no, I don’t feel like I’m tricking them or lying to them.  This, to me, is childhood.  Some of my best memories are from holidays gone by.  Becoming a parent myself, I realized how much work, thoughtfulness and planning go into Christmas, birthdays, egg hunts, tooth fairy notes.  I consider myself lucky to be able to do these things for my children.  To be part of the magic making, to see their happiness, their sheer wonder in things that are unexplainable makes it all worth while.

A Tear-Jerker in 10 Sentences

Tonight at bedtime I was pulling out my six-year old daughter’s ponytail holder. It got tangled and pulled her hair. She cried out in pain.

“I’m so sorry M. I didn’t mean to do that!”

“It’s ok Mommy. I still love you. Even when you’re up there (points up to Heaven) and I’m really old, I’ll still love you. I’ll never stop loving you.”

Teary eyed and touched by her thoughtful words, I knew I must be doing something right…

What Do A Black Shirt, Nick Jonas and A Shower Have in Common?

When my friends found out I was having a boy, they all gushed the same sentiment.  “You will LOVE having a boy!  They are so loving and sweet. They just adore their Mommy!”  I have found infinite truth in their words.  Here is my experience with my little adoring bundle of male hormones over the past two days.

1. They don’t care about your wardrobe at all.
My son ran into my bedroom as I was getting dressed to go out. He gave me the biggest hug and proceeded to wipe his snotty nose all over my clean, black shirt sleeve.  It’s hard to be mad when he looks down at the floor and whispers “Sowwy Mommy.”

2. They are full of curious questions when you’re dripping wet.
As I was getting out of the shower, my son swung open the door, unaware of the cold air breezing in behind him and had a serious face.

“Mommy, did you wash your butt?”
Trying to stifle my laugh, “Yes I did.”
“Did you wash your face?”
“Yes.”
“Did you wash your feet?”
“I did.”
“Did you wash your boobies?’
Smiling, “Yep, I did buddy.”
“Oh!” Satisfied he shut the door and ran away.

3. They love Nick Jonas songs.
Driving home from the grocery store, a Nick Jonas song came on the radio. It’s wildly inappropriate for kids, but if I had to listen to Raffi all day I’d go mad.  It’s a cheesy, catchy little tune, so we all sing along. Guess whose voice was heard above all the rest? You guessed it; my two-year old baby boy.

Oh (that’s why)
I still get jealous…

 

These idyllic days won’t last forever. I want to tie up all my memories in a bouquet and keep them forever. Since I can’t possibly remember them all, I’m enjoying each bittersweet moment, knowing someday I’ll have a really great archive for his future wife.

Being Sick is Good For Something

This past week brought a cloud of illness over our house.  All three kids came down with the flu, one after another, until I lined them all up in my bed under the covers and played a PBS marathon.  I would never wish illness on anyone, but it did force us to slow down.  It also gave us the chance to catch up on some good books.  What else are you going to do with a fever of 102?

My two favorites this week were Ministry of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson.  She is such a positive force for women everywhere.  Her voice gives me hope on the days I’m at my lowest, like having three small children miserable with chills and body aches.  This book got me through the week, bolstering my faith and my reserves as a mother.

The-Ministry-of-Motherhood

My second favorite this week was Playful Learning by Mariah Bruehl.  Have you ever checked a book out from the library and found yourself dog-earing so many pages, you decide you must buy the book?  That was me.  She has so many wonderful ideas for engaging learning projects, I can’t wait to try them all with my kids.  This book is a gem for homeschooling (or not) moms everywhere.

playful book

Thankfully, we are all on the mend. Besides chronic cabin fever, we are ready to get back out into the world, back into school and work.  If you fall ill this winter season, drag out a few good books and enjoy playing catch up.

If You Can Laugh At Yourself, I Like You Already

A successful friend of mine, who had self-esteem issues growing up, told me her parents never focused on her outward appearance, instead they reminded her of all the positive things she was good at like dance and art. This is sound advice.  I needed to hear it.

My daughter was 7 years old when her best friend told her she thought she was really fat.  I was there to hear it.  I witnessed the stunned look on my daughter’s face as she absorbed her friend’s stinging words.  I don’t know who was more devastated; my daughter or me.

As a family we talk about the importance of being healthy, no matter what shape or size your body is.  God made us all different for a reason.  If we all looked like Heidi Klum life would be boring.  We stress the importance of being active and having fun, all the while knowing someday she is going to find out we are not telling her the truth.  All of these things sound good in theory, but we all know, especially mothers of daughters, that in our society size does matter.  People will judge you and make you feel less than and it’s going to hurt like hell.

As a mother, I can only hope to teach my children resilience, give them the tools to remain tenacious, not to be beat down by the cruel words of others, to remain steadfast in the knowledge that they are smart and beautiful and important.

In passing one day, my husband casually mentioned a woman who had been rude to him, adding “I don’t think she likes me very much.”  My daughter immediately said, ‘That sounds like her problem.”  Yes!  Maybe it’s sinking in after all.

As for my friend, she said her parents’ advice saved her life.  People were still judgemental, but she was able to laugh at herself.  And if you can laugh at yourself, you’ve already won.

NaBloPoMo NoMo

Photo: Liz West

Photo: Liz West

NaBloPoMo is over!  It was a mostly successful month this month, a few missed days here and there, but I no longer berate myself for lost posts.  Life happens, get over it, right?!

I’m taking a break for October.  We have a busy month planned because Autumn is my favorite time of all!  While I will miss the daily task of sitting down and putting ideas to keyboard, I will enjoy the freedom of not needing to do it every single day.

I’ll keep this short and sweet because there is a beautiful sunny day outside waiting for me and two sweet little faces begging to get out there and enjoy it.  Enjoy your day!

I Feel Like An Amateur

Do you ever have one of those days, maybe your kids are playing at the park, giddily swinging, legs reaching for the clouds, singing a made-up song, while you watch from the bench? And on this day you look at your sweet little brood and wonder how the heck you got there? I mean, logistically you know, but really who decided you were grown up enough to be in charge of a gang of dependent little people?

I have these days every once in a while, as if I’m watching my own life in a dream. It’s a little hazy around the edges, feels a bit surreal, vibrant colors, it feels perfect and I wonder how I came to be a mother.

I have trouble waking up early, I’m impatient, I like quiet and solitude and time by myself. I can’t sew or fold a fitted sheet or make a homemade Halloween costume. I hate hearing babies cry, I loathe clunky, noisy, brightly hued plastic toys and playing Candy Land. Those qualities don’t make a perfect mother.

But on these dreamy days, every once in a while, I throw all my cares out the window. I take my sweet little clan to the park and watch them swing their legs up to the clouds, trying with all their might to touch the sky. And I look up too, the blue so big and bright, full of hope and possibilities. And I’m thankful. Thankful for being loved so perfectly, despite my imperfections.

Birthdays Are Big Around Here

birthday

We are celebrating a birthday!  I love birthdays, for the kids especially, but the one tough thing about birthdays is the emotional aspect. The kids are growing up, changing, getting older. I, too, am growing up, changing and definitely getting older. As the birthday girl’s face glowed in the light from her candles, I watched in wonder at this child, who just a few years ago could be held balanced on my forearm, nursed while I made dinner, slept in a mechanical swing that rocked her into sleepy oblivion.

As happy as I was for her, eyes sparkling, ready to delve into her stack of gifts and sprinkled birthday cake, I was mourning. Mourning who she was just yesterday, mourning the loss of the child she was, the one who couldn’t yet read or tie her shoes or stand to be away from Mommy ever.  I mourned for myself as well. I’m not going to be around for every birthday she will celebrate. Someday her father and I will be absent from the table as she looks wide-eyed in excitement at her cake and gifts. Will she be surrounded by people who love and care for her as deeply as I do now? If I could only know for sure the answer to that question would be yes.

But I keep my chin up, comfort myself with the fact that I’m here NOW. She will never be this girl again, tomorrow she will be a different girl from today, next week she will be growing and stretching her mind in new ways and I will struggle to keep up. In the pain of letting her go I am forced to confront my own mortality, but let go I must. It’s our job to watch them stand up in the nest, we encourage them to look around and explore, support their attempts at flying, patiently awaiting their return.

As my birthday girl closes her eyes, makes a wish and blows out her candles, I too make a silent wish in my own heart. I wish for her a happy, healthy, joy filled life, strengthened by faith and when I’m no longer around to sing Happy Birthday with tears in my eyes, I pray she has a room filled with her best friends and family who will do it for me.