Growing Pains and Blessings

A couple of weeks back I was trying to plan out what we’d do to celebrate our Princess’ upcoming birthday.  As I planned and brainstormed, I mentioned my ideas to her.  She was far from thrilled.

“Mama, why didn’t you bother to ask ME?  How old do I have to be to plan my own birthday?  Because that is NOT what I want to do.”  It seems she and her friend had been talking about what we could do to celebrate, and my ideas were sorely lacking.

At least she didn’t roll her eyes at me.  Yet.

She’s not quite eleven, y’all.

Bless.

I was left wondering when did she all of a sudden become so sure-of-herself-growny-acting, and to be honest, I wasn’t exactly thrilled.  I’ve given up trying to influence her sense of style.  She marches to her own beat, that one, and nearly always looks adorable doing it, despite the fact that I wasn’t a part of wardrobe planning.  I’ve given up so many things that happen when they are little and still malleable and easily convinced that whatever is going on is the best idea ever.

And now, I guess, I’m giving up planning birthday festivities too.

I was sad until this morning.

Cooter and I have taken the brunt of this bug that came through our family.  Our Princess had two weekends of dealing with this or something similar a few weeks back, but last night I got concerned that this might be something completely different.  When I checked her temperature on a lark, she was just barely above normal, but still I worried.  She’s my one who can go from just a low-grade in the morning, to full-fledged high fever, bronchitis, and all the bad things by night.  I try to watch her closely.  So I told her to get good rest last night, and we’d see where today took us.

She was still sleeping when Cooter and I decided to venture into the kitchen and see about starting our day.  I took Miss Sophie out in the cold, rainy, and dreary morning, and when we returned, our Princess was still sleeping.  Cooter had eaten his breakfast, so I suggested we get a nap.  He had a headache, and my fever was returning (it wants to be my BFF, but I’m sorry, I want it out of here!).  We curled up, and I dozed a bit off and on.

Later when I got up, Princess came in and apologized to me.  “Mama, I am so sorry I slept late.  I am so sorry.  I’ve been trying to make it up to you by cleaning up the kitchen and the table and picking up things and getting Sophie’s toys put back.  I had Cooter help me, and then I let him watch a video when we were done.  I hope that’s okay.”

I was so relieved she was fever free and feeling better, I could have cried.  I just knew we would have another week of this mess to deal with when she slept in so late today.

But no.  She was and is fine.  And she took initiative today.  Something that comes along with the same territory as wanting to plan one’s own birthday celebrations.

Yeah, toddlers–they’ll love whatever kind of theme you choose, but they’re not so much on the whole seeing something that needs doing and then doing it.

I’ll take it.  I’ll take now.

And I’m thankful.  For my Princess’ health.  For Cooter’s improvements today.  And for the fact that I think I can see a light at the end of the tunnel of this horrendous virus that got a hold of us.

Most of all, I’m thankful for the sweet spirit and giving heart of my Princess.  I’m glad she could sleep in–it’s very possible she was busy rejuvenating and healing in that extra hour or two.  She was adorable as a toddler and as she grows, she becomes more beautiful everyday–inside and out.

And while her outer beauty is quite spectacular, it’s that inside stuff I’m especially thankful for tonight.

Love to all.

My Anxiety, Real and Without a Filter

Wednesday is trash pickup day.

It is also “Nightmare on Our Street” for our mail carrier.

A cul-de-sac with empty trash cans all scattered hither and yon.

Yes.  A tee-total mess some weeks.

So yesterday morning as Miss Sophie and I had our morning constitutional, I stopped to move a couple of my neighbors’ trash cans out of the way, so hopefully our mail carrier wouldn’t have to leave her vehicle to deliver the mail.  (Or worse, just not deliver it at all–goodness, that would be catastrophic! Ha.)

When I turned back to my little fluffy girl, I saw her sniffing something on the road with intense concentration.

Oh.

No.

There on the ground were not one, but two peanut shells.  One still had a peanut inside it.

*insert expressive WORD here*

Y’all.

So often in this life and on this blog, I/we–okay–I might downplay things.  Someone asks me, “How do you keep up with what’s safe or not?  How do you keep from worrying yourself sick?  How do you know where to eat that is okay?”  I might brush it off with a “Oh we just do the best we can.” Or “I’ve learned a lot over the years.”  Or “It’s not easy, but we keep on trucking.”

But it’s rarely as peace-filled and self-assured as all that.  The reality isn’t very pretty.

The minute I saw those nuts on the ground, I flipped.  I mean, I flipped out.  I started fuming and talking to myself, to the dog, to the air– “Why?  Why?  I was just moving a trash can, WHY?!”  I wasn’t mad at Sophie, I was mad at the situation.  My brain immediately started spinning.  More than likely her snout and beard had touched the nuts, so she was now contaminated, and I had to take care of that immediately.  As our Princess was sick over the weekend, I had kept the two of them apart for a couple of days, and they were so happy to be able to play together again.  But they couldn’t now.  UGH.  Double UGH.

We went straight to the bathroom just inside our front door.  I tossed off her leash and collar and put her right in the tub.  Water running, I sudsed her up good and thoroughly, her face and her chin especially.

This was Miss Sophie’s second bath in three days, and she was not amused.

Miss Sophie Ru

Miss Sophie was not amused with so many baths so close together.  

I hated to do it, but I felt like I had no other choice.  I am sure I got water in places where water was not intended to go, bless her.  She snorted and snorted, so then I started to worry about her.  Had I damaged her?  Hurt her?  Was SHE going to be okay?

After I dried her and cuddled her a minute, all was well.  Then I was back to thinking through everything I needed to do to keep my baby girl safe.

For the rest of the day, I keep them apart.  Which wasn’t easy, as Miss Sophie likes to climb up next to our Princess while she works on her lessons.  She loves to go outside with her and her friends.  If I said “No, you have to get down, Sophie” once yesterday, I said it “eleventy-seven” times, as Cooter used to say.

And that’s a lot.

In the midst of all of this, I meant to go pick up those nuts from the road just a  few feet from our driveway.  I planned it out.  I’d use a bag over my hands like I do with “other” things I pick up from the grass, and I’d quickly dispose of them.

But I didn’t get back to it in time, and I don’t know what happened to them.

Last week was the Fair, and we walked around and had such a wonderful time.  But there were peanut shells on the ground all over the place.  And all kinds of nuts being served and eaten. It was very difficult to feel very comfortable.  Every cough or sniffle or when our Princess got really quiet, I’d pounce on her, “You okay?  You feel all right?” When Mess Cat caught her touching the bottom of her shoe for some reason, I nearly lost my mind. It was a mine field, y’all.  No wonder I was exhausted when we got home.  I try not to let her allergies limit us and what we can do, but it’s not always an easy venture.  So perhaps you can understand why the sight of a Teal Pumpkin brings me so much joy.

It says, “No worries here.”

And, “All are welcome and safe here.”

And, “Solidarity, sister.  I’ve got your back.”

Yes.  Yes.  And YES.

My point is, in this whole drawn out tale, is that quite often all is not as it seems to be.  Folks, for the most part, let you see what they want you to see.  It’s rare that folks are comfortable parading all this anxiety and frustration and discombobulation out in the open.

Because I was so discombobulated, y’all.  Food allergies are nothing to play around with, and for something freaky like this to happen…..it just reset the clock on my overprotective “on guard” status all over again.

Well, there’s good news, says my family.

Some days it just it what it is, and that’s as good as it gets. Yesterday was one of those days.  Today I lifted the ban off my girl and her puppy friend, and they were quite happy.  I still found myself watching closely, and asking that same question I know she gets tired of–“Are you okay?”

I don’t know if I will ever stop asking that one though.

Tonight I’m thankful for baths that clean, for compassionate friends, and for the beginning of a new day.  I’m thankful for the folks who get it, and I long for the day when there will be no more food allergies.

But until then, this is me.  Real and without filter.

Love to all.

IMG_5171

Rainy Days and Monogrammed Hoods

The rain.
Y’all.
And we haven’t even gotten the worst of it here where I am.

I’m not complaining–when I have the luxury of staying at home and not being out in it, I can find my happy place in the midst of these rainy, dreary days. Cool temperatures? Even better. (SOOOO ready for hoodie weather.)

Still, my concern has been we aren’t really outfitted for rainy weather here with my little crew.

It would seem, I’m recently discovering, that we have outgrown umbrellas. My children aren’t as small and compact as they once were when we could “everybody grab my leg and let’s shuffle walk/waddle over to that building” and I would carry the umbrella just so enough that they wouldn’t get very wet at all.

Now though? That doesn’t work. All but one would have to bend over double to grab my leg.

We have a couple of those vinyl ponchos, but I swanee those things have a life of their own. I shove them into a ball, tucked under the back seat of my vehicle. IT NEVER FAILS that at least once every other day, one or the other of those ponchos has crawled out from under the seat and is threatening to expand so as to take over the entire back of my vehicle. Not okay.

I’m over it.

As it looks like this is going to be a wet year, I finally decided they all could use rain jackets. I finally found one that could be tucked into its own pouch–hey, portable AND it won’t become a sequel to Night of the Living Rain Poncho and take over my world? Good enough.

I took all three children to the store to pick out whatever color would make them happy. Children’s sizes weren’t in stock, so I told Cooter we’d see about finding him one another place. The girls each picked out their favorite. When we went to check out, the sales clerk asked about monogramming the jackets. I had already told both of my girls this was the only and last rain jacket I’d be buying them. It was going to last them FOREVER. When the “m” word was mentioned, Aub’s eyes lit up. She is about monogramming all the things. Everywhere. When our Princess realized what was being asked, she wholeheartedly was on board. It sounded grown up and her sister wanted it, so YES. A thousand times YES.

Okay then. I had an ulterior motive. Maybe if they were monogrammed these jackets would be less likely to be tossed in a lost and found bucket in any of the various places we find ourselves on a weekly basis.

The next question was did they want just the left chest monogram or one on the hood too.

Sigh. The struggle is real, y’all. And I’m not talking about the rain anymore.

I could see in my oldest’s reaction that this would make her happier than a sunny day in Georgia. See my aforementioned comment about monogramming all the things. Everywhere.

Our Princess listened to the question when it was her turn to decide thread color and the like. Her eyes became so bright and her whole countenance was filled with joy.

She even clapped her hands. “Oh, YES! Please! Then when Maemae and Cap look down from Heaven and see it on my hood, they will know it’s me.”

Well.

Ahem.

Bless her. Bless. Her.

If it had been anyone else, I would have called them on manipulation. But not this one. This was all her. Authentic. And precious.

So yes, as if you had to ask, she got her initials monogrammed on her hood too. And the first thing she did after we picked up her jacket was put the hood on and smile. She nodded, and said almost to herself, “Yes. Now they can see it’s me.”

Oh baby girl.

Tonight I’m thankful for the rain and the sun and the thin moments when I feel my parents close. I do not take it lightly that we are able to go and get rain gear just because, and I am thankful for it. I give thanks for the joys that three little letters can bring in all the bright colors and fonts. I’m also grateful that I was able to find Cooter a version of the rain jacket as well, sans monogramming. (He will eventually outgrow his, and y’all know how I feel about hand-me-downs.) Most of all, I give thanks that my children still feel so connected to my folks–who adored each and every one of their grandchildren. I am so happy that they continue to live on in our stories, laughter, and tears.

Wishing you all a bit of sunshine even on the cloudiest of days.

Love to all.

"22 Regen ubt" by Tomasz Sienicki. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:22_Regen_ubt.jpeg#/media/File:22_Regen_ubt.jpeg

“22 Regen ubt” by Tomasz Sienicki. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:22_Regen_ubt.jpeg#/media/File:22_Regen_ubt.jpeg

Parenting with Ambiguity, Or I Might Have Messed Up Today–Still Not Sure

Despite this week having a lot of hard bits in it, we had a major win for the Zoo Crew.  Cooter, who two years ago was in first grade and barely able to read Old Hat, New Hat, finished the fourth Harry Potter book.  All 752 pages.  He’s been working away at it for a while, but has really been intent on finishing it for the past ten days or so.  To the point where I find him curled up with the book on a couch or bed or floor when he should be doing his math or spelling or science, and I can’t find him.

He was so excited when he finished the last chapter yesterday.

So was I.

Just typing that he read that whole book brought the realization home–he really has learned to read.  And read well.

I am so thankful I cannot even fully express it in words.

Not all the day to dailies of parenting are like that though.  A clear-cut win or failure.  So many of my parenting moments are cloudy–I’m not sure where they fall until much later, if ever.

Like today.

One of our deals about Cooter reading the Harry Potter books has been that once he reads the book he can watch the corresponding movie.  That has gone well until this one, which is the first one rated PG-13.

Still, I was open to trying it with the crew.  Our Princess has read all of the books multiple times, and she has been waiting patiently to watch the movies after her brother finishes the books.  She has been a great encourager and cheerleader for her brother.  I am proud of her for that.  She so could have put on the pressure and made it a miserable experience for him.

I told my littles this morning that if they helped get the house in order, they could watch the movie this evening with their big sister home from college.  They were excited and eager to do so.

Until they forgot.

I was out running errands, having left them with instructions of what I expected them to do.  I even went so far as to say no electronics (aka “Minecraft”) until after I got back and approved the jobs they’d done.

Ahem.

So imagine my surprise (read: disappointment) when I came in and discovered that not only had they not finished their tasks, they were on their devices, having misinformed their sister of what their instructions had been.

Not cool.  Not cool at all.

So I now share my room with two devices which won’t see the light of day or my littles’ hands anytime soon.

Off they went.  Before lunch was ready and after–picking up, putting away, sorting, and tidying up.  Their “messes” had grown legs and traveled into more rooms than their own, so they had quite a bit to do.

From time to time or twelve, they lost their focus and started playing Legos or trying to put together their Halloween costumes or re-read the favorite parts of a book or two.

*sigh*  The struggle is real.  Focus is a lost art.

Mid-afternoon one of our Princess’ friends came over and asked if she could play.  This sweet friend came to the door with her infectious smile and bubbling over with stories from her day.  She is adorable and pretty much an answer to prayers.  She is a good friend to my middle child, and I’m thankful for her.  Princess came rushing to the door and begging me first with her eyes and then her words, “Please.  PLEASE?”

The weather here has been a mess the past several days.  Rainy, misty, and finally a little cooler to go with it yesterday and today.  It seemed rather nice, if not still a little damp out, this afternoon.  I KNOW my children need to run around and play outside and get fresh air, something they haven’t really been able to do the past few days.  Still, I wondered what kind of precedent I was setting by letting her go play when all of her picking up wasn’t done.

I let her go.

And I let Cooter go out and play too.

Their smiles and the laughter and the sounds of children’s imaginations coming up with all kinds of storylines to play out was music to my ears.  Which was good because what my eyes saw that was undone in this house was not making me very happy.

I called my two back in at supper.  I knew we were about to board the struggle bus, as I was going to have to dole out the consequences.  No movie tonight.  They hadn’t upheld their part of the bargain.  Instead of focusing and getting the odd jobs and picking up that I’d given them to do before watching the movie, they had dilly-dallied much of the day.  And then this afternoon and evening, they chose to continue playing outside instead of finishing their work.  I had even reminded them of the consequences if they kept playing.

But here’s where my heart was torn. They had chosen to PLAY OUTSIDE with their friends instead of coming in and doing what they needed to do to be able to watch the movie.

I have to say, that despite the untidy house, I’m kind of pleased that they chose outside and relationships over watching a movie.  Not happy about the house, but definitely pleased that they chose as they did.

Which doesn’t even make much sense, does it?

Well, the mess will still be here tomorrow, and I will supervise a little closer so they will stay focused.  I hope.  Together we will get it done.  And one day, probably not tomorrow, they will get to watch the movie.  And it will be spectacular.  But tonight what I’m celebrating is my children’s priorities.  Skewed as this may sound, I give thanks that they chose their friends over a movie.

And you know what else?  They didn’t really sound off much when I laid down the law and said “no” to the movie.  After the initial thirty-second pout by Cooter, they ate their supper talking about what they’d been playing with their friends and who said what, and it was wonderful.

Relationships.  People.  Every single time.

(and the house–I know.  But we will get to that tomorrow.)

I know that today wasn’t my shining moment as a parent, because I’m still confused if I handled things as I should have.  Perhaps I should have kept them locked inside until all the chores were done.  I don’t know.  Somehow it just felt wrong in that moment.

And goodness knows they sure fell asleep fast and well tonight, from all that playing and adventuring.

I might never know if any of my decisions were right, wrong, or otherwise.  All I can do, in the words of my Mama, “is the best I can with what I have in that moment.”

And that was today.

May we all choose people over the other stuff in this life.  Every single time.

Love to all.

To Moving Forward, Even When…..

Our Princess chose to learn about sea creatures this year in Science.  She has really enjoyed reading and learning, and she has shared things with me that I didn’t know.  Like the sea turtle who eats plastic bags thinking they are jellyfish, or like today.  I didn’t know that Columbus and the folks of his time weren’t really afraid of sailing off the earth.  But they were afraid of something else.

“Mama, do you have any really, really old maps?”

“I don’t know.  How old are you wanting?” (Keep in mind she has lived almost her entire life in the GPS era.)

“Well, it says in my book that mapmakers used to draw sea monsters on their maps to warn the sailors of danger, and I wanted to see what they look like.”

Ahem.  After I assured her that I most likely didn’t have any maps THAT old in my collection, I told her we could look them up on the internet and see what we could find.

We did a search and found a great number of “sea monster” maps at www.strangescience.net .  (Very interesting, check them out if you have time.)  They are really amazing to see–the detail and the imaginations.  There are drawings of sea “monsters” that date back to the 12 century and pottery pieces that can be traced back to 1st century.

Absolutely fascinating for us–we sat together and guessed what animals the cartographers might have seen that made them draw the different creatures.

Some of those creatures though, we knew they’d been straight made up in someone’s head and drawn from what they imagined was out there.

Huh.

So they imagined the worst and drew it out as a warning on these maps…..as though what they feared was real?  Giving the fear a life unto itself?

Huh.  Again.

I don’t know about y’all, but I might have been known to do that–a time or ten at least.

Taking what scares me, and bringing it to life in my head, so much so that I am afraid to move, to set my sails and take off into unchartered territory.

Frozen by fear.

There is so much to be afraid of in this world, so much REAL stuff.  When I looked at these maps today, I realize that I’ve bypassed the real stuff and gone straight to making up things to be worried about or afraid of.

Yeah.  When the real stuff that does exist is bad enough, I’m off drawing monsters that I can see in my head and trying to make them real…..because I’m that afraid.

Of something that may not even happen.

Of something that, thus far, doesn’t even exist.

Well.  It’s time to tear up that pencil and pad and find my boat.  The one that will take me places I have never been with people I’ve never met.  And where most of the things I imagined could devastate me will. NOT. even. happen.

Ever.

Tonight I’m thankful to know that I’m not alone in breathing life into my worries and letting them chase me from the next journey I should be taking.  Our people have been doing this for hundreds and hundreds of years apparently.  Fearing what may never come to be, what isn’t even real.

Tonight I’m also thankful to be reminded that many sailors apparently did sail through waters they feared might be the death of them.  They sailed on and went forward.  It reminds me of a quote my very wise cousin shared with me two days ago, when darkness threatened to shut out all of the light and brokenness tried to win over love.  The line is from “Wish I Was Here” with Zach Braff.

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Amen.  To moving forward.  Into the unknown.  Moving past our fears or dragging them along with us.  Either way, moving forward.  In the direction we were meant to go.

May we all have the wherewithal to do just that today.

Love to all.

The World Is Breaking Her Heart

Courtesy of Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute.

                                 Courtesy of Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute.

Today on this, Women’s Equality Day, the 95th anniversary of when women were given the right to vote in 1920, the following conversation happened.

I took Miss Sophie out for her evening constitutional, and the littles were riding their bikes up and down the street.  Our Princess came over on her bike and stopped where I stood with Miss Sophie, allowing her to do all the sniffs and whatnots.

“Mama, how come some people will say, when someone is screaming, ‘You scream like a girl!’ I mean, why is it an insult to do something like us?  I don’t get it.”

Oh my heart.  The tone in her voice.  She really doesn’t understand.  Just like she didn’t understand when she read about the Ku Klux Klan the other day.  It is breaking her heart, this broken world of ours.  At age almost 11, she is struggling with all that does not fit in her world of happiness, fairies, dolls, and really great books.  After all, I think she’s still sort of waiting on her letter from Hogwart’s.

And it hit me the irony that on this day, 95 years after women were given “equal” rights, I’m having to explain why doing something like a woman–running, hitting, throwing, screaming–is considered a BAD thing.

I told her the truth as I know it.  People don’t understand what is different.  They sometimes feel threatened so they use put-downs and insults and other hurtful things to keep those who are different away.

And I don’t know.  Basically, in the end, I told her we could guess and try to figure it out, but bottom line–I don’t get it.  I don’t understand.  She continued, talking about the line drawn between the boys and the girls on the street and how her brother likes to put her down because she’s a girl.

“Do you think you can talk to him?”

We talked about it, about how her Daddy sees women as his equals, and how her brother was probably just trying to show off in front of his buddies.

“Yeah, that’s why I wanted to get that folder that said ‘Girls Rule, Boys Drool’ today.”

Ummmm, no.  Just no.

Sigh.

I explained to her why THAT wasn’t cool either, really.  If we want to be equal, we need to respect the other gender the way we want to be respected.

We have come a long way in 95 years in many respects.  But the fact that a child 95 years later has heard the same put-downs and insults that have been heard for years–that we haven’t already put a stop to such as this–really hurts my heart.  That my daughter is struggling with this now and still, all these many years later, breaks it.

Tonight I’m hopeful that when we have the centennial celebration of women’s right to vote, we will be standing side by side–men and women, girls and boys–with respect and admiration for each other.  The only way for that to happen is to start now–teaching our boys and girls, daughters and sons, a language and regard filled with respect for the other person.  Comments like “You scream like a little girl” might seem funny at first glance, but really they are hurting the souls of our children–the future of our world.

May we all one day sleep the sleep that comes with peace and respect and harmony. I wish, as I tuck my two in, that it were tonight.

Love to all.

Learning with my Littles

We have begun week 3 of school here at Zoo Crew Academy.  It’s summer in Georgia, so unless we want to go out and play between 4:23 and 4:32 every morning, it’s just about too hot to do anything but keep ourselves inside.

And so we do.

With our math and writing and books and crafts and piano…..

we are staying busy.

This year, I let them choose what they would like to learn about in science.  I was hoping they would choose the same topic, but that would have been too easy I suppose.  Our Princess chose aquatic animals and Cooter chose those of the land.  I’m okay with it, because I’m hoping that if it’s something they are really interested in, they will learn more.

Today Princess was reading from her book and got quite upset.  “Mama, look at this picture!  It’s a beached whale.  Why did it have to die?”

We talked a little bit about it, and she finished her reading, still sad over what she had seen.

This afternoon as we were on our outsandabouts, the littles were watching Gilligan’s Island.  At one point, I think it was Gilligan who said, “He looks just like a beached whale.”

“Well then, I can assure you he must be dead,” quipped our Princess, without missing a beat.

Bless her.  Yes, she can assure us all of that.  Because she knows that’s what happens in many cases.

Homeschooling win.

I love it when I hear them take something they have learned and apply it later on.  That’s what I want most for them–to be able to take what they’ve learned and use it again in some way.  Some way that matters.  That’s my number one goal and wish for them as their teacher and their Mama.

Tonight I’m thankful for this opportunity to learn alongside them, to watch their eyes open in wonder and amazement, and to help them find the answers to their questions.  After all, thanks to today’s lesson my knowledge about beached whales now extends past the Seinfeld episode “Marine Biologist.”  Yes, this is definitely broadening my horizons–and that is a very good thing.

Love to all.

"Southern right whale10" by Michaël CATANZARITI - by Michaël CATANZARITI. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Southern_right_whale10.jpg#/media/File:Southern_right_whale10.jpg

“Southern right whale10” by Michaël CATANZARITI – by Michaël CATANZARITI. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons    This is NOT a photo of a beached whale. because that would have been way too sad.  And there’s enough sadness in our world, don’tcha think?