Good Instead of Evil...

There is something about entering a room where my youngest has been that is distinct. It doesn't matter where he is in the house currently - when he's been in a room and I walk into it, the same feeling washes over me every time.

Photo by Eric McDuffie Photography
You can call it my incredible mommy instinct or credit our unbreakable mother/son bond if you like (and I hope you will), but whatever the reason, it conjures up feelings and sensations that have no comparison.

As I write this I'm trying to find the right words to describe what it's like to come into a room when a precious child born from your womb (or grew from your heart) has recently bestowed sweet hands and curious minds to an unsupervised area for even the most shockingly short snippet of time.

It reminds me of something...what is it?

Oh. Ha. That's right.

A Crime Scene.

The room reminds me of a crime scene. And that feeling that washes over? It's the dread you feel when you simultaneously don't want to look at something yet you literally can't turn away.

A room in shambles.
A cabinet door swinging on it's hinges, making a creaking noise for like the first time ever.
A chandelier spinning from a mysterious wind gust even though all the doors are closed. 
Some empty container with no idea where the subsequent "spill" is until you step in it. 
A worried dog with a look in her eyes as if posing the silent question, "Does this reflect badly on all of us?"

It's a room full of terrifying clues and a mystery crime. One I can't figure out. I undoubtedly stand in the doorway for a few minutes like Angela Lansbury in an episode of Murder, She Wrote, taking in the scenery, listening to sounds and trying to figure out WHAT has taken place in this room.

Where is the dead body?

Photo by The Creative Exchange on Unsplash
Usually it's the kitchen. And usually it's in pursuit of food.

He'd rather rip open and eat shredded mexican cheese off the floor than ask me for a string cheese.

He'd rather scale the pantry shelves for a sleeve of stale Saltines (because you only buy them when  you're sick and never finish the package - hence the staleness) than ask me for some goldfish.

He'd rather fill a decorative canister with water (with decorative holes that allow the water to spill out) than ask me for a juice box.

On the one hand, I get frustrated that he is capable of such grand scale destruction. On the other hand, I get a tinge of excitement at the problem solving and independence he shows. I mean, really, WHY ask mom for something when you can stack five chairs on top of each other?

Drop him in the wild and I'm convinced that he'll be fine.

I think what I like about it is the show of what his powers are going to look like when he's older.  You know, when he uses them for good instead of evil

It's fun to watch the different strengths of your children shine through while they are young. They are taking their talent baby steps and practicing their sets on the best cheerleaders they know.


And it's exhausting.

I love that my oldest son, like my sister, just needs a clipboard and a small country to run - that'll work in his favor when he's older and we are short on dictators.  (If you need one now, he'll be looking for some summer work).

I love that he can negotiate my cell phone out of my posession using only 4 or 5 words and no visual aids - that'll be fantastic when he's a crisis negotiator one day.

I can't wait until my youngest grows up and is somewhere when food needs to be located - maybe that'll be a job one day.

Photo by Senjuti Kundu on Unsplash
And don't even get me started on my son and his number times and departure estimates are hotly debated by this literal boy. Don't tell him something will happen in 10 minutes unless you mean it...he'll grab your phone and set the timer.

Math guru in the making? Maybe. It makes for stressful dinner preparation now - that's for sure.

I think it's amazing how we have all been uniquely gifted. It's fun to see the stuff bubble up in your kids that you KNOW you did not teach them and are qualities you don't even have. It just shows how remarkable we all are. It shows how many different kinds of people it takes to make such a beautiful world. And despite what the news says, it IS a beautiful world.

So today, at Christmastime, I'm celebrating the host of gifts that our kids bring to the table. Things that make us proud. The things that exasperate us.

And mostly the things that while we are reprimanding them for doing them, we are simultaneously thinking, "I cannot WAIT to see you grow up and use that skill for good instead of evil."

In the meantime, I'll keep my ears open, a broom nearby and some crime scene tape at the ready.

What strengths in your children excite you?

I'm Just Gonna Let This Happen

The older I get, the more selective I become about what parenting hills I'm going to die for. Some might think that's because I've grown and matured as a parent and I want my kids to learn about life through their own choices and experiences.

And that answer sounds pretty good so I'll go with that.

I am pretty sure I envisioned that I would be able to rein in my kids a lot more than I actually do.

In my early years of parenting, I was motivated to control my children based on three things: 1.) their potential for germs,  2.) preventing harm to themselves, and most importantly 3.) what others would think about me as a parent.

At this point in the game I pretty much just aim to keep them alive. The rest is completely negotiable.

Sam spent a good amount of his childhood telling everyone about the time he spent living in the orphanage. Except he called it the "orphan image" which would have been really cute if I hadn't been slightly offended that he invented such an outlandish backstory. I spent a lot of time trying to psychologically understand why he insisted he had lived in an orphanage. Did he use a pacifier too long? Should I have co-slept? Did he need more Kale? It was finally brought to my attention that every good superhero was orphaned.

I thought about explaining that he could be a super hero AND have parents, but, really...why? a fake orphan.

I'm just gonna let this happen.

Besides, I started to enjoy the confused looks on people's faces when he would tell the story about the "orphan images" annual rock day - where all the kids were gifted rocks.  Plus, it was apparent the more he talked about it - that we were a definite upgrade in the living conditions department.

Sam has almost exclusively gone to bed with a stuffed animal and a blanket since birth. I monitored his sleeping conditions constantly.

Last Tuesday Wesley refused to go to bed unless I tucked him in with 8 AA batteries. He kept telling me he was making a "perquit" with them.  Honestly, I don't know what that is and I'm embarrassed to ask him because I'm not ready for him to know he's smarter than I am yet.

Anyway, no Paw Patrol book or stuffed animal could rival the comfort that those "perquit" makers were giving him. So fine. Whatever. Sleep with batteries.

I'm just gonna let this happen. 

After he fell asleep I confiscated them because, well, we had remote controls to fill.

Sam's first Halloween, I dressed him up as David from the Bible, complete with sheep and sling shot.

This year...

Me: Sam, you aren't going to be a killer for Halloween. End of story.
Sam: I want the Jason mask and the Freddy Krueger sweater...and I want some hatchets.
Me: That's ridiculous. You can't mix Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street. It won't make any sense.
Sam: Don't you see, mom. It will make perfect sense.
Me: *at checkout paying for the killer costume*  Fine. Be a killer for Halloween. But if anyone under the age of seven asks, you are a clumsy hockey it?

I'm just gonna let this happen. 

In all fairness, David was also a killer.

Look, I'm not proud that my standards have nose dived. I want my kids to be kind and respectful human beings. I want them to be happy. I will die for that hill. I want my kids to understand some important things about life.

Don't be a bully.
Don't believe a bully.
Remember there are consequences for everything you do.
Think about them.
Be kind.
Work hard.
Be the one who is inclusive.
Congratulate the winners.
Congratulate the losers.
Try hard.
Don't quit.
Not everything is personal.
Listen at least as much as you talk.
God is always there, talk to Him.
Kill bugs so your mother doesn't have to.

But so many other things, just won't matter later and if the last two years with my youngest have taught me nothing else, I've learned that it's impossible to catch, cover and control everything.

Sometimes you have to say...

I'm just gonna let this happen

So dress up as something scary for Halloween.
Be a fake orphan.
Sleep with batteries.

Just let it happen. It will be fine. 

Truth over Tea

For over nine years, I woke up early in the morning, got dressed, kissed my kids (or sent them off to school) and left my house to go to work. I was a work outside of the house mom. I have never really minded it. My husband's schedule has always been in the evening and we've managed to juggle child-raising fairly well over the last decade of parenting. Some days it looks prettier than others.

Around six months ago, working outside of the home started to get really hard.

I have always had great, understanding, family-oriented employers, but I remember feeling tired, behind and stressed - even more than usual.

Now, I have a great, cut through the crap friend named Esther. Everyone should have an Esther. We worked together at my last job and one day she came into my office to fix her daily cup of tea, and as she dipped the tea bag in and out of the hot water, she looked at me as I frantically texted some instructions to my husband and said, "You feel like you are running a household from your phone don't you?"

I stopped. My eyes welled up with tears. She had gut punched me with an undeniable truth. She had 
perfectly encapsulated months of stress and worry in one tea steeping sentence.

I was feeling like I needed to be home, but I couldn't be, and that was breaking me.

I had been spending months beating myself up because I was tired and stressed and cranking out a daily life that was just not a reflection of my full potential. My life wasn't working but as far as I could tell, it was my fault.

When in reality, at that moment, life was too much and I wasn't acknowledging it. My youngest son needed a lot of consistency that I wasn't there to give him, my dad was sick, our childcare situation was different everyday, Andy and I were barely ever in the same room together and I just felt like I wasn't giving anyone my best. I was spreading myself out in a thin, unsatisfying layer over every obligation I had, and it felt terrible.

And I wasn't where I was needed the most. 

And all I could do was tell myself to try harder. To do better. To be more.

After that encounter, I began to squeeze my eyes shut on a regular basis and admit to God that life was just too overwhelming. I didn't know what else to pray other than, "Something's gotta give, Lord...and it can't be my 15 year old car or my lower back."

I didn't know how or when or in what capacity the seas were going to part and I was going to see some relief, I just clung to the belief that my motives were pure and my prayers were sincere and God was listening.

In a very short amount of time, my life drastically changed. I got an unbelievable opportunity to work from home that came with the flexibility to focus my attention on my home and my family.

And after a week of being a work at home mom, my house was spotless, my kids had the Bible memorized and I began making all of our furniture and clothes by hand.

OR perhaps...

I spent the first three months perched on the end of my couch in my pajamas with a laptop while my kids circled me like cats studying a new piece of furniture. No one knew what to do when I was home. My k-cup consumption was out of control and I think by week three I heard my husband mutter under his breath, "Is she going to get dressed today?"

My potty training child was indicating his accidents by simply walking into the room and screaming DAMMIT at the top of his lungs before heading to the bathroom. My nine year old didn't know what to do so he just talked to me about You Tubers for most of the day.

I did start going to the gym again but when my trainer asked me my fitness goals I told him I just wanted to be able to evacuate my house at 3 in the morning if there was a fire without getting stuck in that my-lower-back-is-hurting and I can't move pose that was a hallmark of my mornings. 

So, as it was, the transition was not magic. It took several months to train everyone on how to have mommy at home all the time. Oh, and I had to get off the couch to give the cushion a chance to recover from my butt print and I had to vow to brush my teeth. (whatevs)

This weird world of being a worker bee and being at home was a whole new animal that I wasn't at all sure I would do well. And honestly, at first, I really didn't.

Yet - somewhere in the midst of working out our routines, I noticed that the pit in my stomach was gone. That I wasn't feeling frantic anymore. That I knew in the course of the day, no matter what happened, I was exactly where I needed to be.

I wish I could tell you that the calm in my house is a result of everyone knowing that mom is home, but in reality, I have become calmer and that has permeated throughout our home and been just what we needed. 

I will always be grateful for the truth Esther spoke to me that day over tea.


In other news, you may have noticed my blog has undergone a face lift. I am working to fulfill my "when I turn 40," goal of writing my fingers off. I am ghostwriting a lot, freelancing a lot and trying to figure out what original words, if any, that I might have to say and in what genre I would like to say them in.

I had a magazine recently accept an essay I wrote, which was very exciting and they wanted to know my twitter handle - I don't tweet. I have way more words to say than they will allow. But in the meantime, make a note of my new blog address - and pardon the mess.

Thanks for reading.

Cleaning Out the Garage or New Life Chapters

The thing is - you get married and you just sort of climb into that big pot of water, next to the frog and you sit down and just hang out.  And the water boils...and time moves on...quickly. You are blissfully unaware of the passing of time save for the occasional size clean out of your kids clothes.  You wipe a tear when you find last years school picture or an old toy, but you overall keep working to get somewhere.

It's the anticipation of the top of the first drop in a roller coaster that keeps you distracted. Life is a roller coaster. There is a top, a jumping off point. You are working to get to that crest, where you can look out with satisfaction over the horizon and hang on for the awesome ride down...

Only you KNOW when you are at the top of a roller coaster. Life's top is elusive. It is the "yonder" of living. A generality that draws a slightly out of focus picture.

Growing up, I used to ask my grandmother where something was, she would always gesture her hand in a direction and say, "Oh that's down yonder." I could be asking where the towels were or where the video store was and it would always be yonder.

For those not southern, yonder basically means, "Look I don't feel like explaining where it is, but it isn't right here in my hand." It's yonder *flails hand in a direction* which in the case of the towels meant you just needed to shut up and go find them.

The halfway point of life isn't here, it's yonder. *flails hand in a direction*

You don't get there. You don't linger. You don't look around and savor that you "got somewhere"  You just sort of end up racing downhill thinking, "Oh geez when did that happen?"

When did my music become oldies?

When did I become ma'am?

When did I get to this weird space where I'm older than everyone but I actually fully believe I'm the younger one?

Today we cleaned out the garage. I'm fine with it. Really.

Yes, we can get rid of the problem. It got recalled like two weeks after my oldest was born anyway.  Plus. Babies. Done. Check.

The wagon we used one time? Okay? I was still holding out hope that we'd use it a few more times but we can't even get to it where it has been wedged in between the Christmas decorations and the Recycling bin. So fine, toss it.

But then at some point I came across a bin with my name on it, and when I opened it, I came face to face with myself from ages 16-27. It was full of photo albums and notes and awards and wedding invitations and graduation paraphernalia. It was over a decade of me. Who I was. Who my friends were. What I thought. What I wanted out of life.

It wasn't really about the stuff in the box, okay a little bit it was. After all, I had a fascinating hair evolution. But it was more about what that box represented.

It was like getting reacquainted with an old friend. One I liked. Yes, she was a tad melodramatic and had unbelievable amounts of free time that she squandered, but she had great taste in music and most importantly she had big dreams.

Somewhere over the last several years, I had simply lost track of this fiery dreamer.

I honestly don't know what happened in that garage today.  One moment I'm a steel magnolia of emotional memory tossing and the next I'm sifting through my sweet sixteen birthday party pictures, tearing up while hearing See You at the Crossroads playing on a loop in my head.

Yes by Bone Thugs-n-Harmony...the battle cry of my youthful angst (perceived).

It's hard to think, but my stuff is memories.  And like - some are kind of distant ones.  I now describe things that were 25 or 30 years ago and my kids look at me incredulously when I talk about days of no internet and no cell phones or what the heck a pager was even useful for. A question, by the way, that I CANNOT answer.

Me talking to my kids about the days of yore: You sent a page to tell someone to call you. Yes, that meant they had to go find a phone. Why didn't they just have a phone? Look, no more questions, okay. 

I give up in frustration as my kids stare at me in honest confusion. I recognize the looks.  It's the same way I looked at my parents when they talked about four t.v. channels and a test pattern that indicated that the t.v. was off for the night or when my dad calls detergent, soap powders.

They look at me like I'm a dinosaur.

I am roughly 7 months into my 40's. I have two boys who are developmentally getting more independent everyday. I have fully climbed out of the storm shelter that is babyhood - where you hand yourself over at the door so you can bring babies in to the world.

And although being a work from home mom means I still sometimes take a conference call while simultaneously jumping up and down on a towel to clean up the urine on the floor, (is it the dog, is it the kid? Does it even matter anymore?) I know I am staring ahead at a new chapter in my life.

And I'm not at all saying that chapter is bad. I'm SO looking forward to peeing alone. I hear it's amazing.

It's just strange. And these nostalgic, emotional feelings hit me when I'm not expecting it.

Like when we're trying to clean out the garage and my husband is asking me if I want to keep the Christmas tree skirt and I'm clutching a picture of myself with freshly crimped hair and big hoop earrings wondering what happened to my Caboodles.  

So I's to new chapters, Salt and Pepa being oldies and clean garages.

Cheers, Gen X-ers, we can rock this half of our lives too.