Five Minute Friday: Miss

Five-Minute-Friday-4-300x300I miss my mini-van. It made life so easy with kids, pets and equipment. Everyone had a seat near a window and rarely did anyone complain that “she’s sitting too close to me”.  I had space to breathe in that car, space to be present but not super imposing even when all seven seats were filled.

Sometimes my memories become a befuddled mess though, caught between missing and longing.

I get sucked into longing for that mini-van, longing for the moments when the girls sang Disney tunes non-stop and we listened to children’s books on tape. I long for the cool spring afternoons a child would fall asleep on the way home from Mother’s of Preschoolers and I would park the car in the warm afternoon to read a book rather than wake her to come inside.

But longing is painful. It feels like grief and tarnishes the happiness of life’s moments. Longing makes me think that my happiness has passed, creating discontentment and a sadness that is not easily squelched.

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The Hare

Last night I took most of my home school materials to a used book sale sponsored by a home school group.  This is my last year teaching at home. After four years, The Hare is finishing 8th grade and will be attending a preparatory high school next year.I am already feeling that sadness seep in to my thoughts when what I should be doing is just acknowledging that it’s OK to miss her next year. I will miss our daily chats over breakfast. I will miss snuggling on the couch to read or watch a documentary. I will miss going on personalized field trips and learning side by side. I will miss hearing every detail of the book or show she just finished. I will miss listening to her same music playlist all day long. I will miss science experiments at the kitchen table and picnic lunches in the back yard. I will even miss arguing with this very analytical and opinionated little soul because at least in those moments, even in my frustration, I knew exactly what she was thinking.

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The Tortoise

The Tortoise is also graduating this year and will be attending college in the fall. I know I will miss the unexpected hugs and kisses. I will miss hearing the garage door opening after a night out and knowing that she is safely in her bed. I will miss hearing unguarded laughter both in and out of the house as we entertained small armies of kids most weekends and all summer long. I will miss the fire pit being in constant use and remnants of smore’s left on the kitchen counter. I will miss our driveway and garage crowded by a influx of cars coming and going. I will miss the impromptu runs to get ice cream and watching Grimm together after everyone else has gone to bed. I will miss her voice filling the house with beautiful music as she practiced and practiced.

I know that I need to be careful to enjoy the moments and miss the memories but not drown in the emptiness. I need to be careful not to long for days past but just be thankful or else I might miss the beauty in this next season of my life.

Now I drive a little hatchback that seats four comfortably, but rarely has more than 1 or 2.

At some point, I’m sure I’ll miss that too.

 

There are no bad people, not really

“Do you think my mom is a bad person?” Peanut asked, sitting at the kitchen counter, feet dangling over discarded flip-flops while eating a late breakfast.

“I don’t really know your mom,” I answered cautiously, “why?”

“cuz my last foster parent said my mom was a bad person and that’s why I can’t live with her right now.”

Glass mugs and metal pans clinked and clanked as I emptied the dishwasher, wondering how to approach this conversation. One of many challenges when fostering a school-aged child are the questions. Training had prepared me to answer most inquiries with a “maybe”, “someday” or “I don’t really know”. It had not prepared me to help define an 8-year-old’s perspective of his very foundation and core of his identity.

“You know me, ” he continued, “so you kinda know my mom.”

I stopped putting away the dishes and faced him at the counter, taking in every curve of his face and slightness of his body. I pictured him holding the door open for me when we came home and how he rushed outside to help me bring in the groceries. I thought about how thankful he is when I wash and fold his laundry, the way he makes his bed in the morning without being asked and helps clear the dinner dishes before I’ve even left the table. I could hear his sweet voice in my head, every please and thank you without hesitation, every made-up story or joke told. I could feel his warmth and affection from him resting his head against my shoulder while I read him a book. Most of all, I couldn’t ignore all the times I had already witnessed him put fear aside and try something new with optimism and eagerness, like swim lessons, making friends, tasting an unfamiliar food, or living with us.

“I believe there are no bad people, just people who sometimes make bad choices, ” I said carefully. “I also believe you are kind, thoughtful, honest and compassionate. I also believe that you are brave and loving. You are funny and easy to get along with, and most of all, you bring joy to the people you meet. And I believe that you are this amazing person because of your mom.”

Peanut smiled, his eyes slightly moist.

“Yeah, that’s what I thought too,” he said quietly.

It is humanly impossible to avoid all opinion about a person who can not currently care for their children. But after spending time with this child, I realized “she isn’t what I thought though. I still don’t know who she is, but I do know now who she isn’t.” (Anne Lamott, bird by bird, pg. 82)

*This post was inspired by The Daily Post

 

 

 

 

 

Perfect Moments

Two Shoes TuesdayI made stricter house rules this summer for the kids in hopes of keeping them from spending the next three months absently laying in front of the television, a computer screen or their phone. It was a well-thought plan, a list really, of alternatives to glowing screens. Things like being creative, reading a book, spending time with friends outside and helping out with a small household chore are but a few. So far, it has been effective for both girls, and it has allowed me time to focus on the things that get neglected during the school year. I can’t possibly be full-time teacher, chauffeur, meal-planner, event coordinator  and housekeeper from September to May. Summer is my time to re-group. Summer is my time to try new recipes or re-organize the closets. It is a great time to purge our basement and filing cabinets. These next few months help me prepare for the next school year, the next swim and gymnastics season.

However, it’s easy to get caught up in the daily tasks of life. There will always be something that needs or should get done.  Cleaning and organizing may be as much a mindless addiction for me as television and gaming is for my children. And I know, deep down, that having a perfectly cleaned and organized home is not a true reflection of our family. A clean house does not build relationships or create new memories or adventures.

hammock profileSo, between the sports camps and the vacations, between the running around to friends houses, and the chores, the most perfect moments are usually the ones completely unplanned. I am trying harder to look for those perfect moments hiding in forgotten corners of our day. Things like cuddling on the hammock with one of the kids while we both read a book or take  an afternoon nap together. When they are home, I’m trying to be diligent about putting down a broom and picking up a badminton racquet. I want them to remember music festivals and people watching rather than a long list of movies they’ve already seen. I want to fill our scrapbooks with goofy faces and unexpected giggles from days spent swimming in the lake.

nap outside in hammockAlthough I am aware that life is not perfect, I do believe that we can string together enough perfect moments to make life all the more wonderful.

“Life is not perfect. It never will be. You just have to make the very best of it, and you have to open your heart to what the world can show you; and sometimes it’s terrifying, and sometimes it’s incredibly beautiful, and I’ll take both. Thanks.”― Graham Nash

 

Five Minute Friday: Belong

5-minute-friday-1I picture you here, snuggled under layers of covers, watching movies with your sisters. I picture Sunday morning pancakes, Friday night pizza parties, and ice-cream runs in the middle of the week. I picture Lego building marathons, afternoons baking cookies, trips to libraries, the museums, and the soccer fields.

I picture you.

You were not a mistake.

You were wanted.

You were thought about for years.

We planned for you in our hearts, made space in our home. Our family is your family and would not be complete without you. You belong here, with us. I don’t know your name or the color of your skin. I don’t have a clue if your hair is long or short. I’m going to make mistakes and forget important things like what is your favorite food, your favorite color and your favorite bedtime story. I’ll have to learn what makes you scared and take note when you smile. But I  will learn.  I will cherish every moment, even if you are angry with me for wanting you. I will cry in private, in the shower, away from you on the days that are harder than others because I will want to greet you with constant open arms, constant love and acceptance. Life will not be the same without you and we will wonder how we ever managed before you. I will want to kiss you goodnight and ask how you slept. I will wait for the day when you let me hold your hand.

But I will not force you.

I will not rush you.

I will just keep reminding you every day that you belong.

That you are important.

That you matter.

That you are loved.

There will be no division between the children born of my womb and you, the child born of my heart.

* Today I’m linking up with Lisa Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday. Each week bloggers are asked to write on a topic for five minutes. No planning. No editing. Just five minutes straight from the heart. This week’s word is Belong.

Pour Your Heart Out: Letting Go of Her Hand

106Sometimes I feel like I am losing her too fast. We talk about her first car, first dates and college applications. My heart aches in silence. I do not want her to know I am sad she will leave soon. I do not want her to feel guilty for growing up. When she sits quietly at the kitchen counter doing homework, I remember art aprons covered in finger paint and smears of chocolate frosting on her cheeks. There are less and less masterpieces taped to kitchen cabinets or oddly shaped ceramic dishes holding nothing on tabletops. There are no more little voices story telling or singing the alphabet song. Instead, I hear voice lessons and choir concerts echoing through the house as she practices behind closed bedroom doors. And when I see her struggling, I worry and obsess about every moment, second guess every decision made, scared to death my past mistakes will negatively impact her future.

But then she comes to me, seeking me out when I least expect, freely giving unrequested hugs and kisses I crave. I am caught up in her joy and broken in her sadness. She tells me little secrets about herself, things that help me see I didn’t make as many mistakes as I thought, things that confirm that many past decisions did, in fact, provide her with the best future.

She doesn’t need me to hold her hand crossing the street anymore.

She doesn’t need me to braid her hair or tie her shoes.

She doesn’t often need me at all.

And yet, she still wants me.

Recently she was giddy over a boy asking her out on a date. The house buzzed about wardrobe options and hair accessories. She confirmed plans with a good friend over and over about the weekend’s details. A couple of days before the date, she announced that plans had been cancelled. There were no tears, no whining and no regret in her voice.

Immediately, I tried to “fix-it”.

“Mom,” she interrupted as we drove home from school, “there’s nothing to fix. I’m the one that broke the date.”

“But I just don’t understand, you were so excited,” I said.

“I was, until he showed his true colors.”

This young man didn’t like the plans made for their date and let her know very publicly his frustration. According to my daughter, he raised his voice and told her she was being ridiculous to not agree meeting him an hour earlier than originally planned.

“But what’s an hour?” I pleaded, immediately in teenage girl mode, thinking back to my own high school dating experiences, “surely you could give him an extra hour.”

My sweet daughter took my hand.

“You’re missing the point, Mom, ” she said, “he didn’t ask me to consider meeting him earlier, he almost demanded it and in a way that was humiliating in front of my friends. If he’s going to get mad about what time our first date starts, can you imagine what could happen if we disagreed on something important?”

I let that sink in for a moment.

“So I told him I didn’t appreciate his rudeness and that we obviously weren’t compatible, so there would be no date,” she added.

I was dumbfounded by her maturity. Of course she was right. She had set a boundary and he failed to be respectful. And instead of trying to make him happy and feel good about himself, she chose her own happiness and listened to her instincts, something that took me years to figure out.

“I am very proud of you,” I said tearfully, “today, you are my role model my dear daughter.”

“Funny,” she chuckled, “because while I was telling him I didn’t deserve to be treated that way, all I could hear was your voice in my head.”

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