Easy Street, where the rich folks play.

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The first house Aaron and I lived in on our own as a married couple was actually on a street with this name.  I remember noting the irony of the situation as this was also where we brought our first child home and coincidentally where I began my quite long stint as a stay-at-home mom.  It seemed unlikely that the location of our home would live up to its name any time soon.

I pass Easy Street on a regular basis now, and when I do I think about just how easy life seemed in 2007 looking back from 2014.  In fact, I think about how easy life seemed in 2011 when I had 3 kids instead of 4, and 2 of them couldn’t walk or talk.  But definitely in the moment it did not feel that way.

The truth is, things have never felt easy to me at any time along the timeline of my life.  At some point, there have always been goodbyes, mean babysitters, unfair politics, moves, change, breakups, illness, loneliness, crushed expectations, sleepless nights, difficulty—

The opposite of ease.

But it really is all about perspective.  Of course now the idea of moving to a new house as a 10 year old who has absolutely no part in the moving process seems like a piece of cake.  No signing closing papers or writing a giant check or packing up decades worth of memories.  Just get in the car.

Of course now the thought of deciding between this boy or that boy seems like such a joke, when obviously I wasn’t going to end up with either one.  Plus one of them is fat and also bald now.

Of course now that goodbye moment with my dad at the airport (while still always a tearjerker) is not the end of my entire life.  A year passes a lot quicker now than it did when I was 7.  Or 12.  Or 18.

Of course that 15 hours I spent at the audition for So You Think You Can Dance that got me nowhere would not have gotten me anywhere even if I HAD made it to the final cut.  Where are the winners now?

Of course that night when I stayed up all night wanting to scream and cry and throw stuff while trying to get a crying infant to go back to sleep ultimately didn’t effect my future sleep habits.  She sleeps for 11 hours a night now.

But think about all the memories I have now because of those trying times.  And all the LOVE!  Sure, I could have decided not to have 4 children.  I’m pretty sure no one ever told me it was going to be easy and somehow people are still having kids.  No 75 year old woman ever says, “I wish I didn’t have all these *%!# kids”, but  a LOT of people have told me, “Raising young kids is going to be one of the hardest times of your life, but when its over you will have a big, loving family!”

And somehow I think that, even without the kids, difficulty would have found a way into my life in some other form.

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Through Heaven’s Eyes

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The other night as I stood in the doorway to my daughters room before leaving for the night, I thought she looks like an angel.  In that moment I felt the need to say, “If I was in your kindergarten class, I think we would be best friends”.  She responded, “If you were in my kindergarten class, I would play with you every single recess.”

This exchange transpired after what I considered to be some pretty heart-breaking moments for a mother.  Moments that had me questioning whether she should stay in public school.  In the past I had heard stories of mothers pulling their kids out of public school because of the way they were treated.  First of all, I thought, buck up.  One day your kid will be out in the real world and they will have to deal with people.  But I also thought my child will never have to deal with that.  Since she could talk she has made friends easily.  In fact, on her “All about me” project the first week of school, she prided herself on her ability to make new friends.

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After the first week, I asked her, “Do you have a best friend in your class?”  Her answer was, “Garrett”.  Huh?  Garrett is not in your class and he is a year older than you…and he’s a boy, I thought.  Keep your cool, mom.  “Oh, ok.  Well what about the girls in your class?  What about Kapri?”  “Kapri doesn’t like me anymore.  She said she likes Shyloh better.”  “Well you can have more than one friend, right?  Tomorrow, why don’t you all play together?”  “I tried, but they didn’t want to play with me.” :*(

Later in the week, she came home wearing a necklace with her name spelled out in little blocks.  When I asked her where she got it and she told me, “Ali made it for me”, my heart swelled with pride that she had made a new friend who apparently cared enough about her to make her jewelry.  Until a little later when she came home and I asked, “Who did you play with at recess today?”  Wrong question.  “No one.”  “Oh?  What about Ali?”  “She decided she likes Shyloh better now too.”  What?? Who is this Shyloh and why is she stealing all my daughter’s friends?  Is she bribing them with candy?

Now no one needs to tell me that I need to stop asking her about who she’s playing with and who her friends are.  Bad move, mom.  I’m new at this.  The last thing I want to do is put pressure on her to feel included.  But she’s in kindergarten and shouldn’t all the kids the be nice to each other without judgment?

Well last night I received a message from her teacher asking me if I could stop by to discuss some concerns.  My mind reeled all night long with thoughts of what could possibly be the problem, whether it related to the playground stories I’d been told for the last few weeks, and how the perfect little girl I see every day could be struggling enough to concern her teacher.  Whether my anxiety was justified or not, I entered her classroom today with my heart pounding, feeling all eyes on me like I was being sent to the principals office and everyone knew why.

However, our conversation was helpful and relieved some of my worries, as she was just seeing my daughter through the eyes of a concerned parent.  “Your daughter is very smart, succeeding very well academically,” she told me, “But she is a little…well…bossy.”  Yes, I knew this about her.  Apparently many of the kids have been turned off by her unwillingness to compromise and share.  I understand this is common and even expected, but that doesn’t make it any less difficult to hear that your child is feeling left out.

I’m struggling with the idea that THIS will be my life for possibly the next quarter century.  Maybe longer?  I hear that you actually worry about your children’s suffering long after they’ve left the nest…am I right?  Besides staying up at night with sick kids, this has been my first glimpse into the reality that my child is a real human being who is on this Earth to learn and grow, and will suffer just like anyone else.  How did I think I could prevent that?  Maybe because my daughter is special, different from the norm, raised by parents who CARE.  She is perfect.

  She looks like an angel.

This is where it hits me that, as a parent, we don’t see our children the way the world sees them.  And rightfully so.  The world can be critical, cynical, selfish.  And truthfully–regretfully–for several weeks I’ve had a resentful and even vindictive attitude towards these children (and maybe even their parents) who I believed have wronged my sweet, perfect daughter.  That is until today, when I entered the classroom, sat down with a small group as a volunteer and listened to the way these innocent children talked about their excitement for lunch, recess, their Halloween costume, the fact that THEIR mom was “coming to volunteer soon too!”  They feel no ill will towards me or my child.  How was it possible that I was feeling that towards them?  So to the members of Ms. B’s kindergarten class I say, I am SO sorry.  And also, Thank You…for helping my daughter grow into the little girl/young woman/human being that I know she can be.

And to my sweet, fun loving, beautiful–albeit bossy–little angel…I LOVE you to Heaven and back.

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Better Than a Garbage Truck

Three and a half years ago, I had just gotten back from a dance festival.  My love for dance was rekindled (not that it had ever really gone out) and I decided to get back on track pursuing it as a career.  I had a 2 1/2 year old self-sufficient daughter and a supportive husband, so the world was waiting for me.

At that point, I had spent the last 8 months desperately wanting to have another baby.  When it didn’t pan out I decided maybe it wasn’t in the cards for me.  I did have one fantastic child, and now I could have the best of both worlds; I could be a mother AND a professional dancer.  I spent hours daily looking into auditions for all kinds of things, modern dance companies, ballet companies, reality shows (and I did actually attend the So You Think You Can Dance audition).  One day I decided that if I really wanted to pursue dance professionally, I had to really dive back into training.  I hadn’t been taking classes or performing regularly for 4 years.  I enrolled in college as a part-time student at my alma mater, which was an hour drive both ways.  I would drive 3 times a week, drop my daughter off at day care, and be in class for 3 hours.  I was in HEAVEN!  Almost literally, because my body was so banged up and bloody most days I thought I might die.  But I was so happy.  It almost made it worth it that I thought I may not have any more children.

One month after the semester started, I found out I was pregnant.

I was thrilled!  Obviously this is what I’d been wanting for almost a year now, and if I could handle being back in the dance world with one child, surely I could do it with two…

The end of the semester came around and, as I was struggling to make it through a class without vomiting, I scheduled my doctors appointment for my first ultrasound.  I continued to attend class until I couldn’t take it anymore and then I had to drop out.  I’d thought about skipping the appointment I made because I’d already seen one ultrasound the first time around and I assumed it’d be much the same.  But I had a nudging that made me go.  Alone.  While my husband worked.

One healthy heart beat.

Two healthy heart beats.

And then MY healthy heart about stopped.  We were having TWINS!  I cried, and shook, the whole appointment and the whole way home.  I actually did call my husband and told him over the phone because an hour (also the distance from my home to the doc) was way too long to wait.

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Our sweet baby boys were born 6 weeks early, and after a short stay in the NICU we were headed home, now as a family of 5.  Obviously my dance career was put on hold but that was perfectly fine because my children were perfect and I was only  28 years old.  I had plenty of time.

When people would ask me if having twins was WAY harder than having a singleton, I would respond, “No its surprisingly not!  I’m changing a diaper already anyway, I may as well change two :)”.  And it really wasn’t that hard, until they started being mobile.  It was at that point that everyone in my life began telling me, “You’re NOT thinking of having any more children right?  You’re done.”  Usually it came in the form of a statement, not a concerned question.  Usually I would laugh and just say I didn’t know.  “Maybe one day but definitely not in the near future.”  But for some reason my heart was already yearning for another when my not-yet-toddler twins were just a year old, although my desire for a dance career was still just as strong.

Baby #4 came just 11 months later.  This pregnancy was different.  Harder even than my twin pregnancy.  I’m sure no one had this intention, but I felt judged.  While during my first and second pregnancies I felt the need to tell everyone and show it off, this time I wanted to hide and if someone found out I felt I needed to apologize.  I felt like the judgment was coming from people thinking I wasn’t able to care for this many children, that it wasn’t fair to them or to me to keep adding more to an already stressful situation.  I told myself they were probably right and that this was it for us.

IMG_1221Any reservations I had about our decision to have another disappeared very quickly as soon as this sweet little boy was born.  I am in love.  And being in love with him makes me even more in love with my other children.  He is 9 months old now.  He’s making life more challenging with each passing day as he is now crawling, standing, feeding himself, all the things I previously had control over.  It is HARD.  Parenting is so hard (see this post).  But I have to be honest.  I don’t think he’s our last child.

The other day the kids were watching a Little Tykes show on the computer while I was cleaning.  I overheard some dialogue between the toy car and a stuffed bear.  The car had just been thrown into the back of a garbage truck on accident while he was attempting to ask the truck if he could help him with his job.  As the truck sped down the road towards the dump the little car worried that he wouldn’t see his owner again.  The little bear overheard his concerns and said, “You’re someone’s toy?? I think being someone’s toy is the greatest job anyone could ever have.”  The car asked,

“Really? Better than being a bulldozer?”

“Uh huh”

“Better than being a garbage truck?”

“Definitely better than being  a garbage truck.”

“Better than being a fire engine?”

“Lots better.  Fire engines don’t have homes or little boys who love them.  You’re really lucky”

“Hmm.  I guess I am really lucky.”

Somehow this silly show struck me really hard.  Especially when a few days later I was in the same room as the computer and all of a sudden I heard “You’re someones toy?” and the rest of the conversation ensued as I listened a second time.  I asked my husband if he turned it on just for me because he thought I needed to hear it.  He laughed and said no.  He had just woken up the computer to do something else and then left the room.  Apparently the computer had a mind of its own.

I also heard some very profound words today quoting a leader in our church, M. Russell Ballard.  Speaking of the responsibility of parenthood, he said,

“Be the very best and act the very best you can.  God will give you strength beyond your own as you strive daily to fulfill the most sacred mortal responsibility He gives to His children.  Be of good cheer.  God did not place you on earth to fail, and your efforts as parents will not be counted as failure unless you give up.”

Don’t get me wrong, I am SO grateful there are talented artists of all kinds who have chosen this as a career.  It fills my heart with joy to witness these beautifully gifted dancers, musicians, fine artists, etc. sharing their talents with the world.  They make the world a more beautiful place.  I am a dancer and I always will be.

But I am a Mother.  That is the job I have chosen.  I CAN do this, whether I have one more or five more or no more.  It was no accident and as arbitrary as my days may seem, these are the days that are going to help me reach my ultimate goal: Being in Heaven with my family for ever.  And as short as this life is compared to eternity, I think I can manage the decade or so of changing diapers, sleepless nights, picky palates, and rolled eyes.  It means I get to say I love you to someone every day.  I get to HEAR I love you every day.  And little kid hugs are just the best.

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Happy Place

It was called to my attention that my posts are sounding pretty sullen and melodramatic.  I had to ask myself, “Why did you start writing?”  At first it was to have a place to moan and groan, but then I asked myself, “Well then why don’t you just write it in a nonpublic place?  If you just need to get it off your chest then why do people need to see it?”

Answer: I feel like I have something to share.  But do I want to share things that are going to take people down with me?  Not really.  I would LOVE for the things I have to share to be worth someones time to read.  There is so much in this world that is NOT worth our time.  When I read an inspiring article, I want to go out and make the world a better place.  Pay it forward.  So while I started out to just write for me, I have to realize that when I put things out in the universe it’s going to effect people.  I have to choose whether I want to effect people in a negative way or a positive way.

I’d like this blog to not only be MY happy place, but your happy place too (if you happen to be stopping by)!  So can we start over??  Thanks.  Moving on.

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My daughter and I were playing tic-tac-toe the other day.  Its not clear to me which one of us was X and which was O because they both look pretty haphazard.  I’m pretty sure she was purple and I was green, and she decided she liked O better half way through.  She has a pretty serious “loser” face so I braced myself when the only spot left was obviously not going to give her a win.  But her response was “At least it made a pretty picture!”  I love this girl.  She teaches me so much.

Happy Labor Day !