Thursday, April 23, 2015

My Island

Recently, I've felt a bit like an island. OK, not an island, as I'm far from stationary. But perhaps a small craft adrift in a choppy ocean.  With little starfish attached to my hull, of course, and another small ship that I frequently pass in the night.

I look out to the main current and I see fleets of vessels linked together, sails high and straining against the wind, braving the storm, and I wonder why I'm not there with them.  I wonder where my place amid that group is and why I seem to be struggling through the wind and rain on my own.

And then I see it.  A small group of battered boats, bearing evidence of their own battle against the storm, huddling in the safety of a beautiful cove on a small island.  They have their sails lowered and are anchored, peacefully floating in the still waters.  And then I see that the boats are empty, the voyagers of each are nestled together on the beach with their own little starfish.  Their connection is deeper and stronger than just being lashed together so that none will sink.  They are supporting each other, one holding up and loving the next.  They no longer feel the need to sail down the current searching for a port. Having all navigated the same way, they are content being on this island, their island, which is now my island too.

More boats are docking each day and there are enough of us now to build a little village.  A place where our starfish can get bigger and will feel safe, where their feet can grow so that they can navigate the oceans and strongly cling to the rocks of our island whenever the storms hit.  A place where it doesn't matter what shape their arms are or if they are vibrant pink or dusty gray. A place where they are known and loved. A place where the weary travelers can seek rest, familiar faces and support.

It's been the cold season recently and our little villagers have kept to their huts, warding off the weather.  We've missed each other.  Our starfish have grown, new ones have joined the tribe and we've needed to reconnect and strengthen our ties.  This week we finally had the opportunity to come together, to welcome the new ones and share our stories and knowledge.  It was a much needed renewal during this season of rebirth.

Sometimes I may still need to voyage out.  And often I will raise my flag to that main fleet of vessels.  But never more than today have I been so grateful for my villagers, my tribe, and my island.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

One, Two, Buckle my shoe

The winds have been strong the last few days and the weather has been warm.  As the air whips and whistles around me in a frenzy it's as if the world is expressing the current tumultousness of my mind.

For weeks I've been repeating the same thing to Whit.  "Soon, sweetheart, soon. Soon the snow will melt away and the weather will be warm....soon."  It's reminiscent of just two short years ago when I whispered those same words to myself and my overly large belly. "Soon, sweetheart, soon.  Soon the weather will warm up and you'll be ready to meet us...soon."

I  find it nearly impossible to fathom that not one but two years have passed since those days.  The time seems to slip more quickly by me as I reach out to grasp the memory of each day, to etch the ever-changing face of that tiny bundle in my mind.

The last few weeks I've been struggling.  I'm in yet another time of transition. I've climbed, resiliently, patiently, up the mountain of young motherhood and then joyfully bounded down, stumbling, of course, a few times on the way.  And now I sit, poised, at the bottom of the next set of mountains and I'm trying to decide which to climb.  Do I buckle up my gear and climb the career mountain, grappling my way through lesson plans and re-certification and student enrichment? Or do I look to see if some other mountain catches my eye?

All I know is that the mountain of early mothering is now behind me, for better or worse, I'll never be a "young new mother" again.  I've seen and experienced too much.  Even if we are blessed with other little ones I'll be the "experienced, multi-para" mom. Mostly that's a good thing.  I can share my experience and tips of the trade with other young new mothers.  I can be the wise sage whispering supportively to them.  And I'm looking forward to the day that I can wear that mantle with ease.

But for now, on this last day of having a child under 2 and in these last months before Whit climbs his own first mountain, I'm finding that the jacket doesn't quite fit; I still have a little more filling out to do.

So I suppose I'll walk the valley for a while.  I'll grow butterflies, catch fireflies and watch the clouds float by with my children, neither of whom fit into the "baby" category any more.  And I'll wait.  I'll wait for my next mountain and I'll tether my family as they prepare to climb up their own mountains.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

I'm not that kind of mother

Shortly after Eilidh was born, and even as I made preparations for her birth, I realized that I'm not the kind of mother I thought I would be.

The previous three years of mothering had turned me into someone that I had not expected to be.

Of course, can any of us really anticipate what motherhood will be like before we become mothers?  Until you have grown a human from one cell to a walking talking person using only your own body; until you have looked into that tiny face and realized that nothing else in the world really matters anymore; until you hear a small voice saying "Mommy..."

I learned as I experienced my first pregnancy and later when I studied child development that there are documented changes that occur in the female brain both during pregnancy and after childbirth.  There are hormones that sculpt and shape us to respond and care for the helpless little beings that we have been entrusted to raise.

Being someone's mother isn't something you can ever shake.  It's not a job you can quit or resign from.  It's not a hobby you can put on a shelf and pick up when you have time.  It's a change in who you are. 

I'll hold off on going any deeper here and get back to the point.  If I'm not the kind of mother I thought I would be, what kind of mother am I?  Asking this question took me on a journey of self-discovery like nothing I've ever experienced before.

I'm the kind of mother that somewhat strictly monitors what her children eat.  The kind of mother who strives to feed them organic, whole foods as much as possible.  And the kind of mother who allows her children to eat cookies and brownies for breakfast... hey, as long as they EAT!

I'm the kind of mother who teaches her children about the natural world - how plants grow, what makes the seasons, how to co-exist with animals.  And I'm the kind of mother who gives her toddler a smart phone to keep her from screaming while we drive.

I'm the kind of mother who wants to keep her children's greedy gimmes in check, who frequently uses the words need when explaining why I won't buy something.  And I'm the kind of mother who says "yes" when her child asks if he could, please, buy those cool spiderman pjs?

I'm the kind of mother who teaches her child critical thinking and problem solving skills asking "why" more times a day than an inquisitive toddler.  The kind of mother who wants to limit screen time because it's been show to decrease a child's creative thinking.  And I'm the kind of mother who wants to snuggle on the couch and just have a lazy time watching a movie and eating popcorn.  The kind of mother who, at the end of her patience, says "how about we just turn on the tv?"

I'm the kind of mother who gives my children what I think they need until they are old enough to stop asking for it.  And the kind of mother who encourages independence as early as possible.

I'm the kind of mother who stays calm, who gently explains why we can't go outside without shoes and a jacket when it's snowing outside, who has limitless patience.  And I'm the kind of mother who loses her temper and yells in frustration.

I'm the kind of mother who wants to spend every minute of every day with her child, soaking in the wonder and innocence of every stage of life.  And the kind of mother who needs to separate, recharge and be in a way I can only be without my children.

I'm the kind of mother who has full arms and a full heart with the two special little ones that I've been blessed with.  The kind of mother who wants to focus, fully, on the small family I have.  And the kind of mother who would never say no to growing her family.

I'm the kind of mother who receives odd and sometimes disapproving looks as I push my cart, singing and talking to my children in the grocery store. Who wonders if the people around me think my parenting choices are strange, or wrong.  And I'm the kind of mother who gives knowing and understanding looks (that are likely perceived as odd or disapproving) to other mothers with young children pushing their carts through the store.

I'm the kind of mother who doesn't want you to call her daughter beautiful and instead focus on her strengths, personality and beautiful soul.  And I'm the kind of mother who thinks her daughter is, obviously, the most beautiful creature I've ever seen.

I'm the kind of mother who dresses her children in matching, perfectly tailored clothing from head to toe.  And the kind of mother who's children are often running around half-dressed and mis-matched.
The early days of mothering with a 7 month old Whit

So what about the other side?

I'm not the kind of mother who has it all together.

I'm not the kind of mother who has it all figured out.

I'm not the kind of mother who knows she's doing it right.

I'm not the kind of mother that thinks I'm doing it better.

No, I'm not that kind of mother.

I'm simply the kind of mother who loves, laughs, and cries with and for her children.  The kind of mother who thanks God for every moment I get with them and tries to do her best all the time.

Just like you.

Saturday, December 6, 2014


Last Saturday my wonderful husband had the idea of loading up the kids and going out to find a Christmas tree.  I know some will find it antiquated, but I grew up with a live Christmas tree and the "hunt" for the perfect tree is one of my favorite holiday traditions.  So off we went.

Speaking of family traditions, Whit has begun his own.  For the third year in a row he has tried to make the tree hunting process as difficult and un-enjoyable as possible.  The first time, when he was just 18 months old, he ran from one end of the tree farm to the other, on a mission.  Come to find out there was a play set over the fence that he couldn't play on. Cue tears.  Last year the frigid weather had him curled as tightly to his Nana as possible while Kirk, Eilidh and I found, posed with and cut down a tree.  This year, although the best to date, he firmly planted himself in his seat and stated "I'll just wait for you here in the truck while you go and cut down the tree."  Ah... perhaps in ten years he will realize how fun it is to bundle up and traipse among evergreen trees for hours in search of PERFECTION?

Now, everyone has their own idea of a perfect tree. My mother would settle for nothing but a Blue Spruce.  My sister prefers short, squat trees that need a little love and I would always pull my father's hand in the direction of the tallest most evenly balanced tree I could find.  You can imagine that deciding on a tree in that family really did take hours with my peace-making brother saying "Can't we just get this one?" at least a dozen times.

This year I had to contend with one grump who wanted a blue tree, a toddler who just wanted all of the trees and a husband who wanted to get the process over as quickly as possible since we had just spent a good five minutes convincing Whit to just leave the truck.

But, in the end, we found the "perfect" tree.  Just like we do every year.  It was Glorious. Full branches, a beautiful texture and color, just the right height and fatness. And was it ever balanced and even had a hint of blue in the green branches.

But, just like every other year, as we cut this perfect tree from the ground, dragged it home, trimmed and placed it in the tree stand we realized just how perfect it wasn't.  Suddenly all I could see was that the tree was leaning to one side.  We had to catch the thing three times as it fell, unbalanced from the tree stand.  As the branches settled after cutting the bright blue twine away I noticed that several stuck out at odd angles and there were far more bare spots than I had remembered from just an hour before.

So there we were, with a gloriously imperfect tree.   As we breathed deep calming breaths and discussed our ignorance and poor choosing I looked Kirk in the eye and said "At least there's a good blog post in this."  Because there is.

This tree is a metaphor for our lives.  Everyone has a different idea of perfect.  And when we look at our own or others' lives for just a brief moment it's easy to see the vision of perfection.  It's only when we get the tree home and really look at the details that we realize there is nothing at all perfect about it.  There are bare spots.  There are parts of our lives that don't fit neatly together, that stick out at us every time we look in the mirror.  You never know when that perfectly balanced tree is actually going to turn out to have a twisted trunk because it has grown on a hill or had branches cut and shaped to appear that way.

And when you realize your tree isn't perfect you have two choices.  You can toss it in the burn pile and go with an artificial, always perfect tree or you can decorate what you have.  You can place ornaments like memories on the branches not to disguise but to accentuate the imperfections.  You can find the perfect bare spot for your ballerina ornament and happily place your childhood Rudolf on the top because the type of tree you have is too bendy for the ornate star topper.  You can turn the tree, just so, to find the side that is the most "normal" to show to the world and then sit back on the couch and see the tree leaning toward the wall and knowing that it's only the tight screws at the very base of the tree that is keeping everything from falling apart.

Photo Updates 2014

The first week of August I began a new job, my first since Eilidh's birth.  Just a few weeks later we moved into our new home and started the settling process.  So here we are, months and months later and I've finally downloaded pictures from the last six months from our camera to our new computer setup.  Enjoy!