Sunday, July 26, 2015

To my mother in the mirror

I glance up and I see her...

She is looking in the mirror, poking, prodding and evaluating.
I can see the look in her eyes; I know what she is thinking.

Her skin, while still healthy, bears an uneven tan with strange tan lines.
There are stretch marks and spider veins scattered across her body.
Her breasts, hips and abdomen are not as firm as they once were.
Her knees, which she has never loved, are even less sightly than before.
Her arms and thighs have lost the tone and muscle of her youth.
Her hair, once a naturally highlighted blond has gotten darker with age, changing into something that can only be described as "brown."
Her eyes are tired, with just a hint of fine lines around the corners.

I met her gaze and I want to shout "Don't you see?"

Don't you see that your body bears a testament to your life, it tells a story?
Don't you see that your uneven tan shows that you have spent the summer working hard outside, playing with your children, planting a garden, living?
Don't you see that those stretch marks, spider veins, and abdomen are the proof that you nurtured and grew two amazing, beautiful children within your own body?
Don't you see that your knees are just the right height for a toddler to hold on to; that you are her anchor in the world?
Don't you see that your arms and thighs are now more suited to hugging, holding and kneeling down to clean a spill or play a game?
Don't you see that I don't care what color your hair is or what dress size you wear? I only want us to have matching hairstyles and dresses that swirl.
Don't you see that those eyes communicate love, hope and security?

Don't you see?  Don't you see that I am you?

25 years ago it was you standing there, looking at yourself in the mirror as I watched on.  Now it is me.  In another 25 years it will be my daughter who I can see out of the corner of my eye.

Then, now and in the future I will silently scream "Please! Don't you see how beautiful you are?"

Me, with my two amazing, beautiful children

My mother, the most beautiful woman I know

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

When I grow up... the artist and the adventurer

In the last three months both of my little ones have added a year to their age.  Each time this happens I think "I should start a prediction page!" Thinking, of course, that each year I would write down what I (or they) think each child will be when they grow up.

So I started thinking.  When Whit was very little he had charisma.  He was loved by a lot of people and always made a good impression.  I thought, surely, he will be the President or something.  As he got older I noticed that he cared about the rules a lot more than other children his age.  Aha! He will be in law making or law enforcement.  Then there was always the athletic side of him. Will he be a baseball player, maybe soccer, maybe football? I mean, the kid can kick and throw and hit.  And what about the fact that he likes to go places but doesn't like to do new things (as ironic as that sounds)...

When Eilidh was born I often played the same game in my mind with her.  She certainly won't cut it in the corporate world with a name like Eilidh.... but perhaps she'll be an artist?  She's loved to write and draw since she could pick up a pencil.  Or perhaps she will be a counselor or a nurse, since she enjoys taking care of other people.

And then, just about the time Whit turned five, I really started thinking.  Why am I getting so worked up over what my children will be when they are grown - in  more than 20 years.  Am I really going to keep a revolving list of what I think they will be?  Am I really going to ask them every year what they are going to be when they grow up?  Although the list thus far is quite funny - Whit is going to be a ghostbuster, a football player and a firefighter/school principal.  Eilidh is going to be a bunny, or a horse, or a bird.

I've decided to stop pressuring them. My children have their entire adult lives to figure out, without any input or pressure from me, how they want to affect this world.  I've passed the 30 year mark and I'm still trying to figure out what my role in this world is.  And even those times that I've figured it out, it always seems to change, sometimes very quickly.

I guess the bottom line is if we are to remain fluid and continue to grow (although rarely taller) throughout our lives we are never truly "grown up."  And therefore we can only hope that our daily actions can compound and impact our ever changing world in a positive way.  Regardless of their profession I hope we can teach our children to work hard at whatever they choose to do, to serve as custodians rather than consumers of their planet, to love first and judge last.

Someday my children will be grown and out on their own.  I hope they are successful.  I pray they find a path in life that follow's God's plan for them.  I hope their path makes them feel fulfilled, happy, and purposeful. And I hope that I can keep my own opinions out of it.
The Artist

The Adventurer

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.