Friday, September 11, 2009

Letting go

The whole summer has been a count down of sorts as we looked towards the new school year, and N starting kindergarten. Well, at least for me. I found myself giving him extra squeezes and hugs, telling him how much I loved him, how he was getting to be such a big boy, even pulling him into my lap- because I still could.

When I sent E off to kindergarten, I was excited even as I marveled at how big she had become. For N I find myself blinking back tears as he starts on this next phase of his life. Maybe because it is that phrase about a daughter being a daughter forever, and a son is a son until he gets married. I know he is not getting married, but this is the first step of separation. He will now have his own separate life at school- his own little joys and disappointments, interactions, friends- that I will not be a part of unless he lets me in. I won't know what he is doing, and I won't be there to help him if he needs it. As I packed his lunch this morning, I fretted over if I had packed too much or too little, if he would be able to eat a peach on his own or should I cut it up (I cut it up), if he would remember his water bottle from his back pack or would he be thirsty? I even "walked" him through his lunchbox, showing him what I packed, what he should save for snack, the little wipe I had put in for him to wipe his hands before he ate. When he came home this afternoon, I found that only 1/4 of his lunch had been eaten (a couple of crackers and a treat from Aunt Cara) because he said they didn't have enough time. I think we will have to practice eating quickly this weekend!

I just look at him, and think of how little he is, how vulnerable and innocent. I know he will lose some of that innocence this year. I know it is a part of growing up, but as his mom, it is hard to not want to protect him. I just need to be in prayer for his heart, that he will do the right thing, that he will be teachable, and that he will continue to grow in his faith as he sees his need for Jesus ever more clearly in each of these steps of his life. And I have to cling to my faith too- not to be fearful as I let go, but to trust that the Lord loves my little boy so much more than I do. And the same truth that I comforted N with before he left for school, is the same truth that comforts me- even though I can't be with him at school, Jesus is there, right by his side, Always. And that is the greatest comfort of all.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Ms. Manners

Today I had some errands to run after dropping E off at school. Since I am babysitting, I had all 4 little kids with me. I am quite a sight wherever I go, and I usually get lots of second looks as people see 4 small children, close in height, and age. I get many questions as to how old they are, if they are all mine, if they are twins, etc., etc. So I wasn't too surprised in Target when an older woman stopped me at the end of the aisle and asked, "Are these your children?"

"Well, not exactly..." I started, ready with my usual stock response of 'these two are, these two are friends'.

But I was interrupted mid sentence as the woman jabbed her finger at me and snapped, "You need to teach them manners!" And then she turned on her heel and walked away.

My smile froze on my face as I tried to process her remark. It was so unexpected, and so rude, I was taken aback. I herded the boys toward the next aisle and tried to figure out what prompted her remarks.

I admit the kids can sometimes get out of hand, running down the aisles, yelling, or touching merchandise. When this happens I usually reign them in, making them walk with their hands on the cart. In fact, we had just been at Costco and the boys had been getting rowdy, and I made them sit in a time-out as I went through the checkout.

I thought back over the last few minutes. I hadn't been totally focused on their behavior as I was pondering the bed linen selection, trying to see if anything would work for the girls' room. As I perused the shelves, squinted at price tags and considered color and pattern choices, the kids were pretending to have no arms. They pulled their arms into their shirts robot/transformer style ("Ch-ch-chk") and then proclaimed they had no arms. I absent-mindedly commented each time "Aww, that's so sad, you don't have any more arms!" or "That's too bad, I really liked your arms". Then they would gleefully pull out their arms and say, "They're right here!".

So, they weren't being silent, and it might have been a little noisy as all 4 children vied for my attention, but they certainly weren't acting crazy or disruptive. The two little girls were sitting in the cart, and the boys were standing close by. As I turned the corner I remember the woman talking to the sales clerk and they both looked at me as I started to come down the aisle. The sales clerk said to the woman, "Well, thank you for bringing it to my attention". She must have been complaining about the kids and hoping that Target lady would say something to me. But when she didn't, this woman immediately stopped me at the end of the aisle, blocking my way with her cart, and decided to take matters into her own hands.

After she walked away, I went hot and then cold, trying to think of something to say in response. All I could think was "What?" It was so unexpected, I felt like I had been sucker-punched. I kind of wish I had the "where-with-all" to give some kind of snappy response, but even now, with time to think about it, I can't come up with anything.

This whole experience is a good reminder to me not to judge other moms as they are out and about with their children. I don't know what kind of day they have had or if the kids are hungry, tired, or sick. It is not for me to pass judgment on other moms' parenting skills. A little understanding and empathy go a long way.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Summer Recap

Already the summer is gone- tomorrow is the first day of school for E. I know we must be the last school in the country to be starting, or at least among the last! So before we dive into the "new year" I thought I'd give a quick recap on what we've been up to.

Let's see, where did I last leave off? Ah yes, the neighborhood ice cream party. Well, after that we enjoyed one of our annual summer highlights- a weekend in Brigantine with some good friends of ours. It was a gorgeous weekend, and despite N's fever both days we were there, we managed to have a fun time collecting shells, swimming in the warm surf, making sand castles, playing games, and just enjoying each others' company.

The kids finally got to camp out in the back yard with Ed. We had bought him a tent and sleeping bag for Father's Day, and they have been begging for a chance to sleep in it. So one weekend when we were in town, and the weather was great, Ed set up the tent. We roasted s'mores, and then we all lay in the tent for a little while before I headed inside to my bed and Ed, E and N enjoyed sleeping in the great outdoors, or at least, the great outdoors of a suburban backyard!

I was pleasantly surprised when my room mate from college, Sue, called me up to say she would like to come visit while her older kids were visiting their grandparents for a week in Maryland. She drove all the kids down from Michigan, and then came up with her 6 month old baby for 3 days. It was so good to see her. And her baby was adorable- quite possibly one of the cutest babies I have ever seen! And the kids loved him too- E wanted to hold him all the time, and K did a happy dance every time they came back from the various day trips and visiting with other friends in the area. It was really refreshing to be with her as we laughed and reminisced together as well as caught up with each other-- totally a gift from the Lord.

After Sue left, we packed up for our trip to NH. Because of boat trouble awaiting us on the other end, we had to leave a little later than planned (to give time for the marina to fix it) so we broke up our trip by staying at a hotel in Mass. It was actually pretty neat looking- with a castle front, and our room was right behind one of those front towers. The room itself was gorgeous, and we could even bring in Holly. The kids had so much fun, and K loved her little cot.

Once we got to NH, we had a great week-- lovely weather that started off very warm and in the 80's cycling down to the end of the week when it was in the low 70's and cool, but still nice (except for the last day when we had to clean up, pack up and leave across the lake in a downpour). We had some excitement in the beginning of the week when my mom took a tumble down the last few steps from the upstairs, and need to go to the ER at 8:00 at night. She, Cara and Ed didn't return until 2:30 am after my mom got 10 stitches holding together the gash in her leg!! It was a quiet year, and a bit sad as we remembered and missed Dad, but it was good to be there.

And then we got to stop over with Ed's brother's family on the way back. The kids enjoyed playing with their cousin, and we liked seeing Bill and Becky's new home.

So now the summer is over, and we are ready to take on the new school year- tomorrow will bring pictures of Ellie's first day as a third grader, and then N will be on Friday as a kindergartner!!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

a little explanation for my absence

A couple of hours ago I woke up, unable to sleep, with thoughts churning about so many different things, and I decided to finally write about it, as that sometimes helps.

I know I have neglected this blog all summer. Although we have been doing many things that I would document with pictures and think- "Oh, I should blog about this", or I had thoughts about my kids that I considered blogging about, I kind of just...didn't. It may have something to do with me being a little bit lazy, but I think it has more to do with me right now.

I have been feeling almost frozen, like I don't have the motivation to do anything. I go through each day kind of feeling overwhelmed. And it isn't like I am doing much or have an extra load of responsibility. I have actually turned down several opportunities to serve this year, because I just don't feel up to it. And the one thing I have committed to (writing questions for Woman's Bible Study) I haven't been able to bring myself to sit down and do. And my questions are due next month for my first lesson. And it is scaring me to death. Yet I still procrastinate.

I am also feeling very tender right now, with emotions close to the surface, and a ball of tension inside my chest. Each day, some more than others, I feel like I am carrying this weight in me, a sadness that I can't shake. On the outside I seem to be doing well, as I interact with my kids, smile, laugh, and have true moments of joy. Yet it sometimes feels likes such an effort, and I wonder how long it will take me to shake this. There are several changes happening socially this fall- and I am finding those especially hard to deal with. Change is not a good thing right now, it is not my friend.

And all of this can probably be traced back to the Big Change in our family this past spring. Grief is this life-sucking force that is kind of taking me by surprise. I knew I would be sad at times, but I just didn't know that it would be like this. I feel like the seed for grief was planted when we lost Dad, but now the roots are making their way deep inside me, and the loss is just becoming a part of who I am. I know it is something I will have to work through, and even let myself experience. It is a painful process that kind of reminds me of one of my kids' favorite books We're Going On a Bear Hunt. As the family in the story encounters several obstacles, they chant "We can't go over it, we can't go under it, Oh No! We have to go through it!" And that is what I have to do. I have to just go through it. As each challenge stands in my way, I need to cling to Jesus and face it. Let myself feel sad, overwhelmed, angry, but also remind myself that there is Someone walking beside me through it all. I am thankful for that comfort, but also the comfort of my friends as they have encouraged me in big ways and little. Friends who have called, written notes, sent emails, just to let me know that they continue to pray for me. Even though I haven't revealed all that is on my mind to any one person, I have given pieces of my story to different people, and it has been helpful to be able to process with someone else. So if you are one of those friends, thank-you. The road is easier when there are others who choose to walk it with you.