Ordinary Kids

ordinary

 

So it’s getting to be that time of year again. Some years, I get to participate, other years I’ve been able to skip it. Those are the years we save our money and our sanity.

What you wonder am I talking about ?

Having the privilege to graduate another child out of school.

The culmination of years of homework, teacher meetings, open houses, class parties, field trips, school projects, peanut butter sandwich lunches, new clothes shopping, tons of school supplies, sleep overs, class birthday parties, band concerts, yearly school pictures,¬†dances shows, football games, fun and unexpected calls from the Principal ( if you have boys you may understand this better ūüėČ ) early morning practice sessions, after school tutoring, school dances, boy friends, girl friends, college applications, college testing…

Ok.. I could go on… the list of things you do in a child’s school career is rather vast and endless. At times you wonder if you’ll ever get to the end of it.

I can say I’m there. My final one is exiting school and heading into the big world with college in her future.

We’ve ordered announcements, taken final pictures, and done the hundred and one things that seem to come crashing in the last few months of school.

I gotta admit this. She’s the last of my big brood.¬† By this time I’ve pretty well felt like I could lead parent/teacher night. Or that I could predict with certainty that when I showed up for another year starting in dance, it would be same lines, new year. Or that some things in school just never changed much and it was comforting already knowing the drill on it.

I was the older, smarter more seasoned mom. I figured that in a few years they’d get it too… it takes some moving through the ranks before you learn you can say “no” to things.. ¬†ūüėČ

By the time¬†my daughter hit Senior status I was pretty much like… “just deliver me the necessary paperwork”.

I knew the drill for it all. Many of teachers through middle and high school had already had the rest of the crew… a new year was like old home week… meet and greet… just another new family¬†face rolling through their room.

Although in all fairness to my daughter, one of my sons had made quite a um…mark… on several teachers going through various grades.. she’d get the “ohhhh… you’re so and so’s sister?”

If you have kids then you may have one of these… the high energy, high maintenance, social, outgoing never slow down, yet charming,¬†kid.

Anyway, thankfully, the daughter child was probably a bit more quiet and laid back than previous brood members who went through.

No matter what the bottom line was this…

Get them through. Get them on that stage wrapping their hand around that cherished diploma.

I swear when middle son walked the stage it was ALL I could do not to stand and cheer and whoop like some wild woman. There were debatable days in his final year I¬†wondered if we’d make it.

Now each class has it own “cream of the crop” the “cr√®me de’ le cr√®me” right? You¬† know the ones who’ve been marked since first grade to be the Validictorian ? Every kid in the class knows it. They simply accept it as what’s going to be and move on.

Then there’s the whole “class ranking” thing which was making my daughter get all twitchy one day till I reminded her…

“they don’t hang a number around your neck when you walk the stage. No one will know, and honestly, no one cares..”

I reminded her when she’s out in the real world it will be completely irrelevant as well.

Then there’s the whole college thing. The angst of wondering if one will want her… if¬†she will “make the cut” or be found acceptable. It doesn’t help when her friends are collecting admin letters like candy at a parade.

I reminded her that she could only go to one school and she will still get her degree to do what she wants.

In a community that’s big on pushing college it’s a lot of pressure on kids ( and parents) to feel like they need to perform up to some lofty expectations.. who’s.. I’m not sure…

’cause you¬†see I have ordinary kids and it’s ok.

I’ve never tried to make them do things they didn’t want to do.

Support them in their goals and plans, yes. Push my agendas and desires on them, no.

We learned the hard way when we registered my oldest son for a semester of college, paying cash for it so he wouldn’t have any debt. He went like… three times? and then he said something that really paved the way for the rest of the brood yet to come down the college path way…

He said “you never asked me what I wanted to do. IF this was what I wanted”

Ouch. Point made.

Did I consider him any less successful for not jumping on the college boat? Not at all. My son has always had an artistic bend and was in a band. He traveled around the country for months with them. He lived every 19 year old young mans¬†dream… being in a band in a new town every night, living for those moments on stage. ¬†Living in new places and eating off value menus and sleeping folded up in a van driving down highways in the dark of night. He didn’t do that forever. He settled down and works with his brother now in a family business.

Two of my other sons have wanted to pursue college. One went for awhile and then quit to take on a floundering business that he has turned into a success over the past few years.   One is in college right now working on his degree.

But through these years of raising kids and wanting them to find and embrace what their own passion is I realized it’s ok, really ok, for them to be ordinary.

And I don’t mean that in¬† a plain vanilla way or that they lack value, substance and intelligence because they are all¬†very bright, funny, and clever. They know how to learn and teach themselves things and they are always actively learning.

I mean they don’t have to live someone else’s ideals or expectations or get caught up in the hype with friends and feel like they are somehow “less than” ’cause they perceive the friends are somehow more successful. I don’t¬†need to have them do things to feel validated as a parent.

I saw a T-shirt recently that made me laugh ’cause it’s how I feel so often. It said:

“Worlds okayest Mom”

Maybe I need to buy it. It reminds me I can be me, can be the best mom I can without having to “do it all” or be at every meeting or every event, or get my kids into Harvard.

At the end of the day its about my kids being happy, successful, productive  adults and maybe even a bit, ordinary.

However, if they make an impact in their personal worlds and are decent human beings, I will consider them, and myself, quite successful indeed.

 

 

 

The Joys Of Raising Boys

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For the record… these aren’t mine ūüėČ

 

 

I perched on the metal bleacher shielding my eyes from the sun, my gaze fixed out on the field.¬† I listened to the random chatter of parents and children around me. It was a typical spring night and I was watching an…exciting…. or should I say… amusing… game of T-Ball.

However, it was the tall. good looking, lean man I watched prowling the field actively talking to the small creatures at his knees.

It wasn’t my son I was watching play ball, but my grandson, and my son was the Coach.

I got lost in thought wondering where time had gone and wasn’t it only yesterday I was the mom at the games with Goldfish crackers and¬†juice boxes, with my other children running around with me ?

Actually, I was quite comfy being there in my “grandmother” role. It was nice to not have to juggle children, sloppy juice boxes or deal¬†with crying babies. ¬†It is true what they say about being a grandparent… it is fun in a very different way ūüėČ

However, before I got to be a grandmother, I had to do my duties as a mom.

I was blessed, privileged and I guess special, to be able to have not one boy, but three.

Yes. Three.

By the time the third came along, I felt like a total pro with the whole boy thing. I didn’t know if I’d even be able to raise a girl ( side note, we did get some later from foster care, but that is for another post)

Anyway, son number one was a quiet, easy going, laid back kid. He just rolled with everything. He knew how to play and was easy to entertain. He was creative and smart. He wasn’t complicated or difficult. ¬†He was my little buddy for 3 1/2 years before son number 2 came along.

Culture shock.

Why aren’t parents told this secret.. this dark truth…. ???

Perhaps if they knew families would only have one child.

What is it you may be wondering ?

Well when you’re inexperienced you have this weird, but unspoken idea,¬† the next child you create will be, well, like the first.

It somehow, never crosses your mind that the next one will be different.

Vastly. Different. Earth shakingly different.

When my second son didn’t waste any time getting into this world, I joked that he arrived with an attitude that was like…

“WHERE’S THE PARTY??!”

High octane, high energy, always with a thought or opinion, head strong, stubborn, driven to be successful, not settling for something when he knows he can do better. Social and out going, he doesn’t meet a stranger. ¬†The two of us went through the fire and back many times as he grew up. I think because we are wired so much alike has something to do with it.¬† He is my male counterpart. There were tears and angst and some sleepless nights as we grew up.¬† (he is the one who is the Coach)

He was as different from my first as oil is from water.

He was the shopping cart in the store you had to always keep a firm hand on or it would go wildly careening off to the left into a display of Twinkies.

My parenting game just got challenged.

When we decided to plan our third and last child it was with the idea it was the last one regardless of what we were given. Since I was old school and like surprises, we never knew what we were having till they were born.

When our third entered the world, I realized I was now mom of three boys.¬† He was the exact image of his dad, my smallest baby, and adored by all of us. As the third in line, I guess he just adapted to life and learned to just roll along with whatever was going on. He was quiet, but engaging. He loved books ( I read to all of my boys)¬† I’d often find him in his room, with his fav books, ¬†“reading” which was more like telling the story he remembered from the pictures.¬† He too, was fairly easy going but I’m not sure if child three just learns to be like that to keep up with everyone else.

Raising boys, in some ways, is a fairly easy task.

At a point, they refuse to let you put them in cute little clothes and opt for just jeans and t shirts. They typically don’t turn their nose up at what you might bring home, and they don’t have any sense of a fashion style.

They are simply, dressed.

Well, they are dressed most of the time. Hopefully, when they are outside they have clothes on, although at times, that was sketchy

There were those times… thank goodness we live in the country and didn’t have neighbors to really worry about ūüėõ

As we moved through the early years of childhood, which seem now, to have been very, very simple times, we approached¬† the teenage years.. it wasn’t all bad… but there were times that were definitely a bit on the heart stopping edge.

I think what I loved about the teen years is the friends they brought home. Some came and went, others, I would often tease and ask if we were adopting them and were their papers in the mail yet ? Some literally moved in for periods of time.

They all knew how to eat ūüėČ

My cookies never seemed to last long and dinner would need to be doubled up on.

They came in all types of dress and attire. When my oldest joined a band, I had more black leather, metal, chains, make up and boots in my house than a Hot Topic store.

My son taught me through that experience to never judge a book by it’s cover. Under those make up, leather and chain clad young men, were fun, entertaining and sweet souls.¬†¬† Maybe that’s why today I’m attracted to, and enjoy people who are obviously different and push the envelope from the norm.

Raising boys not only meant plenty of food and treats, but experimenting in different sports along the way.

All three toyed in them. Only one I believe had a deep passion for it. My oldest ( in the band) leaned more into arts and didn’t just play music but was also a clever and creative artist.

We let them pursue what they found interesting, and hopefully find themselves in it.

We went through seasons of sports, skateboarding, all types of music, all styles of dressing as they matured, band concerts, game days etc…

Yet, in the mix of ball games, school, activities, friends, and daily life my sons grew up.

Sometimes I find myself marveling when they walk in a room… like…

“I made those beautiful creatures!”

As grown men now, I find myself in the same role, but different as well. I’m still mom. Still the one that will call them out on things or offer up my advice.

But I enjoy the friendships with them too. The talks over the table after dinner, the silliness they still deliver up or at times, the random off beat things they can say that make me laugh, the¬†stories that are revealed to me from childhood ( you know…stuff that you don’t want your mom to know at that time? but now that you’re an adult you can share with her? )

Oh…some of that stuff that has been revealed… has chilled my blood… and I’ve had to remind myself that they are sitting there with me, safe.

Or things that they know among themselves but in some way, sought to protect me from.

Having sons means you have all of these “protectors”.¬† Which isn’t a bad thing.. and is often a sweet gesture.

Or when they come in and hug me… I’m tall… but they are a lot taller… there is something precious about those huge man hugs that I get now.

So I sit at times, lost in thought at the T Ball game, reflecting on life and raising boys and pondering how time seems to have moved oh so swiftly through those years.¬† I sit and watch, amused, often giggling at the antics of the kids on the field who are there to just have fun and enjoy life. They aren’t hung up on winning yet or overly competitive, they are mostly there for fun. They run and jump and play.¬† They have to be directed in what to do. My grandson is often happily skipping to the next base.

They all look forward to the treats that will come at the end of the game. They come flying into the dugout area, with their sweaty little faces eagerly looking up at the appointed mom who delivers them for the game. Treats in hand, they go scampering off to eat, run, and play with their friends.

Even with all the up’s and down’s that can come with raising¬† boys, the trials and difficulties,¬† laughter and tears, joys and frustrations, there is a beauty in all of it.

The beauty now of watching my grown son, with his son, and all of these pint sized creatures following him around as he works with them is priceless.

So I sit and I watch. I laugh and smile.

And I think…

I think¬†how blessed I am to have been given such precious gifts in my sons and how fortunate I am to be able to watch my grandson… even if he is skipping and chasing butterflies out on the field as he heads to the next base.

 

Mom 101

Moms. If we all share one thing in common, we don’t get into this world without one. If we’re fortunate we grow up with one that we manage to use and abuse, torture, and love and share life with.¬† Ideally, we learn from them in the ways of living life and lurch out into the world as somewhat well behaved, respectful, and productive citizens.

That’s the plan.

I remember¬† years back during a long day that felt really demanding having this thought slam into me at the force of a F5 hurricane…..

“OMG…. I’m the mom now……”

My heart was racing and I broke out into a sweat sinking into a chair as that thought washed over me.

Well, not really, but it was definitely one of those moments. Not that I hadn’t been a “mom” already at that point it just seemed that the light bulb came on.

I was going to be the room mom, project manager for all those lovely school projects, comforter during illnesses and relationship break ups, washer of mounds of clothes, baker and chef, chauffeur, etiquette teacher, counselor & advisor, maid of a neat and clean home for them to inhabit, lunch maker and slicer of apples and crust removal…. or my favorite… I can’t create a major school project out of a few toilet paper rolls the night before it’s due because you “forgot” even though they assigned it months ago ūüėõ Oh gosh, the list can go on.

We take care of those creatures… meet their needs and hopefully give them stability and a good life.

BUT in the mix of offering yourself up like¬†a sacrifice to these creatures… perhaps they get to comfy with how well we take care of them.

For example, they develop a blind eye to glops of toothpaste in the sink, and learn to skillfully and carefully balance a single piece of trash on the (obviously) overflowing trash can. I’ve watched to see how long a roll of toilet paper could be left to wander around the floor before someone might take the 1.2 seconds to pop it in place ( note… sometimes the empty roll is all that’s left ūüėȬ† An empty dishwasher is certainly an invitation to leave them on the counter…

They must believe a magical fairy lives among them providing a clean home for them to live in… ūüėČ

Then I had this thought… maybe… it’s me. Maybe I’m the odd one. No one else seems troubled by all the things I mentioned above. Like… not at all. They move through their days seemingly oblivious to the things that make me twitch.

I did an experiment the other morning. During the night it was obvious one of the dogs had lifted some trash from their bathroom trash can… it was like… right in the walk way to get into the bathroom…. I decided I’d leave it and see if someone would pick it up… or if they would just continue to step over it…I figured if no one got picked it up it would still be there waiting for me ūüėČ

After awhile one son mentioned it and I casually said I was doing an experiment to see if people would continue to walk around it, or actually go ahead and pick it up….

To my surprise, after awhile, I realized it was gone.

There. Is. Hope.

I do know this, that even if my kids aren’t overly worried about housekeeping at this point, they can cook and do laundry, and have a working knowledge of managing their money, they have manners and know how to be respectful and polite. They are funny and kind. They understand the importance of working and investing themselves into it. Yeah,and they really do know how to clean ’cause I’ve seen them get after it before their friends come over haha it always impresses me that they keep those cleaning skills so well hidden ūüėČ

So yeah, it is a rather non-stop, often thankless, hard, never ending job as a mom…. but then when you see your kids turning into adults and realizing that they really are getting it, makes you realize all that work, time and frustration over heaping trash and goopy toothpaste was all worth while .

They make you laugh. They make you cry. They frustrate you to the point of no return and you have had mental images of wrapping your hands around their throat ūüėČ

Have you had those “mom” moments? I don’t want to leave the guys out either. But have you had moments in parenting that you…really…wondered? And yet somehow you’ve managed to get your kids to adulthood and want to celebrate that fact ’cause honestly, at times, you just¬†weren’t sure you were gonna pull it off¬†?

Things My Mom Taught Me

My mom passed away¬†last year in the early morning hours of April 24, 2014. I won’t ever forget the day she quietly stepped out¬†of this world as it was also my daughters 16th birthday.

I miss her.

I miss her sometimes in ways that crush my chest and leave me feeling breathless. There are moments I still can’t believe she isn’t with me. Grief is a weird animal and yet, another blog I have yet to write on. I think perhaps, in a way, I’m still kind of afraid to sit down and write about it. I don’t like pain but I also understand there is healing in pain too.

Ah well dear reader in another moment I will feel up to tackling that topic because I know there isn’t a person on this big planet who won’t walk through the avenue of grief at some point in time.

But for now… for this post… I’m reflecting on things my Mom taught me. Maybe in a way, some type of tribute to her for what she invested into me and my life.

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Circa…. mid teen’s…….

Her first born and only daughter ( my brother would come along 15 months later) we shared a close bond and enjoyed many similar things. She was always proud of me and supported me in everything I did. I can’t tell you the times I’d show up at the hospital and some member of the hospital staff¬† (whom I’d never met) would see me and say… “you’re that marathon runner, aren’t you?” My mom had pics of me running¬†hanging in her room and she took every opportunity to tell a new victim¬† person about my activities.

Marathon running ( and training) of course requires a tremendous amount of strength, physically and mentally. I learned a lot about being strong from my mom.¬† I am grateful in the last few months of her life I was able to recognize that strength in her in a new way and see how I had been blessed to have that as a part of my makeup. I don’t mean strong physically, although I am, I mean the deep strength of a woman who goes through difficulties and can stand under them. One who learns to move through the storm and grow in the process. A woman who chooses to keep seeing good and joy even in the face of hardship and difficulties.

A woman who makes a choice to fight back and not curl up and die. Strength. My mom embodied that and I’m grateful to be molded in a similar way.

Moving into fall and the approaching holidays makes me miss her more acutely ( I encountered this last year) the changing of seasons and upcoming festivities reminds me how much she loved and embraced all activities from now through New Years.

I’ve missed her enthusiasm and planning of dinners and activities. The plotting of menus. The brainstorming over gift ideas. She approached the “holiday season” with a childlike enthusiasm.

So I’ll start with this… she put a love in me for all things holiday. With the first crisp of fall air pumpkins, scarecrows and her homemade pumpkin bread showed up. Thanksgiving was always accompanied with some new recipe she wanted to try and her “gifting” was to deliver pies to suit every tastes for each person who would be there.¬† When I say they dragged like, 12 homemade pies over to my home, I’m not exaggerating. Last year her gifting was sorely missed. I bake but don’t put the spread of pies out like she loved to do.

Christmas? Oh my goodness. It was a time to bless not only her family, but anyone in need she could find. Christmas was (is) about giving, sharing and family. She baked goodies to share with everyone she had connections with. Our home was always decked out ( no wonder I’ve grown up and my home is always all dressed up. Imagine my shock when I learned not everyone went through such effort to celebrate)

Special cookies. Stockings gently used from years of being hung with care. The anticipation of Santa’s arrival.¬† Putting cookies out. Late night Christmas eve service. The picking of just the “perfect” tree. ( to this day… I want a big one. I have 12ft ceilings so why not ??) The lights. Evergreen. The Nativity set carefully arranged honoring Christ’s birth. The old cardboard village with the ( lead!) ¬†Barclay Santa and skaters nestled around it (this is my FAVORITE Christmas display which I’ll share in another post) Every area with something tucked into it.

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Mom and I our last Christmas together December 2013

My kids have grown up loving it and their friends have viewed it as going to a Christmas shop at times ūüėČ It makes the work all worth while. There’s something magical…. and that is the thing I guess my mom ( and grandmother) gave to me and I’m glad to give it to others.

I do so many similar things… traditions. Traditions that now my grown children want to do… there is something satisfying in that. Traditions involve family and a sharing of events that have been passed along from each generation.

She taught me how to invest into my family, my husband, to cook, bake, sew, keep a home, artfully arrange flowers, and make beautiful things. To be a cheerleader and encourager. I learned a Mom keeps things spinning.

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My wedding, 31 years ago. Can I mention, she made my amazing dress? And did my flowers ?

Random things were meant to be celebrated. A good report card? It was Friday? Nailed a new job ? Successful on a test or something challenging? Whatever… there were simple moments that were worth something celebratory.

She modeled loving sacrificially in marriage. She went through many difficult¬†things with my dad, one of the biggest was his diagnosis of Alzheimer’s a few years ago. She would share some things with me about dealing with him but as a mom, I know, sheltered me. Since I’ve had the responsibility of caring for him in this last year I see some of what she dealt with and feel bad I didn’t really understand to offer her more support in the difficulty of what she dealt with.

She taught me as a mom, that a mothers love is bottomless and that no matter what she was always there. Even in her last days she was concerned about some difficulties I was currently going through and insisted I talk about it. I miss being able to share those things with her.

She taught me how to love and be loving. How to give freely and from whatever I have.¬† To be generous and selfless. To be kind to others. ¬†I learned to be content with what I have because if you aren’t content, then you are ungrateful for all you do have. I learned about working hard for what you want and not having an attitude of expecting to have things handed to you.

She told me about God and faithfully took me to church. She put me in a place that in the years to come would allow me to move into my own relationship with Him. She taught me how to love and trust Him.

She taught me to embrace life and that every single day we are given is a pure, sweet gift. She encouraged me to see the beauty of the world around me and always pointed me to the fact we had a Creator who had fashioned all we see.

On being a woman… she taught me things that I value so much now….

How to be a lady. To act classy. To stand up straight ( in my …younger years… I hadn’t embraced or become confident in my 6’0 frame and sometimes tended to…slouch) I’m grateful I learned how to carry myself with confidence thanks to her “encouragement” ūüėČ

She taught me to be proud of myself and my accomplishments and to always keep trying no matter what.

I was raised to be polite, courteous, and respectful.  On the flip side, I was also taught to stand up for myself and take nothing off of anyone.

I learned how to use makeup so I enhanced my looks without ( in her words) “looking like a clown”. I was schooled in the wearing of high heels so I didn’t “clop along like a girl who fell off a tractor” haha (My mom always had some lovely visual illustration to use)

let me tell you… today….I can rock a pair of high heels like no ones business… thanks mom…..

She often reminded me that being a woman, wife, and mother required some time to step away for myself and that was an ok thing to do.

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A Sunday afternoon hanging out. Me most definitely pre-transformation days…

My mom was an amazing,strong, passionate, loving, generous and giving woman. I’m so blessed to have had her and her influence for almost 50 years of my life.

I do miss her tremendously. However, if somehow, I can carry on and share the things she taught me, her life will continue to live on as well.

And hey… if you still have your mom.. right now… call and tell her you love her and thank her for what she’s taught you.