Writing My Story

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Writing My Story

Once Upon a Time

Sometimes we are so busy trying to write the chapters of our story…                                                                               we forget while we are the starring character, we are not meant to be the authors of                                             our own lives.  

This is not the way the world teaches us to think.

The world says:

This above all – to thine own self be true.

Go after what you want and make it happen!

Write your own story.

We have been in a state of transition for nearly two years. Multiple moves, career changes, school changes, life changes; and another move is on the imminent horizon. Or maybe not. 

One piece of my story I am passionate about is home, and all of the change in our lives is teaching me, sometimes painfully, to accept a new definition of what that word means. Four walls, a floor, a roof; when I envision where I want my family to live, I try to temper that vision with the reality of so many families around the world. I long for ample play space for my young children; it is cold here in the winter months – often too cold to go outside, and I want them to have room to grow and create and move freely indoors when outside play is not an option. But some families live in a single room. Or a mud hut. Some families are homeless. And who am I to expect or even hope for space and light and convenience while others go without?

Our attempt to purchase a home has been a frustrating process. Financing snafus over the past few years have thrown up stumbling blocks again and again. As we inch closer to closing – now postponed for a second time – I am weary of the process and wondering:

Who’s writing this story, anyway?

 

Throughout this process I have prayerfully asked God that his will be done, and not my own. I have asked him to help me get out of his way, because I don’t want my desire for a home to blind me to the path he has laid so thoughtfully for my family – even if that means the piece of suburban paradise we have our eye on (complete with spacious playroom) is not meant to be.

So here we are, waiting for necessary documents to arrive in the mail. Waiting to hear what else the underwriting department requires from us. Wondering when (or whether) our purchase of this house will close. With the finish line finally in sight, I am grown weary of the process, and wary of the notion that maybe I’ve worked so hard to write my own story, I haven’t left room on the page for God to bless us the way he wants to – which may look nothing like my own intentions or best laid plans.

This chapter of my story isn’t finished. For today, though, I am laying my pen aside and asking God to forge his plan for us in the purchase of this home, and in all things. Not my will but thine, Lord. Please grant me the patience and peace this weary heart needs to let you write every part of my story.

Fireworks

Fireworks-And-Dogs

July 4th, 2015 it was just me and the dog at home – and it was not an easy night for the dog. 

Skippyjon Jones – our 23 pound golden retriever/dachshund mix (he’s a Golden Wiener!) is suspicious of anyone not in his pack (he has a particular dislike of children, older men and teenage girls, but dislikes most everyone who is not a blood relative) and had a difficult evening listening to fireworks go off in our neighborhood.

My husband was at work, the kids were out of state visiting Aunt + Uncle + Cousins, and he laid not near but on me all night long, preferring to park his chunky self on my neck as long as I would let him. It’s an awesome way to sleep if you like a face full of fur and nearly 25 pounds of dead weight hovering over your windpipe. I highly recommend it!

Skippy continued to be anxious and frightened of unexpected sounds for several days, and since that day has continued to have separation anxiety. Like every good toddler (he’s two-and-a-half), he follows me into the bathroom and hides behind my legs while I’m trying to do my business. If I wander into the kitchen, he’s on my heels. If I pop downstairs to gather laundry, he is right there with me in the closet. If I take the trash out, he does everything he can to wriggle his hot-dog-like-self out the door. And when I leave the house? Fuggedaboutit. I can practically hear him crying through my closed car door.

All of this doggy anxiety has got me thinking – how often do we, as supposedly sensible people – allow ourselves to cling to anxiety, worrisome thoughts or outright fear over past events? Maybe our “fireworks” are a particularly nasty fight with our spouse, a traumatic injury or illness for our child, a difficult situation with a new baby, a frustrating boss, messy conflict with a friend… How many times do we resolve these issues and let sleeping dogs lie (see what I did there?), and how many times do we let past hurt/anger/frustration scratch and whine behind the closed doors of our mind; gone, but not forgotten?

Skippy is like a slightly overweight, uber-protective third child I have grown to love and appreciate – even when he gives me “the eye” at the dinner table or sticks his Frito-smelling feet in my face; He is loyal, charming, cheerful (when not attempting to eat our friends) and a reminder that no matter what anyone else thinks of me, or even how I feel about myself – somebody really, really loves me and thinks I’m the VERY.BEST.EVER. Granted this fan of mine is only 15 inches tall and as previously mentioned, his feet often smell like Fritos; he loves me without condition. He’s cheaper than therapy and in Skippy’s mind, I am better than sliced bread – although maybe slightly less awesome than, say, mozzarella cheese.

But those unwelcome feelings that dog us (see what I did there again? I feel impressively nerdy at this point): Despair, worry, anxiety, downright paranoia that the past may come back to haunt us? We need to send them to the dog house, and leave them there. These kinds of feelings are unworthy of our time and attention, and we cannot improve the present or the future by clinging to the memory of past hurt & worry.

Takeaways:

1. Adopt a dog.

2. Get your dog a fancy thunder vest and/or doggy earplugs for Independence Day.

3. Work through your emotions in order to let go of past hurts.

4. Fritos (Wait – what? This isn’t a grocery list. Ignore this point altogether.)

Skippy and Kids Summer 2015

Skippyjon Jones, Truett Lee & Paisley Jane

Summer 2015

Learning to Dance in the World’s Tiniest Kitchen

Children watching mom and dad dancing (1950s), photographer Susan Szasz – dancing in the kitchen!!

The first place my new husband and I lived was married student housing on campus at the state university we attended together. It was akin to an efficiency apartment, and the least square footage we’ve ever lived in. But at 18 and 20, setting off on the great adventure of marriage together – it was ours. And I never felt the need to apologize for the postage stamp we called home.

Fast forward sixteen years and a couple of kids later, and we were enjoying life in the Denver, Colorado area in our suburban dream home – 3300 square feet, three spacious floors, not to mention a master suite with a bigger footprint all by itself than most of the places we’d lived before. And, of course, a mortgage to fit all of that space.

We had a fireplace, a spacious eat in kitchen, a view of the Rocky Mountains from the back deck and a darling front porch to perch upon in white rocking chairs and admire the raised flower bed my husband built.

Last July, we declared our independence of all things mortgage, sold the house and about a third of our worldly goods (not enough, as it turns out) and moved 500 miles away to a new hometown in a different state – and just ten minutes away from Nana and Papa, my parents. Our first rental home here was about 1800 square feet, and the master bedroom was in the basement, complete with a bathroom you could just fit into, as long as you tucked your elbows in. It became apparent very quickly that more of our furniture and collected bits and bobs would have to go, so we began filling boxes for Goodwill and selling or passing along several furniture pieces to family in town. After waving goodbye to the house we thought was our dream (you know – the one that was also a major financial drain!), it was easier than I expected to let go of the beautiful dresser that had accompanied our bedroom set. Then the side tables. Then, finally, the bed itself. We still have a lovely kitchen table, a curvy Bombay chest that has been one of our biggest furniture investments, my recycled metal moose head – and most importantly, we still have each other.

In December, we moved again to a hamlet just outside of town. We’re in a townhome measuring 1250 square feet – about the size of the condo we inhabited in Colorado before we had kids, and a little more than 1/3 the space we had in our landscaped suburban home.

We’re learning a new rhythm of life in closer quarters, and so far it’s not so bad. The bathrooms are small, but we’re not throwing parties in them, after all. The master bedroom is minuscule compared to our masterful retreat in Colorado, and don’t even get me started on the master closet! We could have set up a 6th bedroom in our Denver-area closet, and the one we have now would be better suited to a dollhouse, assuming none of the dolls possessed an extensive wardrobe. But home is where your people are, and my people are cozied up together in this small dwelling, and things are just swell.

The heart of the matter, though – much like the heart of any home – is our kitchen-in-miniature. 

Nothing says, “I love you” like sharing 35 or so square feet of real estate while we get breakfast and lunches ready for the littles, ages 4 and 6. Nothing says, “Patience,” like waiting (and waiting) three feet away from the microwave to make your child’s oatmeal (I’m hungry, mommy!) while your spouse retrieves a paper towel or packs a school lunch, because you can’t both be standing in that small spot at the same time. And nothing says, “We only need each other,” like cramming nearly 16 years of silverware into a drawer six inches wide – too small for an organizer of any kind. The only answer is to divest yourself of extraneous forks and learn to do the dishes more often because the spoons you hung on to are just enough to get you through 1.28 days – small children seem to go through many a spoon.

So we dance. Around the open dishwasher, across the four foot expanse (try tangoing in that much space!), and past the kitchen sink. We suppress an occasional frustrated sigh (we’re getting better at it every day!), we hold in the smirk that longs to surface, and we relearn, as adults, how to share and take turns.

We’re writing a whole new routine for our family – in a new place, in a new space. And the smallness that accompanies our movements sometimes feels like stepping on toes, but these new dance steps are bringing us closer together as a family, too.

And this family dances in the kitchen.

On Taking Candy from Babies

Candy 2

 

There are times when it is not only appropriate, but advisable, to steal candy from under the noses of young children. If you are new to parenting, considering becoming a parent, or maybe you are an aunt/uncle or a happenstance babysitter of young children, please read on to learn the why, how and when of stealing candy from babies. There are times when the care and raising of young children requires discernment and a steely consternation; this, my friends, is one of those times.

 

Q: Dear Alice, how do you know when it is time to steal candy from your child(ren)? What are the signs? 

A: If your young child tantrums her way through the grocery store, races to your parked vehicle in order to lock you out, then shares aloud her hatred for you and her wish that her brother had “never even existed” (or something of a similar nature), it is time to steal her candy. This can be done in full view of the child, with an assertion that it is so sad she chose to misbehave at the grocery store, lock you out of the car, hate you and attempt to wish her sibling out of existence, and now you’ll have to eat ____ from her stash of Halloween candy. *If you choose to employ this method of candy thievery, the sweet of choice should be eaten slowly and with gusto so as to effectively drive the point home.

 

Q: Dear Alice, my son destroyed his sister’s Lego Girls town with the handle of our broom, then threw the mangled buildings across the room, all before breakfast. What should I do?

A: In light of your child’s morning misbehavior, you should steal as many as several pieces of his Halloween candy. Wait until your child is safely out of sight, possibly after preschool drop-off, or until your child is engaged in play in another room. Since your child attempted to ruin breakfast, you should promptly choose the biggest and best pieces of Halloween finery and enjoy them yourself – for breakfast. Clearly your children are a handful, and rewarding yourself with a delicious handful of chocolaty goodness at 8 a.m. will improve your outlook on the day and give you the energy you need to deal with your little Godzilla when he returns home from school. In an instance of this nature, stealing your child’s candy is not only acceptable, it is the responsible thing to do.

 

Q: Dear Alice, my husband thinks we should steal the children’s Halloween candy after they go to bed, but I’m not sure how I feel about this. What should I do? 

A: Consider whether your children have committed an infraction, either now or in the past, worthy of losing their Halloween candy. If the answer is, “No,” or “I’m still not sure,” keep thinking. Has your child pulled the ____ (dog’s, cat’s, fish’s) tail? Has your child used a variety of markers to “decorate” your cream colored velvet chair that is one of a matching pair? Has your child flooded his bathroom while playing pirate in the sink? Has she ever cut her own hair, or that of a playmate? If you can answer yes to these or similar types of questions, then you should join your husband in raiding your children’s candy stash free of guilt. You are doing the right thing.

 

 

*If you are facing parenting or other dilemmas and you would enjoy the benefit of Dear Alice’s advice, please post your query in the comments section. 

*No express warranty in terms of following the advice of Dear Alice is written or implied. Consult a legal professional for legal statutes pertaining to your child’s personal Halloween candy or other personal property. 

Mommies are the Best Liars

 

Childproofing

 

I recently watched a video story in which a mom of three – a Washington D.C.-based human rights lawyer who never intended to have children (but turned 30 and suddenly realized she MUST be a mommy) – talked about how hard mothering is, especially the early years, and that she spent the first three years of her career as a mother wishing someone – anyone – would fess up and be honest about how challenging motherhood is.

 

*Write this down: Mommies are liars. 

And this ingrained dishonesty of mothers everywhere? It goes beyond Pinterest and Facebook, where you might expect exhausted mommies to post only the best and brightest pictures of their day crafting with little Susie, or baking a six layer Monster Truck-themed cake complete with working racetrack for little Johnny, when in reality it probably took a handful of pills (some prescription, some OTC), 8 cups of coffee, 10 minutes locked in the bathroom crying and 2 anxious phone calls to friends to make it through the day, despite the smiling craftapalooza she posted online.

Most moms of little ones will tell you being a mommy is the best job ever. Babies/toddlers/__ year olds are So. Much. Fun.

No sleep? So worth it.

No life outside of the child-proofed-to-the-point-of-being-people-proofed house? Such a blessed time. 

No shower for five days? A small sacrifice for such joy.

 

So when, as a brand new mom, I was handed a squalling infant who spent the majority of her time crying

and motherhood didn’t feel like “such joy…”

I felt like a failure. 

When I anxiously held my crying daughter, because keeping her on my lap, including in the bathroom, seemed like the thing to do (panic-panic-panic),

I thought I was doing the right thing, because I should want to be attached to my child 24/7. 

When I resented that I never got out of the house with my husband of ten years, or at all, really – except to work…

I felt like the World’s Worst Mom. 

Because nobody – not one mommy I met – seemed to share my feelings of exasperation

at how tough, lonely and overwhelming this mothering gig was. 

So now – I’m HONEST MOMMY.

Colicky newborn? That sucks.

No shower for a week? That sucks.

Nursing not going well? That really sucks. And it’s not always a picnic!

No date night for a year? That sucks.

The smell of your child’s hair? Wonderful.

The smell of your child’s 19th puke on the same day? That sucks.

Your child just said “Mommy” for the first time? Wonderful.

Your toddler just said “I HATE YOU!” for the first time. That sucks. And it’ll break your heart every single time. 

Yesterday, despite feeling anxious, depressed, exhausted, frustrated that I can’t shake bronchitis and we can’t find a rental house we can really afford in our new hometown, I managed to work up the energy to tidy the house and vacuum. And while I vacuumed?

My four year old son flooded the bathroom via the sink and a plastic drinking cup.

And that sucks.

While I swept the entryway and organized a massive pile of shoes, my 6 year old daughter, who knows better, threw small plastic toys at my head.

That sucked, too. 

We took a walk/bike ride/scooter ride after dinner, and when we got home the same naughty four year old raced into the house and locked the door.

That was pretty funny, once he relented and let us in, but it kinda sucked when my daughter and I were locked outside. 

Motherhood really is wonderful, and hard. Joy-filled, and frustrating. Inspiring, and exhausting. 

If you are thinking about birthing or adopting littles and you want the fuzzy-bunny-everything’s-coming-up-roses view of motherhood, ask most moms you know, or hit up Facebook. 

If you want the truth – ask me.

* Mommies are the very best liars. *

But a few of us? Are willing to tell you the truth. 

Nice to Meet You

School Bus

As I walked my five year old daughter to the end of our street to meet the school bus, I mustered up my mothering courage and prepared for… I wasn’t sure what. It was the First Day of first grade. It was her First Time riding the bus. It was our First Time at a new school in a new town. So many Firsts for a little girl who doesn’t always deal well with change or the unexpected. A little girl who still asks why we had to leave her best friend back in our old hometown – the only town, neighborhood or home she’s ever known, and her very first true blue friend. They called each other “sister” and made plans for trick-or-treating and camping and lemonade stands.

But I digress – remembering the friends we left behind will have to wait for another time.

We got to the bus stop and that First Day of School sensation – the butterflies, pride + anticipation, a little fear and a little fun and the smell of brand new backpacks and sneakers and No.2 Pencils – all of these things are in the air, and it is thrilling. I hug and kiss my darling girl – probably the youngest in her class again this year, and probably still the tallest. She has a lot to say when you get to know her, and I wonder if she’ll have the courage to talk to her tablemates or her teacher today. I wonder whether she’ll make a friend on the playground, or sit next to someone kind at lunchtime.

Suddenly, I remember the special lefty scissors in her desk at home. But it’s too late to jog home for the scissors – I can hear the bus coming up the hill, and all of a sudden it’s there. My daughter gently nudges me away from her and joins the line for the school bus with other neighborhood kids whose names we don’t know and whose parents we’ve never met. She climbs the steps and she doesn’t turn back once. Not to wave, not to second guess her sudden courage. Not to make sure I’m still there to protect her and make sure she finds a seat.

Just as suddenly as it arrives, the yellow school bus is gone. And just as suddenly, so is the little girl who last year struggled with transitions and clung to me every morning the entire first half of her Kindergarten year. I’m not sure if the sigh that escapes my lips is one of relief, or of letting go. The First Day of School held a first for me, too. The First Time I met this child: the independent girl able to ride the school bus with new kids in a new town to a new school without a single hitch in her giddyup.

Well done, daughter of mine. It’s nice to meet you.