Thursday, May 31, 2012

Dear Fellow Mom Friend

(You know who you are.)

First, I have to thank you.   Thank you for talking with me, thinking that I have any wisdom to offer you.   Thank you for seeing me that way, because honestly, there are so very many days where I am simply trying to make it to bedtime.   With or without wisdom.   But I do acknowledge that I have learned a few lessons along the way.

Take heart.   You're a good mom.   Your children are being raised well.   Not perfectly, but certainly well enough.   Don't be so hard on yourself.   Don't be so hard on your kids.   You love each other and that is the most important ingredient of all.

Someday, all of the hard stuff little ones bring will be over.   There will be no more battles of will.   No more bedtime routines.   No more time outs.   No more sibling squabbles.   No more wondering if your approach to a misbehavior is the right one.   No more yearning for the millions of things that you want to do that you never have time for.

Someday, all of the beautiful stuff little ones bring will be over.   No more snuggles.   No more butterfly kisses.   No more bug hunts or tickle time.   No more baby soft skin under your fingertips.   No more kid art.   No more wonder at the depth of childhood imagination.   No more adoration of you.

Because they will grow up.   And become independent with lives and thoughts of their own.   And you will be left with time; time enough for solitude and sleep and memories.

Right now it may seem that that day will never come.   That these tough days will never end.   But sometimes the only way out of something is through it.   And I know you already know that.   And I know that mostly you just need to know that someone understands and cares what you're going through.   That they believe in you and your ability to face all this tough stuff and emerge stronger for having endured it.

I believe in you.   I can see your strength, even when all you feel is discouragement.   I am confident that you can climb this mountain God has given you, even if you are full of doubt.   Have faith that your kids will turn out ok.   You are doing your best, trust that it will be enough.

So what that you have "only" two kids.   You compare yourself with other women who seem to manage more children with more grace than you think you display.   This is not a fair comparison.   They have been where you are.   And they know how hard it is.   And they still struggle on a daily basis even if they always seem calm and collected to you.   It's just that they've learned to roll with the punches a little better because they've been in the game longer.

It's the hardness of the seemingly unending tough days that has molded them into the women you see.   If they talk about how easy it used to be when they had "only" two kids, then they have forgotten the reality of their early motherhood years.   Raising children is never easy, whether you have one or twenty.   But have hope, it gets easier.   Not because the tasks of Motherhood get easier, but because you will change.   Amidst your challenges, you will find the strength to be the woman your children need you to be.   Because they need you to be more than you are.   More selfless.   More patient.   More hopeful.   More faithful.   More joyful.   God will provide the necessary training for you to become the kind of more that your children need.   And once the toughness of that training is over, you will look back on that process and rejoice.



Meet Ruger.  The newest member of our family.  Here he is having a much needed bath in the back yard.

He was another rescue through the local german shepherd rescue group.  Where Shaggy has a spy who has been screening all the newest dogs to help him find his perfect second dog.  For security purposes.  Naturally.

This dog does have fabulous protective instincts.  And herding instincts.  He really wants the whole family to stay together all the time.  He has a nice sounding alarm bark.  And he's big, significantly bigger than Charger even though Ruger is still quite the puppy.

He needs some serious obedience training, especially considering how hard it is to physically move him or drag him or push him away when he wants to give you kisses or steal your cheese stick.  Shaggy says it's like having a happy sofa following you around. 

He doesn't let Charger boss him around, which is usually a good thing, but it does mean that they occassionally get into some short-lived dog fights.  It's sort of like they're already siblings.
He loves to have a comfort item nearby.  Stuffed animals, balls, you name it.  And he really loves to play.  Fetch and tearing up and down the hallway (and sometimes, unfortunately, onto our bed--bad dog!) are his favorites.  He doesn't like to be left out when we're saying morning prayer so he will try to plant some kisses on whoever's face happens to be the closest.  He doesn't yet love B as much as Charger, but that's only because he hasn't yet caught on to exactly how much food she is responsible for dropping onto the floor.
And oh, boy does this dog ever LOVE water!
It's pretty hysterical to flip through these pictures really fast and watch a jerky version of a dog shake out.
I had entirely too much fun taking these photos.
Unfortunately, this is what he is always like after he gets a drink.  Which provides me with such a nice daily opportunity to mop the kitchen floor.  Thanks pup.
Wouldn't it be cool if this was how we felt every day at the prospect of taking a shower?  Like it was the best thing ever?
I think this pic is my favorite.  Because it makes me laugh.  And it makes our very protective, overly eager around water, not-so-little puppy look entirely ferocious.  Which is the perfect way for a guard dog to look. 

At long last, our family roster is entirely full.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Track & Annie

Annie is over.  Track is over.  They were both amazing experiences for K.  Just a little too crazy to try to do simultaneously.  We are now wiser parents and will avoid that scenario in the future. 

I am happy to have my girl home again after school.  And my babysitter.  And my trusty craftaholic.  And my witty joke teller.  I am grateful that  a little piece of our crazy schedule has settled into normalcy.  As normal as it gets around here, that is.

I have also decided that May is quickly becoming one of my least favorite months.  It seems to get crazier and busier and less predictable every year.  Every kid in school has a handful of end-of-the-year performances and open houses and sporting events and awards ceremonies and field trips and graduations.  I cringe to think of what next year might be like with four in school--the eldest in high school.  I enjoy being witness to the growth the kids are making, I just wish it was spaced out a little better so it wasn't such tag team marathon for the whole family.  But from what I hear, there's no slowing down from here on out.  So I suppose I'll just have to increase my stride.
Speaking of which, check out that girl.  She was not about to let the girl in red beat her.  Which explains why she kept qualifying for all these extra Saturday meets.  Once she got over her initial "everything hurts" phase of track, she began to enjoy running.
She took great pride in besting her own personal record, trying to always out-perform herself.
It was really fun to watch that healthy competitive spirit grow, to see her "I can do better" determination increase.  I hope she always remembers that she can do hard things, that hard things give her the chance to progress and learn.
And I have no idea why her knees look so . . . bruised . . . or dirty.  But I am proud of my girl.
For Annie, I became the unofficial, volunteer digital designer and photographer.  I made the posters and the tickets and this fake logo.  Which is not, in fact, a copyright infringement because I designed it from scratch.  I just happened to use a similar font and similar colors.  And a photo of our adorable Annie and her trusty companion Sandy, who panted better than any junior high canine I have ever seen.  And the fact that she is the only junior high canine I have seen does not diminish her accomplishment one bit.
The cast for this production went through a ton of changes.  Because the actors would wander around campus instead of coming to rehearsal.  So what's left here are the dependable kids.  The ones who followed through and were willing to play multiple roles to make the show a success.
Dress rehearsal.  I volunteered to come to this so that I could help.  I sewed on a lot of patches and ironed lots and lots of aprons.  (For the record, there are way too many maids in this play.  Have I mentioned how much I hate ironing?)  But my secret agenda was to take pictures.  Which I was also able to accomplish.

I loved the orphans.  They were so good at being mean to each other.  And they totally rocked hard knock life.
One of my favorite candids.
Playing with imaginary cards.
Eating fake bugs.  Not during dress rehearsal, fortunately.  It's a dangerous thing to let 13-year-olds have carte blanche during a spontaneous photo session just before opening night.

K and one of her BFFs who is not so happy that we are moving.  These two girls have been friends for the last eight years.  They worked together in the cafeteria this whole school year.  This will be a tough separation.
My poor little happy orphan.  Who also doubled as a maid for Daddy Warbucks.  Who had some serious stage presence, I must say.  During opening night, a couple of the actors lapsed into a laughing fit during one of their scenes.  Major cringe, right?  But Daddy Warbucks stayed in character through it all and even made up a few lines to get everything back on track.
The whole cast.  Such a great bunch.  And Miss Hannigan had a show stopping voice.  That girl could really sing!
All set up for the dinner show.  I love the city skyline they made for the walls.  It was really quite the fancy affair.
This is during warm ups before one of the shows.
I can't say enough good things about the drama coach.  She was seriously amazing.  The things she had to put up with from both sides--the students and the administration--would have sent me running for the hills.  But she navigated through all the obstacles and brought the whole production together beautifully.  And she gave these kids an amazing experience that they will remember for the rest of their lives.  I LOVE teachers like that!!
The thing I love about this photo is how it captures the pre-show excitement.
And this one where she's hugging her daughter who successfully navigated her way into a non-speaking orphan role for closing night.

These are the days of K's life.  I hope she gets to be a part of many more positive activities during her years in high school.  And I hope that they don't run me ragged.

Mother's Day--The Clean Version

We were asked to speak in church on Mother's Day.  Which was just fine.  It wasn't like we had anything else going on, so there was plenty of time to prepare.  Sarcasm.  Sarcasm.

But those assignments always end up being good for me, so I try my best to embrace them.  It was stressful trying to fit in the prep time, but we somehow managed it.  Shaggy had to use some flight and hotel time to get his done, but all's well that ends well.  And the best part of all was how relieving it was to go to church the next week without a talk hanging over our heads.

Our congregation usually gives out a little Mother's Day treat.  In the past it has been a small personal box of chocolates from See's.  I think those were my favorites.  But the past few years, they've been giving out cupcakes.  Normally, I am a big fan of cupcakes.  But they are much harder to  a) stuff into your mouth in a hurry so your kids don't see  b) eat in church without making too much of a mess, or c) slip into a bag to save for a future peaceful moment.  A cupcake, at church, with 5 children in Sunday clothes clamoring for a bite.  Somehow, I don't think a mom with little kids thought this one through.

I tried my best.  I really did.  But my cupcake did not arrive home in an edible condition.
Thanks to Baby B.  And her huge meltdown about not being allowed to "borrow" a toy from nursery to bring home with her.  Once I successfully wrestled the toy out of her hands, she immediately began dive bombing to reach my cupcake.  Which didn't really take very long since I was discracted by trying to shepherd my other children through the crowded church hallways.
So this is what my Mother's Day treat looked like when we finally made it home.  Mmmmm!
But how could I stay frustrated with that face?  And those bright, innocent eyes?  Besides, the cupcake was sugar free because they ran out of the regular ones by the time I made it off the stand to get one.  And it was really, really not very tasty.  All's well that ends well.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Happy MUDer's Day!

My family knows that the one thing I ask of them every year for Mother's Day is a little photo session with all my kiddos.  I am normally the one taking all the pictures, so I never let Mother's Day slide without handing the camera to my husband and jumping in the photos with my kids.  I don't really care what else the day brings (or doesn't bring) as long as I get my pix fix.

Normally, I like pretty pictures.   Combed hair.   Clean faces.   Good lighting.
But my hubby loves dumb puns.  Really loves dumb puns.  So, when I was brainstorming with him about this year's photos, he suggested our backyard.  I was suggesting local parks with great backdrops and things like trees and flowers.  But I knew that he'd hooked me when he started laughing about how we could totally have a happy MUDer's day.  Our backyard, you see, has no grass because it died years ago and we've never been able to get it to grow back and we have given up trying.  So we have dirt.  Lots of dirt.  Which makes the most excellent mud pit.  And a very happy MUDer's Day, as you can see.

Above is the before shot, more or less.  The mud was so irresistable, the little ones just couldn't restrain themselves.
 Except that B was not exactly happy when she fell and sat right in the mud puddle.
 But it didn't take her long to warm up to it.
 Soon enough, she was tromping all around with joyfully muddy feet.
  Love this babe, mud and all.
The kids could hardly believe that I was allowing them throw mud.  At each other.  At me.  Especially at me. 
J needed no help whatsoever in that department.  Surprise, surprise.
And R, the ultimate tag along kid, had a blast with the whole thing.
Poor K, being 13 and all, is just not all that interested in mud.  She will have to get a lot older before she's immature enough to join us in a mud fight.
S took a little convincing.  But once she started pelting me with mud, I figured it was fair to retaliate.

 Here are some of my favorite dirty shots.

 It's not hard to see who had the most fun with this little episode.
B was overjoyed by the fact that she wasn't being corrected for wiping her hands on her clothes.
I was prepared for the possibility that our clothes would be ruined and chose some very old and worn out threads.  But amazingly, the mud washed right out.  Notice that K was reluctant to even come close to us.  I had to explain firmly to the other kids that she was totally off limits to even get her this close.  I decided that I would rather have one clean child sticking out like a sore thumb than a sour face that would ruin my beloved mother's day pictures. 

It really IS all about the joy, after all.
I feel fairly confident that this year will be one to remember.  It was crazy.  And spontaneous.  And fun.  And such a great stress relief considering our current about-to-move-to-the-opposite-side-of-the-country scenario.  Although I am ok with not allowing this to grow into a regular tradition.  ;-D

I suppose it's safe to say that I'm a sucker for a good pun.  But I take solace in the fact that there will be time enough next year for beautiful photos.  For now, we just needed some good clean fun.
The happiest of MUDer's Day to you all!

Linked up to this fun photo series with Kristen Duke Photography.