where on earth have I been???

I really thought I would have gotten more done by now. My children have been in school for over a month now. All of them.

Aren’t they so cute on the first day?

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Today I took some time to review my last few posts here. I was reacquainting myself. Reconnecting with that woman who does her best to put her soul into words and claim it by writing on her little corner in cyber space.

That woman has still been musing, still been creating, still been learning and growing. Still writing even. Just less and not on here.

Not because I don’t love what here is, because I do. I am so grateful to have readers who meet me in this place, who see me for what I offer, who peek inside themselves and share with me that I am not alone.

But I also have some safety issues. I’ve alluded to them here and there. They pop their head up every once in a while and prevent me from sharing what I want to share on this particular blog.

My battle with them has been a bit more present than normal the last several months, if that makes sense to any of you. That’s the yuck part.

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The yay! part is that I have also been embarking on new adventures. “Digging in” was the main theme of the summer. The boys and I did not do all that much. We stayed home and were together a lot. We enjoyed a slower pace. We rested. We dug in to time at home. Insert deep breath.

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Mostly I loved it. Sometimes I had to fight the voices that like to tell me my value is in how much I am doing. That I’m “supposed” to live life at a fast pace or I don’t count for squat. I learned that living within my boundaries – not writing on my blog for instance because I simply can’t do it all – takes practice. So staying home might not seem like an adventure, but it was, and I think it was really good for all of us.

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I also dug into our Lego collection. I sorted them. I know. You’re right. I might be a little insane. I can’t really explain it other than I needed to. Sorting Legos was my cathartic way to process the fact that my children are growing up.

And staying home allowed for me to have time for working on my yard. And I actually wanted to, can you believe it? I’ve been working hard. Digging and pulling and clearing and watering and digging and digging. Our yard is a far cry from what it was back on my Insideout post.

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I have decided that pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds are about the MOST exciting thing a new grow-er can plant.

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And I have been dreaming new dreams. I have discovered something in me that needs to be pursued. And that involves grad school.

Yikes.

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I wish every night could be like tonight. But I suppose then it would not have felt so special, so wonderful, so absolutely like an oasis to a weary traveler journeying through desert lands.

I have not posted here for quite some time. There are a plethora of reasons but they mostly boil together to just one.

Sometimes in life, I have to lay down the things I love, like writing, because the rest of life is stretching me thin. Mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and financially.

The perfectionist in me screams and shouts that I don’t really need breathing room. What I need is to simply organize differently and push myself harder like everyone else. Then I can do it all.

I hate that perfectionist.

But then, magically, a night like tonight sneaks in. An old groupon we purchased a few months ago during a brief moment when we had the tiniest bit of breathing room in our finances is about to expire.

So we pack up the boys and head out to a fancy restaurant. One of our favorites back when we were dating and had what I believe is still called “discretionary income”.

I prep the boys.

“Dad is taking us to a fancy restaurant. Probably the fanciest restaurant we will ever take you to. At these kinds of restaurants it is important to use your best behavior. When we get there, I will have a story to tell you about this restaurant and your dad and me.”

After we arrive, before they seat us at our table, I take the boys aside.

“Your dad and I came to this restaurant on the night he asked me to marry him. We came here to celebrate. That year, there were really big storms and on the night we came, this bottom section….here, come here and see….these big windows were all boarded up and no one was sitting downstairs here.

But this was one of our favorite places to go, so instead of leaving, we went upstairs. Come on, I’ll show you.

Right over here is where we sat. The rain was falling hard and the waves were high but we could hardly see because it was so dark. I remember watching the storm through the stain glass in this window.”

During dinner, the boys all got along and used the best manners they could remember. Bravo boys.

My oldest son tasted crab cakes and lobster for the first time. He loved them both. We could be in trouble.

After dessert, all three boys hopped over the rocks separating the patio from the beach together in search of shells. I sat back with my husband and took the moment in.

The glow sticks Phil thought to get for the boys lit up the van the whole way home. Camaraderie, nostalgia, joy, and love saturated the air. Tears slowly seeped from my eyes. Oh, how I wish I could bottle this night up and keep it forever.

This post was written several months ago….I was surprised this evening that I got it all the way onto WordPress but didn’t finish to publish! There will be more coming and this is not a current snapshot but it is an accurate one from the time it was written. Keep checking because I will be back!

a breather

(I’ve not posted for quite some time. Some people have inquired – thank you. There may be a post about that eventually but for now the short version is that my windows of time normally set aside for writing have been filled with other things I value deeply…for now. Alright, now on with the post….)

What are these thoughts I keep having? Oh, that’s right, I believe this is called perspective. I often gain it by listening to someone older than me who has survived my life stage and has a grain or two of wisdom to pass on. Or I can take a step back. A break. Time away.

And that is what I was able to do this weekend. My sister took our kiddos (bless you, Karen and Carl!) for a cousin weekend of fun and my hubby and I had the house all to ourselves.

A wonderful chance to breathe. To think. To rest. To gain perspective. And maybe a few other things I won’t mention here….ahem.

Here are some things I hope I can hold onto when the loves of our lives – and the chaos that comes along with them – return….

  • There is always more to do than there is time to do it.
  • House projects always take longer and cost more than originally (and reasonably) anticipated.
  • I really like my hubby. Which is good because….
  • Eventually it will be back to just him and me.
  • We do pretty darn well with our particular situation. You know, not comparing with anyone else just looking at us and the good and bad of what we have been given.
  • I like a clean environment. But my kids are more important to me than a clean house. Or a clean van. But I do like clean.
  • I might be overstimulated most of the time. And that is just my life. For now.
  • No life stage is forever.
  • Three kids is a lot.
  • Breaks are good.
  • My husband and I love our children desperately and while we enjoyed this break so very much, we would not trade the fullness of our life together as a family of five for anything in the world.
  • Our kids are worth every sacrifice we have made for them.
  • My value of people will always trump my value for accomplishing things. That has pros and cons. And I’m okay with that.

Have you any chances to gain perspective recently? Would you share with me?

unexpected

He had just given me my toilet back. Now he was telling me we would be without water for another 24 hours. Or more.

“But……we are going to have a baby…..tomorrow morning.” The plumber already knew that. They had been working long hours to get me working pipes before I popped.

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Later that night there was a drug bust across the street.

The next day four different shifts of women rallied around our older boys to care for them while we birthed their brother.

The omen was clear. Chaos would abound.

Which is exactly why I never planned on having a third child. In my opinion control is preferable to chaos.

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Lucky for me, life does not always go according to my plan.

Because chaos has, indeed, abounded since that day five years ago when our third boy entered this world. But so has endless amounts of love.

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And somehow the fact that he is a whole hand old today is making me pause extra-long and think about the enormity of it all. (That and the fact that we did all of his celebrating this past weekend so there is nothing left for me to do but be sentimental.)

An era is ending. And that era lasted much longer than I thought it would. About five years longer. But what a beautiful era it was. Hard. Gruelingly hard. But simultaneously boundlessly beautiful.

Zachary was my gift to get to do it all over again, one last time. To live in different skin than I did the first two times. More comfortable skin. Completely imperfect and still quite messy skin, but somehow more peaceful skin.

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The one thing I wanted to do more than anything with my life was be a mom. But once I got there all of my “stuff” came to the surface and it was like breathing through mud. Slowly, very slowly, I have been working through all of that stuff. Learning to be loved. Learning to love.

And I have nothing but gratitude. Because somehow, the third time around I was free to enjoy the process. Somehow I was enjoying not only Zachary growing up but all three of my boys at the same time, in this new skin.

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And although my children are not out of the nest yet, the fact that all are now out of the formative years seems significant. And today I have not only been delighting in this child and all of who he is, but also in all he brought to me.

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Happy birthday Little Z. And thank you.

mantras

Her comments struck me. I was hit with an ah-hah and a rush of relief all at once. I am not alone.

A few moms gather chatting on the playground with our younger kiddos after the olders have been safely swept away into their classrooms. We join together not everyday, but many. There is a certain ritual about it. And honestly, it helps me breathe.

Not because we have such profound conversation while our children run and play. We slur our way through most of it while the coffee kicks in. I am settled in my soul simply because we are together. There is so much extraordinary in ordinary life, if only I see it and let it in.

Out of my mouth came one of the phrases I often find coming out of my mouth toward my children and I expressed the frustration of repeating myself to my friends. When will they learn?

The camaraderie was a warm blanket set on my shoulders as we all related together. And then one of my friends used the word “mantra”. Comfort gave way to peace.

It was as if Legos I had been trying to force together the wrong way had just been straightened out and the puzzle was solved. They clicked.

These things I repeat over and over to my children, they are not just for them. They are not things that can be mastered in one day, one week, one childhood, or even one lifetime. They are learnings of life. They are things that no one ever masters, not my children and not me, but we all simply continue to learn through the process of life.

They are things we need to hear over and over and over again because they are truths easily forgotten. Easily misunderstood. Easily cast aside.

They are in fact, mantras. Things that help us as we chant them over and over. And I realize in this moment that I need to hear these mantras just as much as my children do. Because I want them to become a part of me. But I am not the only exacerbated parent who tires of chanting from time to time.

Every family has different mantras. Some help us, some beat us down. Sometimes the difference between the two is all in the delivery or the interpretation. God, help my tone of voice breathe life into my family instead of shame.

Everyone has say over their own bodies.

We don’t get to make other people’s choices for them.

Listen to your body, it tells us some of the things we need.

Love is not earned.

It’s okay to think different things.

Our choices affect our future.

Outside energy is a good energy to have, it just belongs outside.

Everyone feels disappointed when we don’t get our way. But it’s also important to learn how to move on with life afterward.

Those are some of my favorite mantras from the Koo family, but I am curious…..what are yours?

chicken fingers

This was a celebration for me. A marker of growth, of change for the good.

A few years ago, I let myself see an ugliness inside of me. It was something I tried to hide from for years before that. I was too ashamed to admit, even to myself.

I have resisted writing about my ugliness because it comes out in context with one of my sons and it is my ugliness, not his. I would never want for him to someday read my writing and do what we as children always do, internalize our parent’s brokenness as our own defectiveness.

But these chicken fingers were just too much to pass up. So here I go.

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I have had trouble accepting my middle son for exactly who he is. Don’t get me wrong, simultaneously I recognize and love what he brings to the table and how he gets me outside myself.

But he’s different than me. And when it comes to being different, I like to think I am the right way and anyone else is the wrong way. Apparently that includes my children. Great.

He likes to make messes and struggles to clean them up. He’s well liked and sweet and tender and makes some pretty great choices on who to be friends with, but he’s also just a little bit…..awkward. Quirky. Unique.

And he doesn’t like words. And words are how I function. They’re my strong suit.

But that’s not how he wants to be loved. He is intuitive. He senses what is going on behind the scenes, in my heart. So that means I have to actually work through my issues instead of just covering them up by using the right words.

Fantastic.

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What kind of mother has trouble accepting her child?

I will tell you.

The kind of mother who has trouble accepting herself. Fully. Un-conditionally. Wholeheartedly.

Because what Brene Brown says is true. We can only accept others to the degree we accept ourselves.

Finally, eventually, I became safe enough to myself to go below the surface and deal with the issues that lie beneath. The process has been slow and scary.

But bit by bit, I work my way through. I have in no way arrived, but I am not where I used to be. And these chicken fingers told me so.

We call this Abby’s chicken. There are eggs and flour and dredging involved which means….messes. And my Colby loves to embrace a good mess.

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Which is exactly why I avoid cooking with him. Because undoubtedly my perfectionism flares and I end up sending messages either spoken or unspoken that he is wrong for being the way that he is. Lovely.

But this time, I delighted in Colby and his chicken fingers. I laughed and celebrated his jois de vive. I let go and embraced the process. And of course, I had to take pictures, which he loved.

Growth shows in the little things. Like making chicken with my son. And enjoying it. And more importantly, enjoying him.