dreamy

I wanted to linger. The fog and haze of the dream was intoxicating. I woke up knowing I did not just visit my son’s real room, but in my dream it was his and he was still small.

The smell of baby surrounded me. The warm snuggle that fills the air when a baby is present wrapped me with its joy. I was with my baby, and my other boys were small. We were together in that under-foot stage. The dream had only the goodness of it; none of that stress-part that used to have my shoulders trying to attach to my ears.

Today is the seventh birthday of my youngest son (pictured above). He is our “bonus round”. He kept us in the little kid stage longer than we originally anticipated. My dream calls forth emotions, nostalgia, and tears. I can’t stop thinking about his big kid front teeth that are gradually replacing the classic toothless grin he had at Christmas. They are signaling that ready or not, our family is moving on.

Truly, we are mostly just fine with this moving on business. We are ready and happy for the next leg of the journey.

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My oldest is in ROTC, a freshman now (above). My middle is close on his heels, waiting for the perfectly timed growth spurt when he will finally pass up his big bro (below).

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I am in grad school, loving my program even if the list of assignments may feel just a tad bit overwhelming from time to time. All of us seem to be looking to the horizon filled with hope and joy.

But this dream brought a moment.

A pause.

A breath.

Time – to acknowledge a goodbye to the sweetness that filled this life stage. To say thank you in and from my heart to the little ones who once filled my home.

Thank you for spending your childhood here, with us, with our family. Our lives are so much more having had you in them. I will carry you in my heart, love you always, and visit you in my dreams.

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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.

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.

whistle baby!

Keep a straight face, keep a straight face, keep a straight face! The whole thing will be blown if your oldest sees you smirking.

He is sitting shotgun right next to me. And he doesn’t miss a thing. So if I and his younger brother, my middle son, are going to continue to enjoy this moment, I must keep from showing my grin.

I have no idea what it must be like to grow up in the middle of the family. My best friend growing up was the middle child and after watching how much she struggled with her place in the family I vowed I would never do that to someone.

Then I had a surprise that turned my baby into the middle child. And my heart has ached for this tension in his life ever since.

To be fair, sometimes I think I struggle more with Colby being a middle child than he does. He certainly loves his brothers with a depth I am not sure any of us can fathom.

But sometimes I can tell it wears on him. Someone always going ahead of him, learning everything first, excelling at everything he tries. And someone constantly behind him being cute and adorable and the youngest.

Then a few weeks ago, I realized I had been hearing a new sound. A sound I had never heard from a child in our home before.

Whistling.

Our oldest whistles through his teeth. It qualifies, I have reassured him, but there is not a whole lot of umph behind it.

I called the whistler over to me and said in a stealthy but clearly exuberant voice, “Colby! YOU are whistling!!!”

“I know.” His notorious deadpan.

I cup his face in my hands. “Do that again.” My eyes dance with delight as the air goes from his lungs and passes through his pursed lips, making a song as it goes.

I look around and then I say very quietly, “You know…..your brother doesn’t know how to whistle. Not like that.”

“I know.” His smirk and twinkle tell me everything I need to know. He knows. He learned to do something his brother can’t do.

I would love for my children to be satisfied in who they are without comparing themselves to one another. But the fight for alpha exists anyway. So I work with it and try to celebrate their individual strengths anyway.

So a few days later as we drive in the car and my oldest starts whistling in his own special way in the front seat and a minute later I hear a (real) whistle coming from the back, keeping up, fluffing his feathers, and I know it is completely intentional, my heart does a little happy dance.

This middle child now has one thing he did first. He can do better. And in his sweet little non-confrontational way, he is celebrating. And so am I.

And it’s our little secret.

As long as I can keep a straight face.

a new mantra

Her words sank in and offered me a whole new way of looking at things. Previously I would have seen my shortcomings, my failures as a mother. On top of that I would have inflated the emotions of my son to eclipse anything else.

Now I saw an opportunity to empower him.

I find it so amazing how just one little thing, just one little sentence can turn a light on in a room I didn’t even realize was dark.

But Zachary, you did just the right thing, didn’t you? You called out and mom heard you and you found each other. You took care of yourself.”

This was new.

Not the chatty mom who made a pit-stop on our way out of school. My poor children are quite accustomed to my tendency to find and stop at any opportunity to have a meaningful connection with someone.

But when I make such a pause and my children are young enough to not realize this and they keep going, they loose me. They look around and mom has mysteriously disappeared. Panic may set in to their small little hearts.

Thus what happened to Zachary this day. And when his nervous holler for mom found it’s way to my ears, I responded how I always did. “I’m so sorry, honey! I stopped and didn’t tell you. You must have been scared. I am so sorry.” Because, of course, this is all about me and how terrible I am.

But then she affirmed my son and his ability to find his way out of a sticky situation.

He took care of himself. Wow. That is something that has taken me almost 40 years and a lot of therapy to do. And my then three-year-old did it without even really thinking about it.

Children solve problems. All the time. And I WANT my children to be problem solvers. I want them to know how capable they are. But I realized in this moment that sometimes I take away their natural problem solving skills because I am so wrapped up in my own self.

This became my new mantra. My eyes were opened to how my children solve problems all the time, all over the place. And I could point that out to them. So that then they know they have this very important skill. And hopefully it grows.

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?