Four score and…four years ago

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Four. Years. Old. How and when did I become the mother of a four year old? I feel old, especially when I calculate that when my mom was my age, she was well past the four year old stage. She had a 12 and 14 year old. I didn’t even start having kids until the age that my mom had a middle schooler and high schooler. Four year olds wear you out. I run around the backyard for about .3 yards and I’m out of breath (okay not really, I did just run a 5k after all). Still, we were not meant to be having and raising babies in our 30’s and 40’s. I’d like to see pictures of those celebrities who have had miracle babies when in their 40’s or even 50’s. I bet even botox and a face lift can’t keep away the 3am screaming session (by the baby, not mom or dad) stress and exhaustion.

But I digress. Regardless of my age, my oldest is four years old. I am blessed beyond measure to be the mom of this particular four year old and I knew it at 6 weeks of age (her age, not mine, and yes, it took me about 6 weeks to feel attached to her….but I haven’t let go since then). By 6 weeks old she was waking up only once a night. Oh, the joy I found in getting the sleep I needed while my baby was so young. On a side note, my second child made up for all the sleep I got with my first. I was a zombie for a good year and a half with him. I love my sleep. I’ve always been a good sleeper. And behold! Like mother, like daughter. Thank you Jesus.

For both pregnancies, I lived in a black fog during the first trimesters. Everyone talks to you about post partum depression, yet it turns out many women experience depression during pregnancy. I was one of those women. I’m not talking about “oh, I feel sick, I’m going to throw up…bleeeehhh. Oh, I feel sick again, give me saltines.” No, I’m talking about a blackness hanging over my mind from the second I woke up to the second I feel asleep and all the times I couldn’t sleep during the night. I found zero joy in life, including when my four year old was just over one year old during my second pregnancy. I remember laying on the couch, watching her happily play, and wanting her to not be there. Awful, huh?

You know how that girl reacted to my depression? It was at that point she started giving me kisses. Randomly. She came up to me one time as I lay limply on the couch and she stretched her face to mine, her lips to my lips. Five minutes later she did it again. And again, and again. My sweet, sweet girl knew how to touch my heart even if I just wanted to be left alone. Fast forward to year number four and now she asks to sit and cuddle with me, makes sure I give her a kiss before I leave, even if I’m just taking the dog for a bike ride, and loves to pretend play that she’s the mom leaving me as she comes to kiss me good bye. Yes, I am blessed to have this four year old.

A few months leading up to her fourth birthday, she added a whole new dimension to her personality. We had talked about being a big girl before, but as the number four birthday approached, I saw and heard a huge difference in her actions and speech (she also had the lack of sleep that often comes with growth changes-physical or mental, which didn’t do anything good for her behavior, but I won’t talk about those fun times). She officially became a big girl. She went from older toddler to older preschool in a matter of a month.

Yes, I am blessed to have a four year old. This four year old. She is forever my daughter, wild, curly hair and all.

 

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Coops and kids

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We are officially chicken owners! After a 2 month long process, we finally have 5 chicks, which we have kept alive for exactly one week today. Please allow me to pat myself on my back.

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For the past 5 months (at least) I have been building a chicken coop for these babies. Yes, that is correct: 5 months (at least). Why, you ask? Allow me to explain.

Reason #1: I have no idea what I’m doing. Everything I read said to draw up your plans beforehand, whether you’re building a chicken condo or piecing it together with scrap materials you have on hand. Not only am I doing the latter-piecing it together-but my scrap materials are not all on hand. I first picked up some wood pallets and ripped them apart into various smaller pieces, which is not so easy. I have also picked up scrap wood from curbs including plywood I had my kids hold on their laps while taking them and the dog on a wagon ride (the dog walked in the road). While I have bought about $3 worth of screws, most of what I am using are random ones we keep in a jar in our shed as well as our hurricane shutter screws (causing my husband to find more when hurricane Irma came our way a few weeks ago). I started to build the coop, finally, but after getting to a point where I just had no idea what to do next, I took it all apart and started building it another way, which seems to be working out better. How the heck am I supposed to start with written/drawn out plans for something when I have no idea what I have to work with?  So while the lack of plans has made this process a lot longer, I can pat myself on the back again because I have basically built this, so far, for less than $10. Resourceful is my middle name.

Reason #2: I have kids. Young kids. Preschool and toddler age kids. This reason should actually be #1 because what else need I say? Why have my kids made building a chicken coop a process stretched over 3 seasons so far (even though in Florida it’s been like one really long season-summer)? Allow me to give examples:

A lot of thought has gone into this coop building. Thought takes, well, thought. It is hard to think when I have kids grabbing hammers and drills, wanting my attention, pleading for my attention, crying when they don’t get my attention, and then I end up explaining to them why they need to leave me alone for just 2 minutes so I can figure something out. The whole process has taken 10 minutes to come up with one idea and I haven’t even started actually doing anything yet.

My kids love to play. I love to play with my kids…..most of the time. So I can’t help but go find them behind the tree as they giggle in the anticipation of me “sneaking” up on them (in reality, their little faces peaking around the tree give them away, as well as their giggles). After drilling a couple more holes and screwing on another board, it then becomes my turn to hide, which I am better at so it takes them longer and while part of me wants to just jump out crying out “boo!” so I can get back to the coop, the other part of me wants to continue to stay put and give them clues to my hiding spot until they find me. Then it’s back to attach another board. Do you see the pattern?

My kids love to help and let’s be honest, when kids help, things take at least twice as long to finish. Alas, this is the job of us parents-to actually teach our children. So, my kids help me put the washers on the screws that I need to hold the hardware cloth in place, which is tricky enough for me, let alone a little person who is still working on fine motor skills. This also involves many dropped screws and washers and digging around in the grass to find them. They are also learning how to use the drill. This skill kind of freaks me out because Georgia is to the point where she can actually drill holes and little brother isn’t known for looking where he’s going. So far though the holes have only gone in pieces of wood and I have dreams of my kids building homes for homeless people one day (I saw a video of a 9 year old doing just that-amazing girl). My kiddos also like to “help” by moving pieces of boards around, stacking them up, laying them across two other boards to form a balance beam of sorts, etc. I have no idea what they are up to, but in their expanding minds they are constructing a chicken coop and I shall not stand in the way.

Reason #3: I have project ADD. I typically have multiple projects going on at any given time, starting one or two, then coming up with other fantastic ideas that I go start, then seeing someone else’s project that I could totally do myself and promptly start….it never ends. One day my back patio will be ready for dining al fresco (which I better finish soon because the weather is finally starting to cool down here in Florida), my fence line will be dug up and my 3 remaining flowering plants will be put into the ground and mulched around and my chicken coop will be built.

In the meantime, excuse me while I go work on another project while the kids sleep because Lord knows when they wake up…….

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Family

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A couple months ago our church held a beach baptism at a local beach. This is where new Christians profess their faith in Christ in public by being dunked under water, symbolizing being washed clean by Jesus. Church goers gather at the park, have a time of worship then we all go down to the beach to celebrate with those getting baptized, play and hang out. Sometimes the waves are really big and end up dunking the people before the Pastor has time to lower them under. It makes me laugh, but that’s besides the point.

My family decided to go to the baptism, which quite honestly, I was not looking forward to. I didn’t want to bother with the kids in the sand and water, being in the sun, etc. etc. Never mind that there were over 20 people, many of them kids, who had recently turned their life over to God, which is the reason of all reasons to celebrate. I was going to be uncomfortable and that was more important to me. Not one of my proudest moments.

But we went. As soon as we got there, we found friends to stand and sing with. I slipped in next to a fellow mom who was holding the young daughter of another mama friend, who was at home sick. After a few minutes the young son of my friend next to me walked over and wanted to be held too. She bent to pick him up and after helping hoist him up, I offered to take the friends’ girl she was holding. She lay her head on my shoulder and I softly sang in her ear. Some of the older kids were playing with a coconut behind us and I turned around as one of the dads stepped in to quiet them down. A few minutes later my two kids came up and wanted my attention, so I sat the friend’s girl down with her older brothers and sisters, their friends and another mom.

That’s when it hit me. Today is about family; new members of the family of Christ being welcomed; sharing in a time of worship and play with my family; living life with our friends, many who have become like family. We take care of each others kids, passing them between us, caring for them, correcting them, loving them. We weren’t doing each other a favor, we were simply living life together. I was humbled.

The icing on the cake came when I looked down at my daughter who was telling me the song we were singing was from church. It wasn’t a favorite song of mine at the time, not even one I really cared for, but as I watched my little girl raise her hand to Jesus and sing the words she picked up on, it became my new favorite song. How awesome is was to be able to stand there, in a public place, with my family and my friends, worshiping the Creator of the ocean itself.

I often struggle with not feeling at home, regardless of the fact that I have lived here for over 5 years, married my husband here and have raised my kids, thus far, in this town. That day changed me. It filled me with a peace knowing that no matter where I live, God is there. I may miss seeing him in the mountains, but He is in the ocean too. I may miss my family I grew up with, but I still have family surrounding me.

Praising Jesus to the same song, just at home. She calls it her song now.

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Here is the link to my new favorite song:

2 Years Ago Today

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Oh my sweet boy, you are two years old today. I have nothing witty or poignant to say, no lesson I’ve learned that I need to share with the world. No, today all I need do is look at you and say “Behold! This is my son. My heart overflows with my love for him.”

However, as I get older, I will forget things more and more, moments I treasure so dear will slip further from my memory. So, I will share you with the world today; what makes you tick, what makes you laugh, how you make me laugh, how you make me cry, and everything in between. Today is about you, my son, my dear one.

I gave birth to a different baby. You weren’t William, you were Zeke. However, the name didn’t fit and so you became nameless. Oh, how I cried when I was rushed into picking a name for you. I didn’t want you to be named after someone else, I wanted you to be unique, to have your own name. But Daddy felt led to name you after his Dad, your Poppy, and I had nothing else to suggest, so William you became. After 2 years, your name just rolls off my lips now, whether it’s ‘William’, ‘Will’, ‘Willy boy’, ‘Willard’, ‘Willis’, or ‘Bud’.

“They” say parents shouldn’t bribe their kids, but oh, how much easier life is sometimes when you do! Food has always been the winning key for you. I bribe you into your car seat with snacks or to sit still in the grocery cart to earn a treat, to take a nap with the promise of a lollipop afterwards and a mint after letting me brush your teeth.

You became a little brother as soon as you entered the world, not just because of birth order, but because you have taken to following your big sis everywhere. First, with your eyes as she danced around you, and now, 2 years later, with your feet as you want to do everything she does. She taught you how to cover your face with your hands as you giggle, to (fake) an injury in order to get a kiss from mom, to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, to close the bathroom door so we don’t hear you playing in water in the sink, and to cuddle a blanket at night time (and to call your blanket ‘nah-nee’). Anything Georgia does that earns her verbal praise or a high five, you insist you did it too. At church, you guys are inseparable. Though you two should be in separate rooms based on your ages, all the workers and volunteers know that you two go together, either in the baby room or the older toddler room. You need your big sis and she needs you, too.

It took you a year and a half to finally get the concept of sleeping through the night. Granted, your first 14 months you were being fed dairy (or nursed while I was eating dairy) while being lactose intolerant (please forgive me). I was a zombie for 14 months and it was only by God’s strength and energy I lived through it to tell about it. I eventually learned to enjoy our time rocking you back to sleep, watching you curled up in my arms, praying over your sleeping sister and you.

At just 2 years old, you’re a pretty honest little guy. When you put your hands down your diaper and get poop on your hands, you come and tell me right away, before smearing it all over the house. Thank you. You also told me about the 8 cookies you retrieved off the kitchen counter and ate while I was in the shower. It was my fault I didn’t know what you meant when you kept coming into the bathroom and telling me “more mama!”

You love the outdoors and everything in it. So much so that sometimes when we go walking down the road, you will lay down and just start licking the dirt. If there’s water out there, you will find it and splash in it, maybe even sit and lay down in it (which you have also learned from big sis). You have grown from squishing any bug you see to enjoying watching it and, if it’s still alive, moving it out of the way so it doesn’t get squished. You like to help me throw chunks of fruit or bread out for the birds and squirrels, though you’re more likely to eat the bread yourself. Did I mention you love food?

Books, blocks and cars: 3 of your favorite things (not to mention food). As you get older, you will play with the blocks by yourself, which means instead of just knocking down what everyone else has built, you have learned to build yourself. Sometimes I’ll look in the den and you’ll be sitting there with a book in your lap, pointing out all the things you know. Once in awhile you’ll call out to me to tell me about it. More often that not, you’d rather crawl into my lap and have me read you a book….the same one we’ve been reading day after day. Not that I’m complaining…..

My dear William, happy birthday to you, here’s to being two!

(These pics are a few months old. I’m writing this during nap times and the time it would take to get recent pics onto my computer is more than I have to spare. I still love you.)

 

 

Our venture into homeschooling

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First day of homeschooling and there were already tears. Mine. The mom. The teacher. After just 20 minutes of trying to teach my kids something productive and giving them structure, I was telling myself I was a failure and I couldn’t do it. I was done, forget this preschool program I’ve spent hours scouring over and preparing for. Forget all the time I’ve spent deciding if Georgia would be ready to start kindergarten a year earlier than if she were to enter the public (or private) school system. Did I mention we just started PRESCHOOL? Forget all the unit studies I’d already dreamed up and how much extra time I would have to instill God’s principles in her because how the heck can I do that when she’s spending 6 hours a day in a regular school? Forget the next 13 years of homeschooling I had already thought about because today proved I just couldn’t do it.

Never mind that that morning we had gone to the gym and the grocery store before getting home to have just 45 minutes to cram some lunch down the kids’ throats and do our first day of school. Oh it is laughable what I tried to do that first day, even though it has only been 10 days since then, as if I have gained so much more wisdom since then.

In fact, even though our program we are following (abcjesuslovesme.com) is set for 3 days a week, each of our days the first week were short and this week we’ve only done 2 days. I was stressin’ big time up until 2 days ago. A sample of my thoughts towards my darling pupils:
“Oh my goodness, my kids are so undisciplined! Who has been raising these people? Kids their age go to daycare or preschool all day long and have structured activities and rules to follow and I can’t even get my kids to sit for 2 minutes to listen to a story. They love stories, why aren’t they listening? Sit down! Stop talking!”

“What do you mean you don’t want to color? You love coloring. Why are you throwing the crayons on the floor? Get that out of your mouth! You colored so much you can’t even see the picture, how are you supposed to remember what God created on Day 3 when you look at that? Seriously, stop eating the crayons dude!”

“Just listen to the story and stop pointing out all of the animals God created. If you’re talking, you’re not listening and you’re not getting what I’m saying. Ssssshhhhh!”

And then I took a deep breath, and tossed out all my expectations. I looked at what my child had learned in just 2 weeks and it really is amazing. Not only can she recognize numbers 0-2, she can write them. I wasn’t even planning on her working on that yet, but instead of simply coloring her number sheets, she has decided to practice writing the numbers. She chose to do this all on her own, no prompting from me. Glory hallelujah, I will not have a less than smart child because of my shortcomings. She can also tell me what God created on each of the 6 days when she looks at the pictures she colored. I was all worried that she didn’t have it memorized and then I remembered that before teaching her the story of creation, I didn’t even have it memorized either. Day 3 is also kind of a toss up whether she figures it out because that’s the one she made into an unrecognizable colored mess (it’s supposed to be land and plants). While crayons and markers still end up on the floor every time we use them, we also used glitter and paint and both kids managed to not get it all over. That is truly a miraculous sign that God exists. Georgia drew a picture of her family for the first time. When I read this part in the curriculum and then saw a friend’s son draw his family at his preschool, I just about freaked out. My 3 year old is supposed to be able to draw her family? We are so behind, she will never make it to college! Then we tried it….the kid is actually pretty good at it. Proud mama right here. Georgia now has 2 memory verses imprinted on her heart: 1) Do not be afraid for I am with you, Isaiah 43:5 and 2) In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, Genesis 1:1.

While William goes along with it all and I have been trying to teach him his colors, he is still sure that blue is the color of everything I point out to him, and that is okay because he is going to learn that learning is fun. Hopefully he’ll also learn that crayons are not for eating.

 

The memory a smell can evoke

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The dollar store is one of my favorite stores. Everything for a dollar. Everything (actually there at items that are even less than a dollar!). There are websites and Facebook groups dedicated to all the things you can do with items from the Dollar Store. As a bonus, I can placate my toddlers with a snack or toy that doesn’t blow the budget, especially when they’re going to lose interest or break it anyway. And don’t get me started on the fact you can buy helium balloons for $1 each. I may just start to hyperventilate in my excitement. I can fill my entire house with helium balloons for the price of what i would pay for the latest new found gadget for my kids’ birthday and the balloons will last a whole lot longer, plus provide hours of entertainment when we turn the ceiling fan on and wait on the edge of our seat for the balloon to be swept into the rotating blades. The kids’ squeels of delight make it worth the brief moment my heart stops beating because it sounds like someone is shooting at my house.

A couple of weeks ago I was in this beloved store going through the checkout lane and then going for a massage two doors down. First, let me point out that I said “I was in the store”, as in just me, no kids. Second, let me point out that I had time to go for a massage afterwards (Thanks to a gift card from Mother’s Day). Pretty sure I also saw pigs flying.

As I checked out, on a whim, I grabbed a pack of mints to make sure I had fresh breath. Apparently impressing my masseuse was important to me. Apparently that’s also a problem they must deal with because they have bowls of mints for their customers in their lobby. I stepped outside, opened the pack of mints and as the smell wafted up to my nose, nostalgia hit me. It was like an old, familiar friend I hadn’t seen in years.

Grandma. Immediately I saw her, her house, her apartment, her buffet, her end table, and the small bowls that always, always, held her mints and her chapstick. Oh how I loved searching out those two items every time we went to her house, which, by the way, was almost every day since we lived in the same town. Needless to say, I ate a lot of mints and used a lot of chapstick as a kid.

What good, good memories of an even better person. Oh that I could see her again and share a mint (or two). I think she would be delighted that my kids are now hooked on those same mints and love getting my old chapstick tubes (old, as in all used up except a tiny bit smooshed down in there because their idea of using chapstick is to eat it). I think I’ll be buying these mints on our almost weekly trips to our beloved dollar store.

Reigning it in

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I just put my kids down for naps and got a huge lesson in motherhood.

I’ve heard lots of jokes about blondes. I’m not a blonde, except when the sun lightens my hair, but at times, I have found myself just as ditzy as those jokes make blondes out to be. I’ve also heard lots of comments about how red heads have fiery hot tempers. I’m not a red head either, but I definitely have a temper. My reaction to just about any situation is anger, annoyance or frustration, which in and of themselves isn’t so bad. They are a God given emotion after all. That argument only carries me so far though because my anger often comes out in not so good ways-yelling, slamming or throwing things, or growling/grunting (a very unattractive sound according to my husband); pretty much all the things my toddler’s second favorite show, Daniel Tiger, teaches you not to do. His option, take a deep breath and count to 4, is not as satisfying though.

And that is where the one thing I probably find the hardest in motherhood comes into play-reigning it in; reigning in my anger, my desire to yell at the child who won’t stop yelling themselves, my almost knee jerk reaction to push away the kid who just bit my shoulder, my satisfaction I would get from throwing the pot that won’t pop the popcorn across the kitchen, the guttural yell that wants to escape from my lips when the stupid sun shade won’t hang right after trying for 30 minutes while the kids are trying to climb on the chair to “help” and whining because they just want some lunch.

Seriously, I have an anger problem. Unfortunately for me, Jesus commands in Ephesians 4:26 “in your anger do not sin”. I read that verse and my lungs deflate in a big sigh. Oh how I fail at this every day. However, sometimes instead of blowing my gasket, I actually lay my anger down at Jesus’ feet and beg for his patience, his mercy, his grace, and his love. Not because I need it so much (although I do), but because I have a little person right in front of me who needs it, and in that moment of anger, I have nothing to give them but anger. So I really, really, really need Jesus to fill me with his character so I can pour it out to my children.

Today, it was my eldest, my 3 year old, my little girl who may whine for a few seconds prior to naps just because, well, because she’s 3, but who typically goes down without a hitch. She’s my easy one. Not today though. Today she threw an all out melt down, screaming, growling (hmmmm, I wonder where she got that?), toddler tantrum. I was in the other room putting my not-so easy sleeper down for his nap and as I listened to my firstborn scream her head off, my anger started to build higher and higher, deeper and deeper. I was ready to go in and give her a real reason to scream. However, in the 2 seconds it took me to slip out of one bedroom (after my not-so easy sleeper went down easily and stayed down despite his sister’s loud protests) and into her bedroom, I took a deep breath, said a quick prayer (“Jesus, help me”) and reigned it in.

Instead of scolding her, which is putting it nicely, I simply asked her what all the screaming was about. Turns out, all the little person wanted was a couple of band-aids for her knees, which had a couple of old boo-boos on them, but which apparently needed something to cover the almost healed battle wounds. I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand why those boo-boos needed band-aids today when it happened days ago and why they needed the band-aids RIGHT NOW, but in her little 3 year old mind, she understood it and it made perfect sense. Yes, she went about it the wrong way and the whole situation was made worse from her being tired, but what a simple solution; band-aids and a kiss from her mama. Wouldn’t you know that once we put those band-aids on (which took way too long because she wanted to do it herself) she was the sweetest little thing and promptly said “thank you” and “good night”.

I don’t condone her temper tantrum, but Jesus wouldn’t have condoned my tantrum either if I were to have reacted to her anger with  anger of my own. It’s a lesson that isn’t easy for me to follow, but one that I need to be reminded of again and again. Today was a good reminder.

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