Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Coins and Tickets

Molly Mae turned 5 last Monday. I have been quite sentimental lately  about this milestone representing a chapter in my life coming to a close; I officially don't have young kids.  While, I haven't carried a diaper bag or sippy cup for quite a while, #5 seems to nail the big kid plaque on the walls of our family life.

  And as everything seems to be with motherhood and my daughters, I often think about their lives linked to existential meanings for me.  Are these these milestones about the passing of time for them or for me?
Is it about the big girl or the lines on my face?  Is it the milestone of her birthday or my trying to grasp this journey? Last week, as I often do even if I don't have the time to sit and write a blog, I ruminate the significance of our life as if I would put words to events and feelings.  In  my mind and heart, I was preparing myself to think about and celebrate the big deal of Molly's birthday. I was thinking of how I would describe her phases and moods, her strengths and frustrations and the way she exudes personality with force and femininity.   I excitedly thought about welcoming my parents for a visit, including a surprise visit from Daddy Doug and celebrating my mother's birthday.  My parents came in on Thursday but on Tuesday, we received some news that has consumed my thoughts and emotions even as I'm trying to focus on Molly and the journeys of our life.  

This blog is a place where I get my thoughts out in the spirit of honesty as I share my heart and mind as our story, yet sometimes what is on my mind isn't exactly our story.  Elise, a little girl in Anna Cate's class, has been diagnosed with brain cancer.   (You can see Elise's beautiful face or read the strong, heart-wrenching, yet beautiful words from her family on their public Facebook page here.) I do not know the family, but have met the little girl at lunch once and heard Elise's name fondly from Anna Cate all year, yet their story has been on my heart and mind ever since. I think about the family so much and can only admit that as much as my heart is breaking, I can not realize what they face, so I just send prayers, including a plea for them to enjoy the present in the face of such struggles. . . absurd as that sounds. 

Needless to say this news has permeated my thoughts on my own life as we go on with our story. So without sounding trite, I hope to relay our story. 

We welcomed Mom and Dad and planned an elaborate surprise for Daddy's appearance. I went to the train to pick up Mom, but BJ went to pick up Dad. In the car on the way home, Molly cried, "I just don't know why Daddy Doug never comes."  After we came home and got settled, Daddy rang the door bell, and Molly could not quit hugging him. It was grand!

Friday, they went to school to have lunch with Anna Cate and that evening,  we enjoyed a lovely dinner to celebrate Mom's 68th birthday. 

On Saturday, we went to an air and space museum. I let Anna Cate take some pictures:

 Clearly she knows how to capture the moment. 

We then enjoyed a lovely meal at our friends' Geoff and Dorinda's home. Dorinda and I have been friends for over 20 years but reconnected really in the last 10, and her husband Geoff is sort of like a clone of my Dad. 

Dorinda is truly a phenomenal hostess. 
 She is like 14 months pregnant and put on a fabulous spread enabling us all to visit in their beautiful home. 

 She does everything perfect. . .including an arrangement of the Tennessee state flower. 

The next day was the day we had planned to do Molly's party, but winter weather forced us to postpone, so we had a family day with movies and pizza. Molly didn't throw a fit about her party being postponed; in fact she lets a lot smaller things drive her crazy.  On Monday, Molly's actual birthday, Mom, Dad, Anna Cate and I took Molly to Chuck E. Cheese for an hour.  

If you've managed to avoid it, let me explain the rouse: you buy coins to play the games and the kids want to play as many games as possible to get as many tickets as possible so they can redeem their tickets for a prize. Both girls had a blast playing the games. . .and trying to get tickets.
After the coins run out, the kids go see the prizes they can get with their wad of tickets, and they are junk . . .the kind of things that come in a McDonald's Happy Meal -- junky as the food and the toys.  Clearly, the joy of Chuck E Cheese is playing the games, not the prize at the end. That translates well to my heart and mind as we celebrate Molly turning 5.

In general, the focus of parenthood and our goals for our dealings with children are long term pay offs, but often the experience trumps the outcome. The coins metaphorically are the present and should not be disregarded.  I am not saying to ignore the values in delayed gratification, yet the theme of life seems to continually call us to savor the journey, and no better teachers of this truth than children. 
Molly grasping her coins on a ride.

 On her birthday evening,  she was happy to have her family around for her. 
 I hope I will always remember the place of my heart and mind as we welcomed the celebration of Molly's 5th birthday. Love and Light.
I don't see all the worries, yelling, frustrations and chores that come with parenthood. I see pure love and light in the hearts of the family surrounding Molly and in the spirit of a little girl.  

So as I think about Molly and pray for a family on my heart, my hopes and prayers are the same.  By the grace of God, in the midst of whatever the tickets will get us, help us to seek love and light in the ride of life.  

All men know their children mean more than life.
 - Euripides

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Friday, February 20, 2015


Passing of time, seasons of life, the dead of winter. . .all those expressions about times in our lives find resonance in mine.  I haven't visited this space in way too long to sort out my thoughts and feelings on the happenings of our family as we journey together and in my effort to detail what's happened in our life, I think my writing experience suffers. I learned from another teacher recently to tell students not to just "data dump" in an essay with lots of facts. Rather, students should string sentences together in a meaningful way. Yet tonight, I do feel the need to get out the details and then I'll try string  all together in a meaningful way in my effort to write more often. 

The dump of details . . .

We had a lovely Christmas in Tennessee. It wasn't perfect and there was family arguments and the feeling that maybe we stayed too long, but that didn't make the time with the family any less lovely….it just made it more like family. We shared Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve (our 10th year anniversary) New Year's Day in Centerville. We squeezed in a visit with BJ's aging grandmother and my dear friend Whitney and her two children, who are exactly Anna Cate and Molly's age.  Many of the special moments I tried to capture here.

Christmas 2014 from Sarah King on Vimeo.

 It was bittersweet to leave family after we were there for so long, but we are thankful we have a full life here to which we return.  Molly loves being at Miss Diana's during the day, and I am so grateful that I often receive a text or picture from Diana of Molly's day. The one below says, "Molly, the animal whisperer."

We went out of town overnight to celebrate BJ's birthday. 

 It is so nice to have such fun friends with whom to celebrate BJ.  If you have not been to a piano bar, it is good time! We left the bar around 11:45 an the bouncer at the door said the players play until 2 am. I seriously could not fathom staying out 2 more hours, which made me feel old. 
 Meanwhile, the girls redeemed their Christmas gift from Sarah and Greg for a camping trip. 

Anna Cate, Molly, Sarah and I took the girls to a painting experience

 Anna Cate and I painted a piece together and Sarah and Molly were partners.  
I thought Molly would be more low key with Sarah. . .not so much.  Sarah got some pink on what was deemed a branch by Molly and Molly lost it. I had to take her out of the vicinity because her anger was so uncontrollable she said, "you don't know how this feels; I need a moment, so please let me cry" after I told her I was putting on the stopwatch and she had 60 seconds to cry.  She gathered herself and finished her piece.
It is so interesting, gut-wrenching and often frustrating to watch Molly deal with the world. At 4, she wants to master and understand everything and she takes it so personally when she doesn't. This week, I asked her how I can help her trust me that when I have her best interest at heart (don't open the oven; don't pick up broken glass) and listen to me; she said, "by trusting me." It will be a worthy journey with this child whose spirit seems so large.

The art turned out to be a lovely experience and while there are a lot of metaphors in the lessons of life we find in art, I like to think of Molly embodying this:

F. Scott Fitzgerald: Great art is the contempt of a great man for small art. great, contempt, man. Meetville Quotes

While many look at January and February as dreary months, our family particularly enjoys the slow times because it means BJ doesn't have to work on Saturdays.  Annually, we enjoy a delicious brunch at Marion's home whom the girls call Mum Mum. 

 Marian was a first grade teacher for decades, has 4 children and many grandchildren of her own, yet she still has the energy and spirit to welcome Anna Cate and Molly into her home and her heart. She really is amazing with them, and from a young age, both girls have always responded to her in a way that proves my hunch that children sense the authenticity of humanity in unspeakable ways.  
 She prepared a beautiful breakfast and as I wondered aloud how I was going to enter all this in MyFitness pal (a phone app that tracks calories), Molly said, "just lie." See what I mean . . kids understand what is important -- a meal with family. 
 Molly got a new comforter set since Rosie spent one too many nights on her bed and miraculously, she is sleeping all night in her own bed (Anna Cate has joined her so it is not exactly by herself).
Her reward was a movie with friends. We saw Paddington Bear -- fabulous show!!
 We worried that this January snow was the only one we were going to get, wondering if the Christmas gift of sleds was a jinx.  The girls enjoyed it anyway, and I enjoyed watching from the window.

Speaking of watching from the sideline, we went out to cheer on our dear friend Norah as she completed an ultra marathon. 
It was a beautiful winter's day and we were so glad it worked out to be there when she crossed the finish line. 
It was a beautiful winter's day and we were so glad it worked out to be there when she crossed the finish line, which really was more about supporting her journey 

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” 
I still have thoughts and experiences to flesh out and hope to write more often, but even if I don't have the time to write, I find that my mind and heart are open to the metaphors and experiences I would string together when I find the time. As always, I'm thankful for the journey and those with whom I share it. . . I just pray for the time and heart to enjoy it as I live it.

“A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.” 

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Monday, December 29, 2014

Nostalgic and Real Christmas

Christmas is such a lovely time of year. There are so many opportunities for special occasions of good cheer, and we have tried to take advantage of that as a family.

It all starts with a lovely family Thanksgiving. Molly Mae wanted a carrot cake this year and so she helped make it.

This Fall meal is my favorite setting.

 I tease my Mother about using silver entirely too often, but I did ask her to bring up my grandmother silver for this meal. Isn't it beautiful?

The Carrot Cake was delicious even though I'm not sure Molly even had a full slice.
After my parents left, we kicked off the Christmas season with my taking Anna Cate & Molly to see the Christian Youth Theater's production of "A Christmas Carol." The days that followed leading up until Christmas were full of other celebrations of the yule tide -- parties, parades, ginger bread house decorating, an outing to see The Nutcracker, a children's Christmas performance at church. It is a lot of wonderful Christmassy things.   
We squeezed in a visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus. 
We try so hard to fill these girls with memories of this season and joy for the holidays. I also slipped off to go see Messiah by myself one Sunday evening. 

They both still believe in the magic of Christmas and I try to preserve and take advantage of each time to celebrate it.

And these are things that I hope they will remember. The words of Dickens, the prancing of Tchaikovsky, and melodies of Handel are what I  believe to be the essence of life. but in the midst of all these happenings, we still are working and then the girls got sick. Since November 20, we visited a doctor for Anna Cate at least 4 times -- she had two bouts of strep, a virus and pneumonia. Molly had strep and pink eye. Anna Cate tried out and did not make a play.  They still have extra curricular activities on top of my trying to create Christmas magic and last week, I snapped.  I guess I could leave my blog at the stories of the good times, but I cling to the real as fiercely as I love the sentiments of the season.

In the midst of all of this "good cheer" I felt empty and burned out. I said things I shouldn't have said, yelled at BJ and the girls, and basically lost my marbles.  It was all just too much for me.  Combining all the good stuff in our life with all the necessary stuff and the illnesses left me wiped  out. And in truth, it carved into my time for myself to work out. 

My need for a few hours hours a week to myself to sweat is both a blessing and a curse for our family--it keeps me healthy, but missing it makes me grumpy. Going without those endoprhins and the self-esteem booster leaves the ugliest emotional toxins possible trapped inside me and unfortunately they were released on my family. I felt like Anna Cate wasn't acting grateful for a Christmas gift, like BJ didn't appreciate my efforts to enjoy life and get gifts to all the teachers, and well, Molly wakes us up every night. 

I'm not proud of it but I bet I'm not alone, and the more I thought about it, I took some solace in this little nativity set.  
I realize that just like our images of the nativity we put out as Christmas decor, the scenes of the seasons  involve many stories.  So too will my children's treasure bank of memories hold many stories, even if they aren't all rosy. 

In the story from Luke, there is mention of shepherds. Yet in the story from Matthew, there are no shepherds and we read about a bright star and the magi, the wise kings. In another source, the gospel of James focuses more on Mary and her childhood. While there is no mention of the shepherds with the kings in biblical accounts, every nativity set we put the shepherds, a star, the angels and the kings together.  These images in the stories work together to make the nativity.   
It's all a part of Christmas --the shepherds and the wise men. The hustle and the stress; the overwhelming to-do lists with the abundance of culture.  The illnesses of my children come along with this amazing opportunity to care for them.  The trials and the joy make up this journey. 

Whatever we believe about the divinity of Jesus, I can't deny the fact that for over a thousand years, millions of people have looked to celebrate his birth because his life and legacy were so meaningful.  For those of us who do believe there was divinity in his spirit, I still take solace in the fact that what we celebrate in this Holy Season is humanity, a birth story. So I am reminded to be ok with both the divinity of the season in all the good stuff and the humanity of it in my own shortcomings. For if it weren't for my shortcomings, I wouldn't need something larger than myself to celebrate. 

I think I've picked up my marbles and been able to regroup. We celebrated as a family before making the trip to Tennessee. We have much to celebrate and many memories to make. And if those crazy mom memories last in their head, hopefully they will remember happy scenes as well. 

“For it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child Himself.”  ― Charles DickensA Christmas Carol

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I love my family, deep thoughts, pure feelings and a good time making lasting memories with people I love. I procrastinate, but love to plan. I'm insecure about my body but confident about my heart and mind. I grew up in a small town, but feel like I'm a citizen of the world. Being a working mother was not in my life plan, but neither was being poor so I'm using this blog to help me focus on the precious time I do have with my family. My husband is the most competent person I know, and in many ways, he is more motherly to our precious girls than I am, since I have the job of being the disciplinarian, more like my Dad. I love to work out, write, eat, drink wine, entertain, decorate and think.

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