Sunday, October 12, 2014

Milestone, Paths and Journeymen

As we experience the milestones of my children's life, I find myself oscillating between grand sentimental thoughts and "go through the motions" type states of being.  Although my mom was, I am not the mom with a camera at every event and I find myself often reminding myself why whatever we are doing is a big deal, wondering if my response is how I'm supposed to feel.  It is just all so much. . .these little souls whose childhood I'm witnessing as I'm supposed to be feeding, teaching, playing with, feeding at the same time as I'm just going through the motions myself of life.  Come to think of it, I journey through milestones of my life with both a sentimental slob approach or a "go through the motions" outlook.

Last week, Anna Cate received her bible (and hymnal) during a church service.  Many of the songs presented were songs from praise baby, a collection of spiritual praise songs we used to play all the time.  I have lost the dvd set and wish Molly could watch them. Anyway, the praise baby songs elicited some strong sentimental twinges. How has my baby become a little girl and did I do what I was supposed to do along the way for her? Probably not, which is why I'm so thankful we have outside experiences and sources to support her journey. 
As well as friends along the path.

In a completely unrelated event, it was also the weekend of her half birthday so she got her ears pierced. 

In wondering if I'm doing the right thing, I often contemplate how to raise children to be successful in this world but not be of it.  I have always struggled with the same concepts.  Maybe my struggles with parenting just mirror my own struggles.  Rather than my having the answers to pass down,  perhaps, my "lot in life" is to just walk alongside with these girls as they discover their own balance.  

In fact, I didn't really like that expression "lot in life" and when looking up its meaning, I find that it has a biblical reference -- the relative of Abraham, Lot, struggles because he doesn't exactly follow the will of God, according to the story.  You see, I don't really believe in the literal interpretation of the Bible, but I do think it has so much value in our world, so I find deep meaning when Anna Cate's family of faith presents her with their holy scriptures and songs.  Those books, the bible and hymnal, have rich  meanings for this world and in our efforts to find meaning of it all, and I'm just so thankful to be a part of this journey for her.

I wonder if that is the point of this parenting gig. Molly helps remind me constantly that it is up to her to do it herself. And when I stand back, I am continually amazed at all she can do as well understand "on her own." I wish I had more time to let her do more on her own. Last week, I lamented in guilt, "Molly gets schlepped around to all of Anna Cate's activities and I know she just wants to be at home."  Later that day she said, "Mommy, I'm always rushed around, but what does schlep mean?" Sometimes, however, she enjoys her sissy's activities, like the Girl Scout pumpkin patch trip she went on last night. 
To sum up all my disjointed thoughts about how I'm supposed to feel, what I'm supposed to be teaching, I think I know it is my responsibility to teach them how to behave, how to be healthy, and all that jazz.  Yet more importantly, it is my sacred duty to just journey alongside with them, witnessing to them as we go through the motions of life together, both the sentimental and the pragmatic steps. 

The best way I can influence their journey is by letting them know how special their journey is to me, as I pass along lessons I've found to be important in mine: being kind, brave, healthy, trustworthy, reliable, and well-rested. . .to name a few.  It helps to relieve my burden a bit to acknowlege that only by being honest and present in both my love and restraint can I be a suitable traveling companion as we journey together. 

I think they will be ok. 

On Children

 Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts, 
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, 
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, 
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, 
and He bends you with His might 
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable. 

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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Reconciling the End of Summer

"The thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest."
-  William Blake   

The Figs that we pluck from a tree outside our door are such sweet reminders that joy comes in every season. We've enjoyed the best fig harvest ever this year, and this treat reminds me to love all the seasons, both of the year and of my life.  
A crisp air is replacing the humidity in the air on my evening runs. The laid back mornings with back porch coffee chats, swim team practices and picnic planning have been replaced by the rushed "COME ONs" or "DONT FORGET to brush you hair/teeth," "I love you"  "come give me a quick kiss" and "have a good days."   Afternoon naps and late dinners have been replaced by evening activities, homework and a mad rush to get our girls to bed by 8. (I think sleep is really important; unfortunately it cuts into quality time).  As much as I wish every day could be summer and while I'm sad summer is over, I know I only feel this way because we enjoyed such a fabulous one together. I am such a slacker mom in so many ways, but I really hope Anna Cate and Molly will remember how very hard I focused on providing all the wonderful experiences I can in the summer.  If current attitude is a predictor of future gratitude, let's just say assuaging my own guilt is going to have to be enough.

Summer was filled with pool time, a couple king's dominion trips and a beautiful beach vacation. Our final hooray for the girls and me was our annual trip to Tennessee. We road tripped it "all by ourselves:  and said goodbye to Daddy.

We spent a lovely night with my dear aunt on the way to Nana and Daddy Doug's.
 Anna Cate remembered where Aunt keeps her books and she enjoyed reading a book about King Midas. The guy whose love of gold  messes it all up by wanting everything to become gold was one of my favorites when I visited Aunt as well.

We had a lovely time in Centerville as well. I stayed for almost two weeks and the girls stayed an extra week while I came back and went to work. I was treated to an amazing dinner at Douglas & Becki's home (grilled halibut, sautéed kale, grilled pears with goat cheese, and grilled peaches with cream along with his fabulous wine selections).
I caught up with my friend Dorinda's mom at this authentic cajun restaurant where you get to bring your own wine.
I got lots of time to myself for long runs and workouts. I took the kids to the park and could ignore them while I did burpees and dumbbell exercises. This park even had a pull-up station.

It was a nice relaxing time, almost a calm before the storm that is the beginning of the school year.
The girls enjoyed tea parties and a lot of quality time with their cousin Kitty.

We visited friends and made new ones.

Anna Cate and Molly got the benefits of summer and time with Nana and Daddy Doug. . .along with Nana time.
Molly gets to wear Nana's shoes or carry around her purses to her heart's content. Here she is trying out the look of a clip on earring on her lip.  
Anna Cate's Centerville buddy Liza took her to her first concert. . . ONE DIRECTION!
My favorite part of going home is being in the beauty of Hickman County's landscape and it is so evident here at the creek.

I held this rock in my hand the last evening of my summer vacation as I looked out on my family and this beautiful landscape and said to myself I should just be grateful for what I have rather than sad for what I want more of….time in nature and with my family. 
The beginning of the school year brings new opportunities and things we don't get in the summer. . .everything can't be gold. I know there is joy in this phase of our journey as well, even though we run ourselves so ragged that I know we wouldn't enjoy the serenity of the summer without such a schedule. 
 The girls are both playing a Fall sport and Anna Cate has joined a year round swim team. 

Anna Cate and her bff Leana are on the same softball team, and I have to admit, it is so fun watching them learn and improve. I continually am amazed with gratitude for the parents who give of their time. They have great coaches. 

 Last week, when visiting Anna Cate's school, I read a writing assignment where she described her summer and it warmed my heart to know she made such good memories. I did, too, but I know that the busyness of Fall, which adds stress for me, creates memories and opportunities as well.  With all that we do, I don't have time to get to a gym so I improvise by keeping weights, a quilt, and headphones in the back of the van for work outs in parking lots. I've discovered roads that are beautiful I didn't know existed. I run while Anna Cate swims.

Or I find a corner of a parking lot to do yoga.

 I will run up and down the street waiting on the bus in the afternoons.  

I do crossfit in parking lots.

Ironically, as much as I miss the time to get to a gym or a crossfit "box," I find so much strength in the notion that I'm figuring out a way to make what is important to me happen. I would never dig deep without the pressures and stresses of working. So while I wish I could be a "stay-at-home" mom and have the freedom of summer throughout the year, I know I can seize the opportunities to appreciate life in a different way.  
When I do get the chance to slip off by myself on  a country road, I know that I wouldn't appreciate the scenery if not for the quickie workouts I have to do in parking lots.  Much like my appreciation for summer --  family summers are only made sweeter because of  the business of our school year life. Below I tried to capture the picture of the sun rays and the rain on a recent weekend run in a Civil War battlefield I adore. Running provides such rich metaphors for life. Just as King Midas learned not everything should be gold, there can be beautiful rays of sun shining as rain falls. 

"I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright.
I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more.
I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive.
I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger.
I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.
I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.
I wish you enough hellos to get you through the final goodbye."
-  I Wish You Enough, Unity Church  

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Sunday, August 24, 2014

In defense of "every kid gets a trophy"

There is a garden in every childhood, an enchanted place where colors are brighter, the air softer, and the morning more fragrant than ever again. ~Elizabeth Lawrence

For the King girls, that garden is rather a swimming pool. The girls both swim on our neighborhood swim team, and the whole experience is a very big part of our summer. Summer is a big part of our life, so it is fair to say that swim team is a big part of our life. Luckily this season, we enjoyed a visit from Nana and Daddy Doug and they got to experience a swim meet. Daddy said, "there is no way you could have ever explained to me what a big deal this is!" Indeed, swim team is a big deal, which makes us feel like our kids' swimming is a big deal.

This was Anna Cate's fourth year swimming and in all those years, she has never hesitated to go to the early-morning practices. For the past two school years, she participated in swim team lessons twice a week. She loves everything about the sport -- the swimming, the friends and the coaches.  Anna Cate is not the fastest swimmer, but she is strong and knows the strokes.  
She often wins her heats in the B group, but during the summer she asked to join a more competitive year round team with the plea, "I really want to be pushed Mom." So we are joining that lifestyle. 
Molly was the youngest kid on the team.
(photo above by my friend Jen Ognek, swim mom, team photographer)

Neither Anna Cate or Molly are the fastest kids or will their swimming determine whether we win a meet or not by their points accumulation (they don't even give points in 6 and under), but the feeling that they are part of team as they simultaneously find victory in personal bests make me think that this "every kid get a trophy" sentiment is not so bad! The girls get ribbons every time they get a personal best or win a heat. Anna Cate won several heats; Molly won one.  

 In addition to all the fulfillment the kids get, BJ & I have enjoyed the sense of community. Every family has to volunteer at meets and it is a great opportunity to meet new people and share in the journey.

At the end of the season, every kid gets an award with a personal story told by the coaches about each swimmer. Molly received "the Little Engine that could" award because she dropped over 30 seconds off her 25 meter time. Anna Cate got the early bird award (her Daddy gets her to practice). They both beamed, and I'm so thankful they have this opportunity to swim and be a part of a team. While the fast kids get a really big trophy, every swimmer does get a trophy to commemorate the season and the child's participation in it. Molly was so proud of hers she took it on our annual trip to Tennessee to show her grandparents. 

 Summer swim team is such a big part of our life and of Anna Cate and Molly's childhood. I'm so grateful they have these opportunities to experience community which celebrates all the children who participate. In many ways, it is a little haven of all the harsh realities of life where all kids don't get a trophy or an award.

“Summer will end soon enough, and childhood as well.”

Here are more images of our summer swim team experience. 

Swim 2014 from Sarah King on Vimeo. 02 12

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Figuring Life Out Together

I've neglected to take the time to write and reflect and ponder what parts of our life and my thoughts to share here in this space.  It is not that I'm not thinking about what I would write, how I would flesh out my thoughts and feelings. Often, I just don't have make the time for writing. Also, I find myself fluctuating between wanting to get out the every day joys of our life in pictures and words and thinking it will just come across as trite and I should spend the energy myself on how to describe my thoughts on this journey which I can't tell if I'm leading or following in this experience as mother.  I revel in the chance to enjoy that role more fully in the summer, but so often by the end of the day Anna Cate, Molly and I feel like Olivia and her mother.

We we wear each other out.

 Similarly, I fluctuate between thinking my two girls are the most precious pair of sisters I've ever seen and just when I want to sit down and tell about all that love in words and pictures, I think again that they are most antagonistic little manipulators compacted in little bodies.

 Saturday night, they were moved to tears over who got the blue corn on the cob holders and the next morning, they fought all the way to church about who got to wear which pair of sunglasses…. and it was raining!!!   One night, they were fighting, and whining and probably hitting when I told them to separate and sleep apart, but when I went to check on them I found them all cuddled together. . .

We have had a busy summer; the girls have enjoyed swim team, a couple Parks and Rec camps (basketball and softball for Anna Cate), a few day trips trips to the pool, a local park or the amusement park nearby Kings Dominion. Lately, I've noticed my frustration is higher because I want them to be more grateful but it seems like it is never enough.

Swim Team is a big part of our summer, and while neither of them is the fastest swimmer out there, I'm so thankful for the opportunities they have to improve themselves. (More on swim team in another post)

Molly is the youngest kid on the team and her progress has been stunning.  As I may to have alluded to before, Molly tries my patience, but I realized one day when I was watching her dive and swim across the 25 meter pool without stopping that this is a part of who she is. The same kid that fights me tooth and nail over the minutia of life will dive and swim and push herself to limits that amaze me even more than she frustrates me.  

And it is these simple yet deep realizations about life and the human journey I am learning from them and this ride that make me want to write it out so one day I'll know I remembered how precious and frustrating it all is.  I'm sure they will remember my yelling and cussing every now and then and my "no TV in the summer" will be changed to that it starts when Mommy wakes up.  I'm not perfect and I'm a slacker but these lessons I'm learning are just breathtakingly simple yet profound.

So while I could spend the time on this blog showing pictures of our typical summer with beach trips, amusements parks, swimming and relaxing. . . .

and while I want to focus on their faces who represent what our whole life is about, I really want to appreciate their spirit.

I would rather share with posterity the deep sense of relationship and struggle and love and humor I find in their very being.  Helping me to appreciate the being rather than the doings of our summer is a book I'm reading among other things this summer "The Conscious Parent." It speaks truth to me in the idea that this parenting journey is really another way to bring awareness to our own lives.  I've dabbled enough in yoga, read Eckahrt Tolle and "The Four Agreements" to understand the way the ego works and the value in self beyond my judgmental thoughts, and the beauty of the present above the illusion of "what's next or better."  

 A couple vignettes below represent how their spirit brings me awareness in the midst of relationship filled with frustration as well as enchantment, both with Anna Cate and Molly and with my experience as their mother.

Molly Mae. . .
Molly fights me on just about everything, but mostly it is about her wanting to do things herself.   One day while she yelled at me for trying to help her make a bed simply because I pulled a blanket straight, I asked her why she gets so mad when I try to help her; she said, "because I think you don't trust me." Truth and perspective boosted my patience. 

So often I forget she is just a little girl trying to establish and figure out her place in this world.  While I get so frustrated with her, I find myself so amused and fascinated by her as well. One day after I totally lost it on her and her selfish ways, I said, "I must just not be a good Mommy because I can't help you learn to share. I need you to go to your room because I can't be around you right now." That night at dinner, she asked to say the blessing and said something like "Thank for such a good mommy who helps me learn how to be nice, but God it is so hard to be nice."  Promise she said that. Recently she said, "it is just really hard being nice; it is not hard to be mean." It reminds me when once I asked her to tell her sister she was sorry for hitting her, she quipped, "But I'm not sorry."
One day last week after moments of consecutive patience on my part, I lost it. "Damnit, Molly I'm so sick of you arguing with me," and she, through tears, said, "Well I'm so sick of you cussing at me." 

Yet in the midst of her raw self-absorption and quick humor, she can be so pure in her love and affection. One night last week, after we exchanged "I love you," I asked her what  her favorite thing about life is (trying to encourage gratitude in my children's consciousness). She said, "what we just said….the love." She is so precious, a little mores while she is sleeping as long as she is not rubbing my neck.

Anna Cate. . . 

She amazes me in her ability to care for and think about others….except when it comes to picking up her shoes. Anna Cate will wear me down about why I don't give the homeless person on the street money, or immediately gives of whatever to her sister.  For instance, if Molly lets a balloon fly away that they each got at a restaurant, without asking, Anna Cate will give hers up. She thrives on making others happy. But she can be sassy and thoughtless, leading me to completely lose my cool when her room is messy or she sneaks TV on her kindle during quiet time when she is supposed to be reading.  This is another thing I go back and forth on -- at what point are they just being kids and at what point am I allowing them to be brats?!!? 
 I cringe at the excuse, "they are just kids!" Well….will we say that about 16 year olds texting and driving, or 17 year olds drinking or high schoolers engaging in unhealthy, intimate relationships?!  Anyway, back to Anna Cate -- she's a dear. I look at pictures of her and realize she's just a little girl, too, trying to figure it all out, which includes trying to watch too much TV or dance too many moves to kids bop for my comfort.  
 The week of Vacation Bible school, we had signed up to provide sanctuary flowers for church and rather than flowers, we got school supplies to go along with the mission they kids learned about that week. It is a group of volunteers who tutor English as a Second Language Learners. This was the display.

After we left the store where Molly and Anna Cate got to stack up a cart full of supplies to donate, Anna Cate said, "this makes me feel so good, Mommy, doesn't it?"  And lately at night, she wants to make sure I tuck her in because she says she just misses me during the day. She is such a wonderful person, aside from all her "kid-like" tendencies to sass and wonder what I'm doing for her next. I'm kidding, mostly.

So in the midst of all the doings of our summer, I hope we will remember that we've taken the time to be together, which includes being who we are as we struggle to be grateful, or nice or patient. We are on this journey together and I'm so thankful that these little spirits are leading the way.  I hope that Anna Cate and Molly will always know that while I mess up, lack self-control and need a neat house that more than anything, I just love being with them.  I hope that in the midst of wearing each other out, when Anna Cate and Molly realize that their parents are just two people who had kids, that BJ and I are not larger than life and that we, like them, are just trying to figure it out. Thankfully, we are charting our course together.

“You don't think your way into a new kind of living. You live your way into a new kind of thinking.” 

In case you care about the doings of our summer in pictures, I've created a collection of some of the highlights (Vanderbilt baseball winning the National championship with my parents in town, the wedding of my dear friend Dorinda and a fabulous weekend in DC, a beach vacation with Nana and Daddy Doug, visits with our friends the Smiths, and lots of other summer time scenes along with some "selfies" of Mommy's patience boosters -- working out).

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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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