Sunday, December 21, 2014

A moment in time

I'm just trying to freeze time here….but I had to post this picture.  It's the end of the year and I have been posting more to the kids' individual blogs recently and not this one and I felt this was totally worth taking the time to write about for this space.

The kids are out of school and we have nothing going on today…just four days out from Christmas.  They've all been doing their own thing and I've been playing with Owen but asked the kids to play with him somehow….and this is what I got.  A long time family tradition of theirs.  They started this years ago when Reese was probably Owen's age.  Actually, the girls played this even before they started including Reese!  But they "divvy" up their stuffed animals and give them names and characteristics and play.  For hours.  The stuffed animal pile has certainly grown over the years and it was so fun listening to them dump these out and remember things about them.  Telling stories where they came from or something that had happened with a certain one.  This is something they get pretty serious about and what means the most to me is that they are doing it together…even Owen.  (We'll see how long it lasts!)  THey'll have memories the rest of their lives about this time together.  I just hope they keep doing it so that Owen will have memories of it, too.  I love seeing my kids all together and I always imagine Chase in the middle of it all.  I know he would be loving it.  

These are the times.  Times I wish I could freeze.  I listened to Owen ask his sister to sing the Jingle Jingle song to him this morning and when she did without hesitating because she totally adores her little brother, I saw a flash of the future.  I saw my kids sitting down talking at a dinner and saying how they loved how cute their little brother was and how much fun he was.  And I can see Owen saying "yeah, right" and not remembering what they were talking about because he was too little.  They will continue to make memories I know, but they won't be like these or like the old ones.  I can't make Owen remember our life before Colorado, those will be memories just for the older three.  I'm afraid I'll be sad that he won't be able to recall those times like they will one day, but I know there will be many that he can from these days forward. 

Such is life.  It moves on.  Time never stops, no matter what one hopes for or wants.  I'm just thankful for these moments that I can freeze a memory in a snapshot…one that will spark conversation and recollections years down the road when they are adults. And we will all remember when….

Friday, October 3, 2014

Making mistakes

I've never claimed to be perfect. I'm far from it quite honestly.  But when my actions/behavior doesn't provide the kind of example I wish to give my kids, I try to be honest with them and let them know where I have failed them.  If they don't see me fail and try again, how can I expect them to do so.  And if I have expectations of honesty and ownership from them, they need need to know they should expect the same from me.  

This came about when I posted a picture on Carly Marie's #captureyourgrief for Pregnancy and Infant Loss month and stated that I had two miscarriages between Reese and Chase's births.  Both of my girls were hurt by this because I had not told ever them about the miscarriages.  They felt this was private information that I had shared in a public way and they were hurt I hadn't confided in them before doing it publicly.  At first I was focused on explaining to them how I use the CYG project to post and read other's sharing of their experiences.  I thought they misunderstood my use of the social media tool and was trying to explain my intentions.  And I also felt that them not knowing about the miscarriages was a result of their age appropriateness on the topic and when they were old enough I would have told them, though I may have been too late.  At first I didn't see the implications of my post.  But after hearing from my oldest about it immediately after I posted and then later seeing how upset my second oldest was, I thought long and hard about it.  

And I felt horrible.

I couldn't believe that I was so thoughtless as to not have the piece of mind to make sure they had known the information I was posting about.  It was insensitive and stupid on my part and I should have known because I, too, have been hurt by learning personal information about loved ones in such a public forum.  I knew I owned them a heartfelt apology. Any further explanation of my use of social media or intentions for the post were futile and insignificant.  What they needed to hear was that I messed up.  Big.  And that I should not and will not post something that they don't know about without telling them about it first.  I couldn't believe I had done that--something that I was so angry when I had been "treated" that way both someone else.  

But that wasn't the end.  I am so thankful that it wasn't because what I learned during the rest of our conversation was probably one of the most important things I needed to know as their mother.  

Karly was upset because she said I have always done that…posted things that she didn't know about Chase.  And while I was again, focused on explaining how the miscarriage information was not related to our experience with Chase at all, I was missing the boat.  She said that we don't talk about Chase at all.  

That was a pivotal moment--because we talk about Chase all the time.  Even Owen knows Chase's name and that he's his big brother and will say "hi Chasey" when he sees a butterfly.  But what she meant is that we don't ever talk about what happened with Chase and how all of that….the whole tragedy happened.  And she was right.  I had been waiting til they were old enough and ahd questions to explain to them what happened.  About two years ago I had a long talk with Emma in the car after she asked me some questions and I told her what I thought was too much.  Partly because I didn't want her to be scared for me and partly because I knew she wouldn't understand the medical side of it all.  But she asked and so I told her as best I could.  We cried and talked about it for some time until we were able to move on.  Karly is now that age and I told her that I would answer any questions she ever had and that I don't mean to NOT talk about it and that there is nothing I would keep from her.  But the thing is, Karly's not the type to come right out and ask the questions.  And I told her talking about the events surrounding Chase's birth and death are all very painful so it's kind of like catching both people in the same mood at the same time in order to start the conversation.  But it opened my eyes to the fact that I needed to make sure and take the time to fill in the blanks for her and explain some things.  Part of me feels like a complete failure for not doing this for her but part of me is so completely thankful for the fact that I know this and we had this conversation and I have the opportunity to do this right…..not letting this past and never talking about it and then when she's 30 years old being upset with me for not feeling like she was ever told why or how her baby brother died. 

 When I was much younger than her, my parents were divorced and my step dad stopped picking us up for visitation.  Since we lived in a new town, my mom made us keep it a secret (that we spent weekends with our dad) and lie about it to anyone who asked, like she was trying to extinguish all of our memories like the ashes of a smoldering fire.  And eventually anger rose up inside me at her for trying to act like none of it ever happened.  I don't want my girls feeling that way about what happened to Chase.  I don't want there to be any secrets from them.  They deserve to know the truth and what happened and now they are old enough to handle it. I want them to feel like they can ask me anything.  I asked Emma how much she remembered of what I told her two years ago and she said not much really.  I told them that's because it's pretty complicated and as you get older and learn more it will make more sense.  And more questions will come up at that time and again, I'll be here to answer any of them.  

We talked about some of the things but we didn't go into all of it because it wasn't the time or place.  That was a talk that needed to be started at the beginning and what we were doing at the time was throwing snapshot memories out at a time.  I started to realize how different their memories were than mine….even as fresh as my memories seem.  They were so little when Chase was born; it's just so hard to believe it.  And quite honestly I want to be sitting down and prepared when I hear what their specific memories are because it's a lot for me to handle, too.  Karly told me her worst memory and it broke my heart--when she walked into the kitchen and found me on the floor by the trashcan crying.  This conversation was about letting me know that they are ready for more information and want to hear things about the day he was born and I am so SO thankful for that.  I know Chase is part of this and helping me through this every day and making sure I handle this right.  I almost feel like if this hadn't happened tonight that we were headed down that path…..of not talking about "it" and that leading to never talking bout it and then them being grown adults and never knowing.  Because they didn't ask and I didn't tell.  Maybe that wouldn't have happened but nonetheless I had a wakeup call and am grateful for that.  

My girls are awesome.  I am so lucky to be their mom.  I hope and pray every day that I don't mess this up.  Because of my shaky relationship with my own mom, I work so much harder on mine with them.  They already know I make mistakes.  But they know I will fix it and be honest with them and that's all I can do.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

All for one

These guys are definitely siblings.  They fight about as much as they get along, but when they get along, it's music to my ears.  I love listening to them converse, interact and play together.  Owen imitates everything Reese does and kicks up everything to the Nth degree just so he can be heard or noticed around here.  And if he's lucky enough to get their attention, and if they are all in a good mood, I love to be the fly on the wall.  

As I've said earlier, how my kids interact and get along is one of the most important things to me as a parent.  I love the fact that the girls are so close in age and even though there's a gap that shouldn't be in between the two boys, they have each other.  Chase being here would make it perfect…in a different way.  But right now they have each other.  Some days they get along and some days they fight.  But as they get older, this will tilt toward getting along more and more and their relationships will change, become even more dependent and more unique.  They will have each other always, no matter how many miles are between them.  Distance will not matter.  They will always be close in their hearts.  

This is my hope and dream, anyway.  I grew up a different way and, thus, not all of my sibling relationships are the close knit type that I wish they were. Actually, they are very distant relationships nowadays.  I didn't work on closeness as a kid, because….well, because I was a kid and so were they and we fought a LOT, just like siblings do.  But there was no working on that relationship and bond encouraged by my parents.    They officiated (sometimes literally--we used sock 'em bop 'ems), but they never tried to make us bond--especially across the gap in ages.  They'd get us to stop fighting with punishment, but that was for their sanity.  There was no "working on relationships" when we were kids.  Things were just they way they were and you got used to it.  My older sister and I are super close today but we weren't always.  We had some major disagreements and fall-outs as adults.  But we worked things out between us over time and have a very special bond.  For the other two sisters, one is completely out of touch and the other relationship is one-sided and hindered by my mom despite her opinion.  But this is all part of what helps guide me and be motivated in encouraging a relationship between my own kids.   In the end, though, a mutual desire to be close was what bonded me with my older sis.  That and we are closer in age, too.  Going through life's milestones (college, weddings, babies, etc.) together certainly facilitates closeness, when both individuals want that.

That's why I do what I do with my kids.  I so often am looking into that crystal globe trying to imagine what things will be like between them as adults.  We even talk about it amongst all of us.  "Reese will be the type to not call or anything and so I'll  be really close to his wife and that's how we'll stay in touch," Emma says.  "Owen will always be the loudest," Karly says.  And so go the predictions….  I try, though they seem to do it on their own, to bridge the gap between the age differences.  But I strongly feel that the way I teach them to get along with each other now will affect how they get along when they are independent.  I tell them I can't make them be best friends.  But I can show them, as I do with my closeness to my own sister, how important those bonds are.  And then I have to let them try it on their own.  They have to see that when they reciprocate on this relationship, it will grow.  I don't get involved on all of their arguments (there are toooooo many).  And there are days when I get sick and tired of officiating.  I remember my mom saying that.  But I do my best to talk to each of them in private about all their siblings and what role they play in our family and how we will all be here for each other.  Always.  And how incredibly important that will be later on in life, in so many ways.  The boys are definitely different than the girls on this whole relationship thing, but I truly see this being important to my boys as adults.    

I'm not saying this is going to work and that it will all be like I hope it will be.  They will piss each other off.  A lot.  And sometimes it will be a big deal. A really big deal.  But I try my best as their mom.    It's not all I do, but it's part of what I do.  I foster their relationships as often as I can and instead of fixing their problems, I make sure one of their siblings fixes it for them when possible.  And when they fall ill, I see the result of this…

A couple of nights ago Owen had a really quick allergic reaction to something, I'm not sure what exactly, and his eyes got red and puffy and watery and he was crying and we were all concerned.  None of my kids had ever had this instant of a reaction to something or this bad of a reaction so I was even caught off guard.  To see the care and concern come out of each of them, was incredible.  Karly wanted to go to the hospital with us if we took him in (I called the hotline first and this took a while so we didn't know what we would need to do).  Emma helped with him and Reese tried entertaining him with toys and giving Owen some of his own toys.  It reminded me how delicate their little hearts are.  How all sibling rivalries are put aside and all they cared about was his well being.  It broke my heart all over again to remember the pain these guys went through watching their baby brother die and how little they each were themselves.  And how much they care…which makes them fragile, whether they are sick or worried about someone who is sick.  

This is why I want them to be close to each other.  I want them to always be there fore each other and know the importance of this.  And I think Chase has a large part in helping me make sure that happens. He has taught them so much in their short lives and he continues to every day.  Owen knows he has a big brother in heaven and I know he'll have questions one day for me that will tear me inside out…  But it's who we are and it's part of our lives.  And it's part of them realizing the importance of each other in their lives and I'm just hoping that this, along with my efforts, will forge that bond between them and continue growing at the incredible rate it is.

Monday, September 1, 2014

How Perspectives Change.

warningif you're related to me and you don't talk to me every day or every other day, you should close this window now. these are a few of my uncensored, unedited feelings and thoughts going on inside my head about an area of my life i'm feeling like is totally messed up.

Adulthood is everything we've ever dreamed of as kids, right?  I mean, I learned a lot as I became an adult and moved out of the house and into college dorms.  I learned even more as I moved into my first apartment and even more as I graduated and started my first real job.  There were more responsibilities each time and that day you finish your last car payment on the car your parents helped you with or that last payment on your student loans, you feel the freedom…and even more responsibility…of adulthood.

It's all part of growing up.  Some of us are still trying to get there, right?  Ha--maybe emotionally but that's another post.  You're the boss.  You're the one calling all the shots.  Making your own decisions.  Which job you take.  Where you live.  What you do after work.  Whether or not your bed is made every day and how clean your bathroom is.  No one else is there to check up on you or tell you how to do things.   No one to nag at you or advise you.  All you know is that all those things you learned from your mom or 4-H or home ec class or whatever, are really coming in handy now.  You cook for yourself, you take the trash out, you pay your bills on time, or you dodge calls from the credit card company.  Your actions, your consequences.  No one else to blame.  

Fast forward to getting married….and fast forward a little more to having kids.  


Everything changes.  I.Mean.Everything.  Kick up the responsibility factor to a whole new level now.  There's a whole 'nother human being you are responsible for now.  Your perspective changes on a lot of things.  Maybe your career isn't as important as it used to be.   Maybe it becomes more important.  But raising those kids, that's what it's all about.  You focus everything on them.  They learn things from you from Day 1.  And the older they get, you realize the more they are learning from you.  Of course that is how it should be, but they start to form who they are and they are a piece of you.  One of them, at least, is probably exactly like you, down to the temper or creativeness or laziness or whatever.   

As they get older you start to teach them things, like how to brush their teeth or clean up after themselves, or fix things or bake.  And here's your chance to do it right.  You don't just teach them to brush their teeth, but you teach them how to clean out the sink after they're done.  You (try to) make sure they pick up their rooms and make their bed in the morning.  You are teaching them things that they will be doing every day of the rest of their life.  You teach them how to curl their hair and put on make up.  And what you teach them is probably what you did when you were a kid, or how you fix your hair now.  

This is parenthood.  A lot of people do it.  But no one is ever taught how to parent.  Usually people don't take classes how to parent.  You just do it.  You know it from what you've learned as a kid, adolescent, young adult and now…adult.  And you draw on  your experiences as a child.  

A LOT.  

When our kids were really young (like 3 or so), I used to argue with my husband because he'd compare them to himself as a kid in situations and I knew there was no way he remembered his life at that age.  He may have remembered elementary school, and as a poor judgement of history or how fast time flies, he just thought it was the same.  But it wasn't and to me, how you discipline your kid at age three is quite different from you discipline them at age 7 or 8.  What's interesting, though, is that you draw from how you were raised to make these decisions.  And at this age, through the elementary years, my memory, or perception of my childhood, was pretty carefree and typical, but with pretty strict discipline.  We had tough consequences growing up.    My parents happened to be spankers, and timeout was something I had learned about in my parenting resources so we used a combination of both to discipline our kids.  I tried as best I could to teach them lessons without disciplining.  When I was a kid, our punishment was extra time weeding our rather large garden from what I remember most.  And our spankings were pretty harsh, with scrap lumber in the shed.  One or two swats was all it took to teach us a lifelong lesson and burn it into our memories forever.  Something I don't think any parent enjoys but some find it necessary.

So let me get to the point of this post.  I realized early on in parenthood that my own upbringing would provide an integral part in the way we chose to raise our kids.  Patric and I have talked a lot about how we were raised….everything from family traditions to family time during the week to supporting them in whatever activities they choose to participate in to discipline and beyond.  Both of our parents were strict and both of them pushed us hard in athletics so that we talk about that a ton.  And as our kids are getting older, to ages that I have a pretty vivid memory of in my own childhood, there are issues coming up that I have to deal with.  My dad kept a very tight reign over my older sister and I through high school.  We were not allowed to go out with friends or date.  That's just how life was; there wasn't any success in fighting it so we just accepted it.  We were forced to dedicate our time to our schoolwork and sports and that's what we did.  We were both successful at both of them, which is what our parents wanted for us, so it made a pretty good cover for what was really happening inside our little house in town.  

Since our girls are first, I feel like I'm going through my own childhood again in a way.  Maybe when the boys are this age, Patric will feel this way, too.  But when they have fun opportunities come up that I was not allowed to do when I was their age, I want them to take advantage of it and support them in whatever they choose.  Of course as far as activities go, I didn't have much available to choose from so that doesn't really count.  But it's little things like wearing makeup or talking about boys.  I have boundaries for them and as long as they stay within those boundaries, I love talking to my girls about who their crush is or what makeup tutorials they have seen. Now they are kids and occasionally step outside their boundaries so I discipline them, by taking something away that means a lot to them.  I don't spank them with a piece of lumber.  I couldn't even fathom doing that to my kids.  Not for a second.  I gave up spanking several years ago because I physically couldn't and it was a disaster if I even tried.  

Without getting into detail that I'm not ready to write about, there are many things that come up with my girls that trigger flashback memories of my own childhood and are creating a pit of anger in me--mainly why we were physically and emotionally handled the way we were.   This triggering helps me in a way that I deal with my girls' issues in my own parenting style.  I have made plenty of mistakes but for the most part, it's working for me.  Karly is so much like me so I draw from my relationship with my mom at her age and it helps me to know and decide what I want to do with Karly so that we have the kind of bond that I want to have with her.  I've had a rough time with Karly--it has not been an easy road.  But I feel so much better equipped in knowing how to talk and respond to her because of my memories with my own mom and with Patric's help and advice how to positively affect her.  And our relationship is amazing.  We still fight, but I feel so much closer to her than I ever did with my mom at her age and I am so thankful for that.  I was a tough cookie at her age.  I didn't talk much and Karly has those moments too.  But I'm able to do what I need to do because I know what makes her tick.  And I have Patric's help and support which is just as important.  

While these childhood revisits that I have frequently help me in parenting my girls, I can't say the same for my relationship with my own parents.  I have a lot of anger that has risen as a result of memories that come to me out of nowhere.  Memories of things that are, in my mind, insane.  I saw "When The Game Stands Tall" with Patric last night and in the movie there is a psycho parent that pushes his son to the extreme as he nears a national high school record his senior year.  This dad's lines in the movie were almost identical to the things that our dad used to say to my sister and me during our high school athletic careers.  And to hear it in a movie and see it on a screen so much bigger than life triggers an intense flashback.  Some of the scenes in the movie resonated with me so much so that I caught myself trying to block out my own personal images of them.

And this is what happens as you get older and your kids get older.  You look back on your own childhood, whether you want to or not, it comes back.  And your perspective changes.  What was once innocent and simple, a little messed up, but normal and so perfect, now becomes flooded with bad memories, negativity, and anger.  And what's unfair is that they don't know that.  They feel the distance, but they don't know why.  And I'm not at a place where I can tell them why.  I honestly don't feel it will benefit anyone to go back in time.  Digging up the past reveals way too much about a person and can wreck families.  But covering up ends up smothering you instead.  I am struggling with a lot of things about my childhood and family relationships I but also know that this struggle has probably helped me to work toward and achieve the kind of relationship I have with my own girls.  Which is something pretty special.  And it's been such a pretty thing covered up for this long, why open the package and risk ruining it?  In the meantime, I stay buried in our crazy busy life, consumed by the schedule of school drop offs and pick ups, practices for four kids and homework and everything in between….so nobody can even tell.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The memories and still holding on...

I have always been one to take pictures.  I have ALWAYS loved pictures.  I love photographs in the professional way as well as candid shots taken by polaroids, DSLRs, instagrams, whatever.  I love catching the moment for the purpose of preserving it. And….in a way, holding on to it.   Never forgetting it….always remembering it.  No, I can't freeze time, but I can certainly frame it, make it my screensaver or home screen and age myself while i search through photos or starve at it….remembering that time.  In the past, I have been known to take 10,000 photos in one year.  Yeah, probably capturing about 5000 moments, but either way, it's still a lot of photos.  I make a photo book at the end of the year (with about 300 of those photos) to tell our story in a special way and that can be picked off the shelf at any time to reminisce…or whatever.   But that's not to say that I don't ever go back to those dated folders on my hard drive or old printed photos, to search for a specific photo that I KNOW I had snapped.  Like that one year I had a photo of Owen wearing the potato head glasses and thought it would be fun to include photos of each of the kids when they were toddlers wearing those silly things because I knew they all did it and I was SURE I had Captured.The.Moment.

That is just one example.

I have argued with my husband a time or two before about him always looking so far in the future and not enjoying the present while he rebuts I am always looking in the past at old photos and books and then being sad that the time went by so quickly.  I think it's kind of Mars vs. Venus but I don't deny that I enjoy old memory books.  And I do my best creating memory books and boxes for my kids for when they are older and sometimes will initiate a conversation at the dinner table of the memories we made in our first home and their favorite times from  I know from my own experience and as a bystander that one's past is comprised of what their memory is of it.  Whether their memory is accurate or not.  If you have an idea in your head of how something happened in your past, unless it's photographed or journaled, there is not really any way to correct the memory if it's wrong, or prove that  it is right.  Just sit around at a family reunion sometime and listen to siblings or parents reminisce and almost always, there is a disagreement, if not argument, on what happened in an old story….who did it, who won, who got caught, who broke what, etc….

As much fun as I have with photos and momentos that help me remember fun moments, like ticket stubs, programs, receipts or whatever, I recently lost a very important momento (that's what I am calling it) to me and I am trying to help myself get over it.  I'm trying to justify the difference between material things and memories…the tangible vs. the intangible.  Since my most plentiful and present moemntos are photos, those are tangible, are they material?  Because I don't want to be a material person. (I know I am but I strive not to be. Don't judge.)  I spend precious time (read: HOURS) making things for my kids to remember their childhood when they get older and for  me to reminisce and even spend money producing these things.  These are the kinds of things I would grab if there were a fire or a natural disaster headed my way.  (After grabbing my children of course) But not because they are things….because they remind me of moments.  Of time.  Of life.  Of our history.  They are what tells our story and proves our memories write or wrong.  They document things that will be forgotten.  Yes, forgotten.  Because we can't possibly remember every little detail and with 10000 pictures per 365 days, there were a lot of details documented, right?

Memories. Details. Things so desperately held on to as our kids are growing up right before our very eyes.  This is kind of a battle I am fighting within myself of how important these things are to me.  Are they too important?  I would rather spend time ON my kids than on looking through all those pictures OF my kids…right?  Actually, I don't regret any of the time I have spent on my memory keeping.  I'm sure not everyone is like me.  But I don't.  I'm so glad I have the finished products of the things I have stayed up late creating.  The momento I lost, though, is not a photograph.  However, it is present in MANY of my photographs.  And though I knew I wouldn't always have this momento to come back to, I never ever wanted to see it go. Or see it gone.  It tells a story all by itself.  Just it's presence and just by looking at it and touching it, thousands of memories are flooded into my mind and the minds of my kids.  I just hate that it's gone.

It's our swing set.  Our old, warn with broken parts, but still lots of life….swingset.  Our renters' kids used the swing set and they have taken it with them. (on our accord--not mine, my husbands).  I didn't know this arrangement had been made so it was a heartbreaker when I laid my eyes upon an empty spot in our yard that once held a piece of our families history.   Milestones were marked there.  Battles were fought and won there.  Treasures were built and buried there.  Flights were landed there.  Stories were made and told there.  The rhythmic squeak of a swing being ridden….all in that spot.  By three of our children.  And a swing set has been what I have missed most for Owen since we moved.

But now that I got my sob story out and it is obvious what that old thing meant to me, I don't want it to be so important.  I don't want to feel this way over something that is material.  But I am just trying to tell the difference, in my heart, between that being a thing, or it being many happy memories that we will have forever.  Yes, we could have still played on it on our once or twice-a-year visits back to this place,  but we can also replace it for that matter.  But there's the bar that Karly used to flip over and the swing that Emma and Karly would jump out of and the slide that Reese would slide down and the sand box that he hid his army men in…where Owen would have done the same thing...

But it's all just stuff.  And I don't need to be so emotional about it.  And I'm trying not to be.  I'm just bummed.  I didn't expect it to be gone when I rush Owen around the corner and told him to "Look at what you get to play on!" and then find nothing there.  He hardly noticed as he ran off and played in the dirt.  No big deal.  He doesn't remember that thing.  And I didn't expect him to.

That's why I took all those pictures.