How can I help you to say Goodbye?

Frank L. Baum, author extraordinaire of the Oz book series, said “Everything has to come to an end, sometime.”  We all deal with endings and new beginnings differently…some of us fight the endings, bemoan our fates, focus on the sadness at each ending, and take those new steps into the unknown as if we were trudging through sap, while others are able to embrace the unknown, look for the excitement in the changes to come, and bravely walk into the future with our faces looking only forward.

As much as I wish I were that second person, that joyful, brave, beautiful soul…I’m not.  I hate major changes.  I run from them, I do everything I can to keep them from happening, and when they slap me in the face before I’m completely prepared for them, I cry, I shake, I rant, and I feel the loss of what used to be to the depth of my soul.  Change is scary to me.  My husband has finally learned that if he wants me to be able to accept something new and important, he has to give me months to adjust to the new idea–time enough to think of all the angles of the change, to accept it in my mind and in my heart before I am forced to accept it in reality.  Of course, he is my wonderful husband–the world itself is seldom so accommodating.

My kids and I found out tonight that they will have to change school districts next year.  This came about due to over-crowding in their old district and us being there on a ‘choice transfer’, which means that we’ve had to request permission every year to attend that district, and they finally are saying that nearly all of their district schools are at capacity and they are not accepting any transfer requests for the upcoming school year.  For my son David, who is in 2nd grade, this is hard, but his biggest worry is that no one will want to be friends with him next year.  I know this to be completely untrue, because he is my most out-going child who is always making new friends wherever he goes.  I don’t worry about him too much–it’s a new idea and it’s scary, but he’ll be fine…I’m sure of it.

My daughter Sarah, however, is 11.  She’s starting 6th grade this fall and has been in her school district, in the same elementary school surrounded by the same peers, since kindergarten.  She’s got very tight, very close friends there, she’s in the highly-capable program and was looking forward to starting pre-algebra this fall at the middle school with all her other friends.  We’d already attended the middle school information night, she had already requested her elective classes, and her teacher is routing the paperwork to ensure she is able to continue in the HighCap classes for both math and English…but now, that can’t happen.  In the new school district, elementary school runs from k-6th grade, so she’s going to be back in elementary school, and surrounded by kids she doesn’t know, all while going through puberty.  (Did I mention previously she’s started puberty?  Yeah, I’ve got a toddler and a hormonal pre-teen…such fun times here.)   There is a lot of new, unknown things coming, and she desperately wants to keep things how they’ve been.  She is understandably broken-hearted, and utterly devastated.

As a mother, these are the times where I’m supposed to be strong for my kids.  I’m supposed to be logical, calm, understanding, empathetic, and able to show them all the benefits and new adventures to come with this change.  I know that’s how I’m supposed to be, but I reacted emotionally when I found out.  I cursed, covered my mouth and tried to correct it with a non-curse word, read and re-read the email a few times, muttering agitated words while Sarah said “What??  What happened??”, and then I told them, while I started crying.  I couldn’t hold back the tears, despite my best attempts.  I still can’t.

I can’t help but keep flashing back to my school years…I was home schooled until 5th grade, so when I started in public school, it was in my last year of elementary school, I didn’t know anyone at the school, I had no idea what a normal school day was like, and I was incredibly socially awkward…I stuttered, too, so life wasn’t fun for me.  Sixth and seventh grade weren’t much better for me, because while I was still trying to adjust to the new social structures, they were in constant flux with the changing hormones of the kids around me.  It was hard for me to get used to those new changes, and every change had the capacity to devastate me, such as a fight with a friend, a change at home, a friend moving away–all those things, such a normal part of life, can be so hard when you’re young.  Change can change who you are and how you view yourself, so sometimes it’s scary.

This school district change is a BIG CHANGE.  I know it’s a small thing to so many people, but to us, we’ve been blessed to have had very little geographical change since I had my children.  Stability has always been important to me–I have worked hard to give my children the stable life that I felt was best for them…but this is change, inevitable and certain, and it’s a big deal.  Maya Angelou said “If you don’t like something, change it.  If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”  This is something that I will have to change my attitude about–I know it, and I know I will have to teach my kids how to embrace the new things to come–but it’s not an easy change.  It will take time for my mind to work it’s way though the change, and more time for my heart to accept it, but I know it will.  It’s just scary now.  I managed to say the right things to my kids before bed, and God willing, I’ll do my best to have more of those nice, logical, empathetic phrases to say to them when they wake up in the morning, but right now, when it’s just me, it’s scary.

When I was talking to my daughter about change tonight, a song came to my mind, one that I heard sung by Patty Loveless when I was young.  It’s called “How Can I Help You to Say Goodbye? ( ) It’s a country song, so it’s a tear-jerker, but I’m hoping that I can take some of the wisdom from it and help my daughter to say goodbye, and let her know that I’ll be there for her.  Life is never going to be easy all the time, we all have to face changes and uncertainty, so all we can do is hold tight to our faith, and ask God for the strength to take those new steps forward.  Proverbs chapter 16, verse 9 says “A man’s heart plans his way, but The Lord directs his steps.”  Well, Lord, here are my feet, ready to follow your path.


Sarah Is 11 Today

Sarah is 11 today.
On April 20th, 2006, I was checked into the hospital to undergo a second attempt that week to induce labor. I had been dealing with preeclampsia, high blood pressure, and had been on bed rest for the past 8 weeks, so needless to say I was ready for Sarah to come. I had wanted to have a natural birth process, but with the blood pressure issues and the preecclampsia, my doctor preferred I deliver on her schedule.
   They started the induction process around 10am, and around 5pm, when labor still had not started, they decided that I needed to have that baby anyway, so they broke my water.  My mom had been there all day, watching the heart rate monitors they had on me and had on Sarah, and she had noticed that Sarah didn’t particularly like the contractions I’d been having. According to her, every time I’d been having a contraction, Sarah’s heart rate would drop, and it was making the nurses nervous.
   After another 4 hours of labor, post-water breakage, I still hadn’t dilated beyond 2cm, and I was exhausted and scared. They told me that I was going to have to be prepped for an emergency c-section, and around 10 they started those preparations. For me, there’s never really been a scarier feeling than what I went through in those next several hours–the feeling of the large needle slipping through my vertebrae to completely numb me from the ribs down, the nausea from the epidural medicine, the utter lack of any control over my lower body, having my arms strapped to a board, keeping me in their preferred position, and that damning drape they put up so I couldn’t even see what they were doing to my body…it was all so terrifying surreal–before that, I’d never even had major surgery, and suddenly here I was in this alien world, everything so cold and sterile.
   The epidural makes it so that you don’t hurt when they cut into your body, but you still feel what they do. The doctor cut through flesh, muscle, and uterine wall to remove Sarah, who, after two full workdays of pitocin-induced contractions, was so badly jammed against my pelvic bones that the doctor, a small Asian lady, had to use a considerable amount of strength and fineness to pull Sarah out.  She could never have come out on her own, we discovered–my tailbone is longer than average and curves in, blocking my birth canal. They tell me that her umbilical cord, which was actually shorter than it should have been, was wrapped around her neck four times, and had she been able to progress down the birth canal naturally, she very well could have strangled herself before being born. That c-section, and my weird body structure, most likely saved her life.
   At 12:04am, April 21st, 2006, my first child, Sarah Elizabeth, made her appearance into this world. She came like many other babies today, even though the circumstances of her birth may be different, and she came out screaming and was placed against my chest. I have to say, the first time I heard her cry, I started crying myself, and I don’t think I stopped for quite a while.
   Life is so all-encompassing. It’s beautiful and it’s awful.  It’s powerful and it’s frightening.  It’s wonderful and it’s tragic.  It has such power over us, that simply the recollection of certain memories can still bring a renewal of those same feelings, no matter how long ago we originally felt them.  I still cry when I think about that birth.  It wasn’t my last c-section, and I love all three of my children, but that first foray into this new and scary world called parenthood will never leave my memories, and thus far never fails to bring tears to my eyes upon summoning those memories.  As I write this, the tears have been falling again, in memory of that frightened young woman experiencing such a huge change of her life, and in memory of that little baby, so new and so precious, and so tiny and fragile.
Happy Birthday, my darling girl.  Happy 11th birthday…such an important one.  Happy entrance into womanhood, happy year of change, happy day of the eclipse (Yes, there’ll be an eclipse over the Western US today), happy everything.  I will always love you.
**edit:  I was misinformed about the eclipse day–it is August 21st, not April 21st.**

Bag Balm on the rug

Today, it started with the paint. Red and black paint, to be specific. It was my fault–I left it on the table. I know better by now, but regardless, I left my acrylic paints, brushes, and painting palettes on the dining room table.

I didn’t want to sing to him tonight.  I didn’t even want to spend anymore time with him.  It’s been a long day with this challenging toddler, and between fighting to recover from an awful cold and still trying to take care of the normal family meals, kid pickups, and grocery shopping, I’m just completely worn out, and I didn’t even want to spend that special time with him that normally we both love.   That doesn’t happen much.

Today, it started with the paint.  Red and black paint, to be specific.  It was my fault–I left it on the table.  I know better by now, but regardless, I left my acrylic paints, brushes, and painting palettes on the dining room table.  I’d been running herd on the kids since 6:30am, and it was a fairly normal morning until it was almost time to go.  I made that dreaded decision that all moms of toddlers have to make sometimes–I decided to go use the restroom before we left, and I figured that the toddler couldn’t get into TOO much trouble in those 5 minutes, especially since I’d forbidden the older two to watch TV or play on the computer–“What could happen?”  Right.

When I finished in the restroom and went to get the kids out the door, I found the toddler in the dining room…with red paint all over his clothes, on his arms, on the floor, on the table, on one of the chairs, and red and black paint in the palette and on his chosen paint brushes.  Of course, since I was in a hurry, I freaked.  I FREAKED OUT as only a mom confronted with a small child with paint everywhere can.  I put the older two to work cleaning up the floor, table, chair, getting clean clothes for the toddler, while I stripped and scrubbed up the toddler.  We managed to get everyone out the door and the kids BARELY got to school on time, but it was handled.  I needed to reupholster those chairs anyway, right?–the fabric is ugly.

After dropping the older two at school, we took care of the shopping.  It wore me out, but I accomplished it, got home, and put groceries away while letting the toddler play in the (fully-fenced)  backyard.  After I finished, I noticed that he had been awfully quiet, so following my intuition, I checked the front yard, and sure enough, he was happily playing with his tricycle in our driveway.  He has lately been climbing to reach things, and this one was a trellis he climbed on to reach the latch on our 6-foot privacy fence.  Apparently it’s time to start padlocking that gate.

After a bit of a race, a visit with the neighbor whose house he ran to, and a drag home, it was nap time.  He fought it, of course, as has been his custom lately, but I got him tucked in after singing about 10 songs to him and giving him kisses.  At least I thought he was tucked in.  About 30 minutes of quiet time later, I hear the doorknob rattle, so I went to investigate.  I’m not sure that words can truly do justice to the scene that met my eyes, but I will endeavor to try.
I first noticed the doorknob was a bit gummy, but I didn’t think much of this at first.  My attention was all for the toddler standing there with his pants off, in a swim diaper, with his arms, legs, hands, shirt, rug, and carpet covered with what I later identified as Bag Balm–a wonderful moisturizing ointment we use as diaper cream.  The smell of it was everywhere, and he was so greasy I didn’t even know what to do with him.  Try and clean him up with wipes?  No, he was standing there holding out his hands and saying “clean hands…clean hands…” and behind him I could see the wipes container on the floor with wipes pulled out of it and covered in Bag Balm, laying crumpled on the rug.  Obviously we were beyond wipes.  Wipe him off with his shirt?  No, that was beyond redemption–I couldn’t see a clean patch on it.  I was going to have to strip him and drop him in the bathtub.  Once I did that, I saw what he had attempted…there was bag balm all over the inside of the swim diaper he had pulled on, and all over the privates of his that he could reach–he had simply wanted to put bag balm on his bottom.

I never was able to get him completely de-greased, despite my best attempt, but we made it past that, barely.  He fell asleep in my arms on the couch and was still sleeping when we left to pick up his siblings, but when we got home he woke up with a vengeance, full of little-boy piss and vinegar.  His favorite trick lately is climbing up onto the counters in the kitchen, and he has perfected the art of knocking over our baby gates so quickly it’s laughable.  I spent the rest of the time that I wasn’t in the kitchen actively cooking or preparing dinner dragging him off the counter tops and trying to keep him from destroying the rest of the house.  So, over all, it’s been an exhausting day today.

I’m sure he’ll get past this phase–they always do–and sometimes it’s really cute, but some days it’s just exhausting.  Bone-draining, soul-drenching, mind-numbingly exhausting.  He’s such a boy, all motion and excitement, stubbornness and cuddles, and I know he will do great things, but for now, I just want to survive tomorrow.  One day at a time, right?  Mama said there’d be days like this, but she didn’t mention anything about the Bag Balm on the rug.
I did sing to him, but we held it to only four songs.  Mama’s tired.

bag balm james

bag balm

Baby oil…really.

So, kids are fun.  Seriously.  Because where else could you go for entertainment, challenges, absolute love, emotional endurance training, and housekeeping training, all in the same pint-sized package?  Kids really are something incredibly precious.  I say these things to remind myself why I’m not absolutely batsh** crazy yet.  If I focus on the blessings they truly are, then I can grab the camera to document when the toddler dumps nail polish in his hair, rather than freaking out right away.  (PSA, if this happens, copious amounts of baby oil, then lay the toddler down in the bathtub so the hair is submerged, and gently comb the nail polish out–it took me 30 minutes, but I’d assume the time will vary depending on the amount of polish and the amount of hair.)

My toddler can be either the sweetest, funniest, most loving child, or the terrorist from hell.  There’s not really an in-between.  He is constantly reminding me of that old rhyme: “There was a little girl who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead.  When she was good, she was very very good, but when she was bad, she was horrid.”  When he is good, he is seriously SOOOOOO cute, and sweet, full of laughter, intelligence, bright, shining eyes, and he loves everyone.  He is sweet to the dogs, loves to cuddle, is curious, and is, frankly, just wonderful.  When he’s unhappy or knows he’s about to get in trouble, he is the devil.  He is devious, sneaky, runs away from me, screams so hard it makes him quiver; he hits, yells NO!!!  at the top of his lungs, throws things, and fights with a strength and speed that is, frankly, surprising in one so young.  The dichotomy between the two aspects of him, while not at all uncommon in a toddler, never fails to surprise me and catch me off guard, and is the reason I walk that line between ‘Normal Mom’ and ‘Crazy Mom’ on such a regular basis.

So, if you ever feel like, as the parent of a toddler, you’re losing your mind, know this:  You are not alone.  You are NOT alone.  You are NOT ALONE.  We’re here–all of us who have gone before you to fight the potty training battles, all who are traveling the road of messes and tantrums with you, and all who will follow in your sticky jam-covered footprints well into the future.  You are not alone, and I will always stand in solidarity with my sister-mothers out there, fighting the good fight to turn these wonderful little people into even more-wonderful older people.  I am here for you.  We are all there with you, and you are loved.  Hang in there Mama–we got your back.

I Cried Three Times Today

I cried three times today.  It wasn’t that terribly unusual.  Nobody ever tells you that you’ll cry more in your first two years as a mother than you probably cried your entire life up to that point.  The tears seem so close some days, that you feel like you’re clutching onto the dry eyes as a lifeline–as if to let those tears flow will will start a torrent that may not stop.  Or maybe it’s just me.  Maybe I’m the only mom who ever feels that way.  I doubt it, but since we mothers don’t talk about how HARD simply holding onto our sanity is some days, maybe it is just me.  I’ve been a mom for nearly 11 years, and I’m convinced I’ve cried my very own lake by now.

It’s different every day, yet somehow it’s all the same.  It’s the constant demands on my attentions, the never-ending messes that need to be cleaned up, the fights that never seem to end unless I step in the middle, and the complete absolute lack of peace unless both older kids are gone and the youngest is sleeping.  It’s the constant nagging feeling that it shouldn’t be this hard, and that I must be doing something very wrong, yet the contradictory knowledge that I’m not alone in this feeling and that most parents feel this way.  Someone asked me how it was going, and I responded that I was hanging on by my fingernails which I’ve bitten off completely.

Today it was the corn tortilla stuffed down the bathroom sink drain, the concentrated juice spilled and tracked all over the kitchen floor and into my bathroom, the chips dumped on the floor about three feet away from me–before I even figured out what he was doing–the cable receiver box that was reset yet again, the screaming, and the absolute stubborn refusal to nap despite how exhausted he clearly was.  I often post about my toddler terrorist incidents, and today someone commented “You must have the patience and fortitude of a saint.”  I don’t.  I really don’t.  On a near-daily basis I flirt with thoughts of running away, I try to hide in my room, and I cling to my sanity like a drowning woman clinging to the last bit of flotsam she can see.

Daily I feel love, pride, astonishment, horror, disgust, anger, irritation, sadness, fear, hope, and peace.  In the Fifth Harry Potter book, Ron Weasley responded to a description of one girls feelings by saying “One person can’t feel all that at once–they’d explode.”  I understand why he would think that way–sometimes I do feel like I’m going to explode.  I have problems understanding how I can honestly love these kids SO much, yet be so mad at them that I think the top of my head will blow off.  It’s really confusing that I am so happy to talk to them and hear their voices, yet I can get to the point where I’d give nearly anything for them to just be quiet.  I think the contradictions are what really push me to the edge–if it were just one way or the other, I’d be able to figure out how to deal with it, but all the double-edged swords just push me to the very brink of what I think I can handle.

But oddly enough, I do handle it.  So do other parents–we just handle it, we do our best and keep going.  We keep fighting every day simply to raise these kids of ours, hoping that we’re not causing more problems than a hug can make better.  We love them, we do our best by them, even when that best isn’t what they want, and we don’t give up on them even when that awful voice whispers in our heads that life would be so much simpler without them.  I know–I’m mentioning things that we’re not supposed to talk about…We’re not supposed to want to give up, or wonder what our lives would be like without them.  We’re not supposed to mention that sometimes we think about just getting in the car and driving away from all the chaos.  We’re not supposed to say that we cry just because we can’t get them to stop crying, or that punishing them can sometimes hurt us even though we know it’s what’s best for them.

I want to say it all anyway.

Parenting is hard.  Kids can build us up and destroy us in a single day.  They can take us from laughter to tears, from joy to terror, and from peace to insanity.  It can go the other way, too, however–tears to laughter, terror to joy, insanity to peace, and from the bottom of the barrel to the top of the world.  People say parenting is rewarding, and it is, but like any reward worth having, it takes a LOT of hard work to achieve it.  I’m up for the challenge most days–after all, I’m still here, still trying, and still loving these children more than my heart feels like it has the capacity for.  But some days I feel like it’s going to break me.  Some days are just “those” kind of days, where every single hour is a struggle to get through, and you just can’t wait for bedtime when you can find some peace again.  Some days are the kind of days where the toddler just won’t listen, and the kids won’t stop fighting, and the messes don’t stop coming.  Some days all you can do is cry.  Mama said there’ll be days like this….







I’m a Seattle Seahawks fan (American football, if you’re not familiar with it).  As a Seahawks fan, we are expected to be loud.  In fact, we not only have a reputation for it, we have held a world record for it.  I’m also the middle child of five–each of us within two and a half years of each other in age–and a Navy veteran with many, many nights behind me of having no choice but to fall asleep to a chorus of shipboard noises, including the 50 or so women I shared the berthing with.  So all in all, I’m well used to noise by this point in my almost 35 years of living.  I wouldn’t say I thrive in it, but I’m definitely used to it.

Nothing in those 35 years prepared me for the TODDLER NOISES.  My older two children were happy, cheerful kids, but when they yelled it just wasn’t the same as this, my youngest.  Sure, they laughed, they chattered, they cried, they yelled…but this one SHRIEKS.  He  shrieks when he’s happy and laughing, and he shrieks when he’s mad.  He screams with this ear-splitting mass of sound that leaves my ears vibrating from the decibel that he hits and sets my teeth on edge.  It’s worse in the car, when I can’t escape from it.  I have tried to turn up the radio loud enough that it drowns out his angry screams (Maybe he dropped his toy and is demanding that I  pick it up RIGHT NOW!), but I can’t get it loud enough unless I’m willing to put my (or his) hearing even more in danger than it already is from the screaming, and I’m really not.  (He’ll damage his own hearing when he’s a teenager anyway, right?)

When he’s happy-screaming, it’s almost cute, as long as I’m not too close to him.  It’s hard to be upset with a child who is being chased by his older sibling and is laughing and shrieking with both laughter and fake terror as he runs in his little quick-step toddler running steps.  If you’ve ever seen a toddler sprint, you know what I mean–it’s adorable.  And a happy child is what most of us parents strive for, right?  I mean, a happy toddler brings joy, laughter, and smiles to the faces of the adults around them.  I’ve seen it happen–those toddler smiles and the laugh just works magic on us cranky adults.  So, I let it go when he’s happy-screaming.

When he’s mad-screaming, though, is another story entirely.  It aggravates.  It infuriates.  It makes me think my brain will try and escape from my head by crawling out of my eyes.  (This is why I often close my eyes during LOUD NOISES.)  In my saner moments, I can laugh at it a little, and it reminds me of a certain part of a movie called Anchorman–to summarize, the main male characters are all in the office yelling at their boss, and one of the guys simply yells “I DON’T KNOW WHAT WE’RE YELLING ABOUT!” and “LOUD NOISES!!”  Sometimes, I just want to cover my ears when he’s yelling and yell “LOUD NOISES!” myself.  I often don’t know what he’s yelling about, so “I DON’T KNOW WHAT WE’RE YELLING ABOUT!” would work also.  It flashes through my head and makes me smile a little every time I think about it.

Remembering that segment gives me the ability to remember that sometimes toddlers yell and shout, and make noises just because they’re upset about something trivial.  Sometimes they throw tantrums, and argue for the sake of arguing, and they SHRIEK; but ultimately my toddler will grow out of this phase, as long as I can stay sane.  Sanity is not always the easiest of tasks, but if I can retain my wits during this, admittedly LOUD and NOISY phase of life, calmer times will be ahead.  At least the shrieking should stop at some point, right?  Heck, people say I will miss these years once they’re past.  I highly doubt I will miss the shrieking, but you never know–anything’s possible.

p.s.  If you want to check out the clip I mentioned, here’s a link to it: