Memories

Dear Mom, You Know You Built That Gingerbread House.

'Tis the season. For this:  

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The dreamy, whimsical gingerbread house.  

 

A Christmas tradition for most families in our great land.  

 

Coupled with the most ridiculous lie of the year: "Look at the gingerbread house my children made!"...I have literally had enough!!

 

Because, let's be honest, your five year old and 15 month old did NOT make that gingerbread house. YOU DID. 

 

My point is this, we adults have these awesome perfectly perfect ideas that we conjure up and dare to share with our own children. But, we have rules...very strict rules... 

 

It goes something like this:  

 

--parent buys craft-in-a-box or spends the equivalent of her husband working three hours on multiple craft supplies. 

 --she gets the child or children very excited as she plays up the craft they are about to do. 

 --children are literally bursting out of their "chucks" to get started. 

--they ask over and over "when will we do the craft". 

--parent begins to lose energy after multiple minutes of being victim to the child's excitement.

--parent sets up the most perfect art/craft/activity station in the heart of the home.  

--children begin to dive into the table. Literally. Touching everything.  

--parent loses it a bit and tells children to "wait" and "don't touch"!  

--parent then proceeds to suck all of the fun out of this "child-friendly" activity by being too particular and literally using the child's hands as their own as they are "creative" together. Better together, right?

--the now completed craft matches the packaging photo perfectly and the child gets all the credit. Sharpie their name and the year on it, and it's another keepsake for the box.  

 

Except, your child did absolutely nothing. And you didn't do art at all. You hovered over your child and told them where to place each exact little item, because, after all, if they did it alone, it wouldn't come out right.  

 

Which brings me to the whole gingerbread house thing. I get that spending time together building is important, but we gotta stop with the perfection thing. So let your child have the icing bag and pipe all over the roof! Really. Let him.  

 

Who cares if it turns out like a bad dream, I guarantee your child will file this moment away as one of their favorites. And to me, that's more important than the most Facebook worthy photo op.  

 

*I currently have no personal photo of our own gingerbread house, as it doesn't currently exist. I bought a kit from Aldi, opened it up, prepared the items for them (meaning I opened the bags of candy, essentially), and they went to town. It was the most miserable looking house ever. (It collapsed at least a dozen times) But, it was owned by the most happiest children. And it was gloated on by the happiest mom who didn't care to snap a photo because the moment was too good to care about such things. 

 

When Granite Countertops Aren't As Cool As They Seem.

This is kind of hard for me to write. I never want to come across as this miserable, ungrateful, blob of human whininess and discontent. So please understand that I always speak from my heart, and my heart has been a bit unsettled this year. In fact, it's been thru more than all of my previous years combined. So here's more of that honesty you've come to expect out of me...

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Almost two years ago, we put our first home up for sale.  

 

Soon after we initially bought it, (years prior), we felt sick about it. We knew, after a better understanding of one another, that we didn't want to live in a "cookie-cutter" neighborhood, in the middle of NASCAR country, and five feet from our neighbors.  

 

Add to that fact, we had countless massive tumbles down the stairs [via the children], and two of those incidents ended up as ER visits and required stitches. We couldn't wait to move. I mean, we couldn't WAIT!!!  

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I was always embarrassed of my kitchen in that house. I would see my "old friends" show pictures of their homes and kitchens and think "someday, I want granite countertops like they have...". In fact, I rarely had anyone over because I hated the countertops that much. I just was embarrassed. 

 

The countertops were HORRIBLE. Cheap. Bleach white. (Why...I will never understand...) Anything red spilled on the counter, it would leave an impossible stain. They were Formica.  They were so hard to keep clean. I was never proud of my kitchen, except when I had a fresh bouquet of flowers overpowering the ugliness of the countertops. 

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When our house sold in five days and we found (what we thought was) our dream house back here in the woods, I was floored when I saw that the kitchen was the only room that was updated. And...there was granite. The granite I always wanted.  

 

I knew, for a FACT, that if we moved here and I had this kitchen, that ne'er a dreary face it should see.  

 

So this year has taught me several...well, thousands of things, actually. One being, I was insanely more happy with both life in general (and motherhood) back in the neighborhood house with stark-white, stain-gripping, cheap countertops than I have been here, with my dream kitchen.  

 

And for the record, it is not easier to clean. In fact, I find it more challenging than before.  

 

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Aside from that, I realize that {truly} happiness is never, ever found in what we think we should have and don't. I may have my kitchen, but I traded those countertops for no bathtub, no mirror, and a time capsule for a shower in my bathroom. I also have partially painted rooms and those accordion like closet doors that pinch your hands everytime you aren't perfectly careful shutting them. (And let me tell you about some pain...)  

 

I say this, I'm putting this out here, because maybe you're discontent in where you currently are. Maybe you're looking at others thinking, "if only...". But don't. Please don't. Because life isn't about our comfortableness, our wishes coming true, or seeing ourselves as happier in another setting altogether.  

 

Case in point, my best friend, she doesn't even have countertops in her kitchen. Nope; her countertops have been sheets of plywood for years now. I know she won't mind me telling you this because she doesn't seem to care much. It doesn't stop her from being the most giving, hospitable, amazing, loving person on the planet. She welcomes others into her home, she's not embarrassed, and she sends more meals out to others than she actually makes for herself.  

 

So, I then consider all of the times that I could've opened up my home and didn't. All of the times that I could've made someone a meal, but didn't because I hated spending time in that kitchen. We also ate out more than we should've because, well...you get the picture... 

 

The thing is, as I reflect on my life in that house, I wish I could go back and have just one more dance party with my sons in that kitchen. One more hallway filled with piles of clothes on laundry day because the laundry closet was exactly that, a closet. I wish I could watch my son climb that ONE single tree in our backyard one more time. Because now that one favorite tree has been replicated 1,000 times in this yard. 

 

Having coming to a full knowledge of these things, I'd gladly give back my granite kitchen for a flight of stairs and a closet for a laundry room if it meant that I could have my zest for life back. I would trade it in a hot second.  

 

But since I can't trade it, I'm going to have to find it here. And I'll look at your photos of your kitchens, old cabinets, and countertops and hope that you are content with just that. Because, I think your kitchens are just beautiful. They truly are. And I hope your lives are even more so, because you could really care less about some granite. 

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(In Retrospect) Lessons Learned From My Brother's Wedding

My little (and only) brother got married this past weekend. 

He married an angel. Truly. A dream come true for our family. 

But...

I'll be honest. I didn't want to go. Well, the anxiety-ridden/extremely fatigued part of me didn't want to go. My heart, on the other hand, has been there since the day they became engaged. 

Here are just some things I took away from this whirlwind weekend of wedding.

First of all, I didn't want to go (really) 

Let me be real and raw here when I say that anticipating taking five children aged 8 and under on a 1000 mile round trip road trip is enough to make you wanna call off the whole idea. But, anticipating taking that 1000 mile round trip road trip while suffering with anxiety and extreme fatigue/thyroid issues plus having not driven much of anywhere in several months is beyond overwhelming.

One of those many "overwhelmed" kind of moments... 

One of those many "overwhelmed" kind of moments... 

I wanted to run far, far away from this event. I struggled with feeling like I had no choice BUT to be there and then thinking "what kind of horrible sister are you to not be at your brother's wedding?!"

Just one week prior, I had taken the liberty to push myself to drive fifteen minutes, behind our house, to a see a friend whom I had never previously gone to her house before. Upon my departure, I notice my phone is at 10%, and I have to use my map app that brutally drains my phone so I can even find her house. 

Long story short, my phone guided me to the middle-of-freaking-nowhere with 2% battery life and no sense of how to get back home, much less to actually finding my friend's house. Oh, and it was getting dark, too. And, I had my two-year-old with me. So my first trek out solo in months, was a semi-disaster and a prime breeding ground for panic. Of course, I didn't desire to venture out of town, much less four states away just seven days later.

But, I went.

My Children Can Travel

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I anticipated the ride to be something like a non-violent horror film. I mean, what else could I have expected having a ten-month-old that has never been more than an hour away from home, a two-year-old that is literally a firework of energy and demands held hostage for multiple hours, and a nearly four-year-old that "has to potty" every other hour?! Let's not forget the six and eight-year-olds that can tag-team the "are we there yet's?" and "how much longer's?" the entire time. 

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I apologize. My children were amazing. I don't know if it had something to do with our awesome parenting prior to this event, my best friend's generosity in the busy bag department, or just an overwhelming amount of God's grace and mercy falling from the prayers that were sent up for us. (I'm going with the latter two possibilities).

My only desperate time was about thirty minutes from our destination on the way up when I had to nurse our baby while she remained strapped into her carseat, so I could converse with my husband about our whereabouts. 

My Family is Amazing (and it just got more amazing)

Considering this wedding was in the bride's home state of Pennsylvania, and we have absolutely no family that lives within any sort of reasonable distance from the location, there were many of us there. 

We spent our 10 year anniversary driving, and took this pic upon arrival to our hotel room. Not romantic in the least, but blessed beyond measure.  

We spent our 10 year anniversary driving, and took this pic upon arrival to our hotel room. Not romantic in the least, but blessed beyond measure.  

Even my inlaws, who have been more like family to my parents and family for my whole life, came anyway when they couldn't find a flight. They drove all day long, helped with our children, took our boys into their hotel room to make more room for us left in that "too tiny for our family of seven" room, and even missed the entire ceremony to help with all of the flower girls. Amazing love. And they left just 24 hours after arriving to drive back to North Carolina.

My grandparents took that same drive on Friday, left on Saturday and drove all night until they got home. They even missed the rehearsal and most of the dinner, but they pushed through and came. 

My uncle and cousin, drove all day long just to attend the wedding on Saturday. Drove back to Indiana that afternoon. They were there just fifteen hours total.

Even one of the groomsman, one of my brothers closest friends, flew all the way from Japan, was a part of the wedding and left today to return to Japan. Incredible love. Incredible sacrifice. 

Hotel Life With Little Ones (or, can I go to the pool?)

It seems like upon every collision of vehicle to hotel parking lot pavement induces the most predictable inquiry from children: "does this hotel have a pool"? 

Which inevitably leads to the next exclamatory inquiry: "can we go swimming....RIGHT NOW?!?"

It doesn't matter if you roll up after dark, or if your parents are having a hard time keeping their eyes open after a long day of travel. The burst of energy children acquire upon learning that, indeed, this hotel does have a pool is further confirmed by the wafting chlorine high that nearly knocks you dead upon entry in to the lobby. It's like a cruel reminder of what is coming next. "OOOHHHH!!! I can smell the pool, mommy!! Can we get our swimming suits on RIGHT NOW?!"

So...we did. We went swimming during the first half hour of our arrival.  

So...we did. We went swimming during the first half hour of our arrival.  

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I recall being that child and saying such childish things during my own childhood. It's a different story, entirely, when you're the mother of five little children that rarely come into contact with giant holes of concrete, filled with chlorinated water. 

So, within the first thirty minutes of arrival, naturally, they (the children) will all immediately don their swimming attire and be clamoring for the exit as if the room was swarming with bees. 

There's also no rest for the weary. Parents, that is. Especially when the only option is to snuggle a wiggly, nursey ten-month-old in a bed that you must share with your husband. It was tight.

I Did It (for my dad)

We made it. We're home now, having brought home buckets full of memories and hearts full of love. 

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I was able to do this weekend because of prayer. I was able to do this weekend because of love, encouragement, and enormous amounts of help. I did it because I knew I would never regret going to my brother's wedding. 

Sure, there were moments when I sobbed from exhaustion, frustration for feeling badly again, and just purely being overwhelmed. I did have one almost panic attack and one full panic attack that I reigned under control rather quickly. 

At the end of the wedding, after the reception was over, people dispersed and clothes were changed for the road trips ahead, my dad told me he was so proud of me. "I did it for you, dad", was my response. You see, my dad understands what it's like to battle a world of "what if's". My anxiety and health issues may have followed me on this road trip, but it didn't defeat me. I still was able to enjoy and partake of almost every moment. I pushed myself and pushed some more. And I know I was able to do so because of my family, the prayers, and my Heavenly Father. 

My brother's wedding was beautiful. And I have pictures to prove it. 

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