2017-01-02-08-04-06

On Being the Perfect Mother…

Once upon a time, when I was younger, I dreamed about how I would be the perfect mother.  I would be the inspiration for this right here:

pregnant_barbie

Except, of course, I would wear a longer and much more modest dress.

“Hi!  I’m perfect Mormon Mother Barbie!  I have a dozen perfectly well behaved children.  They never watch television, listen to anything other than wholesome, uplifting music, pray and read scriptures right on schedule daily, and they all go to bed like angels right on time.  Between their studies that get them straight A’s in school they excel at music lessons, foreign language lessons, volunteer for charity work and whistle happy tunes while they clean the house and do all manner of chores without complaint.  My house is immaculate at all times–there is no such thing as a stray dirty sock in the middle of the floor!  I cook perfectly healthy, nutritionally balanced meals and pack my children perfectly healthy and well balanced lunches every single day.  I photograph every accomplishment and record it in individualized scrapbooks for each of them, chronicalizing their perfect lives from the moment of birth.  Every one of them will grow up to be successful, well rounded, perfect adults that will wish there was an award they could give me for my perfect mothering skills.”

Those of you that know me, know, of course, that 24 years later this is exactly how it all went down.

Just kidding.

Recently I discovered this great new show on TV that I love called American Housewife.  I think the reason I love it to much is because that is me.  I completely relate. Yesterday I had one of those days where I started reliving my moments of motherhood failure, and lest you think I don’t have any of those, I submit proof:

Here’s the Proof:

When Savannah was a baby, she never wanted me to put her down.  When I say never, I mean N.E.V.E.R.  I thought I would lose my mind.  I loved her, but I couldn’t get anything done.  One time I had her in one of those little packs you wear on your chest in an effort to try and cook dinner, stood in front of the stove too long and finally realized her wee little socks were putting off a bit of smell.  I almost lit her on fire.  That was awesome.  This event led to yet another great moment for me–the discovery of the Teletubbies.

You know those kids of mine that were never going to watch TV?  When I realized that Savannah loved the Teletubbies more than life itself, her little bouncy chair became permanently positioned in front of the TV where I plopped her to watch the tape over and over and over again. (Yes, I said tape–I know I’m dating myself when I complain that I had to keep rewinding it!)  I abandoned that “no tv” rule about 30 seconds after my first baby opened his eyes and I discovered that I could actually walk away and leave him with the marvelous boob tube babysitter.

When Braden was younger, there was a day when he came home from school on the bus.  As the driver opened the door, I could already smell the really enticing smell of vomit that had been locked in a metal can for about an hour and it was lovely.  It was even better when I discovered it was my kid that was the culprit.  He had vomited against his tray, and, being in a tilted position, all that nasty had run down the tray into his lap and all over his wheelchair.  It was a nightmare.  Not sure what else to do, and knowing for sure I didn’t want to roll that disgusting mess into my house, I instead pushed him to the backyard where I grabbed the hose and…I’m almost ashamed to admit it… hosed him down.  Yes.  I hosed down my disabled son with ice water from the hose.  Not one of my proudest moments.  But in my own defense, I honestly didn’t know what else to do.  He didn’t seem to mind so much…I think.

When Dylan was young, he had difficulty sleeping and was a little afraid of the dark.  He would come in our room and stand next to me quietly, breathing and staring, until I popped my eyes open and wet my pants in fright.  There’s nothing like waking up to giant eyeballs right at face level, staring at you in the dark.  I was not a “come sleep in my bed” kind of mother, so I always sent him away, back to deal with the monsters under his bed all alone.  Actually, though, he didn’t go.  Instead he’d plod around to the other side where Patrick would gladly move over and let him in.  Clearly, Patrick was a better parent than me.

And last but not least, here’s one of my personal favorites:

Several years ago, Patrick got mad at my kids.  I don’t remember the reason, and the reason doesn’t even matter anyway, because the only thing important to this particular story is the fact that he swore at them.  He doesn’t swear often, so this was quite the scene.  It was some mild mannered curse word, like hell or damn…nothing big and ugly like the F word or anything.  Savannah instantly started crying.

Me:  What are you crying about?

Savannah:  Dad just swore at me.

Me:  You didn’t cry when I swore at you…

Savannah:  That’s because you do it all the time!

An award winning moment in motherhood right there.  (For the record, I’d like to state that I only use the mild mannered curse words and not the big ugly ones…in my own defense.  And I was with them all day while he was at work, so really, if you calculated the time/curse word ratio it probably isn’t as bad as she made it sound.  I’m just sayin’…)

I could literally fill volumes with examples like this and we could all have a good laugh at my expense.  But I think I’ll stop here.

A Proud Moment…sort of…

I did have my really proud moments though, like when I made a handmade Spongebob costume before Spongebob costumes were a “thing”.  I made it out of those big foam pads you use to make cushions for furniture, and the costume itself was all made out of felt.  It was freaking awesome!  I walked with Colby’s kindergarten class while they did their Halloween parade and heard some 6th grader expressing awe about what an awesome costume it was and felt like it was one of my better moments.  (Sadly, this also is one of those double-edged sword moments.  As Colby went trick or treating that night, that enormous costume was sort of heavy and he couldn’t really bring his hands together or put his arms down.  Finally he succumbed to the weight of it all and fell over and bounced.  Yep…he BOUNCED.  My sister and I actually laughed at him before helping him get back up.  So, yeah.  It was a good and bad moment for me all in one.)

So why do I bring all this up?

Today was one of those days where I woke up feeling a little down about the job I have done as a mother.  It’s easy when your kids get older to spend time looking back, wondering if you did everything right, reevaluating all the decisions you made and asking yourself if things would be different/better “if only”.

Sadly, it’s my nature to look back and second guess myself.  There is so much to learn along the way that once I learned it, it’s easy to look back and recognize my mistakes.  Maybe the worst part is, there is still a lot to learn, so some days it seems like the mistakes keep coming.

Despite our desire to be the perfect parent, it’s not possible.  We will all fail at it at one time or another.  Expecting that anything else will happen sets us up for disappointment.  It’s one giant series of lessons to learn, and lots of practice. There are definitely bad parents out there, but the truth is, if you’ve ever spent even a second of your time asking yourself if you’re good enough at the job, then it’s not you.

It’s inevitable that we will all spend time wishing we’d done things differently, beating ourselves over the head for past mistakes, and praying for do-overs.  But it shouldn’t be that way.

We are all doing the very best we can with what we’ve been given.  No two people will be the exact same at mothering, and there is not a single one of us that is perfect, We all suck at it from time to time, and that has to be okay.

I wonder sometimes, if I could go back, knowing everything I know now, and do things differently, how would my life look?  How might my kids be different if I had had all the answers back before I started?  (The ironic thing about that is that I still don’t have all the answers, even with 24 years of practice.)

I remember a night, many years ago, when all my kids were still young.  They were all in bed asleep.  Patrick was working, so it was just me.  I looked in at all of them and had this overwhelming feeling come over me that said “Holy crap!  I’m in charge!  These little people are counting on me to take care of them!”

It wasn’t like I didn’t already know that, but the actual realization in that moment was kind of horrifying.  I remember that night saying a prayer and telling Heavenly Father I didn’t even know what I was doing, and asking Him why he trusted me to do such an important job.  Sadly, I still don’t really know the answer.  The only thing I know for sure is I couldn’t have done it without His help.

When all is said and done, I’m happy with how things are turning out.  I wouldn’t change my kids for the world.  They are fabulous human beings, and in the grand scale of things, can we ask for anything more?  I like to think that I played at least some role in how great they are, but sometimes I think they got that way in spite of me, not because of me.

The relationship I have with my kids has definitely changed, and I’m loving it.  Sometimes it’s hard to relinquish the “I’m in charge” mentality, but it’s also kind of nice to just be friends and enjoy their company on a whole different level.  It makes all those difficult times SO worth it.

Now I just wait patiently (PATIENTLY, I SAY!  There is no rush here…) for the day I will be a grandma.  I bet I can make some really AWESOME mistakes as a grandma too!

 

 

2017-01-02-08-04-06

Why I Choose to be a Mormon

book-of-mormon-jpg-kqk1nq-clipartWhen I was growing up I had a good friend named Alana.  She lived across the street from me.  Never were there two people so completely different, and yet we were amazing friends!  We had some great times that mostly involved Spanish class, and we went to Spanish camp together.  Oh, the stories I could tell!  I was raised as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and Alana was not.  Her background was Catholic, but I’m not sure if her family attended church or not because I never really paid attention to those things.  While Alana was outgoing, gregarious, loved to party (and did so often) I was more the quiet type. She couldn’t wait to grow up and leave our tiny town for places unknown, she wanted to get married (but not right away)  and never wanted children. She had dreams way more lofty than me.  I planned to go off to college, but never really yearned for the wings that she wanted.  I wanted to be a writer, knew I could be content with a good place to call home and a family, and couldn’t wait to someday be a mother. As I said before, we were polar opposites when it came to lifestyle choices but we were always good friends and I loved to talk and laugh with her and neither of us ever spent even a moment of time judging the other because we weren’t the same.

Now, thanks to the miracle of the internet and Facebook, Alana and I can still be friends even when we live worlds apart in more ways than one.  We enjoy a good online discuss now and again, keep up with each other’s comings and goings, and even occasionally talk on the phone.  We are still different in more ways than we are the same, but I can still say that I love her like I always did. I had one of these conversations with her several nights ago and hearing her voice from the other side of the country took me back for a minute to when I was sixteen and we laughed about the past and wondered about Senor Mansfield and where he might be these days.

During my conversation with Alana that night, she asked me some tough questions that I never expected her to ask me. Considering we’ve been friends (even from a distance) most of our lives, she’s never asked me these types of questions before.  They weren’t tough as in “I have no answer for that” but tough in the sense that I absolutely know the answer but trying to get it from my heart out of my mouth is challenging.  I know my answers at the time were less than adequate, and I have been thinking about it ever since. Maybe not so much because I need to give Alana a better answer, but I guess when someone, anyone, takes the time to ask us why we believe what we believe or why we choose to live like we live, it’s best to have a response so it doesn’t look like we don’t know.

Obviously I believe in my religion.  I willingly sent my son off to spend two years of his life sharing it with others (granted, most of that decision was on him, but I still went along with it) and I’m paying for it out of my own pocket.  I sacrifice all of my Sundays to worshipping and attending church services, choosing not to participate in other activities that I enjoy in an effort to keep the Sabbath day holy.  I take on jobs in the church for which I never get paid, but that eat up my time, cause stress occasionally, and create work when I have a million other things I could be doing.  I willingly part with 10% of my income in tithing.  The list could go on and on.  Ours is not an easy religion to live.  It requires time and effort and WORK every single day.

I know this doesn’t sound like much of an advertisement for joining up, but it does lead me to explain why I choose this life.

Sending my son off on a mission was difficult to do, but these last two weeks I have had the opportunity to watch my daughter prepare to send the boy she loves off on a mission as well.  It has been really hard for her to do it, but she supports his decision to go. There have been a lot of tears shed (by both of us).  But then I got to watch her get lost in doing some projects for him during his time away.  She created a little photo album filled with pictures, quotes, and memories, all designed to encourage and lift him when things got tough.  Then she wrote him a series of letters, all intended for him to take with him and open when he needs them.  They included talks from church leaders, scriptures and quotes, and, of course, her own words of love, support, and encouragement.

She delivered these things to him the Sunday before he left and said her last in-person goodbyes to him.

Tuesday, in an effort to keep her busy and not let her dwell on his leaving, she and I spent the day together.  We just happened to be passing the airport when his flight departed, and she watched as it slowly became a tiny dot in the sky.  As the day wound to a close and I was taking her back to her apartment, she told me that she knows she’s going to be okay.  She talked about what a great missionary he is going to be, and how caring he will be to the people he is serving.  I’m proud of her for her strength, and she’s right—she’ll be okay.

So why do we do these hard things?

Because, ultimately, it makes us happy.

For all of these hard things that I do, each time I choose to do them, I receive blessings without measure.  Those blessings make the sacrifices worthwhile, and, in the end, I am happy.

Many people look at the life of a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and see nothing but restrictions and rules, wondering why we are forced to live a life with no fun, no freedom, and no choices.  I never look at it like that at all—so when asked why we have so many restrictions, I’m not quite sure how to answer.  All I see is a loving Heavenly Father that gives us guidelines to follow, promising that if we will follow, it will bring us joy.  So far, that has been the case for me.  There is nothing out there “in the world” that I feel like I am missing out on—not one thing.  There are, however, an abundance of things that I have gained by living according to the standards that God has given me.

I have seen more miracles in my lifetime than one would think a simple girl like me would ever deserve.  I haven’t seen an ocean part, but when the small miracles come in your life that give you exactly what you need in that moment, it might as well be the parting of a sea.  I have no doubt in my mind that the Lord knows my name, He knows what I need, and He will perform miracles in my life at exactly the time that I need them.  By comparison, all that He asks of me seems so very small.

My faith provides hope

To sum it up, I have faith that if I do what I am asked to do, I will see the promised results.  So far I have never been let down.

faith_0I could go on and on about the reasons why I choose to live my life as a Mormon, but I think I will sum it up with words from my daughter, who posted the following on her Facebook page last night:

This Tuesday the love of my life left to serve our Heavenly Father, and help bring His perfect gospel to others. I am so very proud of the wonderful man I’ve got to see him become over the past two years, and I can’t imagine my life without him. He is so loving, and he always does his best in everything he does. I have never met anyone as loving and caring as he is, and I know he is going to be so great out there. Our relationship has brought me closer to where I need to be in my life, and because of Spencer’s help, I have grown stronger. One thing I can now say with complete surety is this:

Christ lives, and he loves us. He experienced all the pain and torments of the world, and he did this in order to save us and bring us back to our Father in Heaven. Heavenly Father loves us, and nothing can separate us from that. Romans 8: 38-39 states:

“38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

I know this is true, and I feel His love every moment I take a breath. And I most definitely feel this love when I see the wonderful gifts that Heavenly Father has given me in this life. My mom, my dad, my brothers, my friends, Spencer… These are all wonderful examples of gifts that Heavenly Father has sent me to help bring me closer to his love. Yet the perfect example of God’s love for us is in Christ. He sent His only Begotten Son down to this world out of his pure love. He sent Him to save us so that we can all return to the love that dwells within Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. In October of 2009 Deiter F. Uchtdorf gave a talk on the pure and all-encompassing love of God, stating:

“[God] loves us because He is filled with an infinite measure of holy, pure, and indescribable love. We are important to God not because of our résumé but because we are His children. He loves every one of us, even those who are flawed, rejected, awkward, sorrowful, or broken. God’s love is so great that He loves even the proud, the selfish, the arrogant, and the wicked.

“What this means is that, regardless of our current state, there is hope for us. No matter our distress, no matter our sorrow, no matter our mistakes, our infinitely compassionate Heavenly Father desires that we draw near to Him so that He can draw near to us.”

I am so grateful for all those around me, whether past or present. You all mean so much to me, and you are all examples of God’s pure love. Though these next two years will be hard, I am so glad that Spencer will be spending it sharing Heavenly Father’s love with others.

I love my Heavenly Father. And I love His perfect son. I know that I can always turn to Him, and I know that He will always be waiting with His pierced hands outstretched.

2017-01-02-08-04-06

“…And Mine Angels Round About You, To Bear You Up”

There are times in our lives when angels appear, performing miracles and making a difference in indescribable ways.  This happened yesterday for my family.   To properly understand the significance of the event, you need to know some important things about us first.

24 years ago my husband and I had our first child and our lives changed forever.  Our beautiful boy, who had been oxygen deprived shortly before birth, also suffered a stroke.  The two incidents left him with severe brain damage and a seizure disorder that started when he was five months old and froze him in time from that moment forward.  I have written Braden’s story before in another location and I will tell that complete story again another day, but for now, the important things to know come way later…about 18 years later.

Braden

Because of Braden’s disabilities, he is uncomfortable and in pain a lot of the time.  He has cerebral palsy, which strains his muscles in an unnatural way, and scoliosis, which gets worse and worse every year.  We never had a vehicle that would accommodate his wheelchair for a couple of reasons– first, it was outside our budget and second, because it just wouldn’t work with the rest of our family if a large part of our family car was dedicated to wheelchair tie downs and the space he would take up.   Our method of taking Braden anywhere was to put him in a car seat and then break his wheelchair down to put it in the back of our car.  It was a ton of work, hard on Patrick’s back, and meant that every single time we got him out of the car we’d have to reassemble the chair.  Not fun at all.  As Braden got bigger, the car seat got more and more uncomfortable for him.  Imagine sitting in a hard car seat unable to even shift your body weight from one cheek to the other, or in any other way rearrange yourself.  We felt sorry for him, but our sympathy didn’t solve any problems.  Over the years you could see his ability to tolerate traveling in the car waning and we started to foresee a day when we would not be able to travel with him at all.

That day came about six years ago, one day in July (my birthday, to be exact) we loaded him in the car along with the rest of the family and headed to my parents’ home–one hour away.  Up until this day, we’d been able to take him anywhere that was about 45 minutes away before he’d hit his limit and start screaming in protest.  On this particular day, those odds changed and suddenly it was the 15 minute period that he was okay, and the 45 minute period that he spent screaming so loud glasses were breaking all across the valley.  By the time we got to my parents’ house we were all on the edge of sanity.  The worst part about it was that we would need to somehow get home that night and looked forward to that ride with dread.

Our trip home that night was like living a nightmare.  Despite all our attempts to make things better, nothing worked and he lasted approximately ten minutes before the horrible screaming and thrashing started.  By halfway home the rest of my family was having a collective breakdown.  That night, Patrick and I made the determination that this was the last time Braden would travel with us.  From that moment on, unless he had a doctor’s appointment, we didn’t take him anywhere. He went to school on the bus, but loading him in the car became a thing of the past.

Not being able to take your family anywhere really puts a damper on things.  Suddenly, there was no going to relatives homes for Thanksgiving or Christmas, there were no summer picnics or swimming trips that included the whole family,  no going for ice cream or out to eat.  We brought food home, we took turns going to our other children’s functions, and when it was time for family vacations we had to arrange for respite care if we wanted to take the whole family.  Getting respite care was never easy, required a lot of advanced planning, and many times fell through.

2014-05-21-11-56-35-4Two years ago, when Braden graduated from school, it was time to find something new for him.  We investigated every available day program in the valley for him.  There were some very good programs with kind, caring people, but nothing we found was going to meet his needs.  One of the largest concerns was transportation.  Because of our location, there was no program that would transport him from home.  It was too far, and they spoke to us of sending him on a flex bus, something that we would never be willing to do.  I started to face the realization that if we couldn’t find a program for him, he was going to be trapped in our house 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with nothing to break up the monotony of his day.  And if he was trapped, so was I.  No trips to the grocery store, no going to the gym…no going anywhere.  Add to this the realization that our other kids, the built in babysitters that we had relied on, were all growing up and moving on.  Soon there would be no one left but the two of us.

That is when we had to make the nearly impossible decision to move him into a Care Center to live full-time.  It was about the most difficult decision we’d ever made, and it was more difficult for Patrick than it was for me because I am typically the practical one while Patrick thinks with his extremely large heart.  We both cried the day we moved him.  Since then, Patrick spends every day missing him and feeling guilty, like he has somehow abandoned him (I miss him too, but my practical self tells me that we made the right decision for the entire family) and he likes to bring him home on weekends.  This requires him to go through the process of loading him in the car.  There is no car seat anymore, so he just straps him in with the seatbelt–extremely less than adequate and probably completely unsafe.  He can’t bring his wheelchair home because we no longer have a vehicle big enough for it. and it doesn’t break down like it used to.  So it’s back and forth, every weekend, breaking his back, risking his life traveling in unsafe conditions, all because he loves this boy with all his heart and can’t let him stay away.

The day Braden moved out. Patrick carried him around like this everywhere.
The day Braden moved out. Patrick carried him around like this everywhere.
Braden's newest chair would no longer break down to be put in our car, so it had to be hauled in a truck.
Braden’s newest chair would no longer break down to be put in our car, so it had to be hauled in a truck.

The miracle I speak about started to take shape for me about four months ago when a letter arrived.  It was from a man named Al Ackerman–a person I had never met but my husband knew well.  As a regular guest at the Alta Peruvian Lodge, where Patrick works, he had gotten to know him over the course of the past 19 years and had heard stories of our family and Braden.  Al owns a company in New Jersey called Fun Truck ‘n Mobility where he rents, sells and services wheelchair accessible vehicles.  The letter told me that he had acquired a van that he wanted to donate to Patrick, that he would be doing all the modifications we would need, and when it was finished he would drive it out from New Jersey to surprise Patrick with it.  That began the process and was the biggest secret I’ve ever been able to keep.

This is the picture Al sent me of the van before they started doing body work on it.
This is the picture Al sent me of the van before they started doing body work on it.

Al solicited help from other guests that are regulars at the lodge in the form of donations to help him cover the costs of the modifications.  He sent out a letter to about 40 people, who in turn sent it to more people and donations started to come in.  When all was said and done, he had more than enough to cover the cost of the work that the van needed.   The generosity of people can be so overwhelming!

As for me…keeping that secret was hard.  I told only the people that actually needed to know in an effort to keep Patrick from finding out.  I was in communication with Al occasionally over the course of time as I had to get the insurance taken care of, and he sent me pictures of the progress.  It was sometimes hard to believe it was really happening.  The end of August, Al and his wife Cathy left New Jersey on their way here in the finished van.

The finished van, ready to head west.
The finished van, ready to head west.

My real role came in to play yesterday as it was my job to make sure Patrick was home when the van was delivered–a quest that I nearly failed at when he got up in the morning and announced that he had too much to do at work and couldn’t take the day off as planned.  This left all of us scrambling as we tried to figure out how to get him home after he’d left and took some serious coordination.

In the end, all it really took was making him think I was mad that he’d ditched me for the day.  I don’t like making him feel guilty, but sometimes you do what you have to do.  We made plans to go to a movie that started at 3:45 (I picked it strictly for the time–they were planning to arrive with the van shortly after 3:00)

He finally came home shortly after lunch, and all the plans were in place.  I called the Care Center where Braden lives to make sure they had him ready to go (and they were so nice and accommodating).  We decided that Patrick’s mom would meet Al there to sign Braden out and they would bring him here with them.   More people from Fun Truck ‘n Mobility flew in yesterday as well, so arrangements needed to be made to pick them up as well.  My parents wanted to be here, so another scheme was concocted to explain their arrival.  It was an awful lot of lying on my part, but finally it looked like all the gears were working in the correct fashion.

When Al showed up and rang the doorbell, Patrick opened the door.  His response?

“Hey, Al!  It’s good to see you.  We’re about to leave here in a minute…”  to which Al said “no, you’re not” and asked him to follow him outside.  Patrick was pretty confused until he saw Braden in the van, and that’s when he knew what was going on.  (I still find it really humorous that he opens the door to see someone he knows all the way from New Jersey and his response is “hey, sorry, I’m leaving…catch ya later”… Whaaaaattt?)

It was an incredible experience…so incredible that I walked outside and left my camera sitting on the table.  Sometimes I’m lame like that.  Luckily my mom had hers out while I went back for mine.

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Al had a frame, ready for a picture, with all the names of those that had helped and donated their time and money to this cause.  Patrick was overwhelmed and emotional, but he managed to hold back the tears.  Since receiving this gift yesterday, Patrick has expressed to me more than once that he feels there are other people more deserving  than he.  I know that no one deserves it more than he does.  Sometimes I am pretty sure Braden requested Patrick as his father before he came to this earth, knowing that he would be the best father in the world for him.  Having this vehicle to help him bring his forever little boy home is possibly the best gift Patrick could ever receive.  It will change his life forever.

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I have spoken often of the challenges and blessings that come from having a disabled child.  Sometimes the challenges seem like they outnumber the blessings, but it’s also true that the blessings outweigh the challenges. One of the greatest blessings of all is the people that have come into our lives, performing miracles, committing acts of service and love that we never expected.  They are as angels doing the Lord’s work.  It is proof to me that the Lord truly is aware of our circumstances, He knows each of us by name.  He has a hand in our lives at every turn and He blesses us in monumental and surprising ways.  These blessings always come through good, kind-hearted people that see our needs and find a way to meet them.  I have met many of them over the last 24 years.  Most of them stepped into our lives for a small moment and then moved on to other things, never fully comprehending the ways they have changed us and helped us, but I know there are great blessings awaiting them for the good they have done.  At those times in our lives when things seem dark, He sends His angels to lift us.  Through these experiences, I more fully understand what the Lord meant when he said:

“And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face.  I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.” (D&C 84: 88)

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Seeing the actions of Al, his coworkers, and all the friends that donated to help make this happen, I am reminded again that there really are good people in the world.  There are no words to express the appreciation I feel for this amazing gesture.  My family has been truly blessed.

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2017-01-02-08-04-06

Parenting: The Hardest Part is Letting Them Go

Moving On

Oh, boy…I’ve done it now. I’ve become one of those stodgy old women that looks at you smiling when you’re in the grocery store with your screaming toddler.  You’re ready to rip the kid’s head off if they don’t shut up and you hear this quiet little voice that says “Enjoy them while they’re young because before you know it they will be grown and gone.”  In the back of your mind you say, “Yeah…right, lady.” while you smile back on the outside.Parenting Toddlers

I know all too well how this goes because I used to be the one with the toddler.  Now I’m the old lady.  When did this happen?  How often have you thought any of the following:

  • “My life will be so much less hectic when I don’t have so many school programs to attend!”
  • “I can’t wait until the day we are DONE  having to make Valentine’s boxes!”
  • “I’m so tired of chasing toddlers around!  When I don’t have to worry about them getting into things all the time, I will be so relieved!”

The list could go on and on, and I would know, because I have thought all of these things at one point or another.  Please don’t get me wrong, though, I have loved having kids from the moment they arrived to the present.  Not only that, but I have loved every single stage of having kids, including (and maybe even especially) when they were teenagers.  Every single stage of parenting has had it’s ups and downs, the pros and cons, and even though I had those moments when I was exhausted and ready to throw in the towel, I loved them all.  But over the last several years I have discovered the absolute hardest stage of parenting:  letting them go.

“I don’t want my son to leave.”

Around the time that Dylan was graduating from high school and we were getting ready for him to leave on his mission I started to see a change in Patrick.  He became a little withdrawn and quiet.  I was thinking about all the things that had to be done, and he didn’t seem to want to be involved with any of it.

Then one Sunday he told me he had an appointment with the bishop, so I waited for him after church and we rode home together.  He told me in the car that day how distressed he was about having Dylan leave, and those are the words he said to me. “I don’t want my son to leave.” I will never forget them, because in that one sentence he conveyed all the anxiety and heartbreak he was feeling.  It seems he was not able to come to grips with the idea that we were basically done raising Dylan at this point.  He would leave and eventually come home, but things would never be the same again.

Shortly after that, the whole dust-up with Dylan’s mission call happened (a story for another day) and all of Dylan’s plans got put on hold for an entire year.  At the time I tried to tell myself there was something for Dylan to do here before he left, or maybe there was something that needed to take place in the mission field before he needed to be there.  As I look back on it now, I sometimes wonder if his delay didn’t happen because Heavenly Father needed to prepare Patrick for the leaving.  Maybe we all needed the extra time to prepare.

Fortunately or unfortunately, they all leave.

Parenting College StudentsThis last week we moved Savannah off to college.  She is living close to where I lived when I was attending college, so it was kind of fun to remember those days. But as we moved her I was a giant ball of horribly mixed emotions and didn’t really know how to react.  On one hand, I am so excited for her to start this new chapter because my college days were the best ever, and I know she is going to have so much fun.  Then again, I am a little frightened for her too, because I know she will struggle and things will be really difficult at times.  It’s all part of the package–she will learn, grow, struggle and have the time of her life as she figures out who she is and where she is going.

But there is another mixed emotion for me as well–I am sad she is gone, but I am also happy she is gone.  The fact that she is excited to move on with life and feels the confidence it takes to do so tells me that I did something right.  They say that you know you’ve done your job as a parent when your child grows up and no longer needs you.  I hope she still needs me a little bit, but I also hope she has learned a lot of what she needs to know to make good choices and move forward.

Regardless of all of this, I apparently am not done worrying about her night and day just yet.

Her first weekend down there, she started her new job.  She had told me she was scheduled to work from 5 p.m. to midnight, and I was having a hard time with the fact that I would not know whether or not she made it home safely.  I asked her to please text me or call me when she was off so I wouldn’t worry all night.  I then plopped myself on the couch with the TV remote to wait it out.

Midnight came and went.  No messages or calls.  Pretty soon it’s 12:30 and still no phone call.  I start to wonder if maybe her phone is dead, so close to 1 a.m,  I called.  I figured if her phone was dead it would go straight to voice mail, so at least I would know.  It didn’t go to voicemail, but it did prompt her to text me to say she was still working.  I reminded her that I was waiting up and to please not forget to call.

Fast forward two and a half more hours:  I am texting her and she is not responding.  I have not received a phone call.  I am a mother.  These things all combine and form the perfect storm of panic, leaving me shaking and freaking out and crying on the couch.  I was sure that she had forgotten to call, had gone home to a dark scary parking lot alone, had been forced to park a million miles from her apartment, and on the walk in had been nabbed, dragged into the bushes where she was viciously raped and murdered.

While all of this was happening, Patrick was sleeping.  SLEEPING!!!  So not only was I worried about her, I was mad at him.  How can any respectable parent sleep while their only daughter is out being raped and murdered in some dark parking lot, her body just laying there is the dirt, soon to be covered up by the newly falling leaves as the seasons change?  I was ready to put my clothes on and go looking for her, but instead I woke up Patrick by storming around the bedroom throwing something of a mini-tantrum.

I told him I still hadn’t heard from her and finally he joined me in my panic.  He got up and called her phone, again to see if it had died.  This time she answered and she was mad.

“I can’t talk! I’M WORKING!”  That’s all she said.

At 4:06 a.m. I got a text that said “I’m home safe.  I love you guys.  I’ll call you tomorrow when I wake up.”

Apparently I need to work on my apron-string-cutting just a bit.

Train up a child in the way they should go, and when they are grown they will not depart from it.

Growing up in the LDS church, we’ve all heard this about a million times.  Sadly, as much as I want it to be true, sometimes it isn’t that simple. There are times when, despite our best efforts, our kids will choose differently than we wish they would.

I have a child that is struggling to find his way right now, and I know family members and friends that are experiencing similar times.  We ask ourselves often what we did wrong and how do we fix it.  We lose sleep as we try to find the one thing we can say or do that might make a difference and put them back on the path that we want for them.  I know that for me personally,  I have spent countless hours reviewing the past and asking myself what I might have done differently that would have made the difference for today.

Sadly, the truth is,  we all do the best we can, we all make mistakes, and our kids will too.  All we can do is love them and pray for them that they will find their way.  And even though we disagree with their decision, we still have to let them make it.  They will learn and grow and probably suffer a little (or a lot) in the process, and it hurts to watch, but it’s unavoidable.  I certainly don’t have this mastered, so if anyone has good advice on how to get through it, I’m all ears.

Enjoy your kids when they’re young.  Before you know it, you’ll blink and they will be gone and your parenting role will change.

There.  I said it again.  Go ahead and roll your eyes at me if you must, but treasure up every moment, because more good moments are coming, and I don’t know about you, but I’d rather anticipate what’s next than regret what’s over.