First Day.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Just like that, summer is behind us and a new school year is upon us.  Frankly, I have no idea where the summer went.  I can account for about five days of it (spent at Disneyland!), but the rest of it is a blur.  That's okay though.  We're happy to return to the predictability of school -- they go the same place every day at the same time with the same people, and that's good for all of us.

First grade and fourth grade this year.  They know the school, they know where the restrooms and water fountains are, they know many of the kids and teachers.  So although they are in new classrooms with new teachers and a new group of students, much of it is familiar and comfortable. 

As I filled out the hopes-and-dreams paperwork for teachers yesterday, I realized that I didn't have a lot to say.  There's so much more to worry about when one or the other starts kindergarten, or when it's all brand new.  But we've done this once or twice now.  The hopes and dreams start to repeat themselves.

I find myself thinking big picture -- I hope they will be confident in their abilities and capabilities, I hope they will be comfortable with who they are and like themselves, I hope they will find learning fun and engaging.  

And although the paperwork asks about hopes and dreams for students, I can't help but think about the teachers.  I hope the teachers will get to see the best sides of our kids, that our kids will make their teachers smile and laugh as they do us, that the teachers will feel inspired and motivated by these little creatures whose futures are so bright.

I've got high hopes for a great year for these two and their lucky teachers.

My kids are not perfect.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Obvious, right?  Nobody's kids are.  Nobody is.  It's not news and the realization shouldn't stop us in our tracks.  

But sometimes it does.

Kids are always doing less-than-perfect things.  They fuss and whine, they refuse to sleep when they should, they take forever to put on their shoes, and on and on and on.  But they're learning and developing and becoming more independent, and it's all part of the growing process.  So really those are not imperfections, that's just learning to be a human.

All kids have some physical imperfections too, though I'm pretty convinced that term is all wrong because it implies there's a perfect person out there (there's not).  Nevertheless, we've all got things that make us who we are -- a mole here or there, uneven eyes, long toes, whatever.  As parents, we notice these things about our children, but they're usually not terribly hard to accept, even if they're not our favorite features, because everybody's got something.  

But to hear a doctor talk about your child's life-changing condition, even if not life-threatening, that's different.  It feels like a kick in the gut, and for a moment, the world stops turning and everything comes to screeching halt with the painful realization that my child really is not perfect.  My child with the pencil-lead tattoo on her jawline, who takes forever to brush her hair but is perfect in my eyes -- she is not perfect.  My freckled child with the stubby toes, who can't keep up with his things but is perfect in my eyes -- he is not perfect.

Why is that so hard to hear, when of course we know that our kids are not perfect?  

I think it's because, in a few words, a professional has said that there is something big that we cannot save our child from.  There's nothing we can do to prevent it, or if there were, it's too late now.  Nothing we can do.  Nothing.  

We can hold our child's hand, we can show love and strength and resilience, we can help our child through what we all wish were different. As a parent, that doesn't feel like enough.  It feels like we've lost control.  It feels like we've failed because we want so badly to protect our children, save them from harm, and give them every opportunity in the world for the best possible future.  That's what we spend our days doing and our nights worrying about.  But it doesn't matter.  All the love in the world and the best parenting in the world couldn't change this.

I suppose this imperfect reality is all part of the parenting journey, something we each have to experience at some point, something we each have to come to in time.  For some parents, it comes early, before a baby is born.  For others, some sort of diagnosis stops us in our tracks and reminds us that so much about our children and their future is out of our control.  For some, it comes later, when children are growing up and taking charge of their own lives.  And some are forced to accept much worse -- infertility, life-threatening illnesses and conditions, even the loss of a child.

Maybe it's not just a step along the parenting road; maybe parenting is a process of accepting this lack of control in bits throughout the journey, one kick in the gut after another.  I suppose part of parenting is learning to let go and accept that our children are not really ours and that, as they are their own people, they have to face their own challenges and accept their own limitations that we are powerless to change.  Our job as parents is to love them and give them the tools and support they need to do that.  

But when I'm sitting in a doctor's office and talking about my imperfect child's imperfect future, that's not the job I want.  I don't want to have to tell myself how lucky I am because others have it much worse.  I just want the job of a fairy godmother who can, in a few magic words, make it all disappear.

A few months later, when I'm sitting in a different doctor's office and talking about my other child's very real imperfections, all I can think about is wanting to make it go away.  Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo.

Unfortunately, I'm no fairy godmother.  I'm just a mother who's world temporarily stopped turning, who's trying to figure out how to pick myself up and march on.  A mother who's only magical power is love and hope, who wants the best for her kids, no matter how imperfect they may be.

All photos courtesy of the lovely and talented Sarah of Sincerely, Sarah Photography.

Summer Camp.

Monday, May 11, 2015

With summer camp just a month away, I'm already thinking about the packing list, care packages, and what I can do to ensure that my little one has a great time.  We've bought cute boots for riding horses, and I've started stashing away some fun care package goodies.  Mostly, though, I just have to trust and hope that the camp turns out to be the magical place this summer that it was last summer.

Last summer, I let my much-too-young kid talk me into sleep-away summer camp.  We'd been driving past a girls' camp since long before having kids and had talked years before about the possibility of sending a daughter there someday.  My daughter had seen the girls' camp on the way to her grandparents' house her entire life.  With a determined seven-year-old whose pleading and convincing finally wore me down, someday came much sooner than I anticipated.  So we scheduled a visit and checked it out.

We came away a little bit scared and a whole lot excited.  Next thing I knew, I'd registered my baby to spend a week away from home.

As camp approached, I became increasingly worried.  How would my little girl be able to sleep without her very elaborate and important bedtime routine?  Would she find something she'd be willing to eat, or would she just go hungry?  Would she be able to comb out her hair, or would she come home with dreadlocks?  

So I did all that I could do.  We made sure that she had every item on the packing list and then some.  We packed her favorite stuffed animals and some family pictures.  I put together fun care packages.  I made a shower guide to help her remember the steps.  And then she got an ear infection.  So off to camp she went with antibiotics and very strict instructions for nasal rinse three times per day.  She and the nurse would get to know each other well.

We dropped Big Sister off in a rush, bed unmade, with hardly a chance to say goodbye or take a picture.  Her counselor seemed quiet and reserved.  They had to put on bathing suits and sunscreen and head immediately to a swimming test (which we were unprepared for).  I can't say that I left camp any less worried even though my brave kid assured me that she'd be fine.

Soon photos started popping up on the camp website.  My kid looked happy.  She was smiling.  She looked like she was having fun.  I breathed a huge sigh of relief.

Then there were photos of her tribe selection -- I knew instantly what that yellow chip meant.  She's a Wrangler!  Go Wranglers!

Each day there were new photos -- of her making a doll, drawing/painting, doing archery, and having fun with fellow campers.  She looked rested, cheerful, relaxed. 

 Her hair even looked well cared for.

I wrote her letters every day, from the kittens, telling her about what she was missing out on at home (not much).  We got one short postcard from her all week -- definitely a sign that she was doing fine at camp.

In the end, she had so much fun that she did not want to come home.  Being away from home was much, much harder on me than it was on her.  So the next time she went to camp, I went with her -- for a mother-daughter weekend.

We had so much fun playing in the river, doing log-rolling, kayaking, meeting the horses (and coloring them with chalk!), doing archery, making hair bows, eating good food, singing camp songs, making s'mores at the campfire, and performing in the talent show together.  She got to show me why she loves camp so much, and I got a tiny taste of camp life.  I totally got why she fell in love with the place.  I felt the magic.

So I'm excited for her to go back this summer, but I feel the worries creeping back.  What if the chaos of the bigger cabin with so many more girls is too much for her?  What if having some school friends there makes things more complicated?  What if this year's experience doesn't live up to last year's memory?  Only time will tell, I guess.  

For now, I'll just keep looking at these pictures and reminding myself of that camp magic.

Jumping back in.

Monday, February 16, 2015

I could give all sorts of excuses about why my blog has sat dormant for months.  I could blame it on technology challenges, all legit.  I could attribute it to Google, which made it ridiculously hard to renew my domain name.  I could say that the pressure to post perfectly composed and edited photos is too much, also true (and also why I'm posting several imperfect, unedited photos today).  I could say that I've gotten comfortable with being in my 40s, and I'm enjoying feeling like I no longer have anything to prove to anyone.  Definitely true, and quite liberating!  I could tell you that I'm busy living life instead of taking pictures of it and writing about it.  But the biggest reason for my absence is this -- I ran out of energy.

I guess I'm not such a superhero after all.

I didn't sew as much as I would have liked last year (though I did log 31 projects and 16 new-to-me patterns).  I hardly ever photographed what I made.  And I almost never showed off my creations (a few made it to Instagram, however).  I didn't volunteer as much as I would have liked (though I did help Little Helping Hands get a new grant from Target, got my family out volunteering several times, and organized some Brownie troop volunteer activities).  We didn't have as many family adventures as I'd hoped or see friends as I'd planned.  The day-to-day stuff just plain wore me out.  When the house got quiet late at night, I fell asleep on the couch instead of sewing or editing photos or writing.  When everybody else went to bed, I went to bed too.

So here it is, 2015, and I'm finally jumping back in.  I've missed this little project, my creative outlet in a tiny corner of the blogosphere.

What have we been up to?  Well, this guy turned six.  He makes us laugh a lot, gives great hugs, builds amazing things with Legos, conquers monkey bars like the cutest little gibbon, and is perfecting the fine art of pushing his sister's buttons.

This young lady had a very successful violin recital (what a long way she's come since last year!).  She's nearing completion of Suzuki Book 1 and is preparing for a talent show performance at her school.  I'm so impressed by her determination, perspective, and skill.

She's had fun with practice challenges, playing at a farmer's market, writing her own piece, playing for fire fighters, and practicing in costume.

And she's an all-around good kid.  She finishes her homework without a battle, she works hard on her school work, she smiles a lot, and she teaches us things all the time.

These two have grown up.  They seem to have finally outgrown all their health troubles, thankfully.  They've coated our house in a layer of fur.  They're mostly sweet and mostly loved.

So here we are, a busy family doing our thing, trying to make the most of the time we have (but wishing we had a bit more time).  Sound familiar?

Photo courtesy of Sincerely, Sarah Photography