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Bye for the Day, Mom

If you had driven

Down Shields Avenue

Past a school at roughly

9:37 am

You might have seen a brown-haired boy

With glasses, and a button-blue shirt tucked in

Standing against the black steel fence

Waving

A score of other children swung and hula-hooped and dribbled balls and played tag

Forgive the boy waving

As if at the cars driving by

Or those waiting at the bus stand just past the parking lot

Or at nothing at all

He was waving to his mother

He was waving to me

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Pooh Bear’s Gift

My son likes Winnie the Pooh. Actually, it’s a bit beyond like. If a day goes by without him watching a Winnie the Pooh episode or reading a Pooh story, he’s more cranky than I am on the days I skip my chai.Allen with Pooh and Tigger

But who doesn’t love Pooh? Who couldn’t love pretty much all the characters, in their own way?

The other day, Allen was watching the original Pooh movie… you know, the one we all probably watched when we were kids.

It came to the part about Eeyore’s birthday, where he is not surprised that no one knew it was his birthday. He’s just sitting there, gloomy as ever. Pooh and Piglet decide they should get a gift for him and rush off to their respective houses to find something.

Pooh finds a pot of honey (what else?) and begins the walk to Eeyore’s houseless hill. On the way, he gets a rumbly in his tumbly and decides he better sample the honey, “to make sure it’s okay”. Before he knows it, the honey is gone and he’s left with an empty—and rather sticky—pot. He heads to Owl’s tree house and Owl scribbles a birthday message on the pot, so that Pooh can present Eeyore with “a useful pot” for his birthday.

Meanwhile, Piglet finds the perfect gift, a red balloon that was three times his size. As he heads off to find Eeyore, the inevitable happens: the balloon pops.

Piglet arrives first with his “gift”, stammering his way through the story of what happened as he presents the broken and deflated red balloon. Just then, Pooh shows up with his gift.

“It’s a useful pot, and it’s for keeping things in,” he cheerily states to Eeyore.

“Like a balloon?” Eeyore asks.

“Oh, no. A balloon is too big to…” Pooh stops short when he sees Eeyore put the little red object into the pot and then pull it back out.

“Red, my favorite color…” Eeyore says…happily?

Parenting is like that sometimes. We have great ideas and concepts, hopes and the way we expect things to turn out. They never do turn out that way, though, do they? Sometimes we have to improvise, or come up with a whole new plan.

Then we have our kids, who don’t seem to mind; or if they do, they roll with the punches pretty well. Like Eeyore—well, at least in that scene—our kids are happy with what we have to offer. They are forgiving of the mistakes we make. Actually, they don’t even seem to notice.

Okay, I realize parenting is not quite as uncomplicated as an episode of Winnie the Pooh. Situations are not always resolved within 10-20 minutes. But at times like that, I can always put on Winnie the Pooh for my son, and make myself that cup of chai.

 

[Reposted from May, 2011]

An Outside Glimpse

Little Boy in a BoxOften, without even realizing it, we put our children in a box, labeled neatly with our perceptions of them and our assumptions as well.

My four-year-old son had been going through a whiny phase. It was difficult to even know what he was saying and I would frequently let him know (less-than-patiently) that I could not understand a word he was saying unless he spoke more clearly without the high-pitch, sing-song accompaniment of whines. After my strong reactions, he rarely improved and things would just go downhill.

My mom and I were in the car, and the kids were in the back seat. My son was talking to himself, which he rarely does. He was going on and on in a very impassioned manner so I tuned in to hear what he might be saying.

“No one understands me!” He was exclaiming to himself, building up a whole case in his little sing-song voice. I tried to reassure him that as long as he spoke clearly, he would be understood. I left it at that, although his talking continued.

That weekend, my sister came for a visit with her teenage son. I entered the living room that evening and heard my son telling a story to his aunt and cousin. They were sitting captivated as he narrated the entire tale of how we traveled from India, including information on the airplane ride, the things he saw, ate, experienced.

After he completed his tale, I told him it was time to get ready for bed. He turned to go, but then added, “I need to go now and that’s about all the information I have.”

My sister was laughing so hard she could barely breathe. My nephew commented, “He knows words I didn’t learn until sixth grade!”

The next day, my four-year-old told his plane traveling story to someone else, who was extremely impressed. He added a few details, cut out some other parts and had to double back when he forgot something, beginning the story once more from that point on. He breathlessly reached the end of the story and said, “And that’s the end of my story of how we came from Bangalore to America.”

Another successful tale. Another impressed listener. My son was happy once more.

He still has whiny moments and at times, I still have difficulty understanding what he’s trying to say. But he also has an amazing vocabulary and a gift of storytelling. Sometimes we need an outside glimpse from someone else to help us see just how special and unique each child really is.

[Repost from September, 2011]

Memories Blessed

Since becoming a mother, I sometimes think back on my own mother and my childhood, and at times find myself comparing my mothering skills against my mother’s. Needless to say, I always come up short. She was a mother of six, and loved being a full-time “mom.” I have half that number and yet I feel I struggle with being a “good mom” on a daily basis.

My Mom at 16

My Mom at 16

She taught her children at home until high school age. I am more or less still in “early learning” stage as far as teaching my children and am not sure whether I will be able to keep up with every aspect of their training—educational, physical, spiritual, etc. I remember only very rare occasions when my mother would raise her voice or get upset about something one of us did.

I was recently recalling to my mother a memory from my childhood. She asked a question about my perception of it, and I let her know that I recalled only one or two times she got upset at us children, and those times were without a doubt well-deserved moments. My mom said something to the effect of, “Wow, you must have a very rosy memory. You were great kids but I don’t know that I did such a marvelous job.”

Hearing those words from “the world’s best mom” gave me hope. Could it be that we are at times more harsh and judgmental of ourselves than others—our children included—are? I recently watched a movie called The Final Cut (not a great movie, by the way), which portrayed the point that personal memories of an event are often skewed and we don’t always remember the exact details. We remember certain parts of things better, perhaps the emotions we had at the time, or a particular highlight, and over time, even that becomes hazy or somewhat altered.

The Bible says that the memory of the just is blessed. This is probably for the most part because God blesses His children and thus we remember these many blessings. Another meaning could be that the memories are blessed because we have chosen to dwell on the positive and beneficial aspects of life rather than the difficulties or challenges. Having those “blessed” memories probably also requires some effort on our part, choosing to let go of any guilt, or desires of perfectionism in parenting.

A successful parent is a positive and happy parent who makes the attempt to highlight the more positive and uplifting aspects of any situation. In thinking back once more, that is probably what I remember most about my mother and her parenting skills. She was positive—not Mary Poppins, but she was sincere.

My prayer is that my children remember somewhat the same thing when they are grown … not a successful-but-too-busy-to-take-time-for-us mother, not a perfect-but-unrealistic mother, but a happy and sincere mother.

Most of all, a mother who loves them, and shows it in some way every day.

Mundane, yet magical

It was another day. For some reason, “another day” no longer held the magic and excitement it had once held. My life and circumstances had changed and there didn’t seem to be much to be inspired about. Days were slowly merging together into something I vowed I would never have—a weary and dreary sense of existence. There was cleaning, cooking and kids, day after day—and not much else, it seemed. One morning, I attempted to figure out what was wrong. Every day should have a bit of magic sprinkled throughout it, I pondered. Where was the magic?

I needed to get the house cleaned that morning, so I let the kids know they had the morning free from school. They were excited and ran to find something to do. That was when they found the box. It was an empty box, nothing special inside it—nothing at all inside it. It was a plain box—no painting, no markings, no decorations. I was soon to find out that this not-so-special box was, in fact, quite special indeed.boy hiding in box

At first, it was a train coach, carrying them to a far-off and much-anticipated destination. Then it was a boat, keeping them safe through a giant storm. Afterwards, it was an easel, where each one of them could decorate and draw to their heart’s content. Again and again it morphed, from house to airplane to hiding place. The entire morning passed quickly for them in their magical box. As I watched them laughing  and pretending as they climbed in and out of that worn, old box, I realized the magic had been there all along; no, not in the box—in the minds and hearts of my children, and in the many things they found exciting, amusing, and wonderful. It must be there in my own heart as well, I thought.

Magic was in every corner of the house—with its potential for imagination to take wings. It hid in the garden, the front yard and beyond—each place a chance for new discovery and experiences. It waited in the stories I read to them and made up for them—that would inspire their minds, encourage their spirits, speak to their hearts.

And yes, magic was in a big, plain box on its way to the recycling bin, a box that was just waiting for its chance to become a source of joy for three young children.

I looked around. There was still a lot of cleaning and more of the “same ol’ same ol’”, but it would have to wait. It was time to experience some magic, and, this time around, I knew just where it was hiding.

Summer Days a’Coming

Two Girls in Swimming PoolThis morning I saw a comment from an acquaintance on Facebook, about the upcoming summer break and having more time with her children. I followed the discussion thread, which got a little heated because of the variety of responses by mothers. A homeschooling mother was looking forward to summer for different reasons than her counterpart whose children go to school. Some mothers didn’t seem to be looking forward to the summer. One admitted there were times when she didn’t necessarily “like” her children, especially when they’re all at home. Another mother responded with, “How can you expect others to like them if you don’t like them?”

Yes, it was a little heated. After all, summer is around the corner.

Last week I did my finals for the semester. Tomorrow is my kids’ last day at school. I spent some time this week just thinking about and trying to plan for summer. Due to the busyness of the semester and other things going on at home and with my family, I feel that I’ve lost ground in my relationship with my children.

One of them has been going through a phase that is lasting longer than I expected. I’m starting to fear that it is turning into a perspective on life rather than a stage. This worries me because it has to do with having a “can’t do” mindset about things.

I know that, as a mother, my first responsibility this summer is to my children … as it always is. If one of them is going through something and it’s coming out through their words and outlook on life, it needs attention.

There are plenty of other things going on. I’m teaching courses for the first time in my life (and for a woman who still struggles with social anxiety, this is a huge thing. I’m shaking in my boots and though excited I’m asking myself, What on earth did I get into?)

As soon as I drove away from campus last Thursday after finals, my mind started racing ahead to everything I can read this summer, everything that I hope to write … and then skipped over to home improvement projects. My sister and her kids moved out this last weekend, so with the kids’ room changes, I have more than a little bit of cleaning and organizing to do.

I had to stop myself. I want the kids to enjoy their summer. A few years ago, I made a comprehensive (and overly ambitious) summer plan. Needless to say, we accomplished maybe one item on it. This summer, although I worked on a schedule of sorts, I tried to leave it a lot more flexible this time around.

I know they’re eager to swim this summer. After all, it’s Fresno and temperatures are already pushing past 100. (And I’m hoping that swimming will make up for my lack of exercise during the first five months of this year.) We’ll have chores and a Bible class before swimming/activity time, which will knock two things off my mental “teach-my-children” list.

Cleaning up after themselves, with the three of them living in the same room over the past year, has slid more than a little bit. Having chore time together will help us begin on the right note.

Bible class time is another thing that drifted to the back burner, during school days and even some weekends. That is one thing I need to keep as a priority. I know what grace and patience and faith my times with God grant me and I want my children to experience something of the same.

That’s the general idea of our schedule, at least the most important things: fun, faith, and family. I have a few other ideas/ projects/ hopes for the summer, but need to wait until I’ve had time to discuss them with the kids and see what they are hoping for.

So overall, if the discussion hadn’t already been so heated, I think I would say I’m looking forward to the summer. I’m excited about spending more time with my kids. I know there will be challenges – sibling disputes, messes left around, uninspired moments – but the prospects far outweigh any difficulties. After all, it’s a whole season of fun and sun and crazy-excited kids with the world ahead of them. What could be better?

What are your plans this summer? Do you go on vacation? Relax at the poolside? Tackle a family project? Please leave your thoughts and input below. We can share ideas about how to make this a great summer for both parents and children.

Happy Mother’s Day!

My Mom at 16

My Mom at 16

Compared to some mothers (my mom, for starters), I’m fairly new to the motherhood game. This is my tenth Mother’s Day as a mom.

It seems the first where recent months have been filled with never-before-faced issues with my children. If you are a parent, the fact that I’ve been at it for roughly ten years has probably clued you in on an important factor: my oldest is a “tween.”

Up until now, I looked back on my teen years and comforted myself with the thought that, “By the time I was 12, I knew what I wanted to do in life. By the time I was 15, I was doing it.” (Never mind the fact that it was over ten years later that I discovered what I REALLY loved doing: writing. The experiences leading to that discovery served and helped me in a thousand great ways … but I’m rabbit trailing.)

In any case, I never went through a horrendous, wrenching “teen stage” and simply assumed the whole teenhood-filled-with-angst was overrated. Something modern culture welcomed with open arms to the detriment of expecting a progressive development of maturity.

But up there on my soapbox, I neglected to clearly glance back at my own tweenhood. It started when I was about nine. I dealt with self-doubt, anxiety, comparing, and questioning. A lot of it went on in my head because I rarely felt comfortable venting negativity about myself, my siblings, and my sorry lot in life. After all, someone might have actually talked some sense into me, and who wants to see clearly when they’re taking a mental mud bath?

So I’m remembering those tween days and looking with increasing trepidation upon my children entering that very stage. (My oldest is now nine.) Considering the moodiness, sullenness, and downright contrariness I have been facing regularly, I’m wondering if it’s too late to have second thoughts about this stage of parenting. (Are other options available?)

As my mom drove me to a book sale last week, I talked to her about some of my parenting concerns. She listened, gave me a bit of advice and insight on what my kids might be thinking. She brought up considerations I hadn’t thought of. And she listened some more. Because that’s just what moms do.

I looked over at her. She survived those years. Looking at some of the things she faced with the six of us, she passed with flying colors! Then, after acing her motherhood career, she began a new career that is remarkable in every way.

My Mom, at a birthMy mother is now a home-birth midwife. I don’t know how many babies she has “caught” over the past fifteen years, but I know that her love, concern, and prayers have blessed scores of mommies, babies, and dads  in countless ways.

I’ve got the world’s best mom. I know that for a fact. I also know that with her faith and prayers, this parenting thing will turn out okay. Yes, even parenting tweens. And beyond that, teens. And beyond that …

Okay, I’ll try not to get ahead of myself.

Today is today … and it’s Mother’s Day.

Happy Mother’s Day! To my terrific mom, and to all you awesome mothers, of babies, kids, tweens, teens, or adults. They’ll always be your children. And your love for them is unconditional.

Because that’s just what moms do.

Mother’s Day Writing Contest Winners

Mother’s Day Writing Contest Winner

Congratulations to our winners: Gaby (73 likes), Helen (72 likes), and Charlotte (71 likes)! It was so close! I wish everyone could have won something because every story is so special. Every memory. Every moment.

Every mother!

I so enjoyed reading these memories and reflections on mothers and memories from childhood that I’m thinking about writing some posts with memories of my childhood.

The idea also developed with an assignment from my photography class. For the final assignment, my professor said we can choose one subject and take 20 photos on that theme. My immediate choice (naturally) was my children. Then I began to wonder, “What kind of pictures should I take?”

The concept began to form: take pictures that coincide with my own childhood memories. Images began flooding into my mind. Eating ice cream while sitting on the back of a station wagon with my siblings, running through sprinklers, playing shadow tag, moving the lawn with a push-mower, pillow fights and raking leaves, fishing, jumping on a trampoline. So many iconic flashes. I hope I can capture them all.

More than that, I hope that my children are developing images of their own. I pray that special memories are forming in their minds, things they can carry with them always. To remind them of being loved.

Because no matter what else I might have to offer, or might not have … one thing I can unequivocally give my children, one thing we can all offer our children, is love.

The love of a parent. Imperfect, yes. But somehow unconditional. Somehow transcendent and beautiful and enduring. Even if it’s all we have to offer our children … it is enough.

Moment in the Mundane

Lindsay Story Pin

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Magical Motherhood

Lindsay Guido Story Pin

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