Archive for ‘Motherhood’

June 5, 2014

The Joy of Salamanders and Other Natural Things

I’m trying to remember when I first discovered that I’m a nature girl at heart. I’m lucky because my parents loved to travel and spend time in nature. We weren’t exactly roughing it because they owned a big RV, but we traveled through many national parks, and my dad loved boating, so I’ve spent time on different lakes and waterways.

I can remember taking long walks with my best friends during my late teens and early twenties. I loved being outside even if it meant walking along city streets. I always noticed the trees, flowers and birds. Whenever I traveled anywhere, I would seek out parks and other beautiful places. I’ve always loved hiking, and I have gravitated to friends who enjoy hiking too.

I met a friend in my late twenties who was a biologist, and she sparked a deep respect in me for the little critters of this earth. She loved frogs and snakes, and for a while she studied salamanders in the Smoky Mountains. I visited her once while she was doing some fieldwork. I thought she had an awesome job.

But I’m not sure I truly understood how much nature – and spending time in nature – meant to me until I became a mother of little boys. Seeing the world through their eyes makes me know on a deeper level how much all of this means to me.

Being in nature is something I crave, and I love learning more about it. Whether it’s learning how alligator moms carry their babies in their mouths or how to grow carnivorous plants, I find more joy in this – in making discoveries and feeling part of this mysterious and wondrous world – than anything else I’m part of. I am in awe of this planet and its place in the universe, and I believe that I’m very lucky to find joy in something so accessible to us all. I believe that finding joy in the simple process of observing and learning is what leads to lasting happiness.

On Mother’s Day, my family took me hiking in the North Georgia Mountains because they know that’s what I love most. First, we climbed the short trail up to Anna Ruby Falls. It’s a beautiful, paved path along Smith Creek, and on Mother’s Day, it was quite crowded, but we didn’t care. We were not there only to view the falls – we went to find the salamanders.

There’s a rocky, muddy wall along the path, and a natural spring drips down it constantly. Even in the coldest part of winter, the water there stays about fifty degrees Fahrenheit (10 Celcius). This is a perfect habitat for salamanders. They like to hide away in the rock crevices. We must have found a dozen of them.

While other tourists passed us by or lingered only for a few moments, we crowded around this wall for a long time (on the way up and on the way down). My seven-year-old said, “I could stay here forever!”

I was reminded of my old friend who studied salamanders, and I was reminded of all the times I’ve been hiking with family and friends, and the peaceful feeling that I get whenever I’m in the mountains, sitting by a gurgling stream. There’s no better place on earth, in my humble opinion.

I’m glad my son thought he could sit there by those salamanders forever. I hope that someday when he’s grown up and dealing with grown-up problems, he’ll remember the good times he had looking for salamanders by a mountain stream, and he’ll be able to go back there, seeking solace. A home for his heart.

June 2, 2014

Robot Mom

The only photo of me taken on our vacation – taken on our first night in the condo by daddy with his tablet. (Because I’m usually taking all the photos.)

Note: This column was published in the Barrow Journal on May 21, 2014.

In the late 90s, I worked for US Airways at the Athens Ben Epps Airport. Truly, it was the best job I ever had for two reasons – the varied work suited me, and most importantly, I worked with some awesome people. It’s the only time I witnessed true teamwork despite working in offices where employers touted the term “teamwork” frequently.

Now that I look back, I realize that the work suited me because I’m not cut out for sitting in an office in front of a computer for eight hours. At the airport I got to work with people, work inside and outside, do physical work, and work on the computer. There were slow times between flights, and there were intense times while checking people in for the flight, loading their bags on the plane, running the security check point, and marshaling the plane in and out of its parking spot. Many times there were only two of us working, and since it was a small airport most of the passengers thought they could arrive five minutes before takeoff. (That wasn’t helpful.)

Once a passenger asked me, “Do you fly the airplane too?”

“Only in emergencies.” I joked.

My co-workers and I worked well together because everyone did exactly what was needed of them in any given moment. None of us favored one task over another, so we jumped in wherever we were needed. The only exception to this was our manager, and though that may sound like a criticism, I actually liked her. She was a nice woman, but when she was there she disrupted the flow of our work for various reasons. Later I learned the only reason she took the job as manager was because there was no else to do it, and she gladly gave it up when someone else wanted it.

The reason I’m telling this story is because I have a vivid memory of one day when a flight was cancelled, and twenty passengers stood before us in a panic because they were going to miss their connection in Charlotte, NC. One of my co-workers and I worked so smoothly and quickly helping each passenger in line that we deflated any quick-tempered passengers.

What I remember about that moment is my manager standing near us and exclaiming, “Look at them! They’re like robots!” It was always hard for her to understand how we could remain so unflustered during those stressful moments.

Now all these years later that memory keeps resurfacing because once again, I find myself in a situation that requires varied tasks. I get to work with awesome people, get outside, do physical work, and part of the day, I’m on my computer. But it’s even better because I get to do creative work and continually learn new things too.

The bad part is that I never get a day off, and I’m so busy going from task to another that I rarely get a chance to rest. I never get to cross everything off my to do list either. Indeed, this is the life of a mother, especially a homeschooling mom, and a freelance writer, and it’s not lost on me that sometimes I must look like a robot. That is, focused, hurried and unsmiling.

I’m trying to remember to smile more. I want my outward appearance to match how I’m feeling inside. I want my kids to know that I love my job, and I love them. Even when I’m tired, there’s nowhere I’d rather be but right here.

I have so many good memories from my time working at the small airport. I could write a book about all the characters I met there, and all the laughter and smiles. Did I appreciate it while I worked there? I think so, but I know there were days that it was just a job.

My current job is anything but “just a job,” so I hope I can remember that each moment is a memory in the making.

April 3, 2014

An Interview on Days With The Grays

If you’d like to learn more about me and my creative work, you can head over to Days With The Grays where I participated in a Creative Mothers interview. All the interviews in that series are inspiring to read! I hope you’ll read them and then find the creative spark within yourself. You can do it!!

Thank you, Megan, for letting me participate. Click here to read the interview.

 

February 27, 2014

Sound Bites

Note: This column was published in the Barrow Journal on February 27, 2014.

“I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.” – Ernest Hemingway

In the mornings I’m lucky if I wake up to a quiet house. Usually it’s the galloping of the dogs’ paws on the floors as the canines leap up at the slightest sound of movement from my husband. They follow him into the kitchen, eagerly waiting their breakfast.

Other mornings I may wake up hearing one of my boys calling me from their bed or the seven-year-old’s footsteps as he runs down the hall and jumps into bed with me. Sometimes I hear a bird singing outside my window. Every once in a while, I wake up and hear nothing, and I savor the quiet.

Today at the park I heard snatches of my children’s conversations with their friends. One boy was explaining to my four-year-old that they would pretend they were dinosaurs and chase each other. They were trying to decide which dinosaur they would be, and my four-year-old wanted to be an Argentinosaurus. “Okay,” said the other boy, “you chase me then.”

“Actually,” my son said in his four-year-old and still sometimes hard to understand speech, “the Argentinosaurus wasn’t very fast.” I smiled at his good attempt at trying to pronounce Argentinosaurus, and I told the other boy’s mother how the word “actually” has become very popular in our house lately. She said it was gaining momentum in her house too.

It’s fun to hear how children will learn a new word and then play with it often as if they are trying to get to know it better.

While we were at the park we walked down to the shoals, and the kids played near the water. Running water in a creek or river is my favorite sound in the world. I could sit beside a river all day and just listen, but kids don’t let me sit for long. We were walking down the trail, and I was too busy keeping an eye on the boys who were running far ahead of us to listen to the wildlife.

I was happy to hear them talking, chattering and laughing as they asserted their independence and tried to get away from their mamas. I did catch the loud sound of a frog croaking from somewhere in the marsh.

On the way home from the park, I wanted to listen to the news on the radio, but my boys kept interrupting the broadcast. Some days I make a point of turning off the radio and just listening to my son chatter about his observations or ask his complicated and often-times unanswerable questions.

“If we walked just one atom at a time, would it take a year for us to walk a foot?” He laughs at himself and I shake my head. I hope he’ll grow up and learn the answer for himself and then tell it to me.

Sometimes in the evenings while my boys are watching T.V. my husband will call me to his office to watch his latest find on YouTube. He listens to music to relax, and he’ll listen to anything from classical to folk to pop music.  One of his favorite things to do is watch YouTube videos of auditions from the British X Factor talent show.

It’s not something you would ever find me doing on my own, but I’ll sit with him and soon be sucked into the inspiring stories of these talented young people who are finally being discovered. We’ll listen to their best songs and then watch whatever other talented musicians he may have found.

If it weren’t for my husband, I would be completely cut off from pop culture and sometimes even the latest news. That’s what happens when you keep turning off the radio to hear your kids chatter. But their young voices are only here for a brief period of time, and as much as I would like to listen to the news or even my own thoughts, I know I won’t regret spending a little time listening to them.

What have you heard lately?

January 4, 2014

My Menu Planning Resolution

Note: This column was published in the Barrow Journal on Tuesday, December 31, 2013.

This New Year is a good a time as any to tell you how I’ve been striving to turn over a new leaf in one area of my life. Anyone who reads my column may recall me mentioning what a poor cook I am…mostly, I don’t cook.  It’s a skill I was never taught, so I didn’t have a good habit established before I had children, and creating new habits with infants and toddlers in the house is next to impossible.

In the last few months, I had an epiphany. I realized that I wanted my children to grow up in a house where food is made lovingly and from scratch. They are picky eaters, so I knew they probably would not eat what I cook, but they love to help me in the kitchen, and I want to foster good memories wherever I can, so I set a goal.

I knew better than to set an unrealistic goal, so I told myself that I would cook something from scratch once or twice a week, and I’d also bake some items from scratch on occasion.  Several recipes are simple foods that my boys already eat, like chicken nuggets. Other foods are for my husband and me, but I encourage my children to try them. (So far, I’ve had little success in getting them to like more foods, but I’m determined not to give up.)

My husband’s idea of cooking is to see what is on sale at the grocery store, buy it and cook it. After talking with some female friends, I was relieved to find our brains are wired differently. I have to plan meals. Or maybe that’s the dilemma of a novice cook – I just can’t look at raw food and figure out what to make of it.

Obviously I’m not alone because there are several websites available that will provide you with a meal plan and grocery list every week. You can also save recipes, search for recipes and request recipes for certain dietary needs.

I found one that allowed potential members to sign up for a free trial, so I tried it. I enjoyed the Six O’clock Scramble (www.thescramble.com) website, and I found some good recipes on it, but after the trial was over, I quit using it. My budget does not allow for luxury items such as this, but using it allowed me to see that I would benefit from planning meals. This is when I came up with my own meal planning system. It takes some work to get going, but it saves time in the future.

I created a new calendar on my computer’s calendar, and I labeled it “menu.” Each time I cook something new, I enter it into that day’s date, add a grocery list under “notes,” and then I use the calendar’s automated “repeat” so that it will repeat every 2-3 months. I can also send myself reminder alerts a day or two in advance.

I don’t always use the recipes that appear on my calendar, but if I’m struggling on what to cook, I can find a recipe and grocery list on my calendar, and I know it’s something I didn’t cook just last week. (Did I mention my husband is as picky as my kids?)

All this does not make for a good cook though. Sometimes I’m successful, and sometimes I’m not. I’m not prepared every night either….homeschooling, writing and other chores take too much time. I find that when I’m cooking, I’m usually getting behind on something else. It’s a constant balancing act.

But I’m enjoying cooking, and I love doing it with my kids who usually want to help, so I’m determined to keep it up in this new year, and I hope by the time it is over, I’ll have a calendar full of menu ideas.

Don’t worry about me ever starting a new food column or blog. I will never be that talented. I can point you in the direction of a couple of recipe sites I have enjoyed. Simply Recipes is full of good eats, and Weelicious is a great site for finding healthy baby and kids’ meals.

How do you handle meal times at your house?

December 10, 2013

Then There Were Two: Essays on Motherhood, Chapter 1

Please bear with me as I write about my e-book one last time. (Promise.)

First of all, I’d like to thank everyone who has bought my book and sent me kind messages about it. I’m so glad you liked it. Here are a few of the comments I’ve received:

“Shelli, I LOVED IT! You write so beautifully.”

“We so need more supportive, non-judgmental, type of reading out there and your book really helps fill that void for new(ish) moms.”

“Pabis doesn’t offer advice, instead she shares her experiences, her expectations, and her surprises along her motherhood journey, as though over coffee. But, she does more than this–she inspires us to truly savor the moments with our little ones.”

Remember that you can give Kindle books as gifts. There is a little box under the “Buy Now” box that says, “Give as a Gift.” All you need is the recipients e-mail address. You get to pick a delivery date too. They don’t need a Kindle to read the book either.

Below I’d like to offer you the Table of Contents and first chapter to give you a flavor of the book.  I hope you’ll buy it. But if not, that’s okay too. I deeply appreciate that you read my blog.

***

Then There Were Two: Essays on Motherhood

Table of Contents

Introduction
Remembering Summers Past
Preparing for a Newborn
What I Least Expected
Watching Two Brothers Bond
Every Mother’s Experience Is Different
My Attempts to Juggle Two Children
Adventures in Potty Training
There Is No Consensus on How to Raise a Child
Autumn Brings Back Memories
The Bad Mommy Syndrome
Good Habits Are Hard to Keep When You Have Children
A Trip to the Mall
Winter Habits
Creating New Family Traditions
The Aquarium
Finding Meaning in the Daily Grind
Our Journey to the Zoo and Back
How Children Changed Me
Time Moves Too Fast with Children
The Joys of Parenthood
I’ve Reached Autumn

Remembering Summers Past

It doesn’t feel that long ago that I spent the summer evenings sitting on a porch swing at a little old mill house I rented in Athens, Georgia.  I lived a stone’s throw from the train tracks, and when a train would sit idle on the track, I could feel its ticks and hums as if it were alive and breathing on my neck. Back then, the sound of the train never bothered me.

Usually it was quiet on that street.  My neighbor’s old hound dog would limp into my yard and perk up when he saw my kitten swatting at bugs and chasing squirrels up the pecan tree. I was single, and I felt I was living as close as I could to the good things I read about in my favorite Southern literature, but most especially, to the stories I heard my grandmothers tell me when I was young.

I loved the slow pace, the humidity, the old houses, and the green veil of mature trees that shrouded the homes in that old neighborhood. Having grown up in Las Vegas where everything was new and glamorous, the South felt romantic to me. The history and my heritage made me feel like I’d come back to my roots.

Besides reminding me of the South’s unsavory history, my husband will tell me that I was lonely in that house and that I hated my job. There’s nothing like marriage to give you a new perspective.

I was lonely at times. I had finally reached an age when I felt ready to move into another era. I had gone to school, traveled, worked various jobs, but my biggest dream of becoming a writer never came true. I lacked the focus and discipline, and I didn’t know anybody in the writing business. I was a dreamer who had run out of options. Or so I thought.

But I was never lonely when I sat on that porch, notebook in hand. I have always been fond of alone time, something that is scarce for a mother, and I will always love a rainy summer afternoon in Georgia. When I’m at my most harried and stressed as a mother and wife, it’s the wide porch swing and shade of a pecan tree that I long for.

***

In the heat of August, though three years apart, both my boys were born. Their birthdays are only one week apart. Luck of the draw.

Now summers are bittersweet occasions celebrating milestones and remembering the fleeting moments of holding a newborn in my arms. Summer licks its lips as I tell again and again the story of how daddy drove me to the hospital, and I was already ten centimeters dilated. I remember how the nurses poured into my room and swirled into action like waters over a broken dam. I tell my eldest son how I’ll never forget the look on the redheaded nurse’s face when I asked her for my epidural. She shook her head in slow motion. “It won’t help you now, honey.”

I tell my younger son how he kept me waiting until the eleventh hour.  On his due date, I took my husband, son, and mother-in-law on a long walk through the woods at the botanical garden. My husband kept saying it was unsafe for me to be so far from the car in my condition. If that’s what it takes, I thought, but I wasn’t worried. It felt great to be moving along a stream that had known me when I was new to this area. I showed my son my favorite place to sit down and watch the silky water reflect the green canopy and moving circles of light.

***

Last night my eldest son and I were reading a children’s library book about summer, and it asked us what sounds we associated with it?  After we read the book, we got out of bed and went over to the window, opened it and looked out into the nearly black summer night.  It was unusually quiet, but as we strained our ears, we could hear the crickets in the woods.  A bird began to sing.  I told my son to breathe deeply, and I asked him if he could smell the musty air.  Then we peered into the trees and spied some lightning bugs.

Just maybe I’ll pass on some of my romantic ideals to my son.

Click here to find my book on Amazon.

November 12, 2013

E-book: Then There Were Two

I’m extremely excited to announce that I have published my very first e-book, Then There Were Two: Essays on Motherhood. 

The essays in Then There Were Two embrace the joys, worries and misadventures a mother can have after welcoming her second baby into the world.  From missing the simple routine of caring for just one child to navigating a day at the mall, Shelli Bond Pabis writes in an easy-going manner of one mother speaking to another. Sometimes lyrical and sometimes matter-of-fact, she assures her readers that there’s no consensus on how to raise a child. Her photography adds a beautiful dimension to the book with quiet moments, details of nature and the action of life with children. Mothers will identify with these essays, laugh, cry, and feel satisfied as Pabis surprises herself by finding contentment in the creative job of being a mother. They’ll find themselves wanting to ramble around in their own yards with their children, picking up acorns and listening to the sounds of crickets.

This little book of essays and photography is very special to me not only because it’s my first book but because it contains special memories from a time when I had one small boy and a brand new infant. I began writing my newspaper column for the Barrow Journal two months before my second son was born, and many of these essays are adaptions of those early columns. Most of them have not appeared on this blog, though a few of them have.

The book is about a mother learning how to adapt to life with two children, but you’ll also find musings on nature, family issues, daily life and more.

From the introduction:

I don’t offer much advice; I only hope any new mother who reads it will know she’s not alone. After all, no matter what your experience, you are doing the most important job in the world ~ carrying on this gift of life.

I hope you’ll buy the book, and I really hope that you will like the book. If you do, I would greatly appreciate your help by offering your good reviews and spreading the word about my book on your social media outlets.  Thank you so, so much.

View it on Amazon U.S.

Also on Amazon U.K. , Amazon Canada and Amazon Australia

Currently it is available only in digital format through Amazon.com. See this page for free Kindle apps available for every device and computer out there: Free Kindle Reading Apps

Stay tuned to receive news about my future e-books on how to start a storytelling ritual in your family, homeschooling preschool thru kindergarten and more!

May 30, 2013

Making Memories

Note: This column was published in the Barrow Journal on May 29, 2013.

My husband and I are getting a kick out of watching Everybody Loves Raymond on Netflix. Not only is the show’s audience geared to families with young children such as ours, we have quite a bit in common with Raymond’s family, including having in-laws of European descent.

Recently we watched an episode when the overworked and exasperated wife of Raymond yells at him for not spending enough time with the kids. She tells him that he should be part of their children’s childhood memories and ends her lecture by yelling, “Put those golf clubs down and make some damn memories!”

Moms desperately want what’s best for our kids, but we aren’t always able to live up to the ideal mom who never gets frustrated and never yells. Sometimes I worry about the mom that my children will remember.

Will they remember me as a cheerful mom who liked to play Trouble, create scavenger hunts and paint pictures with them? Will they remember me as the mom who was hopeless in the kitchen and heated up frozen pizza more than I care to admit? Will they remember a tired, grumpy mom, or worse, a mom who kept saying, “I’ll be there in a minute,” but really took fifteen minutes to finish her work on the computer.

“You’re always on the computer,” my son said once. Ouch.

Then I tried to think back to my childhood.  Don’t I have good memories? I vividly remember the bad things like my parent’s divorce or losing friends at school who found buddies they thought made a better friend than me. Where are my good memories? My tired brain searched. Why is it so much easier to remember the bad stuff?

But then I found them, smiling behind the murky clouds of a normal kid’s up and down life.

I remember my mom buying me a pet parakeet, and I named him Bo. We kept his cage in the corner of the sunroom, and I tried to teach him how to say “hello.”

Sometimes my mom would let me bring him into the master bedroom where we’d lay on my parent’s king size bed to watch T.V. together. We’d let him fly free through the room, and he loved to sit up on the chain of a hanging lamp. Then we would pat the bed, and say, “Come here. Come here.” He would fly down to the bed and prance around between us.

I was never able to teach him how to say “hello,” but he learned to say “come here.” He lived for 12 years too.

I also remember my mother tickling me on that giant bed, and I remember listening to her read Helen Keller. I remember the afternoon she picked me up from school and handed me a copy of Where the Sidewalk Ends, which she bought just for me because she knew I loved it.

I also remember my mom warming my jackets by an electric heater before I walked out into the freezing Colorado snow to catch the bus, and I remember the extra special prom dresses that she spent way too much money on, but I appreciated that so much.

I can remember not understanding why my mom would sigh so much every time I interrupted her (oh I understand now!), but I also remember her smile.

Nowadays I try to remember not to beat myself up when my son complains that I’m not at his beckon call. After all, he tends to forget that I spend several hours with him and his brother every morning doing school or his self-initiated projects or sometimes playing games.

He forgets that I often spend the evenings outside with him in the garden and watching him play and that every night I lay with him for half an hour to chat and tell stories. He doesn’t know that usually when I’m at my computer I’m either planning or recording our days together.

When he’s an adult, I’m hoping his long-term memory will be better than his short-term memory is now. I don’t want him to remember me as a perfect mom, but I hope he’ll think back and remember that I tried my best, and I liked cooking up a lot of fun too.

How do you think your children will remember you?

April 18, 2013

Embracing the Chaos

Note: This column was published in the Barrow Journal on April 17, 2013.

One day when I was pregnant with my first child, I stepped into the entryway of a neighbor’s home. She homeschooled her children, and, in fact, she’s the person I learned about homeschooling from, but at the time, I wasn’t considering homeschooling. I hadn’t even had a child yet.

While I was speaking to her, she excused the state of her household because they had been very busy, and she didn’t have time to clean that day. I had not noticed the interior of her house, but when she said this, I glanced over into her dining room, and I could see her table was littered with toys and other stuff. You couldn’t see the top of her table.

Politely I told her to not worry. I certainly didn’t care, and I didn’t think badly of her for it, but I fully admit that as I walked home, I thought to myself, “I’ll never let my house get THAT messy.”

Yes, what a jerk I was! It seems to be an epidemic among some childless people. And once multiple children arrive, especially if there are some boys in the mix, you shake your head and think, “Now I know. Now I know.”

And I know too well. Most days, chaos reigns in this house. Every tabletop is strewn with toys, and the floor doesn’t look much better. The activity room is usually covered with some kind of project, such as paints, markers, stencils, sewing kits, Legos, glitter, or a combination of those. Glitter is permanently embedded into our floors.

Before I had children, my porches were filled with potted plants. Now they are dusty, muddy and full of dirty toys. The yard of my dreams has taken a huge beating, and our big “puppy” has pulled up garden borders. We’ve always had two dogs, and I never thought a different dog could possibly make things any worse, but this one has. She brings mud into the house, and the boys’ shoes track mud in behind her.

I clean, I straighten, I mop, and the boys know how to pick up their toys, but none of that matters. In five minutes, the mess will be back where it was before. My attention is diverted from one person, activity, chore, or “fire” to put out all day long. There’s no quitting time, few breaks, and no weekends. It’s enough to make a mama a little nutty.

I won’t lie and say it hasn’t caused me frustration and fatigue, but after almost seven years of child rearing, I can say I’m embracing the chaos. I picked this life. I better embrace it.

I was chatting with a friend today about how it’s easy to let “perfect” people get into your brain. You feel their criticism and sense that they’re looking at you down their noses. But in reality, that person has barely given you a moment’s thought. You’re the one who is criticizing what you deem to be an imperfect life.

I’m sorry to say that I’m guilty of this, but I’m trying to turn over a new leaf. I’m exorcising those self-appointed critics, and I’m reminding myself why I love the glitter and the mud. I got into this homeschooling gig because I wanted my kids to have more time to play, create, move, and think independently. And I get paid by living a fun, creative life.

Sometimes moms feel like we have no time to do it all, but actually, there will always be time to clean the house because the house will always need cleaning. What we don’t want to do is miss the moments with our kids as they grow, get paint in their eyes, and mud in their hair. We don’t want to miss a single, sweaty hug. Their three-year-old giggles won’t be here tomorrow, and once they’re gone, they’re gone forever.

A lot of older people say that they wish they had spent more time at home than at the office. The time goes so fast. At least I know that won’t be me. If I have any regrets, it won’t be that one. Nothing worthwhile is neat and tidy.

Be sure to check out Embracing the Chaos, Part 2 where I explain exactly how I’m handling the chaos!  And please tell me, are YOU embracing the chaos in your life? 

March 15, 2013

No Spring Break

Note: This column was published in the Barrow Journal on March 13, 2013.

Last week was my husband’s spring break, so we had planned some family excursions. Unfortunately, the six-year-old came down with a nasty stomach virus, and as I write this, the three-year-old is sniffling and sneezing.

My six-year-old was camped out on the sofa for four days, and more than one day I felt my blood pressure quicken while listening to him moan and try to overcome the nausea. I couldn’t concentrate on anything, and I got so tense watching him lose weight that now I have a muscle spasm in my shoulder.

My heart goes out to parents who are dealing with chronic illnesses in their children.  I can hardly stand to think about stuff like that.

My husband dealt with it in his own way. Not able to concentrate on his work, he busied himself with a different kind of work: cleaning out his upstairs closet. Don’t ask me how it is a man gets to claim a whole other closet as his own while my stuff is crammed into half of our small bedroom closet, but such is the case in our house. (Oh, he likes to tell me I have the bigger dresser, but I remind him that he claimed that extra closet as soon as we moved in. I only got the dresser a couple of years ago.)

He also installed new, more efficient light bulbs throughout our house, and now my bathroom is like walking into the afterlife. We have the sun in our hallway too. Still, I appreciate how he thinks about things like light bulbs and how he uses a busted spring break to clean out his closet.

My three-year-old took advantage of his older brother’s illness by getting me all to himself.  He had me doing big floor puzzles, throwing balls, and coloring big posters of the Dinosaur Train characters.  One morning we colored, painted with watercolors and then made a space shuttle out of clay all in the span of about two hours.

When the six-year-old is sick, I start to realize how helpful Older Brother is regarding spending time and playing with the three-year-old! I promise to never take him for granted again.

I didn’t mind spending all that time with the three-year-old though. It reminded me of the one-on-one time I had with the six-year-old for three years before he was born.  Though I wouldn’t trade either child for anything, there is something sweet about focusing your attention on one child. Noticing his every move. Hearing his every word. Just you and him.

I used to spend so much time outside with my firstborn, exploring our yard and taking hundreds of photos with my first digital point and shoot. Flowers, twigs, bugs and sunshine were our toys. Now I try to get both boys outside playing together while I steal time to myself. If I join them, they compete for my attention, and the sunshine isn’t so relaxing anymore.

When they’re both healthy, there’s always a little friction, but I’m lucky that they get along so well most of the time. They are good companions for one another.

The forecast is predicting warm weather this week. I’m very hopeful that we’ll be healthy again once this goes to print, and we’ll be playing in the yard or taking some kind of excursion.  Spring is peeping its head around the corner, and I’m running to it, arms flailing, ready to embrace it.

How is your spring break going? 

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