“If ever there is tomorrow when we're not together.. there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we're apart.. I'll always be with you.”
~A.A. Milne, from "Winnie the Pooh"

Saturday, May 18, 2013

15 Lessons I've Learned from My 15 Year Old Son...

Being a mom is...well, enlightening, to say the least.
When I found out that I was pregnant with my son (who I had no idea WAS a son), my dreams were filled with pink, ruffly dresses, pigtails and dollies. My great-grandma tried to warn me, usually with gentle reminders that she "had ordered a boy (hahaha)" and at times, by forcefully dragging me away from all those adorable little girl clothes into the boy's things. Despite it all, I refused to believe that I would have anything other than a daughter, because let's be real. Despite man's age old arguments that women are so difficult to understand, I had spent roughly 20 years trying to understand how the male mind worked and was at least as far from understanding that as any man was in understanding how mine worked.
I cried when Caleb was born....a mix of the normal new mama emotions and stress about what in the world I was supposed to DO with a son. Surprisingly, it didn't take long for me to fall head over heels in love with this bouncing baby boy, despite my choking fears of failure.
15 years later, I still don't have a clue how the male mind works, but being a part of that chubby cheeked, angelic baby boy growing into a man has brought me some (although little) insight and has taught me more than I could have ever imagined.

Lesson # 15: A little dirt never hurt.
It shocked me to find that I could put my son to bed smelling like pure Heaven, clean and freshly bathed without a speck of dirt to be found, only for him to get out of bed in the morning with dirt in places that I could have never even dreamed that you could GET dirt in...let alone while you were sleeping. Unless I was willing to spend the next 18 years in the bathroom in a feeble attempt to bathe him until his skin fell off, dirt was just something that I was obviously going to have to learn to live with.

Lesson #14: The humor of embarrassing moments.
Kids are real. They have no filter which tells them that perhaps something is wildly inappropriate to discuss , especially in public places.They simply don't know any better. It didn't take too many of those blush inducing public bathroom stall conversations about "Boys have wee-wees and girls don't" before I figured out that I needed to grow some thicker skin. Everyone else seemed to think that conversations like that in public were hilarious (judging by the roaring laughter from the stalls surrounding us), so maybe it was time that I learned to laugh about them too. :)

Lesson # 13: Boys do crazy dangerous things...and usually don't get injured doing them. It's the nondescript you have to watch for.
Too many times, I have been witness to my son pulling off heart attack inducing stunts...things that I swore were going to land us in the emergency room. I have been the mom saying "You better stop. You're going to break an arm doing that!" Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it) our trips to the ER have never been caused by things that I would have freaked out that he was doing. We HAVE had a broken wrist (caused by tripping over his own feet in the backyard), a sprained shoulder (caused by falling the foot from his bottom bunk to the floor), and a puncture wound in his hand (caused by a school art project gone badly wrong). I suppose it's proof positive that moms worry waaaayyy too much about things that they shouldn't worry so much about, and worry too little about the things they think are relatively harmless. Who knew? (Not that I am encouraging any one to jump off the roof of the house, wearing only a SuperMan cape!)

Lesson # 12: Girls stop having the cooties long before they ever did when you were a kid.
 I will never forget sitting on my front porch with my sister and Caleb, shortly after the end of his kindergarten year. My sister was teasing him about having a girlfriend, and I, in my naivety, joked that no, of course he didn't have a girlfriend. Caleb, in total earnestness, piped up that he hadn't wanted to tell me but Kaitlin (my best friend's daughter) and he had "broken up", with the assumption that they might possibly "get back together when they were like 15 or something." Ummm. How did something this major escape my mommy radar? Then my sister asked if he had kissed her. He said yes. I checked out of the conversation. There's only so much a mommy's heart can take. ;)

Lesson # 11: Boys get embarrassed by their moms every bit as much as moms get embarrassed by their sons.
What this essentially means is that sons will break your heart for the first time long before you ever see it coming. 2nd week of 1st grade, I walked my son to school for the first time. On our road, he held my hand. When we turned the corner, he dropped my hand and walked beside me. After turning the next corner, he walked ahead of me. By the time the school was visible, I was practically running to keep up with him. When I reached the front doors of the school, panting heavily, I found my precious baby trying to duck into school without even telling me goodbye! After much urging (read..begging), he gave me the first of many duck and run hugs (you know...the ones that never really count as hugs at all) before scampering off into school. I cried the entire walk home. Nowadays, I try to play it cool. But I still miss those public displays of affection, heedless of who's watching.

Lesson # 10: It IS possible to teach a male to put the toilet seat down.
Of course, it helps when you have a dog whose one major obsession is drinking (loudly) out of the toilet in the middle of the night. But hey! Anything to get those miracles accomplished, right?

Lesson # 9: Being the mean parent pays off in the end.
Caleb's dad is a big dude. Seriously. I knew from the day he was born a boy that there was a very real possibility that he would outgrow my short self long before he stopped needing discipline and guidance. What to do??? I was the hard parent. The one who didn't take any crap. In fact, there was a saying in our house...Fear of God is one thing. But the real thing you need to fear is mom. ;) Not saying that my child was abused..by no stretch of the imagination was he. However, you know you must be doing something right when a teacher calls you specifically because your 2nd grade son cried in the hallway, begging her to call his 6 ft 4 dad instead of his 5 ft 4 mom. It wasn't easy. And plenty of nights I went to bed feeling like Satan's incarnate. However, my now nearly 6 ft teenage son is extremely respectful of his mother these days (and don't tell him but I couldn't put him over my knee if I tried nowadays!)

Lesson # 8: No one can come up with a better argument against bathing and basic hygiene than a boy convinced of the need to do neither. Or be prouder of any sort of stench their bodily functions create.
Apparently, boys don't mind weird stenches. In fact, after living with a boy for the last 15 years, I'm thoroughly convinced that not only do they not mind them, they relish the creation of them as well. When Caleb's dad and I split up, I filled the house with yummy smelling candles. Every time my son set foot in the house, he would fart up a storm. I finally asked him if he did this as much at his dad's house as he did at mine...to which he humbly replied no. The only explanation that I could ever come up with was that he was marking my girly smelling house with his maleness much the same way as a dog marks its territory by peeing on trees. And bathing...well, bathing was a battle from the time he could say the word no. Once he was in the tub, he loved it. However, getting him there was a constant battle.....until he started noticing girls. I guess that's one thing I can be grateful to a girlfriend for...less sweaty, stinky boy smells in my house.

Lesson # 7: A son's first love is his mama...and when he moves on to other loves, it breaks his mama's heart.
My son taught me what it truly means to love someone more than myself. We have a special bond. And although we made a deal that long ago day on the porch that he wouldn't kiss any more girls until he was 16 (negotiated down from the 30 that his mama tried to contract him to), he's had a serious girlfriend for the last two years. *sob* I guess I thought that the deal we made was set in stone. But obviously, stupid Cupid had other plans. Damn that rotten cherub. The first time that I overheard him tell this girl that he loved her, that nasty green monster who faintly resembles the Incredible Hulk reared its ugly head with a vengeance.  Nope. No love stuff here. The only female MY son should ever be telling he loves (at least before the age of 30) is the one who gave birth to him! It's absolutely insane how much a mother can despise a young girl she's never met based solely on the fact that her son is in love with her. Glad to say that Caleb's girlfriend is essentially a sweet girl and although in my heart I still believe that no one is ever good enough for my son, I got past the jealousy and accepted that my baby is growing up.......although I'd still like to go back to the days when good ole mom was the leading lady in his life.

Lesson # 6: Hell hath no fury like a hungry teenage boy.
I live in a predominantly male household. It's just Liddy and I against an ever growing testosterone driven population. Yet it never ceases to utterly amaze me that I can go to the grocery, come home with $200 worth of groceries, fill the cabinets simply watch the masses descend like droves of locusts on the bounty. Two days later (sometimes less) they're wandering the house, complaining that there's nothing to eat. And ironically, they're usually right. Where did that picky little boy who ate like a bird rush off to? All those years of constantly worrying that he was slowly starving to death replaced in a blink of the eye with a food destroying monster. I mean it. How can I get that bird like eater back? These boys are eating me out of house and home.......

Lesson # 5: Never could I have imagined knowing so much about video games, Star Wars and Thomas the Tank Engine.
Give me a good Disney princess movie any day. ;)

Lesson # 4: I am now an expert at stain removal.
Gone are the days of fighting a useless battle against boys who spill EVERYTHING. After many, many years of refusing to buy anything even remotely resembling white, I finally got smart. Amid grass stains, and food slopped down the front of shirts, to sleeves used instead of napkins, I got wise and worked out my own system for stain removal. Not that I could share it with anyone..cause even 15 years in, its for sure a trial and error method followed by sometimes washing an item enough to almost make it fall apart to get the stains out. But damn it. Those stains are gone (even if they ARE replaced by a hole).

Lesson # 3: Just because you have a son does not mean that they will willingly deal with the nasty things you don't want to deal with yourself.
I truly thought that after 15 years of being the mom of a boy, nothing could gross me out any more. I thought that nothing could gross HIM out. I was wrong. Case in point... He refuses to change dirty diapers (despite his obvious lack of an adequate sense of smell). My strapping son will also not touch a dead mouse in a trap. In fact, he refuses to even pick up the trap and dispose of the entire thing. However, my teeny tiny daughter has no issue with picking up a mouse in a trap and swinging it around by the tail. *gag* I guess that's just proof that girls aren't always that much different than boys. ;)

Lesson # 2: No matter how big they get, a mom will always look at them and see their baby first.
 It's difficult for any parent to realize how much their children are growing. Something about seeing them day in and day out makes it nearly impossible to recognize the inch they grew practically over night. Yeah. Until those inches add up and you find yourself looking UP at the little boy you not so long ago looked DOWN on. My large and in charge kid outgrew me well over a year ago. In fact, he's just one good growth spurt from hitting the 6 ft mark, well on his way to being at least as tall as his father. Yet, there are still times when I wander into his room, or catch a glimpse of him walking my way, and still clearly see the little boy he USED to be instead of the man he almost is.  And when the fog of my memory clears itself away, I find myself in total shock. Where did my baby go? Who is this towering man-child standing in front of me now? And why in the world didn't anyone ever figure out a better way to stop kids from growing than putting bricks on their heads (which obviously doesn't work...or I would have already tried it by now!)

And finally,
Lesson #1: Nothing is more precious than a son is to his mother.
Despite it all, the dirt, the stench, the heart aches, the sheer pain of learning to let go...nothing in this world has given me more joy than being the mom of this particular boy. Don't get me wrong. I still don't have a clue how the male mind works (although I sometimes think I'm closer now than I was 15 years ago) and I adore having a daughter as well. But the bond between a mother and her son is different somehow. Sure, dads are awesome for doing boy things with...but a mom is special. Who else will learn to roll with the punches like a mom will? And when the world comes crashing down around you, who else would you turn to first?
All my kids are special. They're every one unique individuals. But that boy who stole my heart 15 years ago has truly taught me a whole lot. Including the depth of pride it's possible for a mom to carry in her heart.
My son is, unabashedly, himself. He makes no apologies for it. He could care less if you approve or not. And because he's so much more confident than I ever could have thought of being, he's made me appreciate the beauty of just being myself as well. And frankly, that's probably the best lesson he could have ever taught me.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

To My Baby Boy on His 15th Birthday...

Time is a funny thing. The seemingly endless hours and days of youth fade into a blur of passing years as you get older....and it seems that nothing speeds the passage of time as much as being a parent. One minute, you're celebrating the long awaited arrival of the precious one you've spent months imagining...the next, they're bigger than you and learning to spread their wings to fly away from your carefully tended nest.
15 years ago, I cleaned the entire house top to bottom. I finally got my then 2 year old stepdaughter to acknowledge for the first time that there was a baby in my belly. I was feeling accomplished. I went to bed and snuggled in for a restful night after a long day. It was not to be.
At 6:18 the next morning, we welcomed a 9 lb 1 oz baby boy into this world. A baby boy who looked more like his daddy than any newborn I have ever laid eyes on. A baby boy who was the talk of the hospital because he came into this world already looking half grown. 

I KNEW this boy was going to change my life. What I could have never imagined was just how much. He introduced me to real motherhood...to being a mommy. He welcomed me into a world where someone else's well being and happiness meant more than my own....a world that was filled with ever increasing amounts of memories which will never fade. 

While in some ways, being a mom to him has gotten a whole lot easier over the passing years, we seem to keep adding challenges to the mix. Watching him rise to greet each one with his amazing sense of humor and growing sense of compassion has brought me more joy than I could have ever believed. 

15 years. It truly seems impossible. I would have never thought that one day I would blink my eyes and find that that impish blonde haired monkey with the bright bubbly laughter and goofy sense of humor would have grown to a nearly 6 ft tall, peach fuzz faced, deep voiced, talented and caring young man that I am faced with now.

Reality has hit me. I'm old. hahaha. No, seriously. The reality hits a little more with each passing year that my baby boy is getting awfully close to being all grown up. Next year, he'll be driving. The year after that going to prom. And the year after that, graduating. It sincerely seems as if I went to bed one night with a little boy and woke up with a man. 

Caleb, I couldn't be a single shred prouder of the man I see you becoming. Generous, loving, compassionate, smart, and hilariously funny. You are a fantastic big brother...and a giant help to your poor tired mama.

We've been through it, you and I. To borrow a line from my favorite movie..."If I was going through Hell, I'd only want one person in the whole world beside me"...and that person would without a doubt be you. 

Thank you for choosing me to be your mama, despite the fact that throughout much of your life, I have had NO clue what I was doing. ;) It's pretty awe inspiring to see the results of it all turning out so much better than I could have ever hoped. 

I love you so much.... Happy, happy birthday!


Saturday, May 11, 2013

Mother's Day Musings....

I've been a "mother" for nearly 18 years now.
It may seem strange to put it that way to most...but in my world, I have been a mother much longer than I have been a mom. And to me, there is a distinct difference.
You become a mother the day you give birth.A simple matter of biology. However, the distinction lies not in the bringing life into this world but in the nurturing of that life once it is here. So, yes. I have been a mother for coming up on 18 years in August....but I have only been a mom since Caleb came into this world 15 years ago this coming Wednesday.
In my eyes, a mom is the one who changes millions of diapers, who wakes multiple times in the night to feed crying babies, the one who bathes, dresses, and cares for the day to day needs of that child. She is the one who kisses scraped knees and soothes bruised egos, the one who wipes away tears and laughs at pure childhood silliness. She sings songs. She reads stories. She sits up all night with sick kiddos, and worries incessantly about broken bones, bullies, and readying their children for a world that is often cruel. She is not afraid of puke, or snot, or slobber. Most days she walks around with one of the three smeared across her chest like a badge of honor. Being a mom means getting down and dirty, and not shying away from making the hard decisions or being the bad guy, even when its the most difficult thing to be but its in her child's best interest.
You become a mom, not by giving birth, but by slogging through the day to day drudgery of motherhood itself. 
 We mothers tend to carry around a whole lot of guilt...and sometimes with that nasty guilt complex comes a heavy sense of failure. I want to say right now...on Mother's Day.....you are NOT a failure. We are all just stumbling through life in general, doing the best we can to just put one foot in front of the other most days.There isn't a manual. There isn't any way to have a set plan. We all just make decisions based on what we think is best, sometimes good decisions, sometimes not so good. Motherhood isn't any different. You WILL make mistakes. You WILL have to make hard choices. Your child will more than likely at some point tell you that you are a horrible mother or that they hate you. They'll be convinced that your whole goal is to ruin their lives. And you know what? They don't mean a word of it. Even if they don't realize it at the time. One of these days, when they become parents themselves, they're going to be just like you. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, take heart that they're going to be flattering the hell out of you. :)
So what I am asking of you is this....When those old feelings of failure creep up on you, when the laundry and dirty dishes are piling up, the kids are screaming, and you feel like crawling into bed to do nothing but cry, please remember this. You are amazing. No one else on this Earth is as capable of being your children's mother as you are. Keep your head up and keep fighting the good fight. And never, ever forget that by cleaning puke, and wiping tears, and kissing sweetly smelling heads good night, you are earning your title...the one which deserves nothing but the highest respect....MOM.
Happy Mother's Day...from me to you. :)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Fear, Frustration, and All the Nasty Side Effects of Pregnancy Hormones....

Posts two days in a row? What is wrong with me??
I just need to work through some of the thoughts running through my mind and since writing (whether publicly or not) seems to be cathartic for me, here I am.
We're coming up on the 30 week mark for this pregnancy. I have been thoroughly enjoying a nondescript, relatively easy pregnancy for the majority of the last 7 and 1/2 months. Nothing too exciting or worrisome going on, regular doctor appointments without any of the extras thrown in...all in all, your average run of the mill pregnancy. A far cry from my pregnancy with Liddy.
The one thing I have struggled with, silently mostly, has been fear. Labor with Liddy was excruciatingly long. Delivery itself was easy but led to a hemorrhage which resulted in my needing to receive two units of blood and labor that continued for an additional two days post-birth before delivering...well, let's just say, a nasty surprise. I feel strongly as if I kissed the face of the Grim Reaper and somehow, miraculously, made it through still alive and breathing. To say that I am scared of giving birth again is a slight understatement. I am literally terrified. TERRIFIED.
I've practically begged for a C-section. 5 doctors have told us that it isn't necessary, that the chances of a repeat performance of my own personal nightmare are slim to none, that the chances for similar complications during or following a c-section are greater than those having one more natural birth. They assure me that there is no way that I will be induced for nearly 4 days before having a baby again. They assure me that this time I will not go to the bathroom and receive a nasty surprise. They assure me that I will find that I have no need for an emergency D&C. Yet. Their reassurances do little in the way of ACTUALLY assuring me. That old nagging fear still plagues me.
And now...well, so much is uncertain for little Levi. We are still waiting to find out if my liver is failing in its duties due to the pregnancy. If it is, we face a baby who will be forced to be brought into this world before he is actually ready. We face an almost repeat performance of the last months of my pregnancy with Liddy....a steady stream of doctor's appointments, ultrasounds, and non-stress tests. Dreaded uncertainty mixed with excitement and joy at his birth.And as much as I have feared for the last 4 months for myself, I now fear more for him.
Here's the thing. I truly didn't believe that I was strong enough to make it through everything we have been through with Liddy without falling completely apart. I was wrong. I came through with colors flying, more confident than ever that I am one tough cookie, that my God is mighty and just, and thanking God over and over that I never had to face anything like that again. Almost the first entire year of her life, I was so choked with fear that it was a relief to have that weight lifted from my shoulders and to live without that ever present worry constantly tapping me on my shoulder. I never expected to have any more children. I thought I was done and that surviving that year intact was my own personal badge of honor. I carried it as such. And now, faced with a similar (but not the same) circumstances, I fall right back into the "Poor me. I don't think I can deal with this again" trap, one which I am helpless to combat, yet one that frustrates me to no end.
I cry at the drop of a hat. I cuss. I snap at the people I love most in this world. The fear, the uncertainty, is once again winning. And I HATE that. I look around myself and see other parents and friends dealing with so much more...devastating unforeseen circumstances...potentially life altering illnesses....and I want to smack my own face. WTH do I have to be afraid of? A NICU stay? Big whoop. We've been there before. Adding more stress to a plate already overflowing? Well, been there too and, I'm sure, will be there again.  Death? I've faced that, both with myself and with my precious daughter, and I feel strongly that my time isn't done here just yet. I have work left to finish. Yet. Again, the fear remains.
I feel like I am whining. That's not my intention by any means. I suppose that writing this is a little bit of cheap therapy, a reminder that I am not in charge, despite my delusions of grandeur, and that I need to leave all these crazy thoughts and fears in the hands of the only Someone who actually IS. Apparently, it worked for now since I started out writing with tears rolling down my face and those tears have dried....
Still, I ask you to pray for us....to pray for a safe delivery of a healthy baby boy (whenever that may be), to pray for peace for his potentially crazy hormonal mama, and to pray for patience for his daddy, who bless his heart, is the one who most often gets to deal with all the hormonal mama madness.