Monday, August 11, 2014

The Last Day of Summer...

It's the morning alarms.

It's the hours of whirlwind crazy spent each day, and the mental energy required to do my best for the kids, to work in an educational system that I'm not sure I fully support...or feel fully supported in as someone serving in a teaching role, without a teaching certification.

It's the schedule. The schedule that, especially during the fall, has our family's days full of places to be and activities to be done from the the time that morning alarm goes off, until our tired heads hit the pillow at night. Time spent running and doing, supporting the activities and interests of my family, that leave me feeling spread too thin. Too thin to feel that I'm fully taking care of their most basic needs. Our household. Our relationships with each other. My own health and wellness needs.

"Don't wish these days away," they say. "They go so fast," they say. I do NOT wish them away. They ARE going too fast. I just need more time. Less alarms. More time.

"It's the dues you pay as a mom," my own mom told me as I was sharing my feeling about the ending of summer. "You do what you have to do and you make it through," she told me. Yes, yes I do. Those morning alarms, they remind me each day that it's time to get up and do what I need to do to get through. I will. I do.

Some might call this whiny. Some might roll their eyes and tell me to get a grip. Some might think I'm a lazy bum. That is their opinion from their perspective. This is not about them. This is about me. This has nothing to do with laziness. It has everything to do with trying to protect my own peace of mind and joyful heart.

I'm not okay with today being the last day of summer. The last day of calm before the storm. The last day of coffee in my PJs and lunch out with my girls at a time that may or may not be considered lunch time. The last day of an (almost) empty to do list. The last day where we have plenty of time...that rare and precious commodity.

I'm not okay with today being the last day of summer. That's the raw and honest truth weighing on my heart this morning.

I'm not okay with it, but I will be okay.

That fact I also know to be true.

Goodbye summer. 2014, you've been a good one.


Friday, August 8, 2014

Making Memories...

Yesterday Scott took the day off from work so we could spend 1 last day of summer having fun as a family at Adventureland.

It rained, most of the day, and ended up never getting warmer than 70 degrees, but that didn't stop us from riding, and re-riding, rides for over 7 hours. In fact I've only been to an amusement park 1 other time when lines at rides were a total non-issue as we experienced yesterday. When Scott and I first moved to KC we spent a day at Worlds of the rain....with no lines. I'm thinking rainy days are the way to go. Once you experience a no line day at the amusement park, it kinda spoils you for any other type of day.

Admittedly, we went to the park yesterday a little under prepared. Since the forecast was for scattered showered and highs in the mid-70s, we dressed in quick dry summery clothing and packed our swim bag in hopes of spending the afternoon in the water park. After walking to the front gates of the park from our car, our first stop in the park ended up being the clothing store for long sleeves for the girls. It was one of the best decisions that I think had a big impact on the general success of our day. By day's end, after a lap full of COLD water, thanks to the log ride (poor Brea got a face full, so I shouldn't complain), and half an hour spent in the car with the heat on to warm-up and dry off, I too visited the clothing store for longer sleeves.

Side note: We were actually pleasantly surprised at the price of merchandise and food once we were in the park. Expecting crazy inflated prices much like one pays at the ball park or movie theater, we were surprised to find rather reasonable prices on the few things we did purchase.

It became pretty apparent early on during our day just how small, safe, and quiet we have lived our lives since having kids. Brea is not one for loud noises and unexpected scares, as we experienced on our first ride as a family, the Underground. Lexi on the other hand is not a fan of any thing that suddenly, or repeatedly, requires you to change directions, which basically includes every "thrill" ride. As parents we were totally charting new territory. Not being big fair going, carnival rides riding people, and not previously having taken the girls to an amusement park because of the cost (outside of the 1 time Lexi went at aged 4 when she only rode the kiddie rides), we weren't sure how to introduce our girls to the big rides beyond just talking them into going on them. So of course we decided the best route of introduction was to go from the Frog Hopper (kiddie ride for Brea), to the Underground (story based enclosed "mine shaft" coaster ride), right to the Space Shot. The line was short. We could all 4 sit togeher. Why wouldn't it be a good choice?

Let me share with you how to go from feeling like a pretty good mom, to the world's worst mom in a matter of 3 seconds. Sit between your 2 children, children who totally trust you to keep them safe, children who you have talked into riding an amusement park ride because "would I let them do anything that was not safe?", while they are suddenly shot into the air at a high velocity. To my left sat my 8-year-old screaming and crying uncontrollably, obviously freaked out of her mind with terror. To my right sat my 12-year-old whose face had turned as white as the cloud covered sky above us, eyes the size of dinner plates, telling me she was gonna throw-up, gonna throw-up, GONNA THROW-UP! (She did not. Thankfully.) And because having this experience once wasn't enough to test my fragile maternal heart, we talked them into strapping into the "calmest" of the 3 big roller coasters, the Tornado, because "it's just like riding in a car that's going up and down big hills really fast." Right?

Before I go any further, let me tell you about my own amusement park experiences. I did not grow up in an amusement park visiting, carnival ride riding family. Looking back from the perspective of adulthood I realize it was more likely than not because we could not afford such experiences. I vaguely remember that we might have visited Elitch Gardens in Denver when I was very young. I don't actually remember riding any rides, although I have this random memory of a dragon shaped small kiddie roller coaster, so I'm not sure if it's an actual memory or simply one my mind has created because it was the only amusement park I was aware of as a kid. Other than random carnival rides rode occasionally during my teen years, my first amusement park experience was a visit to Adventureland with Scott and some of his family the summer after I graduated high school. It was on that trip I discovered I love roller coasters. I mean I really LOVE them. (Which I should have guessed after discovering how much I love to fly after going stunt flying with a classmate's father earlier that same year.) I also discovered I'm not a big fan of spinny rides. Big spins are okay. Tight spins, not so much. So while my own amusement park experiences have been limited to just a few visits to 2 different mid-western parks, I have hopes to someday venture out of the mid-west to ride many, many more roller coasters.

If it weren't for my much calmer husband who was determined to spend this day that he had specifically taken off to spend with his family at the amusement park, and the $140 we'd spent on tickets, I would have wrapped my girls up the moment we got off that first roller coaster ride, repeatedly apologizing profusely, and taken them home to snuggle on the quiet safety of our couch. As it turns out, I'm glad I did not get to give in to that instinct. We dried the tears, visited a few low key rides, enjoyed a bag of warm, delicious cinnamon sugar mini donuts, and ended up having a great day. Other than that aforementioned cold, wet log ride experience, that again ended in tears for Brea (more out of frustration and surprise than fear), we ended the day with many fun memories that I'm sure we'll be talking about for years to come. Brea decided roller coasters are actually pretty fun and ended the day with 3 rides under her belt. She also made us go back to the Scrambler time and time again, during which she laughed and laughed, hands held high in the air. Lexi drives a mean bumper car and, after lots of re-assurance and begging, found out that maybe I DID know what I was talking about when I told her she would love the feeling of quiet flying you get while riding the new 260 foot giant "swing" called the Storm Chaser. We left at day's end tired, hungry, happy, and already talking about what rides will be our first during our next visit.

Scott had to return to work today. The girls and I have some errands to run to get ready for my return to work and the start of Brea's soccer season next week. Our house could also, as always, use a little cleaning. Having slept right through Scott's departure for work this morning, I sent him a text to see how he was feeling today, waking up with only minimal neck soreness myself after getting a bit beaten around on the looping roller coaster, the Dragon, yesterday. He wrote back that he was doing okay, minimally sore and already looking forward to day's end, but glad that everyone seemed to have a fun day yesterday. "Odd to think, but I just want the girls to have FUN memories!" he shared. I replied that I too hope for the girls to have plenty of fun memories of their childhood to carry with them through life, but most of all I want them to remember lots of moments of LOVE.

I think yesterday we helped create both FUN and LOVE filled memories....through the the rain. I know I will for always remember it as a pretty great day.


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Being Okay with Being Alone is Okay...

The girls and I just returned from a few days visiting my mom at her new home after her very recent relocation.

While I know the process of moving physically, and moving forward with life, has been emotionally challenging for her after Rod's passing almost 2 years ago now, I'm confident this move was a good decision for her. I'm so proud of her for being brave to explore life and all the joy and living it has left to offer her. We enjoyed getting acquainted with her new, very cute, home and love that our drive to and from her house has been cut down considerably! We made our return trip to Iowa in just under 7 hours yesterday, which offers the possibility of more frequent visits in the future. Plus now when we visit Grandma, an aunt, uncle, and 2 cousins are just across town. For the first time I feel like my girls will get a chance to do some valuable family bonding with some of my family. It's a good feeling.

My mom has made comment about how this is the first move into a new home that she has done on her own. She didn't mean it in the sense that she physically moved on her own, but more in the sense that it's the first time she's been settling down in a new home without some combination of husband and/or kids at her side. It will truly be HER house, and after 40 years of sharing a home with others, I'm sure it's a bit of a adjustment that will take some time before it feels comfortable. My mom does not hesitate to admit she is happiest when her house is full. During our visit it was definitely full of activity, people, conversation, good food smells, and smiles. I hope it helped her feel a little more settled emotionally this morning as she woke to a quiet house amongst the boxes sitting around reminding her of all the physical settling that needs to be done.

Driving back to Iowa yesterday, sitting with my thoughts as we rolled through Nebraska on the straight, flat ribbon of road that is I-80, I found myself a bit emotional. While I know she will be okay, I worry about my mom and that she will be okay. And I miss her when we are apart. I mean, she's my mom. I'm still a bit emotional to today as I spend the day catching up from being gone, and preparing for the tasks needing to be accomplished this week in preparation for my return to work next week, followed by the start of school and fall activities. I've found myself quietly emotional quite often over the past few months. Well, more than a few if I'm completely honest. Life always has its ups and downs, and I seem to be in a bit of a long, low valley. As I tend to do, I'm probably over analyzing that fact, making it out to be more than what it really is, but at the same time I know how easy it is to unintentionally slip into a deeper, darker place after telling yourself for too long it's just the weather/situation/hormones, things will take for the better soon. For some of use a healthy mental state seems to be a constant walking of a fine line. I suppose especially for those of us to who spend a lot of time sitting with our own thoughts.

Any who, as I was driving I was thinking about what it will be like for my Mom to begin to carve out her new life alone. Not alone as in "lonely", but alone as in "I don't have to check with anyone else before I decide what to cook/when to go to bed/what to watch on TV/when to go for a walk/etc." It got me to thinking about how I've been feeling as of late, the bit of alone I've been feeling even though I am far from being alone. I remember feeling that way for the first time right after we moved to KC after finishing college. I was finishing my internship to make my degree official, working a part time job, living with my in-laws, all while living for the first time in a big city. Scott's new job required him to travel a bit during the week and besides my in-laws and my co-workers, I knew nobody in KC. After a bit I realized it was the first time in life I was living in a place where I wasn't constantly surrounded by similar aged people, living lives with similar schedules and recreational interests, which made it naturally easy to find someone with which to so stuff. Living in KC, for the first time, I had to learn to be comfortable with doing things like eating out in a restaurant or going shopping alone. I'd rarely, if ever, had to do that in high school and college. It was a strange feeling at first, but after a while it was just the normal and my activities of choice were less and less affected by whether or not someone was available to go with me.

Eventually, after living and working in KC for a few months, we did have involvements and activities that involved other people. Friends with whom we regularly shared dinner. Co-workers turned friends who had similar out of work activity interests. When we moved to Iowa to get back to our small town roots so that we felt more comfortable starting our family, I again went through a bit of a period of feeling alone. But as before, we slowly got involved, met people, and found our niche. Then we had a kid.

People say the easiest way to get involved in your community is to have kids. Having had 2 school aged kids during our most recent relocation, I would totally agree. Helping your kids be involved in activities is probably the next best thing to being a college student for surrounding you with similarly aged people with similar interests. We feel as involved, maybe even more so, in the Carlisle community after 4 years of living here as we did after 9+ of living/working/playing in Grinnell. But for me having kids offered something more, something I hadn't really thought about until this summer when I've noticed a shift in a different direction. With 2 small kids in the family I always have had someone at my side to do things with regardless of local social aquaintences.
  •  Have a little time to hang out at the coffee shop? We'd pack up a couple activities and off we would head for beverages, sweet treats, and conversation. 
  • Have the need to hit the store for groceries? Off we would go, finding some little way to make it a fun adventure along the way. 
Having small kids in the family for the past 10+ years has meant I've always had a shadow, or two, along side of me with which to do things. I was good with that.  It was just a given. The normal. Rarely did I ever find myself alone, and when I did it was kind of a treat.

This summer though, this summer things have started to change. This summer I have an almost teenager who we trust to stay at home, even with her sister, for short periods of time if she chooses not to accompany us to different activities. She's of that age when choosing to not accompany us seems to be more and more the option of choice. Her younger sister, while still often willing to be my side kick for many things, is choosing more and more to keep her sister company while I run out to do things like pick up groceries or run basic errands. I'm finding myself walking around Menard's alone more and more these days as I pick up supplies for summer projects. At first, it was kinda nice. Moms of small children will generally all agree, sometimes the best gift they can be given is the option for a solo grocery store run. Sad, but true. But at some point in the summer I realized my new solo runs are not just an occasional treat, they are a sign of what will become the norm in the coming years as the girls grow from little girls, to young ladies. I'm gonna have to figure out, once again, how to be comfortable doing more things alone. I subconsciously knew it would happen, I just wasn't prepared for that time to come so quickly. I guess I never really thought about there being a period of transition because once a mom, always a mom. Yes, even momhood has its transitions and at times I forget that fact. Though having a emerging teenager in the house is quick to point out, with a bright red flashing neon sign time of transition ahead!

I think partially spending more time alone is easier to do when you are happy with yourself. Right now, for a variety of reasons, I'm having a really hard time being happy with myself. Having once found a good, friendly place with myself after many years of struggle, I didn't expect some of my old insecurities to come rearing their ugly heads again so forcefully. It seems they have, and I once again need to do some work to find a more confident, more self accepting, happy place. I'm working on it.

It seems I'll always be working on it.

Isn't it nice of life to give us that constant opportunity?