Kindergarten and a Vegetable Garden

It’s been too long since I blogged, partly because of the old excuse of being busy, and partly because I’ve been content to just observe. We had birthdays in April, so Big Sister is now 5 and Mr. and Miss Twin are 3. I remember that Big Sister changed exponentially between 3 and 3 ½. There’s a Moment in my memory of watching her swim at age 3 ½, and realizing that there was no more baby or toddler left in her. Her chubby legs had turned muscular, her cute baby swimsuit had given way to a functional Speedo, and her ponytail looked more athletic than Trixie-style. I’ve been curious to find out if the twins will change so dramatically too. With two of them, the caveman stage is accentuated and slower to leave our house entirely, but every week, there are more Moments to prove the twins are on their way. Like when Miss Twin went in her own bathroom stall at the YMCA and decreed, “I do it myself!” And she did. Or when Mr. Twin quietly put on his pants all by himself and showed up ready to go, instead of melting down for any of 101 unknown reasons.

The GeoTrio with the geocache Big Sister found!

We no longer have a toddler and two babies here, or even a preschooler and two toddlers. Big Sister graduated from preschool and is off to all-day, every-day kindergarten in the fall, and the twins will move up to her former preschool. Since our life will be so dramatically different in three short months, I plan to have as much spontaneous fun as possible this summer with my Trio of independent, strong-willed, adventurous kids. We have this glorious Moment when independence meets still wanting to hang out with Mom, and I know that’ll change all too soon. Summer has just started, and we’re already having a blast! We’ve taken up geocaching (http://www.geocaching.com), which is proving how far we’ve come because the entire tribe can tromp through the woods without a stroller. After 5 years of babyhood in our house, which required meticulous planning and packing before we went anywhere, this new ability to be spontaneous with big kids who can walk, talk, and wait 5 minutes for a meal has me feeling like the whole world has opened up and demands to be explored!

We also planted our first garden and were all excited to harvest our first radish and lettuce yesterday. The difference between the tiny seeds we planted and the now perfectly red radish with gorgeous green leaves got me thinking. I did nothing to make it grow except provide food and the right environment. Once those were given, that little seed had the inherent ability within itself to change when I wasn’t even looking. Maybe that’s true for kids too. I marvel at the big kids in my house and wonder how they got here. Life has been more chaos than planned in the past three years, yet somehow three independent, confident people have emerged from the pandemonium. Some days, it felt like my parenting only consisted of feeding them and keeping them from setting the house on fire, yet apparently they were growing even then.

If it feels like you’re running on a hamster wheel with your kids, doing and saying the same things every day, take heart that progress is being made under the dirt, just like our radish. All of a sudden, you’ll see a bit of maturity poking through, and you’ll know that your little radish is ready to venture into bigger gardens. As I’m looking at kindergarten, I acknowledge that change can be bittersweet, but then I sit down with my iced mocha topped with whipped cream during a Moment when no one needs me, and remember that after three years of chaos, THAT’S pure sweetness! 🙂

Post a comment about a Moment when you noticed a big change in your child(ren). Did you do something to make it happen or did it happen by itself?

Reflections On Life With Twins At 3 Months And 3 Years

I have exciting news! Our twins just turned 3, which means we’ve survived the first leg of this crazy, amazing marathon with multiples. I remember sitting in my favorite little coffee shop when they were 3 months old, where I somehow gathered enough sleep-deprived brain cells to write a “Reflections On Life With Twins At 3 Months.” I thought it would be fun to post it again here, with a comparison on life with twins at 3 years, to see what has changed and what has stayed the same.

Reflections On Life With Twins At 3 Months:

-I’m learning that my children are as worthy of my respect as I am of theirs. They’re influenced by me, but they aren’t clones of me.

-I’m learning that it’s never wrong to ask a question or to validate someone’s feelings and experience, even if that someone is very small.

-I see that there are endless opportunities for activities, personal growth, and childcare. Because of that, there’s no reason for martyrdom.

-I’ve realized that only I can take the initiative for my mental and emotional well being.

-I’m learning that tomorrow really is another day, and the world will continue to turn if I don’t accomplish everything on my to-do list. In fact, I need to give myself credit for accomplishing even one small thing in a day!

-I understand now that my energy is a precious commodity and not endless, thus I’m choosing more wisely how to spend it.

-I’m learning to live in the moment rather than planning so much.

-I’m learning to use the time when my children are awake to focus on them, and to save chores for when they’re asleep.

-However, I’m realizing that I must spend their sleeping time on my needs first, otherwise I miss the opportunity for restoration. There will always be laundry and cleaning to do, but neglecting my needs creates a debt that takes a toll on my well being and my ability to meet my family’s needs.

-My husband has a different role as a father than I do as a mother. We’re a team, but since I’m with the kids 24/7, my time away from them is a necessity, not a luxury.

-I’m learning to listen to my gut when making decisions. It really is always right!

-I’m realizing that I have to let go of my children and let them learn from other people. My role is to be the consistent foundation at home that they can always return to.

-I’m learning how fast childhood goes, and that these few short years are the foundation for the rest of my children’s lives and my relationship with them. My personal sacrifices now are actually very small, yet could reap huge rewards.

-I’m learning that consistency is the key to most things in life: parenting, career success, relationships. It’s much easier to set the rules/boundaries and maintain them, instead of letting them go and having to rebuild them.

-I’m learning that life is beautiful at its core, that there are endless chances for starting over, and that there’s something to learn every day!

Reflections On Life With Twins At 3 Years:

-I’m learning that change is constant, so I might as well grab some coffee and chocolate and go along for the ride.

-I’ve learned that three kids who can walk, talk, and feed themselves are an enormous gift that will still inspire awe in my heart long after they no longer want to be seen walking, talking, or eating with me.

-I’m learning that time does heal all sorts of wounds, and that kids have an amazing ability to forget their wounds and rush headlong into the next adventure.

-I’m learning that whispering is more terrifying than yelling. Now, I need to learn how to do it.

-I’ve learned that one bag of Goldfish crackers will reproduce itself multiple times in my car’s backseat.

-I’ve learned that opposites attract: No matter what I expect, the opposite will happen.

-I’ve learned that nothing makes fighting kids band together faster than a parent who charges into the room and demands to know, “What’s going on?”

-I’ve learned that 3 big kids can play together long enough for me to accomplish one small thing on my to-do list, and I might be able to accomplish one more thing while I wait for them to fight their own battles.

-I’ve learned that kids behave better in public than at home, and to accept that gratefully rather than question it. I’m learning to be grateful that they feel safe expressing themselves at home, although we might work on that being upstairs, in their rooms, with the doors closed.

-I’ve learned to adjust my expectations. I expect at least one spill per child per day. Sometimes, it will be milk, and sometimes, a diaper.

-I’ve learned that there are always adventures to go on, if I just take 5 minutes to locate them, and that kids are quite able to make up their own, if I let them try.

-I’m learning that I need to spend an equal amount of energy finding adventures for myself, because no one else will do it for me, and Mommy’s Time Away benefits all of us. Whoever said, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” and “Familiarity breeds contempt” must have been a parent! I’ve learned that my going is sweet, but the coming home is then sweeter.

-I’ve learned that natural consequences are the best discipline. A child who rewards a mommy’s offer to play hide-and-seek by throwing woodchips on her siblings’ heads because she won’t share her hiding space will then watch her siblings take all the stars off her reward chart, see them each get an extra star for longsuffering, and hear a mommy deny her next request to play. But she will still get and give a good night hug, and we’ll all start over the next morning. I’ve learned there’s always a new chance to start over.

-I’ve learned that kids who have the opportunity to put a mommy in timeout for overreacting will not let that mommy serve her sentence in peace. They’ll keep coming back to point at her with delighted grins, and to pretend to take her picture.

-I’ve learned that laughter is the best medicine!

What have you learned during your parenthood? Post it here!

How Going Back To Middle School Helped Me Grow Up

You walk into a lunchroom all by yourself. The tables are mostly filled with people who have already found friends, talking and laughing in the comfort that comes with having found their place. You see an empty seat at the very front of the room, right where you’ll have to walk past everyone else to get there. You squeeze between tables, hoping you don’t trip and dump your tray on someone’s head. The successful journey gives you confidence and you ask your potential tablemates if the seat is open. They nod and smile politely, then turn back to each other, and that’s how quickly you become insignificant. The spotlight you felt while you made the journey turns off, and suddenly, you’d like for it to come back so you’ll be noticed. You want very badly to be part of the group.

Did your stomach clench and your heart race? Mine did two days ago when this happened to me! I’m almost 40 years old, and I’m starting to think that we never entirely escape middle school. But let me tell you what happened next. I was at a writing conference. Writers can either be the most generous and welcoming people, or the most grandiose and boorish, and you often can’t predict which by looking at them. My tablemates were magnificent. There was a young girl, about 20, and her mom. It’s easy to assume that a 20 year old hasn’t experienced enough life to write about it, but this young lady has encountered tragedy that most people never will in their lifetime. More stunning, though, is her courage and conviction that she can use her pain to educate and support others. Her mom is equally remarkable in supporting her daughter without fighting the battle for her, and in letting her daughter speak for herself. Now, I understand why I need to say no to my toddlers. Why I do them a disservice if I protect them from disappointment. Three small children all clamoring with their wants can be overwhelming and it’s tempting to give in when I know I shouldn’t. But Life will not be so lenient and may deal them a crushing blow someday when I’m not there to protect them. How much better prepared will they be if they’re already acquainted with disappointment, fear, failure, and loss? I hope my kids will grow up to be as courageous as that young lady, as able to confront their anger and pain, and as able to use the pain to become stronger than their loss.

Another tablemate was an older lady, an angel on earth, who helped save a woman destined for deportation to the Congo, where she had been tortured and was certainly facing death if she returned. This dear lady’s book (“Rescuing Regina: The Battle to Save a Friend from Deportation and Death” by Josephe Marie Flynn SSND: http://tinyurl.com/6nss4xp) about the event was just published last year, and while I knew her story, this was my first chance to talk to her. She’s a quiet, gentle person, not someone who seeks conflict, yet she revealed her iron strength when someone needed to be defended. Although the beginning of that lunch felt like middle school, that beginning became completely insignificant in light of The Stories at the table. And maybe that’s what maturity is all about: We learn that there are so many more things in the world bigger than us, yet just one person can be big enough to make those things change for good.

Everyone has A Story to tell.  Some write it; some use other artistic forms, like music or painting; some are genealogists; some might use quilting to join several stories into one. Find your Story and your way of telling it, and then tell it to your children. Don’t be afraid to include the pain and fear, because those make us human, and often joy and strength can’t be fully understood without them. If your kid rolls his eyes every day when you ask, “How was school?” try this instead. Ask, “What kinds of stories happened today?” Everyone loves a story, and your child just might like to tell one too!