The Good

Thursday was a bad day.  The bad mojo actually started on Wednesday evening, when I made the unwise decision to binge watch Bachelor in Paradise instead of going to sleep at a decent hour.  I’m six months pregnant and sleep is my very best of friends, so I have no idea why I thought it would work out to stay up until 11:30 to see who got a rose.  Temporary insanity…wait, scratch that…Bachelor insanity.  I swear, those producers know what they are doing!

So I woke up groggy on Thursday morning, wishing I had thought more about my wellness than my reality television addiction.  And while I set with my coffee trying to readjust my attitude, my husband woke for the day, also in a very foul mood.  We’ve been married for a while now (just celebrated 12 years of marriage).  But even prior to marriage, we had discovered that morning is just not a good time for us.  I know other couples wake together, roll over and look lovingly into one another’s eyes, but that just isn’t us.  We have an understanding in the morning that we just don’t speak to each other.  He gives me my time to adjust to the world, and I give him his.  It works out perfectly for us.  This Thursday however, my husband dearest decided on his own to break our sacred agreement, and he unloaded his frustrations to me at 5:30 in the morning.  Ugh.  Not to sound like the worst wife ever, but I don’t even want to think about my own frustrations at that hour.  He realized his folly and apologized before giving me my morning kiss goodbye and heading out the door for the day.

I began the day’s routine, waking up my son.  Then off to my daughter’s room.  Sitting on the edge of her bed, I kiss her forehead and immediately feel the heat radiating from her tiny body.  Fever…there’s no mistaking it.  She wakes, telling me her throat hurts and sure enough, the thermometer confirms what my ther-MOM-meter already detected: 101.2 degrees.  What to do now?

My mom-planning starts to spin.  I begin to make phone calls and send texts.  I need to talk to my boss, arrange for someone to cover my responsibilities for the work day, find someone to stay with my daughter for an hour while I go to a scheduled OB appointment, write my son a note so that he can walk home from school instead of taking the bus to the sitters, call the school and let them know my daughter will be absent today, message my husband and ask him to request a vacation day for tomorrow just in case there isn’t a quick recovery this go-around.  These are the things that parents go through when life throws a curve ball, the thinking-on-our-feet, the quick reactions to make sure everything in life just keeps on moving along smoothly…we never miss a beat.

I saw my son off to school and snuggled my daughter, and I let the frustration of the unplanned, unscheduled day go.  I let it roll off my shoulders and I focused on my daughter…my puny, sore-throated, coughing, feverish, precious, little daughter.  That is the moment that my phone dinged.  A message, I had a message.  My husband messages me “I’m coming home at 9.  My machine is down today.  You can go to work today.  My work issue should be better tomorrow.”

What?!

Wait….what?!

To be clear, I am an administrative assistant.  I have to communicate with a minimum of five different people to be out for one day.  I had sent all of the messages.  I had made all of the calls.  I had everything lined out to be off of work on Thursday and back to work on Friday.  And now, that was all for nothing.  My mom-mind was spinning….if the husband was off today, then he couldn’t be off tomorrow, then I need to be off tomorrow, so I need to go in today, so I need to call my father-in-law and let him know I don’t need a sitter for my doctor’s appointment, I need to send five more text messages and….ugh, I need to take off my fuzzy pants and shower and brush my teeth, and make the switch yet again from mommy-mode to professional-work-Melissa-mode.  Again, my day turned upside down, and I felt like I was just along for the ride.

I sucked it up.  I showered.  I dressed.  I gave my husband a frosty welcome home.  I was sad, unhappy, frustrated.  There are other things brewing in our life as well.  And to be honest, while all of these circumstantial life events may have shaded my and my husband’s mood for this day, the real culprit…the real, gut-wrenching, terrifying, hard thing in our lives in this moment, in this season, has nothing to do with the happenings of Thursday.

My mother-in-law has been battling renal cell carcinoma for two and half years now.  She has faced brain surgeries, kidney surgeries, radiation treatments, and recently we had moved on to immunotherapy treatments.  I write “we”, but that is a lie.  She has faced these horrible things.  She has been the strong one.  She has endured.  She has survived these ugly things, and we have only been here to support, love and pray for her.  Because that is all there is that we can do.  The immunotherapy was supposed to be the saving grace, the magical medicine that would keep the cancer at bay so she can continue to enjoy this life with us.  We got the news a few days prior that the immunotherapy did not work.

I hesitate to share this at all, because this is not my story.  This is her story, but if I’m going to be completely honest with my readers, this is such a raw, close and intense part of our life, that I have to share.  I have to give you the full picture of the good and the scary parts of our lives.  We are not at the end of this story.  My mother-in-law has an appointment with MD Anderson this month.  She is strong and amazing, and all of the wonderful things that the rest of us can only hope that we have inside of ourselves.  She is truly a rock for us many times, although that is so backwards…we should be a rock for her.  But that’s not the truth.  This is our reality.  She is the strong one.

I left for my OB appointment with all of the weight of the world sitting squarely on my shoulders.  I felt heavy, sad…I felt like I was failing…at life.  My heart hurt.  My soul ached.  I sat in the waiting room.  This was my 23 week appointment.  At my 19 week appointment, we had an anatomy scan in which the doctor was able to clear everything for our little growing bud, except for her heart.  She was still just too small to get a clear picture of her heart structure.  So here I was at my 23 week appointment, heading to get another ultrasound, so that we could clear her heart, showing four beautiful chambers, working just the way they should.  I laid on the table with the lights dimmed, the tech placed the scanner on my belly, and on the screen appeared my baby, my third child, my second daughter, my beautiful blessing.  She had grown over the four weeks and her heart was bright and clear, pumping away, beating like the most beautiful drum.  And then I got to see her face, her perfect sweet little chin, her upturned nose (just like her sister’s), the sweet curve of her cheeks…and I realized, that this moment, this moment was good.

this moment was good

And isn’t that how life is?  The quote popped into my mind, “Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day.”  There is so much that is hard in life, so much that drains us and breaks us.  There are moments we want to give up.  There are moments that we cry, and scream, and times that we hate the things we are going through.  But even on the worst days, we are given these beautiful moments.  Even on the worst days, I can look at my son, at my daughter, at my baby bump, at my silly dogs, at my sweet husband, I can look to my parents, my siblings, my in-laws, our family, the cousins.  I can pull back to the memories, the trips, the beaches, the rides in a teacup, the hugs from a princess.  We can feel the breeze on our face, the sun on our skin, the floor beneath our feet.  We can find the good in the worst of times.  That ability is what makes us as humans so very unique, so resilient, so incredible.  The ability to find the good is truly our gift, and it is what makes this life possible.

The ability to find the good is truly our gift, and it is what makes this life possible.

Wherever you are today, whatever life has thrown your way, whatever difficult, unfair thing, I challenge you to find the good.  Hug the good, kiss the good, absorb it into your being, absolutely squish it into yourself until you feel it inside, and you are no longer observing it, but feeling the good.  And if you can’t seem to find the good, I challenge you to be it.  Be the good because I guarantee those around you are in need of it.  We are capable.  We are survivors.  We are strong.  We are the good.

Best Mom Ever Status????

Something has occurred in my household numerous times over the last….well, I’m not even sure how long…as long as I remember, I guess.  I’ll be snuggling my children on the couch, or at bedtime, or we’ll be sitting down to supper, or we’ll be doing nothing in particular, and my children, my son or my daughter, will look at me and declare, “You’re the best mom ever.”  The statement throws me off every single time.  I usually respond with, “Well I do love you with all of my heart.”  I don’t say thank you, I don’t own that title, I don’t feel deserving…instead, I feel a kind of guilt sweep over me, thinking “No, no I’m the not the best mom ever. I could be so much better.”

Have you ever felt that?  That feeling that you’re being credited with something that just isn’t yours to own…and by the person/people that you love more than anything else on this planet.  Those people that you owe everything to because they bring you the most happiness, the most contentment, the most joy.  A feeling of shame because you can’t or won’t do more for them.  That feeling, that shameful, guilty feeling is the one that sweeps over me, when my beautiful children look to me, thinking that I am someone that I am just not.

That feeling, that shameful, guilty feeling is the one that sweeps over me, when my beautiful children look to me, thinking that I am someone that I am just not.

Here are the things that keep me from owning that “Best Mom” status…these are the things that make me feel guilty and less than:

  1. I don’t listen.  I don’t listen to my children.  I started a tradition a long time ago with my children for them to tell me each day about their high and low moment.  I did this out of fear that they would grow up and not talk to me about their lives, so I thought I would open the communication channels early.  Let me tell you, talking is not a problem in my house.  My children talk all the time, non-stop, every moment…about sports cars, YouTube videos, music, video games, friends, teachers, cell phones, animals…you get the idea.  And some times, more times than I care to admit, I nod my head without listening, because I can’t take it all in…knowing full and well a day will come when their chatter won’t fill every moment of my life.  Knowing I shouldn’t take this for granted, but still, I don’t listen.
  2. I feed them crap.  Not literal crap, but you know…poptarts, cereal, Beefaroni, Ramen Noodles, lunchables.  I know these are not healthy choices…far from organic or natural…definitely not fresh or nutritious.  My children deserve healthy, wholesome, nutritious food, and I try to get those things to them them regularly.  But I also just settle for feeding them the instant, easy junk because, well because…it’s instant and easy.  No other excuses.  Along these same lines, I also don’t fix my kids’ lunch for school.  No fancy, pretty bento lunches for the Hafele children.  My daughter actually asked to bring lunch to school the other day, and I just said “No” for no other reason than I don’t want to fix my kids’ school lunch every single evening…or ever.
  3. I haven’t exercised with my kids for a long time.  In the past, I have had great parenting moments where my kids and I ride bikes,go for runs, walk to the park and do all of these great active things together.  But I’ve not had one of those moments for a long time.  For a while because I was finishing my MBA, and now because I’m pregnant and out of shape, but they deserve to have a mom who gets down and plays with them on their level.  The fact that I can’t and haven’t done that, makes me feel nothing short of horrible.
  4. I love to go to work.  I love my job and my career and working.  Even if I had the option to stay home with my children financially, I don’t think that I would.  I love spending time with my children, but my career is fulfilling for me as an unique human being.  I feel challenged by and excited for my career  in a way that is 100% my own, and I’m not willing to give that up.  I grew up in a household where my mother stayed home from work to raise me, so this is a tough one for me.  Don’t my children deserve that same focus and dedication?  Does it make me a bad mom that I’m not willing to sacrifice my professional aspirations to be a full time mom?
  5. I don’t remind them to brush their teeth every single night, I forget to give my daughter her allergy medicine some mornings, I don’t always remember to clean their ears or trim their nails, my daughter’s finger nails aren’t painted, she doesn’t have ear rings in, I don’t watch my son practice ball in our yard, I don’t craft them homemade items, I don’t scrapbook for them, I never finished either of their baby books, I fail at turning in their paperwork 5/10 times, I watch movies with them that other parents would think are too mature for them, I listen to music with them that has cuss words in it, I feel irritated when I have to stop my podcast in the morning because my bathroom has been overrun by my children, sometimes I just want a break and then I miss them like crazy when they’re gone, some days I don’t want to do tuck-ins at bedtime, sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the responsibility, and 100,000,000 other things I that do wrong or at least not perfectly.

This list could go on forever.  But the truth is that I love my children deeply and wildly.  I thank God for them every single day, even when I’m tired and overwhelmed.  And for all of my faults, I truly do the best that I can.  My logical side tells me that God made these children just for me, He is all-knowing, and He would never put them in my hands if I wasn’t the best mom for them.

My logical side tells me that God made these children just for me, He is all-knowing, and He would never put them in my hands if I wasn’t the best mom for them.

So certainly, I am not perfect, and the older I get the less I try for perfection.  But maybe through the laughter we share, through the hugs and the kisses, through the silly faces and dances, through the homecooked meals and dinners at the table that I do get accomplished, through setting an example for them of what hard work and passion looks like, through dedication and devotion to their father, through forgiveness and understanding, through real conversations about the joyous and hard things in life, through moments in the garden, through movie nights on the couch, through family fun days…maybe through these moments, I deserve the best mom status.  Best for them, my children, my gift, my greatest accomplishment.  Maybe next time I hear those words, I can feel pride and not shame.  Maybe I can say thank you, smile, and let them know they are the best children too.

Maybe I can say thank you, smile, and let them know they are the best children too.

Maybe we all can do just that…and take pride that our children see us as we actually are, not in the flawed ways that we see ourselves.

An Open Letter to My Children 2018

To begin this letter, I looked back at my previous open letters in 2016, An Open Letter to my Children 2016 and 2017, An Open Letter to My Children 2017…it is breathtaking, and I am so thankful to have this forum, to remember, to focus, to explain all the things in life that make this journey so magical.  My hope is one day my children will read these letters, and they will know just how special they are, how very much they are loved, and how very much I cherish this time I’ve been given to be their mother.

To Jace:

You are nine years old.  At times you seem so much older.  You have a maturity about you that is so far beyond your nine years.  This year you finished the third grade.  Brock Moehler was your teacher and you shared a very special bond with him.  It warmed my heart that he just “got” you.  You came home from school each week with stories of the jokes and laughs you shared.  You looked forward to gym class each week, where you made sure to wear your best running shoes so you could beat all of your classmates in whatever game you were to play that day.  You played basketball, baseball, and continued as a Bear in Boy Scouts this year.  You attended Cross Country Camp for the first time, and I’m not sure I’ve ever felt as proud as I did when I saw you running, with all of your strength and heart, striving for a good finish.  You have so much heart, it overwhelms me and I admire you for it.  You attended STEAM Camp for the first time too, and each day I heard stories of the projects you completed and how your design won each day.  You were so proud and excited, and I was so happy for you.  You’re still a total gear head and each and every day, you are telling me about one car or another….about the names, about the designs, about the prices.  You dream of getting a classic car and rebuilding it on your own.  I hope that someday you can make that dream a reality.  You have lost your zest for scary movies and prefer comedies lately.  You love to laugh.  You started your first paying job, mowing the neighbor’s yard, and you are completely motivated to earn money of your own.  You come in from mowing, dripping in sweat, red in the face, and I’m amazed by your dedication.  You want to be a surgeon or engineer, mostly I think, because you want to earn enough money to buy your dream cars.  That makes me smile.  You worry about some of your classmates who have started to cuss or bully other kids, and you try to be a good influence on your friends.  That makes me so proud of you.  You are pumped to be a big brother again, and are hoping for a boy so that you can share your room with him.  You are kind.  You have the best sense of humor.  You love and care deeply for others.  You are a good friend, and you’re a ton of fun.  I love to be around you, and I’m so proud of the young man you are growing into.  Thank you for being such a strong, loving, uplifting and understanding son.

To Jera:

You are six years old today.  You leave your dad and me speechless often.  You are witty, playful, hardheaded, and kindhearted.  You took Kindergarten by storm this year.  I was absolutely astounded when you picked up reading as though you’d been doing it since the day you were born.  You borrowed Jace’s books this year and read through them with ease.  I gave you the option to pick any fun activity to celebrate your report card this year, and you chose to go to the library.  I am so excited by your passion to grow and learn.  You enjoy the challenge of learning something new, and I know it will take you far in life.  You played softball this year.  I was amazed to see your competitive spirit.  You listened attentively to your coach and played so well, always putting forth your best effort.  You also began dance this year with a combination class of tap and ballet.  Your first recital was just a couple of weeks ago, and you literally brought tears to my eyes.  Your ballet number was set to the song Smile, and you were the most graceful and beautiful ballerina I had ever set my eyes upon.  Your tap number was set to the song Boogie Shoes, and there was a part in the beginning where you shook your hips with all of the sass that only you have.  I am so proud of your courage, and although you shared with me that being on stage scared you, you didn’t show it for a moment.  You have the best giggle.  It is the sweetest sound and it immediately brings a smile to my face every single time.  You have taken over your brother’s love for scary movies.  You can’t get enough of all things spooky.  You are completely fearless.  You are still full of kisses and hugs, which I’m still soaking in as often as possible.  You are beyond excited to be a big sister, and stop several times a day to give my tummy a kiss.  I took me two days, a week’s grounding from the XBox and iPad, and about two thousand reminders to get you to clean up your room this weekend.  We’re working on this messy thing….but we’re about progress, not perfection.  Maybe next time we’ll get it done without the two thousand reminders…but maybe not.  You are a bright, shining light in our lives.  You bring energy and excitement to all things.  You may be hard headed, but you match that hard head with an even softer heart.  You ask me to sing You are my Sunshine to you each night as you fall asleep. You like to read two books and have your back scratched at bedtime…and then somehow you still end up in my and your dad’s bed by 3:00 a.m. every night.  I love you wildly and deeply.  I see the all of the world’s potential when I look into your eyes.  Thank you for being such a wonderful, vibrant, amazing daughter.

To Baby Hafele:

You are the size of a peach this week, week thirteen.  You are so small, and yet, you have totally and completely changed my life.  Someday you may read my blog “2, 4, 6, 8…Nah 2” and I wonder what you’ll think about the fact that we thought two children were enough….and here you are, surprising and wonderful number three.  What can I say?  What words are there to explain all of the thoughts, decisions and feelings that come with bringing a child into this world.  I was scared.  I should explain that.  I wondered if I could do it, be a great parent to three children, build an amazing career, pay all the bills, clean all the house, do all the laundry, balance all the life that came with having three children.  I was also scared of having another miscarriage.  I hadn’t told anyone that.  You, Jace and Jera should have an older sibling, but that was not meant to be.  I felt blessed to have two healthy pregnancies after suffering the loss of my first child.  I worried if I tempted fate, if I tried again, I may have to go through that suffering again.  But then, you came.  You came without any stress, without any trying.  You are this wonderful gift in our lives.  And with your arrival, all of the worry left me.  I have been lifted up to a place of pure confidence, where I know I can do this, together with your dad, we can do this.  We’re so excited to meet you, to have you in our family, to get to go through this amazing experience one more time.  I’m moved beyond words in this moment.  I’m brought to tears.  You are the piece to the puzzle that we didn’t know was missing, that I know could not live without.  I thank God that he knows exactly what he is doing.  What an amazing, beautiful ride this life is.  What an unbelievable gift you are.  I am undeserving, but so thankful.

To my readers:

Make time today.  Write down the wonderful things about your children.  Tell them out loud.  They may not understand yet, but someday they will.  If life ever changes and we can’t tell them anymore all of the joy they bring to us, they’re left with the written things we leave them, with the spoken words we shared with them.  I encourage you to bare your soul when you can.  Be an open book.  Life is too short to keep all of the beautiful things hidden inside.

Full Circle

Parallel lines…two lines traveling side by side, having the same distance between them. Tonight I’m thinking of all of the parallels in my life. There are so many that I know there is more to this life than chance.

I think of the moments. The moment at 17 when I was falling madly in love with the man that I now call my husband, and we were dating only a few weeks when we realized we didn’t yet have a song. We were in his truck, a tan and brown Chevy S-10. I have no doubt that there was some type of rap playing in the background, and for no particular reason, we both decided that “Time After Time” by Cindy Lauper would be our song. I think about that conversation and that decision, what made us arrive at that song choice, a song that was every bit of 15 years old at the time. I know it’s what we wanted, for one another to be that person, to be there for one another, to pick each other up when we fall, to ground one another for a lifetime. And by some miracle of fate, that is what we got. But in that moment, there is no way we could know what that song would come to mean to us.

Some nine years later, we rushed to an emergency room. I had been carrying a high risk pregnancy, and I was miscarrying. There was no doubt. We arrived, we went through the motions, we sat in a waiting room for a doctor, and the world went silent. And then, over a small radio left playing in the room, Cindy Lauper came on the line, and she sang to us, “If you fall, I will catch you. I’ll be waiting time after time. If you’re lost, you can look and you will find me, time after time.” In that moment of tragedy and simultaneous comfort, I knew we would be okay.

In that moment of tragedy and simultaneous comfort, I knew we would be okay.

Then there are other, lighter moments. Like the moment when my husband and I were still in the “getting to know you” stage, and again we were cruising around in my 1994, forest green Camaro (we both lived with our parents and therefore spent a tremendous amount of time in our cars!). I had Prince’s “Kiss” blasting, and was quietly amused that my sweet boyfriend wasn’t turning the song or horrified by my off-key singing. When we began to enter the city limits, he leaned ever so casually forward and very inconspicuously adjusted the volume down. I smiled to myself. I’m not sure exactly what it is about that moment that made me fall more in love with him, but it did, and that memory is still extremely vivid for me.

Today, 16 years later, as I drive my kids to school every day, my 5-year old daughter picks out a song choice and then begs me to “turn it up how she likes it!” Which I of course oblige. And then, as we make a left onto my son’s school’s road, he so quietly leans forward and adjusts the volume down. I smile to myself. I look to my passenger-side seat, and I see his father there, some 16 years ago, and I love them both, my boy and his dad, just for being who they are. It melts my heart.

There are so many parallels from the past to the present. The way my daughter consistently puts the emphasis on the wrong syllable when she speaks, and her brother can’t help but giggle and point it out (much to her astonishment, as she is certain that she is correct, and he in fact, is wrong), much the same way that I had not the slightest clue that I wasn’t saying the words Tylenol, elephant and volume wrong, until I met their father, and he couldn’t help but grin every time those words came out of my mouth.

There are so many small moments that are of little significance at the time, but then later, I find myself coming full circle. It is truly amazing. Albert Einstein’s said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” (Smart guy…)

I see miracles every single day. I see them in the most ordinary moments, in the moments that a stranger would be completely blind to, because I have the gift of history. I can see how every moment in my life brought me to this day, to these every day little miracles. The parallels between who I once was and who I am now, between the small moments then that are playing back into beautiful moments today, the parallels in what I once was blind to, but today have the gift of sight. I’m blessed to see so many things come full circle in this life, and it is a miracle each and every time.

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

– Albert Einstein

I hope you see a miracle today, in your life, in yourself, your partner, your children. I hope you can open your eyes to see that this life is a beautiful thing.

My Dash

Today marks the first day of my freedom….for approximately 30 days to come.  Yesterday morning I submitted my final paper for MNGT 681 – Strategic and International Management, class number eight of 10 and the capstone of my MBA program.  The past seven weeks have been challenging to say the least.  30+ hours of course work, 40+ hours of “work” work, and of course, family.  I have been tired, stressed, stretched to my limit (and my very supportive, amazing, sweet husband has too).  But life keeps on going, even when you take on too much.  Life moves on, ready or not…as mine certainly did.

In the past seven weeks, we lost Jace’s most beloved pet hamster, Butterscotch.  On a rare night alone, my husband and I decided to go out for a little wine and dinner.  On our way home my husband mentioned he forgot that he had let our pet cat, Molly, inside the house.  You see, Molly was once an inside cat, but after my daughter’s cat allergies arose, and exasperated by Molly’s awful temperament and propensity to pee on our bed when she wasn’t pleased with us, Molly become an outside cat.   So, Phil had let Molly in for old time’s sake and forgot to put her out when we left for dinner.  Arriving home, I bolted for the restroom, which tends to happen after a few glasses of wine.  From upon the porcelain throne, I hear my husband mutter, “OH MY GODDDD.”  From the restroom I shouted, “What???!!” To which he returned, “It’s the worst possible thing you could imagine.”  There, left lovingly by my husband’s bedside as a sweet little gift, was Butterscotch, dead.  Molly was prancing around the house as though she was really something fantastic.  I’m not sure if it was the wine or the thought of telling Jace that Butterscotch was no more, but that night I sat in the kitchen and cried for a while.  Jace took it well, and much to my own amazement, in place of Butterscotch, we now have two hamsters, because little sister needed a hamster too.  Our family continues to grow, fuzzy as it may be, Phil, Melissa, Jace, Jera, Rusty (dog), Molly (cat), Oreo (hamster) and Angel (hamster) keep on moving forward.

In other news, my oldest son, Jace, turned nine years old this week.  As absolutely crazy as it seems that I can have a nine-year old (yes, that is half way to 18), in the same breath it seems so right.  When I look at my son today, I see a boy, not the baby and toddler that I used to see.  I see someone with his own thoughts and opinions, someone who is considerate and kind, someone who is quirky in the best way.  I see someone who is gaining an understanding of this world, both its beauty and its cruelty.  He isn’t the same tiny boy he used to be, which in moments makes me sad, but  also so proud.  I couldn’t be prouder of the young man he is growing into. Time keeps moving forward.

Now Christmas in the Hafele house has begun.  The tree is up, the presents are bought (mostly), the month is filled with Christmas-fun plans.  The elves are back….and they’ve multiplied.  We first began with Zart, the original Elf on the Shelf.  Then in year three, Zart went missing.  We then brought in Millie and Willie, one for Jace and one for Jera, of course.  Then in year four, Zart turned back up and we had Zart, Willie and Millie.  Ater my grandma passed away recently, the kids wanted Great-Grandma’s elves to remember her by, so three more elves came to live with us.  Today we have six, you read that right, SIX elves to stash around the house.  Thankfully, I let Jace in on the little secret this year, and he has had a blast helping us to hide the elves for Jera.  As much as I thought it would be sad to tell him the truth about the Elves on Shelf, he has genuinely enjoyed being the giver of joy this year.  Another sign of what a special boy he is.  And every once in a while, Zart hides somewhere special for Jace to find….just for old time’s sake.

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My next class begins January 8th, and I plan to enjoy each and every second until then.  And then, when I’m back to the 70+ hour work weeks, I will try to enjoy every moment then too.  I look back at the last seven weeks, look back over the past year and a half in the MBA Program, back at the last 10+ years of working full-time, at the past 15 years of my relationship with my husband…I think back to the time of my childhood, of my parents and all of the love we shared, to my siblings and cousins and all of the laughs…I look back and I’m in awe.  I’m in awe to be where I am today with so many blessings.  I’m in awe that so much time has passed and at times it feels like it’s only been an instant.  I’m brought back to my Pastor’s sermon from last week where she recited the poem “The Dash”….if you haven’t read it, the poem talks about how a headstone marks the date of birth and the date of death, but those dates really aren’t important at all.  What is important, what really matters is the ‘dash’.  What are we going to do with our dash?  How will we spend it?  I hope to make the most of my dash.  That is what I strive for every day.  I hope you do too.

Happy holidays and a merry Christmas to all of my readers.  I pray that you are filled with the sacred spirit of this season and that your dash is everything that you were created to be.

2, 4, 6, 8…Nah, 2.

This week was hell-ish. I began my eighth MBA course, Strategic and International Management. I had the stomach flu. And then my husband had the stomach flu. And then my daughter had an asthma flare that landed her home from school for two days. It’s the month following quarter-end, which involves all of the work-fun that one could conjure up. We had Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. My dishes were unwashed. My laundry is completely out of control. I was in tears at times from the amount of overwhelmed that was me. And I was absolutely, positively sure that I did not want any more kids. Totally sure.

You see, our son is turning nine next month. Our daughter is five. My husband and I are in our mid-thirties and we had agreed that we don’t want to be having babies in our forties. We’ve hit this now or never moment. For a minute, we wanted more. If you have children, it’s impossible not to wonder who number three would be. Would they be reserved and laid back like our son? Or kind and dramatic like our daughter? Or would his little nugget be someone completely new and original? 

Then months went by. I finished another class and started my current class. Life went up and went down. We got good news and we got bad news. We had moments that we couldn’t take a single extra stress for fear of completely losing it. 

And I changed my mind. Because maybe things are exactly perfect the way they are. Other families never had choices. Children just came, one after another and there wasn’t a lot of time for thinking. But things were never like that for my husband and me. It was always a choice, and then we had to try to have a baby. It was fun, but it was also stressful and sad at times. 

I felt certain last week that it was time to move forward to the next stage of our lives. Then today as I was folding my mountains of laundry, Knocked Up was playing in the background. I watched Kathryn Heigl give fake birth and I cried. My heart squeeezed in my chest as I watched a comedy about becoming a parent. I hesitated. Can I really go the entire rest of my life and never have that experience again…the miracle of having a child?

Having my children, the actual grueling process of giving birth, is the absolute most amazing experience that I’ve ever had in my life. I’ve never felt stronger, more sure of myself, more comfortable in my own skin then when I was bringing my babies into the world. Can I really not ever feel that again? There are no words that can describe what those moments meant to me. Perfection comes close.

I still think two is the right answer for us, for our family, for who we are and what we want. I’m sure I’ll have other moments. Moments of mourning what might have been. 

I’m curious from my readers…when did you know you were done having children? Did you have moments of temporary insanity after you decided your baby-making days were done? I feel my common sense returning…in the form of needing to stop writing and get started with putting laundry away, putting away the groceries my hubby just brought through the door, getting bathtimes started, getting this supper thing done. 

Two is totally enough. Totally. 

But how can you help but reminisce about these moments…

Some Days You Just Have to Say WHATEVER

Some days are better than others. Some days grind at your will to stay a sane, practical human being. Today has been a day (and by today, I mostly mean the last three hours of my life) that has made me want to throw my hands up in the air and say “WHATEVER”. You know what kind of “WHATEVER” I mean…for those of us that don’t use four letter words….”WHATEVER” tends to summarize the effect that this mom is D-O-N-E.

Tonight this is what I made for supper. We have switched to a vegetarian diet (nearly vegan when possible), and I put a lot of energy into trying to feed my family something healthy, fresh and delicious. Tonight’s meal was stuffed sweet potatoes…a mix between sweet and savory. It was good, really good. I know because I ate it. My family however reacted as though I had served them poison. “Sweet potatoes?! I HATE SWEET POTATOES!” they say. Who hates sweet potatoes??? Weirdos.
6000 – 3746 ….this is the math problem that brought not only my son, who was performing the work, to tears, but this piece of arthmitic also had my daughter crying. She can’t be in the vicinity of someone having a bad day and not one-up them. I waited through two melt downs as Jace resisted listening because he just needed to play after a long day at school. I stared at my daughter as she squealed in distress because her brother touched her with his toe. 

Tonight I wanted to say “WHATEVER”….don’t eat….go hungry….don’t learn….who needs subtraction. I wanted to run away (fast!). But I didn’t. We got through every grueling bite of sweet potato. I watched as Jace held his nose, tilted his head back, swallowed hard and then chased his putrid potato with his drink. 

Now I will get up and wash the dishes and I will scrape my husband’s full dinner into the trash (he consoled me for his refusal to eat the food I cooked by apologizing to me that he didn’t like my “yam thing”). 

I can’t help to think back to Sunday morning. I sat in church and listened to my Pastor say that we’re all created in God’s own image. She told us to look at the people sitting next to us and we are actually looking at God’s creation, His creation in His own image. I looked over and saw my children. In that moment I knew without a doubt that she was totally and completely right. These crazy, whiny, emotional, picky-eating children. These loving, caring, funny, sweet, little creations of God. 

They were made by God in His own image just for me. They’re all mine. Every day. On the good days. On the not-so-good days. Every single day they are my gift. So I’ll get up and do my dishes, we’ll read bedtime stories, I’ll tuck them in and I’ll be thankful. I’ll be thankful that I didn’t say “WHATEVER”. I’ll remember that they need me to guide them. They are my responsibility, but even more than that, they are my gift. I am incredibly and bountifully blessed. And instead of saying “WHATEVER”, I’ll say “Whatever He asks of me.” That’s the trade. My children are a gift and it’s not supposed to be easy. So even on the bad days, I’ll do whatever I’m called to do….because I get to be called “Mom”.