Presence: Life’s Present

We have all savored something. Maybe it was the taste of a fine glass of wine, a made from scratch dish from a family recipe, or a scrumptious dessert. In that moment of savoring you think, “mmmm” this is the peak of excellence that you want to remember. There is much to savor about life that is not related to just food. Perhaps it’s a destination checked off the bucket list, the moment you say “I do”, the first time you glance at your newborn child, a graduation, a milestone, the sun setting or rising, or the glow of a summer or winter day. You know one of those moments, even if the world is not perfect-for that moment in time life feels, taste, or seems perfect. I have found that on the best of days, life is perfectly imperfect and that you can savor the perfection in imperfection.

My life always provides bountiful topics to blog about. However, I have not been writing as much as I typically have in the past. Why? Mainly, because I am just savoring. I have reached a stride where I am enjoying motherhood by savoring rather than sharing the moment. I have always loved the job of mom, but I am particularly fond of being a mom to a three-year old. For us, year three (only 2 months left until four years old) has been a good one. The kind of year that makes you wonder when the bottom is going to fall out because the journey has just been so fun. My toddler has had good health, we have gone over a year without a dislocated elbow (I stopped counting at the 7th dislocation), he has soaked up a wealth of information, he only follows me to the bathroom 75% of the time, and he acts more human than animal most days. He likes to remind me constantly that he is “growing up” and is “getting bigger” and that he might even be so big when he is “forty” that he will be a “really, really big giant.” Yes, I like the job of mom to a three year old.

One thing I have tried to become more aware of is of my toddler’s presence. Granted, it is hard to miss this funny, rambunctious kid. However, I am talking about the evidence of his presence that I was probably never meant to find. The presence I could have easily wiped off with some type of cleaner, tossed in a tote of toys, or maybe even never noticed. When I started consciously looking for tokens of his presence, I noticed my toddler leaves a trail of his three-year old self everywhere. I know one day, I will terribly miss these sweet tokens because they will be replaced by smelly socks and gym shorts.

Throughout the year, I have been trying to click mental pictures of life with a three year old that I do not want to forget or even worse…overlook. I want the moments with my three year old seared in my memory. In addition to mental pictures, I have been taking iPhone pics of the funnier moments that remind me of my toddler’s presence. I hope you enjoy the pictures as much as I have discovering them.

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Take time to notice the presence of others and not just in the physical form. You will be pleasantly surprised by the lessons you might learn, the appreciation you might gain, or the joy you may experience. Sometimes the quiet, unexpected, and the seemingly unnoticeable moments show us the most about people and life-becoming a present to our soul. When you are rushing through life it’s hard to see little things that you take for granted. When we take time, even if it’s only for a minute to notice our surroundings, we can truly appreciate our life and those in it.

Today, my spoon is full of presence of a three year old who steals my heart every day.

When did “trick or treat” become “tramp or treat”?

Trick or Treat. Please be sweet. Give me something good to eat. In a few days children and adults alike will be celebrating Halloween. SONY DSCWhen my son was an infant and we picked out a chicken costume for him, I recall my husband telling me that I better enjoy picking out cutesy costumes for our child because the day would come when our son would aspire to be a superhero, villain, or scary creature. That day has abruptly arrived. Not only did our toddler pick out his costume, he picked ours too! He went back and forth on the Incredibles, Hulk, and Captain America before he nailed down his final pick.  This Halloween we are superheroes-Captain America (toddler), Superman (husband), and Wonder Woman (me). For you comic lovers, I do understand this means two DC characters mated and created a Marvel character, but that’s minor details for a three year old. Honestly, my first selfish reaction to the costumes my toddler selected was to thank the Master of this great universe that I do not have to be Mrs. Incredible “Elastigirl” and wear a skintight red leotard. And this rest of my neighborhood should be thankful too!

Finding a Captain America and Superman costume for the “boys” of the family was a piece of cake…or a real “treat” in Halloween terms. We visited a few online sites, found the costumes with the best sculpted muscles, cape, and fighting accessories-WHALAA! Their costumes arrived in the mail before I even found mine. Wonder Woman, on the other hand, took a little more time and creativity; mainly because it was tough finding a costume that didn’t fall into the category of Wonder Whore.

This costume buying experience has brought to light a whole new dilemma that moms across the globe face this time of year. How do you dress up for Halloween and not look like a trick or a treat if you catch my drift? Mothers, our choices are to look frumpy or look like a tramp. The magic words of Halloween are “Trick or Treat” not “Tramp or Treat.” Let’s explore our costume options. There are the cute costumes like M&Ms or clowns and then the scary ones such as a witch with warts on her nose. This is the appropriate holiday to sport the broom I normally ride all year, but who wants to be an ugly old witch with warts?

If you don’t like cute or scary, you can try the prostitute end of the spectrum, like the Transylvania Tramp, the Firehouse Hottie, or the Devilicious Devil. How about a construction worker costume made from maybe one yard of fabric and accessorized with a construction cone bra and five inch orange stilettos because that is what construction workers across America look like?!? Or maybe a naughty nurse is more your speed because so many nurses wear a short white apron, white gogo boots, and a bedazzled bra top in the operating room. After all, it’s the costume that says no gloves are required, infections are free. Maybe you would like to chase away goblins and pray for poor lost souls while wearing a sexy nun costume. Can we give these celibate sisters a little respect, please? Or maybe you want to dress up like something out of this world such as a sultry astronaut. In the USA, we cannot get enough girls in this nation interested in engineering and math, so let’s put them in Frederick of Hollywood style lingerie and send them to the moon. Makes sense, eh?

Let me pause here to say, ok, maybe these costumes are not made for moms. But they certainly aren’t made for children or teens either! Maybe they are for the single ladies that look like supermodels, who are attending parties and not raiding their children’s candy. However, I would still beg that somehow male costumes have remained the same and female costumes have become over sexed and are made with less and less material every year. Should we really have to buy a plus size costume just so our “pumpkins” don’t pop out of the costume? And in my neck of the woods, it is cold this time of the year! Yet, another reason to cover up!

What are we doing here? Are we dressing up for Halloween or trying to live out some fetish under the pretense of Halloween? And news flash, this should be about children having fun, candy, and spooky stories. As adults we have taken over Halloween and have done so in a distasteful manor…especially to women. Adults, we had our Halloweens as children, let’s leave it there. I rocked a Big Bird, Little Mermaid, and Cabbage Patch Kid costume as a child-just to name a few.

However, that doesn’t mean I want to sex those characters up as an adult! The only reason I am dressing up, is to create a memory with my toddler, and well, because he told me to.

I have come to the conclusion that the costume choices for “mummies” are slim pickings. I won’t be walking around my neighborhood with my Captain America and Superman in stilettos or fishnets.  Mommies, have some pride, get creative, and cover up! Costume makers…get some more material and cater to a market that is looking to be treated.

Today, my spoon is full of the truth about Halloween because I am caught up in the superpowers of Wonder Woman’s golden lasso!

Non-camping Mom’s Survival Story

In my ranking of fun things to do in my spare time, camping ranks a very close second to a root canal. Anyone who knows me shouldn’t be shocked by my previous statement. I love the outdoors-kayaking, hiking, swimming and enjoying the goodness of the beauty we are often surrounded by, yet carelessly pass by in our daily hectic lives. However, my enjoyment of the outdoors comes indoors at bedtime. Once a tent enters the picture…my love for the outdoors comes to an abrupt halt. This is the point where yours truly prefers to check into a hotel or return home. Please note, anything less than 4 stars is equivalent to camping. My husband is not as high maintenance as me…for goodness sake he survived living in a giant sandbox with dust storms and only an occasional shower for months while in Iraq. I would have withered and died if I couldn’t have caught the next camel out of there! So for him, camping is nothing to complain about. For me, camping is everything to complain about.

Camping as Sweethearts

Camping as Sweethearts

This is a picture of me and my “boyfriend” now husband on our first camping trip when we were dating in college. And note to self, why do I have on mom shorts at this stage in my life?!?! I should have worn daisy dukes when I had the body. Okay, back on topic, yes that is a smile on my face…but you do crazy things for love. We were camping with our best friends who we still love dearly and who also got married and had a son much like ours. I vowed that day to my friend that I would NEVER EVER again camp.

I didn’t know it then but looking back that was when camping was actually fun.  Adult beverages of your choice without dealing with the bladder of a mother (ladies you get this), no worries of laundry, unpacking, etc., on the next day. No worries of your first born getting lost and having to be raised by a pack of wolves. Yes, I should have enjoyed the “spoonful” of that trip more.

Now. Fast-forward about 13 years. For the past decade plus, I have been avoiding camping with my husband. He says I tricked him and sold him a false bill of goods… my response, “he didn’t read the fine print”. However, I have lost the battle. My husband made an alliance with our three-year old and guilt tripped Mom into camping with the boys.

Seriously...one night!

Seriously…one night!

So…last weekend, we packed our SUV to the guilds like we were being evicted from our home and set out for our first family camping adventure. Here are my three pieces of advice for people who hate camping and end up going any way…

  1. If you are married, pack as much stuff as you possibly can. You never know what you will need. On the flipside, this reminds your husband/spouse just how difficult it is to pack up and live outdoors for the night at this stage of life. In other words, make him work.
  2. Expect the worst. Serial killers could be hiding in the forest, pedophiles are probably lurking around every tent or RV, creepy killer spiders could potentially invade your sleeping space, and that is just to name a few dangers that one might encounter.
  3. Finally take a deep breath and say to yourself, I can survive anything for 24-hours. Then…
  4. Relax and make the most of it. Throughout the world, people are living with incurable disease, being sold into slavery, and having the worst day of their lives…so relatively speaking…feel lucky to be outdoors in a safe country with great park systems where you and mother nature can safely cohabitate.
Camping with my Sweethearts
Camping with my Sweethearts

This is me camping now. Much has changed and watching this little guy have so much fun, I in turn had a blast. Okay, not a blast…but a good time. My husband said “we should do this next month”. Hold the phone!! I will only commit to one camping trip a year; with the caveat that it is not a primitive site, but a site with an electrical outlet…a girl has to dry her hair! I could had added a glamping caveat. New to glamping? Google  “glamping”- it’s a form of glamorous camping where outdoor meets hotel. Really, “glamorous” and “camping” together is a bit of an oxymoron…but I can handle camping in style with a butler, a luxurious mattress, and a spa.

Times have changed with this trip. Instead of multiple adult beverages, I only enjoyed one, because I didn’t want to have to get up in the middle of the night and make a trip to the bathhouse and meet an axe-murderer. Squatting in the woods was not on the list of options. I am not going to lie, there was a time around midnight where I almost enacted my executive veto on this trip and packed it up to head home. I wasn’t sleeping worth a darn…but inhaling a few deep breaths of the clean fresh outdoor air settled me down. Our SUV was filled to the brim with everything you could imagine compared to our first camping trip…where we stuffed a sports car full.  I don’t recall even owning bug spray in college. However, this trip I sprayed the parameters of the tent, doused my child in organic bug spray, and had enough candles burning for a séance. In college a sleepless night in a tent, meant napping all day the next day. Now, well…what’s a nap?

The beauty of this trip was enjoying each other, the peace and quiet of limited cell phone coverage, no Disney movies, no iPad…just us three healthy,happy people snuggled in a tent. And at the end of each day…peace and a happy family is all a mom really wants.-even if it is under the stars and out in the great outdoors.

Today my spoon is full of memories of bugs, s’mores, and a sleepless starry night.

Big Boy in a Big Bed

As you know from previous blog posts, yes I am “one of those” moms who let my child sleep in our bed-or “momma’s bed” as he calls it. Yes, I ignored all of the books I read, my doctor’s advice, and parental wisdom from friends. I have spent the last six months sandwiched between a 13 pound cat and a toddler. Yes, most of those six months were sleepless nights because my toddler tosses and turns like a rotisserie chicken. Many nights, I cried mercy and left the cat, toddler, and husband in the bed to catch some zzz on the couch or in my toddler’s bed. I am thankful to survive sharing our bed with our toddler without a broken rib or black eye.

He slept in his bed great as an infant and did great until right before he turned two and his two year molars snuck up on us. Teething caused him a lot of pain and kept him (us) up many nights-so our bedtime routine went to hell and stayed there. The combination of his strong will and my lack of sleep ended up being a disaster…with my husband on the worst receiving end of it (love you honey!). We tried the yelling it out method and sending Coop back to his bedroom. That ended with him kicking the inside of his bedroom door and yelling “let me out” and “you a rude momma”. And, my toddler wasn’t the only one yelling it out. My husband and I were “screaming it out” at 2 AM and all other hours of the night. Seriously, I’m thankful we don’t have night court in our home town; we might have dissolved the marriage on one of those sleepless nights. In the name of a little more wink eye and not making “to death do us part” a reality-we caved and just let our toddler sleep with us. I mean really, not every culture agrees that everyone has to have their own bed, right? For crying out loud…it was just for six months-don’t be so judgmental. Did you notice I said it “was”? Yes, the New Year brought about the new goal of reclaiming our bedroom! As dumbfounded as I am to report this, the transition from momma’s bed to Coop’s bed has been a breeze.

I will admit, on January 1st I was sick to my stomach on making this transition. I dreaded the lack of sleep and the fight to keep him in his bed. But that was what my husband and I agreed on-and well, it was to late to back out this time. I had already agreed that when we moved in our new home in November that we would get him out of our bed. We were too tired from unpacking and juggling life-so I just ignored that agreement. Then my husband remembered and got us back on track. I spent the first day of the year strategizing how to not bite my husband’s head off when we were walking around like zombies in the middle of the night keeping our kid in his bed. I spent the entire day talking to (no, brainwashing) my toddler about how “big boys” sleep in their bed and “don’t you want to be a big boy.” At bedtime we did the usual, read the same five books we have every night for the past 3 months. My toddler fell asleep, we put him in his room, and the rest is history. Being a “tad” over protected, I surrounded him with king size pillows, put a baby gate on the outside of his bedroom door frame, and shut the door. This gave me a three-step warning alert if he got up and out of bed. I spent the night sleepless, staring (with the volume on full blast) at the baby monitor watching his every move like he was a newborn. Surely this would end any moment. He won’t stay in his bed without a fight. Well, he did and he continues to do so. He has had a night or two of waking up at 5 AM and wanting in our bed. However, in the name of not making bedtime a fight, I let him join us (and in a sick way I missed him kicking the crap out of me). My approach has been making a big deal about his success on sleeping in his bed and not fighting him to return to his bed for another hour or two. He has been snoozing in his big boy bed all of 2013.

ZZZZZZZ

ZZZZZZZ-Snoozing like a “Big Boy”

I keep waiting for this to fall apart. Given our track record of parenting obstacles, nothing has come without a fight and tears (from everyone). Is this divine intervention? Is this a healthy dose of good karma coming our way? I don’t know, but whatever the reason we will take it! Many have said it takes 21 days to make a habit, so we are almost half way to creating a good sleeping habit for 2013.

I share this with you, because sometimes as a parent, you just have to do what is right and works for your family at the moment. I would venture to guess that for most families, bedtime is perhaps the worst part of the day. Don’t be ashamed, feel like a failure, or be embarrassed. Life is what it is. Others may roll their eyes or tell you that your approach is crazy. The experts may warn against it, but it’s your life and your family’s sanity. As my toddler reminds me every morning and night when he goes to bed or gets out of bed, “I’m a big boy”. I must admit, I am happy we have our bed back, but a little sad that he is indeed becoming a big boy too quickly. As the saying goes, be careful what you ask for because you just might get it.

Today my spoon is full of bitter sweet rest.

My National Holiday-Hubby Returns from Iraq

Today is my personal holiday called the Happiest Day Ever. I initiated this holiday nine years ago when my husband returned home from Iraq on September 17, 2003. Many times throughout these last nine years, I have thought about how special that day was and how lucky I am that I have that day to celebrate.  So…I remember it every year. Many other spouses and parents have days seared in their minds and unfortunately it is a day of mourning. September 17th was as happy as the day was sad when he left for war. A homecoming definitely replaces the void and helplessness you feel when you see the one you love board a bus to catch a plane to a war. Frankly, I didn’t know where in this big world he was for nearly two months…and communication was monthly at best in the beginning.

While in Iraq my husband, Clay, met a BBC reporter, Michael Williams, at a checkpoint. Clay befriended the reporter during their brief encounter and told him a little about himself, how he had just gotten married prior to deployment, and how he hadn’t talked to me since he left (that had been over a month).  The reporter asked if there was anything he could do for Clay and my husband requested that he call me to tell me he had seen him alive and well. I remember my stomaching dropping to the floor when I heard the voice-mail on my answering machine where Mr. Williams was requesting me to return his phone call. I would check my answering machine a 100 times a day before I figured out the beauty of call forwarding. I thought the worst. I rushed home from work to call.  Even though there were literally explosions in the background noise, it was so great to hear that British accent (I love an accent and pretty much everything British) tell me Clay was alive and well. I don’t even know if Mr. Williams remembers this event…but his good deed made a monumental impression on me.

On September 17th all my worries and prayers of nearly nine months were answered.  Will I see him again? Will he return alive? Will he be healthy? Will he be emotionally or physically scarred? Will life resume as normal? Can we pick up where we left off?

As I have shared in an earlier blog post, there are friends we share for seasons. There were a few wives from the unit that I spoke to regularly. We constantly tried to piece together shreds of information to bring us some peace of mind. The day before our Marines were scheduled to arrive we got a hotel room and practically stayed up all night due to the pending excitement of reuniting with our spouses. With our families, we arrived at the reserve center before the sun was up. We waited and waited…and then we saw our soldiers marching up the hill towards us. People were cheering and chanting.

A sigh of relief swept over the entire crowd. As our Marines stopped in formation for their final orders…I could see my husband right in front of me. He was directing his squad. I decided that Uncle Sam had him long enough…so I broke into formation and gave him a big kiss…all the other wives, parents, and kids seemed to follow.

That’s me eating Clay’s face when I jumped in formation.

I know my husband was briefly embarrassed, but he knows me well enough to know I didn’t care!

Homeward Bound

I keep this picture from September 17, 2003 in my office as a reminder to put things in perspective on days when the impossible seems…well, darn near impossible and I feel like my interactions have been with people that have drank too much crazy juice. It’s not that great of a picture of us, our local newspaper actually captured it (thanks for documenting our story), but for me it is a symbol of blessings and thankfulness. So happy Happiest Day Ever to me! And you…celebrate with me! I hope your day is filled with “happy” too! Maybe you should create your own personal holiday to celebrate your spoonful.

Today my spoon is full of happy!

A Younger Fellow in My Bed

That title was designed to grab your attention….especially all of you “Fifty Shades of Grey” readers (really, I am jealous because I haven’t had the time to read some good smut).  Yes, I have a younger man in my bed. He snuggles with me most of the night and occasionally rubs my arm and pats my back. The young fellow in my bed is actually my almost two year old.Cooper, Brown, and Blue...sound asleep.  I will be the first to admit, I slept in my momma’s bed most of my childhood. I really don’t recall why, except I remember my brother wanting my dad to sleep in his bed, so I felt sorry for mom. At least that is my story…she might not agree.

Anyone close to me knows I pretty much require a minimum of eight hours of sleep a night to be at my optimum. My husband probably appreciates this fact the most. When I am sleep deprived I turn in to what you might call at “bitch-a-saurous” (can you tell we are into dinosaurs at my house?). These days, sleep rarely happens at my house. As matter of fact I don’t recall the last time I have had more than five hours of sleep a night. Okay…I know-pity party of one you may be seated. But the point I am making-I really value sleep. I believe in the rejuvenation it brings to the mind and body. My rejuvenation has been invaded by a two year old in my bed that spins like a rotisserie chicken and is accompanied by a bear named “Brown” and a blanket he calls “Blue” (creative aren’t we?).

My husband’s career is temporarily taking him out of town a lot more than usual. Like-he gets visitation rights to our life on the weekends. Somewhere between the two year molars, our move into a rental while our home is being built, and my husband taking a new job-my good old friend Mr. Sandman got lost. I am not sure if he didn’t make it in the move, hides in my husband’s suitcase, or just got mad at us and left all together. I sure hope he will at least visit us in our new place. I have vowed my entire life to never let my child sleep in my bed. This week, I ate those words and they tasted darn good for the extra hours of sleep I gained.

After two weeks of sleepless nights which include the old scream it out method; which by the way whoever came up with that didn’t have my child…he has the heart of a fighter so his vocal chords are armed and ready for a night of screaming. I gave in. Now, I have to work myself out of this mess. Even our cat, Miss Kitty, is mad. She sits beside Cooper on the bed and meows most of the night for him to leave.  Occasionally, our eyes will meet and exchange a look that says “we could go sleep on the couch” but instead she goes and sleeps in his toddler bed.

I know it’s temporary and these are the days that pass us by. Maybe I will even be able to laugh and tell stories about it to his kids (I hope they cause him the same grief). But right now for the record, having a younger fellow in your bed ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Today my spoon is empty and begging for some magic sleeping sand dust from my old, friend Mr. Sandman.