The Emotional Dangers Of Decorating: Grief & Holidays

I walked into her room and asked if I could talk to her. It was one of my [many] humbled-mother moments.

Earlier, I had been getting the Christmas decorations out and situated, and in her excitement, she wanted to hand-make, and display, her own decorations throughout the house.

I drew the line firmly – maybe a little too firmly – when she brought out a string with pink, purple, and white ribbons stranded across it. Continue reading “The Emotional Dangers Of Decorating: Grief & Holidays”

Three Kids, Three Parenting Styles

three parenting styles

I have three children. Two living, one waiting for us in heaven.

All three children occupy my heart to the fullest, yet I respond to each one differently.

Little Miss is my first child, and had her own traumatic entrance into the world, when I nearly died from HELLP syndrome. Six years later, she may be petite in size, but her dreams and goals fill some pretty big shoes.

Harlynn passed away before I had a chance to look into her eyes or hear her baby coos and cries. I still parent her beyond the grave, however. October being Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness month, her legacy continues to inspire and motivate us to continue helping the broken hearts of bereaved parents who have also had to say goodbye to their precious babies, most before ever having the chance to say hello.

Little Man, the little boy I never thought I’d have, requires attention in  his own style. If we’re not reading, playing with trains or trucks, or chasing one another, I’m able to steal some sweet snuggles from my mini-prince-charming.

This week, my different roles as a mother to these three, made print a couple of times.

First, On The Minds Of Moms ran a wonderful feature piece on Michelle’s and my journey in starting Harlynn’s Heart. You can read the article here.

Second, it was my turn to share in The Forum’s Parenting Perspectives column, and I knew exactly what I needed to share this time around. You can read that article here.

I’m one mother to three very special, very unique children. I don’t always do a perfect job, but I’m so thankful our perfect God chose me to be their Mama.

Little Miss In The Small Apartment

Little Miss Comparison

Little Miss Comparison

I’m going to say it again, even if you’re sick of hearing it: I stinking love Little House On The Prairie books.

I’ve gotten to the point where I’m taking notes about parts of the stories because I want to learn more about doing and making things they did and made in their day. Over 130 years ago, life was so very different from what it is today, and I’ve found myself incredibly grateful Laura Ingalls Wilder went through the painstaking detail work of documenting her life in story form.

It did get me thinking, however, on how different our own accounts would be today. Surely we wouldn’t have the interesting tales to tell. Sure, we have some fun memories from things we did and we had bedtime prayers every night, but … what it would it read like?

Rather than diving into the folds of my own fading memories from childhood, I thought I would compare – apples to apples – Laura Ingalls’ childhood and the childhood of our own Little Miss, as if Little Miss were writing the recount of her life. Here we go:

Little House In The Big Woods:

After this was done, Ma began the work that belonged to that day. Each day had its own proper work. Ma used to say:
“Wash on Monday,
Iron on Tuesday,
Mend on Wednesday,
Churn on Thursday,
Clean on Friday,
Bake on Saturday,
Rest on Sunday.”

Little Miss In The Small Apartment:

Each morning Mama would sit and sip her coffee and beg us to stop speaking until her cup was empty. Then she would get to work on her second cup. She would restart the washing machine that still had laundry in it she hadn’t put in the dryer soon enough. Then she would restart the dryer in hopes nothing in there would wrinkle too terribly. When a button would pop off a clothing item, she’d put it on the dryer and leave it there for weeks before finally digging out the sewing kit to reattach it. This is pretty much how it was every day.”

Little House In The Big Woods:

Ma was busy all day long, cooking good things for Christmas. She baked salt-rising bread and rye’n’Injun bread, and Swedish crackers, and a huge pan of baked beans, with salt pork and molasses. She baked vinegar pies and dried-apple pies and filled a big jar with cookies, and she let Laura and Mary lick the cake spoon.

Little Miss In The Small Apartment:

Mama was a good cook, but I never knew how she made anything because every time I asked to help, she would say “not this time” and every few minutes would holler to remind us to “STAY OUT OF THE KITCHEN!” Christmas was special because she cooked real food – not the frozen pizzas or reheated fried chicken from the grocery store deli. She always made cinnamon rolls and apple pie, and we always had prime rib. Sometimes she made cookies and let us decorate a few of them, but we all knew decorating cookies was Mama’s least favorite activity in the entire universe.

Little House In The Big Woods:

Ma was busy, too. Laura and Mary helped her weed the garden, and they helped her feed the calves and the hens. They gathered the eggs, and helped make cheese.

Little Miss In The Small Apartment:

Mama was always busy. She worked on her computer for her client. She led painting parties a few times a month and prepared for those. She also “exercised her brain” on a game called “Sudoku”, and had to send several messages through an app called Snapchat. When the groceries were delivered, she put off as long as possible putting them away.

Little House In The Big Woods:

But the best time of all was at night, when Pa came home.

Little Miss In The Small Apartment:

But the best time of all was at night, when Daddy came home.

Yes, it seems I have a bit of work to do if I don’t want my children remembering me as their dud mom, or having uninteresting childhoods to write about one day.

Lately I’ve put down the Sudoku and picked up the knitting needles. I’ve let Little Miss help me stir a few things and unload the dishwasher. I’ve let both kids help me clean, and surprisingly, they think it’s incredibly fun. I suppose I should just get up earlier and get the coffee sipped before they rise and want to chat for the [entire] day.

I’ll work on it.

The Truth About Being Hot-Headed

It is an hour and eight days past my bedtime. This time-change has messed me up, once again. Guess what, presidential candidates? You can get rid of daylight saving! I’m just saying…

The other night, I made a big decision. It was a hard decision, but it had to be made. As a mother, I always seek what’s best for my children. I had to bite the bullet… and cut Little Man’s hair.

Spoiler alert if you’ve never seen the movie (but seriously, where have you been hiding?). Remember in Napolean Dynamite, when Pedro sweats constantly because he has all that hair on his head? Little Man was having some serious Pedro days. If anyone or anything came within inches of his head, he would start to pour sweat. He was a radiator with those little curls. We also – well, someone, maybe once – clipped his hearing aids in his hair.

As hard a decision as it was to make, we had to cut his hair.

Curls one minute… buzz cut the next.

Actually, that’s a lie. It was curls one minute, flailing arms and screams the next several (several) minutes, a few buzzes here and there in the meantime, and then a final haircut with curls in a pile on the floor.

We tried to ease our way into it. We brought him to the bathroom, promising his favorite thing: bath. But first, we had to take care of hair. We took care of Daddy’s hair first. We let Little Man hold the clippers while they were off, and while they were on. We let him hold the #5 guard. Then, after we thought he was still happy and content with everything, we put the clippers to his head.

And all hell broke loose in our bathroom.

This right here – this is the moment captured when he was swinging open-palmed punches at me, screaming, “No way! No way!” So of course… we had to take a picture.

2016-03-13 17.59.03

I think I got most of the back of his hair done before we had to switch tactics. Hubs took over and Little Man clung to me with an absolute death grip, not letting go of my neck for anything. He went from assaulting me, to begging me in his own 22-month-old fashion, to save his life.

When Little Man’s fits continued as intensely as they had begun, Brent turned to me at one point and asked, “Is this how alien abduction stories come to be? They’re just poor recollections of first haircuts?” It was traumatic. To be sure.

After what took way longer than we ever imagined it would to cut his hair, I swept up my sweet little boy’s curls into a dustpan and threw them in the trash. He had his bath and recovered quickly from what seemed like a life-altering trauma he had experienced only moments before. He’s a tough one, this kid.

After bath and pajamas, I walked around the corner to see Little Miss, her Daddy, and there – standing on his own two feet, looking at his haircut-studly-self in the mirror and brushing his teeth with his people, Little Man. He had aged five years and now he was brushing his teeth with his curl-less head, like we had not just had Wrestlemania on the bathroom floor an hour earlier.

Seeing him there, toothbrush in mouth, and buzzed head, I started crying. My little boy…. my baby…. so grown up.

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A few days after her little brother’s ordeal, in surprising Little Miss for her birthday coming up in a few days I took her to the salon for a haircut she has been begging for, for almost a year. I didn’t dare use the buzz-clippers on her, so was willing to pay our dear stylist to do the dirty work of a bob cut.

Not only was Little Miss exceptionally excited, but she also grew up right before my very eyes. I tried to playfully talk with her on the drive home about who wouldn’t recognize her, how we could surprise Daddy with her new look, and what all her friends would say when she got on the school bus tomorrow, but as I was smiling and playing along with her imaginative possibilities, a few tears rolled down my cheek.

Screen Shot 2016-03-16 at 8.46.37 PM

These kids… they’re growing up. And there are days I pray for bedtime to come hours before it’s due. And there are days I take a really long time going to the bathroom, just so I can have a moment to myself. And there are days I bust out the “hallelujah!”s when Brent walks in the door after work. But there are also these moments when I wonder what happened to my babies, and who these smart, witty, sassy, incredibly genuine little people are who have stolen my heart.

It started out as a mission to get our son to stop sweating every time he turned around, but it ended up as yet another heart-wrenching lesson about the passage of time. Every moment matters…. because sometimes, all you get is that little moment. I don’t love that my son tried to karate chop my head, but in the next instant when he was trusting me with his life and gripping my neck like it was a life raft in the sea of electric clippers, I could have sat there holding his terrified self all night.

Earlier, when Little Miss came and snuggled with me on the sofa, curling up into my lap as tightly as she could, I was content to sit there as long as possible while her bony little buns carved canyons into my femurs.

It was so much more than just a haircut for him, or a haircut for her. These are memories being etched into our life’s journey as parents of some pretty special kids.

How Little Miss Views Life

A while ago, I saw a survey floating around on Facebook comprised of questions to ask your children. They were questions asked by the mother, about the mother.

I took some time to see if Little Miss would be up for the game and am now wondering if that was the best idea I’ve ever had. I asked her each question, but asked her to give an answer about me and about her daddy.

Little Miss

The survey instructs, “Without any prompting, ask your child these questions and write down exactly what they say. It is a great way to find out what they really think.” Oh boy. Some of it I can’t help but comment on, so you’ll see my commentary in (parentheses).

  1. What is something mom/dad always says to you?
    Mom: “Mm-mm.” (said like “nuh-uh”)
    Dad: “I don’t know.”
  2. What makes mom/dad happy?
    Mom: When I listen. (There’s some truth to this.)
    Dad: When I snuggle.
  3. What makes mom/dad sad?
    Mom: When I don’t listen.
    Dad: When I don’t want to do what he wants to do.
  4. How does your mom/dad make you laugh?
    Mom: Tickling me.
    Dad: Telling jokes.
  5. What was your mom/dad like as a child?
    Mom: You had blonde hair like me and you smiled a lot.
    Dad: Blonde hair.
  6. How old is your mom/dad?
    Mom: I think you’re probably 37. (she was close – I’m 35.)
    Dad: 38. (spot. on.)
  7. How tall is your mom/dad?
    Mom: Really tall. (To a petite five-year-old, 5’5″ is really tall. I’ll take it.)
    Dad: Very tall.
  8. What is mom/dad’s favorite thing to do?
    Mom: What is your favorite thing to do? Hm. I’d go for….. eating a lot. (I didn’t want to publish this answer! What on earth?)
    Dad: Snuggle
  9. What does your mom/dad do when you’re not around?
    Mom: Work work work.
    Dad: Work work work.
  10. If your mom/dad becomes famous, what will it be for?
    Mom: (L O V E !)
    Dad: Taking good care of his family. (Yes – he should be famous for this! Sweetest answer ever.)
  11. What is your mom/dad really good at?
    Mom: Sudoku (Uh… goals.)
    Dad: Making the right choices. (?!?!)
  12. What is your mom/dad not very good at?
    Mom: You’re not very good at asking questions.
    Dad: Knowing my secrets. (We may need to unpack this one with her…)
  13. What does your mom/dad do for a job?
    Mom: Blog posts.
    Dad: Give us money.
  14. What is your mom/dad’s favorite food?
    Mom: Well… since you eat them a lot, probably (whispers) apple slices.
    Dad: Probably, um, King Leo’s.
  15. What makes you proud of your mom/dad?
    Mom: Sudoku. Because you’re so good at it. (Take that, everybody! And Lord, help me.)
    Dad: For taking care of the kids. (and mom gets “sudoku”. awesome.)
  16. If your mom/dad were a character, who would they be?
    Mom: Dora. (…No.)
    Dad: Diego. (…No.)
  17. What do you and your mom/dad do together?
    Mom: This game! Just talk.
    Dad: Read.
  18. How are you and your mom/dad the same?
    Mom: We both like to be pretty.
    Dad: We’re both silly.
  19. How are you and your mom/dad different?
    Mom: We….. I like to play and you don’t really like to play. (This is true, because I feel like I stink at playing with kids. Even my own.)
    Dad: I don’t really like to concentrate on things and Daddy does.
  20. How do you know your mom/dad loves you?
    Mom: You give me kisses all the time.
    Dad: He gives me kisses all the time.
  21. What does your mom like most about your dad/dad like most about your mom?
    Mom: That he cares for his family. (true)
    Dad: That you work really hard.  (I don’t think this is what he likes most.)
  22. Where is your mom/dad’s favorite place to go?
    Mom: Beans Coffee Bar. (spot. on.)
    Dad: To work. (false!)
  23. How old was your mom/dad when you were born?
    Mom: That’s gonna be hard. Probably…24. (I was 29)
    Dad: 27? (He was 32.)

If you were to draft my obituary from Little Miss’ answers to this questionnaire, it would sound something like this:
“Val might still be here today if she would have laid off the apple slices. She did great work, we think, anyway – because she worked all the time. She loved Beans Coffee Bar, and we wish she would have learned how to play and enjoy life. At least she had her sudoku.”

So. Sad.

I thought it would be a lot of fun, and Little Miss would have these crazy typical kid answers. Instead, I got a window into my world that was quite humbling. I’m very thankful she recognizes how incredibly loving, playful, and attentive her daddy is. He is the best of the bunch, that’s for sure.

I have never been one to play in the way Little Miss is saying. Growing up, recess meant me doing the twirly bars, or playing hopscotch – things I could achieve higher levels of accomplishment on, and things I didn’t have to be imaginative in. One birthday party, all my friends ran off to play whatever they wanted, but I stood my ground and played the game we had set out to do: dropping clothespins in a milk carton. Maybe that’s why I like sudoku. It’s challenging. It’s a process already laid out. There’s one objective, and that’s to get it right. Type A, anyone? I might have to bite the bullet and get the playdough out. And be okay with colors being mixed. Pray for me.