gratitude

Back to reality

There are times when I beat myself up as a mom. Then there are little moments of reward. Moments when my daughter lauds my motherhood skills, my spirit soars, and I believe I’ve finally got this.

That’s just before my paper airplane wings bend, and I crash into the coffee-stained carpet in her bedroom floor.

pexels-photo-101523

Last night when I put Maggie to bed, I watched her falling asleep. I imagined myself as Grandma Moses, tracing the lines of my precious baby’s face, fingers, and hair as slowly as possible, an ant in the Sahara. I wanted to remember her beauty forever. I didn’t want to think about kindergarten in the fall. I didn’t want to see her size five pants turning into capris.

She opened her eyes suddenly and smiled at me. I prayed aloud and said, “Thank you, God, for the best baby in the world.”

“Thank you, God, for the best mama in the world.”

My heart soared.

“Thank you, poop. Poop. Butt juice.”

Ah. There it is. Back to reality.

The great thing about being a mom is the constant snap back to reality—back to humility. There is really no way to remain in the clouds as a parent unless you refuse to spend any real time with your child. Maybe I could carry a black and white photograph around, displaying it for my friends, and only spend five minutes per week with my daughter? That might help me believe she’s some perfect little creature. Maybe.

But the reality is, I live with her. I see it all–the beautiful, breathless moments when I’m enraptured by the miracle of her life. The poop, butt juice, and snot, too. Children keep us humble. They remind us of the most obnoxious, humiliating, disgusting, human aspects of our lives on a regular basis. They also push all our defective buttons daily. They give us a chance to work the positive opposites of our character defects. Children show us the best and worst of ourselves. They also allow us second chances, over and over again, as they extend forgiveness to us even when we fail them–every day.

Thank you, God, for keeping me humble and teachable through my relationship with my child.

gratitude

Fall into gratitude

 Today’s post is written by my friend Kimberly Studdard, a truly beautiful soul. Thanks for sharing this, Kim!
This is truly “that” time of the year. The summer begins to fade. In our area, we go from extremely hot and humid to cool then cold, sometimes in the same twenty-four hour period. The sun begins to shine less. Our surroundings can be somewhat gloomy. Fall awakens, and then winter awakens.
I am one who gets depressed or down in the dumps in the fall/winter of the year.
I have learned I cannot accept that for myself.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI will graciously put my flip-flops away and embrace the shoes. I can also be grateful for having warm clothing to wear during this transition. We heat with wood heat in our home. There is nothing like the fire from a wood stove. Some evenings on the weekends, we may bring the little people over. These little people we call our grand-kids. We build a fire in the fire pit.
The flames at times may be roaring and crackling. If we look closely, well, maybe not TOO closely, we can see smiles and happiness in the silhouettes of red and orange
bursting from the fire. Upon occasion, we may roast hot dogs and have s’mores. One of our family favorites is apple cider and just a touch of red hots added. There is nothing like apple cider with a kick.
My husband and I sit in the porch swing and watch the kids running and playing. They may get the glow in the dark football or darts out to play with. That is when there are no cares in the world.
During this time of the year, it can get very hectic. I have a tendency to allow myself to become entangled with the stress. I can step back from that and allow myself to realize during these crazy times (as I see them) that we can allow this to be the best of times. While we enjoy one another, we can also embark in the memories we are creating.
Our youngest son is just a few years older than our grands. He will be going off to college in a couple of years. He will still play, scream, and enjoy his nieces and nephew.
The times we create are to cherish now and later in life. Time changes; people change. Kids grow up. Any time I can be a part of creating a happy memory, I look forward to the opportunity.
This year I will set aside the negative and embrace what God has blessed me with. I will be thankful for the cold weather. I will be thankful for family. My gratitude will fill the cornucopia of the holiday seasons upon us.
gratitude

Dear Momma

This letter was written by Gabrielle Holmes, one of my students, as a tribute to her mother.

Dear Momma,

I want to let you know how thankful I am to still have you in my life considering all the obstacles we have faced in life. Since Pawpaw died, you have stepped up and really showed me there is life at the end of the tunnel.

mother-429157_1280I want to thank you, Momma, for helping me with my children even though I know it’s a hassle for you. I want to thank you, Momma, for always inviting me and the kids over for dinner even though you don’t have to. Thank you, Momma, for being my biggest fan through every single stage of my life. I just want you to know I couldn’t have ask for a better cheerleader.

Thank you for becoming my best friend and being my biggest confidant. You always answer your phone with the same friendly attitude every time I call no matter if I call ten times in a row. You have shown me how to respect people and treat everyone with kindness no mater what. You let me know it wasn’t okay to judge people at a young age, and I respect you for that.

You have been my rock through breakups, life decisions, and new chapters. Thank you for teaching me the importance of hard work and the importance of getting your education so  I can have something in life. You have always told me if I wanted something in life, I have to work for it. Thank you for making me independent and telling me to never rely on anyone. Every single day I become more confident in myself.

My hope this Christmas season is for you to find joy, peace, and happiness, and let’s not forget to still cook! I just want to say I love you and thank you for being my backbone.

-Gabrielle

gratitude

Day 8: The Beaver Kids Give Thanks

*Today’s post is a three-in-one: three first-time guest writers, who happen to be children and siblings, share their gratitude in these inspiring, unedited posts. These kids are amazing, and so are their parents, Jessica Cline-Beaver and Luke Beaver, who I had the privilege of knowing in college. It’s worth your time to check out Jessica’s blog, too.*

The Beaver family
The Beaver family

Dear Family,

I am thankful for you.

I am  thankful for my brothers and sisters. If i am scared i always have some one to sleep with. When I am lonely I have someone to play with. The babies make me laugh.

You always take me on trips. When we go you make sure I have the stuff I need. My favorite place to go is Ohio. When I went to get my American Girl doll.

You love me with all your heart. You show me love by celebrating my birthday. I also feel love when you say, “I love you.” I feel love when you tell me it.

You always cheer me on when I ride my bike, dance ballet or have horse lessons.

Thank you family for what you have done.

Love,

Ashlee

 

 

 

BeaverDear Baseball,

I am thankful for you because you are my favorite sport. Here is why.

You are fun. I enjoy throwing a ball. I like to hit the ball hard. I run fast around the bases.

You are my favorite way to spend time with my Dad. He teaches me how to play. My Dad and I like to go to ballgames.

You help me make new friends by showing good sportsmanship and spending  Time together with my friends.

Thank you baseball for all you give me.

Your Friend,

Lucas

Dear School,

Beaver ElizabethI am thankful for you school for many  reasons.

I am thankful for the subject of reading . Wen you are able to read you can learn.And it is fun! Especially wen you can read books by your self!

I am thankful for the subject of spelling. Because it teaches me how to spell. I am thankful for grammar because it teaches me how to write. I enjoy read aloud because it is relaxing and quiet.

I am thankful for you, school, because I am able to learn. Some kids in other countries are too poor to go to school But I am able to learn freely.

I am thankful for my teacher. She is fun. She also happens to be my Mom!

Thank you school for all you have taught me.

Your Friend,

Elizabeth

 

gratitude

Day 4: Dear friends

*I’m especially excited about today’s post in the “Dear Gratitude” series; it’s written by an awesome person who happens to be my first guest writer under the age of 18! There’s something sweet and real about asking a young person what she’s thankful for. Thanks for sharing, Arden!*

Arden with her friends at a ninja-themed birthday party
Arden with her friends at a ninja-themed birthday party

If I had to say what I was thankful for, it would probably be that I have my friends to also watch my back!

I have so many friends that are make-up crazy, loyal and creative, and animal/nature loving friends!

I think that I’m lucky and thankful to have friends in Conway, and in different places too!  I’m also always open to making new friends too!  I can’t imagine a world without my friends.

Arden Booy from Conway, AR
11/3/13

 

gratitude

One teacher makes a difference

*Big thanks to my friend Henry Petty for sharing his gratitude for his sixth grade teacher with us–and thanks to all educators who make a difference in the lives of students today. Stay tuned for other “back to school” posts.*

Henry with Mrs. and Mr. Elumbaugh
Henry with Mrs. and Mr. Elumbaugh

I can count on one hand the number of teachers who really inspired me and left an impact, and this spans from high school through college. Let me tell you about Mrs. Margaret Elumbaugh.

She was Mrs. Beard when school started. I can remember she had this poster up of a drawing of somebody wearing a beard, and that was her. She was the kindest person to me at a time when I was so very vulnerable. I was wearing tattered clothes in a scholastic melting pot of characters: the rich kids mixed with 2 oz. of po-po kids (poor). She and Mrs. Bently were the ultimate tag team of teachers. They genuinely cared about their students, and you could tell.

I can remember being a very unpopular kid in school; I never got my haircut because my grandma cut it for me, and it hurt really bad. And she cut it holding a bowl over my head, hence the “bowl cut.” People spat on me, called me “wet back” because the naïve students thought I was Hispanic (I’m Filipino, dummy), and made fun of me for my hand-me-down-from-a-yardsale clothes. My life was a nightmare. And that was during recess.

But she treated me just like the other students. She didn’t care; she had love in her heart. She would have this giant bag of Jolly Ranchers to give the good kids for doing..well.. good :). I always enjoyed Mondays because she recounted the weekend excursion to Little Rock which she and “Bubby,” her husband at the time, would take. Or she would tell us about some movie they went out to see. I was too poor to see a movie, much less make the scary trip all the way to Little Rock from Batesville, so this was like storytime and show-and-tell for me. I now live five minutes away from the very mall she talked about going to, and when I’m walking around, she comes to mind.

She inspired me to do more with my life. She convinced me that I was special just like any other kid, that I was a good-hearted person with lots to give to the world. When I tried to be someone I wasn’t, she called me out on it. I started walking down the hallway with a “limp” because I saw somebody do it on Arsenio Hall, and she looked at me and said,”Don’t do that.”

I was arguably the poorest kid in her class, very shy, and as unpopular as orange juice after brushing your teeth. I was bullied often, made fun of on a daily basis either for my clothes or darker skin. On the day of our Christmas presentation, I completely forgot my line and was feeling crummy about it. I got back to my desk and found a giant artbook with color pencils and magic markers. She had gotten those for me as a gift because she always saw me drawing. She nurtured that gift which eventually led to my love of entertaining and doing YouTube videos. Thank you, Mrs. Elumbaugh. I never forgot.

gratitude

I never thought I wanted children.

* Big thanks to my best friend, MeLissa Horseman, for today’s post. She may have never wanted children, but she’s become one of the best moms I know.*

I never thought I wanted children. I barely thought I wanted to get married, let alone bring kids into the mix. This was a definite sore subject between me and my future husband when we were dating. He wanted a whole football team.

One day after dating for about a year and a half, I randomly told him that I would CONSIDER having children some day. He was shocked by my announcement, and we were engaged a couple of months later (must have been just what he was waiting for). After six years of marriage, a move halfway across the United States, and the passing of my mother when I was 25, and she was just 47, after we recently had the opportunity to begin repairing our very broken relationship, I told my husband we should start this family thing.

Dailen and Lexa, 2013
Dailen and Lexa, 2013

At that point, I don’t think I was fully behind the idea but I felt something was missing or that I needed to start a new phase of my life. It took almost a year and half to get pregnant, and nine months thereafter, we had our son. I had an overall good pregnancy and delivery. Some people know after they have their first child that they are content and happy with that one and only child. I feel that is an awesome and wonderful decision they have made. Me, personally, a few weeks after having my son, I just knew I wanted more. I was overwhelmed with emotion at the miracle of life and how much love I had for this tiny human. I could hardly wait for round two.

My husband was ecstatic with my enthusiasm to have another child so quickly. When my son turned one year-old, we started trying again and got pregnant right away with our daughter. Through no fault of her own, we endured some very stressful times with her as a baby. We dealt with seven months of colic. She cried all the time, at all hours, and nothing calmed her. Not riding in the car, sitting atop the running dryer, rocking her, gas drops, pacifier, Tylenol, even putting a bit of Jack Daniels in her milk (per my grandma’s suggestion). She would not ‘cry herself to sleep’. She could cry for hours, and I felt so bad for my miserable little girl. I spent my nights in a recliner with her lying on my chest because it was the only way I would get an hour or two of sleep.

My husband began to hate her. (No worries–she is wrapped around his finger now for sure–or as she would say, her thumb.) I would not leave her alone with him because I would come home to find him playing video games downstairs while she was crying upstairs because he didn’t want anything to do with her. It caused a lot of tension in our marriage that took a lot of time to work through. I don’t say all this to elicit sympathy or make my situation out to be worse than anyone else’s, only to illustrate how difficult that time was for us and that my husband went from wanting a football team of kids to being adamant about having no more. He closed that book.

I was not as convinced. As stressful as it was, I loved my little miracle and was protective and even probably defensive of her and still wanted the opportunity to have another child. She got over her troubled early months and is now a cute firecracker, four year-old who loves to tilt her head and smile at her daddy until he laughs and wraps her in a big loving hug. After she turned three, my husband brought up the subject of having another child.

This time I was the one who was shocked. I had finally accepted that we were done. Our car was too small to physically fit a third child. Our two kids were somewhat self-sufficient; no diapers, can dress themselves, can express their needs and wants. We were in a routine, and it was working for us, and I didn’t want to give that up. And, I could not emotionally go through another situation similar to my daughter’s (although during that time I couldn’t imagine not having more kids either).

After much thought and prayer, we felt God gave us the go ahead to have another child. Our son or daughter will be born sometime this May. My son is six and my daughter is four and a half. This pregnancy has been much more difficult in many different ways, and I am certain it will be my last, so I have moments of being very sad knowing it will be the last time I feel a baby kick or have the hiccups inside me, the last time I will hold my very own newborn child, the last time I can gain weight without too much guilt :).

The Horseman family, 2013
The Horseman family, 2013

But I am so thankful for the blessing to be able to carry another child and bring a life into this world that God so lovingly created. I am blessed to have two beautiful children with very different personalities who teach me something new all the time. They remind me to keep my promises (because they remember when I have told them I would do something!). They remind me to relax and have some fun. Because of them my personal relationship with God has grown and my prayer life deepened. I can’t wait to see what this third child has to teach and show me.

I worked until my daughter was over two years old. Then I was laid off, and we took it as a blessing in disguise, or maybe it was really in plain sight. After much rearranging and rebudgetting, I have been able to stay home full-time since then. I was talking to my dad a couple of months ago. He called and asked what I was doing. I said ‘coloring pictures with your granddaughter and getting ready to make lunch’. He kind of chuckled. I asked what was so amusing. He said he never would have pictured that 10 years ago.

He’s right. I never thought I would want kids. I definitely never thought being a stay-at-home mom was for me. But it has worked out the way it was supposed to. Things are not picture perfect. I don’t feel I am the best mommy most days. There are days I go to bed feeling like all I did was yell at them all day or tell them ‘just give me another minute to do this or that’ and never got around to what they needed or wanted. There are days when one will ask me why I was so upset with them that day or one will yell that I am a mean mommy. But when my son gets up one more time from bed at night to give me a kiss on the cheek and say ‘I love you mom’; or my daughter climbs up into my lap and asks 20 random questions, and by the 21st I want to say WHAT NOW?, and she says ‘I want to be a mommy like you when I grow up’, I melt and I’m overwhelmed with awe about how much love I have for them and am so thankful I did not miss out on this experience.