Small celebrations that are worth so much more

Today was a big day for the sleepless Knights. Today, my babies learned how to ride their bicycles without training wheels. Sure, this is a fairly common right of passage that virtually every child will experience at some time in their development. And sure, this is way more their accomplishment than mine. But it feels like a huge accomplishment to me too.

As of late, I  haven’t had much reason to celebrate. I haven’t found a lot of reasons to smile, to relax, to sit back and enjoy this wild ride we call life. No, for me lately, life has been a bit of a struggle. Stress, work, exhaustion, worry, stress, arguing with children, bad behavior, did I mention stress? Yeah, it’s been a rough last couple of months for me. To the point where I woke up one day and realized that I had lost my joy in life. Completely lost it. And that’s a sad realization, when you have the blessings that I have, and you have lost sight of a way to appreciate and enjoy them.

I think it can happen to any of us, especially moms who are constantly running in a million different directions during these crazy and chaotic early years. It was definitely happening to me. And since realizing this, I have been working to take better care of myself and focus more on the positive. Let go of the negatives and the worry, and just do the best I can. It’s still a struggle, but I am trying.

So fast forward to today. We dropped Connor off at school and set off to the skate park to give “sans training wheels” another try. It’s something the boys and I have been working on for a couple of weeks now, here and there. And to be honest, they were both very resistant and I was very frustrated. (Read: just another area where Mama is failing at her job).

The logical side of my brain said to let it go, stop pushing so hard and let them learn when they are ready to learn. But the side of my brain that has been struggling with everything else lately… well, that side really just needed a win. Any win. You know? And I knew the boys were on the verge of having it figured out, that they just needed a little more practice and a little more confidence to make things happen.

I stayed up last night, researching different teaching methods. Because, yes, I am that mother. The one who runs to the Internet and pours over article after article after article, on whatever current issue might be affecting my children. I armed myself with a number of tips and tricks, and a whole lot of positive attitude (because at the end of the day, that’s what the boys really needed from me the most), and it worked!

Ben was the first to master it. And when he did, well, I whooped, I hollered, I jumped up and down, I made the random guy skateboarding on the other side laugh out loud at me… but dang it, I was thrilled!!!! I felt joy, real joy, for the first time in a long while. I felt Ben’s excitement. I felt his pride. I felt his relief at finally figuring it all out. His celebration was my celebration, and it felt incredible.

Alex almost had it figured out this morning too, he did ride a very short distance successfully on his own, but he was tired and cranky, and we were quickly deteriorating into a battle of wills. So I let it go, and we tried again after dinner, with Daddy and big brother now there to cheer him on. And he got it!!! And again, the pride, the excitement, the relief, it all came rushing through me. I just felt so….. happy. Happy for my babies. Happy for myself to have been able to help them. Happy that for once I could let everything else go, and just focus on the good happening right in front of me.

I am so proud of my babies, and their big milestone today, and I don’t want to take any of the credit away from them. They are the ones who had to figure it out and keep trying, no matter how many times they fell down. I’m just thankful that I was able to truly enjoy this exciting accomplishment with them, and feel a happiness that has been absent for far too long now. I want this happiness. I want this excitement. I want this joy. Not only for myself, but because my boys deserve to have a happy mama too.

So we are going to keep celebrating the milestones, each and every one of them, no matter how big or how small. And we are going to keep jumping for joy. Now that I remember how to.

Back to the grind

I know I’m not alone in saying this, but summer has flown by way too quickly! Sure, we have a slightly shorter summer than most, but even then, I feel like June was just here a minute ago. And now I am getting ready to send my first-born back to school in just shy of 12 hours from now.

It was a jam-packed summer to be sure. Two out-of-town trips, three camping trips, tee-ball, swimming, skating, playing with friends, way too many late nights to count. Who knew going back to school could feel like a break??

It’s been a little strange these past few weeks, ahead of Connor starting 1st grade. And by strange, I mean, there has been absolutely nothing out of the ordinary about it. This time last year, I was having panic attacks about sending my little man off into the world. Starting Kindergarten is just such a big freaking deal, that 1st grade has felt completely anti-climactic. School supplies? Got em, piece of cake. School clothes? Most still fits from the Spring, easy peasy. Sending your offspring out into the world without you? Been there, done that.

But then this all of course leads to the inevitable moment of fear: “Why am I not panicking? What am I forgetting to worry about? There must be SOMETHING I’ve overlooked!” So maybe not completely anti-climactic, but close enough.

Everything really is set and ready to go. Clothing is laid out, backpack is ready, alarm clocks are set. We had our night before school starts pep talks, and even read the sweetest book, a gift from the sweetest Kindergarten teacher Connor ever could have asked for. So we are ready.

Except I know that tomorrow, after all is said and done, and we’ve hugged and said our goodbyes, there will likely be a tear or two in my eyes, and a lump in my throat. I am going to miss that kid! No matter how excited I am to watch him grow up and go off and do new things, I am always gonna miss my baby. Such is life, I guess.

And I know it’s going to get worse. Four weeks and counting until I have to survive the preschool sendoff, times 2. At least they won’t be gone full-time, yet….

Shifting priorities

I’ve been struggling with this post in my head, for several weeks now. I’m still not sure I know exactly what I want to say, but I am going to give it a shot anyway…

It began when I stumbled across an article one day, written by another mother. She wrote very openly and honestly about the moment when she realized she couldn’t remember the last time she had been happy. And it felt like I was staring in a mirror, as I read her words. When was the last time I had been truly happy? When was the last time I could relax and live in the moment and enjoy that moment, without worrying about everything else that would come in the many moments to follow?

It felt like I had been going through the motions for so long. Trying to stay on top of it all, trying to get it all done, and moving from one to-do item to the next, to the next… I found myself rarely sitting down and playing with the boys, I was always having to tell them I couldn’t because I needed to do ______. Even when I did make the time, my focus wasn’t there. I would sit through a board game with my thoughts a million miles away, willing the game to go faster so it could just be done and I could get back to work. Even driving in the car I would find myself tuning out my children in favor of the thoughts running through my head. Once upon a time, the car was our ultimate learning and conversation time, but not these days…. I was failing my children. And I was constantly stressed out and oh, so tired.

I have tried for too long now to take on too much. Even when I tell myself I need to slow down, I have never been good at listening to that advice for long. But the truth is I have gotten to a point where it all becomes so overwhelming that I can’t focus to accomplish anything. As in nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. The anxiety takes over, and I shut down. The only thing that keeps going are those crazy, senseless thoughts running through my head: what I need to be doing, what I should be accomplishing, and why I am such a failure because I can’t get it done. It feels like a hamster wheel going on super drive in my brain, while my body is stuck in quick sand, unable to move…

I’m pretty sure I would have kept going in this miserable existence if not for the fact that it finally caught up to me in a way that caught my attention. I won’t go into details here, but it was a big wakeup call that the stress in my life was doing more damage than good. Something needed to change, and fast.

So I asked myself what my priorities truly are in life right now. And the answer is simple, my three beautiful boys. My role right now is to be their mother, their teacher, their caregiver, their foundation, their rock. Nothing else is important at this moment in time. They need me now, all of me. And they deserve all of me now, nothing less. I have been so worried about how we will build a financial future for them, that I was sacrificing the time NOW when we can create a solid foundation for their futures. Who cares if money is tight for a few more years until everyone is in school full time? Who cares if I don’t exactly know what I’m going to do with myself at that time? Why on Earth am I lying awake at night worrying about events that are 18 months away, when I am sabotaging the here and now as a result?

It is time to refocus my energy on what matters most, and let the other stuff go. My job right now is Mom, and it is a job I am truly blessed to hold. I don’t need any others. The other stuff can wait. My boys need me now. And I know there will come a day when they don’t need me anymore, so why squander this time now? I won’t.

A few months ago I felt that I was failing this blog, failing in my aspirations of building a future with writing. To compensate, I set a schedule for myself, a requirement to post weekly, in hopes that it would keep me writing regularly. Well, it backfired. All it did was make me resent my blog. And I would stress out when I couldn’t think of things to write, and become even more distracted as a result. Well, no more. I will write in this blog when I feel like it, and only when I feel like it. If months should pass between posts, then so be it. Again, not my priority RIGHT NOW.

I still have an uphill battle ahead. Bad habits are hard to break. And the stress I created has become a pretty bad habit. It’s going to take some time for me to let the other stuff completely go, mentally, and just focus on being present with my kids, my family. But it is what I want and what they need.

And who knows, by losing some of the stress, I might just find myself enjoying my life again, remembering what it feels like to be truly happy. Because I have it pretty damn good with three beautiful boys who I love so much it hurts, an amazing husband who is my soul mate and best friend, caring family and friends, a solid roof over our heads, and endless possibilities for that future we will build together. That’s what matters.

All I want for Christmas

I always get a little nervous when I ask the boys to start thinking about what they want Santa to bring them for Christmas. Because what if, say, they ask for a pony? Not gonna happen. And you seriously never know what they will come up with. Case in point, last night as I was making dinner, I asked them all to think about what they would like to ask Santa for. And here were their responses….

santaConnor: I want Santa to bring me coal…. so we can power the house.

Benjamin: I want Santa to bring me a new Mommy, because you are mean. Just kidding!

Alexander: I want a big backhoe loader (and he demonstrates: life sized).

Okay, so my first thought is that maybe Benjamin is getting some of that coal Connor mentioned…. yup, my boys are absolute angels, can’t you tell???

But most of all I had to laugh at Connor’s response. It is incredible what small minds will come up with. The only reason he is so in tune with coal and its ability to power electrical plants and provide energy to our homes, is because he occasionally sees freight trains carrying loads of coal through town. And any time we see a train, it is a BIG deal. Ergo coal is a big deal. Ergo coal is something worthy of asking for. Now should I tell Connor that our house is actually heated by natural gas? I think I will let that one go….

Needless to say, none of those three requests are going to be fulfilled (unless Mommy gets that 6 month vacation….). So now it is time for me to step in with a little, ahem, guidance. Hey, I did that last year, and it worked fantastically. I convinced the boys to ask Santa for books, they readily agreed, and Santa’s helper (me) was all too happy to make that happen.

Now if only I can convince those boys to behave for more than 30 seconds at a time… otherwise this whole issue might quickly become moot.

When less is more

That crazy time of the year is upon us, holiday shopping! Black Friday is less than a week away, Cyber Monday only a little over a week, not to mention all of the other deals that will come along as businesses fight over our hard-earned dollars, promising the toy or gadget of the year that our loved ones simply cannot live without. Are you ready for it?

I’m not, but I’m getting there. I am doing something very different this year, but I will admit, it is something I probably should have been doing for the last several years. I have made a budget, and I plan to stick to it! In year’s past, I have done my best to shop sales and discounts for gifts for family and friends. Yet I never set a cap for myself, and that is something we always seem to pay for financially come January and February (when the credit card bill comes due). Not to mention the material excess we face from the holiday forward! When you have to actually take a break from gift opening because it is too much and too overwhelming for small children…. you may have gone too far. I admit it, it is a mistake we have made in the past. Not happening this year.

Because why on earth should it? Is that what Christmas and Chanukah are all about? Who gets the most presents? Or is it about family and love and togetherness? And celebrating births and battles won, and all that great historical stuff too?? It is a beautiful time of the year, and I think the boys are old enough now to realize it is about more than lighting candles, Santa coming, and tons of gifts. There is more to these holidays than that. So let’s focus on that for a change, not making sure they have a ton of gifts under the tree.

But don’t get me wrong, I still think there is very much a place for gifts, and treating our loved ones to something special! That is still going to happen, just maybe not in as much full-force. We don’t tend to buy the boys presents unless it is their birthdays or this time of year, so I am still very much going to enjoy that process, and getting to buy gifts for all of our family and close friends. But I won’t go overboard.

This year I set an overall dollar amount, and I set it pretty low. Then I divided that amount by the people on our list. And to be honest, I came up with a VERY LOW number to spend on each person. Granted, there is a little wiggle room in there, which is why I started so low, so that going over by a few dollars won’t totally break the bank. But that low amount is going to force me to get much more creative this year. In addition to shopping sales like crazy, I also have to sit back and think…. what do people really want? What do they really need? Is this gift something useful that will be appreciated? Or is it just something nice that may or may not add to the clutter and junk we all seem to struggle with. Because why would I want to add to that for others, when I have a hard enough time dealing with my own clutter and junk???

So that’s the plan. I have a few people figured out already, and have a few gifts already purchased. But I still have quite a few more to go… I guess I will be spending the next few days scouring Black Friday ads for more inspiration and ideas. By the way, did you know some stores will start their Black Friday on Thanksgiving ONLINE???? Yup, I will be taking advantage of that, from the comfort of my home, in my pajamas and a warm cup of coffee by my side. Knock it out first thing in the morning so I can spend the rest of the holiday being thankful with those I love most in the world. Because that is what I want to focus on most.

And in case I am too busy planning to post again beforehand, I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you get to enjoy a beautiful day filled with yummy food, love, and laughter with those who mean the most to you!!!

My three heroes

IMG_7250With an hour left until midnight, I guess it is just about Halloween! And I couldn’t resist sharing this picture of my three heroes (don’t mind me, I was just along for the ride). My firefighter, policeman and doctor, so handsome and so proud of their “jobs.”

At first, I was just happy that the boys got excited about costumes we already had on hand, and that they each selected a different one with absolutely no arguing…. that in and of itself was a shocking win for me. And of course I knew they would all look adorable, no question there….

But now that we have been to a few parties and events, I have started thinking a bit more about their costumes and the unintentional theme of this Halloween. I had jokingly told people they are dressed as the Village People, only cooler. But in fact, they are a trio of first responders, helpers, heroes. They each chose to embody a profession that is dedicated to selflessly helping others, and it reminds me how big and open their little hearts are. They may be wild and rambunctious boys, but they are also sensitive and compassionate and caring.

They fill my heart each and every day, they are MY heroes, always.

Taking a break from “on the go”

Is it fair to say that time is relative? Because I know that technically I missed my Friday deadline yesterday. But I also know that it kind of feels like we are still in Friday, simply because we have been so busy the last two days. I knew I needed to blog yesterday, I hadn’t forgotten, I simply never sat down at the computer for more than five minutes at a time… all…. day…. long.

You will have to forgive me, but I was too busy having fun with my boys. It was the start of a four-day weekend for Connor, who has been such a champ about heading off to school every morning without complaint, behaving wonderfully each and every day, and just adjusting magnificently to life as a big school-kid. So yesterday kind of felt like the first day of summer vacation to me, and I wanted to make sure we enjoyed it. And we did. We spent a couple of hours at the zoo, had lunch out with friends, dinner at our place with friends, a nap and some play time in between, and the day literally flew by. So I didn’t check phone messages, and I don’t think I answered any emails (though I may have skimmed a few), and I certainly didn’t concoct any blogs in my head. Instead I just enjoyed playing and laughing with my three beautiful boys.

I know how hard it can be to soak up the moment sometimes. As parents, and myself especially, we become so busy and so distracted by all the things that have to happen day to day, that we forget to enjoy ourselves and enjoy the life we are living. I know I have been feeling that lately, pretty much ever since school started. It feels like there are never enough hours in the day, and we are always rushing. Rush to drop Connor off, rush to do our preschool homework so we can go do something fun and engaging, rush to get Ben and Alex lunch and down for naps on time, so they can wake up on time, so we can rush to pick up Connor. Then we rush home to rush through homework, so I can rush to make dinner, and rush the kids off to bed. And then we do it all over again the next day. Is it any wonder I’ve had a hard time just enjoying the moments???

So that’s what I did yesterday, as I sat back and watched the boys play together, work together, fight together. And I savored the closeness of having all of my babies near me, just… being. Because I know now, more than ever, that days like yesterday will come fewer and farther in between. Okay maybe not literally, since Connor has a two-week break coming up and we will have plenty of together time. I just mean, as they grow older, they will go off in their separate ways more and more, and it may never be again as it is now. So I want to enjoy now as much as I possibly can. And if that means unplugging from the world for a day, I will gladly do it.

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