Back to School-Examining the Past, Embracing the Future

As we wind down from Labor Day weekend full of activities at our local round-up and fair, I’m encompassed by a little quiet reflection this eve of the first day surrounds me.   I am exhausted from the hustle and bustle of early mornings and late nights. My days consisted of carnivals, nursing a twisted ankle, applying band aids to cuts, welcoming a spontaneous guest for the weekend, enduring the jaw dropping booby traps from my adorable five-year old, and did I mention the impromptu piglet that suddenly joined the family on Saturday.    Pig pen construction still in progress.  All I can do is laugh. Nothing really surprises me anymore.

Among the laundry, cooking and house cleaning to come, getting back on a schedule is something to look forward to.   Yet as I scroll through social media and texts, my mind is overwhelmed by first day of school pictures of all these children.

For a mother whose child has died it hurts.  Honestly, it’s bittersweet and sucks really. Part of you longs with envy at those parents of children getting to revel in the excitement of classmates, lockers and team sports and those whose kids are healthy and happy.  Of course we’re delighted for them, however, we grieving parents never get over it. While I am grateful for my other four children entering school, no matter how many years have passed, this time of year we are involuntarily given that dreaded reminder that our child is gone.

Today Lydia should be starting her sophomore year. Wow. That is so hard to imagine. However, I do find myself wondering how she would dress and do her hair. Would she wear make-up? Still love dresses? Be playing volleyball because of course she would be so tall?  Would she be driving?

I can’t help but to think of my life ten years ago.  Lydia had just passed away six weeks earlier, 7/16/08.  It was time for Hunter to start preschool.  I wanted to keep him with me, but knew he needed social interaction with kids his age.  Staying in his depressing dungeon of a home alone was not the best place.

Months of driving him eight miles one way to preschool, I would cry every morning on the way there and on the way back home, sobbing at the wheel as I felt the eeriness of an empty car seat behind me, saying softly to myself “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”    Sadly, I would drop him off, then weep and wail uncontrollably all the way home, crawling back into bed alone where I would remain until it was time to pick him up.  For months this was my routine.

Completely heartbreaking.

Yet I vividly remember those days in the trenches, nearly six years ago, home as a single parent to a two month old, a two-year old, 3-year-old, and six-year-old, while my husband began a new job and relocated to a new town.  It was crazy.

There were times when I didn’t think I could do it.   Working part-time while up to my ears in diapers and potty training, spills and refereeing sibling rivalry, while laundry and housekeeping didn’t stand a chance.  Reruns of Dora the Explorer and Barney the Dinosaur played incessantly.  Fueled by coffee and chocolate, daily mocha’s became my saving grace.

To say I was exhausted was an understatement. The circles under my eyes were evidence that could not be dismissed.  To say I didn’t enjoy it would be wrong, because I did.  But in all seriousness, it was so hard.

I used to fantasize about the day that all kids would be in school and I could actually have a moment to myself to do my own thing, to even clean the house and go to the bathroom alone.  To just breathe.

Baby after baby came, life was busy.  I put my grief on hold, focusing on these new blessings in my life. They were indeed a much-needed buffer to the pain I was holding on the inside.  Yet as the years progressed, and gradually each child entered school age, I was left with my baby who is now five.  The last couple years, we have enjoyed our togetherness, special activities and 1/1 time.

The day I had been eager for the last four years has arrived. Now my youngest enters kindergarten.  This little spitfire who makes me laugh all day, telling jokes, yet generously gives hugs and kisses, always wanting to protect and love his mama will be on his own.

Another chilling reminder of the day my Lydia anxiously awaited for, the first day of kindergarten she never got to see, her youngest brother is now experiencing.  Bittersweet for sure.

The day has come I am once again alone, but this time it’s different.  Looking back, I cannot believe how fast time went by. The day I begged and pleaded for in my desperate moments has arrived and now I am not quite sure how I feel about it.  In a way, I’m sad for me but excited for him.  The new world that awaits, he is sure to find fascinating.

I have come to a different kind of sadness. It’s not one of sorrow, but one filled with hope and expectation. Remembering where I used to be and seeing how far I have come, I look forward to starting a new chapter laced with endless possibilities, embracing change and knowing this journey I’m on is not my own.

Memories are the key not to the past, but to the future-Corrie Ten Boom

In the meantime, I will enjoy what’s left of summer and eagerly anticipate the days of autumn to come. My favorite time of year.

No matter what season you are in, brighter days are ahead. Just hang on-one day at a time!





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7 Amazing Gift Ideas for Your Kids That Won’t Cost You a Dime

“Breath is the finest gift of nature. Be grateful for this wonderful gift.” ― Amit Ray

I was enjoying getting lost in the large store, books piled high on every shelf. It seemed it didn’t have an end as I navigated my way through the vast categories of books.

As I sat perusing my fingers through some pages, I felt something staring at me.  I peered over the top of the pages, spotting a pair of eyes outlined with royal blue accompanied by an adorable little smile.   Dressed in black pants and a striped shirt, I noticed he had drawn a mask over his eyes with a blue sharpie. No doubt he had to trace it a few times to get the full effect.

Waiving softly, I mouthed hello and smiled.  His superhero face and mischievous grin warmed my heart. Instantly it took me back to those days when Lydia painted herself with make-up. The bright blue eyeshadow you couldn’t miss and the hot pink lipstick covering her mouth, chin and almost up to her nose, made you want to laugh. But she felt beautiful.

Wiping my eyes, I smiled in awe. So hard to believe she is gone.  Oh those years, what I wouldn’t give to rewind time and go back, just to have one more chance. To share those gut-busting giggles, kiss those sweet freckled cheeks, to build that snowman, to do it all again.

The days of our lives are fast and furious, passing by ever so quickly. Years fly by in a second, making us look back wondering where the time went.

You see my daughter Lydia, just turned fifteen and lives in heaven. She passed away when she was five. In hindsight, there’s so much I would do differently. When she was here, my focus wasn’t where it should have been.

Of course, I would want to shower her with gifts and all her favorite things, especially during Christmas, however, I have learned that that only brings temporary and superficial happiness as well as empty pockets.

Now as my daughter’s 15th birthday came and the holidays draw near, her absence is ever so present. My heart is heavy and tuned into to what matters most.

Take it from a mom who knows, here are 7 gift ideas for your children that don’t cost a dime.

7 Amazing Gift Ideas for Your Kids That Won’t Cost You a Dime

1. Give them your time.  Give those precious kiddos the last minutes before bedtime, the first minutes in the morning awakening them with hugs with wide open arms.  Take time to push them on the swings, play cards, or attend that special event.  Give them your undivided attention when you walk through that door from work, greeting them like they are the best gift ever, because they are!

2. Give them your ear. Listen to them.  Put down all the technology that we are chained to and really hear what your children are saying. Listen to the stories of their day, the drama with their friends, and the excitement about their activities.  Listen to their adorable giggles, what makes them smile and what hurts them.  They will forever be grateful for this.

3. Give them unconditional love. Tell them you love them daily, even when they mess up.  When they spill a bag of flour all over the kitchen floor, or when their grades are not as good as they should be, let them know how much they mean to you.  When they overflow the toilet or paint on walls, embrace their uniqueness and make sure they know they are special.  And when they get on your last nerve, take a deep breath, and be thankful that they are there alive, and always end every conflict with an “I love you.”

4. Give your kids the gift of teaching them about the true meaning of Christmas. It’s so easy to get caught up in the glitz and glamour of presents, shopping, and Santa Claus.  Let them know that Christmas is about love. Let them know they matter, that they were created for a reason and are beloved in the eyes of our heavenly father.   Show them and teach them that faith is everlasting and provides guiding principles for life.

5. Give them the gift of giving back.  Take them to volunteer at a homeless shelter, purchase a gift for a child in need, or other philanthropic acts, being sure to explain the challenges and difficulties so many endure.  Let them see life from a different perspective. And as a bonus for all you parents, your children will gain hearts filled with compassion for others, guaranteed.

6. Give your children the gift of gratitude.  As they learn to be thankful and grateful for everything they have in life, they will gain maturity, responsibility, opening their eyes to the value of hard work.

7. Give them encouragement. Make sure they know how proud you are of them. When they pass a test, get dressed by themselves, clean the house, or make the sports team, tell them how delighted you are. This will empower them with confidence and give them the courage to explore and try new things.

These seem so simple, yet they are gifts that I have neglected to give my children on many occasions. Things and times I have taken for granted, which have haunted me with regret.

I too have been guilty of showing my children with tangible gifts that go unappreciated time and time again, soon to be forgotten.  As parents, I know we all have.   So before you hit those sales in the stores, this year, I challenge you to give your children something they will never forget, making those memories that will remain with them forever.   Your heart will thank you and so will they.

11 Things I Would Have Done Differently If I Had Known It Would Be The Last……..

My girl. Today is your 13th birthday. I can’t believe you would be a teenager. It’s hard to fathom that I am the mom to a 13-year-old. Where did the years go?

To be able to celebrate with you, would be my first wish. To see your adorable smile, your mischievous glances and determined mindset, would be the honor of my life.

Today I am filled with wishes and wonder as I think about the years that have passed. I wish I could experience with you all the fun and trials that the teenage years bring. School, boys, and endless activities. I wish I could teach you, laugh with you, and show you the world. I wish it wasn’t massively painful to see your friends growing up, reaching milestones that you will never achieve. I look with envy as an outsider to a world I used to know. Doing so plunges me into a world of emotional wonder.

As I imagine you with long golden strawberry blond hair, I wonder if you would still be determined to wear it just
how you like. Would we share clothes? Would we like the same kind of music?

I wonder…

Would you still wear headbands, or would that be too “childish?” Would you wear lipstick, makeup, and have your ears pierced?

Would you still love your little brother to pieces and take great delight in teasing him?

Would you still have that infectious personality, lighting up a room when you walked in, proudly dressed in mismatched clothes?

Would you have sleepovers, still be sassy yet loveable and wear your heart on your sleeve?

Would we still argue over the television remote? Would you still love to read? Still love to sing and dance? Or would you be using your creative mind to make more magnificent art work?

Would you still want to be a fighter fighter (fire fighter) and a chocolate shopper (work at a coffee stand)?

My heart will never heal and the tears I cry are loaded with unending love as they slowly fall down my face and onto my shirt. You will always be my girl, my first child who made me a mother. I will carry you with me forever.

Instead of me teaching you what life is all about, my sweet child you have taught me.

If I could do it over again…

I would have lingered while reading your bedtime story, taking my time carefully articulating the words on each page, spent more time snuggled with you on your pink princess pillow, and let you keep the boogers on your wall above your headboard.

I would have played endless hours of dress up with you, dolling up in fancy jewelry, high heels and dresses…

I would have watched your silly TV shows more, played limitless games of candy land and hopscotch, and spent hours drawing on the patio with colorful chalk until the sun went down.

I would have laughed instead of getting angry when you called your great grandma to tell her your parents were arguing because daddy took mommy’s debit card away.

I would have paid closer attention to you when you were telling stories of the tooth fairy and giggled a little more when you called me your evil stepmother after watching Cinderella and was told to go to bed.

I would have spent hours making the perfect snowman and sledding down the street, and not come in just because I didn’t want to play anymore.

I would have stayed in that movie theatre longer, watching Kung Fu Panda with you observing your every move, listening to you loudly crunch popcorn, smiling as you laughed out loud, if I would have known it would be our last.

I would have taken you to the coffee shops for hot chocolate and cinnamon rolls every morning, even after you would mock me in the backseat of the car with your sunglass and sassy attitude.

I would have laughed more when you overflowed the toilet creating a swampy lake in the downstairs bathroom, and the time you “cleaned up” the dogs mess by putting newspaper over it and then I stepped on it, causing it to squish out the sides of my bare feet.

I would have listened more intently when you talked about God and attempted to lure me to church when I didn’t feel like going.

I would have made more cookies with you, messing up the kitchen and decorating it with scattered cookie cutters, covering the counters with flour and frosting.

I remember the last time you got your haircut, several inches gone revealed a new you. Your little sprinkle of freckles adorned the bridge of your nose, and your blue eyes twinkled in the light. I remember how you tried to convince me to cut my hair off too and I said no. Now I wish I had.

As a little girl, I always wanted to have a daughter, someone to navigate this life with side by side, being a parent and a friend. I used to imagine what our life would be like going shopping together, cooking, getting our nails done and sharing experiences as well as the cherished ups and downs of life.

I will never forget the last time you painted my nails, bright pink with baby blue sparkly dots on them. The two jars of polish still sit on my bathroom counter, as a reminder. I’m sad to say, I have not painted my fingernails since then. It may sound strange or crazy, but that last memory together, is so preciously sacred that it is something I want to keep just between us. I can still say after seven years, that “The last person to paint my fingernails was Lydia.” And that is something to treasure.

You have shown me what it means to love so deeply that it can literally break your heart. If I would have known these times would have been our last, I would have spent more time making memories and savoring every minute. I would have realized that moments matter. Memories matter.

Nonetheless, I am left with an empty place deep down, a void that will never be filled, wondering, waiting, yet living in the moment and treasuring every day, seeking the beauty each sunrise brings, all the while keeping you alive in my heart.