Counting Blessings

This year hasn't been easy. There's always something to be worried about--something that isn't done, something that can't be fixed, something that can't be changed. As usual, I spend a good amount of time worrying. It can be difficult to remember the good things sometimes.

Lately, even though the worry is still there, an overwhelming sense of calm overrides it. Despite all the problems I have to deal with every day, there's one thing that is constant in my life.

I am blessed.

I am blessed to have a beautiful family.

I am blessed to have a loving husband who works hard to support our family, so I can stay home and help that family grow.

I am blessed to have siblings that help me remember my childhood (and sometimes, to help me pretend I'm still a child).

I am blessed by my aunt, who lets my children call her grandma and provides the comfort I sometimes need in the absence of my mother.

I am blessed by my grandmother, still healthy and full of life (and opinions...).

I am blessed to have a niece to spoil, since ALL THREE of my children are boys!

I am blessed by the roof over my head (even if it leaks sometimes).

I am blessed to be warm by a fire with wood provided by parents who love us.

I am blessed by the phone calls and text messages I get from friends and family every day (whether I manage to answer them or not).

I am blessed by my children's love, and by more hugs and kisses than I could count in a lifetime.

I am blessed to have good friends to talk to when I need to cry or to complain or to laugh.

I am blessed to live so near my family, and to always have help when I need it, whether it's a babysitter, a piece of advice, or help buying new tires for my car.

I am blessed. By these and so many other things. And for every time that I get frustrated, angry, or worried, I have ten blessings to remind me why life isn't really so bad.

No, nothing is easy. There is always something to worry about. But counting blessings is a lot more comforting.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I hope you're enjoying your blessings as much as I am enjoying mine.


Six Word Fridays: Home

From Making Things Up

Doesn't have to be a house,
Or even have a single door.
Just comfort from your loving arms.
A home I treasure forever more.


The Mother I Remember

It has been 11 years to the day since my mother passed away. The pain of losing her has dulled over the years, but I still find myself in tears sometimes, thinking of how much I miss her. Lately, I've been thinking about her more than I have in a long time. I'm not crying as much as when she first died, of course, but I am missing her like it just happened yesterday.

I have been trying to figure out why I've been thinking about her so much lately. Is it my own growing family? Or maybe it's the stress of my life that I ache for her to calm? Maybe my hormones are to blame. I know it could be a little of all of these things. But last night, as I lay in my bed crying tears in to my pillow, I thought long and hard about my mom. And I realized that I've been missing her so much because I feel like I've forgotten her.

When I first started thinking about it, I felt like I couldn't recall anything specific about her anymore. How did she sound? What did she smell like? But the longer I thought, the easier memories of her became. It isn't that I've forgotten, it's just that, out of necessity, I've pushed them to the back of my mind. I can't describe exactly how much my mom meant to me, but I can tell you that if I remembered her so vividly every day, my eyes would never be dry. Her absence is a hole in my soul. I miss her dearly.

I miss the woman who could solve any of my problems with a hug and a stroke of my hair. She taught me how to spell (by needing things spelled for her all the time) and how to balance a checkbook (by making me balance hers). She was strong, street smart, and kind. I can't recall her without a smile on her face. She laughed in the face of temper tantrums and commanded respect without hardly ever raising her voice. No matter how sick she got--how the lupus warped her skin in to a patchwork of red blotches--she was always the most beautiful woman I've ever seen. She had an enormous heart, and for me, love radiated whenever she was in my vicinity. Smart, honest, beautiful--my mother epitomized them all.

There is a way to hug my whole family at once, to make us recall the glue that once cemented our family together, and all it takes is a single word. Jackie.

I miss you, Mom. I hope you're resting peacefully, and I hope you can feel the love we all still hold in our hearts for you.


Six Word Fridays: Change

Sometimes we are afraid of it.
Usually we don't notice it happening.
It is fluid, like puddles forming
While rain streams from the sky.
It feels abrupt, sometimes, but isn't,
Because even those abrupt, altering moments
Don't immediately change who we are.
Change takes time--happens so slowly.
We are likely not to recognize
Ourselves from the changes we've incurred
But when we look back again,
Will we know how we've transformed?


Unplugging James

My older son, James, turns 4 on Saturday. I can hardly believe it's been four years already. At the same time, however, I can't believe it hasn't been more than four. For as dear as my little James is to me, I am constantly challenged by him. Because he is my first. And every new thing he does is something I haven't seen before. It can be cute and funny and rewarding--but it can also be exhausting and perplexing and frustrating.

I suppose my real problems have arisen quite recently; James was the easiest kind of baby there is. He could sit happily in a swing while I went to the bathroom or cooked dinner. He rarely cried without a good reason. I couldn't help thinking, way back then, that parenting a newborn wasn't as difficult as I was expecting (then #2 came along, and boy, did he prove me wrong).

When James was a toddler, the story was much the same. While I sometimes worried about him, wanting to make sure he met his "milestones" when he should, there still weren't many problems. He was easy to discipline and listened exceptionally well. The terrible twos were markedly mild, and on the whole the threes have been fairly uneventful.

But now, my little one, my first born, is swiftly changing from toddler in to boy. Sometimes I'm shocked at how much of a little personality he has--how grown up he seems. And then I realize, it's just that he's not a baby anymore. And I think we're both having some problems with the transition.

A month or so ago, James started changing in a way I didn't like at all. He has become increasingly moody, lazy, and disinterested in the world around him. It's like pulling teeth to get him to play with a toy, and he can quite often be found brooding on the couch, thumb in mouth, pouting that he can't watch TV.

Initially I chalked this up to my own lack of energy in the preceding months. I wasn't the same Mommy I used to be from August to October. We didn't do nearly as much as normal, because I was having severe, all day "morning" sickness. We did a lot more sitting in the grass reading books than we did running around the park. I thought once I started feeling better and got us out of the house more, he'd snap out of it.

The opposite has been true. The problem was exacerbated when my husband introduced him to his XBox. This was a terrible choice for a child that's already obsessed with sitting on the couch; I wish I would have protested it. But, I must be honest, it was nice to see a spark of happiness in his eyes, and it was terribly cute how excited he got to play "Lego the Company," (as he calls the Lego: Indiana Jones video game his dad gave him to play).

Video games have now become an obsession. I've been setting limits and denying him, but our days are peppered with requests to play the game. I spend more time thinking of other things for him to do than I ever have before. I feel like we're sinking, and I'm afraid I don't know the way out of this hole. His moodiness has gotten worse, and it's hard to get him out of his little fog of electronic bliss. He doesn't even get excited to see his grandparents anymore--and they're the kind that hide candy in your pockets and bring you toys every time they visit.

I was thinking last night, as I lay in bed worrying about this problem, that this is our first real "big boy" struggle. He's developing distinct interests, and problems like this are bound to come up again. I'm not always going to like how he chooses to spend his time, and I have a feeling we'll spend quite a bit of time struggling over it.

For now, I'll keep denying and keep trying to get him interested in less reclusive activities. But I think both of us have a long road before we totally figure this out. We start ice skating lessons on Saturday, and he's getting a slew of actual Legos and other real toys for his birthday on Sunday. I'm hoping something catches his interest and helps me wean him from his video game addiction.

I'm definitely open to suggestions. But please, curb the judging on why I let my 4-year-old play video games in the first place. I'm still trying to figure out why I let that happen.