Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Leaving Home

By Kelly

Corey leaves on a business trip tomorrow. It’s his first trip of the new year and the kick-off to a busy travel season. Thanks to conferences and client visits, he’ll be gone roughly every other week between now and May. Unfortunately for me, most of those trips will be to warm destinations.

The night before he leaves is always extra wistful. All of a sudden, the beauty in our daily routine shines fresh, scrubbed bright by imminent separation. If you had looked in our windows tonight – and really, anyone can, since we don’t have coverings on our patio doors – you would have seen a family laughing over the baby’s reaction to homemade applesauce (apparently, it was sour), a little girl who has her daddy’s dark skin scold him for talking with his mouth full, a little boy scarf down his applesauce and mac-and-cheese and immediately ask to be excused, the better to escape the meatloaf and peas left on his plate.

It was normal, everyday stuff, but tonight, it was extra tender. Corey and I lingered over the dirty dishes and let the kids run around the living room longer than usual. It was late when we finally, reluctantly, began herding the masses upstairs toward bed.

I took the baby into the nursery, the baby who is unapologetic in her gleeful shrieks of “Da!”, and got out some pajamas from the back of the drawer, tomorrow being laundry day. These particular pajamas made the sense of melancholy grow deeper; they were a pair of Natalie’s footsies, retrieved from the bin of baby clothes only last week.

I held them up and inhaled with all my might. They smelled like baby Natalie, clean and warm and somehow musky, like our lives seven years ago when we were a family of three and living in San Diego.

I shook them out and motioned to Natalie and Connor. “Do you know who used to wear these?”

Natalie grinned and rolled her eye a little and said, "ME!"

Connor, who harbors a sentimental streak as wide as the Mississippi under his tousled masculinity, cocked his head and cooed, “Ahhhh, they are so cute!”

Ignoring the pilled fleece and worn cuffs, I replied, “They are cute, aren’t they?” I buried my nose again and took another deep breath. The air around me felt heavy with nostalgia.

I was having a moment.

“And look what’s on them,” I squinted, “little bear fairies.”

“What,” said Corey, who was playing with the baby on the changing table, “is that like a bunch of naked gay guys?”

I snickered.

The moment was over.

Thankfully, the lifetime goes on.

Kelly also blogs at Love Well.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

To Parent like Dumbledore

By Kelly

My brother got me a set of Harry Potter books for Christmas. It was a good gift, seeing as I somehow managed to escape the whole Potter phenomenon. I had just been telling my husband that I would really like to read the series someday -- which, now that I think about it, is probably how it came to be under our Christmas tree.

Naturally, I've been riveted ever since I started "The Sorcerer's Stone." I'm on "The Half-Blood Prince" now, which is book six in the series. I can't say this reading binge has been particularly good for my children, who've heard me say, "as soon as Mommy is finished with this chapter," with alarming frequency the last few weeks.

But it has done this: It has given me a new role model. I've decided I want to parent like Dumbledore.

I want to interact with my children the way Dumbledore interacts with Harry. He's kind and patient and wise. When Harry rants, Dumbledore waits. When Harry asks too many questions, Dumbledore gently reminds him that answers will come in time. He seems impossible to frustrate or fluster. I doubt Dumbledore would ever shout at the students of Hogwarts, "Hurry up and finish your breakfast! How many times have I told you, we've got to go!"

No matter what's going on around him, he maintains an aura of strength and authority. He obviously cares for Harry, but he isn't about to let him skip detention when he defies a teacher. He is supremely powerful, as is befitting one of the most powerful wizards of his time, yet it's power held in check. It's a power he controls, not a power that controls him.

I say this, of course, because I often find myself parenting in an opposite vein. I am harried and distracted. I don't listen well. I feel controlled by outside circumstances, like I'm always reacting instead of acting.

So, for the next few weeks, I'm going to keep Dumbledore in mind as I go about my day. I'm the kind of person who responds best to real-life scenarios, so reading about his interactions with Harry, although imaginary, are helpful to me. I'm going to try, with God's help, to mimic his example.

Also, the ability to work a good quietus charm would come in handy once in a while. I wonder if I could get my hand on a semi-used wand anywhere?

Once she finishes the Harry Potter series, Kelly will resume blogging at Love Well.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


By Kelly


Do you hear that?

It’s silence.

At least, that’s what I hear right now. I hear nothing but the whoosh of warm air into my bedroom and the methodical tick-tock of my periwinkle alarm clock. Everyone else is asleep, the room is dark and the hush is almost palpable.

I can feel the peace seeping into my soul, relaxing both my shoulders and my brain.


I love my kids. I love them to pieces. But I’m apparently raising a gaggle of jabberwockies. And some days, the nonstop chatter gets to me.

Right now, my five-year-old son is the prime offender. He follows me around all day, talking and talking and talking. “Mom, I’m making some pizza. Do you want some.” “Mom, look at my Lego guy. He’s a crusher!” “Mom, let’s play a game. Do you want to be queens or twos?” “Mom, here’s the gun I made for you. It shoots jellies.” “Mom, do you know why Short Round is hanging from the Coast Guarder helicopter?” “Mom. Mom. MOM!”

Most days, I deal with the stream of sound with a lot of prayer and a fair dose of laughter. But yesterday, at lunchtime, I found myself saying (for real), “Buddy, can you be quiet for just five minutes? Just five minutes so Mommy can think without her brain exploding out of her head?”

Then, because he was starting to look hurt, “Maybe we can try to make this peanut butter and jelly sandwich together, using only sign language. Do you think we can do that?’

He looked at me quizzically. “No, Mom. That’s silly. Why would we want to do that?”

And he was off again.

I sighed.

I don’t want to crush his spirit, and I know these days of having him at home with me are fleeting. There are times I love listening to his unfiltered thoughts (“You know, Mom, when you crashed the car yesterday, you made me pop!”), and his view on life often makes me giggle (“Mom, stop singing! You’re giving me a song ache!”).

But other days? Oh my word, child. You’re driving Mommy insane.

I think that's part of the reason it's hard for us mommies to go to bed at night. Once the kid are asleep and silence is all we hear, we need to soak it in for a while. It's a healing balm. The quiet is restorative.

And we know we'll need a reserve for the next day, when the chatter inevitably starts up again, often before we even get out of bed.

Right Mom? Right?


If it's quiet long enough, Kelly can also be found blogging at Love Well.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


By Kelly

Teyla, who will be one on Friday, is attempting her first word this week.

It’s “uh-oh.”

That scares me, just a little.

My intuition tells me this is the child who will necessitate Christmas cards sent annually to the emergency room staff. This is the child who will attempt to cut her own hair with gardening shears. This is the child who will make my hair go gray before I pull it out.

She’s so inquisitive.  So smart. So opinionated. So persistent.

So strong-willed.

I don’t like labels all that much, especially labels that carry a negative connotation. I don’t like how they box people in and set up preconceived (and often self-fulfilling) notions.

But in this case, it is what it is. Teyla is the sweetest baby. Her grin makes the air around her crackle with joy. She giggles and shrieks and discovers her way through each waking moment. But she is also a spitfire and raising her will be an extreme sport, both exhilarating and dangerous.

If there’s anything I’ve learned in my seven years of parenting, it’s that each child is unique and thus requires their own unique parenting style. All of my kids are strong-willed in their own way. (It’s what happens when a strong-willed woman marries a stubborn man.) Natalie’s iron will doesn’t come out unless she’s backed into a corner, and even then, she tries to sheath it in velvet. Connor is willing to obey, as long as he agrees with the request. If not, he would rather hold his ground and die than give in.

And Teyla, at 11 months, is already paving her own path.


She will not be restrained by straps in shopping carts. It’s common for me to be seen wandering the aisles of Target with one hand grasping the back of her tiny shirt as she stands in the cart seat – with the belt still around her midsection – facing forward and shrieking. (I jokingly tell the amazed onlookers that she’s a born surfer.)

She does not feel it necessary to actually sit in her high chair. Five minutes after I buckle her in for a meal, she is free of the seat and sitting on the tray, dangling a chubby foot – now sockless, of course – over the edge, as if she was sitting on a lakeside dock on a summer’s day.

She has fallen down the stairs. Twice.

She has taught me what it means to fear silence.

(As I’m writing this, she is in the laundry room pulling down her sibling’s bags of Halloween candy. She already has a huge Tootsie Roll – still in the wrapper – stuffed in her mouth. Oy.)

When she wants something, she points to it and shrills. “Dat! Dat!” When denied her prize – like my coffee, for instance – she howls. If she’s feeling particularly dramatic, she throws in an arched back for good measure.

For the most part, Corey and I just laugh at our tiny dictator’s antics. We like to say our kids don’t know who they are messing with. We are strong-willed black belts. It’s tiring, parenting such determined children. But we know that with great strength comes great potential. And we pray that our own journeys, filled with battles and scars and profound humblings, will give us wisdom as we attempt to steer these wild stallions.

Because trying to parent these little ones without the help of The One who made them?

That’s the real uh-oh.

Kelly also blogs at Love Well.