“in between”

Last weekend I was struck by how big my kids are.  Even though I call them my littles, they aren’t so little anymore.

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Looking at this shot, I realized that – there is no pause button on this crazy train of life.  No matter how hard I try I cannot slow it down.  These kids keep growing and we are basically holding our breath trying to hang on through each new stage.  The diapers and the diaper bags have left the house, the crib has been disassembled, and finally we have freedom from the sippy cups that loved to hide under the van seats.

Life has taken a new turn, around the corner from 3 and under, and headed down the street towards “mom all my friends have iPod touches”. We are in the “in between” stage, where my kids are not quite preteens – and the scariness that comes with middle school is a only couple short years away.

Babies and toddlers are so darn hard and so deeply exhausting at times.  Most of the time it feels like the mothering never stops.  Never.  Ever.  The nights are long with the rocking and soothing.  The days are sometimes longer with 5 page books on repeat, wiping of the runny-nose-faucet, changing of the diapers  and round the clock snack service.  Its amazing the strength we have as mothers to accomplish all of these things not only daily but on “freaky friday” repeat day in and day out.  Thank goodness they are so cute!!

Whether or not I want to embrace it, I am on the other side now.  The side where you wonder how many more times your “not so baby boy” will embrace you with a hug and a occasional kiss on the blacktop before school.  The side where you have to explain to your kids that you don’t know why people are mean and why some don’t include you.  The side where your mothering gets tested in such an intense emotional way that you would give anything to go back to the physically intense part of mothering where your 14 month old having a stuffy nose was the worst part of your week.

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When I hold my 3 month old niece, it is as if my uterus is contracting, trying to tell me– I need and want to go back.  But I am slowly realizing it’s ok to not go back.  We put the hours in and thank the Lord- he has filled my mind with a magic filter that allows me to look back and see that it was all worth it – and it was all good.

The long nights that taught me I was the mother they needed.  The longer days showed me how important my job was.  And the bouts of toddler tantrums reminded me I did have enough patience.

Life is funny how you can’t always see the goodness shine through until you take a couple steps back and wait for the fog to lift.  The welcome sign is lit for the next stage of life, and I will walk forward, contracting uterus and all.

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Pieces of Family: Reading

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I’m excited about starting a new blog series!  Each week I am going to try to take a look at a piece of the mosaic that makes up my crazy life.  Kicking it off today with a look at my family, and how we foster a love for reading in our home.

I love reading.  Getting lost in a book while forgetting about everything around me equals perfection.  Whenever we go away or on vacation I am sure to plan out what books I am bringing or load up some new reads on my kindle.  I have been known to stay up way beyond any reasonable time just to finish a book, telling myself I will read just one more chapter.  Sometimes I wish I allowed myself more time just to read at night, but truth be told I usually get sucked into some stupid tv show.

A couple of years ago I decided that I wanted my kids to develop a passion for reading and stories of their own.  My older ones could now read on their own and had even begun reading chapter books.  Their homework had even begun to include independent reading time.  I knew that if I wanted them to believe that reading was just something you did everyday, just like brushing your teeth,  I had to model it as well.  I gathered some books I wanted to read and made sure they were close by if I needed to pick one up.  I knew if I modeled just picking up a book and reading, they would see it as a norm.  Before bed, we would all stay down in the living room for a little bit longer to pick up a good story, sprawled out on our couch, legs overlapping as we all grab a book.

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Sometimes I pretend to read but secretly I am  just staring at them.  Watching their little faces, noses deep in a book, lost in another world.  They have quickly learned I am a sucker for book stores, that I love Barnes and noble, and that a used book sale at the library means I will probably blow all my lunch money that week!

We still read out loud to them, reading classics like Madeline, Pippi Longstocking, and the Box Car Kids.  We have even started letting them read in their beds after we say goodnight for 15 minutes.  There is just something so beautiful about seeing a little habit form in them with reading.

Now there was some opposition, as always!  I remember when our daughter was struggling with reading in kindergarten, and tears were a regular thing during reading time.  And tantrums and stomping and screaming that she hated reading, yes she is quite the drama child when she wants to be, and we love her dearly nonetheless.  I remember so many days sitting there next to her listening to her slowly sound out each word.  Let me just stop right here and be super honest—I hated this!!! It was soooo painful to sit there for 20 minutes and listen to chopped up reading of these silly books they sent home from school.

Well sure enough as soon as the slow as molasses reading started to become a little smoother, a certain little girl realized the power and independence that came with reading her own chapter books.  Before I knew it she was head over heels for a certain Junie B Jones girl and was always grabbing a book as we headed out the door.

I know not every kid is going to love reading, every child is just drawn to different things.  Looking back I am glad I didn’t surrender so quickly that my daughter wouldn’t love reading because I would have missed out on seeing her nose deep in a book every night before bed.  Each family makes their own values and priorities, that’s what makes us all unique.  In our house, reading is one of them.  Whether they read by themselves, or we read together, or I read a loud while they color or draw, I always want them to know how to create a picture in their head with their own imagination.  Whatever you value, if you want your kids to value it too, you just have to model it for them.  Good or bad they are always watching.

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