Friday, March 27, 2015

Belong in This World

Today a little girl in my class, frustrated with an assignment, had a rush of emotions that make her declare sobbing, "I just don't belong in this world." After comforting her, shedding a few tears with her feeling rather helpless, I kept hearing her words in my head.

As a teacher, I want kids to feel loved, safe, happy, and cared for; all the time, but at the least when they are with me.  The fact she felt comfort confiding in me made me feel like I'd done a little of my job right. As a mommy, this little girl's feelings are one of my biggest fears for my own children.  I thought way too much growing up, remembered way too many details about things that were trivial to others, and there were lots of times, I wondered where I do fit in in this world. I was well liked, I did lots of extra-curriculars even when I was the same age as the kids I teach (clogging counts, right?).  I had friends, they might not have read as many novels or learned their multiplication facts as quickly, but they didn't dislike me because I was good at school, and I didn't care that they didn't have the same love for school as I did.

How can I help my students and my babies not feel like this?  I don't know.  Find things they are good at.  Nurture friendships and relationships.  Give them time to work cooperatively.  Give them time to be independent.  Laugh with them.  Cry with them. Build them up. The other 26 students in my class were genuinely worried about their classmate.  We have had several class meetings this year about kindness, acceptance, but none about how to accept ourselves.  Reagan laid in bed last night and told herself she loved her.  I laughed, thinking, "well, she's slightly full of herself."  Her birthday is tomorrow and even though she's sharing a joint party with her sister next month, cupcakes at school today and a tea party at the Children's Museum tomorrow has made her think she's getting "SO many birthdays!!!" But my nearly four year old had it right.  She asked me, "Mommy, you love you too, right?"  I smiled and told her sure.  Somewhere between being a cute baby, a funny toddler, a smartie pants preschooler and where my school kids are now, that sense of self love is torn down.  While some kids are full of themselves, more often than not, they are just looking for and trying to find themselves.

I'm thankful by the time I was really trying to figure this out, I had my parents and my youth leaders at church to help guide me.  I didn't always listen.  I had to make mistakes on my own, but I didn't question my place as much.  I was a pretty well rounded kid and  I could pretty much fit in anywhere.  I'm not sure my normalcy is hereditary, so I'm going to do all I can to help all my little ones (the 27 I see at school daily and the 3 I tuck into bed at night), to feel love, feel cared for, to feel they belong.

My heart has never hurt quite like it did today when I heard those words.  Everyone wants to belong somewhere.  Changing jobs, making a big move from my comfortable small town, I understand the grown up side of that conversation today. And the grown up side of me knows a lot of the time, I don't belong in this world. I'm just grateful I'm in a place where I can try to make things a little brighter where I am.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Why I'm Glad My Kids Are Less Than 14 Months Apart...

When you have kids people ALWAYS have advice to give you.  And somehow, having really small children gives permission to people to say whatever they want to you.  I like to think I'm a pretty decent mother.  Not perfect, not over the top, not too slack, but somewhere right around sensible.  No I didn't plan on having my girls in consecutive years, but I wouldn't change it and here's the top five reasons why:

1.  I never had to pack away and then re-get out all the "baby" stuff.  High chairs, swings, bouncers, rock 'n plays, cribs, changing table, etc all are bulky.  They take up tons of space, but when having little people, they're so handy (and some necessary)  Reagan was 6 months old when we found out Anna was on the way.  I just shoved that crap in the corner for the new baby.

2.  I love hearing people say "Wow, you have your hands full." Well, not really.  But we get it a lot and I've had a lot of time to work on my one liners back.  Like when one babe is in the cart and one is on my back... "Well, actually my hands are pretty free."  Or "Yep, but I sure do have pretty nails, see?!" (Ha!  Just kidding, but shameless Jamberry plug there).

3.  Oh, gosh two in diapers?!  Yes.  2 in diapers.  While an expense, so much easier than a newly potty trained kid and a newbie.  The running to the disgusting public bathrooms or back to the minivan for the travel potty blows.  You pooped your diaper, baby?!  No problem, I can change that in a sanitary, controlled space I choose.

4. My girls love the same activities and pretty much are at the same speed.  I'm not a helicopter mom, but I do watch my kids and try to be sure they are safe.  We went to the park today, and the girls could pretty much climb, slide, and jump from the same spaces.  I felt bad for the mom with the not-yet-mobile baby in the baby swing and the active preschooler climbing and jumping.  How do you keep the baby occupied and make sure the big kid isn't breaking his arm?!  Don't know.  I don't have to figure that out!

5.  They are best friends.  Really.  End of story.  Nothing warms my heart more than seeing how close these sisters are.

So while people have said lots about my oops baby, complete strangers mind you, I have always been content knowing that God doesn't make oopsies.  At a time I was pretty defensive about it, to the point, I would introduce myself saying, "Hi, I'm Rachel.  I have a __  and a __ year old, and it's exactly like it sounds, they're a year apart." Now, I'm a little older, a little wiser, and completely content with our family dynamic.  If we hadn't have had the girls so close, Reagan may very well have been our only (in addition to her brother, who has one liners too for the hands full line too), and her built in best friend for life wouldn't be here.  And while to the outside world it may look like chaos, I absolutely love it.... we wouldn't have it any other way!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Birthday Blues

I have always loved March.  Especially the first week of March.  Basketball season is at it's peak, there's that fun rivalry of Duke and Carolina, in college it was always the week we were out on Spring Break, and for my whole life it's the week of my birthday!  This year as my birthday approaches, I'm less than excited.  I'm not an overly sentimental person, but I'm pretty emotional about bidding farewell to my twenties.

This all sneaked up on me this weekend.  The weather was yucky, I was doing the massive amounts of laundry from snowy day layers, to Anna's 2,341 wardrobe changes a day. Somehow in the bottom of the laundry there was a tiny little onesie that probably hasn't fit either baby in years, which says a lot since the babies are only two & three.  I held it in my hands.  I'm not one of those moms that boo hoo's when packing away the clothes that the little ones have outgrown.  In fact, I love it.  I love making room for new stuff and getting rid of the old stuff.  But this day, I looked at it, almost in disbelief.  Somehow, I used to have a person that was that tiny and I managed to keep it alive until it was no longer so tiny, twice.  Holy guacamole.

I thought when I was home with a newborn and a one year old, life wouldn't get any harder.  I was wrong.  If you've asked me at any point within the last few weeks, I've told you, all I want for my birthday is a couple hours to forget it's my birthday and forget about being responsible.  I'm pretty sure that a whiny brat has taken over the body of my near 4 year old, and I'm convinced that my other child may need to see an exorcist.  I wake up in the morning and my body wants to jump out of bed, but my head is saying, "Do I really have to get up?  You're going to have to dress the child who likes none of her clothes and will flail around, hiss, hit, and scream.  Not to mention, said child is going to have to ride in her carseat, which she also has a strong aversion to."  I roll over for a few more minutes to wallow in the dread of it all.

I'm not even 100% why I have this gray cloud hanging out above me, I have everything I've ever wanted.  If I could have planned my life, it's even better than my plan.  I have a husband who is supportive and loving.  Two little girls who are beautiful, creative, and witty.  A son, while not mine by birth, is as much my child as his sisters.  We have a home full of laughter.  I work at a job that never feels like work, that I get to have fun and do what I love, teach and learn and be around 28 of the best kids all day.  But as my birthday approaches, I still get a little sad.  I've pretty much met all the 5 year plans I've laid out, but I have no idea what I want just for me personally in the next 5, the next 10.  The day I got married, my priorities changed. I had two other people's needs I put before mine.  The day I became mommy, I had a tiny person who depended on me for every single most basic need.  When all of this happened, I changed.  I would say I lost a bit of me, but that's not true. That old me evolved.  And she's so much more giving and loving and caring.....and tired and exhausted....and old.

This weekend as I held that tiny little onesie, I thought about the changes this decade has brought.  At twenty, I celebrated my birthday with the sweetest girls in Gray Hall.  We may not have had {legal} air conditioner (it's a fun story-my roommate and I had a rolling a/c unit that certainly wasn't to code--but our room was the coolest, literally), but we had so much fun.  The past few years, I've had joint dinners with a little boy whose birthday is a week before mine.  Life has changed so quickly.  While I feel so fortunate for this life, I miss those carefree days, and I'm not sure I truly appreciated them at the time.

I think my recent exhaustion from the constant crying, all out tantrums and being stuck inside for the last 2 weeks thanks to winter has majorly attributed to my birthday blues.  I've always loved my birthday.  I'm an outspoken, first born, lover of attention after all.  But once my girls were born, being the center of attention, isn't really for me anymore.  I couldn't be more happy to share the spotlight.  I still love birthdays, just not mine as much.  When life held a lot of uncertainty for me, and I was unsure of the path I was supposed to take, I would repeat my favorite Bible verse in my head (Jer. 29:11) and all seemed right with the world.  Tonight as I'm holding on to twenty-nine for a couple more days, I think about that verse again.  It still rings true now, as it did then. Makes my birthday blues...seem less blue.