Getting an education

In 2006, when Stu started working on his undergrad again at PHCC and I started at Saint Leo, I had a sort of vague idea that I might, one day, want to leave the classroom to become an administrator.  I was brand new at Hudson, only teaching my second semester of classes when I was applying for graduate school.  I barely knew what it meant to be an administrator, but I probably thought I could do it easily.  I remember seeing my peers taking the classes and completing the projects required of the masters program, thinking that I could very successfully do the work they were being assigned.  So I entered the Masters in Education Leadership program at Saint Leo University.

I kept pace with Stu; as he was toiling away at the tedious prerequisites in math and science, I was taking one class at a time.  When he transferred his credits to Saint Leo, and started his Bachelors in Education program in earnest, driving to Saint Leo two or three nights a week on top of a full-time job and homework for several online classes, I plodded along as well, taking more classes online so I wasn’t out of the house any more than necessary.  We had Cari, after all, and she was still in daycare.

For those who knew us then, our family must have looked very scholarly, as if this intellectual pursuit was something so noble and pure.  We would stay after hours at school to complete our school assignments before picking up Cari.  Then I would take Cari home while Stu drove to Saint Leo for his three-hour classes, and I would grade papers at the kitchen table while Cari hung out in the other room.  Stu would finish up classes and nearly fall asleep on the long drive home along 52 because there isn’t anything to look at on 52 except cows and trees.  We managed this while serving as class sponsors and chaperones, attending football games on Friday nights or conducting fundraisers on Saturdays.  But the truth of our experience wasn’t nearly so noble.  When we were both in classes, Stu and I would bicker constantly, we really sucked as parents, and we allowed TV to parent Cari while we finished homework.  I have a sharp memory from this time: one Wednesday night, the night when discussions were due in every single class EVER, Stu sat in the bedroom struggling to complete an assignment, and I sat in the living room struggling to complete an assignment, while Cari cried and screamed hysterically from the bedroom.  I was certainly crying, too, blinking through my tears to focus my vision on a stupid, ridiculous, pointless, and meaningless discussion post before 11:59 so I could get the credit.

But in May 2010, at the same ceremony, Stu earned his bachelors degree in education, and I earned my masters degree in education leadership.  It was one of the proudest moments of my life.

Working through my masters program while my husband earned his bachelors revealed to me so much about what education really looks like for some people.  I thought, in my naiveté, that everyone’s college experience should be like mine.  I went to Mary Washington College, which I’ve mentioned here before, and experienced college in a stereotypical, but not very realistic, way.  I lived in the dorms for all four years.  I huddled into the library, pouring over thick, stinky books for obscure commentaries.  I wrote papers until the sun came up.  I worked impossibly hard, and I had the opportunity to delve deeply into Dickinson, Shakespeare, and Milton.  To this day I cannot recreate the level of analysis I was able to achieve in those days.  Lord, I was self-important!  But I never worked a job during college other than as a resident assistant or English Department assistant.  My only serious relationships were with my roommates and friends; I didn’t date seriously, and certainly didn’t have a child.  I had no idea what many, many others experience in getting their education.  But as a grown up, I was able to understand that just making it through was an accomplishment worthy of great praise, and one hell of a big party.

I consider myself lucky to have had both experiences: the stereotypical college experience and the adult learning experience.  As a stereotypical college student, I learned how to really, really work at something, content so challenging that I had to pick through it to understand every. single. word.  I learned how to speak with other smart people without making myself look like an idiot.  I learned how to operate under deadlines.  I learned how to BS like a pro, when necessary, and I learned that sometimes BS wasn’t going to cut it.  But as an adult going back to school, I learned to balance priorities that really count.  I learned how to support my husband selflessly.  I learned that sometimes Cari needs to see me work at something so she gets how important it is for her to work at something, too.  I learned that sometimes just getting something done was worth celebrating.  And I learned how to work impossibly hard, even when a million distractions are rattling around in my head fighting for attention.

So it isn’t only the content of my masters program that I will use one day as an administrator.  I will also use the grit and determination that I picked up while writing discussion posts while tears blurred my vision and my daughter cried in the other room.

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To my daughter, on her ninth birthday

We’ve had a big week for Cari this week. On Saturday, I got Cari all dolled up for her dance recital pictures (much easier this time than the four times before). I sat at the studio for a couple of hours while Cari posed for pictures for her two routines, then practiced her routines in costume. By the end if the day, we were exhausted and cranky, so the perfect solution was a nap.

Then on Sunday, we dressed up pretty for a Mommy and Me photo shoot in honor of Mother’s Day with our friend Stephanie Beaty of Lifeography. It was one of those experiences that caused me to have a glimpse of the future before me. I stood in the bathroom, behind my blond baby, who isn’t a baby at all anymore, and I saw us on her wedding day. We both wore white, and I just had a flash of her shiny blond hair spilling over the shoulders of her wedding gown. I didn’t see her face, or even mine, in that moment.  But I realized that I needed to be present. So I put on my makeup with extra care, because I didn’t want to waste any of that precious day worrying if I wasn’t pretty enough.  So Cari and I joined Stephanie at a treasure of a little park, called James E. Grey Preserve, a place I have lived minutes away from for years but never knew existed.  We drove down the little dirt road to the entrance, and Cari was a little moody.  She wouldn’t talk or give me a smile in the rearview mirror.  I realized that my girl isn’t so little anymore; she’s entered the pre-teen years with gusto.  Where she would happily preen for pictures a year ago, now she gives goofy grins that don’t capture what her real happiness looks like.  So we made a deal: when the pictures were over. we would stop at Dairy Queen on the way home for smoothies (obviously. I’m not above bribery).

Stephanie has never photographed us before, but I knew from seeing her work online that I trusted her vision, so I allowed her to direct us, even though it is in my nature to seek to control.  We had a number of model-moments, where we supposed to look moody and serious, but neither Cari nor I could manage it.  Cari gave her awkward little half smile, as if to say, “My mom wants us to be doing this, but I’m not entirely sure I care to be here.” Or, “Miss Stephanie wants me to laugh, but I don’t see how anything about this situation is funny.” Or, “Can’t we be done already? I want my smoothie.” My favorite moments were the ones that were real; when Cari would throw her arms around my neck, or when she sat on my lap like she has for the past 7 years, from when she wasn’t snuggled anymore in my arms, but when she would climb into my lap, belly to belly, with her legs dangling behind me. Stephanie captured some truly silly, but still perfectly US moments. I looked like I was in love with my kid. So pretty much they came out perfectly.

Then Cari celebrated her ninth birthday on Wednesday. In a flash of inspiration that any Pinterest parent would approve of, I decided to ask Cari some questions about her preferences today to commemorate the occasion.

  1. What is your favorite color? Blue
  2. What is your favorite toy? Woofie, of course
  3. What is your favorite fruit? Watermelon
  4. What is your favorite tv show? Liv and Maddie
  5. What is your favorite movie? Frozen
  6. What is your favorite thing to wear? Dresses
  7. What is your favorite animal? Bunnies
  8. What is your favorite song? Let It Go, or Problem from Arianna Grande
  9. What is your favorite book? Judy Moody
  10. Who is your best friend? Mommy
  11. What is your favorite snack? Cheese Its
  12. What is your favorite drink? Water
  13. What is your favorite breakfast? Waffles
  14. What is your favorite lunch? Macaroni and Cheese
  15. What is your favorite dinner? Chicken and Broccoli
  16. What is your favorite game? The Subway Surfers
  17. What is your favorite thing to play outside? Play in the playground
  18. What is your favorite holiday? Christmas
  19. What do you sleep with at night? Woofie and Bear Bear
  20. What do you want to be when you grow up? I don’t know, a teacher?

Cari is the best thing I have ever done in my life. She is sweet and silly; she loves to snuggle with either Stu or I, and she would eat chicken and broccoli as every meal if we let her. She is incredibly comfortable at Hudson, since she’s with us ALL THE TIME. For Take Your Child to Work Day, she left my classroom, and I assumed she was going to my husband’s classroom. But when I saw him 30 minutes later and he didn’t have Cari, I got a little concerned. Well, she went to the front office to hang out in our assistant principal’s office. Yeah, that’s my kid: fearless in social situations. Cari is like her mommy; when she’s tired, she doesn’t always know to rest. Instead, she gets really cranky until someone convinces her that she won’t miss anything if she takes a nap. She sings and talks to herself (technically, she speaks for her animals). She has a stuffed dog named Woofie that she loves to pieces. Literally pieces. Woofie has had more than one reconstruction surgery by my mom. Cari is tall and has big feet, like grown-up feet. She has her daddy’s blue eyes, and the most enviable hair EVER. Her least favorite chore/job: drying her hair. That’s a fight every night. She knows how to use the word ironically correctly. She doesn’t ask for a little brother or sister because I think she knows that we won’t have as much time for her. She keeps her room neater than we keep ours. She cleans the toilet and the sink for fun.

I know that every parent is crazy about their kid. I’m crazy about mine. She’s not perfect, and I’m so glad. I couldn’t bear it. But she’s a wonderful human being and I can’t wait to see what the next nine years will look like.

(Yikes. In another nine years, she’ll be 18 and going off to college. How’s that for a wakeup call?)

What you see when you’re actually looking

A few years ago, some family from Virginia came to visit Stu, Cari, and me in Florida, and we went to Downtown Disney for dinner and browsing.  Our rich meal didn’t agree with all of the members of our party: one of our visitors (who will remain nameless) was pretty uncomfortable, pained, and, most notably, pretty gassy that night.  Fortunately, in that group, she wasn’t embarrassed, and made a joke of her predicament.  In one of the high end shops that sells art glass and figurines, she sidled up to me, feigning interest in a piece I was looking at before leaving a ridiculously stinky fart behind without any warning.  I covered my nose and complained loudly while getting clear of the fumes, and she was delighted in my irritation.  Later, as we walked past a similar family group walking in the opposite direction, she delivered an epically deadly but silent fart that has become legend in our family.  We knew it happened because her step quickened and laughter started shaking her shoulders in the same way she had tormented me earlier in the evening.  But when one of the women in the family we passed said “Oh my god” in a voice that was audible to us even as the distance between us widened, our whole group erupted into spontaneous peals of hysterical laughter.  We couldn’t help it.  I’ve often wondered at how observers of our family interpreted that moment.  For us, it was the culmination of a whole lot of little jokes that had happened all evening long.  It was an example of how free we felt together, comfortable enough to fart in front of one another, and comfortable enough to laugh at one another about it.  But I can only guess at what the crowds around us saw in that brief moment, if they were even looking.

I caught a similar moment today: driving through Pass-a-Grille, I lifted my eyes to watch the beautiful houses for a moment when I watched a woman walking behind another woman and a child brush her fingers past her face, grimacing in the obvious reaction to something stinky.  I couldn’t help chuckling to myself.  I had witnessed such an awkward moment, on the same level as turning to the car next to you to observe a 40 year-old man singing passionately to some Taylor Swift.  A private moment that most people wouldn’t be pleased to know someone else had observed.

It occurred to me in that moment that I had opportunities to see plenty if I would only pay attention, but I hadn’t been–I had my nose buried in my cell phone.  In that moment, though, I decided to watch more carefully.  As a result, I spent the rest of the evening seeing silly and striking things.

We ended up at a restaurant called The Moon Under Water where Stu, Cari, and I were seated on the porch between the bar and the hostess table.  There was a 30 minute wait for a table, so most patrons gave the hostess their names and walked past us to the bar where they would pass the next thirty minutes drinking (mostly) large pints of beer.  It is a pub after all.  After a few minutes, Stu caught on to my game, and we watched the passing customers with great interest.  There was first date couple, two very fashionable young people who tried to navigate the awkwardness of making small talk before settling into the comfort of a table with a menu to discuss.  Then there was the older woman who incongruously double fisted two enormous handled jugs glasses of beer.  Or the woman who applied her pink lipstick to her entire face as she walked from the restaurant.  Or the woman who put on her scarf with such determination that she hit her companion in the face.

I managed to observe some pretty impressive beauty in St. Petersburg, too.  I am still struck by how the trees of Vinoy Park grow so elegantly, romantically.  The boats on the water were proud and graceful, their sails snapping a little in the wind that made my hair fly all around my face.  Then there were people captured in beautiful moments. I caught a very intense conversation between a father and his teenaged son: the father seemed sympathetic and kind toward his son, but his son just looked away.  There was a family much like ours that decided to treat their young daughter to a ride in the Cinderella-style horse drawn carriage, providing the girl with the princess treatment, complete with beauty queen waves to her loving subjects.  And there was incredibly thoughtful trolly driver who told us about the best restaurants in the area and drove us to USF St. Pete (outside of his normal route) because I said I had taken a class there.

There wasn’t anything especially remarkable about tonight.  My family decided to take a drive to St. Petersburg, walk around a bit, share a meal, and take a ride in the trolly.  But because I had managed to take off my blinders for a little while, I managed to see more of the world around me.

I’m so guilty of distraction that makes me lose focus of what’s happening around me.  For the whole year that Stu had an iPhone before I did, I complained incessantly that he couldn’t get his nose out of his phone.  Now, I’m pretty certain that I’m even worse than he was.  I troll Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, commenting on the lives my friends have instead of living in my own.  I guess the lesson is that sometimes it’s important for me to disconnect from the things that distract and force myself to engage in the present.  When I do, I’m never disappointed.  Facebook can wait.

Showdown.

In an average day, I encounter conflict pretty regularly.  Conflict, as in “an incompatibility between two or more opinions, principles, and interests.”  My opinion, for example, is that the students in my third period class should NOT use their cell phones during my recent lesson introducing The Crucible.  Their opinion, on the other hand, is that they should.  Thus, an incompatibility.  But I rarely allow my temper to flare in those moments; I don’t escalate arguments with kids.  I’ve learned that with high school students, a teacher shouldn’t ever cop an attitude that she wouldn’t want a kid to respond with.  So I calmly ask them to put their phones away, and while they may grumble, they *mostly* do as I say.

This is a pretty significant departure from how I responded to conflict when I was younger.  In those days, my parents would demand that I do something, and I would storm off, my vision blurring a little on the edges until I was out of earshot, and I would explode, picking up some laundry and throwing it against the wall.  I was never dumb enough to actually throw something that could cause damage.  Or I would scream into a pillow.  Lord, I got so mad.  The memories of those moments are clear as day…  I see the laundry area of the house I grew up in in Alexandria, I see the wooden stairs, I see the linoleum floors, but I don’t remember what made me so mad.  How is that?  I certainly had a lot of anger, but I always knew better than to explode at my parents.

But the conflict in my life is a much bigger deal now.  If I have conflict in my classroom, I make a hostile work environment for myself and my students.  I have to see them too often for that.  Plus, I really do love my job, and I wouldn’t want to HATE going there.  If I have conflict with Cari, as I often do because she’s sassy and I’m surly, I try to control my temper.  Sometimes I succeed, but other times, I fail miserably.  I’ve responded to her telling me “No” with ugliness I’m not proud of.  But I try to apologize if I’ve done that, mostly so she knows that I love her even when I’m not being loving.  If I have conflict in my marriage, I feel like a piece of my life is askew.  I can’t stand to be in conflict with Stu for long.  That means I apologize a lot sooner than I would like to because I know someone has to make the first move, and Stu has the most forgiving wife on the planet.  Stu would probably disagree.  While I’m getting my emotions out, I can be panicked, loud, irrational, even cruel.  He will shut down and refuse to talk to me.  We go to our separate corners, and calm down.  I often extend the olive branch to start up the conversation again, this time more peacefully.  I only mind a little that I’m often the first one to budge.  Winning an argument is a whole lot less important than being on good terms with my best friend.

How do you approach conflict?  Do you blow up?  Do you shut down?  Are you an eye roller?  Do you use the Hate word?

This post is in response to the Daily Post.

Fear. A four-letter word.

Fear is a funny thing. It protects us from doing stupid things, like jumping from rooftops into tiny backyard pools. It makes overcoming an obstacle, like delivering a speech in front of a class, so much more of an accomplishment. But it also prevents us from doing things that might grow us, might teach us something, might make us feel brilliantly happy and alive. I hate fear, and unfortunately, I spend a lot of time avoiding the sensation. I guess it’s not a bad thing that I fear heights, because that’ll keep me from jumping off rooftops, but some of my other fears have held me back. And my fears seem to be rubbing off on Cari.

Yearly, the local Catholic church and school puts on a massive carnival, complete with colorful, cheerful rides, ridiculously unhealthy food, and the prerequisite carnival games in which winners can take home a sad little goldfish, at least for one night anyways.  The carnival always looks way more fun than it actually is; the spiraling lights tempt, even me, to come and spend more money than I should, and I always come home feeling a little dirty; physically, because I always wear flip flops and the carnival grounds are all sand, and emotionally, because the carnival is like one big glut of food, rides, and games.

This year, Cari caught a glimpse of the carnival one day on our drive home from school and must have read the sign declaring the dates of when the carnival would be open, because on Saturday night, when Stu, Cari, and I drove home from a late dinner, she perked up at the pretty lights and declared that she wanted to go.  She was certain that Sunday would be the last night.  Stu, of course, said that he was interested in taking her.  True to form, I said I didn’t want to go, but an interest in photographing the spectacle encouraged enough enthusiasm for me to agree to go for an hour and a half.

A word about Cari: we don’t often like to share with her what our plans are.  She is very much her mother’s daughter, because once she knows that some event is tentatively planned, she will insist upon knowing all of the details.

“What are we doing this weekend?” she’ll ask.

“Well, on Saturday, I thought we could go to the Spring Fling at Mrs. Lynn’s church.  Then on Sunday, we’ll go to church.”

“What are we doing after Spring Fling?”

“Well, I’m not sure.  We should probably clean the house and do some laundry.”

“Are you working at church this week?”

“No, baby, not this week.”

“Who are we having lunch with after church?”

“I don’t know, Cari, we haven’t made plans yet.”

“What about after lunch?  What are we doing then?”

It’s hard to deal with a child who insists upon knowing details when I don’t always have the details.  On the weekends, I relish my peace.  I recharge all the energy I’ve spent during the week dealing with my high maintenance students and don’t always have the brain space to deal with my own high maintenance child.  So Stu and I are VERY vague about our plans, often hiding plans from her until we’re literally on our way.

So when we let it be known on Saturday night that we would consider going to the carnival, that’s all she wanted to talk about.

“I can’t wait to go on the Ferris wheel, Mommy!”

Well, the carnival didn’t turn out quite as we expected. After making a deliberate pass through, to get an idea of what was available, we bought Cari a $20 armband so she could ride all the rides she wanted. But my baby–my eight year-old, nearly as tall as some grown-ups baby–only wanted to ride baby rides. And she wasn’t allowed… She was too tall. What rides were left were big kid rides, rides like the Hurricane, a super fast, dizzying Dumbo-style ride that had Stu calling out for it to be over, bumper cars, the classic favorite, and of course, the Ferris wheel.

After riding a few rides and eating a slice of pizza in the shadow of the Ferris wheel, Cari decided that she was too scared to ride the Ferris wheel

Ugh. The science fair.

Earlier this year, Cari came home with a packet from school and a note that explained that since she’s in third grade, she would need to complete a required science fair project.  At first, I was really excited.  Cari showed early interest in magnets, so I jumped on the chance to help her with something she was actually into.  But in the months that followed, I (as mom) went through a ridiculous range of emotions.  Thankfully, this story ends well, because if it didn’t… well, I might not be sharing it here.


 

Blogging is eminently more satisfying than what I should be doing… that is, helping my daughter with her first ever Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Fair project.  For real.  I have so many feelings.  First, I have all of these uncomfortable flashbacks to elementary school, sitting at this very table, finishing some project or another while my mom gripes at me because I procrastinated.  Ugh.  That might be the worst part… the feelings that this project is bringing up in me.  Dread.  Angst.  Anxiety.  Reluctance.  Laziness.

Then there are the feelings of frustration with myself and with Cari.  I should have started this sooner.  I should have found a better way to get my kid engaged.  I should be kinder to my daughter when she gets bored and frustrated to keep her from shutting down.  I should be tougher on my kid when she gets bored and frustrated to build her stamina.  How will she ever become some important innovator without these skills?  How will she ever be successful in school if I don’t instill the desire to discover, to learn in her?

Finally, there are the feelings I have as a teacher.  I know that Cari should be doing this work by herself.  She should be learning the scientific process.  She should be engaged in inquiry.  She should be doing this work.  She should WANT to do this work.   But she’s in third grade, and much of the content we’re working through together, the nature of magnets, how they work–that in itself is pretty complicated, involving atomic level activity that I don’t really understand myself–and questions of scientific inquiry that I don’t know how to answer.  For example, the project requires that students construct a hypothesis:

The purpose of creating your hypothesis is to identify what you think will happen based on research that was collected.  The hypothesis needs to be worded as an “if… then… because…” statement explaining the cause and effect relationship that is being investigated.  Evidence from your research needs to be used to support and justify your thinking.

Cari wrote the following:

“If a magnet is heated, then it will be stronger because they will become warmer.”

Now, I realize there is some circular reasoning present here.  I’ve worked on that with Cari.  But to explain why she thinks a magnet will be stronger when it is heated requires some very complex research.  In fact, the research doesn’t support that conclusion.  There is no reason why a heated magnet should be stronger than a cooled magnet.  But this is what my daughter wanted to study.  So we studied it.  

I’m not opposed to this project.  Lord, I hope it helps Cari get interested in STEM, because as it stands, she’s very much her mother’s daughter, loving stories and the arts.  At least she’ll have a job if she loves and excels in STEM.  I’m not opposed to the time it has taken.  I am opposed to the implication that my third grader could independently complete a STEM project like the one she’s been assigned with any real scientific accuracy.  She doesn’t know how to effectively research scientific concepts, nor does she know how to construct a research plan.  She doesn’t know how to write a hypothesis or an abstract.  And I don’t know how to teach her.


 

We finished Cari’s project two days before it was due.  I’m ashamed to admit that there were tears, not only from Cari but from me.  I can only hope that Cari doesn’t remember her mother’s freak out, but the joy and pride she felt when she went to the school science fair.  Because that was all her.  For as much drama as the backboard caused, Cari was the one to present the information, explain the experiment to the judges, and communicate all she learned.  We must have done something right.

Sometimes motherhood is messy

This post might be a little gross.  I’m warning you now.

I think mothers have some uncanny awareness of the overall wellbeing of our kids.  We can tell when our kids are complaining of tummy aches to avoid finishing their dinners and we can tell when a tummy ache is about to become a big mess.  Imminently.  I surprised myself this week reading this sickness in my daughter.  The whole family had spent much of our Sunday watching UVA win the ACC tournament (spoiler alert: I’m loading some blogs into the hopper ahead of my launch… sorry if that seems disingenuous) and my girl tells me she isn’t feeling well.  Complains of a tummy ache but not in the way of a whiny eight year old hoping to get out of eating salad.  She seems genuinely uncomfortable, so I warn her to go run into the bathroom if she feels like she needs to be sick.  Don’t think I’m cruel, but cleaning up vomit is one of my least favorite jobs of motherhood.  Well, within the hour, I find Cari curled over the toilet, losing everything she’s had to eat all day.  My poor baby.  Over the next six hours, I’m putting her into the shower to clean her up after multiple episodes, cleaning the floors and sterilizing the toilet, washing clothes, and in general comforting my sweet, sweet girl, who, despite her sickness, apologized to ME for making a mess.  I could have wept.

I said that I surprised myself.  It wasn’t the fact that I had gotten it right, that I had guessed my kid was really sick, that had me surprised.  What had me surprised was the selflessness I managed in the hours that followed.  Please don’t misunderstand me: I’m not trying to say that I deserve some mother-of-the-year award because I took care of my baby in her sickness.  In fact, my mothering is one of my greatest vulnerabilities, one of the areas in my life where I am most self-conscious.  I see awesome moms everywhere and I resent how “together” they have it: I’ve never been the kind of mom to make handmade valentines, to pack cute individual snacks for soccer, to write cute notes for Secret Santa gifts at dance.  In fact, I’m pretty selfish: I value my time reading, writing, working, and as a result I experience pretty epic mom guilt at not being the kind of moms I see at work or at church.  But when it came down to it, on this particular Sunday night, my baby had my undivided attention.  She had my every thought.  I found myself laying on the couch at 1:45 AM watching Veronica Mars so I could be awake and be available to her.  When I finally decided Cari had gotten through the worst of her bug, I moved into the bed with Stu where I tossed and turned until 3, waiting to hear if she needed me again.  I’ve spent much of today with her, mostly cuddling, because a fever has her pretty listless.  But I haven’t wanted to do anything else but be with her.

There is some pretty dangerous mom dialogue out there.  On the one hand, TV depicts all kinds of moms…  moms who scream at one another over leaked gossip, moms who manage to make three spectacular meals a day and blog about them, moms who drink so heavily they need their kids to look after them, moms who give up themselves in the interest of their children.  On the other hand, real life shows us all kinds of moms, too…  moms on Facebook who celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with green pancakes and green smoothies (organic, of course) or moms at work who schedule play dates at the park complete with picnic lunches.  I’m guilty, too, of boasting on Facebook of how proud I am of Cari and her accomplishments.  And I am proud!  So very proud of my beautiful, sweet, smart, silly girl.  But I wish there was more realness in the world of motherhood: I wish I heard more of the struggles other mothers face, not because I would revel in anyone’s struggle, but because I see that I’m not alone.  Maybe then I could be more honest with my own issues.

At the end of the day, I’m snuggled in the bed with my little girl snuggled beside me, and she knows she’s loved and cared for.  I know that I’ve given her every bit of love and care I have inside me.  She has had a bad day, and even though it has been messy, we’re both content.  And I didn’t need any special show of motherhood to reveal how much I love my kid.

A few months ago, my church did a sermon series on this issue.  I’ve got this podcast loaded into my iPad for another listen, because I obviously need to hear it again.  Have a listen if you need the same encouragement I needed today.

Throwing up at Carrabba’s

I hadn’t been feeling all that great for days.  Weird stuff was happening.  I couldn’t brush my teeth in the morning without gagging.  My sense of smell was nuts.  I mean, NUTS.  I couldn’t figure out why I was so uncomfortable in my bras.  To most women, these symptoms are pretty obvious, but to a young woman whose closest friends hadn’t started having kids yet, well…  even I knew that I should maybe take a pregnancy test.

Stu and I went to Carrabba’s for dinner on the night we found out I was pregnant with Cari.  The Bruschette Scotty Thompson was delicious for almost 15 minutes before I started feeling sick.  I excused myself, leaving a concerned Stu at the table, and went to the bathroom where I threw up.  I’ll go pretty far to make sure I never throw up–it is THE worst sensation in the world–so I knew something was up.  But I didn’t tell Stu my suspicions right away; instead, I was quiet and thoughtful for the rest of the meal.  We left Carrabba’s to drive up to Hudson Beach for a peak at the water.  Sometime between Carrabba’s and Hudson Beach, I finally gathered the courage to tell Stu I thought I needed to take a pregnancy test.  That changed the trajectory of the night significantly.  Stu wasn’t impressed by my lack of urgency, especially considering my many, many symptoms.  I remember telling him, “But we just got here,” at his insistence that we leave Hudson Beach for home, as if I was crushed to leave that place.  I really think I was avoiding the inevitable, thinking that a confirmation could wait until I was one of those women on I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant.  

Stu and I had only just gotten engaged on my birthday that July, and we certainly would have liked to be married before getting pregnant.  Plus, there was the added complication that we were in the middle of classes for membership in a local church.  Couples have babies out of wedlock all the time, but this pregnancy wasn’t at all what we had planned for ourselves.

Stu drove me to my apartment at about 70 miles per hour, stopping at a 24-hour CVS.  I should add here that I didn’t step foot into that CVS again for years.  Literally years.  It was as if I was attempting to pay CVS back for being the bearer of such scary news.  We bought a digital read test, convinced that we needed the clearest result possible, even though the digital read test took much longer, according to the box, for a result.  It turns out that a digital read test doesn’t take that long after all.  I had the result before I was finished washing my hands.

I was eight weeks pregnant, a doctor confirmed the following Monday.  Cari was born in May of the following year.

It’s hard to believe now how much drama Stu and I had when we discovered we were pregnant with her.  Now I can’t imagine my life without her.  That seems cliche to type, too cliche to communicate the complexity of how motherhood has shaped my identity.  I don’t even remember who I was before I had Cari.  It’s as if I wasn’t fully ME until I became her mom.  But I’m so blessed to help shape the person she’s becoming.Cari