Let Me See Your Hands

“Let me see your hands,” she said as she held out her own to me. As she cradled my twelve-year-old hands in hers, my cousin went on to tell me how they looked like my grandmother’s. She gently stroked my fingers and described how kind and gentle my grandma was, how she spoke with her hands flying, the quiet presence she maintained in a loud and rowdy clan.

Grandma was the matriarch of a family of eleven. She had her share of losses and heartbreak, but anytime someone shares a memory of her, it is always one of admiration and fondness.

Hands.

I’ve been thinking about hands a lot lately. As I clip our boys’ fingernails, I see how much they’re changing. When I type out a new post my own hands catch my eye and I notice the freckle on my left ring finger and how it is slowly fading as I age.

Holding my mom’s hands during church and examining her rings, her fingernails, all the spots and imperfections. She hated her the age spots, but I carefully traced them and memorized the uniqueness that was hers. I can close my eyes now and picture how her hands looked and felt to five-year-old me.

Hands.

Adolescent me spent Tuesday nights watching “Growing Pains” and “Who’s The Boss” while carefully painting my fingernails. I took meticulous care of each one. Filing, buffing, and pushing back cuticles. These were my glory years – before the endless handwashing, dishwashing, laundry, and scrubbing that came with adulthood. I believe my last manicure was just before our wedding. My nail maintenance is mostly done at stoplights these days. My hands reflect who I am.

You have your grandma’s hands.

Tell me I have tiny fingers. Say that they look like little sausages. Tease me for being a hand-talker. That’s okay. I have my grandma’s hands and I will always be proud of that.

Hands are for helping.

Lend a hand, please.

Did you wash your hands? With soap? Let me see.

Hold my hand, it’s a busy street.

Recently I held my hands up to my oldest’s and noted that mine are not much bigger. Those tiny fingers that curled around my pinkie as I cuddled my newborn are now becoming little man hands. Soon he will have outgrown me.photo-2

So I will quietly slip my hand into his and hope he holds it, just a little longer. Because I’m not quite ready to let go. I want him to memorize my hands, trace my emerging age spots, know who I am.

Let me see your hands.

It’s Just Preschool

Preschool graduations. I admit, I have always thought they were a bit ridiculous.

It’s just preschool. They are starting out their school lives. How can one graduate when one is just beginning?

They come in children sizes, but should they?
They come in children sizes, but should they?

It’s just preschool. Why do we need to have ceremonies for this? Not everything has to be a big deal.

It is just preschool. They basically played all year.

What was the curriculum? Painting, gluing, singing, counting.

They just learned to share, listen, take turns, develop fine motor skills.

They only learned how to make friends, keep friends, speak clearly, open their own snacks. Print their name. Be away from mom and dad.

Why are we celebrating this past year? It’s just preschool after all.

Just preschool, where their teachers invested in their young lives as they ate their playdoh cookies. It was one or two mornings per week where they were stretched to try new things and think outside of their own experiences. Sitting at the carpet taught them mutual respect and how to follow a new routine. Planting bean seeds in paper towels and baggies fostered wonder and a sense of nurturing.

Maybe graduations aren’t necessary, but big things happen throughout our lives and they need to be marked. I think we’ve gotten carried away with graduations in particular (preschool, kindergarten, grade six, grade 8, grade 12, need I go on?) but reflecting on a year of growth and learning? That matters.

Pausing to say good-bye to a season of education or a milestone of life, let’s keep doing that. Minus the formal wear.

Even if it’s just preschool.

(Thank you, teachers of all grade levels. What you do matters and we are grateful).

One Family, Two Worlds

I stood on the sidewalk between two worlds.

I waved my Bigs goodbye as my Littles waited at home, playing. This is the point of my life now, two worlds within our own little family life. And it hurts, and it is difficult, and it is exciting.

This year I have been home with our youngest son. A few weeks ago, his kindergarten-age brother was home with us due to an appointment. Bearded Husband waited at home with the two youngest while I walked the oldest two up the street to school.

The seven-year-old immediately put his hand in mine, while the nine-year-old was somewhat surprised when I took his hand. “It’s not often I get to walk with just you two,” I said as way of explanation. And I miss it.

Daily I’m torn between the needs of the four.  The youngest two need more practical help and they all crave my attention and time. It is challenging to keep a balance.photo-58

“You don’t have to walk us all the way, we’ll can do it ourselves,” said my firstborn and his brother nodded in agreement. It’s not far, this walk to school, but that day the distance across the field felt like a portal. It was the path leading to independence, self-reliance, and growing up. A world apart from me.

I was glad, and proud, and I was sad. I miss you.

I miss your little hand grabbing mine. I miss you needing me to help you with your zipper. I miss you running and jumping up to squeeze me around my neck.

I need to savor this time while they’re on the cusp of growing up, becoming too big to hold my hand. 

I returned home, opened the front door and immediately was transported into a different world. A world of of booster seats, endless games of Candyland, and snuggling on the couch with a picture book. Piggyback rides, and play doh, and bubbles.

I love that the Bigs start the coffee in the morning for me. I love when they empty the dishwasher without being asked. I love when they offer to push the youngest on the swings. Their sense of humour and the running jokes we’ve developed –  I love it. I love the young men they are becoming

But I miss it. 

I miss their small hands and the smell of baby shampoo. I miss the days when they could fit on my lap. But they are getting older. And so I will let go, but in increments.

That day, the day they decided to walk on their own, I stood on the sidewalk until they reached the school yard, waving every time they turned to check if I was still there. And I was, waving to my boys who were far enough away that they couldn’t see the tears in my eyes.

Tears because I miss it, but I love who they are becoming.

It hurts, and it is difficult, but it is exciting, always exciting.

More Than Coffee

Walk into my kitchen right this moment and you might think you smell coffee, freshly brewed and filling the room with its cozy aroma.

And you would be wrong.

Sure, there is a pot of coffee waiting to be served, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a portal to the past. A glimpse into the summers of yesteryear.

On a summer evening with the windows open and the coffee on, I am transported to my childhood. To summer evenings as the sun slips away and the busyness of the day settles into contented quiet.

I hear the laughter of my extended family as we wrap up our annual holiday weekend barbeque. I detect voices of unseen passers-by taking in an evening stroll behind our house. If you’re still, there’s the sound of the tree frogs, the crickets, a motorcycle far off in the distance, the unique squeak of our backyard gate.

Walk back inside and there’s the aroma again and immediately I’m ten years old, rushing into the house for a drink between rounds of “Ghost in the Graveyard” or “Hide-and-Seek”. I can almost taste the Rice Krispie square I grabbed on my way outside to join in again.

Cousins, friends, family.

It’s not just coffee, it’s the backdrop to hospitality, gathering together, shared moments.

Memories.

Love.

Few things have this power for me. There is a magical force when open windows let in a summer evening breeze and waft that dark elixir into the air.

It’s not just coffee.

_______

Miss you, Maggie.

I Blew It

I blew it.

Again.

Every day I wake up and tell myself to make the most of the day. To be patient. To be understanding. To be the parent our boys deserve.

Some days I hit a home run. I engage, create, play, listen, comfort, and console. Those days I tuck them in at night and feel content and hopeful. Hopeful that I’m doing this whole parenting thing right. Hopeful that this day’s good will spill over into the next one, and the next, and maybe even the day after that.

But the next day there are shortened tempers, tattling, demands for favourite pants that are still wet from the washing machine. But I cling to the good from yesterday and dig in deeper to make it return. But this day there are battles over diggers, refusals to put on socks, back talk over packing vegetables in their lunches.

There’s still hope to turn this day around before yesterday’s good slips away completely. I take a deep breath and remind myself that they are young and selfish and sometimes just jerks. I need to model patience and compassion, tolerance and forgiveness.

He’s giving you a message, are you listening? He’s asking for that back, talk it out.

I feel yesterday’s good seeping out via yelling and slamming and stomping and then finally realize that I am doing it, too.

Don’t talk to me that way! STOP IT. STOP. IT. I WON’T HAVE IT.

My hand comes crashing down on the countertop for emphasis.

Emphasis? Or just frustration? Anger? It is anger.

Anger that they are cruel to each other. Anger that they deliberately set each other off. And anger at myself for losing control of my temper – the very thing I try every day to instil in their young personas.

I blew it.

Again.

We talk it out and we try to smooth over the powerful emotions. Apologies are offered and forgiveness received. But yesterday’s good is long gone – there’s nothing reserved for today. Today we start from scratch.

A friend texts and I share the struggles of the morning. I’m getting better at that, the sharing of the real stuff. Admitting that sometimes parenting is difficult makes you vulnerable, but I’m learning that I can’t do it on my own. I can’t even do this with just my husband. I need to be honest with my friends and let them be part of the funny anecdotes and the uglier moments.

I blew it.DSC_0200

Again.

This day I tuck our boys into bed and whisper into their hair how much I love them and I get a giant squeeze around my neck. There it is, I can see it – tomorrow. Tomorrow is a new day, full of good.

————

Thank you,  friends who walk this path of parenting that is both terrifying and joyful all at once. I could not do it without you.

Dancing Flowers

“Guess I can mentally plan my to-do list,” I thought as I bemoaned my driving decision.  Of course I had chosen the route to the store that was under construction.

Library, bank, maybe the dollar store – do we have time for the dollar store? What did I need to get there again?

A tiny voice pulled me out of my reverie. “Look! Mommy, the flowers are dancing!”

I turned my gaze in his direction and discovered he was focussed on the weeds at the side of the road that were flapping in the wind.

“They like this song, too! They are dancing. Like me!” he said with an added little wiggle.images

I wasn’t particularly stressed out or harried that morning, but his preschooler observation derailed me from my “gotta-get-it-all-done” attitude of the day. The days when I keep looking toward the next thing. You know what I’m talking about. When you aren’t present in the current moment, but rather jump two steps ahead to your other tasks or obligations.

Life is busy, and some days are more hectic than others. Seasons of life bring their own challenges and obstacles. But with these hurdles also come opportunities for joy and wonder. It is easy to let the stress and pressure dictate our responses and attitudes, but it is so much better when we don’t.

I can choose to look toward the next chore on my list, the next meal I need to plan, the next load of dishes I need to wash, or I can take a breath, pause, and put on the lens of a three-year-old. Try it with me, you’ll be amazed at what you see.

Rainbows in the patch of oil in a parking lot.

Birds perched at the highest tip of a tree.

Leaf impressions left on the sidewalk.

A bean bag chair can be a pirate ship, beware the alligators on the bedroom carpet.

The floor really is hot lava.

The farting noise when you close the garage door.

The realization that you can be invisible just by closing your eyes.

The way a stick takes on magical properties and transforms into endless possibilities.

When I let these moments take priority in my day I smile more, feel more at ease and calmer. Yes, those chores need doing, children need to be fed, toilets need cleaning (repeatedly), but they needn’t be my focus.

Every day we make choices. We can choose to begrudge the extra few minutes that road repairs cause or we can watch the flowers dancing.

I see them, you’re right – they are  dancing. Thank you.

 

What’s Your Legacy?

I am insignificant.

I cannot name the hometown of grandmother. I don’t know the names of my great-grandparents. I could not tell you how many siblings my grandpa had. Those people are insignificant, too. Yet without them, I would not be here. They are insignificant, but important.

There are four young boys who call me “Mommy” and I matter to them. My attitude, choices, and example influence theirs. But their grandchildren will think of me in passing, if at all.

Every day I interact with more than two hundred students in my role as teacher. I matter to them, but their own children will not hear about that teacher who held their hand when they were scared or helped them learn to be a friend. I matter, but I’m insignificant.

I am insignificant, but important, influential. I will leave a legacy. We all will.

What will that legacy be?

Opa dancing on the back deck with his granddaughters creates memories of fun and silliness. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Fishing trips with Dad let you know that a favourite pastime is better when shared with someone you love. Relationships matter.

Being ridiculous and crazy and uninhibited with your children teaches that life is to be lived joyfully. Small things have a big impact.

Serving others and sacrificing for a greater purpose says that there is more to this life.

Going for that bike ride with your son fulfils the promise you made. Honour your commitments and live with integrity.

What you choose to do here may seem insignificant, but it has a lasting impact. You will leave a legacy. Intentional or not. Planned or not. Purposeful or not. We will all leave a legacy.

The legacy will go on long after we have left this earth. What will yours be?

Broken

I am wrecked.

Emotionally.

Wrecked and drained and weary.

I am okay. I can go upstairs this very moment and pick up my Little and tell him that I love him and smell his sweet little boy smell.

But my heart is aching for another’s unspeakable loss.

My heart cannot contain these two opposing realities. I am grateful to be able to tuck in my boys and listen to them tell me about their days. Yet parents I know are saying good-bye to their cherished Little and I am broken.

How dare I feel sad? This is not my tragedy. This is not my loss. But here I am, wrecked and drained and weary.

We have the comfort that she is in heaven, I know. But in the meantime…

In the meantime, her room sits empty, her toys are still. Her parents miss her. They miss her and they ache and that will never subside.

All I have to do is walk upstairs. I feel incredibly sad and grateful.

It’s not about me, but I am broken.

I Never Knew

As the adults in the lives of young children we seem to spend so much of our time teaching them. And we do. By our words, our actions, our inaction, by how we spend our time with them. But the small children in my life have taught me a lot. Before I became a parent, I did not know so much.

I never knew how selfish I could be.

I never fully grasped how much my parents love me.

I never knew how much I would appreciate those teachers who really get to know their students and meet them where they are. Thank you.

I never knew how outraged I would be when another kid hurt one of my boys.

I also never knew how upset I would feel when my toddler hit a non-family member (but he certainly found out in a hurry).

I never knew how selfish I could be.

I never knew how much my attitude and response impacts those around me.

I did not realize that sometimes a hug and a kiss really can make it all better.

I never knew the true power of the words, “I don’t know – what do you think?”

I never knew that milk does taste different depending on the colour of the cup you use.

I never knew that I could enjoy buying clothes for small children even more than for myself. Or that shopping for new socks could be an outing on its own.

I never knew how selfish I could be.

I never knew my heart could grow so big and yet always be so full.

I never knew the truth behind the phrase, “I might not like you right now, but I will always love you.”

I never knew that raising our family together would make me love and appreciate my husband even more.

I never knew how amazing giggles sound.

I never fully grasped how much my parents love me.

I never knew how flawed and imperfect I am.

I never knew, really and truly knew, how selfish I could be and yet how much I would be willing to give up for the sake of the four boys I call my own.

I never knew that having children would give me a clearer glimpse of just how much God loves me. Selfish, flawed, imperfect me.

I never knew. But I’m beginning to.

Remember that time?

Remember?

When you recall fond memories it’s about something that happened, not a “thing”. Even if it’s a special gift, that Cabbage Patch doll you were longing for, there’s a story behind it. It’s not just the doll, it’s the story of how it became yours. The real gift is the story.

What matters is the story.

My friend and I have an ongoing conversation about how trips and events are special, but what our kids will remember is the time we spent with them. Vacations are great and can be the catalyst for memory-making, but it’s the time we are together that counts.

You know what our boys ask for the most? Aside from treats and screen time, they are kids after all. Our time.

Play with me. Read to me. Listen to me. Tell me I matter. Show me I am important, that I’m valued.

“Can we go to a movie just you and me, Mommy? As part of my birthday present?”

“Wrestle with me, me, Daddy.”

“Can we go on a breakfast date?”

“Will you take just me to the store?”

Time.

And stories.

“Tell us about the time you threw the carrot cake on the ceiling, Daddy.”

“Tell us the story of Uncle Rob running into the glass door.”

“Tell us again about the time your neighbour caught a skunk and Grandpa told you to throw pebbles at the trap to see what would happen.”

“Tell us again how Auntie broke her arm.”

Tell us again.

Stories. Remember? Remember that time?

We’re creating stories with every meal we eat together, with every crazy family dance time, with every time we patiently wait for an unsuspecting family member to exit the washroom so we can yell “Boo!” With every family movie night.

“Remember the time Big poked the kiwi?”

“I didn’t poke it!”

“We saw you!”

“It just looked like I did.”

“I watched you pick it up and your finger went right through the skin.”

“No, the hole was already there.”

I can recite this script verbatim because we have jointly retold it dozens of times. It even has a theme song. It’s become Moyer family folklore. It’s one of our stories.

Remember? Remember that time?

Time.

“For Christmas I want to take you for frozen yogurt to that shop you said you wanted to try, Mommy. Can we go today? I can show you how it works, you make it all yourself. I’ve got enough money for both of us.”

And so we add another story to our collection.

It was delicious
It was delicious

Remember?

“Remember that time we went for yogurt, just the two of us, and I got coconut and gummi worms and you got two flavours?”

Remember that time?