Thursday, January 24, 2013

a little plug for the best show on TV

If you don't watch Parenthood, you should.
It's so good.

Pretty sure, one of my favorite shows ever. (Also, I think, one of the best portrayals of a family who has a child on the spectrum out there too).

They had their season finale this week, and I couldn't put my finger on why I liked it so much last night, but this morning it hit me.

TV drama's season finales, usually have car crashes, or comas, or main characters shockingly getting killed off, or huge cliff hangers.

Parenthood has drama--I've sobbed through plenty of episodes-- but it is also so much more real life in it. Regular, everyday struggles and challenges we can all relate to.

And the season finale reflected that.

It showed that life isn't always the next tragedy, nor is it usually a final triumph, 
by any means.

All of the story lines still have hard things about them: illnesses can relapse, adoption is still an on going adjustment, relationships take work and excited expectant mother's get cranky and hormonal. They' ve been through a lot, and there's still lots to come. That's life.

But even though "happily ever afters" may not be achievable in the everyday realms of reality, good moments are. 
Great moments.
Wonderful moments, saturated in gratitude and togetherness and hope.

They may not have oh so perfectly picked soundtracks playing in the background, or just the right amount of slow motion to help us take in all the details--but if we look for them, they are there.

In our real, everyday lives.

Moments where we feel like the hard daily work of life, enduring and persevering through whatever it is life is throwing at us, is worth it.

Thanks Parenthood, 
for teaching me good subtle lessons.
(and helping me get through folding so many lods of laundry over the years;)

I'm so sad the season is already over.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Mommy photos

One of my favorite photos of all time is one of my grandma holding my dad. 

There are other photos from this day, my tubby toddler daddy laying on his tummy, with his dark hair no doubt curled with  by his mother's fingers in preparation for the photographer, into that little cherub style swirl.

I don't know if the photographer asked her to pose, or if they just happened to snap this one in between shots.

But it is my favorite.

Her dark hair tied back with that scarf. That mommy hold I know cuz my babies are tubby too.
The familiarity of her attention, her gaze, her heart, in that moment turned to her child.

I'm so glad they took of picture of her that day and didn't just shoot the baby, as cute as he is.

I read this post today. Loved it. Shawni is so good, isn't she?
Then I also went and re-read the original post  she referenced, where author Allison Tate encouraged moms to "Get in the Picture!" So good. 
If you don’t have time…just go read theirs instead of mine. Seriously.

Mine will proably be redundant, but I read once to blog about what you chat with your girlfriends about on the phone and those are both the kind of articles that would keep me and my friends chatting!

I’ve thought about this a lot. Looking at pictures from my own childhood. Not seeing too many with my mom in them. Here's a few gems I scrounged up. 

I think this is my favorite though. It's not Christmas or a birthday or a vacation it just looks like so many mornings around here---although my mom's housecoat is sure a lot cuter than mine! 

She doesn't even have her glasses on...which never happens. 
Which made me wonder:
Had I kept her up all night?
 teething perhaps? had I finally been made happy gnawing on a plate? 

I wonder if she even remembers. 

All those year being my mamma 24/7 and just a handfull of photos to somehow represent the millions of other moments that didn't get exposed onto film.

I loved how Shawni posted some of her pics with her kids, so they’d be there-- accessible.

 Inspired, I started sifting through my many photos. Thinking surely of all the thousand and thousands of jpegs I dutifully add to daily, surely there'd be a few of me and my kids. And there was. But not many. And most of them have that, I just thrust the camera at my husband and told him to take a picture of us, so I can prove I was there too look about them. You know the one right?

As Shawni put it, 

“I want us to remember their life was not just them standing smiling at the camera.”  

Oh there's lots of Ben and the kids. Him sleeping with a newborn snuggled on his chest—a classic...why can dad' sleep when babies sleep and us silly moms are still awake taking pictures! I love the ones of Ben and the kids because so many of them are candid. There are the products of me seeing Ben being a dad and being moved by the moment enough to point my lens and capture it for posterity. There are looks and laughter and postures that are all so natural, relaxed and real. 

And then there's me looking at the camera, holding a squirmy kid on my lap. 
So unnatural, forced, poised.  There’s some good pictures, but very few of the true to life, "in the moment ones" I’d love to have.

What I need (like in so many situations of my life;) is me! I need another me to take pictures of me and my kids. I need me to see those little moments and click before I/me (this is getting confusing!) notices and thinks about whether my chin looks weird at that angle. 

 I am lucky, and so glad I have some photos I love, taken with real talent. 

But they are still studio pictures and not the everyday life I want so badly to remember. 

 I have more of me and Aaron. 

First time mamma, eager to document her journey. 

These pictures snapped by Ben or friends I had the privilege of spending a lot of time with in our "Apex summers" aren't beautiful to me because my makeup was just right or my hair was just so or my outfit carefully planned. 
They are beautiful because of how they make me remember what it felt like to mother --then.  even they aren't the total candid's I long for.

To feel that growing boy firmly on my hip, his hand (as always) reaching for my hair, his brother kicking from inside me, already clamouring for my attention. How Aaron was my one and only little buddy. Daddy worked long, long hours and it was him and me day in day out. He was my meal time companion, my naptime cuddler, my everything. I like remembering that feeling of undividedness, devotion and really that co-dependance. 

He gave me a reason to be, and I gave him everything I had.

I look and I see I'm young. 
Not in a bemoaning my youth kinda way, but I just look at my a few years less worn face and think, “you were just trying your best to figure things out weren't you?”. In ten years I'll probably look at pictures of my now and probably think the same thing.

I see a mom who thinks one day she'll sleep. Poor thing has no idea. I see a mom who thinks her heart can't possible hold any more love. Again she’s so  wrong. I see a mom who wanted to do her best but everyday went to bed wondering if her efforts and failings will ever feel like enough. She still does. 

I see a mom looking at her son. And I remember what I saw. It's amazing how enthralled a parent can be with their child. That all normal things...ears, feet, cowlicks, eyelashes beg to be inspected again and again, our maternal instincts pleading with us to commit these details to memory, in all their infantile perfection.

One of my all-time cherished pictures is this one.
Because one, I know I had no idea it was being taken (by a random Apex sales guy, trying out his new camera on any subject that crossed his viewfinder) and two because it shows me what the main feeling of all those years of young mothering really were ( so many ways I'm still there). Closeness.  

I'm so glad the sales guy thought to he give it to me. Every time I see it, I see how close he is nestled into my body, reminding me how much we were a part of each other. How there is no other place as comfortable, or as familiar as snuggled, touching, as if held by an invisible womb that draws you in protecting you just as surely as if you were still receiving all you needed from an embicial cord. Close. Connected. Safe.

All things we strive for in other relationships, so often unsuccessfully. 
And yet there it is, as a mother holds their child.

I still lay my head on my moms lap and feel like nothing else can touch me.

I want my kids to remember that feeling when the world becomes so much bigger and scarier than it was on my lap.

I want more of these.  Not for any vanity. In fact it is often vain fears that stop us....all aware of, as Allison Tate put it "our mamma bodies."

I've taken a few photos for some new moms in the last little bit. Nothing fancy. No backdrops or cutsie props. Just mammas and there babies and some good light streaming in from an open window nearby. They shy away from being in the pictures, knowing their "I just had a baby!" bodies all too well. 
But some of my favorite pictures are those where I convinced the mamma to be in the picture and caught for a moment a genuine smile at their baby. That new falling in love with every wiggly ounce of you smile. The, “how can you not have always existed and I always have loved you?” smile.

I've been on a little baby break. And to tell you the truth there are lots of things I'm fine not dealing with right now. I don't get too "baby hungry". I know lots of woman, who just LOVE the new born stage. And I’m just gonna be a bad person and say it: I am not one of them. New borns are hard! 
I obviously love my new borns but I feel like they just get funner and funner as they grow. 

Yet taking picture of this little newborn this week, made me remember one thing I DO love about newborns: Taking pictures of them! 
With eacj of my babies I've sat in the hospital bed, knees bent, cradling that new little bundle on my thighs, camera in hand, zooming, closer and closer into the soft wrinkles of my new love. I'd hold up feet and take so many picture each focused on a different little toe, not wanting to miss an inch of their perfection . Through that lens I SEE. I look and look and feel like I get to really meet my new child.

Thanks little Wyatt for reminding me of that!

But I’m getting off topic. We were discussing us moms getting in the photo archives of our families lives.

So how do we do this? I want more picture of me with my kids...but how? 
Short of hiring a professional photographer to follow us around to capture those little moments...hmmm...
First I did thought of friends. 
Those other moms, who see like I see, because they have felt what I feel.
I love this one I took of my friend that boy loves his mamma!

So if you’re my friend…feel free to take my picture! And expect that I may be creeping around with my camera at our play dates too;)

The other thought was my good old iPhone. They may be low quality but they are still a record. So today, as I 
(as always) made googley eyes and gave smooches to my little potty training Levi while he, you guessed it, sat on the potty doing his business. 
I thought: this is one of those moments! All these faces and kisses we share (basically because I’m a captive audience waiting to wipe his bum!) I want to remember this.

And now I will.

Memories are so much more fragile than they at first feel. 

Again Allison Tate's article was just so good:
I'm everywhere in their young lives, and yet I have very few pictures of me with them. Someday I won't be here -- and I don't know if that someday is tomorrow or thirty or forty or fifty years from now -- but I want them to have pictures of me. I want them to see the way I looked at them, see how much I loved them. I am not perfect to look at and I am not perfect to love, but I am perfectly their mother.

I have a good friend who’s mom died young. 
She only has one picture of just her and her mom. 
But it is so perfect.
You can tell so much from this one picture. 
You can't even quite see her moms face, but man you can see hers. 

It totally reminded me of what Shawni wrote:

I believe that mother-love seeps from a mother’s heart into her childrens’. And then it starts to glow within those childrens’ eyes. From there it sparkles clear as day. And every time I see that sparkle in their eyes, that mother knows they know it: they are adored.

So even if it's just grainy iPhone pictures I squeeze into, I hope my kids will see how much they are adored.  Cuz they are.

So while I'm sure I'll still be doing a lot of this:

Hopefully they're be more of these:

So one day my kids can feel the way I feel when I look at this. 
Grateful. Humbled. So very happy that my mom wore Disneyland shirts and had me wear adorable bonnets. So glad that I have had my own babies and that I could look at those baby thighs and know exactly what they feel like because my hands have held my babies in just that same way. That my elbows look like hers. Glad I was hers. My beautiful mom.

One last quote from Allison Tate:

"When I look at pictures of my own mother, I don't look at cellulite or hair debacles. I just see her -- her kind eyes, her open-mouthed, joyful smile, her familiar clothes. That's the mother I remember. My mother's body is the vessel that carries all the memories of my childhood. I always loved that her stomach was soft, her skin freckled, her fingers long. I didn't care that she didn't look like a model. 
She was my mama."

I asked Ben once if he thought our boys thought I was pretty.
He looked at me with utter confusion in his eyes, “Ya, of course” he replied.

And I actually believed him.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

I don't wanna

"I don't want to go to church!" was last week's soundtrack to our Sabbath Day preparations. 

McKye's whine--he's spent the entire four years of his life perfecting-- punctuated the hair-combing and teeth-brushing, drowning out the hymns I'd put on to play in the background. to get our family in a spiritual mood. "Scatter sunshine" ended up more ironic than inspiring. 

I look at his little furrowed brow and his pouty lips and try to pull out of my tired- mommy- brain all the best ways to handle  "don't want to"s: 

Somethings I can just force, becoming the drill sergeant barking demands, or with a "too bad, I'm the mom" pick up and lug approach. Other times I can just let go and just give in the happy barefoot hippy mamma, chanting freedom and creativity mantras. And then there's always the endless negotiation tactics, which I'm pretty sure my kids could give lessons to hardened terrorist on getting their way. Yup there are many different approaches to "I don't wanna"s and my kids see them all regularly depending on my day and my resulting mood. But maybe it was those darn hymns playing in the background but this morning, I remember this one matters.

I don't care if my kids become doctors, I don't care what sports they choose (though I joke that they're only aloud to play sports where shoes are the only equipment), don't care if they play an instrument (though dad might push that one). Most days I don't care if McKye wants to wear his beloved orange golf shirt AGAIN, or that Levi can't touch a bowl without spilling it, or that Aaron is naked on the trampoline in the dead of winter. I've gotten pretty good at telling myself not to care. Gotta save the energy for the things that I DO care about.
Like my kids going to church. Because I definitely care if my kids grow up loving the Lord.

McKye tapped into that early on. Before he could even unprompted tell me he loved me, he would, if he felt particular happy with me at the time and wanted to reinforce my good mommy behaviour, would look at me and with a big smile say, "Mommy? I WUV JESUS!" And if he was upset with me? "Mommy! I no want Jesus." Somehow he knew that was the core of his mamma, her soft spot, the button to push to leave a mark. And he's was dead on. For my kids to believe and live the gospel of Christ is my greatest desire and truly matters more to me than anything, just as the thought that they might reject the gospel that infuses everything I am and hope to be, is easily my greatest fear.

So last Sunday morning I tuned out the "I don't wannas" and the inner fears they taunted inside me, and somehow manage to get him into some church clothes and carry him to his carseat where we hold our "traditional family prayer in the van" while we drive the block to church. 

On that same street, on our returning drive,  the Spirit whispered "Look!"

I turned around and saw that same son, that only hours before had fought me so hard, smiling from adorably large ear to adorably large ear. 
His little fingers wrapped happily around his cardboard cut out Choose the Right shield. 

The truth is, McKye loves church. 

He loves sitting on the bench and pointing out every week "Sister Nalder!" his heaven-sent primary teacher. He loves, whispering in my ear "My friend!"  because he can't keep the twin boys straight that come and played with him on the tramp, but he recognizes them as they pass the sacrament. He loves when they sing the children's songs we sing as home, mystified that all the other kids know Jesus wants me for a sunbeam too! 

He gave the scripture this week. He lisped his way through the scriptural language:
 "da Spirit  itself beareth witness wif our spirits that we are the children of God!" 
practically shouting the last phrase into the microphone. 

His unique and youthful Spirit along with The Holy Spirit. 
Coming together witnessing eternal truth. 
Learning. Feeling. Coming to know. I am a Child of God! Me!

I love this year's theme. I am a Child of God. Simple. Powerful. 
What more important truth could we teach to these children than that they indeed have a Father in Heaven who knows and loves them more than anything. 
The foundation of everything else. 

As I looked at him smiling, telling his dad about fishing during singing time, I thought, McKye doesn't just love church, He already loves the Lord. In the pure,  "of course I do" way a child loves a parent... just because. I'm yours. Your mine. End of story. 

I thought about how reluctant we are sometimes are to do the things we know we should-- read our scriptures, engage in meaningful prayer, attend the temple, or really take the time to love, and serve others. 
Do we whine thinking the "rockbands" of our lives might be more fun than "going to church"?
Do we get fooled into thinking the the effort of "getting our church clothes on" is just too much hassel and might not be worth it? 

But it always is. 

When we are on the Lord's errand, doing his work, even when it is hard and they're are disappointments along the way, eventually our soul will smile from ear to ear.

Sometimes preparing another sharing time feels like one more thing, but then I get infront of those kids (who maybe told their mom they didn't want to go to church today) and I get to feel the Spirit as I testify that they have a Heavenly Father who knows each of their names and loves them all so tremendously! I get to follow the Spirit and watch little miracles take place in our little primary. I get to look into little faces and see them feeling the Spirit and know that dispite crumpled ties and mismatched socks they are right where they need to be. 

And so am I. 

Even though McKye is obsessed with using the urinals and so we always seem to end up in the hall during the sacrament, I get to see his little fingers grab the bread and his little lips slurp the water and know that one day it will be more than a mid-meeting snack. 
That one day it will be a profound symbol of the covenants he's made with his personal Saviour. That one day because we rangled them to church--when it certainly could have been easier just to stay home-- they will bring their own little infants and pace the halls through what is usual nap time  and whisper into their ears "Jee-sus" as they point at paintings. They will wonder some days why they are there, and how they can possibly be getting anything out of what some days feels like a three hours gong show! But they'll have been through enough life to know church is more than cardboard cutouts and colouring scripture stories, it is a place of living water for souls that get oh so dry.

Right now I just want my kids to like church because I know one day they will NEED it.  When loss, or heartbreak, or grief, or stress, or any number of inevitable anguishes fill their grown up hearts, they will know the source of solace, they will know where to turn for peace. They will know that God has and is the answer. Every time

They will know, as I know, that Jesus Christ is real. That He is our Redeemer and provider of our Hope. He is our perfect Example of perfect Love. They will feel as I feel, the immense grattitude for our Savior's sacrifice and want to serve Him in any way they can and want desperatley for other's they love to to feel what they feel. 

And... they will want their kids to go to church. 

Even if and maybe even especially when at first they say they don't wanna.