Beautifully Imperfect

I have a favorite photo of me and the kids. I remember the day it was taken. It was quickly snapped by a friend, not the result of a professional photoshoot.

Look at those sweet faces! ❤

Everyone is looking in different directions. We are tired and messy. And yet, it remains my top pick.

The picture always surfaces this time of year. When I saw it this morning, I began to think about what it represents-an honest reflection of one day in the life of a young, stay-at-home mom.

That particular day was far from perfect. I remember having a migraine earlier that afternoon. The medicine I took made me sleepy. I also remember my husband, Gart, was not be able to attend the fall festival with us. He had a graduate school class that night. That meant I had three kids to get ready for the evening festivities by myself.

With the help of some friends, we made it to the party. Everyone had a costume. Robert was Superman, Rachel-Tigger, and Ryan-a baby bumblebee. The kids had fun playing games, spending time with friends, and collecting candy. If you look closely, you can see their candy buckets hanging on the handles of Ryan’s stroller.

My friend took the picture at the end of the evening. I remember collapsing onto the floor. The kids just naturally settling in my lap. Three tired kids and one tired mom. Yet in the picture, I am still smiling.

After considering the story surrounding my favorite photo, I am left with this truth: A perfect picture has more to do with the memories it evokes than with the image itself.

Our picture is beautifully imperfect. It reminds me of a busy and challenging time in my life. A time I would not trade for all the perfect pictures in the world.

A Happy Reunion

I love reunions. They allow time to reminisce and strengthen already established relationships. Seeing family and friends after time apart can be refreshing. Sometimes I even walk away with new friends.

This week I had one such reunion.

My daughter, Rachel, is a first-year special education teacher at our district’s high school. Several of my former elementary students are now her students. I love hearing her talk about them each day after school. It is nice to have a way to reconnect, even if it’s not in person.

This week I had an opportunity to visit Rachel at work. I was looking forward to seeing her in action and actually visiting with some of these now teenagers. It has been six years or more since I was their teacher. Even though excited, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

When I arrived, they were all in the gym for P.E. I immediately recognized those familiar faces. One precious girl came running towards me. She hugged me and buried her head in my shoulder.

No words. ❤

Our conversation went something like this.

“Oh, Mrs. Morris. I missed you so much!”
“I missed you, too! You look so grown-up and pretty!”
“I think I’m going to cry.”

This precious girl had no idea of the impact of her reaction. I held back my tears.

I was quickly swept away to greet other old friends and meet some new ones. Several students walked right up, shook my hand, and introduced themselves. One took my hand and gently placed it on her face. Another held both my hands and touched his forehead to mine. And yet another asked me my name using sign language.

Each greeting was individual and personal. Each communicated, “I see you. I’m glad you’re here. I want to know you.” I know the words may not have been spoken, but the messages were clear.

Not only did I reconnect with former students, I instantly gained new friends. Their capacity to love and accept everyone is beyond limits. There are no outsiders.

This short visit left me with a thankful heart. Thankful not only for this happy reunion but also for the chance to witness my daughter as a teacher.

But that’s a story for another day…

Magic Carpets

What do the words “magic carpet” bring to mind? I used to picture Jasmine and Aladdin on their romantic carpet ride in the Disney animated movie. That is until a friend introduced me to a new picture.

I was walking through the grocery store the other day. Beautiful fall decorations and pumpkins were everywhere. As I turned down one aisle, I noticed the display of fall-themed vinyl tablecloths.

The variety of harvest-scene table coverings was hanging on a clip display. I was tempted to buy one, but not for the reasons you might think.

When our kids were young, we lived in Guthrie, OK. Our family spent a lot of time with several other young families. Between the three to four couples who visited regularly, we had eleven children.

We often had Sunday evening dinners together. None of us had a big house. Certainly not one where eight adults and eleven children could sit at tables and eat. But our friends, Paul and Traci, were always willing to host.

One of the very first times we had dinner together, my friend Traci mentioned “getting out the magic carpet.” I had no idea what she was talking about! Well, at their house magic carpets were vinyl tablecloths. And she had an entire collection.

Young moms… ❤

When it was time to eat, we would spread these colorful tablecloths on the living room floor. All of the kids would take a seat and eat their dinner, usually pizza. The cleanup was easy!

The adults would sit or stand around the dining table to eat, laugh, and talk. The kids would sit in the living room on their magic carpets, watching Veggie Tales. Yes, it was crowded. Yes, it was noisy! But those things didn’t matter.

Those times together with friends were special. They created lasting memories for all of our families, both adults and children.

We all live in different cities now. Our kids are all grown up. We don’t see each other as often as we’d like. On those special occasions we get to visit, we always reminisce back to those days. They were days of laughter, love, and magic carpets.

Maybe next time I’m at the store I’ll have to buy one. I’ll just put it away and save it for later. Who knows when a magic carpet might come in handy? 😉

Boys to Men

Last night, I listened as my oldest son gave the best-man toast at his best friend’s wedding. He spoke with confidence and humor as he described their friendship and his genuine happiness for his friend.

It was one of those moments of clarity. The ones which solidify the reality of time and remind me how quickly it passes.

Robert and Jeremy have been friends since junior high. Before they were old enough to drive, we would take turns shuttling them back and forth to each other’s houses on the weekends. They spent many hours playing video games and watching movies. Student group activities and church camps also provided hangout time.

Their friendship continued through high school. After graduation, our family took them on a senior trip to Colorado. Together, they hiked to the top of Mt. Elbert, the highest point in the continental U.S. Quite an accomplishment for these two boys who used to use yogurt containers and empty monster cans for bb gun target practice in the backyard.

College meant living several hours away from each other. Keeping in touch and visiting whenever possible remained a priority. They even continued a tradition involving Christmas presents. One year involved a shovel and map coordinates, another required thawing a block of ice. Crazy boys!

I’m pretty sure these two have been mistaken for brothers a time or two. We felt like Jeremy was another one of our kids. And I’m certain his family often felt the same about Robert. That’s what happens with close friendships.

In five short months, their roles will be reversed. Jeremy will be making a best-man toast at Robert’s wedding. Both young men will be standing next to their lovely, precious wives. And believe me, Caitlin and Erin are special young ladies. They have to be to put up with these two. 😉

Once again, it will be a moment of clarity.

Another moment which solidifies the fact that these two boys have become men in what seems like an instant.

Another moment which will serve to strengthen their friendship.

Another moment which leaves behind a beautiful memory. ❤

Any Other Way

Yesterday, a little kindergarten girl asked me about my kids. I don’t remember her exact question, but I responded, “They are all grown-up now.” She looked at me with her big, wide, beautiful brown eyes and asked, “Are you still their mom?” This sweet girl has no idea of the impact of her question.

What is it like to be a parent of young adults? It is something I’ve pondered quite a bit lately. My parental role is in a constant state of flux it seems. As are my emotions.

Not only has this season caused me to reflect on my years of parenting, but it has also given me a new perspective concerning my own parents.

In a recent conversation with my mom about my kids growing up she said, “Well, you left home at seventeen and never came back.” I’d never thought about it in such black and white terms. Don’t misunderstand, she was not being negative, simply stating a fact. One intended to help me better understand my feelings.

My children are finding their way as adults, following their own paths. And my reactions are helping me to understand how my young adult decisions impacted my own parents. They loved me through some challenging times, and never stopped being my parents. Our bond has only grown stronger. I hope my children will be able to say the same.

Both laughter and tears will cover the days ahead. And some days, there will also be uncertainty. The uncertainty which accompanies figuring out my new role. That is what it means to be a parent.

One simple question from a kindergartener opened the door for this reflection:

Yes, I am still their mom.

I will always be their mom.

And I would not want it any other way.

Short and Sweet

There is something special about the words, “I love you.” In my life, the meaning behind those words is as varied as the people who hear them. The same is true of the people who say them.

When speaking to family and friends, I don’t say them lightly. For me, they carry the message, “You are important. I’m glad you are part of my life.” They imply a connection, the key to a successful relationship.

As a parent, I spoke these words to my children before they were even born. As they grew up, the words accompanied celebrations, encouragement, and discipline.

My children are now young adults. And hearing those words from them is priceless.

Our youngest son, Ryan, started his college classes last week. Once again, parental roles are changing. Finding a balance is difficult. I need to offer support while allowing him to be an adult.

On his first day of class, I wanted to acknowledge this big step. A simple text; “Have a great first day of college! I’m so proud of you!”

Even though part of me wanted to add reminders, advice, etc., I resisted.

His response was also short and sweet.

Those four little words filled my heart to overflowing. Did he realize the effect of his words? I’m not sure. But he took the time to say them, and that is what matters.

I’m thankful for the ability to love and be loved. Hopefully, I never take for granted the power held by these three simple words. Hearing them from my children always makes this mama’s heart smile.

The time these words hang in the air may be short and sweet, but their meaning lasts a lifetime.

An Old Toy Box

Today was moving day. My family expected me to be crying at some point. It wouldn’t be unusual. Even my oldest son, Robert, called to check on me this morning.

While I drove to the new house with Rachel and Ryan to unload cars, Gart stayed back with the movers. Soon he sent a text, a picture of the empty house. I felt a little sad, but no tears.

Once everything was unloaded at the new house, we made one more trip back to the old house. Now I was standing in the middle of the emptiness. Rachel commented, ”It hasn’t looked like this since we moved in.” That was 16 years ago. The kids were 8, 6, and 3.

I remember them running around inside the house. I remember worrying about Ryan falling down the stairs. I think about how proud I am of the young adults they’ve become. Still, there were no tears.

We backed out of the driveway. Gart and Ryan in the truck, Rachel and I following in my car. Something caught my eye-the old toy box my dad built when Robert was a kid. It’s a little bench seat with a lid which lifts for storage.

This wooden box has been through many moves, sat in many rooms, and served many purposes. Today, it caused my tears. ”Of all things,” I thought to myself, ”Robert’s old toy box.”

I suppose it makes sense. We are preparing for that empty nest. This move represents a culmination of changes for our family. The kids are all grown up. They don’t need that space to run and play anymore. They are too big to sit on that seat or play with the toys it once held. And that is a good thing.

I love our new house. I look forward to making memories here with our grown-up children. Maybe one day, there will be other little ones sitting on that seat. No hurry. The memories we carry will soon fill the empty spaces while leaving room for new ones.

This house will soon feel like home because of the people who live here and the people who will visit. In the meantime, I will look back with fondness and forward with hope. And maybe I will find a special spot for that old toy box. 😉