Sunday, September 27, 2009

A little self-preservation

Something I often struggle with is that it is nearly impossible to find enough time to recharge my batteries. Trips to the gym, walks with the dog, infrequent girls' nights out--my best efforts usually don't add up to a hill of beans in the self-preservation department. In August, I stumbled across information about a Women's Wellness Weekend that was coming up at one of Virginia's beautiful state parks. The session selections sounded awesome, and I knew I could definitely use a weekend away. It would mean leaving Dave alone with the three wee ones for the weekend, but he was super supportive and told me to go for it. I tried to convince friends and family to join me, but when no one was able to commit, I registered anyway.

I just got home this evening, and it was really an incredible weekend. I took workshops in Kayaking, Fossil Hunting, a crazy session called "Let Your Yoga Dance" (involving scarves, hip-hop music, and some pretty funky moves), and Aromatherapy. Besides the scheduled sessions, we also had a great wine tasting with some experts (and then we all did a good bit of 'homework' on that topic later!). The weekend finished today with an inspirational talk by a woman who had been able to make a major change in her life and was so at peace and happy. Her story brought tears and laughter and I think everyone left there feeling like change should not be so scary. I met a lot of gals from all different walks of life and made connections that I hope to keep up.

Most importantly, I never felt selfish for one moment of the entire weekend, even when I decided to veer 20 miles out of the way on my drive home to visit a state park and walk along the water by myself. I know that I am a better mom and wife when I make myself a priority, but I have often felt bogged down by guilt when I step away to take time apart from my family. It was liberating to go through this weekend with other women who had left husbands, children, pets, and other obligations behind in the spirit of self-preservation. Having people say "You deserve this" or "I remember when my kids were that young--I wish I had gotten away more often" or "Have another glass of wine--no one is depending on you for anything right now!" was affirming.

I've got to find a way to carve out more time for me. Quality time. Not quick trips to Target while the kids are at school, or time wasted on facebook, or time doing things I don't want to do just because I feel like I should. Anyone out there have the magic clock that adds a few hours to the day? Or perhaps the clock could freeze time for everyone but me so that I can go about my 'me' time guilt-free every day?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Girl, bring your critters!

The boys and I undertook a grand adventure over the weekend. We drove to a gorgeous state park where we slept in an ancient log cabin at night and hunted for fossils with a paleontologist during the daytime. In the process, I came to a few realizations: 1. Virginia is a beautiful state, 2. Kids make friends easily, especially in the context of nature and exploration, and most importantly, 3. I am, indeed, the luckiest Mama on the planet. Our guide on the adventure, Dr. Lauck Ward, was just about the coolest scientist I have ever met. He was really funny and didn't make any of us newbies feel like idiots when we asked him to identify a find which turned out to be a piece of rock. It happened a lot at first! He had this great accent and perhaps the highlight of the whole trip for me was when Dr. Ward found a humongous green caterpillar/worm and he wanted to show it to Keller & Casey. Rather than saying, "Come look at this" he looked at me and drawled "Girl, bring your critters!"

Our ultra cool cabin:

We hiked to the beach on Friday evening and were rewarded with some incredible scenery:

Hanging out on the beach at Stratford Hall. The boys had a pretty good mix of playtime and fossil hunting time. As did I.

A few funny highlights for the boys--boat ride to a remote area of the beach to search for fossils & their first ride in the back of a pick-up truck!

Hanging out with new friends and fellow fossil junkies:

We had some great finds--bigger shark teeth than we have found on any of our previous adventures, ray plates, turtle shell, a porpoise tooth, and lots of bone fragments--all from the Miocene period which was about 5 million years ago. Too cool! Here are a few of Keller's finds from the first day:

This is completely unrelated, but Keller found this little guy on our swingset tonight. He appears to be a baby praying mantis.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Love Without Boundaries

There is an incredible organization called Love Without Boundaries whose mission involves helping orphaned children in China. The children may need emergency surgery, on-going medical care, specialized nutrition assistance, an experienced foster home----whatever the need, Love Without Boundaries works to fill it. You can read about their various programs and also follow some success stories in the making:

Love Without Boundaries

I wish so much that Marley had been part of this program when she was still in the orphanage. She could have had her palate surgery much earlier, which would have made speech acquisition a much easier road for us all to go down now. As they reach more and more children with their services, Love Without Boundaries is constantly developing new ways to spread the word about their work and to find supporters to help further their mission. I am planning to run a 5K at some point in the next few months in honor of Marley and all of the other children of China who need loving families. If you are a runner or walker, consider signing up for Team LWB. They have specific races you can sign up for, but it is also possible to choose your own race, set your own fundraising minimum, and represent LWB to raise awareness.

Maybe I'll see you out on the trail sometime. I'll be the mom running along with a naughty toddler struggling to get out of the stroller, a pokey 4 year old lagging way behind, and an almost 7 year old 30 feet up a tree somewhere ahead of us.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The first day of school. . .

. . .has left me very well acquainted with one foolish mama who thought she was ready to see her oldest and youngest babies head off to school. That foolish mama didn't expect her heart to break when that oldest baby walked into school today, the first of many, many days to come when he'll be away from her for 7 or more hours straight. She also didn't expect the gigantic lump in her throat or the tears running down her cheeks when she had to leave that youngest baby crying "Mama" in her teacher's arms. Such a fool she had been.

My three babies before school:

Casey is such a good big brother . . . not afraid to carry that Tinkerbell backpack for Marley!

Casey was my saving grace this morning. When we were walking away from Marley's school, he said, "Mom, I don't hear her crying anymore. Maybe her teacher is doing something fun with her, like blowing on her belly button." Then he asked me to carry him to the car, and of course, I obliged.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

As summer winds down . . .

...we have so many good memories to reflect on. We took day trips, stayed home and enjoyed our neighborhood, played with friends, visited with family. We had a few interesting camping experiences (I'll leave it at that). We did no summer camps for the kids and no big vacations, but somehow it made the summer seem more full and more fulfilling without those things. I have such mixed feelings about the start of the school year next week. Part of me is ready to put on my dancing shoes and whip up a little "back-to-school-they-go" jig. The other part knows how much I'll miss my three little 'excuses for acting like a big kid all day long.'

Keller told me the other day that he's not sure he'll have kids when he is a grown up because "they sure are hard work." I reminded him that if I didn't have kids, I wouldn't have spent half the summer hunched over a collander, sifting through sand for fossils. There wouldn't be an awesome collection of dead bugs displayed in a jewelry box on top of my entertainment center. The shelf above my laptop would not hold the current line up of: a tiny Buddha from Casey, 6 'Crazy Bones' (which the kids collected in lieu of allowance this summer), a Lego replica of Mr. Krabs's restaurant from SpongeBob, and a CD full of family pictures taken by my friend Marilyn on Father's Day.

There have been days when I've truly felt like I was out of steam and just couldn't be everything I want to be for my kids. It feels pretty rotten when you realize you've just told your kid that you would not read to them or color with them, or something along those lines, because you're just yearning for two feet of personal space and five minutes to enjoy it. But that's just the mother guilt that plagues so many of us. We've had an awesome summer, in fact, it was the best so far, hands down.

A few of our activities from this, the last week of summer vacation. . .

Saying 'goodbye' to Marley's speech therapist, Miss Lauren(she'll be getting services in a class-based program now instead of home-based):

Spending the day at Great Country Farms with our buddies Connor, Caitlin, and Diane:

Having an impromptu Mix'n'Match Costume Extravaganza with the same buddies:

Fishing in our stream with Mikey, who is the first friend Keller made when we moved to the neighborhood in 2004(they were both under 2 at the time!):

Showing off fresh haircuts to start the school year (Keller wanted the bare minimum trimmed off and wasn't thrilled with the way the stylist 'styled' it, and Casey asked for a 'Mohawk, but not too poinky' and was pretty happy with his 'do:

I don't know why my photos look so grainy/pixelated when I upload directly to Blogger, so if anyone has advice on making them show up better, please leave a comment. If I use a site like Photobucket and turn them into a slideshow, they look so much better. . . but it takes too long. Help!