She Runs A Good Race

mothering is a marathon

The Million Definitions of a Mom

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Inhaler of newborn smells

Sherpa of diaper bags, binkys, and strollers

Sleep expert

Milk factory

Baby food maker

Bottle cleaner

Soother of colicky babies

Toileting trainer

Rewarder of potty-ing performances

Hand holder

Safety monitor

Assembler of all toys and kid gadgets

******

Mama Bear Advocate

Kisser of boo-boos

Bandaid opener

Tooth-flosser and dirty foot scrubber

Hugger

Protector of feelings

Stuffer of tissue up the bloody nose

Nose-blowing expert

Nurse/doctor/pharmacist/therapist

Encourager

Coach

Cheerleader

Surprise giver

Repairer of broken hearts

******

Sock seeker

Laundry guru

Grocery shopper

Chef and nutritionist

Inventor of breakfast-for-dinner

Veggie Enforcer

Cereal-pourer

Closer of all doors, cabinets, drawers & closets

Chair pusher-in-er

Fridge monitor

Jar opener

De-cluttering professional

Organizer of cupboards

Holder of scissors, glue, & scotch tape

Light bulb and battery changer

One who can make grilled-cheese with eyes shut

Chore chart creator

Iron-on goddess of Girl Scout patches

Crusty pee scraper

Cleaner-upper of all things for that matter

And the poo-on-the-shoe-wiper

******

Fashion Stylist

Hairdresser

Maker of pony-tails, buns & braids

Photographer

Decorator

Terrific taxi driver

Minivan lover

Errand runner

Underwear buyer

Behavior Specialist

Referee of siblings

Volunteer extraordinaire

Servant

Student

Teacher & tutor

******

Allowance giver

Time Police

Chore Police

Bedtime Nazi

Lice Picker

Appointment keeper

Reader

Proofreader

Project goddess

Homework specialist

Grammar Gestapo

Nagger to messy children

Road trip treasure box holder

******

Bubble bath starter

Bath toy scrubber

Back scratcher

Finder of all lost stuffed animals and blankees

Bedtime story teller

Tucker-in-er

Cozy bed creator

Snuggler

******

The Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus & the Easter Bunny

Valentine designer

Leprachaun trap maker

Jack-o-lantern carver

Creator of holiday and family traditions

Gift giver

Present wrapper

Birthday party thrower

Comedienne

Entertainment Coordinator

Dance Party maker

******

One who sets the household tone

Unconditional lover

Nurturer

Grace giver

Prayer warrior

Teacher of right and wrong

Sex talk expert

Music, tv, video game, & internet censor

Heart and soul giver

Innocence and purity protector

Smile distributor

Displayer of gratitude & thankfulness

Imparter of faith and belief system

Damage control of disappointments

Holder of secrets, stories, and 1st crushes

******

Lover of crazy, loud children

Lover of annoying children

Lover of smelly children

Lover of sleeping angelic children

Lover of bed-headed kids and morning breath

Lover of chaos

Lover of sweet moments and blissfully silent car rides

Lover of teaching moments & teachable children

Lover of the words, not often heard, “You are the BEST mommy in the whole world.”

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The Feel of Her Hand

It doesn’t happen often.

She’s eight (“and a half, Mom”) now, and growing more independent.  Well, as independent as 8-year-olds go.Unknown-1

But when it does, it halts me.

The feel of her hand in mine.  The little soft fingers wrapped around my wrinkled adult hand.  Innocence and purity secure in my protection and love.

I’m not good at living in the moment, being emotionally present at all times with my children.  I try.  It takes effort. REALLY being cognitive about it.  I go, go, go.  I’m preoccupied with my to-do lists and their to-do lists, and the tyranny of the urgent.

But when she lets me hold her hand as we cross the street (rare) or at school (even more rare) or side by side at church, I’m all there.  I stop. I feel.  I relish.  I inhale the moment, because someday it will be gone.  Poof.

Until the day in the far-far-future when she says to ME, “Mom, take my hand now…”

8 Comments »

Pretty On The Outside But…

IMG_4843Don’t judge us by our Christmas card. 

We look pretty perfect.  Like the quintessential all-American family.  Don’t we?

The only thing missing in the picture is our adorable, chocolate labradoodle, Gracie, with a Christmas bandana around her neck.

It’s a great picture, if I do-so-narcissistically-say-so myself, as the mother in this photogenic crew.

BUT…

Just because I know how to pull together coordinating outfits and shoes, hire a professional photographer, and put lots of make-up on and smile just right, does not a perfect family make.

You know that and I know that.

But why do we ASSUME that because “someone is cute and wears designer jeans” as Glennon Doyle Melton (momastery.com) says, “that they have it all together?”

There’s a quote that keeps getting passed around Facebook.  I love it.  It’s truth.  Listen to it:

“EVERYONE YOU MEET IS SILENTLY FIGHTING A BATTLE.  BE KIND.”

For us Patays, the obvious battle I am so vocal about is living with Ryan’s disability (Prader-Willi syndrome.)  If you have been following my blog long enough, you know how much I vomit it all out.  But of course, there’s a thousand other battles going on in our family.

And yours.

Don’t be afraid to share, to vent, to offer honest stories and struggles.

Because EVERYONE and every family has something going on in their lives that make them uncomfortable.  No one family or marriage is perfect.

Let me say that again.  No family is perfect.  Nobody is perfect. No one’s life is perfect.  No matter how “pretty” you are, with a pretty house, and pretty garden, with pretty circumstances, you all struggle with something.  We ALL do.  I know I do.

Do you have anyone in your life that you openly and freely share without any filtering and photo-shopping?

Why not be vocal?  Why not share?  Why not try vulnerability and a little transparency?

We all like to post about our food, our restaurants, our genius and athletic kids, our vacations, our homes, and our oh-so-fun social lives on Facebook.  (Ok, not EVERYONE is on FB, and a sick, serial post-er like me, but you get what I mean.)  Why not post your struggle, your weakness, your failure?  Not in a poor-me way, but in an attempt to show your humanness and connect with others in such a humbling way?  For 2014, lets all give up pretending, masking, and posturing.  Just be who you are.

Who wants to go first?  I will hold your hand.  And be non-judgmental.  I will cry, laugh, and listen, listen, listen. To your heart.  Now give it a try.

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The Burn

UnknownI’m going to burn up this year. 

My favorite Equinox instructor (and my friend), Rebecca, always tells us, when we are dying in her hard-core fitness classes, that the burn means that change is happening in our bodies.  We want that burn.  We need that burn.  Even if we are screaming and whining like little girls on the inside.

She always reminds us we can do it and to just push through the burn and DO. NOT. GIVE. UP.  Embrace it, when what you really want to do is stop, quit, and take a sip of water.

Every time Rebecca says this, it speaks a life-metaphor to my soul.

Right now we are in a particularly challenging new phase with Ryan.  Symptoms of PWS are popping up in intensity, frequency, and severity.  And may I just say for the record that Prader-Willi syndrome is from the pit of hell!  I will stop there, before I begin to rant and rave.

In this new season of high anxiety for Ryan is high anxiety for us.  All of us.  We “walk on eggshells” as they say so as not to set him off, and then be forced to deal with crying, perseverating, and tantruming.  His food drive, (what makes the syndrome famous or newsworthy) is kicking in and I must be more vigilant and watchful at parties and restaurants, so that he doesn’t overeat.  Overeating in PWS is harmful and life-threatening.  It’s not just like if you or I overeat at a meal and feel uncomfortable, and our stomachs pooch out all prego-style.  (For more information on PWS, please visit the website pwcf.org.)

Throughout the 10 ½ years we have raised Ryan, I have come to describe in different ways how it affects ME personally:

“It comes in waves.  The stress, the pressures, the appointments…there is an ebb and flow.”

“It’s like living with chronic grief, deep below the surface, but always there.”

“I am NOT grateful for having a disabled son, but I AM grateful for how my soul and heart have expanded as a result of our journey.”

And on a completely maddening and exhausting day:

“F— this syndrome and how it tortures my son and the rest of us!!”

It’s January 2014 and I am burning.  My emotions, my thoughts, and my heart are on fire, as we deal with new behaviors or more intense behaviors.

I have a choice.  To just get flipping angry or have pity parties or give up and use some form of escape to numb the pain and stress of it all.

OR—I can remind myself that this BURN means that changes can happen in me.

Changes like practicing and experiencing gratitude in the midst of hardship and grief.  Changes in the form of implementing new methods to manage Ryan’s behavior.  Changes in my attitude and perspective.

I will embrace the burn in this new year and phase with Ryan/PWS, and therefore embrace the changes I desire for my soul.  That God desires for my soul, my family, and home-life.

Painful? Yes.  Easy? No way.  But like I do in Rebecca’s classes, I will close my eyes, breathe deeply, and pray through the burn.  I will remember that I CAN DO THIS.  And I won’t give up or give in.

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That Post Christmas Blah

Some years it hits me.  Some years it does not.

On December 26th.  Or even sometimes RIGHT after the Christmas morning of fun and frenzy and children’s delights are all over.

Even though I don’t believe in Santa Clause or any Christmas magic per se, I have realized my adult self still has this longing and expectation at Christmastime.  That somehow a special fulfillment will arrive on December 25th.  And then the day comes and goes and poof, it doesn’t happen.

Unmet expectations.

Longings unfulfilled.

Wishes not granted.

Hopes disappointed.

Dreams dashed into despair.

This is the reality for many, at any time of the year.

This reminds me of a time my husband, Chris, had an opportunity to share at church. The theme was surrounding suffering and desires unfulfilled. He did an eloquent job, (if I do say so myself), and its so worth passing on right now.

Here is an excerpt:

Doesn’t it seem the bigger the shattered expectation or the greater the desire that isn’t satisfied, the greater our unhappiness, pain, and suffering?  It was painful to learn that our son, Ryan, has Prader-Willi syndrome, and it shattered our desires for a son who would naturally develop friendships, graduate from college, get married, have children, and grow up to live an independent life.

The most unique characteristic of persons with PWS is that they have an insatiable appetite–actually they never feel full; hunger is never satisfied.  Eventually persons with PWS become very food-seeking and develop an extreme food obsession.  Although Ryan does not sneak or steal food, one of his biggest anxieties arises around his eating schedule.  He needs constant reassurance every day that he will get his breakfast-snack-lunch-snack-dinner without fail.  Cutting off a meal or snack-time for Ryan is like cutting off his oxygen.

C.S. Lewis has an intriguing quote in Mere Christianity:

   “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another wold.”

In light of all our struggles with Ryan, and losses in our family, that quote is challenging to me for a few reasons.  

The first part of that quote is hard, because I often wonder why do we live in a world where some of my deepest desires are not satisfied?  Does God bear any responsibility? If not directly, can’t He heal and fix things here and now?  After all, aren’t all things possible through Him?   I haven’t discovered all the answers to those questions, but in the midst of daily heartache of life with a child with special needs, God does show up sometimes and I had one of those moments recently.

I was spending some time is prayer one early Saturday morning. Ryan walked in the room after just waking up.  He asked what I was doing and I told him that I was praying and listening to God.  He came and sat on my lap.  I asked him if he wanted to listen to God, too.   I told him that if you sit quietly, God will speak to you in your mind.  He said ok, and put his head down on my shoulder and we sat still. Together.

After a few minutes, I asked, “Did God say anything to you?”

Ryan said, “Yes.”

I asked him what he said.

Ryan responded, “God told me I’m a great boy and He likes me.”

I said, “That’s great. Did God tell you anything else?”

He paused for a moment and answered, “Moses makes great dinners in Heaven.”

I responded, “Yes, Ryan, Moses makes great dinners in Heaven.”

God didn’t just speak to Ryan at that moment; he also spoke to me.  God cares enough about Ryan in a personal way to reassure him that his hunger will be satisfied in Heaven.  There’s nothing more I’d want for Ryan than for him to truly believe that God loves him, and despite his challenges, to understand that God can satisfy the deepest longings of his heart. 
I may never know why we, or Ryan, have to endure such trials and challenges, but its a great joy to know that Heaven is a place Ryan can look forward to and long for. Where our deepest desires and longings will be fulfilled. Forever.

ME, TOO.

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Thirteen

IMG_1271His milestone is my milestone.

He is 13 today.  My firstborn love.  Luke Christopher. 

He is the one who ushered me into the joy and chaos of Motherhood.  The uber-special-mother-son bond began after an uneventful labor and one and a half hours of pushing through and pushing out.  At 10:50 a.m. on a Tuesday morning he was given to me.

I will NEVER EVER forget the first moment I laid eyes on HIM. Awe.  I still see it in black and white and it brings me chills.

And now that he is approaching the man-child phase, I am still in awe.  Of his heart.  His humor.  His faith. His fierce older-brother-love for Ryan and Kate.  His character that is still being shaped and formed.  Well all of him is still being formed.  I (we) have a few short years left to leave our marks, our impressions, our wisdom, and yes, our mistakes, upon him.  But he may not remember those.  Hopefully.

Being the firstborn has its special privileges. And had.  He was read waaaay more books at bedtime than the other two.  He was nursed/given breast milk for almost a year, which sounds like an eternity now.  (We won’t talk about what the others got.  No, not apple juice in their bottles.)  He was declared a genius at 18 months when he called out “rhomboid” while doing a shapes puzzle.  He was most certainly the most skilled soccer dribbler at age three in his tots class.  He was so articulate at age 2 1/2, able to say cute prayers and sing along with Veggie Tales.  Oh yeah, all mothers think their firsts are completely UH-mazing and unparalleled to others.  We learn.

The Perfect First Child, though, was not an easy newborn.  Luke didn’t read the book Babywise in utero and know that you go on a 3 hour feeding schedule after birth and sleep through the night at 9 weeks of age.  He wouldn’t take a bottle till he was FORCED, i.e, me leaving for 8 hours while Chris suffered through.  By the end of the day he sucked down two bottles of breast milk.  And so began bottle feedings and a little freedom for me.

Despite all that…you fall in love with your baby, toddler, preschooler, elementary-schooler, and now, middle-schooler.  You think about who he is and who he will be.  And you also know he may be completely different as an adult and evolve in so many ways that he surprises you.  The hope is that they are pleasant surprises.

My wish, my prayer, my hope for Luke is to have a rich, deep, intelligent and bold faith.  That he discovers and follows his God-given passions and talents without apology.  That he intimately knows God’s love for him and His faithfulness despite any hardships in life.  I pray that he loves others with immense kindness and generosity and compassion.  That he has men in his life who challenge him and encourage him to lead a life of integrity and authenticity.

And that he chooses the wife I want him to choose.

Oops, I have no control over that one.  I was kidding.  But I will pray and pray and pray he finds his soulmate and kindred spirit.  And be willing to learn what it takes to be a giving, thoughtful, loving and wise husband.  (Who lets his wife buy as many shoes and lip-glosses she wants…kidding again.)

Happy Birthday to my sweet Luke! I am so proud of you, and am so eager to see you grow into a young man.

Thank you for making me a mother.  It is a joy and a privilege to be your mother.

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Chop Chop

ImageAll I wanted was a fresh, sassy haircut.  Not the sassy-pants visceral responses from my beloved children.

I bravely chopped off my A-line bob, which I had been calling the “mom-bob”.   I say bravely, because I am surrounded by women with long to very long locks of flowing, or wavy, or stick straight hair.  But still long.  I was blessed with very fine hair, and have had shorter hair most of my adult life.  Chris met and married me with short hair, thank God, and has never imposed any sort of  “you must have long hair to be beautiful” nonsense.

Of course, I didn’t chop it; my forever-hair-stylist-Dave did.  I had been salivating over short-short cuts for a year.  Looking through fashion magazines and watching Red Carpet shows only fueled my desire.  And then, Michelle Williams ruined me.  The talented actress is photographed in the Louis Vitton campaign.  I was undone.  I was ready.  Almost fearless.  And my husband was ready.  Well, sort of.

Snip, snip, a little color and 100 minutes later in Champions Salon, I was new.

However, silly and superficial, a fresh look feels invigorating.  My mom used to say to me that my face came alive with short-short hair, and I felt that way.  Inside too.

I kept looking in my rearview mirror the whole way home.  Sunglasses on, sunglasses off.  Berry lips.  Smile.  No smile.  Ya know.  The girlie-girl stuff.  I was a really safe driver.

THEN, snapped into after-school reality, I arrived home.  And when my three darling children all saw the new me, they CHOPPED me up with their responses.  Oh so many responses and opinions!  At first, one of my littles wouldn’t even look at me.  I will keep it anonymous who said what, but here is the life-giving feedback I received:

  • Where did it go”
  • Are you getting your hair back?
  • Are you going to be bald?
  • If you start wearing skull jewelry, Mom, you could go all Goth.
  • It’s REALLLY short, Mom.  You kinda look like a boy.
  • When are you growing it back? Soon?
  • I mean, its ok, its not my favorite.  You don’t look like my mom.
  • Now you can dress up like Pink for Halloween.

Wow.  Even our dog, Gracie, looked at me sideways and seemed to wonder if it was me.

Sheesh.  Good thing I have thick skin, a strong mind and a sense of humor.  These remarks come on the tail of my daughter Kate saying to me in what I thought was a sweet goodbye moment before school, until….”You have too much eyeshadow on, Mom.”  Ouch.

Kids are so unfiltered and honest.  I love what spills out of their minds and hearts so freely.

I tried to humor them and get us all moving into our after-school routine of snack, homework, chores and then dinner. But to no avail.  The energy was all aflutter and we were out of sync.  I was stupidly and vainly distracted with trying to take THE PERFECT PICTURE to post on Facebook and Instagram.  I knew my peeps there would cheer me on with emoticons and love despite my children’s frowny faces.

As I sat in the salon yesterday, looking amazing with foils all over my head, I thought, it’s too bad heart and soul transformations aren’t as fast and painless as hair transformations.  But that is definitely a post for another day…

Excuse me now, while I go play with my hair.  ;)

7 Comments »

Cigarette Girl

images-1It was summer.  1979.  I just finished 3rd grade with a wonderful teacher, Mrs. Finefield.  I was nine.  I wore the Rainbow Shirt. You know that shirt that had the rainbow splashed from left arm, across the chest and onto the right arm?  Super groovy.

I was a child.  And I smoked all summer long.  (You can gasp now.)

My mom was a smoker.  She had been smoking for decades.  She always had a carton of Merits in our laundry alcove.  Our house smelled like smoke but it was all we knew.  I didn’t even notice it.  I wonder if the nuns at school smelled it on our brown plaid uniforms? They must have.  But then again, it was the 70’s.

My older-by-11-months sister, Jennifer, and I played with neighborhood friends.  In those days you did, you could, and no one was overscheduled.  We were fancy free.  We swam, we walked to the candy store, AKA “the liquor deli,” on the corner in Rossmoor, and we made up skate routines to disco music.

It would be easy to blame the older neighbor girl for influencing Jennifer and I to steal my mom’s smokes and give it a try.  She was 11 after all, and so worldly.  It may have been a factor.  Maybe.

Or it could have just been childish, foolish curiosity.

I was  a ”good kid,” a people pleaser and a rule follower.  I kept my side of the bedroom neat and clean and organized.  I liked school and always got outstanding citizenship awards at St. Hedwig’s Catholic School.  I may have mouthed off once in a while to my mother’s dismay, but I was not an out of control 9 year-old.

However, in a whim or a dare or a thought, we stole my mom’s cigarettes for a whole summer and smoked in our playroom.  We played office or restaurant and had ashtrays nearby.  My mom was a single working mom and we had our little puff parties while our babysitter was downstairs watching tv or who knows what.   What was she doing?!  Because how did she NOT check on us and catch us?  We were three young girls, ages 9, 10, and 11.  Not needing constant supervision but A LITTLE MORE that we were getting obviously.  She could have protected us from our silly selves.

Again, I cannot really blame the sitter.  We made our choices.  And we liked looking like Farrah Fawcett with our feathery hair (or was it Dorothy Hamill bowl cuts?) and trying to blow smoke rings. So cool and sophisticated were we!  So grown up.  So we thought.

As a mother who worries about the choices my kids make, and WILL MAKE, I’m a little taken back with this childhood memory.  Not really proud of it.

Yet, the big take away from this trip down memory lane does leave some wisdom.  What I extract from this is that good kids make mistakes.  Really good kids make mistakes.  They do.  My kids will. Your kids will.  Even if I passed Parenting Perfectly 101.  They will have their own ideas, their own will, and their own immaturity to contend with.  Not to mention peer influences and unique opportunities that will be in front of them.

I never became a full-blown smoker.  It did not lead to pot addiction at age 10, 13 or 17, etc.  I did not turn into an uber rebellious teenager.  I absolutely made bad choices; I am not trying to sound pious or self-righteous in any way.  No.  But I did not go off the proverbial deep end because I tried cigarettes at age 9.

I share this story because it (strangely) comforts me as I begin a new chapter as Parent-To-A-Teenager-Boy.  He will make mistakes.  He will even be foolish or reckless. (Only once or twice, right?)  But I do not need to have a panic attack and imagine he is ruined forever if there is one or two or three bad choices made, even one BIG ONE.  It does not determine his whole identity and existence and future.

I still wonder if my mom knew what we were up to that summer….

13 Comments »

Tales from the Toilet

I am literally sitting in my bathroom.  And yes, I do keep little notebooks EVERYWHERE for when “aha-writing-moments” appear.  Which is often, but I don’t always stop long enough to jot it all down.  But, I digress.

I am in here not due to tummy catastrophe but because a tantruming child is outside the door.  He or she (I won’t give it away) is pounding on the door and apparently did not read the Boundaries book.

I am giving myself a mommy time-out as they say.  Or I should really call it the “count-my-blessings-so-I-don’t-curse-at-you and-then-feel-eternally-guilty time-out.”  Now, I would NEVER actually curse at my children.  Never.  (Well, be careful to never say never…I’m not perfect and I make mistakes all the time.)  But I think about it and feel it in those moments.

You know.  THOSE MOMENTS.  All mothers have them.  All.

When your kids are unkindly fighting, or they are fighting with you, or having a tantrum of epic proportions, or having a major teen attitude, or when they are in egocentric, narcissistic me-me-me mode.  I know my kids are the only ones.  Yours are all perfectly behaved at all times.  And all you have to do is give THE LOOK and they back down from a potential bad choice in words or actions.

Well, if you live in my reality, you sometimes need to run to the toilet.  You stop, sit, collect yourself, and literally BY AN ACT OF YOUR WILL, tell God thank you for your life, your children, your home, and for being a mom, until…poof, the anger is gone.  Or mostly gone.  Then you can re-enter mom-life in the kitchen or wherever you are and not be unkind, or irrational or impatient.

It takes a decision, a will, and great intention to not act their age and lose my cool and say emotionally reactive words.  This is easier for some of you than me.  If you have less stress or pressure, or protect your schedules from total craziness,  it helps.  When you live with ongoing chronic stress from ____(you fill it in), that won’t go away (a disabled child, as in my story), its easy to find yourself in the “I’m going to lose my cool again” category of moms.

I will combat my stress and heated difficult parenting moments with trips to the toilet.

I read a really darling short story about a woman who locked herself in her master bathroom happily for the weekend.  It was her own special stay-cation, complete with Orangina and crackers.

I may have to try that.  Don’t tell my kids.

7 Comments »

Inhaling Sunshine

tumblr_static_sunshineThe first mile of a run is always tough.  Its the worst part of the run.  It feels terrible.

You huff and puff.  You second guess why you even got out for a run.  You doubt yourself and your ability to run at all.  You may even tell yourself it’s totally ok to turn around, go home, and get another cup of coffee and cozy up on the sofa.

And then…you turn the infamous running corner.

Your breathing is in nice rhythm.  Your pace is steady and strong.  You can start chatting with your running mates and not gasp for air at the same time.

You are SOOOO In for the long haul.  Distance does not matter.  You feel empowered.  All is right again.

This is just like summer break. For me, that is.

The first couple of weeks I huff and puff emotionally about the change in routine, the family all-together-ness, and the June-gloom-which-feels-like-doom.

AND THEN I hit my pace.  I have figured out our new schedule or the-no-schedule and completely adjust.  I no longer want to throw my hands up and surrender motherhood.

But rather I surrender to the change.  I embrace it.  We all embrace it.

I begin to inhale the sunshine deep and let it sunbathe my insides.  And it feels so good.  So warming to my soul.  I begin to delight in the un-structuredness and the “What shall we do today?” and the choices before us.

No more emotional gasps for breath.  Good rhythm. Steady pace.  Memories being made.  Summer bucket list being checked off.

I begin to feel strong and capable of mothering-through-summer-break.

Ahhh…

Inhale…

Exhale…

Summer goodness abounds.

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