Writing Over the Noise

I walk over to the calendar and put my finger on the square that has written in pencil, “Rhett’s first day of school!” It’s only four days away. Earlier that morning I woke up to the kids crying out for me–jolting me out of bed. I was immediately met with breakfast requests, which feels like a lot to ask of someone who isn’t fully awake yet. Remembering how I felt, I grab my phone and go to the alarm settings and slide the toggle to ‘on’ for 5 a.m. Starting tomorrow, I am going to get up before the kids. I know once school starts, the bus will pick Rhett up around 6:45 a.m., so he needs to be up by 6 o’clock anyway.

That night, after the kids have gone to bed, I grab my favorite blanket and the remote as I curl up in the recliner. This is the time I’ve been craving all day. I remember that my mom has told me many times that I have always been a night owl, often staying up later than I should have as a kid. Was I really going to try and change my internal clock? Even though my alarm is set for 5 a.m., I stay up later than I should.

The next morning, the alarm goes off and I roll over, fumbling in the dark for my phone. Once I silence the alarm, I exhale. I look out the window, seeing only complete darkness. I’m tempted to roll over and go back to sleep but I know I will regret it. I put my glasses on and step out of bed into the cool room, leaving the warmth of my down comforter. I slip on a sweatshirt and tiptoe down the hall, trying not to wake anyone—the last thing I want at 5 a.m. is an audience.

As I walk to the kitchen to fire up the Ninja coffee maker, I think how fast this summer went. Every year, time seems to go by faster. Rhett finished preschool in May, then I blinked and it was August. All summer we kept the windows open at night to cool the house down. Then one morning there was a crisp edge, the warm summer mornings giving way to the beginning of fall. For most of the summer, I was in ‘survival’ mode. Rich was gone for long hours and bedtime was always a zone defense: me vs. the kids. I was waking when the kids did; then I stayed up late, trying to soak up as much “me” time as possible—only to be tired and cranky in the morning. For weeks it seemed like no matter how early I woke up or how late I stayed up; I never had enough time to myself. I was greedy for more. When I had an hour to myself, instead of my cup feeling full, it felt like I had been in a desert—there wasn’t enough water to quench my thirst.

I jump a little when the coffee maker beeps—the sound piercing the silent house. I grab the cup, pour in an excessive amount of French vanilla creamer, and walk to my office. The washing machine clicks off (thank you, delay wash cycle), and I move the clothes from the washer to the dryer. The clothes begin to tumble, filling the room with the rhythmic beat of the dryer balls. I pick up my devotional book, read a chapter, then I lift the screen of my laptop. The house is completely quiet, other than the dryer. My fingers begin to tap away at the keyboard, trying to catch my thoughts before they drift away.

Every once in a while, I stop typing, listening for sounds of the rest of the house waking up. I take a sip of my hot coffee, knowing that the minutes are ticking until the kids wake up. When it’s close to 6:30, I hear a bedroom door click open and tiny feet on the floor. 

“Oscar, no!” Allie shouts. 

I save my work and close my laptop, then walk down the hall to “rescue” Allie from the puppy, who greets her each morning with lots of unwelcome licks. 

I didn’t finish an essay or start a book. But in those 90 minutes, I was able to do what I enjoy—without being interrupted for a snack request or potty breaks. The quiet of the early morning is a welcome respite to an otherwise noisy life.

A week goes by, I am still getting up at 5 a.m., and Rhett has already finished his first week of school. On the next school day, I wake him up shortly after 6 a.m., feeling well-rested, my cup filled up. After he is gone for school, it’s just Allie and me. Later that morning as I’m picking up toys, she brings me the bag of magnetic letters. 

“Play with me?” she says. Instead of thinking I need just five minutes at my computer, I say, “Okay, let’s spell your name.” I sit on the floor in front of the fridge and spell out all our names. Just as soon as I put them up, she slides them down the stainless steel even faster. When we are both bored with the game, I begin to pick the letters up and get ready to pick Rhett up from school.

Later that evening, after the kids are in bed, I walk to the living room, turn on “Nashville,” and sit down to watch an episode before I go to bed myself. I thought back to the summer months when I felt guilty for watching TV after the kids went to bed. Guilty that “If I love to write so much, why am I not writing right now?” But I’m able to relax, knowing I already spent time writing this morning, and I have my alarm set for the next morning to do the same. 

After I click the TV off, I walk to bed. I think back to the times when I have told Rich that accomplishing a lot of my goals feels impossible. “How will I ever write a book? The kids need me so much.” His usual response is, “It’s like eating an elephant. One bite at a time.” 

I laugh whenever he says it because the image of eating an elephant is an interesting visual. But it’s true. I know that getting up early won’t solve all my problems, and I still find myself wandering to my office throughout the day, but it feels good to carve out time just for myself, not waiting until 8 p.m. to scrape together whatever energy I have left from the day for me to write (or read, or just sit in silence).  

Instead of expecting the time to magically appear, or waiting until my kids are both in school—I’m taking the time now. (It only took me six years to adapt to a farmer’s schedule, but here I am.)

I know there will always be challenges in finding the time to write, and there will be some mornings when it doesn’t work out. There are also the days I have to wade through the noise of my inner critic who says, “You’re not really a writer.” But I’ve found that my inner critic is a bit quieter in the morning.

No matter if it’s morning or night, I’m going to write anyway.

 

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This post was written as part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to read the next post in this series “Write Anyway.

Image from iOS

Another Beginning

A letter came in the mail last week for Rhett, a note from his new pre-k teacher. While he already completed one year of preschool, this felt more significant. He will go to this school until he graduates; many years from now, some of the kids in this class will walk across the stage with him and receive their high school diplomas together.

As I opened the letter, the last five summers flashed before my eyes.

My belly bulging, the days punctuated with Braxton Hicks and the excitement of our first child.

The next summer he was learning how to crawl and wanted to put everything in his mouth.

The following summer, my belly was swollen with his little sister. On hot afternoons we would curl up on the couch, his head resting on my baby bump—trying to stay as close to me as possible.

The summer he was almost 3, it felt like we had finally found our footing as a family of four.

Last summer, he rode his balance bike non-stop and wanted to spend every waking minute working with his dad in the field.

What will I remember about this summer, the summer before he’s 5?

I can slowly feel the days slipping through my fingers, the days when our lives are just our own. No school schedules, no sports, no homework. His closest friends are his sister and cousins. His dad is his best friend.

I want to soak up the moments of this summer that feels like a last: swimming with the cousins, fishing with his dad, and late nights roasting marshmallows. My days full of random hugs and “I love you, Mom.” This is the last summer where the hot days of play aren’t seen as a break from school.

The weeks will fly by, as summers always do.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
But this isn’t the end.
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It’s really just another beginning.

//

I wrote this in June and it was shared on Coffee + Crumbs in July. Today is Rhett’s first day of pre-k and I wanted to share this note to mark the occasion.

 

Some Days I Feel Like a Terrible Mother, But He Loves Me Anyway

I start putting a load of laundry in the washing machine when I hear the kids begin to argue in another room, no doubt over one of the many tractors that line the halls. “No, you need a time out! You go to your room!” my son yells. As soon as I hear it, a familiar sense of shame builds up in my stomach. I walk down the hall and calmly say, “Please don’t talk to your sister that way.”

Why wouldn’t he? He had obviously heard those very words before in this house.

 

To read the rest of my story, click over to my latest on Her View From Home.

 

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Take Your Time

 

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“Okay, I just need to get a few things. After we’re done we’ll get lunch and go home, okay?” I said as I peered into the backseat of the car.

I glanced down at my list before throwing it in my purse: diapers, wipes, new socks for Rhett. Get in, get out. You can do this.

After unbuckling both kids from their car seats, with Allie on my hip and Rhett’s hand clasped in mine, we marched into Target. We went straight for the cart rack and I grabbed the behemoth cart, wondering how many racks I would accidentally ram it into before we left the store.

Rhett immediately started climbing into the bottom rack of the cart.

“No, Rhett. You need to sit IN the seat. Not underneath.”

I braced the cart with both arms and began pushing us down the aisle. Have you ever tried to drive one of those? You practically need a special driver’s license to operate it. After I managed to get the cart going in a straight line, we headed for the baby section. I parked the cart in the center of the aisle, hoping neither one of them could reach out and grab something from their side of the cart.

Diapers. Wipes. Check. Check.

As I pushed the kids through the rest of the aisles, I felt like an ant underneath a microscope. My parenting was on display, magnified for everyone to see. Allie began pulling shoes off the shelves and putting them into the cart, while Rhett begged for a snack. I looked around before lowering my voice to its stern, “I mean business” tone. “We are almost done. If you don’t stop pulling things off the shelves, you won’t get a snack. Do you understand?”

When my kids misbehave in the store, do people think it’s because I’m a bad mom? Do they think I have bad kids? Or maybe they aren’t even thinking of us at all.

I tried to squash any outbursts before they became too big. Too big for me to handle in the home goods aisle, at least. I glanced at my list to see if all the items were checked off, then made one last stop for an item not on the list: fruit snacks. I wondered as I opened the box and handed them each one package if I was doing the right thing by giving them a sugary snack to get through the checkout line.

As we were checking out, I’m sure I looked overwhelmed (that’s how I felt on the inside, at least). I didn’t notice the older woman that was checking out behind me. I don’t know what she saw. Had she watched me from a distance the whole time I was shopping? Or had she only seen us at the checkout line . . .  when each kid had a package of fruit snacks in hand?

As I was trying to wrangle my bags and contain both kids through the automatic doors, their hands now holding empty wrappers, she looked at me and said, “You’re a great mom. Take your time.”

I was so taken aback, I’m not sure I even said thank you. I smiled and we walked out the door.

As I strapped my kids into their car seats, I kept replaying her words over and over.

I’d spent most of the time in the store rushing. Ramming the cart into the ends of the aisles in a race with myself to get out of the store. I wanted to cross all the items off my list and be back in the safety of the car as soon as possible—my jaw noticeably clenched, my face tight. My voice growling. Did I even smile once at my kids? Smile when Rhett helped his sister get into the cart? Smile as the kids pointed to books they recognized from our own bookshelf at home?

What gave her the impression I was a good mom?

As I drove out of the parking lot, I wondered, What if we told each other that more often?

What if we told ourselves that?

I left the store that day feeling a little bit better about myself. A little better about my parenting. I don’t know what she saw. Maybe when I wiped the tears from Allie’s face when she pinched her finger. Or me standing in the diaper aisle, scrutinizing over all the brands: making sure to pick the good ones, yet not the ones that cut into their college fund. Or maybe she just recognized a little bit of herself in me: a woman trying to be a good mom, but also acknowledging the challenge it is to shop with two young kids. Whatever it was, I appreciate that she saw my struggle. Saw me.

So if no one has told you lately: “You’re a great mom. Take your time.”

//

This post was written as part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to read the next post in this series “We’re Better Mothers Together.”

Bringing Home Oscar

Over the years I have become a self-proclaimed, “Crazy Cat Lady.” (I figured I should jump on calling myself that before others coined me with the name.) A year or so after I finished my undergrad I would occasionally search the shelter website in Laramie looking for a kitten. I knew what I wanted: a Tuxedo cat. (Obviously I have fancy taste.) For those of you who don’t know, a Tuxedo cat is black and white. One day I was looking at the website and as I was scrolling, I knew found the one. I can still picture his little face, the white whiskers, white around the mouth, and four white paws. I told my co-worker, Kara, “I found my kitten!” After showing her the picture, she agreed I needed to go and get him.

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Skittles, no longer a kitten, at my apartment in Bozeman. Naturally he was sitting at the kitchen table.

Fast forward almost seven years, three moves, and a couple boyfriends, but I still had Skittles. He slept in my bed, often tearing up the sheets at the bottom. He was slightly annoying in lots of ways, but I loved him anyway. When Rich and I got engaged, I moved to town and into an apartment that didn’t allow pets. I brought Skittles out to live at the farm until we got married. One evening we let him outside, as he often scratched at the door (in every apartment I had he did the same) and wanted outside. We let him go out that night, not thinking anything of it. And we never saw him again. This was 10 days before our wedding, and I was devastated. Rich felt horrible. He searched all over, looking in fields and the shop, and even setting a live trap in hopes of catching him. Nothing. I would call him from town with tears in my eyes, “Have you seen Skittles?” He would quietly respond, “No.”

My mom told me a short time after we assumed Skittles was dead, “God knew you needed Skittles until Rich came along.” I responded, “Why can’t I have Skittles AND Rich?”

A couple months after we got married, my mom found a black and white kitten and asked if we wanted him. At first I said no, I wasn’t ready to replace Skittles. But eventually I said yes and we brought home our first baby (don’t tell Rich I said that).

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Welcome home, Fred!
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A side-by-side comparison of Fred and Skittles. Such fancy fellas!

The last few months Rich has said multiple times, “We should get a dog.” I have never been a huge fan of dogs: they smell, lick, need a lot of attention, and did I mention, they smell? Last Thanksgiving my sister was telling me about goldendoodles. I hadn’t heard of them, but after doing a quick Google image search: I was in love. Or maybe that’s a little extreme. Let’s say I was in definite ‘like’ territory. We were in Red Lodge for the holiday, and I was driving down the street and like fate would have it: I saw a couple walking a goldendoodle down the street. In a move totally unlike me, I pulled over. Then I took it a step further and called out to them, “Is that a goldendoodle? Can I pet him?” Which I did. I went back to the house and told everyone I met a goldendoodle and now I definitely wanted one.

Over the winter I had been following a woman on Facebook with doodles. She had two pups left from a litter and she kept posting that they were still available. I messaged her a few times, but the timing never felt right: potty training in the cold winter, calving season, did we actually want a dog? Last week I randomly contacted her again and she still had the two puppies. She told me someone was coming to get one on Saturday, but there would still be one left. I told her we would come on Sunday.

Long story short, we brought home Oscar on Sunday evening. He is six months old and is the quietist, chillest dog I have ever met. (He does smell a bit. Although he doesn’t shed.) He didn’t whine or cry once on the six hour drive home. He is supposed to be a petite goldendoodle, but he already seems fairly big for six months . . . I guess we will see!

I might have romantic ideations: picturing the kids running and playing with the dog this summer, skipping over the work that dogs are. But on the drive home with the puppy Rhett told me, “I’m real glad we have this dog.”

Welcome home, Oscar!

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Oscar and Rhett digging in the tree row. (Oscar is due for a grooming.)

November Musings

img_3701When I started my blog this summer, I had good intentions of posting regularly. In no big surprise to myself, I have not blogged as often as I hoped. A fellow writer, Molly Flinkman, does a monthly blog post with a round up of what she’s written and read in the past month. I am going to try this out and see what happens. So, here goes!

//What I Read//

I love reading; but find myself going through spurts where I read non-stop followed by a dry season where I don’t read at all. This fall was mostly a “dry” season in reading for me, but I picked back up the last month and read five books in November (two were audio).

Ghosted by Rosie Walsh
“When Sarah meets Eddie, they connect instantly and fall in love. To Sarah, it seems as though her life has finally begun. And it’s mutual: It’s as though Eddie has been waiting for her, too. Sarah has never been so certain of anything. So when Eddie leaves for a long-booked vacation and promises to call from the airport, she has no cause to doubt him. But he doesn’t call.”

I really liked this book and would call it a romantic mystery. I’m not a huge fan of thrillers (i.e. being scared), so this one fit the bill perfectly for me. It kept me guessing the whole time and I was not right in any of my predictions. I gave this book 4.5 stars on Goodreads (if you could give half stars).

Hope Unfolding: Grace-Filled Truth for the Momma’s Heart by Becky Thompson
This was a pretty quick read and it felt like Becky was talking right to you. She recently Skyped into our MOPS meeting and I enjoyed reading her book after “talking” to her in real life. I felt like I knew her a bit and enjoyed her story.

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty
“Set in a remote health-and-wellness retreat, presided over by a very intriguing and charismatic guru figure, Nine Perfect Strangers introduces us to nine different characters with very little in common. Each has a compelling reason for coming to the retreat. Some seek healing while others wish to be transformed.”

I have read all of Liane Moriarty’s books, I think this is her 6th or 7th one. This book was admittedly not my favorite; but it was still a good read.

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
“Crazy Rich Asians is the outrageously funny debut novel about three super-rich, pedigreed Chinese families and the gossip, backbiting, and scheming that occurs when the heir to one of the most massive fortunes in Asia brings home his ABC (American-born Chinese) girlfriend to the wedding of the season.”

I don’t always enjoy audiobooks: my mind wanders and I suddenly realize I have not been listening and have no idea what’s going on. This audiobook was 15 hours, which makes it the longest book I’ve ever finished on audio! The narrator did a great job with the different accents and characters, which made it a really fun listen. This is a must-read/listen!

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
This book is our December book club pick of the month. I don’t remember reading it as a kid, and Rich and I listened to it on audio while we were traveling for Thanksgiving. It was a short audio and a good read. Rich was driving, which meant I had more distractions and didn’t listen as well as I would have if I was driving. He kept me in the loop with what was going on when my mind started to wander.

My goal for 2018 was to read 40 books and I am currently at 47 (thank you to the Goodreads app for helping me keep track!). I hope to get to 50 by the end of December, but I’m currently in another reading slump, so we will see if that happens.

//What I Wrote//

Since April I have taken four writing workshops; two of them were this fall and I took them back-to-back. The second workshop was “Writing With Purpose” by Coffee + Crumbs writer, Sonya Spillmann. I highly recommend it for those who love to write. She is offering it again in February; click the link above to see if there are any spaces left! You won’t regret it. During this workshop I wrote a couple essays which I am still working on, and hope to submit for publication sometime in 2019. I also wrote an Instagram post that I shared yesterday about finding my purpose in a snack filled world.

At the beginning of November, “Finding Myself in the Laundry” was published on Sweatpants & Coffee.

My latest essay “A Farmer’s Son” comes out tomorrow on Her View From Home. I have been nervously waiting for this to be published. Some essays I am more proud of than others, and this is one of them. I wrote this essay during a workshop I took this summer from “Mothers Always Write” and the workshop happened to fall during the first week of harvest. This year the first week of harvest started out with taking Rhett to urgent care two days in a row, followed by a week of sickness for the family. Let’s just say it wasn’t the best time to try and take a workshop! But when I signed up I had no idea the week would turn out that way. I’m always nervous to see the comments on essays I have written, and I would say I am more anxious about this one than others. I’m not sure if it’s because of how I feel about the essay or more that I worry people will read it wrong and make assumptions about me. Probably both.

//Final Thoughts//

Last year I discovered that Coffee + Crumbs accepts guest submissions twice a year, and they don’t accept many. I put it on my list of goals for 2018 to submit an essay to them. I wasn’t brave enough to write down that I wanted to be published on C+C, just that I wanted to submit something I felt was good enough to submit. I wrote an essay in April and I saved it all summer to submit in their open submissions in September. Patience has never been a virtue of mine. Submissions opened in late September and I clicked submit for the first time to C+C. To say I felt anxious was an understatement; then I had to wait. For over a month I waited to hear back from them. At the end of October I finally received an email: it was accepted! I don’t know when it will be published yet, sometime in 2019. It felt like such an accomplishment and I can’t wait to see it on their website next year.

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Thanks for reading! Hopefully I can keep up with this each month (and maybe something in-between every now and then). This was fun – thanks for the inspiration, Molly!

 

 

 

 

 

Out of the Mouths of (Farm) Babes

“What’s that sound?” my son asks. I put my hand above my eyes to block the sun on this already too hot May day. Looking toward where the sound is coming from, I don’t see the farm equipment that is in question. I give a quick reply thinking it will suffice, “It’s just a tractor.” My three and a half year old promptly says, “No, it’s not. It’s the wheel loader.” Within a few seconds, the wheel loader drives around the shop into sight. And yes, there is a difference between a wheel loader and a tractor. Just ask my son. I then wondered why he asked me the question, when he already knew the answer.

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Rhett wearing his dad’s jean jacket from when he was a kid.

I truly have learned that “kids say the darndest things.” And Rhett just might top the list. Now that the weather has finally turned to summer, we have been spending more time outside. One day Rhett was trying to get his Gator into the shed and he said, “Mom, where’s my hooker?” I paused for a moment, wondering if he had been watching some TV show that I would not approve of. I started looking around the yard, trying to envision the world from his point of view. I soon saw what I assumed was his hooker. His blue tow strap was lying on the ground, just waiting to be hooked up to his Gator. I smiled and felt a sense of relief that he hadn’t learned a new word that I would hope he would never say at church. Although there is still the risk he will be looking for his hooker at church. We will have to have a conversation that hookers are only for the farm and not at church.

There are some moments in parenting when you immediately feel a rush of pride and feel that you are doing something right. Starting at a fairly young age, Rhett would fold his hands and pray with us before meal times. He started doing it without any prompting, he merely was copying us by folding his hands at his highchair. As he has gotten older, he occasionally recites the prayers along with us. Due to my Lutheran background, I have always felt more comfortable reciting common prayers rather than praying “off the cuff.” This night was no different and we were saying the common table prayer. Rhett interrupted us and said he wanted to do it. I looked over at him in anticipation of what he was going to say. He bowed his head and said, “Come Lord Jesus, thanks for fixing the truck. Amen.” It was clear that he had spent the day at the shop with his dad and indeed they had been working on a truck.  

Rhett is already learning a strong work ethic, which can be a challenge when trying to get him to go to bed. There are many evenings when he doesn’t want to park his farm equipment and just wants to keep “working.” When I tell him it’s time to stop playing and go to bed he firmly tells me, “It’s my job!” I think his dad would agree that when you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. For Rhett playing is his job, and it’s hard to convince him it’s time to call it day.

I started journals for each of my kids to write down funny things they say or do, and milestones along the way. I quickly realized that even though I think I’ll remember all the funny sayings, I don’t. Each year on their birthdays I write them a letter in their journal. I anticipate I will give them their journals on their 18th birthdays or when they graduate from high school.

What funny things do your kids do or say? Do you keep a journal for them?