Reflections on Seasons of Parenting

I came across something on social media this week where a new mom was asking some advice about getting things done with a baby in the house. It was interesting reading through the comments from other moms of babies, toddlers, and preschoolers! I went through those stages with all four of my kids, but some of the details are a bit hazy looking back until someone mentions something and I think, “Oh yeah, I’d forgotten about that!”

Back when my “baby” actually was a baby! – Photo by Aaron D. Priest

My kiddos are in the tween and teen years for the most part, and my “baby” is nine years old. The days of littles are definitely behind me now. It’s funny how motherhood hasn’t exactly gotten easier, but the ways that it’s difficult change over time. For example, now that the kids are older, they do their own laundry, help with chores, make their own breakfast and lunch, they even cook dinner some nights! The extra hands helping around the house are definitely appreciated. The physical demands of the early years of parenting have lessened significantly.

The mental and emotional demands have increased through. Guiding high schoolers through their education is a lot more complicated than teaching them to colors and counting in Kindergarten! It’s more time consuming too, even though they largely do their work independently now. Things like hormones and life lessons are coming into play, and that stuff is hard. Trying to help these kids who are somewhere between being kids and adults is complicated, and I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing half of the time. I desperately hope that my mom felt this way too because when she was my age and I was my daughter’s age, I thought she had everything pretty much figured out.

Parenting isn’t all about the challenges though. There are definitely always those, no matter what stage you’re in, but there’s good stuff in every stage too! I’m a bit nostalgic when I see a mom holding a sleeping baby, or snuggling a toddler on her lap while they look at a picture book. There were some great things about the years when I had a house full of littles.

There are great things about a house of teens and tweens too. I can’t tell you how much I love talking to my kids about they books they like, and telling them about the ones I like. Reading the same books and then discussing them is so much fun! Playing long, complicated board games is something we can do now, and there’s nothing I love more than roping them into playing an epic game of Terraforming Mars or Between Two Cities on the weekend. We have deep discussions sometimes. We can work on projects together around the house. We have funny in-jokes now that only our family gets! (My mug declaring, “Whatever, I’m still fabulous,” is one of those jokes!)

None of parenting is easy. Let’s be honest, relationships of any kind aren’t easy because you’re dealing with multiple people, personalities, and points of view. Despite the challenge some days bring, family relationships can be a great source of joy.

There are still days that are so hard, but my mom would probably tell me that that’s pretty much how life is for all of us! If any moms of littles stumble across this post though, I want you to know that no matter how hard it seems now, you’ll get through the hard. It’s OK if you’re not vacuuming the house in heels and pearls every afternoon. Your kids won’t remember that there were stray crumbs under the table, but they will remember that Mom loved them enough to spend time with them. The kids will get older and their “help” around the house will indeed become a big help! Things will change and you’ll no longer have a little one who curls up on your lap to read a story, but there are new experience you can share with your older kids that are precious too. It’s true what they say, “The days are long, but the years are short.” It doesn’t get easier per-se, but you will get more sleep eventually. And on the mornings when you’re tired, your teen might brew enough coffee for both of you to have a cup with breakfast!

What I’ve Been Up To…

It’s been a strange month. I could say a lot about a lot of things, but my brain is tired of thinking about the heavy stuff, so I decided to write a little post about a few of the strange yet interesting things I’ve done this month.

I know that cutting your own hair is a thing on social media right now, but that’s honestly not the reason why I decided to take the plunge. I’ve been toying with the idea of just buzzing my hair super-short for a few years now. Given that summer is (allegedly) coming, I figured that now would be a good time to go for it. If nothing else, it would be cooler during the hot months. Aaron knew ahead of time that I was doing this, but none of the kids did! I must say, the looks on their faces were priceless, and I wish I had photos! I actually rather like my hair this short, and I still haven’t decided whether I’ll keep it this way, or let it grow back out.

This photo, on the other hand, was because of social media! A challenge was issued to post a photo of yourself reading a book while in formalwear. The photos posted by friends were fun to look through, so I decided to participate. The only formal dress that I’ve ever worn is my wedding dress. As luck would have it, that dress is still hanging out in the back of my closet! I managed to fit into it (sort of), and the kiddos helped me snap a photo. The best part was when Mr. Q asked, “Why is the skirt so… poofy?” What can I say, it was the 90s…

During a Twilight Zone-esque trip to the grocery store, I came across this cool Plant Your Own Garden kit. I love the idea of growing plants! Loving the idea is not enough to turn me into a proficient gardener though. Still, I picked it up and the kids and I happily planted the seeds in the provided container. Since very few things I plant actually grow, I hadn’t really thought much about what to do once they sprouted. Guess what? They’ve sprouted and are growing nicely. I’ve still got a good month before I can plant anything outside, and I’m pretty sure these nice little plants aren’t going to be happy in those tiny pots for that long. I have no idea what to do with the currently-thriving seedlings.

There are still remnants of snow in the areas where there’s enough shade to keep the sun from melting the last holdouts. Despite the pile of snow still sitting outside the window by my desk, it was sunny and warm enough at the end of last week for the kiddos and I to enjoy spending time outside. They convinced me to let them drag out the kayak and take turns paddling around the farm pond in our back yard. I have to admit, it was so much fun! You’re pretty much just paddling around in a circle, but it was nice to be out on the water and enjoying the sun and fresh air. We even managed to get a bit of a sunburn, which still has me laughing, because who gets a sunburn in Maine, in April? Good thing I keep aloe gel in the fridge year-round.

I have no idea what next month is going to look like. There are a lot of things that concern me, and I think there’s good reason to be concerned about a lot of things. No matter what you’re personally going through in the midst of this, I hope that things start getting better for you soon. In the meantime, I hope that you can find something in your day today that will make you smile. Let me know in the comments or on social media how you’re doing. Go ahead and share the good, the bad, and even the ugly haircuts!

Changing My Mind

I was going to write a post for today about my NaNoWriMo project. I’d decided within the past few weeks to do NaNo again this year. Then, I changed my mind… again.

I’ve only participated in NaNoWriMo twice, but I loved it both times! It seemed like the perfect way to kick-start The Mechanic Who Would be Queen and get the first draft written. Not to mention this being the 20th year for NaNo! There are good reasons why I wanted to participate this year.

However, there are also good reasons why I decided not to participate. November is a busy month with Camo’s birthday, my IT staff’s birthday, our 20th anniversary, and Thanksgiving. My family is wonderfully supportive the years that I dive into NaNo, and they don’t complain about the things I have to let slide that month to make word count. I know they would all be cheering me on. The thing is, there are things this month that I want to be able to just enjoy without having to worry about my word count. My IT staff and I are going away overnight for our anniversary, and I want to be able to enjoy a nice dinner without having a word count nagging in the back of my head. Camo’s birthday sometimes seems a little lost in the shuffle of a busy month, and I want to make it special and make a cool cake for him without feeling like I have to rush to go get some writing in.

As much as I love NaNoWriMo, it does tend to overshadow everything else in a month. I don’t want that to happen this year. I’m definitely not ruling out jumping into the fray again next year, but for this year, I think it’s better to sit on the bench and cheer the rest of you on. I’m still going to write The Mechanic Who Would be Queen! In fact, it’s probably going to be the first book in a trilogy. Or maybe a four-book series… I’m not sure yet, but I’ve have ideas!

So, who’s doing NaNo this year? Let me know in the comments or on social media!

Life Happens… Checklist or Not

Since I last posted here at Teish Knits, I turned 39, we had two unexpected doctor visits (everyone is fine and it was nothing serious), the dryer started giving me attitude, we wrapped up the reports for the 2018-2019 academic year, and I quit coffee. I have not gotten as much reading done as I planned.

If there’s one constant in life, it’s that life will always end up derailing my nicely laid-out planning checklists. Sort of like in this comic from The Awkward Yeti:

(Seriously, you should follow this website because the Heart and Brain comics are hilariously accurate!)

All joking aside, I do tend to be the one with a checklist for everything, and difficulty adapting to the things that were not on the checklist or needing to complete the checklist *gasp* out of order.

Even if things didn’t go exactly by the checklist, the end of year school reports got done. Cleaning out the laundry room was technically on my list, so this is a chance to do that a little earlier. Giving up the coffee is one thing that I really need to do for my health. (I’m not giving up tea though. That’s just crazy-talk!) I’ll move things around on my checklist and adjust. Incidentally, this is why I have come to love FriXion erasable pens for my planning.

There is plenty on my to-do list for this weekend, but I’m going to make it a point to do some reading! Hopefully that means that there will be a reading update on Tuesday with my thoughts on at least one finished book.

What about you? What have you been reading this week? What off-the-checklist stuff has life thrown at you? Let me know in the comments or on social media!

Thoughts for Tuesday on Wednesday, May 29th

Outside my windows… it’s cloudy and cold. The lawn is growing nicely, but I’m not sure if it’s still too cold to be planting outside in my flower beds.

Inside my house… the seedlings I started this spring are not exactly thriving. some of them gave up before sprouting. I may have to go visit the greenhouse at some point.

Counting 1000 gifts… thankful that my kiddos enjoy being outside and exploring nature!

Prayers of the heart… for the busy summer coming; that we’ll be able to fit in everything we need to and let go of the rest.

What the (not quite so) little ones are up to… Munchkin is trying out my favorite baked mac&cheese recipe, while her brothers are playing a new board game that Grandma introduced us to!

From my playlist… Catchy Song from the LEGO Movie 2. My kids have mixed feelings about this.

From my reading list… I’m actually thinking about which books I want to read for the Teish Knits Summer Reading Challenge! Post about that coming next week, so don’t miss it! (Get a sneak peek at the printables by clicking on the Downloads tab in the main menu.)

From my needlework basket… I’m knitting the hood of my hooded sweater. Once that’s done I’ll just have the sleeves left to do. I’m still undecided about whether I’ll knit them on double-point needles or circular needles.

In the learning room… the kiddos have finished up more subjects for the year, so they are enjoying a little extra free time. They’re hoping for better weather soon!

Random ramblings… Tuesday this week was a little crazy. Thoughts for Tuesday posts are going away for the summer, so I wanted to do one last post in the series, even if it’s very, very late!

Profound ponderings… “I am and always will be–the optimist. The hoper of far-flung hopes. The dreamer of improbable dreams.” — Quote from Doctor Who

Caught on film…

Storage Space

I just took 13 huge trash bags of stuff to the dump. One of the workers commented that that was a lot of bags since I’d been there with our regular trash just this past Saturday.

“I was storing a bunch of stuff for someone who’d passed away,” was the most concise explanation I could come up with on the spot.

It’s true. I was basically using one room and one closet in my house for storing things that belonged to people who had passed away. Since I enjoy sewing and knitting, I’ve been given a fair amount of crafting supplies over the years. Usually it’s because someone’s grandmother or aunt passed away, and the loved ones going through all of their stuff thought of me when they came to the craft stash. I honestly do appreciate the kind intentions behind it, but when it gets to the point that I have the knitting needle collections for 5 people, not including my own knitting needles… it’s just too much.

It was hard bringing myself to throw all that excess stuff away. Part of me felt guilty because a fair bit of it had belonged to people I knew and loved. Part of me thought that it was terribly wasteful to just discard it when it’s possible that someone else might be able to use it. In the meantime, I had a closet and a sewing room overflowing with boxes of stuff, to the point that I didn’t even know what was in most of the boxes anymore.

An argument can certainly be made that I could have tried to re-home all of the stuff I just tossed. The problem with that is the sheer amount of stuff. Who wants to haul 13+ trash bags of craft stuff to their house? Trying to find a new home for each individual item would take far more time than I have to spend at it. (I suspect that’s why I’ve been the recipient of bags and boxes of random craft stuff over the years!) The stuff that I wasn’t actually going to use myself just had to go all at once.

What about that guilt over tossing my great-aunts’ knitting needles, or that yarn that my Mom had that I’ll never use because I don’t like knitting with it? I had to realize something very important: People are not their things. Throwing away those knitting needles doesn’t mean that I didn’t love my great-aunts. Discarding yarn that belonged to Mom doesn’t mean that I didn’t value her. I don’t have to love and value the belongings of someone who has passed away to prove that I loved and valued them.

Oh, part of me still feels a prick of guilt over throwing away “perfectly good stuff”, but a bigger part of me feels relieved and somehow lighter. In throwing away stuff, I didn’t lose any of the things that were really important to me. I still have the memories of the people I cared about, and what is left are the things I will actually use and enjoy, and the room to do that!

I’ve been thinking a lot over the past week about the future as I worked through all of that stuff. Someday, my grandkids will be going through my stuff. I can’t think of anyone that I know and love who I’d want to burden with things that they don’t like or need, just because it belonged to me. I hope that my friends and family would all feel comfortable saying, “I loved Teish, but I don’t love her stuff. I’m happy with just the memories that I have of her.”

I don’t think I’ll ever truly be a minimalist. I love my books too much! I am learning to be more selective about the things I keep though. Sure, some of the things that I keep are strange, like the faded NY mug that Mom brought back from a trip. I’m sure the grandkids will look at it and wonder, “Why on earth was Gram keeping this old thing?” It reminds me of Mom every time I use it, and so it’s worth something to me because of that. I don’t expect it to be worth anything to anyone else though, and I’m OK with that! I don’t want my family to end up storing stuff for someone who has passed away and isn’t going to be needing it anymore. I’ve done too much of that myself, and it’s not worth it.

It’s an interesting shift to look at it from that perspective. Am I just storing this for someone who has passed away? It does sound pretty silly when we frame it like that. If you’re using part of your home as a storage space for someone who won’t be coming back for their things, then it’s OK to bag it up and take it to the thrift store, or even throw it away! If it’s like the NY mug of mine and you keep and use it because it honestly means something to you, then don’t feel bad about keeping that item instead of one of the “newer” or “nicer” ones.

So, what’s the weirdest thing that you keep and value? I’ve shared about my faded NY mug, now I want to know what item your grandkids will chuckle over! Let me know in the comments!

Book Review: Encircled – An Ever Afters Anthology

I received an ARC of Encircled from the publisher. All opinions expressed are completely my own. I received no monetary compensation in exchange for posting a review on my blog. I just like promoting good speculative fiction books! 🙂

I’ve got something of a soft spot for a good fairy tale retelling, particularly if there’s a sci fi twist! The Encircled anthology includes short stories by six talented authors. The two stories with a sci fi spin were what grabbed my attention, but I enjoyed reading all six, and could hardly put the book down!

The Songbird’s Citadel and Beyond the Stars, Past the Moons were both a delightful blend of familiar fairy tale and science fiction fun. Honestly, if either story were continued in a series of novels, I’d be on the pre-order list!

A Heart’s Desire was another favorite. A unique take on Beauty and the Beast, I fell in love with the ending. (It’s a prequel, so in this case, I can read more of the story!) The Last Mrs. Bluebeard was just chilling enough to keep me turning pages without becoming too creepy.

To be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of Snow White. I am, however, a fan of Edged in Silver! The contemporary fantasy twist was fun, and I’m intrigued by the worldbuilding in such a short tale! The Nutcracker is another story that I was never particularly fond of, but A Spell’s End was wonderful and even though it was late, I had to stay up and finish it to find out how the story ended.

Short stories are a hard format to write in many ways, but all six of the Encircled authors did a lovely job fitting in character development and world building that made their stories shine. The lovely thing about anthologies like this is that you have a chance to try out new genres and authors, and add some more books to your reading list as a result! (Can you ever have too many books in your TBR stack? I don’t think so.)

Fans of fairy tales and speculative fiction alike won’t want to miss the Encircled anthology. The stories are short enough that you can enjoy one on your lunch break. Or, you can spend an evening reading through the whole collection because you can’t put it down! Either way, it’s a lovely collection and is releasing on April 16th!

When the Muse is Awake at 4AM…

Robert Frost is credited with the following quote: “Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.”

I had thought my poetry writing days were firmly behind me. I found myself still awake at 4AM one morning this week, and writing poetry of all things! Initially, I wasn’t going to share it with anyone. There are times when I wish I could compose music because words alone don’t seem to say enough. I’ll never be a musician, so the closest I can get is poetry…

When the things your heart most needs,
Are turned against you —
Love weaponized —
Your heart breaks and finally bleeds.

When you crave the gentle brush of fingertips,
But hands caused hurts —
Love weaponized —
You cringe from the caress of loving lips.

When you desire words that fall like healing rain,
But they became a raging storm —
Love weaponized —
You can’t trust words that don’t inflict pain.

When the ones you should place trust in,
Betrayed in the worst way —
Love weaponized —
It’s harder than you’d think to ever trust again.

When the dearest things turned against you,
Have left you shattered —
Love weaponized —
The shards may cut the one who dares love true.

When all the broken glass is fused together,
And the pieces illuminated —
Love redeemed —
The world’s awash in brilliant color.

Behind Closed Doors

10 years ago, my mom passed away in an ambulance on the way to the hospital.

Mom was one of those people who you couldn’t help but love because she had so much love and compassion for others. She had a faith that I can only aspire to. If you needed someone to pray for you, she’s the one you’d ask. Her sense of humor was something else, and her laugh was positively infectious. She was a strong woman, and had a stubborn streak that seems to be rather genetic. Mom was also in an abusive relationship.

I came across a book in this past year: Healing From Hidden Abuse by Shannon Thomas. I picked it up because it’s one of the rare resources I’ve found written by a Christian that deals with the aftermath of psychological abuse. I had to keep putting the book down and walking away because things the author mentioned were exactly the sort of things I saw play out in my mom’s relationship. I’d feel sick to my stomach and wonder, “How could I not see this for what it was before now?”

I was one of those foolish people who used to say things like, “Why don’t they just leave?” or, “Why don’t they just cut ties with them?” when hearing about someone in an abusive relationship. It’s funny the things that you get used to, the things you can explain away, and the behavior you make excuses for when you’re in the middle of it. The irony is, while I was judging all of those people who insisted on maintaining a relationship with someone who was mistreating them horribly, I couldn’t see the truth of my mom’s relationship, or the abusive one I spent decades in. Actually, it wasn’t until after the abuser cut ties with me a few years back that I started to see things clearly.

When someone asked me, “Why didn’t you, your mom, or your sister say anything?” I struggled to explain. The short answer is: I didn’t realize that there was anything wrong with what was going on. When you grow up in a certain environment, you just think it’s normal. But it’s more complicated than that. I was afraid to say anything because I’d been conditioned to be afraid of saying anything. I felt too embarrassed and ashamed to speak up. I believed that it was my fault — that it wasn’t really abuse, and so I felt guilty for being upset and angry about it. I know that all of this sounds crazy from the perspective of normal, healthy relationships, but psychological abuse is insidious. The stuff you end up believing is crazy, and on some level you know it’s crazy, but you can’t shake that deep belief that all of those lies are true.

So why write about any of this? I can’t change what my mom went through. I can’t change what I went through. Why say anything?

First, because I want to tell people that sometimes the person being abused does not fit any of the stereotypes. Sometimes it’s the strong, independent, outgoing person who’s being abused. We don’t know what goes on behind closed doors, and those closed doors are in every neighborhood and demographic. Sometimes the abuser is the person who’s in some sort of church leadership position. The kind of person who fills in when the pastor is on vacation and leads Bible studies. We don’t know what goes on behind closed doors. Appearances can be very deceiving, and abusers can be very good at projecting a good front. The scary part is how good they are at getting the people they are abusing to help them put up a good front. We can’t assume because everything looks OK on the outside, that everything is OK.

Second, because telling our stories is a powerful thing. I’ve heard some truly awful stories, but sometimes those stories had remarkable things that came after all of the awful. Stories where people not only survived the abuse and survived getting out of the relationship, but stories of people who are healthier, stronger, and have a deeper faith than ever. It can take a really, really long time — many years — but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Those stories give me something to hold onto, something to look forward to.

I can’t change Mom’s story or my own and edit out the ugly parts, much as I might wish to. What I can do, is hold tight to my faith just like she did. By the grace of God, I’m going to get to the other side of this, even if it takes years.

Note: If you’re in an abusive relationship, or are dealing with the aftermath of one, please take care of yourself and stay safe. If you need to make arrangements for your own safety, or seek professional help for your mental and physical health, then please do get the help that you need.

Thoughts for Tuesday, January 15th

Outside my windows… it’s crazy-cold, but that means that the night sky has been spectacular these past few nights.

Inside my house… I’ve started sifting through books and packing some to give away. I know, that sounds crazy for someone who adores books as much as I do! But, there are some books that I enjoyed, or helped me at one time, but I don’t need them any longer. I’d rather pass them along to someone who would read them than let them sit on my shelves never to be picked up again.

Counting 1000 gifts… sunshine on the snow. It may be bitterly cold, but it’s still a pretty view.

Prayers of the heart… for upcoming work stuff and good decisions.

What the (not quite so) little ones are up to… There’s a mix of art projects and trying out a new game that Grandma sent home for them to borrow for a bit!

From my playlist… The main theme to “The Right Stuff” is my track of choice right now because even if you’re just writing a blog post, you still need an epic soundtrack.

From my reading list… Leaving Legalism by Kendra Fletcher. I just finished it and I don’t think I’ve ever highlighted so much of a book in my life. I may have just finished reading it, but I’m reading through it again because it was that good.

From my needlework basket… socks for me, because I only knit for myself at the beginning of the year!

In the learning room… Getting back into our post-holiday routine has been good, and challenging, but maybe more challenging for me than for the kiddos!

Random ramblings… I have some baggage, and I’ve said more than once that Aaron (my IT Staff!) is practically a saint for all he’s put up with and for helping me unpack so much of that baggage. In spite of everything, I have a family I adore, and a home that’s a place where I feel safe. I don’t think think I realize how much of a treasure that is nearly as often as I should.

Profound ponderings… “And he took her in his arms and kissed her under the sunlit sky and he cared not that they stood high upon the walls in the sight of many.” — J.R.R. Tolkien (Still think this is the most romantic line I’ve ever read, about my favorite literary couple ever.)

Caught on film…

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Mr. Q learning the secret family bisquit recipe!

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