Candid Shots

 

“You don’t take a photograph. You make it.”

-Ansel Adams

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Andy capturing the perfect shot
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Ari sunning herself by the door

“Photography is about capturing souls, not smiles.”

-Dragan Capshanov

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Just some baby goats doing what they do best- being cute!
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Uncle Andrew and CJ share a quiet moment by the lake.

“What I like about photographs is they capture a moment that is gone forever, impossible to reproduce.” – Karl Lagerfeld

This post was in response to Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Candid Shots.

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Hope you are having a peaceful weekend!

-Kat

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From One Mama Bear to Another-

“You just do it. You force yourself to get up. You force yourself to put one foot before the other, and God damn it, you refuse to let it get to you. You fight. You cry. You curse. Then you go about the business of living. That’s how I’ve done it. There’s no other way.” -Elizabeth Taylor

Previously I wrote about “fierce mama bear” mode kicking into overdrive.

I’ve been running on fumes for awhile now. My thoughts are all jumbled and scattered. My sleep is not restful. When I finally quiet my mind and my heart, something sneaks in and starts it all up again.

Being the parent of adult kids is not easy! I’ve always said, “Little kids, little problems, big kids, big problems” and I didn’t fully appreciate how big those problems could get when a child grew up and had adult problems.

And while I fight my own inner battle of wanting to counsel him, give him my opinion, (do something!!!!!), I am going to share some favorite quotes. I believe that there is a lesson in this experience for me and the message that keeps scrolling across the bottom of my mind is PATIENCE and LETTING GO.

  • “Anything you can’t control is teaching you to let go.” -Jackson Kiddard
  • “Patience is power.  Patience is not an absence of action; rather, it is “timing”; it waits on the right time to act, for the right principles and in the right way.”    -Fulton J. Sheen
  • “The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” -Leo Tolstoy
  • “Compassion and tolerance are not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength.” -Dalai Lama
  • “Raising your child well is hard. But learning to let them go out into the world and prove that you did your job right is even tougher.”  – J. Craine

It feels like there are so many parents struggling along side their children right now. Regardless of how many parenting books, websites, videos are available, it all comes down to each of us doing the best that we can for our children. Every family, child, parent, situation and problem is unique and there is no easy button to push that will give us the proper solution. Sometimes we know instinctively what to do. Other times we are at a loss.

This post was prompted by an emotional conversation I had yesterday. Listening and hearing everything I was being told- those words that were spoken and even louder, the ones that weren’t, watching him pace back and forth with short agitated steps, the sound of his voice- so familiar to me and yet foreign with a tightness and emotion that gripped my heart, waves of stress just rolling off of him with his every movement- forced me to stop what I was planning on saying and sit down to quietly hear him out.

I realized that he did not need someone ready to jump into battle beside him or in his behalf.  And although my mind had been swirling with a million different thoughts just seconds earlier, I was surprised (and maybe just a little not surprised) at how quickly I was able to set those turbulent emotions and thoughts aside trying to figure out how to help him and how clear it was what he needed from me. He needed me to be there- calm and solid and there. And I believe that I was…. and I am.

fierce mama bear thereIf I’ve learned anything from being a mom (and I’ve learned more than just a little from this experience), it’s that there is no right and wrong- only trial and error. If, as you watch your children continue to blossom and grow, you feel a tiny bit of that change inside yourself, too, then maybe- JUST MAYBE you are on the right track…..at least for this time!

If you are one of the struggling mama bears, give your kids a hug and yourself a break!

-Kat

 

Don’t Poke the Bear

fierce mama bearI remember the first time someone pointed out my fierceness as a mama bear. Oddly enough, it was my oldest son, Michael. He was 15 at the time. There was a problem scheduling his classes and he warned the counselor, “You don’t want my mom to come in to get this fixed.” What flashed through my mind was, “Who was this mom and could she give me some pointers?” It was with shock that I realized it was me.

I have always advocated for my children since the day they were born. I didn’t consider myself fierce. I just did what I needed to do to get my children what they needed. It was as natural to me as breathing. Upon hearing that Michael saw me in this way, I was overcome. I feared that I could never live up to his expectations or whatever this image of me was. I scoured my memory for times he might have seen me acting in this way. I needed examples. I felt overwhelmed.

If you know me, you’ll know that I’m quite reserved, quiet, shy, private. I tend to not have a huge presence in a room and that is by choice. I don’t speak up in large groups. In fact, social anxiety tends to grip me by the throat and render me speechless at times, ensuring that I remain silent.

Except when it comes to my kids. But I guess I need to clarify- I’m not one of those vocal, loud, pushy parents. When I’m fighting for my children, I do it the same way I do everything else- quietly but persistently. I won’t make a scene but I will press the issue. I won’t attack but I will come to the battle armed with enough ammunition to take out an army, if needed. And if I need to use force, it will probably be so under the radar you won’t know what happened. It’s not that I’m being sneaky or deceitful- I just function much better one on one. This is one time when being an over-thinker comes in handy. Since I’ve probably thought up every possible outcome, I will come prepared with counter arguments.

The thing about being a fierce mama bear is that when your cubs grow up you need to step back and act in a way that goes against every parenting instinct you have. When they are struggling, any advice you offer has to be done carefully so as not to appear to be implying you think they cannot handle things. And sometimes it can’t appear to even be advice, depending on the level of independence of the child.

Helping our children stand on their own is something we begin doing the day they are born. It’s part of the end goal so it’s not a huge surprise when it happens. BUT it doesn’t lessen the sting…. especially when it’s your cub.

As I found out recently, even though your cubs might be grown, maybe even with little cubs of their own, that doesn’t stifle “fierce mama” mode when your cub is attacked- especially unprovoked….. double especially with whipped cream on top when your cub is attacked while going above and beyond what the average person would do to be there for another person.

I’m finding it difficult to hold back that uncontrollable desire to protect my child. Once again, by friendly fire, one of my own has been attacked- completely unfounded- and all I can do is stand by and let him fight his battle. He knows that I’m standing there, just in the shadows…. waiting. It’s one of those parenting moments when I have to stay still and let him pick himself up, but once he’s standing again, I will be there in a flash to help. And if he flounders and needs a hand up, he knows that I’m within reach at all times.

Thinking back to those days when he was a small child and he fell, I remember that instinct to cry out, rush over and pick him up. After the first few times of doing exactly that, which resulted in him crying (caused by my reaction- not the fall), I quickly realized that he needed to get himself back on his feet and determine if this was worth the tears or not. It might be considered tough love by some but I’ve stood by this belief- always close by if the situation warranted assistance and if all was well, calling out “You’re okay!”

It’s not that simple these days. The tumbles are much bigger with higher stakes at risk. My cub is hurting and this mama bear is on high alert.

“Every mom has a mission to love,, guide and protect her family.

Don’t mess with her while she’s on it.”      -Vicki Reece

 

“I Want to Hold Your Hand”

I Want to Hold Your Hand was the Beatles’ first #1 U.S. hit back in 1964. Nearly ten years later it would become one of my favorite songs. I was aware of the song before I knew exactly who the Beatles were. I hope you’ll give me a break- I was born while they were topping the charts in the 60’s so it took me a few years to catch up.

walterSince the Netflix children’s series Beat Bugs has become a regular on our watch list, Beatles songs have filled the air. If you haven’t met the Beat Bugs yet and you like the Beatles (and kids’ shows), you’ll have to take a look. The animated series centers each episode around a Beatles song with a cast a cute bug characters facing challenges both kids and bugs encounter from day to day. The incorporation of Beatles music adds a fun (and familiar to the adults watching) component. Seven year old CJ, who also enjoys the show, often asks, “Can we watch another episode so I can get a new song stuck in my head?”

Little Beej has taken to the music of the Beatles as if he was the long lost fifth Beatle. He sings the songs, memorizing more and more parts, and he adopts a new favorite every few days. Drive My Car, In My Life, Birthday, and Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da have all been recent favorites. Since the Beatles are my favorite performers, you don’t hear me complaining. And there’s nothing sweeter than the sound of a two year old singing, “In my life, I love you more!”

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This post is in response to Hugh’s 51 Weeks: 51 Songs From the Past. In his latest post he asks if we have a favorite song which was a first for somebody.

If you love music, you will want to check out his weekly feature. He writes about more than just music so be sure to see what else he has to day. His short stories are my favorites!

 

Have a great week!

-Kat

 

Detour

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STOP

My plans for the fall have come to a halt. Or maybe just had to be revised. Due to circumstances beyond his control, my son finds himself needing some assistance in caring for CJ (almost 8) and Beej (approaching 3). Working a 24 on/48 off shift means that he needs more than just “keep an eye on the kids for a few hours” help. It requires at least two overnights and now that school has begun, on the average of three mornings getting CJ ready and off to school and then picked up and homework duty.

Cross Traffic Does Not Stop

Crossing the road both figuratively and literally can be quite tricky. I’m dealing with two children, who are quite precious to me, and although I know them almost as well as I knew their dad at these ages, I just never know what we will find around the corner. (or across the street). Whether it’s teething, an inability to sleep due to excitement, or a classic case of missing Daddy, I have to be prepared for anything. 

Detour

My life has taken an unexpected detour. I have always enjoyed spending time with my grandsons, and this takes that togetherness up a notch. I am blessed to have a husband who loves our grandsons as much as I do and brings his own kind of grandfatherly goofiness and priceless assistance to our days and nights. We have easily fallen back into long forgotten routines from years ago. I am happy to give my son peace of mind while he works at a job that requires him to be alert and free from home distractions while on duty. I am lucky to have this special time with these guys! 

“See any detour as an opportunity to experience new things.”

-H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Happy Saturday!

-Kat

This post is in response to the Weekly Photo Challenge: Corner.

 

She is Back

Six years ago my then 18 year old daughter stood awkwardly in the doorway of the family room and uttered words that would change the course of our lives. Kerri said that she thought she was transgender and actually identified as a boy, not a girl like we thought.

If you had asked me back then where I thought we would be in six years, I would have probably done some quick math….. shocked to realize that my kids would be 27, 24 and 21. My youngest, Andrew, would be entering his last year of college! I wouldn’t be able to guess what Kerri would be doing but hopefully something in Anthropology, since that was her major entering her freshman year of college. And Michael, the oldest, would be full swing in his emergency services career, having completed his training.

I’m sure I would have felt a quick pang of panic, wondering where the time had gone and how had my kids gone and grown up on me! I know I would have gulped, unsure what my life looked like without the kids around for me to raise. Maybe I would be looking forward to an empty nest and some time to focus on myself.

But life has a funny way of taking twists and turns that you can’t anticipate and sometimes you find that you’ve wound up in a completely different place than you expected. Even more surprising is that this place holds a sense of familiarity despite all of the differences.

Last week, Kerri, now Kris, came home to prepare to leave for school. And because our time together is fleeting, I had to take advantage of the quiet time we had to touch base on where things stood regarding Kris and gender identity. If you’ve been with us on this journey, then you know that this is a valid question when it comes to Kris. And just to remind you, last time I checked in with Kris although they preferred they/them/their pronouns, their gender expression had been primarily feminine and they were not bothered when mistaken for a young woman. After confirming that they preferred that we (my husband, myself and the brothers) use they/them/their, when asked about grandparents or other unsuspecting folks using the wrong pronouns, Kris shrugged and said they did not care.

Mixed signals? Most definitely. But it was (and will always be) important to me that we are respecting Kris’s feelings and gender identity.

I opened the discussion by sharing a recent conversation Kris’s dad and I had with Kris’s grandparents regarding them being non-binary. As I described the blank looks on their faces (the grandparents’- not Kris’s) and lack of comprehension, their struggle to wrap their brains around this idea, I asked Kris (as I always have since the beginning), “What would you like us to do? We can keep trying to help them understand. And what do we do about pronouns? Should we work with them about using they/them their?”

I should clarify that all grandparents involved have always been fully supportive of Kris throughout this entire time. They accepted Kris- lock, stock and barrel- and we have never doubted their love for their grandchild for a single second.

After some thought, Kris shook their head and said, “No, it’s okay.”

Next I asked the question that I’ve only asked twice before (and it has only been twice because deep down, I already knew what the answer was). I asked which pronouns Kris wanted us (family) to use moving forward.

And for the first time in six years, I got the answer that had seemed so important at one time. Can you guess?

“She, her, hers.”

Back when it was all I wanted to hear, I imagined how I would feel if I could just use those pronouns again. But time goes on and priorities shift and perspective changes or maybe it just becomes more clear.

The truth is, I don’t feel anything like I thought I would. I’m afraid. And sad. And afraid again. And for the first time in six years, that’s all I feel. For the first time, I wasn’t feeling so many different emotions that they were difficult to sort out and identify. I spent years with piles of feelings that were a tangled mess and that glorious mess became familiar to me. I have shared some of my thoughts on this in posts- the most recent being- The Return of the Dress and Yesterday I Cried. 

I have yet to take the leap into using the new pronouns. I slipped once while talking to my friend, John, the other day. In the middle of a monologue, I referred to Kris as “she” and without missing a beat in the mid-sentence, I exclaimed, “Oh my god, I called Kris “she” and continued on.

My husband talked extensively about Kris when he arrived home from moving them into their apartment at school. He used “she, her, hers” the entire time. In my head, I was screaming, ‘Stop saying that! It’s too much! Too many shes!’

Today I’m having lunch with my best friend, Steph, who was the first person I texted when Kris gave me the answer to the pronoun question. Steph has been steadfast and committed throughout the years and her use of the preferred pronouns has been priceless. And today, at lunch with Steph, I’m going to switch. It’s going to be hard. I feel panicky at the thought of it. I’m scared. But I can do this!!!

As I look at my life now, I see that life is almost as I thought it would be, but different in an awesome way. Andrew is starting is senior year of college, as expected, and he has worked hard to reach this place. Kris took a detour for a few years but is also beginning senior year as an Anthropology major so we aren’t too far off track there. Michael has been working full-time in his chosen EMS carerr and he has a beautiful family with two boys, who have brought the joy and happiness of youth back into our lives. And me? For the time being, it appears that I’m needed in a few places so I will be learning how to take advantage of the time that I do have to focus on writing and “me” time.

Thank you for remaining part of this incredible journey!

-Kat

 

 

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Beginning with “Ap”

This week 2 year old Beej is sharing his favorite photos for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Words beginning with “Ap.”

apprentice
Uncle Andrew’s eager train track building apprentice
appliance
Favorite appliance zapping some signs
applesauce
“I love applesauce!”
apprehended
The rogue sippy cup has been apprehended! 

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Thanks for stopping by!

-Kat and Beej

On the Road

I took my youngest, Andrew, back to school this weekend. This was my first time dropping him off by myself. Somehow, three years later, this just doesn’t get any easier. When my husband and I made that drive his freshman year, I recall battling with so many conflicting feelings. The entire time we were helping him unpack and set up his dorm room I pushed down the rising panic that I was feeling at the thought of leaving my “baby” behind and so far away- a 9 hour car ride.

When the time came for goodbyes, my husband pulled a fast one on us and announced we were leaving- without warning. We were standing in the lobby of the student living center. It was bustling with freshmen and their families and the chaos involved in moving your child in for the first time. I looked at my husband in shock and squeaked out, “Right now?” I remember him not quite meeting my eye as he nodded, quite curtly.

I scarcely got a hug and an “I love you” in before my husband placed a firm arm around me and started walking me away. I remember turning back to look at Andrew and much to my dismay, he was standing there looking at us….walking away. He looked so young and scared. I felt like the worst mother in the world. I cried all the way to the car. It all turned out fine. Andrew survived. My husband probably did the right thing by rushing me out.

But this time it was just Andy and me, sitting in the car, saying our goodbyes. I was feeling that familiar panic at leaving him, this time sharing a house (along with all of those responsibilities) with three friends and no dining plan to provide him with meals- no matter how crappy he might think they were. As we sat there, I didn’t think that I had not prepared him for this. I knew it. We had an awkward goodbye hug in the car in front of his house. I couldn’t justify making him get out of the car and hugging me on the street….. neither one of us could do that. Without my husband to herd me along, it was harder to just pull away from the curb. I wanted to sit there and watch him walk into the house. As I turned the corner and headed toward the highway I wondered how I was going to make the long drive home without crying.

Before I continue I should really clarify that I know that Andy will figure out how to live in this environment. I understand that kids grow up and away from their parents and it’s all part of life. It doesn’t mean that it’s easy though. Especially when it’s the kid, who when he was younger, asked if he had to go away to college or could he possibly live at home because he didn’t want to leave us. I knew we would be okay…. I just didn’t know how I would handle a 9 hour car drive all alone with my thoughts.

IMG_3803Lucky for me, that part was taken care of for me, compliments of my GPS. Looking back I can pinpoint exactly where the directions went wrong but at the time, I was slow to pick up on it. It seemed odd that I was getting off at a different exit than I had gotten on when we arrived. It wasn’t until I saw that QEW showed up as a direction on my screen. What was QEW? I was certain of one thing- I had never heard of it or seen it in my directions before this minute.

It was only as I was really paying attention to signs (and crossing a big, vaguely familiar bridge) that I knew that I was not heading in the correct direction. It appeared that I was on my way to Niagara Falls (and Canada)! I pulled off into a Tim Horton’s Restaurant parking lot to get my bearings. I paused and looked around, wondering idly how far I was from Niagara Falls. (It was 6:30am and I really didn’t need to rush home, did I?) A quick check on my phone confirmed that I was only 20 minutes from the US side of the falls. I entertained the idea of spontaneously taking a side trip but that lasted all of thirty seconds before I quickly did the math and realized that I still had a 9 or 10 hour drive ahead of me, depending on construction, traffic, potty stops, enjoying the Falls time and making up the distance I had gone out of my way. I quickly pulled up directions on my phone, after shaking my head in disappointment at the car GPS that apparently thought I might like an adventure today. I threw the car into reverse and nearly took out two men who were enjoying a leisurely stroll through the parking lot, coffees in hand and lively conversation distracting them from noticing my car backing right at them. I stopped, they reached their car, and I turned out of the parking lot…heading in the wrong direction.

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Luck was still on my side and I ran straight into a roundabout, which was empty. My momentary panic subsided when I realized I didn’t have to worry about yielding or stopping or doing anything wrong. I was able to turn around and head back in the right direction. For the next hour I had dueling GPS voices with the Australian guy on my phone winning out over the electronic female of the car GPS.

Despite my early morning detour, I managed to make it home in record time. The rest of my ride flew by without incident and my GPS mix-up managed to distract me from thinking about and worrying about and obsessing about how Andrew was going to manage. When I checked in with him during one of my rest area stops, he seemed to be doing fine.

I have a few short days before Kris will be returning from their summer job. Then it will be time to make plans to help Kris move into their new place as they head back to college next week. I can hardly wait to see how that goes!

-Kat

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Although released the year that I graduated from high school, this song takes me a shorter way back to when one of my kids was in high school. “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” was released by the Clash in 1982. While I was familiar with the song, I wouldn’t have much interest in the song or the group performing it until my own kid became hooked on punk rock for a good portion of his teen years.

clashMy son’s interest in punk rock introduced us to an entirely new culture- one that I, personally, would have been happy to skip. Along with his interest in punk rock bands, his clothing changed. He was ahead of the trendsetters, creating his own skinny jeans long before boys wore them. He and his friends would take their jeans apart and piece them back together for a tighter fit, meticulously hand-sewing them. His favorite band t-shirts were also altered for a more streamlined fit.

There have been defining moments in my parenting career. These are phases or individual events that stand out even more so than fond memories. In this case, it was a turning point and over ten years later, it still resonates as one of the “big” ones. My teenage son seemed to turn into a stranger overnight. His clothes were tight and sometimes strange. His hair was longer than mine. He was rocking an attitude that can only be described as surly . His music was new, unfamiliar and because of his appearance and demeanor, scary to me. My sweet boy was gone and I did not like the kid who took his place. If I didn’t know him, I would have thought that he was one of those kids out partying and getting into trouble. I didn’t want to think that he was one of those kids. But I have always been very realistic, and I did not want to bury my head in the sand and pretend that there was not every possibility that he was one of those kids. I was terrified that I was going to lose him to a lifestyle that I could not condone. I remember reaching a point where all I could do was hope and pray that we had built a strong enough foundation to see him through.

I remember it like it was yesterday and one reason it is at the forefront of my mind this morning is this song.

As I was contemplating songs for this post, scrolling through our music library, which contains every album any of us in the family has ever downloaded, I came across our punk rock offerings. They are quite extensive.

I was interrupted when the kid who is the subject of this post stopped by on his way home from work. I don’t write about him much. More often than not his kids make appearances in my posts, either in anecdotes or photos. He was still wearing his uniform from work, which is emergency services. He is clean cut and often mistaken for a police officer. There is no limit to the number of times that I can say how proud I am of the man he is today.

So when we were amidst that horrible phase, I guess you could say that this song represents more than just my son’s taste in music because we (my son, husband and I) all were faced with the choice of staying or going. I’m really glad we stayed.

51-weeks-51-songs-from-the-past

This week Hugh shared a song with a dramatic opening for 51 Weeks: 51 Songs From the Past.  This post was inspired by Hugh’s. I would like to thank Hugh for this cool feature on his blog. I’ve been introduced to many new songs and reminded of oldies that I had forgotten. I can’t wait to see where Hugh takes us next in his time machine.

Happy Sunday!

Kat

The Space Between

“Honor the space between no longer and not yet.” -Nancy Levin

This is where I am. The space between. I’m not sure when I got here. I am certain that I did not wake up one morning to find myself in a different place. This leaves me to believe that it was a gradual shift over time.

I have always been aware of different phases of my life. Childhood. Teen years. Young adult…… Married. And then subs appeared- children, new home owner….. and sub subs- young children, school age children, teen children and now adult children (both independent and straddling the fence independent) and grandchildren.

But this space I am in now. I don’t remember ever being in a place like this. I’ve always been in the middle of something or if one thing was ending, three others were in different stages…. until now.

I don’t recognize this space. I’ve been here awhile now. I know that it is not permanent. I also know that I’m not sure what it is. And the “not yet” referred to in the quote above is on the horizon. Just not here yet.

So, until it’s time to move on, I’m going to do my best to “honor the space between” – whatever this is!

-Kat