Frank. And only Frank. Thanks, Kid. I’m now sick of Frank.

Every night and every nap for the last two years my daughter has had to listen to Frank Sinatra’s “In The Wee Small Hours” album while she’s falling asleep.

I’ve tried to change the music without her knowing but as young as two she would look at me and say “no. I want frank.” In the beginning she called him “Frank Satra,” but as she grew she knew how to pronounce his name clearly and she let me know no one else would do – no Nat King Cole or Diana Krall or even a different album by Frank.

I finally slipped in some Dean Martin from his “Sleep Warm” album, skipping over the slightly faster songs thrown in the middle of the more gentle and melodic tunes, and she accepted it.

Last night I decided to try some Sarah Vaughn, who I’ve never actually listened to that much, but we only got two songs in before I heard an exasperated sigh in the dark.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, hoping to God she did not ask me for the snack she’d tried to tell me she needed a few moments earlier, even though it was way past her bedtime.

“It’s the music,” she said with exasperation dripping off each word. “It’s just not working.”

Now it was my turn for a sigh. I switched the Apple Music on my phone to the playlist of Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.

She relaxed in the darkness, obviously content, and in less than five minutes she was fast asleep to the smooth, soothing baritone of Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.

Someday we’ll find another artist who lulls her into a state of pure relaxation but for now Dean and Frank remain our close and repetitive friends.

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Three going on fifteen or why my new name is “mooooooom”

Little Miss, 3, 1/2 is back to calling me “mom” instead of “Mama” and saying it like an annoyed and spoiled teenager. “Oh Moooom.”

“Mooooom, watch me.”

“No, I don’t want that for dinner, Moooom.”

It’s seriously like she’s 3 1/2 going on 15 some days. And boy does she have my moodiness tendencies, much to my disappointment. One day last week she made a mess with water by pouring it all over the living room floor in what she said was an attempt to pour it on Zooma the Wonder Dog to stop her from pulling on her clothes.

I asked her to clean up said mess and she informed me, first, “No. I won’t. That’s not my job.”

Trust me, that little comment did not go over well with me.

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Her second excuse was: “I just got comfortable” as she lounged on the couch watching a cartoon.

I promptly turned off the cartoon and this resulted in long sighs as if she’d been mentally transported into the future as her 15-year old self. Somehow my demands that she clean up the mess she made by herself became a completely overblown toddler crisis and she ended up hiding behind our couch, in a small area near our front door where we keep our shoes.

She had thrown all the shoes out, was crying and in between sobs was saying “but it’s not my joooob! I don’t want to do it! I just want to be lazy and not clean it up!”

I know exactly where her demands to be lazy are coming from and when my 11-year old son got back from camp we had a serious talk about the days he declares “I don’t want to do anything today! It’s lazy… (insert whichever day of the week it is). Eventually the entire drama came down to her saying she would have cleaned up the water if only I had used the word, “please.”

She said all this while still nestled in the space behind the couch and when I added the “magic word” of please to the request a slightly muffled voice informed me: “Well, I can’t do it while I’m crying and I can’t stop crying!”

Eventually, the water did get cleaned up and the drama was abated with a cartoon and cuddle but the attitude bordering on full-blown teenage angst continued off and on throughout the day, with most of her responses coming at me in irritated and impatient tones.

I liked my mom’s suggestion when I told her this story, which was that if she says again “it’s not my job” I turn the tables on her by refusing to do various tasks she would like done and saying flippantly “Sorry. It’s not my job.” Mom and I were fairly certain this effort will one day backfire on me, however, since I am a mom and it actually is my “job” to take care of my kids and Little Miss will most likely inform me of that. one day.

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Exploring the ‘cricks’ of New York

I took the kids to a local park last week and we were disappointed when we got there to see the waterfall was only trickling, which is how it usually looks when we visit there. I’ve heard water actually pours from it at other times, but I’ve only seen that once in the 14 years I’ve lived in the area. Apparently I just have horrible timing.

Because there was hardly any water in the waterfall, this also meant there was almost no water in the creek, or as I call it, for some reason, “the crick.”

No matter how “creek”  is said, the children enjoyed playing in the little bit of water that was in the creek bed, looking for minnows, throwing rocks, throwing and digging in dirt and looking at fossils of creatures that had been left in the rocks. They loved simply getting dirty and playing the same way I did as a child – exploring nature without direction and more importantly, without technology.

Hey, honey, look! A deer! Oh. How did you get down there?

I took the kids for a ride on the golf cart Sunday while we were visiting my parents and thought I broke my 20 month old daughter’s nose at one point. “Deer! Jonathan cried and without thinking I slammed on the brake and then reached for 

Grace sitting on the seat next to me so I could lift her up to see the deer. The issue is, she wasn’t there for me to grab. Golf carts don’t have seat belts and Grace isn’t very heavy so she was in the floor with her face pressed up against the front of the cart. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve picked up this child and expected to see blood gushing from her face but haven’t.

This was one of those times. She had tears and a look of confusion on her face but her smile came back pretty fast as I held her on my lap for the rest of the ride.

Her brother seemed to want to get injured since he thought it was funny to jump off and on the cart while it was moving. The thing cruises along at 15 mph most of the time but I still pictured him tripping and falling under a tire. The one time I didn’t mind him jumping was when he jumped into the high grass to grab me a bunch of flowers. Well, I did mind a little because I’m a mom and of course I thought about how there are ticks in that grass and how he was only wearing shorts.

I’m reading a book by Ken Davis called Fully Alive and I’m trying to follow his suggestions of pushing fear aside and trusting God so I can live life to its fullest but I wasn’t sure if walking in the high, tick-infected grass was living with abandon or just being plain stupid. I prayed over the grass and walked in for a few photos before dashing out again and hoping none of the little Lyme Disease carrying monsters were drilling their heads into my skin. Yes, this is the way my brain works.

I’m working on it, Ken, but old habits die hard.

Letter to my daughter

At 20 months of age you are insanely clingy and there are brief moments it drives me crazy.
“I need my hands free to push this cart! Good grief! “
“I brought the stroller so you would sit in it, not so I can carry you in the sling while I push an empty stroller and get bewildered looks.”

But those protests are quick ones because there you are, eye level with me, in my arms, secured against me with a sling, and smiling while you lean your head At 19 months of age you are insanely clingy these days and there are brief moments it drives me crazy.
“I need my hands free to push this cart! Good grief! “

“I brought the stroller so you would sit in it, not so I can carry you in the sling while I push an empty stroller and get bewildered looks.”

But those protests are quick ones because there you are, eye level with me, in my arms, secured against me with a baby sling, and smiling while you lean your head against me. You are safe here, arm up on my shoulder, tucked securely against my side, under my arm. All the people towering above you and the ceilings and world so high and far away aren’t as scary if you’re kept safe by the person who is the center of your world.

I can certainly relate to the need to feel protected and sheltered from a world that feels scary and overwhelming. I often long for my own safe haven as I force myself to leave the house when many days I instead want to hide away and not be seen. For years I have forced the introvert within me to be an extrovert and the introvert has decided she is no longer happy with that arrangement. 

Many nights I lay down thinking about and mentally preparing myself for the next day’s errands or chores that will require me to go into public; associate with the rest of the human race. I often try to find a way to avoid the trip, even going so far as to wonder if peanut butter sandwiches are okay for dinner simply so I don’t have to shop among the masses. 

Sleep comes only after I recite a verse that has become a daily mantra: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Sometimes I have to say the verse over and over while trying to chase away the anxiety that creeps up into my throat like reflux from a spicy supper. In the morning I remind myself I can’t be a hermit, no matter how much I want to. I have children to feed or take to the doctor. And I have life to experience because as much as life terrifies me it fascinates me.

The appropriate Christian thing to say is that God is my safe haven, the One who keeps me from living my life behind closed doors, and He is. But sometimes I don’t trust the way I should; I don’t listen the way I should. Thoughts overwhelm me and all I hear is condemnation and criticism. 

I pray so I can find comfort in the One who reminds me He is home even when I’m out in the big, scary world. 
I want you to feel comfort while I hold you, Little One.

I’m so honored to be your safe haven, your comfort zone, the person who you need to make you feel like you’re home no matter where you are.

So cling to me when you need to and I’ll cling back and treasure these simple moments of comfort.

Part of Melissa Firman’s 99 days of blogging and my Letters to My Daughter’s feature.

I wish I was a better mother

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I wish I was better at being a mom.

I wish I didn’t cry like a toddler when my toddler won’t nap on the one day I really needed one myself.

I wish I didn’t let curse words fly out when she won’t sleep and when I know better and when I’m supposed to be that good Christian who never makes a mistake.

I wish I didn’t get grumpy on the days she gets grumpy.

I wish I didn’t get aggravated beyond belief when my 9 year old stares at me blank when I ask him why he didn’t brush his teeth last night or why he isn’t eating his dinner or why he’s playing Minecraft when I told him to do his homework.

I wish I was the mom from the books and the movies and the TV shows who pulls her children on her lap every single time they have a break down and hugs them and tells them it’s OK if they cry, mama doesn’t mind not getting sleep or not getting a break or never eating a warm meal.

If I was that mom then I wouldn’t feel so guilty. If I was that mom then I wouldn’t have to cry instead of nap when the toddler finally does fall asleep. If I was that mom I wouldn’t sit and wonder if some day my kids are going to tell all their friends about all the mistakes I make and all their friends are going to feel bad for them because their moms never do that stuff.

Some days it is just flat out exhausting wishing to be someone different so you can be better for your kids.

This is the part of the post I should write something encouraging and uplifting about how all you can do is try, but today I’m not feeling it. I’m just feeling the discouragement, the failure and the sadness at all the motherhood missteps I made.

 

Woe is me, the temporarily wallowing in her misery mom, who I guess, needs to remind herself if she wasn’t at least a somewhat good mom then none of this would bother her.

 

 

Toddlers, books and motherhood

My house was a mess and my photos were remaining unedited, which was driving me crazy. Little Miss wanted to sit in my lap and have me read to her, the first time ever. I sat in the middle of that mess and read to her after feeling frustrated and annoyed only 15 minutes before,

For most of the night she was clinging to me and whining and crying and I couldn’t figure out what was wrong but I knew I wanted to fold the laundry and clean the upstairs sink and she wasn’t letting me. My oldest had forgot a book at school that he needed for an important project and a long weekend was ahead of us, cutting down the time to get his project done. I was getting mad and frustrated and flat out ticked. I felt overwhelmed and inadequate as a mom and a housekeeper and I threw toys out of my way as I tried to clean up the potato chips Little Miss had stomped into the floor. 

It seems like each time I try to accomplish a project a toddler cries or falls off something, a child needs a drink, or an animal throws up. Hours later my husband comes home from work and finds none of the projects I claimed I could complete done. 

More and more I am realizing I need to stop expecting myself to be super mom. I am never going to be the mom I expect myself to be. I’m most likely never going to be like Donna Reed, cooking a perfect meal, helping the children with their homework, kidding my husband and cleaning the kitchen floor at the same time. I’m never going to be that mom who sweetly smiles at her child even when he forgets an important book after he was specially told the book was needed and then says “oh well! Let’s go make some lemonade out of these lemons!” I’m most likely always going to be the mom who swallows her annoyance and says tightly “we will figure this out …. Somehow.” 

But maybe I will be the mom who sits in the middle of the upstairs hallway, in the middle of her mess, and lets the toddler crawl on her lap and lift her first library book up to be read again and again because that matters more than clean upstairs sinks.

Embracing the role of motherhood

For 13 years when someone asked what I did for a living I said “I’m a newspaper reporter”.  It made me feel like I had accomplished something in life. Four years of college, a degree, and a job in what I went to college for. I was a contributing member of society. I was a public servant, informing the community. I was important, at least in some small way, or so I thought.

Then I burned out on the news and, really, on people. I left newspapers, convinced my love for photography would translate into a successful business. Then I could say “I’m a photographer”

I left the paper for two reasons: to be home with my son and to start a photography business. When the photography business never happened I was left with . . .being a mom because in my mind I wasn’t a photographer if I didn’t have a business, which, of course, I now know isn’t true.

Just a mom.

Just.

A.

Mom.

I couldn’t imagine having to answer the question of what I did for a living with “I’m a mom. JUST a mom.”

As a kid, I’d never imagined myself a mom. I’d always pictured myself traveling the world as a writer and photojournalist.

My mom was “just a mom” and I had never looked down on her for that so I had no idea why being “just a mom” filled me with a feeling of personal failure.

Why was it bothering me so much to be “just a mom”?

I think the society we live in today, especially in the United States, tells moms that being a mom isn’t enough. The idea that being a mom is the best job a woman can have is very popular but only if a person can say “I’m a writer but I’m also a mom and that’s the most important job I have.”

If a woman can only say “I’m a mom. It’s all I do” I believe many look at her as if to say “is that really all you do?”

Last year I sought out a natural doctor for some health issues I’ve been having. She asked me what I did in my spare time. I started to tell her I was a mom so I don’t have much spare tome and she interrupted me “but what do you do for you?” I photograph my children in what I feel is an artistic way and told her but she shook her head in disapproval and I immediately felt that shame at being “just a mom”. Here was another woman, maybe even a mother herself, reminding me that I needed to be more than a mom. I needed to do something more with my life. I couldn’t just be a mom.

Other women shame each other into believing they need to be more than a mom but I don’t believe God desires there to be any shame felt when a woman’s sole job, so to speak, is “just being a mom.”

I’m working on accepting this title of mom, which I know sounds weird since I’ve been one for almost a decade.

I’m practicing saying “I’m a mom,” and not needing to add after it “And I am also a photographer.”

For me, photography isn’t a job, and I don’t want it to be. It’s part of who I am in the same way being “just a mom” is part of who I am and who I always will be.
 

There are no cows in that barn | Athens, PA Documentary Photographer

Hiding out from minor family tensions at Sunday dinner at my parents we found ourselves at the barn, barren of cows for probably 60 years.

“I hear a cow in there!” my 9-year old declared with one of his sly grins, knowing full well there was only old tractors and barn swallows in the barn. My 18 month heard the word cow and stuck her little face against the barn door, expectently looking for the animals she currently calls what she calls just about every four legged animal “dog!” 

Instead the “moo” we heard was coming from the neighbor’s barn on the hill, half a mile from the house. She heard the cow, turned herself around and pointed toward the neighbor’s barn, knowing, even though she couldn’t see the cow, that that is where the cows really were. 
“Der! Der! Der!” She trilled. I’m not sure if she’s really trying to say there or not but that’s my theory anyhow.
Her brother is going to have to think a lot harder to get one past this little smarty pants.