When It’s Cold Out, Special Memories Can Warm You

It’s a BRRRRRRRRRR kind of day here in typically sunny Florida.

Okay, so I know there are people snowed in up north. Kids are off from school. Some offices and businesses are closed. Folks are already skiing or sledding or building snowmen.
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But down here in the Sunshine State—land of sandy beaches, waves lapping the shore, seagulls drifting on the wind—winter jackets don’t make it out of the closet too often.
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So, when I say it’s a “bitter 41 degrees” outside this morning, that bitterness is relative. I’ve got friends in the northeast corner of the US who’d love it to be 41 where they live as they bundle up and head out the door. Another friend lives in New Mexico and she’s posting pics of her snow-covered house doing a darn fine impression of a scene on the front of a Christmas card. I got shivers just looking at her post.
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But while this Florida girl isn’t too keen on living in a snowy, icy, bone-chilling place, I do think it’s fun to play in the snow. And I wouldn’t mind spending a day on the ski slopes, then heading back to a warm cozy lodge for hot chocolate and a blazing fire in the fireplace. I’ve been known to plop down on the snow and make a snow angel or two. And my family has risen to the challenge when our neighbors pounded our door with snowballs—a definite call to arms initiating an intense, laughter-filled snowball fight in our front yards.
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With Thanksgiving around the corner and December holidays not far behind, my nesting instinct starts kicking into high gear. Baking, gift buying, gift wrapping, family get-togethers, gingerbread house building, carol singing, mugs of hot chocolate, old memories shared, new memories made.

Can you tell I’m a big fan of the holiday season? Not because of the shopping and present buying, though I do love to gift giving and bringing a smile to someone’s face. But because it’s a time for families and friends to spend quality time together. A time for fun, frolic and smiles.
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I won’t ask about December holiday traditions—that’s an entire blog for later—but instead, I’d like to know what’s the one thing you’re looking forward to the most during the Thanksgiving holiday?

In this high tech world of social media and tweets and Snapchats and Instagrams and all the other apps I’m not cool enough to have heard about yet, there’s still nothing that can beat the feel of two hands held together in greeting. Or two arms wrapped around you in a welcoming hug. Or two lips pressing an I-missed-you kiss on your cheek.

For me, I’m most looking forward to when my family and I’ll gather around the table, clasp hands, and give thanks we’re all together. That’s when I’ll close my eyes, take a deep breath and give the hands I’m holding an I-love-you squeeze.
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And even if it’s just for that briefest of moments, all will be right in my world.

So what’s your special moment, memory or tradition this time of year? I’d love to hear what you’re excited about!

Wishing you and yours many many many blessings! And a warm place to snuggle with your loved ones. ☺
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The love I wasn’t expecting

10447061_469921366444635_6776470002636467206_nLong before I became a mother, before I got married, before we started trying and then doing fertility treatments, before the failed adoption and then ultimately he successful one…I know that I would have no problem loving kiddos. No matter how they fell into my life, I knew that I had a heart for kids. I’ve always been that girl, you probably went to school with someone like me, or maybe you were the one like me, the one who loved children and who mothered all her friends.

Then the girls came, dropped into our lives like tiny explosions, and I loved them immediately. Or perhaps I merely felt protective of them. Even when it was so hard and The Professor and I would cry and wonder what we had done to our lives, I knew no matter how hard it was, we would be their constant. They’d already had so much, too much, in their little lives. We would be the ones who never left, no matter what. Just as we had made a commitment to each other on our wedding day, the day we accepted those girls into our house, we made a commitment to them.

And just as any family, we’ve had highs and lows, challenges and successes (yeah, Babybee is finally potty trained!!!). And I love them. Oh, how I love them with a fierceness that takes my breath away. It doesn’t surprise me, that love, even the depth of it. Sometimes I think I always loved them, the love was there just waiting for them to absorb it. But there is something that surprises me and that is the fierceness at how they love me.

Perhaps that’s silly, or perhaps you too have been surprised by the love of your own children. Sometimes Babybee will hug me so tightly, squeezing my neck with her little arms and she’ll whisper in my ear, “Mommy, I love you so much.” Then Busybee with give me one of her brilliant smiles and giggle and tell me we’re having so much fun & she loves me to the moon. I can say without a shred of arrogance that I am the center of their universe (The Professor too, but this is my blog…) As unconditionally as I love them, they love me in return and for whatever reason, I never once considered this when I thought about becoming a mother. And frankly it thrills me and terrifies me (it’s a lot of pressure to live up to the way they see me) and it takes my breath away.

Moms, You Matter

I don’t feel all that confident that I’m a great mom. Sometimes Princess Galen says something that makes me doubt myself. Sometimes my husband says something. Sometimes everyone seems to think I’m doing wonderfully, but inside I feel like I should be doing X or Y. Moms, we have to stop being so hard on ourselves.  This Mother’s Day, try to think about all the things you do RIGHT. That’s my homework too.

This video is three minutes. I promise it’s worth the time it will take you to watch.

Lockdown

It was early afternoon, within an hour of dismissal. They were in social studies, reviewing explorers….Christopher Columbus, Cabeza de Vaca, Francisco Coronado,  Sieur de La Salle and Hernando Cortes’. Just an ordinary every day kind of day. Then the principal’s serious voice comes across the intercom with the words Official and Lockdown. He may have kept talking. He probably did. But everything blurred, kids scrambling into action, rushing to the back of the classroom and under tables while the teacher hurried to close and lock the door. A little girl huddled there, under a table, afraid to move, afraid to look. Images of Newtown flashed through her mind. She could see the parents who were interviewed that cold winter morning, and she tried not to cry. Shaking while she tried not to move, she thought she heard thuds and screaming, and she started to plan, and pray. She planned what she would do if the door was kicked open and the gunman came in, how she would go limp so maybe he wouldn’t notice her. And she prayed her parents wouldn’t have to be interviewed. She prayed she’d see her family again. Her dog. That her friends would be okay. Her teacher. She prayed and prayed, and then came the knock at the door, the assistant principal informing them that the drill was over.

The drill.

My daughter never heard that word, that key critical word, the one that would have made her not fear for her life, not until it was all over. She thought it was real. For her, for those five minutes when she crouched under a table in the back of her classroom, it was real. And when I saw her half an hour later, she vaulted into my arms, breathlessly telling me how scared she’d been, that she’d thought she was going to die.  And my heart just kinda broke. It broke for her, that she’d experienced that terror. And it broke for her friends, who were gathered around her, around us, saying that they’d thought the same thing, that there was a shooter in their school, like Newtown, and that they were all in danger. That they might die. That their friends might die. It broke for the world we live in, that this is these children’s reality. They know that sometimes people go to work, and bad things happen. That sometimes people go to the movies, and bad things happen. And sometimes, sometimes kids, elementary school kids even, go to school, and never get to go home.

When I was a kid, we had drills, too. We drilled for fire and tornadoes and even a nuclear bomb. For fire we’d leave the building. For tornadoes and the bomb we’d huddle under our desks, as if that would make a difference. But none of us were really scared, not in that Oh-My-God, is this the end kind of way.

But now, today, bad things happen, really bad things, and our kids know it.  They’re not immune to it. Little girls and boys walk to their friend’s house a few blocks away, and never get there.  How do you explain that?

Innocence. It’s one of the most beautiful aspects of childhood.  The hallmark. Childhood is that one time of life when you are surrounded by those who wish nothing more than to take care of you. Childhood is that one time in your life when you shouldn’t really have to worry, be scared. But I can’t help but think, in so many ways, that kind of pure, unencumbered innocence is now no more than a pipe dream. A fantasy. A fairytale of some heralded time in the distant past. But not real anymore. Not reality. Not with what our kids are exposed to far too early. Now they fear walking to their friend’s house, to the movies…to school.

This is their reality. This is the world in which our children live. And it makes me so, so sad.

I sit here tonight, thinking. Wondering. What does this do to them? Our children. What does this kind of fear and horror do to them? What does it do to their young hearts and their young souls? How does it scar them…shape them?

From the day I became a mother, my goal has been to protect my kids, shield them. But I can’t protect them from this, the stressed out, enraged world in which they live. In which we all live. I can’t make it go away, and I can’t keep them in some kind of timeless, suspended bubble.  Would that I could. So instead I find myself sitting here thinking, what can I do? What can I do to help them live in this world?

For me, what I think it comes down to is love. I can love my kids, wrap them in it like a soft, warm, strong blanket, create a safe place for them, a  haven, where no matter how dark and scary the world is, they always know where to find sanctuary.  All the while, inside I quietly mourn for that fantasy of another world, the fading, forgotten world, where children didn’t worry that someday, they might go to school, but never go home again.

 

 

 

 

 

Love Notes

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Friday is Valentine’s Day; a day that celebrates love. But here’s a thought, why wait ‘til February 14th to show your loved ones you care?

It doesn’t have to be in big ways. Sometimes all you need is a gesture, a word, a smile… or a simple love note.

When my girls were younger and I left for a trip, I’d grab a dry erase marker and write a note on their bathroom mirror. That way, every time they looked in the mirror while I was away they’d see my message: Make good choices, XOXO, Mom or Love & miss you, XOXO, Mom. And they’d know I was thinking of them.

Occasionally I’d drop a note in their lunch boxes—even when they were teenagers and pulling out a napkin with a big red heart on it might not look cool. These notes might say something like: A+ Effort, XOXO, Mom or You’re awesome! XOXO, Mom or You ROCK! XOXO, Mom.

In high school I snuck love notes in their cheerleading or show choir travel bags, and later, when they later headed off to college and study abroad opportunities, I snuck notes in their suitcases. Messages like: Break a leg, superstar! XOXO, Mom or Have fun, be safe and know I love you! XOXO, Mom or The world awaits your greatness! XOXO,Mom.

It was a simple way to let my girls know that while I wasn’t with them physically in that moment, I’d always carry them in my heart and thoughts. My note was a tangible connection to home—where they are always welcome, always loved and always cherished.

Last month, at the end of the Christmas holiday, when my middle daughter returned to her graduate program up North, she left a few surprises for me. As I crawled into bed that first evening, sad because all my girls had gone back to their own lives, I pulled back my bed covers to find a love note on my pillow.  The next morning I moved aside a bauble on my vanity tabletop and found another one. When I tugged open my armoire doors, I discovered another.  Later, hiding amongst my jewelry boxes, yet another.

Over the next few days I discovered a total of seven love notes hidden throughout my room. Notes that read:

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I’ll admit it, I cried when I found the first one. And the second. Then actually giggled with glee when I found the third. By the fourth it was a delightful game.

As moms we try hard to pass along our positive values and beliefs. I strive to show my girls that family is important, and you have to let them know it in words and actions.

My daughter’s surprise love notes brought tears to my eyes for multiple reasons. One, just ‘cuz they show she loves me. Two, because it shows she “gets” it—even the small things make a big difference. Three, because I’m sappy about emotional moments. Four, because I love her so darn much. Five, because it was proof of the circle of love I’ve been trying so hard to create with my girls.

So what about you, have you left love notes for your loved ones? Or what do you do to show them how you feel in simple ways?

Kids and Weddings

It’s pretty much a guarantee that if kids don’t know the answer to something, they’ll make up their own answer. Such has been the case with Baby Galen and weddings. My sister was actually married in Ethiopia about two years ago, but she and her husband are finally both in the United States, and she wants to have her dream American wedding. Baby Galen is a flower girl.

It has been a slow process to help my now four-year-old understand why people have weddings and what weddings mean, especially when she’s already calling my brother-in-law Uncle Dessie. It makes things more complicated when the people getting married are already married.

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Anyway, she’s asked lots of questions and given me some of her own answers along the way. Her first question was whether or not Aunt Dani and Uncle Dessie would ride in a carriage, a la Cinderella. I said no, they would ride in a car. This clearly perplexed her and she must have thought I was mistaken because she asked me again and then said, why can’t they ride in a carriage? I told her they didn’t want to. She just laughed. “Oh, mommy, you’re just kidding!”

In her world, everyone wants to ride in a carriage.

Another day we happened to be driving past the hotel where the ceremony and reception will be held. I pointed it out, and she asked if she would be riding a bicycle down the aisle. I said, no. You’ll walk and gently toss your flower petals. “Will Aunt Dani ride a bicycle?”

“No.”

“Will Uncle Dessie ride a bicycle?”

“No. No bikes in the wedding.”

She was quiet for a moment. “Do I have to go to this wedding?”

Finally, I made her try on her dress one last time to be certain it still fit. She was unhappy that it was not blue, but she’s still a sucker for a pretty dress. Once she was done twirling around, she wanted to know where her veil was. I told her only brides wore the veils, and she said that she would borrow Aunt Dani’s. Ha! Aunt Dani’s veil isn’t cheap. I knew she wasn’t going to let a four-year-old anywhere near it.

Still, despite not having a carriage, any bicycles, or a veil, we all had a great time. And now my sister is doubly married!

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Things I’ve learned since becoming a mom

DSCN1388It’s been approximately 31 months since I became an overnight mother to my two girls, even less since that mother has been official (at least legally speaking.) I think becoming a parent is harder than anyone expects it to be. Here are a few lessons I’ve picked up along the way.

1. I’m not nearly as good at this as I thought I’d be. I was always the mother hen to all my friends. The one who everyone always said would be a great mom. It’s not that I thought I’d be a perfect mom, but before my own kiddos I had lots of experience with other kids. I’ve worked at daycares, been a nanny, the favorite aunt to my 3 nieces and nephew and the aunt-by-proxy to many of my friend’s kids. But y’all know, it’s different with your own kids, they never leave. 🙂

2. When people say marriage is hard, I think they actually mean marriage becomes hard when you add kids to the mix. It’s not that The Professor and I didn’t argue before kids, but things were so much easier when it was just the two of us. But parenting brings out the worst in your (and often the best) and you see things in your partner that you’ve never seen before and visa versa. It adds a whole nothing level of complicated to your marriage.

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3. My kids are prettier and smarter and funnier and sweeter than everyone else’s kids. This really needs no explanation and I wish I could show you pictures to prove my point. Ask Shana and Emily, they’ve met my girls and they’re ridiculously pretty and smart and funny and sweet.

4. It’s harder than I thought, but in ways I wasn’t expecting. I knew the day-to-day stuff would be challenging, exhausting even, but I didn’t expect to question myself so much (yes, I know, I was naive), I didn’t expect to be one of those women who loses herself, I didn’t expect to have post-partum (since I didn’t actually birth my children), and I didn’t expect it to be so freaking terrifying.

5. The love is bigger and greater and stronger and more permeating than I could ever have imagined. Those two little people have consumed my life, my thoughts, my conversation, my house and my heart and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

In what ways has parenthood surprised you?

September 11th and Children

First of all, RIP to all the Americans we lost on 9-11. And to all the children born on September 11, I hope your parents have been able to filter out all the noise and keep the sense of personal celebration that you deserve to have on your birthday. I wish that for the grownups born on this day, too.

A lot of you reading this might not have had kids on September 11, 2001. You might even have been a young teen yourself. But for those of us who were parents, it was really tough, as you might expect. How do you explain such a disaster to children without destroying their sense of security?

photo-13 I don’t think I’m going out on a limb here to say that September 11 changed everything for the kids who lived through it. My son says his generation is dogged by the events of that day. We tend to forget about it on a daily basis, but it’s there, stamped into our collective unconscious. My sister, who teaches college, says that her current students–who ranged in age from 6 to 10 at the time of the attack–have so much more anxiety than their pre-September 11th counterparts. According to her, the anxiety levels have been getting progressively worse since September 11th happened.

No one was left unscarred.  I know personally of two friends who lost loved ones. One of them was a flight attendant on the plane that crashed into a field. The other was a stockbroker in one of the towers–he left behind a wife and two toddlers. And then in my own family, my brother-in-law was inside the Pentagon when the plane hit. And my brother was in the air on a flight out of Boston, heading to D.C. We had NO idea of either of their statuses for a while. Could my brother be in the plane that crashed in the field? Or was he possibly in the plane that crashed into the Pentagon? Was my brother-in-law hurt inside the Pentagon? It was terrible not knowing.

If it was such a trauma for the adults, imagine what it was like for the kids. I do know that where I lived, in Hickory, NC, the elementary schools turned on the TV’s in the classrooms. I can’t remember if they dismissed them early, and that’s because I was homeschooling at the time.

My two older kids were 8 1/2 and a brand-new 10.  We saw the towers fall. I remember falling to my knees, literally. I cried and prayed and said things like, “God help them!” as we witnessed, surely, thousands of deaths at almost the same time. I wonder if not only the world trauma of that day but the household trauma branded itself deeply onto my two older kids’ psyches. What happened to them when they saw Mommy so afraid? All I know is that in general, they have suffered more anxiety growing up than our third child, who was in diapers at the time and had no idea what was happening.

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Of course, we talked about it. We talked about it a lot. The drawings and narration you see here were done by my then 8-year-old daughter the next day. She made a book entitled, SAD, SAD DAY.  I have to marvel at the resilience of children, how they are filled with optimism no matter what. Look at the cute winking heart on that top drawing! And in the bottom narration, my daughter leans heavily on her faith in God to make it all better.

Other generations of children have been scarred by war. I guess at this point all I can do is pray for the children who went through September 11th and hope that the day will always remind them that we can never take our lives for granted or the lives of the people we love. Maybe our children who witnessed that day’s events will also live less on the surface and more in the realm of the substantial. They “get” loss and death. May they use the knowledge and experience thrust upon them on September 11 to make the world a better place.

I’m curious: If your kids are too young to remember September 11th, how do you handle the day? Let me know in the comments! And of course, please share anything you’d like about your own experience. 


Hi, I’m Kieran. My family loves music and anything that makes us laugh out loud. Along with Chuck, my husband of 24 years, I try to teach our kids that we have to actively choose happiness–and if I accomplish nothing else as a mom but pass that one lesson along to them, then I think I’ve done my job. My oldest guy, Nighthawk, was diagnosed in kindergarten with Asperger’s syndrome, and now he’s a senior in college; his sister Indie Girl, who’s younger by 16 months, is a college junior; and my youngest, Dragon, is in tenth grade. For our family, it’s about managing your weaknesses and wringing everything you can get out of your strengths. And along the way, finding joy. www.kierankramerbooks.com