Sitting here in a quiet, empty house, finally taking a few minutes just to breathe. The start of the school year is normally crazy and hectic, but this year – year three of pandemic teaching – has been especially exhausting. On top of the long hours and late nights, I am in the last few weeks of my Master’s program, which means multiple projects and looming deadlines. I have not really been able to take time to process all the emotions that I am feeling about the upcoming weekend.
In just two days, my son will marry his one true love. My baby boy. My firstborn. The one who gave me the title of momma. I am beyond excited and proud of my son and all that he has worked for and achieved. I am thrilled that he has found his lovely bride and will stand before his family and friends on Saturday and vow to share his life with Katie.
I find myself flooded with so many memories as we prepare to celebrate this big day. I think back to the day that we brought Zach home from the hospital. I think about spending every minute of every day of his first months of life. I remember saying to my family that at that point in his life I remembered every day that he’d been in the world. I wanted it to be like that forever. When he began walking and talking he would say the cutest things that I swore I would never forget. When I was pouring his milk he would say “Too nough, mommy.” I have never forgotten that sweet little face sharing his own sweet words.
As he grew older, the days became too many to remember every minute. The busyness of childhood and adolescence felt never ending with the countless practices and homework and uniform washing. Looking back now though, it went by in a blink. I am so very thankful for all of the memories that my son has given me over the years. And while I can’t recall each and every day that I have been blessed to be his momma, I do have so many amazing memories of him growing up. I can so easily recall the summer days when he would play football out in the street with the neighborhood kids, race Big Green Machines up and down the cul-de-sac, and play flashlight tag in the backyard. I have amazing memories of cheering on my son from the stands as he played football with all of his heart. There were out of town baseball tournaments with families who became lifelong friends. And I can never forget all of the mischief that Zach and his best friend since birth, Tyler, found themselves in. Like the time they thought it would be fun to see what happened when they threw grapes (an entire bag) at the ceiling fan. Or the time they thought it would be funny to cut the neighbor’s swings?!? Although I cannot remember every day, I realize that I am blessed with so many memories of being his momma.In 48 hours, my son will start the next phase of his life with his wife! He will begin creating his own memories as they build their new life together. We will spend the weekend celebrating their love and I know that the memories that we create this weekend will be added to the long list of memories that I cherish. So for now, I am enjoying this quiet time of reflection, recalling all of the joy that Zach has brought into my life an eagerly anticipating the weekend because the day has come.
My baby girl recently turned twenty. She went on a girls’ trip with her closest friends and had the time of her life. Sadly, with everyone’s schedules, we didn’t have a big celebration, just a low key dinner out with her and Chris and myself. I loved the time with her, but I almost feel like I didn’t do enough to truly celebrate her twenty years here on earth. Carty is one of a kind for sure. Her full name is Caroline McCarty Smith. I was the last hold out – still calling her Caroline, until she gently told me I was the ONLY one who called her that and she really preferred Carty. When people would ask her how to spell it, she proudly said “It’s like party with a C,” and that sums her up perfectly.
Carty has grown into such a mature, responsible, fun young lady. I could not be more proud of who she is and how she lives each day. She is beautiful inside and out – and when I look at her now it’s hard to see the little tomboy who insisted on wearing her brother’s hand me down athletic shorts and t-shirts. In light of her recent jump from her teens to her twenties, I thought I would share a poem I wrote about her when she was little. I hope someday she will understand how much joy she brings to me and to this world.
Carty She struts down the sidewalk As if she was walking The red carpet.
Even with grubby, skinned toes And lollipopped, sticky fingers She is prissy
Her stringy strands of dishwater blonde Fall across her face, Hiding her crystal blue eyes.
She is constant motion Perfectly happy to play alone Confident and absorbed in herself.
Oblivious to anyone’s world But her own. She is Carty
The oldest of my five kids is Zach. He is finishing out his senior year at Otterbein University in Columbus, Ohio. I am quite certain this is not how he envisioned his final chapter of school going. Zach played football for the Cardinals, so during the fall I got to see him every single weekend – and it made my momma heart happy. Since we have all been under a stay at home order, I have not been able to see him. Many days I wished more than anything that he was here with the rest of us – to share in all of our family time. I know that he is with his own little family – his amazing girlfriend, Katie (superhero nurse), and their dog (my granddog) Archie. I know they are safe and happy – but I sure wish they were all here with us!
I wrote a poem about Zach when he was 12 years old. While so much has changed about my “little man” in the last decade, so much still remains the same. Here are those words from his childhood.
They call him
On the field
But it fits
In every way
He is passionate
Emotional and loyal
The kind of personality
That draws a crowd
And then entertains them
He is tender
And caring when
No one is looking
He will have his
But it will not
Change his intense
He is my
Zach is now a grown man who has not lost his intense, caring nature. He has survived a few heart breaks, and has found his forever love. He set goals and accomplished them. I know in the big picture, everything will be okay. But it’s hard to know he’s missing out on the end of college the way he had it pictured – saying goodbye to friends, parties, graduation, etc. But I also know that he is going to continue to do amazing things with the life he is building. And through it all, he will always be my Zach!
Lockdown. Shelter in place. Stay at home. No matter what it is called, it still means the same thing. We are ordered to stay in our homes. Together. For an undetermined amount of time. Of course we all love our families and we all want to do all that we can to keep ourselves and our communities safe. But let’s just get real for a minute…it ain’t easy. There are six of us who live in our house. Six humans and one very rambunctious, energetic dog. No matter how much we love and care about each other, we are still going to get on each other’s nerves. We are going to bicker and argue. We are going to have ups and downs.
I woke early this morning to steal the quiet moments that exist when everyone else is still sleeping. The weight of the coming day and week was bearing down on me. In my prayer I wept and cried to God “I’m not sure if I can do this…” God gently nudged me with “You can’t…but I can.”
These words: love, peace, self-control, peace, goodness, gentleness, kindness, joy. They are not going to come naturally or easily to me during these difficult times. Trying to teach from home, manage the house, help my own children do their school work, and help my whole family navigate this storm is so stressful to me! Those words do not describe my demeanor over the past few days. And its hard for me to admit that I need help…but the reality is, I need help. So my prayer for my household today and going forward is that I learn to rely on the Holy Spirit to change me. I will lean into to the power of the Spirit. “Only the Holy Spirt can produce the kinds of fruits in our lives…” (Galatians 5:22)
I have a sign that hangs in my office/craft room/hideout. That sign reads “Choose your hard.” It’s a reminder to me as I try (once again) to lose weight and get myself in shape. I saw a saying once that said “Working out is hard. Being overweight is hard. Choose your hard.” That stuck with me and I thought it was a great way to think about it. But as a grow and work on myself I am learning that not everything that I’ve thought of as hard is truly hard. What I’m learning is that most of the time, things are uncomfortable, not hard. Climbing Mt. Everest…hard. Advanced Calculus…hard. Brain surgery…hard. But many of the things we say are hard to us are really just uncomfortable.
Think about it. How many times have you heard “relationships are hard”? No….not really. Relationships can be uncomfortable, but not necessarily hard. As I work through so much of the “stuff” from my past I hear myself saying over and over – “it’s just too hard.” In all honesty though, it’s just really uncomfortable to face the ugly things that I’ve kept buried so long. And none of us really like to be uncomfortable. Having conversations with people about the things that matter is really uncomfortable at times – but not hard. The craziness of raising 5 kids, chaotic schedules, outbursts, teenage hormones, undecided paths, sleep deprivation, worry, anxiety, endless laundry….ask a tired mom. It all feels so hard. But in all reality, everything that goes along with parenting is just really uncomfortable. It’s not hard to raise our kids because we love them so much and want the best for them in every way. But there are certainly many moments of “uncomfortable.”
So the sign that hangs over my desk will be changed very soon to reflect this new mindset I am working toward. Changing the way I think about the world around me will be a drastic change, and it will be uncomfortable, but it won’t be hard.
As a new parent, I remember being so excited for each of my children’s milestones; crawling, walking, talking, first tooth, etc. I couldn’t wait for them to reach each of them, and then to move on to the next “big” event. I would mark each of these glorious days in their baby book and swear I would remember them forever. As they got older, they still continued to reach new ones, but they didn’t seem to capture as much attention as when they were babies. Maybe that’s because life just got so busy that I didn’t take the time to fully appreciate them as I should have. What I wouldn’t do to have some of that precious time back to just slow down and enjoy each moment for its true worth. I feel like I almost wished their childhood away by saying things like “I can’t wait until they walk…I can’t wait until her first day of school…”.
This past year has been full of milestones for both of my “big” kids. Zach finished his junior year at Otterbein University. And instead of coming home for the summer, he moved into his first apartment in Columbus (which is now home to him). For the first time in 21 years, my son does not live with me. It’s left so an odd emptiness in our house and in my heart. Carty played her last soccer game ever, attended her last prom, graduated from high school, and is at her college orientation as I type this! She is no longer a child. She is embarking on her life after school. So many milestones for her this year. As I left her at orientation (why the heck were parents not allowed?) she got out of the car and told me to drive away before she walked in. I got a big smile on my face because I knew that she knew that I was going to snap a picture of her heading straight into her next milestone. I did as she asked and drove away without a picture on my phone. But I did pause to capture the image in my mind and saved it to my heart. (Jeez that sounds so cheesy – honest but cheesy).
Why did it all happen so fast? That sounds so cliche…but wow is it so true. I can remember so many people telling me that it would. But in those busy times of practices and homework and laundry, at times it felt like it would never end. So here I sit, tears streaming down my face, wishing that I had paid more attention along the way. Somehow, all of a sudden, my babies are grown. They are moving on to their own lives. Yes, I will always and forever be their momma…but things will never be the same. I’m sad that they are not babies anymore, but I know that there will continue to be more events that we will share. We will learn to navigate this new normal. And I will cherish each new milestone that comes along.
*(I’m sorry (not sorry) for the emotional messiness of this post. Writing is my way to process and take time to feel what I’m really feeling. And also just to ramble a little bit.)