Finding Time For Us

As a new mommy of one, and a stay-at-home mommy at that, I used to take Kendall to museums, parks, zoos, play groups, playgrounds – a never ending list. For most of the activities, she was probably too young at the time, but we always had fun, made memories and took pictures.

When Collins was born, I continued to take them to various activities, Kendall finally old enough to do things on her own, Collins just happy to tag along. Then, my mom’s cancer progressed and complications arose, and of course, ultimately she passed. Most of our days were no longer consumed with playgrounds and art class. Instead, they were replaced with long days in nursing homes and hospitals. Don’t get me wrong, we still did fun things, just not nearly as often.

After my mom passed, I spent countless hours trying to preserve her legacy. I took on an overwhelming number of responsibilities so that neither my mom’s life work, nor her legacy, could ever be forgotten. Juggling that with finishing my Master’s, and completing my own responsibilities, left much less time for the fun stuff.

I didn’t notice. I didn’t notice how rarely we get out and do something “just because” until last week. I graduated, the girls were off from dance and school, I had no deadlines, nothing pressing, we just had each other. So we went to The Shack, drank Green Rivers and ate cheesy French fries. Afterwards, we went and saw the movie “Sing.” The girls were so excited about our plans, that they wore dresses and fancy shoes. I watched them through the movie as they danced, and sang and clapped. They had so much fun, WE had so much fun.

I woke up the next morning, in euphoria. We had so much fun together the night before, all I could think of was what we could do next! So after completing a few last minute things, we went to the Children’s Museum. We played and played and played. I realized then that Collins had never had the chance to do that before. She had never been old enough at our past visits to really explore and play. We had been to museums together in the past, but she is finally at the age where she can actually try everything.

Kendall is more of an extrovert and Collins tends to be more introverted. The third floor of the Children’s Museum caters more to artistic activities like music, painting, drawing and theater. Amazingly, as Kendall found a spot on the stage and established a performing role amongst other kiddos, Collins headed for the play box office and proceeded to “sell tickets”. I had never seen her warm up to other children so quickly.

I learned a lot last weekend about the importance of slowing down and taking time for US. We are together all day, every day, but that does not necessarily mean that we are taking the time for each other. Spending time together, and spending QUALITY time together are much different. Listening to them laugh always makes me happy, but really hearing those giggles warms my heart.

“The potential possibilities of any child are the most intriguing and stimulating in all creation.”
— Ray L. Wilbur, third president of Stanford University

© 2018 Lauren Johnson; http://livingthroughherlegacy.com

If you can’t say something nice…

Throughout the week, I look for inspiration on what to write about for my column. Sometimes I know ahead of time that something is approaching and I count on writing about that, sometimes I write the day it is due.

Recently, I talked to a couple of readers who commented to me about my column and of course, their feedback was happily accepted. One gentleman told me that he always reads what I write, but it doesn’t much apply to his way of life. Another gentleman mentioned that without children, I wouldn’t have much to write about. Both of these gentlemen were right, I often have a narrow subject base because I am a stay-at-home mommy. But, as a mother of two and a pseudo step-mom of two, I have to imagine that most of my days, and the life lessons I have learned from these busy days, do in fact resemble those of others.

Today, I dropped Kendall off at school and had a list of errands to run before picking her up. Collins and I got in and out of the car more than a half a dozen times. Each time, getting her back in her seat was more difficult.

She wanted to climb through the van and check stuff out, with each stop taking a little longer than the last. Finally, after picking Kendall up, Collins broke down. She didn’t want to get in and out of her seat anymore. I don’t blame her, it was a long morning. However, we still needed to make a trip to Walmart before heading home. I should have known before we went that it would be a disaster.

Our shopping trip started off ok, the girls were giggling and playing peekaboo in the aisles. But when I wouldn’t let Collins take her shoes off to try on a pair of glittery flip flops, the screaming started and it didn’t stop.

I have read where mommies will abandon their carts, or their lunches, so that they can take their children to the car. I could have done that, I suppose. The way I see it is that I would still need to go back to Walmart and I still needed to get the stuff in the cart, so it seemed silly to abandon it, right?

Today, I was THAT mom. The one with the screaming child. I watched as other children plugged their ears. I looked at other customers and Walmart employees as they stared at me; some smiling as if they understood, some with looks of disbelief – like Collins must have been the first child ever to throw a fit at the store.

A friend of mine, who happens also to work at Walmart, came to help me as I desperately tried to get Collins’s shoes back on her without her dropping buckets of paint on herself; meanwhile, prying her fingers off of the handful of hair she had grabbed onto in her fight to express herself. At that point, I decided to pick out paint later.

Any mommy or daddy can probably agree, a screaming child is one thing, but YOUR screaming child sends something through you, almost electric, and you are unable to focus on anything else until it stops.

So we made our way to the checkout. One man tried to calm Collins down by offering her his pack of gum – pointing out to her that it smelled like mint. She screamed louder, he bid farewell with a “good luck.”

The next lady through the line, a much older woman, looked at me and said, “I had two terrible boys, but they were never THAT bad.” To which I replied, “Well that’s good for you.” She didn’t stop there, she continued by telling Collins – my obviously tired and emotional child – “Nice young ladies do not act that way”, followed by a “Wow! She really has a temper.”

What that lady – that stranger – didn’t know about my beautiful Collins is that this is the first time she had ever acted that way at the store. She didn’t know that it was completely uncharacteristic or that she had a long morning. She didn’t know anything about us at all, but that did not stop her from quickly judging us and the situation.

A fellow mom. That woman also has no idea that when I sat in my car – Collins still screaming – and started crying, it wasn’t because of Collins. It was because of her that I cried. I wish I would have told her that her words hurt, or that she was wrong about her judgement. I wish I would have stood up for myself and for Collins, and for other mommies. I just didn’t have the energy to argue her malevolent behavior.

I sit here at home writing this as Collins sleeps (because she is tired), relishing in the peace and quiet. Reflecting back on the day, I am no longer angry with the woman from the store. Instead, I will choose to be more compassionate and empathic the next time I hear a screaming child.

“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.” –Thumper from the movie Bambi

 

© 2018 Lauren Johnson; http://livingthroughherlegacy.com

Nature’s Gifts

Andrew, the girls, and I, walked around the lake at Weldon Springs recently, scouting out a trail for our upcoming National Brain Tumor Society Nature Walk. We started at the Chautauqua picnic area where the event is set to take place.

 

It was a warm, sunny day. A family was throwing a birthday party at the pavilion. Children were laughing as they ran around the playground – their parents working laboriously to make sure the food was prepared, and the party was decorated just right.

 

We set out down the hill towards the lake. Kendall bent down to pick up a tree branch about her height, the perfect walking stick. Collins instantly picked up her own stick, not really sure why, but knowing sister must be on to something.

 

The bottom of the hill opened up to the lake. Immediately, Kendall recognized that area as where we fished in the Carol Thompson Memorial Fishing Derby just one month before. As we rounded the corner, we noticed some delicate, white, lacy flowers (of course flowers always catch a girl’s attention) that I identified as a Queen Anne’s Lace before second-guessing myself – maybe they were Poison Hemlock and we better steer clear.

 

As we trekked on, we looked around the lake for the Great Blue Heron that we often catch resting silently on an old tree trunk in the water. No great blue heron, but in his absence there were plenty of Canadian Geese feeding and honking, keeping us entertained.

 

Across from us, on the lake, was an older gentleman using mild obscenities while he tried to get his boat to start. As his voice traveled across the water, so did ours – making our presence known. When he got his boat started, he gave us a little wave as he moved on towards the optimal fishing spot.

 

We stood at the end of the sidewalk before making our way up the steps, back towards the Chautauqua Picnic Area. There, we found a great number of red clover flowers. I picked one and handed it to Kendall, showing her that they are edible. Hesitant at first (“you can eat flowers?”), she picked a petal and popped it into her mouth. Before long she had finished that flower and was giggling while picking another (“you can eat flowers!”).

 

We were surrounded by dragonflies and damselflies flittering above our heads. A bright blue body on one dragonfly really stood out in comparison to the others. I watched him circle around and then land, before redundantly repeating the process again, and again.

 

As we started up the steps, there it was behind us. A loud (horrendous, really) squawking moving across the water towards us. Andrew immediately recognized the sound as well, and we watched as the Great Blue Heron disappeared into the tree line, completing our short visit to the lake.

 

We stopped at the observation deck at the top of the stairs. I ran my fingers along the display that I’m certain my mom created, knowing that she had sat there many times before us. Looking over the water, again, there was no absence of feeding geese. It was then that Andrew pointed out our Great Blue Heron friend, sitting on an old, dead tree watching us as we watched him.

 

As we headed back to the car, careful not to disrupt the party, I couldn’t help but reflect on the countless gifts that Weldon Springs has to offer. Of course, I also considered all of the gifts my mom bestowed upon me, allowing me to truly appreciate the beauty of nature and the ability to pass that gift on to my children.

 

“A dragonfly to remind me even though we are apart, your spirit is always with me, forever in my heart.” -unknown

 

© 2016 Lauren Johnson; http://livingthroughherlegacy.com

Prelude

Living Through Her Legacy

Growing up, I aspired to be like my mom. This is not a new concept to daughters of stay-at-home moms. In fact, I see it daily with my daughters who are always learning and exploring. Kendall loves to put on makeup when mommy does, she shares in my love for painting and even sits down beside me with her laptop to do our homework together. Collins is now walking, following me everywhere and copying my movements, gestures and phrases. I’m not only their mom, but their first teacher.

My mom was involved in so much – using writing not only as an outlet, but a way to share her seemingly unlimited knowledge with others. I remember being little and crawling up next to my mom in her bed. We always cuddled up with her “pink blankie.” She would write her magazine articles and I would write my ‘articles’, too. She would read me hers and I would read her mine. I was probably four or five when I asked for a typewriter like Mom’s. Santa brought me my very own typewriter that year. I could finally write my stories like a real professional, I could be just like my mom.

I can only imagine that my mom was honored to know that I wanted to be like her. As I grew older, I never stopped wanting to be like her. She inspired, encouraged and supported me in every venture I entered. I shared in her love for nature, but in my own way. I don’t need to know every detail about every flower, bird and tree like she did, but that doesn’t stop me from appreciating the beauty of a sunset, the excitement of catching a tadpole or playing with a collection of wooly worms. I am thankful that my dad worked so hard outside of the home to support our family, allowing my mom to work so hard inside the home making me feel special and loved.

As I stay at home with my two daughters and their dad works so hard outside of our home, I’ve never felt so connected to my children – or my parents. I share in my girls’ smiles and tears, we laugh together and we grow together, some days the only people we see are each other. I have a new appreciation for the trials and triumphs my mom surely endured while raising me.

I started writing stories when I was young not knowing that as I got older, I would find relief and pleasure in writing. Mom started writing for the Clinton Journal approximately 11 years ago. Her column, “Naturalist Notes,” was featured on Fridays – enlightening readers to nature-centered topics. Recently, I was given a fortunate opportunity to write my own weekly column for the Clinton Journal. Aptly named, “Living Through Her Legacy”, I am able, still, to follow in my Mom’s footsteps. I can’t help but smile as I sit here writing this, Kendall “writing” beside me, both of us cuddled up in my Mom’s “pink blankie” – knowing her legacy will always live through us.

© 2016 Lauren Johnson; http://livingthroughherlegacy.com