Category Archives: Sunny Days

The Potato Proxy

thepotato_umbrellamoms

Have you heard the one about the picture of a potato selling for $1M? The artist, Kevin Abosch, says the picture is an “ontological [philosophical] study of the human experience.”

I see commonalities between humans and potatoes that speak to our relationship as individuals within a collective species,” Abosch told CNN. “Generally, the life of a harvested potato is violent and taken for granted. I use the potato as a proxy for the ontological study of the human experience.” Epoch Newsroom. (2016, February 2). Potato Photo Sells for More Than $1M: Reports. Retrieved February 04, 2016, from http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/1952097-potato-photo-shot-by-kevin-abosch-sells-for-more-than-1m/

Indeed.

This is clearly a man capable of deep thinking. I get it. I really do. I also see its sale, the sale of a picture of an ordinary potato, for $1M as an ontological study as well. I don’t mean to vilify the person who bought this picture for that amount of money or the artist who sold it. It is entirely possible they each donate an obscene amount of money to worthy causes. Clearly the abysmal state of some of our fellow humans speaks to them or they would not have thought to take the photograph or had an interest in buying it. It’s just the idea of all that money going to a picture instead of the proxy it is supposed to represent. Let’s be clear, I have always had feelings like this. When I toured the Tower of London at 14-15 years old I was left feeling sick to my stomach. I vividly remember seeing a giant gold and jeweled punch bowl with a golden ladle that required the strength of more than one human being to serve its beverage contents. All I could think was, “Why?!?!” Why not melt that opulence down and serve a few million starving people food? I don’t get it and maybe that’s why I will never be rich.

Ten things you can buy with a million dollars:

  • 10 high-end Habitat for Humanity houses
  • 45 new schools from World Vision
  • 66 deep wells and hand pumps (2,800 gallons of safe drinking water every day for 300 people) from World Vision
  • 7,000 pairs of glasses through Toms One for One program (one donated for every pair purchased)
  • 18,000 pairs of shoes through Toms One for One program (one donated for every pair purchased)
  • 20,000 antibiotic kits from Save the Children
  • 47, 619 family mosquito nets from World Vision
  • 20,000-50,000 symbolic adoptions of endangered species animals from the National Wildlife Foundation
  • 333,333-100,000 trees from the Arbor Day Foundation
  • 11 million meals through Feeding America’s food banks

That being said, I do have a sense of humor and I am willing to put money where the potato is. Therefore, bidding is now open for an alternate interpretation of the potato/human experience. I call it, “The Potato Sustains.” Should someone bid upon this picture, I pledge to invest/donate the proceeds as follows*:

  • 20% to a charity of the buyer’s choice
  • 20% to art school/art camp scholarships
  • 30% to food/anti-hunger charity
  • 30% to college education savings for my children (three kids, 10% each)

*Depending upon the bid amount, I am willing to negotiate the charitable recipients with the buyer. I will throw in a bottle of wine for free if the bidding goes to $1M!  

Now, if you will excuse me, for some reason I am craving a potato. ;)

Acorns and Love

Emerson's Acorn Phase
Emerson’s Acorn Phase

Love is a feeling as real as touching something. I like to soak it up when those moments hit me.

This morning I should have been worried about getting back home after the school bus picked up Silas. There are a million and one things I needed to do today. But there it was, that feeling of love.

Emerson has entered into what I like to call the “acorn phase.” He collects each and every acorn he comes across. Autumn is approaching, so that means a lot of collecting. Emerson is different than his brother was during this phase. Silas would collect them and they would find their way into the house, the basket on his bike, his pocket. Anywhere they could be stashed you would find an acorn. Emerson, however, loves to pick them up, treasure them for a bit and then find a perfect spot for the squirrels to retrieve them.

As I watched Emerson search for the perfect spot this morning, I just stood there smiling, all Pepe Le Pew, marveling at that feeling. As real as if someone were hugging me, brushing my hair or rubbing my feet after a long day. It soothes. It brings a smile to one’s face. It relaxes you just as much as a lengthy professional massage. He walked all about our front yard in search of the perfect place. He walked from one side to another and back again. I just stood there wistfully smiling away, allowing my soul the joy of loving him.

My grandfather always used to say, “the tiny acorn grows into a mighty oak tree.” Well, the love I have for my boys feels like a mighty oak already. I can only imagine what the future holds but I tend to think of the sound of acorns falling from the trees as we walk together. I hope each of our boys will grow as tall and strong as the trees. I want them to then share their love and strength as freely as the oak shares its bounty.

I very much enjoy the acorn phase. And yes, eventually, he did find the perfect spot.

A Mom’s Survival Guide to the First Day of Kindergarten

My first born is heading off to kindergarten. Yes, that little one there in my arms.

IMGP00601The whole notion makes me feel like I could throw up.  I have read and been touched by all the beautiful, heartfelt, sure to make you cry blogs. If you haven’t, just log into Facebook. I think there is a new one posted every two seconds. Ironically, since I am a sometime blogger myself, I have started boycotting blogs on this subject because, frankly, I need to keep my $#!+ together! But this is a BIG milestone, isn’t it?!?! I should write something. So here it is:

A mom’s survival guide to sending your child off to kindergarten.

SUPPLIES:

Mirror. You are going to have to practice your game face. So log into your Facebook account, read one of those super sappy sure to make you cry blogs in front of the mirror and practice smiling. It has to be convincing so you know you are going to need practice. Smile. If you can’t smile, paint one on. Go all clown if you have to. You can’t let that precious child see your fear.

Man_making_a_grimaceYou can practice making silly faces too. You can use them to distract both of you from the “What the heck is wrong with me?!?!” emotions you are certain to feel. And if you still can’t stop crying, then you can just say you must have pulled a muscle making those darn silly faces.

sunglassesdogSunglasses. You are going to cry. Trust me, there are only so many times you can tell your child you got something in your eye or, “Gee, my allergies are bad today” before they catch on. Start covering those teary eyes up now. And, for God’s sake, make certain you wear them to the bus stop on the first day. Maybe every day that first week. Or month.

sunglasses-woman-girl-facelessIf you are failing miserably, as I expect I will, you could try the Cousin It look.

praline-182861_1920Chocolate. I suggest the good kind. Not even the good Lindt chocolate that you can get at the grocery store. I am talking about going to a real Chocolatier and buying the $2 a piece kind. And lots of it. Your survival depends on this. Don’t be cheap.

Flaming_cocktailsWine, beer, hard liquor. Your choice. Maybe all three if you are really taking things hard. Heck, I may make myself a flaming martini to get through the ordeal! If you have other children, you may want to hire a babysitter so you can curl up into a ball and cry as you reminisce upon every single memory you have had with your children in the past 5 years.

UmbrellasUmbrellas. All kidding aside, call your friends. Invite those umbrellas over. These people have been where you are before. They will assure you survival is not only possible but certain and often times pleasant. They will highlight the absolutely wonderful things to come in this new future. They will hug you when you dwell incessantly on all the things you will miss. They will cry with you, smile with you, laugh with you and then tell you it’s time to pull it together because you have been ruminating for so long it is time to go to the bus stop to pick up your kids.

mismatched_mothers_dayYour own mom. Whether it is a phone call or a visit. Touch base with your own mother. I realized tonight as I sniffed my way through bedtime songs and was hanging onto my good night cuddles WAAAAAAAYYYYYYYY longer than was necessary, the long and loving hugs are one of the things I will miss most about having very young children. It struck me, “When is the last time I hugged my mom like this?!?!” I honestly can’t recall. I am resisting the urge to drive over there right now just to hug her because that would be a little nutty. ~But I know just what I will be doing tomorrow.

grass-730399_1920Focus. Focus on your child’s joy. Focus on your child’s growth. Focus on your child’s love. Focus on your child’s needs. Just as you always have and always will.

GOOD LUCK!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Whispering Neuron

One Whispering Neuron
One Whispering Neuron

Oh yeah, today was a pray for patience kind of day. All three kids were either melting down, dragging each other into trouble or bickering with one another. All morning long.

After about three hours of constant bickering and crying, all I wanted to do when Emerson came up to me in tears (once more) was throw the silly toys away. I nearly did. But a voice inside me said, “this is important to him.” These two silly green blocks are very important to him and if you want him to come to you later with the really big things you need to pave the way now.

Silly Little Blocks
Silly Little Blocks

Alexandre had been up, feeding or crying, since 5:00 am. It was 11:00 am. That’s six hours of my attention going mostly to him. Peppered in those six hours are the needs of two other kids being haphazardly addressed.

An exhausted mommy replies, “of course” to Silas’ request to go on a treasure hunt. This involves running around the first floor of our house finding “treasures” he has hidden. (Oh, my goodness, I always thought I was creative and imaginative, but I do not hold a candle to these kids! They can pretend ALL DAY LONG. It is exhausting, especially when you have had a crying baby in your arms for hours.) Today’s treasure? A sticker of a treasure chest. Stuck to our wood floors. As pirates often say, “Argh!” And do you know what?!?! I do not care. They aren’t bickering. They aren’t crying. For the first time today. Now THAT is a treasure!

Buried Treasure
Buried Treasure

This mother of three thing is hard. You are “everything” to three humans. Some days (thankfully, not even close to all days) you are just completely exhausted. Physically. Emotionally. Spiritually. Yet, you MUST summon more. And you do. Somehow you do. Because one sleepy neuron in your brain is still firing. It tells you these things that seem so insignificant in the scheme of things (two green blocks and going on a treasure hunt or 100 of them) are huge to an almost 2- and 5-year old. Especially ones who have very recently and graciously welcomed a new little brother into their lives. That one neuron nudges you, whispering “you are building the foundation now for your future with these boys.”

One Whispering Neuron
One Whispering Neuron

I want them to come to me later. Right now, wooden blocks and treasure hunts are the big things. Later, it will be bigger things like difficulties in school, troubles with friends, hard decisions. Eventually, it will be really big things like peer pressure, drugs, mental health issues.  They will have a much wider pool of people to choose from for help later on in life. If I am to have any hope they will seek my wisdom and guidance then, I must lay a solid foundation for being there for them NOW.

Building Blocks
Building Blocks

Eventually, all the little pieces will come together.  My actions today build something in the future.  -Much like building a tower or a train out of those silly little wooden blocks they have been fighting over all morning. I must remember that, as a mother, I am slowly building two things: Character within in each boy as well as a solid relationship with me. I could recklessly tell them the blocks are silly and unimportant or I can see the world from their eyes and recognize it is about so much more. Their need to create. Their need for space. Their need for recognition. Their need for love and attention. For me to show them that while Alexandre has needs their needs are still important to me as well. They will also learn how to be there for others, even when they are stressed and exhausted.

Yes, today, one whispering neuron reminded me how important it is to be a mother and just how lucky I am to be doing it to three young boys… Even on the hard days.

Now, if you will excuse me, it’s time to play astronauts. Apparently, the big red planet has a bouncey house only astronauts are allowed to use. I have just been informed our flight is about to take off!

Astronaut Alexandre's Mural
Astronaut Alexandre’s Mural

Important Things

My Dusty Old Name Plate
My Dusty Old Name Plate

I believe the Universe works very hard to maintain balance. This past week was my family’s turn to be in the wringer. We’ve been sick, never healthy for more than a few days, since Thanksgiving. The past week though, wow! We ended up in the ER for stridor, followed by vomiting, croup, ear infections, ruptured ear drums and a flat tire. A new special something for each day of the week!

It all started with a hard task for mommy on Saturday. I spent the day cleaning out my old office in preparation for turning it into the new nursery for Baby #3. There is a reason these things have laid in there so long, unattended. Ghosts of my past. I broke down in tears no less than three times. I came across a goodbye letter I wrote to my friend who was murdered. Some 25 years later, I finally found the strength to throw it away. All the journals from our fertility treatments, a chronicle of the roller coaster of hope and despair. All the sonograms and sympathy cards from our baby Noah. My old school papers and planning documents from the center I had set-up and directed. —Keeping a few things but just donating or throwing most things representative of my old life away and feeling like my kids will never know I used to do very important things.

After an emotionally exhausting day, I was ready for bed. I joked with my husband, since I could hear that tell tale croupy cough over the baby monitor, “Maybe I ought to just sleep in my clothes since Emerson sounds so bad.” Prophetic words. Less than ten minutes later, I am cleaning up vomit, alternating steam and cold air, walking that tight rope of not panicking and then realizing I should have left ten minutes ago, rushing to the ER and waiting to see what works to stop that horrible gasping for air as your precious child tries in vain to breathe.

I had just that day been celebrating the fact that Silas seemed to have gotten through his first bout of croup without having stridor. I had been celebrating that maybe, just maybe, we were done with this torturous routine of trying at home measures and then heading to the ER anyway. We came home from the ER, put Emerson back to bed and realized we probably have another three years of this with him, every time he gets a cold if he ends up like his big brother. Who knows if baby #3 will have the same issues?!?! We were desperate to get some sleep and then Silas was up all night coughing and throwing up. Yes, these things are common to raising young children. Centuries of mothers have survived them but that does not mean it is easy. I know these days are short but while you are stuck in them, especially where it concerns your children’s health, they are so unbelievably long. Absolutely daunting at times.

And then it happened. My Umbrellas showed up. Literally. Uninvited. Unannounced. Not even knocking. They know I am not going to ask for help. They know I am likely to turn down their offers of help when made. So, problem solvers that they are, they just walked into my house. A welcome sight. They came bearing chocolate, balloons, lemon juice, honey and hugs. They let me cry. They made me smile and laugh. They watched my kids so I could clean  the house a bit. We baked cookies together for another mom who was having a hard time… because there is always a need for an umbrella! And, perhaps most importantly, they spoke to me of important things.

“Kerry, you do the very most important things every single day – by loving your husband, your kids, and all of your friends too. And Silas and EJ, they see THAT and it is what matters. You can tell them about everything you did in the past and the person you were before they came along, and they will listen and they will appreciate all of it someday. But you, being who you are right now – that is what is important. To ALL of us. Because you are amazing.”

This is not to say that working mothers or fathers don’t do important things every day. We all make decisions based on our individual situations and your decisions are right for you and your family, regardless of what they are. A stay-at-home mom is not something I had ever envisioned for myself but it ended up being right for us. This is exactly where I want to be. My reasons for walking away from a very successful career are the same as they were the day I resigned. Yes, what I did before children was important. It came with impressive titles and decent paychecks, even good benefits. Yet, I believe there is nothing more valuable than pouring my heart and soul into each of my boys. The time I have with them will be so very short. I do not want to miss a minute of it. I am so very fortunate to have a choice in the matter.

Yes, I am tired. Yes, I am frustrated. Yes, I would love to be able to get one child dressed and the other STAY dressed so we can get out the door on time. Yes, I would like to have a night off every now and then. Oh, and sleeping in seems like some sort of wild forbidden fantasy. But, I also have the chance to mold their character. I delight in the fact that my 18-month old has already mastered how and when to say, “please” and “thank you” via sign language. My heart overflows when I see my 4-year old inviting his younger brother to help put ice cubes into his cup and offering him encouragement for doing a good job. Manners, compassion and love. If there were a report card for them, these areas would read, “Exceeds Expectations.” I can’t imagine anything more important than working to offer the world three humans full of these gifts.

The remainder of this week brought even more unpleasantness. It brought more sickness, tears, tantrums, early bedtimes, refused naps and restless nights. But I was able to meet those detours with humor and strength. No longer defeated. My perspective rectified. Thankfully, my umbrellas had revived my spirit.

I have learned a few lessons this week. (1) No matter what, through the good and the bad, we are here for each other. This makes the good stuff awesome and the bad stuff so much better than it would be alone. (2) I have been reminded of what the truly important stuff is. It is love and giving of ourselves to each other. (3) I have some other parents, who are now grandparents, to thank for the time and energy, the sleepless nights and days of frustration they put into loving and molding their children. If I am ever in doubt about the value my job as a mom holds, I can look to my Umbrellas and know how much their parents’ work has impacted my own life.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

With love,

Kerry Stephen, Director of Important Things

New Position: Director of Important Things
New Position: Director of Important Things