‘The terribles’

It comes on overnight. You put him to bed, kiss him goodnight. You pause to marvel at the angel asleep, peaceful, deep in dreams.

Then, morning comes. The day is new; and the little angel you walked away from mere hours before has turned into a risk taker, a boundary pusher, a curious little guy that is inhibited by nothing. He will test your patience with every little step he takes. (Disclaimer: I say “he” because I have boys. I am sure in this case, gender matters not.) The transformation will surprise you over and over again.

His brother’s “terrible 2s” were not like this. A friend would ask, “Is he throwing things yet?” I didn’t know what they were talking about. Not that his older brother’s tantrums weren’t challenging, just not in a duck-the-tractor-is-headed-straight-for-your-head sort of way.

In one unforgettable “Bobby Knight moment,” this little guy picked up a kid’s card table chair and chucked it down the hall.

For those of you who haven’t purchased all-over body armor yet, let me give you a heads up. Some key warning signs you’re headed into “the terribles”:

1. He senses something in your voice when you tell him, “No.” Soon, he’ll recognize this as the outset of a game of wills.

2. When he is about to throw a fit, he makes sure you’re watching. Every. Single. Time. He needs to make sure you recognize he’s upset and that he’s not going to stand for this nonsense.

3. You begin to wonder if his goal is to find every dangerous object in his path. You did buy him toys, lots of toys. They all seem useless at this point. His interest is in objects which are far from safe and educational – or red and furry, for that matter.

Ultimately, his quest is to learn, and learn he will. So will Mom and Dad — maybe even more than that sweet little boy we watched fall into a deep slumber less than 24 hours before.

From past experiences, I realize we’re now in the middle (he’s just turned 3) stage of this phase. The “terrible 2s” should more accurately be called the “terrible 2-to-nearly-4s.” Knowing this, I’m still amazed by how quickly my sweet, smiley (I say smiley because everyone says that boy’s smile melts their hearts.) child can turn into a tornado with a path of destruction a whole house wide.

When that tornado is your normally adorable son, survival becomes more about thinking on your feet than running for cover. The first step in that thought process is realizing that he’s doing what kids his age do, and until he learns — from you or any other responsible adult — what is and is not acceptable behavior, this will be the norm. Unfortunately, it takes time. Lots and lots of time. But, despite what Mom or Dad might feel while living it, this phase will pass.

I’ve learned not to fight it, just to get through it. I do this by not making him older than he is or expecting more from him than he can mentally digest. I struggle with myself to find the patience he needs in my words, expressions and actions. (This is extremely difficult and I fail ALL THE TIME.) But I’ve got to remind myself, I have been given the privilege — who else would you want in your place? — to teach my little guy about the world around him. It’s frustrating — that world — for Mom and for him. But we’ll get through it, and we’ll both learn some important life lessons in perseverance, humility and self control as we do.

In the meantime, does anyone know where I can get a helmet and a shield?

Hold on mamas and daddys, it’s spring

When you’re in the trenches, it feels like time stands still, or at the very least, slows to a turtle’s pace. And there aren’t many trenches deeper than when your kids are sick.

My phone buzzes and it’s the school. I know what that means. He’s sick. Before I even pick it up, I’m packing my bags and shutting down my computer at work. It’s instinct. Yet, it’s not something you ever really get used to. But you know you have no choice. And you’re really not sure it matters. You can picture a sick little boy sitting at school waiting, and you know he only wants his mom.

You also know it’s just the beginning. It could be days before he’s feeling like himself again. In the meantime, at the faintest murmur of ‘Mommy’ from his lips, you will run to his side with a wash cloth for his forehead, bringing him Sprite and crakers when he’s ready and lying in his youth-sized bed in the middle of the night when his temperature is high. And if you’re lucky, you won’t get spitup on your clothes, or in your hair. I’ll spare you the details, but at once very unlikely and unlucky moment, I had multiple forms of bodily fluid in my hair. At 3 a.m.

We begin another day, both of us tired from the night before. As he lies on the couch, shivering, blanket pulled up to his little chin, you wonder if there’s something you’re forgetting. The list forms in your head: tylenol, thermometer, fluids, favorite stuffed animal. Watching your baby suffer seems to add to the exhaustion and the already overblown commentary in your head. Rest. That’s all he needs now, Mom. That, and you close by.

To feel some sense of control, you grab the Clorox wipes, the bleach, the pillow cases, the sheets and you scour the house. You remind yourself that this may be all for naught. There will be a tiny spot on a counter somewhere and your 3-year-old will find a way to put his mouth right on that spot. But in your desperation, you convince yourself the 1 percent chance he won’t go there is worth it.

Now this may work. I’m still holding on for you 1 percent of lucky moms out there.

But within two days’ time, No. 2 has succombed to the sickness. And now, I’m home from work again.

Where does this stuff come from in the first place? Did they get it from me? Did he pick it up at school? At day care? On a shopping cart? Not that any of that matters. There’s no way to completely prevent it. Admitting it’s a matter of luck gives no real comfort at all.

I tell myself there will be an end. And that day would seem a lot closer if I hadn’t been sick myself the week before, if I wasn’t worried about their dad catching it, too.

My advice? Just hold on a little bit longer mamas and daddys, spring is now here. And although I know people get sick in warm months as well as cold, the chances of staying well seem a little better than 1 percent.

And I’m willing to take that bet.

No longer a newbie

When I was a kid, I dreaded the moment when I would see the first back-to-school advertisements on TV. Immediately my heart sank; it was the first reminder that my carefree days of summer were numbered. Anxious thoughts filled my mind – of algebra assignments and getting up way too early. The advantages of returning to school and the convenience of preparing early were lost on me.

Much to my surprise, the impossible-to-ignore displays of crayons in stores, newspaper flyers touting sales and even the catchy TV commercials are having quite the opposite effect on me, as a mom of a now, fully established, full-time school kid.

I am no longer a newbie. I know what a structured schedule means for my family, especially for my soon-to-be first grader. And nothing puts you back on track like a new school year. Having our first year behind us, I now know just how much can be accomplished in nine months. Almost like a magic trick, he was transformed into a reader and could do sheets of math problems effortlessly. A new year is just one more step in the process of watching my little man grow his mind and widen his world, becoming more independent in the process.

Last August was bittersweet. I was a mess of emotions as I sent my big kindergartner off into a strange new world. I had no room for the feelings of relief that have come upon me this time around. Perhaps it’s because school had kept him so active, his mind and body constantly engaged, that when it was time to stop, even for a second, it felt unnatural. I have felt that way, not knowing what to do with myself when I have some true free time on my hands.

Regardless, for a couple months, my to-do list included “finding things to keep Nathaniel busy, preferably positive, educational things.” With a now-irregular schedule and this new responsibility, the pressure was on. Last summer, I heard no “what can we do now,” two minutes after returning from a party at a friend’s house or an exhausting trip to the park. Must he be engaged with fun activities every moment of every day? I always sorta got it when parents would say, “I’m so excited, school is back in session!” But now, I really get it.

So, I was ready, armed with pen and paper, when that first commercial aired. And when that first-grade supply list became available, I went to town jotting down what we needed. The first chance I had, I was headed to the store to load up. The early July preparations would be especially helpful. With an already demanding schedule, this mama was thankful for the head start.

Now, the pencils are sharpened, his name written on his supplies, his backpack and lunchbox ready to fill. All that’s left are those first-day-of-school traditions: a picture (or two or 10) and a big hug and kiss (or two or 10) from his proud mom, dad and little brother.

Come Tuesday, I will be able to mark that one item off my to-do list. In its place, I get to watch my child learn about the world around him from trusted, skilled adults, using proven methods, on a schedule and in line with others his age. I happily give that responsibility over to our school system and his brand new teacher. And when he comes home from school he will have plenty that he has to do, making him especially grateful for the times in which he has nothing to do.

I’ve always enjoyed learning, in school and out, and firmly believe education is the key to so many wonderful things in life. Having a school-aged child adds an exciting element to the mix. I get to come in on the back end – or in the middle – and just help out. I will follow her rules and do the assignments right along with him, demonstrating my own love of learning.

And one day, when he has kids, and he sees that first back-to-school commercial, he will feel that same giddiness, an excitement of a new beginning, a structured schedule and a second chance to discover the world, this time alongside his own child.

Fruit Loops or Cheerios

The most valuable resource we have as parents is time. Yet, I don’t think we truly appreciate its value.

From the moment I wake to the moment I fall into bed at night, I don’t stop moving. I’m sure I’m not alone. Most young families struggle with packing it all in within a limited window.

At times you feel desperate, wondering to yourself, what if I just had 20 more minutes without the kids pulling at my shirt or demanding more, more, more, of me. On a nightly basis, my supper is interrupted with minor requests and major messes. My 6-year-old needs more milk, my 2-year-old needs more ketchup. We all need new napkins because the youngest decided to grab them all and throw them to the floor with his peas, ketchup and french fries. My kindergartner lets the salt shaker slip out of his hand and salt goes everywhere. Now my food is cold, and a trip to the microwave is necessary. My husband just eats his cold.

Sounds like a sad story, right? It isn’t really. I don’t mind serving my kids. As they grow they will be able to do more and more for themselves and need me to get up from the supper table less and less.

Everyone says, don’t worry about the dishes, the laundry, the crushed Fruit Loops on the floor. (Yes, I opted for rainbow-colored carpet, instead of the beige, Cheerio-colored kind.)

The reality is we still have to do these things, to keep our house running, functional. I feel like I have our lives somewhat under control by keeping the sinks empty and the clothes folded. Okay, halfway folded. (I mean, what’s the use when your 2-year-old pulls all the clothes out of the drawers anyway? At least they’re clean.)

But because so much energy is spent simply caring for our family’s basic needs, the remaining time becomes so much more valuable. We’re left wondering, how do we make the most of what’s left?

Limiting what we choose to do and thoughtfully considering the effect our decisions ultimately have on our family helps alleviate some of the pressure. Becoming selfish is not a bad thing in this case.

We cannot do all things for all people, be at all places at once and make every single person we care about happy. So, we start with us. Caring for our little four-member family first may seem selfish, but it’s what we’re meant to do, no guilt allowed.

A huge part of me desperately wants my kids to experience everything: to sit on Santa’s lap, to hunt Easter eggs at every event in town. But what happens is they are scared of Santa and they have so many eggs we can’t see the living room floor when it’s over.

Considering the value these activities add to our lives beforehand saves not only time, but frustration as well. It’s so difficult to choose less when the world screams more. Why would people be so consumed by these things if they weren’t important?

Tradition plays a role as well. If our parents thought it was important to attend a family reunion, to always gather at Grandma’s on Christmas Eve, to be a chaperone on our school field trips, then shouldn’t we also do those things?

The answer, of course, is no. One size doesn’t fit all, even when the “sizes” are related. It’s no mystery traditions are hard to break. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be broken. And because outwardly one family seems to function well by conforming to this non-stop world, it doesn’t mean on the inside they have it all together.

Take the pressure away: You don’t have to sign your kid up for every sport, attend every holiday activity offered or make it to every family event. The time it takes to stop and discuss the consequences of such activities is well worth the effort. Let the guilt disappear. Your family’s time together, the relationships that need nurturing, are more important than eating fast food in the car on the way to (you fill in the blank).

Of course I want my kids to choose from a rainbow of activities, but they must choose. Fruit Loops or Cheerios, not both at the same time.

Beautiful Chaos

So, I finally admitted to myself the reason I had not been keeping up on my blog was that I had put a stipulation on my writing: Nothing can be published unless it is polished and “perfect.”

The trend nowadays, I tell myself, is to bask in imperfection. You’ve seen those family photo slideshows, where the photographer captures a family’s real life, complete with dirty dishes, toys scattered across the floor and kids covered in chocolate.

So, I’m gonna go with that. Not because I believe following a trend is the smart thing to do, but because I feel there’s a lot more behind it. There’s an acceptance. There’s a movement of moms and dads out there that say, “We’re spending way to much time on what doesn’t matter. So, go ahead, ridicule us, look at us with pity. We don’t care anymore.” And I say, good for them. I am doing my best to be of the same mindset.

And I’m starting right here, with this blog, with a willingness to post my honest feelings, quickly, as I experience them, leaving my writing imperfect and unpolished.

I truly believe readers will identify with this style. Life isn’t perfect. It’s not supposed to be. There are scrapped knees and sand-filled bathtubs, finger prints on windows and crayon marks on walls (and on TVs, in our house; yikes!). There’s not being able to eat a warm meal. There’s laundry. Dishes. And parents too tired to give baths before bed.


I want to connect with you, let you know you’re not alone in the diaper changing, kids-running-around-naked-and-covered-in-dirt world. I am here. And so are a lot of other moms and dads just like you. And, I want to say, it’s okay.

Do you feel like you need to keep floors so clean you can eat off them; have spotless dishes; organized bookshelves and landscaping so nice your home looks like the front of a magazine?

Or would you rather build skyscrapers out of LEGOs and read books to your baby, pointing out the colors and shapes? Would you rather create masterpieces out of finger paint and bake cookies in a powdery, floury mess?

Let’s do those things first and worry about the rest later – much later. Will you join me? We can help each other. One day when the kids are gone and the TV isn’t turned to Mickey Mouse or Elmo, we will regret looking back at a home not lived in, a yard not played in, a kitchen never used. We want to look back on our home, our lives, and see chaos – beautiful chaos.

Read one author’s take on the value of accepting the mess when it comes to relationships, particularly friendships, “Let Friends Past Your Pretty Porch.”. This is a lesson I’m glad I learned within the last year. The blessings you receive when allowing yourself to do as this author suggests will overwhelm you. It did me. (But that’s a story for another blog post :) )

Searching for the true meaning of Thanksgiving

I’ve been thinking a lot about temptation lately. It was one of the first weaknesses depicted in the Bible. There in the Garden of Eden, Eve partakes of the fruit. And the fate of humankind is decided.

We all have our “fruit” — something pulling us to an activity in which we shouldn’t participate or a food in which we shouldn’t indulge. We all lose the battle every once in a while. On the weekend of Thanksgiving, for many, the fruit seems to be the best deal on a flat-screen TV or one of the few coveted toys a store has in stock. Retailers tempt us with low prices and doorbusters. Commercials tempt us with pictures of shiny gadgets and flattering outfits.

Charlie Brown would be aghast if he were to witness what we call Black Friday. In “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” he is dismayed by the over-commercialization of the holiday and is left wondering what Christmas is all about. Thanks to Linus, he — along with viewers — is reminded of the true meaning of Christmas.

What about searching for the true meaning of Thanksgiving? Seems ridiculous, right? But maybe it isn’t anymore. As an increasing number of retailers announce they are opening on Thanksgiving Day, perhaps we should pause to consider what the holiday is all about.

Surveys show shoppers are ready to hit the floor running as soon as stores open their doors, even if it means rushing through a Thanksgiving meal. The source of the food and the tradition behind the feast are afterthoughts.

In a recent Associated Press story, a young woman explains why she won’t be hosting a Thanksgiving meal for her relatives again. “They barely finished,” said Kimberly Mudge Via of Boone, N.C. “They thanked me and left their plates on the counter.”

In that same AP report, retailers were asked the reasoning behind their decision to open ahead of Black Friday. Their answer: to give shoppers what they want. The AP spoke with officials from chains like Best Buy and J.C. Penney, both of which said customer feedback drove their decisions.

Hidden under that explanation, though, is the full truth: Consumers will yield to temptation and the stores will profit. On a day when we should be concentrating on gratitude, making lists — mental or otherwise — of those things of which we are thankful, our focus is shifted to getting the best deal, no matter what it takes. Standing in line at 2 in the morning? You betcha. Trampling over pregnant women? It’s happened.

What if this time we replace “want” with “thanks”? That fruit might be making our mouths water, but no one is forcing us to take a bite. I urge you to ask yourself what’s best. Is that deal really worth losing a few moments with a loved one, or even a few moments of rest?

My hope is that we resist the temptation to go into stores on Thursday and instead search for the true meaning of Thanksgiving. You may find it playing a game with your kids; catching up on what’s been going on in the lives of the people you love; making a phone call; knocking on a neighbor’s door; visiting your grandmother in the nursing home; or by counting your blessings, literally.

Share with another person the reasons you are thankful on this day. It may be the smell of cinnamon and pumpkin pie wafting through the rooms of your home; the turkey in the oven; watching the parade with your kids in your pajamas or football with the boys after lunch; family visits; your health or a day off work.

It is just one day, after all. The Christmas season will be in full swing soon; the stores will still be there with their deals. At least for now, let’s think about Thanksgiving, what it means to us, and where we would be without it.

Charlie Brown would approve.

It’s Autumn!

For us, summer doesn’t officially end until October hits. We try to hang on to it as long as possible. Whether it’s because we want to take that one last trip to the lake, taste that one last tomato from the garden or take one last run through the sprinklers, we just can’t seem to let go easily.

That being said, it’s now October, and in our family, officially fall and the holiday season. We embrace this to its fullest.

One of the most enjoyable experiences of being a parent is reliving holidays with the eyes and excitement of children. And one of my favorite things about the holidays is sharing experiences. It’s really just beginning for us. Last year was the first time Nathaniel understood there was celebrating to be done. We start with Halloween (arguably his favorite of them all, because this kid loves candy – more than cake, more than pop, more than chips and cookies).

He’s excited about the light-up ghost we sit on the porch, the “fodder shock” we set up in the front yard, the window clings and plastic pumpkins (to fill with candy, of course). The giddiness you hear in his non-stop chatter when he is able to pick out pumpkins and gourds — for decoration and carving — is catching.

Just like feeling the chill of the crisp autumn breeze, it’s difficult not to be touched by his excitement.

Nathaniel excited for fall!

Nathaniel excited for fall!

Of course there’s always the traditional pumpkin carving, and we will probably bake some cutout cookies – if I’m up to the mess!

Yes, this time of year gets hectic – with the extra activities and meals and shopping. And, by the end of December I’ll be more than happy to let the holidays go and move on to the new year, with new goals. But right now, it’s time to make memories with my family and get caught up in the sweet spirit of a 4 year old boy who is just looking for the next new experience to jump into, head first, candy wrappers and all.

Some suggestions on enjoying October:

Use holidays for teachable activities. It’s a lot more fun learning about the color orange when you can cut out a pumpkin, or learning about the letter “F” when you can finger paint a tree with different colored leaves falling to the ground.

Looking for a fun activity for your smallest ghosts and goblins? Try the Un-haunted Halloween Happenings at Deming Park in Terre Haute. This year they’re on Oct. 11 and 12.

Want a more relaxed, one-on-one experience with your kids? Another one of my favorite activities is going on a nature hike. This time of year, it’s especially rewarding. With the leaves changing colors and falling to the ground, there’s so much to experience, so much to learn. I’ve promised Nathaniel we will start a leaf collection this year.

Want to take a drive? Corn mazes and pumpkin patches dot the Wabash Valley landscape this time of year. Pumpkin Works near Paris, Ill., and Hobson’s Fun Farms in Parke County, Indiana, are a couple of the more popular sites. Find more farms here.

For those times when the weather isn’t ideal for leaf collecting and getting lost in a corn maze, check out all the kid-friendly activities the Vigo County Public Library offers. This library is truly an asset in the community, and it amazes me all the (free!) activities it offers. Below is a list of fall story times. For more information on other family friendly and kid-based activities – and there are many – visit the library’s website. Or, to register for story times (some require it) call 812-232-1115.

Mother Goose on the Loose
When: 10 to 10:30 a.m. (ages 0-2); 11 to 11:30 a.m. (ages 3-5) one Thursday a month. This month’s Mother Goose on the Loose is Oct. 3.
Details: This is an interactive story time for children and their caregivers that includes a story, songs, rhymes, musical instruments and more.
Baby Bookworms (ages 0-17 months)
When: 10 to 10:45 a.m. Wednesdays
Details: Nursery rhymes, finger plays, stories and more.
A World of Adventure (ages 3–5)
When: 10 to 10:45 a.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays
Details: Music, stories, finger-plays and more.
Toddler Tales (18–36 months)
When: 11 to 11:45 a.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays
Details: Fun, interactive stories and songs
Music Makers Storytime (ages 0 to 5)
When: 10 to 10:30 a.m. Fridays
Details: This program is filled with movement, instruments, and rhyming finger-plays.

Also, head to the library dressed in costume and receive a free book from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Oct. 31 from the Friends of the Library. After you get your book, decorate your own monster face cupcake, enjoy a Halloween story time and participate in games and activities.

Or, why not add some science to Halloween? Learn about bones, bodies and brains at the Terre Haute Children’s Museum in October. Tot Time is at 10:30 a.m. Oct. 8 and 22. Family Friday events are from 5 to 7 p.m. Oct. 11, 18 and 25 and a special Healthy Halloween Hoedown is planned for 6 to 9 p.m. Oct. 26. Keep up to date here.

It always surprises me how I am ready for the next season, no matter what that might be. It’s like a natural progression. Maybe it’s been ingrained in me from the start. When the time comes I’m ready for the leaves to change and for ghosts and goblins and pumpkins. How could anyone tire of this season? But by Thanksgiving I’m craving Christmas and by Christmas I’m ready for January, and a new year of resolutions. For now though, I’m going to relish in this season, and share in the wonder of my children.

Celebrating the Simple

Most of the time situations don’t go as planned. But that morning, all the pieces fell together.

Navigating life with two kids has been quite the challenge so far for Matthew and me. We learned long ago (precisely 4 years and 5 months ago) that plans almost never work exactly as you see them in your head. And that no matter how well prepared you think you might be, no matter how hard you try, you’re going to run into some type of roadblock, whether major or minor, and you have to adjust.

A lot of the time we are so tired we can’t think quickly or clearly, therefore exasperating the problem at hand. It’s unlikely we are on the same wavelength; we play tug-of-war with our separate solutions until the rope breaks and we fall hopelessly into an argument.

But this morning was different. This morning we were thinking similarly – and clearly – and we jumped over the hurdle quickly.

We were almost ready to head out the door when we got the message (which was entirely my fault because I hadn’t looked at my phone until then). The day care was without power because of an overnight storm, and we wouldn’t be able to take Hayden until power was restored.

Making a quick decision to split up the kids — Matthew taking Nathaniel to preschool and I taking Hayden to work with me — we only paused a moment before we were in route again. I decided quickly that I might as well try taking the baby with me. At times my job is too busy and it wouldn’t be worth it. But getting even a small amount of work done – I decided on this day – would be better than sitting at home and accomplishing nothing. Plus, there’s that added bonus of when you bring a baby into an office, people want to snatch him up and love on him, relieving you for a moment or several.

So a quick switch of the bags from the car to the truck and an explanation to Nathaniel (he was just excited Daddy got to take him that day), we were out the door.

I don’t mean to brag; I just like to celebrate the small things. I NEED to celebrate the small things. In most similar situations, compounding factors make a smooth transition of change impossible.

On a regular day, making it out the door without Hayden needing to eat, needing changed or getting sick at the last minute; without an argument with Nathaniel of what to wear or about whether he is planning on actually eating the breakfast we spent our precious time preparing for him, is nearly impossible.

So patting ourselves on the back for this seemingly small accomplishment on this rare day helps us make it through all the other chaotic ones.


Speaking of getting out the door … what tricks do you use to get your kids moving (in the mornings or at other times)?

At our house, we sometimes play games:
Surprise Daddy by getting dressed before he gets out of the shower.
See who can brush their teeth the fastest and get them the whitest.

Or we bargain:
I’ll race you if you go brush your teeth with me right now.
Eat your breakfast so you can help me pack the car, watch some TV, etc.

In all these instances we make a HUGE deal out of cooperation and accomplishment. We feel like praise goes a lot further than the alternative.

What do you think?

Maternal Instincts

There’s a lot to be said for maternal instincts. I recently experienced them first-hand on two occasions.

Incidents that could change your course for the day, or for your life, can happen when you least expect them.

Being pregnant during the winter sets one up for many warnings from friends and family. “Be careful; it’s slick out there.” “Can you park closer to the door so there’s less of a chance you will slip and fall on the ice?” “Can you have someone drop you off?” “Should you be driving in this snow?” Questions of concern such as these were a part of my day. I didn’t mind. I did need to be careful.

Little did I know, though, that it would be on one of the warmest days of the spring that I’d end up falling in the street while carrying the car seat, baby and all.

It happened so quickly. Before I knew it I was on the ground. Hayden landed safely in his car seat beside me, although the fall did jostle him some. He cried for just a bit. It must have been in my attempt to protect him that I hurt myself. Banged up knees, a cut hand, and the worst part – a sprained foot – resulted. At least that’s the non-technical term my athletic trainer sister-in-law used to describe it. My foot swelled up to twice its normal size, and it was difficult to walk for several weeks.

But that’s only part of the story. My mother drove up to our house the next day, picked up Nathaniel from preschool and was waiting for me when I arrived home from work. I had already picked up Hayden from day care. She was ready to help carry him in the house. We unlatched him, leaving the bulky seat in the car so she wouldn’t have to carry it too. She headed to the house as I retrieved the rest of our daily luggage – a backpack, my work bag, purse and lunch box.

She was ahead of me. I didn’t see it happen.

I looked up to see her, lying on the stairs of my porch. She was quiet, most likely in shock. The baby was crying and lying underneath her from what I could tell. I paused for a split second, also in shock at what I was seeing. Then I dropped everything in my hands, ran up our front walk and threw myself onto the porch.

She had fallen forward, onto the concrete porch landing, on her knees and elbows.

Many things could have been different. She could have been holding him face forward. She could have dropped him and caught herself with her hands (a reflexive survival instinct), but something more powerful was at work: her motherly instinct and the hands of God.

She was sick to her stomach, in disbelief. But the baby was safe, not one scratch or bruise on his little body. And it was because of her. She knew how to hold him to protect him. Within an instant she held him into her chest, cupping his head with her hands, and fell, her weight on her arms. He didn’t touch the concrete.

I’m sure she was thinking she shouldn’t be trusted to hold him again, that she could have really injured her grandson. But in my mind, I’m glad it was her arms he was in. He landed safely because of her love for him over herself, because of her maternal instinct. She, without pause, did what was necessary to keep him safe. Someone else might have let go. Someone else might have been holding him away from their chest. Someone else might have caught themselves first.

Miracles do happen. I had just witnessed a second one in two days. Not only was the baby uninjured, my mother escaped with just a bruised elbow. Maybe part of it is in the relief of knowing my child is safe, and my mother is okay. But it takes incidents like these to make me think of how blessed I am, and how I shouldn’t take anything for granted.

I had imagined the worst. He could have been lying on the concrete, bleeding from his head. He could have had broken bones. We could have been rushing to the hospital, riding in an ambulance. But we weren’t. Because of her.

Later on someone told me my mother was lucky to have a daughter who was calm enough not to panic and who would never blame her for what had happened. The thought had not crossed my mind. Maybe it’s true. But if so, it’s because of her. It’s because I’ve watched her be a mother to my brother and me for 30-some odd years. It’s in watching her that I know how to react in situations of stress, to be mindful of the feelings of others.

And it’s in my maternal instinct – as it was in hers – to protect my child before protecting myself.

My mom and Hayden at his open house/shower in April.

My mom and Hayden at his open house/shower in April.

Want to share your story?
What experiences can you recall that maternal instincts play/or have played a large part? Do you agree there is such an instinct? Please leave your comments and help me start a conversation. Thanks :)

Wet and Wild at the Library

All ages are invited to get wet Monday during a Water Show on the Vigo County Public Library’s lawn (off Walnut Street). The show begins at 3 p.m. No registration is required and a dry zone will be available. The show promises to be “full of magic, laughter and audience participation.”

It’s part of the library’s kickoff to its “Dig Into Reading” summer program.

To sign up for the summer reading club go online. Registration began on June 1 and will continue until July 13. Also, download and print a reading log. There’s one for kids and one for teens. Call 812-232-1115 for more info.

The “Dig Into Reading” program also offers special events, including Dig Into Magic with PJ Weber, Dig Into Books, Dig Into Science and more.

The library offers a long list of free activities each month, many geared toward children and teens.

Don’t miss story time. This activity is for ages 0 to 8.

Summer Story Times

Ages 3-8
Time: 10 to 10:30 a.m. Wednesdays
Dates: June 12, 19 and 26; July 3 and 17

Baby Book Worms (0-17 months)
Time: 10 to 10:30 a.m. Wednesdays
Dates: June 12, 19 and 26; July 3 and 17
Details: Lap-sit story time offers story, music and movement

Toddler Tales (18-36 months)
Time: 11 to 11:30 a.m. Wednesdays
Dates: June 12, 19 and 26; July 3 and 17
Details: Toddlers and their caregiver are invited to join together for stories, music, finger plays and fun.

Activities for teens include the Teen Beach Bash, gaming fun, Tye-Dye ‘Til You Drop, chess club and more. Visit the library’s website for more information.

The library is at Seventh and Poplar streets in downtown Terre Haute. Call 812-232-1113.