Our little Lovey Dovey

Our little Lovey Dovey

At an early three weeks along, we found out we were pregnant. At almost 9 weeks, we lost the baby – still unsure of why to this day. Devastated, the word “baby” tore my heart apart for months. I will never forget that day, or the emotions that surround it.

Four months later, unbeknownst to us, our “Rainbow Baby” was conceived. Careful to not share the news too early, we were elated when were able to announce to family that Kendall Nicole was due on April 8, 2012. A high risk pregnancy resulted in extra sonograms and fetal monitoring. During a bi-weekly routine visit, our doctor told me that our baby was coming two-and-a-half weeks early, “today!”

I headed for the hospital with an unknown journey ahead of me. Waking up on that Tuesday morning – the first day of Spring and my late Grammy’s birthday – I had no idea that day would forever be one of the very best days of my life.

In the last seven years, our little angel baby has given me so much joy; brought me to tears with pride; made me laugh until my cheeks hurt; taught me how to live, love and be a mommy; challenged me to new depths; encouraged me, pushed me, inspired me; seen me at my best and my worst; and loved me unconditionally, just as I have her.

She is loved by everyone who knows her, and she has yet to meet a stranger. She is outgoing and bubbly, full of everlasting energy. She’s beautiful and not just on the outside – she’s got a big heart made of solid gold, always wanting to help someone who needs it – sometimes even those who don’t. She’s funny – full of wit and spunk. She’s sensitive, her feelings get hurt a little easily and she wears her heart on her sleeve, but she’s resilient and doesn’t let it keep her down.

She’s smart, man is she smart. She doesn’t let anything slip by her. She observes, takes everything in, and then analyzes the information surprisingly accurately. She’s intuitive and inquisitive and she retains EVERYTHING.

She wants to be good, but knows the exact times she can get by with being “bad”. She’s dramatic, constantly keeping us on our toes. She’s a darn good big sister, and a proud little sister. She’s humble and giving, despite being a little spoiled.

She loves to play; she loves hugs (and sometimes kisses); she loves to be tickled; she likes to feel grown up, but likes to be “babied” sometimes, too; she is honest (except when she doesn’t know why her sister is crying); she loves to sing and dance and she does them both anytime and anywhere; she loves ice cream and pizza lunchables; she loves princesses, magic, and the colors pink and orange. She is unique, independent and exudes confidence. She never ceases to amaze me.

I often look at Kendall (and Collins) and wonder what I could have ever done in life to deserve someone so special to call my daughter(s) – I sure am one very lucky momma!

In honor of Collie’s birthday week, I would like to share an article that my mom wrote about Kendall. On Collie’s birthday, I will also share the one my mom penned about her. Birthdays are often emotional and difficult, but the opportunity to both share and read the words my mom has written, allow us to continue to live on through her legacy.

Vernal Princess

by

Carol McFeeters Thompson

Welcome to the world my beautiful granddaughter, born on the first day of spring. Your birth day was the vernal equinox, one of the great solar festivals marking the spring day when the sun crosses directly over the earth’s equator and day and night are about equal in length. Just as the dawn is a time of new light, the vernal equinox is a time of new life, of wild flowers, and budding leaves, and birdsong, when after a long winter we are assured that life will continue. What a special day to meet you for the first time!

I gaze at you as you sleep, your face so perfectly peaceful, innocent, and angelic, and my mind is awhirl with all of the wonders that I want to show you. I will share with you the magic of all of my favorite things and help you to find your own niche in the world.

We’ll lie on our backs in the sweet green grass and watch fluffy white cumulus clouds piling up on the horizon. We’ll run for the porch when we see the first jagged bolts of white-hot lightning threading across a purple sky in the distance, and count the seconds until the first crack of thunder. When the tempest has passed, we’ll don red rubber boots to stomp and splash in the mud puddles the storm left behind. We’ll marvel at the myriad colors of the rainbow and try to chase it to its source to find the fabled pot of gold.

We’ll watch for “little people” beneath the umbrellas of the may apples and hear their excited chatter in the gurgling of a stream. We’ll eat blackberries and strawberries and ice cream before dinner.

We’ll go down to the pond, find tracks in the mud and read the stories they chronicle. We’ll watch Canada geese lead rafts of fuzzy bronze goslings. We’ll listen to the spring frog chorus, catch tadpoles and toadpoles with homemade nets, and watch their miraculous transformations to frogs and toads. We’ll wonder at glittering dragonflies dancing above sun-spangled ripples.

The natural world is such a beautiful place!

We’ll catch the first swirling, twirling snowflakes of winter on our mittens, and eyelashes and feel them melt on our tongues. We’ll try to find two that are exactly alike as we marvel at their intricate six-pointed perfection. We’ll delight that each sparkles like diamonds in silvery moonlight.

I want to show you mountains and waterfalls, vast prairies, forests, and oceans, and capture your imagination with the lazy soaring of eagles on invisible air currents and the eerie tremolo of a loon echoing across a northern lake. We’ll share the fluttering of butterflies, the meanderings of ants, and we’ll fiddle for water striders that dimple the surface tension. We’ll twirl in a meadow filled with twinkling fireflies and try to converse with them with the beam of a flashlight.

We’ll gaze at the shimmering curtains of the aurora borealis across the great wash of the Milky Way; compare Betelgeuse the red star and Rigel the blue star, both part of the constellation Orion the Giant. I’ll tell you the myths and stories along a walk across the heavens. And we’ll make wishes on showers of stardust.

We’ll make castles of sand and twig boats to sail puddles, skip rocks on the lake, make an acorn cap whistle, and poke a fire with a stick.

Together, we’ll celebrate life and all Nature’s wonders. I’ll see the world through your eyes and you’ll see it through mine.

© 2019 Lauren Johnson; http://livingthroughherlegacy.com

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Please, just look away

Please, just look away

Of the two children born to me, I have one introvert and one extrovert. The oldest will greet a stranger with a hello and instantly become the best of friends; the youngest takes time to warm up to others – she has literally taken years to form some of the stable relationships she has now.

The oldest will try new foods and eat what’s on her plate; the youngest will eat applesauce and maybe a bowl of cereal – some days she “hates” both, leaving it difficult to satisfy her hunger on a daily basis. The oldest will maintain composure and knows the difference between “acting right” and “wrong”, leaving her meltdowns usually solely for me (her mother) at home and rarely ever throws a fit around others (except her dad); the youngest will have a meltdown anywhere, anytime, going from the happiest girl you’ve ever met to an unrecognizable human being in a matter of mere seconds.

My children are not alike, and it took me a long time to be able to mother them both separately without comparison. I’m now used to the fits/meltdowns of my youngest. I know when they’re beginning, I know the process, and I know when the end is near. She has had these fits since she was a baby, and I mean embarrassing, all-out apparent temper tantrums. Sometimes they would last hours and we would have several a day. Sometimes, they would be every day for a week; sometimes there would be a week between times. On top of a meltdown (which by the way HAS to fully end on its own – there is nothing at ALL that can be done to make it better from anyone else), she has severe OCD and many sensory issues.

 

Several doctors (including a neurologist) have cleared our daughter of the possibility of having any psychological or behavioral disorders. Additionally, I was certain she was autistic and was told she is not on the spectrum; she simply has an inability to self-soothe. Part of that is my fault. As a newborn baby, she and I (and the rest of our family, of course) were in and out of hospitals and nursing homes, etc. with my mom and I constantly held her – she was rarely ever put down. She has slept with us since the day we brought her home from the hospital, and I nursed her until she was 2 1/2. It brings (and has always brought) me comfort to know she is close to me, alternatively it does the same for her; but as a consequence, she could not function for a long time without being right beside me (usually on my left hip) – we have climbed mountains in her independence.

 

Currently, she is nearing five and it is up to her to overcome some of these issues and I can’t help her (I mean, that IS part of what has contributed to this in the first place). She has to be told no, and she has to accept what it means. She doesn’t throw a fit simply by being told no, but there are triggers to a meltdown and sometimes it is “no” and funny enough, sometimes even a “yes” answer will cause one – it depends on whether or not she is hungry, and whether or not she slept well (and enough) the night before.

From the outside, maybe it appears as though my daughter is a spoiled brat. Maybe it appears as though she needs a good spanking or a hug (depending on what type of parent YOU are). Maybe I should yell at her or make her leave the store. But, I still need the groceries or I still want to eat the dinner – whether we are experiencing a meltdown or not. Believe me when I tell you that it is has been incredibly exhausting at times. It has brought me to me knees in tears, as it instantly zapped every ounce of energy I had to face the day. It has made me furious. It has, at times, not affected me in the slightest because at this point, I know that it’s just part of it.

Here’s where the learning point comes in for everyone else. Maybe your child was like my oldest – eager to please and happy (mostly) about life. Maybe your child didn’t have fits, or maybe your child was excited to eat carrots and broccoli. My child is not like your child.

In her own ways, my youngest child is unique and amazing and so, so smart. She is beautiful and downright hilarious. She loves hugs and gives “smoochies” and thinks I’m incredible. She is excited and grateful and loves big. Also, she has fits.

How do her fits in public affect you? Well, they make you uncomfortable. You have to listen to MY child cry and you can’t do anything to make it stop and it seemingly goes onnnnn and onnnnn. Let me tell you that momma and daddy ears ring about 10 times louder while (what feels like) electricity jolts through our bodies. I promise you that if we could make it stop, we would.

 

Maybe you don’t know that my child was jumping with joy about Oreos (because mommy RARELY buys them) about 20 minutes prior, but when mommy gave her 3 (it was right before lunch, afterall) – she complained because she wanted to eat them out of the package (that pesky OCD kicked in again) and mommy said no because mommy had put them on a plate to eat in the car (my attempt at minimizing hundreds of chocolate crumbs from landing on my tan interior) – and that’s what started the fit. The fit that lasted all the way to town, on our way to have lunch with Papa. She didn’t get the Oreos. She didn’t get them because we don’t reward bad behavior AND the fit would’ve happened anyway. It wouldn’t have stopped because once it starts, it has to make its way to the end. On its own. I know that about my child, you don’t because you don’t know her.

The same fit lasted in the parking lot, up the stairs and to the outside door of the restaurant. She screamed, and jumped up and down, and cried. When she scraped her leg on the stairs (while jumping up and down) she yelled “you’re hurting me,” her immediate response to any pain she causes herself in a fit (again, I know this because I have experienced it- a lot). She continued to throw a fit while a customer inside (unbeknownst to me at the time) essentially told the waitress that I must be outside beating my child (which I assure you, I was not). The same customer who turned completely around in her chair to glare at me when I walked in with a crying child. The same customer who maintained eye contact while I took my daughter to the bathroom (despite me literally saying to her, “she’s having a fit, you can stop staring at me”), and continued to stare as we came out of the bathroom. That lady – doesn’t know my child (or me), and I sure wish she wouldn’t have passed judgement on a situation she knew nothing about. If she only knew how many times people have done something similar to my daughter (or me), and, that it hurts.

The customer didn’t know that because we took our daughter to a Jojo concert in Chicago the day before, she had slept in the car on the way home and therefore didn’t sleep well during the night. She was tired and that is the main ingredient for a full-blown fit. Instead, she passed judgement on her – and me as a mom.

When I hear a child scream in public, I look the other way. The last thing a parent needs is a look of disgust from a stranger on top of an already totally exhausting parenting experience. Thank you to the couple who sat next to us (and we later ran into at the grocery store as my girls were laughing and skipping while they raced to the shopping cart) and smiled at us, chatting between bites (of applesauce of course); and thank you to the waitress who brought both of the girls a surprise bowl of ice cream at the end of our lunch (as an apology for the very obvious and foul way the customer had reacted). The next time you see a screaming/crying/fit-throwing child (assuming the child is not in eminent danger), please, don’t try to help, don’t stare and do not judge. You have no idea what is going on, but just know that the child (AND his/her mom/dad/sister/brother/papa) is exhausted – please, just look away.

© 2019 Lauren Johnson; http://livingthroughherlegacy.com

To Live with Intention

To Live with Intention

How much better would life be for everyone if we held ourselves accountable for our actions, yet weren’t so quick to judge others? What if everyone talked about their problems; solved them – stood up for themselves, stood up for their children, stood up for others (and others’ children). Why are we so quick to blame others for our own issues? Why are we so quick to put someone else down to make ourselves look better? If you hold yourself accountable for your actions, you may save someone else from suffering, from severe anguish. Why are we intentionally hurting other people?

I recently had a situation where I felt it necessary to speak up for one of my children. I despise confrontation and literally avoid it when possible. This has often been misconstrued as a weakness, but I feel like I’m trying to be the bigger person by not arguing when not essential. I was shaking; I was anxious. I presented my situation respectfully while the other person became overly defensive. The whole time I wondered if I was out of line and I realized later that no, I was not. I’m allowed to speak up for myself (or in this particular case, my child). I’m allowed to be upset. I’m allowed to initiate conversation (respectfully). Would it have avoided an argument had I remained silent? Of course. But should I be able to express when I’m upset with someone (or about a situation) without judgement or confrontation? Yes. Yes, I should (and so should you).

I am an adult. There are so many qualities you develop as an adult; as you’re learning and growing; adapting and changing over the years. I thank some really amazing professors for encouraging my analytical thinking skills, but regardless, we {pretty much} all have an ability to analytically think about situations. One of my worst personal characteristics has always been that I often over-analyze which gives me severe anxiety. “Did that text come out right?,“ Did my comment get taken out of context?,” “Did I do that wrong?,” etc. I will be thinking of something long after someone else has forgotten about it. My dad calls it “dwelling.” I don’t dwell intentionally, it’s just part of my personality.

Accountability. Another thing we {should} develop as we age. I’m the first to say “I messed up, I’m sorry.” I don’t blame others for my own shortcomings, I own up to them. If I hurt your feelings, I’m CERTAIN it was unintentional and I probably missed the cue while I was overanalyzing something else I {or someone else} did. But, if you are willing to call me out on it, I’m willing to talk about it. Let’s fix this.

I’m a fixer. I want to “fix” everyone that hurts, every broken situation. Again, a quality that has its downsides. Maybe you posted on social media about your bad day. You go to bed and while you’re sleeping, I am probably laying in bed thinking about how I can help you. While helping others is a positive quality, it also causes me anxiety (I worry way too much).

Unfortunately, these qualities make for some confidence and self-esteem issues. I’ve struggled with these issues for years (and years). When I do something wrong, I forget all of the times I did something right. Dwelling. I am my own worst critic.

Being a parent changes these characteristics slightly. I speak up for my children {when I often don’t speak up for myself}. I know they need an advocate – I have even been known to speak up for your children (you might not ever even know about it). I teach my children to stand up for themselves (and others when necessary), but if they feel like they can’t, they know their mom or dad will help them. That’s our biggest job, afterall. Making sure they have what they need to grow – emotionally, physically and even spiritually.

None of this means that I’m discounting that other people try their hardest to be their best selves. Some people just fall short and that may not even be their fault (or intentional). But in our minds (and in our hearts), we KNOW when we are lying, judging, and/or being hateful – so why is it happening, and with such frequency? It is not at all difficult to say, “I was wrong” or “you are right!” – three little words, that’s all.

I just keep thinking how much easier life would be if we could coexist with intention; live life with intention. How many broken hearts we could avoid breaking in the first place, or help those whose hearts are broken already. Stand up when we know something is wrong, yet not be afraid to admit when we are wrong. We are all guilty of making mistakes, it’s how we respond to those mistakes that defines our character.

© 2019 Lauren Johnson; http://livingthroughherlegacy.com

Today is the youngest you will ever be

Today is the youngest you will ever be

“Well, I can cross THAT off my bucket list!” – 4-year-old Kendall as she finished her cherry Popsicle

You may already be familiar with bucket lists, and might even have one. For those of you who are not, a bucket list is a comprehensive collection of activities and/or achievements you would like to accomplish in your lifetime.

My mom always kept her bucket list current, constantly crossing off completed items and replacing them with new ones. One day, she handed me a canary yellow legal pad and pencil, and said “write your bucket list.” Put on the spot like that, I couldn’t come up with a full list on my own. She, Andrew and Maci helped me complete an entire page in a matter of minutes.

I found that list recently and really thought extensively about the irony of an unfinished bucket list. In fact, there was nothing on that particular list that I could cross off. I in no way feel like I’m not “living” and accomplishing things, but I want to make more of an effort to do some of the things specifically on my list.

This past weekend, we were able to cross off “Take the girls to Disney.” It was not a fully magical experience the entire time as there is a lot of waiting, walking and people; however, there were a lot of really happy and exciting moments and we created many memories we can always cherish. Ideally, we will go again when they are both older and spend more time than a long weekend, but if we never make it again – we have been there, we have done it, and we were together.

One of my favorite parts of trips like this one, is the unexpected. I may have been able to cross something off of my bucket list, but while constructing the list there is no way to prepare for the unknown. For example, Collins is very shy around strangers and sometimes even people she knows well. I did not expect her to get too excited about meeting princesses and riding rides. She really opened up on this trip. Ariel is her favorite Disney Princess and you could literally see the excitement in her eyes when she first saw her. She hugged Ariel three times, and later even sat on Merida’s lap! She was still a little shy at the end of the trip when she and Kendall met Shaquille O’Neal (Shaq) in the airport, but she got close enough for a picture with him, too (I had to throw that in there, I was more excited for them than they were – meeting Ariel trumped meeting Shaq in their eyes, of course).

I was inspired by our trip to update my bucket list and found some interesting resources to do so. I still have my paper copy, right on top of my legal pad, but technology offers some interesting options for creating bucket lists as well. I created a “Bucket List” board on Pinterest, allowing me to add ideas as I come across them (especially since I rarely carry my legal pad with me).

Additionally, there are already prepared bucket lists available online. If you’re not really sure where to start in creating one, or you want to add to an existing one, this could be a helpful tool. I like the prepared lists for a more short-term approach. I searched for “Winter Bucket List” online, and found an abundance of fun, new ideas to do with our family.

Whether or not you actually have a bucket list written down, there are always goals you’re working towards and things you would like to do. Life is short (relatively speaking) and time is valuable. Now is as good a time as any, start crossing off your bucket list!

“I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.” – Diane Ackerman

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

Summer days

Summer days

It’s 85 degrees today (which doesn’t sound too bad), but it’s a hot and humid Midwest heat so it feels like a solid 200 degrees. I get off of work early throughout the week now so that I can spend more time with my kiddos for the summer. Owning my own business has its perks; I can take the girls with me to work and I can customize my hours.

I never went to daycare when I was younger, and none of our children ever have either. My mom stayed at home with me and I feel like spending my days with her exclusively, benefitted me in countless ways. I was able to read and write by the age of four; I had plenty of one-on-one time with the smartest, most beautiful woman I knew (my biggest supporter – my greatest fan); and always had a best friend.

Having one income, my mom always did an amazing job of budgeting for special outings, but most of the time, she was creative and modest with our activities. I feel like a lot of that is lost in families today – it is no longer difficult to drive to a local pool or water park, museum or trampoline park. We don’t have to be creative as parents, someone else has already taken care of that for us.

I asked the girls (before we even left for work this morning), what should we do this afternoon? My youngest said “the museum,” my oldest said “the pool,” I said “fishing.” In the last couple of weeks, we have done the splash park twice; the local movie theater for a free morning showing of “Despicable Me 3,” our local library for Summer Reading Club and a mini-horse presentation; Lunchables and popsicles atop a blanket on the beach at a nearby lake; several special swimming days with my step-daughter, step-son and their mom; and an evening movie date to see “The Incredibles 2.” Yesterday, we played at the park located near our home. I realized, today, that we needed to be more creative with our afternoon. Don’t get me wrong, we have had an amazing couple of weeks, but we all needed something “different” today.

I decide that we can fill up the blow up kiddie pool on the backyard (man, I miss our full-size pool – algae took over last year while on vacation and we had to throw it away. Sigh.), mommy can get some sun, the girls can stay cool. I get in my swimsuit and head outside to get this pool party started, only to discover a hole in the side (it’s an inflatable pool, approximately 6’ in diameter). I head back inside to find the repair kit I recently tucked away in the junk drawer. I repair said hole. I search, extensively and thoroughly, for that handy air compressor pump my husband just purchased. It’s not in the garage, or the shed, or on the deck, or in the driveway, or under the deck, or in the back of my car. Defeatedly, I determine that the pool is NOT going to happen. What now?

*Cue a flashback to jumping through a sprinkler in my childhood backyard. *

I hook it up, wondering if the girls will even find it exciting in comparison, and watch in amazement as the girls instantly ran through the water, giggling and laughing uncontrollably at themselves and each other. Both of them hugging me with their cold, wet little bodies before running back through the water. I joined in, adding to the endless giggles, all of us running and jumping hand-in-hand across the yard.

These moments are the ones I live for, the ones that make every day worth getting up for. The giggles and the smiles, holding hands and a having a genuinely great time. I often consider how my mom felt staying home with me; I imagine those days were some of the best days of both of our lives. I’m extremely grateful to spend these summer days with all four of our kiddos as I desperately hold on to the present, fearing the future, and envying the past.

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

Jumping hurdles

Jumping hurdles

She fell up the stairs and scraped her knee. It wasn’t her first fall and it won’t be her last. It was, however, her first fall in front of her friends. She was embarrassed and I was instantly brought to tears. I felt bad for her, knowing she was embarrassed.

We had an emotional morning. A lot of them are that way lately. Part of it is that she is tired, part of it is her gaining her independence. She will no longer wear any clothing I help to pick out, even if we picked it out together the night before. My little girl that is so loving and so big hearted has started using the word “hate”. She “hates” that shirt, she “hates” school, some days, she “hates” me. That one stung the most, of course. If only her little four-year-old heart knew what she was saying to me, she would know how badly it hurts.

But that’s it, she’s four. She is learning and absorbing her surroundings like a sponge. We don’t use the word “hate” at our house. Ever. In fact, there are very few things that I could even say I hate. I mean, I could say that I hate that Kendall uses the word “hate”, but I try to verbally express myself in other ways. I try to convince Kendall to communicate honestly, but without negative consequences. “You don’t hate the shirt, you would like a different one better.”

Use “princess words” my mom used to say. I have tried to explain the difference between being pretty on the inside, not just on the outside. I wish I could wave my magic wand and know that neither of my girls will ever experience the heartache of malevolence, but more so, I hope they are never the ones to provoke others with this pain. It will never be acceptable to be the “mean girl.”

So what do you do to stop this behavior? Do I spank her, promoting hitting as a viable option, or punishment, for expressing your feelings? Do I yell, so that she now thinks yelling is an acceptable way to express yourself? Do I give in, teaching that if you yell loud and long enough, you will eventually get your way? I don’t really know the right answer to this question I have had such difficulty grappling with.

What I do know is that as I empathetically felt the pang of Kendall’s fall, with all of her witnesses, I realized just how resilient she truly is. Her teacher put a Doc Mcstuffins bandaid on her knee, instantly making her war wound worth bragging about. She proudly showed her friends her knee, automatically limping when they didn’t show enough solicitude.

I learned from watching her today. As we experience an obstacle (such as that pesky stair step that jumps right in our way), overcoming it only makes us stronger. I will inevitably hit a plethora of roadblocks with the girls, but we love each other and undoubtedly, we will successfully conquer them all.

“If you expect life to be easy, challenges will seem difficult. If you accept that challenges may occur, life will be easier.”

– Rob Liano

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