Saturday, August 1, 2015

Our Very Best

This morning, I was supposed to be doing homework---which seems to always be the story of my life.
The kids were enjoying a "movie morning" with my little brother and I was here, sitting at this very computer, when an article caught my eye.

It was entitled, "The day I left my son in the car", and although I've read a hundred articles of children dying in hot cars, for some reason, I knew that this article wasn't going to be about that. I had this weird gut feeling that this would be a story that I'd find myself feeling rage and empathy and sadness for.

And I was right. 

As she bravely told her story of the day she made a split decision to allow her son to stay in the car while she ran in the store to buy something, I was hoping the outcome would be different than what I expected.

It wasn't. 

The quiet lady who recorded the whole thing and called the police as this mother drove away with her son. The lawyers and court dates and criminal charges. The labels of neglect and unfit parenting.

This could've been you or I. It could've been someone we look up to as a parent. It could've been anyone.

Maybe we wouldn't have allowed our child to stay in the car and play on the iPad for a few extra minutes but more than likely, there would be something that an outsider would believe to be "unsafe parenting" that we could be written up for.

This story brought back an immense amount of anxiety because I've witnessed this before. In fact, I've had personal experiences where my parenting flaws have been viewed as neglectful and even malicious.

And as I've experienced this firsthand, I've struggled with whether my belief in my own parenting style is just a false sense of security I've built. I've wondered if I'm just lazy and incompetent and overconfident in how I parent.

Am I a good mother? 

For a while, I struggled with the thought that there are people who don't believe I'm a good mother. But I've come to the conclusion that there are also people who think you're a bad parent---there will always be those people. 
Whether they judge because they don't know the full story or they judge because they just don't have the same views, it's ok that they think you're a bad parent. It's ok that they think I'm a bad parent.

It's not ok for our different beliefs to turn us against each other. 

I believe a lot of us are "helicopter parents" because of the stories we've heard. We hover over our children because we don't want to be the next mother in the news who let her children walk to the store alone and got her children taken away because of her choice. We are afraid of what others will do to us if they see our parenting flaws.

Even as I type, I can't bring myself to give you examples of decisions I've made regarding my children that others may not deem safe or age appropriate---because what if I write them down and someone turns me in because they don't agree with my views?

It's a valid fear. It's valid because it has happened to the people we love. It is valid because we've seen parents get their children taken away for exact split decisions we have made with our own children.
The only difference is that there wasn't an on-looker who deemed our choices neglectful and we didn't get written up.

But the mother in this article did. And it has happened many times before.

One decision can change you're entire life. We've all heard this statement but what happens when this statement becomes you're parenting nightmare? What happens when you're faced with the fear that your children might not be in their own beds tonight because a court system found you unworthy of raising your children?

This thought gives me anxiety but it also makes me angry.

So many of us are trying to do our best to raise our children to be successful on their own someday.
I know, for me, that is one of my main parenting goals. I have one child who is incredibly responsible but fearful of leaving my side. I have another child who isn't as responsible but would be totally fine leaving my side.

With each of these children, I want them to learn how to grow up and be responsible for themselves. I don't want them to fear life or be afraid that something bad will happen to them.

I'll admit, I've had visions of my children being snatched up by a stranger or getting lost in a crowd. I fear their safety even while they are at school. I am a paranoid mother.
But I try so hard not to let my paranoia deter my children from learning and growing.

It scares me to think of them riding their bikes around our neighborhood without me right next to them. It scares me to think about them going to the movies on their own or staying home without myself or a babysitter. But someday, these things are going to happen.

Someday they are going to be able to make grown up decisions on their own.

And shouldn't I, as their mother, be able to make the decision of when they're ready for that responsibility?

We can try and protect them the best that we can but our children are still going to get hurt. They are still going to make mistakes.

And my goodness, we are going to make mistakes too. We are going to do everything we can to make the right parenting decision and one of these days, it will bite us in the butt because someone might not agree or our children might get hurt.

But we teach them the best that we can. We try our damndest to keep them safe when we can.

Our best might not be good enough in the eyes of others but it is all we can do.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Washington DC: Part 2

 Day 3:

I have to tell ya, the kids loved the Metro system. They loved sitting by each other, sometimes being able to stand up, and playing guessing games while we went from stop to stop. The adults, on the other hand, did not love the Metro. This may have been due to the fact that on Day 5, a guy fell onto the tracks right before a Metro came in to the station and we had to evacuate quickly (He got pulled to safety). Or maybe it had to do with the fact that on Day 6, a man had killed someone on the Metro (not the one we were riding...BUT STILL). Or maybe it had to do with the fact that rush hour is CRAZY and we were all on psycho-mode trying to make sure we didn't lose any of our children.

But the good thing is, we survived! No one lost a kid! So yay for that, right?
On day 3, we headed over to the International Spy Museum. They don't allow pictures inside the building because, you know, SPIES, but we all enjoyed it.
Actually, that's not true. They did allow pictures but not strollers and I left my camera in the stroller. See? I'm already forgetting stuff!
 We packed lunches and ate right outside the museum. Uncle Chris is a pretty awesome photobomber!
 Ninja loved his PBnJ bagels I made for him almost every day. For a kid that is super picky, he seemed to like the packed lunches more than his sister.

Right down the street from the spy museum is the Ford Theater, where Abraham Lincoln was shot so we made a spur of the moment detour over there when we were finished.
 The kids got to touch replicas of Lincoln's fists and then we walked upstairs to hear some facts about how he was killed.
 Across from where we were sitting is the place he was shot and fell onto the stage. Although the entire theater was rebuilt, the picture of George Washington and the couch set up are the exact ones from the night he was killed. Everything else is just a replica of the theater.
 Ninja had to use the bathroom and like a good mom, I told him I'd take him if he smiled for a picture with Lincoln's head. :)
 This girl. SO MUCH PERSONALITY in her little body! I love my niece so much.
 After the Ford Theater, we walked across the street to go through the house where Lincoln actually died. When he was shot, they transported him to a house across the street so he could finish his life away from the crowds of people surrounding the Ford Theater.
 I took a picture of this building right before we headed into the urine-smelling elevator to the Metro (There wasn't a single elevator the whole trip that didn't smell like urine...). I don't actually remember what building this is but it was gorgeous!
 K-Bear was one of my buddies during this Metro ride. Doesn't he looked excited to be with his crazy auntie?!
 And my other buddy, who stayed in the stroller for almost every Metro ride even though he is 5 1/2. I couldn't handle the thought of losing him and he is a pretty curious kiddo so we decided to bring a stroller to help mom feel safer on this trip. :)

On day 4, we headed out with the Taylors to the zoo!
It was the perfect zoo day since it had been raining and the weather was pretty cool.

 The first thing we saw was the black bear and the kids were so excited that they could see it pretty close to them!
I think that was the most amazing thing about this zoo. When we go to our Phoenix zoo, we often have to search for the animals in their habitats but while in Washington DC, the animals were so easy to see in their habitats and we felt so close to them! You'll see more about that in a minute.
 Ninja loved watching the otters play underwater.
 Princess loves elephants. Unfortunately, one of the elephants was under the weather so we couldn't go in the building where you see them up close but we still got to see them as we walked across this bridge.

 This is Princess' version of a flamingo. :)
 My absolute favorite thing about this picture is Ninja's face. We don't ever see the Cheetah at our zoo walking or running. When we came up to this Cheetah, he was laying in the grass and all of a sudden, he jumped up onto that log. Ninja was turning around to squeal his excitement to me.
 We felt so close to this guy! There was actually another cheetah in a habitat next to this one and they were running back and forth with each other.

 The lions were awesome to see as well. They were laying down when we got there but after a minute, they started to walk around and we got to see them really well.

Princess was unsuccessful in pulling the prairie dog out of the hole. ;)

Stay tuned for Part 3! :)

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Washington DC: Part 1

 We've been home from DC for almost two weeks now and almost every day, I think about blogging the first portion of our vacation but each time I do, homework or motherhood comes first.

So I'm finally here to at least jot down the first day or two of our amazing vacation and in the future, I'll get more of it up here.

It all started last Christmas when my parents surprised us with a trip to Washington DC. They told us we would be going for the 4th of July and to plan ahead so our whole family could be together.

And it worked! Every single one of us crazy Guthries was able to make it to DC to spend a week together. I should also mention that my second oldest sister lives in Alexandria, VA, which is actually where our hotel was and she is one of the main reasons we got to enjoy this incredible vacation.
Our first flight took off at 7am, which meant we were at the airport at 5am. My kids were pretty tired but did amazing throughout the flights. I, on the other hand, am not a fan of the "take off" and gripped the arms of my seat each time.
 We had a layover in Texas and the grandkids had fun playing games together and laying around the airport waiting for our next flight to DC.

We arrived in DC around dinnertime that Monday and were thrown right into the craziness of the city life as we maneuvered suitcases and strollers onto the Metro to get to our hotel.

Tuesday rolled around and it was time to start off our adventures. We chose to tag along with the Taylors and my parents to the Postal Museum and I'm so glad we did.

 The kids were given a scavenger hunt to keep them busy and they were really into it.
 Ninja asked for a picture with the dead dog---who was apparently a huge part of the postal system as it began and to remember him, they literally stuffed him after he died so they could keep his remains in the museum ( weird).
 The kids got to pretend to drive a semi-truck and play with all the gadgets.

 And they learned about what mailboxes from all around the world look like.
 Here is my boy with the post office "mascot". His name is ZIP.

 Ninja loved all of the planes that were hung from the ceiling.
 And this truck was familiar because it looks just like our postal trucks!

After the museum, we walked across the street and ate lunch before heading off to our Capitol tour.
 We found some really cool sights on our walk to the Capitol building.
 My parents had set up a tour with Jeff Flake's interns and it was fun to meet people who work for our senator and were both from our area.
 Both kids wanted a picture of themselves with that golden eagle above.

 And this is Princess standing in the very center of Washington DC, where the Capitol was built.
One thing I loved about this trip was being with family and easily being able to hand my camera to a family member and asking for a picture of my children and I. That isn't something I can always do and it was nice to see myself in a few of my pictures.

I'll start a new post soon with some more pictures from our trip. It really was an amazing adventure and I am so grateful to my parents for allowing us such a cool opportunity.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Divorce Defines Me

 We are back from Washington DC. Actually, we got back four days ago but I have been swamped with homework to try and catch up. 
I will blog about our trip in a few different posts but there has been a post I can't seem to get out of my mind so I decided to try and write it out while it's fresh. 

Haven't we all heard those "uplifting" quotes that say, "My trials don't define me" or "Don't let your past define your future"? I know I have. And each time I hear a quote like that, I feel something stirring inside of me that says, "This does define me! How could it not?"

I don't know why or when it became negative to allow our past to define our future but maybe I'm looking at it differently.

When I think of something defining me, I think of it molding me into a better person. This includes my good experiences and the really horrible ones. I look at who I am now versus who I was two years ago and guess what? My divorce is part of what defines who I am. It is a part of me and because of those experiences, I am a much different---a much stronger---me.

At the beginning of the week, I was awoken at 1:30am to fire alarms blaring throughout our hotel. I jumped out of bed and quickly realized that this could be a legitimate emergency.

I was scared and alone in a hotel room with my two children and my first reaction was to grab them and run to my parents room down the hall.
This wasn't the first time I have had to experienced incredible fear when thinking about caring for my children alone.

In fact, I was pretty much thrown into that world weeks after my husband moved out when an intoxicated man was banging on my door in the middle of the night and yelling profanities.

But for a few moments, I was so panicked---and then I remembered, I can do this. I can get them out of here and snuggle my scared 7 year old while my 5 year old runs around and laughs and plays {Two VERY different personalities}.

It was one of those moments that I was reminded that divorce does define me. It has changed who I am as a mother and as a woman. I have more empathy and compassion for so many trials, most of which I could never begin to understand.

I don't think it's a negative thing. Maybe you do but I really don't. I don't think this is me not moving on from the past. In fact, I have moved on a lot more than I dreamed I'd be able to. I don't think that talking about the past means that I'm ignoring the present or future.
I think sometimes when we break, we have to reshape ourselves and it's ok to look at the person we once were and see how far we've come.

Divorce will always be a part of my life. It isn't something I can hide nor do I feel ashamed and want to hide it. Divorce has brought some of the highest highs and lowest lows into my life.

And I'm ok with that defining who I am today.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

My Perfect Life

 Summer is an incredibly disgusting and beautiful time.

I hate the heat. I can hardly stand it most days. I always feel sweaty and dirty. I can't allow the kids outside as much. It's just annoying and gross.
But then there's the element of fun. School is out. The kids are home with me and we spend a lot more time together. We take vacations and learn new things and fill our nights with sleepovers and late bedtimes.

The way I feel about summer is the way I feel about life.

It's hard and stupid and amazing, sometimes all at the same time.
I can go from irrational fear to giggling in minutes. {This does not make me crazy...or maybe it does.}

Sometimes the days are extremely, painfully long while other times, they seem to pass by too quickly.

 I think that's why I've always loved Glennon from Momastery's description of life as my "messy beautiful".

Because it is both.

The sun can be shining and the birds can be singing but sometimes, everything around me feels so dark.

There are afternoons where a storm will sweep in and instead of allowing the clouds to hover over me and dim the light, I go out and dance in the rain.

 It's been amazing to be able to mix the things I'm learning in school with my every day life.

Because I used to feel so ashamed when I would have meltdowns. I used to think adults didn't do that. I used to think hard days made me weaker.

They don't.

The ability to talk about the hard stuff and allow my emotions to go to those dark places sometimes is actually a strength.
I don't often stay in the dark but it's ok to visit. In fact, visiting the dark places helps me to brighten the light places.
And if I do end up staying there for a while, that's ok too. It's ok to feel weighed down by life. Life is hard. It's ok to feel anger and sadness and fear. All of those things are valid.

 I just try and make sure that whatever emotions I'm feeling, I allow them to stay for however long it feels productive. Once those emotions become unproductive and even destructive, then I reach out to others to help me reset.

 The beauty of life is that we CAN reset. We don't have to be stuck. We have the opportunity to change if we really want to.

Among the sadness that I feel, I also feel so much joy. I feel so grateful to be alive, to be living out many of my dreams right now.

On my hard days, I try to remember the good stuff too. I try to remember that even though there seems to be a lot of bad, there is even more good.

Life won't ever be perfect, although that'd be super nice. It won't always be rainbows and sunshine and butterflies. But maybe that wouldn't be "the perfect life".

Maybe life is perfect. Because life is doing exactly what it was intended to do. Life is teaching me and pushing me to grow and allowing me the ability to feel compassion for others. Life is giving me hard days and easy days, happy memories and messy ones, and even though it doesn't always feel perfect---maybe it is. Maybe this is a perfect life.

 I guess until now, I've never really thought of it that way.

When I look back on the events in my life, the hardest ones have taught me the most. I hate saying that because my goodness, I do NOT want hard things to come my way, but I can recognize the growth within myself.

I can look back on the little girl that I was and how much love and compassion I had for other people. I know I talk about how hard I was as a kid but the truth is, I was an amazing little girl. And I'm not being sarcastic. I was often worried about other people and trying to help others. But I didn't have the knowledge or patience that I have now. I wasn't mature enough to hold my tongue when angry words were ready to spill over.

And although I'm not perfect at it now, I try really hard to be the type of person that loves others, even those who hurt my heart.

My kids and I got to have a short conversation about this today. As we were leaving church, I saw a lady whom I truly admire and I called out to her and told her she was gorgeous. As soon as we got in the car, my little girl asked why I had said that and I told her it was because this lady is one of my heroes. She may not know that I look up to her but I do. Princess asked why I like her so much and I said, "Because she is so kind to everyone around her and that is the type of person I want to be."

And it's the truth. I want to be kind and loving, patient and slow to anger. I want to see others how Heavenly Father sees them.

And maybe it sounds easy on paper but it isn't. I still find myself getting frustrated when I'm feeling misunderstood by someone. It isn't easy to hold my tongue when others are saying hurtful things.

But it's a process. In this perfectly messy life that I live, I am slowly becoming the person that I want to be.