Thursday, April 26, 2007

We Are Blessed

Did anyone happen to watch the "American Idol Gives Back" special on Fox last night? Andy and I did and we were both in tears. It never fails: Every time I see people starving in other countries or suffering from treatable medical conditions, a flood of emotions washes over me and I can only think one thing......I don't do enough.

I am sitting in an oversized leather chair right now with my laptop, eating a bowl of Dora the Explorer ice cream (thank you Landon!) and listening to the music I have playing on one of the cable music channels. The house is air conditioned. My healthy son is sound asleep on the couch across the room from me dressed in one of many cute outfits you could find in his closet (when I've had time to finish the laundry--ha ha!). His belly is full and he has a room full of toys waiting for him when he wakes up.....WE ARE BLESSED.

The American Idol special inspired a cascade of many thoughts in my mind: I take for granted the box of antibacterial hand wipes I always carry in Landon's diaper bag (to make sure I'm prepared to clean up after any "toddler surprises"--LOL-- while we're out at restaurants or parks)....People in Africa live and work in the most filthy conditions and sometimes only have a muddy river with which to cool themselves at the end of a long, hot day. I go to sleep each night complaining about how hard my king size mattress is...They sleep on the floor of dirt huts, surrounded by fifteen other people. While I'm making a larger-than-life grocery list to e-mail to my husband, there are people out there who don't know when their next opportunity to eat might be. Everything around me, from our car to our house to our shoes and toothpaste is a silent reminder not just of how blessed we are, but of our responsibility to give back to the world......How can I complain about anything?

Last night Andy brought me a glass of water and all I could think about were the people who would never see a glass of clear, clean water as long as they live. It is all too easy to go blindly about our lives, oblivious to the tragedy that surrounds us all over the world. I am overwhelmed with gratitude...and with sadness...and with the fear that comes with the idea that there is nothing separating me and my family from the people we call "the less fortunate". We were born here into THIS and they just happened to be born there into THAT....... Why, oh why do we take so, so many things for granted?

Each night, when I lie down to pray with my little boy, I say, "Thank you God for every breath that we take. Thank you for every beat of our hearts. Thank you for every moment that we're alive and for every day we are able to wake up and spend another day together as a family..." I think about these things fairly often, but last night, in particular, marked a turning point for me. I said goodbye to sitting back and watching with pity from my little corner of the world, and decided that from this point on I will DO something--whenever I can, however I can. I will not wait for the next loss to remind me of the gifts which surround me. I will not wait for illness or poverty to strike close enough to home to teach me what life is really about.

Beyond being thankful for our station in life, we should realize that we have a responsibility that comes with that station. Beyond saying a blessing over each meal we eat, we should help provide food to those who have none. I believe everything happens for a reason. I believe God has put each of us into a particular financial, material & geographical place for a purpose (no matter how difficult that is to imagine...) and that he will judge us according to how we used His gifts to better the world around us. It begins with our families and branches out according to our own ability. Some of us have money...Some have an incredible talent...Some of us have nothing but the ability to pray and LOVE, but all of us have the same responsibility to help people who are struggling. I hope I am always able to put my thoughts into action & to make a difference, but even more importantly, I hope I am able to instill these same thoughts and sentiments into my son so that he will do the same.


Friday, April 6, 2007

The Mom I Have Always Laughed At

I'm not sure when it happened. It might have happened the moment I first held my son in my arms...or maybe it happened little by little over time--but I have definitely become the mom I have always laughed at. How did this happen? I spent YEARS raising other people's children. I went to college to learn to teach elementary students. I read books on child-rearing and surfed the web. The mothers of the children I took care of even came to me for advice...and thinking I knew all there was to know, I gave it readily. Can you believe that? I was a young woman who had never had children--giving advice to REAL moms about their REAL children based on what I'd heard and seen and read. I hate people who do that to me now!! I didn't know then what I know now: You have to have a child before you know how to raise one. Even then, there is no cookie-cutter way to parent--and Not much room for advice-giving.
Back in the child-free days of baby-sitting of which I spoke, I remember telling the moms to practice the "Cry-It-Out" method. When they were away at work, I practiced it for them. "Be persistent," I'd say. "It'll eventually work." Would you believe that from day one with my son, we have been a co-sleeping family, happily nestling together in our family bed night-after night-after controversial night? Yes, it's true! I never saw it coming.
Would you also believe that even though I used to be uncomfortable just being in the presence of a breastfeeding mom--I am now the biggest "on-the-soap-box-breastfeeding-advocate" there is! I don't just talk the talk! I exclusively breastfed my son for almost the first year of his life, no bottles or pacifiers. He will be two in May and still happily breastfeeds at least once a day. We used to eat fast food on a fairly regular basis. Now that we have a son who eats pretty much what we do, not only do my husband and I not eat fast food, we try very hard to eat mostly natural and organic foods. We don't usually have anything with high fructose corn syrup or BHT in our house and try to avoid trans fatty acids.
And of course we cannot forget the vaccination issue! I never even thought for a moment to not vaccinate our child. I was vaccinated and so were all of my siblings, cousins, neighbors...(you get the point). All I knew was you have baby...vaccinate baby. Then I had a baby and that idea vanished with all of the others I had racked up pre-motherhood. The hospital gave our baby a Hepatitis B shot without our permission right after he was born, which sent my husband and I into major research mode. To make a long story short, we read just about everything we could find about the pros and cons of vaccinating and decided in the beginning to wait a few months to vaccinate our son. Months turned into a year and a year has become almost two.
To sum it all up, my little boy is an unvaccinated, breastfed toddler (movie theater scream here!!) who eats organically by day and sleeps with his parents every night. Let the comments roll! Join the ranks of disapproving voices that have surrounded us since May 22, 2005 and tell me how weird I am...because I am indeed the mom I have always laughed at. :o) I am passionate about being a parent! It has changed my whole existence the way everyone warned...but the part I didn't expect is: I don't mind one bit! And Strangely, I didn't have to practice to be who I am. I didn't learn how to be this way by studying a book or from an image on t.v. It just turns out this is who I am. I have lost friends since I had my son and the dynamic in our extended family has changed immensely. Even though it's been hard along the way, I have never been happier or felt more fulfilled than I do right now.
How I wish I hadn't been so quick to judge such loving, concerned mothers in the past! Eveything comes full circle in this life, doesn't it?