Posts Tagged ‘stress’

The Birthday Present

Wednesday, February 25, 2015
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As a kid, I loved my birthday.

I loved getting special attention, eating cake, opening presents and even having the occasional birthday party. In the birthdaydark ages when  I was growing up, we didn’t expect birthday parties every year, and we certainly didn’t expect elaborate parties. Our moms blew up a few balloons and invited the neighbor kids over to play games and eat homemade birthday cake.

After I hit the magical age of 21, I cared less and less about birthdays. By the time I was 30, everyone expected me to be in a bad mood on the day I was expected to celebrate.

To me, birthdays were simply  reminders that I was getting older and hadn’t achieved as much as someone my age should have.

I had come to adopt my father’s philosophy about birthdays. He always wondered why we made such a big deal about the day we were born when we didn’t do any of the actual work.

The year that he and my mother were married, he actually sent flowers to my grandmother on my mom’s birthday thanking her what had happened 25 years earlier, Apparently, my grandmother thought he was a little strange, so he never sent her flowers again.  But he did continue to raise the same questions from time to time.

I embraced my dad’s philosophy before and after I had my own children.

I considered throwing birthday parties for my kids to be the ultimate test of parenthood. Like most tests, they kept me up at night with worry,and I never enjoyed them. I just didn’t get why birthdays were such a big deal.

That changed a few days ago with one phone call

My friend Stefani, who had been battling cancer for years, had been given 48 hours to live during the week when I was turning 48 years old.

My friend, who threw amazing birthday parties for her daughters and who celebrated her life to the fullest, died the week when I was prepared to once again complain that I was yet another year older.

My friend, who  had grown to  appreciate the importance of holding our children close, celebrating every moment and creating memories that can live beyond our last breath, gave me one last birthday present.

She reminded me that birthdays aren’t intended to be a reminder of our march toward old age but are actually intended to be a celebration of survival, perseverance and the people who have loved and  supported us during those difficult times.

This year, I’m celebrating my birthday because I know Stef would have excepted nothing less.

Here’s to you Stef.

Cheers.

 

Motherhood Test Anxiety

Wednesday, February 11, 2015
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Being a mom is like constantly suffering test anxiety.test_-_multiple_choice1

I should know.

Back in my student days, I hated taking tests. I always considered myself horrible at exams. That belief stemmed not from the scores I received but from the emotional turmoil I experienced before, during and even after tests.

Generally, I paid attention to lectures and completed most of the required reading. I usually studied and would actually feel fairly confident before a test. At least, I was confident until I took the risk of talking to other students. Their concerns about failure would immediately become mine. Then, the day of a test, I would listen to my classmates as they reviewed potential questions. If there was something I didn’t know, I could feel a sense of panic come over me. Even worse, if another class had already taken the same test and reported that the questions were unfair and impossible, I immediately became a nervous wreck.  Even after the test was over and I had done my best, I would second guess at least one or two answers.

My anxiety was never relieved until I actually had the results in hand.

Being a mom isn’t much different except that I’m never actually provided with the results. Instead, I feel as though I’m constantly preparing for a final exam that is always a day away.

No matter how much I think I know, it’s never enough. I often find myself listening to other moms talk about  how they handled a specific situation, and I feel like I’m that student who realized she studied for all the wrong questions. Even worse, the questions keep getting more difficult with time.

I remember years ago, when my son was just out of diapers and my daughter was still in them, the mother of two teenagers had an office next to mine. Instead of decorating with recent photos of her children, she had numerous photos of her son and daughter when they were very young.

Since I was at the stage when I was constantly bringing in updated photos of my children, I didn’t understand. So I asked.

“Those photos remind me when being a mom was so much easier,” she said. “They remind me of a time when I probably worried more about making mistakes but, in retrospect, the decisions I had to make were so much simpler.”

Now, more than a decade later, I completely understand.

Even if I had read every book and magazine article about parenting, I’m doubtful I would feel any more comfortable with some of the parenting tests I face on a regular basis.

As a mom, many of these tests are the same ones other parents face. But let’s face facts: cookie cutter approaches don’t work when it comes to our children. They have different personalities and different temperaments. Decisions I’ve made for my son are often the completely wrong decisions for my daughter. To make matters even more difficult, my children are reaching that age when their decisions, not mine, will define the direction of the rest of their lives.

All I can do is set parameters, try to help steer and hope for the best.

Those feelings will probably never go away entirely. My mom, who has been a mother fifty years this April, still expresses doubts about some of the parenting tests she faced.

When she does, I usually tell her that my brother and I turned out fine. We aren’t perfect, but we are well-educated, productive members of society. We may not live our lives exactly as she had hoped, but neither did we land in jail or become cruel, unkind people. The people that we did become are partly a result of genetics, partly a result of the parenting we received and partly a result of life circumstances. Mom only had significant influence over one of those factors.

While I think nothing of reminding my mother of that, I have to remember to be as kind to myself.

Being a mom isn’t a science, and each child is born with his or her own challenges. Most moms are just trying to help our children become the best people they can be.

If and when that happens, we shouldn’t consider ourselves deserving of an A plus grade. Instead, We should simply consider ourselves fortunate.

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering, writing, biking or walking the giant German Shepherd, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

Practicing Patience

Friday, November 28, 2014
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Being a new parent can be stressful. You constantly are encountering new situations to navigate and new problems to solve. We had our own test of problem solving and patience last weekend.

We left a holiday party, picked up the baby from her grandparents’ house and were on our way home. It was around 10:15 p.m. and we were tired and the baby had woken up. As we headed down the Interstate we heard a “POP! Zzzzz” and saw the little red light appear on the dashboard. It was obvious we had a flat.

Our first priority was to get to a safe place, so we creeped down the shoulder of the Interstate to the next exit. By the time we stopped in a parking lot, our tire was in shreds.

We were still far from home, it was late and cold, and the baby had started to cry. The situation seemed dire. Frustration started to set in and my husband and I were on the verge of getting cross with each other. Then, to make matters worse, our car jack broke, meaning we had to call for help and spend even longer in the car.

Luckily we quickly realized arguing would get us nowhere. We were stuck and it was going to take some time to get us moving again. The only thing we could do was be patient and remain calm.

I got into the back seat with AJ and Chris tackled the tire. After a few ups and downs, we were back on the road and made it safely home.

In the end, AJ handled the bump in the road (pun intended) the best of the three of us. After a few minutes, she went to sleep and stayed asleep. We didn’t get home until around 11:30 p.m. and when I finally stopped holding my breath, I realized things weren’t that bad. The whole ordeal had taken only about an hour and we were safely at home and the baby was safely asleep.

Although frustrating, it was a situation that was out of our control. By taking a few moments to calm down, we were able to take care of the baby and solve our tire problem, without having the situation turn into something worse. And so as I learn time and time again, having a little patience in less-than-ideal situations can lead to a better end-result.

Words of Wisdom

Wednesday, November 19, 2014
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Years ago, in what seems another life, I used to work with adolescents. During that time, when I had no significant parenting experience, I considered myself a champion of youth. I thought young people should have seats on boards of directors for nonprofit organizations and that adults  needed to really listen to what they had to say.

I like to believe that still hold those values. I also know that I’m not the champion I once was – and that’s not because the focus of my job is no longer youth.

It’s because I live with two teenagers.motherhood

Since my children are quick to point out how I, a professional woman with a Master’s Degree, am generally clueless about anything of importance, one might assume I am in awe of how much they know in comparison.

I’m not. At the same time, I know I don’t often give them the credit they deserve.

When my son mumbles at me under his breath, I often forget about  his ability to make a whole room laugh with a facial expression or wry comment.

When my daughter snaps at me for asking her a question, I tend to ignore the fact that she’s often lost in a book or absorbed in learning.

And when I get anxious about the mistakes I make as a mom, I definitely don’t give my kids enough credit for setting me straight.

Thankfully, they do it anyway.

Last Sunday night after a very busy weekend, I found myself already ramping up for an even busier work week. In other words, I was starting to stress myself out. And when I stress myself out, I tend to stress  out everyone around me out as well. Or, in the eyes of my  children, I can be incessant and annoying.

So it was for my daughter, for whom I made several suggestions about things she should be doing. Nothing I said was necessary or even important. In reality, I was putting some of my own issues onto her shoulders, and she knew it.

“Mom,” she said. “I’m the one living my life. Let me do that.”

She was right.

There are times when parents have to interfere in their children’s lives, but that wasn’t such an occasion.

She wasn’t making a decision that affected her health or her future success. She had a perspective that I didn’t, which is exactly the reason I used to be such an advocate for young people.

They might not always be right, but adults aren’t always right either. Adults might have more experience, but sometimes that experience keeps us bogged down in all the reasons something won’t work instead of getting excited about testing the possibilities.

Most importantly, the potential of our young people is only limited by the opportunities adults provide them to grow and learn.

And those opportunities often mean that we moms have to let go of our strong desire to steer the direction our children take in life. Instead, we have to trust that even though our kids may not always know where they want to go, the responsibility of finding their path lies on their, not our, shoulders.

My kids have taught me that being a good mom sometimes means I need to stop providing advice and instead need to listen to them. When I do that, I can hear them say  they need a mom who allows them to fall, make mistakes, struggle and discover that sometimes the best path in life is the one that isn’t mapped out years in advance but is one that is blazed by experiences.

My daughter may only be 13, but I have no doubt that’s exactly what she meant when she told me that she, not me, is the one living her life.

Hopefully, I can follow those words of wisdom.

The Truths We Never Talk About

Friday, October 31, 2014
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Becoming a mother is by far the hardest thing I have ever done. I’ve mentioned some of the ways in which it is hard here and here. But recently, some of my mom friends and I were discussing how difficult becoming a new mom can be and why no one seems to talk about it. So I’m going to talk about it.

There is really nothing that can prepare a new mother for the shock of caring for a newborn. This can be a challenging time for women – besides having a fragile, small person completely dependent on us, we have to balance extreme lack of sleep, recovery from the birth, the pain and struggle of trying to breastfeed, and the Baby Blues. It’s no wonder the thought, “I can’t do this,” crosses our mind every now and again.

Here’s the truth – taking care of a newborn is not fun. There are fun moments, yes, but in those first few weeks there are, for many of us, many more un-fun moments. We look forward to the moment we get to bring home our baby for nine months, only to have our expectations shattered. In the first weeks the future looks bleak. “Will she ever stop crying? Will I ever sleep again? What am I doing wrong? Maybe I’m not cut out for this.” These are just some of the thousands of questions and thoughts that cross our minds. We are unsure of ourselves yet afraid to ask for help lest we should admit that we have no idea what we are doing and feel like we never will.

Why are new mothers constantly surprised by this truth? Why don’t we ever talk about this?

Mom guilt kicks in the second we start to think any thought of frustration towards our new baby. Every time I mentioned that I was struggling from lack of sleep or that AJ was crying a lot I felt extremely guilty immediately afterward. I didn’t want people to think I didn’t love my baby, and even worse, would she somehow be able to pick up on the fact that I was “talking bad” about her and hate me forever from birth? When I start to feel mom guilt now, I console myself with the fact that I know my own parents felt frustration when I was a newborn and do I blame them? Heck no! Did I turn out okay? Yes!

We also forget oh-so-quickly how hard it actually was to take care of our newborn. I’m already to the point where I can look back and think, “Maybe it wasn’t so bad. After all it was only a few weeks.” But when you are in the thick of it, it is that bad. Three weeks can feel like an eternity.

Another reason new moms are unprepared is that when mothers do share their struggles, we as pregnant women have on our pregnancy blinders and don’t believe them. I had people tell me I wouldn’t like my newborn or that it was okay if I cried. I thought, “Ha! Not me! I will LOVE being a mom.” And I do, now. Those wise women who went before me knew what they were talking about; I just didn’t want to listen. Can you blame me though? What pregnant woman wants to hear that the baby they’ve been dreaming about will terrorize their life when it arrives? As a pregnant woman, I wanted to think about all the good times ahead.

Here’s the second, and wonderful, truth – it gets so much better. Quickly. There is a light at the end of the newborn tunnel! For me, it took about six weeks for things to finally feel good, for me to finally feel like I was getting the hang of things. For some moms it takes only a few days, and for some moms it takes months. It’s all normal and it’s all okay. And once your baby is able to acknowledge you, able to smile and coo and laugh, you realize it was all worth it. Every tear, every sleepless night, every moment of hardship was worth it. There are still tough days, there will always be tough days, but before you know it the good days way outnumber the bad.

A Bad Day

Friday, October 3, 2014
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There are hard days and there are bad days. Some days are both. The first weeks of AJ’s life held many hard days, but not bad days. But this week, I had a bad day.

Now, if you are like pre-baby me, you might be thinking, “How could she have a bad day when she just spent it hanging out with her baby?”

Moms, I give you permission to stop right now and laugh at (or virtually smack) pre-baby me. Oh how little I knew…

The day started out normal. There were chores to be done, bills to be paid and a few calls to make, but nothing out of the ordinary. It quickly turned into one of those days where nothing goes as planned and everything seems to culminate into a mess at the same time.

The bad day started when I set out for our mid-morning run. I ended up dealing with several issues on the phone and the run never happened, but I did almost shed tears at the park. When we got home, I was frustrated and upset, and AJ quickly became the same. A crying baby meant no shower and a half-par lunch for me.

AJ continued to cry. Screaming cries. It could have been her reflux, or maybe she was just tired of looking at my face. Nothing I tried could soothe her. Even after eating she would go back to crying.

Several household items and appliances have managed to break in the last few days, and of course something broke on this bad day, which required more calls to check on warranties or at least adding making the calls to the mounting to-do list.

I was on the phone and online trying to get through red tape for various issues all afternoon, all the while trying to keep a pacifier in AJ’s mouth. Not giving my full attention to her wasn’t helping the situation either.

I then had to run a few errands that couldn’t wait (and errands are never quick with a child) and when I finally finished the day’s tasks I was exhausted. But AJ was not. She was still crying on and off. Chris had an after-hours work event and wasn’t home. The house was a mess. I was not able to eat anything for dinner because I was back to soothing the baby. When Chris finally came home, I was a mess.

It was official; I had had a bad day.

We all have bad days, whether we are two or twenty-two, a stay-at-home mom or a working mom, a mom, dad, grandma, grandpa or none of the above. They come unexpectedly, usually right when we think everything is going well. Some bad days are for silly, superficial reasons; some are not. Some are because of our kids, some because of work, some because of quarrels with family or friends, and some are because of sickness, loss or heartbreak.

That evening, as I finally got into bed, I thought about the day’s events. Sure, things did not go as planned. I wasn’t able to shower or eat dinner, I was frustrated with a lot of things, including myself, and had not been able to soothe our baby. I felt like a bad mom.

I then did a small reality check – I had many things for which to be thankful, one being that I was with my husband and baby at the end of the day and we were safe and healthy.

Sometimes we let the little things get to us, at least I do, but I hope I can always remember everything that is good at the end of the day and be thankful for it. I hope I can teach AJ that it’s okay to have bad days, even if the reasons may seem silly to someone else, but to remember to put things in perspective. Often, we’ll realize what we thought was a bad day was actually a pretty good one.

A Messy Situation

Wednesday, September 24, 2014
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I absolutely despise the phrase “I told you so.”

But then, I can’t imagine anyone actually likes hearing words that generally follow a bad decision, a poor choice or some unfortunate situation.

Sometimes, even when they remain unspoken, I know I deserve to hear them.

And sometimes, I am saying them to myself.

Now that I have two teenagers living under my roof, I find myself saying those words to myself over and over again, just as a friend warned me years ago.

At the time, one of my many job responsibilities was teaching adolescent development and parenting. I thought I was an expert as I spouted facts about concrete versus abstract thinking, risky behavior and setting boundaries.

In reality, all I knew was what I had read and what I had been taught, neither of which can replace genuine experience when it comes to human behavior or raising kids.

A friend tried to point this out to me when my son was just a toddler. I had been quoted in a newspaper article about carefully picking battles with teenagers. I specifically told parents not to waste time and energy fighting over messy bedrooms as teenagers should be allowed to be in control of some parts of their lives, including personal space.

“You are going to look back at that article some day and laugh at yourself,” my friend said.

I told her I wouldn’t.

I was wrong.

When my son turned 13 and his bedroom began to resemble destruction left in wake of a tornado, he came up with his own solution to my constant griping. He asked if he could move into the bedroom in the basement, which we already called the kid cave. His dad and I agreed, and I thought the bedroom battle was resolved.

I was wrong again.

My daughter, who once took pride in keeping her room neat and organized, has apparently been taking notes from her brother. As her room grows messier and more chaotic by the day and the contents of her room are now spilling out into the hallway, my complaints have grown louder and more frequent. They’ve also fallen on deaf ears.

Even as I tell myself I am fortunate to be battling with my daughter over such a minor issue, I am also aware that I’m not following my own naive yet somehow sensible advice: pick your battles so you have the time and energy to deal with the major issues.

Since I haven’t listened,  the battle is starting to wear me down. I have also become convinced that my daughter is simply laying the groundwork to take over the basement as soon as her brother graduates from high school.

I’m telling myself that will never happen, but something tells me I may also be wrong.

Which means I will once again be telling myself “I told you so.”

Poop, Spit Up and Tears – Baby’s First Week

Friday, August 22, 2014
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Taking a cue from news anchor Savannah Guthrie and sharing my no-makeup hospital photo

Taking a cue from news anchor Savannah Guthrie and sharing my no-makeup hospital photo

“Come watch how funny this is!” I said to my brother as little AJ grimaced. Squirt. Time for a diaper change. I took her over to the beautifully set changing table and began to take off her diaper. As I went to make the switch between dirty diaper and clean, SQUIRTTTT, out came another round. All over her new, white Pottery Barn changing pad, diaper caddy and changing table runner. All over her diaper pail. All over the carpet. All over me (brother was thankfully spared). We could barely contain our laughter. Looks like the joke was on me.

And so goes many similar moments in the first days of AJ’s life. My husband Chris and I have laughed often, slept little and loved more than words. Both AJ and I have shed tears. I’ve only been projected pooped on once twice.

My labor and delivery was quick and relatively routine. The nurses and staff at CAMC Women and Children’s Hospital are amazing and I owe them and my doctors a huge thank you. I would never have made it through without their caring and generosity.

I got the epidural I swore I would not get. I only realized after it was all over that I had a notion in the back of my mind that getting an epidural would be “taking the easy way out.” Trust me – there is NO easy way to birth a baby. After everything was said and done, I felt like a superhero at the end of a movie – beat up, barely alive, but I had just saved the world.

The first night at the hospital was by far the hardest. AJ cried almost all night and the only way to soothe her was to nurse, which neither of us knew how to do yet. She would only come close to sleeping while in my or Chris’s arms (still the case some nights). Come Wednesday morning, we were more than ready to get out of the hospital, go home and start our new life.

Nursing was difficult and frustrating to start. I could not have done it without the help of the lactation specialist at Women and Children’s. It’s still a heavy responsibility to bear, being the only one that can feed your child, but it gets significantly easier with each feed.

I wouldn’t dare say we’ve formed a schedule yet, but we have started to get into a semi-routine of feeding, cuddling, napping and trying to take care of ourselves. She feeds every two to three hours throughout the day and night, some days more regular than others. Diaper changes are almost constant, and we’ve learned that diapers need changed with speed similar to a NASCAR pit stop to avoid a mess on the changing table or ourselves. Sometimes she sleeps soundly in her bassinet, other times we stay up holding her in her rocking chair. Spit up has become my clothing’s constant accessory.

Although we’ve learned more about parenting in the last week and half than I could imagine, this is only the beginning. When she cries, we don’t always know how to soothe her. We don’t know if we are doing things the “right” way. But we are trying our hardest, and we love her more than we thought possible. Chris goes back to work on Monday, and I don’t know what I will do without him. I’ll face an entire new set of challenges taking care of her alone during the day. I do know I will cherish the first two weeks of AJ’s life for as long as I live; a time when the three of us had no obligations other than each other, when we began to learn to be a family.

Don’t Judge Me

Wednesday, July 30, 2014
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I didn’t care that the man in the cowboy hat was well over six feet tall with the hard edge of a prison guard. He had angered me, and I’ve never been good at hiding my feelings.don't judge me

My daughter had darted back into the theater to spend a few more minutes with her friends after I told her we needed to leave.

“If that were my daughter,” he drawled, “I wouldn’t tolerate that. I’d be marching her out of here and grounding her.”

That’s when I gave the man what my husband calls “the look.”

There is nothing that bothers me more than people who immediately judge me, my family or my behavior.

The man in the cowboy hat didn’t know that I’ve given my children “warnings” since they were young.

That may not work for other parents, experts may never recommend the practice and I may never receive any award for mother of the year, but it works for me.

I  tell my kids it’s time to go, they go back and spend time with friends and then I say it again and we go.

The practice started when my son was a toddler. He didn’t respond well to being abruptly pulled out of a situation, and I learned giving a warning worked. It gave him the time he needed to adjust and, as an adult, I could easily adapt.

The practice continued with my daughter not because she necessarily needed the time to adjust but because I had become accustomed to the practice.

As my children grew into adolescence, the practice just stuck.

I shouldn’t have to explain that to anyone, especially the man who was so quick to judge my parenting skills, but for some reason I am compelled.

My children are good students and generally good people. There is no reason for anyone to judge us.

And yet they do.

And we are among the lucky ones.

This past week I’ve witnessed others blaming large groups of people – those who receive “welfare” benefits, those who don’t speak English, those who suffer from addiction – for society’s ills.

Here’s the thing – those groups are comprised of individuals, and every individual has a story. That’s not to say every individual is perfect – none of us are. But we were all handed a different set of skills, a different family and different circumstances.

Instead of judging each other, we should spend more time listening to each other’s stories and supporting each other rather.

I could have explained this to the man in the cowboy hat, but instead I made an instant decision that he wouldn’t listen and wouldn’t care.

In other words, I judged him.

The irony isn’t lost on me.

I could try to rationalize, but I can’t. All I can do is admit that  I’m human, I’m not perfect and I sometimes judge others..

But I’m also constantly working on that impulse, listening to individual stores and teaching my children to do the same.

Maybe the man in the cowboy hat is doing exactly the same thing.

I didn’t ask him, so I’ll never know. But my guess is that he, just like me, is just trying to do his best.

The Empty Lot

Tuesday, June 10, 2014
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The small house was torn down only a few weeks ago, and already there are few signs it ever existed. Grass and clover cover the empty lotare growing where the foundation once was, and there is no indication of the fence that bordered the small yard.

Now, it is just an empty lot.

Maybe someday the area will be used for  a garden or a new structure, but the space will never be the same again.

The destroyed house shouldn’t even be on my radar. When it was standing, it meant no more to me than a random stop where my dogs sometimes greeted the dog on the other side of the fence. Soon, I won’t even notice the changed landscape during my short, daily commute to work. I will accept the space for what it is: the status quo.

Yet, the destruction of the house has been weighing on my mind like the rapid progress of time, the growing independence of my children and the aging of my parents.

Maybe that’s because its destruction was timed perfectly with my son attending his first real graduation party – not one for a family friend but one for a friend no one else in our family knows.

Dropping him off at the party reminded me of dropping him off for his first day of kindergarten almost eleven years ago.

For months, people had been asking me if I was ready, and I blew off their concerns. I didn’t understand why they thought kindergarten was so significant. Both of my children had been in day care since they were toddlers, and I thought kindergarten was no different from day care.

Only it wasn’t.

On that first day of kindergarten, his teacher didn’t know my name. The school personnel didn’t know my son’s unique issues or about his contagious sense of humor. He was just another little boy who needed to be taken out of his car seat, encouraged to wave goodbye to his mother and walked into his classroom.

And I, his mother, couldn’t even watch him walk away. The woman working the carpool line frantically waved me to move on as the tears trickled down my cheek .

Now, my son’s public school education is quickly coming to a close. This coming school year, he will be a junior, which is considered an upperclassman. He is already talking about colleges and moving out of our house – which is exactly what I want him to do. I have no desire to have a 30 year-old son still living in my basement and depending on me to do his laundry.

And yet, there is a part of me that is sitting in my car watching my 5  year-old son take a teacher’s hand and walk into doors which lead to a world over which I have no control. And I can still feel the tears trickling down my cheek as I realize that my children, like time, grow, change and move on without me.

I can’t control my children’s growth or the rapid flip of the calendar any more than I can control the landscape I pass every day on my way to and from work.

What I can do is appreciate the potential.

Roses might bloom in that now empty lot. Or a  young couple might build a house and start a family there. Or the lot might remain one of few empty green spaces where people can walk their dogs while enjoying fresh air.

But I have no doubt that the space is destined for something meaningful that will make the world a better place.

Just as I believe my children are destined to make a positive  mark on this ever-changing world.  And like the empty lot, their quickly fading childhood needs to be appreciated rather than mourned, celebrated instead of regretted and, most of all, serve as the foundation for something even greater.