In Others' WordsIn Others' Words

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Tragedy in Bailey, Colorado

The photos on the front page of today's local newspapers capture the aftermath of incomprehensible violence.

Yesterday, September 27, a gunman entered a Bailey, Colorado high school. He took six students--all girls--hostage. Despite the efforts of local police and a SWAT team, the standoff ended with the gunman killing one of his hostages and then killing himself.

It's said that a picture is worth a thousand words. The news photos seem to scream the pain of parents and students. One headline reads, "UNSPEAKABLE."

I know that people will ask "Why?" and "How?" even as those involved--students, teachers, families, police--try to put the pieces together and explain what happened.

But you can't explain away the anguish. I wish I could say I mourn for the gunman, that I can spare some mercy for him. But I can't.

I grieve for the parents who sent their daughter to school yesterday--just a typical school day--and who are facing the heartbreaking reality that their sixteen-yar-old daughter will never come home again.

I have no answers, no easy way to shrug off what happened. I know life is hard--sometimes harder than I ever imagined. I also believe there is a God in heaven who loves us and who is sovereign over all of this.

Sometimes it seems impossible to reconcile those two beliefs.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Mommy-Come-Lately Top Ten

Last weekend I had lunch with two other late-in-life moms. Ever the journalist, I pulled out my yellow legal pad and a pen and got ready to take notes.

"So, what's on your minds?" I asked.

Here's their Top Ten list:
  • Balancing life as a late-in-life mom
  • Helping husbands adjust to late-in-life fatherhood
  • Coping with fatigue and physical complications after pregnancy
  • Facing menopause (Need I say more?)
  • Breaking through the age barrier--Is it possible to connect with those much younger moms?
  • Coping with older parents and young children
  • Finding childcare options
  • Developing a support system
  • Being the oldest parent in your child's class
  • Meeting the demands of marriage, friends, and kids

Their observations were right on target. In upcoming blogs, I'll tackle each topic on the Top Ten.

I invite everyone else to weigh in!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Finding Your Groove as a Late-in-Life Mom

I met up with a friend at a conference this past weekend. She is a sleep-deprived, forty-something mommy of a three-month-old baby boy and a ten- year-old daughter.

"I want you to tell me how to get my groove back," she told me.

I didn't say anything then because I don't believe in challenging conversations with an exhausted woman.

But here's what I would have said:

"Whatever groove you get back isn't going to be the one you had before you became a Mommy-come-lately!"

Successfully mothering my late-in-life child, Christa, required letting go of life as I knew it. Only then could I fully embrace my daughter--and all the changes she brought to my life.

I'll admit, letting go wasn't easy. I liked what my life looked like B.C. (Before Christa.) Some of the dreams I'd set aside while my first three children were growing up were finally coming true. Truth be told, I resented the about-face my life took when I had a baby at forty-one.

But I'm almost six years into life as a Mommy-come-lately--and I love my life now as much as I loved my life before. It's a whole new groove--and I wouldn't want it any other way.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

What is it about Moms?

I'm traveling to Nashville tomorrow to attend the Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) national convention. I'll be gone three days--that's it, three short days.
And Christa is none too thrilled about my leaving.

She's clung to me and cried. She's crawled up into my lap and wrapped her arms around me and said, "I don't want you to go."

The funny thing is, I remember doing the same thing to my mom when she went away for a weekend--a very rare occurence for my mom, I might add. I'm sure the last thing she saw in her rearview mirror was my woebegone face watching her drive away.

Sorry about that, Mom.

Christa has a wonderful, caring dad. She has three older siblings who love her too. But in some ways I am the center of her universe. And she doesn't like me messing with her "orbit" and throwing her off kilter by going away for a weekend.

It's part of a mom's job description: "Center of a child's universe."

And yet, even as Christa holds on to me, I know part of my responsiblity is to love my child enough to encourage her to let go of me. Not so I get my breathing space--although I need some of that too--but so she is able to grab ahold of all that is waiting for her out in the world.

I'm not rushing her growing up--but I don't want her to miss it, either.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Going Around the Block Again

Nobody ever warned me how much effort is involved in being a mom.

Maybe other more experienced moms--including my own mom--realized that, no matter what they said, they could never prepare me for the demands of children. Or maybe they just chuckled to themselves and said, "She'll find out--one of these days, she'll find out!"

When I learned I was most-unexpectedly pregnant again at 41, I did know how demanding, exhausting, challenging--and yes, rewarding--motherhood is. I'd already "mostly" raised three kids. And, one of my first thoughts was, "Can I do this again?"

While there are lots of different mothering styles, there are some things that are not optional. Being a mom means being available. Being a mom means being tired. Being a mom means having your heart ache whenever your child is hurt. Being a mom means considering someone else more important than yourself. It can't be all about me, me, me when I have a young child to nurture and discipline.

Some days I just don't want to. (I know, I sound like a two-year-old.)

And then Christa says something like, "You know what I like, Mom?"
And I ask, "What do you like, Christa?"
And she says, "I like you."

And it's worth it.

I'm learning that it's not so much about me or about Christa. It's about us. It's about developing a relationship with my five-year-old that will flourish right through the 'tween and teen years.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Laughter of Children

I did a lot of different things today--a lot of good things like critiquing a few articles and having some family time and eating out at the Pita Pit with Rob and Christa and Amy.

But, do you want to know what was the best part of my day?

Hearing my five year old laugh.

Even now hours later, if I close my eyes and just listen, I hear her laughter dancing across the coolness of the Colorado morning and right into my heart.

Somehow, children's laughter holds their innocence and their exuberance and joy.

It's a precious, precious commodity in this too busy world.

At one time, I had a small clay bottle with the words "The Laughter of Children" written across the front. Just glancing at that bottle brought back echoes of my four children's laughter--and made me smile. Sometimes I'd even uncork the bottle and imagine their giggles and chuckles and belly laughs escaping and swirling around me.

I remembered the times Josh watched an old Dick Van Dyke show and laughed until he was red in the face and crying. Or the time we played cards--every time we played cards--and Katie Beth and Amy got the giggles so bad we all just laughed along with them. Or Christa's delighted squeals of laughter when someone chased her around the house until she was caught in a bear hug.

Well, one day, that little clay bottle got broken. That's okay--it's just a thing. I still have my children's laughter tucked away in my heart. Now that's something worth cherishing.

Just one of those times

Last night, exhaustion overwhelmed all my good intentions. I didn't blog. I didn't work on my next book proposal or critique manuscripts from my writers group. I didn't even clean the kitchen.
Instead, I fell asleep on the couch--and my husband fell asleep on the other couch.
I am thankful Christa was just as exhausted, thanks to a full week of kindergarten activities. So, for once, it wasn't a matter of running out of energy long before my five-year-old did.
I think that's one common fear among late-in-life moms (and dads.) We are afraid we aren't going to keep up with all the activity a young child thrives on. Sure, we talk about older being wiser. But older for me also means I get tired sooner.
People like to say, "I bet Christa keeps you young!"
My reply?
"Christa keeps me tired."

That's one of my realities of being a older mom.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Postpartum Depression: Just one more thing

Even as I hop down from my "soapbox" blogging about postpartum depression, I want to keep the conversation going.
Women are, for the most part, all about relationship. We want to get to know other women--and we want to be known.
But real relationship involves talking about the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful. Talking about the days we feel like the best mom in the world--and the days we feel like Cruella Da Ville. Talking about making memories and making mistakes. Talking about feeling so good we wish the day would never end--and feeling so bad we wish we'd never gotten out of bed in the morning.
Sometimes struggling with depression becomes our dirty little secret that we keep all to ourselves.
But there is nothing heinous about being depressed before, during, or after your baby is born. There should be no scarlet "D" emblazoned on a woman's chest if she struggles with one month of "the Blues" or eight months of postpartum depression.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

A Few Stats on Postpartum Depression

According to recent medical reports:

  • Seven out of ten postpartum women will experience "the Blues."
  • Another one or two of these women will suffer from postpartum depression.
  • And another .01 percent will battle postpartum psychosis.

If you get together with nine of your friends--that makes ten altogether, right?--seven of you will experience "the Blues."

One or two of those seven will struggle with postpartum depression.

Stating the obvious:

Having a baby puts a "bullseye" on you facing emotional upheaval--insomnia, irritability, depression.

You're probably thinking: Tell me something I don't already know. It's all part of having a baby.

My question? Is postpartum depression getting talked about more in the media--radio, television, magazines, newspapers--than it is being talked about within our personal lives?

I don't know. You tell me.

To be continued . . .

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Older, Wiser--and More Honest

My book, BABY CHANGES EVERYTHING: Embracing and Preparing for Motherhood After 35, is being published by Revell next summer. Once that book hits the shelves, a lot of people are going to know how old I was when Christa was born (41) and how old I am now (47.)

I told my older brother, Bobby, I was glad that the book wasn't about weight gain/loss because no one--not even the DMV--knows my real weight.

The most rewarding and fun thing about writing the book was interviewing dozens of other Mommies-come-lately. Their stories provide such depth to BABY CHANGES EVERYTHING. The book isn't about me--it's about us. It's about women who chose to be late-in-life moms and about women (like me) who encountered an unexpected blessing.

Every woman I interviewed--women like Susie and Peggy and Margo and Torie--felt that being older meant they were wiser. And, I gotta' agree with them. During my 20s and 30s, I learned how to fight fair and to forgive and to choose what was most important. Now that I'm in my 40s, I know how to pick my battles and how to say I'm sorry and how to recognize when something just isn't that big of a deal, no matter what anyone else says.

During those "acquiring wisdom" years, I also learned to be honest. Hence, my desire to write honestly.

Which brings me to my next topic: Postpartum depression.

Are we as women being honest about our emotional ups and downs during and after pregnancy? Are we talking to our girlfriends, our spouses, our doctors--anyone--about "the blues?"

To be continued . . .

Monday, September 11, 2006

Tomorrow is Another Day

Today Christa wanted to throw a Frisbee. To be more specific, she wanted to throw a Frisbee to me and have me throw it back to her. You know how it goes.

We didn't play Frisbee today. So now it's the end of the day and I'm asking myself why. Why didn't I take time/make time to throw that Frisbee with my kindergartner?

We ran errands together. We read library books together. We did some homework together. (Yep, there's homework in kindergarten!) I taught her how to make pizza rollups, which used to be a favorite with her siblings.

But I think--I know--#1 on Christa's To Do list was throwing her new Disney Princess Frisbee.

But it wasn't #1 on my To Do list.

So, is it time to succumb to an overwhelming case of Mommy guilt? Is it time to look at myself in the mirror and say, "You are a bad Mommy because you didn't play Frisbee?"

I've decided not to let guilt win out today. I choose to look at all we did do--and be thankful for it. I am thankful for holding her hand while we walked through Target. I am thankful that we took a birthday cake and flowers to my husband's office manager. I am thankful we listened to Adventures in Oddysey on the radio and that we rolled out pizza dough.

We did a lot today. Not everything--but a lot of good things.

And tomorrow, Christa and I'll play Frisbee.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Simple Pleasures are the Best

My husband Rob had surgery today. It was same day surgery, so we were able to get Christa to school in the morning.

It's challenging to explain the idea of surgery to a five year old. I mean, how do you tell them someone is going to cut on your body--and that's a good thing? I don't think Christa understood, but she did know she wanted her class to pray for her dad today.

After school, she went home with some friends. We picked her up around dinner time. Rob and I were exhausted--and thankful the surgery went well. After a full day of school and then several hours playing at a friend's house, Christa was tired too.

When it was time for bed, Christa asked her dad to carry her upstairs. Rob explained he couldn't--and that he won't be able to pick her up for a while. That's part of their bedtime routine--a giggling Christa slung over her dad's shoulder and carried upstairs.

Christa took the "No carrying" announcement pretty well. Then she looked up at her dad and asked, "Well, can you snuggle?"

Rob assured her snuggles were still okay.

"That's good," Christa replied.

And then she happily walked upstairs to have some snuggle time with her dad.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Reality Check

When my first three children were younger, they established a Vogt family motto. It goes like this:

Always hungry.
Never tired.

That pretty much summed up what it was like to have three young kids in the house. They were constantly clamoring for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. In between times, it was all about snacks!

And no matter how busy our day was, no matter how early they woke up or how late they went to bed, they were never, ever tired.

Five-year-old Christa is carrying on the "Always hungry, never tired" theme begun by her older siblings. Just today I chatted on the phone with my mom. At one point I said, "I need to get Christa to bed. She is so tired now that she's going to kindergarten."

"No, I'm not! I am never tired!" Christa insisted.

And most days it seems that way. Christa has a limitless source of energy. The reality is I don't. Whatever resilience I had in my twenties and thirties was long gone by the time Christa was born. As my caboose kid, Christa gets the old mom. She gets the tired mom.

That's my reality--and hers too. Sometimes I feel guilty that I can't rewind the clock and be young again--no matter what the vitamin or cosmetic companies try to sell. I'm forty-seven years old and I'm only getting older.

But I am learning to be content about my age too. I'm calmer at forty-seven than I was in my twenties. I've fought some battles with my older kids and now I know what's important and what's not. Mothering my first three kids involved a lot of on-the-job-training. Now Christa benefits from my years of mothering experience.

Older? Yes. More tired? Yes. Wiser? I certainly think so. And wisdom only comes with time. For that reason alone I'm accepting getting older.


Having three older children provides an interesting perspective on watching Christa grow up.

I know Christa will be eighteen a lot sooner than I think because I'm still wondering how her brother and sisters grew up so fast. One day they were little kids sprawled on the family room floor while I read Little House on the Prairie out loud to them. The next thing I knew, one had a college degree, one was dissecting cadavars in nursing school, and one was heading to Guatemala for the summer.

It all happened so fast--those homework and sporting events and band concerts and best friends and "I-don't-know-what-I-want-to-be-when-I-grow-up" years.

One of my greatest joys of being a mom is seeing my now young adult children become who they were meant to be--who God made them to be. To see them pursue a dream and make it come true. To see them rise to the challenge of college or finding a job and succeeding. I realize that, even if Josh and Katie Beth and Amy weren't my children, I would like them. It's a special privilege to love my children. It is a special joy to like them.

I look forward to Christa becoming who she is meant to be. I eagerly anticipate hearing about her hopes and dreams--and then seeing them come true. But I'm in no rush. It'll be here soon enough. Right now it's all about taking time. Taking time to be the mom of a young child--opening a new copy of Little House on the Prairie and continuing a treasured family tradition.

I'm thankful that I have another chance.

Monday, September 04, 2006

It's Nice to Get to Know You

I met another Mommy-come-lately the other day.

I enjoyed hearing her story and sharing a bit of mine. There was an instant camaraderie between us. We were both "repeater" Mommies-come-lately, juggling the needs of a young child and much older siblings.

Like so many late-in-life moms, having a baby at forty was Marla's choice. She and her husband wanted another baby.

Marla has five boys. That's right--five boys. Her oldest is a sophomore in high school. Her youngest is almost three weeks old. There is an entire decade between her newborn and her next oldest son. Already, one of Marla's joys is watching her older sons love on their little brother.

My caboose kid, Christa, loved holding that little baby too. She beamed with joy and gave him sweet little kisses on his forehead. As I watched her, I realized Christa is rarely around someone younger than her. It was a treat for her to hold a baby. And yes, she now wants a baby brother.

Tell the Kids I Love Them

A few years ago, there was a billboard campaign that displayed sayings from God. Well, at least the sayings were somebody's idea about what God might want to say to us.

My favorite one said Tell the kids I love them.

I think that is one of our priviliges at parents: We get to tell our kids that God loves them. And, we get to tell our kids we love them too.

Through the years, I developed a habit of slipping in to my kids' bedrooms at night and giving them one last kiss goodnight. Most of the time they were sleeping, so they didn't know.

But I did.

There is one less child to kiss goodnight in the house these days. But with all the belongings she packed up and moved to her new apartment, I hope she took memories of millions of "I love you's." I hope tucked inside her heart are those nighttime kisses.

And I hope I said "I love you" enough times so that she'll never, ever forget it.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

A Little Bit Happy and A Little Bit Sad

"Why isn't Katie Beth living at home anymore?"

The question from five-year-old Christa came unexpectedly. Yes, we'd talked about her sister moving into her own apartment. Most times, Christa made short work of our conversations, moving on to more interesting topics like playing at the park or watching a favorite movie.

Yesterday, Katie Beth moved out. Several friends came over and loaded her stuff--books, desk, bed, Cinderella memorabilia-- into their cars. Christa didn't say much until after Katie Beth left. As we walked upstairs to her bedroom, she said, "Oh, I think I am going to cry now."

So, she and I sat on her bed and we both cried.

Later, Christa went with her dad and me as we bought a few groceries to take over to Katie Beth. Christa's contributions? Two ears of corn and two baking potatoes. Go figure.

After a quick tour of her sister's new place, Christa settled in the spacious "Papa-san" chair and watched Peter Pan with a few of Katie Beth's friends.

Back to today and her "Why" question.

Rob and I explained that when children grow up they want to be independent. We said most children don't live with their parents once they get older. We assured her Katie Beth loved her and was still her sister. And then we asked how Christa felt.

"I'm a little bit happy and a little bit sad," she said. "I'm happy because it was fun to go to Katie Beth's apartment and sit in that chair. I always wanted a chair like that. And I'm sad too because I miss her."

That about sums it up.

A little bit happy and a little bit sad.

Me too.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Not So Empty Nest

My son Josh moved to New York City this summer and landed a job at Simon and Schuster. (I confess: I am a little jealous!) It's odd to be living out west while Josh lives on the east coast.
My daughter, Katie Beth, moves out tomorrow.
I'm okay with that. Really. It's the right time, the right roommate. It's her next big step to independence.
And, yes, I will cry tomorrow when she packs her stuff up and trucks it over to her new apartment.
My daughter, Amy, is home still. But, with college and work and friends, she's not home much.
So, the nest is emptying.

And then there's Christa.

While my three older children don't need home in the way they have for years, Christa still does. And a big part of home for her has been Josh and Katie Beth and Amy.

So, as I navigate this empty nest experience, I'm also trying to help Christa navigate it too. She needs to know that she and Katie Beth are still sisters--no matter where Katie Beth lives.

I can't stop Christa's siblings from growing up and moving away. I can't help Christa grow up any faster--nor would I want to. But walking this tightrope of empty nesting and still maintaining a home for my caboose kid is challenging.

And that's an understatement.

Friday, September 01, 2006

I'll Be Watching You

"Watch me, Mom!"

When our children are young, it's all about watching.
Watching them dance across the kitchen.
Watching them jump off the diving board.
Watching them perform a magic trick or two.
Watching them kick a soccer ball or hit a baseball or dribble a basketball.

Thanks to Christa, I am in the "Watch me, Mom" phase of life again. (With three older children, I know this is only a phase. My older kids rarely say, "Watch me, Mom!)

Sometimes I ignore Christa's plea because I'm busy doing something important--like loading the dishwasher or putting away laundry.

I miss her latest dance routine or song--and it's lost. For some reason, I thought socks and t-shirts were more important than watching my 5 year old create a moment of beauty that she wanted to share with me.

Motherhood is a lot about choices. It begins with a choice--and continues to be about the choices I make day to day. What's more important? Finishing a chore or watching my daughter--and letting her know she is important to me?

Sometimes I make the wrong choice. Sometimes I make the right choice. I'm realizing watching my daughter is another way of saying "I love you."

e-newsletter signup
Free Resources
Books and CDs
For Writers
For Moms Over 35