Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Truth

Conversation is so important, and one at a family dinner table changed both Anna Cate's and my perspective this week. 

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Throughout life, people close to me describe me as open.  One friend in my 20s told me that I not only cross the line, I crash fences with my openness; my mother says I'm a sharer; my dear friend Mary Helen told me last week that she loves how honest I am with the people I love. Those are the kind words; I've also heard that I'm too much for people. My lack of control with what I say makes people feel uncomfortable. I know some people who I suspect don't like me because I'm overbearing. I'm sort of digressing but what I'm getting to is that I want to live out in the light, to tell the truth.

So in all that I do with my children and family, I am open and honest.  When the kids are making me frustrated, I tell them that they are ungrateful. When I'm mad at BJ, I don't go behind a closed door to discuss it (although this might be the best way to handle it).  When Anna Cate asked me if girls could marry girls, I said of course they can. She knows that gay is when you want to kiss a girl if you are a girl, or a boy if you are a boy.  My girls know about death because a significant person in their life is gone, BJ's mother. I try to put things in kid friendly language but I like to consider myself a shameless truth teller like Glennon Melton, but there is one issue I've tiptoed around in raising daughters, one that has caused me a lot of pain -- weight.

All my life I've struggled with my weight, and have poured my heart into being of healthy mind, body and soul as I seek to evolve into my authentic self.  I've raised my kids to use concepts like healthy versus junk food.  But in the past couple years, Anna Cate has gone through times where she fixates on food. She thinks about it and talks about it a lot. I don't deny her completely but I certainly restrict it, which seems to cause her to want it more. Also in the last couple years, she has developed a belly of which she is becoming self conscious.

I wish I could make this journey for her.

 I wish I could hand her the acceptance and love and willpower and health and strength and all that this journey has provided me. I worry that I'm passing on my shame or my insecurities and I have struggled with how to handle it. When I hear her feel sad about her belly, I ask myself I should say, "well then quit eating junk food or begging me for it all the time?"  I have counseled with very dear girlfriends about this. I truly am at a loss. Do I honestly tell her that she is eating too much, or do I just give it up and let her get heavy and experience all the sadness I did as an adolescence?

We were watching home videos the night of my birthday when the cute little Sarah turned into the awkward 10 year old. Molly called me fat mama, Anna Cate said, "were there every any vegetables in your house?" I watched myself trip over and fall on a new toy of my brother's at Christmas, ruining the toy. 

I was laughing so hard but before I knew it, I was crying. Those feelings of shame and worthlessness attached to a poor body image are right below the surface. After the girls went to bed, I told BJ -- this is why I'm so hard on Anna Cate to eat healthy, to stay active, to love her body. I don't want her to experience this.

  So I focus on health, things you should tell every kid, but in the back of my mind I'm thinking, "I'm just trying to help you not get heavy like I did." We utilize strategies like telling her to slow down when she eats, drink a cup of water if you are still hungry, we tell her how proud we are of her swimming. I encourage her to work out with me. When she says something about her body, I say oh honey, "that's just the way God made you. You are beautiful? Don't you think I'm pretty? I have a belly" I try to never talk badly about myself in front of either of the girls.

On vacation, we ate  ice cream every day and she chose whatever she wants, but when we get back to our regular life, she knows what she can have at the ice cream stand on swim meets -- the fruit popsicles. But she begs for the snickers and held up the line asking 5 times for it.

 She asks at lunch if she can have a treat for dinner, too.  I pray for patience. I want to help but I just don't know which is the right path. I ask myself, "is this really worth the fight?" I tell her, "I think God gave me your body perfect I want to keep it that way. The same reason we put suncreen on to protect our skin is why we eat and live healthily to take care of the body God gave us."

Let me summarize:

-My kid is built like her Daddy and me.
-We focus on healthy food, active lifestyles.
-She wants junk food.
-At the pediatricians' office, we are told to watch her BMI. I notice pants that won't zip and I am sad for her, but I would never show it. She says things like, "I wish I could look like ___" I focus on her beauty and try to model acceptance.
-I don't want to pass on this shame. I want to protect her, but I don't know how. The truth is that this is how our bodies are. We will never be skinny but there are certainly things we can do, so I try. When she talks about our body, I talk about acceptance. In other conversations, I focus on health.

Well, the other night at dinner Anna Cate scarfed something down, asked for more carbs, took something off Molly's plate, something so insignificant and common I don't truly remember what it was. BJ said something like, "Anna Cate if you eat too much, you will get bigger." She was shocked. What?!  He then proceeded to explain to her about your body using what it needs and storing the rest for fat. Consumption, Energy, Calories.

She was stunned. Really? She did not know that there was a connection. She thought as long as you eat vegetables that you would be healthy, which is why when she saw the video of my chunky self she asked if we had vegetables in our house.  Anna Cate said, "you always just say this is how God made me." I said, oh that's true but if you eat too much you will get bigger, even if you eat too much good food. Shocked she said, and I quote verbatim, "this is important information. Is there anything else you should be telling me?" Oh honey, in time.

That was 5 days ago and her habits have changed overnight. She no longer begs me for junk food, I notice her going to get a glass of water before dinner. When she chose her lunch today, she said, "that's a healthy choice." So she sees the main idea is health but there is another, more immediate consequence or outcome: waist size.

In reflecting on this little vignette of my daughter's growing up to understand the world and the way our bodies work, I'm reminded that there are oh, so many ways we can mess up our children. I thought I was handling it all the right ways, focusing on health and acceptance but it was the brutal truth from her Daddy that made the difference.  Kids can handle the truth, or at least mine can.

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No legacy is so rich as Honesty. ~ William Shakespeare

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Family Vacation

I love vacation. I used to have this need to productive, on which I've pretty much given up. Vacation epitomizes the let go of such a need.  This year, we rented a house from friends who own a fabulous home Topsail Island, North Caroline. 

The back deck overlooked the dock on the sound and was a perfect spot. 
 We were a short walk to the beach, across a street and onto a boardwalk.

 Both the girls love the water, and deal with the sand.  As Molly said, "I'm an ocean person, but I hate the sand."
Like so many other things I experience with my girls, I'm flooded with memories of my own childhood. I remember moving own past the crashing waves to to the "upsy-downsies" as Douglas and I called them. We would just enjoy the gentle rise and fall of the waves. I feel a little bit like I'm at that stage of life. We've passed the crashing waves of babyhood and can enjoy the rhythm of my daughters whose personality I can enjoy. 

We savored time together, enjoying both the beach and the dock (as well as too much tv time for the kids). A couple nights BJ caught dinner appetizers of shrimp and crabs. Molly enjoyed helping out.

A King family tradition is ice cream every single night.

I enjoyed working out....Here is me doing a burpee. One of the things I love so much about crossfit and running is that it is versatile in its utility in my life wherever I may be.
I had a lot of fun using the kids as weights from a great WOD (workout of the day).
 A  blessed bonus to this year's vacation was that Becki and Kitty came.

 And, Topsai is near Wilmington, NC the home of Mary Helen Smith. Mary Helen is like a sister, aunt and second mother all wrapped into one. I just love this woman. We sat on this dock and reflected on life and our relationship. In many ways, she knows me as well as any soul on the planet, so to have love from someone that close is a beautiful thing. I love this woman so much.

 Her son and my brother were roomates in college, so it is by chance that we met and by divine providence that we became kindred spirits.

 We also were privileged to get a visit from Meg Beazley, a dear friend, warrior for love and life.

We soaked up the sun, washed off the sand, frolicked and relaxed, as I caught glimpses of my daughter's childhoods by the shore.. 

 The last morning, Mom, Anna Cate and I soaked in a sun rise together.

 Mom looked for shark's teeth.
 I enjoyed the setting.

When we dropped her off at the airport, there wear tears to go with the silly faces.
 But the dock, the beach, the waves and the ice cream don't hold a candle to the time together as family.

We have the memories.

“Nothing is ever really lost to us as long as we remember it.” 
― L.M. MontgomeryThe Story Girl


“What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.”  ― Kurt Vonnegut

One of the things that I things my kids might be missing out on is a sense of community.  I love all that suburbia has to offer but I get disgruntled by the lack of character. Like I've said before here, I think the character lies in small towns or in the cities and the in-between is just sort of blah.

However, I know that character comes from within and community forms wherever people are gathered.  Character appears where you look for it, and characters to be enjoyed. Summer experiences with church and our community swim team remind me that we do have community.

The girls participated in Vacation Bible School last week and seeing their (as well as all the other kids) enthusiasm brings back such happy memories of childhood. We didn't have loud speakers to sing the songs but the joy for the Spirit is pretty much the same.

The playing and activities were fabulous, but clearly the songs are what makes Vacation Bible School so special.  On the first afternoon, we were home baking and the girls broke out in song.

The girls feel so comfortable at church as you can see them having a picnic lunch in Patti's office. I packed their lunch so we could leave straight to the gym. Mama's got get a work out. 

Swim team.....

The team needed to raise money so they hosted a swim-a-thon. Anna Cate's goal was to do 20 laps, which I doubted she would complete. I sent a text to close friends saying something like, "I just want Anna Cate to feel inspired to swim and a part of her team so if you would pledge just a nickel, you'd give her a $1. Her goal is 20 laps." Well, our sweet friends came in with generous pledges and Anna Cate swam one evening by herself with her coach and swam 40 laps, non stop. I think she did it for her team. She understands community.

Aunt Sarah came to cheer her on and wrote a check 

We had our final home meet last night and enjoyed an undefeated season. Here is Anna Cate with her buddy who cheers her on as well as brings her treats before a meet.

 Anna Cate checks in with her coaches before each event and I love listening to the tips.

As Anna Cate headed to her event, I caught this picture of our friend Michelle, another swim team mom, as she tucked her hair into the cap. . .the details of community.

In reflecting on our experiences of the summer, I'm comforted knowing that our girls are growing up in some sort of community with their fellow man. I'm reminded of the old Testament verse, "We drink from wells we did not dig; we are warmed by fires we did not kindle." I find myself so grateful for the servants who create such experiences, and hope I do enough to take care of the wells and fires of our communities even if it doesn't look exactly what like what I had. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

37...Celebrating & Serving

I celebrated my 37th birthday with my family as we enjoyed Father's Day as well, but I stole some time away for a birthday gift from me to me -- a long (slow) run by myself in a nearby battlefield whose open road amidst the tree-line gives me the space to breathe, sweat and reflect.
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 Like most  runs surrounded by natural beauty, I spend the time feeling grateful for the way my legs shift from lumbering awkwardly into comfortable and natural strides. The spiritual bliss sustained by deep breaths and heat flushing over my body releases my ego and helps me let go of to-do lists.  As much as I spend my life feeling grateful and noticing the deeper truths and meaning to life, I also ruminate in my head feeling overwhelmed all too often.  My lack of attention (ADD) and anxiety often make minuscule routines and  tasks seem insurmountable to me, which is quite selfish I've decided but it is who I am. Running forces me to me focus on my authentic life experiences as I give in to the effort of my body.  Its like there isn't room in my head for the pounding heartbeat and the overwhelming thoughts, so I get to let go of the futile frets that plague me for a while

On this year's birthday run, I found myself reflecting on the usual spiritual releases, but more than anything I thought about the special visit we had the day before with my dear friend Danielle, her nephew and his family.  Dani is a dear friend from college whose glamorous-to-me New York City life coupled with her jet-setting fancy travels abroad are only outmatched by her down-to-earth charm, joy for life and witty kindness. I love her and it was so special to get just a couple hours with her.

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She was close to us, over in Maryland, visiting her nephew (who is near to our age), Ryan, an Army officer, who graduated from a pilot school through the Naval Academy. I have been familiar with his story -- he and his wife, Kate, have two children. Their oldest Mary is close to Anna Cate's age, and she was diagnosed early with Spinal Muscular Atrophy and the level of care she requires is something which seems actually overwhelming, unlike my trivial worries. She eats through a feeding tube but when we sat down to enjoy the picnic lunch Dani had set out for us, Ryan placed Mary's chair across from Anna Cate and made her a sandwich cut in a heart shape. He got up three times since she wanted more shredded cheese and twice to let her get a different colored straw. Mary didn't eat or drink but sat at table with us as she and Anna Cate talked about Disney shows, swimming and Mary's summer camp experience where she got to swing. Afterwards we sat outside, and Mary wanted to sit in her Dad's lap so that Anna Cate could sit next to her in the rocking chair.  
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Dani later told me that every month of Mary's life, they celebrate with a cake. It reminds me of the Bible verse, "Man does not live by bread alone..." Matthew 4:4.  On my run, this special time I carved out for my own celebration of life,  I relived the blessing to witness such love and appreciation for life, such devotion as a parent. The care and service provided to Mary is almost as beautiful as her sweet spirit.  

How many times do I get annoyed when my girls ask for a different spoon, a different cup or a different color straw?! Here, in the midst of my feeling like my kids are super needy and that whatever I do is never enough, I felt honored to witness such pure devotion and joy for taking care of a child, a precious gift. 

When I returned from my run, I found BJ and the girls waiting for me with orange scones they picked up from Panerra, which taste exactly like my Grandmother's orange chiffon cake. BJ and the girls dug out some candles and when I walked in the door, Molly said we are going to sing Happy Birthday and celebrate you, "so let's get started." 

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So my take-away from my 37th birthday is noticing the beauty in service and celebration. 

“I slept and I dreamed that life is all joy. I woke and I saw that life is all service. I served and I saw that service is joy.” 
― Kahlil Gibran

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Summer Memories in the Making

I have used photobucket to keep our pictures and it no longer cooperates as easily with blogger for me to click and drag easily, and this has given me a little bit of blogger block. So I've decided I want to spend more time writing when I want to write and not necessarily wait until I have pictures to go with my thoughts, so I'm going to try a new format for my blog. I'm going to enter essays more often that might be without pictures of the girls.  However this is going to be a recap in pictures (and some words) of our summer thus far.

Summer has kicked off with trips to the pool, the beach, the library and the gym. Here are a few scenes of our summer.

We go to the pool often and I'm so thankful for these sun guard shirts and the beautiful bodies and faces I'm trying to protect.
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And I want include mine in the bodies I'm trying to protect. I wear a hat, a rash guard shirt and 30 or 50 so if you see me tan this summer, it will come from a spray tan booth.
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Molly is cuddle extraordinaire, which is lovely for the time with her but her mode of cuddling is anything but soothing. She rubs my neck and back and forth which is sweet while I'm awake and very annoying when I'm trying to sleep.  Thankfully, I am sometimes able to convince her to cuddle with her sweetheart, Rosie.
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BJ and I enjoyed a date night in the form of an outdoor wedding the night before my birthday.
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Virginia is so beautiful.
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My 37th birthday fell on Father's Day so we enjoyed a dual celebration.
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The girls have spent time with their best friends, Leana and Luke. These girls dressed alike without a memo.
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One afternoon Luke and Leana came over for a quick visit and I took them to the pool. When we got home, I hopped in the shower and came out to this....A wedding for Molly and Luke.  Leana and Anna Cate dressed Molly up, put a pillow case over her head for a veil. AC got a children's bible and made up vows.
(look at the flower Luke is holding)
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Maybe they took the kiss a little too seriously.
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Swim team is in full swing and AC has two meets under her belt.  Her first home meet she was honored to have Baba and Miss Diana to come cheer her on and they helped me entertain Molly Mae.
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I've enjoyed some relaxing evenings, with  good reads. Most recently I finished "Rules of Inheritance."
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And I've enjoyed some ice cream, for the record.

We took a day trip to DC for a Nats game which luckily co-incided with my best friend's mother's trip to the city. We met for breakfast and enjoyed visiting.
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The girls enjoyed peanuts and cracker jacks at the game as well as the company of Miss Sam, in whose wedding they will be flowers girls this December.
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Last week, Anna Cate, Molly and I took a trip to a Delaware beach with our dear friends Laurie, Evan and Jackson. Evan and Anna Cate had experienced the beach together as babies.

Then          And         Now

I made a video slide show of our pictures. There were lots of memories made and I find myself feeling so grateful for friends and family with whom to make these memories.  Of course there is whining that drives me crazy or constant tattling but those aren't the memories I think will last -- these are.

DELWAREBEACH from Sarah King on Vimeo.

Most notably to me is that Anna Cate got her sunrise because Laurie woke up before dawn and slipped into her room to take her out.

“If you want to be reminded of the love of the Lord, just watch the sunrise.” 
― Jeannette WallsHalf Broke Horses