Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Two birthdays February 9, 2017

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Amber and Caleb. Minnesota Prairie Roots cell phone photo December 2016.

Amber and Caleb. Minnesota Prairie Roots cell phone photo December 2016.

TODAY AND TOMORROW, two of my three children turn another year older.

Now that they are adults (the daughter an hour away, the son in Boston), birthday celebrations have changed. I will celebrate belatedly with Amber by babysitting my 10-month-old granddaughter while she and her husband dine out. We’ll have a chocolate tofu pie upon their return, my contribution to the mini party.

As for Caleb, I hope to connect with him via Skype or a phone call. He’s young and single, less inclined to understand the need his mother has to talk to him on his birthday. At his early twenties age, friends take priority. No surprise there. I was once young.

Amber in 1986, sometime during her first year of life. The photo is not dated. A friend told me she looked just like the baby on the Gerber baby food jars.

Amber at six months.

Not that I was a young mother. I wasn’t, having given birth to my first daughter at age 29 ½ and to my son eight years later with another daughter in between.

Motherhood shifts behavior and thoughts to a primeval need to nurture, protect and love our children. And as the years pass, that never changes.

For his eighth birthday, Caleb's sisters created a PEEF cake for their brother.

For his eighth birthday, Caleb’s sisters created a PEEF cake for their brother.

My children’s birthdays bring now a certain melancholy in that I miss them and birthday dinners out followed by the ritual of singing “Happy Birthday!” and then eating the homemade dessert of their choice, not always cake.

But this is the logical progression of parenthood—this move of our children toward independence, beginning at birth.

Today and tomorrow, I will honor my youngest and my oldest by thinking of them, their lives and the blessings they have given me as their mother. I love them deeper than the ocean, higher than the skies. I will always love them and encourage them. They are of me and that connection binds us always on their birthdays.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

My thoughts on motherhood after 30 years as a mom May 8, 2016

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My mother, Arlene, and me.

My mother, Arlene, and me.

IN THIS SEASON OF MY LIFE, in the year I reach a milestone decade, I have watched my eldest daughter become a mother to sweet Isabelle. This has proven a contemplative time for me as I think of my own aging mother, of my aging self, of my daughter now a mother.

Daughter to daughter to daughter to daughter, we are linked as family. Eighty-four years separate youngest and oldest.

I cannot help but feel a certain sadness in this passage of time. Wasn’t it just yesterday that my preschool daughter hovered over tulips in our front yard, observing that “the flowers are opening their mouths?”

Why do I remember that? And why do I remember my mom once so fed up with her six squabbling children that she threatened to run away?

There are certain moments in motherhood that stand out: My second daughter sticking a red hot up her nose when we were decorating Christmas cookies. My son struck by a car 10 years ago, the day before Mother’s Day. The first time my eldest went on a mission trip to Texas and I struggled with this long-distance separation. The call from my second daughter that she’d been mugged while traveling in Argentina.

I joke sometimes that I should have locked my kids in the basement in an attempt to keep them safe. While that may have spared me a lot of worry and heartache, it would have been wrong. Mothers instinctively want to protect their children. But we also instinctively guide them out the door into the world.

If only I’d known then what I know now. How true that adage. To every young mom who struggles with a night owl infant, a tantrum throwing two-year-old, a defiant middle-schooler, I want to advise her that these moments are nothing. Nothing. These are manageable situations.

We never know what life will bring to our families. Joys. Challenges beyond anything we ever could have imagined. But one thing remains constant for me as a mother. I love my children today as much as the day they were born.
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To all of you mothers out there, Happy Mother’s Day!

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Thoughts on motherhood May 9, 2014

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I love this crazy, loving photo of my three kids, taken in February 2003.

I love this crazy, fun-loving photo of my three kids, taken in February 2003.

HOW DO YOU DEFINE a mother’s love?

Endless, unconditional, unshakable, fierce, enduring? I would choose all.

Yes, I’m repeating myself with some of these adjectives. But so what.

I am a mother of three now grown children, all in their twenties. I always find “adult children” to be an oxymoron. Yet, no matter the age of our offspring, they remain always our children. Once a mother, always a mother. You never stop caring and worrying and, for me, praying.

Have my kids frustrated and maddened me? Sure they have. But I expect I’ve done the same. None of us—parent or child—is perfect. Far from it.

As a mother, I try to do the best I can. I’ve praised when deserved. I listen. I offer advice when necessary. After all I do have a few decades more of experience and wisdom. I support my children. Not always their actions and decisions, but them. There’s a difference.

I cherish my kids. I love them enough to let them go. And we’re not talking geographical distance, although two of my trio live 1,300 and 300 miles away. I’m referencing that proverbial cutting of the apron strings, that realization that this has been my goal, to raise and then let go.

There are days when I’d like to turn back the clock, to swoop my three back into our home,

Busted in October of 1988 sneaking cookies and "hiding" in the corner of the kitchen to eat them.

My daughters, busted in October of 1988 sneaking cookies and “hiding” in the corner of the kitchen to eat them.

to admonish preschoolers for sneaking cookies from the cookie jar before lunch (all the while stifling laughter),

My Tufts University computer science and mathematics majors son played with LEGOs constantly while growing up. This photo was taken in June 2003.

My current Tufts University computer science and mathematics majors son played with LEGOs constantly while growing up. This photo, taken in June 2003, shows the zoo he created using his imagination. No LEGO kit involved here.

to step upon an errant LEGO,

My eldest stars as a flower in the May 1992 school play, "Leo the Late Bloomer."

My eldest (standing) stars as a flower in the May 1992 Trinity Lutheran School play, “Leo the Late Bloomer.”

to sit through one more end of the school year musical in a stuffy gymnasium.

The son, left, the eldest, the son-in-law and the second eldest daughter.

The son, left, the eldest, the son-in-law and the second daughter. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo, December 2013, the last time my kids were together.

But time has passed. Snap. Just like that my kids are grown up, two working, one married, another still in college (and working this summer).

I am nearing sixty.

My own mother recently entered a nursing home.

Life changes.

But a mother’s love endures. Forever.

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HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY to all of you moms out there!

And to my three children and my son-in-law, I love each of you now and forever.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Reflecting on motherhood & my February babies February 7, 2013

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WHEN YOU ARE PARENTING little ones—changing diapers, wiping away boogers, dealing with temper tantrums—you wonder if you will ever have time for yourself again, even just a minute alone to go to the bathroom in peace.

My oldest daughter at 12 days old. Already then she was a Minnesota Twins fan, in this hand-me-down sleeper.

My oldest daughter at 12 days old. Already then she was a Minnesota Twins fan, in this hand-me-down sleeper.

Then, before you know it, your babes are off to kindergarten and the 24/7 parenting eases, even though you never truly stop parenting.

Several years later you are thrust into the turbulent teens which, in many ways, resemble the terrible twos you thought were left behind.

But soon enough, you are sitting on hard bleachers in a stuffy and crowded high school auditorium, a lump in your throat, tears rimming your eyes as your 18-year-old graduates. And in that moment you realize that your child, your baby, has grown up, just like that.

That realization particularly strikes me this February, the month in which my eldest and my youngest were born a day shy of eight years apart.

My 10 lb., 12 oz., son at two days old. He was the biggest baby in the nursery and the hospital did not have diapers to fit him.

My 10 lb., 12 oz., son at two days old. He was the biggest baby in the nursery and the hospital did not have diapers to fit him.

My son, my youngest, started college this past summer, 300 miles away in North Dakota.

His oldest sister fell in love this past year with a native Californian and I thought for awhile that she, too, might leave Minnesota like her brother and sister before her. But instead, the boyfriend moved here, to the Twin Cities.

Distance marks, for me, the most difficult part now of being a mother. Distance equals separation and not seeing my kids as often as I would like. Even though we talk on the phone, text and e-mail, that just is not the same as face-to-face communication or giving them a hug.

I joke to them that I should have locked them in the basement, not allowed them to go anywhere. But they know I jest because I have always encouraged them to pursue their dreams, to travel, to be adventurous. And they are, all three of them.

The eldest is spending her birthday in LA. The son will be celebrating in Fargo. And shortly after those birthdays, the other daughter will drive the 300 miles from northeastern Wisconsin back to Minnesota to board a plane for Argentina, 6,000 miles away. I try not to think about that distance, about her last visit there, when she was mugged.

Instead, I will focus on how blessed I am to be the mother of these three, to have nurtured and loved them, to delight now in the adults they have become, to cherish each moment I have with them.

My three, after the son's June 2012 graduation.

My three, after the son’s June 2012 graduation.

On the birth days of my children, I experienced a love unlike any other, for in their births I understood the enduring depths of a mother’s love.

Happy birthday to my two February babies! I love you now and forever.

To my other girl, I love you too. And remember, “home” is in the Midwest, not South America.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling