Wednesday, May 5, 2010

I Learned Mothering from Them: Part Four

I’ve learned valuable mothering skills from many different women. But my daily lessons in the trenches of motherhood have come alongside one irreplaceable woman—Everyone should be so lucky to have a Karen in their lives.
Karen Cole and me at Heidi's bridal shower, February 2010
I think we were friends from the first day we met—sometime in July of 1995 (yes, it’s been that long). I was pregnant with Ben and she was toting around baby Logan. Side by side we’ve mastered many of motherhood’s toughest curve balls: for her—debilitating headaches (hers and her daughter’s) and fear of recurrent cancer. For me—loss of a child and first child to leave the nest. Together we’ve tackled brilliant kids, stubborn kids, lazy kids, ornery kids, competitive kids. We’ve spent hours scrapbooking (back in the days of preschoolers), shopping (Black Friday), confiding, commiserating.

I kept her three kids for ten days while she and Ken explored the wilds of Alaska. She kept my three oldest while we trekked Europe. In those days, her three and my three were as interchangeable as legos—one morning here, the next afternoon there. Whose shorts are these?  Don't know, just wear them.  If Karen said to do it, it was the same as Mom. She taught my kids that Ding-Dongs are grown-up food, and I taught her kids the difference between green peppers and cucumbers. Ben learned to love dogs at her house, and Brenn and Dallin learned to play the piano at mine. We potty-trained together, we sewed costumes together, and we laughed together. I forgave her for Tucker’s spanking (don’t know if he has) and she forgave me for Logan’s broken arm. Although I’ve outpaced her by more than double, she has willingly and often watched my younger kids, loving them almost like her own.

We drove her white Ford Astrovan to Utah for Spring Break one year—six kids, tons of treats, a tv/vcr strapped to a wooden box and lots of talking. We shared park days, school teachers, t-ball coaches, and swimming lessons. Our kids were never the stars, but we always cheered them on—Coles or Dentons, didn’t matter who won (maybe because none of them ever did). She’s always been one of the first I call when I need to brag about some kid’s latest achievement—wrestling victory, ACT success, whatever. And I know she’ll be genuinely interested and excited.

I kept track of her kids’ activities while she was confined to bed for 16 months with migraine headaches and no cure. I sneaked in and cleaned her bathroom while she slept, drove her kids, bought her groceries. Then, when I was confined to bed for most of three entire pregnancies, she drove my kids, made me nightgowns and chatted to while away my boredom.

And although we are very similar in our beliefs and outlooks on life, we can disagree and move on. We can ask for advice, then make up our own minds. I’ve made mothering mistakes, and she’s never judged. She’s there for the shoulder to cry on, advice on how to move forward and offers assistance if needed. Nothing ever bothers Karen for long.  She claims it's because she's just not very deep.  I say it's because she is forgiving, a great quality in a mother. She lives what she teaches. She means it when she says she’ll do anything to help—whether it’s finding lantern poles for a wedding or rushing breast milk to the airport. And she expects the same in return.

My older kids call her their “other mother.” I call her my other sister Karen.
You can visit Karen on her blog, here, and tell her how spectacular she is.

Have you been pondering your posts for tomorrow? All comers welcome--funny, witty, serious, thought-provoking. The only stickler is this: you must find one positive, simply fantastic thing you do as mother. Laundry? Dessert? Advice? Bedtime? Breakfast-time? I discovered as I thought about it this week that it was easy to find my biggest fault (one I wanted to disclose, anyway). But finding one thing that I really do well? Hmmmm. It seems that everyone I know does at least one thing better than me. But that's the key to this writing assignment. Once you identify that thing that you do really well, you can take pride in it during the times that you're really stinking at everything else. I can't wait! Really.

I just hope a few of you participate. That would really be embarrassing, and frankly a blow I may take a while to recover from. If you don't have a blog and you'd like to write, just leave a long comment on my post. I know a few of you might fit in this category--I won't name names, but you know I know who you are!

Here's to tomorrow, friends, women, MOTHERS!

Post-Edit:  After reading the comments so far today, I really felt the need to bring your attention to the last three posts.  The good thing was in there all along (and I quote):
What is one weakness you have when it comes to mothering (only one)? And now that you've identified it, how are you going to improve?
What is one of your strengths? Feel free to brag yourself up, either seriously or with humor.

So don't think you can get away with not braggin' on yourselves.  Just sayin'. 


  1. First things first, that is probably the most adorable picture of you EVER! No really, a total keeper. Secondly, what a fabulous post. Wait, what a fabulous friend! Having a friend like that in life makes it all so much better! You are lucky! Thanks for sharing this.

  2. HA! Love that ding dongs are for grown-ups. We have Mommy ice cream around here (except it IS, because it's made from coconut milk and agave and costs twice as much for 1/10th the size).

    What a great friend/sister/other mother. I think the story of bringing breast milk to the airport deserves a post of its own. Hmmm...!

  3. What a great friendship you two have!

    For 15 years, my best friend lived right down the street from me, but she moved to Utah 5 years ago.

    And I am still bereft.


  4. I have read and reread every one of your posts about mothering. You are blessed to have learned from some really wonderful ladies! Sorry my commenting is greatly lacking these days! Lovin you!

  5. How blessed you are to have a Karen! I'm envious! Sadly I always thought I had close friendships when my girl friends...but if I had a tragedy or they did ....their true colors came out. I'm still searching. (deep sigh)

    and i don't remember reading the part about having to write one thing about one positive thing we do as a mom...u threw that in there! haha

  6. That's a beautiful tribute to friendship, what a blessing to have found each other so early in motherhood. And, that is a stinking cute picture of the two of you, looks more like sisters than friends, and that may be the way it should be!

  7. Oh, and by the not fair to throw that "one thing you do as a mother" in at the last second like this.

  8. You waited a long time to have your friend, Karen, come into your life and I am glad you finally found each other. As for me, I don't mind having another daughter. I think she is great! It has been nice for me to know that she is close by and willing to help you when I couldn't be there. You have a long list of wonderful friends.

  9. I love these tributes to mothers!

  10. I hope that when I have kids I can find someone like Karen to share it with! She shounds wonderful. :)

    I'd love to participate tomorrow but I don't have any kiddos. ;) I'll be there in spirit.

  11. I wish I had a Karen. You are very lucky indeed. I love the photo of you two!

  12. What a friendship...there is NOTHING like a true friend who is like a sister, mentor, other mother, etc. What a blessing you are to each other.

  13. I managed to tear up just a little on the Grandma Olsen post but this one made me cry! I always feel so blessed to have decided that you would be my friend, good thing you agreed. It has been a ride and one I am glad to be along. I still wish I had a picture of you stretching to reach Ben's pacy on our long ride to Utah, under the third back seat!

    Can't wait to see what we are in for next!

    Love you my sister from another mother.

  14. Friendships that span decades are Golden.
    Thanks for sharing!

  15. That was a beautiful post. I don't think we take the time to tell our friends enough how much they mean to us and how they bless our lives. What a gift to Karen.

  16. I too have a Karen in my life, unfortunately we live across the country from eachother, but phone calls are often and they are long. I know I am teaching my children to look at the glass half full. It is one of the most important skills one can have in life. I also thing being able to laugh at oneself is an asset, because life is hard for those who take themselves too seriously.
    (I may have to get to know you a bit better before I pull out the yellow unitard, its one of those things that could scare off new friends : )

  17. I really enjoyed this post. You are so blessed to have such a long lasting friendship. Thanks for sharing.

  18. I am a little late to this party as I have had no time for the computer this week until now.
    But I loved this post.
    It is a GREAT gift to have a friend like this. They are few and far between.
    Two of my very best friends moved far away in the last 2 years and I miss them but it is nice to know we will always be so close!

  19. How lucky to have a friend like that! I only have one, but it's a wonderful friendship that has survived the years since we were in 6th grade. I've never met anyone who understands me like she does, and it's too bad she lives so far away from me.
    I like that your friend taught the kids that Ding Dongs are grownup food. I once had a friend who taught her twin boys that the ice cream man was giving shots. They would run and hide whenever they heard the truck coming.

  20. this is TRUE friendship! i love how real you made this post~ i felt like i was rushing to the airport! jen again you are truly gifted. i am thinking about these deeply posed questions! thank you for taking the time to illuminate how real you are!