"Dear God, Thank you for your wonderful gift. Thank you for sending your son. Amen"Amen!
Friday, December 25, 2009
So I am spending all this time to try to figure out how to pray. Overwhelmed by my total lack of confidence in an area of my faith that I am called to be doing without ceasing. And yet, at Christmas especially, maybe we should be following the lead of the young. This was what my Middle Man prayed today at Christmas dinner -
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
On Tuesdays, for one hour, all three of my boys are in school at the same time. This is because Little One has started a speech class once a week for one hour. He had been going for an hour and half which was heavenly but he graduated from that class rather quickly and is now in the one hour speech articulation class. I was a little bummed that he was progressing so quickly because I was really enjoying a whole hour and a half. But at this point in my life as a Mommy, I will gladly take one hour, once a week. Especially since that one hour is at 8:30 in the morning and a town away so there really is not much I can do but hang out at Starbucks, drink my mocha while it is hot, and start reading through all the new books I have.
So this week I was sitting at my table all ready to go with four books in front of me having to choose where to begin. How does one choose what book to read first? I always feel like I am being asked to choose which child is my favorite. Though if I am totally honest, I do have a favorite child, but it is not always the same child. Good thing I have three kids because at any given moment any one or two might be pushing my last buttons but there is always one that makes me smile on that day and reminds me how lucky I am to have each and every one of them. So you can see I have a deep need to improve on my prayer life.
I decided to start with a book by Andrew Murray written over a hundred years ago. It was recommended by a friend and as a former history teacher I figured when in doubt go with a classic. So glad I did because the first chapter of "With Christ in the School of Prayer: Unlock the Power of Prayer" is called Lord, Teach Us to Pray. In it he writes this prayer,
Lord Jesus! I ask Thee this day to enroll my name among those who confess that they know not how to pray as they ought, and specially ask Thee for a course of teaching in prayer. Lord! teach me to tarry with Thee in the school, and give Thee time to train me. May a deep sense of my ignorance, of the wonderful privilege and power of prayer, of the need of the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of prayer, lead me to cast away my thoughts of what I think I know, and make me kneel before Thee in true teachableness and poverty of spirit.
I love that prayer. And while the words may be different, with a lot less Thees, my heart cries out in the same way. Turns out I was going at this study of prayer the wrong way, seeking book recommendations and talking to friends, before I ever went to Jesus the perfect teacher of prayer. Because no matter what books I read, who I talk with or what I find in the Bible, without Jesus and the Holy Spirit, I will never understand prayer. I will never be able to really experience prayer as God wants for me.
So Lord, please teach me to pray! Let me be a humble student, open to wherever your training will take me, eager to learn from you, open to your Spirit, with a deep understanding that the power of prayer comes not from me, but from you. Let my prayers start and stop with You.
Monday, December 14, 2009
I ran into my pastor at Starbucks today. He was reading a book on the Holy Spirit which made me realize I had not asked him for any recommendations for books on prayer. So in between getting Little One a tall water, no ice (very specific like his mommy) and helping him get his scone out of the bag, I asked my pastor if he had any books to recommend for my study of prayer. I felt a little better when he did not have a laundry list of the best books on prayer ever written all ready to go. Turns out that prayer is a challenge for a lot of strong, mature Christians. He thought of a few and is going to get back to me with some suggestions. We did have an interesting start of a discussion about the purpose of prayer and thinking through what it means to pray without ceasing. Were we in that moment praying at all times? Is prayer us talking? It seems to me that prayer would have to be conversational which would require that I stop talking sometimes to let the other person, God, get a word. I have found with both my husband and kids that we can be together, communicating with one another without ever saying a word or even be thinking a specific thought but just being together. I would think the same would be true with God. Is to pray without ceasing mean being in communion with God at all times? Not necessarily talking or even listening but just being in His presence. Little one was not really enjoying our theological discussion and decided to spin around, fall down and cry loudly. So I had to leave quickly because there is no crying in Starbucks. But not before I found out I really need to get a systematic theology book. Guess I will add that to my Amazon list.
Here is one great thing my pastor has taught me about prayer though. A month or so ago he was teaching on suffering. Really good, challenging stuff that took the spot light off our conditions and put it on God's sovereignty. One thing the pastor said was that the Bible says to cast our cares upon the Lord (I Peter 5:7). He said that when we take our anxieties to the Lord, He will trade our cares for His peace. We pray and give our worries and concerns to God, not asking for solutions or answers but placing them on His alter.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
The other day I was at the gym working out with a new friend. We were on the step climbers, trying to get our bums to lift up a bit and not sag down in our mommy jeans. I was feeling really good about our workout because we had already done the treadmill and eliptical trainer and were on our third aerobic circuit before hitting the weights. I was definitely all sweaty and smelling and while I could still hold up my end of the conversation, being a little short of breath was making me be a better listener. Seemed like a really productive time at the gym to me. I was feeling all healthy and athletic.
And then the Boot Camp lady with the amazing arms walked up and started pushing my friend's resistance up on her stair climber. Turns out my friend had taken Boot Camp at our gym last year a few times a week and was obviously not working hard enough for the instructor. We, as the perfectionists that we are, starting working out harder, at least until the Boot Camp lady walked away and we were safe to slow down.
I love the idea of Boot Camp at the gym. I would like to do the class one day. Actually I don't ever really want to work out that hard, but I would love to have those arms and abs. I would also like to know that I could do it, that I could survive that class without laying on the ground in the the fetal position in a pool of my own sweat crying to just let me stop. I want the results without all the work. And after talking to my friend, it turns out the work is not just getting into shape and then you are done. No, you have to keep working out that hard and then harder to keep those arms and flat stomach. I like the idea, but not sure I am up for the follow through.
See, I am in a place of maintaining in my life. This started as pure survivalism when I had the kids. I started at the gym because they had two hours of free childcare a day. It was the one place I could go, turn on my own music, read a book and just zone out and walk on the treadmill while someone else entertained my kids. And in the mommy world of self sacrifice, taking care of my body, my health, was one selfish thing I could do that I could justify as benefiting my kids directly. Over time, as my kids got more self sufficient and our schedules got busier, going to the gym became less of a necessity for sanity and more of a desire to get a bit of stress out each week while avoiding having to buy the bigger jeans. But when the necessity was gone the consistency was gone too. And no where was I going to the gym to really work out, to really work hard. I was not about pushing my body too hard, just hard enough to get what I wanted which was a little stress reduction and to tick off the workout portion of my list of things I should be doing. I keep telling myself that when the kids are all in school I will start getting more serious about my workouts, that right now I am just maintaining, doing enough to stay healthy, but not really doing enough to get in shape.
I started thinking more about this idea of maintaining. I am looking through my life and see maintenance as my motivation. Not excellence, not greatness. Maintenance.
I used to be a perfectionist, probably as a response to my people pleasing nature. But I realized that was not going to work for me as a mom. I could not be the perfect mom. I was never going to be able to do it all because I actually need a little thing called sleep. I can be the good enough mom. I can maintain in my life. I keep telling myself - Someday. This applies to the laundry, the clutter piled on my desk, my Trader Joe's frozen dinners, my liberal take on screen time for the kids, as well as my relationship with God. Someday, I will have a working filing system I use every day. Someday, I will cook every meal from scratch and my kids will eat it. Someday, I will spend time every day reading the Bible, spending time studying God's word, in prayer and meditation.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
So just after I wrote my post about the story not being all about me, I started reading a great book by Donald Miller entitled, "A Million Miles in a Thousand Year". It is hard to explain but my take away from the book is that we each need to be using our lives to tell a better story. I loved this book, it will be my go to gift this season, but it sort of crashed down on my idea that I can relax because The Story is not about me. Because while I still believe this is true, Donald Miller takes this idea further and says that while God is the central part of the story, we still need to be writing a better story with our lives. And not just a better story for ourselves, but a better story for our kids. I love Donald Miller's writing style as well as the thoughts he writes. "Blue Like Jazz" made me feel like I was not all alone in my view of God and the church. If you have not read Donald Miller, I would suggest you pick it up and give it a read.
So I have been gone for a while. Well not really gone but I have not written in a long, long time. Wish it was because I was busy doing something really exciting and meaningful but alas it was not. I just haven't really thought of anything really interesting to say lately. There have been a few time when I have thought of something to write, but I don't want to get my laptop out in the middle of the night and by the time the sun rises, I have lost all my deep thoughts in the fog of exhaustion that comes from middle of the night insomnia.
I have been thinking about prayer lately, but don't have anything to really write. At least not anything productive. I have sort of a love/hate relationship with prayer. That may not be an accurate description, more that I am confused by prayer. I know we are called to pray both as individuals and as a community, but I am not sure we (me as well as the church) are on the right track. I hate the idea of shopping list prayers, asking God to give us what we want. But on the other hand Matthew 7:7 says, "Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you." The Lord's Prayer asks for our daily bread. I know we are to call out to God, that we are supposed to pray without ceasing. But after all these years of church services, theology classes, Bible study and being in the church, I still don't think I have a good understanding of prayer. So I have sought out some book recommendations from people I think actually get prayer, put in my order with Amazon, and am planning to spend a few months just sitting with prayer. Since I am buying the books I should have some interesting notes in the margins. If I can find something to write with while reading the book. All the sharpened pencils in our house seem to have disappeared and I think the pens are all off having a party somewhere I would never think to look.
So here's hoping I have something to share soon.
Friday, November 6, 2009
When my boys were little, I hated it when moms with older kids would tell me that it doesn't get any easier. Seriously ladies, your kids are in school 7 hours a day. You have time to go to the gym, eat lunch with friends, work, go to the bathroom in piece, sleep through the night. I was in the land of middle of the night feedings, changing diapers, having to carry one baby while corralling a toddler through the parking lot at Target. It took me a few years to discover the joys of the YMCA childwatch program so I could actually get a few minutes alone, though I did have to exercise. That was how desperate I was for a few minutes to listen to my iPod and read entertainment magazines. Desperate enough to spend 30 minutes sweating on a treadmill or elliptical trainer so I could breathe for a minute. So don't tell me it doesn't get any easier. It had to get easier. My boys would eventually go to school, my lifejacket in stormy seas. And I have to say to all you moms out there who don't think it gets any easier, I respectfully disagree.
Here's the thing. I think the early years of parenting are a lot like childbirth. The second it is over, you forget the pain, the months of swollen ankles and nausea, the hormones and then the actual pain of giving birth to a nine pound baby with a huge head without any pain medications. You see that little baby in your arms, and high on the birth experience, you are ready to do it all over again. I think that is true of the baby years as well. Once my baby turned two, I felt a weight lift a bit. And now that he is almost three, I am starting to see the light at the end of the life providing stage of parenthood. I still have to provide the food, but in a pinch, Little One has proven he can get his own grown up yogurt out of the fridge, take of the lid, grab a spoon and start eating. He can get in and out of his crib (yes he is still in a crib) on his own so on Saturday mornings if his brothers are up he can go down and watch cartoons while his Dad and I pretend we can't hear them and keep sleeping. He doesn't run into the street, can find his own blankies and in a pinch wipe his own bottom. He still very much needs me, but it is less physically exhausting now. And it is less immediate now as well. He can wait patiently. He won't fall off the changing table if I look away for a second. He is going to wake up each morning. He can play with choking hazards. I don't have to be on guard at all times any more. I can take my eyes off the ball for a minute and relax.
But it doesn't get any easier they said. What I am finding is that while it is less physically exhausting, it is still a challenge. Parenting starts becoming much more of a mental challenge. There is no way to know if you are making the "right" decision. It is a much more grey world as they get older. And the really scary part is that at some point, I no longer even get to make the decision. As my boys are getting older, I have less and less control. I am having to let go more as they grow up, heading out into the world for longer parts of their day. When they were babies, I was exhausted because I was always in charge, always in control. And now I am spending a lot of time worrying about their decisions, fretting about how the world will treat them, and praying that God will love and protect them. I am losing control.
So whether or not it gets any easier depends on how much I need to be in control. Honestly at this point in time I am ready to let go of some of the control. I am tired of juggling all the balls and would love to let someone else carry the load. Where to find Mary Poppins?
So for me, the boys getting older does involve more heartache, but I know that God loves them more than me. I know that God a plan for their lives. And I know that God is in control. What great comfort.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
I have recently come to the conclusion that it really is not all about me. It is not even all about my kids, my family, my friends. The story of my life is just a part of a larger story that God is telling. I am not even a plot point in the movie God is making. He is the author, the director, definitely the producer. I am an extra. I am in the background of the scenes at times, lending to the flavor of the story, but I am not the story. It is not all about me. And I find this immensely comforting.
Maybe I should be all upset that the world does not revolve around me; that I am not the integral part of even my own life story. But I am not. I am relieved. It takes a lot of the pressure off of me to make my life meaningful, fulfilling, exciting, movie worthy. I like seeing my life as part of God's bigger story, His story of love, sacrifice and redemption.
This does not mean that I don't think I am important to God because I know that I am. I know that God loves me personally, just like I know that He loves my kids more than I ever could. I know that He has a plan for my life, a plan that grows me closer to Him, and hopefully is a part of the telling of His story. I know that he cares what job I take, who I marry, how many kids to have and even what road I take when I drive to the library. I know because I have a friend who was in a horrible car accident while driving her kids to the library to return some books. Her oldest daughter went home to Jesus and she has had to deal with the after effects of a traumatic brain injury ever since. God cares about the big details in our lives and what seem to be little details to us such as which way we take to get to the library.
I think we often think of God in human terms. How can he keep track of all of us, all our needs, our thoughts, our desires. There are a lot of people in this world, even if you only count believers, which is assuming he only cares about the believers. But we are thinking of God in our terms and we have trouble remembering to buy eggs and milk we when go into the store, but we always come out with those cookies we really like. I think God is more like Google. There are how many millions of websites out there that Google somehow in its greatness figures out what matches my needs when I do a search. God is even bigger and better than Google. He works in ways that our minds cannot comprehend. He is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent. He is focused on the bigger story, keeping all the actors, cameramen, grips and costume designers on task. But while doing that he is also completely intuned to my life, my experiences, my hearts desires.
God is way bigger than I could ever imagine. So why would I not take great comfort in knowing that He is in charge, telling a bigger story with our lives, than we could ever tell on our own.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Last week my dear husband picked up my boys' favorite hamburger Happy Meals at McDonalds for dinner. These are also our favorites because our McDonalds has $1.25 Happy Meals on Tuesdays and it was Tuesday. What could be better. Happy Meals for the kids and cheap eats for us that don't involve me cooking. Win-win-win.
Everyone was eagerly awaiting their treat and more importantly the toy that comes in the box. They were sitting patiently at the table when he came in and started handing out the boxes. Since all three meals are the exact same on Tuesdays there was no need to figure out what belongs to whom. At least that is what he thought. Until the tears started. The little boys were so excited to see a Bakugan ball in their respective Happy Meal boxes. Unfortunately there had been a mix up at the McDonalds drive thru and Hockey Boy somehow ended up with the "girl" box that had a little Build a Bear stuffed animal inside. Oh the tears. The injustice. The wailing. How could we do something so awful to him? My response, "Just chill out." Here switch with Little One who really is too little for a Bakugan ball. At least that is what I tell Little One because I am already annoyed with him for not being willing to use the toilet when he is perfectly capable. "If you are not wearing big boy pants then you are not big enough for the big boy toy." Makes sense to me. More tears. And the agitation starts to build in me. Seriously folks how can my dear husband not know to check the boxes before he starts handing them out? How did he let this happen? I glare at him. "Rookie Mistake" I say.
I cannot believe how annoyed I got over something that was easily fixed. Especially considering the next time I went to McDonalds, Little One was thrilled with his new stuffed animal. Oops, I had been hoping he would want to be a big boy and start using the toilet. I was totally taken over by alien invaders at that moment. I did not spew green filth or anything but I felt like my body was being taken over by mean lady. The woman who sometimes shows up and snaps for no reason. The woman who suddenly gets annoyed by Little One for asking the same question one too many times. The woman who seems so lovely most of the time and then wham, for about a week once a month, feels overwhelmed, easily agitated and sad for no reason.
Turns out it was hormones. Those little pesky whatever they are that change my body and my mood once a month... at least for now and I can only imagine how alien I will feel when the big Change happens. And this month for the very first time I came to a new realization about hormones.
Whenever people talk about our sinful nature I always feel a bit funny because as a sinner saved by grace I like to think of myself as changed and filled with the Holy Spirit. And while I know I have a sinful nature and see my own depravity quite regularly, the sinful nature thing confused me. I started thinking about the consequences of the fall of Adam and Eve and how Adam would toil the earth and Eve would experience the pain of childbirth, which I have experienced with and without drugs and it is PAINFUL! But the pain of childbirth also includes all those parts of our womanhood that make childbirth possible and that includes those pesky hormones. And I realized that my hormones are one very tangible example of my sinful nature. So I can no longer just chalk up my nastiness to hormones as an excuse. Instead it is a painful reminder of how much I need my Savior; an opportunity to rise above my sinful nature with God's help.
Of course that is easy to write sitting on this side of the month. We'll see how well I am doing in a few weeks. And don't get me started on why I am expected to toil the earth when I have to endure the pain of childbirth.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Are you a Mary? or a Martha?
I hear this a lot in church ministry circles. Especially when someone who has been serving for a long time is starting to feel overwhelmed. It usually involves them saying something along the lines of "I just want to sit and be fed for a while." And then someone usually comes along side and references the story of Mary and Martha from Luke 10.
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!""Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." Luke 10:38 - 42
The helpful person usually says, "Maybe it is time for you to be Mary for a while." Which would make complete sense if Jesus was actually in the room. Of course we should be sitting at his feet. We should be making time in our day to be in the presence of God, in His Word. I think though that we often use this story as an excuse to take a break and be fed. And while breaks are important (God rested on the 7th Day), I think we have to be careful in how we interpret this scripture.
No where in the passage does Jesus say that Mary should rest or that Martha should not be making preparations. What he says is, "Only one thing is needed." If we take Mary as a person who took time to sit and listen to the teacher, who rested and was fed, then is that the one thing that is needed? To sit and listen? I don't think so. Every time Jesus mentions what we need, he is referencing our need for a Savior, for His redemption. Mary was choosing to listen to Jesus, to be in His presence. She was getting spiritually fed by the Lord. She was spending time with her Savior, with Jesus Christ, God's son. I can imagine though when he was done teaching in her house, she got up and went back to work.
I don't think we are called to either a Mary OR a Martha. I think instead we are to learn two important lessons from this story. First we need to have our priorities straight - only one thing is needed - Jesus. And second, don't let our work, distract from this. But this story is not an excuse to live quiet lives of solitude and contemplation, allowing others to do the work of serving the church, loving our neighbors and spreading the gospel to the ends of the earth. We need to be using our gifts and talents to glorify God. We need to be participating in His work. We need to do this with our priorities in place, with our hearts turned towards God, our mind being fed by His Word.
So let's not give up on serving when we get tired. Let's find very real places of rest, Sabbath, in our lives. Let's find wise counsel, teachers and friends who can help us grow spiritually. Let's spend real time in God's word and in prayer which always feeds me and gives me strength and energy. And then let's work. Let's serve. Let's love through our actions.
I want to be a Martha, who serves the real needs of God's people because I have also spent part of my day as a Mary, sitting at the feet of Jesus.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
This summer we took the kids to Disneyland. Long story but we had Disney passes last year when we lived in the Bay area and this was Hockey Boy’s 5th trip to Disneyland this year. The first four times we went he was not interested at all in the activity where the kids get to learn how to be a Jedi knight and fight Darth Vader with lightsabers. This last visit, he not only wanted to watch, but he was really excited to do the lesson and fight Vader. So when we got home, we decided, the older boys were ready to watch the original Star Wars movie. So one Saturday a few weeks ago we took them to Target to pick up the movie. I grabbed Star Wars IV which is the original movie from the 1970s and the real Star Wars I for the purists. The boys were terribly concerned that I had grabbed the wrong movie since they saw Star Wars I – III right there in line before Star Wars IV. And they like to do things in order. I had to explain to them the whole, movies 4, 5 6 came first and then you see 1, 2, 3. Not sure they totally got it but it was important to us that they see them in the same order we saw them. Because all 6 movies work together to tell a bigger story. Also, Episodes 1, 2 and 3 are way too scary and graphic for my kids at this point. Special effects really improved over the years.
The Bible is also ONE story made up of many episodes. Often we see the God of the Old Testament as just and the God of the New Testament as merciful, the God of the Old Testament is all about rules and regulations while the God of the New Testament is all about Grace. But the truth is that God is unchanging. The God of the Old Testament is the same as the God in the New Testament. What changed with Christ’s death and resurrection was how we are able to relate to God. We can now stand boldly at the feet of God, knowing that when he sees us, he sees Christ in us, making us clean and holy. Christ’s death and resurrection redeemed us but he was not changed. God’s working in the world through the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is different over time, but God does not change. And as you can see in Acts 5, God still can dole out justice by striking down a “follower.” He did not change from Malachi to Matthew.
I think we often like to think of the Old Testament God as different from the New Testament God because we like to focus on God's grace, God's love. The Old Testament involves a lot of stories of God's judgment and we don't like to think about that part of God. We don't like to think about how unworthy we are in our natural, sinful states. But if we think of God as either only judging or only merciful, we are missing His Wholeness, His story. Yes, He will judge, but he loves us so much that He provided a redeemer, He provided grace. We are no longer unworthy, but are instead His children, highly valued and eternally loved. What could be better!
Thursday, September 24, 2009
This week I am teaching from Acts 5 which begins with the story of Ananias and Sapphira. This is an interesting story at the beginning of the early church. It is the story of a couple who sold a piece of property and then gave the proceeds from the sale to the church, laying it at the apostles' feet. Except they held back a portion without telling anyone, allowing everyone to believe that they were giving the whole profit. When Peter discerns the lie, he confronts Ananias, who then fell down and died. The same happens to Sapphira when she is confronted with her lie. This is an interesting example of God's judgment at a time when the church is focused on the gift of grace from Jesus' resurrection.
While this story provides plenty of interesting topics for teaching, I keep going back to Acts 4:32 which sets up the story of Ananias and Sapphira.
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.I have spent the last few days trying to wrap my mind around what that means for the church today, for me today. Should my husband and I sell our house and give the money to the church? Probably not practical since when people did that in the early church they still had places to live. But what about communal living, communal ownership? Should the church be pooling our individual resources and then dispersing the funds to meet everyone's needs? What is our responsibility to those around us? What is our responsibility to provide a safety net for our own family now that we have kids?
But tonight as I was looking at the commentaries and reading the passages again, I was reminded that the point of Acts 4:32 was not that the early church sold their property and shared all that they had. Instead what we need to hold onto from this verse is that "all the believers were one in heart and mind." They were in one accord. They were focused on their shared mission to spread the Gospel to all the world. Their property, their 401ks, their college savings plans did not matter to them, except in how the money could be used to serve their mission. The point is not that we should be setting up a joint checking account that all members of our church can use. The point is that when we are of one accord, when we are one in heart and mind, filled with the Holy Spirit, our possessions no longer matter. We no longer see our earthly belongings as ours but something to be used to further God's kingdom and to care for those around us.
And that is why what Ananias and Sapphira did was so offensive. It was not about the money they kept back or the money they gave. It was about their hearts not being in union with the other believers. It was about their lying and bringing sin into the group. It was about the discord they would create. God judged swiftly and clearly to protect the church from their sin.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
So I am sitting here, having just finished up my Bible Study homework, and trying to decide if I should make the kids stop playing Wii. They had been waiting all afternoon to play but they had to eat dinner and get ready for bed before I would let them start. So finally they were all ready. I had told them only 15 minutes but they have been playing soooo nicely together that I have let them go long. This was a win-win since I got my homework done and they got extra Wii time. I love it when they play together without screaming or hitting, especially when it is all three boys. But it is really time to stop them. And I know that will not only break up the fun, the giggles, the cooperation, but will also end up with someone shouting at me. And I am tired of being the bad guy because I am setting limits. But since my oldest is not yet 7 and the youngest is only 2 we have years, and years, and years, and years of me being the bad guy. The good news is that since they are all ready for bed, those shouting or being mean are ready to go to bed. But I still don't like to be yelled at. Oh well. If I don't go now, the fun will end before I get there to break it up and that means someone will have done something to annoy or hurt or scare someone.
One minute too long. Little One is now screaming. I am off.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
So today was another momentous day. Middle Man started kindergarten. Our school has half the class come one day and the other half the next day for orientation. I got to take him to school thankfully because he was starting a little later than the rest of the school. He walked right in, put his backpack away, found his desk, let me take a few pictures and then started working on his seat work. I think I have done something right getting him ready for the transition if my kid is comfortable with me leaving. But there was a little part of me that wished he was more sad to see me go. Tomorrow will be his big first day on the bus. I am not sure which is worse, putting both the boys on the bus for their first day of school all on one day or spreading the separation out. Rip off the bandaid or pull gently? I started to cry as soon as I walked out his classroom door but since the Mommy standing next to me, who had just dropped off her youngest, was holding it together I decided I better. Don't want to be the weeper of the group.
After I dropped off Middle Man it was time for me to go teach the first session of the Women's Fall Bible Study at my church. One of the things I was really looking forward to when we moved home was getting involved with the teaching team at our church. I miss being a high school history teacher. I miss using my brain to study and then develop teaching materials. I love the prep work, the studying, the writing, the planning. But the actual teaching, especially to grown ups, still makes me very nervous. So nervous that I decided to self medicate with not one but two benedryls to help me sleep last night. I know, not good to self medicate. Also If I was more spiritual I would hopefully get my peace from God, but I am still very much human and prone to insomnia the night before big days. And I tired me is much more likely to spout some really embarrassing piece of information like, "I'm wearing granny panties today" than I well rested me. Oh wait, I did let that slip this morning, but just to the woman sitting next to me, and the four rows around us that heard it since my voice is loud and carries. Let's just hope that it does not end up on Facebook.
So it was a big day for me. One I had been preparing and planning for years with Middle Man and months with the Bible Study. Both went fine. No chorus of angels coming down to show how wonderful my parenting or my teaching were. But I think both situations showed me that when I stay focused on what God has for me, I will walk His path, which will lead me where I really do want to be. In His Hands.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
So today Hockey Boy started first grade. This is his first year going all day and also his first year riding the bus. And tomorrow Middle Man starts all day kindergarten at the same school and will also be riding the bus. They are both really excited and are very ready to go. I have been counting down the days to full day school since they were born. At times this summer I would remind myself that fall was coming and soon they would be at school. No more dragging three boys to the grocery store or Target. Time to spend with just Little One going to music time at the toy store and toddler time at the library. Something I loved doing with the older boys when they were little but have not been able to do with all three being different ages. Space for everyone to get away from each other, have experiences, and then come back together at the end of the day without being sick of being together all the time.
But as we started Labor Day weekend, I started to lose it. The tears started forming. I am not ready to push my babies out of the nest. I have loved shaping them and spending time with them these last 5 - 6 years. I have loved seeing them play with their friends, come up with imaginative games together, and grow and learn new things. I have been the central character in their lives. And now a teacher, I just met is going to spend more time with my boys each day than I do. I am sure they are both wonderful. Thankfully I am still here when they come home to greet them and help them figure out the mysteries of playground friendships and new math. I will be here to pack their lunches and make sure they take a sweatshirt. But it is just a weird thing to realize I spent all these years with my kids and now I am sending them out into the world. And on a bus of all things. For some reason the bus has me worried, which is funny because both myself and my husband road the bus to school as kids. And I have fond memories of the bus and hanging out at the bus stop.
I had such a hard time sleeping last night. Thoughts of homeschooling drifted through my mind, as did memories of Hockey Boy playing with his classmates after kindergarten. I know deep down that he will be fine, and better yet, that he really will thrive at school. Both boys love going to school and are really sad if they are sick and have to miss out on the fun. We did summer school work, enrichment activities and field trips this summer. A very mini taste of what homeschooling would look like for us and it was fun for a summer but not a long term answer for our family. We all love being part of a school community. We love getting to know our neighbors and meeting people that are different than us in some ways, but who are so very similar as well.
So this morning after a long night, we all got up, Hockey Boy put on his first day of school clothes, though he would have preferred play clothes, and we all headed out to the bus stop. It was a big morning for us and even Daddy stayed home to witness this historic event in our family. Hockey Boy told us we could go home once we got him there with the other kids, but then how would we have gotten the adorable picture of my baby getting on the big yellow bus. He was thrilled to be going. And while I shed a few tears last night. I think I am ready to start first grade. But he does need to know that he is not allowed to graduate or leave home....EVER!
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Little One has fallen in love with puzzles. He can spend an hour working through his 35 and 60 piece puzzles. He gets them out one at a time, puts it together on our front entry floor and then gets another one. When he is done we have 4 or 5 puzzles decorating our entry. It is actually quite amazing to watch because he can do them all by himself. I even recently caught him and Middle Man working together on a 100 piece puzzle. They found a shared love of puzzles and for a few minutes the friction between them ceases. The same thing happens when I get the marble run out for them to build. Figuring out how things go together seems to be something they both enjoy and can do together. Maybe not together but side by side and that is a huge step forward. Middle Man and Little One have not really bonded a lot in life. Both feel very connected to Hockey Boy and the rest of the family but Middle Man is not really interested in Little One joining in the fun because he wrecks things. And Little One does not like being left out of the fun so he gets mad at Middle Man. So to see them finding a shared passion, one that Hockey Boy does not share, is so fun.
Hockey Boy and Middle Man have discovered the joys of card games. They started playing Uno at Fun Club at the YMCA. When I picked them up after my workout that day they did not want to leave. We have a pack of Uno Cards and one day when I came down after showering I found them playing Uno all together. It is funny to hear them explain the rules to Little One. I think they have most of the them right but who knows. It was just so nice to see them all playing together. Last week they spent some time at their Uncle and Aunt's house where they were taught Ruckus, another card game that they really liked. I am so glad we are finally entering the ages where we can play games beyond Candyland and Snails Pace Race. Though it makes me realize they are really growing up and I am starting to think that might not be a good idea. I have been counting down the days until they were in school all summer but now that the first day of school is fast approaching I am not sure I am ready to let them go. If I tell them to stop growing, do you think that will work?
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
I was sitting in Starbucks earlier with my laptop hoping to write a blog entry since it has been a few days. I was pondering the joys of a morning at a coffee house, laptop and book in hand, enjoying my standard hazelnut mocha. Normally I am rushing in and out very quickly with all three boys in tow. The baristas know the boys well by now and are very sweet letting the boys watch them make drinks from the side of the bar. Actually when I go in without the boys, one of them always asks where the boys are. Well today, the boys were with one of their amazing babysitters. I am teaching a bit of the Bible study at my church this fall and really had a lot of work to do since I teach next week but thought would procrastinate by blogging. Unfortunately I could not figure out how to get on their wifi because my Starbucks Gold card (very confusing because it is actually a black card) which entitles me to 2 free hours of wifi does not have the number I needed to use as my access code on the card. So here I am at home typing this blog.
What I had wanted to write was a blog about how blessed I am to be able to stay home with my boys. This is not to start a debate about working moms v. stay at home moms. I have no interest in getting into that argument because you cannot win it. Debate is to inform and to learn but what I have found is the working v. stay at home mom debate is to justify and validate one's better choice over the other. And the reality is that most of us are doing the best we can.
I am blessed to be able to stay home for a lot of reasons. We chose very early in our marriage to live on one income. To adjust our standard of living to what money my husband earned and not on what we wanted our standard of living to be. My income became the down payment for our first house, buying a new car or paying for a trip or new furniture. We used it to get out of the debt I brought to the marriage (thankfully my husband saw it as merger costs being the sweet geeky accountant that he is) and to begin to build up our emergency fund. By the time we had kids we were living within our means and had already established ourselves in the world of home ownership. I am also blessed to be able to stay home because my husband does have a nice paying career that allows me to not only stay home but also to buy the cute new shoes for my son when I want, to pay for a season of hockey and also the babysitter to come watch the kids so I can hang out in Starbucks for the morning. And he is happy to be do it. It was really important to him that one of us stayed home and looking at our paychecks, mine as a teacher, and his in finance, it was a pretty easy decision. Because one of us staying home was a priority for him, he has never acted like the kids are all mine because I chose to stay home or like I was also his maid or cook. I do a lot of the cleaning and cooking because I am home but we both believe my purpose in staying home is to be a mom. If it was to be the housekeeper, I would go back in a heart beat and hire someone to do that work.
But beyond the logistics, I am blessed to be home with my kids because it relieves a lot of the stress over who is picking up the kids, what to do when one of them is sick, or how to let our kids have a normal life full of playdates and sports practices if we were both working. I get to be at their practices watching them learn to ice skate or walk on the balance beam. I get to help in their classrooms and see them at school where they are so different than they are at home. I get to hang out with them on a lazy morning, watching Phinneas and Ferb or playing outside on bikes and scooters. I get to watch them pop wheelies or miss the golf ball with one heck of a swing that rotates their whole body around in a circle. I get to hug them when they fall and give them kisses whenever I want.
I also get to be there when they tantrum or say something mean to the neighbor kid next door. Not nearly as fun but I am glad I get to be there to help them deal with the situation. To help them grow and to learn to be loving and kind to others. I am the one who has to put Little One in the cart at Target because he thinks throwing footballs across the aisles is fun. And pretend I am not bothered by his screaming as we take our items to checkout. I love being able to help mold my little guys, hoping that someday they will become great men of honor and compassion, integrity and love, wisdom and humility. I like knowing that God who began a good work in them will continue it. (Philippians 1:6) And that they are a part of the work God is doing in my life.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
I have spent the morning blog browsing. This was my reward for actually being productive this morning and making two important phone calls. Maybe not really my reward so much as I was tired after the calls and seem to be fighting the summer cold that had Middle Man waking me up with his coughing last night. So I turned on a video for the boys and climbed into bed with my laptop. I promise I will take them out into the sunshine as soon as the movie is over.
So blog browsing... I started with my friends' blogs. Loved seeing the pictures of kids starting school, families at the beach and dear friends saying goodbye. Turned to dooce and then my newest favorite Jennsylvania. Jen Lancaster is my new favorite read when working out at the Y. I noticed on Jen's site that she had a list of links to other blogs she reads. So I started clicking. I enjoyed both of Amalah's sites but was really intrigued by Cheeky Lotus and her post "And That is All I Have to Say About That." So I started clicking through her "Rock the Sidebars" (a name that truly does rock the normal list of blogs I follow). I can't remember where I went next but eventually I found myself at The McMommy Chronicles. There I found the funniest post I have ever seen. She did not write it but posted one of those forwarded emails you find filling up your inbox. You seriously have to read it. Probably not while sitting in a meeting at work pretending to read work email because you will laugh out loud. And if you don't I really don't know what to say about your sense of humor. Because IT IS FUNNY!
So as I am cruising the blog world, I started to feel bad. I know I have a few readers (you are good friends). I wish I could give you more laughter in your day. These posts cracked me up and lifted my mood. I want to give that to my readers. But since I can't, I will send you away to visit the blogs I have linked. They will make you laugh and hopefully lift your day.
And since the movie has ended (actually about 15 minutes ago) I guess it is time to head out into the sunshine.
Friday, August 21, 2009
I was watching a documentary show about NFL training camp the other day and heard the greatest stat. Did you know you are more likely to be killed by a coconut falling from a tree than from a shark attack? For some reason when I heard this it made me laugh, really laugh. I had to immediately post the stat on my Facebook page because this kind of information must be shared. I don't know if this means I should be unworried about sharks swimming with me in the ocean or if I should become worried about standing too close to coconut trees. Either way I guess it is good that I don't have a trip to Hawaii planned anytime soon.
But as I thought more about the stat I started to think about how many weird ways a person can die. And how often what scares us is not what is going to kill us. We worry about earthquakes, tornados, monsters and witches, skydiving and airplanes. But it is rarely the dangerous things that hurt us. Hockey boy has had stitches three times in his life. He is a very active boy who climbed to the top of the play structure before he was 2, jumps out of trees and plays what many consider a dangerous sport. But it was jumping on his bed, running into the wall in our house, and hitting his head on the coffee table in a hotel room that caused all his stitches. I chose a long time ago to trust that God has my kids in His hands. I believe that God has a plan for my kids and loves them more than I ever could. So while I am not going to let them play with fire or drink poisons, I am not going to be a helicopter mom who follows my boys around the playground making sure they don't fall.
Doesn't mean bad things are not going to happen. They are. Coconuts are going to fall out of trees. Kids are going to need stitches. Parents are going to get cancer. Friends are going to lose children. I can't control the bad. All I can do is roll with the punches knowing and trusting that God is in control. I can either cling to that truth, cling to our sovereign God or get knocked around. I chose to cling.
Monday, August 17, 2009
Most of the time I can go through life thinking I am a good person. I am usually kind and caring, supportive and encouraging, I wait my turn in lines, pay my bills and taxes, volunteer where needed and sometimes even cook dinner. I have picked up some great women along life's adventure that tell me I am awesome which is a great trait to have in a friend; someone who will tell you how amazing you are. I think one of the reasons we are so often comparing ourselves to others is because we are comfortable with that comparison most of the time. Maybe she is thinner or her kids actually eat their vegetables but I did work out three times last week and have a Masters Degree (don't ask me what I use it for though). There is always someone better but there is always someone I can look at and be thankful for how wonderful I am.
But there is the catch. I am not meant, as a Christian, to compare myself to unworthy measures but to the only worthy measure of this world, Jesus Christ. And when I compare myself to that yardstick, I live in the depths of depravity. My anger is very rarely righteous and most often fatigue or impatience induced vitriol spewing in my mind. I may be able to control my outbursts but my heart tells the truth of my soul. When I am feeling down about myself because of my slothfulness or laziness, I start to focus on someone outside myself who is worse of than I and project my insecurity onto them. I can become so frustrated with my kids that I can lash out in horrible anger and meanness.
I am depraved.
I am sinful.
I am in need of saving.
And that is where the good news begins. I have been saved. My debt has been paid. I know who Jesus is and what He did for me. I choose to follow Him. I am a child of God able to enjoy His presence in my life. I am able to answer my natural depravity with His grace. My anger with His peace. My insecurity with His goodness.
So truthfully most of the time I am a good person because Christ is working in me. But the good you see is my overflowing with His love and the beauty of His creation. And that is awesome to me.
Friday, August 14, 2009
A few weeks back when my husband was out of town I wrote a status update on Facebook that mentioned my kids were being whiny. I got a few comments from friends that were supportive of my frustration. These comments come to my email account as well as being posted on my Facebook wall. I woke the next morning to an email from Facebook with a "friend's" comment shouting at me. I say shouting because it was in ALL CAPS and she knows better or at least doesn't normally write in all caps. The gist was, "COME ON GUYS....WE ALL HAVE THE BEST KIDS IN THE WORLD....LIFE WITH CHILDREN IS A MUCH BETTER OPTION THAN LIFE WITHOUT....LET'S TRY WRITING ABOUT ALL THE WONDERFUL THINGS THAT HAPPEN DURING OUR DAYS WITH OUR KIDS INSTEAD OF THE NORMAL MISHAPS AND THINGS WE HAVE DIFFICULTY WITH....." Okay that is the actual quote. I should be a bigger person, especially since when I went to check my Facebook page her comment was not there. She had already deleted her words. But I was still pretty annoyed by the comment and all the shouting. Not to mention the fact that we have married couples on both sides that have chosen not to have kids and seem very happy, well rested and happy.
But her comment did make me think. Had my status updates been kid bashing? I went back to check and did find that for the most part I had written some pretty cute things about my kids. I had made sure all my Facebook friends knew my kids were enjoying their first night of sugared cereal for dinner and how cute they were playing Wii Fitness. But I also do write at times both on Facebook and here about the less glorious and more frustrating parts of being a Mom. Because for me both are true. My boys can be noisy, bickering, exhausting monsters at times. But the next moment they are the most amazing little creatures in the world. If you lined up all the 6 year olds in the world and let me choose I would still pick Hockey Boy as mine. And not just because he is my son but because he is a really great kid. The same is true of Middle Man and Little One. Each is so obviously a part of my husband and I and yet so unique and quirky.
So today I was in the gym and I started thinking again about this whole topic. And what I realized is that as a parent, I don't just want to focus on the good in my kids. I spend a lot of energy trying to help my kids grow in their strengths, whether that is taking them to practice, getting them more books at the library or spending time listening to their funny stories. I always want to see the best in my kids but I realize that they are a work in progress. And it is my job to help them grow in their weaknesses as well. I am here to teach them to use their words instead of their fists, to recognize that people need some personal space (especially brothers and Mommies), or how to be a good friend on the playground. If not their mother, who is going to help my kids learn to control their emotions, not in a boys can't cry way, but in a let's not go completely nuclear because the milk literally spilled. And someone needs to help them learn a strong work ethic or they may never leave home. I love my kids but they eventually do have to leave home if for no other reason than they have been taught that in order to get a girl they have to go to college, get a job and own a home.
But just to be clear, I LOVE MY KIDS! THEY ARE THE DELIGHTS OF MY LIFE AND THE MOST AMAZING THREE BOYS TO EVER BE BORN.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
This summer a number of different people have asked me what the boys are reading at my house. I think our reputation as avid readers has made the rounds. Let me start by saying that I am a huge reader. I would much rather escape into a good book than clean the dishes or fold the laundry. So from a very young age my boys have seen me reading just for fun. They have played on the floor at my feet while I sat curled on the couch enjoying some chick lit. I have sat on the park bench with a book in my hands while they play in the sand box or skip along the play structure. On top of my own reading, we have read to the boys at bedtime since they were old enough to not eat the books. I also started reading to them at lunch time and even dinner time when their dad did not come home from work (which was very often during his start up days). They loved hearing the stories and I could sort of zone out a bit and not have to think or deal with anything but trying to make sure my voices matched the right character. My older boys have since taken to reading just like their Mommy and usually grab a book to take in the car and often spend quiet time (Little Man's naptime) reading or listening to books on CD that we get at the library. So here are a few lists of books that my boys have really enjoyed:
Read Alouds (I started reading chapter books to the boys when they were 4 and 5)
- The Ramona books by Beverly Cleary This series was such a hit with the boys that Ramona the Pest became a favorite birthday present the year we read these.
- All things Roald Dahl starting with Fantastic Mr. Fox and Enormous Crocodile, moving on to The BFG and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and working our way through all his books.
- Where the Sidewalk Ends, A Light in the Attic, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
- The Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books by Betty MacDonald I wish Mrs. Piggle Wiggle lived in my neighborhood so she could send me magic plates, pills or plans for dealing with my parenting problems.
- Charlotte's Web by E.B. White Hockey Boy went to a birthday party to see the movie which he enjoyed so we decided to read the book which he also enjoyed.
- The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo Again this was in response to the movie coming out last summer. I decided to read the book to the boys before we went. It is an incredibly well written book and my boys really liked the stories but they were a bit dark and sometimes scary.
- The Magic Tree House books by Mary Pope Osborne We read the first few to the kids but then they started to read themselves because I don't think we were getting through the books fast enough for Hockey Boy. We are anxiously awaiting #42 from the library.
- The Pirate School Books by Brian James These are easy to read chapter books with fun pictures that tell the stories of a group of kids living on a pirate ship learning how to be pirates.
- Piper Reed Navy Brat by Kimberly Willis Holt
Books that Hockey Boy loves to read to himself (In order he read them)
- The Rainbow Fairies
- Magic School Bus Chapter books
- Scooby Doo Chapter Books
- Junie B. Jones Series
- Stink, the Incredible Shrinking Kid Series
- The Magic Tree House books
- The Magic Tree House Research Guides
- Horrible Harry Series
- The Boxcar Children Books
- Marvin Redpost books
- Geronimo Stilton Series (His current favorite)
- Pokemon Books
Saturday, August 8, 2009
Did you know that Mommy can fix anything? She can. My kids will tell you. It may not be exactly fixed the way they expected, but they completely trust that I can fix it and make it better. I have brainwashed them into believing this which is good because when the tears start I remind them, yet again, that Mommy can fix anything.
I got another chance to prove my remarkable powers last night. Middle Man had a really loose tooth. I say had because last night while eating dinner his bottom tooth was suddenly missing. It was gone. It had come out while he was eating and he must have swallowed it because we could not find it, even after having him spit out what was still in his mouth hoping it was amidst the leftover pizza he had been chewing. Not very appetizing but all in a days work. So my Middle Man had lost his first tooth. This should be a joyous exciting time, but he just looked really concerned. And he doesn't often get concerned. He looked like he was going to cry. And I mean cry real tears of sadness not those big loud wails you hear when he is mad or getting in trouble. He looked forlorn. That is the word, forlorn.
So what is a Mommy to do when her guy is so sad about something so special? Me, I called on the experts. The advice nurse at his pediatrician's office. She laughed at first when I told her our big news, that he had swallowed his tooth. I guess for an advice nurse at a pediatrician's office this is the kind of call you want to get to brighten your day. After telling me there was no cause for concern, she also mentioned that the Tooth Fairy would not, I repeat NOT, go looking for the missing tooth. A letter would suffice. Thank goodness because finding a tooth after it has gone through a kid's system is really not in my day's work. I think if the Tooth Fairy actually required the tooth I would have to request a Tooth Fairy change. So I told Middle Man all this, not the part about how we could look for it, and he started to smile. She, the nurse, after all is an expert in this field I told him so she would know. I explained this happened all the time and that we could write a letter to the Tooth Fairy and she would still leave a treat. It seems a phone call to the experts was all that was needed to alleviate whatever fear and worry was going through his mind.
So we wrote a nice letter to the Tooth Fairy on special stationary that Mommy has for just such occasions. Middle Man put the letter under his pillow and even let me take lots of pictures of his missing tooth so I could post it immediately on Facebook obviously. And this morning there was a gold dollar coin and blue fairy dust under his pillow.
My Middle Man is growing up. But he still knows that Mommy can fix anything!
Thursday, August 6, 2009
I have no idea who coined the phrase, "the truth shall set you free" which is ironic because I am sure it is some great character from history, some quote I made my students learn. I am known to be an honest person. And while I am always honest, I have found that I don't really have to always be truthful in order to be true in my relationships.
I can be honest with my kids without giving them all the details or backstory about why they can't go out of a store exit without me. Do I really need to tell my little children that someone might grab them and take them and do awful things to them? I can be honest with my friends without having to explain myself or all my reasons for why I can't make dinner next Tuesday. Do they really need me to tell them that I have a haircut that I really don't want to postpone because I so rarely get to sit in a chair for 30 minutes without any other distractions. I think sometimes we feel like we need to explain all the details but like Dr. Phil says when answering kids' questions about sex, "Just answer the question they asked." So when my kids asked me how the baby was going to come out, I simply answered that I was going to the hospital and the doctor would help get the baby out. That was enough for my kids so why scare them with the details of excruciating pain, blood, complications and anatomy that they really don't need or probably want.
I write all this because today I had to really speak the truth in a way that was really hard. Let me start by saying that I did not initiate this conversation. I would have been happy to leave things but was pressed to discuss my decisions. I had to explain to someone in my life that I don't want to have a relationship with them in the way that we once did. I had to say I was willing to start fresh going forward but that I was not going to discuss, dissect and try to repair all the damage that had been done. I had to very clearly state my boundaries and then when pressed justify my choices. It was a really hard conversation because it required not just me being honest, but I had to be truthful in the details. I could not try to sidestep any longer or just answer the question asked because that was leaving to much ambiguity and confusion for the other person. I had to take a stand, draw my line in the sand and then not try to make it all better or help the other person feel good about things.
I walked away from the conversation feeling really awful. I did not feel free. I felt totally burdened by the pain of the other person and the very real pain I feel about the situation. But now a few hours later, I am starting to feel a little sense of relief. Relief, freedom, because I have stated my peace. I have made my boundaries clear. I still dread a bit what the other person might do to try to further engage me. Or how we will next interact when we see one another again. But I know that I have spoken my truth. I have been honest. And I think I was able to do it in love, specifically love for myself. Because what I am learning through this experience is that I matter. What I think, want, feel is important and that I can stand up for myself. I can speak truth.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
It appears that summer has really slowed down my blogging. Summer has slowed down a lot of my life. We are hanging out in our pajamas way too long with the kids watching Phinneas and Ferb and me watching the morning talk shows. We do eventually get dressed and out in the world, taking hikes with friends, swimming lessons at the Y, play dates and the such and then we end up playing outside way too late and rushing dinner and baths before sending the kids off to bed late. It's Summer! The time of ice cream trucks, sprinklers, lots of bickering because we are spending way too much time together, ahhh the simple pleasures of life.
So the blogging has taken a hit by both my laziness and honestly my total lack of creativity or depth. I am not sure why but I have not had a lot of deep thoughts lately. Maybe it is all that time in my pjs watching The Today Show, but what I am thinking is hardly worth writing.
I am heading out on vacation early tomorrow morning and will not be taking my laptop so it will be another two weeks before I get to writing again. But hopefully soon my brain will come up with something worth pondering in writing and I can get back to blogging.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
While my boys are not willing to call it summer until the actual summer solstice, and in the Pacific Northwest you can expect some rain until July 5th, to me it is summer. The boys are all out of school. There is no school drop off or pick up. No forms to remember. No need to make sure Hockey Boy has tennis shoes for Tuesday PE. Our schedule is wide open. Or at least it feels that way until we start all the camps, lessons and play dates of the summer.
I remember a few years ago when all my kids were still with me all day, hearing a mom who had all school age kids saying how much she was looking forward to the summer. I was dismayed. She had all her kids at school and some time to herself and she wanted her kids home? Of course I was still in the midst of having to feed at least one of my kids and change all of their diapers at the time. I was left filling days and weeks with play dates and park runs, trips to the mall and mornings at the zoo because my schedule was open, blank, and I was lost in the vastness of no schedule. I would love to go back and apologize to that woman for my shocked face and incredulous attitude. Because I get it now. Our schedule is blank for just a few months and we can finally do all those things we used to do before they had school. Trips to the science museum, days at the beach, hanging out with friends while the kids play in the backyard. Relaxed times with flexible start and stop times. We can be ruled once again by our moods and desires instead of the clock and the pick up line.
Here's to a good summer. And a few camps along the way to provide a bit of respite for all of us from one another.
Monday, June 15, 2009
My name is Jennifer. I am a Twilight Addict.
I am not normally one to get caught up in the latest thing. And I had not planned on reading the books even after reading a number of my smart, literate, well read friends blog posts about how much they liked Twilight. But then I found myself about to get on a 2 hour flight with no book to read which to me is just wrong in so many ways. So I headed to the airport book shop and decided to give Twilight a try. I loved the book so much I ended up buying, not borrowing from the library, but buying the other three books in the series. So glad I did because I have read them all at least twice.
I definitely relate to the main character of Bella. I also was the parent in my relationship with my mom growing up. I was very independent at a young age. I have tied my fate to an amazing man in a way that often requires more of me than I knew I was able to give. And who doesn't love a sweet romance with a little conflict and tension thrown in to make things passionate and the stuff of fairy tales.
But I think what I like most is that the books are a world of right and wrong, black and white, love and goodness. The real world, including my love story, is a place of greys, of compromises, of vagueness and even blandness at times. It is self sacrificing for people who will leave you at the end of the day and of dealing with bad choices in good people. It is unknown and unknowable. So I find myself escaping into the world of Bella and Edward, a safe world that ends happily ever after.
Saturday, June 6, 2009
Recently Middle Man has been insisting on boys only time when Daddy is home on the weekends. I know how much he loves me and since we get lots of time together all week long, I am a huge fan also of Boy Time. A few weekends ago, they hit Target for a bat, some balls and a hitting tee and then went to the school to play baseball. The Little One has been going out every day since to hit balls in the backyard. They sometimes get ice cream and run errands. Sometimes the park. I am not really sure what they do because it is Boy Time and there are no Mommies allowed.
This morning, Daddy was wanting the boys to get dressed so they could go to Starbucks and then the toy store. While Starbucks is not always a huge draw, the toy store motivates and caused a rush to get ready. That was when I heard Middle Man ask his Daddy, "What should I wear? I want to look beautiful?" So sweet! And incredibly bizarre since this child normally pulls the first items out of his drawer, throws them on and wants to head out with his hair sticking up in all sorts of strange directions. I smiled and giggled to myself as I sat in the other room, not wanting to get in their way. His Daddy responded, "Handsome. Girls are beautiful. Boys are Handsome." And off Middle Man went to get dressed.
Before they left I saw what Middle Man had chosen, a new Superman t-shirt and some royal blue running shorts. I told him he looked beautiful. He quickly replied, "handsome" and was on his way for Boy Time.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
I don't really have a lot to write today. Nor did I have much to say yesterday. Or the day before. I wish I had some deep thoughts or amusing stories to share but I can't think of anything. And I hate the idea of writing something mundane. I could just not blog but then I get out of the habit of writing and a couple of days will turn into a week or a few weeks. And hopefully some of you have me on your favorites and if you are like me you are waiting for me to write something.
I was actually talking with a few friends last week about blogs and blogging. Two of us are bloggers. I love to read what she writes and I have found that I feel a lot more connected to her now that I read her blog. The other two women don't blog and rarely read blogs. I am wondering if the people who blog and love to read blogs are the same people that love reality television. I started my voyeurism with The Real World on MTV when I was still in high school. I still remember Julie and Eric from the first season in New York. I have in the years since, grown a bit in my taste and while I will admit to watching The Hills on occasion, I moved on to A Wedding Story and then A Baby Story on TLC. Now I am in love with Tori and Dean and Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List. I like seeing peoples' "real lives" so for me reading the blogs of people I know as well as the public blogs of people I don't know is reality in the written form. A perfect match for someone who loves to read and also really loves to feel connected to real people.
And like reality television, I know that blogging is really only what I put out there. Not necessarily the hour by hour true story of my life. But if we sat down for coffee one day without kids, what I write is probably what I would share. I may sanitize some of the details. I may leave out the important parts, because I may not have figured out what is really going on in my head yet. But I would share what I was thinking and pondering. I would listen as you did the same. We would laugh over the funny things our kids did, or come close to tears as we shared struggles with our spouses. I would prefer to share the cup of coffee and stories face to face. But time and distance does not always allow us to be together in the same room. And for some blogs I read, I wouldn't recognize the person if we met in a Starbucks line.
So I grab a cup of coffee in the morning, and click through my list of blogs. And I feel connected.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
The other day my two year old put his hands in the air and squealed whheeee. He had a huge smile on his face. Such joy. I am a little concerned though because Hockey Boy taught him to do this riding the little roller coasters at Disneyland. So now I am wondering what it is about my driving the minivan that makes him feel like he is on a roller coaster. He seems to like it though so why change a good thing.
One of the things I love about being a Mommy is experiencing my kids' absolute joy. Not such a fan of their absolute frustration or the wails that accompany the tears. They experience everything to its utmost. Highs and lows. The other day my kids were watching Tarzan while I was trying to get my office cleaned. Yes I use tv as a babysitter. How else am I supposed to get a shower or anything done. So they were happily destroying their brain cells watching the Disney movie. A few minutes into the movie, I hear giggles. The giggles continue and grow into boisterous laughing and even some guffawing. They were tickled by the silly scenes. Their laughter made my heart fly. I almost stopped what I was doing and went to join in the fun. But I stopped myself. Nothing stops the giggles faster than Mommy coming into the room. At least that was what I told myself as I stayed quietly in my office enjoying a few minutes of desk clearing and Facebook.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Monday, May 18, 2009
So my oldest son I call Hockey Boy because he loves hockey. He loves ice skating and playing on his hockey team. He loves his Detroit Red Wings and watching hockey with his Dad and I. He really likes all things athletic and would play every sport if we let him but in order to avoid being a family that lives in our car full of sports equipment, we only let him play one sport at a time. He always chooses hockey and the back of my minivan is full of hockey sticks and his hockey bag. When asked what he is going to be when he grows up, he always says "a hockey player."
My youngest also really loves all things athletic. If it involves a ball or a stick he is ready to go. When we go to hockey practice he insists on pulling Hockey Boy's bag and carrying his stick into the rink. He likes to put on his brothers' old equipment and wear his little Red Wings jersey to practice. We finally let him try skating at a party before we moved. I thought he would stay close to me, holding my hand the whole time. No, not him. He took off on his own skating the whole time. He wouldn't even take a break for cake. I am not sure how long I will be able to keep him off the ice.
Middle Man is not a natural athlete. He has always been more interested in coloring, puzzles and books. He loves music and art. He took a soccer class last summer with his big brother and would get really frustrated and just stop. He has never really asked for me to sign him up for any sports. Until recently.
Middle Man's old preschool class had a gymnastics teacher come in once a week to teach a little class. He loved it. When asked what he was going to be when he grew up, he answered, "a gymnastics player." When we moved back home he started asking me to sign him up for gymnastics. I did not at first. I was sort of hoping it would go away. But he kept asking every few days our first month here so I finally broke down and called the gym that my friends' all recommended and set up a trial class. It is not that I did not want him to take gymnastics. It is just that the gym is 15 minutes away, I have to entertain the other two kids while he is in class which is always a challenge and often results in sympathetic looks from other parents, it is another commitment in the afternoons and makes our schedule busier, and if he gets serious about it, gymnastics is another time consuming weekend sport like hockey, also expensive like hockey.
But it was really important to Middle Man, so we went to the trial class on Tuesday. He loved it. I have never seen him so attentive to a teacher. He really wanted to do things right like the coach did, and not just do things his own way which is usually how he works. When he walked off the mat he had a huge grin on his face, gave me a big thumbs up and asked if he could do it again. How could I say no?
Since then, he has asked every morning if it was Tuesday. Tuesdays are his gymnastics days.
Monday, May 11, 2009
I am not sure exactly what I want to write. Since yesterday was Mother's Day it seems apropos but when I think of Mother's Day, well I am not sure my thoughts are really appropriate for the sentimentality of the day.
I love being a Mom, though I find most days exhausting and frustrating and totally overwhelming because of my inadequacies. My identity is completely tied up in being a mom, a job that has forever changed me. A job that does not allow for vacations or sick days. A job that requires me to put the needs of someone else before my own. The act of mothering I can do, but I am ashamed that I don't always "feel" it. Somedays, I just do it. And I begin to wonder if I am broken.
Mother's Day is so sweet with the homemade gifts from the boys. Handprint flowers, picture magnets. The handwritten notes they did in school. I like to see how they celebrate the day, what they envision for Mother's Day.
But it is also a day that reminds me of my own fractured relationship with my mother. It reminds me of who I am as a mom and what I missed from my mom. I know she tried her best, but she was really sick a lot while I was growing up. Facing her demons of mental illness and struggling to find her way out of the darkness. She is much better now but the darkness rises up sometimes and lashes out. It will never fully be gone and it is something I have to guard against. So feeling safe, feeling secure, knowing she will always be there for me... Not really true for me.
So each Mother's Day I am gently reminded of God's grace in my life as I see my kids celebrate their Mommy. And of the pain of this world when I struggle with how to reconcile my relationship with my mom.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
I am not a phone person. I really wish I was but I never seem to actually call anyone, especially in this day of email. I actually like to talk on the phone (surprise, surprise) but I have trouble actually making the phone call. I am always trying to time my schedule and my idea of the schedule the other person must have. I try to think through pick up times, nap times, time zones, dinner time and then always "realize" that it would be a bad time for the other person if I called right then. So I think of a better time to call but then my day gets away from me and days turn into weeks and weeks turn into months. This would not be a huge problem if I never moved and my friends never moved. Because for the most part I see my local friends at school, church, story time. I run into friends at the park on a sunny day or in Target and we catch up. But I do move, a lot. And have made dear friends along the way.
Email is great for the big events in our lives, announcing a baby, moving, job changes, newsletter type events, but not so great for the little things that we laugh about together or the really hard stuff you can't write in an email. Struggles in marriages or with kids. Hard times in friendships or with our faiths. Things we don't want to write down. Things we can't write because we would be a bad wife, mother, friend. So I am trying to learn to use the phone to maintain and even grow friendships at a distance. So far I have mostly been practicing with one of my dearest who has known me since college and has lived very close to me, in the same room, and very far away, across the country. I have taken the chance to call at what I deemed a bad time just to say hi. Nothing big, nothing long. I have decided that in this day of caller id my friend would not pick up if she was busy or it was a bad time and that I won't be interrupting her with my call. Wish is funny because whenever I see a friend's number on my caller ID I am thrilled!
I use to do everything via email because when I used to get on the phone someone would start crying or screaming or fighting. Email was just easier with small kids because I could stop and start and stop and start. But now my kids are older and I have learned to walk away from Mommy's on the phone induced crying. I am okay with putting a closed doors distance between myself on the phone and my tantruming child. If the crying is really loud I will even close a few doors to muffle the noise. So I have started calling sometimes when an email would suffice just to get in the habit of actually talking to people. I did this recently with a friend in town. Not only did we figure out whatever it was that I was calling about but we chatted awhile and connected. It was fun, a lot more fun than email.
Friday, May 8, 2009
My kids love to see if the local fire trucks are home when we drive by the fire station. We live in a suburb without a lot of action so the fire trucks are usually home. Recently I noticed that the doors of the fire trucks are open when they are home and tucked behind the garage door. The first time I saw it I wondered who left the door open. The next time I realized it was probably done on purpose. Then the other day when I saw the door open it made me think.
What would it look like if I left my doors open. Obviously not my van doors, which I have done repeatedly in different parking lots. (Thanks to all the strangers who have kindly reminded me to close my doors.) But what would my life be like if I left the doors open. If I did not close my life off to the unknown. If I opened myself up more to the new people around me and more importantly if I opened myself up to God's whispers in my life.
Just a thought I have been mulling.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
A little over six years ago, I walked into the new parent group at the hospital where I delivered Hockey Boy, my first son. I was so unsure of myself and my parenting. I was totally overwhelmed by sleep deprivation and identity loss. And so was everyone else. Over the next few months, we shared our struggles with sleep issues, starting solid foods, being intimate again with our husbands. We laughed at our changed bodies and cried over the simplest things.
Eventually a group of us aged out of the group. I am not sure who did what when, but I am so thankful that someone kept us going. Over time we found some new members and lost some to busy schedules and moves. We celebrated new babies and supported those who lost pregnancies. For the first years we met most Friday mornings in a large conference room at the local library. Then as our kids started preschools and morning play dates as a group stopped working, we started a monthly mom's night out. We took turns hosting and planning, each looking forward to seeing one another and catching up with our mommy friends again. We are now reconnecting at parties celebrating new babies, egg hunts, and 40th birthdays. We see one another as a group less often but when we do there is love and acceptance and comfort. And laughter.
There is nothing like those friends you make when you first become a mom. It is like your freshmen year in college all over again but thankfully we all had our own homes. We were in this amazing place that we had all been so eagerly anticipating and yet the instruction manuals and outsiders advice did not really do justice to the overwhelming responsibility that comes with being a mom. These women got it.
We recently celebrated one of the mom's 40th birthday. When did we get so old? Actually she is old, I still have a few years to go before I hit 40. Though from all I hear it sounds fabulous really. We had dinner together, enjoyed some wine, laughed through the evening and shared stories from our lives (amazingly a group of 7 women can have a night of talking that does not contain mere gossip and competition). I have been so blessed by these women! Thanks to all of you for continually letting back in after my journeys away. You are all AMAZING!
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
I don't make good first impressions. I am not sure that my second or third impressions are all that good either, but eventually I win most people over. Which is why I don't like having to get to know new people. I know how to be friendly and outgoing. But eventually within the first few minutes I will say or do something that comes across as arrogant, judgmental or self involved. Actually I am not sure that is how I come across but at some point in an opening conversation I will end up interrupting, correcting or arguing with someone about something that at the time seems very important to me. Not a great way to make friends. Thankfully my friends looked beyond my flaws and love me anyway.
I did that again today. I am back at my old church with people who have learned to love me. I was asked by a leader to help her co-lead her small group, made up of women I do not know at all. I love this woman, who is a former leader of mine, and jumped at the chance to spend time with her and lead a group. But as I walked into the room last week I remembered that while I make bad first impressions in most situations I make horrible, foot in mouth, did I really say that out loud mistakes when I am in a new small group. It comes from my insecure need to prove who I am. To prove that I am smart and not just a stay at home mommy of small kids. This is my only intellectual outlet most of the time and I want to be taken seriously.
So today we are in our small group and some lovely lady starts to say something about politics and religion, or at least that is what I think she is going to say because I jumped on top of her first sentence so fast that she stopped talking. I realized right away how rude and selfish I was being. I apologized and asked her to continue which of course she did not do because how could she knowing I was the supposed "expert" in what she was talking about and had discounted her point before she started. The big irony though was that our study this session is called "Conversational Peace" and just yesterday I did the self assessment that showed me that needing to quarrel, interrupt and be proven right were a huge problem area for me.
Thankfully the woman had enough grace to talk to me after group and I was able to apologize. I realized that I was so caught up in her details (which struck a soft spot of frustration in me) that I missed her point altogether.
I do that a lot. Get caught up in the details of the words and conversation and miss the heart of what my friends and loved ones really need heard. I miss their heart which is truly tragic because I want to really know the deepest parts of the people around me. I really care about the joys and pains of my friends and family. But I often miss the important stuff. So feel free to tell me if I am not listening to what you really want to say.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
They say you can't go home again, but we did. We made the big move. We left sunny California for the beautiful rainy Pacific Northwest. We had kept our house here in our little suburb and rented it out when we moved to the Silicon Valley so my husband could join a start up. When things got really rocky and he started looking for back up plans, his old company asked him to come back. So here we are back in our old house with him working at his old job. My middle son is in preschool where Hockey Boy first went to preschool. We are back at our old church which we love. I even went back to the church's women's Bible study this week and am already plugged in to help lead a small group. The same women are there and the childcare workers remembered the boys, though the boys do not remember them. The music teacher at our local toy store remembered the boys and amazingly they remembered the toy store. Priorities...
The weird thing though is that while we are right back in our old lives and some things have not changed, I know that I missed some important things in the lives of the people around me. Babies were born. Parents died. Children grew and some even went off to college. Jobs were lost. Employers changed. Remodeling was done. I feel like I need to take a few minutes with everyone I know and ask them the highlight and low point of the last two years.
And I have changed as well in the last two years. Things have happened in my life that people here do not know. My relationship with my parents has changed drastically. And that is really awkward because my parents were so involved in the kids lives when we lived here before. They watched the kids a lot and they even kept them overnight at their house. That won't be happening now because of what has happened over the last two years but only those people that I kept really in touch with know. So now I get lots of comments about the grandparents being so happy we are back or you must like having the grandparents around to help again and I don't know what to say.
So you can go home again. But things will have changed.
Monday, April 6, 2009
As I was driving along I-5 on my way out of the Silicon Valley I kept thinking of Dorothy in the land of Oz. When we left our little suburb in the Pacific Northwest, we were really excited about the adventures that lay ahead. I think we were a little bored with our simple life. So when we got to the Silicon Valley where the cars are mostly shiny, new and fancy and people did blink an eye at spending $3.25 for a cupcake (and why buy one when you can by a six pack), I was a little overwhelmed. The women dressed a little nicer. The nannies were everywhere pushing the $600 strollers that I had only seen once or twice before actually being driven around. I suddenly became a "caregiver" at story time at the local library as the librarian would ask, "Caregivers, would you help you kids put the bells away." I felt like Dorothy in Oz.
But over time, I found my lion, my scarecrow and my tin man. I found my friend from church who had kids my age and a heart so full of peace I felt better just being around her. I met a kinder mom who had three boys, though her youngest was friends with my oldest, and I would listen to all the wisdom and humor she had to share about raising boys. I met my stay at home Dad friend who fit right in and who I learned so much from about gentleness and fun. I also met a woman at my middle son's preschool who gave me the courage to stand up and fight for my family when I needed to.
While I eventually loved living in the land of Oz, in the end I was like Dorothy. I wanted to click my heals and go home again. Not because Oz was not amazing because it really is a great place to live! I fell in love with Sprinkles Cupcakes and the sunny weather. I loved having lunch with my kinder parent friends on Fridays and hanging out at the playground after school. I was incredibly blessed as was my entire family by the amazing teaching and people at our church. There are amazing people in Oz that I will miss deeply.
But as Dorothy says, "There's no place like home."