Monday, December 29, 2008

Resting in the New Year

Usually during this time of year I do a lot of eating and listening to Christmas music. I gorge myself so that I feel better about making resolutions to lose weight and I don't feel the need to listen to Christmas music again until around the end of September when choirs everywhere crank up the rehearsals for the Christmas program. I usually start working out and work out pretty regularly until Fat Tuesday. Then I give up working out for Lent as I'm focusing my energy on something else more spiritual. Then I pick up working out again with a vengeance so that I am swimsuit ready by Memorial weekend when pools everywhere open for summer. Although I am never completely happy with the results, it's been my M.O. for about oh, 15 years or so.
I don't know what I'll do this year, my gym membership has expired. I wasn't motivated to renew it, as I'm not trying to lose baby weight this year. Sure I'm still gorging myself on what's left of the Christmas goodies--mostly bread, chocolate, red wine, and various other carbs. Workouts take on a whole new meaning with two kids. I'm very busy chasing my son on his new bike and trying to teach the baby to go forward instead of backward in his Cozy Coup (you know the big red car you move with your feet, Flinstone style). And I'm also breaking my arms and back doing laundry and dishes, so that has to count for something doesn't it? You should see my reflexes, I can wipe a nose and catch boogers from across the room. With two very congested boys for Christmas (second year in a row now) I get a lot of practice. And do you lose any calories emailing while you wait for the plumber to come fix your clogged sink and broken garbage disposal?
Christmas has been a whirlwind this year, but we're finally done. My father and his friend came for a few days. My mom was here Christmas Day (when we broke the garbage disposal). We just returned from a week in Steamboat with my husband's family and on the way out we visited my sister and her husband and baby. I realize that's not nearly as much visiting as some people, but for me it was more than enough. The logistics alone would boggle the minds of sergeants in the army.
We attempted to keep the real meaning of Christmas in Christmas this year, but I admit I was defeated more often then not. Lighting the advent candles turned into a "you can blow them out if you use good dinnertime behavior" exercise instead of a spiritual one. We rolled into town about 10:40 on Christmas Eve, plenty of time to make the 11 o'clock service, but the baby who had not slept the entire day on any of the 7 hours of flying time, was asleep in the car. Our older son finally stopped asking if we were there yet and was nodding off, so we rolled right by the church. On Christmas day, we made a birthday cake for Baby Jesus, but my son was more interested in seeing how many inches of sprinkles he could pour on it. By dinnertime he had exhausted my husband's patience so badly that instead of eating the birthday cake for Jesus, the child was sent to his room while the rest of us ate it. Kind of defeated the purpose I suppose, but live and learn. This morning my son asked me if I had written a thank you note to Santa for the presents. I realize this isn't exactly laden with Christian sentiment, but I was surprised it would cross my son's mind to say thank you to another man he can't see but believes in when he can't thank his own grandparents and aunts and uncles in real time. I tell you children just bondoogle the mind.
Anyway, it has been a very lovely Christmas. Mostly low key although busier than I had hoped. I hope you all enjoyed your Christmas as I much as I have. Now it is time to turn my attention to the New Year. It's Christmastide right now. We're still waiting--for Epiphany and the three kings.
I am beginning to see a pattern here in Christianity with waiting. Sorry, momentarily interrupted by "moooommmmmmyyyyyy", where was I?
Waiting. Maybe waiting isn't the right word. gives the following synonyms for wait (verb): anticipate, abide, look for, remain, pause, rest. Hmmm, absolutely none of those words means the same thing, but I like using them in the context of Christian waiting. For example, we anticipate the coming of Christ during Advent, we anticipate his resurrection at Easter, we abide in His love always, we look for ways to be like Him, and we pause during various parts of the Christian calendar to evaluate our life and its course like Lent.
Perhaps the hardest part of waiting, is the resting part. I have a terrible time resting. I am so constantly on the go, I don't know how to rest properly. If you can't rest properly, you can't focus your attention. If you can't focus your attention, how do know how to abide in His love or remain in His care?
I think this resting part of waiting will be my New Year's resolution for 2009. I've worked on living the way of blessedness, prayer, and forgiveness. My journey this year will be a journey of rest. Synonyms for rest include: break, composure, interlude, peace, and respite. How will I do this? I surely don't know, but I will endeavor to pause and look for rest in my waiting until I find it. It may seem like an odd goal considering the season of life I am currently in (crazed wild child tamer). All I know is, you can't find peace racing around filling your calendar. Part of waiting and finding peace is being quiet with yourself. Not only is it hard to find the time, but it's a hard thing to do. I don't particularly like being quiet with myself, but I'm going to do it. If I shut up long enough, maybe I'll tell myself a few things I need to hear.
I wish everyone great success in whatever goal or realization or resolution or change you may be seeking in the coming year. Most of all I wish you rest while you wait and rest while you seek and rest for the sake of rest.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Four Christmases

I went to see the movie, "Four Christmases" on Saturday night. It was cute, fairly predictable, and full of good actors playing not so strong characters. The premise of the movie, a couple who refuse to get married because their past family experiences with marriage are terrible, avoid their families every single Christmas and go somewhere like Tahiti, but tell their families it's mission work of some kind. Hm, why did I never think of that?

If nothing else, this story makes me feel so much better about my own dysfunctional family.
Everybody's family is dysfunctional. Everybody. There is always a crazy aunt, or an obnoxious cousin, or a second wife, a strained relationship between siblings, an ailing grandparent, banished relative, or scary pets to deal with. That's why we all overeat at Christmas, get strung out about buying presents, and end up exhausted by Dec. 26th. If we focused less on the "feel good family moment" BS that tv, movies, and stores were shoveling at us with lightening speed and focused more on our own family unit and the true meaning of Christmas, I think we would enjoy it more.

Over the last 12 years, I've been navigating family Christmases slightly less neurotic than the movie characterizes, but only just. This year, it seems to be easier. Perhaps because I care less, or maybe because I care more. Not sure yet. I guess as we grow older and as our own immediate families become more complete, it is easier to say "not this time, thanks."

Instead of running hither and yon, we're all compromising. My four are headed to see my sister's 3 with our mom on the way out of town to see my husband's fam. It's convenient, it's low key, and it's something I really want to do. It's just me and my sis, and we've been tightrope walking Christmases for a long time now. It will be fun to just hang out and watch our own kids wreck the tree, have tantrums, and break their Christmas gifts while we eat mom's awesome chocolate cake and drink red wine.

We ski every year at Christmas with my husband's family. It's a nice trip for us and our children as well as a visit to see my husband's brother. This year we have a new sister-in-law and her family to mold into the mix. So we will see our my brother-in-law when we see him, knowing full well the responsibility he has this year and we wish him well. It was us once too.

When we come back, my dad is coming here. This is great news as he has only himself to pack and drive, whereas we have 4. He likes to play games and I have a 4 year old who is really into games. I wonder how many rounds of Chutes and Ladders they'll play before dinner?

It's great that we will get a chance to see everyone this year. We've all made the effort to make our little units work together. I don't feel the struggle or the guilt or the anxiety I've felt in years past. Whew what a relief! Now I can actually enjoy my Christmas. It's going to be so exciting!
Hooray for a movie that made me laugh a little at myself. Hooray for a movie that reminded me, my family isn't nearly as screwed up as I thought it was. Hooray for Christmas! Bring it on!

Sunday, December 7, 2008


Advent, waiting. Not something I do particularly well, waiting. I don't wait well in lines. I don't wait well in traffic. I don't wait well at checkouts. I don't wait well on my children. I don't wait well for my husband when he's late. I don't wait. But I do like Advent. In fact, I love it.

Some people consider these days the 25 days of Christmas. I consider it the 24 days of Advent and then the twelve days of Christmas followed by Epiphany. I love getting that Advent calendar in the mail from church as much as my son does. I love putting up the tree on December first. I love adding presents a few at a time under the tree until it's full. I love the spirit of giving that is born of a desire to share and give something special to another person. I love putting out the Nativity. I love Christmas music on the radio. I love Christmas concerts on television. I love to read "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" every single year.

Our church doesn't have just one Christmas concert, or even one Christmas pageant. We have an entire Advent Calendar Season. Four Sundays of Advent, the Family Advent Wreath Making Night, a walk on Nativity Pageant, The Festival of Lessons and Carols (music and verse), a Christmas Play that runs for two weeks in the playhouse, other groups use our sanctuary for Christmas concerts, two Christmas Eve services, a Saturday noon service for those who cannot come on Christmas Sunday and a Christmas celebration Sunday. Then we celebrate Epiphany Sunday and start the season of Epiphany that runs until Lent (more or less).

There is so much hype surrounding Christmas Eve and Christmas day, we often forget to celebrate the whole season. The whole season is about waiting on the Lord Jesus to come and bring new light to our world. He comes to bring peace and joy and hope. He comes to bring a new way of life. The celebration of his birthday is important, but it is his coming and the change that comes for us that is worth celebrating. The miraculous story of how he comes. What his coming meant for so many people at that time and today.

The season of waiting is good training for the season of self-denial that comes after it during Lent. There is so much more to Christmas than that one night in the manger. Granted that night is most special and full of wonder and awe and life. But it is the spirit of that night that carries us through the whole year. It is the spirit of waiting for that inspiration that makes Advent so special.

Some lines from our Festivals and Carols readings that I found particularly evocative this year:

"Amazing have interrupted our routines...with your good news...You have gathered this unlikely assortment of folk to become a transforming community of faith." (Duck, Ruth C. Fresh Winds of the Spirit, 1985, The Pilgrim Press.)
Yes! How much did God get people out of their rut all those many years ago? He gathered the most unlikely group of people--a young Jewish teenager, an upstanding but poor Jewish carpenter who were traveling because of and eventually running from the Romans, a bunch of disreputable shepherds who were too unclean to even come to the gates of the Temple, and three astrologers from foreign lands who together created a faith story that is still with us today.

"Gracious God...dedicate us to prepare your way by lifting up the valleys in our lives and making smooth the rough places of others." (Duck, Ruth C., Tirabassi, Maren C., Ed. Touch Holiness: Resources for Worship, 1990 The Pilgrim Press.)
Yes! Christmas isn't just about me and my waiting. It's about my ability to wait on others. If I hear the true promise of the coming of Jesus, do I not want all of those promises of peace and reconciliation for all people?

"Creator God...may this season inspire us to live in such a way that others will see the Christ in and through us." (Biegert, John E., Pilgrim Prayers for Leading Worship, 2003 The Pilgrim Press.)
Yes! Use me Lord. Let this season of waiting be a season in which I wait on and with others.

"Our heavenly Father, as once again we prepare for Christmas, help us to find time in our busy lives for quiet and thought and prayer." (Colquhoun, Frank. The Book of a Thousand Prayers. Ed. Angela Ashwin. 1996,2002 Zondervan.)
Yes!I, as your hands and feet of the kingdom, need this time to reaffirm your promises. I need this yearly reminder of waiting and wondering to refill my lamp. While I am called to be Martha in this world frequently, help me take time to find the inspiration Mary found in Christ so I will not use it all up at once.

"Eternal God...may your word-made-flesh herald a renewal among us." (not attributed)
Yes! Don't let the Christmas story be the tired, same, old story. God is eternal. This story is eternal. This wonder is eternal. This ultimate salvation and sacrifice that came among us as the least of us, showed us the best in us, and gave us a path to share and give and act and transform the world around us through Him. We use this time of Advent and Christmastide to reflect, renew, and rejoice that God is indeed with us.

So a blessed Advent to you.
Merry Christmas to you.
I hope the New Year holds an Epiphany for you.
In the name of Christ, peace be upon you.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Playing Restaurant

My 4 year old and I have started a new game called Restaurant. He thinks it is great fun. We pretend that the kitchen is a restaurant. I put a tablecloth on the table and candles and the crystal salt and pepper shakers. Everyone gets a plate, a spoon, a fork, and a napkin. I put dessert on the table in the middle (as an incentive for good manners and eating enough dinner). I become hostess, waitress, cook, and dinner companion, but we get through dinner.

I "take" his order by giving him the day's special and I use really polite words and a nice voice and call him "sir". For example, "tonight sir, the special is baked chicken with rice and green beans." He in turn says, "oh yes, thank you I'll have that." Seriously, I'm not kidding.

We made up this game one morning at breakfast. I quickly found out that he would "pretend" to use his "company manners" and be nice to me if we played restaurant. Now we play it for breakfast and dinner. He does call me "Cooker" and starts all his requests with, "Hey Cooker?" but I just laugh and say, I'm sorry I only hear nice words in my restaurant. He follows that up with, "Hey please mommy can you get me...."

Last night we even made an attempt to use a fork and put our hands in our lap. It was really funny. He lasted about 2 bites and then couldn't manage the fork with one hand. But we practiced the whole meal. It turned out to be pretty fun.

At any rate, I'm going to ride this ride as long as it will last--probably 3 of 4 more days. It has been fun and a merciful release from the usual dinnertime attitude.

If anybody has any other mealtime suggestions to get the kids to behave let me know!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

To write or to tell stories?

We are a writing kind of family. We are also story-tellers. It seems like there is an itch in us to impart information to a crowd--willing or unwilling listeners--about ourselves. My sister writes beautiful songs. So does her husband. My dad has written two books. I write this blog. We all tell great stories. I can be quite entertaining when I choose to be, although I probably write better stories than I tell.
So lately I've been toying with the idea of putting some of these stories together in an attempt to create something larger, like a book of short stories, or maybe one of those Erma Bombeck styled books you find in the self-help section that are full of funny hahas with a nugget of info at the end. My problem is, I'm not sure I can string the stories into something that makes sense and I have no nuggets of info at the end. I also wonder if people who don't know me would find my stories funny. Part of the reason these little "Marla Mail" sketches are so entertaining is that the people I am emailing know me very well.
Maybe I should just stick to what I do best. Writing a funny email about the kids latest and greatest and telling on myself. That way I don't have to worry about punctuation, sentence structure, starting sentences with conjunctions or using commas appropriately. My grammar is terrible. I really have to work on it. I write like I speak--in run on sentences full of dashes, commas, double modals, and too many words.
Or maybe I'll create a character called Marvin. Marvin can be about 10. He's been sent to live with his Aunt, who we'll call Evangelina along with his sister Maria who's 7. Evangelina is a fun-loving 30 something with a compost pile and a fainting goat in the backyard who lives in the middle of the city. Marvin and Maria have lost their parents to a freak snowboarding accident in Vail, CO. In the course of their new relationship with Evangelina they discover in true "Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe" fashion that she is rather "Lemony-snicket"ish. But their favorite part about her is that she tells great stories about her younger days with her sister (their sweet mother) Marguerite. While these stories will seem so "Laura Ingalls Wilder" to these technologically advanced children (they each have their own iPhone), there is a wholesomeness to the stories about a time gone by that fulfills some deep inner longing to connect with their mother and all things old-fashioned (i.e. pre-21st century). And with that I'll launch into a full disclosure about the crazy days of life, love and the pursuit of happiness that were my youth.
I'll see you on the first page of chapter one...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Peaceful Soul is a Free Soul

This is my last week of study on forgiveness. I am in a place where I can move forward in my journey of forgiveness--and it is a journey. "Everything [about forgiveness] depends on the spirit we bring to the act." (p. 71) We can't expect to feel good about forgiving someone, unless we mean it. And we can't really forgive someone unless we do it for the right reasons and in the right way. Forgiveness is not cheap grace.

One of the most important lessons for me on my journey is this: The "great benefit in being able to forgive [is that] it releases us from carrying the corrosive effects of anger and bitterness in our own souls and peace of soul is not an insignificant matter. Forgiveness also empowers us allowing us to reassert our choice to become whole instead of merely accepting the diminishment of our wounds." (p.75) Those are some powerful words. I found a new way to look at forgiveness over the last several weeks, even in the face of forgiveness without reconciliation or forgiveness without acknowledgment of wrongdoing. I can CHOOSE peace of soul over a life of diminished outlook. I make that choice. What is done to me doesn't make that choice for me.

The following quote slayed me when I read it and the words have stayed with me over several days now. Lewis Smedes wrote, "Only a free person can live with an uneven score." Am I free enough to live a life of true forgiveness, ready to reconcile if and when that moment comes with every person? Jesus showed us the most uneven score of all--his personal sacrifice for all who came before and after Him. His choice to accept "the power of transformation and promise of God's redemption for the other person" (p. 76) illumines a way of grace that puts me at a loss for words. It's time fore me to hear the call. How free can I be?

Quoted material comes from Thompson, Marjorie J. Companions in Christ, the Way of Forgiveness. August, 2002, pp. 71-76.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Before you think I believe we have no social obligations as a nation or community by my comments yesterday (which surely you wouldn't), allow me the opportunity to say my peace on public education.
I am a product of the public K-12 school system. I receive an undergraduate degree from a private institution. I earned a Master's degree at a public institution. Now I go in and out of the work force as a contractor in the public school system providing speech-language services. No I have never taught an entire classroom of children and no my children are not yet school-aged. We send them to preschool and daycare in local church sponsored settings, but soon they will go to kindergarten at the local elementary school. I say all this so you have an idea what my experience is with public school in general. I have not studied the history of public education, nor do I know very much about its origins other than what I have read or been told by others in my life.
I think for the most part, people in the US have chosen to believe education is a privilege we want our children to have. As a nation, we collectively believe it is in our best interest to provide and pay for a system that educates all children with minimal cost to them. I absolutely and unequivocally agree. We do our nation a great disservice if we do not give our citizens access to learning.
Maybe public education started out as a social experiment, I don't know. I do know that for as long as there have been written documents in the United States, people have valued what education provides. People who can read, write, and "figure" are far less likely to be taken advantage of and have a far greater chance at participating in our literate society that bases most of its communicative structure on the written word. I know there are many many ongoing debates out there about access, and what does "free" mean, and what does "appropriate" mean, and what does "equal" mean. I do not go there, for I have no answers for you.

But here is where I do go. It is not the responsibility of the public school system to teach your child respect for adults, respect for authority, respect for others, the value of education, or manners. That's your job as a parent. The development of these principles is certainly a worthy aim of education, but you cannot build on social principles that are absent to begin with.
We have removed, replaced, or reviled every possible avenue for teachers and principals to keep order in their school to the point where it is often impossible to teach. Now no one wants their child to be afraid of the teacher, but a healthy respect for rules and grown-ups is not a misguided principle of learning. There was a time growing up that I dreaded getting demerits, I lived in horror of going to the principal's office, and a note home to my parents was sure to get me in big big trouble. There was a time in this country when people built their own school building from donated materials on a donated piece of land, and then took up a collection to pay a teacher and boarded that teacher in various homes. The community was more than grateful that someone was willing to come and teach their children.
I feel that education has lost its most fervent supporters--parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, neighbors--community. I'm not blaming all or even some parents, I'm lamenting a loss of belief that education is important. Education has been free and accessible (for the most part) for a long time now and I think the value of it has been diminished. The idea of education has mutated from a privilege of learning to a kitchen sink where everything is going to be taken care of including teaching kids to mind their p's and q's. Our tax dollars go to provide buses to transport children, buildings, light, heat, air, teachers, staff, books, computers, extra supports for learning, libraries, special education, in many instances free lunch and free breakfast, before and after care. Why are we not demanding from our children who are the recipients of these services that we get our money's worth?
We are so busy complaining about all the problems in education today, we forget the first and most fundamental problem of all--family buy in to the importance of learning. The school can't be mom and dad and grandma and grandpa and uncle and aunt and cousin and older sibling. We've lost our sense of community investment in school. (There are many reasons for this, but that's another blog.) We have robbed our teachers of the belief that they will be supported in their efforts. We blame them when our children's education suffers, and yet we have fallen short in giving them what they need from us-- showing our own children that education is important through our presence and our practice.
Before we say, well, school just isn't for my child, or well that teacher just can't hold the class together, we should ask ourselves, have we done all we can to help? Do we ever ask ourselves what is our responsibility in this failing school? Much can be done to improve a situation that doesn't require money--faith in, interest in, involvement in, protection of, respect for, and a sense of ownership in a school community is invaluable. Money can't buy those things. You can throw all the tax dollars, fundraised dollars, and grant dollars you want at something, but if the underpinnings of that system are faulty, it's never going to work properly. I'm not saying we should throw the baby out with the bathwater. However, before we get lost forever in a world of CYA paperwork, legal battles, and testing that doesn't test real knowledge, we should get a good grip on what else is missing in the equation.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Election

So I've had a few questions---Marla, no comment on the election? You're usually so vocal? What happened? Well, I was in Disney World folks with limited access to email and the web. However, I suppose I shouldn't disappoint my friends who appear to be interested or at least tolerant of my opinions so I shall attempt to opine about this election.
I will go on the record and say I voted for McCain. He lost. I wasn't surprised. It isn't that I don't like Obama, I do. I think he will make a solid President. My concern is the runaway train the Democrats in/or recently elected to office are on. I am not sure when running roughshod over "rich" people became policy, especially since the latest rumor is that anyone who makes more than $100, 000 is now considered "uberwealthy" by Democrats. I am not sure when income redistribution became the only way to fix America's problems. I don't quite understand why conservative people are considered little better than the anti-Christ by the media. Apparently the airwaves are now "too conservative" so our freedom of speech is now in jeopardy, because it isn't left enough.
Our country currently has a love affair with entitlements--social security, education, etc. While I am not against these things in theory, I am concerned about the fact that these programs have created a sense of "my government owes me" among people in general. Your government doesn't owe you anything except protection from invasion and your rights as protected by the Constitution (you know haebeus corpus, freedom of religion, and so forth).
I am concerned that there are people out there who think Obama is going to make the government pay the house payment, send their kid to college, and put gas in the car. He is going to do none of those things. Even if he could, Obama never said that, and I dare say he doesn't believe that he should do any of those things. While Obama does have policy ideas that make me shake my head, I think he fundamentally believes in personal responsibility and personal freedom. But I am not sure exactly how Obama plans to reconcile a massive plan of redistribution of wealth with beliefs in personal responsibility. Having Joe Biden go on the record and call those of us opposed to their potential policies unpatriotic was not the best way to start.
So how do I feel about the election? Buy real estate, work for barter or trade, and hide your cash in your mattress otherwise what the stock market hasn't taken, this heavily Democratic Congress will. Do I think the country is going to fall apart? No. Do I think my rights are in danger? No. Do I think my country is in danger? Not more than it has been since 9/11. Do I think we are in danger of losing our capitalist society? We are flirting dangerously with some socialist ideas and anyone who thinks socialism really works should talk to a regular Joe from Canada or Europe. Do I think our health care system is going to be reformed? No. But we might lose a slew of really good doctors to income redistribution in the guise of payroll taxes, runaway malpractice insurance premiums, bigger cuts in the pitiful excuse for insurance reimbursement that already exists, and mandated health care policies that are made by people who don't provide health care.
On a totally different note (in other words, besides my pocketbook concerns), I am not unaffected by the historical significance of this election. I am elated that my country elected our first African-American President. "Never in my lifetime did I think it would happen," has been said over and over by people of my parent's generation. And let's not forget that Obama's biggest opponent in the primary was a female Senator! And the VP on the Republican ticket was a female Governor. On the congressional front, according to data provided by CAWP of Rutgers (, there will be 17 female Senators (a new record), 74 females in the House of Representatives, and one new female Governor (taking the total to 8). These numbers are not insignificant. Maybe someday the numbers will be even more encouraging (like 25 female senators, 217 female representatives, and 25 female governors).
Where exactly am I then? Well, I am waiting and seeing just like everybody else. Regardless of the state of the economy and the future of tax policy, I remain extremely hopeful and I have full confidence in our leaders. At the end of the day, we're all Americans. United we stand and divided we fall. I realize those are tired words at this point in the election cycle, but they are still true. As a nation, we cannot afford to cut off our nose to spite our face. My only request to those who have been elected, get over it (whether you won or lost a majority), and get on with governing.
And while you're at it, I have this ASHA (American Speech Language Hearing Association) issue I need to speak with you about on therapy caps for services in part B of medicare....

The Magic of the Magical Kingdom

We just finished our first family trip to Disney World. Indulge me if you will by musing over my musings about the magical world of Mickey Mouse...
First of all where was Mickey mouse?? I only saw him two times--at a rope drop and at a parade. Apparently he has been replaced as the main squeeze by other characters like princesses for every conceivable storyline and other toys that have come to life? I don't know.
Secondly, why has Disney fallen prey to consumer clutches? After EVERY ride we went through a store selling CSC (also know as cheap shit from China). This disappointed me.
Thirdly, we had a super time. It truly was a family vacation. Even though the baby was stroller bound most of the time, there was enough for all of us to do together that no one felt left out.
Fourth, I was so happy to be reminded that all parents lose their temper. We just boil at different degrees. I felt vindicated in small part, by all the crying screaming tantrum throwing children and their bedraggled short-tempered parents surrounding us. I know it's horrible of me to write such a statement. But really, it's so helpful to realize you are not alone in the world.
Fifth, do not underestimate the power of a hotel pool. One with a poolside bar will increase family happiness considerably. An afternoon beer while watching the kids play in the splash pool is a magical thing regardless of where you are.
All in all, I'd say WDW is a fun vacation destination and I can see why people go back again and again. Who knows, maybe when I get around to unpacking, I'll find a bit of magic pixie dust in the bottom of the bag....

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Transformation of Anger

This week I have been contemplating the transformational power of anger. I have never thought of anger as a positive force for change before. My current devotional study, "The Way of Forgiveness" by Companions in Christ is guiding me through shame, guilt, anger, and forgiveness in a gentle, but thought-provoking way. On page 49 of my book I read, "we are not so much called to rid ourselves of anger as to allow it to become, in some sense, a spiritual guide." Imagine me telling that to my parents as a teen! Mom and Dad, I'm not angry, I'm following a spiritual guidance of total frustration! On a more serious note, I have tried to sit with my frustrations and disappointments and annoyances this week to see if I could get to the heart of the matter. On at least one occasion I was successful. Progress, however incremental is still progress.

I have also tried to pray for my enemies this week. I don't have true enemies I guess, but I have tried hard to pray for people who have disappointed me, or hurt my feelings. I have even spent a little time pondering attitudes I don't understand. I didn't get very far, but I'm trying. Time is a gift and helper in this exercise. I have a two-fold perspective of time. One, I don't have time to spend energy on this so I'm moving on. And two, the more days that pass, the less anger I seem to generate about what happened. Using these two opposite thoughts, I am inching slowly down the path of forgiveness.

The take away message for me this week is the following: "To practice gratitude, praise, and blessing in the midst of annoyance, difficulty, and suffering is one of the great spiritual disciplines....Learning to cope constructively with hurt and anger lays the groundwork for what is perhaps the most challenging spiritual practice in human life: forgiveness." (Page 53 of my study, lest you think I wrote those words myself.)

One of the tenets of today's sermon spoke to me as it dovetails nicely with this journey of forgiveness I am on. He said he believes that "our capacity to love one another is directly proportional with our capacity to forgive one another." I think this is true of all the emotions that operate in tension with one another. They are two sides of the same coin---love/hate, laughter/tears, hope/despair, joy/grief, faith/doubt. Our capacity for one broadens the space for the other. How can we know one without knowing at least a little bit of the other? Joys are always sweeter when we've been denied access to joy. Love is always stronger when it has been challenged by a force against love. Hope is born of despair, and sometimes we laugh so hard we cry.

It amazes me how after two weeks of sitting and facing anger it seems a little easier to deal with. Anger becomes another process. I don't mean to diminish its existence or lessen its power, but the focal point of anger has changed for me. After my initial reaction (still working on that part), I ask: What am I trying to tell myself? Why am I having such a gut-reaction? What is it in me that causes such a surge of emotion? Why do I reject something so strongly? Has this been building? Where did it start? And most importantly, where do I go now?

Hopefully more and more often we will choose to go directly to the Father and lay it all out for Him. Without His guidance through the Holy Spirit and Jesus' example, we could wallow in anger for a long long long time. But I think Jesus might think that a waste of our time. We were meant for something greater. If we allow that wallowing to be meaningless, then it has served no purpose. It's just negative energy. Another quote from my study guide, "The value of [praying directly to God about anger] is that it faces us squarely with ourselves as we are now, [which is] a critical understanding....'God cannot find you where you think you ought to be; God can only find you where you actually are.' If we do not recognize where we are, we cannot fully offer ourselves to God for healing." (page 50-51)

As I continue on this journey--which I know will be a lifelong one, I hope that I can find a way to love more deeply (forgive), live more fully (forgive), and react more positively (forgive) to people, events, and challenges in my life. I believe if I do so, my time here on earth will be well spent.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

To Work Away from Home or Not?

I think this is a very delicate question and the answer is different every single time it's asked. I happen to be a fortunate woman who can work while practicing her vocation. I also happen to be doubly fortunate because I work by choice. But I have always worked. I worked in the summers. I worked right after college. I worked while I was engaged, married, and I work now part-time while raising two kids. I don't know how to not work outside my home.

There was a time in my life when I was a better mommy when I was working. My first son and I are natured so alike temperament wise that we need a break from each other almost every day. We've been like this from the cradle. It is neither good or bad, it just is. He enjoyed school right away and other than some tearful mornings from time to time, adjusted well. I did not. I cried every morning. The guilt weighed on me like an albatross. However, I was trying so hard to establish myself as a professional and I was up against a deadline for certification in my field. I pushed forward and eventually created a routine that worked well and we could all live with.

The second time I became pregnant, I worked up until about 5 weeks before the baby. Then I took a year off, just like I did with my first. Taking a year off with two children is much different. I was climbing the walls by Christmas, but I was also so tired from chasing two, that I was somewhat ambivalent about going back. Then summer came, and the baby was almost no longer a baby. I was ready and excited to return to work.

Now I'm three months into and I have to tell you, I'm ambivalent about it. My first son has turned into an interesting little boy who likes to spend time with me and my baby and I have not yet begun to push each other's buttons in a way that makes long breaks from each other necessary. I truly love what I do. It's my vocation. It's where I belong. But I'm also a mother and it's my vocation, my priority, and my God-given job. Going back to work again has not made me the better mommy that I was the first time. You know when you're a mom of two, you are a different mommy. Your body is different. Your energy level is different. Your time management is different. Things that were once important, aren't as important as they were.

I say all this to say that trying to balance life is not as difficult as I thought, but trying to balance how I feel about it is. We get up, I get everyone ready, I pack lunches, I drop everyone off (no tears from anyone most mornings--not even me), I go to work for a couple of hours, I pick everyone up at 2, we go home and play/nap/watch movies and eat snacks, I attempt to make dinner or plan to go out, we eat, we bathe, we read, we go to bed. It's a juggling game, but it's not rocket science.

Alas, I am no pioneer woman, nor am I a crusader with infinite strength and drive. My health is suffering some from all this busy-ness, my mental clarity is suffering, and I miss my kids. I haven't always missed my kids (holy horrors Batman, a mom who will admit that must be certifiable!). But I miss them now. I enjoy getting away for the morning, or the afternoon, or the evening. I can work and do nothing else, or I can not work and be the grade mom, the park mom, the book club/ night out mom, and the happy healthy wife my husband married. There is unfortunately not much middle ground for me. I'm disappointed, because I would like to say I can be all things to all people.

However, I am much reminded by those who have gone before me and give me sage advice I would do well to heed. This time in my life is a season. It is short and will pass. There will be time to practice my vocation later. There will be time to spend with my children in different ways later. There will be time to spend with my husband in a different way (besides sitting on the couch staring at each other with nary the energy for much beyond a lecherous grin).

So it is time to let go, to say no, and to enjoy my life. I cannot enjoy my family if my health is suffering. I cannot take care of my family if I cannot be present in mind and body. I am more than fortunate that I even have a choice to stay home. My husband and I are on the same page about my choice. He wants my happiness and our family's health preserved. If that means I go in and out of the work force many times over time, he is on board. It took us a while to get there, but we have come to an understanding about it. We have also made the decision that our standard of living will not be affected by whatever income I bring home. This was very important to us both. It doesn't take much to get to a point where two incomes are necessary in this world of uncertain times, so if we don't start there already, in the event of a life event that would make it so, we could make adjustments for me to go to work.

So I suppose it is time I changed my perspective and my feelings about motherhood. I hate those terms--stay at home mom, full-time mom, part-time career. Who has a career that is really part-time? The hours on the books may be part-time, but I think about my patients all the time. And I have yet to meet a mom that wasn't a full-time mom. To think of it any other way is just silly. And what mom stays at home? Aren't we constantly running? To the store, to the dry cleaners, to school, to the doctor, to the drug store, to the post office, this errand for husband, this errand for mother, this errand for self. Honestly.

Perhaps I will re-title myself--when I can find one that works. I'll let you know. Until then, I will continue to try to find that elusive balance of home and world.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Well, I've embarked on a new journey that has taken up my blog time. My Bible study --for lack of a better description--has begun again for the fall, and I use my extra time to do my homework instead of blog--except for right now because I am busy writing run on sentences here on my blog.

This semester we are wrestling with forgiveness. Not my strong suit. It's not that I necessarily hold grudges, although I've been known to do that. I have a very long memory. I imagine God's memory could be longer than mine, but I'm told time and again in what I read and what I study that it isn't so. If he can forgive me, why can't I forgive myself? I think of the mammoth amount of pain he could hold on to if he chose to and he doesn't. The heartache we must cause him as fallible human beings is mind boggling, and yet we're created in his image. It certainly makes one pause to rethink what perfection is. Is it really not making mistakes? Is it really always doing the right thing? Is it really never making a misstep? Or is it something bigger than that? Is it more of a state of being than a measurable concept? If your state of being with God is perfect--in that you are his child and you are his beloved and you are his blessed one, the rest of it falls into place?

I've been learning to think about forgiveness in a different way. Forgiveness is free. Forgiveness already exists. You don't create it, you enter into it. It's already there happening all around you, you just put yourself in the middle of it--like standing in a stream or waterfall. You don't have to wait for someone to ask for it, or think they need it. You can offer it to them without ever even telling them.

Then there is forgiving yourself. This is perhaps the greatest hurdle of all. If God forgives us and even forgets what we have done than why can't we? Time is precious and short. We don't have the time to dwell on mistakes and harp on ourselves for not quite measuring up. Forgive yourself, right the wrong if you can, acknowledge it if you can't, and move on.

There is so much more to do in the world than wallowing in one's own self-doubt and lack of perfection. If we didn't put so much pressure on ourselves to measure up to something so unattainable, then maybe we would see our sins for what they are, human. I'm certainly not absolving truly evil acts, nor am I saying we that we shouldn't feel ashamed of our behavior from time to time. Sometimes we do terrible things in anger or out of hate or ignorance or desperation. And there are some acts of evil we can't explain or begin to understand. But I do know this, every single human breath drawn on this earth is drawn by God's child. Every single person. And if his grace and mercy and forgiveness are all around us waiting for us to accept and move on, then it's time to accept and move on.

This is my new favorite quote. Every time I read it, I start to cry--and I've read it many times in the last week. It was written by Charles Williams. I don't have the bibliography information, but I'm not taking credit for the words, they're his, so read on:

"If you want to disobey and refuse the laws that are common to us all, if you want to live in pride and division and anger, you can. But if you will be part of the best of us, and live and laugh and be ashamed with us, then you must be content to be helped. You must give your burden up to someone else, and you must carry someone else's burden. I haven't made the universe and it isn't my fault. But I'm sure that this is a law of the universe, and not to give up your parcel is as much to rebel as not to carry another's. You'll find it quite easy if you let yourself do it."

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A Soundoff about Marriage

You know there is no magical formula to a successful marriage. Sometimes we think some people have the perfect life even though we know know no one has it perfect. Sometimes marriages of our friends or acquaintances look absolutely dysfunctional on the surface. Even those we are close to do things or say things that raise our eyebrows. I'm sure I've raised a few in my short tenure as a married woman (almost 9 years and counting). All of us need a chance to blow off some steam about our spouse. I don't think it's disloyal in the least. It's perfectly normal to get annoyed, upset, frustrated, and sometimes angry about something between you and your spouse.

Most of the time, our friends are happy to be sounding boards for our outrage. And then sometimes, our friends say things like, "you know you should be so grateful that your husband does X and Y" that derails the entire process. These judgments have their place. Occasionally we need to be pulled up short from our complaining, particularly if we've started a bad habit. Over all though, I think these types of comments are not helpful to someone who needs a moment to vent.

I personally find that without a safe outlet to go to, life gets a whole lot worse. Sometimes you need to blow off about an event or a conversation, but not at your spouse. Little things get under your skin, or maybe it's something you've talked about over and over and while you're working on loving that part of your spouse, it still drives you nuts. I worry that people don't say enough and let things get pent up inside them. You can only swallow down so much. If you don't work it out, it will go to work on you.

I went to a mini-seminar this past Friday on marriage (it was really a kitchen sink talk, but we'll stick to the marriage part). While the speaker spoke of many things, these pointers stuck with me. First, be careful the train of thought you jump on. One negative thought leads to another and pretty soon you're having an inner dialogue with yourself about all things negative with your spouse. I confess, this is exactly what happens to me when I do not vent my feelings properly. I start the "blame train" which hooks up with the "pity party" train and pretty soon I'm steaming ahead at full-speed into bitterness and aggression against anyone and everyone who crosses my path. This is no picnic for those living with me. So I try very very hard to guard against this insidious inner thought process and instead do my best to turn my problems outward either to my spouse (as reasonably as I can) or to a trusted friend.

Secondly, how you greet each other at various intersections of your day is critical. Again, a light bulb went off in my head. How many mornings have my husband and I parted in less than ideal circumstances? I am half way through my shower, both kids are screaming, somebody has pulled all the Kleenex out of the box, both boys are hungry, I'm exhausted and all I want is a 10 minute shower and away trots my husband with "gotta go honey, wish I could stay." It's only 7:10 and I'm on that runaway train of negative energy. Recently my husband and I had a talk about this and we are working on making our leave taking in the morning better. He suggested I get up before him and shower. Then he can intercept the children while I finish getting ready in peace. I suggested he pack the lunches before he comes to bed. After making and cleaning up dinner I just can't face making lunches the night before. The jury is out on whether or not this will work, but the point is we're going to try. Maybe these seem like small trivial suggestions, but big help can sometimes come in small packages.

There are other intersections equally important. How we greet each other when he comes home from work, for example. One of the main causes of stress in our home in the last 5 years has been "what the hell am I going to find when I get home?" Now, part of me often feels like, "you'll find what you get and deal with it." Honestly, I'm no June Cleaver. However, we can work harder at saying hello in a civilized tone. I have to work on adjusting my expectations of him, of myself, and let it go when dinner does not turn out the way I hoped. He has to work on accepting that his downtime will come, but it may be after the kids go to bed. I have a feeling if we can work on these two intersections of our day together and I can work on derailing that negative train, life will greatly improve.

It's not that our life isn't already wonderful. We aren't having problems. We don't hate each other. We love each other and our children and we are committed to a healthy stable home. Healthy stable happy homes don't happen without work. Marriage takes effort and grace. People who think marriage is easy, either already do enough right that the stumbling blocks are manageable, or they've not yet been tried.

I have been musing on these thoughts all weekend. I often do the best work on my marriage out loud--whether on paper, with my husband, or with a friend. I have been blessed with many friends; women just like me who have their ups and downs. I admire the way they make life work in their own homes. I draw strength from their love for me and letting me be, as well as from their helpful and sometimes forthright suggestions. So next time one of your friends just needs a moment to blow like Mt. Vesuvius about her crazy husband, don't assume things are bad, or even that anything is really wrong. You'll know when something is really wrong. There will be plenty of opportunity for you to gently remind her of the good points in her life too. Just give your friend time to let it all out and let it go. She'll thank you, her spouse would thank you (if they knew), and you'll thank yourself, because you never know when she can return the favor.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Political Sprint....

We are embarking on the final sprint to another election in this country. In a mere two months we will elect a new President, Congress, and various state and local officials to public office. All too often, politics in the modern 24 hour cable news cycle revolves around push button issues designed to raise hackles and emotions, instead of producing ideas and potential plans about real problems.
Indulge me for a minute. Why am I forced to decide which camp I fall under? First of all, labels are detracting and oversimplified. Secondly, choosing a political party on a single issue--which so many voters do, is poor decision-making. Alas, I have never been able to pick a camp and stick to it. I used to say I was fiscally conservative and socially liberal. Make sense out of that. I also used to say I was a Democrat because I was a woman and pro-choice and I didn't think there was any point in being a Republican. I've since discovered that idea isn't true either. Lately, I call myself an Independent. Unfortunately, I feel that an Independent doesn't really mean a whole lot. It basically means you are undecided and eventually you will go behind the curtain and choose between two candidates, neither of which appeal to you.
Our two party, first-past-the-post way of electing officials often times makes voting feel like a choice between two evils. I am certainly not criticizing our founding fathers, after all they created the electoral college which always makes close elections interesting. Our nation has survived for a long time on this Constitution and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
I am, however, disappointed that we do not have a more equitable system for creating multiple political parties. The obstacles for third party candidates are huge, both financially and in the mechanics of election procedure. Think how much more interesting our political scene would be if there were five candidates standing for the Presidential election--a true liberal, a true conservative, a guy (or girl) in the middle, an environmentalist, and a populist. I mean, wow, we'd really have some choices. I wonder how much different law making would become if in our national (and state for that matter) Senate had 30 Democrats, 30 Republicans, 20 Green Party members, 10 Independents, and 10 various. I think true consensus might actually take place. Perhaps not initially, but in time, consensus would have to come. Maybe we'd really talk about issues and problems instead of regurgitating blasphemous one liners at each other until we are so gridlocked we throw up our hands and wait until the next election and start again.
But I suppose that's pie in the sky thinking. Perhaps it is naive. Apparently there is alot of that going around this election cycle. What I do know is, I sure wish I had more choices and not because I don't like McCain or Obama. I like them both. I do not like the political divisiveness that surrounds elections in this country. I get to the point of skating around saying what I really think with my friends because I still want to be friends the day after the election regardless of who wins. I am tired of 24 hour cable news that talks to me like I have the attention span of a toddler. I am sick of television ads and misleading billboards. And I am exhausted with the artificial choice between Republican and Democrat because honestly, I don't fit in either place.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Fatigue is a great enemy. I am so tired right now. I'm ready to just sit around screaming like my one year old. He's been at it for 2 hours now. It's 2:09 in the morning. I've given him all the painkiller I can give him for his molars (he's teething again). My older son is in my bed and my husband is out of town. Why now? Why always when I have no help? It's very frustrating. I'm ready to start breaking things just to hear the satisfying crash.
I have turned on the lights and turned on my favorite movie in hopes of riding it out with some semblance of sanity. Tomorrow is going to be rough. They say the darkest hour is just before dawn. Well, dawn is a couple of hours off and here we are. It could get worse. I could be going to the ER right now. He could have a fever or trouble breathing. Both of them could be crying. I could be homeless in a hurricane with two sick children instead of here. I'm trying to quell my anxiety and my anger by focusing on good things.
Maybe I should have a Hershey bar while I'm at it. That would help. Even in the Magical world of Harry Potter, chocolate cures a variety of ills from dementor scares to homesickness. At any rate, for those of you up at this hour, I wish I had some sage advice or at least something funny to say about crying children in the middle of the night. Alas, I don't.
I just hope you're 2 am is better than mine.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Importance of Being Earnest

I think this title is also a book title? Maybe? I've heard it before for sure. Regardless, it is also the title of my entry. Why is being earnest important? One, sincerity smooths the way for those helping you. Two, being earnest makes someone want to help you. Three, being sincere helps someone you are helping appreciate your efforts instead of being embarrassed or feeling condescended to. Finally, being earnest in your efforts will actually put you closer to your goal because you are really trying.

How do I know all these things? I started back to work this week as a speech-language pathologist. I can tell from the moment we hit the therapy room who really wants to improve. Earnest children have a look about them. They really want to please. They try so hard. Usually there is a measure of success over a short period of time. There is also the hallmark of the breakthrough grin when something goes right.

Now believe me, I've been fooled by some pretty smart kids. However, the kids who don't care, don't try, so they don't make gains in their goals. Some kids are never going to make great gains, but if they try hard, they may make gains in other areas outside their specific goals.

Minute progress counts. I may not see a specific language impairment improve, but I may see a compensatory strategy emerge. I may not always see a stutter decrease, but I may see tics and fidgets and groping behaviors diminish. When I finally hear a /k/ sound or an /r/ sound from a child after weeks of trial and error together, I feel like the sun is shining right on us. When I see a severely impaired child discover a sign, take a turn with a class partner, share blocks, or bring me his favorite book in an effort to initiate a request, I feel like the mountains moved. I didn't move the mountains, that child did. I don't provide the cure, but I earnestly provide the path.

And that's why I do what I do.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's A Fireman!

So, my one year old (yes, no longer, the baby, but my one year old) received one of those Little People Fire Truck Coups for his birthday. You know, the Fred Flinstone kind that a kid drives with his feet instead of pedaling? The funny thing about this new toy is that he can't quite get the hang of it. Currently he is enamored of the siren button and open/closing the car door. He can't quite manage to go forward, but thinks bracing his feet on the ground and pushing backwards is worthy of a hearty baby chuckle. Every time he achieves backward movement, he looks up and grins for approval. I had the best time watching him "drive". He turns and turns and turns the steering wheel while I say vroom vroom over and over again. I think we were entertained for almost thirty minutes. I don't feel so bad about buying a big hunk of plastic now that we are having so much fun with it. A month from now he'll be careening down the hill at top speed, squealing at the top of his lungs, racing after big brother. So for now, I'm going to enjoy the inch by inch backward roll that is "driving" the fire truck.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Perfect Afternoon: Also Known as Mom's Mellow Midafternoon

I spent a glorious afternoon in the Hilton Head sun last week ALONE. Just me, the beach chair, the ocean waves, the sea gulls. Ted Koppel's book "Off Camera" was on my lap. A crumpled diet coke can and an empty bag of Chips Ahoy lay at my feet. There was a bottle of water on my left and a Bud heavy on my right. (Sigh) My husband was in the condo wrestling with two restless but very tired little boys. My in-laws were snoozing somewhere, by the pool I guess. I spent two lovely hours alone. Single. Solo. I did a little people watching. I read a couple of chapters. I drank my beer. I closed my eyes. I even sent up a prayer of thanks. Even now, writing about that afternoon sends me to a different place for a moment. I will draw on that moment of peace for a few more days until I have exhausted that memory's power to calm me. Perhaps I better be quick about finding another two hours of peace! Hope you find your own perfect afternoon--cheers!

The Bucket List

The Bucket List:
1. 5 dive sticks
2. 15 cars (We started with 5 and added 5 more each morning for 3 days)
3. 5 sand buckets
4. 7 shovels
5. 2 squishy water balls
6. a yellow John Deere backhoe
7. a green John Deere bulldozer
8. sand covered sun screen ("Is it the yellow, non burning kind mom?" It comes in a yellow container and it's for Kids. My son thinks "kids" means non-burning like the no more tears "kids" shampoo.)
9. a green soccer themed straw cup of water for big brother
10. a yellow straw cup with handles of water for little brother

The Bucket List provides about 2 hours worth of beach entertainment. Not bad. Every morning this bucket must be driven s-l-o-w-l-y out to the beach by its owner and carried up and down the steps by the owner and his mother (I am to carry only the front and ONLY at the stairs). Every afternoon the bucket and its contents must be washed out by my 4 year old, one item at a time. This cannot be hurried or rushed. Forget a water shortage or desire to conserve, this practice must be done to the letter or a hurricane of tears and shouts and stomps erupt.

I find this desire to "do it myself" and this unusual need for cleanliness of toys (but not personal body parts, his room, nor any other clean-up routine) refreshing. Hopefully these desires are a glimmer of personal responsibility in the distant future? Perhaps I'm projecting my own desire in there, but I'd like to think so.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Catch Up

Wow it's August 7th! Um, I'm not sure what happened to the "take time to blog every day" in July thought I had back in June. It's probably somewhere with the "stop yelling" resolution I made about 3 weeks ago. :-)
I haven't been blogging for several reasons. One, I discovered facebook and it's a time sucker! I'm reconnecting with so many people I used to know and so many new friends that I use up all my computer time. Two, I have two moving targets now who can't seem to play with each other without yelling, screaming, crying, pinching, or scratching. Actually the boys play very well together, it's just that Wyatt doesn't know how to do anything and when he attempts to "play" with Owen, Owen starts screaming "don't touch me! don't touch my stuff!" Ahh, the joys of three years difference. Third, I haven't had much to write about. I've been percolating some personal things in my mind that aren't share material, so that has left me rather dry in the writing department. Lastly, I sent off two or three emails with pictures to my friends instead of blogging about it. It happens. Too many mediums of information I suppose.
So, in order to rectify the situation, I am writing now.
Today I go to the two schools where I will be working at the beginning of the fall. I'm crossing my fingers that I'm ready for pediatrics again! It's been a while since I was at work. I start seeing kids on August 18th. Tuesday I had an inservice and a staff meeting with my new employer. I love the new team! It should be a great year. If I can just get the drop off and pick up coordinated with my kids. That's the biggest headache right now, finding a sitter. But it will happen if it's meant to be.
Today I go scope the premises and see what I need to bring with me. Luckily have two kids so I have an unlimited supply of bubbles, play dough, stickers, markers, cars, etc. I prefer not to use my own stuff, but in a pinch it will work if necessary. My company has great resources. Really amazing. I haven't seen this many closets of material since I left graduate school. Hooray.
Well, I need to go eat breakfast and find my paperwork.
Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it's off to Speech we go.....

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

New Resolutions--1/2 year celebration

So it's July, not January. Resolutions can be written at anytime I suppose. The way I see it, I have less time to screw up if I start a resolution in July as opposed to January. And since it's not the usual time to make resolutions, maybe I'll pay more attention?

Resolution #1: STOP YELLING. I know I made this resolution two Lents ago, but it didn't work out so well. I'm trying again. Funny how the Lord speaks. I have a sinus infection/allergy attack and have lost my full voice. Every time I go to yell, I get a tickle in my throat and I can't get anything to come out other than a hoarse whisper. So I've had to spend the last 3 days speaking in a regular tone--with meaning. Funny how much better the children are responding. So, note to self, STOP YELLING.

Resolution #2: ALLOW MY SON TO BE WHO HE IS AND NOT WHO I THINK HE SHOULD BE. Usually this type of thinking doesn't come up until you have a teenager? Well, my son and I are very much alike except in one area--he is extremely shy. Once he knows you, likes you, or is otherwise used to you, he has no problems talking to you or playing with you. Otherwise, forget it. He is very very shy. He doesn't do groups. He doesn't like big crowds. He is very slow to warm up to new things and activities. I, who have never met a stranger, cannot understand this behavior. However, I have resolved to change my thinking about my child. Instead of thinking, "what a wet blanket. what is his problem? why is he like this?" I'm going to think, "well, give it time. let it be. he will do it when he's ready." I will continue to offer and make him do some things, but if he doesn't jump right in, doesn't like it, refuses to participate, or otherwise hides, I am just going to accept it. This is hard for me. I know it sounds ridiculous, but it is difficult. However, my son's life isn't about my life, it's about his life. It's my job to help him find his way, not make him do it my way. I get so caught up in "what is good for him" type of thinking, I forget that there is more than one way to arrive.

So be it resolved. I will let it go. Whatever it is I feel like yelling about, whatever it is my son is reluctant about, I WILL LET IT GO. If it isn't going to matter tomorrow what is happening this instant, it isn't worth yelling about or forcing the issue over. Tomorrow is another day. God grant me serenity and all.

Friday, July 11, 2008

My 4 year old Golfer

Earlier this afternoon my husband and I were trying to rest during a downpour. Well, he was resting. I kept having to hop up and keep my son quiet while the baby was sleeping. After a book, a snack, two games with the flashcards, I Spy, and stamping on paper, I gave up and told him to bother his father instead of me. Confident that the rain will stop, my 4 year old kept waking his dad, "come on, I fought we were gonna play golf daddy." So away they went in the downpour to the golf course. Meanwhile I took the baby to the doctor to find out about the latest ear infection. We planned to meet at the pool later for swimming and dinner.
I arrive at the pool with my younger son. I get his supper ordered and sit down to wait for my golfers. My phone rings and it's my husband, "Can you see him? He's on his way down the steps. He wouldn't wait." Naturally. So I go over to meet my son to show him where we are sitting. The conversation goes something like this...
4 year old: "Hey mom. We just played 9."
Me: "Oh really? How was it?"
4: "It was great."
Me: "Good. Did you play well?"
4: "Oh yeah, I had a great time."
Me: "Super I'm glad you had a good time."

Enter dad. A conversational exchange between us for a few minutes about mundane details of the doctor's office visit. And then...

Wife: "So how did you play honey?"
What I thought the 4 year old said: "He said some bad words."
Husband: "What?"
Wife, simultaneously: "He did?"
4 year old: "Yeah dad, some bad ones."
Husband: "No I didn't."
Wife: "I bet."
Husband: "No really."
4 year old: "Dad you did some bad stuff."
Wife: "What did you do?"
Husband finally figuring it out: "Oh, I hit some bad shots. That's what you said. Yeah I did hit some bad shots today."
4 year old: "Yeah, some bad ones. But that's okay. You played pretty good."

Too funny. I still am not sure if it was bad words, bad shots, or both. But it was truly a comical exchange.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


You know you are fortunate when your boys play together at 4;1 and 11 months. This afternoon the boys "made" me some dinner in the play kitchen. My youngest banged on the pots with spoons and the oldest cooked some "pasketti" and pizza for me. The baby graciously didn't try to gnaw on the plastic food, but let me enjoy it. He waved his fork at me and went back to emptying the play refrigerator of utensils (don't know how they got in there). I asked the 4 year old what was on my pizza. He said, "um, well there's blackberries, and green peppers, and tomatoes, and brown dirt. Isn't that a good pizza mom? Don't you just love it?"
Last night while I was at a birthday party, the boys entertained my husband by playing hide and seek in the nursery. The 4 year old hid under the bed to "surprise" his brother. Every time the baby lifted the cribskirt, his brother yelled, "boo." They both just howled with laughter. My husband said the cackled like that for about 30 minutes nonstop. I am terribly sad I missed it.
The boys also enjoy playing magnets on the refrigerator. So far, no tantrums. They more or less "share." The oldest hands one or two to the baby, "here you go, these are yours." Then he procedes to move all of "his" magnets up higher to play with.
Both boys enjoy riding in the John Deere gator too. It is so entertaining to watch. The baby just looks and looks for me while his brother drives all around the yard. "I'll drive in the slow speed mommy, so he doesn't fall out." Okay then. Sometimes I get tearful watching them ride in the yard. Someday that's going to be them driving off in a car to go somewhere. The good thing about that is they will be together.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A Lament

During my spring Bible study, one of the exercises was to write a lament. According to our study guide (a Companions in Christ series), the word lament describes an ancient tradition of expressing grief with faith and hope. Lamenting means to express sorrow aloud. It gives us permission to vent. I learned through my study that a lament has three parts: a reaction (to what is happening), a remembrance (of the past), and a restoration (hope for the future). Lamenting is considered a spiritual practice. I think we must be as active in our lamenting as we are in other parts of our journey. This is one area where growth in grace takes place. So here is the lament that I wrote.

Dear Lord,
Rescue me from my depths
I am lost
I have expected when I could have given
I have aged when I could have been young
I have asked for justice when I could have asked for mercy
I have delivered punishment instead of grace
Help me Lord
I have made you small and myself big
I have angered instead of laughed
Deliver me from my quickness
Deliberately slow my pace
Help me to find you in all things
Cure my spiritual blindness
Clothe me in spiritual poverty
Pour out your mercy on me Lord
So that I may dwell always at your feet
And be gracious and merciful to those in need.

Neutral is Not Idle

While the wild men are having waffles, I'm going to attempt a blog entry....

Life is currently in neutral. It is one of those long roads where the scenery is pretty but not necessarily inspiring; there aren't any curves in the road and the speed limit is 55. Pleasant, but not exciting. Predictable, but not boring. Just neutral. Kinda like the beige walls all in this house. (We're currently in a paint discussion).

The boys get up at six. We lie in bed in denial until seven. One of us takes a shower and the other makes eggos for the children (occasionally I get to shower, but I'm usually hungry enough not to care either way). My husband goes to work. My son asks 100 questions about which office he will be at and whose teeth he will work on and if his grandparents will be there (my husband is an orthodontist. It's a family practice so everyone works there--except me, I'm the standby office manager and child raiser.).

Then after another hour of miscellanous--seriously I'm not sure what happens between waffle delivery and what comes next--I start the countdown to the getting dressed wrestling matches. I almost always win. Then comes teeth brushing and forced potty visit and last diaper change. Then we're out the door to somewhere, anywhere.

Yes gas is almost $4 a gallon, but I have a daily leave the house rule. I usually plan this the night before so I know what and where to conserve fuel and make only one trip. Alas, sometimes it turns into three or four trips. My older son usually asks three questions: do we have plans today? (sometimes) what restaurant are we eating lunch at? (when the answer is home, he whines) do I have to nap? (no, but you do have to rest your eyes)We eventually get back home and the countdown to naptime wrestling begins. I have about a 50% shot at winning this match. Usually around 4 we either take a walk, go to my motherinlaw's to swim, or watch a movie. Anything to get to 5 so I can start dinner. And that's pretty much it. My husband eventually gets home, we eat, we play, we bathe 'em, brush 'em, and cart them to bed.

It's not an exciting life, but it certainly is happy, healthy, predictable, safe, and fulfilling. I love my life. It is a blessed life without famine or want, without disease or despair, without danger or harm, with running water, plenty of food, security, money for little extras, freedom to choose, freedom to go, and love to come home to.

Sunday, July 6, 2008


My baby figured it out. He is now crawling. Alas I cannot write because he is chewing on the cable cords and pulling up on drawers that open up and spill out every time I leave him alone. I'm off to purchase baby gates to hopefully slow down the inevitable fall down the stairs. Gotta run, he's into something else now....stay tuned. Where is that pack'n'play??

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Bits and Pieces

So things are really speeding up around the house. My baby is inches away from figuring out how all four limbs work in motion. My four year old wants every word he knows spelled. I seem to be in constant negotiation for quality meals, behavior, bedtime, and time, time, time.
Actually what has really happened is that the 6 new books I ordered from Amazon came in and I really wanted to read one of them. So I did, at everyone else's expense. I also have spent a great deal of time on Facebook lately. It's addicting. So between my two pet loves (an old one, reading and a new one, facebook) everyone has been getting the shaft from me. This is irresponsible on my account since the baby is interested in power outlets and seems to find all the uncovered ones in the house and the four year old is leaping off of the tallest things he can find and my husband keeps coming home later and later from work. I happen to know he's going from meeting to meeting--bless his heart, he'd rather be going from green to green. It stays light here so long he can actually get 18 in before dark.
I think if I survive boyhood around here, I could start a new career as an ER trauma nurse. I've pulled grass, leaves, mulch, and a batman head out of the baby's mouth. I've kissed, poured peroxide, bandaged and magicked away pain on two skinned knees, one skinned elbow, and a head injury from a fall off the jungle gym. Our foundation is permanently rocked from all the jumping off the bed. The DVD player is about to explode from the repeat episodes of Clifford I play each day in vain attempts to get my four year to just lie down and rest for a bit.
If I consume much more caffeine, I may never stop shaking. But I don't know how else to keep up. If I have to explain to my oldest why I don't stand up to pee one more time, I'll probably take to carrying a flask with me when we go out, so that every time this question comes up loudly in a public restroom, I can just take a pull on the whiskey when we get to the car. The other day he comes to ask me, "Mom can we discuss sumpin'?" I almost fell out. All I could think of was "please don't let this be about where babies come from. I just can't today." It turns out, he wanted to remind me, "can we discuss my having a tractor cookie now?" I had told him earlier at the pool we could discuss having a tractor cookie (leftover from the birthday goody bags) for snack later that afternoon. I didn't know children had the memory of an elephant. So he got a tractor cookie and I opened a beer. It was 4pm, that's okay isn't it?
It's a good thing I was a spelling bee champion all of my elementary school life, because I have to spell words all day long. "Mom how do you spell firehouse? rooster? rock? Babysitter? Superhero? Playhouse? Poopoohead? Sword? Gun? Policeman?" And on and on and on.
Meanwhile the baby just sits back and laughs and throws things on the floor. It's our new game. "no, no baby don't do that. No no." Angelic grin, bark of laughter, and another cheerio hits the floor. He's also taken to clamping down on the spoon when I feed him anything. Ah, another fun game of "give to mommy sweetheart."
The sweetest parts of my day are between 710 pm and 900pm, because I'm holding one of them. Smoothing that sweet stick out all over hair and thanking God for the miracle I have in my arms. God's gifts have a funny way of kicking my ass, but they are gifts just the same. Tonight I rocked my baby to sleep, something I almost never do. He puts himself to sleep so well. I've trained him almost by default because my attention is always so divided during bedtime. It was such a precious precious moment. I stroked his face and even with his eyes closed, he just smiled. I laid him down and he rolled over into his lovies (one for each hand) and went off to sleep. Last night I put the oldest to bed, something I haven't done in a while as he usually prefers his father to me. "Mommy will you lay with me a minute?" Twenty minutes later, feeling unusually full of grace, I gently detatched myself from his hand--he'd been holding on for dear life, unwrapped his arm from around my neck, and left him in dreamland. We play hard, but we sleep harder around here.
So, now you know why I haven't updated my blog in several days. I've been blown away by life in action. It's never a dull moment around here.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Mighty Little Kids VBS

This week at Vacation Bible School (henceforth to be known as VBS) we learned about God's creation--the sun, the moon and stars, the oceans, the sea creatures, the land animals and birds. VBS was called "Mighty Little Kids Sports Camp". We had a great time. I was the song leader and helped out the 4 year olds.

My son was one of the four 4 vivacious and sprightly four year olds. He and his partner, we'll call them Elvis and Costello took turns running up and down the steps in the playhouse. Jumping up and down during drama and turning the cardboard boats over on themselves. Together they knocked down the puppet show wall and almost destroyed the dinosaur pit in the corner. Elvis (my son) loudly and ungraciously refused snack each day and fell into a complete and total tantrum just for me in front of God and everybody, because he wanted to go home each day after snack instead of to the last activity. On the second day I had enough. I took him to the children's library across the hall to "yell in a soft voice". When he said he'd rather stay there than rejoin the others, I left him in there--accidentally locking him in. You can imagine how great I looked asking for the master key to get my son out of the library I had locked him in.

Anyway, I say all this as a preface to the real meaning of the message: Don't underestimate what they learn at Bible school. It may seem like an exercise in humilating parenting moments, but it's not. If you're willing to be humbled, you might find a glimmer of grace going on around you.

This afternoon I have drawn about 1000 sea creatures and land animals with sidewalk chalk outside. My son played with his Noah's ark (the Little People version by Fisher Price) for about an hour reconstructing the entire story of the Ark while I made dinner. Periodically, he would break out into song--"the an-mals, dey came by twosy twosy" and "rise and shine and glo-wy-glo-wy chil-den of the Wo-wud." Earlier in the afternoon, while riding his John Deere gator all over the yard, my son was reciting "Herman the Worm." I've never heard it before VBS, but he absolutely loved it. "Dis is a 'peat after me song. Dis is a do what I do song. Sittin' on a fence post. Chewin' my bubba dum. Pway-in wiv my yo-yo. Dooba dooba. When 'long came Herman a Worm. And he was dis big...and what did he eat mommy? Now you say it!" On the way home from VBS I answered about a 100 questions. "What's your fav'rit animal mommy?" "Do you have a fav'rit color?" "What did Herman eat mommy? He was dis big first. Then he burped!" "What was your fav'rit part of Bible School mommy? Do we have Bible School tomorrow? What are we doing tomorrow? Are we makin' 'nother movie? Can we watch the puppet show again? I like being the al'gator" And on and on and on.

Needless to say. I have great faith in Vacation Bible School and my Mighty Little Kid.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Beyond the Beach Trip

Now that we're home (sigh) and not at the beach anymore (double sigh), I've been trying to find things for us to do. Not that we don't have enough to do. It's just hard to get back to doing what we were doing before. Anyway, it's been two weeks, I should be over it by now.
The baby is finding something new to do every day. Pull the magnets off of the refrigerator and taste them. Eat dirt. Swing in the hammock with mommy. See how long he can go without a nap. Bite holes in the bottle nipples. So he is plenty entertained.
The four year old is a little more challenging. He likes to have people to play with. Although he can entertain himself for a long time, he prefers an audience. His most frequently asked question is, "will you of course play with me mommy?" I suppose he adds the of course, because the answer used to be, "of course I will play with you baby, what do you want to play?" Now the answer is a plaintive, "do I have to?" Gee get over yourself mommy. But between the laundry, the baby, meals, diapers, groceries, and the other stuff, I don't have time to play as often. And let's be totally honest here, I'm over the trains, the cars, and the plastic bugs. If you want to swing, blow bubbles, play with legos, ride the bikes, or go for a walk, I'm your girl. So I'm working on playdates. It's going well. We've had lots to do.
We go to the pool alot too, but there I run into, "swim with me mommy." I love to swim with my son, but how long can I leave the baby in the stroller while I swim? Long enough to get wet and cold and then get out again. It's always at that point I realize I have lost the padding to the top of my swimsuit (it must be in the washing machine somewhere) and I didn't shave (I'm saving money for permanent laser hair removal. By the time I save enough money, they'll figure out a way to make it permanent).
Needless to say, the days are actually a lot of fun. If I can avoid the tantrums (which I can't) and I can avoid the pool food (yeah right, don't you want chicken fingers again mommy? We had them yesterday and the day before that too) I can have really really wonderful days with my children. I love summer. I love being able to be outside most of the time. Little boys need lots of room to run and plenty of vitamin D. If I can run them to death we all nap peacefully. If I can't, it's movie time while mommy naps. I don't know where I'm going with all this except to say I'm grateful for vacations, but I'm even more grateful for the regular old dog days of summer where bubbles are king and bicycles are the transportation mode of choice.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Chasing Waves, Conquering the Ocean, and Crab Holes

Ever try to catch a wave on the sand? Little children take this unachievable task very seriously. Back and forth, up and down wave after wave they run after the water chasing the tide, then running from it. When their toes get wet the squeal with delight. When a larger wave comes unexpectedly, they run as if their life depended on it and hot step it up into the sand trying to get away.
When my four year old tired of chasing waves in the waning daylight far past his bedtime, he then took up the crusade of filling up crab holes. He was so worried the crabs would come out of the holes and nip his toes. "Cover it up mommy!" "Quick." I lost count after the first 50 holes and not so patiently dragged my feet over the holes filling them as I went. After the next 50 holes, I made up a story and told Owen that those holes were water holes left by the ocean and not crab holes. So the next 50 holes were divided into "that's a water hole" and "woop, nope that's a crab hole. Cover it up mommy." Mercifully we ran out of light and I carted my beach comber off to bed. He was certainly happy about it. He told me, "I hope you dream about crab holes mommy. And don't forget to cover them up. G'night."

Slipping on the Job

Okay so I'm slipping on my writing. It's been 8 days. I am so busy I can't even think of writing right now. We were at the beach until the 7th. I had a job interview on the 9th. Playgroup here at my house on the 10th and 12th. Made dinner for a new mom on the 11th. Went to a Sunday School dinner on the 13th. Gave my older son a birthday party on the 14th. Taught Sunday School on the 15th. Visited my mother's house to see my grandparents who I probably will not see again on the afternoon of the 15th. I am teaching Bible school today through Wednesday. I host book club on Thursday. My younger son's 9 month pictures (6 weeks late) are scheduled for Friday. My Girls' Cotillion Club Party is Saturday night--I'm on set-up committee and help decorate usually. My husband is in a golf tournament this weekend. He's teaching big kid Bible school next week at night. And I'm hosting Ladies Night Out next Tuesday at my house in the evening to make 100+ lunches for the Inner City Camp at our church. I do believe all this work earns me some slack on the blog front, but it just goes to show you how not saying no will catch up to you. Believe me I really want to do all these things. I even wanted to host them. But I don't think I thought about it all happening at once. I'm exhausted!!!
I've already forgotten all the cute beach stories I wanted to write. Ah, well. It happens. I have the memories stored somewhere in my long term memory cache. Someday I'll get them down. I haven't worked on my scrapbook since February. I will probably forget all the things I wanted to put in there too. I've got my birthday, our ski trip, Easter, some preschool happenings, Mother's Day, the beach trip, VBS, and a bunch of other events I've already forgotten. Hopefully I remembered to shove ticket stubs, pictures, and brochures in the "scrapbook box" on my desk that is covered with papers to jog my memory.
Well, hopefully I wil begin writing again soon. Too much busy-ness can shut down time for reflection, which is critical to good health and balance in one's life. I must wait out this month of June, but in July I shall actually write on my calendar, Pause! It's Reflection Day at least once a week! Until then, tie a knot in the rope and hang on.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Slimy Castles

What is a slimy castle? It's also known as a drizzle castle, or mud castle. It is made with wet sand that you hold in your hand and let pile up on top of itself as it slips through your fingers. My son calls them slimy castles, because to him, wet beach sand feels slimy.

We built about a thousand sand castles. We dug almost that many holes too. My four year old likes to dig holes in the sand until you hit the water--known as a slimy pit. From said slimy pit, you are to build slimy castles until he has decided you have built enough. We permanently altered the erosion pattern on Litchfield beach this past week. We were actually able to bury our son standing straight up one afternoon we had to dig so far.

Repetition is the spice of life for infants (and four year olds too). OVer and over we made castles and then knocked them down. I kept drizzling sand on the baby's chubby little feet. He was flabbergasted that his feet would disappear. He'd stretch out and go stiff with laughter and his little feet would pop up from under the sand. Then we would sit in the edge of the ocean and let the waves wash over our legs. My younger son thought this was great fun. He kept trying to catch the waves in his hands. My older son liked watching the mussels work their way back into the sand when the water would uncover them.

The beach is my favorite place to visit. Each year I get excited. I make my Walmart run for swim diapers, sunscreen, cheap sun glasses, and extra elastic to sew into the floppy bucket hats to keep them on in the wind. I love to pack for the beach. When we get there, I immediately have to go straight to the ocean to make sure it is still there. I've done this since I could walk. My older son has adopted this tradition too. He went straight for the waves, clothes on and all. It was a precious sight. There is nothing like watching a child run with wild abandon, no fear, and sheer unbridled joy down the beach as fast as their little legs will pump.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Beach

We just completed our first solo family vacation--mommy, daddy, and the boys. This is a big step for my husband and me. Usually we don't travel without at least one grandparent. Miracle of miracles we survived the eight hour drive, eight straight days with each other, and the eight hour drive back. So many sweet family moments happened on our trip, I'm kerflummoxed as to where the beginning should be. Sufficed to say, we had the most fun on a trip we have ever had--and that's saying something folks. We had perfect weather, perfect children, perfect meals. No one was sunburned. Everyone napped. Everyone slept most of the night. And my monthly visitor waited for the car ride home to appear, even though it was due a week ago. I'm in serious awe of the Lord's merciful goodwill. Did I mention how great my husband said I looked in my new bathing suit? It was quite a vacation.

So, on to the fun stories, of which there are many. I will subtitle the stories here and will submit them as I get them written:
Slimy Castles
Riding Waves
Baby hits the Beach
The Power of Peach Puffs
The Importance of Orange Goggles
Dinnertime Behavior
Crab Holes
Chasing the Ocean
I'm so Tired Mommy

Check back soon for the 9 part mini-series of the family beach trip....

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Rollin' Rollin' Rollin'

Well it has finally happened. My little Buddah bear has started moving--and what a mover he is. (Sigh) I love watching him. It has been a long struggle for us both (I realize 9 months is not such a long time, but he has been struggling with moving due to his size for quite some time now). My younger son has taken to rolling around the room to get things--mostly his older brother's things.

He is so proud of rolling over. He stretches, rolls up on his side, teeters for a moment on the brink, rolls on his fat little arm, and then body surfs until he can pull his arm out. Then he pushes up on his stomach and looks to see if I am looking. Of course I am. Then he just grins. He has the biggest grin. In addition to this new found mobility. He is struggling to try to sit up on the changing table while I'm changing his diaper. Not at all fun, but I am not about to stop this new found desire to move. Hooray for baby!!

A month from now, I'll be completely certifiable with two moving targets in the house. Luckily older brother has been well trained. He's quite capable of running over to his younger partner, snatching the toy from his chubby little fist, and saying "no no your not bigger enough for this toy. It's mine." So I must remind him to always replace the "big boy" toy with a toy that the baby CAN play with. (Sigh again)

Needless to say, I've been MIA on my blog for a week due to this new rolling phenomenon. I can no longer leave them together in the playroom while I blog. And I can no longer have the baby sitting on the floor beside the computer desk while I write. And since the baby has given up his two naps for one nap and his older brother doesn't nap at all, my time to write is severely limited. Thus I am just now posting.

The very best part of all this of course is watching big brother and little brother play together. Luckily big brother loves little brother and little brother adores big brother. They give kisses, they make each other laugh, they tickle and giggle. It's precious time. I am so glad that the boys have each other. Soon they really will be playmates, and maybe just maybe, I'll get back to my writing.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle; Part I Reduce

One of our favorite video characters is Bob the Builder. Sunflower Valley (where Bob works) is very big on being Green. We do what we can and often don't do as much as we could around here. Forming the habit is the hardest part. Sunflower Valley's Mission is to "reduce, reuse, and recycle." So today was an exercise in Reduction.

My oldest and I embarked on a clean up mission. We went through his closet, his toy box, his floor, and the playroom with two boxes. We had a cardboard box and a red plastic box. If he wanted to keep something it went into the red box to take up to the playroom. If he didn't want it anymore, it went into the cardboard box to give to another kid who might want a toy.

I took a page out of one of my former supervisor's books. She and her daughter do this clean up activity every year around her birthday. She lets her daughter decide what to keep and what to throw away and honors her child's choices even if she herself disagrees. So I let my son tell me what to keep and what to throw away. We actually filled the cardboard box until it overflowed with stuff he doesn't want anymore.

My only twist to this exercise is that I'm putting the box out of sight for a month before I get rid of it. My son's sense of time is very limited. I'm not always sure he understands what forever means. So just in case he asks for something he threw away, I'm hanging on to the box for a few weeks. If he hasn't asked for it by then, I'm taking the whole kit and caboodle to the Goodwill.

I also got this hang-on-to-it-for-a-bit idea from a parenting magazine. One mom wrote in that she periodically takes things away while the kids are sleeping and if they don't ask for it after a month or two, she throws it out. I prefer to let my son choose what to throw out, but I think holding on to it to make sure he doesn't ask for it anymore also makes sense, particularly at his age.

It felt good to clean things up. My children have far too much stuff. The stuff is a result of multiple errors of generous hearts at birthdays, Christmases, Easters, and trips, but it's too much regardless. I realize it is easy to give and be generous when you have more than you need. But at four, he isn't ready for more than that. We will get to those lessons later on.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Pop culture

Have you ever wondered what people mean by pop culture? Do they mean People magazine? Do they mean American Idol? Do they mean Kate Spade handbags? Do they mean the Royal Family of England? Do they mean stale popcorn and rated R movies? What exactly does pop culture mean?

Am I crazy for sometimes trying to be a part of it and sometimes even liking it? Am I evil? Am I doing my family a disservice? Sure I like McDonald's. In fact, I love Chick-Fil-A. They have better milkshakes than Steak-N-Shake. I like to read the occasional People Magazine because I can usually catch up on the latest Royal Family fiascoes and find out whether or not Will and Kate are actually going to get married. I rarely get popcorn at the movies, but I can't remember the last time I went to a movie that wasn't rated R. Surprisingly I even got "carded" at the last rated R movie I went to. (Okay so they were checking tickets and not id's.) I have a love/hate relationship with American Idol, but I never miss an episode. I would never dream of owning a Kate Spade handbag. I'm a mom, there isn't room for all I have to carry around with me in one of those tiny purse things. Besides, I'm a Coach woman to the core, although I love my Vera Bradley diaper and matching purses.

So why does everyone always lament pop culture? What is it? Is it because we're too lazy to teach our kids the difference between what is excessive and what is a treat? We know that eating at McDonald's should be reserved for travels, trips, and the occasional bribe, but our kids don't. Well if you teach your kid that McDonald's is for special times, then you don't have to worry about their eating habit right? We know that Rated R movies are not for little kids and really not for tweens either. We know that too much violence and too much sex is really too much for kids. Isn't it really too much for anybody? So don't take your kids to movies you know they aren't ready for.

I'm really not sure why we sigh and shake our heads when we are talking about kids today. You know, a parent has a responsibility to pull the plug on all that stuff. There are clean good movies out there. Meat'n'Three restaurants still exist--my son loves Cracker Barrel, mostly for the toys and the mac'n'cheese, but occasionally he'll eat some carrots.

Teenagers are not bad because they're aliens. They're out of control because we don't take time to understand them. Somehow so many of us stopped putting limits on behavior, what our kids spend their money on, and with whom they spend their time. Just because teenagers can use grammatically correct sentences and walk and talk and dress themselves, doesn't mean they're grown. I got grounded at no reason at 17 to prevent me from going somewhere I shouldn't have been going in the first place. I was terrified of breaking curfew. My driver's license was a privilege not a birthright. If I hear "oh, the Internet" or "oh, that cell phone" one more time I'm going to scream. Take the blooming computer out of the room, the house, whatever. Take the cell phone away. Take the keys away. Parents don't do these things anymore because they don't want to be the bad guy, they don't take an interest, or they don't have time. Being a parent means being unpopular and making choices that often have to inconvenience your own life in order to do the right thing.

I just don't know why pop culture gets all the blame. I know it's hard to make good choices in the wake of everything that's in our world. But do you really think our parents had it easier? I doubt it. Drugs, alcohol, and sex are not new issues. Neither are disease, gambling, prostitution, slavery, or abuse. The Internet is new, but at one time so was rock'n'roll. Clothing options (particularly for girls) are more and more astounding, but at one time wearing pants was a major shocker. It's so hard to be a parent. You just have to have faith in yourself. Know your own limits. Make your own rules--and then keep them.

How do you expect your kids to respect limits when they don't see you respecting yours? Granted this is easy for me to say, my boys are little. I'm already getting into trouble though. I don't always mind my mouth. My own son told me that I said a bad word yesterday. From the back seat, while I was on the phone with a grown up, he sings out, "Mommy you shouldn't say crap. It's not a nice word." And I thought I was doing good to use "crap". Of course, the day before that, he told his little brother to "shut up". I said "Oh we don't say that to each other honey. That's not a nice word to use." Then I get, "Well you said it to him." I had said it, he was right. I just felt awful. So my son and I sat down and talked about how mommies make mistakes too. Mommies sometimes say ugly things when they are upset, much like little boys scream and shout and throw things when they are upset. It was probably a more constructive talk for me than for him, but I'm trying. I get my comeuppance too. I do not speak these platitudes about rules and limits blindly.

Regardless of our mistakes and missteps, we are the best stewards of our family's time. What we allow sets a precedent for what will be. We're all in this together too. It's as important to be aware of your friends' limits as you are of your own. Talk to each other. Support each other. Get together and make alternative opportunities for your kids together. I'm not saying don't go out in the world, or be afraid of it. I'm saying there is safety in numbers and if we help each other, we'll really be helping all of our kids make a better future. Let's go to the pool or the park and let the kids play while we read our People magazines and talk about what we saw on American Idol last night. Then we can hit Subway instead of McDonald's on the way home. We can surf the Internet (or write blog posts) while the kids nap instead of while they're in the room. We'll save that funny R movie for after the kids are in bed so we don't have to worry about hard questions and we can eat all that stale popcorn ourselves! We can indulge in pop culture on occasion without having to make our kids swim through it. Hang in there. We'll all make it. And someday we will just nod and smile when our kids lament to us about the latest craze in pop culture that's driving them crazy.