Looking Forward to ‘Goodbye’

photo courtesy of Erich Ferdinand

The last time Matt left for one of his trips, the kids listened as the garage door closed and then cried. They gathered around me in a circle, and the hysterics began. ‘Goodbyes’ are painful, and I’m not looking forward to the next time Matt leaves with a packed suitcase.

The last few months, I’ve had to deal with my own ‘goodbyes.’ They were also painful, but I’ve decided they are for the best. A few months ago, someone pointed out to me that perfectionism is not a good thing. I had always thought that my strong points were that I’m a perfectionist and have high expectations–I work hard until the job is done, and I never turn in sub-par work. People can depend on me. However, this person revealed to me that I’m setting myself and others up for unrealistic expectations.

I’ve really had to process through this idea, something I can’t do in five minutes, yet the moment I owned this fact, I felt like I could breathe a little deeper. I can never be perfect, and neither can those in my life. I can’t change the way others are or our relationships in some cases, but I can acknowledge and work within our reality.

I’ve packed my own bags and have headed out the garage door. I don’t know that anyone is crying (except for me a little), and unlike when Matt leaves, I’m looking forward to this ‘goodbye.’

When I saw the topic for this week’s ‘Five Minute Friday,’ I almost immediately had this idea. However, because I’ve lowered my expectations, I decided I’d write on Sunday, instead. For those new to ‘Five Minute Friday,’ the Gypsy Mama encourages us to write for five minutes without changing our thoughts or editing–we just get the words down. What ‘goodbyes’ have been good for you?

 

Motherhood Summed Up in One Story

The last few weeks have been packed full–spring programs at preschool, sick visits to the doctor, tee-ball practice, birthday parties and holidays–the norm once the warm weather hits. In the midst of all the running, I cut out the trips to the gym. The gym would still be there after all the programs were over, so I would start back into a regular routine after spring break.

Monday was my first day back, and I strangely enjoyed the soreness and stiff muscles that accompanied me on my Tuesday consisting of a parent-teacher conference and excessively long oil change. Wednesday I would visit the gym again.

In the meantime, I finished out my Tuesday with Matt on the couch. We were both drained after a busy day and decided to numb our minds with a little tv before dragging ourselves up the stairs to bed. We had a little company, though. Chloe complained of a tummy ache, so we let her lie down on the couch next to us. Of course she didn’t fall asleep as we had hoped; the thrill of getting her way kept her up and excited, but the intermittent cries over her tummy were enough for me to pull a wastebasket near.

I had passed the last 30 minutes or so half-listening to the tv while trying to achieve something impressive in my games of ‘Words with Friends.’ Matt and I gave each other the look that said it was time to get off our butts and call it a night, so we each promptly moved an inch and settled into a new position on the couch. Chloe also fought the idea of moving upstairs and crawled into my lap.

Of course she would have crawled into my lap before it happened.

I heard the groan but didn’t realize what was happening until it was too late. And then I felt what was happening–all over my arm, all over my shirt, all over my pants. I couldn’t concern myself with me, though; that’s what the husband sitting next to me was for. Instead, I rubbed Chloe’s back, trying to calm her, while I waited for Matt to help me move her to the trashcan.

“It’s okay, baby,” I offered in my most soothing voice. I tried to move Chloe away, but I was in an awkward position and dripping with vomit. I did my best to not drip on any undisturbed part of the couch or carpet and thought how much easier this task would be if Matt just lifted Chloe for me.

Surely, Matt would intervene before the second upheaval. Surely he would help me turn her around. Surely.

Unless, of course, my husband was completely unaware that his daughter was throwing up all over his wife because he was checking his Tweets.

As the second upheaval was happening, I turned to see Matt holding his phone in front of his face, not even offering a glance in our direction.

“Seriously?!?!?!” I yelled at him.

Just like that, the Twitter trance was broken.

“She’s throwing up all over the place! How do you not notice?!”

Matt had already scrambled to get paper towels. I wiped the face of Chloe who was still screaming and then grabbed a towel from Matt to clean my wet arm. I decided it would be easiest for the two of us to strip down to our underwear and throw our clothes straight into the washing machine.

As I was delicately lifting the vomit-covered shirts over our heads, I heard a gag sound coming from the couch. I looked over to see my husband cleaning up with a paper towel.

“Matt!” I called out in a tone that spoke ‘you better surpress all gags from here on out since I am the one wearing the throw-up.’

“I know,” he answered, knowing exactly what the tone meant.

I couldn’t really be mad, though. After all, he was cleaning up vomit.

We all made our way upstairs after the evidence of the night was cleaned away, and I washed and dressed Chloe. I took a shower, and then I made my way to bed where Matt and Chloe had already found sleep. I snuggled in next to my baby knowing that, once again, I would delay getting back into a routine at the gym.

I couldn’t help but laugh to myself at the life of a mother. We get to wear the brunt of the throw-up and  have to change our plans daily while, many times, our husbands are clueless as to the chaos of our everyday.

The next morning, I let Chloe sleep and wrapped her warm body in a blanket when it was time to take the other two to school. We spent the first part of the day snuggling as we listened to Elmo’s laughs and Strawberry Shortcake’s retelling of Cinderella, and we gave each other lots of hugs and kisses. And I had to admit, vomit aside, this morning ended up being much better than any day at the gym.

 

How would you sum up motherhood? Dads, how would you describe being a father?

I May Have Shortened the Substitute’s Life

The other day, I mentioned that I never received a detention in my entire school career. That fact doesn’t, of course, mean that I never deserved detention. In all honesty, there was one incident that should’ve earned me a whole week’s detention, and given my guilt complex, I still occasionally dwell on what a rotten person I was on that given day….

After my back injury, I quit gymnastics and immediately jumped into theatre. I loved performing and getting the chance to take on the character of someone I wasn’t. I explored the realm of insanity many times as I was often cast as the crazy old woman, questioned my faith as I portrayed the young girl Anne Frank, and learned how to walk sexy (my most challenging feat) for my role as a tramp.

Acting was very satisfying to me, as I could experience life as someone else without the consequences; I always returned as Jennifer. However, sometimes the line between reality and pure drama blurred. Periodically, those in my drama class would break into fantasy world, and improv would begin.

I remember finding myself in the middle of a fake domestic dispute as my friend and I choreographed a fight scene between a boyfriend and girlfriend. I had fun using some of the moves I had learned in Tae Kwan Do while he enjoyed fake slapping me to the floor.

Weird, I know, but what does one expect when a bunch of dramatic teenagers are thrown into the theatre for a performance class?

Probably not this story.

I honestly do not know how this scene began, but I clearly remember sitting on the front row of seats in the theatre having a fake fight (just verbal this time) with my ‘boyfriend.’ He yelled at me, and I began to cry. My friend came to comfort me, and so did the elderly substitute teacher who was given the task of dealing with we crazies on this particular day.

“You tell me what he did, and I’ll get him out of here! I’ll get him right out!” he exclaimed in anger. Clearly, I looked very convincing as the innocent, broken-hearted girl.

“No, no, he’s just never talked to me that way before, but I’ll be fine,” I choked out through a stifled sob.

“Well, you just let me know. I’ll have him out! I’ll have him out!”

My friend hugged me as I shook my head in understanding.

“Thank you. I’ll be fine; I’ll be fine.”

And at that moment, it was as if the floodgates to hell broke open. Like a line of dominoes falling, one after another students began to pair up, each acting out their own fantasies. In a matter of moments, the theatre auditorium had the feel of Lord of the Flies, minus the pig head on a stick.

There was a stick, however. For some reason that I will never know, other than the frenzy created by the mob scene, one of the students grabbed a 2×4 piece of wood from the backstage area and whacked the glowing ‘Exit’ sign by the side door. This poor old man–not frail, mind you, but clearly substituting for something to do during retirement–looked around bewildered, not sure which fire to put out first.

I sat in amazement at what I had started, not sure how to continue. How could I now go back to being Jennifer when this kind man tried to help me from my evil boyfriend? We didn’t start this charade to cause him stress; we were just weird theatre kids who liked to have an excuse to yell at each other. I certainly hadn’t foreseen the rest of the class starting a riot.

Nonetheless, a riot is what happened. The entire class period was spent in pure chaos. There was no going back.

The whole rest of the day I worried. Would this poor man get fired from substitute teaching? What would he tell our current theatre teacher? Would he go home that night and die of a heart attack?

Theatre was proving more dangerous than the flips I did in gymnastics.

God made sure I paid for my mistake, though. My punishment came in the form of my own third period English class my first year teaching.

I’ve often thought about that substitute teacher, but I can’t even remember his name. If I could, perhaps I’d look him up. He might not be alive, but if he is, I think I owe him an apology.

Any of my high school theatre friends out there–do you remember this incident or our substitute teacher’s name? For everyone else–did you ever take advantage of a substitute teacher?

I’m linking up with Mama Kat today for her Writer’s Workshop to tell about a time I pretended to be someone I wasn’t.

Mama’s Losin’ It

 

Just Like My Girls

I need to work on my reactions. For instance, the other day the assistant principal at my son’s school confided, “I would try for another child if I could be assured I would have a girl just like yours.” After staring at her blankly for two minutes, I decided I should emerge from my shock and paralysis and say something. I should’ve just said, “Oh, thank you,” or something of that nature, but instead I admitted, “They are really tough.” We then shared a moment of confession that our children were not perfect and could, in fact, wear us out.

A few hours later, I wondered if this woman would still want my girls after their afternoon of making ‘smoothies’ with a bottle of blue cheese dressing, bananas, leftover chicken soup, parsley from the garden, milk, and, of course, dirt. I will admit that if she did still want them, they now knew how to scrub the kitchen floor.

However, the next day I was convinced that, no, she would not want my girls after she found out that they stole candy from underprivileged children. Yes, here I was collecting Easter baskets from my son’s school to take to a local ministry, and my girls were climbing over the back seat of the van trying to snatch a quick piece of candy before I got back out of the van to strangle them.

I don’t know how long it took me to leave the school parking lot, but I do remember that once the two-year-old latched onto the four-year-old’s plan, I felt like I was involved in the longest running circus act ever. I would buckle the two-year-old in her car seat, and as soon as I walked around the van to my seat, she would unbuckle and jump over the back to the baskets beneath. As I wrestled with her, the four-year-old would look for her chance to snag a piece, herself. Then I entered panic mode as I knew I shouldn’t beat them or scream obscenities in the Christian school parking lot, but I had to stop the madness. I decided to quietly fling them around while muttering threats through clenched teeth.

I immediately recognized the irony of the situation. Here I was, good Christian mother delivering Easter baskets to spread the message of love and peace, while my girls and I violated at least four of the Ten Commandments in the process.

And once again, I should’ve chosen a different reaction. The rest of my day was clouded with thoughts that I must truly be the worst disciplinarian ever. I could hear the chorus of stern mothers and fathers from a previous generation admonishing me that their children would never act that way, and I decided that none of my friends’ kids from this generation would act that way, either.

I was a failure, and my girls would grow up to inhabit the local prison. They would earn the nicknames ‘White Chocolate’ and ‘Cocoa Puff’ for their string of candy store thieveries. And I would die of a broken heart, my house empty of all sweets because they brought too much pain.

While I replayed the Lifetime movie I directed in my mind, I neglected to remember why the assistant principal the day before wanted girls like mine. My two girls have learned the names of every teacher who helps at carpool. As we pass through the line, they beg me to roll down the window so they can yell their ‘hellos’ to the teachers and share their waves and bright smiles. On days when we stop in the school, my girls look in the assistant principal’s office and wrap their arms around her when she’s at her desk. They bring joy to every person they meet.

And sometimes heartburn, but mostly joy.

They are good kids with strong personalities, much like their brother. Luckily, age five seemed to be the ‘coming of age’ period when he graduated from stealing from the poor and actually started giving. I forget that fact, though. I forget that I actually don’t want a ‘weak-willed child;’ I just want to direct those strong wills toward productive causes. I’d like to think that Susan B. Anthony and Rosa Parks broke a few rules as children.

I know my job as a parent is extremely important, but I can’t discount the importance of personality, either. I look at my sister and me. I never got a detention my entire school career. My sister met her future husband in in-school suspension. We both came from the same parents. We both are good women; in fact, if I were to say who is the more loving, thoughtful, and generous person, I would have to say my sister. She just happens to do what she wants.

Sometimes I forget that I’m not the only mother who struggles. I’m not the only mom who tells her kids ‘no’ to have that ‘no’ challenged. There are some people who just have to see how close to the edge of the pool they can get before they actually fall in. And, unfortunately, sometimes, they will fall.

I can’t forget, however, that there is no fall too big that God’s grace can’t cover. Of course, I don’t want my children to have big falls. I hope that when they challenge my ‘no’s’ the discipline I give will sink in one day. I hope that the many literal messes I’ve made them clean up will teach them responsibility and the idea that every action has a consequence.

If not, I know I’ve given them the tools to start a successful house cleaning service together.

I know there are other parents who feel as I, parents whose kids do test the boundaries. It’s hard to open up to other parents whose kids are mild-mannered and obedient most of the time. When I see my kids misbehave, I feel like the failure. I feel embarrassed. And while I am not opposed to trying out other discipline techniques offered from others, sometimes I just want to hear that my kids aren’t the only ones who steal from Easter baskets. I want to hear another mom say, “My kid just pooped in the backyard today. What a weirdo.”

Parenting is rough. The responsibility is enormous, and for this perfectionist control-freak, leaving my kids in God’s hands is scary. However, I will continue to do my best to teach them right from wrong and choose the appropriate measure for when their choices are not so hot. And one day, when my kids are grown up and no longer ‘hiding’ underneath the dining room table while eating ice cream or cutting each other’s hair, I promise that I won’t forget that at one time they did. And when that young mom shares that she doesn’t know what to do; her kids are out of control, I’ll say to her:

“Oh, honey, that’s nothing. My girls stole Easter candy from underprivileged children…and I wouldn’t trade them for any other kids in the world.”

What crazy stories can you share about your children? What stories horrified you at the time, but now years later cause you to laugh?

At Once I Understood

I remember standing on the grassy football field the night of my graduation. Cords and medals hung around my neck; a cap that belonged to another student before the celebratory toss now rested atop my head, extra fluffy thanks to the humidity. My boyfriend found me on the field and put his arms around me saying how proud he was of me. And I clearly remember thinking, “Why?”

Of course I said, “Thank you,” or gave a grateful smile as I had to my parents when they expressed similar sentiments all during the time surrounding my high school graduation, but I didn’t get it. What was the big deal? I graduated high school. I did what I was supposed to do. Didn’t almost everyone?

It wasn’t like the time I qualified for Nationals. Only a small percentage of people can call themselves gymnasts, and an even smaller percentage get to stand on the podium as one of the top seven girls who qualified to represent her region. I remember the feeling; my cheeks were stretched tight into a smile that I couldn’t stop had I wanted to.

But I didn’t want to stop. I savored every minute of that night. I laughed with my teammates, giddy over what some of us achieved. We posed for pictures, and when my parents said they were proud of me, I understood. I was proud of me, too.

I had worked hard for that moment, years of training in the gym and years of coming oh-so-close, missing the cut-off by a tenth of a point. Going to Nationals wasn’t a guarantee for anyone, but I was getting my chance.

Standing on that football field didn’t feel the same.

Of course, I wasn’t looking through the eyes of a parent.

 

I didn’t understand that what came naturally for me wasn’t necessarily easy for everyone else.

 

 

I didn’t understand that it wasn’t necessarily the outcome that made my parents proud but the hard work, determination, and focus along the way.

 

 

And I didn’t understand that they weren’t proud because of what I could do but proud because of who I had become.

I didn’t understand then, but now I’ve sat in the bleachers of a T-ball game between five and six years olds. I’ve tensed every muscle as I nervously looked at the action on the field. I’ve cheered my heart out and had pride fill my chest. I’ve felt my cheeks stretch tight as a smile took over my face. And I recalled the giddiness of that teenage girl who just qualified for Nationals.

No, I didn’t understand what the big deal was when I stood on the football field, but when I watched my son take his own position on the field, it all became clear. And at once I understood.

When was a moment when you felt most proud?

Three Weeks

I haven’t written a post in three weeks. Not since I first began blogging when I would write here and there have I gone so long without putting my fingers to the keys. Matt went out of town on business a few days each week for the last three weeks in a row, and I had decided before he left that I was going to give myself a little grace and mercy when it came to writing. Had I known how much grace and mercy I would end up giving, I would’ve scheduled some posts from the archives ahead of time!

Unfortunately, Matt’s trips came at an inopportune time for me–days filled with commitments at the kids’ schools, previously made appointments, a birthday party to plan, and the like. Nonetheless, we survived. I was very proud of myself for not losing my temper with the kids or having the feeling that I wanted to send them off into the woods to fend for themselves. Actually, that last statement was slightly disingenuous–apparently, three weeks is my breaking point–but I did much better than I thought possible.

The days went quickly except the last few, but isn’t that always the way? A pregnancy can go quickly until the last month, the last few days before Christmas for kids drag on, and vacation just can’t get here fast enough. I digress, though. I was actually amazed because, for most of the three weeks, I spent my time rushing from here to there, staying up much later than I planned, always feeling behind; yet for all the hustle and bustle, as each week passed, I could hardly remember what happened the days before.

That fact scares me a little. I pack my days full, and when it’s all said and done, I have to evaluate for what am I so tired? I can’t even remember. I rush rush rush, and rushing starts to become the normal way of living, even during times that I want to breathe in and savor the delicious aroma, taste the goodness of it all.

 

Of course, this dilemma comes back to priorities. Priorities can present a challenge for a perfectionist, however. When everything should be done perfectly, choosing between the tasks becomes difficult. Oh, I’ve figured out how to prioritize some things–spending time with the kids trumps cleaning the shower. In fact, my new standard for cleaning my bathroom is that I need to scrub when I actually get dirty by taking a shower. However, I find prioritizing other tasks a little more difficult. A day to catch up on housework or using the couple of hours the kids are at preschool to write? Those few hours volunteering at school or getting in a good workout? Sending out e-mails to my small group, or finally finishing the neighborhood directory?

Those precious moments I have alone actually become stressful as I try to fit in just one more task before I get the kids. Add a husband out of town to the mix, and my head starts to spin a little.

I know my struggle isn’t new to anyone, and I know there’s a solution right before my eyes–I just can’t always see it. But I also know that I don’t want to spend so much time running that I forget why I was running. Yes, some of those tasks can be forgotten, but others, well, they’re just too important to miss.

And speaking of missing things, I desperately miss all of my friends whom I have met through this blog. I look forward to ‘chatting’ again, and I do hope to figure out my priorities so that I can spend time visiting all of you, as well.


Lent: What to Give?

I find us at the typical halfway point for the school year–the kids no longer sleep with their backpacks on, nor do they dress in one minute flat. They’ve exchanged eagerness for apathy as they lie on their beds in the morning pulling covers over their ears hoping to snatch one more minute of sleep. The freshness of those first few weeks in a new class have given way to the tiredness and doldrom of routine.

Their mother is no better. Most nights, she packs their lunches ahead of time, but there are those nights when she slumps on the couch, fatigued and determined to not do another chore for the day. Ironing the night before becomes part of the morning haste, a haste brought on by one too many swats of the ‘snooze’ button. And at the mid-point for the school year, a new routine has emerged–a routine of frenzy and angst and the general need for a few days of ‘slow.’

I get it. After so many days of the same thing, I test the waters. I try to accomplish more in less time because the need for more sleep presses in hard, yet, all I create is more rush, less harmony, and greater fatigue. When I get to this point, I look to the next break from routine where I can start over fresh, restoring the exhilaration I felt back in August.

Perhaps those who crafted the church calendar had a sense that a break in routine is needed to keep our faith fresh, too. I look back to Christmas and think of the devotions I had with my children. My heart felt full and my love for Christ renewed as I told them the story and purpose of His birth. Now, just as my mornings gave way to rush and routine, so has much of my own time to quiet devotion.

Yet in the midst of my own faith doldrom, along comes Lent. Last week I watched my Facebook feed as friends said ‘goodbye’ for 40 days while others had their last piece of chocolate or glass of soda. In the midst of those updates, a friend posted a quotation that immediately resonated within me:

Lent is a call to renew a commitment grown dull, perhaps, by a life more marked by routine than by reflection. After a lifetime of mundane regularity or unconsidered adherence to the trappings of faith, Lent requires me, as a Christian, to stop for awhile, to reflect again on what is going on in me. I am challenged again to decide whether I, myself, do truly believe that Jesus is the Christ-and if I believe, whether I will live accordingly when I can no longer hear the song of angels in my life and the star of Bethlehem has grown dim for me. Lent is not a ritual. It is a time given to think seriously about who Jesus is for us, to renew our faith from the inside out. – Joan Chittister

When I read Chittister’s comment, I immediately thought of my own relationship with God and how the newness of Christmas had begun to wane. I thought of my mornings with rushed quiet times and rushed dressings and rushed breakfasts. In my mind, I brought the two together. I have fallen into a “lifetime of mundane regularity” as Chittister writes, and for Lent, something needs to give.

I’ve always wondered about the practice of giving up things for Lent. As a child, I would give up soda or potato chips and feel so proud when I resisted temptation for 40 days. However, now as an adult, I look at the practice a little differently than as a child.

While I have heard that we sacrifice so that we can relate to the sacrifice of Christ, I cannot find anything that I would give up for Lent that could ever cause me to understand what it would feel like to be sinless yet take on the weight and shame of every person’s sin on this earth. I cannot give up anything that would help me understand what Christ felt when the Father turned His back as He hung on the cross.

Honestly, I don’t think God intends for us to give up things merely for the purpose of sacrifice. Rather, I imagine He wants to draw us into a deeper relationship with Him. When He tells us to fast and pray for those who are sick, we are not fasting so that we will feel hunger and broken. Instead, we fast as a reminder.

I cannot go without one meal before I feel hunger pains. It is then that I am reminded of who sustains me. When I am tempted by a worthless potato chip, I am reminded of the weakness of my flesh. It is in those moments of weakness that should draw me to God in prayer, for if not, for what purpose did I practice sacrifice?

After prayer, I found what God wants me to give, and I heard Him loud and clear. He doesn’t want me to give up anything for the purpose of taking away my joy. Instead, He wants me to trust that His hands are overflowing with a greater abundance of joy than mine could ever hold, and I have to let go of some things in order to hold His. I cannot fall into routine when it comes to my faith; I have to not only find time but truly use this time to reflect on the goodness of God and the importance of my faith.

Everyone needs a little break from routine. Everyone needs a fresh start. This Lent I’m hoping to find a newness and exhilaration in my faith that will carry me from the first sound of the alarm in the morning to the last lunch I pack at night. And I pray that you find that newness, too.

Linking up with Michelle and Jen today. How do you observe Lent?

 

Lie to Me

I never count it a good sign when I’ve hardly started my day and am already counting the hours until I can go back to bed. Nonetheless, I have found myself in that state this morning, thanks to a voodoo TV that turned on in the middle of the night, a naked, little girl who appeared at my bedside an hour later, and a pathetic boy with a tummy ache who tossed and turned next to me–rather in between his two sisters–while I was clinging to the side of the bed with one hand while trying to rub his tummy with the other.

I couldn’t help but notice that Matt is actually here; typically, this kind of nonsense only happens when he is out-of-town. The first night he was gone on his last trip, my youngest screamed in my bed with an earache until 2:30 a.m. when the liquor, I mean Tylenol, finally kicked in.

I have a suspicion, however, that my children are giving me a taste of what’s to come. Last night, Matt came home from work with the news that he needed to travel quite a bit next month. I’m sure my nervous anticipation of that fact already sent the cosmos in disarray, explaining why my one child took off all her clothes in the middle of the night. And since I know there’s more to come, I want to prepare Matt with a little list I made the last time he was gone.

Now, typically, I hold to the idiom that ‘honesty is the best policy,’ but there are certain circumstances that necessitate a lie. Allow me to elaborate:

If one’s business trip is to a state where people are swimming in February, it is okay to lie to the wife who is at home with the kids.

Matt, if you are in Florida, and the sun is shining, and the warm breeze is running through your hair, please just tell me it’s raining. It rained every stinkin’ day.

If part of one’s day on the above mentioned trip ends with dinner on a boat in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, develop temporary amnesia.

Seriously, dude, for the good of our marriage, do not tell me that you have to go because it’s time to board the boat for your dinner cruise. In fact, if you choose to mention anything about you and the boat, it better only be the details that after you boarded a terrible storm arose. The boat swayed back and forth, and the crew began to panic. “We’re not going to make it!” they screamed, to which you responded, “Yes, you will! Throw me overboard! I’m the reason we’re going to sink!” The crew didn’t want to throw you overboard, a polite, southern gentleman enjoying a nice dinner on the Gulf, but the waves began to rise, and they became convinced that, yes, you were the reason for this storm. They threw you over, and immediately you were swallowed by a great fish. You repented of leaving your wife, were spit up on dry ground, and headed back to Georgia.

Do not call your wife and say, “Hold on a minute; let me step out onto my balcony.”

Seriously? At this point all I’m picturing is my throwing you off of the balcony!

Even if it is true, do not tell your wife, “I really wish you were here with me.”

This statement may sound sweet; it may be 100% sincere. However, now you’ve caused me to lie, or at least deceive you. Yes, I responded, “I wish I were there, too,” but I left off the rest of the sentence. I wish I were there while you were back here with the kids! I wish you were here for four days straight, no dropping the kids off at the grandparents, and no ordering fast food. Just you. And the kids. Four nights.

I’m on a boat sipping a pina colada. Have fun with these crazies!

What lies are you okay hearing?

 

 

Nothing Like Me

Anyone who knows my children knows that they are independent little creatures. I don’t mind bragging that at age two, all my children were making their own beds and getting themselves dressed in the morning. No, I don’t mind bragging because their independence also causes them to scale the pantry for cereal and pour milk all over the floor. I hold on to those bright moments of initiative because heavens know how long until their initiative causes another hair on my head to turn gray or another dollar to go towards a Magic Eraser.

For Valentine’s Day this week, I had the chance to beam again. Caleb was tasked with making a box to hold all his Valentine’s, and I secretly cringed thinking about how difficult this craft would be for me. I don’t do arts and crafts, and I’m not very good at wrapping presents. Wrapping a shoebox in a creative manner and using scissors to cut a hole for the valentines left too many possibilities for disaster.

I had wrongly assumed, of course, that Caleb would be the designer while I would have to help execute his design. Instead, Caleb wanted nothing to do with me, not even the creative juices flowing through my mind. He sat down and told me what he needed–red, pink, and white paper. He decided on his own to tear the paper and glue it in a collage-like fashion, and he masterfully created a box that didn’t look like his mother helped him at all, which I didn’t.

No, if I helped him, the box would’ve looked more like the one I helped make with Chloe. Notice the hearts of all different sizes? Yes, those would be my ingenious creations.

Who am I kidding? I didn’t teach my children independence. They learned it as a survival mechanism.

As I looked over our boxes, I couldn’t help but think about how different we are. I was reminded again when I picked up the kids from school, their boxes filled with valentines and sugar. I knew better than to try to restrain them, even though they just had treats at school. I told each kid to take out a piece of candy and enjoy. They could have one piece every day. By the time the kids changed into their play clothes, Caleb was crying because the girls ate all of his candy.

Their little boxes reminded me  of the one I made in third grade. The only reason I remember this box is that my mom brings something from the basement that she wants out of her house whenever I visit. This last supply of ‘unwanteds’ contained cards and mementos from high school and this worn box from third grade.

I reached inside the box and read the valentines scribed in the pen of eight year olds. I tried to remember the faces of each child who signed a card, and, surprisingly, I could remember most. I then had a bigger surprise when I reached in the box and pulled out a large blue lollipop…and another…and another. My daughter reached out, wide-eyed, toward the treasure I just uncovered from the hidden chest.

“Hannah Grace, no! That candy is 25 years old!”

That day driving down the road while my kids’ hands turned sticky, I thought about my box. That day when Caleb came to me with tears in his eyes, his box near empty, I pictured my own uncovered treasures. I waited 25 years to eat my candy. My children couldn’t wait 25 minutes.

In what ways are your children nothing like you?

 

Rethinking Valentine’s Day

As a young girl in high school, I looked on Valentine’s Day with disdain — mostly because for three out of the four holidays, I didn’t have a boyfriend. However, that special senior year when I received a cheap carnation along with the other girls who had boys willing to pay a dollar, I embraced Valentine’s Day with open arms!

I grew older though, and my fondness for the holiday began to wane again. Spending exorbitant amounts of money on over-priced flowers and chocolate for a day with little spiritual or historical significance just seemed dumb. After all, if I loved a person, I should show him love all the time, not just on Valentine’s Day, right?

Right. Except nine years into a marriage and three small children later, I don’t always do what I’m supposed to do. Sometimes I’m tired. Sometimes I find myself in bed sleeping in between two pillows as three children wormed their way into our bed in the middle of the night. I sleep to the tune of one child grinding her teeth in my ear and another sticking her toe up my nose and a third pushing his elbow in my back. Of course, I could move to sleep in one of their beds if I didn’t find myself pinned in a cocoon of sheets and bedspread by the dog lying on my feet.

Sometimes this tiredness competes with the desire to show love. Sometimes when my husband comes home from work, I greet him with the kid I am no longer going to deal with instead of a passionate kiss and a moment of space for him to breathe. I don’t care about romance; I want a shower by myself in a bed by myself with a book by myself.

And, sometimes, while I don’t like to admit it, I need a reminder.

Honestly, I should have a soft spot in my heart for Valentine’s Day. Twelve years ago when we were poor, college students, Matt and I met over a burrito in Athens as friends, not even realizing the significance of the day at the time. Twelve years later, our friendship has grown as we have weathered many storms and celebrated many joys.

Now, Valentine’s Day for me isn’t about flowers or chocolate. It’s about the moment to pause and remember how blessed I am to have this man who loves me and whom I love. It’s a time to remember that the children we have are a product of our love and a gift from God.

My own father made Valentine’s Day his holiday. Unlike Christmas and birthdays when we knew our mom did all the present shopping and wrapping, Valentine’s Day was all his. Today it still is. Every February 14th, I always receive a card and something special from my dad.

Last year, my husband and I followed his lead. I had a handsome date accompany me for the dinner of his choice at Zaxby’s while my husband took two cute little girls to Shane’s Rib Shack. And while my husband didn’t sweep me away for a romantic dinner for two, on that night, I found him holding those cheap carnations for his family quite sexy.

So I’ve come around to this over-commercialized, insignificant holiday. And while I need to work on greeting my husband at the door daily with a big kiss instead of a disobedient child, I’ll welcome the reminder on February 14th, too.

I took an unintentional blogging break last week, and I’m definitely itching to get out some new blog posts. This post was featured in the ‘Local Voices’ section of the Dacula Patch a couple of weeks ago. During my hiatus, I learned some more differences between my kids and me, and I also developed a list of when it’s okay for my spouse to lie to me. I hope you’ll come back and join me this week as I share!

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