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?

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?

 

Sex, Religion, and Gymnastics

photo by Rick McCharles

For the majority of my childhood, the gym was my home. Every day after school, I put on a leotard and my hair up into a ponytail and went to practice. At one point,  I worked out six days a week for four to five hours a day. Spending that many hours away from home, it’s not surprising that many of the lessons I learned about life took place on that square floor mat.

Amidst chalk-filled air and between turns on the vault runway, our group of adolescent gymnasts had conversations about sex that would make Hugh Hefner blush. The hormones among us were out-of-control, and, given the fact that we didn’t have time to date, we verbalized our curiosities as soon as they came to mind, and we had no shame as far as whom we would ask. I’ve heard that teenaged boys are disgusting and that locker room talk is foul, but I can’t imagine anything more crude than what came out of the mouths of us four foot seven girls with pink leotards and matching hair scrunchies.

While we discussed topics that were most unholy, a group of religious coaches formed a protective circle around us. The owner and head coach of the gym was a devout Christian–a Pentecostal– who prayed before every practice with us, and while he did not require that his staff follow his faith, many did.

During my time at the gym, I remember having coaches who were Methodist, Catholic, and Mormon. And while we would ask them questions about sex and when they had their first experience (I know; we had no shame), we also would ask them questions about their faith.

I don’t remember what started the conversation (maybe sex), but I remember sitting on the floor mat with Jerry and telling him my confusion:

“I know that Jesus died for my sins, but I don’t understand why he died for my sins.”

I had grown up Catholic and believed with my whole heart that Jesus died for me–I had that message pounded into my head since I was little–but I had no idea how Jesus ended up on the cross and what his death meant for me.

And there on that dusty mat, Jerry filled in the missing pieces. He explained that in the Old Testament, God had set up a system for the Israelites to follow. God could not allow sin, and we should die as a result of sin, but God would allow the sacrifice of a perfect lamb in place of us. In addition to this sacrifice, the shedding of blood for sin, God also commanded the priest to lay his hands on a goat and pray, symbolically transferring the sin of the people onto this animal. This scapegoat was then sent into the wilderness away from the camp, taking the sin of the people on its head.

God fulfilled the law by sending Jesus. No longer did we need to sacrifice a perfect lamb in place of us; Jesus acted as that sacrifice for all who believed. And like the scapegoat, He took our sins on his head and bore our shame. With his death and resurrection, Jesus died in our place and conquered death so that we can share eternal life with Him in heaven after our imperfect lives here on earth.

When I look back on my time at the gym, sometimes I wonder how I didn’t end up with a carload of kids before I was 20. In reality, I know that we were a good group of girls, and I’m glad for the time we spent talking that didn’t leave much time for doing. And I’m glad for that group of coaches–I don’t know what prayers they sent up for us on their own, but I do know their words didn’t fall on deaf ears.

These ears listened and believed.

Did a sport or coach help to shape you as a person? Did an area outside of the church or your family have a profound effect on your faith? Sharing my thoughts today with Jen.

 

‘Mommy, Look! I’m a Zebra!’

 

One week into January, and I had already thrown my resolution out the window. In fairness to myself, I actually set three goals for the new year, and I was still on track with two. The third resolution I made in the minivan as church was starting, and we were still two minutes away. Clearly, I didn’t give this vow enough thought. Nonetheless, I resolved to never arrive late to church again.

The next Saturday evening, I walked into church five minutes after the service started. Now at this point, I know some of you are already tense at the thought of my lateness. What is wrong with some people? Why can’t they just get ready earlier and not be late? I’ve asked myself the same questions many times.

In fact, we started attending the Saturday evening service because there was a better chance of us getting to church without my having to plead with God for forgiveness for all the yelling and screaming that happened as I tried to get my kids ready. After all, the kiddos would already be up, dressed, and not needing to be fed before I prodded them out the door.

But I was wrong. The longer small children are awake, the more time they have to get into trouble.

Today, I’m writing over at the Dacula Patch, our local on-line newspaper. I’d love if you’d join me over there. And if you like what you’ve read, please let me know by recommending this story on Facebook or sharing on Twitter!

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Lesson 3: The Christmas Video

 

photo via Flickr 'Creative Commons'

One Friday night about 15 years ago, my friend subjected me to the torture of watching old family videos. Christmas was near, and the spirit caught her mom who gathered us all to the den where colored lights from the tree illuminated the pizza she set before us. She was in a very chipper mood and promised us all cookies for dessert if we watched a family video with her.

“I thought it would be fun to look back on Christmas past before Christmas future becomes our Christmas present.”

I stared at her and gave a weak smile. When she spoke, I had no trouble understanding why my friend Kristen was in the drama club.

Kristen’s dad sighed as he sat in his armchair and did his best to remove the slightly aggravated look from his face. He had no desire to watch an old home video, but the promise of pizza and cookies was too much for this large, Italian man to refuse.

Kristen rolled her eyes when he sat down. As is the case many times between teenaged daughters and their fathers, the two of them annoyed each other. Kristen’s sour attitude annoyed her father, and anything her father did annoyed Kristen.

I was beginning to wish I had said ‘no’ when Kristen asked me to spend the night.

Mrs. Carlucci pulled out a blue tub of VHS tapes, all adorned with perfect, white labels.

“Christmas 1988. That should be fun!”

“What would that make you, Kristen–about nine?” her dad asked.

“I guess” was Kristen’s elaborate reply.

“Michelle, I thought you’d like to see what your friend looked and acted like as a little girl. She was so cute with her brown curls!”

Yes, Mrs. Carlucci. How did you know this was EXACTLY how I wanted to spend my Friday night!

For the next 15 minutes, we all watched with our eyes glued to the television. Clearly, Mrs. Carlucci did not remember what was on this video before she put it in the VCR. For the next 15 minutes, we watched as Mrs. Carlucci frantically picked up every piece of wrapping paper that hit the floor. We watched ‘chipper’ Mrs. Carlucci make her way through Christmas with a scowl on her face.

“Mom, what was your deal? Kristen asked as her mom on the video waved her away with a Get out of the way, Kristen.

Mrs. Carlucci looked away with embarrassment. “I, I don’t know. I guess I was just having a bad day.”

“On Christmas?!”

But before Kristen could cause her mother any more grief, our eyes were once again drawn to the TV screen.

Come here sweetie, we heard the normally gruff man say to his daughter as he pulled her close. Merry Christmas!

I love you, Daddy! the little voice said back to the gruff man.

I scrunched up my face as I watched a scene that looked like it was from Little House on the Prairie. This father and daughter oozed so much love and sweetness I thought I might be sick.

Aww, come here Bailey! the man called to the family dog. He scratched her ears and laughed as she licked his face.

Kristen and I looked at each other in disbelief–all this love coming from the man who normally complained that he had a Cocker Spaniel instead of a German Shepherd.

“Who’s the bad guy now, huh?!” Mr. Carlucci shouted out with a laugh. “Here’s the proof! Here’s the proof!”

Kristen and I tried to roll our eyes, but we couldn’t help but laugh. We did have proof–her father was full of love while her mother was a psycho!

We watched more minutes of opening presents and hugs between father and daughter while Mrs. Carlucci would occasionally look up from stuffing crumpled wrapping paper in the tall, black trash bag. Her weak smiles were not convincing, a far contrast from the chipper woman baking cookies in the kitchen 20 minutes before.

“Well, Michelle didn’t come over today to watch old videos.” Mrs. Carlucci began to stand up and make her way to the TV.

“No, no, leave it on! I want to see more,” the gruff man called from the chair. “Heh, you see that, Kristen! Your mean, old dad–ha! Look at that!”

“Oh, please, John,” Mrs. Carlucci said as she turned off the TV.

“What? I thought it was nice–a father and daughter showing so much love on Christmas…and now we have the proof!” he laughed again as he got up to hug his wife.

She pushed him away and went to the kitchen.

“John, sometimes you are so annoying.”

Kristen and I laughed as Mr. Carlucci made his way to Kristen with a sly smile.

“We have proof!” he yelled as he pulled her in roughly to his chest.

Now at this point in the story you may think that you know the lesson–we create our own realities; or people are complex, dynamic creatures, not defined by the labels we give; or never show a family video that you haven’t first pre-screened. However, there is more….

Watching that video 15 years ago, I thought Mrs. Carlucci was psycho, but then I got married and had my own children. I experienced Christmas from the perspective of a mother, and, somehow, it didn’t have all the magic of Christmas as a child. Perhaps that’s because the mother creates most of the magic.

Perhaps Mrs. Carlucci was simply exhausted after preparing meals for three different family Christmas get-togethers back-to-back. Perhaps after each get-together, she came home late at night to a sink full of dishes and laundry that needed to be moved from the washer to the dryer. She just wanted to go to bed each night, but she needed to get ready for the next day. She needed to set out her casserole dishes and grate cheese and organize the presents for each respective family Christmas.

Perhaps Mrs. Carlucci was tired from baking cookies. In an attempt to spread the love of Christmas, she spread herself thin for an entire week baking cookies with her daughter–cookies for teachers, cookies for neighbors, cookies for the mailman, and, of course, cookies for Santa. Maybe, on that Christmas morning, she was just sick of cookies!

And let’s not forget the cleaning. Perhaps, Mrs. Carlucci, after that final family get-together, came home late but was not able to go to the bed that called her name. No, now she had to worry about her own family Christmas.

Perhaps she cleaned the dishes in the sink so that she could prepare the ingredients for her own family breakfast in the morning. Perhaps Mrs. Carlucci saw the mess on the den floor and didn’t want Santa to break his neck when he came down the chimney. Perhaps, like the ‘psycho’ she is, Mrs. Carlucci vacuumed at two in the morning so that the family would be sitting on a clean floor when they opened presents by the tree. Perhaps, when Mrs. Carlucci finally went to bed at three a.m., after cooking and vacuuming and positioning presents under the tree and setting out cookies for Santa, she was satisfied with how she had prepared this day for her family…satisfied and dead-tired.

Mrs. Carlucci may have felt like a zombie that morning, and, perhaps, she was a little annoyed when she saw crumpled piece after crumpled piece of wrapping paper hit the floor that she had just vacuumed four hours ago. Perhaps, Mrs. Carlucci saw the crumbs Santa left after he ate his cookies, and she decided that next year she was going to serve the slob cookies laced with arsenic.

Mrs. Carlucci didn’t need to see the presents Kristen opened–she knew what they were–she’s the one who bought the darned things. She loved her daughter–maybe she told her to get out of the way because her own head was spinning from sleep deprivation and didn’t need three Kristen heads confusing her even more. And, perhaps, when Mrs. Carlucci saw Mr. Carlucci sitting on that floor that she vacuumed, eating the cookies that she baked, laughing with his daughter over the presents she bought, and scratching the ears of the dog she consistently fed and bathed–perhaps she just wanted to slap him.

It’s okay, Mrs. Carlucci. I get it now.

I hope you all had a Merry Christmas! Thank you, Dad, for your ‘Christmas Lessons’ idea. I had some great ideas from others for more ‘Christmas Lessons’ about Santa, but due to the rush of Christmas and the inability to get out of bed after Christmas, not much has happened with my blog as of late! I look forward to getting back in a regular schedule…maybe next week.

If you missed it, here’s Christmas Lesson 1 and 2.


 

 

Christmas Lessons: 1

 

photo by Vanessa Pike-Russell

The Christmas holidays had just concluded, and my dad and I made a pit-stop at the gymnastics center where I would spend most of my childhood. He needed to work out some details for the upcoming meet, and I hung out in the lobby for those few minutes. Had I known that my world would change that quickly, I would’ve stayed in the car.

My gymnastics coach happened to see me and stopped by to say ‘hello’ before heading down to teach a class.

“How do you like your new beam?” she asked.

I immediately was taken aback. I did, in fact, get a beam for Christmas. It was blue and sat flat on the floor and was made out of some stiff foam-like material. The beam wasn’t very heavy and would move if I jumped on it. Honestly, it’s a wonder that I didn’t break my ankle, but, nevertheless, that beam was one of the best presents I ever received. From Santa.

How did you know I got a beam?”

The wheels in my head began spinning, but clearly, her wheels were not keeping up with mine.

“I saw your dad pick it up,” she answered matter-of-factly.

The wheels were now grinding together, producing a thick fog of smoke in my brain.

My dad? How was that possible? Santa brought that gift.

And then, as any child who wants to believe would do, I began to concoct the recipe for how my coach would’ve seen my dad purchasing this gift when, in fact, it was from Santa. It was easy–Santa is magical, so he simply turned himself into the likeness of my dad and purchased the beam. He didn’t have one in his workshop because…well…it doesn’t matter. He knew I liked the one at my gym, and it was just easier to fly down from the North Pole, turn himself into my dad, and purchase it then try to have his elves recreate it in the workshop.

Yeah, that was it.

And even though I forced myself to believe for another year, that day marked the day when a little of the Christmas magic died in my heart.

Christmas Lesson 1: Let the child tell you what he or she received for Christmas, not the other way around. You have no idea what spiral of doubt and confusion you may otherwise create.

Was Santa ever spoiled for you? What happened?

I had a fun idea this morning–or fun to me–and wanted to pass it along. If you will send me a Christmas lesson in the comments or in an e-mail, I will try to recreate a short story around it. Or if you prefer, you can write a story and provide the link in the comment box of any of the Christmas Lessons I write! If I don’t get any responses, I’ll know you all think this idea stinks.

What Did You Just Say?!

My husband, Matt, and I have been blessed with kids who can communicate well. Well, blessed and cursed–smart kids who have an answer for everything can be very trying. Nonetheless, we’ve never had to mess with ‘baby talk,’ and we rarely witnessed the ‘terrible twos’ temper tantrums (how’s that for alliteration?) simply because our kids couldn’t communicate their frustrations. Oh, they know how to communicate their frustrations quite well!

As a result of our little blessings, I would venture to say that we tend to forget their ages when we are having a conversation. The other night, Matt was scolding our five-year-old son Caleb for dumping out the contents of his piggy bank, yet, again instead of getting ready for bed, but he may have been looking at Caleb as a member of his sales team instead of a little kid:

“Put [your piggy bank] away, or I am going to confiscate it.”

“I don’t know what that word means.”

“It means I am going to take it away.”

“WHY WOULD YOU USE THAT WORD?!  You can just say I’m going to take it away!”

And as any supportive wife would do, I laughed downstairs for about five minutes. Then I thought about the verse in the Bible that says, “4 Fathers,[b] do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). I’m not sure whether or not teaching Caleb to clean up the money all over his bed counts as training of the Lord, but I’m fairly certain he was exasperated.

I thought for a minute how I might exasperate my children–perhaps, sometimes my expectations are a little high or I get frustrated before really understanding why they tried to recreate the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel on the playroom wall–but then my mind traveled back to the current moment.

And, Matt, that exasperating was all on you, buddy.

Linking up with Mama Kat for her Writer’s Workshop. How do you exasperate your children (or spouse or mother, etc)?


 

 

 

 

 

I Had a Dream

I’m sure it started after my mom said, “I wish we lived closer.” In fact, we do live relatively close to one another. We’re only about a half an hour away, but with Atlanta traffic, that half an hour can stretch anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour. In any event, we don’t live close enough to just drop over for a chat any time the idea strikes our fancy.

Thus birthed the idea for our plot of land. At first, it started as a joke; we’d have a home for all the women to live in and a separate home for all the grumpy men. The women could get together every night after the kids went to bed and play the board games we so love while the men stayed home and scratched their rears and fell asleep on the couch.

Except my brother-in-law said he didn’t want to be stuck in a house with the grumpy men, either.

Then the idea morphed into something more realistic. Instead of two houses divided by gender, we’d have three homes divided by family units all sharing a large plot of land. There would be a communal garden. There would be Hilda the cow. There would be game night. Many nights.

Sometimes when I would get discouraged with the condition of my home or tired thinking about putting the kids to bed after a visit with my parents, I would envision my dream home on that large plot of land. I would see the tall trees surrounding us, hear the stream running through the woods. I could taste the tomatoes I’d pick from our garden, and I was never overwhelmed at its upkeep–the three families worked together.

photo by vastateparksstaff via Flickr 'Creative Commons'

And there was Hilda. Oh, she was such a good cow. She ate her grass and gave us the finest milk. No longer did I have to debate whether or not (not, most often) to purchase organic milk for $5.99 a gallon–our organic milk was right in our yard.

photo by JHayne

But like most dreams, this one was squashed by those whom I love.

“Do you think I’m made out of money?!”

No, Dad, I think you’re made out of blood and muscles and bones.

“Dad, you’re just buying the land first since you’re ready to move now. You’re reserving our spot. Then, we’ll come and buy our section of the land from you and build our house. This plan made sense to me.

“What happens when Matt and you decide to move and sell your home? Now I have this piece of land that I have to share with someone I don’t know.”

“Well, we’re not going to move.”

And then a few days later my husband joined in:

“Do you know how much a cow costs? It would cost thousands of dollars. It would take years before you even reaped the benefits of having your own cow to milk.”

I don’t trust your math.

“Jennifer, you don’t live on Little House on the Prairie.”

You’re right; Caroline’s husband was warm and kind, and he played the fiddle.

This move doesn’t make sense from a financial perspective. What happens if we want to move? We now have a house that’s connected to two other families.”

Are we planning to move? Did you and my dad have a talk that I don’t know about. Are you being transferred to Canada or something?!

After that moment, I told myself, “Forget it.” Forget the big plot of land. Forget the communal garden. Forget Hilda. And definitely forget game night many nights during the week.

At least I have ‘Word With Friends.’

Has your family ever squashed your dream before it had time to come to fruition? Have you ever wanted to own a cow? It’s the middle of the week, folks. Let’s take a minute to smile and get through it!