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?

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!

If you’d like new posts delivered to your inbox or my blog added to your feed, click here.

Boys and Basketball

Basketball Hoop

Yesterday, the weather was amazing. The temperature topped out at about 70 degrees, and the sky was bright blue most of the day. We could play outside without getting too hot, and I didn’t have to yell at the kids to keep their jackets on–we left them at home.

I love the location of my home, right next to the neighborhood pool and playground. I swear if we had to pack up and load into the minivan to drive to the front of the neighborhood, we’d never get there. Luckily, my little monkeys just need me to open our gate and walk next door.

Yesterday evening, that’s just what we did. We began our journey a little later than planned, missing the most warmth from the sun. Punky Brewster was far too enticing for the kids, and this mama was far too tired to put up a fight. We made it to the playground around five, however, and the kids released their abundance of energy.

I had wished we arrived earlier, though, when I saw the teenaged boy playing basketball. Caleb immediately took off toward him.

“Caleb, leave him alone. He wants to practice.”

But the young man just smiled and encouraged Caleb to come and play. I watched as my five-year-old and this high school-aged boy took turns dribbling and shooting hoops.

I felt a little uneasy, not of this young man, but of my son interfering.

“He’s not going to leave you alone now,” I warned him, but he just smiled and assured me he was okay with Caleb playing.

A few minutes later, another teenaged boy parked his car and joined his friend on the asphalt court. The boys–closer to men than boys, really–showed Caleb how to shoot baskets, teaching him to bend his knees and the proper way to hold the ball.

Frankly, I was impressed, especially when they gave Hannah Grace a try, too.

I’m sure these guys had planned to get together to have a game of one-on-one, and here they were giving lessons to the little boy making granny shots. They wanted to run free on the court, not avoid the little girl dancing to the music in her head and periodically shouting, “I see my shadow! Six more weeks of winter!” Their plans were interrupted–they were inconvenienced–so they simply changed their plans.

They were kind, and they were patient. While I watched them run to Caleb’s aid when the ball rebounded off his head for the second time, I prayed, “God, how I hope Caleb is like them when he’s a teenager!”

And then I thought to myself, “God, make me more like them now.”

On what exceptional young adult would you like to brag? What have they taught you? Have a great weekend!

*photo courtesy of Ben Unleashed via Flickr Creative Commons

And We Keep On Going

I should not be allowed an iPhone. This weekend, I set a willful child on the toilet in an effort to get her to pee when my phone dropped out of my pocket and went for a swim. Typically, I keep my hands out of toilet water, but I amazed myself at how quickly I stuck my hand in that bowl. I’d like to think that my reflexes would be that sharp if I ever had to rescue anything of true value–I scooped that phone out of the watery abyss in .2 seconds flat.

Despite my laser-sharp reflexes, a turn with the hair dryer, and a bag of rice, the screen on my phone went black (but that stupid phone taunted me all day, ringing and dinging to notify me of e-mails that had come in but I would never see), and my iPhone was useless. It was a terrible day to not have my phone.

Saturday, Matt volunteers at church for most of the day, so I was on my own to take Caleb to a roller skating birthday party and occupy the two girls. My attempt to find a ride for Caleb didn’t work, but I was adamant that I was not going to teach three children to skate that day–I would drop Caleb at the party and then take the girls to the toy store to spend some of their allowance, assuming, of course, that the party location was near the toy store.

Caleb would have to leave the party early to ensure we got to church early as I was also volunteering that day. If I had my handy, dandy iPhone, I could’ve figured out my route quickly. Except I didn’t. My iPhone continued to taunt me.

photo by Ian Munroe

I printed off some directions from one of the map websites and rounded up the children into the van, a little later than we planned to leave, of course. Ten minutes later, I neared our destination. But after driving past 1700 Buford Drive four times (twice from each direction), I decided that the directions I was following was not to the location where we were trying to go.

I would’ve called the grandmother hosting the party, but, oh yeah–I couldn’t. At this point, I had a decision to make. We were already 30 minutes late for the party, and I still didn’t know where to go to get to this party. I could go home and make a second attempt at printing off the right directions, or I could tell Caleb that we would take his friend and him roller skating another day. When the latter offer produced tears from the back seat, I decided the former. We would get to that stupid party no matter what. And we kept on going.

I drove home, ran into the house, printed off new directions, printed off directions from the party to church, and got back in the van (did I mention that we don’t have a land line, so I couldn’t call the grandmother from my house, either?). Looking at the directions to this farther away place, I realized that Caleb would only have about 40 minutes at the party. I explained this fact to him, emphasizing that he most likely will have missed the skating part of the party or the cake, depending on the order they chose. Caleb nodded that he understood and blinked back his tears.

As we sat in traffic due to road construction, I felt my blood pressure rise and created new profanities in my mind. We were going to get to that party even if Caleb only got to shake his friend’s hand and give her her present before he turned around to leave! So we kept on going.

At 4:00 p.m. we arrived at the party that was supposed to end at 4:30. Caleb had missed the cake, but the kids were skating again. Caleb had 30 minutes to learn how to skate. I would’ve loved to teach him, but I had a four-year-old holding one hand and a two-year-old holding the other–two girls who would have to wait another day to go to the toy store.

Luckily, a compassionate woman at the party saw my full hands and took Caleb out on the floor. I watched and held my breath as Caleb flailed his arms and legs around in an attempt to catch his balance. I cringed as his legs flew completely out from under him. And with each wild slam to the floor, I fought between the instinct that wanted to laugh at how crazy my son looked and the fear that I would find a limb dangling in an odd direction as he climbed back to his feet. But despite each painful-looking fall, Caleb kept on going.

While he could’ve spent more time learning how to skate on the carpeted floor, Caleb’s competitive drive kept him on the slick rink. In one moment he looked like a kid at a concert body surfing–on-lookers sitting on the edge of the rink took turns holding him up as he threatened to land on them or crash to the floor–yet in the next moment, this little boy was balancing on two skates making his way around the curve by himself.

I couldn’t have been more proud (or terrified).

The time came to turn in the skates, thank the host, and jump back in the van with my printed directions. Unfortunately, the people who make these things think I know the difference between ‘northeast’ and ‘southwest’. Seriously, ‘left’ or ‘right’ works just fine for me. Now, we were going to be late for church, but we kept on going. Watching my son take fall after fall without a grimace made me realize that I could, too.

photo by Ian Munroe

I kept on going because that’s what moms do. We keep going when the logical choice would be to turn back, save gas, and miss the party; we value the smile on our kids’ faces more. We keep going when we’re tired and want to go to bed because we’d rather our family wear clean clothes, instead. We keep going when that little voice in our heads tells us our efforts are not worth it, reminding us of all the wasted time we spent doing tasks that already needed to be redone, reminding us of the life we could have if we lived for ourselves.

We keep going because, the reality is, no matter how tired we are or frustrated we feel, we’re doing exactly what we want to do. We pick ourselves up off our bruised bottoms and dry our hands of toilet water and kiss goodbye to our gas money because, as contradictory as it sounds some day, the bruises and the stress and the loss of money contribute to a beautiful mosaic of stories and the character we need to keep on going the next day.

We keep on going. And that’s exactly what I’m going to do today and the next, with or without my iPhone.

What keeps you going?

 

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.

 

Christmas Lessons 2: The Nativity

I sighed as I took the nativity out of the box. A gift from my mother-in-law, the olive wood figurines from Jerusalem stood beautifully in their simplicity. I wanted to do the scene justice–display it in a setting of prominence, center-stage in our family room–yet I wanted to enjoy this nativity for more than one Christmas.

For the same reason the breakable nativity from my mother sets atop the T.V. cabinet, this nativity quietly hangs out on our electric piano: I fear my children.

I fear the two-year-old who ate all the candy out of the kids’ advent calendars by December 10th.

I fear the four-year-old who lost her one new pair of school shoes (how does one lose the shoes that one was wearing?)

I fear the five-year-old who discovered the razor I use on my legs can also shave off hair from his sister’s head.

I don’t want baby Jesus to go missing. I don’t want the shepherd to lose his staff. I don’t want Mary to break her face. And I don’t want the sheep to become part of a wild animal safari in the playroom.

I want them to remain sacred objects of our faith, a reminder of the beautiful Christmas story.

“She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them”

The story of the king sent to reign over heaven and earth, the king who entered this world not on a golden chariot but instead through the blood, sweat, and tears of a young girl. The king for whom there was no room but instead a bed shared amidst foul-smelling animals and dust and hay.

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord”

The story of the God who chose to reveal himself first to a group of shepherds, the young and the elderly, those not valued by society but who caused disdain with the stench of sheep they carried. These were the first to meet the Savior of the World.

13 ‘Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace on whom his favor rests’

The story of a baby who made the angels sing. This baby, the Son of the holy God who loves His children so much that He sent His Son to bring us peace.

As my children retell this story with shining eyes anticipating Christ’s birthday, I see the nativity, no longer mere objects on my piano destined to be broken or misplaced at their hands. These objects that they caress with their fingers, the star that they turn as they sing of that silent night, holy night are living as the story takes root in their hearts.

And that story can’t break.

Linking up with Mama Kat in response to her prompt to describe my nativity scene. Come back tomorrow for another Christmas lesson, this time inspired by some of the Santa stories left by you!

*For the complete Christmas story, read Luke 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)?


 

 

 

 

 

Thanksgiving Presents

 

When I was a child, no holiday could top Christmas. While I loved stuffing and mashed potatoes, I’d happily skip over Thanksgiving to get to the present-opening holiday faster. However, nothing could make that last month before Christmas go any quicker.

Now that I’m a little bit older than eight, I find that, much as my tastebuds changed as I became an adult, so did my taste for the different holidays. I still find Christmas a beautiful holiday to celebrate, yet I would never skip Thanksgiving. In fact, I would venture to say that Thanksgiving is my new favorite.

With a few exceptions, I don’t remember the presents I opened beneath the tree, those presents that I’m sure my parents budgeted for and fought their way through crazy mobs at the mall. I don’t remember what Santa snuck down the chimney.

But I do remember family. Little stories will sneak up and pinch me when I least expect it. These memories are the presents that have far outlasted those wrapped in shiny paper and topped with big bows.

My grandmother much preferred the company of children and seemed to relate better to them than adults. That characteristic worked out well for all of her grandchildren. Every time we had a family get-together, Grandma Ann would gather the grandkids to her while the adults talked in another room. While they laughed and scraped the last bit of food off their plates, the kids worked in another room on a retelling of Cinderella. We rushed around looking for Cinderella’s broom and a costume to do the magical fairy godmother justice, and when we were ready, Grandma would silence the adults and command their attention for the show we had prepared.

The parents would roll their eyes and silently endure the production. This tradition has lived on….

For my father’s birthday, I was in a silly mood and wanted to help control the chaos of four kids five and under while we waited for my husband to get home. I gathered all the children in the playroom, and everyone was assigned a role.

Caleb, you will dance first. Max, you’re next. You will come out after Aunt Jennie introduces you.

And so began my first attempt at organizing a show with all of the grandkids. A few weekends later, the kids requested we put on another performance for Uncle Mason’s birthday, and the other day, an ordinary-non-birthday-nothing-special day, my nephew requested we put on a show.

“Well, hello, Grandma,” my mom said to me.

She was right–I had had the realization before–Grandma’s present was still going strong long after she was gone. I’m currently drafting a Christmas performance.

So I look forward to tomorrow, a day without the stress of Christmas, a day when we enjoy the delicious food with which we have been so abundantly blessed and count the numerous ways God has provided. I look forward to receiving the presents that time with family always gives, and I look forward to remembering.

I’m thankful that we each live on long after we’re gone, in the fried okra recipe that’s used every holiday or the sound of snoring from the recliner in the den or the after-dinner performance that the adults are forced to endure.

These are the presents that I will celebrate. For these, I am thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving, to you and yours. For what presents are you thankful this year?