Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas Card Confessions

Oops, I did it again.

I messed around in PhotoShop and created the perfect Christmas card.  OK not perfect, but better. 

Last year, I copped to stressing over the perfect Christmas card.  See here.  Anyone who has ever received a card from me knows that, clearly, I have not been stressing about it since then.  My cards generally have an “it is what it is” feel.  My kids are who they are, and typically our holiday cards are representative of that very concept – Tate’s always making a face or cutting up, Meems always exudes joy (usually with her mouth wide open), Will is smirking. 

This year, my card photos were way less than stellar.  In all the shots, I was lucky if one kid looked good, not to mention two.  A good one of all three?  Not so lucky.  So I did what I had to do.  I took Will’s head from one shot and moved it to another.  Voila!  The perfect picture! 

Ok not perfect, but better. 

Now we have an I’m-barely-tolerating-this half smile instead of an agonized omg-would-you-just-please-hurry-up-I-mean-seriously look.  For sure, an upgrade.  I call that success.  My standards have lowered considerably through the years.  It helps to keep me sane.

The other day in Sunday school we discussed the gloss we put on the holidays, when reality often looks so much different.  We sing of Jesus’ birth as a peaceful, silent, calm night when in reality, Mary went through childbirth at age 14 by herself in a barn/cave with donkeys, on the floor with just Joseph there to help her.  No one talks about the mess, and the screams and the fear and agony she must have felt.  Let’s be honest, childbirth under the best of circumstances isn’t peaceful or easy.

I immediately thought of my Christmas card and felt guilty. 

Thus, the Christmas card confessional post.

We are not a perfect family.  Truth is, my kids were not happy to be posing for that picture.  This morning I yelled at my children that if they wanted to ever leave the house for the holiday, they were going to have to help out a little.  And then I gave them a laundry list of all they are going to do today while I’m at work, and a list of all the things we are going to accomplish when I get home this afternoon.  They accused me of ruining their vacation fun (one has a holiday hot dog lax game this afternoon and another one has a Christmas party tonight).  I told them that if this stuff doesn’t get done, no one’s going to have any fun.  You know, the usual stuff.  Good times.

But perfection is overrated and stressful.  After the chaos, comes the calm.  After we scramble to get everything done, we get to enjoy.  Just as it is, which will be perfect in our memories, but not in reality.  After Mary finally delivered, she held her baby and rested and enjoyed the most wonderful feeling in the world.  And that’s what we remember and celebrate. 

Next year, I vow to embrace the chaos and give you a REAL glimpse into my world, agonized omg-would-you-just-please-hurry-up-I-mean-seriously look and all.  Because that’s the truth behind the facade.  That’s the real memory, not the “not perfect, but better” shiny almost smirk squinty look I will grace my friends and family with this year. 

Keeping it real in the RVA.

That, my friends, is a warning promise.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, November 16, 2015

In a Split Second...

...everything can change.

Yesterday, one of my son's teammates injured his neck in their lacrosse game.

Watching a child go down, having to call 911, standing by as parents who are medically trained assess him and keep him immobile, helplessly waiting as the paramedics strap him to a gurney and rush him to a trauma center, witnessing the fear and panic on his father's face...

It seemed like a simple fall.

I hugged my W extra hard this morning.  Gave him a few more kisses.  An entire weekend spent on the sidelines watching your children do what they love...it's a gift.  A true blessing.  Yesterday was a reminder not to complain, not to take for granted that there will be a next time.  Yesterday it all could have ended for one family, their lives irreversibly changed in the blink of an eye.

It could have been my child.  It could have been yours.

The boy will be OK, thank God.

This life is precious.  Childhood is fleeting.

Hug your babies.  Embrace the chaos.  Relish the early mornings and long drives and freezing temperatures.

One day, you won't need to do that any more.  Enjoy it while you can.

Because one day could be tomorrow.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Fourteen


Today is my oldest child’s fourteenth birthday.

Fourteen.

Fourteen years of laughs and craziness and nonstop motion.

Fourteen years of purpose. He gave me the greatest gift of all.

As he turns 14, here are 14 things I want him to know:

1. Always be kind. You have a compassionate heart, I’ve seen it. I know you don’t always feel comfortable with that, but listen to what it tells you. It just might save you.

2. Be yourself. I think you’ve got this one in the bag. You are so very authentic. You have always been exactly who you are. People like you for that, so don’t change.

3. You’re a late bloomer. In many ways. And that’s OK. I know it doesn’t always feel OK when there’s social stuff going on and voices are changing and growth spurts are happening and other “things” are transpiring (mentally, physically and socially) all around you and you’re not quite there. It’s OK. It will make you interesting later, trust me. I know firsthand. The kids that peak early…often peak early in many ways. Bloom where you are planted. You’ll have your time.

4. Shower. Regularly. Even if you took one this morning. If you ran in a cross country meet, followed by lacrosse practice, for pete’s sake, SHOWER.  Because you stink.

5. Be nice to your siblings. They look up to you and adore you (trust me) but they are different than you. Be gentle with them. Root for them. Encourage them and support them. Everyone likes to know there’s someone looking out for them. In turn, they’ll return the favor.

6. You have to work harder.  "Enough" isn't always enough.  I learned that the hard way.  Your hard work could be the difference between good and great. 

7.  Respect girls.  They are more sensitive than you, but they are also meaner.  They will confuse you and mesmerize you and break your heart.  Respect them anyway.  They're trying to figure this life out too.  Do not treat women like objects.  You have a sister - think how you would want her to be treated.  You will be someone's casualty, and you will have a casualty or two of your own as you figure all this out.  Respect them anyway.  Be that guy. 

8.  Stand up straight.  It will impart a confidence you might now always feel.  Just try it, you'll see.  You'll also breathe better and be taller.  Both very good things.

9.   Let me hug you.  This is a selfish request, but you have no idea what I went through to have that privilege.  In turn, I promise to take it easy on you and respect your boundaries.

10.  Stop balling up your socks and flinging them around.  When you come to me and tell me you need socks, yet I can't open your sock drawer because it's so stuffed, I know that you have an entire drawer full of unmatched socks.  Really?  Some of those socks were ridiculously expensive (for socks).  Also, I'm tired of finding balled up socks behind the computer armoire, on the mantle, behind your bed, in your closet, under the playroom sofa, on top of the curtains in your room...

11.  You can tell me anything.  I know it might be awkward because I'm a girl and I'm your mom and some things are embarrassing and I couldn't possibly know what you're going through, but I do and I will always be here for you if you need advice, or a willing ear.  If I don't have the answers for you, I'll find them.  I remember a conversation I had with my dad when I was about your age, about a boy who liked me.  He gave me the best advice (and here I thought he wouldn't have a clue) because he knew my heart, and it made me feel safe and understood.  Trust me.  I'll always do my best.

12.   Laugh.  A lot.  Just not in church. 

13.  Put yourself out there.  You may succeed, you may fail, but you'll regret not trying. 

14.  Shower.  Please.  You're fourteen.




Friday, September 25, 2015

Morning Coffee and T

"Mom, can you take me out to buy some clay?  I want to sculpt things like Michelangelo.  And after that, can we go to Guitar Center and see if they have Cellos?  Wait, how much do Cellos cost?"

That was Wednesday, the only day of the week where there currently is NOTHING going on and I was looking forward to hitting the gym.  Guess where I went instead?

In the mornings, I have coffee and time with just my little T, something I haven't had since he was in preschool.  The other two, being in middle school, leave the house an hour before he does, and it's amazing how quiet this child is.  But, there's also plenty of conversation.  Such as...

"Are skin cells the only ones that regenerate?"
"Well, I finally found out how Microsoft got its name."
"Do we have any denatured alcohol?  I want to try to separate the DNA from a banana."
"What is denatured alcohol?"
"So I've been researching fencing lessons..."
"Was Steve Jobs married?"
"I understand about squaring numbers, but how to you square MC, because you can't square letters."
"Wait, is that algebra?  Algebra sounds cool, like a puzzle."
"I wonder what it would be like to be Albert Einstein."
"What are aerosols?  And, if they're damaging the ozone, then wouldn't our atmosphere be escaping, but without atmosphere the earth would be getting colder, so why do they call it global warming?"
"Are there bullies in college?"

I sip my coffee and listen.  I answer when I can.  And nod my head in agreement.  Often we Google the answers, and sometimes we just guess and discuss.  Afterwards, he hugs me goodbye and runs off to the bus, and I go back inside to reflect on our conversation and just how much I love this little boy with the big questions.

So how do you start your day?!?

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

She's Off

"Are you going to walk me to the bus stop?”

“No.  You don’t need me to.  And trust me, you don’t want me to.”

“But…” a little flash of panic in her eyes.

“You’re in middle school.  You got this.”

And she does.  But, my Little Meems doesn’t love change, and heading off to middle school is a big one.  

This is a little girl who still likes to hold my hand.  Even though she’s 12, and probably shouldn’t want to, I let her, because one day she won’t want to.  I say little because she is, but also she isn’t.  She and I are stuck somewhere between the lands of big and little and we’re trying to meet in the middle, but sometimes we miss each other.  She wants to be independent, yet she wants me to do everything for her.  I want her to not need me so much, yet I want her to still value my help and opinions.  So it goes with preteens, I guess.

This popped up in my Facebook feed on Monday.  My memory from 5 years ago, when she entered first grade.  


This is now.  Although the first picture is how I will always see her.


She is still missing teeth.  She still favors turquoise nail polish.  The hair is curly (although we have discovered the straightening iron), the eyes are big, the dimples are bigger.  I miss that little face.  I miss stealing sugar from the sweet spot between her neck and chin.  


I sent this to her last night.  I want her to read it every day.  

The bus came and went without incident this morning.  I watched from the hidden safety of our garage, so I could be there with her, just not with her.

She’ll be fine.  

Will I? 

Sure.  But I’m gonna go have a little cry now if you don’t mind. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

That Moment When...

You comment on your son's Instagram post and he sees it while you're standing with him in the kitchen, reads it, scrunches his eyes like he's in pain, and deletes it, all while you're standing there.  And tells you "um, yeah, just going to delete this" while shaking his head incredulously.

Ouch.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Amazing Grace


You know what’s amazing?

My daughter’s kindness.

Her compassionate heart.

Her capacity for forgiveness.

It just blows me away.

Not long before school ended, we received a call from her teacher about an incident in her classroom in which a classmate had sad something unkind about Little Meems while she was working. She did not hear it, but was informed about the comment by her best friend, who is very protective of her. The situation, I was assured, had been dealt with accordingly and her teacher spoke with her about it and she seemed a little hurt, but was holding it together. She thought I would want to know.

Of course I asked her about it when she got home, and after some pressing, she told me what happened. I asked her how she felt, she said she was surprised and a little hurt. But she was bummed that the child had to miss recess because of it, and was a little perturbed that when she told him goodbye at the end of the day, he didn’t say it in return!

That’s what upset her.

I explained that he was probably embarrassed and possibly caught off guard by the fact that she would even bother to speak to him after what had happened.

“But he’s my friend,” she defended with a shrug. Because, why wouldn’t she still be kind to him?

Would YOU have been? I don’t know that I would have. I would have been too angry/bewildered/hurt/embarrassed to acknowledge him.  

But that’s my girl.

That's her heart.

I learn something from my children every day.  That day, I learned about grace.

How blessed is she?

How blessed am I?

bf045b5fe72c4a5fc217a8ca9dbb8ee8.jpg (236×217)

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Little

I have a teenager, a preteen and a 9 year old.

Big kids, right?  I mean, they can practically take care of themselves at those ages.  OK, so not really, but they CAN contribute to their care and well-being now.  My daughter made herself an amazing salad last night for dinner because she didn't want pizza.  Voluntarily and independently.  See, you're reading this thinking "wait, the kid would rather have salad than pizza?" and I'm all "oh my gosh, she did it herself, and even cleaned up afterward!"  But the salad part is good too.  Girl loves her some veggies.  So, yeah, they're becoming more independent and responsible and mature (kind of) and big.

So big that sometimes you forget that they're really little.

This is especially true lately for my 9 year old.  He's a mature kid and as such, I sometimes forget he's, well, only 9.

And sometimes, it's good to be reminded.

I was reminded yesterday in church.

The beauty of church is that it forces you to stop, and listen, and reflect.  For me, it's not just about the message, it's a quiet time to reconnect with my so often overlooked inner peace.  A chance to just sit and BE.  

During a solo, T leaned over to me and whispered, "is he speaking Spanish?"  There was a lot of vibralto, and the soloist had a deep baritone and was truly moved by the music.  It made me remember when I was little, and I couldn't understand the soloists until one day, I did, and I thought, ok, this must mean I'm growing up.

Later, the minister mentioned leaving the church parking lot to head out on a trip.  He leaned over and asked "does he live in the church?"

He lives in our neighborhood, actually.

After a few minutes, T took hold of my hand, exploring the lines on it with his fingers and playing with my rings, and leaned his head against my shoulder.  As I gazed down at his curls, the way his eyelashes hit his freckles, his little brown stick legs, his mis-buttoned shirt, dirty fingernails and two different flip flops (oops), I realized that I haven't been fair to him.  Too often, I lump him into the same group as the older kids and for the most part he's happy to be there.  But he's not one of them.  He still marvels at his discoveries and plays pretend and likes to invent.  He's a little afraid of the dark and sleeps with a lovey.  He believes in Santa and the tooth fairy and miracles and magic.  He's still trying on who he is and getting a feel for all his opportunities.  His fingers are little, his feet are little, HE is little.

And I needed to be reminded of that.

Because I'm not ready to let that go just yet.

Monday, July 6, 2015

That Moment When...

That moment when you tell your child – who you haven’t seen in nearly a week and you’re trying to give him some space because he’s a teenage boy and that’s what they need despite the fact that it’s killing you that you haven’t talked to him – that you miss him and he responds with this.



 

Hear that?  It might have been the sound of my heart shattering into a million pieces.  

 

On the bright side, he hasn’t texted me 178 times like his sister.  Including at least 20 like this.

 

 

This is a partial shot.  There seriously were too many emojis to fit on the screen. 

 

She misses me.  She's told me 67 times. 


Oops, make that 68.


69.


 

Monday, June 8, 2015

Budding Entrepreneur or Just Plain Boy?

Last week, my son spent $5 on a pair of his friend’s shoes.  They are too small for the friend (he must have had a growth spurt since I saw him a couple weeks ago – not entirely impossible at this age).  They are also straight-up hideous.  Some sort of shiny, plastic-y, aluminum-y basketball shoes.  KD 11th generation (#idon’tknowwhati’msaying) or something.  Seriously, I think they’re made of plastic.  And they were insanely expensive.  Plastic.  They’re my son’s new “play” shoes.

His friend spent $1 on a pair of the same friend’s outgrown shoes.  Think he got a bargain?  Think again – one of the shoes was missing its sole.  As in, it was detached.  Said friend plans on Gorilla Gluing it back on.  Or something.  I can only imagine his mom’s reaction when he got home.

Interestingly enough, the next day a coworker of mine sought me out to consult on whether 13 year old boys are all so…out there.

I assured her that in my experience they were.  However, I have only experienced one (and by proxy a few of his friends) and therefore I am not necessarily an expert.  Mine is still very much “boy” versus “young man” although we are getting there.  Mostly I pray every night he will survive the day with all his bones, and his shoes, intact.  I figure if he can manage those two things, everything else is gravy.  We go through casts and shoes at an alarming rate.  And now I'm thinking I might be off the hook with this new purchase...at least for a while.

Today his friend texted him to see if my son had any shoes he wanted to get rid of.  Is this a thing?  He texted pics of the shoes he bought last week.  More texts were exchanged that mostly contained words like “sweet” and “dude” and “idk” and “ya” and he told his friend he’d sell them for $20.  To which his friend said “$10” and the transaction was complete.  He made $5.

Ya, dude.  Sweet.

I’m not sure where this transaction will take place – school?  If it takes place at all (Momma might put the kibosh on it, if she’s anything like me.  Scratch that, I actually let him buy the stupid things.)

The newly minted business man is now pondering his next venture.  In the meantime, he’ll be at Dick’s purchasing a (just one - $5 only goes so far) lacrosse ball with his earnings.

Because boys.

Well, because my boy.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Some Things You Just Never Expect to Hear Grown Up Parent Self Say

"Get the coins out of your nose."  Followed by "why?"  Because, really.

"Don't lick your sister."  Just don't.

"What do you mean, you sometimes forget to wear underwear?"  I can't.

"I'll be back with crickets and pizza."  The toads are having a party.

"I don't care what so and so does.  If he/she ran out into a busy road and ate dog doo, would you do it too?" A grim example of why being a follower is not a good idea, and one of my parents' favorites.

"Gah, what is that smell?"  Because you don't actually believe YOUR child's room will smell like a small animal died in there.  Not your child.  No way.  Never.

"The dining room is the room over there.  Hint: table."  Giving directions in your own home.  They've lived here all their lives.

"Did you just lick the tire?" My head hurts.

"Nope.  That is not what head trauma is." #lifewithboys

"Because I said so."  Because you said you never would.


Friday, May 15, 2015

Pick Your Battles


Some things are worth fighting for. Some things are not.

This morning, I walked in on T getting dressed. He was wearing new shorts that still had the tags on them. I walked over and reached out to pop them off and he ran away.

“I want those there.”

“But T, they’re supposed to come off.”

“But I want them. I like them.”

“That doesn’t make any sense. You can’t walk around with store tags hanging off your pants. Be reasonable.”

“Why not?”

“Because you just can’t.” How’s that for parental expertise? Way to let him know who's boss. “It’s just how it works. It’s tacky. You don’t want people to see what they cost. It’s inappropriate.” That’s one I whip out whenever I can’t figure out an explanation that will actually work.

“But they make me happy!” He’s being silly, I know, and this particular child has a flair for the ridiculous, I also know. But he cannot wear shorts with tags.  I mean, right?

“Take off the tags.” Me using my end of discussion voice.  At this point it's crossing into "you're disobeying" territory.

“Fine, then I just won’t wear them.”

He is also a child of extreme stubbornness. The one who will sacrifice something equally good if it’s not what he wants. If he feels strongly about Bruster’s ice cream and everyone else wants Sweet Frog, he won’t order anything as a form of protest. If I tell him that he has to eat his Brussels sprouts or go to bed at 7:30, he’ll hit the sack before the sun goes down. He’s a martyr for his causes, no one can deny this.

I'm told I was the same way.

I stopped. I mean, really, what WAS the big deal? His pals would probably think it was funny. He went through a phase where he would wear his shirts inside out and backwards every day. His brother only wore black striped socks the summer he was 5. His sister liked to wear yoga pants UNDER her dance leotards. He wore his dad’s old glasses, a cape and a tool belt to every swim meet one summer. And, remember, this is the kid who wore a huge lobster hat and claws to Red Lobster for his birthday. The one who dressed up as an eyeball wearing a suit for Halloween. His sense of humor tends to lean toward irreverent, to say the least.

“Alright, fine.”

“Yesssssss.”

Was it worth it to go round and round over some stupid tags? No. Not really. Do I think it’s ridiculous? Of course. You should see the look my husband gave me when he saw them. I know he thought we were both off our rockers. However, I made him tuck them into his pocket.  Mission accomplished, for us both.

Sometimes, you just have to pick your battles. Sometimes, you have to compromise.  He wanted to be right, I wanted to be right and the reason for both of us was "just because."  I want my kids to see that their parents are people who can be reasoned with, when appropriate.  I want my kids to have a sense of independence and self expression.  I remember one time I made a miniskirt out of a piece of fabric my mom had by pinning it together and then, basically, pinning it on me.  I still can't believe my mother let me do that, but I appreciated that flexibility and compromise. Quite frankly, arguing over something as inane as tags can be a soul sucking sacrifice of sanity. Yes, I just alliterated the heck out of that. Will my lack of adherence to the “rules” about the tags reinforce bad behavior or rebellion long term? I doubt it. No one got hurt. Will someone say something to him and laugh? Perhaps, but maybe it won’t matter. Maybe my extreme sense of “supposed to” and “not supposed to” is MY issue. I’ve been pretty flexible with my kids over the years when it comes to hair, clothing, etc. I’m usually all about compromise and letting them have some control. I was so happy the boys didn’t argue with me when I requested that they wear something “nicer” to dinner on Mother’s Day that the fact that T was wearing a mint green stripe tee with green, navy and red plaid shorts didn’t even phase me. Again, not worth it. He did what I asked because it was Mother’s Day and he loves me enough to honor my request.

It was a battle that would have ruined Mother’s Day and it was a battle that would have ruined the morning. And over what?

I picked peace. Further rewarded by a smile.

It was so worth it.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

That Moment You Realize...

…that your son forgot his chromebook for school and you have to take it to him.

...that you have no gas, which you really realized last night but you thought “nah, I’ll get that on my way to work.”

...that you may not have enough to get to school and back and then to the gas station on the way to work, and you can’t go to the gas station on the way home from the school because then you will miss getting the other two kids on the bus.

...that you have a gas can for the lawnmower in the garage and you consider whether or not you should put a little of that in your car. 

...that you will probably spill it because you are clumsy and besides, you really don’t have time for that anyway. Middle school is about to start. You think.  When does it start again?

...that there are way too many kids who don’t ride the bus in the morning and now you have to sit through the same stoplight 3 times until it’s your turn to go and you are worried about the gas situation so you keep putting the gear into neutral.

...that you are not sure this strategy actually works but it makes you feel better anyway.

...that there’s a traffic jam of cars trying to get OUT of the parking lot after having dropped off their middle school students.

...why it’s such a good thing your son rides the bus.

...that, as you sit in the exit traffic jam, everyone’s trying to get out of the lot so people are doing all kinds of crazy things and now you’re REALLY worried about gas because you’re pretty sure you’re going to run out right there in the narrow entrance.

...that if that happens, you will be blocking the lane, thereby trapping everyone in this hellhole parking lot.

...that, after finally getting out of the lot, said traffic jam has cost you precious time and it’s EXACTLY the time your children are supposed to leave the house for the bus and you can feel their panic from where you sit.

...that you’re REALLY going to be in trouble when you have to go to work because now there is REALLY no gas.

...that you forgot about the gas can in that garage.  Things are looking up.

...that your children are in full on panic mode because they are used to leaving the house at 8:38 and now it is 8:41 and they are creatures of habit who are also apparently very specific and so are terrified they are going to miss the bus. After what you just went through and the fact that your car is now running on fumes alone, you panic a little too and run with them in your heels to the bus stop.

...after standing there panting for a few minutes that you haven’t had a chance to do your makeup or your hair so really you’re in some weird state of halfway dressed and also that the bus is late. Finally, something is working in your favor this morning! They get on the bus, you go home to try to fix your hair and apply new deodorant and drink some coffee so you can be ready for work.

...that you were so relieved to have everything done that you forgot about needing gas and the fact that you had planned on hijacking the lawnmower gas can.

...that you could go back and get it...

...but with your luck, you will turn around only to find that the gas can is empty and that will be that many fewer fumes you will have to power you to the Sheetz down the road and then you will be caught on the side of the road calling for help while tons of moms you know drive by on their way to the gym, not stopping until THEY realize, too late, that that was you.

...that you have hit every. single. light.  Of course. 

...that youhaven’t prayed this much in a long time, which makes you feel terrible because praying for gas seems awfully selfish when there are far bigger problems in the world.

...that your prayers have been answered.  Whew!

...that you should stop putting things off.

...that you probably never will.