Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christmas Cards

I'm not sure if my mother sent out Christmas cards. It is entirely possible that she did without my noticing. I don't remember them being as big of a deal as they are today. When we were first married we would go to the store pick up a box of cards and send them out. We tried to pick out a style that was nice but we didn't really put too much thought into it. If you think about it, the greeting card industry makes millions each year off of something that most people read once then throw away. Unless it's a Christmas card, then it gets used as decor on a door for one month.

After we had children we thought it would be nice to include a picture of our kids with the card to show how they are growing. Then it became a family picture. Then it became a family picture card. After all who doesn't want a picture of the family? Why it's a gift in itself! While I'm sure that all those people who live out of state or just out of town are curious as to how the children are growing. And those old friends want to compare how well they are aging as opposed to you. I'm not sure they need the 5X7 picture cards we send out.

It started out as we needed to get a family picture done every year to show how the kids are growing and for sentimental reasons. Being that I bought the girls a new dress every year so they needed their picture taken in it. As time has gone on it's gotten to be sort of a game. For the last few years I have resorted to theme pictures. After all my oldest is in high school, I have no idea how much longer I'm going to get away with this family picture day. For me family picture day has become my Christmas of sorts. For one day each year everyone looks nice and has a smile on their face at the same time. That is my joy. Seeing my family happy, even if they have to fake it to get through a picture. Any mother will understand what it takes to pull this off. Especially a parent of a teen.

The first year we did the theme was actually by accident. It was becoming increasingly more difficult to come up with outfits for five people that would look cohesive in a picture. I was shopping with a friend and things were just not coming together like I had hoped. But at this particular store they had these hats. Fedora's actually, they were black with white pin stripes. They were SO cool. I kept going back to them. My friend said she thought I should do something with the hats, but I just couldn't figure it out. Then like a tidal wave it hit me. We should all wear black and white. Oh even better we should be the mafia! How much fun would that be? So that's what we did. I of course am not a card carrying member of the NRA and had never let my kids even play with toy guns. So I had to go to the dollar store and buy fake plastic ones to use as props. So that year our cards said Merry Christmas from "The Family".

The next year we had to figure out what to do next. How do you follow that? People started asking the question. What is the theme this year? So I had to think fast. I had no idea what I had started. So what was big last year? Twilight's New Moon of course. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Bella, my hubby Edward of course. Followed by one daughter as Alice, the other Rosalie, and my son was Jasper. If I wasn't too old and had, had time I would have attempted to give birth again so we could have had an Emmett. I was also wanting to use the neighbor's German shepherd to play our Jacob but was outvoted. Nevertheless the photographer we have is a genius and the "Twas Twilight before Christmas" card was very cool.

This year I actually figured out very early. We have been working on updating and remodeling our home all year. So the theme was easy. Actually almost too easy. At least one would think. You would think that borrowing five tool belts would be an easy task. It actually was not. In fact I didn't get them all pulled together until about two days before our pictures. We have also now not allowed the theme to be released until the cards have been sent out.

So as you can see, what started out as a simple let's take a family picture and maybe put it in a card has now turned into a double sided 5X7 full color picture card. These things are not inexpensive. When I say they are a gift in themselves? They truly are. By the time I get done with these things I can't afford to buy you a gift. These cards are expensive enough but then you have the postage. Good golly, if that hasn't gone up. I joke that when I was a kid all you had to do was whistle for a horse and they would deliver your mail. All it cost you was maybe a drink of water from the well to the driver. While that is a complete exaggeration, we didn't use the pony express it still didn't cost 42 cents to send a card. I'm pretty sure it cost about 20 cents for a postage stamp back then. This doesn't sound like much till you figure you send out about 50 card. That's an extra $11 it now costs to send out cards that I could use to buy Lego's for my kid for Christmas. All because in this little place in the back of my mind I know that my time to do this in going to come to an end. My kids are growing and getting older. In four years my oldest will be gone to college. Sure she'll come home for Christmas the first couple of years but if she is like her father and I the time will come when she will be home for Christmas and then gone back to her life. She won't have time to come home for pictures. It will be too "lame" for her to participate.

It will be the beginning of the end. She, then her sister, then her brother will all think they are too old for a family Christmas picture much less a themed Christmas card. Then what? I'll be back to those boxed boring cards from the store. Longing for the time when the cards weren't just cards they were a snapshot in time. A small remembrance of days gone by and how things once were. What would our pictures be with just the two of us? Just two people who are happy together but wishing they had those days back, where the kids got into figuring out themes and were around for the family picture. Although I do wonder if once they are grown and married if the Family Christmas Card will mean as much to them as it means to me now. I hope so. I can't wait to see what they will come up with.

Parties, Parties, Everyone...

This last week I hosted an Open House. I don't often entertain. In fact it's rare at best that I have people over. It has nothing to do with being anti-social. It has everything to do with the fact that it stresses me out. The thing is, we live in our house. At any given time there are dishes in the sink, laundry to be done, school papers on the counter, you can barely tell that my refrigerator is white as it's covered in pictures and papers. Somewhere along the way I got it into my head that if you have company over the house should be perfect. Or at the very least as clean and tidy as completely possible. Why I believe this as fact is beyond me, but it's what I think. I can no sooner change this idea than I can stop the hands of time and rewind to the time before my crows feet appeared. (Seriously, when did these show up?)

In my ideology of the "perfectly" clean house, I should also have a spread of food that will keep people coming back. One at a time of course as I'm really uncomfortable in large groups. This is quite difficult for me also as some of you will know, because I am no Martha Stuart. I'm more of a Chef Boyardee kind of girl. The Schwann's man feeds our family. Mostly because if there is a way to mess something up in the kitchen I will find it. Case in point, for this event I borrowed a teapot. I don't own a teapot but I do think they are a good idea. I got the water in the teapot so scalding hot that I burned my hand when I went to pour it into a cup. Fortunately with some cold water, I was fine. I have very little patience so I tend to cook things faster than I should because I have a hungry family and they want to eat, like yesterday. Fortunately for my party guests it was a Tastefully Simple party. This of course means that there was to be Tastefully Simple food with of course some Schwann man food in there as well to fill in. Because of course the only way I think people will come to my house is if I bribe them with food. I also have chocolate.

I guess we all have our quirks. I'm scared to talk to large groups of people. But individually I can talk until ... forever really. Plus I don't think people will visit me unless I offer bribes of food, even though everyone knows I don't cook. Somehow I think the best alternative to this scenario would be for me to have visitors and they bring the food with them. I can offer beverages a rather large library of Young Adult books to borrow, and HBO. It's not much but it's what I have. I also currently have eight episodes of Glee on DVR if that will draw in a crowd.

As a child I can only remember my mother hosting parties at the house a few times. I had a few birthday parties there but most of them were at the park as I'm a July baby. My graduation party was there as were maybe three fourth of July parties. But mostly we didn't have company. My step father didn't like people over and I suppose it wasn't worth the fight.

No, slumber parties were not in my childhood. I went to friends houses mostly they didn't come to mine. So when I had my girls it became very important to me that they should have slumber parties. When they were younger I did my best to give them the best slumber parties I could come up with. I believe I had as much or more fun than they did. I guess I'm more comfortable with kids than adults. Kids don't generally care if things are out of place and they are easily bribed with pizza roll ups and popcorn.

The majority of adults that I know are quite excellent cooks. The church I attend I believe is filled with professional singing chefs. It's quite a lot to try and live up to. Not to mention the fact that the houses in my neighborhood look to all be professionally landscaped. Another skill I didn't acquire. I'm not sure where I fit into this mix. I don't have much to offer. I'm incapable of cooking homemade soup. When I sing it scares small animals and children. At present I have four bushes that are dead in front of my house. My ice tea comes in a gallon jug and I have no idea how to make a good cup of coffee. I'm not even sure how to order one properly at Starbucks. I have figured out a good mix at the local gas station that is both delightful and inexpensive.

So everything went well with the company. There was a steady flow of people. Not everyone came at one time which helped with the anxiety and I did have candy cane cocoa to offer which was a hit. I found it in the local Walmart in the cocoa isle. I being the kitchen literate person that I am had no idea that you could buy a container of cocoa mix that didn't come in envelopes in a box. Perhaps I should "entertain" more often, I may learn more of what is offered in my local grocery. It was nice to be able to visit with friends. Perhaps next time it will just be a come drink some candy cane cocoa party. Hopefully they won't run out as what I had for the party is long gone.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

With Great Thanks

This month I know several people who every day have listed what they are thankful for, for that day. I have perhaps participated in this activity in years past. This year however, as I look around me and at my life, I find that there is no way that facebook would allow me the space I would need to cover what I'm thankful for.

You see I am very happy. I think with great thankfulness comes great happiness. As a child I was given plenty of material things but longed for the relationships that I wouldn't experience until near adulthood. When I married I was given the gift of creating a family that I had long longed for as a child. I was always taught to be thankful for whatever I was given. I was always thankful. Even for the things that I didn't necessarily want or need. At any given time in the course of my childhood, I could take you through my room and tell you who had given me everything I owned. It is entirely possible that I could do that now, including things belonging to other members of my family. But you see what I'm most thankful for as an adult aren't things.

So sit down and grab a hot chocolate we'll discuss what I'm thankful for.

1. I am most thankful for a God who forgives. Who delivers, who gives, and takes away. I am thankful for the God who delivered me from the pit that I held residence in for so long, it didn't seem possible to get out. I am thankful for the One who gives me strength and love that I am certain I don't deserve, but gives it in abundance anyway.

2. I am thankful for my husband. He is my love. He embodies everything I could ever hope for in a man. He is kind, loving, reassuring, nurturing, and quite possibly the strongest man on earth. As it takes a strong man in body and spirit to be able to tolerate being married to me. He is the best father to our children and a great provider for our family. He is my partner in this thing we call life.

3. I am thankful for my oldest child C. She is smart and beautiful inside and out. She likes to come across as strong and mature. But she is kind and loving and accepting. She doesn't like change but she adapts and usually will admit when she is wrong. When I get sad for any reason she is there to bring the tissues. She is a great daughter and a great big sister. I couldn't be prouder of the young lady she is becoming. We like to say that she was the prototype. We made our mistakes with her, but she is amazing.

4. I am thankful for my middle child M. She is truly a wonder. She was the most difficult of all my children in the beginning. She has come so far. From not speaking until she was four to performing on stage. She is a miracle. She has a love of performing whether it is acting or playing music. She is her own person and she doesn't like to conform to what everyone else is doing. She is strong and smart and full of life. I am amazed by all she has been able to accomplish.

5. I am thankful for my son P. He was our little surprise. He is so smart and has the greatest smile. He truly cares about people. He always wants to include everyone and strives to do the right thing. He is the great peacemaker in a house full of high strung emotional women. He makes me smile daily and I look forward to seeing what all God has planned for him. As there isn't a child I know that has more faith than he does.

6. I am thankful for all of my family. My grandmother who gave me the gift of the love of reading. My parents who at least got together long enough to give me life. My every relative who has given of their time and love to help form who I would become. I am thankful for the time I had with my mother, even though it never seems it was long enough. I am thankful that I didn't get the mother-in-law that all the jokes are made from. God blessed me in that area because I couldn't have asked for a better one. She is loving and funny and I enjoy every bit of time I get to spend with her. I am thankful all of my in-laws. I am lucky to not have to refer to them as such. They are just my family no in-laws or out-laws about it. They are my family and I love them just the same.

7. I am thankful for my friends. They are all gifted in so many areas and I learn something new from just being around them. My friend Christi, who is a sister to me in every way except biologically. (Although between you and me, I'm still holding out hope that my son will marry one of her daughters.) She is there to lift me up or talk me down as the case may be. She also isn't afraid to tell me when I'm being an idiot. Which I love about her. (This happens more than you would think) She is along with each and every one of my friends a great treasure in my life.

8. I am thankful for my home. I understand what a gift this is as there are those who do not have them. I have been blessed beyond measure to have a home to call my own filled with the people I love most.

9. I am thankful for food to eat. I am never left hungry which I am so very thankful for. I understand what a blessing this is and am so thankful for this blessing in abundance.

10. I am thankful for clothes and shoes. I am thankful also that I can share some of these things with my daughters. It makes it even more fun. It also helps when you wear the same size of shoes.

11. I am thankful for the ability to see. Not just so I can get around daily but so I can look around and see all of the beauty of God's creations around me. It also helps with my love of reading and writing.

12. I am thankful for time. Time to spend with my children, my family, my friends. The time I've been given and time I may have left. As none of us know how much we have been given, I'm thankful for each second of it.

13. I am thankful for hugs. I love hugs. Especially from my kids.

14. I am thankful for heating and cooling.

15. I am thankful electrical appliances. I don't have to use a washboard to do my laundry and I rarely have to do dishes by hand. I also am able to keep my perishables cool. I don't have to cook over an open fire. (Imagine how bad my cooking would be then.)

16. I am thankful for windows.

17. I am thankful for the ability to cuddle on a couch and watch a movie with my kids. (Tonight is Percy Jackson night)

18. I am thankful for my car. I'm scared of horses so a horse and buggy wouldn't be good for me. Seeing as the cats rarely do what I say I'm thinking a several pound animal is even less likely to follow my instructions.

19. I'm thankful for my cats. They aren't really too demanding. They are great at keeping your feet warm and (knock on wood) I have seen a mouse in quite some time.

20. I am thankful for our children's school and teachers. Without them they would never learn that "new math" as I like to call it. Also without them I wouldn't have the school breaks to look forward to, and may take for granted having them home with me.

This isn't everything. There is so much more. Things like blankets, and chocolate, and Midol. Things like indoor plumbing, and clean water, and cleaning supplies. There is so much to be thankful for. It would take forever to list them all and I still couldn't cover the depth of my thankfulness and gratitude.

This Thanksgiving I challenge you to look around. How are you living your life? Are you living it with a heart of thankfulness? I know there is pain and hurt in the world. I have suffered plenty but if I lived my life dwelling on what has been instead of what is yet to be, it would be no life at all. I choose to live a life of thanksgiving. A life full of possibilities, of imagination, of giving praises and glory to God who makes it all possible. Won't you join me?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

And so it begins...

As I think about what I should write about today, my daughter comes in to talk. She was home from school the last two days ill. So as you can imagine she has much to make up in the homework department. I asked her what I should write about and she said, your experience with me the last couple days of course. Over the last couple days two of my children have had a stomach thing. A 24-48 hour bug I suppose that makes them toss their cookies till the cookie jar is dry if you catch my meaning. So my experience with them has been keeping them in bed. Bringing them Sprite and crackers. Then we moved on to toast.

Today you wouldn't know they had been sick. They were up and ready for school and on their way. I spent the day cleaning the house top to bottom and spraying Lysol on every conceivable surface in the house. Lysol is my friend. I have wondered if you could have a form of Lysol for people. I know it's called medication. But think if you will how much easier, if you could just spray them down and all the virus and bacteria they were carrying just went away. They wouldn't be contagious anymore and everyone could just get on with it. But hey that's just me looking for the easiest way to take care of things. This is why I use frozen mashed potatoes and have never cut up a whole chicken in my life when you can buy it already cut, chopped, or diced already. It just makes life easier. It also brings your meals to the table considerably faster.

So this evening my daughter spent some time getting all of her homework caught up and then had some tests to study for. One of these tests being a vocabulary test, which she asked me to help her study for. The following is how that exchange when.

What does "retentive" mean C? It means to tent again, because re means again. (This is what I have been living through tonight during the great finish homework and study for a ton of tests fest.) So I read the sentence in the book which is "A retentive memory is a great asset for any actor, especially one who performs on stage." She says yeah I wish I had one. I said, yeah me too maybe then you could remember what "retentive" means. What does premonition mean? Uh? Consequence? NO! While she thinks about this. I'll tell you what I think. I have a premonition that she is not going to pass this test if she doesn't figure this out. So I explain it like this. Premonition Pre means to come before. Be-FORE - Forewarning. Pre-before-forewarning. Premonition-pre-before-forewarning. Of course, with my inability to keep on task while saying "fore" I had to look up The Gettysburg Address, so we could go into Four score and seven years ago. Which doesn't at all help, because then we started talking about our D.C. trip we took last school year and the Ford Theatre. So you see where she gets it.

In my previous blog I mentioned that I was looking for a job. This week I put in an application at one of the elementary schools in our district. Today I took a test on facebook that said that I should be an elementary school teacher. I suppose we should be thanking God at this point that it didn't say I should be a high school teacher, as the previous play by play of our study habits show you how good I'd be at teaching a high school student. If this child fails this test I only have myself to blame. Actually my child is very bright and gets grades I could only dream of having in school. Fortunately for all involved she gets that from her father. She also gets her affinity for jeans and t-shirts from him but that's a subject for another story.

I can only imagine what kind of teacher I would be. I have a friend that said she thought I'd be a good one. This friend doesn't know me well. All she sees is that I like kids and some of them seem to like me alright. Although the children she sees me with every other week are preschoolers. It's really not that difficult to look like a rock star to a preschooler. They are very easily bribed. You just give them some goldfish crackers and water and they are set. They will play, they will smile and pretty much behave like angels till the parents arrive to pick them up. It's not rocket science. High school however, is a completely different animal. Here I am fourteen almost fifteen years after having my first child and I'm just now getting the hang of the little kids. I haven't a clue what I'm doing with teenagers.

I suppose all I really need to do is talk facebook and twitter and know all my texting jargon. If you can speak the language, I figure you are at least in the game. I told my high schooler that when I was in high school I took a shorthand class. She had no idea what I was talking about I told her it was like texting only instead of using ttyl or brb it basically looks like squiggles. Texting jargon is easier to learn and I don't remember any shorthand even though I at one time could take it 60 words per minute. It must be a lost art like writing letters. No one writes letters anymore. They e-mail snail mail is out.

So I suppose we will be waiting by the phone till someone decides if they think I would do a good job working with hormonal pre-teens at the last stage school before Jr. High. To my credit I have gotten two of the three through that school pretty well unscathed. If it doesn't work out I figure I can ask around and see if I can get hired to clean OPH(other people's houses). I've been cleaning my own since infinity so I think I could handle that. Just don't ask me to work in food service. That wouldn't be good for anyone involved. When my children got their flu bug they were convinced it was my cooking and they had food poisoning. It couldn't possibly be the flu. It was the flu as none of the rest of us got sick and we at the same things. This was good news and I considered the possibility myself.

Well that's all from this side of the burbs for now. Thanks for reading and have a great weekend.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Semi-middle aged woman seeks employment...

Semi-middle aged woman seeks a fulfilling career that she and her family can be proud of. Must fit into designated school hours and offer flexibility around her kids school functions. Ideally would entail a great deal of writing and very little math, would also be something that would require one to not wear men's clothing or high heals. Said semi-middle aged woman is also afraid to drive in snow and has a bit of an affinity for gas station coffee drinks as she can no longer afford the luxury of Starbucks and the loveliness that a four dollar coffee provides.

Qualifications for this dream job include:
1. In college she earned two associates degrees. One in Medical Assisting and one in Marketing. This qualifies her to kiss boo boos and have garage sales. Which she has done successfully for the last fifteen years.
2. In college she worked for an urgent care facility that prepared her for being able to handle many tasks at one time and also to deal with snarkiness from other adults.
3. In college she also worked at a department store. Which helped to prepare her for marriage and children. As she worked in the men's and children's departments in that store. This helped her to acquire an ability to pick out quality clothing and also the ability to wait for a sale, so as not to pay full price.
4. For the last fifteen years she has managed a household of one husband, up to three children, two cats, and at one time two birds, a hamster, various fish, a newt, a puppy and a dying mother.
5. She has planned numerous parties. Ranging from Chuck E. Cheese to slumber parties with various themes.
6. She has run a successful Mom's Taxi Service running to and fro to various events with her children and rarely getting lost as to which function she was to attend at any given night.
7. Her home is clean aside from the never ending laundry that is accumulated each day.
8. She has a love of all things written from fiction to nonfiction. She also loves poetry especially when it rhymes, as those she finds easiest to remember.
9. Her singing ability is lax but she loves to talk and loves opportunities to share what her children are doing and how much she hopes she hasn't messed them up for life.
10. Possibly the most important is that she loves people, but she loves Jesus more and will stand up for injustices. She will go to bat for the ones she loves and will not be able to arrive to work in a place full of ridicule and demeaning people without speaking up and saying it's wrong. Also if her kid is sick she is the one with the chicken soup so someone is going to have to fill in.

My husband and I have started a quest. We are going through a Total Money Makeover with Dave Ramsey. As part of this process I would love to be able to contribute to the household finances. Unfortunately there is very little that either a. fills my requirements or b. I qualify for. I'm reminded of the movie Mad Money. In that movie Diane Keaton finds herself in a position where she needs to find a job. Unfortunately she too had been home for years taking care of her family. She had a degree in art. The job placement people put her in a job as a custodian. She was appalled that after all those years of taking care of her home and her family that is what it boiled down to that she was qualified to do.

Honey, I feel you. As mothers we wear so many hats, it rarely occurs to us that when the time comes, in the "real world" those hats aren't going to take us where we want to go. I once read somewhere that if you were to pay a homemaker aka stay at home what her job is worth that she would make roughly $117,850 per year according to Salary.com. That is the median. Oh if only we could make that kind of money.

My husband says I'm more valuable at home. I also believe this to be true but I also believe that if I were able to get completely debt free? I'd rather do it sooner than later. I am not going to make that big of a difference if the only job I qualify for makes roughly $65 a week.

I'm not sure how this will all play out in the end. It's going to be a long hard journey, but one worth the making. So if you know of a job that a long winded, high strung, woman like myself could do to help to contribute to the family funds, do tell. I'd love to hear from you.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Learning to make a list

My home improvement list is dwindling. I take this as a sign that the time is coming when I will be able to sit back and enjoy the fruits of our labor. There was a time when there was so much to do that it seemed that we would never be finished. Today I reflect that soon it will all be finished and then what will I do? The list of things to accomplish is going to be revamped. I still need to build a house for my cats who much to their chagrin have been ousted from the inside of the house. My new shed doors are lovely and once I have them painted I intend on taking pictures to show at family events and also to the man at Lowe's who wanted to be sure that I had a man to build the shed doors.

Writing lists is something that I have never excelled at. Grocery lists? Forget about it! Shopping lists in general, nah! Exercise rotation, budget, household chores, yard work list, none of it has ever really appealed to me. Daily schedules do not happen. I tend to get through a day and wonder where the time went. Which is why I need to learn how to make a list. So in order to get started with my list writing skills, I've decided to start with the top ten things I'd like to accomplish this fall/winter. So here we go.

1. Paint shed doors (Nothing says new like a fresh coat of paint)
2. Build cats a new home (Nothing says we still love you even though we don't want your pee on our new carpet like a home of their own. Right?)
3. Catch up on all my scrapbook photo albums (We should probably get the oldest one out of the second grade in the album before she's a sophomore in high school. Correct?)
4. Clean out kids closets (What better way to get rid of things you don't think they need anymore, than to clean the closets while they are in school? Anyone?)
5. Get the MOTS mothers of teenagers group up and running
6. Volunteer at Cancer Services
7. Become more adept at decorating this blog (There are so many things I'd like to add, but lack the know how on how to do it. Perhaps I should do what my son does when he can't figure out how to win his video game. He just looks it up on you-tube.)
8. Lose 15 lbs (goodbye desserts)
9. Stick to the budget (I realize this should be number one, this is also why number eight will be so so difficult)
10. Read at least one book a week (This should be a breeze unless I get tangled up in stickers and colored papers doing the scrapbooks or get injured cleaning the kids closets. Or I get so frustrated with dieting that all I can do is sit and look at picture books of food I can no longer partake.)

As you can see this doesn't seem like too difficult of a list. It should be accomplished fairly easily. I just have to make a daily list of what I'm going to accomplish for that day hour by hour. Including all the regular things like cooking, cleaning, caring for the children, running to various games and practices with the children, helping at MOPS, and maybe I'll even throw in a bit of time for writing. After all a manuscript might be fun. Why I may even get a bit crazy and learn to cook something somewhat edible.... Nah lets not get too carried away. That there is crazy talk.

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Call to Serve, A Call to Love, A Call to Give

Thank Heaven for MOPS, for who wouldn't want to delight in the smiles of a child? For those of you who do not know what MOPS is, it stands for Mothers of Preschoolers. According to the MOPS website the first meeting took place with eight women in 1973. The MOPS group at my church over the last several years I believe, has had anywhere from 30 to 50 women at any given time. It's large. Now think with me how many children these women bring with them. Are you doing the math? If you don't know MOPS is a Christian organization. In the meeting the mom's take their children also known as Moppets to their class rooms, then proceed down to breakfast. They have food and fellowship, then go listen to a speaker. After the speaker they break up into small groups to discuss what they have learned. The speaker may be someone teaching you how to preserve food, how to make a pie, or it could be a relationship speaker. They discuss the topic then take prayer requests and have a word of prayer. Afterwards, they go and make a craft. The craft could be a rice bag to ease sore muscles, it could be a picture frame to put your child's picture in. The entire meeting lasts for two hours.

While the mom's are having their time the children are being cared for by compassionate, loving, people who have a heart for children and their mothers. They are usually mothers themselves and understand how much needed this time is.

I'm not going to to tell you that the world as we know it would end if we didn't have workers to care for the children at MOPS. I'm not going to tell you that women don't every day care for their children without this particular support group and do just fine. Helping with MOPS will not cure cancer. It will not feed the hungry or solve the national debt. It will not make you any money and it will not give you a free trip to heaven.

Helping with MOPS will do the following. It will bring a welcome break to overworked, overstressed, sleep deprived mothers. It will give those mothers a chance to hear stories from other mothers going through the same things. It will help them to feel like they aren't alone in the raising of their children. It will fill them with hope and confidence. It will give them a chance to get a hug and a few words of encouragement, because being a mother can sometimes be overwhelming. It will help lighten the load for a couple hours, refreshing them for the rest of the week ahead. It will give the children a chance to make new friends. It will give them a break and help them to have yet another person who will encourage them and tell them what beautiful children they are. It will give all those women and children a sense of belonging. It will give you the same and more. It will give you joy in knowing you were able to help someone else. It doesn't cost you anything but time, a few hugs, and a lot of smiles.

I went to MOPS with my youngest child. I loved it. I have made so many friends through going and I've made more now in the helping with the MOPPETS. When the mothers come in they are tired. Small children get up early. If you have small children or have had small children, you know what it takes to get them and yourself ready to go anywhere. They are tense and hurried and mostly thankful. When they come back to get their children the tension in their shoulders has eased. They are smiling. They are happy to see their kids and ready to take on the world. For me there is nothing like the feeling of knowing that in some small way I helped with that.

I will not cure cancer. I will not be able to feed the hungry and sick in foreign lands. I do not hold any fancy degrees and I rarely prepare a meal in my house that everyone likes. All I have is time. I don't know how much I have left, but I do know that if there is a way for me to help others then there isn't anything I can think of that I would rather do. I am flawed, but I am trying. I have a heart for this program. We are all called to serve in different areas and we are all blessed with different strengths and weaknesses.

I ask you to prayerfully consider where it is you are called to serve. The life you change may be your own.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

You do have a man to build that right?

In our quest to get our home the way I've always dreamed it to be, I have spent more time in home improvement stores than I care to remember. The task at hand at present is to build new shed doors. I not knowing my own strength ripped one of the doors off of the shed last winter in my then quest of getting the Christmas tree into the shed and out of my house. As soon as Christmas is over I'm ready to be done with the excesses of the tree and all the other decor involved. My shed is ten years old and the doors were already starting to dissolve in that way that they do with years of weather and animals trying to pry their way in and out of the elements. So when I and my two daughters went traipsing around the yard carrying the tree (yes it took three of us to carry it, have you carried a tree lately) to the shed I was not in the mood for it to be stuck. So in my infinite wisdom I pulled with everything I had thereby pulling it from the hinges. This is a long way of telling you that I am now building new shed doors.

Yes me, not my husband, not a contractor, just little ole me. The reason for this development is that I do not like being told that one of the afformentioned men should take care of something so simple. After all how difficult should it be really? Yesterday I went to the home improvement store in town and asked for the wood and had them cut it to the right size. For me I figure that's the hard part. I know how to use the drill I can put the pieces together. When discussing with the gentleman helping me that I wasn't sure about brackets I said "well I'm sorry I don't know the answer to that question. This is what happens when you send a woman to do a man's work." This statement followed by my little chuckle then prompted him to say "You do have someone who is going to do this for you right?" I said that I did have a husband and that he would probably do the work. But I didn't know what brackets to get I would just come back for them later. The look of relief on his face is what prompted the following.

When I got home I got the drill out and started putting the doors together. I figure that all I need now is to go get six new brackets with the appropriate screws and a lock to hold the doors shut. I will put this together and perhaps use paint making a sign for the doors to say "doors put together by a woman, feel free to gawk in awe and wonder at your leisure." I think there are plenty of women in the world today that can follow simple instructions on how to put things together. Even if said instructions are given or written by a man. In our home we usually put projects together side by side. Someone has to read the instructions after all. And all things being fair he is better at the things that require more muscle.

Today as my husband left for work I told him that I would have the shed doors done when he got home. He just chuckled. I think he gets a kick out of my willingness to attempt things, someone has said I couldn't do. But then perhaps he just is like me and would rather come home and it all be done. I personally hate to organize. He is rather good at it. I would rather not know if he throws something out in this task, only come in and see it's done. I suppose this is me paying him back...no this is me wanting to go back to the store and tell the man that the doors are fabulous and were built by me, and me alone.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

College Letters Already?

Yesterday we went and got our mail. When we first moved to this "small ville" getting our mail was one of the highlights to do in town. Now it rarely crosses my mind, and I maybe go get it once a week. As you can imagine it was full of the usual, bills, bills, and more..bills. But wait! What's this? A letter from a college to my daughter? But she's only a freshman. Does it really begin this early? She opened it and read it and said they wanted her to visit the school. She then stated: Why? I've already been there on class trips. I've seen the school.

This morning as I was eating my breakfast, I went through the mail and decided to see what it said. Sure enough it sounded like a recruitment letter. Even listing a phone number if you wanted to come visit campus. We are only one full nine weeks into her freshman year and already we are getting mail from colleges? She doesn't even own a class ring yet! Which is a source of contention in our house, as EVERYONE already ordered theirs. It's not that I haven't thought about the fact that in three short years she will be seriously going into search for the establishment to suit her needs. And it's not as though we don't have things in place to save for it. But college letters already? She hasn't even gotten her first phone call from a boy yet. She hasn't given one thought to a prom yet. She still fights me to go to camp!

How on earth are we supposed to think about her going to college? I suppose the college in question is only about 20 minutes away. She could live at home. She'd have to for what it costs to go there. I'm pretty certain I could send her to her dream college (Brown) for what it costs to go there. Let's not put the cart before the horse here people. I get it. Really I do. She is growing up and like it or not she is going to be leaving and going off to start her life without me.

This is when it starts. I wonder if my mother felt this way when I was in high school. But I can't help as I sit here thinking of how my children and I are connected. I imagine three cords stretching, one to each of them. One still pretty close but just starting to pull away as he realizes that he is getting a bit too big to be so attached to me. One moving farther away as she starts looking around Jr. High and looking forward to the big high school, but still wanting to stay within reach. Lastly one pulling farther still. Stretching and pulling and looking towards the after high school, into college and moving on with her life. They all hurt. The last a little more than the other two. Because what comes after the stretching of that one comes the sever. The place where she can make it on her own without any help from me. Although I know that is what my job has been preparing her for, I can't help but think how much easier and comfortable it all was before. Before the college letter and class rings was the alphabet letters and the smiles they bring.

Actually the more I think about it, I think she would do well there. It's close to home. She would be required to take bible classes. I think the kid who recently said to me in the car "hey mom, you know how in the new testament it's all about Jesus?" to which I replied "yes" She said, "well do you think Jewish people don't believe in Jesus because they want less to read?" Yes I think perhaps a good Christian college may be a good thing for her. Maybe by then she will be outgoing enough to ask questions she was always too scared to ask in church. When I finally stopped laughing, I did try to explain it all to her, to the best of my knowledge. If nothing else she would get her questions answered there and possibly provide her professors with some comedic relief.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Ah Inventions or Why can't I ever find what I'm looking for!

If you will ask my friend Christi, she will attest that I have led her on more than one wild goose chase. Also I'm not a very good shopping companion. In college we would go to Walmart together and I would fill my cart with things, as would she, only to put my things back before checking out. She would be in line paying and incredibly frustrated. I suppose sometimes for me, It's just the walking around and looking at things I like. I don't necessarily want to bring it home. If I bring it home it takes up space or I have to clean it.

But sometimes I get an idea in my head of something I need. Something we really must find because it would be great to have. Then we go in search. I believe the first time this occurred was for my oldest child's second or third birthday. She was crazy about The Big Comfy Couch. You know Loonette and Molly and the Big Comfy Couch! Nothing? OK well nonetheless she loved that show and I thought "how great would it be to have a birthday party with that theme?" So we went in search at a number of party places and department stores to find the gear. You know plates, napkins, cups. Only we aren't finding anything. Not one item of The Big Comfy Couch. So my good friend Christi, who I might add is incredibly patient, turns to me and says, "Heather, this is something you've seen before right? You know it exists right?" To which I reply "Well, you see I haven't actually seen it anywhere. But to be fair, it is a great idea! They SHOULD have it right?" To which she replied, "Seriously? You have had me all over town for something you've NEVER seen before?" To which I replied, "uhh yep." So you get how this goes right? To my credit I did not in fact make it up and another friend introduced me to a catalog called Birthday Express and I found everything I needed in there.

That is the main instance I can recall. If you were to ask her I'm sure there have been more. Today however, I'm in search of a cord. No I've never seen it before. No I have no idea if it exists. But what I need is a cord that at one end has the hdmi and the other end has the cable end. I also need a cord with the hdmi at one end and the three headed component plug at the other end. You know the thing that plugs into the all the accessories for a TV. They always have the three headed component ends but not enough plugs for them at the back of the TV, but the new TVs have the hdmi ports. So my thinking here is that I can plug everything into my new TV if I only have these kinds of cords. Sounds logical yes?

I figure it's possible I'll get some odd looks today on my quest. Like the time my husband said he'd "be the happiest man alive if he could get a PlayStation 2 for Christmas." That was the year they came out thinner. I searched online and in four different cities to find it. With the same response "you will never find it, you know it came out thinner this year right? We have a waiting list!" Well no sir I didn't in fact know that. I know nothing about video games. I didn't even have an Atari when I was a kid. When I was a kid we went outside to play and when we watched TV we got 3 sometimes 4 channels. All I knew was that my husband wanted one and I should get it for him. So at the last stop, I went up to a gentleman and said "please sir, you would be helping me to make my husband very happy for Christmas if you would only allow me to buy a PlayStation 2." To which he replied "well I think you are in luck, we gave people to a certain date to pick them up and I happen to have one I can sell you." JOY! He was very excited to open it up on Christmas. He played it five whole times! Yeah that was time worth spending. He seemed to forget that he was a grown man who worked for a living and had kids who would gladly take it over for him.

Today my claim will be "Please Sir, it's the cords, they are killing me!" So wish me luck!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I want to grow up, I want to grow old, I want to grow wings

In my bible study I have been reading about believing God. As a child I grew up going to church with friends, as my parents didn't go. I remember a bus coming around the neighborhood picking up the kids and taking them to church. I went to Sunday school and church service and I always came home singing.

My mother was married to a man who was not my father. He was also a man who made it clear he didn't like children. He made our lives miserable for many years. I grew up hearing daily that I was ugly, I was worthless, I would never amount to anything. He would ridicule and criticize my every move. I would come home in high school and the lights wouldn't work, or I wouldn't be able to get in the house because my key wouldn't work. My own father I saw on birthdays and holidays and on rare instances in between. Not having an ally I believed every word.

But at church I was uplifted and told that there was a God and he loved me. I believed in God always. I tried to be a good person. I was an outcast. I was shy and scared and although I believed IN God, I never quite believed Him. Because after all who am I? The song by Casting Crowns called Who Am I speaks to the heart of every fear I ever had. Growing up rejected I was nobody, at home or at school.

Today I know better. I am not nobody and I am loved. God loves me and He has given me the gift of family. I love them more than words could ever express and I love God even more. I still have many fears and insecurities but they are different than they used to be. I have a husband who is everything I could hope for and three children. One of whom is a shy, quiet kid who never quite learned to stick up for herself. One a little more outgoing who tries different things but sometimes gets overlooked, which makes her and me for that matter, very frustrated. The last one is full of life and love and compassion for others. When I am having trouble accepting different circumstances, I look at the little boy that God put in my life to ground me. As I've said before he is my missionary.

I have dreams of growing up, growing old, and growing wings. I still have a lot of growing to do. I am human and I make mistakes along the way, which is why I need to grow up. I'm learning, it's all I can do. I want to grow old, so many in my family weren't so lucky. My own mother died at 52 from cancer. That's far too young. I'd like to see every one of my grandchildren born and grown. After all what greater pleasure than to see your children with their own children? You may think I want to grow wings because I want to fly. I suppose that's partly true. I am a nervous flier however. I have something else in mind. I want to fly on the wings of angels. I want to see heaven and look into the face of God and with tears streaming, thank Him for his rich blessings on my life. I want to be able to say that I did the best I could and that I did accomplish what He sent me to do.

I have no earthly idea what the plan is. But I have every intention of giving my children what I never had. Someone to stick up for them when they are unable to stick up for themselves. If there is another child in need then I'll stick up for them too. Too many times they go unnoticed. Too often they need a voice outside of their own, and I'm not shy anymore.

I have some other thoughts of things I'd like to do. I loved my MOPS (mothers of preschoolers) group so much I refuse to leave it. I just keep going back and taking care of the little ones. It's good for the mothers to have a break and it's good for me to rock a baby and remember how small they start out. But the kids grow and they go to school and when they get to about nine years old, it all starts changing. The tween and teen years are hard, which is why we need the MOTS (mothers of teenagers)group. It's hard when you've held them so long to start letting them go. It's also important for the kids to know that you are still there for them. That even though they are growing up, you aren't going to just walk away. And parents (such as me) need to learn to let them stand on their own, and be confident that they will make the right decisions. Only when we support each other can we be confident that our legs will keep us standing. God calls us to love each other. If we do that and believe Him that He is holding us all up, there is nothing we can't accomplish.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Judgement Call Take 2

Yesterday as you know I kept my children home from school because of a threat of bad weather. The weather man said phrases like "the worse storm we have seen come through the Midwest in 70 years" and "beware of high profile vehicles." My kids ride a bus to school and I drive a high profile vehicle. With high wind warnings and the treat of tornadoes on the way I did what I thought was logical, I kept them home. In turn we ended up spending some time in the neighbor's basement.

I called all three schools first thing in the morning to tell them that I was keeping them home for weather related reasons. I didn't feel it was safe for them to go. Later I found out the students all spent 45 minutes in their "safe" zones. Some of them being boys restrooms. So with all the sirens and the wind whipping all of them were in restrooms and my children and I were in a basement on a couch praying to be spared.

Today my daughter stayed after school for an extra curricular activity. When I picked her up she told me she was pulled out of her first period class and given a referral for missing school yesterday. Seriously? Are you kidding me? The students and staff spent the better part of the morning in the restrooms and halls and they are giving my child a referral for missing school? You have got to be kidding me. I called in, I told them she would not be there, that I felt it unsafe. THIS right here is part of what is wrong with the system.

Let me help you out here. On page 26 of your student handbook where it discusses unexcused absences, number 2 is an absence without a parent phone call. Hello? Anyone home? Pick up the phone here guys, I CALLED! My kids don't miss school. I'm the mom who sends them to school sick and waits for the school to call and send them home, so they will know they are really and truly sick. Check their records. Look at their attendance. Not only her attendance check her grades. She's an A/B student! I could ALMOST wrap my mind around it if her attendance had been a problem in the past or she was a trouble maker. No we are talking about a kid who goes to school and does her best work and barely speaks to the kids much less the adults for fear of being bullied or picked on in some way. The one time she misses because of unsafe travel conditions and her mother won't let her go, you give her a warning and threaten her with ISS? WOW! That's rich!

Especially coming from a facility that for every year of my child's school career has done nothing about the bullies at school. The only time she ever went to get help with a problem of being bullied, she was told to "suck it up and go to class." I'm sorry but no. I will not be bullied or pushed around. I may have been that kid in school but I am an old, mad, Irish tempered woman now and I will fight back. I told my husband that I was prepared to take it as far as I had to, even if it meant pulling her from the school and transferring her. This my friends is what they call "the straw that broke the camels back."

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Judgement Call

Today I made a judgement call. When I got up this morning the wind was whipping and it was dark. I turned on the news. The weather man said the worst storm they have seen in 70 years was heading through the Midwest. Guess where I live? In the Midwest of course. He said to be careful in high profile vehicles and to be alert to any changes in the weather. So I looked at my three children all dressed for school and I made a decision.

After hearing this news my son immediately got into his tornado pose. The girls looked scared and my stomach started doing somersaults. I knew I could not put them on a bus and send them away. They would be worried and unable to concentrate and I would be calling the school every ten minutes to make sure they were there and safe. So I made the decision to keep them at home at least till the threat of tornadoes was over.

I then proceeded to call the schools and notify them that my children would not be there this morning. The elementary was understanding and fine. But when I called the high school the lady seemed to think I was crazy. Perhaps the only crazy part of the situation is that I chose to tell them the truth behind them staying home instead of lying and saying they are sick. I told her that I didn't feel comfortable sending them to school and that I was keeping them home till the worst of it was over. She said well OK but I'm not sure what they will call that. That statement is what has gotten me so flummoxed. Really? Well lets see, since they were born, even before really, I have been making decisions to keep them safe and protected. I chose not to drink or smoke (which I wouldn't do anyway)I didn't drink caffeinated drinks and I took my vitamins. I chose to breast feed them because it builds their immunity. I put them in car seats till they were old enough to get out of them and I try to feed them healthy foods and limit their sugar intake. I always read to them to build their brain function and introduced them to the arts. I don't send them out after dark without a parent and I put them all in swim lessons so they could swim like a fish.

My point is that every day as a mother we make decisions for better or for worse to protect our kids and keep them safe. I made a decision. Just like I've been making for our family from the beginning. What are they going to call it? Well I suppose I hope they call it that my children's mother made a decision that she thought was best for their well being for the day.

Monday, October 25, 2010

From Barbie Dolls to Telephone Calls

Yesterday was quite a big day for us. My second child officially turned into a teenager, making me the mother of not one but two teenage girls. Those of you with teenage girls will understand the gravity of what I'm saying here. Two teenage girls. One was hard enough, it's so much drama, ALL the time. Now there will be two of them. Not that she hasn't acted like a teenager for at least the last two years, but somehow making it official makes it more real. The idea that my days of barbie dolls and training bras are going to be moving into the boy calls and staring at boys in awe, terrifies me. No more pig tails, no more Barney (OK him I could do without), no more cuddles no more hugs, now it's hair straighteners, make up, and avoiding boys who dress like thugs. What is a mom to do?

In our family we do a Christmas picture every year. Two years ago we were the mafia. We wore fedoras and black and white clothes. I had never let my children play with play guns before so I had to go buy some plastic guns at the dollar store. I now have them stored under my bed in case a thug comes along. Don't get me wrong here I'm pretty sure my tone of voice will be enough to scare any crazy lune who wants to hurt one of my girls. But how crazy would I look if I came out with one of those silly plastic guns? Especially if I pretend I think the thing is real? I'm not crazy I'm just a mom who is completely unprepared for the inevitable. Boys liking my girls. Boys wanting to date my girls. I was a girl who dated boys, I know what they try. It's disgusting to think about it going on with your own child. They will want to hold hands and worse kiss them goodnight. UGH! It's too much!

Honestly I have no idea how this is going to play out. I'm not sure Starbucks is going to get me through this one. Just this last week alone I had at least four delightfully delicious coffee drinks. I use them as rewards. When I am happy with my lack of melt downs I get a coffee. I figure as long as most of them are nonfat something or others it can't be that bad right? Surely it's better than medication. I don't need an antidepressant I need coffee! Actually what I need is intense therapy to come to the understanding that my sweet precious little babies that I carried in the womb and have cared for all these years are growing into young women who will be doing the same thing in less than 20 years.

Thirteen years old. It's amazing really. She is amazing. You know she weened herself at ten months old because she wanted to drink from a cup like her sister. She got her first tooth at four months. Five months before her sister got hers. I had no idea why she was cranky. My oldest was nine months before she got her first tooth. I was sure I had time. Wrong! The only thing she didn't do first is talk. No that came much later. She was four before she started truly communicating with us. Today she is a musician, she acted in a play and sang and wowed us with her abilities. She's growing up. She's a character and I love her more each day.

It seems like yesterday they were little girls. They were adorable. I used to dress them alike. One in purple the other in pink. They are nineteen months apart and they used to get mistaken for twins while riding in their stroller. It always amazed me when that would happen because clearly one was bigger than the other. One could walk. They loved The Big Comfy Couch. They loved to dance and play. We took them to see Blues Clues and The Bear and The Big Blue House. Today they are both teenagers. The time went so quickly. I went from wondering if Hugs was better than Pampers or if they were both a waste of money and I should buy Luvs. Now I have to get the right t-shirt with the right name on it and the right wash of jeans.

The only up side to this entire thing is that they still love Disney and Nickelodeon. In my mind that keeps them kids. I have always told them they have their whole lives to be adults but only one chance to be kids. They better be the best kids they can be and have all the fun they can while they can. When they get old, people will think they are silly for jumping rope and dancing outside in the yard. They will have to have a fence if they want to see if they can still do a cart wheel. It's ridiculous really, how when you get older you get to have so little fun like when you are a kid.

I used to love playing with barbies and riding bikes. I danced in my yard and would sing my heart out. I twirled my baton and lost a tooth eating giant sweet tarts. I wanted to be a dancer on Broadway and a beautician, and a fashion designer. I want my kids to still do those things and enjoy doing them. All too soon it's over. I can't play with barbies unless I visit a friend with little girls, I can't ride my bike unless it's for fitness. I can't dance in my yard and sing along to the music because I would look like an idiot and sound even worse. My dreams have changed too. I now dream of getting the laundry caught up and getting everyone to find the trash can. I think about writing a book and getting it published. But then I wonder if that's really fair. After all my time has passed. It's their turn now. Also what kid wants to have a book about all their childhood escapades for the whole world to read?

Mostly I think about how I hope they never think like I always did. That they can't do something. That they aren't good enough to do it or that good things like writing books or directing movies or acting only happen to people who live in big places so they shouldn't even try. After all David Letterman went to Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. If he can make it from here so can they. I also hope they never give up on dreaming big because from big dreams can come big realities. And all my children are wonderfully smart and creative. Just ask me after all I'm their mother so of course I have very little bias.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The TV, The DVR, and Me

This is a story about a TV a DVR and me. Ten years ago we moved from a relatively decent size town, (if you call a decent sized town one with a flailing mall and seven grocery stores)to a one stop light town with no mail delivery and a cable TV network that catered to sports and kids. Goodbye Lifetime movies, goodbye anything geared toward women unless you enjoy home improvement shows and want to learn to cook. In time I discovered TLC and learned to enjoy shows such as Trading Spaces and What Not to Wear. Because hello, who doesn't want to go up to people they know and say "Oh girl did you get dressed in the dark this morning?" or "I'm sorry sir but what about the shorts, black socks and tennis shoes did you think was a good idea?" Personally I wouldn't do that but somehow when Stacy and Clinton do it, it amuses me. I also really enjoyed it when on Trading Spaces the people don't like what was done to their house. I always wondered if their friendships survived it.

Keep in mind I was home alone with a 3 yr old and a 2 yr old. Both of whom while I was in the restroom one day, took it upon themselves to take crayons and color big circles on my nice white walls. You can get a little punchy. So watching other people either getting their house messed up by their friends or getting cornered by their friends and told they dressed like a preschooler made my life seem a little simpler. So what if I have animal crackers ground in my carpet and the only thing I have time to put on is sweats, at least my friends aren't around putting me on national TV and telling me I dress like an idiot. It made me happier.

We lived with my days being filled with Blues Clues during the day even during nap time and my nights being filled with sporting events for six years. Then we upgraded to Dish. With Dish you get so many more sports channels and kid channels. Which was their motivation. My motivation was Lifetime television is awesome at Christmas time with the Fa la la la Lifetime movies and HBO. If I can't get to the movies at least if I wait long enough I can see them at home on HBO.

With the Dish we also got a DVR which eliminated the need for our VCR. Yes we were probably the last known humans still using it. But now that we have the DVR our lives are forever changed. I was very excited to get this gadget. I don't always get to see things when they are on and now that I have it I can barely stand to watch things while they are on because it's so fast to watch them on the DVR. It's so easy to skip the commercials. My problem is that now the children are 14 and 13 and 7 and they truly believe that this gadget belongs to them. We have at any given time no more than 2 hrs and 30 minutes left of recording time. They have every Disney and Nick show they watch being recorded. If a new movie on one of those stations is coming on, you better believe it's being recorded. At one time one of the stations we get was showing The Amanda Show, it isn't on anymore so of course we need those recorded and protected. Good Burger is protected. It's getting ridiculous! I have maybe six shows I want to record every week. I get to them when I can then delete them. They delete some but everything they watch is protected.

Finally I put my foot down. I have two episodes of Psych recorded that I refuse to delete. It's off the air till November and sometimes you just need to watch Shawn and Gus and laugh. I'm not sure how I lost control over the televisions in my own house. I have parental locks so they can't watch anything inappropriate, in fact they don't even try it. It would be nice to be able to record a movie now and again. But then I remember, all too soon they will be grown and gone and I'll have full control over my DVR. Then I don't mind so much that I have 2 hrs and 30 min. of recording time left. Too soon I will have all the time I will ever need. Perhaps I'll keep recording shows they loved just to reminisce on days gone by. Besides any movie I would want to record probably started out as a book, and the book is always better. If it didn't start out that way chances are it's not gonna hurt me to miss it.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My Son My Missionary

I write about my girls quite a bit. Mostly because I struggle with the idea that they are really and truly growing up. Much to my dismay they are needing me less and less. Today I think we should learn about my son. He's a pretty cool kid if I do say so myself.

He is going to be eight. He is the smartest kid I know. Don't get me wrong here, my girls are pretty spectacular themselves. They are all honor roll kids. There is just something about him that makes him special. He shines. I am pretty sure I know why. He loves Jesus and he doesn't mind telling you about it.

When I tuck him in at night we read. He picks a book he wants me to read to him and then we read from a bible. I say a bible because we have gone through several children's bibles. One of them we got a DVD game to go with it for him to play. While playing that game one day he took a break and asked his dad if we had some bread and some juice. My husband thinking he just wanted a snack got him some bread and Hawaiian punch as that was the only juice we had on hand. He took these and said a prayer and did his own version of communion. He has drawn me a picture of the last supper and told the story to me. At night he says his prayers.

Saying his prayers has been something he has done since he was able to speak. Before that I said them for him. Before I leave his room at night I always say "God bless you and keep you safe through the night. I love you my son sleep well." Recently he has responded with "May God be with you." To which I respond "and also with you." If that weren't enough last night he followed that with "may the warm winds of heaven blow across from your spirit." I don't mind telling you I did a double take. The kid is seven. At seven he has more faith than a lot of adults I know.

When he grows up he wants to be a world traveling scientist. I think that it's a good possibility. At present he is my missionary. He doesn't have to travel to spread the word of God. He need not look any further than his own house. With the older people who get hardened by life and beaten down by circumstances. I am a believer. I cannot remember not believing in God. I've just always struggled with the believing Him part. I'm in a bible study that is called Believing God. It's by Beth Moore. It has rocked my world. I have been reading in my bible study and in a book for my Sunday school class. I've figured out I have some work to do. I have listened to that little voice of doubt for far too long. I don't doubt there is a God. I know God, he's been to my house. I have just always doubted my worthiness. I just could never get passed the idea that He would want Me. I am nothing but a mistake, a sinner, and a nobody. At least that's what I always thought. It's what I was always told. But if I listen to the truth, I know that I may not have been planned by my parents but I was no mistake. I am a sinner but God loves me anyway. I am not a nobody, I am His child and He has a plan for me.

My son isn't the best on any sports team although he loves to play. He doesn't wrestle, he rarely gets dirty, and he takes school seriously. But he will ask you to pull his finger then burp or fart. He blows bubble in his drink, and he sets things on the stairs instead of putting them away. He isn't perfect. But my son loves Jesus. He loves me almost as much. That makes me happy. I tell people that he is like the sunshine among the storm clouds. Raising teenage girls is about like living through a storm. He pulls us altogether. God has great plans for him I believe. I can't wait to see what they are.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Hey Let's Move to Florida or Redecorate!

I should preface this by saying that I should be in Florida. Think of the sunshine. The salty breeze, the warm sand between the toes. But atlas I am not. You see, I'm a Midwest girl. Born and raised. I grew up in a small town not far from the smaller town that I ended up in. The difference? The one I live in now isn't riddled with bars and it also doesn't have mail delivery. It's very quaint here. The main street is tree lined with just a very few business' in the area. When the sun is just right I can imagine I am in a different time or perhaps part of the cast on the Andy Griffith show. It is very Mayberry here. It's quiet, there are good schools and it's not too far from decent shopping. We have one stop light here and the fastest you can go in town is 35 mph. It's comfortable, it's home. I just wish this home was a little further to the south.

I have become so comfortable here now that I rarely leave. I no longer like to drive. Those "big roads" are just crazy. Why are they all in such a hurry? My children are all in school. I do volunteer work with MOPS, I have lunch with friends, my husband is in the Lyons club. As I type this I am reminded that my mother once said I was born old. I joke that I was born 35 yrs old. I am now this side of 35 and I am pretty sure that in my comfort I've perhaps aged myself an extra 30 yrs. Unfortunately however, I do not seem to be getting any more patient with age. And before I tell you the story you are about to read, I want it known that this was not entirely all my idea.

Here we go, sit down you are in for a ride. We have lived here in "Mayberry" for 10 years. Aside from being the last people to mow in the neighborhood and perhaps the only people who do not have a degree in landscape design, it's been good to us. Our neighbors are good and as I said before the schools are excellent. The summer before last we took a vacation to sunny Florida. It was wonderful. We went to the beach, we went to Disney. It was heaven on earth. Even the food tastes better in Florida. As some of you will know it really is usually all about the food for me. But after that vacation it became clear to me that waiting for retirement to move there was crazy. We wouldn't enjoy it near as much then. Our children would have the most excellent summers getting to go to Disney every summer, why we could have summer passes! It would be a child's dream come true! The only hold up was convincing them that they wanted this dream also. So even before we left to come home I started on them. "Wouldn't it be nice to be able to play volleyball all year long?" "You know if we lived in Florida when you are old enough your summer job could be at Disney." "I bet if you worked at Disney during high school they would help pay for college." "Honey, think about how nice it would be to be here in the winter. Snow is really heavy to shovel, it would be good for your back to live here." And so it went for the entire summer, to no avail. They wouldn't budge! You think childbirth is hard, try to convince teenagers they want to move away from all their friends. It's as I've discovered impossible.

So I went with another angle. We have lived here like I said for 10 years. That means when my girls were 4 and 2 we moved in. Toddlers with light carpet and white walls. Our house looked like a college dorm room that a bunch of preschoolers got a hold of and color erupted. Stains all over the carpets, walls painted dark to cover the crayon, chaos and just stuff everywhere. You can accumulate a lot in 10 years with 3 kids. Not a place conducive to rest and relaxation. So I proposed 3 options. Option A: Let's sell this craziness and leave winters behind us and move to sunny Florida. Option B: Let's sell this craziness and build again. Option C. We need to fix this place so I can relax. Let's redecorate! So guess which one my husband chose. Option C of course.

Decorating and organization is not my strong suit. I'm pretty sure that it could be argued that I am a failure in my profession as a stay at home mom. If you want to go shopping and pick out clothes or shoes or you want good book tips I'm your girl. Decorating, cooking edible meals, knowing which cleaning product works best, and getting your whites their whitest? Not so much. I clean, I cook things the Schwann man delivers to my house, I run my kids every which way but loose, and I read. That's my day. So deciding what colors we should use and how to put it all together was a stretch for me. So I inquired about professional help. Apparently in the closest town to us, there is a furniture store that is owned by a decorator. Seeing that it was likely that I would potentially turn our house into something worse that what we were starting out with, my husband agreed to hiring a professional to get us started.

I have good taste I'm just very eclectic. My styles vary like my music selection. I could mix modern with Victorian and nothing be cohesive or comfortable. I needed someone who could listen to who I was and figure out my style. We had a consultation and it was discovered that my style is a funky modern cottage. Isn't that just awesome? As a woman who picks out lipstick by the name alone, this name for my style delighted me. Her ideas for my living room now named the "receiving room" were exactly what I wanted. Doesn't receiving room sound very early 1900's? I did try to tell her that we rarely had visitors. She said when my home was something I was proud of, I would be more apt to invite people in. Little did she know that is not really true. We have things nice now I really don't want company because I want to keep it that way. I have a fit if the kids wear shoes in the house and if you even think of taking food or drink out of the kitchen, my head spins around.

We started out very excited. We got our paint colors and got busy. We didn't want to be the ones that they were waiting on. So we got our painting done, we ordered the flooring (goodbye stained carpet, hello hard wood), we got all the old out and into storage to await a sale. We get the flooring in and we are waiting. We ordered it in October.

Some of you may know already what I didn't know going into this project. Furniture can take 10 weeks to come in. TEN weeks! Not ten days, ten weeks. Apparently this is normal. I cannot get my mind, even now a full year from where we started all this, wrapped around that fact. We live in an age of computers. We live in a very "I want it now" kind of age. And ten weeks? That is almost an entire season. In ten weeks I was almost done with morning sickness when I was pregnant. If you google ten weeks the majority of what comes up is pregnancy related. Point being 10 weeks is a long time to get furniture that is likely sitting in a warehouse somewhere waiting to be transported. Before it's all said and done it will be Christmas time and after before we get it all in.

The next lesson was that everything is more expensive than what you anticipate. The majority of our furniture that we owned was all hand me downs. So to go buy it all to furnish a room pretty much turned my excited husband into the reluctant husband. "It's going to cost how much?" Ah money. Why must you be such a bother? I read a book series not long ago that was futuristic. In it there was no money. In fact the things you wanted or needed were just given to you. There was a hole in the wall that would just spout out thing that you ordered. I think the author was a genius. If we could live this way wouldn't life be easier? Nevertheless we don't, so enter the reluctant husband that now thinks this was a bad idea.

We only used the decorator for two rooms then I took over with a little help from my friends. This went much smoother. I had paid attention and learned a lot. I learned to use neutral colors then add in accents of color. I also learned that ordering from JC Penny.com takes less time that 10 weeks. In fact you can order an entire room for the cost of one sofa from a professional. We started that phase after Christmas. It didn't take near as long and it turned out very nice. Our home became our home. A calming restful place to come home to. We were done. Life was good! My reluctant husband loved the results and is very happy.

Then he looks at me and says, "You know, I think if we are ever going to add on we should do it now. Our oldest will be driving before we know it and we are going to need the extra driveway space. What do you think?" I'll tell you what I thought. I thought "This man I married is nuts. We are finally all done, we can relax. I don't want to start over I want to rest. I want to take a vacation." What I said was this, "You figure out how we can possibly afford it, you get someone we can trust to do it, you don't give me any grief over decorating the new room that we will gain by adding on the garage and you have my blessing. I will NOT have an empty room, I will have it be part of our home and it will be done in a timely manner."

Perhaps now would be a good time to introduce myself. Hello. I am the one who had a c-section because my first child wouldn't come out ONE day early. I am the one who had to switch majors in college because my program was wait listing me for another year that I didn't have time to wait. I am the one who waited 10 years to get to decorate her house into something that didn't belong in Pee Wee's play house. I am the one who is habitually now at least 15 minutes late for almost everything. Welcome to my world.

It is October one year later from the big lets remodel what we already have. We are a carpet strip and a garage weather stripping away from being done, and yesterday we had a freak hail storm. Today a contractor was going through the neighborhood of destruction doing free inspections. I have shingles off my roof, I have holes in my new siding, I have a screen door that is ripped to shreds, I have dings in all my gutters and down spouts, my fence has holes in it. He estimated I probably have $20,000 in damage. He suggested I call my insurance company.

I am tired. I think Florida sounds nice. My anniversary trip to Hawaii is now a garage. Tomorrow's forecast for Orlando is sunny and 83*. Tomorrow's forecast for here is sunny and 66*. More construction is in my future. More waiting for normalcy. I scarcely remember what that's like anymore. It's OK really. In my little corner of the world it's comfortable here. Sometimes it gets a little complacent but other times there is a freak hail storm after a day of complete sunshine. It keeps you guessing what's around the next corner. I rarely get bored. If we could pick the entire town up and move it to Florida so I wouldn't have to get out with the snow blower in the now rather large driveway, it would be heaven on earth. My home is my castle it's just a little beat up at present. But my family? Well they make it all worth the adventure and I couldn't be happier, than I am right now in this place with the people I love most.

Monday, October 4, 2010


While driving home from bible study this morning, I was listening to KLUV and heard an advertisement for MOPS. As some of you know I love MOPS. I went to the MOPS group at my church with my son and find it to be a very uplifting and worthwhile program. So much so that I now volunteer at two different MOPS groups, taking care of the little MOPPETS. Anyway, while listening to this advertisement it occurred to me that while the adjustment to having a child is great, the child that is on his or her way to adulthood adjustment can be just as great. This is why I believe a MOTS group could be just as beneficial. Mothers of Teenagers!

I have expressed that this year has been a year of great changes for me. I have tried to dig my heals in and resist the changes as long as I can, unfortunately it does no good. As the song says "time keeps on spinnin spinnin into the future", and it seems to be leaving me at the starting gate. The idea that my daughters are the ages that they are and are embarking from elementary to Jr. high and high school, is distressing to me on many levels. Gone are the days where a simple ponytail was all that was needed for a hair style. Gone are the days that we could go to Walmart and buy Mary Kate and Ashley clothes and they felt they were wearing designer duds. Gone are the days when they would crawl up in a chair so I could read them a book. And finally gone are the days where I was smarter than anyone they knew except maybe dad and a simple kiss on the head and a hug could cure any problem they may have.

I miss those days. Even if I spent a great number of them longing for the time when they would grow up and we could bond on another level. I am excited that they read on their own now and we can talk books and movies and how the books are always better. However, I have told them repeatedly that I am their mother and when they are grown we will be friends. Until that time I have a job to do to make sure I'm doing my part in their growing process. We can be friends later. The later is creeping up on me. While I dream of being the one they come to with all their problems and being their friend, I'm not sure I'm ready or up to the task. How do you make that leap? While I've been so focused on getting them to where they should be in their growing I've neglected my own growing. Emotionally I'm still in the barbie doll phase and I need to jump ahead to the facebook phase. I have no idea how to get there.

This is where MOTS would come into play. Having the oldest children or at the very least the oldest girls in my group of friends, I'm not sure where to turn for answers. My own mother is gone, my grandmother didn't raise children in the age of computers and texting. I need somewhere to go to talk to other mothers going through the same things and mothers who have been there. Mothers who can lay it out and say "look this is the way it is, this is what I've done, do with it what you will." Perhaps I'm the only one who feels like she didn't get the instruction manual for this age group.

When I think back to when I was in the hospital having my children, I was given a book with things to prepare me for what was to come. Things they should be doing at different stages. I believe it went on till preschool. But then what? I've gotten that stuff down. I think at this point I could still if presented by an act of God given a child, walk down the isle nursing a baby without anyone being any the wiser. I can change a diaper while the child is laying down or standing up. I can burp a baby, I can plan a kid party, I can sing all the kid songs now and being a stand in for Barney could very well be viable at this point, with the songs I know. What now?

This next part is harder. How do I teach them what to look for in a prospective boyfriend? How do I interrogate said boy who may or may not fit the bill without scaring the poor boy to the point that, if he is respectable now he is terrified and refuses to date her because mom is a bit short of a full stack? How do I help nurse a broken heart without wanting to cause harm to the boy who breaks it? How do I navigate high school while keeping my hold but loosening my grip?

While sitting in church this week, my daughter was sitting with friends, my other daughter working in the nursery, my son in class, and my husband at work, it occurred to me that while the doctor or my husband may have cut the cord I never really did. The cord is stretching and it hurts. For the fishermen out there it's a bit like casting a line and the fish grabs it and takes off, you keep reeling and reeling to get it back but they keep going. I keep thinking I hope my line is strong and doesn't break or I could lose them forever. The best I can hope for is that even if the fish takes off it gets hungry and comes looking for more.

When I was a teenager all I wanted was to grow up and get out. While I like to think that we have created a warm safe environment for them to come home to, it's not as though I'm a gourmet cook. What do I have to offer them to come home to that they can't get better at any fast food place in the county? The changes are coming. The growing is happening. Soon it will be over and they will be grown and gone and I have no idea who I am without them. In a word... I'm terrified. I want my MOTS group (that doesn't exist to my knowledge) to be a place to go to like my MOPS group was so I can see if I'm messing this whole thing up. I need the measurement that my kids aren't going to have to choose between college and therapy because I've messed them up and I can't afford both.

So this journey that we are on doesn't come but with only one instruction manual that I've found. There aren't any books that I've found that say "What to expect the teenage years" or "Your teenager might be damaged for life if you say this" but I suppose I can turn to the only instruction manual for life that can help me. The bible. I am not sure that it covers texting or facebook but it does cover living and filling your spirit with love and hope. So I suppose that I have to hope that I have raised them the way I was supposed to and I have to KNOW that God has this part covered. It goes with the loosening my grip part, they aren't mine after all they are HIS and HE has a plan for them. I believe that. Even if I've not been filled in on the plan, I believe there is one and He's got it covered. So maybe there isn't a MOTS group, maybe we could start one, or maybe I could just take a deep breath and pray.

Friday, October 1, 2010

FRAGILE: Handle with care!

A child's emotions are similar to a porcelain vase. You need to handle with care. As we grow up we learn to toughen up, grow a thicker skin as they say. But if you are a preteen or teenage girl, that can be easier said than done. Compound all those hormones swirling around to the normal girl "stuff" and you have something similar to fine china walking around trying to stay together. Getting bumped and pushed and walking around in a cold world is difficult on anyone, for it's almost impossible to not get a chip or a crack. Much less shatter. Last night I witnessed the shatter.

Sometimes we lack the ability or even the know how to express what we are feeling. Sometimes as children we believe that the adults should be smart enough to figure it out. They are adults after all they have had a lifetime of growing to become knowledgeable in the growing and caring of young girls. What they don't realize is that even though we as grown women have had the lifetime of experience, we are not in fact mind readers. And all people young and old are different.

Journey if you will with me back in time nine years. You have a beautiful little girl. Your beautiful little girl isn't talking. So you put her in preschool to be around other kids so she can learn to communicate. Doctors say she will in time, she just has her sister and mother doing all of her talking for her. Preschool isn't helping and they send her for hearing tests. Hearing tests come back fine. First steps starts coming for speech. When she is three they stop coming and you take her to a special preschool where she can get the help she needs. Fast forward now six years and said child is in fourth grade and is "graduating" out of speech. You aren't certain this is for the best but everyone says she is ready, and your child is excited because they told her first. So she graduates from speech and everyone moves on.

The child starts doing well in school. She dances and plays ball. She at one point takes six dance classes and manages to keep them all straight for a recital. She starts working on her pitching. She wants to be a pitcher. She gets pretty good. She goes to the coach and asks to pitch. Repeatedly says please put me in I'm ready, give me a chance. He refuses and passes her up for an even younger member of the team. He never sees her pitch. The next year she refuses to play. In dance she has a year where there are two girls who won't stop picking on her. No one will help, no one will move her to another class. The next year she refuses to dance. She discovers volleyball in school. In sixth grade volleyball she can't be stopped. The parents in the stands can't believe how well she is doing. Her serve pushes the other kids back to get ready. They see her coming. She wants to play all the way through school and take it to college. She makes the seventh grade team. Seventh grade proves harder than she anticipated. She doesn't feel a part of the team. She feels excluded. At one point she is bypassed in practiced because the coach forgets she is there.

She starts shutting down. The team tries to get her into a huddle but it's too late. The crack is getting bigger. She has a rough game. She makes mistakes, but she feels it isn't going to matter no one notices her anyway. Why is she doing this? She's gone from citizen high to citizen low and all she wanted to do is play. The crack gets bigger. Then instead of going for help, because that has worked so well for her before, she breaks. Was she right?

Did she go about things the right way? Probably not. Actually she probably went about things the worse possible way she could. But, there wasn't anyone there last night that didn't know she was there. She made her presence quite visible.

Sometimes it isn't enough to be observant. Sometimes you have to have the conversation. And sometimes... you have to give people a chance, because if you don't the thread they are holding onto breaks. As her parent I forgot. I got so wrapped up in how well she seemed to be doing. She was outgoing, she was one of the stars of a play over the summer, she plays the piano and the oboe beautifully. She had come so far for so long, I never once stopped to see if her emotions had caught up to her success'. As her parent I saw her struggling, I was observant but I didn't know what to do to help, so I blamed her. She needed to get out there and make herself part of her team. I had a conversation with her, many actually encouraging her to just push in there and be a part of things. Last night the thread snapped anyway. This morning now that I'm not embarrassed or angry, I'm not so sure we didn't all drop the vase. I'm thinking I did for sure. But I have to say that after the initial parent meeting after hearing them say that they do things their way and that you can't complain if little Susie isn't getting enough playing time, because everyone will get a turn. I'm not so sure it was just me. I for one didn't feel I could go and say something, because they didn't want to hear it. Not to mention the fact that these people are my friends. I don't want to be disrespectful, I don't want to place blame, I just want answers to question. I didn't know how to go about it. Sometimes my big mouth can get away from me, and I end up doing more harm than good. No one wants that.

I understand having leaders. Our country is run by leaders. But at what expense are we being run here? Who is winning? Even the leaders make mistakes but sometimes they refuse to acknowledge it was they who made it. How do you place children in positions this early in the game when they should be learning them all? In high school they will have to know them all. How can you position them this early when you don't know what they can do? How do they get well rounded? How do they learn to work together if they don't understand each others positions? How do they learn to work together if you have four of them trying to play all of the positions? I am not a coach. I am not even a player. You would be hard pressed to find a sport I completely understood. But I like to think that as a person, sometimes I understand people. And I know from experience there are only so many times you can get shut down before you pack it up and quit. Is that what we want to teach them?

We spend a lot of time tell our kids to grow up. Why? They have their entire lives to be grown up. Once they are grown up that's it. They will always be grown up, they will never get to be kids again. They have this one chance to be a kid. That isn't to say they shouldn't behave age appropriately. They should. I'm one of the biggest culprits of this actually. My kids act up, I tell them to grow up. We sometimes forget that each new experience is just that, a new experience. They are new. Each new thing is new they haven't experienced anything like it before. Instead of telling them to grow up we should take the time to understand where they are coming from. Listen... They can't talk if you are doing all the talking. You can't understand them if you don't put forth the effort to try.

I'm not making excuses for anyone. Especially my children. In fact I'm probably too hard on them. I tolerate little and just as my mother did, I yell first, ask questions later. This is in no way my best trait. It would have served my family best if I had inherited her baking skills, but no I got the yelling trait. All the way home last night, I yelled, my husband yelled. What purpose did it serve? She already knew we were upset. She already knew she was in trouble. She did it anyway. I have to remind myself that my kids are just that, kids. They make mistakes, just like I do. Unlike me however, they are new. They aren't adults they aren't even mini adults, they might like to think they are, but they aren't they are kids. It's our job to guide them and help them along the way.

I talked with her this morning. A new day. I explained to her that this isn't like softball. This is a new sport and new coaches. She has to learn to give people the opportunity to listen to her that she expects them to give to her. If she is having a problem she needs to feel comfortable going to someone and asking for help. Don't dismiss all adults as being the same. Just like no one kid is the same neither are adults. I hope it helps. I talked to her about standing in our own way. Sometimes the only person holding us back from what we want is ourselves. A lesson I am still learning. And mostly life is about learning and you spend your whole life learning and growing, you don't just get old and all of a sudden it all becomes very clear. It's a process and when we are done then we can go home and Jesus will explain it all to us then. But I believe that each stage is a process in our learning. There is a reason for everything, it isn't for us to understand it's for us to learn and grow. The why doesn't matter, only the lesson we learn from it matters.