Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Acne, Attidudes and Weird Car Conversations

My ten year old is a little traumatized currently.  He has started breaking out with a little bit of acne.  My daughters began puberty at ten and I was assured by my husband that it takes boys a bit longer.  But the first signs are starting to arrive and I have to tell you I am a bit traumatized myself.

The question that popped into my head last evening was this:  acne and attitudes are they related?  When my girls were at my son's age they started getting a bit of an attitude with me.  Suddenly I didn't know everything.  I was just stupid mom.  As they have grown into teenagers apparently my IQ has lowered.  I was unaware that this was going to happen.  When they were younger I was brilliant.  I may not have had it all figured out or together but they thought I was smart.  Of course, I think that was mainly because I knew the words to the theme songs on their cartoons.  When they are little being able to sing Down By the Sea or I Love You, You Love Me is way cool.  Now they listen to music and half the time I can't make out what they are saying; and forget about knowing all of the artists because new ones are popping up all the time and I can't keep track of all of them.

This morning the conversation in the car was whether or not Madonna could have been Lady Gaga's mom.  Kid number two was trying to convince kid one that Lady Gaga came from Madonna's uterus.  Seriously?  That is the terminology she used.  She is currently in sex ed at school so she is learning more about the reproductive system and is ready to share.  Kid three seeing where the conversation was heading plugged into his headphones to watch a video in the car.  What was he watching?  Saved by the Bell.  So Kid one gets on the smart phone to look up their ages.  Kid two is discussing which kids Madonna gave birth to and who she didn't.  I am telling her to not use the word uterus in front of the ten year old.  Kid one gets back to us with their ages.  I said, "Madonna is not Lady Gaga's mom but she is old enough to be her mom."  Kid one says, "No way!"  I said, "Do the math if Madonna is 54 and Lady Gaga is 27."  She does the math and says that Madonna would have been 27 when she had Lady Gaga.  It is not unheard of.  I was thirty when I had my son.  These are the conversations we have in the car. 

Back to my boy.  He is a very laid back kind of kid.  He just goes with the flow.  He gets upset when the girls fight with each other or with me.  But here comes the acne and will the attitude follow?  I have discussed the girls with him.  I have told him that he is never to talk to me the way the girls talk to me.  He understands.  This weekend on one of our outings to get away from the tension and hormones of teenagers studying for finals, I told him that if he starts talking to me like that he will crush me.  He promised he would never go there.  I certainly hope so. 

I am curious as to what conversations we will have once his sisters are both gone to college.  I think our car is apparently the safe space for any conversation.  Those girls come up will all sorts of crazy things to talk about.  If it's not Madonna it's Gwyneth Paltrow or some other random celebrity or sometimes it's something else.  Currently everything with my son is about video games and camp.  He is excited to go to camp for the first time ever this summer.  Sometimes they talk about farts and sometimes I hear about recess.  What will he talk about later?  What do boys talk about when they get into puberty?  Girls?  So far he says, "Mom, I'm ten and in fourth grade.  I only like girls as friends.  I am too young to be worrying about a girlfriend."  How awesome is that?

It has been such a crazy busy year.  School is almost out and I am excited to see what summer brings.  In the meantime I will take any heads up as to what you think about the connection between acne and attitudes.  I'll keep you updated on the car conversations.  I am convinced our oddest conversations happen in the car.  Those may be my favorites.  It doesn't matter if they have acne or attitudes I suppose, I think the part I like best is that they find me worthy to talk to at all.  I love their imaginations and their curiosity.  From diapers to depends I will always love them and their weird conversations best.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day, Teenagers and Hiding at Walmart

I'm not sure how you spend Memorial Day but our family doesn't get together.  In fact my husband had to work today.  Today is the day before finals start for my two teenagers. They have spent the weekend studying.  Tensions are running high in this house as you can imagine.  My husband made schedules for them to go by so that every subject would get studied.  They haven't left the house now since coming home from school on Friday.  One working in her room and the other working down at the kitchen counter. 

With it being a long holiday weekend my son's friends are gone and unavailable to play.  I have spent the weekend rearranging furniture and cleaning my office in between entertaining him.  Saturday we went to see Star Trek, Sunday we went to church and then he played with one of his friend until we went to the camp nearby for a festival.  Today we have been watching a Pawn Stars marathon and I think we are just bored enough at this point we are going to venture out to let him spend his gift cards for Walmart.  He has his eye on the newest Big Nate books.  He is a reader like his mom. 

The girls are so stressed that we can't even look at them without them getting mad.  Compound that with the fact that Aunt Flo is in town visiting them and you have a dynamic that the boy and I are trying to avoid. 

As I sit at my desk I can see the Navy pictures from both of my grandmothers.  In fact, one of my grandmothers started in the Navy but when they found out she had lied about her age she was kicked out.  When she came of age she went into the Army.  If I turn my head I can see the picture of my dad from when he was in the Marines.  There is a line of Marines in my family.  There are military vets on both sides of my family and also in my husbands family with nephews currently serving in different branches. 

I don't know if you are spending your day together with family members having cookouts or coming home from camping trips.  I don't know if you are spending your day hiding from teenagers or taking advantage of Memorial Day sales.  No matter how you are spending your day, might I ask you to stop for a moment and remember those who have fought for the very freedom you are enjoying today?  We may not be able to be with them but don't forget to remember. 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

A Look Back at Mother's Day and an Update

It has been a busy few months.  I have been plugging away on the new book.  I just sent it out for editing.  I hope to get some information about that to you soon.

The day before Mother's Day I spoke at a Mother/Daughter Banquet.  I'm not sure if you know this about me but I have a fear of public speaking.  I spent weeks stressing about this event even though I was certain that God wanted me to do it.  I couldn't sleep, my imagination went into overdrive, and I was an all around basket case.  I am pretty sure I just  had way too much time to think about it.  In the future I will try and go about it in a more healthful way.  This time I failed.  As I sit here and think back I realize how ridiculous I was being.  I had thought I would be standing in front of 40-50 people alone.  In reality I stood before roughly 75 people but I wasn't alone.  God was standing with me the entire time.  So I thought I would share with you what I had written and also the link to the video in case you want to see why I don't do public speaking unless God tells me I have to.

Here is my speech for Mother's Day 2013

I have to tell you that never in my wildest imagination would I have thought that I would be standing here before you today.  In fact, the last thing I wanted to be doing was giving a talk about my mother and my life, the day before Mother’s Day. 
I put up a pretty good fight, too.  But it has become increasingly clearer to me that when God wants you to do something, you are going to do it.  Obviously, I lost.  When Sharon called and asked me to do it, I initially told her no.  I told her that I was sure that God would provide someone to speak … but it was not going to be me, because I am not a public speaker. 
I’m a writer, I’m a kindergarten aide, I’m a mom, I’m a taxi driver for three kids, I’m a lot of things—but a public speaker is not one of them.  I became so stressed out by the idea of doing this, that my sleep was disrupted and I was in physical pain. 
I’m an excuse maker.  God told me to be here and I said “But I’m pretty sure you don’t want me to do it.  You want someone else.  I can’t possibly go speak to adults, I work with children,” I said. 
God came back with, “You are failing to see that they are all My children.” When I think of children I think of well…children. Not adults that are God’s children. 
I had conversations with my husband about the situation.  I had conversations with my friends. Then I revisited my husband and asked him how I could get new friends, because none of them were agreeing with me on this one. 
In the Bible, God asked Jonah to go speak to the people in Ninevah.  Jonah was scared and didn’t want to go.  He tried to run from God and got on a boat to run away and hide.  God sent a storm and Jonah was thrown into the sea.  Jonah prayed to God and God sent a whale to save him.  The reason I remind you of this is because I think it applies to my life.  I skip the boat, the running away and hiding, and go straight for the whale, every time.  Take the road, you say?  Forget about the road.  I will just go hide in the whale until God changes his mind.  God may have a sense of humor, but he rarely changes his mind. 
Almost nine years ago, I lost my mother to cancer.  I’m not sure what kind of relationship you have with your mother, but my mother and I fought like cats and dogs.  If I said up, she said down.  If I said left, she said right.  I was always right and she was always right.  The one thing I was right about, I wish I could take back, and be wrong.  I told her every day to quit smoking.  I told her that she could get cancer and that it would kill her.  So being right isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. 
My mother was a yeller.  I was a smart-mouth kid and I gave her reason to yell.  I had many ideas of what I thought I would be like when and if I ever became a mother, and I was not going to be a yeller.  Sometimes I open my mouth however, and my mother comes out.  I also swore I would never drink coffee like she did. But now that she is gone, I drink coffee fully doctored with flavored creamer, not black like she drank it… but I drink it nonetheless. 
I grew up an only child. My mother was unmarried when she was diagnosed with cancer, so when she became sick, I took care of her.  My children were 7, 6, and 2 at the time.  I was a stay at home mom. We moved her in and doctored her  the best we could.  Every plan I had for having another child, every normal thing, became skewed and put on hold. 
My mother was not going to die.  In fact, she said she wouldn’t.  She was going to fight and that was it.  She wasn’t going to lose her hair either, and the day she lost it was devastating to her. It hurt me too, because it wasn’t me she chose to help her with that.  It was a friend. 
I had to force her to have conversations with me about her death.  She would say “I’m not going to die but just in case I want this,” or “I want that, and don’t get rid of all my stuff because I have good stuff.” 
Watching her suffer was heart wrenching.  They gave my mother six to eight months and I got to keep her for almost a full year.  Then in the wee hours of the morning, on July 14, just one day before my birthday, Jesus came to my house, stood at the foot of her bed and took her home.  She went home to be with Jesus, and I told everyone about it.  I rejoiced that my mother was saved and baptized the year before she died and told everyone how happy I was that she was no longer suffering. 
Then the day she was laid to rest, I fell.  I came into what was her room at my house. There were funeral flowers all around the room.  I lay down in the middle of them and wept.  I fell into a pit of depression and didn’t re-emerge for two years.  I went through the motions of daily life.  Doing only what was necessary and nothing more.  It was so bad that when I was delivered out of it by Jesus, my mother in law revealed to me that she was afraid they would never get me back.
Every year on her birthday, and the week of mine, I go into battle.  The guilt that I didn’t save her comes back:  I didn’t fight hard enough.  I let her go.  I didn’t take her to that cancer hospital they advertise on TV. and they may have saved her. 
Then comes God and asks me when I got so big that I think I have the power to keep people alive.  I don’t.  There isn’t anything I could have done, and the reality of that both saddens me and relieves me.  I am happy that my God is strong enough to save her and ease her suffering.  I am happy in some ways that my mother got cancer.  Had she not, she may never have come to know Jesus and the question of her eternal salvation may still remain.  Today I know for certain that my mother is in heaven and that one day I will see her again.
Until then, I am here with two teenage daughters and a ten year old son.  Not one but two teenage daughters, in case you missed that.  There are days with these girls that I think I may be seeing my mother sooner rather than later.  I love them but they drain me like nothing else. 
Everything is so dramatic all the time.  They are nineteen months apart.  I had them close together on purpose.  I wanted them to be best friends and to always have someone.  I wanted them to have what I never had.  But they try to kill each other half the time.  They argue, they fight, kick, hit and carry on like they are mortal enemies, not sisters and best friends like they are supposed to.  God has a sense of humor. 
Although I wanted siblings, I was not at all convinced that I wanted children.  I grew up wanting siblings but not children of my own.  I had cousins and I thought they were terribly behaved. If I did have children, I would do it better.  Well, I have not done it better.  I don’t even have my mother’s “look.”  She could turn on me and give me a look and I would know to backpedal and hide.  I give my own children what I think is “the look” and they refuse to backpedal; they go straight to the edge and jump.  I thought they would have a healthy fear of me and a certain amount of respect.  Instead I believe I’ve made them so comfortable and loved them so much that they may never leave. 
What is worse is that I’m terrified that one day they will leave.  I have no idea who I am without them.  I got pregnant one month after I got married.  I have been married with children almost from the beginning.  What do we do when they are all grown and gone?  Hang out with the cats?  My mother hated cats. Now I have three cats.  I have no idea who I am.  I’m terrified of being alone and yet I am never alone.  Sure, I would like to go to the bathroom alone.  But I do not relish the idea of being alone in my house without the children for any longer than a school day.  They fight, they create a lot of laundry, they control every television, and chip all of my dishes … but I love them.  I miss my mother every day, some days so much, I forget that I myself am a mother too.
I guess with all of that said, I don’t know what the moral of my story is.  I already told you God must be crazy to ask me to speak to you. 
Maybe it is that God can take a smart mouthed kid -- who was never going to get married and have children because she thought kids were brats and the parents never stayed together and fought all the time -- and transform her into a wife and mother with the family she always wanted growing up.  Maybe it is that God can take you from the pit and deliver you into higher ground.  I have been to the pit and back a couple of times, but God will keep coming for you to bring you out again.  Maybe it is that even if you take the whale instead of the road you are going to end up right where God wants you eventually.  I’m not sure. 
All I can tell you is that without God, I wouldn’t be here with you today.  Without God I wouldn’t have a family.  Without God I wouldn’t be able to do my job, write, live through the teenage years with my girls, and I sure wouldn’t be able to prepare a mostly edible meal. 
I think the lesson is to focus on what you still have and not what you have lost, even if they drive you nuts.  So for this Mother’s Day, hug your mothers, love them, enjoy them, fight with them if that is what you do, and don’t miss one moment. For each of them is a gift that may not stay here on earth, but will remain in your heart forever. 

Here is how it actually came out