Seasons Change

Standard

So we’ve had like five nice days here in Michigan this year.Yesterday it got up in the 80s and I couldn’t believe how many people I heard complaining about the heat. Does nobody remember the seemingly endless piles of snow we just got done shoveling? Maybe I’m the only one driving a car that gets stuck at the end of the driveway if there’s any mention of snow. All I know is that I’m thankful for the heat, grateful for this change of season.

Isn’t it just like us to wish away a season though?

Because in the midst of every season, there is some sorta something that makes us unhappy. It’s too hot, too cold, too humid, too snowy, too sticky, too rainy, too dry. We’re never happy.

It’s like this in life too. We’re never happy in our season. Some other season always looks better and we want to be there. If I could just be in that other season, THEN I’d be happy.

I’ve always wanted to be a mom. I got married young, started my family…and almost immediately started wishing away that season. Babies were a lot of work, they always needed something. I couldn’t take a shower or go to the bathroom alone. There was always someone knocking or fingers under the door or somebody crying on the other side. I remember trying to take a bath one night, I had a book to read and candles lit and was ready for this much deserved break from my two tiny boys. And I remember starting to cry when they wouldn’t stop pounding on the door and crying and screaming and fighting. I thought to myself  I just want them to leave me alone. I can’t wait until they’re older. Now they’re 18 and 20 and what I wouldn’t give to have them beg me to read them one more bedtime story. But they’re all grown up and moving on and I wish that I had enjoyed that season a little more. I wish I’d have seen what a blessing it was to have little ones that couldn’t stand to leave this mama’s side.

I’ve had lots of seasons that couldn’t have gone fast enough. I’ve wished and willed and prayed them out of existence like it was my only job. Because every season has it’s struggles and when we’re in the midst of it, sometimes that’s the only thing we can see is the struggle. But that doesn’t mean that’s the only thing that’s there. I promise you that there is also a blessing…even though sometimes it’s a little tough to find. But it’s there because God doesn’t allow pain without a purpose.

I’ve recently endured some pretty rough seasons. Seasons full of ice and snow and lots of cold. Seasons that I didn’t know how I’d survive. Seasons of caring for my own kids, and other people’s kids, and loved ones and friends that needed help. And there was a season of caring for my dad and if you’ve cared for a cancer patient, you know. And if you haven’t, I hope you never know.  It was a season full of struggle and trust me when I say that I almost always focused on that and almost always missed out on the blessings. But there were times – quiet times in the hospital watching my dad sleep peacefully; visits with my kids when he was feeling up to playing rummy; even when I couldn’t sleep because he’d have “Little House On The Prairie” up as loud as the T.V. would go, but it reminded me of the days we watched it together when I was a little girl. The blessings…they were there in the season too, I just had a hard time finding them in the midst of the struggle.

You may not see the blessing in this season, but you’ll see it in the next. You may not be the first person to see it, someone may have to point it out to you, but you’ll see it eventually. You may not ever want to relive that painful season, but you’ll be able to use your experience to help someone else live through a similar one. And when you do that, it’ll give your pain a purpose and that season won’t seem so bad after all.

I recently read a brilliant quote that said “The days are long, but the years are short”. Isn’t that true? Some of my days are so long they feel as if  they’ll never end. But then I think back on the years that have flown by and I wonder where has the time gone? Where are my toddling children? How can it be that they are taking jobs in other states and flying far away from me? Didn’t I just finish wiping the spaghettios off their little faces?

What’s your season right now? A difficult job? A wayward child? An ailing parent? A scary diagnosis?  I hope you know that it is just that – a season. It’ll pass, as they always do. And although you may have a hard time seeing through the struggle in your season, work hard to find the blessing. It’s there. I promise.

Advertisements

The Measure of a Mom

Standard

I wonder if there is any greater pressure in life than to be a good mother.  As a mom, it can feel like pretty much everything you do is measured by how good, or bad, you are at this job.  And the standard of how good or bad you are…well that changes constantly and there are a million variables that go in to figuring that out.  But the measure seems to be mostly dependent on who is administering the test (aka judging you).  When you think about how many interactions you have in a single day, week, month…that’s a whole lotta judging going on.  And that means a whole lotta pressure to be good at, well, everything.

If that’s not enough,  you’re also judged on the behavior of your kids and how good they are at everything.  If your child has a tantrum at the grocery store, that’s a forgivable offense for them, but you’re docked double points in the mom category, because first of all why is your child such a little monster? And second, why can’t you control them when they decide to have a melt down in aisle five?

As a pretty imperfect mom myself, I’d love to say that I’m not guilty of this unfair judging.  But that would be a lie.  When I see a child misbehaving, I have perfected “the look” that I give to my own kids as we walk past the uncontrollable brat.  And after many years of this look, I don’t even need to say a word, the kids say it for  me. “I know, you would kill us if we ever did that.” Yep.  I sure would.  Because I have enough trouble earning good mom points on my own, I don’t need you lowering my score.

I don’t really want to measured by whether or not I attend every baseball game or PTO meeting.  I don’t want to be scored by how well behaved my children are, how smart they are or how old they are when they started walking/talking/potty training…etc.  What level they read at when they’re 6 years old shouldn’t be a factor and it shouldn’t matter how many activities or sports they participate in.

I can’t imagine any other area in life where we are judged almost solely based on someone else’s performance.  Besides, I know some really great moms whose kids just aren’t there yet and may never be. What I’ve realized as my kids have grown into adulthood is that I can only do what I can do,  but ultimately their choices are up to them. And truly,  their behavior isn’t necessarily a reflection of how well I’ve done as a mom.

So what is the measure of a mom? How do I know if I’ve done my job and done it well?  I’ve decided on these few things as a measuring stick for myself.  This list might change or be added to over the years, and it might not be a standard for anyone else, but this is how I’ll be measuring myself.

  • Do my kids know that I love them? Now, I’ve learned that just loving a kid doesn’t necessarily make you a good mom, even really bad moms often love their kids.  I want my kids to know that I love them with the kind of unconditional,  selfless, I’d do anything for you…but your “happiness” is not my main concern…kind of love.
  • Do my kids know that God loves them even more than I do?  For me this is a big one.  Because I will fail my kids.  Often.  And I want them to know and to understand that I am not their ultimate authority.  Only by understanding the depth of God’s love, will they be able to extend the same kind of love to others.  And for me, that’ll be a big win.
  • Do my kids know that there are consequences to their actions?  As a mom, our natural response to our kids getting in trouble is to bail them out.  This often means that when our kids do something really stupid that deserves to be punished, we rush to their defense and don’t let them face the consequences that they’ve got coming to them.  If my kids realize that good choices equal good consequences and bad choices equal bad consequences, and that sometimes those bad consequences really hurt, I’ll be doing alright.
  • Do my kids understand the value of working hard?  My kids don’t own their own computer or ipad, they were never given a car and I’ve never paid for a spring break trip.  Why?  Because that stuff is expensive and they can’t afford it.  I supply my kids with their basic necessities.  If they want the extras, they have to work for it.  Giving them a handout now does not teach them the importance of hard work, which they will eventually have to learn. ( Unless of course, you plan to allow them to live in your basement and play video games their whole life, in which case, better you than me.)  I want my kids to know the value of a dollar and to realize that dollars don’t grow on trees.  I also want them to experience the satisfaction that comes with working for something and then obtaining it.  They will never get the same sense of satisfaction from a handout.  

And maybe most importantly,

  • Do my kids know the importance of character?  I’m a huge fan of good old honest Abe, who once said “Reputation is the shadow, character is the tree”.  I want my kids to know that their character will reflect who they are.  And that who they are, especially when nobody’s looking, is really important.  And I want them to know that things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are always admirable traits to have. 

 

 

 

 

 

Excuse me ma’am…but those shorts don’t fit you

Standard

I try pretty hard not to complain. But some things just irk me and today I was feeling especially irritable.  I would usually just vent about this to a select few people, certainly not in a public space…but I can’t help it today, so here it goes.

In Michigan, I get that it feels like summer is here when the sun comes out for a few days in a row.  Or when the temperatures hit a certain high…like 50 degrees or so. But you can always tell that summer is really near when all of the moms start trying to squeeze their 40 year old rear ends into their 12 year old daughters size 2 booty shorts. As I sat at my son’s little league baseball game today I saw more than my share of these moms and it got me thinking that there are some things that us moms  just shouldn’t wear.  I think most of these could be for any time, but we’ll just call this little league etiquette.  I compiled a list in my head at the game…as I sat there wearing my winter coat and wrapped in a wool blanket watching those other moms pretend that they weren’t freezing.

The first and most obvious one based on my observations today is booty shorts.  I know you must’ve been roasting in that 52 degree weather, but come on ladies, there is no need to show the world your cheeks.  I don’t care if you’re a size 2 or size 22, there is no need for all of us other parents to have to look at your ass hanging out all over the place…we just want to watch our kids play ball.

Shorts/Pants with words on the butt.  You are not a “cutie” or “sweet” and it’s just plain stupid for your butt to say “pink”.  I’m a firm believer that a woman’s butt is not meant to be a surface for reading material.  (I especially think this is true for your daughters…there is no reason in the world to draw attention to your child’s behind…but that’s for another time.)

Pajamas.  Nothing says “I don’t give a crap about my appearance” like wearing your pjs out in public.  My son’s game was at 1:00 this afternoon.  Why in the world are you in your pajamas?  You’re a freaking grown up!  Didn’t you have any responsibilities to fulfill today before the game that required you to get dressed?  Grocery shopping, yard work, anything?  Maybe you should’ve gotten dressed to go into 7-11 and get that Big Gulp of Mountain Dew that you’re letting your toddler drink.

Yoga pants/leggings.  Call them what you want, they’re tights. And they’re not appropriate outerwear attire, ever.  Not for you.  Not for your daughter.  Not for anyone.  Unless of course they are worn underneath something, then they’re acceptable.  But not alone…do you not look in a mirror?  Do you not see what we see, which is basically everything?

Tiny Tees.  Are you trying to cut costs by buying children’s size clothing?  Listen, I am one of you.  I know firsthand that my belly just isn’t as flat as it used to be pre-little darlings.  But why accentuate it by wearing a shirt that clings to every roll?

Tanks with built-in-bras.  It may not say it on the tag, but these are not meant for us moms.  We all know that the girls lose their perkiness once we’re graced with a little one.  They’ve had their time to shine, and it was years ago. There is no amount of building-in that will help us.  You need a bra, a bra is your friend.

Hey, I’m not being judgmental.  I’m really not.  I couldn’t care less how you dress most of the time.  But spare your child the embarrassment on the field. And for the sake of all of us other parents who really just want to watch our kids play ball, it would just be really nice if you could wear clothes…that actually fit you…for the remainder of the season.

 

 

 

Sometimes You Get a Redo

Standard

I’ve told my kids a million times to be really careful about the choices that they make because they’ll have to live with that choice forever. I’ve also said that choices are so important because there are no do overs in life.  I still believe that…mostly.

But I’m starting to see things a little different lately.  And I think that sometimes you do get a redo.  They’re pretty few and far between, but they’re there.  I wish they came along more often, there are so many things that I’d like to redo.  I’m not talking about regrets necessarily, just things I’d do differently.

I remember being in school at Atwood Elementary.  There was a girl named Zena who didn’t have any hair.  I never talked to her, I don’t think she was around very long.  She always wore a hat. One day we were out at recess and Zena was on the swings.  A group of older kids grabbed the hat off of her head and threw it over the fence.  Zena didn’t fight back, she didn’t yell or try to get them to stop.  She just sat on the swing and cried.  I sat on the swing next to her and watched.  I distinctly remember thinking that my arm would fit through the fence, I could reach through and get her hat for her.  I thought that for what seems like a long time but was probably seconds.  And then I stood up and walked over to my friends, leaving Zena sitting on the swings crying.  I wish I could do that over.

And there was this time in high school that I was at Cedar Point.  There was a kid there, not from my school, that was in a wheelchair.  He couldn’t ride any of the rides, and his friends would push him from ride to ride and then he’d wait in his chair at the end for his friends.  I saw him several times throughout the day and this one time, he was waiting at the end of a ride and smiled when I walked by.  I knew that I should have stopped and sat with him. I can’t explain what it felt like, but I just knew that I was supposed to. And instead, I kept walking with my friends.  When we got off the ride, he was still there and his friends certainly should have been off before us.  We walked past and he stopped me and asked me to help him find his group because they hadn’t come back for him.  I told him that I couldn’t, that I didn’t have time.  I’d like to redo that.

And this one time I was walking through the Metro Station in Washington D.C. and there was this young kid, maybe 13 or 14 years old laying against the wall sleeping.  I was on my way to Chipotle to get lunch.  I remember thinking that he was about the same age as my son.  I felt like I should wake him up and ask him if he wanted to go with me and I’d buy him lunch.  I stopped for probably five minutes and stood nearby watching what seemed like a million people walk past him.  I planned out how I was going to approach him without startling him, I figured out what I was going to say.  And then I talked myself out of it and left him there in the middle of February in the freezing cold.  Man, I’d really like to do that differently.

These moments and others just like them have followed me for a long time.  Taking up space in my head and reminding me of times that I’ve ignored that still small voice inside prompting me to help others.  And while I can’t redo those exact things, I think I can, and do, redo them in my life now when I have the opportunity.

I don’t know if it’s age or motherhood, or simply trying harder to follow the model of Jesus in my life that has softened my heart towards others.  But something has happened in my life that not only leads me to not let these type of moments pass me, but it’s also given me the chance for some redo’s.

Like when my son was in fifth grade, he was on a medication that made him lose his hair.  His teacher asked me to come and do a presentation to the class so that they could better understand.  We brain stormed together about how they could all be supportive and the class decided, with the teachers permission, that everyone would be allow to wear a hat when Logyn was around. That was kind of a redo.

I’ve also had the chance to lead a group of high school students to Camp Barnabas.  CB is a camp completely designed for people with special needs.  Last summer, the week I attended was “wheelchair week”.  I spent the entire week being a cabin mom to twelve of the most beautiful, wheelchair bound young ladies and their assistants for the week. I had the incredible privilege of pushing them – up the steepest incline in by far the hottest, most humid weather I’ve ever been in – all week long and my only goal for the week was to make it the best week of their lives.  I think that was a chance to redo.

And I don’t always give money to people that I see on the street.  But I do sometimes, and I always try to make eye contact, smile and talk to them whenever possible.  I’ve bought meals more times than I can remember and I have had some of  my most memorable and favorite conversations with people that are living on the street. A redo for sure.

The older I get, the more I realize that I don’t want to depend on redo’s in life, because you don’t always get one.  I want to do things right the first time.  I want to listen and act when I feel like I should do something.  I know I can’t change the world, but I can change someone’s day.  And that’s how I want to live, making the world a better place, even if  that just means picking up someones hat.

Confessions of a Not-Quite-Perfect Mother

Standard

original

Today has been one of those days.  Not a good day or a bad day…just a day.  But a day that seems like it’s been going on for years.  It’s 7:15 p.m.  I just put little B down for bed.  It’s 45 minutes before his normal bedtime but thankfully he doesn’t know the difference.  He’s been tired and fussy since I picked him up from childcare which is the worst because I miss him all day and then I finally get to him…and ugh. And then he yells and cries all the way home, no manners at all. “Use your inside voice” I say, forgetting that he’s only a year old and has no idea what I mean.  So he refuses to listen, and I turn up the radio hoping to drown out the crying and in the end I get a headache from Miley Cyrus instead of BenJovi.

But today didn’t start out this way. This morning while I was driving Corey to school, he told me that I should write about being a perfect mom.  I laughed and told him that’s silly, because nobody’s perfect.  To which he replied, “I know you’re not a perfect person…but you’re a perfect mom”.   I thanked him for thinking so, but assured him that I’m nowhere near perfect.  And he looked at me, unconvinced and as serious as could be and said “Maybe you don’t think so, but you don’t get to decide because I’m the kid and I decided that you’re a perfect mom”.  Well, alright then. Who am I to argue with his nine year old logic?

How can it be that he thinks I’m perfect, or even good, when right now I’m sitting here with a sink full of dishes, bath toys still in the tub and I’ve put the baby to bed early just to catch a break.  My sleeve is still soaking wet from giving Ben a bath because I can’t even manage to control a toddler and keep him from splashing.  My kids ate sandwiches for dinner since I didn’t have time to cook when I got home from work because we had to rush out of the house for play rehearsal and Jiu Jitsu class. The laundry that I started this morning is still sitting in the washing machine and the 87 loads that still need to be done are clearly not getting done today. Toys are still covering the floor which hasn’t been vacuumed and I should be packing lunches for tomorrow, but I still have to go back out to pick up kids again and all I really want to do is go to bed.

And then it occurred to me that my kids couldn’t care less about all of those things that I haven’t gotten done today. Nobody does. All of the expectations I had for myself today that I didn’t accomplish, I’m the only one disappointed by them.  All of the crazy pressure I feel to juggle everything perfectly, never dropping the ball on anything…I’m the one that’s putting it there…and it’s okay if I stop doing that to myself.  It’s probably actually even good for me to stop it.

My kids love me simply because I love them and they know it. And today is just that…a day. It’s one day which is just a tiny little dot in the big picture. It’s going to be over shortly and tomorrow I’ll get to start all over again.  Being a not-quite-perfect but not-all-that-terrible-either mom.

My 39

Standard

picture-of-birthday-cake-on-fire

I just had a birthday which officially launched me into the last year of my 30’s.  It’s only been a week, so I think I’m still adjusting to this reality.  I’m not happy about it, but not quite sad either…just can’t decide if I should celebrate or mourn the impending death of my third decade in this crazy world.

To be perfectly honest the 30’s didn’t treat me all that well, with the last year being especially unkind.  I don’t intend to take up space here in my new cyber home with negative junk, but a brief synopsis of the last six months may be in order.  Let’s see, my marriage hit a big ol’ Michigan pothole that tore the tires right off of it and sent my husband and I in opposite directions.  A few weeks after he left, I got a late night call telling me that my sister had been arrested and I was asked  “do you want to come pick up her baby or should we give him to the state?”  Off I headed for my first ever encounter with the police to pick up my one year old nephew.  As I drove home with a scared little B in my backseat, I laughed and cried at the irony of that day.  It was my oldest son’s 19th birthday and I had just been thinking about how my days of child rearing were nearing an end.  God sure has a funny sense of humor.

So, here I am.  39.  Divorced.  Now working full-time.  Mother of 6 (including 3 teens, 2 still fairly well-behaved younger kids and my newly acquired 1  year old.)

I don’t like the feeling of my life spiraling out of control.  Not one bit.  So after about a week of feeling sorry for myself and my crappy situation,  I decided that if my life was going to spiral, it was not going to go downwards.  Nope.  I will not become the bitter-middle-aged woman that hates men and life and everything in general.    I just don’t have the time or energy for that.

Some might argue that it’s harder to spiral upward, and with that I would agree.  My life is not about to get easier any time soon.  I have kids in elementary, middle and high school and now I drop a toddler off at day care before heading in to my own full day of work.  My days start earlier now and end later and I have more laundry to do than probably all of my neighbors combined.  I have the upcoming expenses of a high school graduation, a party and senior pictures and the cost of child care on my sole income (which is not nearly enough to cover those).  These things are my new reality.  So, I can either lay down and cry about it or stand up and persevere.  I’ve decided to do the latter.

The first thing that I had to do was simple.  I had to stop thinking about those things.  I am not trying to make it sound simplistic.  I know that it’s hard not to think about crap when you’re in the midst of chaos.  But I’m finding that the more time I spend not thinking about that stuff, the more time I have to think about things that are not those things.  Duh.

I spend a lot of time now thinking about how fortunate I am.  I have great kids…I mean, like REALLY GREAT kids.  They are funny and thoughtful, smart and helpful, kind and compassionate and a hundred other really awesome adjectives.  And I have not one or two, but SIX of these incredible people in my house! (Yes, I’m counting little B, who I’m sure will become these things too:)  How blessed am I?!

I have a job that I LOVE.  Seriously, it might be the best job in the world…and it’s mine!  I don’t wake up thinking “ugh, I have to go to work today”.  Sure, sometimes I’m tired in the morning, but it is an honor for me to get to do what I do and get paid for it.  And when I really spend time thinking about my job, sometimes I am honestly moved to tears because I love it so much.

My friends.  The best group of people you can imagine…yep, they’re in my life, up close and personal.  I can call them anytime and they are willing to listen, to talk, to set me straight and call me out when I’m being stupid.  Everyone needs some friends like mine.

So, yeah it’s been a rough few months.  But in the big scheme of things, it’s just that: a rough few months.  I have so much to be thankful for and I am certain that the future holds much more for me than my human mind could even begin to imagine.  In the mean time, I am going to stay focused on this reminder from Romans 5:2-5  “Christ has also introduced us to God’s undeserved kindness on which we take our stand. So we are happy, as we look forward to sharing in the glory of God.  But that’s not all! We gladly suffer, because we know that suffering helps us to endure.  And endurance builds character, which gives us a hope that will never disappoint us. All of this happens because God has given us the Holy Spirit, who fills our hearts with his love.”

So as I move forward towards 40, I’m sure that I will mourn the loss of some things that I once held dear.  But more often this year, I will celebrate the things that I still have, the things that I have yet to receive and the promise that in the end I will have developed character by enduring through my sufferings.  And I will spend my 39 in an upward spiral.