An Isaiah Moment

Tonight, while clearing the dinner table, Isaiah was explaining to me that it is Avery’s turn to sit by the faucet in the bathtub. He seemed to be talking more to himself than to me, but he did earnestly care that his sister get a chance to sit by the faucet tonight, a rare moment of 3-year-old selflessness.

Then, mid-sentence, in front of the dishwasher, he put his plate down and starting pulling off his shorts and underwear. I wasn’t sure what he was doing but I didn’t stop him. It wasn’t until he was bracing himself against the counter to get his feet out that he seemed to realize what he was doing, and that he was technically still clearing the table. In the kitchen.

A really adorable and sheepish grin sort of cracked in the corners of his mouth, and without making eye-contact he seemed to be thinking, “Maybe if I just keep going she won’t notice.”

But then I cracked. I couldn’t help it. I started laughing a little and said, “Did you forget you aren’t at the bathtub yet?”

“Yeah,” he said, laughing a little too. “I’m going to go tell Daddy that Avery can have the faucet. And I’m going to the bathroom just like this.” He grabbed his pile of clothes, and with his little white booty poking out under his shirttail he scurried upstairs, leaving me with the rest of the dishes.

It was one of those moments that I would never remember to remember.

But I don’t really want to forget.

Short but Sweet

When you are a teacher, or you have children in school, the end of August brings a more important New Year’s Day for goal setting, life planning, big ideas, and dreams of organization.

Am I right?

I’ve been off the blog lately, and generally speaking, I’m not one to post the everyday musings of things going on in my life, diary style, on the Internet.

But today I have a snippet, for my friends who are Believers (or maybe not).

Read your Bible, they say.

Pray.

They say.

And yet…

Well, if you are looking for a little spiritual kick in the pants, something to start this season off on a different foot, open to the Gospel of Matthew. But find it in THE MESSAGE version. (You can find it online if you don’t have a copy laying around. But I hope this encourages you to purchase a copy that you can hold in your hands and feel and smell, because, well, you know, see yesterday’s post.)

Matthew. The Message.

The Holy Spirit says, you’re welcome.

Back to School

Ah yes. The time of year when motherhood meets former school teacher, and I get super awkward about wanting the best for my kids but not wanting to seem demanding (and annoying) by voicing all the concerns I probably legitimately have against the public education system in North Carolina. Certainly a better platform than Open House exists for discussion of room for improvement.

Last week included meeting new teachers and gathering supply lists. Hoping the fit is a good one. Hoping my kids are as loved as they are challenged. Trying not to let my mind wander down the path of wondering exactly how hard it would be to implement some school-wide uniformity when it comes to classroom procedures and oh, I don’t know, say, color-coding folders and notebooks according to subject. (Just an idea.) Forgive me, I was nothing if not excellent at procedural management as even high school kids are terrible at organization. Imagine how my undiagnosed genius/ADD 4th grader struggles.

It also included pages upon pages of login information for all the different online portals my babies will be accessing in the name of up-to-date instruction.

Sigh.

All this, and another folder full of paperwork I must fill out by hand every. single. year, despite the fact that nothing ever changes.

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Mind. Blowing.

When I read that my 4th grader’s academically gifted classroom will be “mostly paper free” I had to pause and catch my breath.

Call me old fashioned, but then tell me I’m not the only crazy mom who will be praying my way through the next 16 years (times four children) as our society increasingly moves toward what we may one day deem our “worst move” in educational history.

Yes. I’m talking about technology in elementary school classrooms, and how much I hate it.

Forgive me, but when it comes to developing neurological pathways (though I’m no neurologist) isn’t physical touch a pretty big developmental factor? What about the smell of a book? What about how many things I remember from 11th grade AP Biology because of the exact placement of a certain graph, table, or picture, and my memory of where it sat on the page?

You cannot convince me that a paperless 4th grade classroom is what is truly best for my child.

But possibly I can be convinced that it isn’t the worst. And, possibly, I can also be convinced that there exists a balance, and ultimately my children will be even more well-rounded than I was, in my always-slightly-behind-the-times, small religious private schools.

I can also still be convinced that what my kids need to learn most from school right now is how to get along with others in a closed system in which they have very little control. How to talk and listen to people who are different from them. How to act and speak respectfully towards adults they may struggle to actually respect. And this, despite my late night wake-up panics, is still very high on my list of positive things to come out of sending my kids to a large(r) and also public elementary school.

We can read and write and build and tumble and paint and sing and create and even ask our children the hard questions at home.

But I’m never going to be able to replicate or engineer the very real-life relationships my children are already developing, with kids they would otherwise likely never meet in our day-to-day life, and adults they might otherwise never have the guts or a reason to talk to.

So, here’s my public outcry against this beast-machine that is so much bigger than all of us, and a public invitation to join me, quite seriously, in praying for our kids, their friends, and their teachers this year at school. Of course we all do it, even silently in the way we hold back tears of fear and joy on the first day. But this year, I’m announcing it.

Pray with me.

Please.

And let’s not stop. EVER.

Things We Don’t Talk About

It was a Thursday morning, a little over a month ago; I woke up in a bad mood.

It was probably a combination of several days’ poor sleep catching up with me, and possibly a little PMS in there. But I was irritable and no longer even tapping into my patience reserves, which had long since been used up.

When I got into the shower and saw that the razor was not in its usual cradle, I snapped.

(Yes. John and I share a razor. We also share toothpaste, deodorant, and for the last month, stupidly, a hair product that he has decided he likes and also needs. This post isn’t about providing solutions to our mostly common roommate issues; the bathroom situation is what it is and merely provides a background to the story. In short, please refrain from mentioning that separate razors might solve our marital issues.)

It’s stupid. Really. Something like this happens maybe once a month. Something we take for granted, like returning an object back to where it goes, suddenly becomes the impetus for blind rage.

I was really angry about that razor.

And that kind of anger, for me, burns in a way that I cannot stew on and let out later. I’m not wired that way. I try to hold grudges, and I’m the only one who suffers before I forget why I’m mad. Except, when I’m that angry, my kids also suffer, which isn’t fair. It’s not fair to John either, but somehow I feel justified in his size and maturity, that he can handle it, and it is better to take it out on him than eat an innocent child alive, for something as forgivable as throwing matchbox cars down the stairs into the back of his sister’s unknowing head. (This might have also contributed to my difficult day.)

I’ve mentioned before the way I used to call John on his way to work, when I wake up like this, fuming and cursing and spitting and sometimes crying over things like toothpaste and razors. When he stopped answering his phone before 10am (expecting wrath), I switched to angry G-chat messages that would be waiting for him on his desktop the minute he sat down to work. What a way to start the day.

It is 2016. You know I am finally up to date on my tech habits. G-chat has given way to angry texting. Because if there’s anything that soothes my anger as immediately as a shot of whiskey, it is typing curse words into small handheld devices, announcing my bad mood to the one human who probably needs to hear it the least.

I’m not proud of this. (Hence the title of my post.) And every time I do it, a little Jiminy Cricket inside me reminds me that this isn’t edifying. This isn’t blessing. This is straight up crazy-bitch behavior and if anyone at church or in the neighborhood was truly aware of it, we might receive fewer invites to BBQ’s and more invites for prayer.

Yet. Somehow the devil inside me always wins.

The text went a little something like this: “Would it kill you to put the stupid razor back in the shower, even one time?” (Add some creative cursing in there, because I don’t sensor myself with John and I keep all my -ing’s intact.)

Wife of the year here.

A reply came when I arrived at the gym, not from John, but from a friend whose name also begins with a “J” – to whom the text was inadvertently sent.

She wrote: “Hahahaa. Yes. Yes it would,” followed by a series of kiss blowing emojis.

I laughed.

Then I cried. Like two forgotten faucets, right there in the parking lot of the Jerry Long YMCA, tears, streaming.

Not tears of embarrassment or even deep seeded shame, which I should have had.

Tears of relief.

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John and I are a good team. We are maybe even a rare form of outstanding, when it comes to this game of doing life together. Much of this is due to the fact that no one else on the planet could stand to be with either of us for so long, so by default, we have to stick together. But, truly, we work a lot harder than it looks like we do, to make us work.

I was extended a big fat arm of grace that Thursday, and I wish I could say it catapulted us into a really great weekend full of family time and love, complete with appreciation for each other and physical displays of affection, and a rare bit of extra patience for our children.

It’s just not true.

Though we both laughed pretty hard, together, about the text mix-up, the days following were by no means good.

And I frequently wonder how many people would be surprised by this.

This marriage thing? This long-term living-together-relationship thing? It’s work.

It’s a lot of work. It is ever-evolving, and even when we plateau to complacency, it doesn’t always last long. We struggle a lot more often than we let on. And when we are struggling, we say mean and hateful things. And we yell at each other (me more than John). And sometimes we fight in front of our kids. And sometimes we unfairly fight with our kids.

But here’s what we don’t do. We don’t stop fighting because we are too tired. We don’t get passive aggressive or sullen, and punish each other silently. We fight until we get it out. And we don’t stop admitting to each other when we are wrong. And we apologize a lot. We’ve been known to have one or more “restarts” to a day or a weekend.

I’m not saying we’re the poster children for marital bliss.

I feel like I got a restart that Thursday and I missed a great opportunity. At the peak of a stressful week, I let a little thing get the better of me, and I lost a stupid battle with a petty problem. Because I’m human. And I’m weak.

I’m just glad I have another human who chooses to love me despite this weakness.

So John gets home today, from a weeklong Canada fishing trip he’s been on with my father. This same trip two years ago was easily the worst week of my summer. This time was much different. It has been a great week of connecting with my kids, relying on Eliott and Carter for a little more help and patience, and purposefully scheduling a lot more playtime. It was a completely different dynamic and a totally different balance, and I didn’t just survive. I enjoyed it.

Don’t get me wrong. I couldn’t be more ready for John to come home. But the break was healthy.

 

 

Happy Memorial Day

I opened my computer this morning after a weekend of mostly avoiding the Internet, to the usual flood of semi-bad news. A dear friend from High School is in the throws of a cancer battle with her 3 year old daughter. She is, like me, a stay at home mom of four kids, all under the age of 10. My alma mater, that Baptist beacon that has been celebrated in recent news for finally fielding a winning football team and cranking out the beloved Chip and Jo-Jo, is all over the national news for potentially sweeping sexual violence under the proverbial Big 12 rug. Ironically, Trump and Hilary didn’t cross my newsfeed this morning, but I know they are still there, looming in the political horizon I refuse to gaze at anymore.

Meanwhile, Eliott was in my room first thing discussing the EOG review packet that is “huge” and “due Thursday.” Then, we hear Avery calling from the first floor. Her sing-song “Mom-my! Mom-my!” floated up the stairs and I asked John if she was still stuck in the high chair. He said he had let her out a while ago and I assumed she wanted me to see something she had destroyed. Eliott went downstairs to investigate, and took almost five minutes trying to find her. The toddler had shut herself in the small downstairs bathroom and the light was off. She wasn’t crying or panicking, just calling me patiently, waiting for the door to open.

We’ve discussed our plans for the day (as I lay in bed at 10:35, still in my PJ’s, nursing a lukewarm cup of coffee) and it has come down to the choice between cleaning out a barely used basement room, or taking the chainsaw to some unsightly bushes growing around our mailbox.

My life is rough.

This is a fact which is not lost on me, as I seek to teach my children the art of gratitude and contentment. Every night this weekend ended up on the porch of one neighbor or another, where in the light haze of these early summer evenings, the usual banter of back-and-forth picking on each other was comfortable and familiar.

I am thankful for friends and neighbors who can laugh at themselves, and who keep us humble.

Friday was the last day of preschool, and I got a little teary-eyed, hugging the women who have been twelve hours of love for my babies each week, all year. I am thankful that when the ages and stages of four children feels constantly out of balance, there is one hallway on this Earth that looks and smells like comfort, consistency, and unconditional love.

I see the American flags and I’ve read the sentimental Memorial Day posts this weekend, thanking those who have served and died to give us our freedom. And I’m thankful for that too.

My little sphere of existence is currently turning a million miles an hour, but it is still very little, and arguably, pretty mundane. Today I am sincerely comforted and comfortable in the boringness of my life. I wish I had the ability to channel this sense of calm in the midst of the upsets that are inevitable coming one day. I wish I had the ability to give it to those who need it right now.

The most exciting plan for my day includes trying out the new dehydrator my mom impulsively sent me last week, and I’m not being facetious with my use of “exciting” as I debate which fruit I’m going to try first.

There’s some porch-fodder for the neighbors.

It’s Mother’s Day

It is Mother’s Day.

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The sun is shining, the pool just opened, my father-in-law and former college roommate celebrated birthdays yesterday, and I haven’t written a blog post since a few days after the New Year.

For the first time in my life, we filed for a tax extension. This might be the first time in over a decade that we will actually owe money. (I feel like my father.)

But another winter has come and gone, another tax season lingers like a small but persistent rash, and we who live in the suburbs are doing that thing we do in the spring, which is rush to get everything done so that we can lounge and play and drink through the summer, enjoying the fruits of our neighbor’s labor.

My garden is getting there, and for the first time in our marriage, John isn’t annoyed about it. (I knew I’d wear him down.) I found a lady (sweet Saundra Martin Jacobs who you must go visit if you live in the Triad) who propagates all sorts of plants, and bought some blueberries and raspberries from her the other day. I started small, because I’ve been known to kill aloe. But I have high hopes and John was genuinely excited about the prospect of berries.

We’re winding down to the end of school, which means, now, that state testing is nearly upon us. What this really means is that my public school children are doing a lot of nothing these days in the classroom, and my sweet genius named Eliott is adding 2-3 books a day to her Goodreads list, because I called her teacher and banned her from all forms of technology until the end of the year. I do, in all honesty, look forward to summer, and the opportunity to let my kids rest their brains and move their bodies and maybe embrace some of the creativity that has gone into hiding in the last few weeks.

The countdown for preschool is officially under 20 days, and I have to will myself from tears every time I drop off and pick them up from the happiest place in my world.

Today, I am a bag of mixed blessings. I was woken up very early, but allowed to go back to sleep for nearly two hours, while my children rolled out the pink carpet (made entirely of dress-up clothes) and showered me with love in the form of homemade gifts. (John survived the chaos by drinking at least half of the mimosas before 9am, smart man.) I plan to wear this noodle necklace until it disintegrates.

Then I came home from church to find this on my phone:

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This is only the beginning of what became a long list of Mother’s Day love, from a few of the dear women with whom I am so lucky to share a little corner of Earth.

But I am also reminded today of the full measure of my blessings, as several friends are preparing for, or mourning, very recent losses. It seems this month has been full of news of ended relationships, sudden and severe sickness, and even death.

I often feel spoiled and naive and humbled by the fact that I’ve not yet experienced this depth of tragedy in my life. I have no advice for my friends who have just been cut in half and are watching this piece of themselves walk away. A piece that they took for granted would always be there. (A piece that I take for granted will always be there.) I have no advice and no empathy for those who have recently lost a loved one, or are celebrating their first mother’s day without their mom, or are burdened today by the fact that they have not yet had the chance to become a mom, or are watching and waiting and praying they one of the reasons for today’s celebration isn’t about to leave their lives forever.

Because I am spoiled. And I am lucky. And I am blessed.

And I know it isn’t wrong for me to be happy today, and to celebrate. But it sure seems to put into perspective the days that I complain, that I unload on John the difficulties of 3:30pm until dinner time.

Every year, Mother’s Day takes on a new facet of pride for me, and this year, while there are four obvious reasons to be proud, I am most proud to be part of this club of women who have learned how to take care of others. There are many women, today, who I celebrate. Of course, my own mom. My husband’s mom. My sisters who are young moms and my sisters-in-law who are about to be moms for the first time.

But even more than that, today, it is all the women who have mothered my children with me. Mothered me when my own mom was a state away. The ones who have stepped in with just the right word, or meal, or proposition for a walk at just the right time. The ones who are wearing their own struggles on their sleeves, like I do, and telling me my crap doesn’t look or smell any worse than everyone else’s crap.

These friends, sisters, mothers, and daughters, who rely on each other to do and be for the world what our husbands and boyfriends and fathers and brothers just can’t.

Because they are not women.

And even though many days are filled with the kind of elementary and preschool bickering that makes me want to come out of my skin, I do have moments of clarity, when I simply cannot wait for my own daughters to be in this club.

2016: Hooray!

It is the first Sunday of the New Year. You know what this means.

A clean calendar. A new planner. A renewed sense of energy for tackling my mundane stay-at-home-mom first world problem projects!

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I’m organizing.

I just like to organize, organizing’s my favorite.

But first, a little review.

Top Three for 2015:

The number one best part of this year has been my private celebration of the end of pregnancy and nursing. Even though we knew Avery was the final lego to come down my personal baby factory assembly line, I wasn’t sure how I would actually respond to closing this chapter of my life forever. Turns out, it came with an overwhelmingly positive sense of relief. John and I both agree that our friendship and connectedness has never been better, which I’m also happy to say has been an unintended byproduct of something neither of us was actively working on.

The second best part of 2015 didn’t technically begin this year, but certainly steadily rose on my gratitude scale, and that is living in our current neighborhood. I don’t really need to write it here to let the Rustinburg Rowdies know how much I love them, because I feel like it is said and implied by all of us every time we hang out (and possibly more frequently on group texts filled with bitmojis). I actually mentioned the current strength of my marriage in church this morning, and it was weird to admit it had very little to do with the current state of my spiritual life, but almost everything to do with our social life. And our social life is currently hinged on a rickedy little picket gate connecting my back yard to Rustinburg Road.

The third best part of 2015 has been our transition to public school. You can only imagine the kind of discussion that ensues between two highly nerdy former school teachers when it comes to the education of our spawn. Sending our firstborn to kindergarten was a decision that was not taken lightly. As it became increasingly obvious that our original decision was not working in the best interest of our children, it was pretty stressful. I’m not writing here to say that public school in Clemmons, North Carolina has been the academic experience of a lifetime and one that we have no complaints about. But I am saying this: I’m not sure our children have been socially healthier than they are right now, and for that, I’ll take a potentially inferior academic milieu.

2015 Regrets and Non-Accomplishments:

I only read 17 of my 20 book goal this year.

I still haven’t found a dentist I love.

I let a few friendships fall off my radar this year, a natural result of growing babies and changing neighborhoods and complicated schedules. I like that these are universal excuses and I feel confident that these friendships haven’t suffered even a bit for the lack of time and energy put into them this year.

Looking Forward to 2016:

Not necessarily looking forward to reading more books, but to continue in my pursuit of reading good books. My 1st grader is beginning to dabble in chapter books and I’m giddy at the thought of the increased literacy in my house.

Connecting and re-connecting with some of the better women in my life. It never hurts my feelings when a cup of coffee ends with more than just a physical sense of satisfaction.

Trite and materialistic as it is going to sound, I look forward to starting the year with a plan for home and family maintenance. Last year I resolved to spend less time doing laundry by choosing two days a week in which the chore had to be started and fully finished before going to bed.

I fully accomplished my goal.

This year I have created a similar plan to maximize my OCD need for order while minimizing the time I put into it. I look forward to less clutter in every sense of the word.