Grocery Bags and Construction Paper

When Caleb was seven months old, I didn’t take him to the pumpkin patch to snap some Halloween pictures.  At the time, I didn’t realize that I had violated some law for what mothers are supposed to do with their children, but I was informed of that fact after Halloween had come and gone without a cute pumpkin picture of my son.  Nowhere in my house is there a separate section for arts and crafts supplies complete with a stash of those googly eyes and various buttons necessary to create animals and insects for any occasion.  And my daughters will never have matching frilly hair bows with darling pillowcase dresses unless someone gives them such a present.

When it comes to creativity, arts and crafts, anticipating projects for the upcoming holiday season, or anything along those lines, I have failed.  It’s not so much that I’m against projects; it’s simply that my mind would never even think to do some of the artsy projects other parents undertake. And I had started to get a little insecure about my inability to ‘create’ with my children.

The other day I was at the store when I noticed a huge display of plastic pumpkin pails intended for children to store their Halloween candy.  I grabbed three remembering how I didn’t remember the last two years when the kids had to throw their candy from the Fall Festival in the bottom of our stroller.  Suddenly, out of the blue, my mind had an ingenious idea–we’ll make our own bags!  Okay, I’ll be honest; I didn’t get this idea in a quest for creativity.  I simply didn’t want to spend money on three pails and then find a place to keep those bulky pumpkins after Halloween was over.

That afternoon, I set out two little grocery bags for Caleb and Hannah Grace, and I drew a pumpkin for each of them on a piece of orange construction paper.  They were so excited and focused as they sat at the kitchen table ready to begin their project. The kids colored and cut and then glued their pumpkins on the bags, and as I watched and helped them work, I felt a little ashamed.  Maybe if my mind worked this way, if I thought about crafts to do ahead of time, I could give them something better.  I pushed away the thought as we put the finishing touches on the bags.

While I picked up scraps of paper from the floor, the kids admired their work until Caleb suddenly spoke:

“Thank you, Mommy,” he said.

On his own, without any encouragement from me, he offered his thanks.  And I knew from the sound of his voice that he wasn’t merely thanking me for the bag–he was thanking me for thirty minutes we spent together creating–creating pumpkin bags and a memory that will last longer.

Caleb then made his way across the kitchen to where I was crouched on the floor and put his arms around me.  “I love you,” he gently spoke, and my heart melted. Any insecurities I was feeling were immediately washed away.

Caleb didn’t care that our craft didn’t involve fabric and a hot glue gun–he doesn’t want any of those frills–he just wants me.

I had to write about this moment because I know how easily I will forget; I will forget that my children don’t need paper mache and glitter.  They need something more precious–me, my attention–and they will take all they can get of it, even if my attention comes bearing paper grocery bags.

For what can you be thankful on this ‘Focus On It Friday’?

Raising the Bar

I’ve always loved literature, reading stories that are completely unlike my life and living vicariously through the characters on the pages, getting the chance to understand why people make the choices they do even though they might not make the choices I’d make.  Because of that love for stories that imitate life, even if it’s not my own life that is being imitated, I’ve had a fairly reasonable tolerance for reading or seeing topics on a movie screen that push the envelope.  However, last week I was reminded of where I draw my line.

Last week GQ published a photo shoot with three of the stars from the hit show Glee. The young man and women in that photo shoot posed rather suggestively, sexualizing the high schools characters whom they portray.  And while I found the pictures distasteful, I reminded myself that this man and these women were grown, not the teenagers that they portray on TV, and that GQ is a magazine for men.

I read some blogs that had posts on this topic and the comments that followed, and I found myself drawing my line, my standard for what is acceptable and what is not.  I can’t say that I completely disagreed with those who didn’t find a problem with the photos, or at least with those who had participated in the photo shoot.  Where I did find myself in sharp contrast with some of these individuals was in their rationale as to why these photos didn’t bother them.

Over and over again I read that we shouldn’t act so naively–there is nothing suggested in those photos that kids aren’t already doing in high school and that teenagers haven’t been doing for years.  And while this point may be true, I had to ask myself whether or not these photos were an example of art imitating life or life imitating art.

No, I do not believe that teenagers who see these photos will be suddenly convinced to have sex, but I do believe that as a society we have lost faith in our children.  We have lowered the standard so far that our children are meeting our set expectations.

Rather than accepting the constant bombardment of sexualized messages on TV, in the clothing choices for our children, through advertisements, and elsewhere, we can tell our children a different message.  Even if we didn’t follow through with our own advice as a teenager, we can speak from experience.  Isn’t that what being a parent is about, guiding our children and helping them avoid the mistakes we made?

We can tell our children that they should treasure their bodies, that they are not merely sexual creatures who operate solely on instinct.  They were given emotions and a moral compass to guide them, and they shouldn’t discount those parts of their beings.  We can tell our children, even if we didn’t practice sexual purity, that they can, they are able, and we have confidence in them.  We believe that they are above the images thrown at them daily and that they will be the generation who says, “Enough. We’re tired of how society and the media treat sex as something that doesn’t matter.”

I remember  a couple of years ago, I picked up a TIME magazine off the table in the doctor’s office.  I was intrigued by an article on purity balls and the debate surrounding them having not been all that familiar with the concept.  While there were a plethora of critiques against these father/daughter dances where daughters pledge to guard their virginity until they marry, the author of the article asked one question that has remained with me for the last two years: “Parents won’t necessarily say this out loud, but isn’t it better to set the bar high and miss than not even try?” (Gibbs, 17 July 2008).

Raising the bar isn’t about denying our children information regarding sex or pressuring them to keep a standard that we have set for them.  Instead, it’s about giving our children value, showing them that even if the world doesn’t value their whole person, we do, and they don’t have to fit the pattern of the world.  Raising the bar is about fighting for their purity and not accepting a decline in morals in our society simply because ‘everybody does it.’

We owe it to our children to have a better answer for why sex is everywhere in our society, why sex sells.  Rather than blaming them, we should admit that we didn’t fight against it.  But they can with their decisions.  We’re raising the bar for them, and if they don’t reach it, we will still love them.  But if they do reach the bar, or if they come closer, waiting to have sex a little longer than if perhaps we never set that standard, think how their life could be different!

Our children wouldn’t have to live with regret or the emotional scars that come with many of those early sexual experiences.  They wouldn’t lament what they had lost, but instead, they could treasure what they had gained–self-respect.

Raising the bar for our children might not change the world–cheap, sexual images may continue to bombard us–but it might change one life.  I’d rather raise the bar and my children fail than insult the capable people that they are by setting the standard too low.  They are worth the high expectations, as are all children.  Let’s set the bar high, and give them the opportunity to surprise us.

The TIME article I read was actually a print version, but the following link can take you to the on-line article for Gibbs, Nancy. “The Pursuit of Teen Girl Purity.” TIME. 17 July 2008.

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1823930-2,00.html#ixzz13SlpRdJr

Adding to the Baseball Greats: Josh Hamilton, the Rangers, and a Ginger Ale Toast

There’s something about a good baseball story that gets me every time.  I don’t pretend to follow the sport closely or know much about the players–in this season of my life, I know more about Larry the Cucumber’s moral epiphanies and Curious George’s adventures than the teams heading to the World Series–but I can’t look away when a highlight reel is playing.

Maybe it’s memories of dates with my husband, sitting in the outfield on summer nights when the heat of the day has subsided, clapping to silly cheers, and biting into a stadium hot dog and soft pretzel–both with huge globs of yellow mustard–that help turn my heart toward the sport.  Maybe it’s the influence of my father and remembering the stories that he shared, stories of Joe DiMaggio and baseball players who turned in their gloves for guns during World War II, stories of his own time as a player under a coach who took a group of last place boys and trained them into championship men, stories of his time as a pitcher and his one-hitter that still ended in a loss.  Or maybe it’s the soft spot in my heart for the little guy and loving the stories of the unlikely hero who took a team who was losing by one to winning by three in one play.

To this day I can still picture Sid Bream rounding the bases, the Atlanta Brave not known for speed, running the fastest he had probably ever run, huffing around each base, and finally sliding into home ahead of the tag in a ninth inning, two-out situation as Skip Caray yelled, “Braves win! Braves win! Braves win!”  It was 1992 when this play happened, yet any Atlanta Braves fan can recall this moment that sent the Braves to the World Series and chills down our spines.

Baseball has a rich history, and these stories and memories have made a lasting impression on this little suburban mom.  Last week, baseball gave me another story to file away among the great ones.

The story of Josh Hamilton is inspirational in and of itself–a superstar rookie with all the promise of a baseball great throws away his career for his drug and alcohol addiction.  Yet years later this man grabs his wasted life by the collar and starts again sober, finding faith in God and meaning in his life, and the baseball talent he had almost lost for good.  Yet the story goes on….

This man goes on to receive the award for MVP from the Texas Rangers as they clinched the American League championship last week.  But what makes this story great is not what happened on the field but off.  As the game ended and the teammates gathered to celebrate, they put aside their champagne bottles and beer cans and whipped out ginger ale out of respect for their teammate, Hamilton.  Previously, Hamilton had excused himself during times of celebration so as not to be tempted by the substance that he had allowed to almost destroy his life, but this time, his teammates took away that temptation for the moment, putting aside their wants for the need of Hamilton.

Under a fountain of ginger ale, this team celebrated together, not one player left out, as they rejoiced over their achievement.  In this world where our sports idols and movie stars frequently disappoint by their inability to say ‘no’ to the pleasures of the moment, in a society where ‘gimme’ is a favorite word and people are adamant about exercising their rights even if they are wrong, it’s refreshing to see a team who was able to say, ‘wait.’  It’s refreshing to see a team put into action what being part of team really means, waiting ten minutes to whip out the traditional champagne  so that their teammate could enjoy his own kind of bubbly.

The kind of compassion the Texas Rangers demonstrated adds one more reason why baseball has my heart.  So I’ll lift my glass of ginger ale and toast the Rangers with best wishes for an incredible World Series, and I’ll look forward to the memories they will give us to tuck away with those other baseball greats.

Really Good Cookies

The morning was off to a bad start.  I had gotten up at 6:00 with the hopes of having an hour of undisturbed time, so of course, Caleb decided to wake up ten minutes later.  By 6:30 two out of the three were awake, and by 6:45, everyone had joined me.  Any morning when the kids wake up before I get dressed is challenging because I can’t monitor their progress.  Such was the case on this particular morning.

Caleb had actually cooperated and dressed and made his bed quickly.  I got Chloe ready and then headed back to my room to focus on myself.  While everyone else was getting ready, Hannah Grace proceeded to lie around on her floor naked, not doing anything productive to get ready for preschool.  In between getting Chloe and myself dressed, I uttered quite a few warnings to Hannah Grace that she needed to put on some clothes but to no avail.

Finally, I was dressed and headed over to the uncooperative child’s room.  She was still naked, her clothes lying on the floor, and my patience was worn thin, which was unfortunate since it was only 7:30, and I had a whole lot of the day left. At this point I decided that we were not going to wait for Hannah Grace; I would dress her myself.

As I started to put on her underwear, she began to kick and scream.  We were all witnessing an early morning temper tantrum.  Each time I would get her leg in a hole, she would kick off the clothing.  My patience that was worn thin was now held together by one thread, and that thread was in danger of snapping.

As I was getting more forceful, she was fighting harder.  We were having a battle of wills, and I was determined not to lose, not to a three-year-old, and not on this morning.  I had gotten up at 6:00 so I could have time to pray for patience; if they were going to mess up that routine, they would have to deal with the consequences!

We both were struggling, and the screaming and crying continued.  Hannah Grace pulled out the last weapon she had: “I don’t love you anymore, Mommy!  And I don’t love Chloe, and I don’t love Caleb, and I don’t love, Daddy!”

Caleb, who had been witnessing this whole ordeal with his sister Chloe, didn’t miss a beat: “Well, I guess that means were going to have to give you away.”

I was not expecting that response.

“No, Caleb, we’re not going to have to give Hannah Grace away,” I chimed in, rather unemotionally.

“Well, if she doesn’t love anybody anymore, than we have to give her away!” he insisted.

I was struck at how silent the room had gotten; Caleb had scared Hannah Grace out of her tantrum!

Again, I assured them, “We are not going to give Hannah Grace away.”

There was a moment of silence, and Caleb pondered his next point.  He looked directly at Hannah Grace and delivered his line with full passion:

“Mommy makes really good cookies!”

As if that fact should be the one to change her mind about not loving me!

But it worked.  Caleb knew exactly what to say, if for nothing else, to keep my last thread of patience in tact. While I kept a straight face, I was laughing hysterically inside.  What is going on in this four-year-old’s mind?!!

I proceeded to hug Hannah Grace, to tell her how much I loved her and our family.  I explained how she hurt my feelings when she said she didn’t love me, but I would always love her.  I knew that she was a really good girl, and I suggested that we get dressed so we could brush her hair and then go down for breakfast.

This little girl who had kicked and screamed two minutes earlier was now calm and obedient.  She dressed, and I braided her hair without a fight.  The morning had been salvaged, thanks to the comments of a precocious little boy.

That is, the morning had been salvaged until that little boy tackled his sister to the ground for an orange vitamin.  And even though we were up three hours before preschool started, we were still late.  Thankfully, I hadn’t used my last thread of patience upstairs.

God knows what we need, and I am so thankful for that moment to laugh, to gain a little perspective before blowing my top.  For what are you thankful this week?

Juggling Coffee Cups

The other night as I was unloading the dishwasher, my little helper toddled over to offer her assistance.  I have never felt so much stress putting away plates.  Chloe’s hands were attracted like magnets to anything sharp and anything breakable.  I hurriedly grabbed all of the knives out of the dishwasher and began putting them away, but as I was trying to complete that task, Chloe was reaching for glasses. As I shoved the knives in the knife block, I quickly reached back to grab the glass from her hand.  Now that the knives were put away, I scrambled to get all the plates, glasses, and coffee cups before Chloe’s slippery fingers could touch them.

She didn’t understand the concept of the hand-off.  Chloe would grab one item, hand it to me, and let go before my fingers had actually grasped it.  Lids to pots dropped to the floor, the loud clamoring sound filling the house.  Forks and spoons joined them.  I did my best to balance the dishes she gave, to juggle what was going in the cabinet and what I was receiving from Chloe’s hands, but inevitably something would fall.  My hope was that nothing would break.

Lately, my days feel like this dishwasher incident.  As I try to do one thing, I have someone adding to my hands that already feel full.  I rush to the cabinet in the hopes of putting away one object so that I can take on another.  I know my hands can’t hold everything.  I know I’m not an expert juggler.  And every day, my prayer is that when something falls from my hands, it will be the lid from the pot and not the coffee cup.

Last Sunday, Matt and I met a nice woman at Publix. She and I were discussing the different kinds of sugar in the baking aisle when Chloe let us all know the extent of her hunger.  As I tried to pacify Chloe, holding her in my arms while the other two sat on the bench of the largest, most awkward shopping cart in the world, I overheard Matt telling the woman the ages of our children.  The woman locked eyes with me again and told me, “I feel you.  I had three children in four years.  I know.”  But then she went on. “Enjoy this time.  Because then they will be teenagers and want nothing to do with you, and before you know it, they will be grown up and out of the house!”

I have been given this advice before, and honestly, I grow weary of it.  I’ve developed a term for it–“The Grandparent Syndrome.”  The people who seem adamant that I enjoy this time are almost always grandparents or people who wish they were grandparents.  Their children are grown, and they look fondly on the years when they had little ones giving them hugs and kisses, telling them that Mommy and Daddy are their best friends.  They remember children swinging on swings and sliding down slides and pictures hung on the refrigerator with stick figures and the letter ‘e’ turned backwards. And sometimes, they are looking through rose-colored glasses.

I don’t like being told to enjoy this time because I don’t want to feel guilty when I’m not.  Honestly, many days are not enjoyable.  Even though they say they do, I’m not sure these well-meaning individuals remember exactly how tired they felt every day.

I think they’ve forgotten wondering how poop got on the door jam in the bathroom and the frustration at not having any more hiding places short of the roof for sweets.  They’ve forgotten what it feels like to have the one time of the day  at six a.m. which was their time interrupted over and over again and wishing that six a.m didn’t have to be their alone time to begin with!  They’ve forgotten what it feels like to juggle coffee cups, shattering some to the floor on days when they lost their temper with a three-year-old or days when they were too exhausted to play.

They only remember the cute faces looking back at them from the preschool pictures they have tucked away in family photo albums, and they miss those chubby arms that used to reach around them and squeeze.  They see their beautiful grandchildren and giggle and bake cookies and miss the time they spent with their own children.  Except every day wasn’t cookies and giggles.

As if to combat the well-meaning words that sometimes sting, other parents who are not that far removed from my situation have their own words to offer: “It gets easier, I promise.”  I cannot tell you how many parents of three close together in age, parents I have never met, will lock eyes with me in the park and tell me these words.  They remember the juggling act, and they want to bring hope.  And they do.  Through their words they are telling me that it’s okay to feel tired and frustrated because there is light at the end of the tunnel.

I’m not against enjoying this time.  In fact, I started writing my ‘Focus On It Friday’ posts because I wanted to make sure that no matter how rotten of a week I had, I always remember something for which I can give thanks.  I blog because I want to remember the beautiful moments with my family, the invaluable lessons that they teach me.  But I also want to remember the struggles and the harsh growing pains I experienced as I took the journey as a parent.

Not every day is enjoyable.  Some days, even some seasons, just suck, and being able to admit that fact is freeing to me.  My goal as a mother is to treasure the good moments in every season, not longing for the future, and not holding on to the past.  I want to make the best of the present, and during the times when the juggling act gets more challenging than I can handle, I want to become an expert at using the broom.

Because whether I’m enjoying the day or not, I have three little ones who need a mother for guidance and learn from how I handle the broken dishes.  And whether I’m enjoying the day or not, I know how blessed I am to be able to take the next breath and unload a full dishwasher.

Overcoming Shyness

Sometimes God gives us a gift, a glimpse into His character on this side of heaven.  I received that gift a few days ago.

As I parked the car, my son immediately noticed that she didn’t look quite right; there was something different about her, and her differences made him uncomfortable.  I had wondered if Caleb would notice.  As far as I knew, my children had never met anyone mentally challenged before, and this young women had suffered from many physical and mental disabilities since birth, leaving her soul in the body of a woman but with the mind of a child.

Caleb and I got out of the car, and as we neared this woman, Caleb whispered, “Mommy, I’m shy.”  “You can be shy,” I assured him, “but you still need to be polite. I bet it would make *Linda happy if you said, ‘hello.'”  I didn’t push the issue as Caleb walked glued to my leg, and I said my own ‘hello’ to Linda.

Hannah Grace had come out to meet us, and she, too, had a case of ‘shyness.’ We all walked inside the house, Linda following after us, and eventually we made our way upstairs to play. Caleb was enthralled with a race track that had a loop and spent the majority of his time with his cousin trying to get his car to successfully complete this loop.  Hannah Grace and Chloe moved from one toy to the next while Linda looked on in the doorway with a smile, happy to observe the children’s play.  My sister prompted her to come in the room with the kids, but Linda was content where she was.

The children continued in their fun when all of sudden Caleb looked up and said, “Hey, Linda, watch this!” and he gave his car a hard push around the track.  Hannah Grace, following her brother’s example, then exclaimed, “Linda, watch this!” as she attempted a somersault. Linda beamed from the doorway.  Chloe, in her own typical fashion, hung around Linda’s legs, looking up sweetly singing, ‘hi!’ and now I had my turn to beam. In their own ways, my kids had started conversations with Linda, had attempted to include her in their play.

I had heard once before that children don’t see color when looking at another person.  I know this idea is not true–my son at around the age of two or three asked me why his babysitter has brown skin when ours is white–and I know now that children do pick up on differences in mental and physical ability, too.  Children notice differences–they are not stupid–they just don’t let them matter.

I have had my own instances of shyness, and I know other adults struggle with how to act when they are uncomfortable, but I saw firsthand how to overcome this disability–just start the conversation, include the other person in my play.

My hope for my children is that as they grow older, they won’t let their shyness inhibit their ability to include others.  They will let their compassionate hearts lead them and start the conversation, whether it be with the elderly, those with special needs, the poor, or those of a different race, religion, or sexual orientation.

Christ wasn’t afraid to start those conversations with others or include them in His life; He didn’t suffer from shyness.  And I’m thankful to my children for showing me that I don’t need to suffer from it, either.

*the young woman’s name was changed for this post

Not This (Wo)Man’s Best Friend

The other day I started cleaning out my e-mail inbox and found an e-mail dated back to 2007.  I was caught off guard, as this particular e-mail showed the correspondence between the woman and me who helped us find a home for Baxter.  I hadn’t thought about Baxter in a while, and even three years later, I had trouble reading the e-mails.

Looking over this lady’s note, a flood of sadness and remorse filled me, and I instantly remembered crying on the phone to this women whom I didn’t know.  When I first called her, I could hear the judgment in her voice–to her I was just another mom who didn’t realize that taking care of a dog was work.  But after a few minutes of listening to my story through my tears, her voice softened a little.

I had tried everything!  Baxter had always been peculiar; when we were crate training him, he would run out of his crate and zig-zag his way past us, avoiding any contact within the realm of the door leading to the outside.  We’d have to pull him out from under our bed and carry him outside so that he could pee.  When he was a puppy, we thought his peculiar behavior was cute.

But then started the psychotic episodes.  Baxter would sit and suddenly start shaking.  I never knew the reason; he would just shake like a leaf.  I asked the vet about it, and she said he probably had anxiety.  Some dogs were just the nervous type.  He had a roof over his head, food to eat every day, and he didn’t need a job to pay for these necessities–I couldn’t quite figure out over what he was anxious….

When he was no longer a puppy, he still wouldn’t go outside.  In fact, as I would try to carry this dog out the door, he would spread his legs apart trying to keep from fitting through the doorway.  I would literally have to throw him out the backdoor.  This routine was especially fun when I was pregnant, trying to carry a squirming dog on my belly and then heaving him out the door.

But he just wouldn’t let me win.  Oh, no.  He had to start jumping.  To this day, even though I repainted the it, one can still see the worn path Baxter made from his claws going up and down the door.  In his defense, our other dog, Scout, learned that his behavior got results, so she, too, started jumping.

One might ask why I didn’t just leave him outside.  I tell you the truth, I had no choice but to bring him in when he started jumping!  When I tried not to, when I tried to stand firm that Baxter must stay outside until he peed, he showed me how foolish I was.  That stupid dog jumped until his little paw pads were rubbed raw.  I remembering opening the door to the outside one afternoon, and I saw my neurotic dog shaking, breathing hard, and standing on a blood-stained patio.  I swept him up in my arms and called the animal hospital since it was after hours.  At the time, I wasn’t even sure what had happened–I just saw blood and a shaking dog.  The nurse on the phone assured me he’d be okay–he was probably just having a panic attack.

I was about to have my second baby in 17-months; there was no room in this family for a dog with psychological issues.  If anyone was going to use Prozac, it would be me.

At the advice of the vet, we took him to obedience school.  He won most-improved dog.  That accomplishment wasn’t hard to achieve since he spent the majority of his classes sitting and shaking.  Everyone felt sorry for him, that is everyone except for me.  At this point, I was near my limit.  It was now summer, and I was nine-months pregnant trying my best to imitate the methods my instructor showed us for the training collar.

Yes, the infamous training collar.  In theory, the owner only needed to pull up on the leash once, and the dog would instantly obey, not enjoying the discomfort of the collar.  In theory.  The other dogs may have responded to that uncomfortable feeling, but not Baxter.  Oh, no.  The number of times I had to keep pulling up on that leash to get him to respond–why I probably looked like I was churning butter  more than training a dog.  Did I mention I was nine-months pregnant?

The instructor assured us we were not hurting our dogs.  And when Baxter had a nice red streak on his neck from where the collar had been repeatedly tightened over and over, the instructor was adamant that he wasn’t in pain.  I think that instructor was as stupid as our dog.

The baby arrived, and my ‘most improved’ dog quickly returned to the Baxter that I knew so well, even though I continued practicing with him.  He would still refuse to go outside the back door, although he loved to run away out the front door.  He gave me the pleasure of visiting the pound with an infant and a toddler, experiencing the fear of not knowing if he were alive and the guilt of hoping he found a nice family of psychiatrists. He, unfortunately, found a nice family in our neighborhood, and they didn’t want a dog.

I would communicate telepathically with Baxter:  “If you want to run away so badly, then go–but find a good family–if you can do that, I won’t take you back, I promise!”

But he wouldn’t listen.  He would continue his runaway attempts and refusal to go out in the backyard to pee.  He would then wait until the exact moment I went to nurse the baby or change her diaper to pee on the floor.  I couldn’t win.

My Bible doesn’t have a back cover.  Baxter ate it.  Matt doesn’t have an MP3 player, anymore.  Baxter ate it.  Matt used to have a few belts. Baxter ate them.  I used to have nice base boards.  Baxter ate them.

I made one final effort to salvage our relationship. I called some in-house-dog-whisperer-guru recommended by our vet.  He charged $500.  I really didn’t think Baxter was worth that kind of money, and apparently neither did this guru.  After I explained our issues with Baxter, he informed me that he might not be able to help him, but he would give my information to his son.  Maybe we could work out a plan.  Neither he nor his son called me back.

I had tried everything, hadn’t I?  I told myself this sentence over and over as I dialed the number for the canine rescue.  That phone call led to the trail of e-mail correspondence that I had just recently rediscovered.  The women on the other line agreed that Baxter needed a special home, and she placed him with a wonderful foster family who had already fostered and adopted three other Boston Terriers–they couldn’t let them go.  Until they met Baxter.

They found a home for Baxter, a nice married couple who worked out of the house and didn’t have children.  A nice couple whom Baxter wouldn’t have to share with other pets. A nice couple who wouldn’t have to fear destruction or urine because they could put Baxter on a leash and take him for a walk, not having to worry about bundling up a toddler and a baby in the winter to make the long trek to the backyard.  Baxter, I sincerely hope you and your new family are happy.

As I scanned these e-mails and dealt with my emotions of a (very) little sadness and remorse, I had to reassure myself again that I had done that right thing, that Baxter was happier.  I had done the best I could, but our family was not the right family for him. But then I had another thought that caused me panic: My children have pooped in our shoes, peed in the trashcans, in addition to numerous other places.  They have  made their own runaway attempts out the front door.  What if the problem is ME?!!!

Darn you, Baxter. I have already dealt with guilt from you; you’re not going to convince me I was the problem.  No, Baxter.  You will not haunt me.  YOU are the crazy one, not me!

Even If I Don’t Feel Like It

Last night I thought about writing my ‘Focus On It Friday’ post, but honestly, I just didn’t want to write it.  I still don’t.  I’m angry and frustrated about some things, and my muse has left me.  I have nothing in my mind for inspiration, no little anecdotes to illustrate my thankfulness, yet as much as I tried to forget about this post for today, I couldn’t.  Because the truth is, no matter how I feel on any given day, I am truly blessed. Finding something for which I can give thanks is never difficult.

So with a grumpy heart, I offer a list.  Even though I don’t feel like it, even though I don’t have a great story, or even though I might but my sour mood makes writing one feel a little phony, I will remember all the reasons this week I have to say ‘thank you.’

1. For the 33 miners who were given a second chance at life

2. For a God who gave me a second chance at life, too

3. For the boss who offered my husband a few days a week of working a different schedule, thus giving us more time together as a family.

4. For the good daddy who treated our kiddos to pizza and ice cream and for those kiddos who shared their ice cream with their baby sister without being prompted to do so

5. For the Stevie Wonder-like dance the baby performed as a result of her sugar-induced high

6. For the compassion and gentleness my children showed a mentally-handicapped individual, even though, as they put it, they were initially ‘shy’

7. For the preschool teacher and administrative coordinator who showed understanding during a day when preschool just wasn’t going to happen for a certain little girl

8. For my dad who willingly rescheduled our breakfast date during that bad day and for a dad who wants to take his grown daughter out on a date in the first place

9. For my mom who babysat this Wednesday and brought dinner so that Matt and I could attend our small group

10. For my sister who throughout the week demonstrated more examples of a life centered around helping others than I could glean from most individuals in a year

Did you have a bad day or a bad week?  Could you add to this list, even if you didn’t feel like it?

I’d Never Do That

I remember sitting with my parents at their friend’s home, listening while this friend recounted an incident with his daughter.  The Georgia heat was finally giving way to cooler breezes, and parents were trading shorts and t-shirts for jeans and light jackets for their children.  However, this parent related the story of how his daughter, maybe eight or nine years old at the time, pitched a fit that she wanted to wear shorts to school.  So he let her.  “When she comes home freezing from school, she’ll realize that it’s too cold for shorts and wear pants tomorrow,” he explained.

He then went on to share the difference between his wife and himself.  She would leave the house frazzled and frustrated as she tried to slide tights up the wiggling thighs of a two-year-old and deal with the strong will of the older daughter.  “Who cares if they leave the house and don’t match? It’s not worth it!” he declared.

And I found my college-aged self feeling sorry for his wife.  The judgment storm was swirling around in my mind as I thought of this mom trying to dress her children nicely while their dad chose to let them win.  He’s the parent; if he says it’s too cold for shorts, shouldn’t that be the end of the it?  Couldn’t his daughter get sick if he let her wear shorts to school and it really was cold outside?  What’s wrong with a mom wanting to put her girls in pretty dresses?

And while I thought through this father’s logic, I didn’t feel comfortable with his parenting technique.  When I became a mother someday, my children would learn to obey and do as I said simply because I said it.  They wouldn’t be allowed to wear shorts if the weather were chilly–I would be the parent, not them!  I’d never let them leave the house wearing an outfit that wasn’t appropriate for the weather.

It’s about ten years later.  I now have three children.  This past Sunday, the temperature reached 87 degrees, and I allowed my daughter to wear this outfit to church.

At least she ditched the tie-up black boots that she originally wanted to wear.

My daughter went to church, and she didn’t match.  It was 87 degrees, and after church, she took off the sweater.  I’m still her mother, and my daughter knows that she has to obey; I just choose to pick different battles.

It’s amazing how much we know about parenting before we become a parent, isn’t it?  It’s equally amazing how much we know about parenting everyone else’s kids, too.  The fact of the matter is that each child is different, and part of being a parent is figuring out which techniques work best for your individual children and which battles to enter.

The sweater battle wasn’t worth it.  Even if I had to eat my words from ten years ago, I wasn’t going to go to church frustrated over a mismatched outfit.  And I’ll never again judge another parent for letting his or her child wear shorts in the winter–I’d never do that.

What is something you’ve done as a parent that you said you’d never do?