Sweating and Swimming: Repost

As a mother of three kids very close together in age, I’m constantly facing the internal struggle of whether or not to leave the house with my children.  I want them to enjoy their childhood and experience story time at the library, free summer movies, and play dates, but I also don’t want to kill them.

So as I left the house today with lunches made, towels and sunscreen packed, three children dressed in swimsuits, I also left with a mild sense of dread, for based on past experience, this day at my friend’s pool would be anything but relaxing.  For me, that is.

Getting there is half the battle, and boy that battle was a tough one today!  For children who were excited about swimming, they sure didn’t get ready with much enthusiasm.  And Chloe–does her body have a little sensor that indicates when her mommy has just put a new (cloth) diaper on her, allowing her to release the effects of her iron medicine plus prune juice?  The bathing suit that took ten minutes to get on the wiggly baby now had to come off.  Ten more minutes to wipe a squirmy heiny and put a bathing suit back on, and we were on our way (again).

Once we arrived, the other half of the battle could begin.  Before I had even finished setting out the kids’ lunch on their towels, Caleb and Hannah Grace had each taken a turn pulling the valve from the lemonade pitcher, releasing a wonderful mess all over the table and floor of the screened-in porch. I was so happy I got to clean up those messes twice, and apparently, so was Chloe.  While I was cleaning, she was eating everyone else’s lunch.  Peanut butter sandwiches, whole grapes–everything this mommy had restricted from this one-year-old she put in her mouth.  Of course the cut grapes and cracker pieces I set out for her remained untouched.

The pool is a wonderful, refreshing idea for combatting this horrid Georgia heat, yet the pool only works if one gets in it. Hannah Grace won’t get in the pool, Caleb won’t get out of it, and Chloe won’t stay put.  She wants in the pool, and less than 30 seconds later she wants out.  I felt like a jack-in-the-box climbing in and out and in and out, chasing after the baby one minute, and yelling at Hannah Grace the next to leave the lemonade alone.  It’s near impossible to watch three children when they’re all in different places. And when it’s 96 degrees outside and probably that percentage humidity, if I’m not soaking in a pool, I want to be inside–not chasing after children!

And so, I’d like to apologize to the group of mothers who sat beneath the umbrella, enjoying their lunch and adult conversation, jumping in the pool to cool themselves, and then resuming social time: I would’ve loved to socialize, as well.  In fact, I am a pretty pleasant person, but seeing as my baby won’t stay in a float for two minutes before climbing out, my middle child wants to be pushed on the swing–the only child, by the way, who wants to swing instead of swim–and my oldest child insists on spraying every kid in the face with the water gun but then cries when anyone sprays him back (sorry about that, too), I think embracing my role as antisocial, crazy mother is best.

And while I’m apologizing, I’d also like to apologize to any mothers of only girls.  My son doesn’t understand the concept of dropping his pants out-of-view before peeing behind the shed.  We are working on modesty in my home, but that lesson hasn’t stuck, yet.  I am pleased that at least Hannah Grace did not take her bathing suit off this time as she did at a previous swimming engagement.

And to the woman who brought the 100-calorie snack bag–no, you didn’t finish your snack, but my children did.  While I was putting Hannah Grace in time-out for taking your food, Caleb came out of the pool and ate the rest. Think of it this way–now you only had a 50-calorie snack.

So to my dear friend, I always appreciate your invitations to come swim, but I don’t think I can bring my children when there is a large group. That, and the fact that I don’t think you’re going to invite us again since my daughter peed on your carpet.

This picture's not from the pool, but I'm sure you understand why.

As we get ready to head out of town with my family for a few days, I thought this post from last year would serve to remind me that the craziness always leads to a funny story! I hope your summer is filling up with memories that you will treasure, if not now, at least in a year! What’s a memory that you have that, at the time, brought you frustration but now brings you laughter?

 

Payback

They thwarted my plans. I wanted us to get ready quickly and head out the door, but they wanted to play beauty shop. I’m always amazed at how quickly their little attention spans can get diverted, like a dog on a walk seeing a squirrel. I thought the instructions were clear enough–Go upstairs, and put on your shoes–but I realize now that I should have taped red arrows on the carpet leading up the stairs, into their bedrooms, and stopping at their closets.

But I didn’t. Instead, I buckled their sister in her car seat, and when I came back in the house to find that they were still upstairs, I knew the quest to find shoes had turned into another adventure.

I walked into my bathroom, and there Caleb was applying eyeshadow to his sister’s face, reminiscent of Tammy Faye. I ushered them downstairs, keeping my cool, and sent Caleb to the van where his sister was waiting.

And that’s how I found myself alone with Hannah Grace in the kitchen.

I had wet a paper towel and was doing my best to gently remove the pastel colors from her eyelids and cheeks, explaining to her again that little girls shouldn’t wear make-up. Hannah Grace countered with the natural follow-up question:

“When I grow up, will you be dead?”

I sighed as I swept the paper towel across her forehead. This was not the first time she had asked this question.

“I hope not, Hannah Grace. Only God knows when we’re going to die.”

And then she looked up at me and smiled her smile that makes her eyes twinkle.

“When I grow up, then I’ll take care of you!” she laughed.

I paused for a moment.

I thought of my thwarted plans and realized one day, in fact, it might be my turn to thwart plans. Yes, one day Hannah Grace would have to wipe off a too heavily applied rouge from my cheeks.

She would care for  me, and it would be my turn to drive her crazy.

A slight smile formed on my lips as I finished cleaning up Hannah Grace. One day it would be my turn to pee on her kitchen floor. And that thought brought me great comfort.

Recognizing Full

Every night I sit down to dinner with my plate before me and I eat. If I liked the meal, I will get seconds. And I realize that I’ve trained myself to think I need more food than I really need–that I don’t even recognize what full feels like.

Every day I live my life the best I can; I play with my children, I clean the house, and I try my hardest to show my husband how much I love him. But every day I have thoughts that swim in my mind, showing me a future that’s a little better. The future when we’re out of debt, the future when the kids are a little older and slightly less crazy, the future when somehow Matt’s work/life balance is more manageable. And I realize that I’ve trained myself to think that the next stage will be a little better…I will feel full.

I fight this feeling because I know that I have everything I need right now to feel full. I’ve just stuffed my face so long with good things that I’ve stretched out my stomach, wanting to put one more bite in that will leave me feeling satisfied. Satisfaction is here. I have enough. I am full.

Linking up with the Gypsy Mama for her 5 Minute Friday where we write for 5 minutes straight without editing. I have to admit–I really want to cheat this week and edit this post, but I’ll stick to the rules.

 

Learning Dependence

 

image courtesy of photobucket.com

Over the last few months, my mind has been wrestling with an idea. Many times in my life, I’ve asked to know God’s presence, for Him to feel close or real. I’ve asked for His guidance or to know His will clearly. And lately, if I’m honest, I’ve started to fear my own question a little.

I look at my friend who mourns the death of her husband. I listen to the young pastor at church who lost both his mother and father to debilitating illnesses within three months of each other. I read examples in the Bible like Gideon. And I know all of them truly experienced God.

This young pastor shared his own story of loss as we looked at Judges chapter six at church on Sunday. The Israelites were hiding in make-do shelters in the clefts of mountains and caves because the Midianites had so oppressed them and ravaged their land. Gideon is in a winepress threshing wheat to keep it hidden from the Midianites when he encounters the angel of the Lord. And after learning that God wants to use him, an ordinary man from the weakest clan in Israel, to deliver the Israelites from this oppressive hand, Gideon responds by building an altar to the Lord called “The LORD Is Peace.” And this young pastor, months after losing both his parents and struggling with questions, felt that same LORD of Peace is his own heart.

I want to know that peace. I want to have that intimate knowledge of God. But I don’t want to have to depend on God.

I know that God is available to all of us–we don’t have to experience extreme loss to know Him–but perhaps we feel Him most strongly in times of suffering because it is in those times that we can’t depend on ourselves to find the answers. Our own comfort is not strong enough. In those times, we truly lay ourselves at His feet and admit we can’t weather the storm alone.

I’m not good at depending on anyone. I don’t like situations out of my control. I try to act responsibly and make good decisions, which is good, but not if I let go of the hand that guides me.

I don’t think God hides himself until we suffer or that if I ask to experience God I need to first experience tragedy, but I do believe I need to learn how to surrender in the everyday. And if I learn to surrender in the everyday, when those times of suffering come because they will come I will know to whom I should turn.

Knowing to whom I should turn is the whole battle. The God who sends His peace out of kindness and love when we feel sorrow is the same God who wants to laugh with us when we feel joy. I want to learn to laugh with Him. I want to understand dependence. I want to want to lay myself down at the altar of ‘The LORD Is Peace.’ And I know when I do, He will be there.

Have you ever clearly felt the presence of God? Are you able to depend on God in times of sorrow AND joy? Linking up with Michelle and Jen this week!


 

Taking Out the Trash Is More Important Than You Think

It was Wednesday morning, and the four of us were in the midst of our lazy, summer wake-up routine. I was casually helping the youngest get dressed for the day when I heard the groan of a large truck trying to find the energy to accelerate down the street. It took me a moment to realize that that sound belonged to the garbage truck, and I ran to my son’s window to see if Matt had taken down the trash cans.

No.

I rushed down the stairs, slipped on some flip-flops and headed out the back door toward the pails parked by the fence. I pushed open the gate and drug the full recycling container down to the front just in time to see the truck turning out of my neighborhood. I wasn’t sure if that was the garbage truck or recycling truck, though, so I sprinted back up the driveway and repeated the same routine with the full trash can.

And then I ran inside. I knew better.

I was gone for at least five minutes, and five minutes was plenty of time for the gates of hell to swing wide open.

I sprinted up the stairs, for I heard quiet, a sound I’ve grown to fear. Panicked, I made my way down the angular hallway to the very last room upstairs–our bathroom. Sitting on the floor in a pillow of eyeshadow and powder dust was my daughter, daintily painting her face with the mascara wand she was rhythmically dipping in my bottle of foundation.

Scooping her and the make-up up in giant swoop, I took to cleaning her face and hands. I plugged in the vacuum and sucked up the evidence of how she spent her last five minutes and then headed downstairs to search for the other two. After all, it had now been ten minutes since we had had meaningful interaction.

Downstairs Chloe and I went to find Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum scaling the shelves of the pantry. Every box of cereal was opened, paper cups lined up and half full with the contents of the boxes. Chocolate smiles gave away that they had dessert first. After a quick reprimand, I ordered the kids to their chairs for breakfast, not sure if the oldest two have any room left for this meal, and I strapped Chloe in her booster seat, thankful that at least she can’t get down and wreak any more havoc at the moment.

Or so I thought.

Distracted by the first three episodes of the morning, I didn’t think through what I needed to do before strapping Chloe into her seat. As I poured the milk into the cereal bowl, the jarring sounds of I go pee-pee! echoed throughout the house.

Unstrapped the two-year-old tornado, reminded her the warning works better if she tells me before she pees all over the floor, took off the soaked underpants, and handed her paper towels to help clean up the mess.

It was closer to brunch than breakfast, and I was chomping on Zoloft like they’re Skittles in between each bite of organic cereal. You know, the healthy choice to start off my day right.

And through each bite of cereal, I began to think What could I have done better?

But of course, the answer is nothing. But I could think of something that my husband should’ve done before he left for work.

No, taking out the trash isn’t a life or death issue, but it is a mental health issue. Husbands, remember that fact.

Disclaimer: For the record, none of the events following the make-up ordeal actually happened on that day, but they totally could’ve–we just had a good day. I am writing from experience, so, husbands, heed my words!

Grateful

“I’m going to visit Ms. Wendy this weekend,” I told him as we sat on his bed, straightening up his room a little.

And he looked at me, eyes wide and then downturned. “But I’m going to miss you!” he cried, tears instantly streaming down his face.

I hugged him tight reminding him that our time away would not be long.

“I know,” he interrupted, having already calculated the time. “It’s two days. But I’m going to miss you.”

“I’ll miss you, too,” I said and kissed his head.

And I felt grateful, so grateful for this little boy who lives with his heart wide open, who’s not afraid to show every emotion he’s feeling (regardless of whether or not I want to see every emotion he’s feeling).

And I’m grateful for his daddy who will watch three little ones without protest, knowing I need this time away, knowing how important it is to me.

And I’m grateful for a Nana and Pop Pop who will make one day pass quicker with Chick-Fil-A and cow costumes and sleeping bags.

I have so much for which to be grateful.

And today, I’m especially grateful for a friendship, a friendship which spans both joy and sorrow. A friendship which no distance can sever.

For what are you grateful? Linking up with the Gypsy Mama for her 5 Minute Friday before I head out for the weekend.

 

 

Holden Caulfield and Me

image courtesy of photobucket.com

It’s funny how a seemingly insignificant event can trigger memories that just won’t leave, memories that come back to visit over the course of weeks, perhaps months, with no particular reason why. For me, it all started with lemon pepper shrimp.

We first visited P.F. Chang’s when a cousin sent my mom coupons in the mail. One visit, and we were in love. Over the course of our marriage, Matt and I counted this restaurant as one of our favorites, and since it is located in front of the mall and movie theater, half of our dinner and a movie choice was always easy to make.

But while it was our favorite, we didn’t frequent the restaurant regularly. For a long stretch, date nights were rare, going out to eat an occasional treat, so when we did walk past the giant horse statues and pull open the large doors of P.F.Chang’s, I knew before we sat down what I would order for my meal: Lemon Pepper Shrimp

Who knew when I would get to come back, so why would I risk ordering a dish that I didn’t love, a dish that might sour my experience? I rarely deviated from my plan. In the spirit of compromise, I would agree to another dish if Matt and I wanted to share an entree, but nothing ever tasted as good as that shrimp.

And then we visited a few weeks ago. The hostess placed a menu in front of me with which I was not familiar. The layout was different. The prices were higher. And the shrimp was missing. I thought, perhaps, I overlooked my dish in the midst of new menu items and different fonts, but after inquiring, my fear was confirmed–no lemon pepper shrimp. In fact, all of the lemon dishes had been removed.

As ridiculous as it sounds, I sighed and hung my head low as I held onto that menu, searching for another dish that I’d even want to try. And a sadness crept into my belly.

I thought about that first dinner with a table full of food, sharing with my parents and sister, tasting a bite of Matt’s food, and the smiles and laughter on all of our faces. I thought about the celebratory meal Matt and I shared in our power suits, enjoying an early dinner on our way back from successful Air Force interviews. And I thought about our meal at the corner table with a new baby boy asleep in his car seat. I looked over the menu, the new look, and I thought to myself this isn’t the same place as it was then.

And then I thought of Holden Caulfield and the book I’ve read at least three or four times. Over the years, I’ve found so many truths from that depressed, rebellious boy in The Catcher in the Rye:

The best thing, though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right where it was. Nobody’d move. You could go there a hundred thousand times, and that Eskimo would still be just finished catching those two fish, the birds would still be on their way south, the deers would still be drinking out of that water hole, with their pretty antlers and their pretty, skinny legs, and that squaw with the naked bosom would still be weaving that same blanket. Nobody’d be different. The only thing that would be different would be you. (Salinger, 121)

I understand him. I understand the comfort he found from that museum. And I understand that perhaps I disliked the Laser Show this year, not so much because they took out Lee Greenwood’sGod Bless the USA,”  but because it was different. After 25 years of nothing major being different except for me, the show had changed.

And after ten years of enjoying lemon pepper shrimp, I had to find a new favorite. But I really don’t want to. Perhaps I don’t like change–sure, I’ve moved across the country for a drastic career change and had my share of adventure–but there’s comfort in having those places in which to return that will always look the same, smell the same, taste the same. There’s comfort in knowing that I won’t be disappointed.

Maybe that’s why a different menu brought to mind so many memories. Maybe that’s why a different menu brought a tinge of sadness. I don’t want to be disappointed. I want comfort. (And, truthfully, I just really wanted that shrimp)