A Memorial Day Story

Yesterday morning, the family got up and dressed in preparation for what has become a tradition–our town’s Memorial Day parade. As I was going between kids’ rooms, Hannah Grace stopped me:

“We’re going to get candy today at the parade.”

Caleb immediately responded from his room, yelling, “It’s not about the candy, Hannah!”

“But I’m going to get candy,” she replied.

“It’s about our soldiers, Hannah Grace! I’m not even thinking about candy!!”

I chuckled and affirmed Caleb that Memorial Day is about our fallen soldiers, but, yes, Hannah Grace was right, too; people do throw candy from the floats.

Caleb then walked over to me and shared one small caveat: “I don’t care, but if they throw the candy in front of me, I”ll pick it up.”

And pick it up he did. For someone who didn’t care about candy, he did pretty well. In fact, when Caleb was given the task of picking out 15 pieces of candy from his bag, he agonized over the decision as if I told him his sisters were hanging off a cliff, and he could only save one.

Caleb’s intentions were pure–he wanted to reflect on the true reason for Memorial Day–but he got lured in by the candy and the fanfare and an excuse to go swimming. I, too, have trouble keeping my focus.

There are many veterans in my family, but I have never personally known someone who died fighting for our country. And while my family and I pause every Memorial Day to thank those who laid down their lives, to thank the families who have one less person sitting around their table for dinner, we cannot truly appreciate their sacrifice.

We are thankful, but we are thankful for something we do not fully understand. So to those who understand all too well, all year round, I hope you can accept our gratitude, even if we are naive. For one thing that I do understand is that if it were not for the brave men and women that you love, I wouldn’t enjoy our freedoms with the ones I love.

 

I started this post yesterday, but I think it’s going to take me a few more days to figure out this summer routine. I keep convincing myself that the kids will sleep later so that I can, too. Of course, we all know how that theory turns out. Anyway, here it is, a day late.

Does your family have any Memorial Day traditions that honor our fallen men and women?

Home

I still think about one month ago. For the first time, my youngest got to meet my family for a weekend, only to turn around and come back to Georgia once again. A wedding was the excuse for Matt to drive an insane amount of miles in such a short time, but I would ask him to do it again; for during that brief stay, my heart never felt more at home.

When we crossed over the state line into New Jersey, I shared the same excitement as my kids in the back of the van, and not merely because the 15 hour ride was coming to an end. I was coming home. And from the first hugs and kisses, I felt like we had never left.

 

We celebrated the union of my cousin to his new wife, and Caleb found a hero in T.J. It’s not uncommon now for the kids to put on their dress-up clothes and pretend they’re T.J. and Sara, marrying once again.

 

And we laughed. I don’t laugh with anyone like I laugh with my family, and it’s refreshing to sit in the company of those who can let go and truly enjoy each other. I tend to sit more quietly than the rest–I’ve never been as extroverted as the bunch (although, even I have opened up more in recent years)–but hearing the jokes and the loud laughs while the smell of sauce and my uncle’s pizza travel from the kitchen to the table filled spaces in me that I didn’t realize were empty. After a night around his table, I was full.

Someone once said, “Home is where the heart is.” I hesitate to write something so cliche, but sometimes the cliches are too true to dismiss. I’ve always had a horrible memory, but as we drove through my old neighborhood, I immediately recognized the pond that froze over in the winter and the time my baby sister got pegged with snowballs from big kids on the other side. I knew exactly how to get to the playground, the playground where I watched planes wondering if my dad was in one of them (he told me he saw me from the sky. I was wearing a red jacket). I saw the old diner where I learned how to sound out ‘ham-bur-ger,’ and I remembered the coin shop where my dad worked, and the upstairs window from where we all watched the parade below.

And our old house. My first memories were formed here. Running around in the back yard. The cookout where I waited next to the volleyball net patiently for a turn to throw the ball. Making birthday cakes for my dad every week with my ‘Easy Bake’ oven. Learning how to color in the lines. Sharing a room with my sister. Jumping off the radiator while singing “Wake me up, before you go-go!” with my mom. All these memories from when I was four and five resurfaced as we stopped in front of our little dollhouse.

 

I have many homes now. Home is with the people who hold my heart. Home is with the town that holds my memories. Home is the place that I can leave only to come back and find myself once again.

I don’t want to move back to New Jersey. My life is with my husband and children in Georgia. We have our church, our friends–we have planted roots at our own home. Yet the wife and mother that they love, part of her is because of all of them.

 

 

 

Where is home for you?

I Make People Cry

I guess it goes with the territory of motherhood that we mothers can and will get the blame for anything that goes wrong. I’ve seen my 30-year-old sister blame my mom for her own lateness, and I’ve linked my kids’s disobedience to a prior stay at Grammy’s house. I don’t know why we do it, but I’ve heard my mom say more than once, “I get the blame for everything.”

We’ve had an emotional last couple of weeks at my house. Nothing in particular happened–my son just recalled every way that I have failed him as his mother.

Oh, the tears flowed because Caleb decided that I was never going to give him a little brother. He is so lonely. The girls don’t play with him. Why can’t I just give him a little brother?! Well, buddy, perhaps talk to your sisters about that one. After they flooded the bathroom is not the time to mention to me that you need another sibling.

And while I know that I cannot control the gender of any child that I have or will have (if I go completely crazy), I at least see the logic in Caleb’s plea. However, he really threw me for a loop when he blamed his misery on my giving a dog away that he doesn’t even remember because he was maybe two when the incident happened.

I should’ve known that stupid dog would haunt me for the rest of my life. I see his rebellious spirit residing in my kids when they poop outside, remembering how he would only pee inside. When I sleep at night, I dream about his pathetic face; although, that fact may be due to my mother who loves to taunt me by giving me Boston Terrier pajamas for Christmas.

Yes, Baxter continued to haunt me as my son cried in the middle of the neighborhood. An innocent bike ride turned to sudden tears when the appearance of an old, 75 pound, long-haired retriever brought back memories that Caleb didn’t have of our young and lean Boston Terrier.

“Why did you have to give away Baxter? I miss him so much.”

Because he was crazy, and no you don’t.

Nonetheless, he cried and cried and cried–in the middle of the cul-de-sac as he dismounted his bike; at the top of the stairs as he got ready for bed; and when his misery entered his sister’s body, causing her to cry for the dog that I gave away when she was six months old.

At that moment, I sighed and accepted my fate. I was the mother who deprived my children of a life with a neurotic dog. I was the mother who denied my three children of a fourth to drive me crazy. I was to blame for the thunder as we made our way to the pool, and I was at fault for the taste of broccoli. I stunk.

And one day, I would make some therapist a lot of money.

What’s the craziest thing for which you got blamed? (And does anyone else out there have a pet that continues to haunt you?)

Perspective

I sat on the edge of the bottom bunk listening to Chloe pray. I love the sound of her little munchkin voice talking to God, the sweet innocence of a three-year-old. She rattled off family and friends, not leaving out one member of each family unit. I kept my head bowed and smiled.

But then she ruined it.

“And I thank you for Ella and Ellie. Thank you for their cat and the dog. I pray for their daddy…”

I’ve never had a problem with imaginary friends, but now they had entered her prayer life, and I had a moment of panic.

“…and their mommy and the baby in her tummy…”

“Yes, her mommy has a baby in her tummy,” Hannah Grace chimed in.

Great, I thought. Two crazies. Should I stop them? How far should I let this imaginary world go? We were supposed to be praying to God, not continuing our play from the day.

But I let the little voice continue as she learned to lay that which was most important to her at the feet of her Lord.

“…and I pray, I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

The infamous girls pretending to be fierce warriors.

Linking up with the Gypsy Mama for her 5 Minute Friday. When is a time that you had to change your perspective?

 

 

The Significance of Cleaning Bathrooms

God gave me children to clean the house so that I wouldn’t have to. At least, that’s my theory–I hate cleaning bathrooms and putting away clean laundry, so I popped out three babies to take care of that problem. If the baby could walk to me when I said, “Walk to Mama; C’mon walk to Mama,” then that baby could walk to the toy box and put away her toys. If the toddler could deprive me of many hours of sleep by refusing to stay in his bed at night, then he could climb back over to that bed in the morning to make it. And if that little girl was adept enough to take off her clothes and run naked through the yard, then she could surely pick out an outfit in the morning and put it on–matching clothes is not a requirement for me.

With all the chores my children know how to do, bedrooms should always look neat, playrooms picked-up, and my house presentable. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. I’m lucky if I have one day out of every week where my house looks clean. In reality, I might have one day where one section of the house is clean, but two days later, that area is a wreck while we’re working on another section.

I find nothing more discouraging. I look at my days as a stay-at-home mom, days full of cooking and cleaning and driving and playing, and many nights I have nothing to show for all my work except for a pile of laundry on the chair and an exhausted mind that wants nothing more but a pillow and a book to pretend to read.

Yesterday morning, our pastor spoke to the life of a mother given that it was Mother’s Day, and he pointed out ‘Three Monsters of Motherhood.’ Discouragement, that emotion I experience frequently, was on the list. However, he read Galatians 6:9-10: “9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”

I tried to take those verses to heart, and they did give a little hope, but I also had to admit that most days I do feel weary. Never before in my life did I question myself as much as I do as a mother. Am I really making a difference? Would they be better off if I went back to work? Have I scarred them forever? Am I too strict? Am I too easy? Did we brush teeth today?

The questions are endless, and sometimes I wonder if I didn’t just waste a day, not making a dent in my kids’ lives at all. This feeling of insignificance was another monster my pastor mentioned. He told us, though, to take hope in the fact that we can have spiritual moments when we’re driving in the car with our kids as much as when we’re sitting around the kitchen table for dinner. We are to remember Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and talk to our children about God during all the moments of our day, from the hours spent in the minivan to moments before we kiss goodnight and turn out the lights. Our days are significant when we teach our children about the Lord.

In his goodness, the Lord showed me that these words were true.

Given my theory on the purpose of children, I figured there was no better day than Mother’s Day to add to my children’s repertoire of household chores. My husband told me to relax on the couch while he made dinner, but he invited our parents over, too. Someone had to vacuum and clean the bathroom, and since it wasn’t going to be me, that left the jobs to the kiddos.

The six-year-old called vacuuming, so I decided my four-year-old would have to clean the bathroom. This job was new for her, so I supervised the activity.

I instructed Hannah Grace in how to clean the toilet.

“Okay, now you have to lift the lid and clean this part, too.”

“Disgusting,” she commented, but she cleaned the whole bowl and lid the same.

“Now, Hannah, when you clean the floor make sure you get back here, too. And clean this white wood here.” I tapped on the baseboard to get the attention of the little girl who was already busy wiping behind the toilet.

She finished, and it wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough considering I had just employed child labor. Hannah Grace then surprised me by wanting to clean her bathroom, too. We made our way upstairs, and she immediately began taking everything out of the bathroom–the little white stool, the bath mats, and the trash can.

“I’m taking all of this out because this is what you do, right, Mommy?”

It was, in fact, what I do so that I can clean the whole floor.

“Can you get me a bag?”

I went downstairs to grab a plastic bag. After I handed it to her, she draped it over the top of the blue trashcan and then flipped the can over.

“That’s how you do it,” she said. I watched and pondered as this little girl who had never cleaned the bathroom with me imitated everything I typically do.

“Eck. Why don’t you ever clean the trashcan?” she questioned.

I was a little taken aback, but as she cleaned the inside of the trashcan, I praised God. Yes! A child who cleans even better than I do!

“There,” she exclaimed, sticking her nose in the can. “Mmm, now this smells good!”

I thought we were finished, but, apparently, we weren’t. I was told that she was going to clean my sinks because, “Mom, your counter is a mess.” Of course, the reason everything was a mess is that Hannah Grace and her sister flooded the bathroom when they turned on the water and left a sink plugged, thereby causing the need for a contractor to rip out the floor and old vanity. However, I simply agreed and let her go to work.

And as I watched this munchkin clean the third bathroom for the day with remarkable thoroughness, I realized that what my pastor spoke was true. She did watch me, and she did listen. And if she had memorized the cleaning techniques that I had never explicitly taught her, how much more had she absorbed those points that I taught her day after day?

My job is significant, and I can’t grow weary of doing it. It’s too important.

As Hannah Grace finished the floor, I pointed out a few spots that she had missed.

“I’m done, Mom,” she replied. “I’m not doing it; I’m done.” And with that she walked away.

It is okay, however, to grow weary of cleaning the bathrooms.

Linking up with Michelle today. Do you battle with feelings of discouragement or insignificance? How do you fight against them? Have a wonderful week!



 

 

She Was There

Looking at my life, I am often surprised. While I always dreamed of being a mother, I never imagined that one of my crowing achievements would include successfully taking apart a Dyson vacuum to clean the trail of sugar, cocoa powder, oil, and pair of underwear that coated the inside. I imagined story time and hugs and baking cakes with my children–not the frustration and weariness that consumed me after seeing the ‘cake’ that my daughters mixed on the dining room carpet.

There are days when I look around and think this life is ridiculous. Feeling overwhelmed by the chores that I never finish, the worry that I’m not discipling my children well, the constant fatigue–there have been times when I’ve whispered “why do I bother?”

With all the frustration that comes, I’ve questioned why I chose this path. Why didn’t I go back to work sooner? I could say it’s the hugs that keep me here or the sweet smiles, but, in reality, I know those joys are not unique to stay-at-home moms. Many moms work and come home to giant kisses; they spend the hours when they want to rest playing tea party or wrestling on the floor.

If I’m honest, the reason is that I want to be here. I don’t want to miss anything. I’m selfish with my children. I want to break up their fights and feed them lunch and laugh at their dancing and send them to time-out. I want to see all the parts of their day that add up to the over-tired meltdowns at 6:00 p.m.

And I want them to remember that I was there.

My mom was there. She was there as a stay-at-home mom when I was little, and she was there when ‘Jennifer the babysitter’ watched us while she worked part-time. She was there when I was in middle school and she worked, and she is there now that I’m 30-something with my own kids to raise.

I think about my life with my mother, and I can’t remember all the details. I can’t remember baking cakes or making crafts. I can’t remember the stories that we read or all the times that she pushed me on a swing. My horrible memory is partly to blame–but those details aren’t important. I remember what is important–she was there.

She is there.

A trust is between us that wouldn’t be otherwise. For 32 years, she has been by my side. For 32 years she has poured into my life, through the explicit advice she has given and the implicit lessons she has taught. I see a woman who worked hard for her children, and a woman who has compassion for others. I see a woman who displayed integrity always and sought accolades never.

I see a woman who does justly and loves mercy and walks humbly with her God.

Without explicitly saying these words, my mom taught me a lesson–what I love best about my job is that I am here; I see most of my children’s days and have opportunities that I wouldn’t otherwise–but I can be here even when I’m not.

My kids might not remember the times we baked banana bread or planted vegetables in the garden. They might not remember the time they had to scrub the crayon off the wall or apologize to their sister.

They will remember if I was here, truly here. They won’t pin down a moment, but they will feel the lifetime of moments, the hours of undivided attention, whether those hours were given over the course of a full day or after the workday was done until bedtime.

They will remember how I made them feel, just like I remember my how my mom makes me feel. And when I think of my own mother, well, I can’t help but smile.

 

This week I tried combining Mama Kat’s previous prompt of what I like best about my job with this week’s prompt–what is one lesson from your mom that has never left you? I’m not sure if it worked, but, alas, here it is! What is a lesson you learned from your mother?

Mama’s Losin’ It

 

What I Need (And You Probably Do, Too)

The longer I do life, the more I see flaws with how I’m living it. I’m not sure the blame is wholly mine, though; some of the ideas that flow through my mind seem to flood our society, as well. Somewhere along the way we got this idea that we could do it all–careers, marriage, parenting–and do it alone.

For a few years now, I’ve craved community. I’ve wanted to move past the casual ‘hellos’ and enter into meaningful relationships with my neighbors. I’ve wanted to form friendships with my small group that continue when they leave our home on Sunday night into the rest of the week. Some of those relationships are taking root, and I realize now that true friendship takes time. It can’t be rushed, and it must be nurtured.

I’m also realizing that what I desired in relationship with my neighbors and friends in my community was too shallow. I looked for companionship, friends to lend an ear or girls to sip coffee with me, but I didn’t look for help. I thought my life–my marriage, my kids, my housework–were mine alone and fellowship fell outside of that circle.

I was wrong.

An elderly woman moved next door to our family. I’ve driven her around town, showing her the closest supermarkets, and taken her meals. I check in on her when I haven’t seen her in a few days, and the kids bring her birthday cake when she doesn’t feel well enough to celebrate with us.

The other day, though, she showed me that I need her. My daughter was running around, acting hyper and disobedient, and Ms. JoAnn simply said, “Sometime, I’ll have her over. I’ll talk to her and let her paint. She’ll enjoy it.”

At that moment, a switch turned on in my mind. I do not need to raise my children alone.

I know that Matt and I are ultimately responsible for our kids, but we are not the only ones who need to pour into their lives. I don’t need to feel guilty that Caleb has learned some things at school that I never would’ve thought to teach him. I don’t need to hold onto the idea I need to figure everything out on my own.

I need Ms. JoAnn as much as she needs me.

I was given confirmation of this idea a couple of days later when my son asked if he could play with one of his neighbor friends. This friendship is new, so I walked over to the house and told the mom that her son could play at our home. The kids spent 20 minutes together that flew by in a flash, and then I walked this little boy across the street from whence we just came so he could have dinner.

His mother thanked me. She thanked me for the 20 minutes to decompress without two kids running around–she needed that time emotionally. Hearing her tired voice I understood; we need each other.

Somewhere along the way, we lost this idea. We lost the idea of a community who is genuinely involved in each others’ lives. Perhaps, the growth of our towns is partly to blame. I don’t have to see a neighbor on any given day if I don’t want to. I get in my minivan that is parked by the garage (not in the garage, mind you, but the garage could fill a whole other post), and drive to school or the store or the gym–a minivan that I need given the fact that our town has very few sidewalks, and nothing I need is within walking distance.  I come back home and enter through the garage again. If I don’t want to socialize, I don’t have to. If I want to be left alone, I can.

But we are not supposed to do life alone–even Jesus surrounded himself with 12 friends. He took 3 with him during those dark hours before his crucifixion and asked them to pray. Why, then, do I feel I must do my life alone?

It’s not that I’ve never asked for help–I will never be able to repay my mom and sister for the times they’ve babysat–but I need to change my mindset about who can help me. I need to redefine ‘community.’

I need to open my home to my neighbors when milk is spilled on the floor, and the dishes are piled high. I need to let those I trust see me when I’m on the verge of tears. And I need to call on my neighbor when my rope is unraveling and get rid of the pride that says my kids are my problem.

We all have gifts to give–it’s just taken me 33 years to realize that it’s okay to receive those gifts, as well.

Linking up with Michelle and Jen after another blogging hiatus. I’m not sure if I’m going to give all the details of this break, but just know that life at the Davis household is a little crazy right now–and with Matt out of town again, I can definitely use prayer! Have a great day!