I Have No Mercy for Kids With Mono and Other Tales

I found out last Saturday that my five-year-old daughter has mononucleosis. Of course like any good parent, I felt sympathy for my poor little girl who didn’t feel well. Then I felt relief. And guilt.

For the month prior, my daughter’s behavior was beyond horrible. Even asking her to put on her clothes was a battle. She would throw uncharacteristic temper tantrums, screaming that she was so tired and couldn’t do it. Her room remained a condemned area, as she refused for two weeks to clean it. She was grounded from a birthday party, the playground, dinner with the family–anything else I could think of–and yet she still refused to put even one dirty shirt in the hamper.

Hannah Grace has always been stubborn; refusing to do chores or taking forever to get ready in the morning was not beyond her capabilities, but she had reached such an impressive level of defiance that my visions of her future all involved jail time.

I spent nights crying in bed. All of my prayers started with her. In fact, I spent many nights after the kids had gone to bed walking up and down the hallway, prayer walking, casting out the demons that surrounded her room in Jesus’ name.

In fact, one night the urge to pray was so intense that I went to her room and laid hands on her sleeping body, assuming God wanted me to perform a mini exorcism. That night, Hannah Grace climbed into bed between Matt and me, and we could feel the heat emanating off her limbs as she snuggled next to us. She clearly had a fever. I figured God was giving me a sign that He was burning up the demons.

A few hours later, the fever was gone, and Hannah Grace was back to her defiant self. She said she didn’t want to go to school with venom in her voice, and I knew it was just another of her evil ploys. After all, I had already picked her up from school previously when she said she didn’t feel well, and she bounced around the house all day. We had gone to the doctor another time when she said her throat and stomach hurt, but her strep test came back negative. Clearly, I lived with a manipulative little faker.

So when the nurse called on Saturday and said, “Hannah Grace has mono,” I felt immediate relief that my daughter was not possessed by Satan. And then I felt guilt that I had thought my daughter was possessed by Satan. And guilt that I didn’t renew her gymnastics classes due to her defiant behavior and refusal to do chores.

Yep, that’s motherhood–doing my best to raise my kids well, seeking the Lord, only to realize that I wasn’t reading the signs He was giving me correctly; having to kneel before my child humbly, asking her forgiveness for not understanding.

And, yet, motherhood, is experiencing the biggest smile in my soul, the kind that runs from my stretched cheeks to my toes, as I watch my son round home plate and jog towards his dad who scoops him up in celebration. An in-the-park home run caused this little boy to run to his dad, his coach with tears streaming down his face because, as he explained, “I was just so happy.” These days are what make motherhood, life, amazing; the constant swinging of the pendulum through guilt and relief and compassion to joy and feelings that I don’t even know how to describe.

But I want to try.

I’ve know for some time what I’ve wanted to do, but, honestly, I’ve been afraid. A few weeks ago, God stirred in me that desire again. I attended Hutchmoot with my best friend Wendy, and I fell in love with the story, God’s story. His amazing Creation. His love story told through the pages of the Bible, a story that doesn’t end with Revelation but is just beginning.

I want to tell part of His story; I don’t know what part or where I’m starting, but I want to tap into the creative spirit that He’s given me, that’s He’s shown all of us by every beat of our heart, each breath that we take.

In order to write, though, to capture these moments of life that point toward God’s bigger story of hope and redemption, I have to give myself permission to let go of my blog. I already haven’t written as much as I would like, and that fact hovers over me and actually causes me guilt and disappointment.

The fact is that I want to write without the need to hit publish. I want to write and continue to write and see where my story takes me, but I can’t unless I release this need to write in this space.

These words are hard for me to type because this place has been such a significant part of my life for the last three years. I have shared my joys, my struggles–most of my heart–right here. And while I don’t have a large following, I am very aware that I have a great following of some of the most loyal and faithful readers out in this strange and wonderful world of the blogosphere. I call many of you my friends even though I’ve never seen you face to face!

Thank you for sharing this journey with me, and, perhaps, one day I’ll have a more substantial work to share with you again. In the meantime, I’m sure I’ll visit this space from time to time as my kids always provide the best material–after all, if I don’t write about it, I”ll forget it. And since I don’t scrapbook, my writing really is the best record of my kids’ childhood that I can provide. And now that I’m freeing myself from this space, perhaps I’ll be better at visiting each of yours.

Please pray for me that I would have the discipline to keep writing. And please continue to pray for my family–especially now that I have two kids with mono (Caleb was diagnosed yesterday…I’m hoping my tiredness and headache are just allergies)!

Three years ago when my husband bought me this laptop, I was angry that he spent this money. However, now I can only thank him. He gave me a gift that I never would have expected by renewing my passion (But please, please, Matt, do not buy me another one…even if parts of  this laptop are cracking).

May God bless each of you as you continue on in His story….


The Gospel According to Mom

As I sliced the red onion before me, I tried to surpress a smile. I was aggravated. My five-year-old refusing to do her homework, instead, distracted herself with a book, and I was tired of walking back and forth to the table trying to refocus her. Except, this time, she held a French cookbook and began instructing her imaginary audience. My aggravation momentarily subsided as I heard her lecture.

“This is the Word of God. The Word of God is very important.”

Okay, little theologian, I thought. What are you going to teach me today?

The spirit in us is God.”

Impressive, I thought. She’s tackling some very complicated issues.

But then her sermon took a strange turn.

“Restaurants are bad. Not all of the food there is healthy. We should eat healthy things. God wants us to eat the healthy food He has given us. You should eat protein. Cheese is protein, and milk is protein. Anything that comes from an animal is protein.”

At this moment, I didn’t know which feeling to embrace–the one that wanted me to laugh or the one that wanted me to close her ‘Bible’ as I listened in embarrassment.

“Fish is healthy. Now, I don’t like fish, but fish is healthy.”

And the lecture continued, a weird mix of our Bible lessons with the Food Network.

At that moment I had the fear that all parents have when they realize that their children really are listening to them, and I had the discomfort of knowing that they could take my words and morph them into some heresy that I’ve never uttered.

I pictured the scenario of Hannah Grace telling her classmate, “My mom thinks your mom is going to hell because you have red jello in your lunch,” or Caleb sitting in therapy crying, “I want to please God, but I just love Doritos too much.

And then there’d be Chloe who would just say, “Mom’s crazy. Pass the fries.”

I hadn’t recalled weaving any talks on the Holy Spirit with facts about hydrogenated oils, but apparently my daughter made the connection. And, frankly, that fact made my vegetables rest a little uneasy in my stomach last night.

I’m thinking this weekend we’ll order pizza….

picture via photobucket.com

Our First Day of School

The night before the first day of school, I hopped into bed with a little nervous energy. We had packed our lunches and laid out uniforms, including socks and underwear, and there was nothing left for me to do except wait for sleep to come. Seven hours later and ten minutes before my alarm, my little girl asked, “Is it morning time, yet?”

I can’t remember if I awoke early on my first day of kindergarten, but I know, like my daughter, I was prepared. My mother taught me my teacher’s name ahead of time–Mrs. Checkers–so when the middle-aged lady with straight, golden locks asked the class if anyone knew her name, I shot my hand up into the air:

“Mrs. Checkers!” I yelled out.

“No,” she replied and then shared a name that I can’t since remember.

I was embarrassed and confused. My mother had told me that name; she wouldn’t have been wrong. I sat for the next few minutes in my desk dejected until the teacher began to take attendance.

I don’t know how the parapro outside the school walked me into the wrong room, and I’m not quite sure why there even was a desk for me in Mrs. Straight Hair’s class. The first day of school 28 years ago sure was different than it is now, but on that day I was walked across the hall to Mrs. Checkers’s class and joined the students already engaged with that sweet old woman with soft white hair.

Yesterday, my daughter walked into her room with her mom and dad and found the desk labeled with her name. We took a few pictures before kissing her goodbye, and I touched her hair one last time before I walked away….

I wonder what Hannah Grace will remember about her day, that she was the line-leader and wore her white uniform shirt with a khaki skort or what objects she shared out of the paper bag that was to tell the class all about her. Perhaps, I will remember more than she, that she was excited all morning until right before we left when I saw a flash of uncertainty come across her eyes. That her little sister asked me to pick up Hannah Grace and their brother from school because she was lonely. That looking at her smile as she bounded into the van after school, telling me about her owl and the snack the class would get tomorrow for being good, made my heart explode at the cuteness.

I don’t know what she will remember; perhaps, she’ll simply remember the pictures we took to document the day.

But I know what I will remember. I will remember a brave little girl who walked into her classroom, as her brother did the year before, ready to start this new journey…and the brave mommy and daddy who walked out the door, in disbelief that it was already time to let her go.

What memories do you have from your first day of school? From your child’s?

 

School for the Escape Artists

The first social media outlet to go was Twitter. I never even tried Pinterest. Now, Facebook‘s days may be coming to an end.

It’s not them; it’s me, really. I still have my Twitter account, and I think I even have a Pinterest account (though, I’ve never logged on), but I can’t allow myself to use them. I know myself, and I know I’ll start the comparison game. I’ll find all the reasons I’m not doing life right or depriving my children of the perfect childhood, so I’ve decided to spare myself the torture.

I had never thought I’d treat Facebook the same way, but last night I started to reconsider my previous position. Post after post after post were from moms commenting on their children’s first day of school, and the moms were all crying. Those moms whose children won’t start until next week were squeezing their babies tighter, not wanting that dreadful day to come.

My first thought was, What the heck is wrong with them?! However, after reading how many moms were crying, I then thought, What the heck is wrong with me?!

My son starts first grade tomorrow, and the only emotion I feel is excitement. Yesterday, we visited his classroom, cute little desks filled with brand new workbooks and the hermit crab class pet to complete the perfection, and I wanted to start school with him. My daughter starts kindergarten in a week, and the very mention of school brings a smile to her face. When I visualize her wearing her plaid uniform and hair bow, I smile with her.

I know I’m not a bad mom for looking at school as an exciting time, but I can’t help wondering why I’m not more sentimental….

Last night, I lay in bed for a good while before I fell asleep. My mind was full of random thoughts, ranging from the sermon I heard two weeks ago to the bedtime routine of my kiddos when they were three. My mind stayed on the latter.

None of my children transitioned to the toddler bed well, and nap times were extremely difficult. At one point, we resorted to turning the doorknobs around so that we could lock the door from the outside and trap our kids on the inside in hopes of forcing them to sleep.

Caleb was the first child to defy nap time. I remember feeling like the victor after changing the knobs, knowing that I would finally have the ‘mommy time’ to clean or pay bills or just sit for a minute while he rested quietly in his room. That is until I saw him make his way down the stairs. How in the world did he get out? I wondered. After putting Caleb back in his room, re-locking his door, and finding this little boy down the stairs again, I repeated the routine but stayed camped out in front of his room. I would crack the code.

As I sat, I watched the lock magically turn to the horizontal position, and there stood my three-year-old, having pushed open his door with his Lightning McQueen suitcase in hand. I was baffled–until I saw that he was holding the zipper. Yes, my little boy learned how to pick a lock with the zipper on a suitcase.

I promptly removed the suitcase and locked his door again, but Caleb knew that his jeans also had zippers. I couldn’t even lock my son in his room.

I knew Caleb was clever, but I was hoping for different results with his sister. Hannah Grace, however, proved that she, too, had the criminal gene and picked her lock with the prongs of her nightlight. Chloe’s room had a dutch door so that we could see in her room while she was locked out. She didn’t mess with picking locks. Instead, she dumped out the baskets that held her shoes and simply stood on them, reached over, and unlocked her door. Pillows, dolls, and laundry baskets could also give her the extra height if she needed it. When all such items were removed, Chloe flung her body, catching her forearms on the top of her door. She would use every bit of her strength to wiggle up and over the top.

I was no match for them.

locked in

I’m not sure what started the train of thought that led me to thinking about those dreadful days. However, I did figure out why I wasn’t crying about school starting–I was all cried out.

What emotions did you experience when your children started school? Were any of you out there a successful escape artist as a child, or do you have an escape artist of your own?

*photo courtesty of Trevin Shirey via Flickr ‘Creative Commons.’

Content

I don’t typically write without knowing where I’m going or having a point neatly wrapped up in the midst of one of my stories about marker-stained carpet or stolen peaches. However, today I felt the need to just write. I’m not sure where this post will end, but I wanted to begin, nonetheless.

The last few weeks, I’ve felt this overwhelming surge of happiness. I’ve tried to attribute the source–a vacation with Matt that worked, prayer that had been answered, the right dosage of medicine, visits with the chiropractor to get my body working properly–but I’m not sure what/who is to thank; maybe all of the above.

All I know is that I feel wonderful. I still wake up feeling like I could go right back to sleep, but I’m able to shake that cloudiness once I get going. I’m not sure that happiness and feeling wonderful are even the right words to describe where I am. Perhaps, content is a better description.

Most of the factors in my life that caused me grief before are still here–Matt’s long hours at work, a constant feeling of being overwhelmed by the kids and house–but I have a sense of ‘okay’ with all of them–not that I’m okay with those factors but that I am okay, we will be okay.

I’ve been looking at my children a lot lately–obviously, I see them every day–but looking at that little spark that makes them them. I can’t help but smile when I see it.

A few weeks ago, I wanted to write a post about all that I had forgotten. We had found some home videos of the kids when they were babies and toddlers. Caleb on his second birthday–I had forgotten his little voice, the way he sounded when he said ‘hanga-burger’ for  ‘hamburger;’ Hannah Grace, how beautifully sweet and how deep her voice was, even as a little baby as she said ‘Bye-i;’ Chloe and the first time she ate the carrots that I hadn’t quite pureed enough, Caleb laughing a weird, throaty laugh in the background. That night, my heart and insides literally ached for those days, not because I wanted them back, but because I couldn’t remember. I grieved for those little babies and wanted one more time to squeeze them and suck in every detail, memorize the sounds and smells so that I would never forget.

I guess that’s the consequence of having baby after baby after baby–one loses brain cell after brain cell after brain cell, and I just couldn’t take in all those details that I now miss. I think that feeling of loss is why I’m drinking in their uniqueness now.

I look at Hannah Grace, and I marvel. This child has captured a part of my heart. Boy, she is stubborn, but that sweetness inside of her–I’ve never met another with it. I took her to a trial gymnastics class the other day, and I prepared a water bottle for her. When I told Hannah Grace that this bottle was hers if she was thirsty after class, she just looked at me for a moment, paused and smiled. She slightly cocked her head to one side and quietly said, “thank you.” Looking at her face, one would’ve thought I told her that we deeded her the house when she turns 30. It was as if in her little heart she thought, How am I so special? and Now it’s my turn after a year and a half of watching her brother’s baseball games. The gratitude quietly shone through her.

It was a small moment, quick and quiet, but my heart warmed all the same. I love this little girl.

We watched Annie the other night with the girls, and I realized, if Hannah Grace is my Punky Brewster,’ Chloe is my ‘Annie.’ I never understood why the babies of families tend to be spoiled; I’m starting to get a sense of it now. The other day, Hannah Grace called her little sister ‘stupid’ from the top bunk of her bed. Well, if that little three-year-old didn’t get to her feet and start climbing the ladder ready to pound her sister. I pulled Chloe off the ladder, chuckling inside at my little tiger. If Caleb had reacted that way, I would’ve been horrified. When I pray at night, I pray my feisty little girl will turn that confidence and fighting spirit away from people’s noses and toward her Lord and convictions.

Last night, Caleb helped me put away the dishes. He told me that I could sit down; he would do them for me. I told him we could make the chore go quickly if we did it together. And that’s my boy–emotional and sensitive and ever the people-pleaser. Too much like me. Sometimes, I look at him and want to yell, “No! You don’t want to be like me!” but then I remember how he wanted to go to the pool when it was busy so that he could make new friends. Yeah, he’s not totally his mommy, after all.

Sometimes I look ahead and wonder what scar I will have left on their skin. I picture my kids in therapy relating, “My mom just couldn’t ___”, or “My mom always ____.” I’m far from perfect, but I hope these three know how my heart swells when I look at them, how I think they are the most beautifully unique people I have ever met.

And then there’s Matt. He brought me flowers last week…and a few weeks before that. I’ve been trying to show more attention to his work shirts. We kiss a little longer in the mornings and smile a little more often when we look at each other. It’s the little things, and the sense that we’re both working together, for each other, that makes the work worth it.

Anyone who reads my blog knows that I don’t hold back from sharing the ugly in my life. But writing authentically means I share the beautiful, too, and I’m finding the beauty in just living contentedly. I’m not complacent–I know God shakes things up often–but for the first time in a while, I feel different.

I spent some time with a good friend a week or so ago, and, after our visit, she said, “You sound good. You sound light.” I feel light. I want to see those little glimmers in the everyday, those ordinary moments, and like Hannah Grace taking her water bottle, I want to smile and say, ‘thank you.’

Linking up with Michelle and Jen. I’d love to read your glimmers of content in the comments below.


 

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!



 

 

Boys and Basketball

Basketball Hoop

Yesterday, the weather was amazing. The temperature topped out at about 70 degrees, and the sky was bright blue most of the day. We could play outside without getting too hot, and I didn’t have to yell at the kids to keep their jackets on–we left them at home.

I love the location of my home, right next to the neighborhood pool and playground. I swear if we had to pack up and load into the minivan to drive to the front of the neighborhood, we’d never get there. Luckily, my little monkeys just need me to open our gate and walk next door.

Yesterday evening, that’s just what we did. We began our journey a little later than planned, missing the most warmth from the sun. Punky Brewster was far too enticing for the kids, and this mama was far too tired to put up a fight. We made it to the playground around five, however, and the kids released their abundance of energy.

I had wished we arrived earlier, though, when I saw the teenaged boy playing basketball. Caleb immediately took off toward him.

“Caleb, leave him alone. He wants to practice.”

But the young man just smiled and encouraged Caleb to come and play. I watched as my five-year-old and this high school-aged boy took turns dribbling and shooting hoops.

I felt a little uneasy, not of this young man, but of my son interfering.

“He’s not going to leave you alone now,” I warned him, but he just smiled and assured me he was okay with Caleb playing.

A few minutes later, another teenaged boy parked his car and joined his friend on the asphalt court. The boys–closer to men than boys, really–showed Caleb how to shoot baskets, teaching him to bend his knees and the proper way to hold the ball.

Frankly, I was impressed, especially when they gave Hannah Grace a try, too.

I’m sure these guys had planned to get together to have a game of one-on-one, and here they were giving lessons to the little boy making granny shots. They wanted to run free on the court, not avoid the little girl dancing to the music in her head and periodically shouting, “I see my shadow! Six more weeks of winter!” Their plans were interrupted–they were inconvenienced–so they simply changed their plans.

They were kind, and they were patient. While I watched them run to Caleb’s aid when the ball rebounded off his head for the second time, I prayed, “God, how I hope Caleb is like them when he’s a teenager!”

And then I thought to myself, “God, make me more like them now.”

On what exceptional young adult would you like to brag? What have they taught you? Have a great weekend!

*photo courtesy of Ben Unleashed via Flickr Creative Commons

One of Each

I often wondered when my children would first recognize differences in race and prayed that it wouldn’t look like the time my son asked loudly,”Why is she so wide?” as an overweight woman walked by. I silently willed that that poor woman developed sudden and temporary deafness, as there was no recovering gracefully from that blunder.

My freshman year in college, Bertice Berry came to my school and gave a wonderfully inspiring speech and made me want to change the world with a positive attitude that I’ve since had trouble keeping. I don’t remember many details of her lecture, but my mind often goes back to one of her stories as a guide for my parenting journey. One time in the grocery store, her nephew pointed to a woman clothed in traditional Indian dress and asked, “Why does she look like that?” Rather than hush him and push his finger down, walking away embarrassed, she used the opportunity to teach.”Isn’t she beautiful? Look at all the colors in her dress,” and she continued to teach this child how lovely this woman’s differences were.

The other night, I got the chance to instill those beliefs in my daughter Hannah Grace. She was lying in bed, and we had just finished prayers when she looked at me and said, “Grammy is different. And Papa Joe is different.”

I looked at her with that blank look I can give when I have no idea what someone is talking about.

“And I’m different, and Caleb is different, and Chloe is different, and you’re different, and Daddy is different.”

Once I realized that she wasn’t commenting on my parents’ personalities, I agreed with her. “Yes, God made us all different. He made us each unique.”

Hannah Grace continued: “Carmen at church has brown skin, and Brandon’s skin is black. They are different, too.”

“Isn’t God amazing?” I asked. “He made us all different, and He even made our skin different. Aren’t all the different colors beautiful?”

Hannah Grace nodded her head and smiled her sweet little smile and went to bed after a goodnight kiss.

The next day we had a chance to continue our conversation.

I came in the kitchen and stopped in my tracks: “Hannah Grace! What in the world?!” I had never witnessed such a display before.

Hannah Grace casually turned around and stuck out one leg completely colored with brown magic marker. She then showed me her other very-Caucasian-looking white leg.  “See? God gave me one of each,” she stated matter-of-factly.

As is the case many times in my life as a mom, I had no idea how to respond. Honestly, I can’t remember exactly what I did or what I said, but I think it was something to the effect of “Hannah Grace, your skin is beautiful just the way it is” and “don’t color on your body with marker.” But I do know I let a smile peek through as I looked at my multi-colored daughter.

Hannah Grace, you have always had this amazing ability to find beauty in things that I wouldn’t normally give a second glance. I’ve saved some of your preschool coloring sheets because I was amazed at how you combined colors. Where I would’ve colored the giraffe orange, you added pink and blues in an incredible way. And Hannah Grace, you have shown me that you also see this beauty in people. Don’t ever lose that quality–that quality is what makes you truly gorgeous.

Measuring Sticks

I measure my life by birthday parties.

I measure the stability of my marriage by the number of hours I spend in the kitchen versus the number of episodes my husband watches from the couch, the strength of our marriage by our ability to communicate telepathically about paper streamers (seriously, who doesn’t twist streamers before taping them to the ceiling?) and the placement of the purple napkins.

I measure my worth as a mother by the amount of pink ribbons made from natural food coloring on the cake and the ratio of homemade to store-bought food, my success in parenting by the quantity of products on my table lacking high-fructose corn syrup in exchange for something crafted from my own hands.

I measure my growth as an adult by the time on the clock when I finally crawl into bed and the number of minutes I finish preparing before (or after) the guests arrive, my progress as a homemaker by whether or not they see dust bunnies or carpet lines when they walk through the front door.

And I measure the healthiness of my mental state by the expression on my face and the direction of my brows as I fumble with goodie bags and twist-ties, the condition of my heart by the genuineness of my smile and whether or not I’m relaxed or pretending to relax and enjoy the party.

Because we all do it. We all have our different coffee spoons by which we measure our lives. And we drift through our days holding up those measuring sticks and scratching out our little pencil marks reminding ourselves how our performance stacked up against other days’, how far we still have to go, how imperfect we really are.

We allow ourselves to fret and worry about a score card that is graded solely by us, the red pen marks bolder and harsher than any we received in school. And we let our poor grades interfere with enjoying our greatest accomplishments.

Or maybe that’s just me.

I’ve thrown 11 kid birthday parties now, and while I learned my lesson and threw out the score card on party #9, I still find old cards hidden in the junk drawer. I’m tempted to reassess and get out my red pen. But I can’t because the score doesn’t matter.

The score will never be perfect.

But the memories, yes, the memories of bright eyes and wide smiles, hugs with family and laughter with friends–these are the sticks by which to measure life.

‘The memories of heartache and tears and gentle fingers ready to catch them as they rolled down my cheek–these are the sticks by which to measure life.

The memories of times when no words were spoken, but we sat together and waited together and endured together–these are the sticks by which to measure life.

The times spent with others; pouring into each other; living life, the good, the bad–all of it–these are the sticks by which I will measure life because these are what will endure long after I don’t; these are what matter.

Not the coffee spoons. Not the paper streamers. Not the lack of high-fructose corn syrup (No, I can’t write it. Eliminating high-fructose corn syrup totally matters). But those who used the coffee spoons and sat under the straight streamers and ate the natural food–they are who matter.

Hannah Grace, you will always matter to me. I made the mistake earlier on of not enjoying every moment because I was too stressed out trying to create it. And while I still have those moments when I fall back into my perfectionist mode, I’m doing better. You’re too special to not enjoy every moment with you and your brother and sister. I hope you enjoyed your 4th birthday party, every minute of it, because I enjoyed every minute that I watched that beautiful smile on  your face. I love you, Mommy.

By what do you measure your life? By what do you base your figurative score card?