Monday, October 1, 2012

Sandy Shoes, Sore Shoulders, & "Pretty Feet"!

Well, I survived it.
I came.
I ran.
I walked.
I prayed.
I conquered the Beach Beast this past Saturday.

Yeah, that's me with my beastly medal.

It was actually a lot of fun.  Well, except for the part where I had to run through powder soft sand.  Which comprised at least 3 miles of the 3.2 mile course.  I tell you what.  Our white, soft sandy beaches may be a draw for tourists, but after about 5 strides into running through the stuff, you need to keep me far far away from the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce marketing department.  Because you don't want to know what I think about our soft, fine, you'll-be-finding-it-on-your-person-for-days kind of sand.  Have you ever had one of those nightmares where you're running and running but your feet aren't getting any traction on the ground?  You're fighting to move forward and you just can't get there?  Anyway... Moving on.

So, I ran through sand.

And then through the surf.  Three steps into the water, a wave charged us and the next thing I knew, my left shoe had a layer of sand sitting under my toes.  I carried that little "pocket" of mud throughout the course.  My husband suffered the same thing, however, at the pace we were moving, he was actually able to hop alongside me on one foot, remove his shoe, dump the sand, stop to put his shoe back on, then catch up with me.  I'm not joking.

The obstacles were all at the end of the course.  About fifteen of them.  Running up ramps, jumping over walls, crawling under cargo nets and through darkened sand tunnels.  My husband had strategized beforehand whether he'd go before or after me on each obstacle.  It was a genius plan.  I don't know what I would have done without him, truly.  He ran up ramps ahead of me, and would sit at the top with his arm outstretched for me to grab onto.  He waited below as I flung my body over walls and provided "boosts" when I needed them.  I always needed them.  He talked to and encouraged me the whole way through the race and was seriously a rock star husband.  (Despite what I may or may not have said to him while I was running/trying not to throw up along the course.)
























We had some wonderful friends show up to cheer us on.  Their daughter currently holds a title in the Miss Florida pageant circuit, and she was showing me post-race, how to pose for a nice picture.



Apparently, one of the secrets to looking great in a photo is to have "pretty feet".  I think that really only has to do with how you're standing, but I couldn't help thinking that I might as well be a lost cause at this point.

After the race was over, my feet were swollen and sandy.  My shoes each carried approximately 5 lbs of sand and salt water.  I don't remember swallowing any of the water, but my ankles looked like I was retaining quite a lot of it, so who knows.

Today, my feet and ankles are still a bit puffy.  My arms and shoulders ache.  I keep asking my husband if he's tired or sore from the race.  He's doing his best to give me the answer he thinks I want to hear.  "Um... oh yes, the race.  Oh yeah.. sore.  Yes, very sore.  And tired.  Yes, I'm also super tired from that 5k run more than 24 hours ago."

A friend of mine and I are taking on an even greater running challenge in the next few months.  You'll have to stay tuned for more details.  Let's just say I'm already thinking of the perfect running "outfit" and may just borrow one of Miss Florida's tiara's to complete my look!

And I've got until February to work on my "pretty feet" pose for those post-race pics!!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Study Tips

Over the course of my life, I've picked up a few good tips here and there on studying the Bible.

I've learned about the important of reading Scripture, becoming familiar with the details of Biblical stories, and how vital it is to then APPLY truths learned to one's life.

With a wonderful preschool program at our church, I'm thrilled that the Bible stories are being taught in creative and age-appropriate ways to my young children, too.

It seems as if Miss M is already picking up on the tips related to knowing and applying Scriptural lessons.  For instance, I asked her Sunday afternoon to tell me what she learned at church that morning.  She recounted the following, in a perfect 3-point summary:

Summary:                "We talked about Moses."
Details:                     "Moses ate a lion."
Life Application:      "Don't eat lions."

I can't fault her on her application.  Eating lions is definitely frowned upon around here.  I was too amused to immediately correct her first two points.  But her big brother had that under control tonight.  He walked out of his room, shaking his head in dismay as Daddy and I were once again laughing over our new favorite advice, "Don't eat lions."

Drew asked my husband to help him find the story of Daniel and the Lion's Den in his Bible.  He then carried the Good Book, finger firmly placed, back to Miss M's room and began to set her straight.  I helped out and finished reading the story to both the kids.  Megan's eyes lit up, and she actually responded with an, "Oohhhhhh....", as if things were straightening out in her little head.

Unfortunately, the preschoolers Bible we were reading from includes only very short (one page) stories and big colorful pictures that move quickly from one event to the next. I'm pretty sure she now believes Daniel was rescued from a den of hungry lions only to find himself in the belly of a whale the next day.

So, while I appreciate her ability to grasp the "application" aspect of Bible study, I think we'd better focus our attention on the "details" for a bit longer.

Looks like I'll be starting tomorrow with the book of Jonah.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

the "BEAST"

We're running, my husband and I.  He's pushing the girl in a big stroller and I'm watching the boy ride his bike up ahead.  The pace is slow and steady, and I'm trying to keep my breathing slow and steady, too.  We've rounded just one corner on our block and already my breath is coming harder.  I'm in terrible shape.

It feels like cobwebs and rusty gears and a thousand other things besides capable, strong muscular legs. I'm praying, yes literally praying, that this will get easier.  Or at least that my family won't notice that it's already getting hard.

There's a conversation going on between the kids and their dad.  I wish I could join in, but I've got my own dialogue to deal with.  I'm talking myself into each step right now and convincing myself that I can't ask if we can walk for a few minutes.  At least not yet.

I've never been a runner.  This running thing is stupid.  And it hurts.  I think I'm too old to take up a new hobby, and I am certainly too busy.  But I signed us up for a race this weekend (The Beach Beast, it's called), and I have no more time to pretend like it'll all work out just fine.  In a few short days I'll be running through sand and surf and over obstacles for 3.2 miles alongside my athletic husband.  I MUST conquer it here on this quiet neighborhood terrain first.

This is the quiet dialogue I'm participating in when my husband breaks through.  "Great job, honey!  If you can make it to the next cross street,  you'll have run a mile."

Wow.  I'm thinking that's pretty good!  And yes, as a matter of fact, I believe I CAN make it to the next cross street.  I wish I could say all these things out loud, but I manage a tight smile and a thumbs up instead.  I don't want to waste my energy.

I meet the first mile marker and slow up to a brisk walk.  My right knee screams for attention.  I feel like I'm sixty years old.  I'm regretting the fact that I missed my dose of "anti-inflammatory" meds this morning.  Geesh... Make that more like eighty years old.

My husband seems genuinely surprised and impressed.  "Great first mile!  You're doing great!  We'll walk for a few minutes and then pick it up again, ok?"  I nod and manage to say something affirmative, although I'm not sure he can hear me above the sound of blood churning through my ears.  I certainly can't.

I do manage to look over at him at some point while the pace is slower and notice that he hasn't yet broken a sweat.  Must be nice.

Over the course of the next 2.2 miles, David directs us into short intervals of running and walking.  "Just make it to that stop sign."   "We'll start running again at the light pole."  A few times he lies.  Do all good fitness instructors feel the need to lie?  What do you mean, keep going!?  You told me to run to that yellow mailbox!!  My head screams.  I wonder if profanity is more easily forgiven when you're in a state of extreme physical duress.

At one yellow mailbox, I feel the urge to puke.  I say so much out loud.  I catch a glimmer of (could it be?) pride in my mate's eyes.  Ah yes, all the good workouts make you want to throw up, don't they?  It's a false alarm, and I have to pick up my pace to catch up with the stroller and the bike and the man who is STILL NOT EVEN SWEATING.

Before I know it, another surprise announcement is being made.  "OK, we're almost at the last turn.  We're hitting 3 miles right now."  I'm doing it!  I'm really doing it!  I'm running!  I've actually committed to this running thing for more than forty minutes now and I am still moving!  It's a great feeling and a terrible feeling all at the same time.  I experience nothing even close the elusive "Runners High" that I've heard about.  My legs feel like sandbags.  My right knee is cooperating finally but it's making snarky threats under it's breath.

I arrive in our driveway behind the boy on the bike, but ahead of my husband (only because he's now let the girl out of the stroller and she's jogging "just like mommy").  He finds me a few minutes later walking circles in the driveway.  "You ok?" he asks.  "Uh-huh."  I take it as a good sign that I can put two coherent syllables together and communicate a thought.  I am busily contemplating two ideas.

1.  Keep moving or else every single muscle in both legs will freeze or cramp up
2.  Fall down into the grass on the front yard.

My front yard grass looks like a big soft blanket to me, and I'd give anything to collapse face first into the lush green carpeting.  The fear of never getting up again keeps me on my feet for now, though.  I pace up and down the driveway, cooling off and stretching.

We eventually make our way back into the house.  My clothes are drenched.  My face is red, but I'm surprised by how healthy the "flushed" look appears as I catch a glimpse of myself in the hall mirror.  I turn the ceiling fan on and stand directly under it.  My husband asks again, this time with legitimate concern if I'm going to be alright.  I assure him that I think I will.

He tells me again that he's proud.  I point out again that he's not even sweaty.  He shows me a small, slightly damp spot on his shirt to prove me wrong.  He asks when we can do it again.

Um.... at the race on Saturday? I ask.
What... you say I need some more practice before that?

Yeah, no problem.  I'll just need to pick up a few prescriptions tonight.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Key

It was a little over one year ago, to the best of my recollection. I'd begun praying and thinking about re-entering the workforce, but like many full time moms, I didn't know what exactly to do or how to maintain some semblance of worklife/homelife balance once I started to do "it".

 My heart's initial desire was to write for a living. I get incredible joy from the craft of writing. I love words. I love the art of creating a good sentence. I am challenged constantly by the desire to make a good (or bad) experience into a great story. It stood to reason at the time that I should pursue a writing career. But as I prayed about that decision and that direction, a funny thing kept occurring. A different idea kept popping up in my head. Piano lessons.

Hmmm....
I don't feel qualified.
I'm not a "teacher".
I wouldn't know where to start.
I wouldn't know how to start.

 But the idea persisted. It seemed somewhat far-fetched and crazy in my head. But I felt compelled to begin sharing the idea out loud. The first person I told was my mom. "Mom," I said over the phone one day, "I think I might start teaching piano lessons." Being the encourager she is, my mom responded just the way I'd hoped. She told me that it was a great idea. She did, however, point out one minor detail that might impede my success. "You know, you don't own a piano, Jenny."

Details.

It was true. In thirteen years of marriage, David and I never could seem to justify the purchase of this rather large, rather expensive piece of furniture. It was always a "want", but never a "need" when it came right down to dollars and (common) sense!

I remembered my response very clearly, though, because it's not often that I feel the courage that some rightly-placed faith will give you. I heard myself say, "Yeah... good point. But I figure that if God wants me to teach piano lessons, it won't be too hard for Him to get me a piano."

 About a week passed after that phone call, and we were dinner guests at the home of some wonderful new friends. I don't remember how or why the topic was mentioned, but our friends happened to bring up the fact that they knew of a family who was looking to give away a piano. They asked if we happened to know anyone who might be interested.

 Perhaps.

 The faithful responses were absence that night, though. I heard myself answering that I'd actually love to own a piano, HOWEVER.... Pianos are heavy and hard to move. There was really no way we could arrange to pick one up and have it delivered to our home in the timeframe needed by the current owners. My flimsy excuse was met with a solution. Our friends just happened to have the right trailer and equipment to move the piano.

 Of course they did.

 Twenty-four hours later, that precious upright was nestled against the wall in it's new home.
 My home.

 Each day I passed by that room, I was reminded of God's faithful provision. But I also felt strangely peaceful that I wasn't to start teaching on it right away. So it sat. And I played it and my children played it. And I prayed. I prayed for God to show me His timing. His purpose. His plan for that piano. That was more than a year ago.

 Today, I opened my piano studio, named "The Key". It's been months in the planning. (Well, I guess it's been a lot longer than that...). My children are in school now. We are entering a new phase of life. The shift is almost palpable. I look at both my children. The level of independence they've suddenly attained. The free time that has been created when my son decided to take a hiatus from baseball this season. The relative calm in my husband's travel schedule. The recent (as of today recent) accomplishment of a diaper-free home (HALLELUJAH!). 

Wait... that deserves one more Hallelujah. HALLELUJAH!

 And I marvel at God's time. His perfect timing. I believe this new venture is not only a way to bring in some additional income to our household. While the income is good and helpful and much-needed, this piano studio is so much more to me than that. This is about trust. Trusting God to do something new in me that I'm not qualified to do in my own strength. This is about looking back at His direction in my life and how He has prepared me for this role. This is about teaching children to love music. And teaching them why their hearts are designed to appreciate music. This is a ministry.

 This ministry is not just for the students. It's truly a ministry to my own heart. I played the piano competitively most of my early life. I didn't just love the performance aspect, I loved the theory behind it as well. But mostly, I loved the avenue it gave me for worship. I am not a singer. But I can use the keys of the piano to "sing" a song of praise, and it's where I have felt most connected to God. The idea that one child out there might also connect that way gives me the motivation to pass my knowledge along.

 As I shared previously, there was a moment early in my prayers where God gave me the eyes to see His provision (free piano). There has been one other specific prayer request I've made over the last few months. I prayed that God would eventually give me 10 students over the course of my first year teaching. Today, my first day of teaching, I have nine students on the schedule and spoke with a mom at church yesterday about signing up her son in the next week or so.

 In case you lost track, that would make ten.

 Isn't He so good? (Kinda makes me wonder if I should have prayed for 30 students and a Baby Grand, you know?)

 I have to tell you, as I type these words and draw this post to it's conclusion, I'm startled by my emotions. As my fingers move, my throat is tight and my eyes sting with the hint of tears. This is not like me.

 But it's so much like Him.

 I am humbled by His leading. And I'm asking for your prayers as I follow.

 If you'd like to follow my new piano blog, I'd love to have you stop by www.thekeypianostudio.blogspot.com

 And I'd love to pray for you as He's leading you, too. Let me know what that looks like in your life right now.

 Love, Jenny

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Good Dog, Walker

Several years ago, when the book "Marley and Me" was published, my husband and I were eager to read it. After all, we had a yellow lab puppy who bore a striking resemblance to the rambunctious canine on the cover of the book. But about a quarter of the way into the novel, I found the author's story and life drew a longer parallel to our lives than simply our lookalike pets.

 We brought Walker home when he was barely old enough to leave his litter-mates. And his arrival into our family came on the heels of a miscarriage early in my first pregnancy and early in our marriage. To mend my broken maternal instincts, I cared instead for a little fur ball of white haired energy.

 His paws were enormous, and people who knew much more than we did about projected dog growth began warning us within the first few weeks we had him. "Uh... how big was his father?" "Is he a lab, or is there something else (like Great Dane) in him?" "That dog is going to be HUGE!"

 They were all right. Our Walker-dog ate everything in sight(dog food, underwear, dish towels, rocks), and grew to gigantic proportions, much bigger than a normal yellow Labrador should be. His size and breed got him into a lot of mischief during his first few years of puppyhood. I remember calling my husband in tears after many harrowing "walks" around the block. Thank goodness I had a strong background in water-skiing. My skills kept me upright MOST of the time, as Walker drug us full-speed ahead towards mud puddles, neighbors, other dogs, and the occasional frightened cat.

 After a few of these traumatic experiences, we decided our humongous puppy needed some training. We found a great trainer, and began spending our Saturdays learning how to manage our 120 lb beast. But just like Marley, our boy also failed Dog Training 101. I was mortify and nearly hopeless. My husband, however, was up for the challenge and kept re-enrolling Walker in training class after training class after training class. Over the next few years, that dog grew up a little both physically and mentally, and became the most obedient and even-tempered pet we could have ever asked for.

 He was ours for four years before children entered our family. He was affectionately referred to by my parents and in-laws as their "Grand Dog" long before we gave them "Grand Kids". He was my husband's running partner and loyal companion. He was both my babies' soft, hairy affable jungle gym. He was my "first" kid and my foot warmer.

 And after twelve years of devotion to our family, we said goodbye last week to our beloved dog.

 Towards the end of Marley & Me, the author recounts the last few days of Marley's life. I could barely read the words on the book's pages so many years ago. Hot tears spilled so heavily down my cheeks that the print was just a blur. But I recall the sentiment that Mr. Grogan whispered to that big dog in his last few moments of life.

 "I got down on my knees and ran my fingers through his fur, the way he liked. I ran my hand down his back. I lifted each floppy ear in my hands - those crazy ears that had caused him so many problems over the years and cost us a king's ransom - and felt their weight.... Then I dropped my forehead against his and sat there for a long time, as if I could telegraph a message through our two skulls, from my brain to his. I wanted to make him understand some things. "You know all that stuff we've always said about you?" I whispered. "What a total pain you are? Don't believe it. Don't' believe it for a minute, Marley." He needed to know that, and something more, too. There was something I had never told him, that no one ever had. I wanted him to hear it before he went. "Marley," I said. "You are a great dog."   (From "Marley & Me" by John Grogan)

 That, is perhaps, where our stories diverged most evidently. Although Walker's life started out so strikingly similar to Marley's, somewhere along the way, he became a great, great dog. The days of exasperation have been long gone from our memories. The antics and accidents and property damage a thing of the far distant past. For nearly a decade, Walker was a great dog. And we told him that.   A lot.

But, there, in the vet's office last week, we found ourselves on the familiar path worn by Marley's owners (and countless others, I know...). There we were, kneeling on the cold tile floor, saying our last goodbyes. Stroking a yellow Lab's furry back, rubbing behind his ears, tracing those gigantic paws in our hands, and wishing those last few goodbyes could somehow slow down the inevitable end.

 And all I could think to say were those same words I'd read all those years ago. I told him goodbye. And then I told him, one more time,

"Walker, you were a great dog."

Walker the Great

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Mr. & Miss Independent

Is it really a worthy goal of parenting... the goal that you will eventually raise them to become independent adults?

If it's one measure of success, then David and I would like to quite while we're ahead.

After one day of second grade, my son has been keeping a 100-yard head start on me during our walks to and from school.  He begs and pleads to just walk to school by himself and cannot wrap his brain around any good reason that I should be close to him while any of his classmates are within a one-mile vicinity.

Miss M has been asking for weeks if the school bus could pick her up and take her to preschool, instead of her mommy dropping her off in carline.  Last week, we passed an apartment complex that sits close behind her preschool.  She asked us what an apartment was and then informed us that she was moving in.

I told her it wasn't necessary for a two year old to find her own place and transportation for her first year of preschool (she doesn't seem convinced).

I am eager to volunteer at both of their schools this year, but I'm kind of worried that neither of them will claim that they know me when I walk into their respective classrooms.

As I see it, this leaves me with two choices:

1.  Play it cool. Avoid eye contact with my offspring.  Get a volunteer badge with a fake ID.
2.  Play it like their worst nightmares are coming true.  Gaudy clothing, grand entrance, big hugs and kisses for everyone - especially my offspring.

Considering that we probably DO want them to be well-adjusted, independent adults, I'd better not screw around with their little heads too much these days.

I'll wait until they're in middle school.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Disastrous

It was late Thursday afternoon.  My husband was scheduled to arrive home around dinnertime on Friday after a weeklong business trip out of town.  And after dinner, our small group from church was scheduled to arrive at our house for Bible study.

And for some inexplicable reason, I decided that those 23 hours would allow me plenty of time to completely re-decorate and repurpose my husband's home office.


The office: BEFORE
It was practically dinnertime on Thursday when I mentioned my crazy scheme to the children in the back seat of the car.  They were all for it!  Choosing new paint and accessories seemed like an exciting adventure, so we diverted the car into the Lowe's parking lot and charged into the paint section.  I told the man behind the counter that I knew exactly what I wanted (of course I did, I'd been thinking of this idea for an entire 10 minutes at that point).  I chose 3 color swatches and maneuvered our cart through aisles of shelving, mirrors and hardware while our paint cans churned.

After leaving the home improvement store, we pulled through a barbecue joint for sustenance and arrived home at dinnertime.  After feeding my children, we piled into the smallest room of our house and began moving furniture and opening paint cans.  The first color to go on the wall was called "Man Cave" - a deep, masculine shade of gray that was perfect for the "gym" side of the room.  The paint went on like butter, and in no time, I had one wall completed.  
"Man Cave"

I would later regret what this early stroke of luck did to my ego.

Drew carefully opened the second color of paint while I moved more furniture out of the way.  He called out, "Wow!  This looks like cheese!!"  The comment concerned me, as I was hoping for a soft, lemony yellow.  I peaked around the corner and had to agree that the color seemed a little more "processed cheese spread" than "lemon meringue".  Nevertheless, I plunged ahead, setting aside the paint can lid that was carefully labeled with the following warning: 

"This shade may take 2-3 coats for complete coverage".

I had planned to paint the remaining three walls this color, so I got to work quickly.  The kids were helping, so despite a carefully placed drop cloth, our carpet became home to bright drops of yellow paint.  

And for yet another inexplicable reason, I decided that the best course of action would be to pull up the carpets.  So, while I rolled paint on walls, Drew now moved on to ripping carpet and padding from the floor.


It was close to 9pm at this point, and neither of my children were showered or dressed for bed.  But they were getting tired and fussy, and the only contribution my son was making to the conversation was an intense line of questioning about how much trouble I thought I'd actually get in with Daddy for this mess when he got home.

I sent the kids off to the showers and then plopped them in front of the television.

With the first coat of cheese whiz now drying on the walls, I took a moment to step back and survey the scene.  I was disappointed in how patchy the color was drying on the walls, and I was horrified when I realized that I only had about 1/3 of a can of paint left - there was no way one coat was going to work.  So, I plunged on into the second coat.  

By midnight, I was desperately scraping together every last ounce of what I now considered the most offensive shade of yellow on the planet.  It was barely covering the majority of the room, and on one wall, I still had a six inch border that hadn't even been touched.

It was, in a word, disastrous.  And after six hours of painting, I had absolutely no solution.  So I fell into bed alongside my children.  All of us with patchy of yellow and gray paint in our hair and on our clothes.

The next morning, we were scheduled to meet my sister-in-law at the beach.  A part of me thought I should cancel.  The other part of me needed to escape, so by 9am, we were sitting with our feet in the white sand beaches while I lamented to Sharon about my stupid, spontaneous ideas.

By the time we left the beach, it was 11am, and David would be home in less than 6 hours.  Company would descend on my house in about 8.  And I was driving home from a beach excursion.  So, I did what any logical, independent, 36 year old woman would do.  I called my mommy to tell her about my wreck of a room.  

Within 30 minutes, she showed up on my doorstep with paint clothes, brushes, and new colors in hand.  She mixed and matched and got to work.  I ordered a pizza and found the broom.  


My hero




Two hours later, I felt hope returning.  When my mom left, I began the process of putting furniture, pictures, and accessories into the room.  A few minutes later, my husband called to tell me he was less than 2 hours from home.  Every single remaining second was spent cleaning, organizing, nailing, sweeping, and promising my son that Daddy really would like the surprise.


The clean up begins















The mess had spilled down the hallway


And somehow, inexplicably, at 5pm, the office/home gym actually looked like an office/home gym.  Even the giant rug covering the cold bare cement floor looked like it might have been a well-thought-out detail.


The Office side
The Gym side with mirrors, weights and the TV
The carpet covering the cement floor


There's still a lot to be done, but my husband loved it.  Drew was probably the most relieved of us all.

That night at Bible study, one of my good friends noticed the only clue to my day of disaster... two spots of "Man Cave" gray paint on my knuckles.  "What have you been doing....?" she began.

"You don't want to know." I answered.  "Just do me a favor.  Don't even let me have 23 hours of downtime ever again in my whole life."

The results could be disastrous.
















Friday, July 20, 2012

The Stand-Off

Many memories from raising Drew have already faded into the shadowy places of my recollection.  I don't really remember when he started potty training or exactly how long it took to accomplish that milestone.  I don't recall how old he was when he began sleeping through the night or which solid foods were his first favorites.

But some memories, some milestone moments are apparently in more readily-available mental storage spaces.

As was the case tonight.

It was a simple command.  Part of a nightly routine.  We'd finished dinner and a little bit of play time before I advised my daughter (as I do every night) that it was bath time.   What normally follows is a race to the bathroom where she's allowed to choose whether she wants a shower or a bath.  Tonight, though, she mistakenly assumed there was a choice "C".  So, when I announced bath time, she threw her pacifier on the ground and her body on the floor.

I stood her up and directed her face toward mine.  "It's bath time, Miss M."  Her lips pursed.

"Say Yes Ma'am."

Nothing.  Her eyes avoided mine.

Oh yes... the memories flooded back in a deluge of similar situations with one tow-headed, strong-willed young Drew.  As a first time parent, I'd usually stumble unaware into a stand-off with that boy.  Sometimes it was over a snack, or an owed apology or an outfit choice.  But it always played out the same way.  He'd draw his battle line and refuse to budge.   I learned quickly how important those little battlegrounds were in shaping his boundaries.  So I'd take my place, kneeling on my side of the line, eyes meeting his, determined to win.

With Drew, it was heartbreaking and scary sometimes to choose to fight for his obedience and respect.  I would repeat my demand over and over again, a stoic broken-record on the outside and a bundle of nervous second-guessings on the inside.  "Say you're sorry."  Nothing.  "You must say you're sorry."  "NO!"  "Say you're sorry."  It would go on like that forever.  He'd try every response except the one I needed.  Defiance, tears, tempers, and negotiating.

I remembered thinking that I was probably screwing one of us up big time.  I remembered wondering why he couldn't just say those words or eat the raisins or simply put on a pair of pants.  I remembered fearing that his fierce determination (or mine) would draw out our stand-off for hours, or worse, that I might just give in eventually.

But by God's grace, I also remembered tonight that those moments were by all means worth the effort.  They began a journey that, although it still requires daily maintenance, is moving Drew in the right direction toward becoming an obedient and respectful young man.

So, I shored up my resolve for this skirmish with my daughter.

"It's time for your bath.  Say Yes Ma'am."
Her eyes searched for a safe place (any place but mine) to land.

"It's time for your bath.  Say Yes Ma'am."
Now her gaze was locked on mine.  I could see she was searching for her out.

"It's time for your bath, Miss M.  Say Yes Ma'am."
"NO!" she wailed and began to sink back down to the carpet.

A firm hand propped her up again and even Daddy was drawn from his kitchen clean-up to watch the drama unfolding.

"It's time for your bath.  I need you to say Yes Ma'am."
Tears pricked her eyes and she opened her mouth wide to let out three giant sobs.

"It's time for your bath.  Say Yes Ma'am."
"Can I please have my paci, mommy?"

"It's bath time Miss M.  I need you to say Yes Ma'am."
She breathed deeply and held up her white flag.  "Yes Ma'am."

We hugged, and she got her pacifier.  She immediately reached up for my hand and held my fingers tight as we made our way to the bathroom.  Within five little steps in the right direction, she began singing a song from Vacation Bible School, and by the time we reached the bathroom, she was giggling over which bath toy she'd play with tonight.

I don't like this part of parenting.  Not one bit.  But I am comforted by the familiarity of this road.  Surviving the confrontations with Drew seasoned this warrior a little bit.  I'm not as fearful of screwing her up.  And I am firm in my resolve... the battles for the obedience, respect, and hearts of my children is one worthy of the struggles.

I'm guessing the lesson was still fresh on Miss M's mind tonight as I announced bedtime; I was met by one smiling, compliant, eager little girl.  I'll take it.  Experience tells me to rest up, because once the dust settles, it'll just give her a better view of where to drawn her next line in the sand!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Rose Colored Glasses

(Note:  I accidentally deleted several posts recently.  Ugh.  I'm a tad heartbroken about the Flowers story being lost in the blogosphere forever.  But just in case you were keeping track and thought you might be losing your minds.... it's not you - it's me!)

To say that she sees the world through rose-colored glasses would be an understatement.  Or perhaps just slightly erroneous.  Tone that rose color down a few pastel notches, and you have my little girl's perspective on her great big world.

The other day, I had to wake her from a deep-sleeping nap.  After a few moments of my gentle nudging, she flailed forward a bit, opened her eyes really wide and yelled, "PINK!"

I ended up returning an adorable pair of little white sandals the other day because she just wouldn't even put them on her feet.

Tonight, I was singing her a lullaby, and her eyes were growing heavier with each measure.  But she mustered just enough energy to insist "No, no, no happy little BLUE birds flying to rainbow, mommy!!  PINK birds fly to rainbow!!"

I think it's safe to assume that when you see the world through rose-colored glasses, somewhere over the rainbow, skies are certainly NOT blue...


Monday, May 28, 2012

So, I got a new computer...

My husband was very good to me this year on my birthday.

Whether it was his great love and affection for me that prompted this amazing gift, or the fact that our old computer is currently on life support with a very grim prognosis - it doesn't matter to me one bit!

The result was a sleek little laptop that can do the most marvelous stunts:



Fun, huh?

Getting older certainly has it's technological perks!  Now, if I could just find the wrinkle-reducing app on here...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Are We There Yet?

This may go down as the most unceremonious last week of school EVER.

Drew's friends are all getting out of school this week for the summer.  Some today, some on Friday.  So, in my mind I've sort of planned for this to be his last week of first grade, too.  Kind of.

I'm a little surprised at how the end of a school year has caught me so off-guard.  In all respects, homeschooling has been full of surprises.  The end of the year has been no exception.

Last year, I was co-homeroom mom for Kindergarten at Drew's school, and let me just tell you I KNEW when the end of the school year was approaching!  We were ordering pizzas and finishing up 5-yr old crafts and burning images on CDs for all the parents and buying teacher gifts.  There were plays and awards ceremonies and field trips and field days.  It was crazy, but it was fun.  And it was just the chaotic way a school year is supposed to end.

But for us?

Well, we finished math last week.  And I guess we're mostly done with science.  And reading is just an ongoing thing, so I know we'll be continuing that throughout the summer.  And spelling, well, we NEED to keep up with that through the summer months, too.  So it's been very hard for me to figure out exactly how and when I should wrap a bow on this package and call first grade DONE!

For those of you who might advise me that, perhaps learning is never really done, and I shouldn't concern myself too much over putting a "Last Day of School" on my calendar... I hear you, but

YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING, RIGHT?!!!

I need this finish line more than my son does.  I need an awards ceremony and a play and a pizza party and an apple, too.  So, I'll probably carve out some time this afternoon to visit some homeschooling sites and see if any other moms have figured out creative ways to wrap up and celebrate the accomplishment of another grade.

And I'll no doubt find some great, amazing ideas that I'll just HAVE to try.
And I'll have a day and a half to plan it all.
Which will be super hectic and chaotic.

Hey... just the way a good school year should end!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Buttons

Staples has an Easy button.  Their commercials imply that it makes life simpler.  I think you can actually buy one, and I have to say I've almost been tempted to place an order.

Image courtesy of aldiscorp.com
If they made a Do-Over button, I'd definitely take two.

A Delete button... now you're talking!

Because if people are gonna be pushing my buttons any more, I'd like have some more helpful buttons for them to push.

Instead of the "Please Make Me Feel Like A Horrible Parent" button that I was evidently wearing today.

During Drew's early morning check-up, the doctor asked him a question.  My seven-year old answered honestly.  The doctor looked at me briefly, then addressed my child by slamming my lack-of-safety-consciousness and telling HIM that I, as his mother, would be better about it in the future.

No.
Lie.

I eventually peeled my humiliated frame from the chair and slinked out of the office.

Straight to the wholesale club we went, because my car was yelling at me to fill it with gas and my daughter was still in the diaper she'd worn to bed last night because it was the last one in our house.  We filled the car, I parked it, and I unloaded both kids into a shopping cart and headed toward the store.

I was stopped at the entrance by the "greeter".  I use that term loosely.  She informed me that I had the wrong type of card/membership to shop at that particular time of the day.  "YOUR shopping hours are listed on the front of your card."

Good grief.  I had no idea what time of day it was.  As I lingered only momentarily to calculate how long I had to wait to shop, she apparently assumed I was posturing for some sort of fight.  Because she retorted (to my blank and still humiliated face), "If I let you in, I could really get in trouble!!"  I assured her I meant to stir up no harm OR trouble and would be back at my allowed time.  I maneuvered the massive shopping cart back out of the entrance and piled the kids back in the car.

I drove straight to my mom's to kill an hour or so. Nothing like a visit with my parents and my little niece & nephew to help push the Reset button.

Around lunchtime, we bravely ventured back to the store for the now-very-much-needed diapers.  I was relieved that my greeter was someone new.  We picked up our items and some lunch and Icee's, too!  I grabbed a stack of napkins and wheeled our crew and food and diapers toward the exit.  The "bouncer" from early this morning was now the exit door checker, however.  I was optimistic that she might remember me and be glad to know that I'd made me back to the store within my allotted time-frame and successfully accomplished my mission.

Hahahaha....

She apparently had no recollection of me.  But she was now VERY concerned about my Icee's.  To ensure that my daughter didn't dump bright red slush all over herself before we left the store, I put a lid on her drink.  And because of the expanding nature of said drink, the red stuff was beginning to ooze out the top of her lid.

"Umm... Do you need a napkin, ma'am?"  
"No", I answered with a big smile.  "I have plenty right here, and I patted my stack of napkins for emphasis.  Thanks, though!"
She wasn't satisfied.  She checked my cart and then sighed and tried again.  "Are you sure you don't want to stand here and fix that drink for a second?"
"Really, it's fine.  I'll get it when we get to the car."  A line was now forming behind me.  I began to push the cart toward the doors.
"My word... I would NEVER bring a drink like that into my car.  It would make me crazy to think that thing could spill all over the place!!!!"  She was practically frantic. I assured her that I was in control of the situation and that we'd all be fine.  We were all going to be just fine.

Our next stop was the library to check out books on snakes.  With the end of our homeschool year looming, my boy and I decided it was the perfect time to do an animal habitat project.  While looking for the right books and DVDs, I began a conversation with another homeschool mom.  Meeting fellow homeschooling parents can be awesome and encouraging.  Except when you're wearing the "Please Make Me Feel Like A Horrible Parent" button, I guess.  My fellow mama asked Drew what kind of project he was working on.  I smiled as he described the shoebox we'd be making and the kind of home his snake lived in (he wasn't yet familiar with the term Habitat).  The mom said it sounded "Neat!"  Then proceeded to tell me about the diorama HER son (age 6) just finished in his gifted program about Ancient Greece right down to the amazing columns they'd actually built in their backyard.

Groan...

I glanced at her young son, and sure enough, you could tell he was a smart one.  He had a stack of chapter books and was flipping pages rapidly.  "Are you reading that?" I asked him.

"Oh yes", his mom replied.  "He's reading at a middle school level.  We just got his comprehensive assessments back this week.  He's been reading like this since he was 3 and his little brother is just following right along in his footsteps."  

Big Groan Grin. "Wow... that's AMAZING!"

She then leaned over and tossled his hair playfully.  "But I'd sure like it if he'd learn some of his math facts..." she sighed.

I saw my moment.  "Yeah, reading has been hard for us. But we've really been doing good in Math this year." I replied.  "I guess it's pretty common to have a real love for one at this age over another."

"Oh... He's great at math, too.  He's already doing long division.  He just doesn't like it as well."

Right.  Of course.

I was suddenly in a big hurry to find our snake books.  I wished her and her kids well (that probably wasn't necessary) and we made our escape.  We spent the afternoon reading about poisonous serpents then rummaging through the backyard for habitat-worthy items.  When his friends got home, though, Drew was off to play.

About an hour later, he came inside to ask if he could swim at the neighbor's house.  I said no.  That was followed by his asking me again 3 more times and then ending up punished and crying in his room.

Then sobbing because we didn't have a pool in our backyard and that life was in NO WAY fair for him.  I made him stay long after his normal time-out allotment to think about his life.  He was commissioned to present me with a list of all the ways life is, in EVERY WAY plus some, more than fair for him.

After his less-than-heartfelt list was shared, he sat pouting on the couch while I folded laundry (and chased a wayward lizard out of house).  Miss M was super fussy as she perfected her new game of "cling to the hem of mommy's dress and have her pull you around the house".  At one point, I found myself yelling at her to PLEASE STOP WHINING!!!!  She did stop whining.  But only because she was now sobbing.

I looked, exasperated, at my son.  He'd been quiet for the last few minutes.  I saw him holding my phone in hand, and at a familiar angle.  Not the angle he holds it while playing games.

"Are you VIDEO-TAPING right now?!?!" I asked, my eyes bulging incredulously out of my head.

"Um... yeah... sorry Mom!?"

I took the phone, told the kids to watch T.V. for a moment, and locked myself into the bathroom.

I pushed the Play button.

And have never been more relieved to have a physical Delete button.

No one should ever have to come to terms with their own ugliness.  At least not on a smart phone with an amazing ability to transmit high quality sound AND pictures.

Or perhaps, we should.  I was so ill about what I saw and the way I acted toward my kids that I literally became sick to my stomach once my husband got home tonight.

I'd allowed well-meaning people to push me in the wrong direction all day today.  I guarantee you that our appointment this morning didn't ruin my doctor's day.  And neither encounter with the wholesale club employee probably even made an impression on her day.  And the mommy at the library probably went home to her family and talked about the nice family she met in the Youth Fiction row.

So, Staples, I don't know if your Easy button could have made this Monday turn out any differently for me.  But I press on only because I'm already leaning hard on another button labeled GRACE.  And lucky for me, it's already been paid for.  And the supply is never-ending.

image courtesy of thphughson.com


His mercies... they are new every morning.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Just Call Me Pollyana

She is a determined little girl, after all.

It's not like I was OVERLY optimistic.

When she first came to me, I thought she was asking for a diaper change.  She'd been running around in just that cotton padding since she woke from her nap.  And now she was begging me to "Take it off!"

"Do you need a new diaper, honey?"

NO MOMMY!  Take it OFF!

"I can't just take it off and let you run around.  I'll go get you a clean diaper."

NO MOMMY!  TAKE MY DIAPER OFF!
I WANT TO WEAR UNNERWEARS.
I NO NEED NO DIAPER!
ANY!
MORE!

One look in those big blue eyes had me fully convinced.  I had no doubt that she'd considered her options, weighed the pros and cons, then come to the conclusion that today was potty training day!  I was giddy at the thought.

I've always heard that girls are easier to train.  And that if you wait long enough, the training process is a cakewalk.  Knowing my daughter's spunky, strong will, I began calculating how much money we'd be saving in the "diaper" column of the budget.

But after two hours, we had nothing to show for our work except a daddy on his hands and knees under the living room area rug with a bottle of carpet cleaner.

Miss M took one look at the scene and asked me for a diaper.

You can call me Pollyana, but I'm keeping the "unnerwears" close by.  And maybe I'll stock up on carpet spot cleaners the next time I'm at Sam's!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tidying Up

Tidying up around the blog today.  I am simplifying the look of things around here.  And learning how to use fun new tech-y things like Instagram.  (What?  It's been around for years?  Don't burst my bubble...)

Perhaps with a sidebar of constantly updating pictures, I won't be prone to live in the alternate reality that my children are frozen in time at ages 4 1/2 and newborn (the latest picture that was featured in my header).

The boy's foot is almost as big as mine, and the girl... well, at least her hairbows are getting bigger.

As I learn more, I hope to add pictures to the top.  But for now, there's a bit of elbow room around here, and I kind of enjoy it.

Hope you do, too!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

It Was Only A Matter of Time...

At the tender age of three, our boy climbed unsteadily up on his 12" red Huffy, training wheels removed moments before by his Daddy.  After a few awkward attempts at balance, Drew found his stride and was off on two wheels just as fast as his little legs could pedal him.  He's never looked back.





At any given moment, I might walk outside to find him riding without hands, over ramps, or (if he thinks I can't see him), standing on his bike seat as he coasts down our neighborhood street.

It was only a matter of time, I suppose, before we ended up here:




Drew's so excited that we have a pretty incredible BMX track just minutes away from our house.  He thinks this might just be his next big thing.

He's not so thrilled, on the other hand, about the caliber of cheerleaders in his corner.  


I don't know who embarrassed him more, his little sister who toddled out to meet him on the track with her sticky granola bar smeared all over her face... or his mom who was snapping photos and ensuring that big old helmet was doing it's job to protect his noggin!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Birthday Poem


Dear Drew,

On your birthday,
I have to say
I can
t believe youre SEVEN!
I often think
that if I blink

You will be eleven.

Youve grown so tall,
But that
s not all
Your mouth is full of holes.
That toothy grin
Just does me in.
My love I can
t control!!

But youre a kid
who needs to rid
himself of mommys hugs.
You
re growing up.
I
m outta luck.
I can
t do much but shrug

At all your boy-ish antics.
You certainly are busy,
Inventing things,
devising schemes,
and generally being silly.



 You laugh a lot
at words like snot.
(You think gross things are funny)
You like to run.
You
re lots of fun.
And you like spending money!

Youre well-behaved,
You
re getting brave.
We couldn
t be more proud.
of who you
ve become.
You
re a wonderful son!
We
ll say it again ALOUD!

Youre a wonderful son!
And God has done
great things for our family.
He blessed us with you.
(Then Megan made two!)
We
re grateful as can be.

So on this seventh birthday,
We pray you have a blast.
We hope its filled with fun times.
And memories that will last.


Happy Birthday, Bud!  We love you very much!!!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Typo?

I'm checking and double-checking the invitation.

Correct date, correct time, no misspelled words.

But each and every time I glance at the card, something just doesn't look right...

That declaration:
"It's Drew's 7th Birthday!"

That's the part that doesn't look right. Can't possibly BE right.

Right?

I've done the math several times in my head and it always comes out the same.
He's really going to be seven in just a matter of days.

When Drew was two years old, we had a "Blues Clues" birthday party at our house, inviting all his little toddler friends (and their parents) for the celebration. I planned meticulously. There were no less than ten "stations" of things for the youngsters to do. The buffet of food was inspired by the cartoon character and her pals. Not a detail was omitted.

It took me five years to recover from that party.

Seriously. For years 3-6, I convinced my boy that a family celebration was quite enough. But for year seven, he's been insistent and I'm being brave.

We will have a few boys from the neighborhood over for a few hours. There's no theme. There will be no activity "stations". There will be no grand buffet. He asked that I inflate the giant water slide he got for that 2-yr old party. We also bought super-soaker water guns.

With these two details taken care of, my only plan of action on the big day is to order a few pizzas and let the boys be boys.

It might take my house five years to recover.




Friday, April 13, 2012

Sugar, Spice and DRAMA

That's what this little girl is made of:


Miss M, at age 2 1/2, spends most of her days as either an absolute delight or a certified diva. We can't get enough of the former. Unfortunately, we're all pretty entertained by the latter.

She is sweet and caring and intentionally relationship-driven. She mothers her baby dolls, takes ownership of her big brother ("That's MY boy!" she tells us daily), and right now sleeps soundly in bed with no less than 8 of her current favorite toys by her side.

She has been known to ask to brush my hair while she pours out her toddler heart (melting mine in the process). She relishes the moments where she can tell us she's sorry and receive back wholehearted forgiveness. She talks, sings, dances, eats and laughs with gusto.

She loves pink, purple, frills and fluff. Anything with a princess image is immediately beautiful to her. She wears tutus and hairbows that reflect the motto that bigger is truly better. Her favorite show on television is Strawberry Shortcake, and listening to her sing the theme song in her little soprano range reminds me of tiny church handbells.

She closes her eyes and rocks her head back and forth when I sing to her. And with one twinkle of her little eye, she can cut through her daddy's stern exterior, rendering him absolutely powerless and utterly infatuated.

She is truly our little princess.

Unfortunately, it seems like she knows it.

Perhaps life as her parent might be a little easier on her "diva days" if she'd just been born with a rider.

You know... those instruction sheets that famous actors and singers send ahead to each concert venue so that their green rooms feel more comfortable, with all their wishes being catered to? (I've read some. They're hilarious. These superstars' demands include only certain colors of lightbulbs in their dressing rooms, exact room temperatures, only white flowers, only green m&ms in the candy dishes, specific brands of bottled water, specific shades of paint & upholstery.)

By trial and error, I've been able to put together Miss M's rider as we go. At this moment, this is how I believe she'd like her world to operate:

Accessories:
When she wakes from sleep, ensure that she has both an orange paci and a green one. (She wants to have a choice in her accessories).

Diapers should be "cute", preferably featuring Elmo. Winnie the Pooh will do in a pinch.

Nails should be polished. If polish chips, world should stop spinning until situation can be immediately corrected.

Hair should be pulled back with a big pink bow. White, purple & green bows are also acceptable, however blue should be avoided at all costs.

Shoes are essential. Pink shoes are preferrable. Leopard printed rainboots should be made available should she feel particularly creative. Brown church shoes mean you are just asking for a fight.

Clothing:
A wide variety of clothing in various shades of pink & purple should be made available. She'll methodically say "No!" to every outfit at least one time before she makes her final decision.

Do not give her blue as a dress-color option. It only means you are asking for a fight.

Food:
Waffles are great with syrup. Waffles are RUINED with syrup and butter.

Sippy cups should be made available in pink, purple, or princess themes. They should also be filled with soda.

All meals taste better on pink plates with pink utensils.

All other meals taste better than her own meal, and she should be given the freedom to eat freely from the plate of anyone she chooses.

Food choices should always come with condiment choices. Except ketchup. Serving her food with ketchup means you're just asking for a fight.

Rest & Relaxation:
Miss M enjoys a nightly bath with a moderate amount of bubbles and slightly warm water. Water with even a hint of "hot" is way too hot and may result in an emotional breakdown.

Television should be programmed to record all episodes of Micky Mouse Clubhouse, Strawberry Shortcake and Dora the Explorer. She will be able to definitively tell you which show and which episode she'd like to watch at any given moment. If you only have the "Hair" episode of Strawberry Shortcake, you're just asking for a fight.

At naptime or bedtime, her sleeping quarters should have the following items:
Green paci,
orange paci,
"pink panther blanket" (it's really a rabbit, but if you want to correct her, you're just asking for a fight!),
Minnie Mouse doll,
purple Hello Kitty doll,
Winnie the Pooh,
purple purse,
sippy cup,
and pink bucket
(just in case she gets sick in the night. No. lie.).

Of course, the world doesn't currently operate in tandem with her every wish. Which means she gets plenty of chances to break into gut-wrenching sobs, pausing between each to say, "I still sad, mommy! I still sad!"

"I know. I know." I usually respond (stifling giggles). She curls up in my lap, settles down and sinks in. She lingers longer than any toddler I have ever held.

And I'm all-over delighted that she is mine.