Three Ships to Neptune (Vaca Day 5)

Hi Again CT,

Miss us yet?  It’s been five days, not that you’re counting or anything.  Virginia decided today that we’d hung out together enough for her to be vulnerable and really be herself…so we got a scorcher.We might brave the beach later.  You know, at midnight or something when we its really too dangerous to swim, but we won’t succumb to heat-induced irritability syndrome.  (And I’m probably the most susceptible to that particular ailment.)

So instead, we took to the sea more figuratively…by checking out a nearby coffee roastery called “Three Ships“.  (Its named after the 3 ships of the Virginia Company of London that set sail in 1606 and landed here at modern day Virginia Beach.)

I’ll be honest…we didn’t all love it.  My middle child felt it was a necessary place to come unglued and take an undying oath to be miserable.  (And apparently the breathtaking smells of java and comfort food were offensive to his untrained nose.) So he and his dad checked out the hip umbrellas outside.Inside, the other kids happily ordered their iced “kid cappuccinos” (an actual coffee-free item on the menu),

And then we all sat and slurped our ice beverages, because when in Rome…And to my Avocado on Brioche, may I just say in a bad paraphrase…(Sorry in advance, Carly Rae) “Hey…I know we just became acquainted, and this is absolutely insane…but I’d love to give you my digits…so…you know, give me a ring sometime, perhaps.” 

Once my husband pried me away from coffee heaven, we headed to my son’s vision of a perfect outing: a trip to see the statue of Neptune at Neptune’s Park.  Because what could a 6 year old boy love more than checking out an oversized muscular hero awkwardly clutching a sea turtle.But although King Tritan here perked up my boys, my wave crashing daughter apparently does not do so well in heat without water.  So we stopped for a quick pick-me-up at a candy shop where we found this random squid…and such delectably unique treats as this…And do you know what my kids first choices were????  Jelly beans and a ring pop.  Pure and generic sugar over high-quality chocolate novelty.  Where did we go wrong as parents??  Anyway, that irrational candy decision making must have been exhausting, because two out of three fell fast asleep on the way back to our beach house.  And a 66.6% napping ratio is about as likely as finding a winning lottery ticket in a dolphin’s mouth.  And that rare miracle, friends, is how vacation is supposed to be done.  Until tomorrow…

Calm, cool and coffeed up…Carrye

 

Son of a Beach (9 Problems With Paradise: Vaca Day 4)

Don’t judge me CT….I love the ocean- really I do.  But there are just a few minor issues I have with paradise.  So I made a quick list:1. Rental coffee cups. (The one of the left.) For some reason, most of the lake-house or cottage rentals I’ve been in are stocked with coffee cups the size of thimbles.  I know we’re on vacation and everyone should be perky and happy but for. the. love.  I have three good pint-sized reasons to require heavy amounts of java regardless of the situation.  The mini-cup is “cute” in an itty bitty baby romper kind of way (aww…) but cute isn’t going to keep me awake.  So my husband picked me up a slightly larger model to try on for size.  And yes.  It is making me Awesome.

2: Beach crabs.  OK, they’re actually pretty cool and probably don’t belong on this list.  But this morning when I woke up early to catch some sunrise and read and I noticed all these little holes in the sand.Next thing  I know, I’m catching sneaky ghost crab movement out of the corner of my eye and a bunch of these little guys prairie dogging out, flinging sand.Not creepy all by itself…but I definitely got a little bit of that Hitchcock’s The Birds vibe from the whole thing.  Or maybe that scene from Jurassic Park when the tiny dinosaurs nibble that guy to his death.

3: STUPID ICE CREAM TRUCK!!!!  OK, does anyone else feel like ice cream trucks are the last legally acceptable form of child-stalking?  They started showing up at my kids’ school earlier this summer and my kids are well-aware that I’m not forking over the money.  The whole world can be at peace and then that irritating carnival music starts filtering in, hazy at first, and the kids melt faster than the ice-cream.  There’s a truck seriously patrolling our block and I’m afraid I’m going to forever have gorgeous beach scenes (like the one below from this morning) eerily tangled up with some creepy version of “It’s a Small World”.  Not cool.4: Shaving.  People, if you don’t know by now, I’m pretty low-maintenance in the beautification department.  I air-dry my hair and my shower schedule is more based around whether I wake up in time than on cleanliness.  (Now you know my shame.)  Anyway…who has time to stay beach shaved all the time?  I see all these apparently “normal” people who seem quite capable of smooth-leg upkeep…not this girl.  Hence my swim shorts and stubble-forgiving flowy bathing suit top.  Moving on before I say too much.

5: Billiards.  No, I’m not condemning billiards, you’ll have to watch Music Man for that.  I’m just saying I don’t play often…in fact, virtually only on vacation at this point. 

So when I played pool with my 6 year old today I had a whole bunch of ugly false starts.  Bad. I finally and proudly hit a ball in a pocket (kind of the idea) and that jerk of an 8-ball followed suit and fell in too.  Then my husband came to watch us and got a front row seat to my embarrassment.  Painful.

6: Photo ops.  I have a little issue with expectations.  I’m sure eventually these expectations are going to create an extensive money-making opportunity for some therapist out there.  And one of my expectations of vacations is that we document with photos. I don’t expect perfect pictures- I don’t need my kids to be matching or smudge free.  But it would be nice if everyone were looking, or heck even just angled slightly towards the camera.  And maybe if every pose wasn’t a growl or a karate chop move.  I don’t know.  Just saying. 7: Diabetes + Beach = LAME.  I won’t go into the whole dramatic sob-story of all my diabetes related fears, but let’s just say it complicates beaching.  You have to bring all this medical junk with you, and somehow I feel like I’m a bathing suit model for a hospital.  Maybe if I stuck a bow on my pump.  Eh. That and everyone and their mother is eating ice cream in front of me.  (Obviously not from the truck.)  And sometimes you just really want to gorge yourself on ice cream, but I can’t.  So I drink coffee instead.  Which only perpetuates issue #1.  8: Sand. You can really only tell your kids to “not throw sand” so many times. And its not even entirely their fault because the wind is a sneaky wingman and doesn’t leave a lot of safe places for shaking out beach toys.  But the eyes, children, for the love of all things sweet, watch out for the eyes!

9: ACDC.  Not the band, actually, I just made up a new acronym.  Air Conditioning Death Chill.  You know that amazing feeling you get when you walk out of the sweltering heat into the cool oasis bliss of an air-conditioned room?  And then, five minutes of AC later, you feel the need to check your children for frost-bite?  The back and forth hot to cold is just confusing. I packed for the beach weather, just not for the AC.

Well.  That’s all for now.  Wishing you peaceful, balmy weather as wonderful as ours here.  And maybe a little less sand?

~Carrye

Beach Blitz Breakdown (Vaca Day 3)

Hey CT…

Short post today- this Mom is tired.  I thought I’d break down the way my 3 kids have tackled this beach thing.   Youngest to Oldest, here goes:

My 3 year old:

This normally fearless kid has always been highly suspicious of water.  No lie, he treated the bath like a torture chamber for the first 2 years of his life.  So the waves are a bit more than his constitution can handle; any time they knock him over he runs away to the safety of the beach blankets, deeply offended.  Still, he won’t admit defeat- plucky kid that he is- he prefers to chase the waves out like Mel Gibson in Braveheart, only to turn back around squealing when the waves go on the offensive.  This is pretty much his zone, right here… I think that might be a karate chop move…or he’s being batman.

My 6 Year Old…This kid is all laid-back goof.  The first day we were out in the waves, he laugh-screamed every time a wave broke over him, as though each one were a hysterical practical joke.  He has no clue that he’s not really catching the waves with his board, nor is he aware that he’s way overdressed for the ocean.  The kid is blissfully and happily himself. Beach hair and all. 

Last, there’s my newly 8 year old, who suddenly seems much older than that.  This. girl. is. a. wave. warrior.  From the moment she went out, she was playing for keeps.  She mastered catching baby waves with her board and she’s undaunted by setbacks.  The girl has been repeatedly tossed under, knocked over, and left gasping for air coughing up sea water with hair askew.  She somehow played rough enough with the waves to end up with a head-full of sand. (??!!) 

But she never quits.  The same girl who would rather play indoors than encounter a bee was clearly born for the beach.

Other than hitting the sand, I’ve been seriously wracking up bad-mom points with the amount of TV they’re watching…although its hard when there’s a tv in their room.…and I may lose face with some of you for letting the following nailpolish moment happen….

But all in all…we’re having a great time.  And I’m soaking up these smiles.

(Which reminds me, my husband bought me a new toothbrush today!! Better than flowers.)

Here’s to another fun day tomorrow,

Your high-volume-haired friend,Carrye

P.S.  Taking a break from “Gray Faith” study this week….will return with another video next Monday!!

Mom Vacation Confessions (Day 2)

Hello Again CT,

I really should have mentioned where we were headed in my last update.  Oops.  Mom details.  As I write this now, we’ve arrived at our destination: Virginia Beach!

Our morning in the hotel was basically…

The Good: The waffle machine worked!!  Free unlimited eggs and breakfast sausage are always a win.  My children even adored the awkwardly frozen-fruit. 

The bad: I had to choose between “bold” and “gourmet” hotel coffee.  What does that even mean?  Can’t I have a bold gourmet without having to mix the two?  Then, my 3 year old gagged on a partially frozen hardboiled egg, and my husband was exiled to a neighboring breakfast table because nothing about hotels is made for a family with more than 2 kids.

The ugly:  Kids don’t readily absorb concepts like “someone is sleeping in the room next door” or “you can’t run up the hotel stairs alone”.  So we spent a large amount of time chasing and whisper-shouting at them, which culminated in me completely snapping at my son in a way that, really any way you spin it, I sound like a jerk.  But if he tells you I used a bad word, that word was “punk”… which was just so accurate a descriptor at the time that my mouth forgot to filter it. 

Moving on.

After refueling, I started looking for a Starbucks. I kid you not, it seemed we passed one every 20 miles in NJ, but upon crossing the state line, there was a sudden Starbucks dearth.  To my credit, I did not find it necessary to drive 20 minutes out of our way for coffee.

Not-so-much-to-my-credit, I researched coffee roasteries on our route and found an amazing one in a quaint little town where

I briefly lost sight of our end destination.  This was one of those little hipster corners just into Virginia with artsy brick buildings and lights rigged up fancy in the trees.  (Notice the fake flowers tied on the branches.)

And my sudden desire to traipse whimsically with the kids to some cute eatery clashed severely with my husband’s desire to actually get to our destination.

In the end, we nixed the eatery but I did get my coffee, which was too amazing to describe in language appropriate to use around the children. After this, we briefly stopped for essentials at a Food Lion store.  I picked up many things, but most importantly…a new toothbrush. I tried to get a picture of my kids holding souvenir shirts that we never planned to actually buy.  I’ll let you be the judge of whether that photo op succeeded. 

Aaaand as we made PB&J for them in the store parking lot, I realized that we maybe shouldn’t use plastic spoons for the peanut butter anymore.OH…then my husband learned something new about me.  I don’t think I have many phobias, but apparently underwater tunnels is one of them.  And if you’ve never crossed the Bay Bridge Tunnel (we called it a “brunnel”)…well…its a whole lot of bridge and tunnel that doesn’t seem terribly attached to….what’s the word I’m looking for?…right, LAND.  We started to cross and I began firing questions uncomfortably: How long is this? How on earth do they do maintenance on this thing? How would they know if something was wrong? Look at those concrete columns!  They look crooked!  (My husband assured me they were supposed to be crooked and that they clearly have the money to pay for repairs with the $15 they charge/car to cross.  But please, you don’t have to explain that to me, you have to convince my phobia… ahem.  See below.)

If the bridge weren’t bad enough, we then had to drive straight down into the bowels of the bay, while my 6 year old rattled off how bad it would be if the water got into the tunnel and all the cars got flooded and sharks attacked us.  (Thanks kid.)

And just when we got to the lowest point of the tunnel my GPS creepily said, “Lost Satellite reception” and I told my husband that this is like a location right out of an apocalyptic film.  And I’m pretty sure right over there is where the meteor hits the water and launches a wave that sends a barge crashing into the tunnel where we all meet our ruin.  So I don’t know if the light at the end of the tunnel is a good thing or if we’ve all died.

Thankfully, our kids made it over the brunnel because upon arriving at our vacation home with family,  they are head-over-heels in love with the beach (more on that tomorrow.)

But for now, I need to use my husband’s tooth brush again before bed because I accidentally flipping threw out that new toothbrush I bought and it absorbed some unidentifiable brown liquid.  For. the. love.

Till tomorrow…

Still-Not-so-fresh-and-minty, Carrye

 

Vacation Confessions (Day 1)

Dear CT,

I’m writing home to tell you how my husband and the 3 kids are doing since we left.  You know, all of 7 hours ago.   Has it only been that long?

Here are some things I learned so far:

  1. If you try to make a giant leak-proof ice pack using a sealable bag, the bag will definitely have a hole in it and will leak out of your soft-cooler and onto your purse.
  2. You should make a packing list.  Or you’ll forget something important like your toothbrush and have to choose between the equally nerve-wracking options of not brushing your teeth at all or borrowing your husband’s brush.  (Although, he reminded me I accidentally use his often enough.)
  3. If you ask your children “what do we talk like when we’re in the car?” your three year old will say “batman” and you’ll find yourself role playing a scenario in which batman politely asks your husband to stop singing so loudly, because NICE and QUIET are how we talk in the car…  Except A) no one is buying your batman, B) your husband doesn’t sing period and C) Not even you are taking yourself seriously.
  4. Hotels are not made for sleeping.  And I don’t mean that as innuendo.  Hotels are like a cruel social experiment where each child strategically pushes you closer to the brink of the abyss.  One of your children will only mildly complain that they can’t sleep.  You will lightly scold.  A second will ramp up the complaining by 90%, only to finally stop flopping and talking awkwardly to himself when you promise a prize to the first kid who falls asleep.  (This idea came from the same part of your brain as the batman charade.  This will come back to haunt you.)  A third child won’t fall asleep even after you threaten to take away the hotel’s free waffle breakfast, suggest that he might make his Mimi cry, and begin to walk him back to the van for a “timeout” at 10:15pm.  (Who are you really punishing there?)  Halfway down the hall he’ll promise to sleep and will somehow finagle his way into nesting on a chair with a towel for a blanket.  Suit yourself, kid.
  5. “The Edge of Glory” is apparently sung by Lady Gaga, not Pink.  Who Knew?  (I don’t want a show of hands, I’m sure lots of you knew.)
  6. Blogging makes everything better.

That’s all for now.  All I can say is, the waffle machine better be working tomorrow…I’ll be in touch shortly….hopefully from an awesome beach view.

Sincerely,

Vacationing (But not sleeping) Carrye

 

 

Saving Our Kids (and Ourselves) From the More We Don’t Need

We navigated through the crowded woodland-themed lobby towards the canopied exit.  As we pushed the double doors open, fresh air filled our lungs and though the warm spring sun was fading, we caught  whimsical glimpses of its reflection on birds flying high above.

We exhaled.  The kids climbed a giant wolf-rock that was probably fake for all I know.  A fellow vacationer wrapped up her cigarette break and thoughtfully asked if we wanted her to take our family picture.  Where were we again?

That moment was like a reality-check-pause in our mini vacation to Great Wolf Lodge recently.  It’s really the perfect all-in-one place to take a young family.  You unload your light luggage and walk into a child’s dream: face painting, crafts, and balloon shapes, capped with a giant woodland character display.  And that’s just the lobby.  Whimsy is included in check-in, where you receive fuzzy wolf ears for all and head up to your hotel room.

There, the kids get to explore their mini wolf cave, complete with bunkbeds and wall mounted TV.  They even threw in some bottled water for free this time.

But that’s not really why you’re there…because the whole place is part indoor water park, part indoor ropes course with an arcade, spa, and mini restaurants.  Since the waterpark passes are included in your stay, this is the true highlight of the trip, and the big kids ooh’d about the wave-pool while the three year old mastered the mini-slides in his goofy, irrepressible way.  

Then we’d move to another area in the water park and my seven year old crossed a rope-over-water obstacle course while the boys floated in the lazy river or gleefully avoided the giant dumping water bucket.

Pure bliss, right?

Mostly.

But I haven’t told you about the fantastic water pass wrist bands, which were probably invented by a genius who loses things a lot.  The adult wrist band is your room key (*everyone freaks out and faints in amazement!*)…and you can conveniently use it at ANY of the Lodge’s on site locations to buy…well, anything: food, spa, arcade, even the Dunkin’ Donuts on premises.  Hallelujah, it’s convenience on steroids.  Except its alarmingly less convenient than we’d think.

We happened to have $50 free resort credit loaded on our card, so we used the wrist bands for purchases till that was used up.  But since my mind doesn’t know how to truly vacation from all thoughts probing, theological or otherwise, I started to actually be troubled by the stupid room-charge wrist bands. Because as easy as it is to swipe a credit card mindlessly to pay for things (which I often do), at the tap of a wrist band and a quick signature I could be on my merry way, hardly thinking about the total I was accruing.

Maybe it was the chlorine saturated artificial humidity or maybe it was my over-analytical brain but as I sat watching people walk through the water park area with their Wolf Lodge Pizzas and appetizers, I started picturing everyone with some dollar sign over their head.  I’m picturing invisible running tallies for that thick cut pepperoni, spa splurges, arcade binge, and plush wolf souvenirs.

I’m not even a math person which certainly didn’t help my sense of panic.

But back to my point, if I can find it somewhere in all the fake dollar signs and magical forest creatures: I don’t think it’s wrong to splurge sometimes to enjoy ourselves, to relax as a family, to embrace something fun and whimsical.  (Side note: Our family was blessed to go, and had a blast.)

Great Wolf Lodge is one of those places where you have absolutely everything you need to be happy, but you’re subtly surrounded by the idea that you could be MORE content if you spent MORE.  You can’t convince me it’s not intentional that you have to pass the arcade, spa, wizard wands and bubble blowers to get from the lobby to the waterpark, and it wasn’t lost on our children.

You have the whole amazing water park and THEN some, but as I’m not the first to point out, discontent is good business.  If someone can insert just a hint of discontent, we’re likely to buy into it in a literal sense.

And then we’re surrounded by vacationers who are spending it up with THEIR adorable kids, some of whom have themed wolf pajamas, spa glazed hands or collectible wolf coins (3 for  only $10!).  And there’s a part of all of us parents that feels like maybe we’re not giving our kids the best- the most fun- the world that they deserve.

But what if the “more” is not what we need?  What if the more is actually squelching something beautiful in our kids…in ourselves?  What if the more is actually feeding our discontent which feeds our more…which…well, you get it.

And I realized that the resort we were staying at was like a microcosm of real life.  Vacations are meant for a little splurge.  But our real world works a lot like that resort: I have really good things that many people don’t have.  I have a beautiful family, comfortable home, food and coffee and entertainment pretty much at my fingertips.  It’s my flipping waterpark bliss.

But I’m dazzled by the arcade and spa of my world, whether furniture or wardrobe or latte or must-have for my children.  And am I really any happier for all my spending and stacking of things?  Are my kids?  In reality, our more is suffocating us and overflowing in giveaway bags and trash cans.  It’s coming out our drawers, filling up the floor of my car with empty coffee cups and yet my mind screams for…more.

And I realized I need a moment, just like at the water park, where I intentionally force myself away from the crowd, out those materialistic doors into….the fresh air of a REAL Kingdom that is built on truth, love, and hope.  It’s a Kingdom that doesn’t run on our currency or pinterest wish list, that isn’t driven by profit or prestige.  It’s a place where the Bible says “I lack nothing” (Psalm 23:1) and God says that everything He has is ours already (Luke 15:31).  It’s not a magical unicorn place free from hardships on earth, and yet it’s a place where we can find strength to be content in every situation (Philippians 4:11-13).

It’s the place where I find that something eternal is growing in the midst of precisely the less that I thought I could never be happy with.  He literally makes my less more.

What are the things that draw me out those doors, back into that Kingdom perspective when I’m struggling with discontent?  Is it listening to others who don’t have what I do?  Is it realizing that while I’ve regretted plenty of purchases, I’ve almost never regretted giving money and things away?  Is it saying no to myself sometimes to realize my heart’s capacity to be content in Christ with less?

No matter what, I believe God is telling me I’m missing something in my excess.  (And trust me, I have a lot of it.)

If you’re looking for your own key to enter the perspective of that Kingdom, I’ve made a printable sheet of mini-contentment challenges for you and your family.  Print out a few and stick them in your wallet, car, fridge, or wherever.  Try a few of mine or use the blank card for you or your kids to write their own.

And if you end up with a cool story to share, or you have other ideas for being content, please comment!

CONTENTMENTCARDS 

*If you don’t want to download, I’ve listed the Contentment Card Suggestions Below:

  • Give Away One Thing a Day for a Week (Be Creative!)
  • Choose to Say “NO” To Yourself Once This Week (When it’s HARD).
  • Do Something As A Family That is FREE But Fills Your Soul.
  • Thank God for something when you feel discontent.
  • Make a List of Things You GAVE AWAY that made you HAPPIER.
  • Send Your Kids on a “Thankful Hunt”: Let them make a list or a Picture.
  • Take a break from Facebook, Pinterest or Social Media that feeds your need for more.

 

 

 

The Week My Compassion Broke

You know those blog posts that start with a problem and end with a cute little moral, a “you-can-do-it” pep talk, or at least an inspirational quote with a gorgeous panoramic picture?

I know you’re starting to feel a little warm and fuzzy at the thought, so I’m going to go ahead and snap you out of it and dump ice water on that thought.  Yeah, this isn’t that post.

This is the post where I tell you how the stomach bug attacked my six year old, while he was at a birthday party by the way, and then proceeded to take the rest of us out one by one like an invisible, icky sniper.  You know how this goes…the cleaning of things you haven’t cleaned since…well…the last stomach bug, come to think of it.  The indefinite holding of the breath hoping no one else will get sick. The way you simultaneously feel deeply sad for your pitiful child, but also think, “How could you do this to me??!!”

The sick feeling you get when you’re not actually sick but your mind thinks you are.

And then the actual being sick when you start bartering with God, asking yourself where you went wrong in life and why you never appreciated normal digestion.

So we finally got past all that in just under a week and had a deceptively blissful couple days of reprieve.  Then Monday two out of 3 kids woke up with ear pain that ended in infections for both.  (Side note: Minute clinic offices are really not big enough for two upset sick kids and a three year old that rivals the energizer bunny.)

So here I am today…and I told my husband my compassion is broken.  They broke it.  Not their fault.  No.  But sickness is like a megaphone that takes alllllll the whining and the tantrums and the baseline drama and amplifies it a gazillion times.  (That is a highly accurate statistic.)  If my sympathy is like a tube of toothpaste, we are down to that last little bit that you can only access through complicated origami folds.

My son asked to play a game today and I flat out told him that I simply didn’t want to.  Sorry.  Not happening today on broken compassion day.  And when those sweet sick little kids tried to get out of bed last night or complain about one more malady, I walked them briskly back to bed while attempting to defend my right to personal free time.

Not only is my compassion broken, between kids out of school and sheer delirium, I can barely remember what day it is.  I keep drawing confusing lines on my calendar where I put the right event in the wrong square.   My son’s birthday is today and I forgot to buy the poor kid a gift.  And based on the straggling few forks in my silverware drawer, I’d say I’m massively overdue to clean dishes.

So how do you play into all this?  Well….  I think you know exactly how I feel because I believe at least 72% of you have just gone through the same thing.  So I promise…I won’t try to cheer you up….I won’t try to pat you on the back and tell you it will get better…I’ve lost my compassion, remember?  But go ahead and share your worst sick stories with the rest of us…maybe we’ll all feel a little better after all.

 

 

Dear Anarchist Sons

Dear Anarchist Sons of Mine (age 3 and 6 respectively),

Where to start?  Your attention spans are short, so I’ll begin by saying the important: I’ll love you in and out, through and through till the day I die.  This, however, is because my love isn’t a book or a toy or a paper…that you can shred and destroy like a pack of vindictive lions.

I don’t actually love things being destroyed.  (Surprise!)  So let’s just cover a few examples of situations I don’t like, shall we?

Do you remember when we made that “fruits of the Spirit” tree for our wall?  You know…the one with fruits of “love”, “joy”, “peace”.  I suspect you remember because you stripped that tree, probably while I was in the bathroom.  And I don’t really take it personally, but I do find it more than coincidental that the fruits you unceremoniously ripped off were “joy” and “gentleness”. Could we not rip all things paper…including books and cards?  Ahem.  Moving on.

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s talk broken toys and Christmas presents.  I’m not even so surprised that you break them…but don’t have the decency in your little hearts to wait till the New Year at least?  By the way, you don’t need to turn your whoopie cushion into a “frisbee”…if you want a frisbee we can get you something made surprisingly exactly for that purpose.

Then there’s the messes and so many smells.  You know who you are.  I mean, it should be enough for you that the bathroom is perpetually vaguely scented of urine and the massive amounts of soap you use.  (One squirt, really…it’s quite effective.)  But on top of that, I’m finding gifts of partially processed foods:

…writing on the wall and table (as though we don’t buy you reams of paper):

 

…and whatever paint/glitter love child this is:

Also…I’m not sure if this is a boundary line or security measure, but in either case there’s a more effective and less gluey method here…I’m 98% positive.

 

 

 

 

 

Then there’s a few simple…let’s call them “etiquette” matters.  For one, your diaper isn’t an appropriate holster for your toy gun.

Two, thought I appreciate your budding artistic skills, please save your anatomically awkward “naked sunburnt man” pictures for home and not for your teacher at school. Please. For the love.

Third: Sweet boy, I know that you are just showing me the two fingers that are particularly messy, but the world simply won’t understand.  Let’s work on getting non-middle fingers messy next time.

Finally, I love your building and creativity.  You guys amaze me with those brains.  But you and I both know that behind those brilliant designs and charming smiles are two boys with no intentions of cleaning up anything.  Except for those random moments when you do clean and I’m tempted to take you to the ER for brain scans.

So…I hope this letter has been informative and convincing.  Next time remind me to talk to you about 101 ways to NOT torture your sister.

With Greatest Love,

You Worn-out Mom

 

 

 

 

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (Reality Redo)

‘Twas the night before Christmas, And all through the house,

Of course there was “stirring”, but it wasn’t the mouse,

(On a side note, we think there’s a mouse in the basement,

Because of the droppings in obvious placement).

The children won’t “nestle”, they don’t know that word,

They’re poking and squabbling like two angry birds,

The sir watching football and I with my wine glass,

Had just settled down to wrap gifts and relax…

When up in my head there arose such a clatter,

Of failed mother moments and Christmas disaster:

Like the time that my son squirted windex of blue,

On the floor and his brother and then sister too.

The moon shining bright on the trees bare and brown,

Remind me of Christmas tree needles knocked down,

And that sad small fir tree that I bought as a gift,

That promptly flopped over, it’s branches won’t lift.

The sound from the screen brought my mind to the games,

Where the players from each of the teams would be named,

Now Bengals!  Now Texans! Then Broncos and Chiefs

Would be playing for all of our late Christmas feasts.

For a moment I breathed an unusual calm,

But then dash away, dash away, dash away all!

For then in a twinkling I heard on the “roof”,

The prancing and pawing of each little “hoof”.

Before I could act, as my head turned around,

Down the stairs came the kids with their least quiet sounds,

All dressed cute in their pjs, from heads to their feet,

They needed to pee or more drink or more heat.

They didn’t find Momma kissing “Santa Clause”,

Instead with arms crossed I laid down the house laws,

Their droll little mouths swiftly turned to a pout,

With no more excuses they turned and went out,

And I wondered if Santa, with his round little belly,

Could make my kids eat more than pb and jelly?

If perhaps he’d leave Rudolph with the kids just to play,

So they’d sleep from exhaustion at the end of the day.

But my husband he winked and then nodded his head,

At the sounds of the giggling up in their beds.

He spoke not a word, but I realized with joy,

That despite all the chaos, my girl and my boys

Are a gift, yes a blessing, an endless new wonder,

To hold and to love both in growing and blunder,

Then, snap! Went the football, the ref blew a whistle,

And we sat there in awe, our mirth now official.

And so I exclaim as we savor this night,

“Merry Christmas to all, and to all…better sleep in the future.”

 

 

Warning: High Maintenance Areas

I’m not high maintenance.  Pff.  Absolutely not.  Yes, I’ve been buying more clothes from for-real stores and from fair trade/wages organizations like Imagine Goods and Amani Ya Juu20161110_212757

but I’m still a thrift shop girl at heart.  My long hair means I don’t have a “salon” so much as some friends with haircutting abilities that I occasionally pay to keep me within the realm of acceptable split-ends.  I don’t require expensive jewelry; I admire fancy nails, but I can’t seem to maintain them myself; it doesn’t cripple me to have an imperfect house.

So I’m not high maintenance. Nope.  Not a smidge.  Um.  Except for when I am.

This holiday season I’ve been mulling over the idea of “joy”, mostly because I’m supposed to teach on joy this month.  Drat.  It’s more fun teaching something than learning it myself.

My joy seems to be wrapped up in my expectations.  I can sit here and look at all the other people with their “high-maintenance” whatevers who seem to require more of this or more of that than I need to be happy.  Or their personality is wired so that they really can’t function without a fully cleaned house…or they find an honest-to-goodness happiness in a really great manicure and monthly hair-styling.  And it’s easy for me to think that those things are a wee bit unnecessary- definitely not something to set your joy on.

Yet I set my joy on some high-maintenance expectations of my own.

Let’s start with coffee.  A friend recently told me she only buys coffee out a couple times a year.  Excuse me?  In a YEAR?  That might cover your birthday and anniversary, but what about Valentine’s Day and Groundhog Day?  What about the Starbucks monthly double-stars day?  What about days when the kids are going crazy or you feel hormonal?  What about the “I-happen-to-be-driving-within-10-miles-of-my-favorite-coffee-place” days?  What about RAINY days for heaven’s sake??!!

And then let’s get down to the actual coffee.  I, thrift shopper that I am, have somehow convinced myself that it’s OK to drop 5 dollars a pop on coffee. I’m quite a smooth talker to myself.

” Why, yes self, you DO have diabetes…you DO have a two year old who punched you in the face today…you DO feel a bit tired and YES if you miss this two minute window to buy coffee you’ll probably go into a catatonic state of lethargy from which there’s no return.  What kind of mother would you be if you DIDN’T buy coffee?”

And my joy is suddenly based on the latte-ness of the day, or whether the store has my favorite sugar free syrups, or how often I’m able to escape in java bliss.

Then Christmas tree shopping revealed more high maintenance areas.  We got a wonderful tree but we didn’t get our usual wagon ride and hot chocolate amenities.  A bit of joy deflated.  And even though I “let” my kids pick out a tree, I’m a master of getting them to ultimately pick one I approve of.  Because Christmas just might fall apart (for me) if I let the kids pick out the tree.

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So my gracious husband dragged in our fresh-over-priced tree, patiently stood it up and screwed it into the stand only for me to look at it with an overwhelming sense of discontent. (loss of joy).  The trunk was too tall…the lowest branches were dismally far away from the floor.  Dismally.  Yes I said it. I awkwardly asked if he could re-do it.  If he could possibly take the whole thing down, cut a bit of trunk here, a branch or two there.  Only because my joy hinged on it.

And then I almost started crying, because once he had trimmed the darn thing, the tree was closer to the ground but the branches he was forced to cut off left gaps all around the base of the tree.  Not one sad little gap that you can turn towards the wall so no one sees it.  Gaps everywhere!  And I panicked because we had already bought this tree and there was no going back and now Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas unless I could JAM some extra tree branches into the tree stand to fill out the bottom.  Seriously, I sat there like a mad-woman trying to wedge tree branches until my husband gently asked if I’d like him to tie the branch onto the tree instead.  Yes…we twist tied branches onto my tree this year like the equivalent of tree hair transplant.

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So our tree is complete now and it fills me with joy and it should.  That’s OK.  But it’s also symbolic this year of my expectations for joy.  Maybe I do have some areas of high maintenance that can threaten to steal my joy if I’m not careful, if I don’t own them and tame them through a little letting go.  Maybe we all have those places in our lives…maybe the things or people that give us the greatest joy, when lost or broken, are also the places where we have the potential to lose the greatest joy.

Is there a deeper anchor for my joy than my own high-maintenance places?  Is there a well of joy that runs deeper than my broken expectations?  Is there a source of joy that outlasts my temporary fixes?

I’m finding that a joy bigger than my circumstances must come from outside of myself.  For me, Jesus is more and more becoming that source of joy for me.  He’s becoming more than just a plastic figure or a pat answer and is soaking into the very fiber of who I am.  I’m not fully there yet…but my soul reminds me whenever I’m disappointed in this life that there’s a far deeper joy in the One I can’t see than in the things that I can.

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Where are you tempted to lose joy this year?  How do you refocus yourself when joy seems far away?