Saturday, February 25, 2012

Free Marriage Advice

I have been married for seven wonderful years to an incredible man of God.  We are the proud parents of three beautiful, special, incredible children.  We've been doing the parenting thing for almost six years.  We are by no means experts on marriage or children, but we have seen a lot. 

There is one particular experience we have had that compels me to share this piece of marriage advice to you, dear readers.  I feel an obligation - nay, a duty! - to pass along this piece of wisdom so that you may not suffer the way I am suffering here on this beautiful Saturday in February.

For the sake of your marriage...for the sake of your wife's sanity...for the sake of all that is good and wholesome in the world...

Dads.  Do not.  Buy your three children.  RECORDERS. 


Believe me: No amount of Starbucks can make up for the damage inflicted by these hideous excuses for instruments. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

There's Always a Parade

I was brushing Anna's hair the other morning when she started stomping her feet.  "Anna," I said, "what at earth are you doing?"

"I'm having a parade," she answered, as if it should have been obvious. 

"A parade?" I asked, confused.

"Yeah, I'm pretending there's a parade."

"Well, can you wait till I'm done with your hair?"  I asked, laughing.

She huffed a frustrated sigh and said, "Ok, but hurry up!  I have to have a parade!"

Now, upon first glance, this is just a funny, cute Anna story.  But when I told this tale to a friend of mine, she shook her head in amazement and said, "that girl really has a gift.  A gift of happiness." 

It's true.  Anna has her down moments, her disappointments and sadness like everyone else.  But she has a rare gift for seeing the beauty in everything, for seeing God at work, and for making fun and joy in seemingly mundane places.  I have to stand here so Mom can do my hair?  Well, I know how to make this more interesting, I'll have a parade! 

There's so much  I can learn from my children.  Each one of them have unique gifts to give to the world.  One of Anna's gift is a gift of joy.  She finds joy in so much of life.  It's a special download that God gave her when He created her.  She is one of the most playful, imaginative, joyful people I know, and just being around her lifts my soul.  In her I see tiny glimpses of the overwhelming joy of the Father. 

Right now, there's some stuff weighing me down.  My mom has cancer.  My kids are down with the flu.  Finances are tight.  As a family, we are on the brink of new things, but we don't know what those are yet, and the not knowing drives me CRAZY.  In the midst of all this, however, there's Anna, reminding me to:

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

New Living Translation (NLT)
 16 Always be joyful. 17 Never stop praying. 18 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

(She's pretty good at praying continuously too.)

No matter what happens in this life, I have the ability - nay, the privilege - of being joyful in all my circumstances.   Life does not have to be defined by it's circumstances.  It is defined by how I respond, and I can choose to respond with the same joy that rules my daughter's life.

After all...there's always a parade.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Mama Said There'd Be Days Like This

The mornings around here run on a pretty tight schedule.  Time is an issue, which is why I have worked out a specific timetable for being up and around and out the door.  For things to work, I absolutely have to be in the shower by 6:00am.  The kids have to be up by 6:30am.  The kids and I have to leave the house at 7:15am so that I can get the little ones to the sitter's by 7:28, Joshua to school by 7:45, and me to work by 7:55.

This week has been particularly hectic due to the fact that my husband has been sick for the past three days.  My husband NEVER gets sick.  He is one of the healthiest guys I know.  He gets sick maybe once a year, and when he does, usually he just sleeps for a day and is fine.  For him to be down for three days is unheard of.  It also makes my mornings even more difficult because I don't have any help in the breakfast or dressing the kids department. 

This information will become important in understanding the chaos that was my morning yesterday.

Yesterday morning my alarm went off at 5:30 am.  I really needed to get up and in the shower because of the above issues.  I had also broken one of my own rules: I had failed to set the kids' clothes out the night before.  This is a key component to the mornings going smoothly, but since I didn't have Sean's help in cleaning up the previous night, I had just plain worn out before I got the clothes prepared. 

And then there were the pennies.  Joshua's class at school was celebrating the 100th day of school, and he was supposed to bring 100 of something.  He chose pennies.  In theory, I was supposed to have counted them out with him, and we had been supposed to practice counting them by 10s, 5s, etc.  In reality, Daddy being out of commission had drastically affected the run of things, and we just plain hadn't done it.  This left me scrounging up 100 pennies that morning. 

So...I really needed to get up and moving.

The first sign of trouble was that Matthew woke up when  I did.  He came trotting out and curled up on the couch with me.  (I'd been sleeping on the couch because Sean was sleeping really restlessly from his illness, and I couldn't get any sleep with him thrashing around, poor guy.)  He snuggled into my side while I started to weigh my options.  I knew I need to get in the shower, but what was I going to do with this guy?  If Joshua had been up, I could have set them up playing computer games, because I can see the computer from the bathroom, and Matthew will do anything as long as Joshua is doing it.  But Joshua had woken up at 4:00 and proclaimed he was done sleeping.  I told him he wasn't and sent him back to bed, and he had fallen back asleep, so now he was back in a sleep cycle and not likely to wake up for a while. 

As I lay there, another issue became clear: I had to go to the bathroom.  Like, majorly.  And NOW. 

"Matthew," I said brightly, putting on my sweet mom voice, "Would you like to watch Larry Boy while Mommy goes potty?" 

His little eyebrows rushed together and he shook his head vigorously, "NO."

Sighing in urgent resignation, I said "Do you want to go with me?"

This made him break out into one of his awesome grins and say "Yeah!  Yeah!"

Ok.  Group bathroom time.  Awesome.  We headed off to the bathroom, and as I was attending to things while simultaneously trying to discourage Matthew from taking everything off the hallways shelves, I heard someone come over the safety gate to the kids' room.  Breathing a sigh of relief, I was about to ask Matthew if he'd like to go play on the computer with Joshua when a tiny girl in a pink kitty cat nightgown appeared at the bathroom door.  It wasn't Joshua, it was Anna, and she was crying from a bad dream.  In true oblivious 4 year old fashion, she came right into the bathroom and tried to climb into my lap for comfort, not noticing that my lap was, shall we say, busy at the moment.  I finally had to tell her to go in the living room and I'd be with her in a moment; she ran out of the bathroom crying.  (Anna is very sensitive these days.) 

I finally got done in the bathroom and headed out to the living room to figure out what to do next.  It was now 6:00, and my schedule was crashing.  Two kids were up, I needed to shower, and I couldn't wake up their father.  I decided to get the kids breakfast and try to get them sitting down with a movie so I could squeeze in a shower.  I got the boys' smoothies and Anna's cereal all put together and set them up with VeggieTales in the living room.  (By this time, Joshua had joined us.)  Seeing that everyone was calm and distracted, I snuck away to count pennies into a Ziploc bag and then take a shower.

Now, I am like a ninja master when it comes to quick showers.  Comes with the territory.  I can be in and out in 5 minutes flat.  However, 5 minutes is all Matthew needs to bring total destruction, so I was trying to move faster than usual.  As I was rinsing my hair, I heard the unmistakable sound of Matthew coming over the gate.  ARG.

As I frantically tried to finish, I tried not to think about the huge cake sitting on the counter in the kitchen.  I had made it for Sean's birthday, and the kids loved it.  A little too much.  Visions of finding Matthew on the floor shoving fistfuls of cake and icing into his mouth flashed through my head.  I wasn't worried about safety issues - we keep the kitchen pretty safe - but I was worried about the fate of the cake and other food messes Matthew could create in the 90 seconds it was going to take me to get out of the shower.  While I was finishing, Anna came into the bathroom to helpfully inform me that Matthew was in the kitchen.  I asked her what he was doing; she said he was eating out of the cereal box.  Breathing a sigh of relief (if that's the worst thing he did, we were going to be fine), I hurried to get out of the shower. 

As I was coming out of the bathroom in my towel, Joshua announced that Matthew had spilled his smoothie.  I wasn't concerned; my kids use the word "spill" very liberally.  Two drops of milk can qualify as a "spill."  But as I came into the living room, I realized that spill was actually not strong enough of a word to describe the scene.  His cup was on its side on the floor in the middle of a growing pool of green slime. 

I grabbed a towel and went to work.  This was one of those 4-step ordeals: wipe up the glop, then mop up the excess, then get the carpet cleaner, THEN dry it off.  All of this had to be done quickly if I didn't want the carpet to be neon green and smell like pineapple and banana forever.  I got it all cleaned up, but please note something at this point in the narrative: I had just gotten out of the shower.  I hadn't gotten dressed yet.  The spill was more urgent than clothes. So I was cleaning all this up while still dripping wet in a towel.

In the midst of the spill, Anna decided that her nightgown was unwearable and took it off.  This of course made her cold and she started yelling that she needed clothes right now.  Scurrying about, I dug around and got her clothes, at which point I had to dig up the boys' clothes as well, because of course if Anna was getting dressed, then by golly they had to be dressed too.  After helping everyone into their clothes, I finally got to find my own clothes and get dressed.  And then the great sock hunt began.

Socks are the bane of my existence.  They are never where they are supposed to be.  Please don't lecture me on using laundry bags to keep them all together; I can't keep track of the laundry bags either.  Every single day is a struggle for finding socks for the kids.  On this particular day, the boys' socks were easily found, but Anna's remained elusive.  I finally found two socks of hers that in no way matched but at least vaguely resembled each other.  I sat down to put them on her feet, glancing up at the clock at seeing that it was about 7:05.  Yikes!  We had to hurry!  I still hadn't brushed Anna's hair, my hair, or thrown any makeup on my face. 

That was the moment Joshua broke the Ziploc bag containing his pennies.  100 pennies, all over the room. 

That was also the moment Mommy lost it and started screaming.

"JOSHUA MICHAEL!  WHY??!!!" I screamed at my son.  "WHY DID YOU OPEN THAT?!"




I don't know?  Really, kid?  That's the best you've got?

We frantically picked up all the pennies and carefully counted them back into the bag because, of course, there had to be exactly 100.  The counting took a while because Anna and Matthew were quite exuberant in their attempts to help and kept throwing more pennies in the bag after I had counted them. 

Finally I got everyone brushed, make-upped, jacketed, shoed, and in the car. I turned on the radio and glanced at the clock: 7:24.


And one top of it all - no time for coffee!!

That has to be one of the craziest mornings I have experienced in a while, the climax being the pennies all over the floor.  However, the icing on the cake was the conversation I had with Joshua after school:

"How was school, Joshua?"
"Mom, you messed up, I only had 99 pennies."
"And whose fault is that, Joshua?"


But as I told a friend this have to laugh at these things.  You have to sit back and just laugh at the absurdity sometimes.  That morning was insane.  But to look back, I realize that everyone was fed, clean, and dressed.  The carpet survived.  Because I was attending a training that morning at a different building, it actually wound up that not only was I NOT late, but they served coffee, God bless them.  The kids were healthy, happy, and safe all day.  And right now, as I type this up, there are running around the living room in costumes playing Cat in the Hat. 

I am truly a blessed woman - green slime, pennies, group bathroom breaks and all.