Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Go Fly a Kite

My mom brought home kites a couple of days ago and my big boy has been chomping at the bit to get out and fly his. Today he wore me down and we walked to the park to see what we could do with it.

At the age of 11 I can see the young man emerging in my little boy. He is almost eye to eye with me, his shoulders are broadening, and he carries himself with more assurance. This is the age when kids are on the cusp. They crave adult privileges with none of the responsibilities. Eleven year olds desire independence, autonomy, but also grow fearful when given too much at once.

We get to the park and walk beyond the playground to the open field. It takes us a few minutes to assemble the kites and get the string where it's supposed to go. My kid is so excited that he cannot patiently wait for my instructions, he's just got to go try it.

It's a breezy day, but not constant. His frustration mounts quickly and it's less than five minutes before he throws the kite down in anger and storms off.

This is new. My words used to be gold to this guy. He would sit next to me, head turned up to hear, eyes locked on mine ready to receive my instructions. "Mom said" was the law in his eyes one short year ago.

This new thing, the not listening, the forging ahead, the I-can-do-it-without-you, is different.

My instinct is to chase him and lecture him, to force him to listen to me. To put my hands on his shoulders and remind him that if he had just listened to my instructions in the first place I could have eliminated his frustration.

The thing is, though, that I remember being frustrated like that. Feeling that just one thing should be easy, feeling like everything was against me, even the wind. So I push against my instinct, turn my face into the wind and run with the kite.

I run and the kite catches the wind in just the right way and it soars into the blue sky. I let out more string so that the kite can go further. The wind whips it around and the tails fly in a frenzy. The kite settles down and I stand grinning in the field. I have also been joined by my boy.

Suddenly the kite does a crazy figure eight and crashes to the ground.

I hand the kite off and tell him he'll figure it out, that I know he can do it, and I mean it when I say it.

Then I walk away.

I am playing with my younger son at the park when I hear him laughing.

"Mom, mom, I'm doing it!"

And he is. He is flying the kite without instruction, and he's just fine.

Arriving home my mom is in the kitchen and sees the kites in our hands.

"Oh, good! You took them out! Did you get it up in the air okay?"

Me and my boy, our eyes meet over the pitcher of tea he's holding. He is asking a question with his sweet brown eyes. I smile in answer. His body relaxes and he rushes to answer.

"Yes! It was great, I flew the kite all by myself!"

I walk out of the room listening to him tell of kite flying and wind and perfection as only an exuberant 11-year old can, and I am so glad I got to fly a kite today, too.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Five Things

I'm not a big keepsake person. My family has moved so often that I find it's just more stuff to put in a box when it's time to move. There, are however, five possessions I have that mean a lot to me right now.

My wedding band

It is a plain band made from white gold. My husband has two matching ones (that story later). Two nights before our wedding we realized we had never purchased the bands we were to exchange with our vows. We went to Service Merchandise because we had no idea where else to go. We also didn't have a lot of cash since we were both still in college.

A clerk caught us looking at the bands and kindly showed us some $300 sets. They were pretty, but still too expensive for our budget. We found the plain bands for about $50 a piece and were out of the door 15 minutes later.

It's funny how a symbol develops meaning over twenty years. That plain metal band is so important to me, not only because of what it means but because of where it's been. We were on a mission trip to Jamaica a few years ago and I noticed it was bent. I have no idea how the tiny dent got there. I've tried to straighten it out as best I can. I could take it to a jeweler and have it fixed but I worry that it wouldn't be my band anymore. I figure I earned that dent.

~ A  drawing from a friend

Our fourth child was born in October of 2009. I was severely anemic and also had horrible postpartum anxiety. To top it all off I had to have an MRI and a spot was found on my liver, sending my anxiety into overdrive. My other three children felt that there mother had been exchanged for someone who looked like me but acted like an alien. An alien that leaked breast milk and tears. An alien that had to be hooked to a machine to help increase the leaky problem. The alien also came with an alien baby who wreaked havoc in their lives.

My sweet friend Jenna took the kids for afternoons so that they could escape the leaking alien. She drew this for me on one of those trips.  It served as a reminder that motherhood is a privilege not a prison sentence and still does today.

~ My red sneakers

I bought these sneakers four or five years ago. I have always loved red, red anything, but these just called to me. Plus, they were on sale for a GREAT price. They are a little flat so I have to get those squishy things to make my feet feel happy but overall they have been awesome shoes. They have been on walks with me, they have helped me look cute as I chase one of my dogs through the neighborhood after an escape. They have walked on the beach at Dauphin Island with me. I love these shoes.

I packed them away late last fall when we were preparing to move. I forgot about them in the shuffle of everything. A couple of weeks ago I found them in the bottom of a box with some other forgotten items and it was quite a happy reunion. I saw those shoes and recalled all the places we'd been together and couldn't wait to show them around their new city.

~ Baby clothes

I just can't quite put these baby clothes away permanently. I keep them in one of my drawers and like to look at them a couple of times a year when I'm trying to clean out my drawers. My babies are all getting so big now. My girls are 17 and (almost) 15, and my boys are 11 and 5. On days when I'm finding it hard to remember the sweet stuff I pull these clothes out.

Some friends just had their third child a few days ago. Bringing home baby to four and two year old sons has been a train wreck. They are exhausted and can barely remember their own names. I told Roger, the new dad,  "One day, you'll look back and remember these as the sweetest days of your life."  He laughed and said that's what other people had told him.

"Nah, I'm lying,"  I confessed, "You'll always look back on these days and remember how hellishly tired you were and wonder how you did it."

Don't get me wrong, I miss having a newborn, and if someone would hand me (or two) one I would be overjoyed. Being a parent to a new child though, causes you to have to dig deep into the well, especially when you have other small children to feed and clothe. It's hard, really, really hard. I think, though, if you can get through those first six weeks or so and not turn on each other, you're gold.

I look back on the early days with my babies and I think, "I did that, so I can do anything."

As long as I have coffee.

~  My journals

I don't journal consistently, but I have notebooks/journals filled with thoughts, pictures, writing ideas, bible study notes,  and letters to people who have ticked me off. Sometimes I lose them and then will come across them months or years later. I love to peruse their pages and see myself through fresh eyes. I am occasionally really embarrassed by younger me. I am also occasionally surprised at how deep my bible study was. My journals often inspire me to do more of the same.

Those are my five favorite items right now. I realize that each item is special to me because it has my history wrapped up in it. I read once that knowing our history is important because it tells us so much about where we are and will help us determine where we want to go. These simple items, things I could no doubt live without, hold a special place in my heart.  Each item helps keep me grounded in who I was, who I am, and excited about where God will take me.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Why I Keep Hershey Kisses in My Purse

I don't like clothes shopping. Never have, never will.

I just feel that the clothing industry is where the real war on women is. Like someone out there wants us all to either wear sweat pants and t-shirts every day or they have something against women in general. I do not understand it, the average woman's weight is steadily rising yet the fabric used to make our clothing gets increasingly thinner. And stretchier. And less forgiving.

What the heck?

Last year at Easter Mom bought me a dress. I was pretty excited because it was my size. It was not a style I would have picked but I was game. I put it on in the bathroom and from the neck up I was pretty impressed. I went to the full length mirror and wasn't so sure.

I called my husband in for a second opinion. He stood behind me while I turned to and fro trying to get a feel for whether or not this dress would accompany me to church the next morning.

"Well, what do you think?" I asked Lee.

He didn't answer so I turned to see what was up.  "Well?" I probed.

Lee looked pained, like he had swallowed something the wrong way and couldn't get it out.

The poor man answered shakily, "I'm so scared right now. Is this a trick? What's the right answer?"

The answer was I looked like a hot dog that had been left in the water too dang long. Lumps and bumps were popping out all over the place. I had tried to wear undergarments that held everything in before and was not happening again. It took three people to get me out of the contraption and my ribs have never been the same. Also, the dress was obviously made from the same type of material that they must use for topographical maps because every hill and valley was highlighted.

The next week I exchanged the pretty dress for a pair of pants with an elastic waist band and two t-shirts.

A few months ago my daughters convinced me to go shopping with them, probably because they know that I am weak after a dressing room experience and that they could get me to say 'yes' to just one more pair of jeans. All shirts are now see through. I'm not even kidding. I guess you're supposed to also buy shirts to go under or have on a fancy bra but I don't get it.

I'm not the only confused one. I've met plenty of confused women in the dressing room. We take turns in front of three-way Mirror of Shame. We say nice things to each other to try and clear the confusion. Clearing up confusion is not easy under the sickly yellow of fluorescent lights, either.

"Oh, I think the zipper is supposed to be open at the top a little. It's a thing now," someone will say.

"When you stand with one hand in the air and one in front of you it looks really good," another offers as encouragement.

I've told my daughters that it's totally normal to hear soft weeping from an adjoining dressing room. "Just throw some chocolate under the partition and leave. She'll be fine."

 And that's why I always keep some Hershey kisses in my purse.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Yellow Boots

In my house lives a pair of magical yellow boots.

That's what the boy who wears them believes, anyway.

They were on sale and blue was sold out so the yellow boots seemed an easy choice. Now I see that they chose me so that they could make it home to my boy.

I bought the boots a size too big when he was half way to three. I noticed right away how perfect they were because I could spot him wherever he went. A flash of yellow gave me comfort that I knew right where he was. Immediately they set him apart. Other parents complimented me. "How smart to pick yellow. He can't hide from you!"

These boots were with him the year he turned three. He was a super hero in pajamas and a cape. The yellow boots were a constant companion, the only thing we didn't lose.

At four the boots were with him in his dress up clothes. He was a firefighter, Iron Man, a worker guy, and a chef.  They were with him as he learned to peddle his bike chanting "Just keep pedawing, just keep pedawing."

With the boots on his feet puddles turned to oceans that he could cross without harm. Mountains  became hills (or is it the other way?), and all trees became climbable with the yellow boots on his feet. He had super human speed thanks to those yellow boots.

"Close your eyes, mama!" he commands, so I do. When I open them he has crossed the yard faster than normal eyes can track. "Am I the fastest?"

Yes, my boy you are.

Gravity has no hold on his boots. He can touch the tallest trees, the clouds, and even the moon with his yellow boots on his feet.

The boots cause heads to turn wherever we go. His stride shows a confidence only a 5 year old who has not been knocked around by the world can carry. "Nice boots," they say.  "Thanks," he replies in a deepened voice. If he had on a cowboy hat I know he would tip it in their direction.

The boots are tattered and torn, muddy and worn. They are losing their treads. Long ago the liner was discarded. Sometimes my little boy goes days without asking for them. They no longer have to be at his bedside, or on his feet, while he sleeps. I know that his need for them his dwindling.

I sometimes think that I love these boots even more than he does. They are like the fishes and loaves, continuing to give even when they logically should not. Every time he puts them on I think, "Today will be the day that they don't fit."

As we walk around the block I ask how they feel.

"Great!" he shouts as he runs ahead, always ahead  and always faster than I am. Skipping and jumping, spontaneously stopping to examine the world.

He believes they will fit, and so they do.

I know that one day the boots won't fit, that they will be too small. I know that one day my boy won't care if they fit, that he will no longer want them.

I know the yellow boots hold no magic. They are ordinary yellow boots that have been transformed into extraordinary yellow boots for a time.

The little boy runs ahead of me, turns his brown eyes to look over his shoulder and coax, "Come on, mama!"

I see instantly where the magic lies, and it is not in those boots. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

If Mama Ain't Happy...

A few years ago I said to a friend, "I think I'm going to start a blog."

So I did. The title came easily to me. I had a a little frame that held the phrase "If Mama Ain't Happy...Nobody's Happy" in it hanging above my desk. A sweet lady from a church in Tennessee had given it to me after I spoke at our church on Mother's Day. There was a companion to it that said, "If Daddy Ain't Happy...Who Cares?" I showed it to my mother-in-law once and she was not happy.

It's a phrase familiar to me from childhood. It was said jokingly or with great seriousness depending on the situation.

When I became a mother I took the phrase to mean that it was someone else's job to make Mama happy. That someone else was generally my husband, poor man. Lee tried, he really did, but since he is human he failed. A lot. Don't worry, I was really good about reminding him of his failures.


One day and three children later I was sitting in my van on a rainy day. I had a trunk full of groceries and was waiting a bit to go in. I took that time to rage at God about what a pitiful husband Lee was and gave him a long list of things He could do to improve him.

It was a very thorough list.

God had a revelation to share with me that day, though.  Apparently, my husband is not my savior. Ugh. What a disappointment.

After some weeping and gnashing of the teeth I drew closer to Jesus through studying the bible, reading LOTS of books, talking with other women, and praying.

I learned that the phrase 'If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy' really meant that my family followed my lead when it came to my mindset. I read in a book, I can't for the life of my remember the title or author, that the mother is the barometer of her family. If I'm a storm cloud thundering around my family reflects that. However, if I can be content no matter the circumstances  my family will also follow suit.

I have learned the secret of
being content in any and every situation, 
whether well fed or hungry, 
whether living in plenty or in want.
I can do all things through Christ, 
who gives me strength.
Phillippians 4: 12-13

It's amazing how true this is. The bad news is that it's a major responsibility. The good news is that we do not have to do it alone. For years I struggled with feeling inadequate as a mom. I was constantly reading books to help me be a better wife and mother. I may have started out reading a book with a teachable spirit but either by the end of the book, or a few weeks after finishing, I felt like a failure, or that I wasn't changing fast enough. My family certainly wasn't looking like the one I dreamed of as I read these books.

I was constantly criticizing myself and my family and digging a deeper hole that required yet more self-help books. Slowly, after a lot of time with Jesus, I came to realize that working in my own power was wearing me down.

The title of my blog came easily but the purpose not so much. Lately I've been thinking a lot about the purpose of my blog. I mean, I like to write. I like to share stories and goodness knows my life has given me plenty to write about.

I write because I believe that sharing story is important. Sharing stories connects us to one another, helps us feel less alone. I think one of the meanest things that people can do to one another is not be honest. I feel it's important to say, "Being human is kicking my butt today."

Being transparent isn't easy because it makes us vulnerable. Others can see our weaknesses which means that they could hurt us. I've got to tell you, I just don't have the energy to cover up all my issues. Plus what good is it to struggle to make the appearance of being okay when at the end of the day there's no pay off?  I may as well wear a t-shirt that says "not quite right". It's kind of like, if I show you mine you show me yours, you know?

SO... here's the low down for today:

My youngest son wore one of my flowered, lacy socks to church because I just can't find his.

I don't have chore charts.

I have pinned hundreds of recipes but still manage to make tacos and pasta meals every. single. week.

I swear in front of my children sometimes. I sometimes feel bad for it.

I am inconsistent with discipline.


I really, really, really love Jesus, and that trumps it all.

Erma Bombeck, said, "If you can't make it better, you can laugh at it."

I blog here to help people feel less alone, to give people something to laugh about, and to share what Jesus is doing in my life. Being human is hard. I can't make it better, but I can give you something to laugh about.

"Every life is a pile of good things
and bad things. The good things 
don't always soften the bad things, but
vice versa the bad things don't always spoil the good 
things and make them unimportant."
Doctor Who

I believe it's ALL important.

That's why I write. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Unrefined Palates

I find it ironic that American parents spend the first ten years of a child's life forcing them to eat, and the next 8  working overtime to compensate for the amount of food which that same child consumes.

Our pediatricians give us lists and brochures and websites to consult. We worry and fret over the lack of vegetables or the perfect balance of protein. There are now 50 types of milk to choose from; feel free to go fight with someone on the internet over which one is the best. Let's not even get started on bread, or high fructose corn syrup, or quinoa versus rice.

All young parents really need to understand is this: your children will one day insist that you never get good food at the grocery, and then they will proceed to devour everything like angry locusts.

I come in from a trip to the store with enough food for a week feeling pretty good. I've got meal plans and our budget's doing okay. I turn to find a place to cram the milk and when I turn back the children are all gone and there's just empty bags and crumbs. They'll even eat dry pasta.

Another scene that's common around here goes like this:

I'm making a new recipe and can't find the can of hearts of palm.

"Were those the white thingy's in that jar thing?"

"Yes," I say enthusiastically hoping my missing food will be returned without ransom.

"Yeah, I ate those."

Silent shriek.

"Did you like them?" I ask incredulously.

"No. They were gross."

 More silent shrieking.

Honestly, there's no happier day for my husband and I than we discover a food that they don't like.

"Hey, why don't you make sausage dish you do?"

"The kids hate that," I answer.

"Exactly," my sly man says.

Enough for us to eat and leftovers. Score!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

I Wish I Was There

Hey, there! Do you like the new look around here? I woke up silly excited about the new template on my blog. It's the little things in life, right?

I'd like to thank Kelsey at Kreated by Kelsey  I highly recommend her. I purchased this template in her Etsy store last night, and within minutes were working out the details. She was extremely helpful, uploading my blog header and 'About Me' section. I super appreciate that because coding is like Greek to me. Kelsey offers services ranging from pre-made blogger templates, to signatures, navigation bars, and custom blog design. She works quickly and is focused on making the customer happy - which I am! I still have a little tweaking to do (but am waiting for my 17year old daughter to come hold my hand). What do you think?

So here the southeast we got slammed with 17.1 inches of snow. I feel that the .1 may have pushed us all over the edge of hating snow. I was not meant to be a Canadian, or Alaskan, or even a Northern Hoosier, I think. Maybe I could learn to love the snow if I had:

  • a snow plow
  • a snow suit
  • children who did not take my gloves ALL the time
  • a mudroom

The boys want to play outside in the snow, of course, which is fun until they come in and take off their 97 layers of clothes. We don't own snow suits because 'it never snows where we live'. I just can never justify how expensive they are for just one or two days of snow and you can never find them at Goodwill. Now I'll be perpetually stuck in the should-I-shouldn't-I place when it comes to coveralls.

Anyway, the front hallway of the house is crowded with towels and boots and scarves and mittens and hats. Oh, spring, where art thou?

I'll think about it next October. For right now we are where we are. 

My eldest daughter and I were looking through my 1,981 pictures on my phone last night and found the beach ones from last summer. We looked out the back window and simultaneously said, "I wish we were at the beach."  At first I thought it would be cool if all that snow out there were sand, but then I realized that would be even worse to clean up than the snow. The pictures serve as evidence that sunny places do exist and that I have been to such places. I tend to start feeling like the snow is permanent and go into survival mode in the winter. Well, I lay in bed and think about what I would do in a post-apocolyptic world that was covered in snow. I don't actually do anything about it but I feel certain that I  would be proactive in the event of a real apocolypse. 

Or I would just lay in bed and wish I were at the beach.

We went to Dauphin Island, Alabama and I have to say I fell in love with the gulf. I wasn't so sure on the first night. We got to the house at about 9 o'clock and it was VERY dark. My darling husband insisted that we walk to the beach immediately rather than be sensible and wait till morning. So we trooped off with the four children and a flashlight that flickered at walked up a 42 foot sand dune. Once we reached the top we were rewarded with more sand. We could hear the ocean but its exact location eluded us. We continued walking in the direction of the surf sound despite the utter dark. We persevered through grass and bog and maybe a fight or two. I can only imagine what the people who were out crabbing thought of us 6 crabs who were not really speaking by the time they made it to the water's edge.

In the light of the day, though, I decided we had not made a wrong decision.

We woke early every day and rushed to the beach in fear that it would not be there. We claimed a spot on the beach as 'ours'. We found hermit crabs, shells, seaweed, and a dead shark. It was tiny, don't worry. Our first day out we were all a little timid, except of course for my husband, Lee, who is never timid. We hadn't been to the beach in 10 years and for the boys it was their first time in the ocean. I suppose I was the most reticent, waiting to get in until I was certain my children weren't going to drown or be drug away by a kraken.

By the end of the week, though, the ocean and I were good friends. I was even starting to have goofy thoughts about writing poetry equating the salt water to the amniotic fluid of my mother's womb. I stopped myself, though. You're welcome.

It truly was the Best Vacation Ever. The ocean reminded us that our little world is not all there is. The vastness of the water, the never-endingness of it, is comforting. (All beach pictures courtesy of Kiley Shepherd)

Now back to our regular scheduled programming:

My brother, Erik, refusing to let winter win. Photo courtesy of Julie Krieg. :)

 Remember, if mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!

Live life happy, friends.