Oct 30, 2013

So Mad I Could Spit

What does that even mean?
I've heard it before.
Does that mean I'm so mad I want to spit on you?
Or I'm so mad I am going to spit on the ground in protest?

I'm not sure what it's originators meant, but I know what it meant tonight in my house.
I was so mad at my eldest son that whilst barking at him, spittle came flying out of my mouth.  No kidding I saw it fly through the air.
I think that means that I was talking so fast and so furiously that I didn't take time to swallow.
Not pretty.

But real.

I was in the bedroom when the boys started bickering about something.  Then I heard Eli in Gabe's room, and Gabe telling him to leave.  Then Eli insisting on playing with the keyboard in Gabe's room.  I was changing in my room, and after a very long day I decided I was going to pretend I didn't hear them arguing and just go on about my business.
The walls are thin in this house and despite my best efforts to ignore the kids' little scuffle I heard enough.
I did take a deep cleansing breath but it seemed to do no good.

I opened my door to find Eli sitting in the hall badgering his brother.  Gabe wasn't in Eli's room.  Gabe was in his own room, in his own bed, and like a big bully, Eli was going into Gabe's "safe space" and then sitting in the haul just taunting him from afar.  Like Goliath shouting at David from the hills.

The last words Eli said tonight were "TAG...you aren't gifted or talented why did they let you in?"
That was preceded by a lengthy, one sided conversation, that consisted of Eli telling Gabe how he was going to tell the neighbor friend not to play with Gabe anymore.  Eli has been known to tell Gabe things like "go get my sweatshirt.  If you don't, I won't let you play with me".  Fury.

I am pretty low key when it comes to the kids arguing.  I don't get my feathers ruffled too easy.  They are kids, they are brothers, they are going to bicker and I'm not going to intervene every single time.
However, nothing fires me up more than when I hear kids being manipulative and hurtful and mean just for the sake of being those things.

Eli was being hurtful and mean.  I don't know why and quite frankly I don't care.
I love this boy.  He is so sweet and respectful, kind and funny unless the moon is aligned with orion's belt (this happens like once a week) and he isn't happy with Gabe, then he is super evil and mean.

There is rarely a time when I look at Eli and think "you are not my child".  But when Eli acts like this, I shake my head and squint my eyes, start breathing heavily and consider denying his birthright.  Ok, so there isn't a birthright but I want to smack him.  Or as I did tonight, go on such a crazy rant that I spit.

I'm not suggesting that my response was appropriate.  OK fine it probably didn't do any good at all, other than let Eli know how disgusted I am with that behavior.

I have met mean, manipulative adults and kids before and I hated them.  So naturally, God gave me one sweet boy who regularly has a psychotic moment and spews pure nastiness out of his mouth.

It is heartbreaking to see kids being mean to other kids, it is particularly heartbreaking to see best friends do it to each other.  They may not admit it freely but these boys love each other, and love playing together.  They just forget sometimes.
Oh dear Lord, help Eli get control of this little part of him that wants to manipulate and be mean!  Otherwise, I'll probably spit on him again.

Oct 28, 2013

Patchwork Quilt

My life is like a patchwork quilt made of different fabrics.
For the most part those fabrics are exclusive of each other.  Each fabric making up its own pattern and block.  There are a few threads that intertwine throughout the quilt, but for the most part, each fabric tells its own story. My stories.  Each divided by the place that I lived and the life I was living.

Friday night as Matt and I were coming home from a work function I suddenly started to sing an old song that used to be a favorite over 14 years ago.  It is a little ditty by David Allan Coe called "You never even call me by my name".  There is nothing particularly remarkable about the song, other than it is funny and it takes me back to a group of friends hanging out on the lanai of a friend's house in Hawaii.  It was the place where we always went on a Friday night after work.  For a few moments we were silent in the car as we allowed our minds to take us back to that place, to be in that story for just a moment.  It was a good time, Hawaii.  We were barefoot and on the beach a lot and I owned 25 sundresses and 3 pair of sandals.  At night you could see every single star in the sky.  The smell of plumerias makes me want to cry to this day.  It is the smell of freshness, vibrance and beauty.  We embraced the Aloha spirit there, not a care in the world.  I was in college and Matt worked crazy long hours, but on the weekends we ate the world's freshest seafood, incorporated sand into our skincare treatments and soaked up every drop of sun that shone on the island and in our lives.  It was a good time.

We are approaching the 10 year anniversary of the loss of four members of our Lancer family.  A decade ago on November 7th aircraft 431 was shot down over Tikrit, Iraq killing all passengers and crew.  If you knew me back then, you probably remember this day.  It was the darkest day.  In honor of the anniversary, there is a reunion at Fort Campbell next weekend.  With the reunion just days away the Lancer Facebook page is exploding with old photos of the first Lancer deployment.  Today I perused hundreds of photos on the page, recognizing faces I haven't seen in so long.  I laughed as I realized how much younger we were all back then and wondered how everyone's lives have changed. I cried as I looked through photos of the difficult living conditions over there, saw pictures of people who have since died, and remembered how tough that year was.  Building up to that deployment was scary.  Everything was unknown.  Relationships developed quickly as we all knew we were going to need each other soon.  And we did, need each other.  The bond of the first deployment will remain although our lives have all changed so much.  I barely recognize myself from those days.  I was either pregnant or had a child under a year old the entire time we lived there.  It was a growing time, both in our family and individually.  I treasure the people who helped me get through those uncertain times.

Oh Germany.  I loved living there so much, but I love the people there even more.  I was so blessed to be surrounded by such amazing friends.  I doubt I ever laughed so hard, so often, and lived life fuller than when we were in Germany.  Now that we have been here over a year, those times are further and further away.  I miss the people, our time together, and closeness we all shared.  We saw so much.  I'm still often astounded at how many places we travelled to when we lived there, and how many amazing sights we saw.  Was it a dream?  How is it possible that I shared so many great memories with so many simply incredible people in such a compact span of time?

My life is a quilt.  Neatly packaged into different fabrics telling the story of my different lives.  Each section so special for very different reasons.  At any given moment I would willingly jump through the frame of the quilt and spend one more day in that story.  Some, I would like to stay for days and days, but others I'd gladly jump right on back to present day after a quick visit.

Today I sit wondering if I will see all the truly special people from each of my lives again.  It is shocking how often I am able to bump in to a person or two from another life, but I long to sing David Allan Coe during a hurricane warning again, eat dessert on Mondays with my Virginia peeps, hang out at a fest with members of the 214th,  play games during a tornado in Alabama, enjoy the longest breakfast in the world with my girls from Grant circle, celebrate the return of our soldiers with my Lancer family, bump in to one of my best friends at the marina, and embrace each of the beautiful people who have been plopped right down in my life at different times and different places....the people who my my quilt colorful, rich, and warm.

Oct 24, 2013

Pep Talk

My husband often gets irritated with me when I try to engage in a deep, meaningful, conversation with my eldest son about some behavioral issue.  The husband basically tells me to quit trying to "talk about it" and just tell the child what he needs to do or not do.  He thinks the only response needed when the boys ask why is "because I said so".
He has a point.  Sometimes I just need to give instruction and not answer the "why".
But I really do want the kids to understand what in the heck I'm thinking when I make decisions and I want to open myself up to their questions.
I feel that if I explain why wearing shoes in the house is a problem or why they need to come in the house 20 minutes before dinner, or why they need to take a shower, they will understand where I am coming from and maybe even see the value it my decision.
Matt thinks if I give explanations, I am weakening the foundation of first time obedience.  He may be right in some cases, and quite honestly sometimes my valiant effort to help the kids understand blows up in my face.

Eli calls these deep, meaningful, conversations "pep talks".  I have no idea why, there is really nothing peppy about them.

Last night on the way home from church Eli and I engaged in a pep talk about being physically rough with one of his friends.  These two boys are two peas in a pod.  They love rip-sticks, all things playing outside, and they seem to not get enough of playing with each other.  However, they are both pretty physical in their play and it is a bit concerning for a parent.
My concern is for two reasons.  Jeans have been ripped, flesh has been torn, and there has been blood spilled as a result of their games, so my main concern is their health and safety.  A typical game for these guys is something that looks like rip-stick soccer with an added twist of roller derby.
The second reason why I am concerned about their physical play is that kids their age are typically too immature to handle "play" pushing, hitting, or wrestling. One minute everyone is laughing and the next minute someone is hitting back for real, no "play" about it.

In the last few days there have been a few instances where Eli was playing around with his friends and the joking around on his part turned to legitimate anger and thrown blows from the friend.  They still like each other and look forward to afternoon play in the neighborhood, but I worry that one of these days their friendship won't recover.

So during our pep talk I was explaining to Eli why I think it would be a good idea for him to keep his hands to himself with his buddy, even if he is just joking around.  I yammered on a bit and then gave Eli the chance to comment.
This is usually the time when he starts crying and throwing a fit about how I don't understand, and he doesn't get why I think the way I do, and so on.
He started off with his "I'm saying 'yes mom' with my lips but in my head I'm poking your eyes out" defensive attitude, but then his tone changed and started to talk to me.  He told me that he has noticed that his friend tends to get violent, more serious than joking, whenever people around him are playing around hitting or pushing each other.  He agreed that maybe his friend can't handle that kind of rough play, and to preserve the friendship he should avoid it with that friend.

I pulled in to the driveway and took a deep breath.  
This is why I have those irritating pep talks with the boy.  Because I wan't to prepare him to make these type of observations on his own.  I want him to see how I think and apply similar problem solving or decision making skills to his own life.

We don't always get to know the "why" in decisions others make that impact us, and that is not what it is about.  It is about teaching him to think about what he knows to be good and true and use it as a measuring stick for the actions he is considering in his life.

As we got out of the van I pulled Eli to my side and told him how proud I am that he was able to make this decision to lay off rough housing.  And when I looked into his big browns, my heart melted a little. Oh my sweet boy (who has intermittent bouts of insanity) I love you so and just know that you will be a problem solver, a thoughtful being, and amazing young man one day.  I pray I can continue to push you in that general direction.

Oct 23, 2013

Mind Blowing Dinner Idea

Tonight for dinner I let nothing stand in the way from producing a simply fabulous meal for my precious ones.
I stopped by Costco on the way home from work to pick up one of their $5 rotisserie chicken masterpieces.
G asked if it was for homemade chicken and dumplings soup.
Nope.  Just chicken.
He said "oh you mean no celery or carrots?"
No I mean just chicken.
"Just chicken and dumplings?"
No.  No soup.  No dumplings.  Just chicken!

I often use that rotisserie chicken for soups because it is so easy and the chicken is so yummy. But tonight wasn't a soup night.
I had Matt pull apart the whole chicken and then I set to work making some side dishes.

Then I looked at the clock, looked back at the pantry, looked back at the clock, looked in the fridge, and then I went where no mother has ever gone before....so low....so very low.

Ladies and gentlemen please direct your attention to the dinner plate in front of you....

Your eyes are not deceiving you, this is in fact chicken leg and thigh with olives.....on a paper plate.

Oct 21, 2013

I got a call from Matt today asking if we could get a babysitter for this Friday night.  He has a work function and has requested my presence.
Normally, I quite enjoy getting a babysitter and heading out on the town but today I rolled my eyes, grumbled, and said "do I really need to go with you?"
My regular, perfectly sweet and yet stern babysitter is not available this Friday night and until Matt's call today, I refused to put put forth any effort to find another sitter.
I texted my untested back-up sitter and it turns out she is available.  Great.
Then I immediately texted my superstar sitter and asked if she can watch the kids for the Seahawks game in mid-November.  I assumed she would.  I was wrong.  Someone with season tickets to the Seahawks game contracted her for every single game until the end of time.  So disappointed.
Not only do I not get her this Friday, I don't get her for the game and to add insult to injury she told me she was decommissioning herself for the rest of the year.  WHAT???
I am not happy.
Turns out she is taking all AP and Honors classes and has a bunch of projects and homework that are dragging her down.  Why couldn't she just be a regular high school student?  Why honors? Sub-par or barely passing would be fine with me.  I don't need her to be super smart and get a million scholarships to her school of choice in Texas!  No, I need her to stay around and have no life other than babysit for my rascally boys.
I sat down with some afternoon coffee all grumpy and irritated.
Then my brain flashed back to 8:35 this morning.
That was the time when someone informed me that two of the students I see everyday are technically homeless.
Home. Less.  Without a home.
One lives in an RV with two other families that is parked somewhere around town. The other is camping at a campground.
I have a friend who is currently living in a 5th wheel in a campground in Colorado...while waiting on her house to close escrow.  Different story.  These kids are not waiting for their new home to be ready, they are in their home.  Be it a tent or motor home, it is their home.
I'm pretty sure they are not living in one of those fancy Airstream RV's either.  My guess is that it is similar to the one that parks by my local Safeway.  It looks like it barely runs, it is dirty, the uncovered windows reveal an old tattered interior with junk piled high.  And outside the front door sits two or three kids playing on the Safeway sidewalk...also known as their front yard.  The RV can't park there for too long, so it usually disappears for a day or two and returns later maybe parked a little closer to Lowe's this time.
30% of the students in my school district are homeless.  For district purposes that means, living in a hotel, campground, shelter, abandoned building, or staying at a friend or relative's home due to lack of housing.

So kudos to their parents, who despite some obvious difficult circumstances, get their kids to school most of the time.
Shame on me, for getting wrapped up in my big "problem" of not having my favorite babysitter for the upcoming days I'll be going on a date with my husband...who happens to be both my baby's daddy, a guy who holds a job, and has never been incarcerated for drugs, murder, or assault.

I challenge you to do something you may have never considered before.  Head down to your local school, or a school in a less fortunate area of town and ask the secretary if that school has any kids who need warm coats, or food for the weekend.
Sure you can sell your old coats and sweaters, old shoes and jeans... but what if you could directly impact the life of a local student in your school?  How much more valuable would that be than the buck or two you get  from some old jeans?
Schools in our district offer coats to kids in need and through a cooperation with the local food bank provide food for students to take home on Fridays.  Food for the weekend for fear they will not eat if they don't have it.
Today one of those homeless girls came in to my classroom with a t-shirt and jeans on.  It was 42 degrees outside.  I had on a sweater, coat, and gloves.  And now I wonder....does she have a coat?
I had no idea that children in my school and in my kids' schools were homeless and hungry.  But they are, and chances are there are some children near you who are too.

Oct 20, 2013

I am pleased to announce that I have come up with an advent idea that does not include, the wise men, Mary, Joseph, roots, or anything else traditionally Christmas!
I have to admit that on Sunday mornings when the pastor comes onto the stage and starts talking about something, I tune him out for the first 5 minutes.
I usually spend that time reading my bulletin, or thinking about random things.  It isn't until he asks us to "turn in your Bible to...." that I snap out of my thoughts and engage in the message.
Today, those few minutes of ignoring the pastor actually proved to be used wisely!  It was in those moments that the idea of how to spend Advent this season came to me.
I wasn't actually thinking too hard about how to celebrate advent this year.  I was only half-heartedly concerned with granting Gabriel his wish.  I mean really?  Who doesn't love the story of the wise men following the star?  Or the shepherds getting the news in the field?  I love to talk about those things.  I want that to be our advent lesson!
But today, as I sat there reading about a few mission trips coming up, the fundraising efforts from the glow run last weekend, and other tid-bits, it hit me.  Why do I spend the time preparing for advent for my family?  Because I want them to know Jesus.  I want them to know the story of the one who came to save us.  But perhaps it is time for them, not to focus on HOW this Jesus came to be our Savior but WHO Jesus is to us.  So, this year we will not talk very much about the "Christmas Story" but spend 25 days talking about who Jesus is.
I'm starting my "lesson plan" now, seeking versus that proclaim who Jesus is and what promises are given to us through him.  It isn't as important for the boys to know how and why Jesus was that baby in a manger as it is for them to truly know Jesus.
Have a promise you want to contribute?  Please share!

Oct 8, 2013

Something New

Today on the way home from school Gabriel told me he wanted to talk about the upcoming holidays.  He told me he wanted to trick or treat this year on Halloween, he wanted HAM not turkey for Thanksgiving, and this year for Christmas he doesn't want to learn about Mary and Joseph AGAIN!

I told him I thought he could trick or treat in our neighborhood this year, now that we have neighbors and I've met most of them.  I'm not sure about the ham situation for Thanksgiving, but I'll happily consider it.  But when I got to the Christmas request, I asked "now what do you mean you don't want to hear about Mary and Joseph?

Since I do advent differently each year, I thought maybe he was just saying he didn't want to learn about Christmas through songs again or read different verses each night.  I needed clarification.

He said "I've heard about Mary and Joseph for 8 years now, I want to learn something new".
"Oh, and another thing, I don't want to hear about Jesse's root either!"

I was laughing so hard inside, I chose to stay silent for a few minutes rather than let on that I was super entertained by his request.

I finally gathered myself and asked what he would like to learn about instead.
He replied "something new".
"Like what?"
"I don't know, just something new".

The thing of it is there is nothing new.
People may create new Christmas traditions and write new Christmas movies, we can come up with  new ways of celebrating, decorating, and gift giving, but THE Christmas story is unchanging.

It is thousands of years old.  There are no new characters or wild twists.
The only possible thing that can change, is the way you hear it.

Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem on a donkey, gave birth to a baby in a stable, and named his Jesus.   Shepherds who were not to far away in a field were greeted by an angel announcing the birth of a king and wise men, those who sought answers in the sky, located a star that settled where this king was.  The boy pretty much disappeared from the pages of history until one day he rode a donkey into Jerusalem and the stage was set for Jesus to be crucified, die, and raise again in order to atone for the sins of the world.

You may hear this story and consider setting up a nativity next to your Santa's workshop display and your Christmas tree.
Or you may hear this story and be amazed the God loved the world so much that he sent his one and only son, so that whoever believes in him will not perish but live forever.
You may hear the story and be impressed that the events surrounding this one man were prophesied hundreds of years in advance and proven true through his birth, death, and resurrection.
You may hear this story and be amazed that a man, who is God, suffered and died because your sins are so many and so frequent that you can't possibly make a sufficient sacrifice on your own.
You may hear this story and be astounded that God's grace is so great, that He gives you each new day despite of the way you used up yesterday or the day before.

After thinking about it for a bit,  I think I may have been wrong.  I guess there are new characters and new twists.  Sure its the same Mary, Joseph, Jesus, and Angels, but new characters do come along in the form of people who hear and choose to believe, and the new twists come when they choose to follow.

Oct 2, 2013

Whoa Wednesday.

Today was a ridiculously busy day.
I knew it was going to be hectic.  Had 10-15 minutes between 5 different activities that took place on every possible side of town.  I've known for awhile this day was going to be hectic.  So much so that I even prayed last night for God to help me make it to all my meetings on time.
I woke up this morning to the sound of the alarm.  Hopped in the shower.  Hopped out of the shower and headed to the closet to get dressed and noticed that I had just experienced time travel.
It was 7:17.
So weird.
I got up at 6:30 and took a shower.  I didn't even wash my hair or shave my legs, and yet when I got out of the shower it was 7:17.
I raced Gabe through his morning, yelled up to Eli to wake up, threw yogurt, a banana and a bunch of grapes in a bag and called it "lunch" and raced out the door.
Of course I was late to school.  2nd time with week.  Both times my own fault.
It wasn't until I settled in at work and pondered my morning time warp that I realized my 6:30am alarm hadn't been turned on for the day.  I woke up at 7am.
No time warp.  Just operator error on my alarm.
The day pretty much flew by until 1:20.  At such time I was finishing off my work day by loading kids on the buses.  Everything was looking great for my own on-time departure at 1:25 until the worse thing ever happened.  Jesus's face blew off.
No kidding.  A little girl in line for the bus dropped her statue of Jesus and not only did his body break in half but his entire face basically disintegrated into the asphalt.
The little girl erupted into tears.
Whaling would be a good word to describe the noises coming out of her mouth.
I offered to put all Jesus' pieces in her backpack with hope of mom gluing him back together but she refused.
Throwing him away didn't seem appropriate.
I looked down at broken Jesus and prayed for a miracle.
Thankfully, the 1st grader got a word from the holy spirit or something and she offered a solution.  She asked if I could please put all of Jesus in a ziplock bag for her.
So, as it happened on Good Friday so many years ago, I tucked Jesus into a little tomb and tucked him away in the student's classroom.  We'll see if my little porcelain Jesus can make the same recovery and rise again in a few days.
I needed to be at Eli's school at 1:40 to pick him up for a 2pm ortho appointment, that was allegedly going to last one hour.  Then home to drop the kids off, babysitter arrives and out the door to head back across town for a training meeting.  On the way, I drove through Starbucks and while I had my window down to order, I realized my car was making the most ridiculous sound ever.  Note: car dying, make appointment to fix brakes, wheels, axel, engine or whatever is about the keel over.
Made it to the meeting, hopped back in the car and had 8 minutes at home to use the powder room, grap 2 pieces of salami and make a PBJ for my dinner and head back out.  I had 3 minutes to get to our friend's house to pick him up and 15 minutes to get all kids and myself to church.
I made it.
I now have laundry, cleaning of the bathrooms and getting stuff prepped for dinner tomorrow in addition to stressing about getting all the final details together for Matt's promotion ceremony on Friday.
Holy Cow it has been an insanely hectic, busy, and semi-stressful day.
However, the orthodontist said Eli's teeth are fine, he should only need one phase of braces much later in his little life and I can check back in once a year for a free follow up visit to make sure no early intervention such as spacers or pulling of teeth is needed.  Bam!
In a way, I just saved myself a few thousand dollars.  Dollars that I can now put toward that irritating noise the van in making.