Tag Archives: growing-up

Rules! Rules! Rules!

The car door opened courtesy of tiny familiar hands that I love so much.  I arrived at the carpool line extra early excitedly waiting to get the run down.  My two little elementary school ladies stepped inside the vehicle and I began the peppering of questions.  The first day of school was officially over.  I maturely squealed, “MY GIRLS!!!!  HIIIII!!!  HOW WAS YOUR DAYYYYYY?”  

They left my house 8 hours earlier completely prepared for greatness.  They sported unstained clothing THAT I IRONED, brushed teeth, combed and styled hair, healthy lunches with handwritten notes, full water bottles, filled out mandatory forms, and they received a hug and kiss from both parents.  For some, this is the norm.  In our home, this lasts maybe five days before I start justifying the smacking of the snooze button.  I tell myself that 5 more minutes will not cause us to rush too much (lies) and that frozen pb&j’s do contain protein and thaw by lunch.  And as for the iron, well, it makes a better collector of dust most days than a releaser of wrinkles.  But on the first day, I like to give the teachers false hope that these children belong to parents that will sign all the notes all year long and read all the newsletters sent home.  I usually wait until October to begin the tour of disappointment.  

So, when the response I received from my elementary school daughter started off with an incredibly deep and dramatic inhale, along with an even longer and louder exhale, complete with eyes rolled to the tippy top of her lids, I braced myself for the response.  She said, “UGGGGHHHHH!!!!  IT WAS AWWWWFUL!!!!”  I asked her why and she immediately responded with one word, three times over, “RULES!! RULES!! RULES!!!!”

She went on to explain to me that her entire day was made up learning rules.  In her opinion, school is a place for reading, learning and tests, NOT spending days going over RULES.  At this point, I asked her to smile for my phone so I could show her daddy her thoughts on the first day.  She did not smile. I might need to work on my compassion-when-kids-are-venting button.

Not only did she learn rules in her classroom, she learned rules in the cafeteria, and there were rules on the playground, and the library was not even open yet but if it had been you can bet there would have been rules there too.  Plus they had to write about rules, read about rules, repeat the rules, and she might have even come home with a new tattoo on her back that said, “RULES.”  Fine, no physical tattoo was made but a mental one was ingrained into her soul obviously.

Honestly, I do not blame her.  And I do not blame the teachers.  Clear cut expectations are so important.  Can you even imagine if the teachers had to explain these rules to every child individually?  We would have no teachers. I do not even like asking my dogs to “sit” and “stay” more than once because…..well…..all the verbalizing is just draining. So, to me, it seems logical that the first week of school would be a time for group rule smackdowns.  How many times can one adult explain the process of dumping lunch trays?  At some point, I would not blame these teachers if they just zombie walked out of the building.  They would be blankly walking with their arms straight out, eyes bulging, and repeating in a monotone voice “please tilt your tray this way and tap it on the end of the trash can in order to dump all the food you just stirred in a circle 5,000 times and mixed with the jello and vegetable medley mush.  Then please stack it on top of the last tray that our classroom friend dumped.”  Teacher’s mental survival depends upon all our little offspring knowing what to do.  

And I don’t blame my girl either.  No one likes to sit and hear how their daily discipline is going up 1,000% after summer.  And it isn’t because she is from a generation of electronic kids that have no respect or attention span.  I’m tired of hearing that from people.  I, personally, have seen scores upon scores of kids intentionally practicing kindness in this generation.  And know what group of people plays a big role in positive character development?  TEACHERS.  But to sit and listen to this information does not mean it is enjoyable.  

I, for one, have no desire to sit and convince her to love the rules.  Let’s be honest, they really aren’t fun sometimes.  In the Old Testament, the term “law” is the translated word for the Hebrew term, Torah, or “instruction.”  The people of Israel needed guidance from God.  Humans have always needed instruction.  And instruction is good.  One way God provided it was through the Mosaic Law.   It guided people morally, socially and ceremonially by having over 600 commands that covered all aspects of life.  And it gave Israel the recipe for ways to receive blessings. My point is that laws and rules have been around FOR A LONG TIME.  And my daughter is not the first person to have that feeling of “me no likey.”

Someday, she will grow up and will not have to sit and almost suffocate from listening to adults read rules out loud.  However, I do hope teachers and this family can burn certain instructions into her brain and heart for daily living.  I want her to respect others and herself, to listen before she speaks, to be able to learn and speak truth and to love others well, to make sure her binder gets signed every time she needs to go potty….  And I hope she practices applying grace to herself and to others.  Because that’s what Christ did for us. Once God sent Jesus to this earth, Christians were no longer bound to the Mosaic Law.  And thank goodness because over 600 commands are impossible to keep.  We now have the Holy Spirit in us as believers.  And we are recipients of grace by no doing of our own.  And this is great news…..for believers, for children who hate rules, for teachers who are faithfully serving children (THANK YOU JESUS), for parents who are trying their hardest to raise their family, and possibly for dog owners that find their new pair of shoes with teeth marks all in them.

“Nice Girls Don’t Change the World”

I ordered the book “Nice Girls Don’t Change The World” last week thinking that I would add it to my stack of books I’d like to read someday.  It arrived the day before my husband and I were heading out of town for a weekend away.  And in typical fashion, I was throwing my airplane bag together approximately 16 seconds before walking out the door (note: when I’m 40, I’m so going to pack at least 1 hour before I leave….#grownupgoals).  When I realized the book’s petite size, it instantly found its way into the bag and it met all my requirements. The book was small.  The lines were double spaced.  And, there were pictures.  Folks, this was going to be a quick read and I love a quick read. Waiting on the tarmac, I opened it up and realized good things were in store for me. By the end of the first page it was clear Hybel was going to give me a glimpse into her life, personal thoughts and emotions. Cue Happy Katie in an airplane.

Hybel opens by describing herself as a nice girl for the first half of her life.  Her self description included being a people pleaser, a hard worker, a rule follower and someone always pressuring herself to be better.  This is when I checked the front cover to make sure I had not authored the book.

When Hybel turned 39, coincidentally the same age I am now, she ran out of steam.  Her internal and external selves were not in sync and she sought help.  She discovered:

The opposite of a nice girl, I learned, is a “good woman.”  Being a good woman means trading the safe, passive, people-pleasing behavior of niceness for the dynamic power of true goodness.  It means moving from the weakness and immaturity of girlhood toward the strength and maturity of womanhood.

She began to recognize how God wants us to see ourselves and our responsibilities versus the false assumptions we make about God and unknowingly live out.  And she uncovered the force of fear and all its debilitating power.  Ultimately she saw through the muck of her actions and thoughts, finally getting to the core of her purpose.

As soon as I finished the book, I mentally added this to my list of books I’d like to pass on to my daughters someday.  First I love that it is written by a woman in a different stage of life than me.  She is able to reflect and offer wisdom through her own experiences.  Reading her story and seeing how God used her struggles gives hope.  Second, life is hard.  And sometimes our own struggles seem to dominate our thoughts.  Or worse, we believe the lie that we are the only people who might be suffering because the world likes us to think that perfection is attainable.  And perfection and suffering do not exist together.  Reading about another person’s troubles helps people connect on a genuine human level and inspires us to better ourselves and help those around us.  And third, Hybel is vulnerable enough to share that when she was in pain, she reached out for help.  And at some point in my children’s lives, chances are they will need support.  I have repeatedly talked with my girls about the importance of healthy relationships and how there are professionals able to help in times of distress.  Oftentimes, we humans react by keeping pain bottled up rather than reaching out for assistance which can provide relief and guidance.  Reading stories about others who have received help lessens the stigma associated with seeking professional assistance from mental pain.

I recommend adding this book to your reading list.  Or even better, purchasing it, reading it and then passing it along as a gift of inspiration to another woman you know that could use encouragement as she navigates life.  Plus, my favorite part of the book was towards the end.  Hybel does not end her story by being content with her knowledge of what comprises a good woman.  She takes this truth, mixes in some passion and energy and describes her transformation into a downright dangerous woman.  And this is the type of woman I hope to be someday and I that I wish for my girls too.

Here is the link to the book if you are interested!

https://www.amazon.com/Nice-Girls-Dont-Change-World/dp/0310272319/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1423024101&sr=1-1&keywords=nice+girls+don%27t+change+the+world

 

I Can Do That. But Just That.

In the past, I worked as an Admissions director for a Catholic high school. Going into the job I was terrified to work with teenagers because have you met one? But I hold such great memories from that job, and I loved those kids. Throughout the years I kept up with a handful of them via social media and have enjoyed watching them grow up. Albeit, their post high school shenanigans in my news feed have more than once morphed me into a fretting grandmother, with all of the wringing of my hands and clutching of my pearls.

But I fought the urge to write comments like, “Let’s leave some room between you two for the Holy Ghost.” And it paid off because I saw their graduations, watched as they maneuvered first real jobs, engagements, and marriages. Some now live in the early phase of marriage and family that I was in when they met me. Which is a little rude given that it points out how much I have aged. But I need to rise above because I am their elder (as they have so rudely pointed out). And I got the favorable end of the deal. In exchange for following me, these kids watched my timeline evolve from “my skin looks like Snow White’s, even though I never wash my face,” to “we will need to borrow against the 401k to keep me in wrinkle cream. And please fetch my wrap as there is a chill.”

One of my students was named Garrett. I remember when Garrett was processing the idea of pursuing a religious vocation after high school, carefully considering what it would mean for his life. He went on to study Theology at Marquette and Social Work at Loyola, and now works as the campus minister for a Catholic high school in South Dakota as part of his formation to become a Jesuit priest.  Garrett’s humble manner and perspective are grounding. He provides peace, humor, insight and clarity in his writing. Post-election when I felt paralyzed by tension and anger surrounding me, he wrote a reflection that centered me. It’s a unique honor to watch someone you knew as an adolescent become an adult with such wisdom.

Recently Garrett posted this article: What I Do Have to Give. When I read it the first time, I thought Garrett was conveying the intentional limitations he puts on himself as an act of self-care. I identified with his words because I try to adopt the same focus during the holiday season. But then I thought about the title, What I Do Have to Give, and realized he was expressing something more meaningful. He asked himself “what DO I have to give?” instead of “what can I not do?” A significant difference lies between those two mindsets. Rather than seeing himself as limited in what he can do, he highlights what he can do well and then gives those acts and beliefs his time and attention. It is an empowering mindset that truly magnifies self-care.

He talked about the extent of his mental exhaustion as this semester winds down before the break. He addressed the situation by making a list of goals for the next two weeks and breaking them down into tasks that fall under three essential categories in his role as the campus minister. And after each category, he wrote “I can do that. But just that.

This time of year explodes with lists and expectations. Gifts to buy, people to see, relationships to balance, finances to blow to hell, things to cook, elves to move (or as I want to do, hurl). And some of those things bring meaning and memories and are well worth the effort. But it will not end well if we do ALL of it.

As we approach Christmas, we would do well to use the same technique. First, identify where we want to put our focus. Family time? Experiences? Continuing particular traditions? Then take those categories and assign actions that will help us do those things well. And do that. But just that.

Saying this feels hypocritical since I will, without a doubt, lose this perspective more than once. But if we aim high and fall short, we are still doing pretty well. Plus, Christmas is not complete without at least one family member having a spectacular Clark Griswold style meltdown.

So this year, I will sit down with my husband, and we can define what we have to give. And do that. But just that.

Charlie. Steps in Glue Traps. The End.

You know how you tell someone a story, and in the moment it is not funny and you don’t know why you are telling them?  Except that you are going nutty inside so you share to get it out? But in spite of your own feelings, that person’s reaction begins to reveal that it might be a bit funny? That is how our first blog post came to light.

Amanda and I had trudged through the mucky process of sorting out blogolicious words like platform, web hosting and domain. Then, WordPress maliciously pushed us harder and demanded we create a sample post. Amanda, being a good friend, naturally thought it would be hysterical to reference a day of Smith chaos.  It was, indeed, an insane one, chock-full of my children’s shenanigans.  Trey was out-of-town and I was busy preparing for house guests when our teeny new kitten stepped in a large glue trap I had left under a bed to catch scorpions. Oh, hey, DID I MENTION WE HAD SCORPIONS WHEN WE MOVED HERE? Also, do you know what it’s like when a kitten is covered in a glue trap?

Amanda responded with a comforting HAHAHAHA. And, soon afterward, when I went to read our first official post, I saw this and started to HAHAHAHA myself.

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This whole debacle started years ago when our children started asking us if they could have a cat. This was an easy answer for us. N-to-the-O. Trey and I are N-to-the-OT cat people. We are d-to-the-og people. Side note:  I have learned that there are varying degrees of dog people and Trey and I represent both ends of the spectrum. Trey thinks our golden retriever, Tucker, is a happy, loyal canine and he enjoys petting him as he walks in the door from work. I tend to be the type of dog person that smushes my face into Tuckie Wuckie’s grill multiple times a day while using a sickeningly sweet saccharine voice to ask him questions about his day. And sometimes I pretend as if he has answered me and I continue conversing with him about his pretend answers. That’s not weird…at all. Look, even Mark Twain said, “Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.” And so, long ago, it was established that Trey and I were officially dog people. The end.

And then we had children.  And the children would see little kittens when we were out and about.  And the children’s eyes would become googly and they would ask if we could have one.  This did not fall in line with what Trey and I had decided for our family.  We are DOG people.  So our answer was firm.  We had it down.  It went like this, “you can get a cat when you’re 30….the same year you can start to think about dating.  We don’t like cats.  We are not getting one.”  I mean, have you ever noticed that they have CLAWS?

But the children persisted.  So we told them our lines over and over and added words like “absolutely not” and “never.”  You know, the serious words that drive the point home and help you stand firm in your beliefs.  I mean, have you ever seen how UNPREDICTABLE cats are?  In fact, they are so bad that they have a bacterial infection with a fever named after them.  

In time we got the children to stop asking about the kitties.  We came to understand that they were wanting a pet they could be responsible for and call their own.  Let’s be honest, Tucker sleeps with me every single night.  He has no desire to pretend as if he’s their best friend.  That boy knows who feeds him, who lets him ride shotgun in the car, and who gets him this sweet hairdo worthy of landing him the coveted January spot in Golden Retrievers of San Antonio calendar.

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Hubba-hubba…

So, we solved the cat controversy by giving the kids….FISH!!!!  First came Lloyd, then came Berry.  Two itty bitty beta fish that were cute, colorful, AND smart.  My trio still insists they have taught them tricks.  Of course, these sweet things are in separate tanks because they are actually Siamese fighting fish named after an ancient clan of warriors.  And if you put them together they’ll peck at each other until one murders the other….but that’s neither here nor there, WE SOLVED THE CAT PROBLEM!  I mean, cats have litter boxes….who has time to clean up a box filled with littered cat thingies?!  Not this family.  We only have time for fish full of such venom and hatred that they must live out their lives in solitary confinement.

And then last summer happened.  Our oldest was turning twelve and entering middle school.  She has a heart of gold and is incredibly responsible.  Her love language is not “stuff,” but she has always treasured meaningful gifts.  She’s our less-is-more gal.  And at the top of her birthday list was….a cat.  She came to me and said, “Mom, is there really no way that we can ever have a cat?  The neighbors all have them live outside during the day and in their garage at night.  They keep all the snakes and critters away.  Do you think that if maybe I put together a Powerpoint presentation for you and daddy about why cats are a good thing, then maybe you would think about it?”  And it happened, my heart started to crack.  I mean, cats are terrible, but are they THAT terrible?  

And honestly, as someone who has personally pledged to help my kids live life to the fullest, I’m pretty sure basing our decisions on the rationale of “because that’s the way we have always been” and “we don’t feel like it, so no,” isn’t the wisest. And so, after talking with multiple friends who we trust and who have all loved having a cat at one time or another, we revamped our thinking. Hailey woke up on her birthday in August and received a letter stating that she was going to get to pick out a kitty to rescue. She’s typically our most reserved child, but on this day there was no doubt from her reaction that we had hit one out of the park for her.

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A few days later we hit the local shelters.  All the girls got to pick out the kitten, but Hailey had final say.  She found a 1 pound ball of love that had been abandoned in a storm drain, but socialized well with humans.  She looked at me, said, “this is the one, Mom!!!  I want her.”  She named her Charlie and we brought our newest girl home.  I had no earthly idea what to do with her and her claws and the engine like noise that she made when someone held her, but my girls naturally began loving the heck out of her.

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You would think this could be the end of this lovely story.  But nope.  Approximately two weeks after having her home, I heard desperate pleas and screams coming from upstairs and for me to come quick because there was an EMERGENCY!!!  I dropped everything in a panic and ran and heard all kinds of wails coming from Hailey’s room.  Two of my kids had their heads buried under covers yelling, “WE CAN’T WATCH!!! HELLLLLLLP!!!”  Hailey was jumping up and down saying, “MOM!!!  MOM!!!!  GET HER!!!  OH NOOOO!!!!” on repeat.  And Charlie, well, Charlie was a hot mess.  She had gone exploring in Hailey’s room, made it under her bed, and had found the long forgotten glue trap.  She wasn’t so happy that she had touched this piece of plastic and it didn’t let go of her.  To remove the trap, she instinctively put her other paw in it, followed by a third, followed by her nose, and she rounded out the misery by twisting her back flat onto the sticky plate.  My girls were not the only ones shrieking either.  I received my introduction to the cat scream.  And the cat scream is deep, serious, and totally freaky scary coming out of a 1 pound body.

In the end, she survived, but I am sure she still has kitty nightmares.  Not only did I quickly learn how to hold her, I realized I truly loved that furry little thing.  We scrubbed vegetable oil over her entire body while pulling long strings of glue out of her fur over and over and over again.  She stopped fighting us and just became this little pathetic, sad, sticky kitty.  We shampooed her and she smelled so yummy.  We toweled her off and she just wanted to cuddle and I’ll be darned if I didn’t assign her a new ridiculous voice that I use only when I am holding her.  I mean, cats are so appreciative of being rescued, who wouldn’t love a cat?

The experience of adding Charlie to our family has taught me some lessons.   First, we all have certain ideas and thoughts drilled into our heads that we have accepted as our personal truths.  Sometimes, it’s healthy to revisit those and ask ourselves why we believe what we believe.  Why do I think this way?  When did I decide I would never own a cat?  And more importantly, WHY?  This also goes so far beyond adding an animal to a family.  

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We’ve got the holidays quickly approaching my friends.  And the holidays can be full of joy…..and stress.  We can quickly revert into old family roles and patterns. It is easy to fall back into, “I do it this way because that’s how it has always been done.” And this can place stress on our marriages and children.  Meaning, the people who were not around when we originally developed these thought patterns.  If your answer is something like “because I said so and that’s that” or “I don’t even KNOW” or “that’s how we have always lived so we have to keep doing it” then it might be time to reevaluate.  Maybe something new could be in the works for you!  Or maybe you’ll find that the answers to your questions are clear and easy to answer.  Oftentimes when my answers are grounded in my faith and are backed up by Scripture that I hold so dearly for my decision-making, I know that I am choosing what is healthy for me and my family.  Taking time to think about our personal opinions and decisions is time well spent.

And, I will admit. It turns out that all the things I thought I would hate about a cat became my favorite. Charlie is moody, odd and she wigs out unpredictably.  She has the ability to make her fur puff straight out and I swear she jumps straight sideways sometimes.  And don’t even get me started on how INSANE she is when the sun goes down and she starts hunting our toes. She can sweetly purr on my lap one second and then chomp down on something random like my earlobe the next.  Turns out, this is the perfect contrast to our Tucker and to our fighting warrior fish. I love Charlie. But Trey…well…Trey still really likes Tucker.

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Day Dating: A Post Preschool Perk

My husband and I went on a day date today, which is like a night date without the alcohol or babysitters. And when I say “without alcohol,” I mean that I drank a Mexican Mule at lunch, so there was absolutely alcohol. The menu included hand-crafted cocktails and I felt convicted in the moment to start intentionally supporting people pursuing the art of being hand-crafty. Since my lunchtime alcohol consumption was done with intention and conviction there is zero room for judgment, only for commendation. Plus, no food with the word “Mexican” in front of it can ever go wrong. Unless it does, and then the results are straight up catastrophic.

We were on this day date because we realize we have to make changes. Our lives have come to revolve around things like work, work travel, elementary school schedules, our children’s activities, daily chores, and paying $300 for a vet to wrap a plastic cone around our dog’s head. I feel at times like we are checking off a list rather than truly living life. And I know if we continue this pattern it will become hard to remember what we loved about each other in the first place. And also hard to remember what we like about ourselves. And what we like about our expensive, cone-sporting dog. Not really, he’s always my favorite. At any rate, we know this pattern cannot continue.

We have reached a place of transition. Our littlest went off to kindergarten this year and our oldest, while still very much a kid, is pretty self-sufficient. Moving into this new place has been exciting, and to be honest, a bit of a relief. So many things can be enjoyed with ease now because everyone goes to the bathroom on their own, everyone gets in and out of the car on their own, everyone knows to sneak snacks out of the pantry on their own, saving me from the dreaded role of Healthy Snack Patrol Officer. But this transition has revealed some cracks within our relationship and has placed some of the spotlight back on ourselves as individuals.

Resurfacing are all the things we put on the back-burner while we learned to stop sleeping and start juggling babies, then toddlers and then preschoolers. We are both coming out of a fog and remembering we are not just parents. Rather we are people with individual preferences and beliefs. Some alike and some that differ and conflict. We are a bit uncertain about what kind of people we will be in this phase of life, and as we navigate this stuff personally, we absolutely must remember we are partners in it all. And I am so thankful for that. Basically, what I am saying is that this is not complicated at all.

We are making little changes. We are carving out time for each other. We are doing crazy things like asking each other questions that don’t involve carpool or the Disney Channel. It felt so good to laugh and be outside of the heaviness of daily responsibilities. When you are in the mundane of everyday life, sometimes you are unable to realize that you need to step out and take time away to simply have fun.

Someday these kids will be gone and off at college, angelically adhering to all rules of social decorum while wearing loose-fitting frocks that cover all their areas.They will be earnestly working towards locking down medical degrees, so they can star in my humble brag Christmas cards. Obviously, we all know that scenario is a little ridiculous. I will never be able to pull off sending Christmas cards. 

When that time comes it will be awkward for G.R. and I to stand in sports complexes watching the volleyball games of random children, so we need to keep building this relationship now. So that as our kids grow up, our relationship does too. I really like these kids living in this hizzle, but when they venture out into the world, so will we.  

The truth is I need my husband. No one else automatically rolls the car window down after someone sneezes knowing I have a 7th grade science movie graphically depicting a sneeze permanently ingrained into my brain. And he’s the kind of heroic soul that can work a french press in the early morning hours, a time in which I can only lay and weep at the feet of our Keurig and the heavy weight of its demands. Does he whistle in the morning? Yes, and it makes me want to die. But he also brings me the good french pressed coffee in bed. And he’s taught our kids to be whistle-y in the morning too. This will serve them better than what I offer which is a front row seat as I eek through the stages of grief, finally landing at acceptance that it is morning.

I share this because I know these struggles are true for all of us. And things like social media damage our perceptions of what is real in even our closest friends’ lives. I am not posting pictures of my kids hating what I cooked for dinner (again), or me loudly loading the dishwasher to assure my family is aware of my righteous indignation. Nor will I post pictures of G.R. scratching his head in frustration (Side note: G.R.’s hair has been falling out steadily for 16 years now, which is weird because I have been the calming presence that has graced his life for the past 16 years). Plus it would be inappropriate for us to do that anyway. The best we can do is keep in mind that everyone has their crap and that news feeds are full of highlight reels and masked dysfunction. Except for you, yours is perfect and I love it.

I cannot tie this up in a pretty little bow because marriage is a work in progress. Just know that as you live real life today, I am too, and it is not all pictures of my kids being cute as social media may suggest. Sometimes it is just plain messy. And sometimes it is Mosby looking like a plastic cone birthed his head.

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