Tag Archives: parenting

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.

Surprise!

This morning I was on a treadmill.  I looked down to see how far I had run and I was certain there was a mistake.  My legs felt like they had sprinted to Canada and at least halfway back.  The treadmill read “2 miles.”  This means one thing.  Next time I run, I’m picking a different treadmill because that one obviously cannot count correctly.  Anyway, right about the time I checked my mileage, I got a text from my middle schooler.  She was not feeling well and this meant my plans for the day were about to take a detour. Surprise for me!

As I gladly ended my non-marathon workout early, I headed off to the school to grab my girl.  Once under the loving care of her mother, I did what all modern-day Florence Nightingale caretakers would do.  I told her we had to run a few errands before I could get her home and medicated.  Nothing like buckling in for a ride around town when your head is pounding!  Off we went to wait in line at the drive thru pharmacy.

Side note:  Why is it that I will wait 45 minutes behind three cars in a pharmacy drive thru line?  I could just as easily park my car, walk into the store, head to the front of the line (because as I’m waiting all the minutes in the car, I can see there is no line inside), get what I need and be out of there in 3 minutes.  But no, there is some mystical power that tells me to stay in the most inefficient car line ever.  However, if you do go inside, you miss the opportunity to use the magical time capsule launcher.  It exists in the far drive up lane and is your ticket to exchanging items with the store employee.  You push that button and it makes a noise like the capsule is going into space, but lands in the pharmacists hands in 3 seconds.  I swear the Flintstones would have loved that thing.

So while we were waiting, my daughter decided to pull out her lunch so she could refuel during our car wait-a-thon.  And then we started a brief conversation:

Hailey:  Mom, have I told you about the lunchtime game my friends and I play called “What’s For Lunch?”

Me:  Noooo.  Fill me in!

Hailey:  Ok, so everyday, we sit down and I say, “hey guys, who wants to guess what’s in my lunch??!!!!!”  And then we all try to guess.

Me:  Do they normally get it right?

Hailey:  Sometimes.  Some of us bring the same thing every day.  Some of us mix it up.  We always laugh about it.  I love opening up my lunch to try to guess what’s in it.

Me:  Wait.  You get excited about your lunch?  

Hailey:  OH YES!  Like on the days when you pack it, I try not to ask or look at what you put in there because then I have a SURPRISE to look forward to halfway through the day!!!  Like yesterday, I opened up the thermos container and it was ravioli and I was all “RAVIOLIIIII!!!  YESSSSSSS!!!!”

And there you have it.  My firstborn has made it to her 8th year of schooling before I learned this little nugget of information about her.  Does the unveiling of her lunch make or break her day?  No. Is her day ruined on the days where she packs her own food?  Nope.  

However, it was nice to learn a small and tangible way I can provide a lift to her day.  And it got me to thinking about other people in my life.  Are there more doses of happy I could be throwing out to my friends and family? Maybe a few simple ways I could help add a “YESSSS” to their day too? I bet so and I’m on a mission to uncover them.  As for Hailey, she’s got more secret lunch surprises coming her way.

Homemade Tortillas: A Magnificent Beat Down

Last week my plan to make tacos was thwarted when our pantry revealed that we existed in a house without tortillas, like a bunch of wild animals. And I thought, “You know, I always hear making tortillas is easy, healthier and better tasting.” When I found Masa mix in the cupboard  my fate was sealed. I would make my own tortillas. A decision that would elicit one of the most magnificent beat downs of my entire life.

I have a difficult time baking with a floury substance of any kind, which pretty much rules out…all baking. I follow every direction (that holds my attention) and the result can best described as “flour bread”. It is not delicious. The good news is that flour is not nutritionally sound, so my inability to cook with it is admirable and makes me a bit of an accidental health nut. I maintain my healthy low-flour lifestyle by purchasing our many bread items and only eating my friend’s tasty homemade stuff. But I do role model health to others by not cooking with flour. They’ll get it.

I mixed the masa, water and salt as instructed and of course it was too dry. So I added water. They suggested adding a teaspoon, but let’s be real. When you are thirsty does a teaspoon of water quench it? No. So why are we putting that expectation on dough? I gave it a blast from the faucet and moved on.

It was encouraging to see the tortilla instructions involved a simple five step process. Five steps = using one hand’s worth of fingers to keep track.

Although. This could explain a lot. A rather unfortunate door mishap took place when I was ten years old, leaving me to do life with 9 and ¾ fingers. Is it entirely possible that the compromised ring finger on my left hand cost me my tortillas? Yes. But, to quote every brilliant preschool teacher, “you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.” Can I play most instruments? No. But I can count to 9 and ¾ on my fingers, and that is something.

Divide the dough into 16-18 balls.

This kind of thing sends me straight into a tailspin. How can I be certain I am creating the kind of balls that will lead me to my 16-18 dough ball goal? What if I have to combine balls, or worse, separate some balls because I only made 10-12 balls? WHAT THEN? Do I go back and adjust all of them, or do I just change the last 6-8 balls? It’s too much for one person! Also: Balls.

Cover with a damp cloth to keep them soft.

This whole thing may have gone to crap, but I nailed this step. Nothing more to say. My balls were all tucked in, happily resting under a damp paper towel.
Using a tortilla press, place a ball between two sheets of plastic and clamp to form a tortilla 5 to 6 inches in diameter.

Who brings diameters into an already intense and dicey situation!? Rude. Now my geometry PTSD was all a flurry.  I was suddenly flashing back to my 10th grade Geometry parent/teacher conference as relayed to me by my mother.

Mom: What is Amanda’s current grade in Geometry? She seems stressed. 

Mr. Imming: Um. I don’t know what to say about Amanda’s grade. All she does is take notes in class. She’s listening. No one tries harder. But, you both need to prepare yourselves because… it’s not good.

Now we know that my math skills were just skewed because I count on 9 ¾ fingers.

As my personal high school geometry trauma became my focus, I failed to absorb the instruction to place the ball between two sheets of plastic. If I am being honest, it is only now while typing out the directions that I did notice this tidbit of info.  

This step also included “tortilla clamping”, which sounded rather cathartic after everything I had been through.

I used up a great deal of time stressing about the 16-18 balls and looking up “diameter”, so I could not afford to dawdle on clamping. I made the decision that “use a tortilla press” was just a phrase, and that it was best to smush the dough like hell with my hand. I suppose they presumed a person lacking a tortilla press would at least think to use a rolling-pin to roll out the dough. Hindsight being 20/20, I feel like that may have been the way to go.

So I smushed like hell. As I looked at my work I thought…it’s so weird this jagged mess will become a perfect circle when I cook it in the pan. Spoiler alert: It did not.

Heat griddle or skillet to medium-high heat, cook the tortillas flipping them every 20-30 seconds.

What the…they need to be flipped every 20-30 seconds?

**Stage 5 Clinger Alert**

Talk about needy! Goodnight! I had hungry children, dogs circling my ankles, a husband stuck at the O’Hare airport, and zero time for dough that wanted me to treat it like a vulnerable snowflake. So, I flipped sometimes. And truly, I think their calculations are off because the flipping seemed to be the harbinger of the devastating crumbling that ensued. I can forgive and forget, I just hope going forward they alter their directions to adopt the line “Flip sometimes, but not really if they are crumbly.”   

The first two tortillas did not survive, but I just figured they were preparing the pan. I do not think “pan preparing” is an actual thing, but it brought me solace. I had eighteen tortilla dough balls, so I did not stress until 8 were completely ruined and only ten remained.

And then hard truths needed to be confronted. Even though I had created the perfect host environment for dough balls by preparing a pan, statistically these 10 were not likely to survive. Here is where I ordered pizza. But I also held on, open to receiving a tortilla miracle. I talked to myself about perseverance, bravery and how these tortillas may take my life, but they will never take my freedom. I was not giving up! Ever. So, I ruined one more and yelled, “I AM OUT!” I had pizza on the way and I was not going to obsess over clean eating at the cost of my self-esteem. They say self-esteem helps you more than clean eating. I don’t actually know if they say that, but neither do you.

My older daughter came down the stairs and found me covered in masa mix and brokenness and asked, “Mom, what is happening?” I told her, “I made homemade tortillas, so we are going to eat this pizza.” She has told that story to approximately 400 people.

I know you want a happy ending to this story. And there is one because we ate pizza.

Next time I’ll teach you how to make this meatloaf. My husband had a craving. Anything involving the word “loaf” is not okay, but the heart wants what it wants, so I made it for him.

Pro tip: Do not stress over timing. The meatloaf will let you know it is ready when black smoke pours out. Simply pop it out, and enjoy.
So good.

If you enjoyed my tortilla debacle, might I suggest my Pinterest Amnesia post?  Here you go….Pinterest Amnesia

Decluttering: A Post to Make You Feel Better About Your Home

This summer I will both turn 40 and celebrate a 15 year wedding anniversary. And I am finding this phase of life to be a pretty beautiful spot, although sometimes the minivan still smarts a bit. And with what is clearly a midlife crisis slapping me straight across the face these milestones hitting, I now feel a strong inclination to shed excess physical and mental clutter from my family’s life. And I have learned the mental and physical do overlap in numerous ways. During this next stretch in life, I want to place more focus on what’s valuable and essential, and less on any literal or mental junk standing in the way of achieving that goal. The mental clutter, let’s just say I am working on it. But today I will talk about the physical decluttering.  

As with most things, I considered easier alternatives. I stood in the doorway of cluttered rooms and prayed for the rapture. But I feared God might facepalm after glimpsing at this abundance of crap and say “OMG, Amanda.” As it turns out, decluttering is like any area of life in which you seek transformation. You have to do the work. It’s annoying.

Starting the process felt much less overwhelming after I began following the work of The Minimalists, who believe decluttering improves life on every level. I have tried, on a beginner’s level, to adopt a minimalistic approach for decluttering our home. In case you are wondering, minimalistic approach is fancy suburban lingo for “tossing junk out.” It challenges people to keep only what is needed and life-giving.  And additionally, minimalism encourages putting more thought into purchases with the goal of buying fewer, better things. Our parents just called this process “getting rid of stuff.” But we like All Of The Meaning.

Let me walk you through some of what I’ve experienced thus far. It will be fun. You can screenshot my pictures and send them to friends along with the screaming emoji in place of text because it will say everything that needs to be said. I like helping you with your friendships.

 

First of all, you learn interesting facts about yourself when you declutter. For instance, apparently, the part of my brain meant for organizing was being used to obsess over cinnamon.

I think we can now picture the trailer for my Hoarders episode…

The camera pans around a room littered with ground cinnamon spice bottles stacked straight up to the rafters (I don’t really know what rafters are). Finally, the camera comes to rest on me, sitting on a couch clutching cinnamon sticks. Then it will cut to a therapist reminding me that spices will never bring me love, but his words will be drowned out by the meows of all my cats named Cinnamon.

 

Tupperware has proven to be an integral part of my personal non-minimalistic hell. Nevertheless, I conquered my Goliath with grace and dignity. My husband, inspired by my “can do” attitude, captured this moment.

#ShutUpTupperwareIHateYouSoHard  

PS: I did not know we had a wok. That’s kind of fun

 

And here is the Regas family sock basket. It is the actual worst.

Fix it, Jesus.

One of our goals with this blog is to provide our daughters with something they can read in the future that will normalize their feelings since few people voice their personal truths due to their desire to appear perfect. So, eventually, they will read every word we write.  

I tell you this not to be deep, but so you understand why I can’t use all the freaking four letter words to talk about this sock basket and the pain it brings me. But just know in your heart, the swears I’ve invented because of these socks would make grown men flee from locker rooms. %&*$!

 

Children add unique challenges to organizing. And little girls seem particularly drawn towards collections of toys where each one is the size of a pinky nail.

Shopkins creator, you SOB. Whoops, forgot about our daughters already.

 

Remember Monica’s secret closet on Friends? Hi, this is mine.

Apparently, glue is hot on cinnamon’s tail in a race to my Hoarder’s episode.

 

My question is not just why did I hold onto these things…but how? I can not keep track of my children’s birth certificates. I lost my engagement ring. I know I had gerbils as a kid, but I am nervous because I don’t remember them dying. 

In all seriousness, having less stuff and more order has already brought an increased sense of peace and calm to my life. When I fix the clutter, it has such an impact on my mental state. This impact is a huge deal because inside my brain lives a pinball machine. Stuff shoots around and sets off other stuff that shoots around, and there are lots of flashing lights and music. Decluttering cuts the noise.

The process of purging has proven to be cathartic as letting go can be profound. We need to hold onto our past, but probably loosen the grip a little. Some of the physical stuff can go. Going through this process is certainly more intense than paring down your drinkware. But it helps you work through things, which is a gift.

My house remains full of junk that must go. Becoming Aminimalanda will always be a work in progress. My most recent efforts have included participating in the Black Shutters White House 40 Bags in 40 days declutter challenge. I was a little uncertain we would have enough stuff to fill bags for 40 days because I have been working on decluttering for a while. But I think as we reflect on the few pictures I have shared, you won’t be surprised to know I have found plenty more to purge.

So, check out the 40 Day Challenge, it’s a good place to start. I have not done it perfectly. I had to fill five bags today to make up for lost time. No one died. Maybe the gerbils if they were in there. And take a look at  Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things by The Minimalists.

And also, please watch this video by JP Sears. And then all of his others. We need to avoid taking ourselves too seriously.

Being a Minimalist – Ultra Spiritual Life episode 55

 

40 Bags in 40 Days

Over the next 40 days, our families will be participating in a decluttering project designed by our friends over at White House Black Shutters. The challenge begins March 1 and extends through April 15.  It coincides with the 40 days of Lent, which makes it extra meaningful for any Christian participants looking for a spiritual exercise to practice this Lenten season.

According to upperroom.org, the season of Lent is a time to return to God and refocus our lives to be more like Jesus.  It is 40 days where we can change our lifestyle and allow God to do a work in our heart as we prepare for Easter. We want to pare down excess and free our minds to focus on life as God intended. For these reasons, this Lent our families will be participating in the 40 Bags in 40 Days DeCluttering Challenge.

The idea is to declutter an area in your house by filling up one bag per day. However, you can change that to meet individual family needs and goals. The website provides links to printables, ideas for decluttering both stuff and “non-stuff,” a Facebook page for support and a daily email course.

Click here for all the information and here to join the official group Facebook page.

We would love if you joined us in this challenge, whether you participate in Lent or not. Please let us know if you decide to partake. We will update the blog as we go. We expect there will be ups and downs. And by “ups and downs” we mean we are going to start out strong and then probably there will be some crying.

-Amanda and Katie

A Parenting Fail

Evie, my happy, charismatic fireball baby, moped into the house after kindergarten one day completely deflated. She walked in quietly next to Nora, who promptly launched into recounting how she prodded Evie the entire bus ride home because something was obviously wrong. Her dad and I mentally scrolled through possibilities…a fight with a friend, someone said something cruel, conflict on the bus. I was ready to throw down; not many people bring my Evelyn down.

I quickly learned the cause of her heartbreak. And it was the worst-case scenario for a mother. It was me. “Mom forgot to come to lunch with me today,” she said. And then she just melted down.

The truth is, we had talked about having lunch together the previous night. And I learned that she had excitedly taken a spot at the parent table, waiting for me. And after a few minutes went by, she described to me and G.R. how she finally stood up and decided to buy herself a hot lunch since I had not arrived. She’s six so that whole process, even her initial excitement, was more intense for her than it would have been for an older kid. During dinner that night, we did our usual routine of discussing the highs and lows of the day. Evie’s low was that though she fought it, she cried in front of everyone, and it was embarrassing.

One of the worst parts is that she was not dramatic. This was bona fide hurt. Her mom had utterly gutted her. I let down my kid.  Who does that? I don’t know. I guess I sometimes do.

Ironically, I had missed lunch with Evie because I was driving all over Texas looking for everything her heart desired for the next day’s 50’s theme school day and family Sock Hop dance. We had gone out as a family the previous night, but could not find Evie’s poodle skirt. I guess it goes to show they need time and not more stuff, but I swear sometimes you just can not win.

Giving my girls consistency, stability and the capability to trust are my driving forces as a parent. And it feels all the good I do in these areas can be erased by a single act that becomes lodged in their memory. They say you have to say a certain amount of positive words to a kid to make up for one negative one. My God, how many actions do you think it will take to make up for this one? And who are ‘they’? I hate them.

Anyone that knows me well describes me as being hard on myself. If I could tattoo “Cut yourself a freaking break, fool” onto my arm and just read it all the time, it would be a big timesaver for my friends. But this time I fought my tendency to shut down and be hard on myself and instead took pause, thinking about this moment for my girls. I could not change what I did, but I could change how the memory lived in their brains and impacted their thought processes. I want my girls to be kind to themselves. I want them to cut themselves the precious slack desperately needed in motherhood and marriage. I want them to understand they are human. Lord knows, they will experience some version of this scenario with their kids someday. And I can tell you that while they make me a little batty, they are both good people. But as missteps happen to all of us, this will, unfortunately, happen to them.

So, this situation gave me a shot at modeling how to make a mistake, be upset, talk about it and both ask for and receive forgiveness. This is very difficult for me. It involves a lot of intentional effort. Even though this “talking it out and not blaming myself” business does not come naturally nor easily to me, I am hoping, for my girls’ sake, I can fake it until I make it and then it will come more quickly to them.

In the end, I did not shut down and dwell. Instead, we did away with our regular schedule and made cupcakes. Evie handled the liners, Nora handled the ingredients. They both handled spilling everything everywhere, and the dogs handled hovering around us hoping I would screw up in a different and more exciting way for them. Evie and I talked, and she perked right up, because fortunately for all of us, kids are resilient. It’s just a matter of how many times we make them tap into that resilience. And as much as I want to create a life for them where they have to tap into it a lot less than I did, I will make mistakes.

I went out of town the day after the 2017 lunch debacle and was still aching some from the event.  But, Evie’s sweet dad surprised her with a milkshake and lunch in the cafeteria the next day. And Evie greeted him saying, “I had a feeling this might happen!”. And I received a picture of my girl beaming from ear to ear.

As I let myself off the hook from screwing up with my six-year-old, I am going to focus on the fact that she knew we would show up the next day.

As I tell my girls: try, try again.

-Amanda

Pinterest Amnesia

I cannot craft. Everything about crafting trips me up. I bought a glue gun a few years ago and nearly lost an eye, and that doesn’t even make sense. Here is what I have to offer craft wise: I will make a batch of margaritas for your crafting party.

Even after eleventeen thousand disastrous crafting ventures, I keep trying. It reminds me of the phenomenon referred to as labor amnesia where one “forgets” the pain of labor. People believe this occurs so we can muster up enough courage to procreate again. I find this idea alarming. If we can forget that we have expelled an entire human out of our body, we probably don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of keeping track of them afterward. However, I do believe in Pinterest amnesia. Pinterest amnesia is a very real (it’s not real) coping mechanism. One that allows us to bury the trauma associated with past Pinterest fails. The shame and regret experienced when Mod Podge ruins our projects and our lives are swallowed up, erased from memory. Allowing us to continue looking at our Pinterest boards with hope. 

Pinterest amnesia is how my  friend Lori can make something like this and still soldier on to pin another day:

img_0972

Her goal was to teach her children the symbolism behind candy canes. And yes, maybe she missed the mark. But if anyone ever needs to know what a tapeworm strangling some licorice looks like, Lori has provided a visual. Thank you, Lori.

Because I have The Pinterest Amnesia, I attempted these three crafts/recipes. Which, by the way, most of you could nail, and I highly recommend. Even though things went wrong during the process, they still ended up kind of cute. Except for that middle one. The way I flubbed that one was to completely forget about it until my 6-year old daughter asked where it was on Thanksgiving. She then teared up after I gave her the news. I gave her a dollar for her therapy jar and sent her on her way.

Edible Thanksgiving Turkey Place Card or Centerpiece from firstyearblog.com
Edible Thanksgiving Turkey Place Card or Centerpiece from firstyearblog.com
Turkey Fruit Platter from The First Year Blog
Turkey Fruit Platter from The First Year Blog
Pilgrim Hat Cookies from Sippycupmom.com
Pilgrim Hat Cookies from Sippycupmom.com

We started with the turkey place card holder made with pears. We hit our first glitch straightaway during the first step. I struggled to get the first pear to submit to me and stand up after being halved. After consulting the directions, it came to light that I had not yet read any of the directions. I was not supposed to cut the pear in half because a halved pear cannot balance. I sacrificed the pear for no reason. So we brought in a green apple to act as runner-up to the pear, who was unable to fulfill his role. But there is always a silver lining. We got to watch G.R. confront his texture issues whilst trying to eat a grainy pear.

Then, we faced a grim reality. None of the pears were capable of balancing. The author of the craft had warned of this dilemma and encouraged checking the pears balance potential before purchase, which tells me Walmart grocery pick up is not yet available in her area. I tend to live on the wild side of suburban life, so I let the grocery pick up associate choose my pears. And you know what? I am not even going to call Walmart to complain about the instability of the pears they sell because it is the holiday season. I choose grace. We are over-comers in this house, so we stoically jammed toothpicks up the pears hindquarters to prop them up.

Things went further south because I had gone rogue, deciding against purchasing candy eyes. We already had google eyes in our craft bin, so I decided to practice frugality and save the 98 cents. That left wiggle room to afford the $4,683 worth of fruit the crafts required. Unfortunately, I had failed to factor in the humongous size of the google eyes we owned.

Our turkeys look like they attended a riot just after being tested for glaucoma.

fullsizerender_1

Or maybe they are still reeling from taking a toothpick up the badonk. That seems fair.

But you know what? Making them was fun. We laughed. We spent time together. The kids tried the dried fruit and liked it, allowing me to give a moving soliloquy on the merits of just freaking trying things because you might freaking like them. Yes, my daughters bounced between 14 different emotions during the process, but that’s how everyone acts during the holidays, so I just found them to be festive. And I think crafts are nice during the holidays because they bring me to my knees, a convenient position in which to pray, and that keeps my focus on the actual reason for the season. It’s all beautifully connected.

Someday I will say to our girls, “Remember all the fun we had making those turkey pears? Let’s do that with your kids!” And hopefully, my daughters will look back on the experience fondly and agree wholeheartedly, only recalling when it is too late to turn back how our fingers transformed into bloody stumps from sliding dried fruit on sharp toothpicks. But it will be okay. Because they will be in charge and I am going to laugh at them.

The holidays can feel strikingly similar to navigating a Pinterest craft. A lot of emotional highs and lows. Continually jumping back and forth between having perspective and losing sight of it. Attempting perfection and then being humbled when it is not achieved. One day you might step outside and note that all your neighbor’s homes are lit up like a magical winter wonderland, and then turn and look at the Halloween pumpkins that still adorn your porch. That happened to my friend (me). Hopefully, in the end, we will carry the positive snippets away and forget the rest. We can call that holiday amnesia.

Stay tuned for Christmas crafts. I will make stuff like this fancy replica of a Christmas poke cake. Try to guess which one is mine.

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Happy holidays!

 

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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Altering Our Technique

Is it appropriate to send flowers to the Walgreens immunization-trained health care professional that saw my youngest two children? I really do hope her hearing returns by 2017.  We experienced a “minor” (MAJOR) freak out there a few days ago.  

The day started off lovely.  My little two slept in a bit because they had doctor appointments that morning and taking them to school for only an hour before having to pick them up seemed, well….like so much effort, especially for this non-morning person Mama.  We high-fived the extra hour of sleep instead.  We went to meet a new pediatrician.  Over a year has passed since moving to a new Texas town, so it was time to officially fill out all the paperwork in all the land and switch over all the doctors.  This also meant that my hand felt the beginning stages of carpal tunnel.  

Anyways, I was a good mom.  I prepared the children.  I set appropriate expectations.  Being that they are 7 and 9 I figured they could handle this.  I told them they would be getting a flu shot.  That went over fine because, you know…..they had always chosen to snort the live virus and forego the eensy teeny tiny needle.  So then I over prepared the children by telling them that the flu mist wasn’t available and that the only option was the shot.  They knew of this information approximately a week before the visit.

Maybe finding Reese in the fetal position in her bed crying the night before the appointment should have been my first clue that my “good momming” was not going to have the outcome I had hoped.  I comforted her.  I assured her that even though so-and-so told her that the shot absolutely is the worst pain EVER and lasted for WEEKS that this was not true and the ear piercings she experienced months before were WAY worse than this shot.  Of course, she replied, “MOM!  IT WAS SO PAINFUL TO PIERCE MY EARS!  THIS DOES NOT HELP!”  Look, I tried.  I am not always the human form of a big bowl of mac-and-cheese comfort food.

But no worries, because Landry the 7-year-old, had been announcing to the entire family as many times as possible, “YOU GUYS….HOW IS IT THAT I AM THE BABY OF THE FAMILY AND I AM THE ONLY ONE NOT FREAKED OUT ABOUT THIS?”  I don’t know, but YOU GO little caboose.

We arrived.  We received the call to go back, they weighed, they measured height, they swiped forehead temperatures, the children were winning this appointment by answering the nurses questions about their ages and where they attended school and then she left the room.  And then, like a storm that comes from out of nowhere, I looked and Reese went down!  Tears flowed freely and her voice exponentially upped some levels.  And then….mmm hmmm…..my youngest folded like a wet napkin and she joined the newly formed Choir of Agony led by Reese.  As you can imagine, I knew at that moment that I was not going to be awarded Mom of the Day by this physician’s practice.

However, hope returned!  The nurse returned to deliver the news that they were totally out of flu shots!  There was NO WAY they would even be getting a shot…..until the shipment arrived and I brought them back after school.  I said, “Girlies!  Great news!  NO SHOTS!!! YAYYY!!!!  You can stop crying because you aren’t getting them now!”  Sweet relief.  Except they started crying harder and let me know that they were going to think about the shot allllll dayyyyyyy because they just knew I’d bring them back for the arm amputation that afternoon.  They finally did simmer down and finish out the appointment like only semi traumatized kids.

So when we left, I dug into my mental mom bag.  I altered my technique.  

Me:  Hey girls, before I drop you off at school, I need to go to Walgreens.  LET’S GO!

Girls:  YAY!!!  NO SCHOOL YET!!!

Landry:  Why are you in the line for the medicine person Mommy?

Me:  I have to ask them a question.  Hey, you two, have a seat over there in that little kind of office section.

Landry:  Why are we still sitting here?  And I heard you tell them my birthday, why were you doing that?

Reese: Can I play Pokemon Go?  ←- much easier child to deal with when oblivious to impending situation.

Me:  Hey look in this magazine, did you see these funky shoes?  AREN’T THOSE CRAZY????

Shot Lady:  Landry….Reese…..come on back!

*******TENSION EXUDING FROM CHILDREN*******

Girls:  WHY ARE WE IN HERE?  MOM…..ARE YOU MAKING US GET THE SHOT NOWWWW???????

I cannot appropriately express with typed words the level of screams, the attempted hiding in corners while assuming the fetal position, the amount of tears and the flashing of future therapy sessions in my mind that occurred over the next 3 minutes.  It was ugly.  There was no reasoning.  There were no words to ease this blaring meltdown.  The technician quickly felt the interior of her brain suddenly go from “happy morning” to “ferocious migraine”….sorry bout that.  And three minutes later…

Reese: MOMMMM!!!!!  IT’S GOING TO BE THE WORRRSTTTT PAINNNNNN EE…

*****shot goes in***

Reese: ver.  (starts laughing) Hey!  That didn’t even hurt.  OH MY GOSH THAT DIDN’T EVEN HURT!  HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!  Cool Bandaid!

Landry:  NOOOO! IT WILLLLL HURRRRTTTT M….

****shot goes in****

Landry: ..e.  HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!  THAT WAS SO EASY AND I BARELY FELT ANYTHING!!! SO FUNNY, RIGHT REESE?!

We exited to an entire line of adults standing at the pharmacy line staring at us.  They were expecting at least 1,000 kids smushed in the room to leave with the noise level we exhibited and were waiting to see painful, gaping, open wounds which would justify the screams.  When they saw the girls, almost all of them started sympathetically chuckling and telling the girls that they did a good job.   

We left.  I took them to an early lunch.  They were so light on their feet as we went for food.  Weights had been lifted off their shoulders and they told me they were SO GLAD they didn’t wait until after school to go back to the doctor because they had been so overcome with worry.  They started giggling so hard they snorted reliving their past hour and half.  Deep belly laughs were heard all throughout that sandwich shop as they felt the sweet relief of their fears not coming to fruition.

It got me to thinking, how many times do we, as adults, mentally freak out over thoughts we build up in our mind?  Fear can be such a jerk.  It can overtake our emotions like a flood and hijack our rational thoughts.  

So often, we assume and prepare for the worst possible impending wound, when in actuality we might have a minor poke coming our way.  Or just maybe that “wound” could even be FOR US….to protect us or end up being a blessing.  

So today I encourage you to think of parts of your life where fear might be holding you back.  Maybe your brain is whispering things like “what if.”  I use to suffer from the “what ifs” quite often.  I’ve gotten better about it through talking with Trey.  He always has the same response to this anxiety and fear filled question.  It goes like this…

Me:  Trey, but WHAT IF this ends up happening?  

Trey:  What if?

Me:  Trey, but WHAT IF people think ____?

Trey:  What if?

Me:  Trey, but WHAT IF I ruin ____?

Trey:  What if?

And he’s right.  His response is so simple, yet always so true.  WHAT IF?  What if we fail?  What if people think blahhhh about us or our choices?  

The Bible has something to say about us and our choices when we make them with intentions and desire to honor and glorify God.  Things like:

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

Does He promise things will go smoothly?  Nope.  Does He promise everything will work out just how we want?  Nope.  But you will never be alone.  You are infinitely loved.  There is no mental freak out that He cannot handle or behavior that surprises Him.  He is our steady in the chaos.

Sometimes we have to fight our fears.  We have to lean towards the uncomfortable rather than letting fear paralyze us and hold us back.  We have to alter our technique.

My girls did.  Albeit, they did it while sitting on my lap and me so “gently” holding them down and whispering in their ear that it was going to be okay.  They were stuck with me helping them….sorry about that girls.  But we all have God….the ultimate comforter.

And do you know who else should get to experience God being the ultimate comforter to these little ladies next year?  Trey.  As his wife, I am deeply invested in his spiritual life and will not let him miss out on a religious experience. So, next year, it will be flu church for the entire family.

Have a great day everyone.  We can do hard things.