Into the Hole of Stage Parent Shame

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Over the tips of skyscrapers and a slight OC haze, little Kolby spots the artificial snow of Matterhorn Mountain, “Mommy, is that Disneyland?”

“Yes, sweetheart,” I reply.

“Mommy, I need, I want, I muuuuuust to go to Disneyland. I’m the only kid in the world who’s never been.”

I look in the rearview mirror at her peaked little face and feel a minor prick of guilt. For a year, I took her older siblings (who are now teens) to the happiest place on earth every single stinking weekend with our mega access passes—which is why I now avoid the place like the plague.

(And just for the record, the measles outbreak gave me another good reason to put it off)

Kolby’s bow shaped mouth turns downward and then tightens into a pout. I tread lightly with my response because she’s not feeling well and EVERYTHING is irritating her.

I think hard. We are on our way up to an audition in LA for a commercial for a kids shoe company. I am doing pulling out every trick in my wheelhouse to transform a grumpy and feverish five-year-old into a friendly and outgoing kid actor/model.

But my lullabies and packed cooler full of organic Cheetos and chocolate almond milk are not cutting it in light of her Mickey Mouse depletion.

“Baby, let’s try and book a job this summer and then maybe we can go to Disneyland. It’s pretty expensive.”

Kolby nods. “Ok, I just have to be happy at the audition, right?”

“Yep, just do your best darling.”

The car goes silent. She leans back in her car seat and closes her eyes. The rest of the drive we play “I Spy” and find letters on license plates.

We drive into West Hollywood and I navigate through the crowded roads to the casting agency. Of course there’s no parking—because I always wanted to make a sick child walk a mile to wait in a crowded room for another hour.

I spot a Starbucks and we head around the corner to prep. Inside the store bathroom I change her into a little white floral dress and brush out her long golden locks. On top of her head I gently place a flower crown and sigh with delight.

Her attitude might be a wee bit sour but she looks like a dream.

I grab a drink and we head back over to the audition.

It’s the usual scene—about 50 kids with nannies and handlers and clueless grandpas juggling headshots, iPads and combs. Kolby starts talking with another little girl and I make a mental note of the room.

They are lining up the kids down a hallway. Some go in with parents and some without.   When Kolby’s name is called the lady in charge says the casting agents want to see the kids alone.

What? ALONE?

Many bad words come to mind.

Kolby’s eyes grow big and teary. She grabs my leg.

“I don’t want to go in there alone, mommy.” Big tears threaten to slide down her face.

She sets off the other kids in line.

It’s a group MELTDOWN worthy of an Oscar.

Now no one wants to go in alone. The lady glares at me.

The door opens and I grab little Kolby’s hand and push past her.

We walk into a mini American Idol type setting. There are three scowling casting directors behind a table. A hip but harried photographer motions for her to stand in front of a backdrop.

I give her a little encouraging pat and she walks over.

“What’s your name?” the lumber-sexual photographer inquires.

(Oh great, he’s got a beard. My kid is terrified of men with beards)

My little lamb looks at the ground and whispers, “Kolby.”

“Kolby, can you smile for me. I’m going to take a few pictures.”

And my dear child who is generally my biggest ham forces a pained grin that looks far more like disgust than joy.

I want to crawl in a hole.

“Can you give me a big smile?” he cajoles.

Kolby tries again. Now she looks constipated.

“Can you jump?” he asks.

Kolby looks at him and lets out an exaggerated sigh. Her body language screams, I don’t feel well and my mommy dragged me here and now you want me to freaking jump.

I can see the future teenager seed rooting.

She gives a half-hearted leap.

I crawl deeper into the hole of stage-parent shame.

The photographer grabs the shoes and asks her to try them on. She slips them onto her feet.

“Do you like the shoes?”

Kolby pauses. “Not really, they are too big.”

Her tone is pure annoyance.

The casting elite illuminati give me the look—the “You’re wasting our time look and I grab her hand and we shuffle out.”

She smiles the second we leave,

“How did I do Mommy? Can I go to Disneyland now?”

“No baby, I said we needed to book the job first remember? Anyway, you weren’t very friendly sweetheart.

And my five year-old turns on me and yells loudly down the street, “Other kids don’t have to get a job and go to work to go to Disneyland. Anyway, you told me not to talk to strangers and they were scary!”

And I am left both ashamed and stumped at her pre-school logic.

The two buff men heading into the gym in front of us choke up and try not to laugh, but I can hear their snickers and eyes on me as I duck into the car.

And I know it’s one of those mom moments. Make it or break it time.

I feel pulled between caring for my kid’s emotional wellbeing and teaching life lessons to a small person who may not have the ability to hear me in this moment.

How do I explain to my kid that I’m trying to fund her college tuition with her ridiculous cuteness? How do I teach her the value of a hard work ethic and the beauty of delayed gratification as she saves towards a goal? And most of all, how do I teach her to do hard things even when she feels like quitting?

And I realize while those are all things I want to teach her, this is NOT that moment.

I pick her up and cuddle her. “Today was tough. I’m proud of you for trying even though you were sick. Next time if you smile and act friendly even when you are scared mommy will give you $5 to save for Disney.”

I think some more.

“And if mommy introduces you to the person, then they aren’t strangers and it’s ok to be nice.”

She puts her little arms around me and we both sniffle and cling to one another.

Over the next few weeks Kolby works hard on introductions. She learns to say, “Nice to meet you” and hold out her hand for a firm shake.

She practices smiling and posing. We play the casting director game and take turns asking questions.

A month later Kolby books her first modeling gig.

When I share the news with her she screams, “I can’t believe it! Mommy, we are going to Disneyland!”

And I am humbled. The lesson I tried to force she learned all on her own.

This time I will be proud to wear the Mickey ears because I know how hard we both worked to get them.

 

How to Get Your Teen To Do Hard Stuff

Christmas 2014 10

This might sound a little unconventional–but hear me out.

After three years of begging and pleading and threatening–we have finally found the key to behavior modification with our kid.

Five bucks a day.

Yep, five bucks a day–that’s what it takes to change a habit in my teenage son.

Every day he does the thing I want him to do–which is stretch his hips–and I reward him.

So why the money?

Because, quite frankly, NOTHING else was working.

My son, as many of you know, is an elite athlete.  And don’t get me wrong, Kyle is fast, but he could be even faster.  Even a tiny gain (2/10 of a second) can mean a big deal in football.  Speed equals explosiveness and open hips give him the the ability to change directions fast.  As a linebacker it’s crucial.

It also means less injuries, because a flexible person is bendy and when they get hit hard–they bend.

But Kyle could not, would not be forced into doing anything.  This is what they call a TEENAGER.  And it’s so fun as a parent trying to work with a belligerent donkey.

We were stumped…

A few weeks ago, my husband heard the author of The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg, at a church conference talking about the formation of new habits.  He came home with the book and the information excited to try it out.

So we gamely played along and let Kyle be our first case study in the Keller home.

According to Duhigg, the key to habit change is to:

1. Make it easy to do the thing (for example, set out the yoga mat for him to stretch the night before)

2. Have an instant positive reward ($5 deposit into his high school checking)

Truthfully, Tim and I were doubtful.  Kyle already burns the midnight oil and trains relentlessly along with studying into the wee hours of the night.  It was just “one more thing” we were harping on him to do.  He already stretches every day and now we were asking him to do more.

Kyle, like all of us, wants to have good habits.  His intent is good but he just needed a kick in the pants and a reason that didn’t suck to go above and beyond the ordinary.

I’m here to give the praise of Mr. Duhigg, because his system worked.

Every day our kid gets up 15 minutes early and stretches.  And every day I deposit the money in his bank account.

For all those parents thinking I don’t have an extra $150 to give my kid a month, the reward doesn’t have to be financial.  It just has to be something small and easy to give immediately.

For my five year old it could be reading her favorite book for the hundredth time for five minutes or playing Barbies.

But for us and with this kid, the money made sense. Now that our son can drive, we probably spend that amount on him anyway because he’s always asking for money for gas or to hit Starbucks and Chick-Filet.

According to Duhigg, the best habit changers in the study group were were runners who allowed themselves a small piece of chocolate after each run.  It was an immediate and tangible reward. And for those people who love chocolate…very effective!

The people who wanted to gain a running habit laid out their running shoes the night before and rewarded themselves immediately after.

And presto…new habit formed.

I for one, can’t wait to see all the things we can accomplish with our kids as we put this system to work.

And honestly, I also can’t wait to see all the things I accomplish, because sometimes, I need a kick in the pants too!

(And a little glass of a good Cabernet or a tasty chocolate sounds like a lovely reward to me)

–Samantha

#SantaFail

Kolby refused to put it on again.  Here she is holding the Elf Fail...

Kolby refused to put it on again. Here she is holding the Elf Fail…

It’s New Year’s Day.  I’m languishing in a pair of flannel pajamas—mimosa in hand—at my friend’s two-year-old “Pancakes and PJ’s” birthday party.

I’m sleepy after all the New Year’s Eve frolicking, but my caffeine buzz has a few jolts left to motor me through the morning.

Suddenly, a passel of little girls rush by adorned in flowing blue Elsa “Frozen” dresses.  My four-year-old is not one of them.  She is still in her Justice Jammies.

She looks at me with pleading eyes.

“Mommy, can we run home and get my dress?”

We decide to send daddy and he returns with the prized new Christmas dress.

Kolby marches into the bathroom, dress in hand, rips it off the hangar and crams it over her little head.

(Santa’s elves’ made her fine costume via Costco.  It was $16.99.)

Santa scored—or so I thought.

It seemed nice enough in the store as daddy followed along with the secret ELF cart and I texted him all the things Kolby cooed over.

Out my daughter shuffles from the restroom—arms askew, she stands and moans like a child stuffed into an over-sized snow-suit.

“Mommy, it itches!”

The cheap sparkly tulle sleeves stab into her soft arms.  I place them down by her side but they pop right back up with squeals of irritation.

“It hurts Mommy!  Santa brought me a SCATCHY Elsa dress”

Tears threaten to fall from her disappointed eyes.

She looks around at the other girls outfitted in the Disney Store’s finest and much more expensive version of the dress.  Their dresses are flowing, silky and elegant—unlike Kolby’s.

I want to crawl in a hole.

But then Daddy saves the day.

“Honey, let’s wear your blue jammy top underneath.  It matches real pretty!”

(This man is such a treasure!)

Kolby runs off to change and I am left with the other mommies mocking me–as only good friends can do.

It was one of those moments I knew my kid would wind up in therapy for twenty years down the road.

Therapist: “Kolby why do max out your credit cards to wear only the finest designer clothes?”

Kolby: “Because all the other kid’s Santa shopped at Disney but my Santa bought me scatchy shi… from Costco.”

And I was reminded in that moment that sometimes cheap is just cheap.

And Santa needs to step up his game next year.

#ParentFail

Driving Lessons

car keys

As school budgets shrink and vital programs get axed, I believe we have lost something CRUCIAL to humanity—DRIVERS ED.  Clearly the brilliant superintendant that made this monetary cut had GROWN children.

Parents have now been tasked with a horrifying job—teaching their child to drive.  Sure, if you have an extra thousand dollars or two, you can hire Master Drive to sit next to your kid and freak out—but for the rest of us peasants, we are the sacrificial lambs handing over our keys with fear and trembling.

As my oldest approached sixteen, I closely watched other parents turn co-pilot.  And people I’m here to tell you…it’s not pretty!

I see their faces rolling up at the school drop off—cocky teens and terrified women with mottled red cheeks instructing/shrieking at their freshly permitted kid behind the wheel.  Behind the teen’s back, the moms grumble the charge befallen them and dad suddenly recalls his schedule is slammed for the next six months—or at least until the child is a licensed driver.

So what’s a scared stiff parent to do when their teen get’s a driving permit?

It’s seems we have a choice—view it as an “ordeal” or as an assignment.  Maybe driving can be a rite of passage for both child and parent?

I know I wanted something radically different—a FUN memory—not a “have to” but a “want to.”  I can honestly say I was scared—scared for my car and my personal safety but I was willing to figure it out because I love my kid.

Here’s a snapshot of my journey teaching Kyle to drive.

–Summer 2014

Even before the informal driving education begins I want to know what I’m dealing with.  So, I take Kyle out to an empty high-school parking lot at night.

(And truthfully I mumble many foul words under my breath)

Kyle runs over curbs and goes from zero to forty in 2 seconds flat.  I’m petrified and Kolby screams.

But after a few days, I agree (reluctantly) to try again and he surprises me and catches on pretty quick.  After a few basic lessons, I’m about ready to let him loose on a real road.  Whew!

Getting the Permit

Kyle takes an exhaustive online driving course.  In fact, it takes so long he can’t seem to finish it between school and year-round football training.  It’s an 80 hour class and by his sixteenth birthday he’s only 2/3rd complete.  Then his friend tells him about an app that takes about 2 hours.  In one evening he has passed and is ready for the exam at the DMV.

Lesson Learned—the long class taught Kyle valuable driving knowledge but ultimately wasn’t the best option for my kid with his busy schedule.

–September 2014

My now rather cocky 16 year-old and his dad head to the DMV after booking an online appointment.  The CA DMV is so slammed it took a MONTH to get in.  YOUZA!  We have to pull Kyle out of Mass to go(he goes to a Catholic school).  I feel a little guilty about this, but since we aren’t Catholic it doesn’t last too long.

Sadly, after waiting in the line from hell (with an appointment no less), he misses the cut-off by 1 point.  His dad drives him back to school and he calls me with a gloomy voice.

And I choke back the words, “I told you it was a tricky test” but the laughter in my voice belies my true feelings.  Kyle’s little sisters are not so nice.  They mock him outright.

So…we have to repeat the whole process two weeks later.

This time, thanks to another app his friend tells us about that quizzes him on his iPhone, he PASSES!

I now have a permitted child!

Oct 2014

Kyle wants to drive everywhere.  To school, to church, to run errands he never wanted to go on before. It’s mildly annoying at first, and then I realize I need to take advantage of this situation for as long as I can.  I now have a sober and dedicated driver.

(Woot woot!)

It makes Friday nights at Ruby’s after a football game highly amusing!  I can have a glass of wine (or two) and not worry about checkpoints and DUI’s.

But more importantly, the more Kyle practices the less stressed I actually him.  Kyle is an easy kid.  He actually listens and self-corrects.  I learn to “quietly” coach and let him do his thing.  We make a good team together and my son is becoming an excellent driver.

By November we are ready for the freeway.  We start by driving one exit and we survive.  Then we move on a little further.  One day we drive all the way to South Coast Plaza—about 30 minutes from Ladera.  Kyle is tense but elated to drive the whole family.  We arrive in one piece and  I’m so proud of him I buy him a big frothy Starbucks Frapachino which he promptly tries to drink with one hand on the wheel while driving back on the freeway.  I quickly nix that idea.  We are not yet ready for one handed stunt-driver maneuvers.

Danger, Danger!

One very late night, after a football game and post-game celebration, I follow my husband and son home.  Kyle is driving my car and I follow in Tim’s Expedition.  As we pull up to a light on a deserted road Kyle cautiously turns right.  Out of the corner of my eye I see lights whip up behind me, the speeding car cuts me off and then swerves around Kyle.  Technically, Kyle is in the wrong because he switched lanes on the turn but only because he thought no one was behind him (other than me).  The guy going 80 lays on the horn and scares the hell out of my kid.  I watch helplessly behind.

Lesson learned!  Kyle, stay in your lane and watch your back.  Lesson for Mama—I can’t control other drivers.  So, I pray more!

Favorite Part of this Driving Deal:

Initially, neither Tim nor Kyle’s dad want to drive with him.  (No judgment here) So, it’s just the two of us learning to do this.  Kyle is learning how to grow up and I am learning how to let go.  It’s a beautiful dance of give and take and secret tears (mine) and occasional annoyance (his).  But together we figure it out.

I begin to treasure our time driving.  In fact, sometimes I am so happy I try not to weep.  Kyle has to pay full attention to the road.  He can’t text or call friends.  It’s just the radio and mom.  I revel in the special time knowing how fleeting this moment is.

My days of being his chauffeur are over.

And I will be BOTH ecstatic and heartbroken. 

Where has the time gone?  How can this boy who gave me one of the greatest gifts of all—motherhood—be so grown up?

This boy—my blue-eyed, golden curled toddler who vaulted like a monkey out of his crib at 18 months will pull out of the driveway and wave goodbye.

This young man—a determined leader, a fiercely devoted son and friend, a great athlete and lover of God and family will get his license in 10 weeks—hopefully on the first try—and I will be miserably overjoyed for him.

(Tear, hiccup, another tear…)

Biggest takeaway:

Don’t pay someone else to teach your child to drive (unless you are a suck driver).  Although I was truly frightened, it’s an experience I will stuff in my memory box of priceless treasures.

Here is what I (also) recommend:

  1. Create a safe environment for your kid to learn
  2. Surrender Control
  3. Believe in Your Kid
  4. Enjoy the Drive
  5. And Launch!

Good Luck!

–Samantha

Top Ten Reasons to Celebrate Tim Keller on his 45th Birthday!

 

I wrote this 4 years ago!  (Geez we looked good back then Keller)

Tim, you have walked by my side through the loss of both my parents, too many miscarriages to count, the raising of our three amazing kids, babies and Tweens and teens, planting a church and building a home. I love you more now than ever because our journey has taken us through the fire and though we are a little crusty and singed, we are burnt toast together! Always together! 

Baby you rock my world!  Happy 45!

–Samantha

10.   Ex-tro-vert…for complete definition: refer to Tim Keller.  This man is the Red Bull of relational Kool-Aid.  His distinct insignia, a loud vibrant voice, can generally be heard in a large crowd or on a microphone.  Tim has more friends than anyone I know, and yet somehow manages to make each one feel special, placing a high value on personal relationships.  People energize Tim and he becomes more fully alive engaged in the social realm of humanity.  It just isn’t a party until Keller arrives!

9.  Sauce—Otherwise known as “Condiment Keller” or sometimes “Saucisaurous.” Keller is a sauce connoisseur, a guru of taste, a man who knows what he likes and will take an hour schooling a waitress to get it just right. There is no room in our fridge for food, thanks to the Costco sized vats of condiments.  Think Sally, in the movie, “When Harry met Sally.”  Get the picture?

8.   Style—though fatherhood, marriage and church planting may have added a tad more conservative tone to the Tim Keller ensemble, the dude still has panache.  From the ocean view bachelor pad, closets full of hip clothes, to the blue convertible caddy, wicked cool sunglasses, passport full of exotic stamps, retro decor, and the fact that he only dates hot models (past tense), Keller is suave incarnate.  When he walks down the street, you can hear the James Bond theme song playing in the background.  Who else could carry off a man bag with such“je ne sais quoi” bravado?

7.  Club Music—from the underground of the Seattle scene, Keller emerged as a pastor who likes techno, trance and house.  Imagine waking up every morning to thumping base and complex rhythms repeated over and over and over. Now this may sound like a non-sequitur…pastor and club music, but Keller manages to pull it off with unique flair, completely confidant in his individuality and discerning taste.

6.  Die-hard Mariners Fan—this man is loyal. Clearly, the worst team in Major League Baseball will not detract him.  He knows every player, stat, and RBI in the history of the Mariners program.  He even flew back to Seattle five days before our wedding for the opening game of the season.  Most grooms are fretting over the last-minute details…but Tim knows that without his presence the Mariners might not win, I mean lose again.

5.  Eagle Scout—Tim actually earned this esteemed Boy Scout honor.  And, as an adult, it plays out in his high-capacity to find solutions.  He a “get it done” type of guy and a great person to have around if you get lost in the woods and need to fight off a violent posse of raccoons.

4.  Poker Shark—Someday the World Series of Poker will bow before the kneel…that is, Keller will show the world who’s the real Ace!

3.  Fun—We like to say that Pastor Keller puts the fun in funeral and the first two letters in FUN!

2.  Tim is a is Hero— Only a man called by God would take on the burden and care of a single mom with two little kids, and then love them…truly love them like they are his own.  His hair might be a little grey from all the stress, but his heart, oh…his heart grows bigger daily, especially now that baby can say, “Hi Daddy” and claps when he walks in the room.

1. A Great Pastor to Many—Tim is humble, authentic, committed to His Lord, and has a true minister’s heart.  As a caring shepherd to his Mission Viejo flock, he creates an environment of celebration and acceptance.  He is a lover of God’s people and an inspiration to those around him. He carries the heart of our church in his pocket and we, the church, carry Tim in ours.

Happy Birthday Tim Keller!

Love, your adoring wife, studly son, beautiful daughter, and pretty baby.

Why Mom’s Can’t Get Sick

Christmas 2014 13

“Are you sick?” my friend inquires.

“Yes,” I squeak out through strained vocal chords.

She gives me the look—hands on hip, waving a spatula with a baby on her hip and toddlers whizzing by her feet. “Mom’s aren’t allowed to get sick. You know that right?”

I weakly smile back and nod, gather my wads of snotty Kleenex and sneeze seven times in a row as she boots my coughing, snurfling self out the door so she doesn’t catch my bug.

I get it. I get it.  I am a mother of three with a husband and a dog.

My life verse is “Do not grow weary in doing good, for in due season you shall reap if you do not lose heart.

Mom’s can’t get sick because mommies take care of everyone else. But what happens when, despite mommies best intentions, her immune system fails her?

All week as I sniffle, my big kid’s joke I have Ebola. Ha Ha. Very funny.

Then my four year-old cries big gulpy tears after pre-school and comes to me in confusion because the kids at school say it’s the plague.

“Mommy, are we all going to die from Ebola?” my little one inquires.

I reassure her and tell my middle daughter to stop telling her it’s Bible Prophecy.

One week in and my cold/flu takes a turn for the worse. My head hurts so bad my teeth ache and my eyes crust over and seal shut. My fever soars and I can’t move my neck. My voice is gone.

So, on Sunday morning (with pastor hubby gone with a full day at church) my teen son drives me to urgent care. Kyle is gentle and sweet. He helps me get settled, laughs at the mask of shame the nurses’ force on me and takes selfies of the two us to post on Instagram.

The doctor says its bronchitis and a bad sinus infection. He prescribes antibiotics and quarantines me to home and bed for 36 hours. (Yippee! Doctor’s orders!)

My son drives me home, tucks me in bed with hot tea and commands me to rest, picks up my meds, goes grocery shopping, comes home, feeds and walks the dog, babysits both his sisters and makes us all lunch and dinner. He also somehow manages to get his middle sister to do the dishes, set the table, do a few loads of laundry and keep the house quiet for mom.

Seriously?

(My husband can’t do this magic)

That evening, over a dinner of homemade chicken soup and crusty rolls, Tim asks Kyle about his day.

“Well, this mom-sitting thing was real tough. I walked one day in her shoes and I am EXHAUSTED. All I did was work and work it never stopped. Boy mom, you do a lot”

Tim and I looked at each and fell over laughing—and then the kids laughed, because my laugh (without my voice) sounds like a dying animal.

And then we affirmed Kyle and the all kids for taking such good care of mama.

I am so proud of this kid and I honestly feel a sense of relief about aging with him around!

So, maybe moms aren’t allowed to get sick with toddlers in the house or even husbands in the house—because sometimes they are as much work as a kid(not mine of coarse!)

But I’ve learned if you train even one of your rug rats well–to be a nurturing and caring person, YOU can get sick when they turn 16!

In due season…you will reap!

Hang in there sick mama’s!

–Samantha

 

a bit of a control freak

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I pick up my feet, one flip flop at a time and  shuffle into the Urgent Care–the mask of defeat turning the corners of my mouth into a grimace.
 
The front desk nurse giggles, “You two again?”
 
“Yep.  It’s me. Again.”
 
I give a weak “he hee” and slink over to the chair to wait.
 
I feel the weight of people’s stares.  “Who is this lady who doesn’t  need to fill out paper work because they already have her kid’s file on hand?  Is it time to call Social Services?”
 
“Uncle, Uncle Uncle,” my heart cries.  I look to the mirror hanging on the sterile white wall half expecting to see a big “L” for Loser on my head. 
 
 And I try to remember that God is here and IN CONTROL.
 
It’s been a struggle lately.
 
It all started a few Sundays ago on the playground at church.
 
Little feet running too fast, slippery ground, then the crack, hard, against the concrete.  Curling sceams.  Boy writhing on the ground.  I run to help the child.  I ask his siblings for help. 
 
Find his mom!  Find his dad! Yet they ignore me.  He’ll get over it they say and go back to playing.  I get angry. 
 
More than angry.  I’m fuming.  
 
Eventually, I find the parents but  they turn on me, question me  and blow off the incident.  The child looks at me, still holding his head, big lump forming.   They don’t care.  His sad eyes meet mine.
 
I am helpless.  He is not my child.
 
I cried all day.
 
A few days later I tentatively share with my bible study group how it impacted me.
 
“Why does this hurt so much?” they inquire–peeling back the onion layers of my complicated heart.
 
I burst out to the group, “Because no one on my watch is allowed to get sick or injured or die! Got it!”
 
And as I speak the words out loud, I see the brokeness in my thinking. 
 
I think of the dad, “Shaw” in the movie Footloose who loses his son and then won’t let the kids in town dance anymore.
 
I’m Shaw.  Oh crap, I don’t want to be Shaw!”
 
But it’s true, I want to put everyone I love in a bubble and keep them safe.
 
Epiphany hits. Exhale. Big whoosh…
 
And the girls laugh along with me as tears  leak out of my eyes and I surrender, once more.
 
God forgive me.  Forgive me for trying to be you.
 
I am not in control.  Not of the big things or the little things or of ANY things.
 
And I mentally dump the bucket of control I’ve been precariously balancing for too long.  I pour it out and lay it down at His feet.
 
It feels good to drop this heavy load  I was never intended to carry.
 
Release me Lord. Deliver Me.
 
And he does. 
 
But not in the way I want or expect.
 
He releases me to utter chaos–to more hospitals and doctors.  The things I fear most…
 
The call from football practice–your son is injured. Lot’s of blood-he needs stitches.  The hacking coughs at night–all three kids go down.
 
Another leg injury from football, then my daughter slams her arm in a door.  Mouth sores appear in the kids. My husband get’s sick with a full load of work.
 
Do you trust me? God whispers.
 
They call our name.  I stand and grab my kid and we walk to see the doctor…again. 
 
But this time, they welcome us with smiles.  They know our name.
 
And I trust you are here God, even in this crazy mess.
 
In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind. -Job 12:10

a little mischeif

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Giggles erupted from the back seat.  My radar went up.

I glanced in my rear view mirror and watched in amusement as four-year-old Kolby placed a small black cauldron on her head.  The little black “pot-of gold” was intended to hold leprechaun bullion—a gift from pre-school on St. Patrick’s Day.

“Hey guys, look at me…I’m a POT-Head!” my little lamb exclaimed.

And the car exploded in raucous laughter.  My teen and tween gave me THE LOOK while Kolby beamed at the great response to her joke.

“Shhhh…guys, I know it’s funny, but she’ll figure out that it will make people laugh and it will be part of her new shtick,” I warned my older kids who were wiping the drool off their laps in hysteria.

“So, bud, I asked my son, trying to change the subject, “How’s the whole drug thing going on at your school?”

My son smirked.  “Mom the kids who want to do it are still finding ways to do it, despite the drug tests.”

“How do you get around that?” I asked. 

“There are ways,” he said. 

“Really, UMMMM, wow!”  I muttered.

I Googled it later and yes this does exist.  I used my work computer (at home) which I thought about later and regretted.  Probably not a good idea to look up “how to pass a drug test” on the work computer. 

So, I found out you can buy synthetic urine at smoke shops.  They come in little pee bags. 

It’s good to know that our youth is always one step ahead of the curve. 

I thought carrying a flask into prom was bad.  How would you like to walk around with a pee bag in your thong, under your mini-dress and heels?

So, my friends who are parents of teens, if you find a small pouch with something yellow in it, please don’t think it’s a drink and give it a whirl.  It might be time for a discussion with your kid about the perils of weed and brain cell development in teenagers.

I also think it might be time for blood tests although that might open a whole new can of worms (or vampires?).

We pulled up to our house and jumped out the car.  A group of neighbor kids and moms was standing in our yard.

I heard Kolby in the distance yelling as I unloaded the groceries out of the back of my SUV, “Hey guys, look at me!  I’m a Pot Head!”

Yep…I knew that one was coming.

What is Your Integrity Worth?

Christmas 2013 13

When it comes to the 5:45 pm witching hour, I know better than to expect much of my youngest child.  On the few days I head to the office, Kolby spends a solid nine hours in pre-school navigating toddler concerns, craft-making and playing “doggy bad.” 

It’s tough work for a four-year-old!

She tells me “mommy you were gone way too long” and wraps her soft arms around me when I pick her up.

So, I try to use my nicest voice and keep expectations low.

The last thing Kolby wants to do is run an errand or go ANYWHERE for that matter.

I’ve written about this before.  Her vehement outrage at being asked to do anything other than go home and play with the neighbor kids is legendary.  We don’t use the word Pavilions in our house after 5:00pm. 

But this time I had a game-plan—bribery.

As I buckled Kolby in her car seat, I casually mentioned I wanted to get her a special small toy at the store. 

And to my delight, she happily agreed.

We entered Albertson’s, found the toy aisle and picked out a bunny glider plane on sale for $1.79.  It seemed a reasonable price to get through my dinner shopping without any unnecessary toddler drama. 

I quickly gathered up my chili fixings, picked up a few more items and headed for the line.  After a long wait—due to the 6:00pm rush hour—it was finally our turn and we paid and rumbled out of the store. 

I say “rumbled” because I was pushing her in a behemoth bubble gum pink plastic contraption with two steering wheels.  I’m convinced that whoever invented these carts hates mothers, because a mother would make a cart with a remote control and an engine. 

My kid always wants to ride in this 400lb truck/cart. I can barely steer the thing empty–much less loaded down with a kid or two, groceries and a purse.

So, out we rumbled into the parking lot. 

I saw my car and exhaled deeply, “Almost there Sam, almost there!”

But then Kolby exclaimed in terror, “Where’s my toy?”

Fuuuuuuudge…

I frantically rifled through the bags but didn’t spot it.  Kolby’s chest started heaving with the first big wail, when I saw the plastic packaging wedged in the side of the cart. 

“Here it is honey!” I joyfully exclaimed.

Kolby examined her toy carefully, “Mommy, I don’t think we paid for it.”

This child is too observant.

And for one brief sinful moment I thought about how easy it would be to fib to my child and make off with $1.79 toy.  I mean I was almost home free. 

I stopped the cart and my flesh struggled with temptation.

I turned and looked at my car about ten feet away and then looked back at the busy store.  I looked at the sky darkening into twilight and realized by the time I picked up Kyle from football practice, unloaded the groceries, supervised homework, got Faith back from babysitting and made the stinking chili we would be eating around 8:30pm. 

A small tear of frustration slid down my cheek.

Then my sweet baby girl turned and looked up at me with her big blue eyes, “Mommy you always say we have to pay for our things. We don’t ever take anything that’s not ours.  We have to be honest and go back.”

I nodded yes and another tear fell—convicted and chastened by my tiny tot.

“That’s right!  I did teach you about honesty little angel.  So we are going to go to the car, unload all the groceries, and then turn this monster pink truck around and wheel you right back in to the store to wait in line another 15 minutes to pay, so mommy can be honest.”

And that’s exactly what I did, reluctantly and dragging my …!

Later on that evening over dinner, I told the family about our little encounter with honesty and how Kolby had been a model citizen and a great reminder to Mommy about integrity.

Kolby beamed (and yawned) as everyone affirmed her.

My husband leaned over and smiled at me, “Baby your integrity is worth a lot more than $1.79.”

Yes it is Pastor Tim. 

Yes it is.

But sometimes I forget this truth because I get run down by life.

I forget because I’m freaking exhausted after a long day at work, of making lunches and coffee and breakfast at zero-dark thirty, after car-pooling three kids to and fro, and going to the gym at lunch, and writing any minute I can grab, and doing endless laundry in my sleep.  I forget after trying to be meet my husband’s needs and caring for my parent’s through illness and even death and on and on and on…like every other mother I know trying to balance family and work and life.

I forget that integrity costs something.  It’s not always convenient.

It can hurt to be different.

And I want to be the person who goes the extra mile.

Even over a cheap crappy toy.

As I prayed that night, I thanked God for using my little one to keep me honest, because I need accountability in the weaker moments.  I need people holding me to a higher standard.

I need someone who inspires me to reach deep within my pits of selfishness and pull out of this muck something good and pure and holy.

I need Jesus with skin on to give me “the look” when I am tempted to fall.

And this time God used little Kolby to keep me on the straight and narrow path.

Who helps you become more of the person you want to be?

 Christmas 2013 14

The Family Discussion

PuppyBaby

“Mom, Dad, we have something we want to discuss with you.”

My husband and I looked at each other in apprehension.  It’s always a little scary when your three kids—even the toddler—band together for a “family discussion.”

My oldest son Kyle took the lead, “You said if mom didn’t get pregnant by Christmas, we could get a puppy.”

The girls nodded their head in agreement and three-year-old Kolby chimed in with a chant, “puppy, puppy, puppy!”

I exhaled a big whoosh of exasperation, delighted at my children’s tenacity and complete frustration at my old and rusty uterus. 

The kids are right.  We’ve tried and tried and it’s time to own up and pay our puppy dues.

I really do want my kids to get their dream dog.  I also really want one more baby.  I guess I want both.

I don’t want to throw in the towel yet (I’ve still got a month) but my biological clock seems to have stalled and stuck—it’s been two years and two miscarriages—so unless we explore infertility, I am more likely picking up dog poop in the near future than changing diapers.

(Insert a melancholy tune)

Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only one who feels this breathtaking sadness at hanging up the cleats in the baby making department. 

I see women all the time who have one or two kids and are so adamant they are DONE. 

While I respect their resolve, I’ve never had that feeling stick.  Not even once! 

No timer dinged loudly in my brain or heart.  The only thing holding me back from the Brangelina adoption of a mini-tribe is money. 

As far as I concerned, the more (munchkins) the merrier.

When I hear people complain about their kids I cover my ears.  Yes, these little (and big) suckers drive me bazonkers, but it’s a beautiful chaos. 

Call me crazy, but I just want more.  More kisses, more cuddles, more baseball games and tutu’s, more giggles and yes…even more teenage angst. 

Children are life—ravishing reminders of God’s blessing and love in a world of chaos. 

Maybe my thinking is broken.  Maybe it’s letting go of control?  I don’t know.  It’s just hard to watch the baby years come to a halt. 

Maybe I’m afraid of who I am when I don’t have a passel of children around to distract me.  Before I had kids, I was a little lonely.  I was a (mostly) only child with a large age gap between myself and my half-brother.  A large family fills that gap. 

The laughter, the noise, the energy…I love it.

Tim and I told the kids we would seriously consider our prior agreement. 

I also told them to ignore any strange noises from our bedroom. 

 “EEEEWWWWWW!!!!! Gross!” yelled my middle schooler.  Kyle just smirked.

(This is one way to guarantee you will never have sex, because kids are smarter.  Kyle simply stays up until 1:00am doing homework, Kolby and Faith wake up at 5:00am since the time change and just for good measure, Kolby also wakes up in the middle of the night to go potty)

We have to be sneaky in this house.

And we just might need to call a handyman to repair the broken fence on our dog run (just in case).

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