The Jankiest Hood

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Maybe it’s just me?–but when I see a home festively adorned with Christmas lights near Valentines Day, the word “janky” comes to mind.

Well, how about a whole neighborhood?  Is that like the “jankiest hood in town?”

Because that’s what I, what WE, the suffering people of Whispering Creek II are dealing with.

First of all, I LOVE our neighborhood!  We are what some might call a tad “eager” around Christmas time.

For the most part, we get our Christmas spirit on!  Our track sits right across the street from one of the more famous drive-by Christmas neighborhoods in Ladera, (just to clarify…that’s not a place where drive-by shootings occur, but instead it’s when you pack up the whole family in the car with some Starbucks and drive around and look at decorated homes. Because this is what we do in warm places with no weather)

So, although we don’t have the mega awesome light displays and hand out hot chocolate and fliers, we are “a nice on the eyes” place to go for a “look see.”

The majority of our homes put up lights galore, inflatable snowman, reindeer, animals and all the elf fixins.

I even have an inflatable Darth Vader and two Frosty’s, not to brag or anything…

Normally, as a group we rent a lift, blast some music and decorate together.  But this year, we decided to try something new and hire a service to put up and TAKE DOWN the lights.

Mistake #1: we paid the man upfront for the whole job.

The lights went up in late November.  And the lights are still up.

The light man has gone AWOL. With half of our entire neighborhood’s cash.

He has not returned phone calls or texts and we are SOL, as my dad used to say. All we have is a card. With no address. Who do we even sue?

So when you drive into our little Ladera neighborhood, try not to judge.  We know. We know. We so freaking know it’s the jankiest in town, but we haven’t yet figured out how to rectify the problem.

Do we send our husbands up to the roofs and high peaks of our two story homes? Do we risk life and limb or suck up the loss and pay more money? Do I send out my husband, because we own a coveted extension ladder, and make some extra cash? (just kidding babe)

Is our life insurance up to date?

These are questions we must ask ourselves!

In the meantime…James the Christmas Light Dude.  You are a wanted man and have lost the favor of this Ladera neighborhood!  At any moment, our ever vigilant Ladera association will start threatening us with fines if we don’t get these lights down…because Ladera has standards.

Merry Christmas James. You stink!

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At least we put these guys away…

 

Dear Santa…love Mom

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SANTA CLAUS
NORTH POLE

Dear Santa,

I know the big day is getting close, so I’m sure you and the elves are crazy busy shopping online, wrapping, and packing the sleigh. I feel your pain Santa…I do!

I want you to know I’ve been a MOSTLY good girl this year. I diligently cared for my husband when he had emergency back surgery and in the following months of his LONG recovery. Santa, he was in terrible pain and (sometimes) very grumpy, but with a lot of prayer, a little wine and weekly therapy we made it through!

DSC_0442-2I also took fabulous care of my children. I took my son back East for a college recruiting trip and we bonded over BPM music, survived a hurricane and slept in crappy hotels. It was awesome! Ok, I might have helped him a little too much on the college applications, (oops!) but I made him pay for the tires he accidentally spiked when he drove through a gated residential entrance. (See Santa…I’m working hard not to enable!)

I’ve also cooked, cleaned, laundered, shopped for, loved, cuddled and cherished every moment with my sweetheart and kids. On my honor, I haven’t missed much church, any games or recitals. I’ve driven Kolby to endless auditions in the hoods of LA and navigated the mean streets of the stage Momster.

DSC_0373Santa, I’ve volunteered at J Serra High School until illness has overtaken me (I lost my voice for 3 weeks!). I’ve worked like a like a dog and sacrificed sleep to these munchkins. I’ve watched 400 freaking episodes of Bernstein Bears, read to my little girl every single night (best part of my day), shopped with my teenagers until I wept from frustration, and I’ve laughed and tickled and cried with each one as life throws its best punches at us.

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Santa, even though I sometimes lose my spit, go a little cray-cray and have to text my therapist and Bible Study gals for extra support, I have managed to show up for work, finish a book, keep the sparks going with my man and love to the best of my ability. I know I’m a little jacked up, far from a typical pastor’s wife (whatever that is), with a broken and old uterus and some social awkwardness to boot, but maybe you could still get me a present? (Hint, hint)

  • MAC Makeup
  • Coach, or Kate Spade Purse
  • Spa Day perhaps? (Optional item if I’ve been really good!)

Thanks Santa! You’re the best! And you look dang sexy in that red hat!

Love, Samantha

How to be an Obnoxious Parent

I wrote this post five years ago and it feels like it needs to be updated.  Because maybe you don’t know how awesome my kids are now in 2015?

Random person-“Wow, your baby is really smart (pretty, adorable…amazing)!”

Me-“I know, right?”

Am I really that obnoxious parent who unashamedly brags on her kids?

Yep. I am. I can’t stop myself. I hear the words slipping out and I want to grab them back, whip out my lasso and coral them in, but it’s too late. Once again, I have over-shared regarding my kid’s total awesomeness.

(2010) Have I told you about Kyle?  We call him six-pack in training, our movie-star handsome, 4.0 GPA, nationally ranked football player, stud pitcher, kindergarten volunteering, gentle, loving, Godly, ridiculously humorous almost thirteen year old son?

lu7a0170Five years later…

(2015) Kyle is a 17 yr old senior in high school at J Serra.  He still loves football–although he is now a linebacker, fullback and tight end, instead of a center. He is in the process of getting recruited for college ball–more on that to come soon. He is a captain of his football team, still movie-star handsome, a good student, not playing baseball now and thinking of playing a little lacrosse in the spring?  He has no girlfriend (heck yeah!), is still soooo funny, even-tempered, hard-working, and is a county music, Jesus loving boy.  He’s building houses in Peru next spring, driving our old gas guzzling Ford truck around, and enjoying every minute of his friends and youth. Strangely enough, he is now violently allergic to his favorite food–sushi?  Suckaroo!  Kyle loves the beach, working out and snowboarding. If he’s not at football practice he is usually hanging out somewhere with Brad and Kelly.

(2010) What about my little beauty Faith? Let me tell you about my sweetheart girl who dances like a fairy, cheers like a maniac, is smart, fun-loving, a talented actress(recently starred in Peter Pan as the Indian Grizzly Bear), is a great big-sis, and leads worship with gusto? Did I mention she is shooting a spec commercial for the Vizio tablet this weekend?

(2015)  Faith is a freshman at J Serra and joins the Lions with her brother.  She is a JV cheerleader and is on the yearbook staff.  She is artistic, fashion-minded and dedicated.  She works hard in the classroom and wants to pursue photography as a career. Faith loves Campus Ministry–mainly because the worship director is “so beautiful mom,” which I totally get, because I think pastor’s are hot too!  Faith’s personality is mostly sunshine with a few storm clouds thrown in for good measure.  She is extroverted to the extreme and so beautiful, inside and out.

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(2010) How about the Kolbster?  Baby Kolby is so freaking cute! She is months beyond her year, crazy clever, reads letters, knows every animal sound (including “hop” for bunny because I don’t know what the heck the bunny says), has killer hair, and talks incessantly about her big brother.

I just love Duck Chili mommy!

(2015)  Yep, Kolby still has killer hair.  I think we are all a little jealous.  Kolby is in kindergarten now–a real big girl–and the joy of our lives. She is clever and silly and smart as a whip.  Kolby plays soccer, does ballet and cheerleading, and is a part of a Daisy Troop.  She still loves her bro Kyle but talks about other boys now too (gasp!) On any given afternoon she rolls with the Claymont Street girls gang of blond beauties. She loves to color, play with Shopkins, read books with mama and play Barbies.  Kisses from Kolby are magical and her snuggles have true healing power.
KolbyK_selects_017I know. I know. Someone stop me from bragging. I have diarrhea of the pompous mouth when it comes to my munchkins. But, I’m guessing most parents feel thisway. They love their kids so, so, so much, they simply can’t help themselves.

But in my defense, even God brags on his boy a bit. “Have you seen my son Job?” he tells Lucifer. “He’s a total stud, blameless, upright and courageous.” (Slightly modified by Sam from Job 1:8)

Sounds like some swagger wagon to me…

So maybe my crazy love for my kids is annoying, boastful, and even bombastic.

But maybe it’s also… sort of a God thing.

Why Dodge Ball Matters

dodgeball-blog-jpg_180529_zps6e2f5270A ball whizzed by my nose. I squealed and jumped out of the way protecting the tiny infant in my arms from the rocking Dodge ball game on my neighbor’s lawn.

Holding my neighbor’s baby in the middle of a pint sized ball war wasn’t safe but it sure was fun.

As both our families fought to gain control of the ball and escape the pounding of hard rubber, my daughter Faith mentions how much fun it is to play the “real” game instead of the watered down version she was forced to play in school.

“What game did you play in Jr. High instead of Dodge ball?” my neighbor and good friend asks.

“Evasion ball.” Faith replied.

(My friend and I subtly give each other the WTF look…)

What’s Evasion Ball?

“It’s like Dodge ball but no one gets out.  Once you get hit you become a goalie.”

We look at each other in disbelief.

Let’s get this straight.

No one gets out.  No one faces the wrath of the ball or the pain of getting picked last.  Everyone wins and no one loses.

Now I certainly don’t like adversity or suffering, no one does at the time, but there are certain rites of passage that help us move into maturity and grow up.  Mastering the rules of the playground and how to survive helps a child navigate the ups and downs of life.

Who doesn’t remember the thump of the red ball on the face?

Why, why, why are we teaching our kids to “evade” reality?

kwdEe4TBy taking away the trials and avoiding the struggles we are raising a generation of kids unprepared for the harsh realities of the world.  When we remove loss and pain and disappointment from our children’s lives we also remove the ability to cope with loss and pain and disappointment.  And when those painful emotions inevitably hit, our kids (overwhelmed and unequipped) turn to drugs and sex and unhealthy self-soothing methods because they can’t process losing and sadness.

As a mom with a senior in high school. One of the recurring themes I hear over and over from colleges is that kids today are not “emotionally prepared” to handle life on their own. 

Well-meaning mama’s, you are not doing your kids any favor by doing all their laundry, dishes and chores.  Stop paying for their speeding tickets, stop doing their homework, and stop rescuing them when they get in trouble.

Be with them when they get their hearts broken.  Don’t call the parent and do an intervention.  Take them to a movie and buy them an ice-cream cone and help them process not avoid the pain.

Ground them when they come in late.  Have the balls to say “no” occasionally.  Also, have the balls to say “yes” even more than “no” and let them screw things up.  It’s far better to let them make a few mistakes under your roof than get hauled off to jail later.

I hear the martyr mom’s brag about their devotion and how spoiled their kids are—as if the mama’s who actually train their kid’s to function as future adults don’t love their kids as much as they do.  I say baloney!

Have we forgotten the goal is to LAUNCH these kids—not enable them to live on our income or sofa?

So I am raising the gauntlet…

Let’s teach our kids how to rebound and get back up after they get smacked by a ball.  Let’s let them suffer a little. (I am not advocating child abuse here, just natural consequences)

Let’s make our kids work for the trophy and for grades and even for relationships. Nothing good ever bloomed from apathy.

A long long time ago in grade school, I got punched by a bully, who then ran away and hid after I smacked him back. It was both traumatic and empowering. Was I scared? Heck yeah!  I cried as I fought back, but, he never messed me with again. Maybe he even respected me?  Gasp!  Thirty-five years later we are friends on Facebook.  That’s the dance of life.  It’s about confrontation and resolution, not evasion.

Sometimes getting whacked by the ball stings.  It hurts our pride and makes us cry.  But finding the courage to get back in the game and play says far more about our kid’s character than avoiding the game altogether.

I think Dodge Ball matters.  Bamm.

—Samantha

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 do I explain this Crazy to my Kids??

My friend is at the airport on her way to Hawaii.  Her family is pumped because they are heading to the Disney Island Resort of Mickey awesomeness.

But, six hours is a long time with three kids on a plane, so she herds her adorable brood of blond tots to the potty for one last go.

And this is what she encounters…

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Text from Friend: “How do I explain this to my kids?”

I won’t treat you to the text I wrote back because it’s politically incorrect.

But I will say this.  Be very careful near airports!

There are apparently uniboob half-skirted creatures walking around with surly expressions and no one can stop them from making weird faces and peeing in this airport bathroom because the government says you can pick your gender and expression.

I must confess some confusion over the peeing part.  If you are a dude and you get a sex change, do you lose or keep the unit?  Some do and some don’t right?

(In all honesty, my parent’s wouldn’t let me see the “Crying Game” which I’m sure would have explained some of this.

Do they have fake vajayjay’s?  And how do the doctors re-pipe?  Anatomy didn’t cover this and I’m afraid to Google it on my work computer.  It’s like Jr. High again.  I laughed with all the other kids about the “69” graffiti on the wall but I didn’t actually know what it meant until college.

So how do mommies and daddies explain trans-gender to the kids when we are clueless too?

I know there are a few TV shows on the Family Channel now to help us make sense of our changing culture–“I am Cait” and “Help..my dad is turning into a woman.”  But, strangely enough, I haven’t found compelled to watch.

So, here’s what I’m telling my kids.

Mommy doesn’t personally understand the motives to move towards trans-gender, but she does understand brokenness and its ramifications.  She know sadness and loneliness and the extreme measures people will go to find the elusive happiness that eludes them.

Your purpose and meaning go far beyond your sexuality.  Your identity is not in your maleness or femaleness or even in ambiguity.

Your identity is in Christ alone.  But  culture is sending a very different message to you.

The world says we can choose our identity by choosing our gender.  Mommy disagrees.  

Male and female God created them.  In God’s image.  We are all a reflection of our creator.

Our identity is in CHRIST ALONE.

I believe Trans-gender is throwing us all for a loop but it doesn’t have too.

It’s pretty simple.  Our job is to love God and love our neighbor.  And yes, that means the trans-gender neighbor-even if it’s awkward and confusing.

The truth is we are all in some type of bondage to the lies of culture.  Some of us just wear the chains on the outside and it’s more obvious.  I too have bought into the lies of sex, beauty and materialism equaling my worth.  Only a belief in something bigger can deliver us.

Trans-gender is complicated and messy and its’ really hard to explain to kids. But it’s a conversation we all need to initiate because it’s not going away. 

I hope you wrestle with this dialogue too.  Let me know what you think and how you are explaining it.

 

–Samantha

And please, I’m cool if you disagree but keep it clean. Only grown-up comments please.

 

 

 

 

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

Driving Lessons

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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

 

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