Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The problem with the real world...

... is that it never quite compares with the illusion in my mind. 

The place in my mind where my house looks like a pin on pinterest, all white and modern and gorgeous. Where I imagine myself primped and in my best little sundress, my hair glimmers with sun flares and palm trees surrounding me. 

When the hardest choices I have to make are which trendy corner cafe to eat lunch, which weekend to do which fun thing? Or what on earth am I going to do with another couple hours of free time?

Instead, it is continually doing things that I don't want to do. 

Waking up when I'd rather sleep in, to dress and feed three little munchkins so they can make it to school on time. Then consequently clearing all the dishes and wiping counters only to sigh, disgruntled over another small mountain of rainbow plastic dishes growing in the sink. 

It is pulling back dirty hair barely brushed.
Slinking on my black yoga pants for the fourth time this week and touching up with a bit of mascara and powder. If the children stay occupied longer, I brush my teeth.

The real world is all about doing things you don't want to do. Even though my season now is raising small children, there will be other kinds of demanding work in other seasons. We all have to do work. 

The particularly challlenging part about this sort of work is that its hard to measure its success, like a mountain of rainbow plastic dishes that never seems to stay clean and put away long enough.
 
But as the good book says, we reap what we sow. We are sowing everyday. Sowing seeds in the hearts and minds of those little people entrusted to us. The rainbow dishes may seem insignificant, but we are sowing there too. Our home and our habits are a big part of who we are and how our kids will behave when they are on their own. 

The reaping will be evidence of our hard work. What kind of fruit will there be when the time comes?




Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Sage Advice From My Grandmother (On Her 85th Birthday!)

Lately I've been feeling discouraged. You know the feeling....like you just can't catch up or catch your breath. Mostly I've been worrying about all of our bills and all of the things that my children need.

I'm reminded of a recent conversation I had with my sweet Grandma Gigi. I asked her how she managed with eight children on one income and she responded by saying, "Whenever you are arguing or worried about money or whatever it may be- imagine yourself on a stage. You rise above whatever it is and you are suddenly looking down and watching it all play out. Imagine what will happen next in the story. That always seemed to help."

This has stuck with me and I have practiced removing myself and gaining a better perspective many times since. It's such a simple mental exercise, but so powerful. Thanks Grandma for your wisdom. Your example gives me courage and strength.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Kindergarten

I sat in my icy, cold A/C minivan, parked along the circle drive to Stewart Elementary waiting for them to return. The list for classroom assignments just posted against gridded glass, I waited to see their faces. Jovie babbled behind me in blurts and gaps of silence.

I studied as children of all ages marched and skipped, twirling their summer dresses as they went always holding the hand of a grown-up, usually a mother. The excitement was real. The mothers hugging and laughing and collecting in pools of conversation only to burst away in a hurried manner. School is about to begin.

I couldn't quite see Cal or Jack around the corner, and I wasn't sure if all five of us got out if we would look too much like rookies with my first Kindergartener. So I waited for them. My cheeks all clammy and cool partly from the humidity of late August and partly from the nerves I suppose.

I watched mother's who wore too much makeup and dyed their hair too blonde, entertaining a brood of young boys, quite clearly the "popular mom". I watched another mother with daughter close beside her, timid and with few words of response to the other parents skitter across the sidewalk. I watched a  bubbly, large woman squeeze her daughter several times into her great bosom, picking and swiping her daughters bangs and tucking in her bra straps beneath her small neon yellow tank top.

I wondered about myself. Who am I as a Mother? Who will I become as I age? How will I love my children as they grow and change? How will I love myself? My husband? Have I done a good enough job so far?

I shift the air vent to the left and up, away from my cold cheeks. I catch a glimpse of the boy that was once that little baby I held so close. His face is bright and sweat across his brow sharpens the ends of the hair stuck to his forehead. He skips a little too, still holding onto his Daddy's hand.

I think of my life's work. Pouring hours into worry... Did he eat enough? Is he eating healthy enough? Should I give him organic baby food? Should I let him cry it out? When to discipline and when to let it go? Am I giving him everything he needs? Is he learning enough?

I think of the way God led me through every hard decision. Guiding me, nudging me and giving me the strength to do the hardest job I've ever had to do. I remember the days I closed the bathroom door and cried. Blubbering and wiping tissues all stained black in a neat little pile on the counter beside me. Audibly asking God for help in short command sentences. I remember how I stood up, pulled up my big girl pants and went back to work. Mom work. And how always, the strength came, even if it was just enough. It came.

The sliding door zips open and three happy fellas pile in. The idea of Miss Crockett seems a vague notion to his wandering eyes I can tell, but I also see a child on the brink of discovery and new worlds. The unknown is calling to him and I am so proud of his bravery.



Sunday, August 24, 2014

10 Reasons Why You Need Girlfriends When You're a Mom

1. You can text each other when you're bored. (Think silly photos and youtube links)

2. You can trade off watching each other's kids so you can go to the grocery store ALONE. *gasp*

3. You can go out to eat at half the cost with a girlfriend. (As opposed to going out with your husband) Plus, no sitter costs because the kids can play with Daddy at home. (You know build forts and fires and stuff.)

4. You can go hang at a girlfriend's house instead of Target when you just "need" to get out of the house. This saves you money and sanity.

5. You can travel somewhere special like Paris or London. For only the cost of one person instead of two. Think of the possibilities here people!

6. You can vent. And then go home to your family feeling much lighter.

7. Your friends make you dinner. When you have a new baby, or they bring soup when someone is sick.

8. You can trade clothes! Think about that wedding next month, there's bound to be a little black dress just collecting dust in someone's closet. You can feel pretty and fresh for a night at no cost to you!

9. You can color each other's hair on the cheap. And other beauty regiments, waxing maybe?

10. You can trade DVDs. Downton Abbey Season 1-4 anyone?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Beauty of Average

We live in a brick ranch built in 1968. In a neighborhood of similar brick structures, all sprawled out generously on a lovely plot of land that was once two generations ago a vineyard. The other homes can be seen from just about every view in our house. Average upkeep, hydrangeas, evergreen bushes, occasional summer lillies. The lawns are let go on average about a week sometimes a few days past, but never longer. You can always count on the comforting drone of a mower from some direction, on either side or across the street.

   The neighbors that occupy the homes are a little quirky, but steady. They are even a little predictable and yet to me they are fascinating. We live with the town pediatrician, the judge, the retired minister, a couple of teachers and several engineers. Not a bad line up. Here we all are in American middle class, tending and caring for average homes, walking our dogs or strolling our kids. I never knew how friendly the average neighborhood could be. Everyone stopping to chat as they pass around the great circle drive.

   It dawns on me that I've always been fascinated with and even admired folk like this. People who do important work and choose to live rather simply. They choose to have an average American standard, tending and caring so vigilantly. I admire them. Steady. These are the kind of people who choose a path and stay with it, even if the times are changing or others are moving up and up and up. They remain. Committed.

   Its true that some of the world looks down on people who choose average. You see I think there is a difference between "being" average and "choosing" average.

   In fact, my entire young life, people all around me encouraged my dreaming, my high achieving goals, praised my fruitful endeavors, even persuaded my college degree path. I grew up believing that I was going to change the world. I believed it in every fiber. Ironically, so did many other people my age.

My husband was also praised and persuaded. His rebellious and self-important high school years proved to me that we could be an unstoppable duo. It may have been what drew me to him in the first place, that he believed also. Just like I believed. Watch out world.

Fast forward to my 30 year-old self, lying on my knock-off memory foam queen bed somewhere in seventies suburbia. The kids finally quiet, lying in their own hand-me-down twin beds, doors shut. Freedom. A lonely songbird sings his evening song just outside my window in the overgrown hedge that presses close to the house, the summer light turning a dusky blue.

I'm starting to give up the fight. The drive and the fight that was in me for so long. And it feels incredible.

Like a junkie coming off some addiction that claimed her life for decades. I'm all sweaty and shaky and still find myself at the kitchen sink, hands soapy and warm and gazing out the back window at our perfectly average, flat, grass-patchy yard- imagining perfection. Imagining that my average life exists between narrow cobblestone streets in Italy, immersed, drinking a real cappuccino at the quaint neighborhood bar. Sitting outside, my perfectly painted crimson nails glisten in the dappled sun with every sip drawn to my lips.

I know because I was there, once. An entire blissful semester that left me with the most hammering hangover. Always dreaming of going back to paint that magical olive grove on the hill in Umbria once more. I was just a college girl, emphasis on "girl". But I saw things, tasted things that most people dare not dream of until they are much older and in the way of money.

I went on a prayer and a whopping student loan. And so here I am scrubbing last nights lasagna off a 9x13 Pyrex pan imagining I'm that once not-so-average girl in Italy.

The trouble is twofold. One hand is an escape from dullness. Another hand is the desire for beauty. Neither is wrong. I'm coming off this high and realizing there is work to do. That life is not about the Italian streets of my memory, but it's about making an honest living. Working hard, everyday. Making a plan and sticking to it. Steady.


Monday, June 2, 2014

Lonely Mothers

They never tell you how lonely you will become as a mother.

Of course, the ironic thing is that you are not physically alone.

In fact, I've never been so near other little humans in my life. Always pawing and pulling on shirts and lifting up their chubby arms to get raised and plopped on your hip. Sweaty, sticky "jam hands" (as a friend of mine once said) always searching across skin as if to learn in blindness the mold of mother. Lips pulled, hair grabbed, eyes poked, and then sweet heads resting, breathing against your chest so close to your beating heart-always.

Sometimes I just want to get away. To breathe slowly and deeply, to escape the shortness of breath that so easily consumes my days. It skips and catches with every little step they miss. Every little movement thrown off. Every collision.

And yet, even with the contact, the questions and answers, the smiles and the heart tugging. Being a mother is lonely. It's ok to say it, to admit it. The correlation of your facebook activity proves it. We are deprived of higher level conversation.

Some days I just want to learn something new. To read some fascinating article and then have someone to discuss it with. I dream of going back to school, learning intimate details of specific subject matter. Then I dream of traveling with my husband, immersing myself in a new culture or language, meeting all sorts of interesting people along the way. Then I dream that I have a live in nanny that keeps me company.

None of these dreams are that far off. But some days I realize that all I really need in the world is a friend. A friend to come over and sit with me in my stinky and cluttered house. Hoodies and yoga pants and drinking a cup of sweetened mint tea. To shout over the hoopla of small voices and sword fights. To share the endless task of making lunch and cleaning up.

And when that happens... That is when you are living an open life. But for now, it is ok to accept that at times it is a lonely season. Behind the facebook screen is a life that is totally normal and even dull at times. The value of the season is hard to find when it is so close to you, grabbing you with sticky jam hands.

Trust me Momma, you are fine. Don't be afraid to dream or call a friend for now. Live an open life.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Even the Small Things

Yesterday morning my four-year-old son bounded into my bedroom, while I lay asleep, exclaiming, "This is the BEST DAY EVER!" He had found the new set of crayons and Disney 'Planes' coloring book on the kitchen table, as I knew he would. 



He could hardly contain his joy, immediately nesting into the space between my legs on top of my bed covers. Carefully selecting his first color, he awed over the beautiful array of fresh, sharp colored tips. The five different oranges and greens all neatly packed together.

I couldn't help but smile. What a lesson to us grown people. That happiness is truly in the small things in life. Let us not grow old and tired of small things, but find the wonder and beauty in even these. The problem lies in how we view it, life. So let's savor a single piece of dark chocolate, sit quietly and earnestly over a warm cup of chai tea with a friend, walk through a crunchy, sparkling new snowfall. 

Let us not become so inundated with extravagance, that we forget the satisfaction of the ordinary pleasures of life.