Archive | December 2011

a blink of time

When we were in high school, my sisters and I babysat for a wonderful family. Two families actually…brothers with kids. We loved them, still talk about them, and fight over their names for our kids. If more proof is needed, today – ten years later – I am writing a blog about them; last week, their mom wrote one about us.

See, recently I moved back to my hometown and found myself in need of a babysitter. And who would come to mind, of course, but my former kiddos – the two little girls that still in my mind have aqua glasses and gaps between their teeth and sleep with stuffed animals and nightlights on. It is cute, and ironic, and also disconcerting, that these girls can babysit my boys.
I don’t know why that would be so troubling. Kids grow up. Fast. It’s something since my very first public outing with a baby everyone from the Walmart cashier to the neighbors wistfully points out. “Oh, enjooooy these days. They will be grown before you know it, blah blah blah.” So I have no idea why the fact that the three little kids from Concord are in high school now is so riveting to my system. But it is.
See, if these kids are grown {practically} then it happened in a blink. Boom. They’re grown. And, if Jenn’s kids really and truly are done with playdough, and don’t play Candy Land, and don’t need you to pull up their pants with they’re done, why {gasp} MINE WILL BE TOO.

In a blink.

This is a theme for me. Yesterday – twice – I stumbled upon this quote.

“But the biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while doing this. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of the three of them sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4 and 1. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.”
~Anna Quindlen

This mom makes me sad. I’m sad her moment is gone forever, with the kids talking about nonsense on the grass. But mostly, I am sad because she is me, and I am busy configuring the router and planning the menu and chopping the onions. Too busy.

But I am a firstborn, and so, it’s not just weepy Hallmarkness that the marching of time evokes in me.

Also, I feel motivated. Frantic, really. Something akin to the last day of vacation, run-outside-before-the-rainbow-moves, turn-over-your-paper-and-start-your-essay feelings. There is so much to do, and so, obviously, little time. I don’t know if my Uncle Jerry coined the phrase or just made it famous to us: “Raising little kids is the shortest years and the longest days of your life.”

I sort of wish God had made parenting kids more spliced out in life. You know, a few months of good sleep here, a sabbatical year there. Which come to think of it, is probably why people love being grandparents so much. (Namely, that you have all the influence but get to go home and sleep all night in your own bed.) But parenting has no such privileges. It is all and not nothing. All all all. All day, all night, all energy, all the time.
I have so much I want to accomplish with these kids, and a few more I’d like to have. In my dreams I am part Pioneer Woman, part Ann Voskamp and these moms who have homeschooling blogs, and go on field trips, and learn spontaneous lessons about rock quartz in the backyard and read everything and go all over, adventuring.

But in real life…Right now, for instance, I have a headache. There are books all over, and they need to go on the shelf. If I don’t get a shower now, I won’t, and the cookie swap is tonight. And I’m so. so. so. TIRED.

See, mothering is like a marathon, sprinted. Yes. I am tired; that sounds about right. I have never run a marathon, but I’m pretty sure there’s not much time to do much else on the side. Sure, you do what you need to do – grab a banana, stretch a sore muscle, stop for a few words of encouragement to push through, and eventually the analogy breaks down, because I’m pretty sure there’s a glass of wine in there too once in a while. But irregardless, it is hard, and all you do for a while.

When I see my former clients soon, and they come to be MY mother’s helpers, I secretly hope they aren’t all grown-up looking. It would be easier to swallow if I pretend they are different kids from the two I colored pictures with. But no, I think it’s best that I remember.

And then I will look at mine, little and grubby and needing things, and I will try to stay focused, and motivated, and caffeinated, and organized, for this raising children stage.

Because hard as it is, it is a blink.

God, grant me enough sleep to do this job. Give me just enough breaks to be refreshed, but not enough to lose my focus. Grant me creativity, especially at 4:30 in the afternoon. Help us learn as much as we can about the big wide world, for you made it. Oh, and thank you.

Dear Steven Curtis Chapman

Dear Steven.

Hi. We’ve known each other for a long time. We go way back. You probably remember that concert in ’96 in Charlotte. It was at a church and I’m PRETTY sure we made some good eye contact. Could have been the blinding lights, also.
Anyways, I guess I’ve had distant admiration for you for a while. To be honest, growing up I was more of a Michael W. sort of girl. Might have been that raspy voice. But I did like you, too. You always made me cry with that “I Will Be Here” song. That was sweet. And, of course, the later Cinderella song about your little girls. Which reminds me, I can’t believe how amazing you and your wife have been since the tragedy involving the loss of your child. I think that’s what really made me respect you, on a truly serious level.

And then most recently, I want to thank you for that song you wrote about me. That – was so special.

When I heard it, when Sam and I were driving to Lowe’s last week, I truly burst into tears. Because, why yes, yes I did pick up toys for the 15th time, and try to match socks, and yes I did throw color on my lips and a baby on my hip, and yes, I was completely exhausted and wondering the point of it all was.

And then you reminded me. See, I got confused. Sometimes I honestly and truly believe that getting the potatoes peeled before naptime, or the bills done by the 15th, or the prescriptions picked up before 4 – that the point is to DO everthing (or at least one thing!?) on the list. And you knew how stressed that was making me, because of course having a to-do list and a toddler is just asking for disappointment. It won’t get done, probably, whatever it was that needed done. Thanks for reminding me that “it all matters just as long As you do everything you do to the glory of the One who made you.” When you told me that, I really felt better. I felt hopeful. Like I had a goal I could accomplish. Would that last load of laundry be folded before bedtime? Heck, would the FIRST load of laundry be folded?? Um, let’s be honest NO. Would my children do what I wanted them to? Not looking good. But could I do everything for God? Well, now THAT I could try. His yoke is easy and his burden is light.

You know me, Steven. Too, too well. Thanks again for the reminder. Until we meet again…

literary analysis (are you excited!!?)

Today I saw Ellen, a wonderful lady I know, in the Harris Teeter. At the end of the conversation she noted that she’d missed my blogs recently. (As, obviously, there’s been like two since 4th of July, or something.) I promised her I’d write one, so here we are.
I am always a little surprised when someone (besides my parents) says they enjoy my blog. The reason I’m surprised is actually the same reason I haven’t posted in a while. (Okay, part of the reason I haven’t posted is that I’m pretty sure my brain is turning to mush due to lack of sleep, doing the same 5 things all day long – telling Sam no, making food, cleaning up food, wiping, carrying, dressing or undressing someone) – and from hurriedly packing and unpacking everything we own before each box is devoured – literally and figuratively – by a toddler or a baby.)
But anyway, the other reason I hesitate to post is this. I feel like about 75% of what I have to say is about boring, embarassing, unoriginal same old thing: worry. Bleh. Sure the landscape changes. Sometimes Sam is wheezing. Sometimes I’m dying of something. Sometimes tornadoes, or politics, or the state of America’s youth are scary. (But feel me there. Don’t you just get the creeps visiting a playground trying to imagine how your kid is going to find an acceptable spouse? Seriously ya’ll.) Anyways, the point is, if I were an English teacher (stretch) and I were trying to decipher themes from this exqusitite work of art known as “Smartter Each Day,” there would be one main theme, and that would be worry.
And who likes to hear about worry? I’ve gotta work on some new material, for real. But that’s the thing. For REAL, being REAL, I. Just. Worry. It’s how I see life, and how God meets me. As goes the quote from my favorite book, Calm My Anxious Heart, “My life has been full of numerous misfortunes, most of which never occurred.” I laughed when I read that because it is so me! It is embarassing that I meet God not in terrors and tragedies but in imaginary troubles.

My brother-in-law Dan used to say, “teacher out for summer!” in this sarcastic sort of tone whenever I tried to release pent-up teacher energy on my family. You know, making them do projects, reprimanding people for not raising their hands…perfectly understandable things like that. Well I do guess he’s right, about the excess teacher energy thing. Like now, I miss school. Which is probably why I made a color-coded sticker chart for Sam’s daily activities, and why we visit the library every other week. And then there’s this. The other day I was thinking about my life, and analyzing it like a work of literature. You know. You have the author. (God.) The beautiful, intriguing, complex main character. (Ahem.) And then, the plot.
See it’s kind of funny. If I were asking questions to my students, trying to get them to understand the meaning behind the story, first we would examine the main character. What do we know about her? They would raise their hands and say, well, she is afraid a lot. She worries too much. She has a really good life, but always struggles to trust that God will take care of her.
But here’s where it gets interesting. What does the author (God) do with her life? One, he takes care of her, constantly. But also, he gives her Sam, a wonderful little boy with the severe food allergies. Now note. He is perfectly healthy. But he has a condition which MIGHT if he COULD POSSIBLY be exposed to certain things suffer POTENTIAL severe effects. Now the question I would ask, as literature teacher, is of course, why did God write the story that way? Why give that girl that child? In plain English, doesn’t it sound like a horrible idea to give a neurotic mom a kid who needs constant monitoring to not ingest one of the #1 ingredients in common foods? Doesn’t that sound like a recipe for disaster???

I can’t tell you how many times I have thought about this. Not so much as in complaining to God, because in a million years I would never change one single thing about Sam, and, obviously, he is a perfectly healthy little boy. But more I marvel, almost in a comical sort of way. God, why did you do it this way?

And I know the answer. Actually, I mentioned the correct answer earlier, in sarcasm. “A recipe for disaster.” Because it is disaster. My story, what little bits I can see, is perfectly, wonderfully disastrous.

I collapse.

I can’t do it.

I. NEED. GOD.

Can I tell you that a million times a day, and at night in my prayers, I pray for protection against residual peanuts, and powdered formula, and inhaled butter fumes, and dog dander and a thousand other real or imagined threats to my wonderful life. And a million times a day I am reminded of two things. One, I do not own my wonderful life. And two, I need God. It’s perfect. It’s just what the little girl with trust issues needed to see.

So there’s our literature class for today. And something completely unoriginal to this blog AGAIN. Geez, you’d think if I really were getting “smartter” I’d be gaining ground in this worry thing, huh? 🙂 But ps. one more thing. If you haven’t read your life like a work of literature, you should. It is very insightful to think about! Why did God write YOUR life this way??? 🙂 (I know, I know, teacher out for summer!!!)