Friday, August 28, 2015

The Real Deal

I tried something new a few weeks back and bought "Lite" apple juice. We don't usually keep much juice around the house, but this looked appealing and assuaged some of the sugar guilt since it had less sugar (and more water) than regular juice.

It has sat in the refrigerator for these few weeks with about 2 cups worth missing. My kids weren't fooled by the claims of "All Natural! Less sugar! Great taste!". It tastes watery. It takes one sip to see through the attempt at the advertising on the label.

Out of desperation last night for a drink of juice, Sam poured himself a glass. He had a wistful expression and said, "Mom, can we get grape juice next time? I want the kind that stains your shirt if you spill it." The juice currently in his cup could have been added to a load of laundry in my washer and you wouldn't have even suspected its presence.

There is an authenticity to the grape juice he mentions that is missing from our current fridge resident. I thought about this on my Full-Moon Thursday, when the wheels fell off of my emotional vehicle, when I unloaded on an unsuspecting mother-in-law and questioned my ability to parent and lamented every other life option that could have been chosen. It was truly a moment of deconstructing Robert Frost's "The Road Less Traveled By" and having some certainty that at the end of that poem-- he wasn't praising his choice of the less traveled path, but questioning the worth of the one he didn't take. It was a moment of grape juice stains on your shirt honesty.

Maybe it was the fact it was a full moon. Maybe it was because Brenna was sent home from school for the day and I had to adjust accordingly. Maybe it was finally realizing what everyone has meant when they say that parenting is the toughest job on the planet; they weren't just talking about sleep deprivation.

It felt good to just lay it open. Here it is! Here is where I'm at! And I don't want to be here in this moment, by the way.

We'll finish off the weak apple juice at some point, but the grape juice is here in the house. The warning is clear on the label "NOT A LOW CALORIE FOOD. 100 % juice: grape." It has added ingredients and 36 g sugar. It will stain my kids' shirts unless I immediately run the area under crazy hot water. But it's real. I'll take real.

There is a place for me, even when I feel confused, inadequate and out of my league. There is a purpose for me, even when I question my spiritual gifts or talents. I hold as much value as the mom who is holding it all together today and is knocking it out of the park. I will choose to be genuine about my struggles and at the same time cheer on the ones getting it right today. I will cry with the moms who also question "why" and promise not to fix it but listen.

How's that for a stained shirt? ;)

 1 Corinthians 12 vs 1-31

Sunday, August 23, 2015

A good afternoon

My sister called and asked if I had had a good afternoon with my family. The only honest response I could come up with was, "We tried. We really did try to have a good one." After a Saturday spent with our family running (some of us literally) in opposite directions, Sunday afternoon had been deemed 'family time'. We would come home from church, eat lunch and then proceed to Deming Park in Terre Haute followed by ice cream. This plan sounds so noble, so reasonable in writing.

Upon arrival, there was the reality that it was significantly warmer and sunnier in Terre Haute this afternoon than it was in fair Charleston. They loped through the park, Brenna sat in a swing; at one point we sat in the shade and I realized that I am just over summer. Over the past few months, I have taken my children swimming, visited parks, enjoyed bike rides and have played board games. I am now feeling old and I am tired of parenting. As I stood by the slide, mystified that my children weren't frolicking through the park, I realized I didn't really want to stand in the hot sun either. After 15 minutes of park time, we decided we had fulfilled the park quota and could move on to Baskin Robbins.

Baskin Robbins is much like a forbidden bowl of Fruity Pebbles-- it brings back all that was best in my childhood. The ice cream was fabulous. The ride home, however, quickly deteriorated. Because this afternoon was about quality time as a family with no screens, because it was about enjoying each other's company and watching the trees and hills roll by outside the van window, I had not allowed any screens on our outing. Full of bravado, a few hours earlier it was easy to take a firm stance, "We're going retro! You're going to enjoy an afternoon like I did in the early 80's. You'll look out the window for entertainment and talk to each other."

Personal space was encroached. Seatbelts did not remain in the proper position. Ear wax was waved on small fingers as a true threat. Strange smells came from the back seat. By the time we reached the Charleston city limits Greg had turned off the radio and asked that the children stop speaking. We finished the ride in zen-like silence. I began to remember what long rides in the Buick had been like when I was small and realized that by the time I was the same age as my kiddos, my brother and sister had moved out. That's why I had nostalgia over a quiet backseat with cornfield rows passing by my window.

Within 15 minutes of arriving home, we sent the children outside to play and Greg and I dozed off on the couch. After that nap I felt like a new woman and parented the remaining evening hours like a champ. Granted, two of them were gone to youth group for a few hours, but I digress.

I saw a reminder on social media today that my remaining Saturdays with my crew are limited. I realize that they are. I just find that when I stop trying so hard, we enjoy the weekends so much more. There can be an internal pressure to schedule fun for them, make every moment count, squeeze each last great experience we can out of the days we have. I think I squeezed too hard today and wound up forcing an outing on my children that none of us were truly up for. Note to self, only local parks for the remainder of fall.

Monday, August 10, 2015

More Than Coincidence

I love hummingbirds. For the majority of our summer, we have faithfully kept fresh sugar water in the plastic feeder and watched from the kitchen window as frequent customers make trip after greedy trip. But then, three weeks ago I dropped the feeder while trying to reattach it to the hook. The plastic end broke off, making it impossible to hang (unless I used duct tape-- which I refused to do).

This was disappointing, but I reasoned that since flowers are low to the ground, hummingbirds could access the feeder close to the ground also and promptly placed it on the fire pit. Nope. No dice. The ants thoroughly enjoyed it, but not a hummer in sight.

Fast forward through 3 brand new pairs of school shoes, new school outfits, school supplies, registration fees and all that comes along with the end of summer. Each trip to the store, I debated buying another feeder, but decided against it. There were so many other things needing taken care of-- it could wait a few more weeks.

Because of the three new pairs of shoes, new "first day of school"outfits, the entire list of school supplies (yes-- one of my children donated their supplies: scissors, art box, the whole shebang, on the last day for needy children overseas) and registration fees, the checking account was tapped out. With a week left before school would start again, we had last minute summer fun to squeeze in and "Minions" to see. The solution for extra cash flow? A rummage sale, of course! The items to potentially sell were plentiful: from a Roto Rooter to Uno Attack--- we were well stocked and ready to sell the treasures cluttering up the house and garage.

Friday evening (night one of the two day household liquidation extravaganza), a gentleman who used to attend church with us approached us and asked to buy Greg's power tools. As he walked to his car, he turned and asked, "Do you guys ever feed the hummingbirds?" Greg replied that we did. The gentleman dug around in the backseat and pulled out a brand new feeder. "Could you use this?" It was a heavy glass feeder with a plastic moat at the top to discourage ants and a small ring to allow the hummingbirds to perch as they ate. It was perfect. Greg, unaware that our feeder was broken, accepted the feeder, planning to hang it in another part of the yard.

When Greg walked into the house with the feeder, I was speechless. What are the odds of someone we haven't seen in almost a year coming to our home and then offering us a hummingbird feeder just weeks after ours had broken?

I've heard this kind of thing referred to as a "God-wink". It felt like far more than a wink: it was a big bear hug that lasted several seconds and squeezed any lingering anxiety right out of me.

Matthew 6:25-26 "For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on . Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?"

This went beyond me and my desire to watch hummingbirds linger at my kitchen window. This was truly Him feeding those tiny birds.