Friday, August 15, 2014

A Note to my 22 Year Old Self

(Written Spring of 2014)

The Coach and I were recently discussing the fact (or I was, anyway - he was listening) that I have fallen a long way in the housekeeping/homemaking department as a wife and mom.

It's bad.

I know this.  But I live in denial a great deal of the time.

Because who wants to think about how dirty one's house is?  Or how disorganized?  Or how totally out of control every. single. drawer. and cabinet are?


But the Coach and I?  Decided that to find the humor in the situation, we only needed to look as far as my 22 year old, mother of one, homemaker self.

Because that girl?  She could keep house like a boss!

The sheets were washed weekly.  Weekly!  I can't even imagine that one.

The bathroom was always spotless.

The floors were always clean.

The windows were washed regularly - at least Spring and Fall, or when needed.

The laundry was always caught up, neatly folded, put away, and ironing never piled up.

The fridge stayed clean and shiny.  And although it wasn't full of food, as a rule, what food was in there was healthy.

I could go on.

So here's a note to my 22 year old self.  Mother of one.  Married a year or so.  OCD in all things domestic.

"You're doing a great job, Girl!  Navigating marriage, learning to love your husband and communicate with him.  Serving him whole-heartedly and the house?  It's clean.  I mean CLEAN.  Good for you!  The flower beds are lovely - and I know you enjoy spending Saturdays with your Coach working outside in the yard.  Because on Saturday the laundry is already caught up and the house is clean because you've been doing that all week long!

Enjoy it.

Love every newly-wed, brand new baby, all things are exciting and fresh and sunshiny, minute of it.
It won't last.

Someday, you'll look back and think, Wow.  A clean house.  What's that?  You'll be juggling schedules and school for eight, and sports seasons (for your own kids, not just your husband's coaching).  There will be eight people dependent on you instead of just one tiny baby.  The house will be bigger (because that tiny baby - he'll grow into a big ole MAN - bigger than his daddy) because you will fill it up with eight kids who will soon (at least half of them) be young adults and young adults clothes are a lot bigger than baby clothes.

There won't be anymore diapers or bottles.  But there will be cars and drivers licenses and JSB dresses and dates.  There will be smart phones and internet to navigate (not just dial up email).
Someday, you and your new hubby won't be able to take naps on Sunday afternoons while the baby naps.  Because big kids don't nap.  And they are noisy.

"But even without the little, clean, perfectly organized house, you know what you will have?
OH if I could only show you.

"Almost 20 years with your Coach will be more amazing than you can imagine!  You will truly experiences oneness and a closeness that at 22 you can't even dream of.  You will be able to read each other's thoughts and when big decisions come?  You'll often have the same exact idea about what needs to be done.  And you won't for one. single. second. want to go back to those quiet, happy, newly wed days.  Because forty somethings who have been married 20 years?  They know what marriage is all about.

"And in place of the time spent keeping a perfect house?  You'll have games and programs and you'll be able to hang with your big kids and you'll actually be able to walk out of the door almost any time without needing a baby sitter.  It's awesome, trust me.

"Yes, the laundry piles will be a permanent fixture on the hearth and you'll have to go to the grocery store almost daily to keep up with the appetites of four teens, but you won't miss the quiet.  Because you'll have the quiet - sometimes - during the day - when everyone is at school and it's just you and the parakeet at home (yes, you'll have a parakeet - but that's not the half of it).

"I know, I know, the grass won't grow under the swing set and the garage will be so full of bikes and scooters that you can't get around the car (you'll have a mini-van, too, and you will LOVE it!), and the eight lockers that hold back packs and shoes and gym bags WILL overflow onto the garage floor and you'll trip when you go out there early in the morning to get another loaf of bread out of the freezer to make those 9 lunches.

"But watching them all ride bikes (hard to imagine, isn't it?) and run and play and catch footballs and ride ripsticks down the street?  The messy garage won't seem to really matter.  And when it does?  You can have the kids there to clean it up.

"They'll be able to do the dishes and make dinner, too.  Fold laundry and clean their own rooms.  But it won't always get done. Things will be a mess.

"And you'll love it.  And wish for these days to last forever.  But they won't.  Because that tiny, first-born little guy that naps twice a day and takes all of your time?  He'll be graduating from high school before you know it and heading off on the next adventure.  They'll all be leaving as quickly as they came.

"So love on your Coach and kiss that baby and take a nap!  Life is only going to get better."

If I only I could have imagined the JOY and noise and fun and MESS that life would hold.  These are blessed, chaotic days and I wouldn't go back for anything.  Well.  Except maybe for the clean sheets.  I miss those.

Here we go again. . .

I've always said I'd be happy to have my kids home all day every day if I didn't have to teach them anything.  A teacher, I'm not.  I'm honest enough to admit it.  Just ask the Coach.  I can organize and plan and cook and clean and schedule babies/naps and watch the kids ride scooters, but teaching is not only not my thing, I'm really REALLY terrible at it.

And although I'm sad to see the lazy days and empty calendar squares (few as they have been) go by the wayside. . .

It's time.

Time for more of a schedule.  For less sleeping until 10 (the kids, not me - ha!), for fewer late nights and old movies and snow cones.

It's been a busy, fast, hectic Summer, but it's been SUMMER.  Full of travels and mission trips and workouts.  Of saying goodbye and saying welcome home (and LOTS of trips to the airport - ha!), and sharing memories and stories and seeing what GOD WILL DO in the hearts of men.

I wouldn't have said, two weeks ago, that I was ready for Summer to end.  I wanted it to go on forever.  But something about daily volleyball practice and school clothes shopping and endless school supplies has pushed me over the edge.  Well.  That and two-a-days for the Coach which means I not only don't see him much, but he is one very tired guy.

Since the notebooks are all over the living room until school starts?  Let's get going, then.

When we walked into those halls to meet teachers and see classrooms and renew school friendships?

My heart sang.

Yes, I'd still keep them all home with me if I could.  Maybe.  But that wouldn't be best for them OR for me.  Because these sweet people that plan and prepare and pour their hearts (and JESUS) into our kids?  Are a treasure.  They have a gift for teaching that I don't have.

My Coach is one of them.  How I love him.

I feel like I'm at the top of a BIG roller coaster hill looking down on High school football (we don't have a player this year, but you can bet we'll be there!) and Jr. High football and Varsity Volleyball and 7th grade volleyball. . . games four nights a week and MUCH less time with my Coach. . .

But it's time.

The troops are ready.  This momma is ready.  And I can't wait to see what this year will hold.

Did I mention that Son (#1) is moving to Atlanta for the school year?  Maybe that's another post for another day.

So maybe, after all, the preparations and work it takes to get ready for a new school year are just the thing to get my heart ready to jump back in, again.

May all of you sweet teachers preparing for the school year have God's grace and strength (thank you seems so inadequate).  May all of you precious mommas getting ready to send your dear ones off to school have grace and strength.  And if you homeschool?  I have no words.  Only admiration.

Excuse me while I go enjoy the last free Friday afternoon and evening that we will have for QUITE sometime.  Well.  At least until March.  Ha!

Friday, July 18, 2014

What doesn't kill you. . .

I'm not proud to say it, but one of my kids' current favorite is. . .
A country song.
(This is when I feel that I have completely failed as a parent. So don't expect a link.)

Country music.


I did my best.  But for some reason they don't really care for pop music of the 80's.  Go figure.

Turns out that what doesn't kill you doesn't, in fact, make you stronger.

It makes you blonder.


Not sure how that works, exactly (considering the investment I make on a regular basis to stay browner), but since I smile and/or laugh every time I hear it, I figure it's a win-win.

Laughter IS, indeed, good medicine.

And we need all of the help we can get, right?

The Coach's birthday on Wednesday night with our parents.  Good times.

I am, in turn, both completely amused by my kids (all comedians, depending on the day) and completely frustrated by them.  OK.  Maybe not by THEM.  More like their ROOMS.  OK.  Maybe not by their actual ROOMS, but rather the state of complete piggishness that they seem comfortable with.

And yet, I find myself fighting the urge to obsess (Because in the long run, who really cares if the clean clothes ever get put away?)  (Oh.  That would be me.).  While at the same time, realizing that my time is up with Son #1 - in many ways - and the fate of his ability to keep or not keep his room neat and orderly will have to be met out on a roommate come September.  Yikes.

These balances.  Needing to be firm.  Remembering to laugh.  Needing to hold them accountable.  Extending grace.  Needing order.  Accepting the reality of LIFE.  Needing some kind of sanity.  Knowing it's probably not going to be this side of heaven.

These balances are my current challenge.  Every day.  Almost every moment.  Well, except when I give up all together and watch HGTV while braiding the girls' hair (have you SEEN "Fixer Upper"?  Super cute.).

And maybe we've done too much of that this Summer.  The giving up.  I had high hopes of reorganizing the house, getting through the piles of school papers (Don't ask how long it's been.), sorting through clothes, makes new curtains (I know, I know. . .), spending time doing projects and swimming at friends' and baking bread.

Turns out, it's a full time job just to manage these people I love.  Having clean clothes and a sort of clean house and getting them all where they need to be.  Which is sometimes Haiti (for two) or Mexico or Alaska or Africa.

When I can't sleep at 4:30 AM, because my mind is racing wondering if I wrote this or that down or who was supposed to have such and such form filled out or a check for this and that and DID I make that bank deposit or return those clothes or drop the shirts off at the cleaners for my Coach?

Maybe then.  It's time to remember that my success as a mom is NOT determined by whether or not I get it all done.  It's not even determined by whether or not my kids put their clothes up without being asked (or threatened).  No, it's not even determined by whether or not my kids do right or well or what they should or shouldn't (Because HELLO they are human just like their momma!).

Nope.  My success?  Is found when I depend on the Lord.  Cry out to Him in my short-comings and failures and overwhelmedness (bet you didn't know I could make up so many words!).

And teach my people to do the same.

Happy Summer Friday, All!  There aren't many of these left. . .

(Is HGTV on this early in the AM?)

Monday, May 12, 2014

Messy Monday and Choosing to be Grateful

It's the day after Mother's Day.  There were kids to get off to school with bleary eyes, lunches to make, school clothes to find, shoes that were illusive, and sharp words between kids.  There is laundry to fold and I lost track of how many shirts to iron and dinner... they'll be wanting that, too.  There was a workout in the rain and Weight Watchers (I hate that scale) and even after a week of good choices and extra hard work... a non-loss.

Time to be honest.  I'm having a hard time finding my gratefulness these last few days.  Maybe it's the end of the school year.  Maybe it's hormones (although I don't recommend you suggesting that to me unless you duck afterwards).  Maybe it's simple exhaustion or a calendar that is almost ineligible with things to do and be done.  Maybe it's the long term effect of broken relationships and intentional pain and hurt that doesn't stop.

Maybe it's the reality of SO MUCH CHANGE that's coming to the troops.  Maybe it's a busy, preoccupied, overwhelmed Coach.  Maybe it's that my son is leaving in the Fall or that 5 mission trips loom on the horizon or that Summer seems less relaxing and more exhausting each and every year.  More teens.  More jobs.  More trips.  More camps.

I don't like busy.  I certainly don't like the glorification of busy.  As if the busiest wins a prize.

I'm not in the race.  Because in that race?  Everyone loses.  Unlike Weight Watchers.  Ha.

And I have eversomuch to be grateful for this morning.  I do.

Sweet kids.  Loving Coach.  Precious cards with sweet words and crayoned pictures... a movie/dinner date on Saturday (Captain America and Pei Wei)... a new label maker and phone case and Starbucks with my biggest girl.  An encouraging message at church, brunch with family and my precious Mom and Grandma, even a short nap.

So why do I feel so... cranky?

Mother's Day isn't my favorite.  I do so much WRONG and fail in so many ways, the last thing I want is to draw attention to my mothering.  Because we all know having the babies is the easy part.  Even if that's not easy.

I even told the Coach that Mother's Day shouldn't be on Sunday.  I mean really.  Sunday?  Come on!  As if getting kids to church and getting oneself presentable (And applying enough make up that no one says, "Are you OK?  You look tired."  Thanks.) and figuring out lunch for 10 and homework and laundry and lists for another school week aren't enough?

He said, "So what day should it be?" with his "you are amusing me" grin.  Touche'.

It makes me uncomfortable when kids say, "You're the best mom ever" - even though it's sweet.  Because I'm not.  Lord knows.  The kids know, too.  But they're kind enough to say it, anyway.  When your mom has a "moment" (Have you seen "Mom's Night Out"?  Ha!) ON Mother's Day AFTER sweet gifts and loving kids and an extremely thoughtful kind Coach?  Because the laundry is everywhere and no one closes cabinets or drawers and there are shoes all over the floor.  Floors.  And backpacks and books and cups of Sweet Tea and all everyone wants is for me to log on to my iPad or phone for them so they can play games and run the battery down so I can't read at bedtime?

See what I mean?

A moment.

So today?  I'm choosing grateful.  I'm choosing to remember that no matter WHAT the mess, be it household or heart - there is enough grace.  Because I belong to Jesus and HE is enough.  Even for Mom moments and cranky attitudes (mine) and messy kids and imperfect bodies and houses, busy calendars and tight budgets.

HE is enough.

And no matter how many other things I have to be grateful for?  That one wins.  Every time.

Thank you, Jesus.

If you don't hear from me for awhile?  I'll be in my closet hiding from the kids with my freshly charged iPad.  So there.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Late night ramblings. . .

Sometimes, your kids have a knock down drag out screaming fight in the hall at 11:00 PM over who is in the bathroom and who needs to be. Because the "boys" bathroom is under construction and they think that sharing a bathroom is the pits even though I keep reminding them they can come use our bathroom and that we only HAD one bathroom in our previous home and they are dumbfounded.  Of course they were all 10 and under which is not quite the same.  They took up much less space.

Sometimes, the gas company turns the gas off and tells you it *might* be back on by the end of the week so you all 10 of you can take hot shower and dry the laundry and run the dishwasher.  Thank heavens the weather is beautiful so no heat is needed or we would have moved out for the week.  But when you have running water and flushing toilets and electricity and FOOD and grandparents who let you use their showers, it's all quite bearable (except on the occasions mentioned in paragraph one).

Sometimes, a friend sees your name and address on the gas company repair schedule and takes the time to do everything they can to move it up from Monday to Friday.  Bless him.  I think I will make him some cookies.

Sometimes, when this 40 year old mom gets woken up at 11 PM by screaming kids and slamming doors thinking that quite possibly someone has broken in the house and is trying to kidnap her children, I can't go back to sleep.  Go figure.

Sometimes, navigating my kids through life's frustrations and difficult relationships. . . Not protecting them from everything but helping them work through things, BUT protecting them from more than I probably should and doubting what I do and what I don't do and wondering if they will need extensive amounts of counseling (like the rest of us) and oodles and oodles of grace not to hate us later on.

Sometimes, when you have a son who is graduating from high school (and others following right behind), you find yourself asking the Lord where is the best place for your son to be and where will he be pushed to work hard and stand strong and grow and learn.  And be safe.  And close enough to drive home on holidays.  And when I miss him.  And you remind yourself that he WILL BE FINE wherever he goes because he belongs to Jesus and no where he can go will be out of His hands.  Even if it's too far away to drive home to see his mama (see the above paragraph).

Sometimes, someone who has known you since before you were born and loved you so well and been there when you needed them to pray, to encourage, to make you smile and laugh and feel LOVED, leaves this earth and meets Jesus face to face and you are SO HAPPY for them and the end of their journey on this fallen earth and the beginning of their FOREVER with Christ, but you are still so sad.

Sometimes, the Coach snores and I love him, anyway.

Sometimes, my legs ache at night after a longish run, but I'll go out and run again, anyway, even though I feel old and fat and tired.  Maybe not tomorrow, though.

Sometimes, the sound of my hammering away on the keyboard wakes my Little Man and he comes stumbling in, all bleary eyed, asking me to rub his back.  He's getting so tall.

Sometimes, life is WAY more than I can handle and God's grace is WAY more abundant than I can imagine and my husband is WAY more patient than I deserve and my kids are WAY more amazing than they would be if their development solely rested on my shoulders and not on the goodness of the Lord.

And look.  It's Wednesday, already.

Sometimes when I can't sleep and its the middle of the night and I'm concerned about my kids and their relationships and the schedule tomorrow and how long the gas really WILL be off and when the bathroom will be DONE already (this is week three). . .

I still have so much to be grateful for.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Remember that time??

Dear heavens.  What a week.  And it's only Thursday.

Tuesday morning I took the four oldest to the dentist.  Ran to Target while waiting for them because Son (#1) needed something for school.  When I got back, they told me they'd had to pull one of Son's (#4) teeth.  Hmmm.

You know it's going to be an interesting day when your dentist is the one to tell you that your son had a baby tooth stuck to the side of a permanent tooth.  And you had no idea.

What can I say?  I plead eight kids.

So from there we headed back to school.  Dropped Son (#1) off and as I was parking, he came out the door, waving me in.  I rolled down the window,  "WHAT??"  I was headed to meet Little Man at the park with Grandmother, who had field trip duty while I was at the dentist with the big kids.

"Um. Mom," Son (#1) begins. . ."my passport is expired."

Now it was my turn.  "WHAAAAT?"

Because this was Tuesday.  And Wednesday evening?  He was leaving to drive down to Dallas.  And Thursday morning EARLY?  He was flying out of Dallas for a mission trip to Mexico over Spring Break.

So it began.

Even just 48 hours later, I look back with amazement.  Our sweet friend at school got online, found out where he needed to go, got him an appointment, and helped him gather the necessary paper work.    Son and I headed out to get him last minute trip stuff, passport photos, and he got his truck ready for the drive to Dallas. Tuesday night we gathered as a family to pray for his safety and God's provision.

This letting go stuff is hard.

He's 18.  But by the time he left at 6 AM yesterday morning ALONE to drive to Dallas and find the downtown rush passport office?  I was a bit nervous about the whole thing.

And you know what?  He did great.  Made the trip without difficulty.  Got to where he needed to be an hour before his appointment.  Had all of the right documentation.  Met my cousin for lunch (thanks, Daniel!), went back to pick up the new passport, shopped at Cabelas, ate dinner, went to a movie, and met up with the mission team last night.

This morning?  They are on their flight to Mexico.

Here at the troops, the other kids are off to school, the Coach is in Virginia at a conference, and tomorrow is Daughter's (#6) ELEVENTH birthday.  Oh my word.  And Spring Break will commence shortly.

These days are exhausting.  But OH the memories we are making.  And someday. . .when Son (#1) has kids of his own. . . we'll all be sitting around talking about his mission trips and the adventures he's had and one of us will say, "Remember that time you realized your passport was expired the day before you were leaving for Mexico??"

My heart is full.

And grateful.

And I need a nap.

Happy Thursday!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Daylight Savings Time and Other Stuff. On a Monday.

I hate Daylight Savings.  And yes, now those of you who love it can commence the hate speech in my direction.

But here's the deal.  Yes, the evenings are lovely.  Once school is out.  But have you TRIED getting four little kids to bed when the sun is still shining brightly?  Not fun.  I'm not a fan.  Maybe once Little Man is in his teens it won't be such a big deal.

But it is what it is (as the Coach would tell me).  And we survived the first morning back in school after losing a very much-needed hour.  In spite of the hour lost, I would have loved spending some time on a walk or in the yard, yesterday.  But four of my men needed hair cuts and we were out of bread and the Coach had a meeting and there was Corduroy's journal to fill out and beginning readers to finish. . .

A fairly typical Sunday.  With lots of back-door-slamming and trampoline jumping and chicken chasing (Not really.) and showers and homework and clothes for school.  It's the life.

And I'm perfectly serious - It's a beautiful life.

No.  There isn't much time for writing.  I can't fix that.  Son (#3) had surgery on his foot on the 25th and WOW what an adventure.  Two days afterwards we were back at the ER for pain.  Then another ER visit on day 5 in an ice storm.  Fun times.  (I'd post pictures, but it wouldn't be right.)

He's MUCH better, now.  Still has a pin from the end of his toe into the middle of his foot.  It's like having our very own circus side show.  Lots of visits from friends that first week just to see the bizarreness of the whole thing.  But he's back at school, "heel walking" as they say, all caught up on school work (Who does that?  Misses a week and catches up in a couple of days?), and making us all laugh, once again.

Son (#1) leaves on a Spring Break mission trip to Mexico on Wednesday.  Even though technically,  Spring Break isn't until NEXT week.  The Coach has a little trip to Virginia this week, as well.  And Daughter's (#6) 11th birthday on Friday.  And the boys' shower is being torn out on Monday (Probably time to make a decision on tile choices.).  With volleyball tournaments this weekend and next.  Sprinkle in eight dentist appointments, another trip back to the surgeon for Son (#3), an ear appointment for Daughter (#2), two field trips, a talent show at school on Friday (the three little girls are participating), and a postponed 5 mile race from February and hopefully an early morning at the DMV to get Son's (#3) permit.  Throw in a LOT of laundry, a few ongoing organizing projects, grocery shopping way too often, and cooking dinner every night and. . .

Blogging is pretty far down on the list.

However.  In spite of my lack of writing, this blog IS a chronicle of life at the troops.  And there's been a LOT of life going on.  I don't want to miss one second.

I love football and basketball seasons - from August through March.  But I am VERY much enjoying having my Coach around more now that it's his "off" season!  He's my favorite.

Son (#1) will head off in the Fall.  Leaving fewer troops around the table every night.  Which makes me sad.  And excited.  For him and for the grocery budget.  He's not only headed to Mexico this week, he's also headed to California in April (for my sweet cousin's wedding!), Boston in May (Senior Trip), Colorado in June (with all of us for vacation) and Alaska in July (more missions).  Which means he'll be gone almost as much as he's here between now and August.  (sniff)

So no more blinking.  No whining allowed.  And as much time as possible spent enjoying these amazing eight that have my heart.

Happy Monday!
(And if I don't get myself to the grocery store, we won't be having dinner tonight.)