Friday, August 15, 2014

Back to school- painted lunch bags!

Lest you think, oh you're THAT mom... The one that has all the school shopping done, volunteers each year, etc etc... I assure you I am not. My work got significantly more difficult this year as a promotion meant an hour long drive to work and a lovely night shift schedule. Suffice it to say I'm doing good to leave the house each day wearing pants. But my sweet children, who often beg me to not go to bed and stay up and play with them, have been missing me. So I decided to paint with them and when we were out of painting paper I suddenly had the idea to paint lunch bags so Kaiya would have decorated lunch bags. CJ starts his half day program, but I have no idea if he will need a whole lunch packed or not. We decided to make a couple for him anyway. So if you are a slacker, or just a realist, and need an easy project get out some paints and markers and decorate some lunch bags!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Talking to myself like I do to a friend.

The words hung in the air like little bubbles from a cartoon character: 'special education.' My son is in special ed. A wave of shame crossed over me that disgusted me immediately. If a friend told me her son was starting a special education program for a speech disability I wouldn't be ashamed for them or of them. Wouldn't even cross my mind. I would listen with empathy and be encouraging. 'This will help I'm sure.' I might even praise the wonders of speech therapy as I just went this past year for a breathing issue, and I was utterly amazed that speech therapy could actually help. So why do I talk to myself like an enemy and not like a friend? 'Its all your fault. You didn't do enough work to help him. Now he will be behind in school.' These are the thoughts swirling around my curly head this week. When they should be, and are with some effort: 'your son will be fine and you're doing the right thing.'
The devil must dance when he gets us to do his work for him. Especially when we beat ourselves up so he doesn't have to. I'm going through some stuff. And it's hard, and I'm doing the best I can. That's what I would tell a friend if they were me. So that's what I'm telling me. That the deep things take years to wade through, but the best treasures aren't found on the shallow shore. They are found where it gets deepest and darkest. And the lessons we only take once to learn aren't the ones that stick with us. It just is so. The epic struggles are the ones that engrave our very soul. The ones that change us.
So. Life can change. Things can happen. Changes, certainly, will happen like friends moving away. And little boys growing up and still babbling just a bit. But there is a God who gets us through the hard stuff. He truly has been there through it all. The devil keeps trying to write God out of the scenes in my life, for it is his ultimate trick for all of us. 
How about I rewrite those scenes with him in it? See the bits of grace that were there for me despite my size nines clomping all over them. Feel the hope that was meant for me in those dark moments. Taste the freedom that he paid so dearly for. Cling to what he had for me, despite missing it the first time. For he truly is my hope and my stay. 
Let him process what he has for me. It may just look like a perfect meal of fresh-cooked fish on a beach. Like he did for Peter. Healing given in words, spoken in threes. But spoken to undo what that wretched snake had first hissed. 'Feed my sheep.' Giving purpose and direction to a weary soul who quite expected to get fussed at instead of blessed. Move on. Get up little girl and do something. Hug that little boy and listen to him without fear of him never talking quite right. 
Here is how you get through the hard stuff: you stay right behind Me in My wake and let me plow through it all for you. It looks like hell kicked in the teeth by a cross of glory. It looks like heaven opening up down here, a blast of light through this vast void of dark. Dear friend, you get through the hard by clinging to a good and holy God. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Moonlit ocean and seashell beach

I never knew I wanted to see the ocean lit by moonlight, until I saw it. I couldn't unsee it to save my life. The way the darkened waves wore a wild crown of silver. The siren song that bore its way to the depths of my soul. Come dance among the silver. You can see by my light so it is safe to bound into these darkened waves.
I consider it, truly I do, from the balcony of the rented condo room. Instead I hear my child's sing-song voice calling and I poke my head in to see how far along they are in the bedtime process. Far. Thank God. 
I bound outside again, clutching the iPad with some vague thoughts about updating my very neglected blog, only to discover that the clouds have covered up the moon. The delicious, full moon that had been throwing down silver by the armful. Navy and grey, the ocean now is, and I search in vain for silver. Though the sky gives away that the moon is still there for an arch of lighter blue splays out from where she is hiding. I drink in this ombré sky and think there is something healing about light moving towards dark. Or the other way around.
The ocean song plays constantly. A soprano roar that changes only slightly in pitch as the waves crash in different rhythms. Wild things come from this ocean, of that I am sure. I watch expectantly for the Loch Ness to bound out and start licking it's back like a cat. This deep rest that has settled upon me like a well-chosen cardigan that stretches over me and is snugly-warm, will not be shaken easily. Already I know this. That eventually I will have to check my work email again. Maybe even my personal one as well. But for now.
For now I breath foreign air that has a tinge of salt yet is oddly not dry. I smell the ocean everywhere and begin to think I will smell it always. I hope so at least. I hear the cries and calls of birds that I don't normally hear and with each sound alert me to the different. It is the different that I am noticing full this evening. For the different lets me know who I am in a way I can't quite explain. 
Seeing silver ride upon the water like horses going to battle stirs up inside the me that had gotten beat down in the hardness of daily life. Like my four-year-old son who gets slammed by waist-high waves (that for him hit him at head-level) I keep getting up but the waves keep coming. Yet another problem at work, and yet another relationship that is turning difficult. Splash and slam, again and again. 
My son, with a smile on his face, wades back out. 
This is after some beach time. We had drifted, like one tends to do when the water is going a certain way, you move with the ocean. Every now and then I would look up and see our hotel off to the side and I would decide we would need to right ourselves. To do this we would let the waves carry us back to shore and then we would walk along the beach back to our home spot. Father's Day was coming up and my daughter suggested we gather shells and make a frame for daddy. Naturally I responded enthusiastically and soon both hands were filled with shells. Every now and then I would decide that I wanted to sit and drink some water and read a trashy book (don't judge, it's like eating a bag of chips instead of having a piece of fruit), and my son would grab his shovel and dig while my daughter found shells. 
Then we would trudge back out to the waves. For me they hit about my waist and while I yearned to go further out I had little ones this time so closer in I stayed. My son started punching the waves, and naturally I responded enthusiastically and soon we were all three punching the waves. Of course it didn't stop them. It was truly silly. But it felt so good. To karate chop the impending wall of water, and watch the not insignificant splash fill the air, was healing in a deep way. 
Soon, I will go back to the daily pounding of normal life. The relentless waves will continue, for they always do. But I will go back from this deeply rested place. Like I just lounged on my makeshift tent in the beach, reading my trash, and with a pile of shells at my feet. I will charge forward, into those waves, ready to punch them, ready to lean into them, but most of all- ready to face them.
I rise to stand at the railing and say goodnight to the ocean. It is our last night and we will return to the land-locked city in the morning. The silver returns, albeit just in a narrow streak, like one tendril of silver light escaped from its captor. Goodbye and goodnight you wild silver light. I am warmed by your foreignness. I am filled with your mystery. It is good to go away, for away is where you find yourself most often. And I am a warrior, ready for another round. Bring it on you mighty waves, for I have my fists poised and ready.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Stereotypes, bad commercials and things you must stop saying to fathers.

Every time this year I am deeply thankful that we have rather atypical TV watching habits because the normal Father's Day commercials drive my husband b@t$hit crazy. You see he's the artistic type who doesn't just want power tools, and not to mention the veiled references to dad being the secondary parent send him into a tizzy. Needless to say, most of the commercials we do happen to catch often miss the mark. How come Father's Day commercials usually have nothing to do with actually being a freaking father?
The most common stereotype, that dads aren't the primary parent is just ludicrous in 2014. More and more families have SAH dads now. With the job market being so ridonkulous it is often the case that women end up being more marketable for their company has its quota of white men and if you ain't a minority then you getting laid off. (I will make no comments about how much all of that previous sentence sucks for that will take me off topic.) Not to mention even if both parents are working typically that means a more equal sharing of the parenting burden than before. I know of one family that seems to split everything 50-50 and I marvel at how they make that work. We've watched friends struggle to find jobs and have to send their wife instead, and then juggle the new role of primary parent. 
All this to say though, it seems to me that while some may pull off the 50-50, I don't know that there's anything wrong with having one 'primary' parent and one 'secondary.' Guess which one I am. I used to not mention it, even downplay it a bit, but not anymore. People, I am proud to say that I am definitely the 'B' team parent. 

Here are some things that you really need to stop saying around me and my dear, A-team, superstar husband who is the best father in the freaking world.
1) Don't ask me any sort of question about the kids that would require day-to-day contact with them to know. Like, shoe size or any clothing size. They are kids. That stuff changes by the minute. Sometimes on my hard work weeks I hardly see them for four days. That could mean they have gone up four shoe sizes people. 
It also includes what their favorite food is as somehow our youngest seems to subsist on whining and shenanigans and I have no earthly idea how to get him to eat. The oldest randomly decides she doesn't like foods and moodily makes that decision on a fact-scheme I haven't quite worked out but I believe involves the mating ritual of African bees. 
The person you should be asking these day-to-day questions is; wait for it... wait for it... Did you guess the person that spends each day with them? Hurrah! Yup. Their Dad. This also goes for our schedule. Guess which schedule I know? My work one. Especially since I'm a boss now and I have to keep up with my whole work group. Want to know if we are free three Saturday's from now? Ask him. I can tell you if I am fully staffed or not, but that's it. 
2) Don't make a comment about how it must be so nice to be him, implying he sits on his butt all day and plays X-box. A) we don't have xbox B) it's just rude. SAH parents work their butts off all day long, the equivalent of 60+--80+ work hours a week for no pay. No to mention their bosses are tyrannical monsters. No seriously. Have you considered how much you would hate your boss if he/she was a two-year-old who can't be reasoned with? 
3) Don't assume I'd rather be home with the kids. You would be dead wrong. This doesn't make me a bad mother. It makes me a wise mother. Trust me folks, I ain't cut out for it. I'm a type A woman in a male-dominated work place who keeps climbing that corporate ladder and does it in combat boots cause she hates high heels. Believe me when I say our merciful God in Heaven knew what he was doing when he made me and made my husband and put us together. He made my husband for our house and me to guard it. May seem weird to you but just get over it. (Or I'll put a boot somewhere the sun don't shine!)
4) This one is geared to the SAH moms in our sphere: for the love of God quit excluding him. I get that you want to vent about your husbands and it's probably awkward with a dude there. Guess what? The annoying stuff they do? Betcha I do. That being said, if you can't vent around a guy about guys then just have ONE play date where you don't vent for crying out loud. Either way, realize that he's doing the same job you are but with hardly any peer support. Think about that for a second. And for the love of all things holy don't tell us: oh there's this great SAH dad group. No there isn't. Not near us. Not with normal people. Don't hide behind some Victorian notion that married women should only be around their husbands. For crying out loud, it's 2014, get over your issues and deal. Guess who is around your husband all day long? Women like me: Type A's who can handle men with ease and grace. Quit being jerks and excluding him. It's rude. Remember that boot? 
5) One well-meaning person put their enormous foot in their mouth when they told us that women are blessed with a 'special grace' to deal with small children. I think they are half right. I don't think it's exclusive to women but I do think God often graces the primary parent with more patience so they can do their task. I assume for the 50-50s he splits the grace or something. Cause God is never shoved in a box. He's like a holy leviathan when you try to nail him down to one of your small-minded beliefs. Good luck with that, is all I got to say.
6) Don't assume that he got 'stuck' with this gig. Circumstances may have been orchestrated by an all wise and powerful God but my husband has knowingly and willingly stepped into this choice. This is his job. He's not incapable of finding work. He's not lazy. Yes these things have been said, or implied. If you would say that to a woman than you stink as a human being. Realize that our lifestyle choice is just that, it's our choice. Quit second-guessing it. Go live your life, for I bet it stinks if you are so concerned about other people's.
7) Quit making general comments about women being fantastic parents and men being crappy ones. It's just not true. I know some fantastic dads. I also know some crappy moms. Sometimes, gulp, I am the crappy mom. And my beloved swoops in, picks up the small child who just got yelled at cause mom was still in fight mode from a long work week, and is the fantastic dad they need in that moment.
8) On the flip side, don't make the same comments in reverse with a snide compliment dripped in sarcasm. 'Isn't he such a great dad...' For taking his kids to the grocery store? Really? I admit, when I take the kids to the store I feel like I have climbed a mountain, barefoot, but it's his job remember. He does it weekly. Sometimes more often than that. When I'm frazzled at the store people look at me like: lady, get it together. I want to scream: but you have no idea that this isn't normal for me and if I have to hear 'can we get a toy?' one more time I'm going to run screaming for the parking lot. 
In conclusion, life really is more complicated than stereotypes and simple gender roles. It is time we all grew up and expanded our universes a bit. Parenting these days is not so simple nor so uniform as it was thirty years ago. These days the primary parent can easily be the dad. It's high time people grew accustomed to that and quit acting like rude idiots. You might think it's just one little comment but you don't realize that EVERYONE is making them, and that it is frankly getting old. 
On that note. Happy Father's Day. To you 100% SAH superstar dads: you truly rock. To you 50% coexisting dads, God bless you. To you less than %ers, and I'm frankly with you sadly think I'm only hitting like 10% lately as it's been a crazy work season, do what you can and balance as best you can, all choices are hard to live with. Quit apologizing, be confident in the men God made you to be and go forward with your life. Keep being the dad you need to be, it is enough my brother. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Goodbyes and Hellos

How do I explain to my four-year-old son that his best friend is moving away? I've spoken the words, but the insistent way he asked to go over to the friend's house reminded me that CJ has no concept for how final this will be. His first real, good, friend moving to Colorado with possibly just weeks left to let them play together. 
I tried explaining that we would go visit, but it would be very far away like when we went up to see cousins for Christmas. I suggested that we could call them on mommy's computer like we did when I went to stay with my mom after Christmas and I would talk to them on facetime each night. He stared at me, not getting it, for he knows the route to their house and he knows their bright blue car and crazy mommy doesn't know what she is talking about. 
Oh how I wish that were true. My first friend to move was a little Japanese girl whose house I invaded every afternoon until it was time for her math lessons. We would make origami animals. I kept a whole shelf of them. After she moved I would keep walking, or riding, farther down the road to the twins' house. Their dad was a cop and I thought that was the coolest thing ever. But when I would ride my bike by my friend's house I would think about her. Sometimes I would find the remnants of a paper animal and wonder what she was doing.
Then I moved. And oh my how much harder that was. That I too was a twin was the grace of God for if I had to go into that school not knowing another face I likely would have burst into tears. But there beside me, was my twin brother. And that first day I met a beautiful girl with long, honey hair and Converse tennis shoes. I liked her immediately.  That never happens. Usually people orbit around me for years with me whacking at them with a stick and only the tenacious ones ever make it in. 
Practically attached to her, like a two-for-one-friend-set was a short, curly red head. Who I just visited this Christmas, with her kids playing happily around us and another collected-along-the-way friend beside me. We laughed. Three woman who used to be girls together, and it was glorious. 
When college came around I decided to transfer after my freshmen year and move to Texas. In my lonely little dorm room I prayed for a friend, and I swear I'm not making this up, before I had even truly finished in bounded one of the best friends of my life. Her black, curly hair in pig tails and the warmest smile on her face.
This friend moved close to ten years ago, to California of all places, and true to form I can't truly let her 'go.' We talk, text and chat online pretty regularly still. But it sucks. And it's not the same. Right now, as she goes through her grandmother passing away, I want nothing more than to be rich enough to fly out there and just sit. Maybe make some awful white-girl muffins that would taste nothing like one of the creations her Peruvian grandmother could have made. But it would have been better than 'hang in there' text messages.
Goodbye suck. That's what I want to tell CJ. They suck and they are inevitable. We just can't hang on to everyone we let in, even if we are extremely selective with that and seem to think our small handful of closest friends and loved ones should simply be safe because it's a numbers game, right? I want to tell him that yes we can visit but truthfully it will just never be the same. I want to curl myself around him and make a force field so he doesn't have to feel this pain, when he finally realizes that his friend is gone and that is what the awful word 'moving' means.
But. I also want to tell him that when there is a goodbye, painful as it likely will be, there is usually a hello that shortly follows. While I love my honey-haired friend I also love my black-haired one as well. And I would have never met the latter if I hadn't said goodbye to the former. It's just physics. Missouri and Texas can't be in the same space-time continuum without stuff going really, really bad.
If pressed to have not had to say a goodbye, realizing it would likely mean I would get to say a later hello, I don't know that I would have chosen any differently. I often think of how hard it was to leave the Midwest and come down here alone to start my life but here is where the love of my life was. Here is where I got to meet my wonderful children. Had I been stuck in not wanting to say another goodbye I have no idea what that life would look like but I daresay it wouldn't be one that I would like as much as this one.
I hope to pass on to CJ my sense that friends are friends forever, even if they move halfway across the country. But I also want to encourage him that the gracious Lord I know will not leave a little boy friendless. And the new hellos that are coming might just be worth this little bit of pain now. In the meantime I might just make some muffins, pull up a chair beside him and wait through the hard. Wait and pray for a swiftly coming 'hello' of a friend who will stick by him for life.