The Eyes Have It (or Girl Time)

Here I sit. In a t-shirt, shorts, feet bare, hair in my face, having done nothing much to make myself more than casually dressed. Ahhh … but for my eyes.

An 8-year-old I know has been begging me to allow her to put my eye makeup on. On MY eyes. After some stalling, numerous excuses – as women everywhere can surely imagine – I finally ran out of anything resembling defendable reasons and let her at it. She started with a cautiousness that told me she was concerned about my reaction. And so I decided just to let her go. Have at it, kiddo! And so she did. After the initial hesitation, she became bolder and less inhibited. And I became way more made up.

And so, here I sit, pretty much disheveled, but for some breathtaking eyes. (If I do say so, myself.) And I reflect on the changes that motherhood has effected. I care more about my girls than about the incongruous look I now sport. This time spent with my daughter was really something. As my girls mature, our mommy/daughter times will continue, I’m sure, to mutate. Therefore, if, in days to come, you run across a woman who looks a little like me but has a something that looks like a bird’s nest in place of hair, or is wearing dangerously high heels and sweatpants … Well, I’m just giving you a heads up. Don’t say anything. If it is me, I’ll no doubt be in the presence of one or both of my daughters, you can be sure, and I wouldn’t want them to be embarrassed. It’s all in the interest of getting to know my girls in a new way, don’t you know.

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It’s Not My Thing

The other day I was on facebook. I was having a conversation with a friend about where to get little girls’ nails done for not a lot of money. I told her where we occasionally go, and her next comment to me was, “Pam, is it cheap?” However, what I saw was, “Pam is cheap.” I wasn’t in the least offended. I laughed, and then re-read the comment. Ohhhhhhhh! That’s kind of a different meaning right there. Had I not read it again I would have chuckled and walked away. And my friend would have been left wondering how much it cost to taker her daughters to 90′s Nails.

A few days later, we were getting an oil change for our car and were in the waiting area. They have free fountain sodas, popcorn and coffee. (I know! Why do you think we go?)  I was a little perplexed when I looked at the coffee dispensers, however, because it said, right there in big letters, “Slime is free!” Huh? I was a little distracted because our daughters were asking for some popcorn and one was pushing to have some root beer. So, when we’d gotten them all sorted I re-examined that disturbing sign on the coffee pot. But now I saw that what it actually said was, “Smile, it’s free!” Ohhhhhhhh! That made way more sense.

Later that night, while mulling it all over in my tired brain, it occurred to me: this is why I am not a speed reader. When I was a kid I had seen commercials on TV, whilst watching Gilligan’s Island reruns or The Lone Ranger on a Saturday morning. And there were ads for speed reading courses. It showed a person flipping through War and Peace as I would flip through a book looking for my bookmark. I really don’t remember any of the specific claims, but what it promised seemed to be an impossibility. Especially to me, the slowest of the readers in my class. And probably in the surrounding counties.

My husband and his dad used to talk about how one is supposed to skim the pages and get the gist of what’s going on when one is speed reading. Honestly, I’ve tried that. And what I get is not the gist. Utterly confused, that’s what I get. As evidenced by me thinking my friend was calling me cheap and that my garage was giving away free slime.

So, I’ve come to a conclusion, and it is this: Speed reading is not my thing. Everybody’s got a Thing, right? Well, I know that speed reading is not mine. I’m still trying to find what my Thing is, exactly. But I know without a doubt what it isn’t.

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He Gathers His Lambs

I’m watching Jeff and the girls play a game on our new (though pre-owned) xbox. And by watching, I really mean not watching, just sitting nearby, listening more than anything. I’m in a reflective mood tonight.

It’s the beginning of a whole new year. Sometimes I find myself a little scared by that thought, the idea of another year stretching out before me, with no indication of events that are about to unfold. When I wonder what this year will hold I get a little nervous.

I remember a week in May of 2003 when I felt like there was a shoe about to drop. Jeff and I had just celebrated our first wedding anniversary and he was on a week-long business trip to Chicago. I had an odd feeling of foreboding. As it turned out, just days later, though he returned home and all seemed well, we got a phone call at 5:30 in the morning from my older brother telling me that our mom had died of a heart attack in the night. I think of that from time to time, and I wonder what else could be just around the corner — perhaps some life changing disaster that will bring me to my knees and change my life forever. Again.

And that’s when I remember that whether or not I know what’s coming won’t change anything. Knowing, however, that God is in control and is walking with me through whatever comes — that changes everything.

Why, I wonder, do I forget so easily about his sustaining grace? Perhaps it’s to remind me of my weakness and my inability to cope with the sadnesses of life. Maybe, if I didn’t feel panic from time to time, I’d forget that I can rest in his unfailing strength.

Isaiah 40:11  “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”

So, be encouraged. And look forward to what God is going to do in this new year, 2014!

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You Say Noise, I Say Cacophony

This post is about noise. Let’s be clear about what I mean when I use that word in this context. There’s Sound. And then there’s Noise. The “noises” my babies made when they were happy, well, we’ll call them Sounds. For this post, Noise is synonymous with loudness and cacophony. Now that we have the ground rules established, let’s move on.

One of the things my husband and I enjoy doing together in the evenings is watching TV. But once we became parents, I wanted the volume turned waaaaay down. This was primarily to avoid waking up the babies. I did not want to share this part of my evening with my sweet little cherubs. Not even a little. As soon as bedtime rolled around, it was my sincere desire to be off duty. Granted, there was always going to be the chance that one or both of them would wake up and I would be back on the clock. But I didn’t want to be in any way responsible for increasing those odds. All this to say, I was happy with the volume turned waaaaay down. My husband, however, was not. He likes to feel as though he’s sitting in a movie theater. Now, I have no problem with that if we’re actually in a theater — with my sleeping offspring several towns away. But, when they’re just upstairs, I get a little uncomfortable with my husband trying to recreate the movie theater experience right there, one floor away from those little threats to my night off. I don’t care how darn cute they are!

That, I always felt, was reasonable. I had a perfectly good reason on those occasions for my Aversion to Noise. But then we come to the next step in this, my descent into frustration. At this point in time, our children are seven and eight years old. They’re not so fragile. They can get themselves back to sleep now all by themselves. (Most of the time.) What I find disruptive to my peace of mind these days is that when commercials come on they’re at least three times as loud as the show we’re watching. What’s with that? If we’re trying to talk about anything more meaningful than, say, “Pass the chips,” I have to ask him to mute the blasted thing. I’m not able to concentrate on what he’s saying. Normal? He says No. Resoundingly.

Today when we were getting lunch, the girls wanted to listen to some Britt Nicole songs. We were getting our sandwiches ready; I was doing simple tasks that I do all the time, but after the third song I had to turn it off. I don’t mind her music. It’s Christian pop, it’s catchy. It’s all good. But I couldn’t think! As soon as I turned it off there was a wonderful feeling of peace. It was … QUIET. And I smiled as I soaked it in. (And I’m pretty sure there were eyes rolling a little off to my right. Seven and eight year old eyes, to be specific. But that’s not important now.) We all know the saying, If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t noooobody happy! Therein lies my point.

Now, my husband can listen to any kind of music while he’s doing just about anything, it seems. He can carry on a conversation just fine even if he’s surrounded by what seems to me to be chaos and disorder. I, on the other hand, can’t. Sadly, it’s really that simple.

So, I have to wonder — have I always been this sensitive to noise? IS it normal for at least females of our species to feel this way? Or am I getting curmudgeonly in my old age? At 45 I start to wonder if I’ll soon be shushing young-uns who are causing such a dadburn ruckus! Holy smokes, I hope not. Maybe I’ll get used to it –all this discordance, and Noise. Perhaps.

But probably not. Sadly, you’ll likely see me in coming years, with a pained, pinched look to my face. Old and, yep, curmudgeonly; grumpy and shushing.

Posted in Aging, Noise, Parenting, Sleeping Children | 4 Comments

For My Girls

I sit here wondering what to say. What do I have to say that is of any importance? Why should I tap out words on the laptop tonight? I have the time, and I have the desire, but I think about what to put down. And I realize that what’s really on my mind tonight, like most nights, is my girls. There are things I’d like them to know, be it now, or in days to come. So, Allyson and Katey, this is for you.

Before you left yesterday, to go to the cabin with Daddy, you each wrote a note for me. You wanted to surprise me, so I told you I wouldn’t watch you. Once you left I went and looked for your notes. Kate, I found yours on the front door, and I found yours, Allyson, tucked beneath the stapler on my desk. They were simple notes, written hurriedly, but the message was clear. I look at them this weekend as I spend time by myself, and I know that somewhere, up north in Sullivan County, are two girls who love me. And, as much as I’m enjoying this time to myself, I cannot wait for you to come home.

When you both are grown and have children of your own, you’ll no doubt begin to understand how nice it is for a mom occasionally to squirrel away time to herself. And something else you’ll find is that, no matter how reviving and renewing that time may be, when it’s done you’ll be happy to see your kids, because once you’re a mom, your life will never be just yours again. I gave away large pieces of my heart when I met you and we began our journey together. So, when you’re somewhere else I wonder how you are and I think about you and hope you’re learning and laughing and growing. It’s a mom-thing.

Earlier this week when we were in the car I asked you what you were looking forward to about being a mom. There was a long pause and one of you said, “… Having kids.” I had to laugh. You must have thought it was an incredibly stupid question. It was my way of beginning a conversation about being a mom. But even before you’re ready for motherhood, I look forward to seeing you become young ladies; learn to drive (though it may cause more than one anxiety attack for your parents); grow in your relationship with Christ; make new friends; discover new things you love to do. There are so many things to look forward to! I can’t wait to see who you’ll each become.

You both are so much fun to be around. I smile often when I overhear your conversations from another room because you’re smart and funny and talented. Sometimes when I listen I’m amazed by the maturity I hear in your voices. Other times I chuckle because you sound just like you did when you were tiny, playing together and being silly. I watch you play with smaller children – friends and cousins — and I know that you’ve been paying attention to the things we’ve told you. You have a gentleness and genuine care for others that thrills me to see. When we pray together I’m often amazed by your understanding. Wasn’t it yesterday that I held you and prayed with you? You couldn’t understand my words but I knew that before long you’d be hearing and learning — learning to pray, and to understand God and his “never stopping, never giving up, unbreaking, always and forever love.”

I pray that you will continue to grow and to love and to enjoy life. You are God’s greatest gifts to me and I look forward to watching you grow.

And I look forward to having you home again on Monday!

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The Wide Open Vista Called Summer

I stand here, perched on the very rim of summer, and peer over, wondering what will be. Today we closed the back cover on the book of this school year. I’m a little sad, just knowing it’s a year, a time, that we’ll never have again. But only a little sad, because we’ll suddenly have time to laze and play and read like we haven’t since last summer.

Our school year has been great in many ways. But it surely was intense and I felt the pressure to complete each day, and cover the requisite curriculum in order to turn out young people who aren’t dolts or simpletons — all before it was time to cook dinner. Not an easy task, believe me.

And now that it’s complete, this year of 1st and 2nd grades, I see before us so many possibilities. So many books. So many opportunities for things that had to give way to school in the past ten months. Allyson had asked – pleaded really – for me to begin reading to them The Lord of the Rings. She’s been asking this since we finished The Hobbit when she was in kindergarten. And I told her we might be able to try it this summer when school was done. And tonight she remembered. And I gave in. Almost. I looked for it (I have at least three copies) but couldn’t find The Fellowship of the Ring on any of my bookshelves. It must be in the basement. Odd, because I have every other Tolkien book I own, right there on the shelves. But not that one. And being as it was a good hour and a half past their bedtimes I decided not to traipse to the basement to try to find it. Instead, I began reading to them A Wrinkle In Time. Now, I’m excited to be bringing them into that favorite world of mine. I truly love how Madeleine L’Engle tells her fanciful story, and weaves in such delightfully strong familial relationships and friendships. I know my girls will enjoy these characters that I’ve loved since I was a teen. And I’m hoping this will suffice for now, and that we can leave Middle Earth for a little while yet. I don’t want to bring them in too young and spoil their potential love affair with that wondrous place.

I’m sure I viewed last summer with similar excitement, where literature is concerned. Likely as not, I’ll feel this way for many summers to come.  But I love that the echoes of the last day of school had barely had time to recede before we dove headlong into a new world.

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Oh, Mom … Were You Talking Just Then?

We sometimes play a game around the lunch table, my girls and I. It goes like this. A child is eating a piece of cheese and takes a bite (or three) and holds up what’s left. (This is where the game part happens.) The question is put to whomever is in the room — “What’s this?” And we have to identify what shape we see in the remaining piece of cheese. This can go on, the back-and-forth, asking and guessing/asking and mis-identifying, sometimes for longer than you’d expect, quite honestly. More often than not it turns out to be something like A Mountain, or A Staircase, because, not surprisingly, it’s tough to make a more detailed replica of much else with cheese and incisors.

Well today it was just me and Kate. Which typically makes for a shorter game. And she was excited by what she had created. After I had guessed at least three things (I think I guessed stairs, a tidal wave, and Wisconsin), she must have given up on mom and decided to go ask Allyson. (She was in the basement.) But she explained it to me, as she was leaving me in the dust, which, when you think about it, was quite thoughtful of her. “This looks like a person singing, going ‘Whooooooooo!’ Here’s the hat and here’s the mouth, going ‘Whooooooooooo!’ See?” I didn’t really, but I didn’t say that flat-out. “Oh … Huh! … Neat!” was all I could come up with just then. And I asked her to tell Allyson that her lunch was ready and that she needed to come upstairs. After agreeing, she went downstairs. Very shortly thereafter Katey came back upstairs. “Did you give her the message?” I asked, pretty sure there hadn’t been time for the transmission of both messages. “Yup!” was the happy response. “Just … what message are you talking about?”  — my skepticism, unassuaged. She said,”I told her “This looks like a person going, ‘Whoooooooo!’” (The sub-text here was: What other message could there be? What could compete with cheese shaped like a person going ‘whoooooo’?)

And this is why Allyson’s lunch was just a little colder than it would otherwise have been on this early spring day. This is also why I ask questions such as, “Did you actually know that there were words coming out of my mouth? And they were English, your mother-tongue!” It makes communicating that much more … communicative. Effective, even.

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What If I Don’t Wanna Retire!

When Jeff and I were going through premarital counseling, our pastor said something that stuck with me. He said that the purpose of raising children is to enable them to be independent and go on without you; that, while we raise our kids to spread their wings and leave the nest, the purpose of marriage is to make it strong enough, with work and attention, to go on — on past the time the kids have left the house.

Back then I thought that sounded like a great idea. But then I had kids … and the thing I realized as soon as the first baby was born was this — I had a new, fantastic purpose in life. I suddenly had a job like no other. I don’t know whether I’d have felt differently if I had a profession I worked hard to cultivate, but as of that moment, all else paled in comparison to my newfound calling and the overwhelming love I had for my child.

And in recent years I’ve begun to realize that as soon as Katey is off to college (or whatnot) I’ll be forced to retire from this job I love so, so much. I know I’ll always be a mom. I hear what you’re saying. And I know what people say about being a grandparent, but that’s not what I’m talking about here.

Our daughters are 14 months apart. I love that span and the closeness it engenders. But by the time Allyson is spreading her wings, Katey will be right behind her. And I’ll be right smack in middle of that dreaded empty-nest business by the time my oldest is all of nineteen. And right now that seems downright depressing.

What if I don’t feel like retiring when I’m 55?! Well, since my only recourse is to lock them up and throw away the key, it looks like I’ll be retiring within ten years whether I like it or not. Sigh …

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Loss and Healing

In my last post I talked about things that have kept me from blogging as I once did, with joy and enthusiasm. Teaching my girls at home is a pretty hefty contributing factor, as I mentioned. But I’ve recently begun to suspect that there’s more.

Last year, on April 16th, I learned I was pregnant. And exactly one month later, it was over. I had lost the baby. I’d lost something else, too. Gradually, I’ve come to realize that some of life’s joy, its charm, has somehow been dimmed, tarnished. I hope it’ll be back. I’m working to deal with the feeling of loss that sometimes seems endless. … And the numbness. I know it’s a process. What I don’t know is what to do about it. I’m told that talking about it is helpful, though I really can’t imagine why. While I’m not one to avoid talking, even about this, I can’t believe that anything will really help ease the emptiness. Will conversation really make any difference in how I feel? I find that hard to believe.

And this, I think, has more to do with my absence here than anything else. What I loved to do was to write about whatever I felt like. Sometimes it was serious stuff (within reason, of course), but more often than not I was in the mood for tongue-in-cheek goofy-ness, or a happy narration about my life. That became the sticking point: I liked the tone I’d set in my blogging voice, yet I’ve felt less and less capable of sustaining it.

I want, once again, to make time to write; to enjoy the process of putting down stuff I’m thinking about, be it serious or silly. Because I miss it. I want to enjoy the creative process and feel satisfied when I click the “publish” button. I miss that outlet. So, I’m making an effort to get back into the practice of blogging. In hopes that what was a favorite pastime will be again. And perhaps it’ll be therapeutic, as well.

Posted in Blogging, Life, Parenting | 6 Comments

Remember Me?

I used to have a blog here. … It’s been a long time since I’ve stopped by. I feel a little sad about that, truth be told. It brought me a lot of joy in the beginning days to sit down and write about whatever was on my mind. There’s a been so much going on, though, in recent days that I’ve not had much time to dedicate to writing.

Just what has been taking up my time, you might ask? Well, to a large degree it’s this thing called cyber/charter school. This school year we have chosen to try it. Previous to this, the girls were in our local public school, which was a great experience. But I’d been wondering whether we’d benefit from, and just plain enjoy, a stab at teaching them at home. And it’s been an amazing adventure. There has been much excitement and some gnashing of teeth. The gnashing of teeth mostly surrounds math. But that’s okay. We’re getting through it. And enjoying many of the other subjects.

There’s no doubt that I relish the time spent with my girls. And the flexibility it has afforded, time-wise, has been refreshing. I’ve also learned that there’s much I’ve forgotten since my days in elementary school, many … many years ago. And there’s much I’m sure I never learned to begin with. My knowledge of world history, for instance, had sizeable gaps that I’m beginning to fill. How cool is it that I get the chance to do that at my age. For free! They’ve come up with fantastic ways to teach math. Did you know? Strategies that no one had ever told me existed are here for the taking!

But it’s time-consuming – holy cow! Our days can last till 4 or 5 in the afternoon. There have been days that school ends as early as 2. But more often than not, we’re finishing closer to dinner time. It’s a stringent curriculum. What can I say?

And this, largely, is why I’ve been somewhat absent from this, my beloved blog. But I hope to return to my blogging duties at something of a more regular rhythm. I make no guarantees, but I’m hopeful.

Posted in Blogging, Parenting | 2 Comments