The More Things Change … The More I Have To Say!

So, here’s what I’ve been thinking about this afternoon — amid trips to school, loads of laundry and prepping dinner. (Insert a long pause while I try to remember just what it *was* that I sat down here to say.)  … Oh yes, changes! There are things in my life that have changed, in one way or another, for good or ill, over the years, and I thought it would be worthwhile to take a moment to think about a few of them. (You can decide whether you think it will be worth your while to read it.)

Cooking. It used to scare me. And I don’t mean just when I was five. When we got married, I was 34 years old, and I was intimidated by the whole business of preparing dinner. Around that time I remember Jeff suggesting that I make some french onion dip, instead of buying the Helluva dip that came already made (the name of which my family pronounced “hellOOva” — with the accented on the middle syllable). Well, I told him in no uncertain terms that *he* could make the dip if he felt so inclined, but that there was no way I was going to go to the trouble of making dip. (From scratch, no less! What was he thinking?) I’m pretty certain he even explained to me the simple process of pouring the onion soup mix into the sour cream and stirring, but I stuck to my guns! It wasn’t until I watched him do it that I realized what an idiot I had just made of myself. And now, ten years later, I can make stuff. And from scratch! It’s taken years, but I can actually cook — and make dip — without too much trepidation. My hope is that we’ll even live a little longer because of it.

Reading. Another thing that has changed throughout my lifetime is my willingness to read. I learned to read just like most every other kid in school, but I never had the desire to use that skill, except to read, perhaps, the back of the cereal box in the morning. That is, until I was in sixth grade. My most awesome teacher, Mr. Brewer, read to us every day after we returned from recess. He read to us books like Where the Red Fern Grows, Tom Sawyer, The Call of the Wild, and — what dramatically changed my life as a reader — Treasure Island! Suddenly, I became aware that there were books out there! I mean, books that I was going to love! 

After reading Treasure Island nine times within the year, I branched out and read something ELSE! I found Middle-Earth in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and the foggy streets of London in the pages of Sherlock Holmes — all by the time I was in junior high. (For those of you who aren’t familiar with that term, just substitute “middle school” — that’ll work.) The Sherlock short stories and the four novels kept me busy for some time, but I eventually moved on to other classics, by such authors as James Fenimore Cooper, Robert Louis Stevenson, C.S. Lewis, and H.G. Welles, to name a few.

And then I got married and had kids and this reading-business came, once again, to a screeching halt. I now had less time to sit down and read, and less ability to read anything longer than the blurb on the back of a book without falling asleep. But no less of a desire to read. So, now I read things like, Are You My Mother?, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, The Boxcar Children, The Chronicles of Narnia, and even The Hobbit — aloud to my girls. I also read some magazine articles from time to time, and my Bible — for myself. But, gone, for now, are the days of reading for hours snuggled up on my bed and falling gently into a much-anticipated nap. Those days may return. But for now, I’m not begrudging the time I invest in other endeavors.

Writing. Let’s be clear about this. Writing in this day and age doesn’t really compare with writing when I was in school. And, though it’s only my opinion, I believe it’s because now when I write, what I’m actually doing is typing. And I don’t even need white-out or correction tape, for heaven sake. (Don’t ask. If you don’t get it, I don’t want to hear it. Just be quiet and keep reading.) I can just backspace and retype till I get it right. Imagine that! You see, when I turned in papers in school, for most of my school years I had actually to write. On notebook paper. And realizing I wanted to rephrase something meant … a lot more work. I found it extremely challenging to be at all creative in my writing. I probably used to just go with what I had, so as to avoid having to start the page all over again. Honestly, I think that, for the most part, what makes writing this blog so enjoyable for me is the ease with which I can go from the first to the final draft. I write, then rephrase, restructure, edit, and edit again, and again, till I’m happy with what I’ve written.

And, though it may be for that reason alone, I enjoy writing now infinitely more than I ever did before I started this blog.

Coffee. When I began drinking this beverage, it was because my boss at the bookstore where I worked told me it tasted like coffee ice cream, so I decided to try it. (I’m pretty sure my mom felt a little animosity about her 18 year-old getting hooked on the substance. But I know she realized it could have been worse.) But after several years I began to focus more of my energies on refining my diet coke addiction, and coffee fell by the wayside.

Years later I moved to Lancaster and had kids. And fell in with a new crowd, most of whom make good coffee. Therefore, nowadays, when I spend time with my friends (and even sometimes when I’m at home), I indulge once again in that wonderful beverage. This new group of friends has also introduced me to the exciting world of flavored creamers — and, yes, I realize there’s not even a smidgen of actual cream in them. But, boy do they make the coffee taste better! (You can tell, can’t you, that I’m not one to drink it black. One might as well chew on the grounds. Bleh.)

So, I can’t help but notice how things morph and progress, and I find it interesting to keep track in such a way as this. (Because I can.) These are just a few of the things that sprang to my mind today. I might revisit this topic one day soon, calling up more little parts of my life that aren’t the same as they were. These might include such topics as dating, my opinions on child rearing, and quite possibly a little something about my favorite movies and TV shows. But who knows, really. We’ll just have to see what happens.

Cookies and Fractions With a Narnian Princess

Last night a young princess arrived at our house for a visit. She traveled all the way from Narnia! And her name was Jessica, but we were told to call her Jessie, if we liked.

She slept in our Katey’s bed, being as Katey’s away for a little while. (Seems she’s at camp, or some such thing.) This morning, Princess Jessica came with me to drop Allyson off at school and then we went together to the grocery store. And, because she was such a help and had such a nice attitude during that outing, we then went to have a cookie at McDonalds! A very special treat for a young princess who has come all the way from the magical land of Narnia. (They don’t have such places as McDonalds, as you might imagine, in that land of kings and queens and giants.)

As we listened to a CD in the car, Princess Jessica told me,  “We listen to CDs in our cars … uh, carriages! But we listen to songs about Narnia.” I could just picture the royal family sitting in their elegant horse-drawn carriage with a CD player in the dashboard. Made me smile.

Then our young visitor told me she was half Fairy, half Ballerina and half Narnian. This brought on a discussion about fractions and math in Our World. Seems in Narnia, fractions work out a little differently. (I didn’t touch the subject of biology and inter-species marriage, etc. Fractions was as much as I was willing to brave.)

There was much graciousness and many sweetly phrased sentences. Many pleases and thank-yous. The only exception was when she broke character and began to complain about going to the grocery store. (It’s so boring!) But within moments, she remembered herself and became the gracious lady again. Even thanking me for “allowing” her to spend time with me! It’s amazing how well playing a role helps young ladies of Our World to be mindful of manners. Bonus!

I am delighted that I never know when I will be enjoying tea with a young lady from Narnia, or putting to bed two super heroes who might at any moment fly off to save someone in need. It’s exciting, this life of mine, and I love it.

Even during the more mundane times, when we have no extraterrestrial visitors or travelers from another reality, my life is awesome — because I have two daughters who have mighty imaginations and aren’t afraid to use them!

The Fleeting Years of Childhood

Allyson, our first grader, volunteered to read to us before bed last night and went running to get the book she had gotten from the library at school. I was a little distracted as she began, but before long I realized the story revolved around a young girl who is at her ballet class, feeling conspicuous because she’s not wearing her leotard, but is wearing sweats, and she’s built “like an elephant” while every other girl in the dance class is built “like a butterfly.”  Okay, now she had my attention! So, I craned my neck, trying to read the title of this chapter book my 7-year-old has brought home and was reading aloud to me and her 6-year-old sister. The book was called, “Ballet Bullies.”

As the chapter goes on we see that the main character is asked to demonstrate a particular dance move and notices two of the girls in her class whispering behind their hands and laughing. She’s sure they’re talking about how she looks up there in front of the class. Feelings of inadequacy plague her since her recent growth spurt has left her feeling like “an elephant.”

By now, my mind is racing. All I can think is, “Really? Whatever happened to Heidi, Little Women, or Swiss Family Robinson?” Now, I understand that there will be bullies. And I get that kids may need to be taught about such things, or may need such a  starting point from which to begin a conversation with parents — or the other way around.

But, I’m pretty sure what drew my child to this book was the drawing of the ballerina on the cover, and not the title. I was honestly a tad disappointed to find her reading a book with such dark subject matter (relatively speaking) for a child her age.

Perhaps I’m a little naive, but I wonder whether talking about body image issues to kids that don’t yet have any might be a bad idea. I never considered my weight — at all — till a doctor told me at the age of fifteen that I should be careful, because according to his calculations, my height indicated I was 5 pounds overweight. Well, no one could un-ring that bell! And it’s been a part of my mindset since that time. Do we really need to bring this into the equation for first graders? And kindergarteners? And, in case you’re wondering whether this book was really intended for the preteen crowd — it’s definitely aimed at the early chapter-book-readers, namely first and second graders (depending upon the reader).

There are so many other things they could be reading about: Adventures to be had; friendships to be forged; mysteries to be solved. Let my kids be kids! Let them be unconscious of what they weigh and what they’re wearing. The inhibitions will come all too soon. For, once childhood is gone, it’s gone forever.

Facing the Challenge

For most of my adult life, I’ve wished I could run. I don’t mean like when you’re being chased by a mountain lion. I’m pretty sure I could put on some speed in a situation like that. (Not enough speed to save my sorry self from being eaten — I’m just saying, I could run.)  But, I’ve always heard my friends talk about running, and that they enjoy it (if you can believe it), and I wished to join their ranks.

In the last six months so many of my friends who weren’t runners have taken up the pastime that, to be honest, I started once again to feel a little left out. I mean, if so many people are able to take on this challenge without killing themselves, or even suffering significant injury, well, why not me!

Now, it must be said, when it comes to exercise, it’s been somewhat hit or miss with me. I would go long periods without any regular exercise, and then I’d begin doing something I would keep up with for a while. Then back to laziness, because who wouldn’t rather sit on the couch and do nothing? And so the cycle went. You, no doubt, see my problem.

Then several years ago, I began to be serious about getting healthier and losing a little weight. I began an exercise routine that was easy to do, since I did it while watching tv with my husband in the evenings. (What’s not to love?)  At the same time (unbeknownst to me) my hyperactive thyroid began to … well, hyperact, again — aiding me in my effort to slim down. However, when my doctor notified me of this, I felt like I’d been duped. Seems my efforts were not so Herculean as I had supposed.  In the past, when I began taking the medicine necessary to slow the thyroid, I gained a bit of weight. This, I was determined, was not going to happen again. (Please, Lord!)

All that to say, for the last year or so I’ve been fighting the battle between laziness and activity, with activity only slightly winning out. But, as I listened recently to one friend talk excitedly about her new-found love of jogging, I decided that, come warmer weather, I’d give it a try.

So, last week, though it was only the beginning of March, the temperature reached a balmy 65 degrees one afternoon and I found I had no excuse not to face this intimidating challenge many call Running.

I am all too aware that I am not what you might call “a natural” at this running business, so I knew I needed some help finding a strategy to keep me from giving up before I started. (I can’t even remember the last time I “tried” running, but I’m pretty sure the only plan was to run as long as I could, and die at the end, practically, ensuring that I would not have the desire to put on those running shoes the next day — or even the next decade, as it turned out.) So, I looked online and found a guy who laid out a nice, easy to read, eight week plan. It began with small amounts of running sandwiched between copious amounts of walking. I knew, without doubt, that I was able to walk! So, this had to be a good plan.

Well, that was last week and I’m happy to say that, so far, I’m on schedule! Today, I even went twice the scheduled distance and I was feeling good at the end. No feeling of imminent demise upon reaching the house. Woo hoo! Could it be that I will be able to reach the end of the eight week schedule and emerge an honest to goodness Runner?

I honestly have no idea. But I’m one week closer to that goal than I’ve ever been in my life. So I’m hopeful. And that’s saying something.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Let’s Go Over This One. More. Time.

I found myself stating what surely, by now, must be The Obvious this afternoon to my girls. Perhaps it only seems obvious to me because I know for sure they’ve heard this from me, without doubt, at least ten times. Could be closer to ninety-five. (But, after twenty, I kinda stopped counting.)

Let me put it out there again, this time in text.

1. There is a difference between FAIR and EQUAL. And when you are asked to put some clean clothes in your dresser, even though it may, possibly, not be Your Turnwell, that may not be “equal,” but, make no mistake, it absolutely is “fair!” And do you know why? Because I said so. End of discussion.

2. And though you may feel as though you have been treated unfairly (especially where chores or privileges are concerned), it does not reflect in any way on how much I love you. I probably even still like you! So, get over it and let’s move on.

3. If I were to treat you perfectly “fairly” and “equally” in every way, I would be doing you a disservice (whether you understand it till you’re thirty years old, or not). Because — say it with me — Life Isn’t Fair, and the sooner you understand that, and are able to cope with it without bitterness or feeling yourself the victim, the better off you’ll be.

Perhaps, now I can just print this out and hand it to them when the occasion arises. They’re getting to be better and better readers everyday, after all. And, quite honestly, if I have to repeat it one more time, my head might just explode.

Note: I really don’t like hearing an adult snap, “Life’s not fair!” to a child and think that it solved anything. Therefore, I like to expand on the subject a little bit.  But, holy smokes! There’s a limit. 

WHAT Weekend?

I remember the days I used to count down to Saturday. Monday and Tuesday were sometimes bearable. Wednesday around noon I was half way there, and so on.

I was especially prone to such mental exercises when I was dating Jeff. He lived here in Lancaster and I lived a little over an hour away. So, on Friday night when he was done with work he would pack some clothes and drive back to his parents’ house, which — fortunately for me — was a ten minute drive from my house. So on Friday, every Friday, I felt like it was Christmas! We’d see each other on the weekends and then he’d leave on Sunday evening. So, of course, I dreaded Sunday nights.

This two-and-a-half year period was a time of great drama for me — dramatic highs, waiting to see him on Friday nights, and heart-wrenching lows, saying goodbye on Sunday nights. You won’t be surprised to learn, I suppose, that the drama was all mine. He never understood why I was so sad to see him leave for Lancaster. “You’ll be seeing me again in five days!” … I guess it’s just not a guy-thing.

And, neither is it a girl-thing for me. Anymore. My life has become much more level and much less dramatic. I think I stopped crying about him being gone for a week on business the summer we got married. Yeah — that drama’s gone. I miss him and all, but I feel a little guilty about how exited I get that I don’t have to cook for the week! (You see, the girls and I are happier with sandwiches and spaghetti. Easy, peasy!)

These days, my weeks look a lot less like week/weekend. Now, Monday looks much more like any other day of the week. You see, I’m able to stay at home, and I shuttle kids to and from bus stops and afternoon kindergarten. And my husband works from home. So, even weekends aren’t all that different for me, as far as the scenery is concerned.

Allyson, our first-grader, who so wishes (loudly and often) that her school didn’t have to start so early — on Saturday is out of bed at the crack of dawn! Katey has never slept-in a day in her life.  Well, except maybe … Nope. Not once. And Jeff, who works in his home office Monday through Friday, is often sitting at the computer in — you guessed it! — his home office most Saturday mornings. (Albeit, on his own pc, rather than his work lap-top.)

And, who has ever known a mom who got the weekends off? Does the family stop eating first thing Saturday morning? Nooooooooo. Do they stop wearing clothes that have to be washed, just because it’s the weekend? Not in this household. And, as many times as I’ve asked them, they’ve never successfully stopped using dishes on Saturday or Sunday, either.

Now, to be clear, lest you think I’m complaining here, I want to tell you: I’m really not. I love being able to spend Saturday morning snuggling with my girls. I love being able to worship together as a family on Sunday morning. And I love hearing Allyson tell me she can’t wait for the weekend because we get to spend all our time together!

My only purpose is to point out that the weekend doesn’t signify the end of the work week for moms, as it does for many other members of society. There, practically speaking, isn’t such a phenomenon. We will likely work more during our weekends. Just as we will probably be connecting more, too. It’s all good!

We just want you to understand and give credit where it’s due. That’s all I’m asking.

Of Barbershops, Faux-Hawks and Germs

The other day we went with Jeff to the barbershop to hang out while he got a hair cut. (I know, you’re realizing how boring your life looks in comparison to mine, right?) As I sat there, attempting to read a magazine article about helping  your child avoid toxic friendships, I began to notice things happen around me.

The girls like going to this barber shop because they have a little area where kids can play. (Jeff likes it because he can get a haircut for $13 dollars.) There’s a table and chairs, a bookshelf with dolls, cars and stuffed animals and a couple of coloring books and stubs of crayons in a box. As the girls were happily “cutting” the hair of dolls they found there, I became aware of how uncomfortable it made me to see how really dirty all the toys were. (I try hard not to freak about things like that. Really. I do.) But when Kate brought over two stuffed dogs that were looking like they had been held by every child in Lancaster County, I began to feel that crawling feeling. (You know what I mean.)

Then I noticed one of the barbers trying to talk a seventeen year old fellow into getting a faux-hawk. The boy, however, after giving it some thought, mentioned that his mom would much prefer it if he didn’t. The barber asked, “Who’s payin’ for this haircut? You or your mom?” I didn’t hear the answer, but I did notice the young fellow leaving the establishment without a faux-hawk.

Toward the end of our stay, a dad came in with a boy, who looked to be about 7 or 8. As they came in, the boy said, “Dude!” To be honest, I get a real kick out of hearing young boys use this word. It’s not, as you might assume, a one-syllable word. This, when used by the male of our species, requires at least two syllables. And the second syllable rises in a way that’s hard for me to describe. Anyway, this was not the “Dude!” you would hear when a boy enters, say a Lego store, or goes to a rifle range. This was distinctly a disgruntled, “Dude!” My guess is that it was much more of an “I can’t believe I’m stuck spending the next 30 minutes of my life in this place with two girls!” — kind of “dude!” I felt for the kid. But he’ll get over it. I’m pretty sure.

After about 30 to 40 minutes Jeff had earned his turn in the chair. There were four or five people cutting hair, but only two of them were men. Jeff has had better success with the male barbers in this particular shop. So, it seems, have most of the patrons who were in the place, because there was about a half-hour wait to have one of the men cut your hair — but not so long a wait for the female barbers. I do have to say, only once do I recall going to a place to get a haircut and finding, to my surprise, that a guy was going to be cutting my hair. Honestly, I was uneasy about the situation. If I remember correctly, he was a fellow that looked like he’d have been more at home on a football field than at the local HairCuttery helping women find the new do they’re looking for. It’s been so long now that I really have no idea whether he did a good job or a lousy one. What I do remember is how difficult I found it to trust my hair to someone of the opposite gender. Therefore, I bear no hard feelings toward men for preferring to have a man cut their hair.

Before long we were on our way out. Each girl  had a rather large lollipop in her mouth. Did I mention that’s the other reason they like tagging along to Daddy’s haircuts? And me? Well, I go because it seems a shame to miss out on a family outing, tame as it is, on a Saturday. I also find it an interesting place to sit and observe.

I never did finish the article which, undoubtedly, would have revealed the secret of dealing with my kids’ less than healthy friendships. I guess I’ll have to cross that bridge — without Good Housekeeping‘s assistance — when I come to it.


To My Kate

Hey, little girl! I’m writing this in hopes that you’ll one day be reading it, because I want to tell you about how we spent this morning — in case we’ve forgotten by then.

You and your sister, after some encouraging, got dressed. In skirts, of course. And leggings — it is only the first day of March and too cold to have bare legs! But neither of you is easily convinced to wear pants, unless it’s a gym day. We dropped Allyson off at school and ran a couple of errands. And we listened to the new cd you got for your birthday. It’s a kids’ album by Jewel, and we’re enjoying getting to know the songs.

For the last couple years you’ve not been a big fan of what you call “lullabies,” because they make you cry. But there are several slow, sweet songs on this new album that you’re beginning to enjoy, with nary a sign of a tear! Woo hoo! I count that a victory — though I’m not telling you that. (Well, I guess I am, now.)

So, after we were done our errands you asked if we could “take a ride on hills.” (That means on the hilly farmland south of our house.) It’s a foggy morning, so we couldn’t see the wind turbines that look like giants hovering on the hills in the distance. But we could dimly see the beautiful rolling farm fields and the enormous flocks of white sea gulls that dotted them. And we sang along with Jewel, and we laughed as we went over hills that made our tummies jump. I enjoyed watching you (in the rear-view mirror);  you were having a grand old time!

We talked about the difference between harmony and melody. We sang “The Green Grass Grows All Around” at least twice as you tried to sing each part. You had your Florence Bear with you and you were giving her a nap on your lap, all in all, being very mommy-ish. You’re going to make a wonderful mommy some day, Petunia!

And when we got home I asked what you wanted to do. You said you wanted to take the music inside and listen to it some more. So, while I’ve been typing this, you’ve excitedly come to get me so we could listen to one particular favorite (even though it is remarkably “lullaby-ish, if you ask me) — all snuggled up together on the sofa.

We probably won’t have much of a memory of this morning we spent together, one day. But that’s okay. It’s because we’ve spent so many mornings together, you and I. I just want us to be able to read this and, if not remember it together, at least be reminded of how we sometimes spent our mornings before packing you off to afternoon kindergarten, where a world of fun and friends awaits you! Not to mention Good News Club, this afternoon!

I love you, my little one who loves to sing and laugh and snuggle. I wonder how your world will be when you’re reading this. I wonder what will make you laugh and what you’ll be singing.

Learning to Get Along (or Don’t You MESS With My Child!)

Many mornings I allow my first grader to choose whether she goes on the bus or gets driven to school. When I was a kid, having that choice wasn’t really an option because my parents didn’t have a car (they were missionaries and used the ministry’s vehicles when it was necessary), and the school I attended was about 10 miles from our house. So, missing the bus was kind of a big deal. But these days we live maybe five minutes from the girls’ school, and we have a car in which I’m normally on my way out around that time, anyway, so … I’m just as happy to take her to school.

But this morning she was going on the bus, because it was more convenient for me and because it hadn’t happened in a while.

Now, she’s been having some, shall we say, issues with a classmate who is also on her bus. (We’ll call this little girl “April”.) Well, not only does she see April on the bus, but they’re assigned to sit together. April has an odd habit of being Allyson’s “best friend” one day, only to turn around and be nasty and talk angrily to her the next. We’ve been trying to help our daughter see that she needs to be kind to April, showing Christ’s love (which she’s doing pretty well),  while encouraging her to play with the other kids in her class who are kind to her  more regularly than little April (which has not been so easy to get across!). Yesterday, Allyson informed me that April ignores her the entire bus ride.

Well, knowing this, I was feeling a little sad for Allyson this morning while we waited at the bus stop, but she seemed to be thinking of other, happier things. Then, just before the bus came she said to me, “I think I’ll ask if I can sit next to ‘Brenda’ (another friend).” Then she thought about that and said, “No … usually when I ask if I can sit next to Brenda, she (Brenda) shakes her head, so … Maybe I’ll try to sit next to (two other friends).” I encouraged her to try that this morning, feeling sad, once again, that she was having to deal with this. At the same time, I’m proud of her that she didn’t flip out and dissolve into tears before getting on the bus, as I more than likely might have done.

Anyway, I watched her board the bus, and saw her sit down next to April, after all — who only looked away, so as not to make eye-contact with my daughter, I suppose. I don’t know whether Allyson asked and was told she couldn’t change seats today, or whether she changed her mind at the last-minute. Either way, my heart is heavy today as I think about my little girl beginning her day that way.

I’m reminded, though, that these children are learning how to appropriately interact with each other. This is the time for them to be taught how to be kind and how to deal  effectively with those who are being unkind. This is life, and we can’t avoid it, or keep them from experiencing it. To do that would make dealing with life that much harder as they get older and the situations, more hurtful.