Virtual Waste, Real Time

Currently, I’m the mom of two pre-teens. And there’s a lot to learn, let me tell you. By the time I got the whole toddler-thing down, they were on to bigger and better things. Like kindergarten. We were off to elementary school, in the throes of play dates and trying to make time for dinner, after-school activities, and life that involved more people than just the four of us.

But now, everything’s changing at, quite frankly, what I consider to be a ridiculous pace. It seems like every week there’s another social media app that we’re saying no to. Now, my husband is the tech guy, the one I check in with when the girls ask about the newest social media app I’ve never heard of. I speak English. He speaks Technology. (He’s bi-lingual, that way.) And our 12 year-old is becoming fluent in Tech, too. I’ve begun considering her my plan B, in the case of a crisis — i.e. I can’t make my device(s) do what I want them to do. Like turn on.

Anyhow, our daughters, in their time living in today’s cultural soup, have become fans of several YouTube personalities. Now, I like facebook and pinterest, but you will rarely find me watching videos anyone puts up. Anywhere. I’m not exactly sure why this is, but, regardless, it’s the way it is. I’ll click on a link to a news story, but if I find that it’s a video, I’m out. Unless it’s something I’m concerned about and need to watch, I’m movin’ on. And yet, my girls are happy to watch videos of some stranger putting weirdly mixed nail polish on, with step-by-step instructions, or a mother doing (admittedly cool) stuff to her daughter’s hair. And this has brought us to their newest pastime of choice, watching vlogs (video logs, for the uninitiated) They’ve begun watching a particular vlog made by a couple with three little kids. Everyday they document a part of their day, and put it up on YouTube.

There is nothing objectionable or concerning in these videos. They seem like sweet people with normal little kids, doing what they do everyday. But, I have to say, I’m a little stymied. Why do people want to watch someone else doing their everyday stuff? HOW did this become a thing? *We* do everyday stuff. We even do it every day! We have our own everyday lives. What’s the draw?

One of my daughters was captivated by a particular video of the dad taking one of the kids to a store, and then following her around the entire place, waiting for her to decide what to spend her money on. If you’re a parent, my guess is you’ve probably done this very same thing, multiple times. And that’s exactly why I was not as delighted to watch the tedious process as my daughter was. I felt a little like I was watching paint dry, but my daughter was commenting and laughing because she thought it was adorable.

I know that my girls love watching little kids do their little kid things. I get that. But I’ve decided to put a limit on the time they spend watching strangers do stuff. We have neighbors who have adorable little kids who are more than happy to have my girls go over and help with their everyday stuff. Real everyday stuff.

It’s a different world, truly, than the one I grew up in. I must be so old in my kids’ eyes. <sigh> I admit that I’m being dragged into the new millennium, with more than the occasional kick and blood curdling scream. I’m happy to be online and have a smartphone. But virtual friends? … Nah.

Not a Typical Morning

So, today began in not the usual way. The Usual Way is me going in to the girls’ rooms and beginning the loooong process of waking them up. It starts at 7am. That’s the usual way. This was not that way.

Today, Allyson got out of bed at the stroke of 6 — yes, in the morning! She got ready for school, packed her lunch and came in to our room by 6:20-ish. (I was so sleepy, I can’t tell you exactly what time it was.) But, I can tell you that I was not surprised.

I knew that this was the first of 5 school days on which she has the opportunity to dog-sit for our neighbors. The pooch won’t be at our house, but Allyson will feed him, take him out to do his business, walk him, play with him, and, in her words, “pretend he’s my dog.” So, on this the first day, and because there’s medicine to be given, I decided it would be prudent for me to accompany her. We got there and she immediately took over. This girl takes her responsibility seriously. And I was duly impressed.

Allyson spends a good deal of time with our neighbors, as they have children who are little and uber-adorable. I do believe that the dog comes in second, in order of importance in her consideration, because, well, there are children! But she has walked this dog and played fetch with him and brushed him. I hadn’t appreciated quite how adept she was at dealing with him until this morning.

So, I stayed to see that the medicine was had, I stayed for a few minutes, and then she was off with him for a walk. He listened to her because she was The Boss. (And because he’s a sweet dog.)

It’s strange to watch your kids grow and learn, at a rate that is faster than you expected. It’s amazing to see them take on responsibilities that you didn’t think they’d be ready for so soon. This is just dog-sitting, I realize. But it seems like only a couple years ago that we were at a different neighbor’s house and had to hold both girls because they were freaked out by the proximity of their big dog. Who was actually no bigger than this dog that she’s now totally comfortable to walk and feed and play with. I did not see this coming.

I absolutely expect to be surprised by this kind of thing in the ensuing years. (Yup, I just said that.) And I look forward to it.

My Busy-ish Life

Well, in case you missed me, I’m back! It’s been many months since I’ve posted, and I feel like being here again. I enjoy writing and have missed the creative outlet that this blog affords me.

You might ask where I’ve been. And, sadly, I have no interesting story to tell. I’ve been doing the regular stuff, like being a wife and a mother. Our daughters are in the 5th and 6th grades now, and I guess our schedules have gotten a bit busier. So, there’s that. And I seem to have been kept busy with surgeries. No, I’m not a surgeon — now *that* would be an exciting excuse! — but no. I’ve been on the receiving end of 3 surgeries in the past 4 years, and have had 18 months of physical therapy for various and sundry reasons. Also,I taught my girls at home for 2 years, when they were in 1st and 2nd, and 2nd and 3rd grades, which kept me busy (to put it mildly), and now they’ve been back in school for 3 years. We’re considering bringing one or both of them home during the middle school years, but haven’t come to a final decision yet. So, life has been happening for us, like it has, I’m pretty sure, for you.

I’d like to talk, perhaps in upcoming posts, about kids and peer pressure, because it’s something that is not only on my radar, but something that can get my knickers in a knot, quite honestly. I might talk about how growing older has made me not only more aware of my shortcomings, but more aware, too, of my need to understand God’s sovereignty and grace. Everyday.

So, stay tuned if you feel like it, folks! I know I have lots to say about life in general. So, I figure I’ll try to come back and say it. I have a blog, after all. I can say stuff.

Water, Water Everywhere (or It’s About Time)

I have not been an avid drinker of water. Ever. I have to admit. Given a choice, I’d choose either a diet coke or nothing before choosing water. This has been pretty much a lifelong trend, of which I’m not particularly proud. But, there it is.

So, last week I saw a link on facebook to an article about a woman who drank three liters of water a day for 28 days. There were before-and-after photos, and descriptions of all the systems in our bodies that benefit from ample hydration. I can’t recall any details, because my brain just doesn’t retain such things anymore. Suffice it to say, I was impressed enough to actually consider trying this amazing new health trend. I know *I* never saw that coming!

I’m here to tell you that, beginning the first of June, I’ve been drinking three liters each day — that’s 3,000 milliliters, folks! —  and am determined to carry on throughout the month.

Also, I’m here to tell you that, should you, too, decide to embark on such a journey, it’s best to finish the majority of your water consumption before mid-afternoon. Otherwise, though the rest of your systems will no doubt be in top-notch working order, your sleep cycle will suffer.

Other than that, my friends, I’ve got nothing else to report. Six days in and I’m going strong. Perhaps I’ll let you know how it goes. (But I wouldn’t be counting on any photos — before or after — if I were you.)

Go Ahead And Blink, It Won’t Make Any Difference

We talk about how quickly our kids grow up. Don’t blink or you’ll miss it. The hours/days drag, but the years fly, etc.  I don’t know how many times I hear these words. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve been the one saying them.

I’m beginning to suspect, however, that for me it’s not really about the speed with which time passes. The real issue is that it does. Time passes whether or not I approve.  I think I wouldn’t be happy even if we had twice as many years to parent our kids. Just knowing things will change is what sticks in my craw. And that is the revelation that smacked me squarely in the head this morning.

I’m acutely aware that the time of being my nine-year old’s Favorite Person is not going to last forever. Now, perhaps, since I am a particularly amazing mom, it might go on for a bit longer  than it would for, say,  a run-of-the-mill mom … But I’m not gonna bet the farm on it.

Last night there was rather a loud thunder storm, and as often happens, it got loudest about an hour after the girls had settled  into their beds. Allyson doesn’t love storms, but she will sleep through most anything. Katey, on the other hand, really does not love storms. And being nine, you’d think she’d have learned by now to navigate her way through a summer squall, even at bedtime. But … No. Therefore, several times last evening she made her way out of the room and wanted to snuggle and be reassured. And each time I went and snuggled and reassured. And I didn’t mind. Y’know why? Because I know there will come a night when she doesn’t need me to help her do this thing. And, knowing me like I do, there’ll come a night when I miss it —  when I miss being needed to snuggle and to reassure.

I know, most of you less sentimental types out there are rolling your eyes. (I guarantee that my husband is.) And I know that parents of tiny ones are muttering, “If ONLY!” — because you feel like you’re needed 24/7 and you just want to have five minutes to use the bathroom. Alone! I remember those days, and I totally get it.

But I’m here to tell you, I’m going to miss it. I’m going to miss most of this mothering business. And that day is coming — whether it’s coming fast or slow. That day when I get to do my own thing, when I get to do laundry for just two, when I get to not worry about picking up kids from school, when I get to walk through the garage and not have to make my way around bikes and scooters.

When I talk like that to my husband, he kinda gets this far-off, dreamy look on his face. And I’m sure it will be nice it many ways. Picking up and going to see a movie on the spur of the moment again will be refreshing. But … I’m going to miss these days.

So, perhaps, what I’m really taking all this time and space to say is: I’ll miss mothering kids one day. The End.

Thoughts On a Winter Night

(I thought about calling this post Thoughts On a Winter Evening — ’cause it sounded poetic, but decided that, although it’s really only 7:15 as I begin, it most definitely feels like night. It’s January. It’s pitch black. I’m going with Night.)

As I drove home tonight — it doesn’t matter from where — some thoughts kind of flitted haphazardly through my brain. Which, believe it or not, got me thinking about some things …

Have you ever thought about your train of thought? By this I mean, have you ever concentrated on rewinding what got your brain from where it began to where it ended up? Well, I have. (I bet you knew I was going to say that!) Every once in a while I like to do just that, because it helps me pay attention to how easily my thoughts fly from one thing to another. Someone, somewhere may think it really is totally random, how you get from point A to point G. But it’s really not. At least not in my case. I enjoy retracing my mental steps. There’s always something that triggers the jump to the next step. Whether it’s an external or internal force, it’s necessary. And I get a kick out of figuring it out. Every once in a while. I do.

In a related story …

Then I was thinking about the way my mind works, as opposed to the way my husband’s mind works. At least as far as I can tell. (His mind is more of a mystery to me than you might think.) As I get older I notice more occasions where I realize I must have been thinking of something important, like something I need to do, but haven’t done. At these times, I find that, though the dim memory of such a thought still lingers, I can’t put my finger on what it was. But the vague, uneasy feeling stays with me. That feeling that some little monster is waiting,  just out of sight, to attack. If only I could remember the thought that triggered it, I could face the little beast with my sword at least at the ready. Because there’s nothing worse than realizing too late that you’ve forgotten to … defrost the meat for dinner, take a child to the orthodontist, or pay the water bill.

ANYway! My point was going to be this: I’m almost certain that Jeff’s mind does not weave and spin like mine does. His is most likely working in an orderly, logical fashion. (No, he’s not Spock, but … yeah, for all intents and purposes, he’s Spock.) I’ve never asked him about this, but I’m quite sure he’s exempt from this kind of scattered thought process. Want to know how I know? I listen to his conversations. And I listen to mine. My little brother used to frequently call out, “Bunny trail alert!” when he and I were talking, so as to keep us from losing sight of the original purpose of the conversation. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone yell out, “Bunny trail alert!” when Jeff is talking. So. There you have it. There’s my empirical evidence.

There’s also this. I don’t know how many times throughout one day I find that, though my intent was to put some item away, and I probably actually began the task, I realize that something else popped up that kept me from completing my mission. Just sitting here now I can recall two times this happened yesterday. And that’s without even wracking my brain. Jeff, on the other hand … Well, he never puts anything away, so I guess that’s not a fair test. But I bet if he did, he’d do one job before tackling another. Probably. (Sadly, we may never know the answer to this.)

So, yep. That’s pretty much what kept my brain busy on the solitary drive home. There was no one to talk to in the car, so I thought I’d tell you!  You’re welcome.

Climbing Mountains … Avoiding Hills

I posted recently on facebook that my 8-year-old left a note hidden in my purse before she went to school. It told me she’d miss me, that she loved me, to have fun hanging out with Dad (’cause you know, that’s what we do all day when they’re at school — laze around together) … and to run 3 miles.

This, presumably, is because when I pick them up at school, of late, I typically ask how their day was and then I tell them about mine. It goes something like this, Me: “So, how was your day?” Them: “Good.” Me: “How was lunch/recess/gym/whatever?” Them: “Fine.” <pause> Me: “Well, you know what *I* did today?! I ran! My total distance was blah-blah-blah, and, of that, I only walked blah-blah, and ran blah-blah! And that’s 3 tenths of a mile more than I ran on Monday!”

They’re really good encouragers. Not that they I give them much choice, of course … but that’s beside the point. The point really is this. I’ve been “trying to run” for more than two years now. (If you’ve read my blog before you might remember that I chronicled the beginning days.) It’s been a sloooow and not-at-all-steady process. For the longest time, when I ran it was around our little neighborhood. The circumference is 1 mile, which was normally the extent of my run. Sometimes I would loop around a little and go a little farther, but that was it. A mile and a half, tops. I might mention that there are some hills that made it more of a challenge, which made me less likely to expand my horizons, as far as running went. (I hate running on hills.)

Well, then one day as I was driving, I happened to see one of my neighbors running about a mile from our neighborhood. She looked like she’d been going for a while, and was on her way back. This caused a series of thoughts to meander through my 46-year-old brain. Wow. I wonder where Mandie’s been on her run. I wonder how far she runs. Well, she’s a Real Runner, I couldn’t do that. … Wouldn’t it be interesting, though, to run someplace outside of the neighborhood? … Noooooo … I’m not a Real Runner. Only Real Runners do that. … But, I wonder how far I could run if I were to run somewhere ELSE. And wouldn’t it be more interesting to see something other than the same stuff, over and over again, when I run? (Pedantic, isn’t it? But that’s really what you’d have heard if you could’ve listened to the little voice inside my head that day.)

The seed was planted and gradually it grew. Until one day, a week or so after that fateful moment, I actually did it. I ran (and walked) about a mile and a half. It was not the most thrilling route, but the important thing was that I was out of my comfort zone because it was outside of my neighborhood. And that was huge! Since then, I’ve been finding more appealing places to run. Honestly, when I looked at the areas surrounding our house, I found roads and neighborhoods I’d rarely seen. And they’re beautiful. This has made a distinct difference in how I look at running. I still avoid hilly runs as much as I can, and long, straightaways that feel endless. Those kill me. But I’m increasing my stamina almost daily and that feels good.

And this is why Katey is cheering me on. Because she knows it makes my day to go further than I’ve gone before. Maybe they even like hearing me enthuse about the newest mountain I’ve climbed (figuratively speaking, of course). Maybe. Or perhaps they’re just being nice. Either way, it adds up to a win for me. I’m making progress and challenging myself to top that mountain, day by day. And I know my girls are watching and waiting for me to take just a few more steps each time. That’s all I’m looking for.

A Whole New Thing

Well, yesterday’s post chronicled our change from school-at-home to school-at-, well, school. Today, we’re going to talk a little about what my life looks like these days.

To begin … I had shoulder surgery four days before school began. It was only arthroscopic, so I found myself knocked for a loop by the anesthesia and the delightful prescription meds I got to take in the early days. I can truly and thankfully say that the biggest impact on me was just the medications, and trying to get the anesthesia out of my system! The pain was negligible, really. But the beginning of the school year is something of a blur, truth be told. When you think about it, that’s another good thing about the girls being back in school. I’d have been next to useless in the teaching department in those early days of the school year.

And then there’s the physical therapy, which, for the sake of time and ease, I’ll refer to as PT. I had the surgery on Thursday and had my first PT session on Friday. And from that time on, it’s been three days a week, almost an hour and a half at a shot. Over time I had developed one extremely frozen shoulder. No, that’s actually what it’s called. Meaning that in my case, I’ve had very limited use of my right shoulder and arm for more than two years. There had never been an injury. When my doctor went in he found that there was a protrusion of one of the bones in the joint that was pinching the rotator cuff, causing discomfort, and therefore causing me to use the shoulder less and less. All that to say, it’s of utmost importance if I want to regain the use of my arm that I work it and stretch it multiple times a day.

And so, that’s one of the things that I’m spending time doing for now, PT and recovering. I told some friends that I was going to write a blog post and call it Naps, Narcotics and Netflix — all about my first several weeks of school! But really, there doesn’t seem to be much point. The narcotics induced many lovely naps, during which I slept through several series of coveted British mysteries. (One day, I’m really going to go back and actually watch them again when my brain isn’t sedated and diffused.) Suffice it to say, it was a lovely haze of three weeks or so, which helped immensely in getting me used to having my young sidekicks elsewhere for the school days.

One thing I’ve intended to do now is begin again to run. I’m just not an early morning runner. I’m not much of an early morning anything-er, quite frankly. And by evening, my desire to exercise is not strong enough to get me out of the house. Or even into my running shoes. So, I realized this would be a great opportunity for me to start slowly again. It’s how I began in the first place, running while the girls were at school. And last week I did it. I put on those running shoes and got to it. So, that’s one thing to check off my list. I just have to keep it going. One step at a time.

And of course, the next thing I thought of when initially I wondered how I would spend my time, was that I could get back to writing my blog! That was also something I began when I had afternoons freed by kids in school. I’ve tried on a number of occasions to keep it going, even while knee-deep in home school, but that never really took off, on any kind of regular basis. So, I’m glad to be able to come back to this medium. I enjoy writing about my life and loves.

Aaaaand there’s still that school room/office to finish up. <Sigh>

So, there’s a glimpse into the new thing God is doing in my life. I’m excited about what he has laid in my path, albeit simple stuff. I’m happy to start small. My days still include plenty of mothering — it just looks different now.

Of School Rooms and Happy Times

Tonight I’m avoiding the completion a task I’ve been putting off for almost a month. Finally tonight I began it, but now I’m out of ideas and I’m tired. And I just want to quit. So … here I sit.

Let’s back up to about the second week of August, when I began suddenly to feel a panicky feeling in the pit of my stomach when I looked ahead to the beginning of our third year of schooling the girls via a cyber-charter school. That was the first inkling I had that God was trying to get my attention. There were a number of things weighing heavily on my mind regarding school. One of them was that I had been pretty much ignoring the art and music curriculum in an attempt to get the other, more important subjects finished, which we did, for the most part, with flying colors. I just could not, for the life of me, figure out how to finish our school day by 3 o’clock-ish and get it all done.

So, after one day of pondering this and praying about it, my 8-year-old came to wake me up and crawled into bed with me. One topic led to another, and before I knew it, she had steered the conversation to talk very specifically — and happily — about many of the art projects she had done when she was in kindergarten in our public school system. I tell you the truth, she had no way of knowing where my mind and prayers had led me, and how I’d been struggling over this very thing — what they’d been missing out on over the past two years at home with me. I took this to be a confirmation from the Lord that he was indeed trying to get my attention and he wanted me to listen.

So, over the next few days I prayed about it, and to be frank, cried about it an awful lot. I just couldn’t escape the feeling that God wanted me to put the girls back into school.

Now, this is not to say that I feel we were wrong to bring them home and teach them for those two years. I truly feel that the Lord led us to do that. I get teary thinking about the times we spent on each of the subjects. I wholeheartedly miss the one-on-two time with two of my favorite people in the world.

And here I come to the point in my story where I explain the job I’ve avoided — cleaning out, rearranging and re-purposing the school room. Now, I do get excited about reorganizing spaces in my house. But, this was going to be a toughie. I chose to tackle it this evening, when everyone was home and happily doing other things. I thought that would be easier than going through all of last years binders and school materials that would need to be boxed up and put into the basement when I had the house to myself. In a way it was. But it was still a rough job. With every book report, or history paper I piled up, I felt as if I was ripping the bandage from a wound that was not even close to being healed. And though my girls have been in school for a number of weeks already, it was as if this, tonight, truly brought the past two (in many ways) glorious years to an official end.

There were many things I loved about teaching my girls. But that doesn’t mean it was easy. Nor was it always fun. It was without a doubt the most challenging time I’ve spent since I had two toddlers in the house. But I do miss it.

What I don’t miss is the pressure that I felt, being the one responsible for the completion of each subject. Now I know that there’s an art teacher who’s the one dealing with that whole mess — not me! There’s a classroom teacher getting math, language arts and social studies in order! These are no longer on me. (Don’t talk to me about the science experiments. Just … nope.)

I have friends and family who artfully and dutifully teach their children, year after year, and do a beautiful job! I wonder sometimes why I couldn’t be like those moms, whom I so admire.

But then I’m reminded of the two years we did have! And I’m reminded of the peace I’ve experienced since we decided to put the girls back in school. Despite the times of weeping and regrets, God has been clearly reassuring me that he is directing this. They are, after all, his children even more than they are mine. And he has chosen our path, and I have chosen to follow. And I trust my girls to his care and pray for them and sit with them as they toil over their homework. I listen as they tell me about what went badly in their day and what went well. I pray with them as we drive to school. And I know that God is far more capable than I am of supplying their needs.

If only this erstwhile School Room would finish up on its own! But I suppose that’s what tomorrow is for.


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.