Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Granny and Advent.

Grandma with Sam in 2002.
My last remaining grandparent - my mom's mom - has been slowly making that turn around the bend from healthy and independent to not-so-healthy and unable to live on her own.

Among her issues is her tendency to fall, and sometimes not remember how or why it happened. Not only is she generally unstable physically, but she has had several small strokes and a few weeks ago suffered one significant enough for her to lose function of one side of her body, as well as her ability to communicate, for a couple days.

She has since recovered and a person who meets her today might be surprised to learn it ever happened, and especially so recently. But we know. I know she is a feeble shadow of the person she used to be, one who can no longer take care of herself the way she used to, and that gives me pause. It makes me think about how our lives are but a flash in this universe. We are on this earth for such a short period of time. Sure, we can make a difference while we're here. We can do much to impact the world we live in. And we can touch the lives of others in some positive way. But it just doesn't seem long enough.

Four generations: Grandma, Rachel, me and my mom in '07.
I know we might not have much time left with Grandma, so I want to cherish the time I have with her. I will have plenty of opportunity over the coming weeks as my parents and aunt and uncle (who together generally provide granny's care) are all at their winter homes in Florida. I've been charged with visiting granny a couple times a week at the rest home to check up on her and visit with her, take her anything she needs or wants, and make sure she is receiving the kind of care we all expect for her.

My parents are thankful for the respite and have expressed as much to me, yet they are concerned that keeping track of one more thing, caring for one more person might be burdensome for me. I do not consider it a burden. I do it willingly and think of it as a privilege. At least I can do something for this woman who has loved me all these years, and for my parents, too, to give them a break. Despite being so far away, I know they are ready to return to Michigan at a moment's notice if things take a turn for the worse.

I find it highly appropriate that as we begin this new chapter in Grandma's and our lives, this week we also begin Advent. Advent is the season of preparation leading to Christmas when we celebrate the coming of Jesus Christ - His birth, and the impending second coming.

This week our pastor asked us something that really made me think. He said we frequently pray "amen, come Lord Jesus" and we truly expect that He will come again. But what if He came today? What if we said "come Lord Jesus" and He did?! Would we be ready? Could we answer for our lives, for all we've done and for all we've left undone?

My honest answer was I don't know.

Actually, my first thought was "holy crap, I never looked at it that way." I guess it's a good thing Pastor Bill didn't really want us to answer out loud. But seriously, who can say they're really ready? Grandma told me last summer on her birthday that she's ready. She said she's had 82 good years to do everything she has wanted to do, so when her time is up, it's up.

It's really caused me to think this week. Not only about whether I am ready, but if I'm not, what can I change about my life so that when the time comes, I am.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Voice of Truth.

I haven't posted in a few days because I have been either too busy, too tired, too distracted, or because I simply have so much buzzing around in my head it's been too hard to choose one thing to write about. I have a lot to accomplish today and it's one of those mornings that I feel pulled in 100 different directions, but I am forcing myself to take a few minutes for me and do something I love. So here I am.

Do you ever feel like the voices are going to make you crazy? The voices of your children, your coworkers, your extended family, your doctor, your best friend, your pets even, but sometimes worst of all your own voice inside your head? They can all be overwhelming, and they can distract us from what is really important. I am certainly guilty of allowing that to happen.

So today I just want to share this with you ...

One of the lessons we read at church this past Sunday stuck with me more than usual. It's been floating around in the back of my head since then, one of those things where you think "this is gonna' come in handy at some point in the near future so I should remember it."

From Colossians, Chapter 1:   
 May you be strong with all the strength that comes from His glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Well that about covers it, doesn't it? There have been many days recently that I have felt like a failure as a mother, but by God I have had many awesome moments with my children, too, and we have been able to eek out at least a little bit of goodness in each day. We have a long road ahead of us, but we will persevere. I am thankful for the kind of strength and patience only God can provide. 

So I've been kicking that Bible passage around for a few days, particularly this morning as I gritted my teeth trying not to yell at the kid who took a 20-minute shower and the kid who was goofing around still in pajamas while the clock tick-tocked away.

I was still running through the mental list of Things To Do when I came back from putting the kids on the school bus. The anxiety was creeping in. I walked into the front room to turn the computer on and the curtains were glowing pink. I opened them to be greeted with this:


Hear that? "Good morning, Jen. Don't worry. It's going to be a wonderful day. You are blessed."

Yeah, I didn't hear it, either.

I sat down at the computer, hit my bookmark for pandora.com and thought "I know. I can fix this. I'll play some Christmas music and I'll feel better in no time."

I had forgotten a) which of my favorite music stations I had left it on, and b) how loudly I left the speakers turned up last time.

This is the song that came blasting out at me:


I'm a little embarrassed to say how many times I've replayed this song this morning.

The voice of truth tells me a different story
The voice of truth says "Do not be afraid!"
And the voice of truth says "This is for My glory"
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth

This is what one of my friends would call God's way of bonking me on the forehead in the style of a V8 moment. And like the child that I am, I sometimes need to hear something more than once for it to sink in.

Today I choose to listen to the only voice that matters. And I choose to believe what God's voice is telling me: I am OK. It will all work out. Our kids will do just fine in this world, maybe because of us, maybe in spite of us. I am loved. I am blessed. And you know what? It's not about ME anyway. It's about Him.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Happy birthday, buddy.

Today provides all the proof I need that Steve and I are good parents: we let Sam live to see his 12th birthday.

I'm only partially kidding.

Despite Sam's tendency to push us to our limits, stretch our resources, and make us question our sanity on a regular basis, our son really is a gift. Literally, his name means "asked of God" or "heard by God." I feel so privileged to have been chosen as his mother, and I can't imagine life without him.

The day we said goodbye to our beloved Razi. 
Sam made me promise to bring her collar home.

Who else would make me laugh like Sam does? Who else would force me to be so creative? Without Sam, how on earth could I have learned how every single emotion really feels, and how it feels to experience all of them in a 24-hour period?


Sam is a young man of many talents. He is an artist - his tools a #2 pencil and a piece of paper. He is incredibly curious and will satisfy that curiosity by deconstructing and reconstructing things. I love that he has rhythm and a great singing voice, though he is usually too shy to share it.

Sam is adventurous. He's a daredevil. He is always trying new tricks on his bicycle, and if you catch him on the right day he will take at least one bite of any new food you put in front of him. He figured out he likes mushrooms and black olives on his pizza (he is my son, after all). He likes to dip broccoli in KFC gravy. He also has a wicked sweet tooth.

He adores his daddy. And like Steve, Sam plays his cards close to the vest. Perish the thought that anyone would know he is excited or eager about anything.

 
At the races.

Incidentally, I cherish the moments I see that he clearly is excited because I just want him to be happy. I want him to be a good citizen, a productive member of society, God-loving-and-fearing, but above all, happy.


Boy, don't you worry you'll find yourself
Follow your heart and nothing else
And you can do this, oh baby if you try
All that I want for you my son is to be satisfied

And be a simple kind of man
Be something you love and understand
Baby, be a simple kind of man
Oh, won't you do this for me, son, if you can?
~ Lynyrd Skynyrd
 
 
 We love ya, kiddo - unconditionally. Happy birthday.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Tough day at the office.

Some parenting days are harder than others.

Yesterday was a tough one.

Today? Marginally better, so far.

It's really kinda' sad how one kid who requires some special attention can cause chaos in the lives of multiple people, namely his family. Plans get blown out of the water. Expectations diminish. Anger and frustration ensue. But not this time. We took control this time like we never have before.

Sam was disciplined again at school yesterday, causing him to have another day of suspension at home. He's not doing anything malicious, just stupid, irresponsible stuff that adds up over time.

Sam doesn't seem to think this is a big deal. We disagree.

We disagree so much that we decided it was time to show him just how serious it is. I spent some time yesterday - a day I had planned for other things - removing all the creature comforts from his bedroom. Like ... furniture. Clothing. Books. Toys. All of it. Except his bed and a change of clothes.

Now we'll see how much he takes for granted. We'll see if he starts to appreciate just how cushy his life has been, and how not cushy it will continue to be from this point forward if he doesn't do what is expected of him. We'll see if any of his things mean enough to him that he will do what it takes to earn them back.

Cruel? Nah. The kid still gets to eat and he has clothes on his back and a warm bed to sleep in. He has two parents and an extended family who love him. He has absolutely everything he needs.

Tomorrow's his birthday and I'm going to let him have cinnamon rolls for breakfast. I might even make him a cake. (OK, yes, I will make him a cake.)

See? I'm not totally heartless. He might tell you otherwise today, but I'm really not. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Quality wins.

This post I read this morning over at Remodeling This Life was very timely for me. Emily writes about readers of her blog judging her based upon the type of cookware she has stacked on her kitchen shelves.

Forget about the judging part. We're all human and I think we all make snap judgments - however large or small or frequent or occasional - based upon the things we see people have or do. I'm not saying it's ok to judge, but that's a post for another day.

What I appreciated about that post today was affirmation of the idea that spending a little more for quality items does not make us any less aware of where our dollars are going, and certainly, simply owning items that retail for hundreds of dollars does not make us any less frugal or our lives any less simple.

We have become quite adept at finding bargains at Goodwill, garage sales, and through gifts and hand-me-downs. Yet over the past couple of weeks as the mail lady dropped off several L.L. Bean packages at our house, I couldn't help but feel that twinge of guilt, that nagging thought that maybe I should have looked harder at the thrift stores for some winter outerwear that would suit my children, and I perhaps could have saved hundreds of dollars on these items.

I spent more than I ever have on coats, snow pants and boots for the kids this year. I spent so much I'm embarrassed to even think about the total. But ya' know what? I likely won't have to do it again next year. More times than not, quality wins. And I'm fine with spending a few more dollars to purchase items that will last my children - who play HARD outdoors in the winter - for a minimum of two years (and yes, everything was purchased just a littlebit big) and they will still be nice enough when my kids outgrow them to pass along to someone else. Our experience with L.L. Bean has always been positive. Every item I have ever ordered from the company has been pure quality and worth every penny. The kids aren't always happy with this because it means they don't get a new backpack for school every year, but who cares? If the Bean backpack can take the abuse my son doles out, it deserves another year or two of service.

I also chuckled a little when I read Emily's post because just last night I posted on Facebook that I am in dire need of new pots and pans and I wondered if anyone had seen any Black Friday ads with wicked good deals on them. Our pots and pans have been in bad shape for some time, but I have put off buying new because I want to get really good ones that will last forever, or close to it. This might be the inspiration I need to start shopping!


FYI, I love L.L. Bean, but L.L. Bean has no idea who I am, aside from a happy customer with a debit card and two growing children.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Balance.

It would seem that a stay-at-home mom to two school-aged children would have plenty of down time during the day, no?

Umm, no. Not in this house, anyway.

I've been having a hard time juggling everything I feel I should be doing lately, much less finding time for me. I have struggled with the balancing act of homemaking, planning and cooking somewhat healthy meals, evening routines of homework and chores and personal hygiene (why is that so hard for some kids?!), tending to the formerly-in-rough-shape-but-now-good-as-new kitten (what's that people say about nothing "free" being free?), vehicle repairs, school functions, road trips, being wife and mom and daughter, and ... well, you get the idea.

And don't we have some holidays coming up soon? I will not freak out.

I am thankful. Grateful. I wouldn't want my life any less busy, because a busy life is a full life, at least in our case. Sure, I can't sit down to read a magazine without having thoughts of unfinished household business floating around in my head, and I don't always get those few minutes of writing I crave every day, but such is life.

I can honestly say that today I am better at finding balance than I was a year ago, and that's progress.

Admittedly, Christmas is barely on my radar. Yes, it was mere days ago that I was listening to holiday tunes while I worked on something, but that's effortless. I don't want to think about decorating and shopping just yet. I'm taking things one day at a time and there are still lots of days before December 25.

Plenty of time, right?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Feels like Saturday.

The kids are off school today and Rachel stayed the night at my parents' house last night. Sam and I slept in this morning (well, I did anyway). It was so nice to not have to wake up to the alarm clock and to have a quiet, leisurely morning.

It would have been nicer if my body wasn't programmed to wake up at 6 a.m., but I'm not complaining. On the way back from the bathroom I scooped up Patch the kitty and tried to convince him he wanted to snuggle with me in my nice, warm bed. He wasn't interested. He wanted to either eat my toes or gallop through the house chasing imaginary mice. He's becoming quite the cutie.

Eventually he wore himself out and curled up with Sam on the couch to watch some cartoons.

They look pretty comfy, eh?

We have a long weekend ahead. Today, whenever we get around to it, we have our usual Friday banking and errands, tomorrow Sam has confirmation class at church, and right after that we're heading out to spend the rest of the weekend with daddy (the kids are also off school on Monday). Steve is staying in a hotel with a pool and the kids are excited about that. He has Sunday off work so it will be nice to spend a full day just focused on the four of us. We'll probably do a little shopping, too, since Sam's birthday is right around the corner. I'm excited about having some family time, even if it's brief.

Enjoy your weekend.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Hey, what just happened?

This morning I woke the kids like I do every morning for school, but they did not respond the way they always do.

Oh, Rachel got up right away like she usually does. But Sam typically waits until the last possible second and springs out of bed, hustles to get dressed, and grabs something to eat on the way out the door.

Not this morning. By the time I had walked to the other end of the house and back after waking them up, Sam was out of bed and dressed.

I was speechless.

Then he came out to the kitchen and had a few pleasant exchanges with me and Rachel, fed the kitten, and asked if he could take the dog out.

I'm not kidding. He actually said, "Mom, can I take Ladybug out?"

Someone get me the smelling salts.

OK, he asked about the dog because she was still in her crate. She usually doesn't wake up and stretch until after I take the kids to the bus, but this morning she must've had to go potty earlier than usual so when Sam passed by her crate she sat up and looked at him with those sad eyes.


But I still can't believe he offered to take her out.

There was no fighting, no yelling, no ugliness in the house this morning.

I don't know where the aliens took my son, but they can keep him. I like the one they left behind. So far, anyway.

~ ~ ~

In other news, it was NOT my husband who bought the winning Power Ball ticket at an adult book store here in Michigan. As of this posting, the purchaser of the ticket has not yet come forward and the media are having a field day with the whole thing. 

Personally I don't give a hoot where the person bought the ticket - they're going to be a 100+millionaire!! I suppose there might be some uncomfortableness related to where he or she got the ticket, but really, can't we be adults about this?

Just in case, I sent Steve a text this morning to let him know if he is the winning ticket holder he should go ahead and claim the prize. $100 million could help me get over the adult book store thing really quickly.

Alas, he is not holding any Power Ball tickets, much less a winning one. The whole idea of it was worth a good laugh, though.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Technical difficulties.

My picture art project was done Thursday evening.

Stress the word was.

But because I used inadequate hanging materials to stick those buggers to the wall, I woke up Friday morning to two frames on the floor - one of them with the glass broken - and another fell off during the day, and another frame was on the floor Saturday morning.

So my apologies for not providing an update as promised on Friday.

I had a feeling this might happen. I sometimes get a little impatient and find ways to cut corners. Most of the time it works out good enough. This time? Not so much.

Don't use massive amounts of poster putty to stick picture frames to the wall. Just don't.


Talk about a lesson in haste. FAIL.

But now it's done! Properly! And I love it.


It was hard to find a good angle to show this off, but I can tell you this picture doesn't really do it justice. These are some of my favorite family photos and now I smile every time I walk through this end of the house and see them hanging there.

Happy Monday.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Empty.


I have emptied an entire can of black spray paint on eight picture frames today.

Indoors.

With Christmas music playing while I work.

I feel good.

I mean I feel good about how the frames look, silly. Of course I have windows and doors open and a fan blowing to vent the paint fumes.

Remember this post? No better time to get started on the next phase of the project than a day like today - rainy and dreary outside and not a thing on my calendar to get done. The Christmas tunes ... well, they have a way of keeping me motivated.

Update tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

10 things.

1. My son said some very hurtful things to me last night. I still love him. I might not like him very much at the moment, but I do love him.

2. My daughter continues to scream bloody murder at the slightest offense. I still love her.

3. There is potential for snow in the forecast this week. I'm OK with that.

4. When I got back from dropping the kids off at the bus stop this morning I saw some object hanging from the gutters near the front door. It was Rachel's coat. I got nothin'.

5. Patch the kitty has recovered from his head cold quite nicely. He has now begun to torment the other cat. Whiskers does not appear to be amused.

6. I'm not really feeling it at the moment, but I will force myself to have a good day today. My strategy includes playing good music, burning yummy candles, and wearing fluffy socks.

7. Lately we sound like a family of frogs in the mornings. It's time to get the humidifier going.

8. I paid to have some modifications done and new tires installed on Steve's truck yesterday. It felt good to have the cash for all of it.

9. I now have to stretch a little to get up into the truck. It makes me feel like I'm back in high school.

10. I miss my husband. I just saw him on Sunday and it's only Wednesday, but I miss him like crazy. Some weeks are harder than others.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Nice view.

We had visitors this morning.
This was the view from our back slider, taken with my cell phone through the glass door.

These deer (no bucks - sorry guys) have been visiting us every day for the last few days.

Now, seeing deer in our back yard is not a big deal, but these deer have been coming closer and closer every day. This morning when I looked out the kitchen window they startled me a bit; they were maybe five yards from the back of the house. Of course as soon as they saw movement they backed off a little but they were curious enough to stick around.

Our older cat Whiskers has been very interested in them. Today I was able to slowly slide the door open enough to let her outside while the deer pranced around, twitching their ears at us. Whiskers sat on the back steps just mesmerized. The deer came a few steps closer to check her out, but they bolted as soon as she jumped down onto the ground. It was pretty fun to watch.