Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Gray Matter

When our kids were younger parenting seemed so black and white. And in my naivete, I was confident and consistence in my expectations for my children. Of course I projected that confidence well into the future proclaiming how I would and wouldn't react when my children became teenagers.

But something happened during the last nineteen years. What once was distinctly black and white has blended into varying shades of gray. Some of the grays are beautiful like the shimmer of platinum. We've found that only by allowing some of these gray areas in to our black and white world of parenting can the strength of character in our teens shine through...despite our differences of opinion on non-essentials such as haircuts, clothing, and appropriate language. (Is "crap" a bad word? Leave me comments and let me know your thoughts).

The other spectrum of the gray scale takes on the onimous darkness of an incoming storm. These are the grays where the stakes are higher and the consequences critical. The ones that deal with their futures, their spiritual health, and their preparedness to thrive independently out in the world. How important are A's on the report card? What is the acceptable alternatives? How long do I continue to do all of their cooking and cleaning and laundry? (a letter of apology to my future daughters-in-law will be forthcoming)

My method of parenting teens, whether right or wrong, seems to be to err on the side of grace. Gone are the easy days of absolutes, replaced by a priority on relationship rather than rules. I'm sure someday I'll be sitting with my children and they'll tell me where I went wrong and hopefully a little of what I did right. Hopefully the hard and fast discipline of the earlier days has taken root deep in their being and will be their compass in the storms. I pray they also know that we are always here for them and nothing can ever take away the love that we have for each of our children. In the meanwhile I'll continue to try and blend grace and boundaries into the perfect shade of gray.

Simply stated: Too bad I just can "ask Sherwin Williams!"

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Somebody stop me!

I've vacuumed a lot of things in my day including using one vacuum cleaner to vacuum another. Today, however, I reached an extreme in my vacuuming career. Let me back up for a second and explain that spring in Arkansas brings pollen and more pollen. It coats everything. When I get in the car after having left it to sit in the driveway for more than a few hours, I have to use the windshield wipers to swoosh away the dusting of pollen. There's no measurable snow in Little Rock but accumulations of pollen we've got. Oh, and if I don't sweep the front steps there will be actual footprints in the pollen (this is not an exaggeration). This in turn gets tracked into the house and then I have to vacuum.

Earlier today I was vacuuming in the kitchen using the dusting attachment. You know doing the blinds and air vents and baseboards and such. Good times...good times. This makes me sound like a good housekeeper which I'm really not. I just really enjoy vacuuming and will choose it over any other household chore.

In the midst of my vacuuming induced trance, I hear Shorty barking at the door to come in. I let him in without incident only to realize that he has been outside for more than 5 minutes and is absolutely covered with pollen. So I vacuumed him. At least I tried. It was more like a dance whereby I have his collar in one hand and the vacuum hose in the other and Shorty spins us both in circles trying to avoid the crazy women with the super sucker. I only got one good swipe at him which left him looking more like a deranged skunk than our beloved family pet. I hope he doesn't have a seizure today. I'll just have to revert back to wiping him down with a damp paper towel every time he comes in the house.

Maria is outside playing now. I've put the vacuum away...just in case.

Simply stated: It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Sing...Sing a Song...Make it simple to last your whole life long...

I have this little game that I like to play with the kids. Ok, Alex and Zack don't play anymore and find my inclination to break into song just plain annoying. Maria doesn't understand the game just yet but she's in training. So it's really just Caroline now and bless her little soul, she'll indulge all of my quirks. Anyways, I'll ask her to give me a word and see if I can come up with a song that includes that word. Usually I can and if not, well, I just make something up. Sing anything loud enough and with enough enthusiasm and it will sound like a real song. Today's word was "sandwich". Although I couldn't think of a song including the word sandwich I did think of a song about a sandwich...the Big Mac jingle (You know...two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun). Caroline didn't believe it was a real song.

This led me to think about all of the junk that occupies my valuable brain space. Why is it that I can't remember a Bible verse for more than 30 seconds but I can remember TV commercials from 30 years ago? If only I could take out the junk and fill it up with really valuble stuff like scripture or history. Things that would make me seem smart and educated and less like "Rainman."

Here are just a few of the things I would get rid of in my brain dump.

1. The lyrics to Hotel California.
2. The Brady Bunch theme song and all Brady-related trivia. Go ahead. Ask me a question because more than likely I WILL know the answer.
3. Cuss words.
4. Pig Latin.
5. Anything from the Sesame Street Live record. Do you remember that one? It had a picture of Bert on the front doing his John Travolta "Staying Alive" pose.

What would I put in it's place?

1. Things that are lovely and pure.
2. The books of the Bible (I admit it. Sometimes I use the table of contents).
3. All of the states and their capitals. Smart people just seem to know that.
4. Spanish.
5. My 9's times table. I always have to stop and think about those. Or I ask Alex.

I know there's a lot more for both lists but it's 2:24 a.m. and I'm starting to come down off of the sugar buzz from the bowl of chocolate ice cream I ate at 10:00. I need to go to bed. I'll add more to my lists as the thoughts come to me.

Simply stated: A mind is a terrible thing to waste. (See there's another one. It was a slogan for the United Negro College Fund from like 1970...ugh!)

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Guinea Pig Theology

This is Caroline's guinea pig, Pumpkin. She's a sweet and loveable creature. She's also a bit stupid and quite stubborn. As I helped Caroline clean Pumpkin's cage today, it made me think of the similarities between the relationship that Caroline has with Pumpkin and my relationship with my Caretaker. I know it may sound like a stretch, but these are the ways that God reveals Himself to me. So, if you're going to let me ramble on about the humiliating aspects of my life, you should at least allow me to elaborate on the more profound thoughts as well.

I'll start with my revelation about cleaning Pumpkin's cage. We usually try and clean her cage once a week. But it's been crazy busy around here and we went 9 days. The stench coming from the girls' bedroom was quite noxious. Maria actually stumbled backwards, recoiling in disgust as I opened the door to put her in bed last night. What did people do before the invention of Febreeze? The girls slept with the bedroom door wide open to ensure that no one would succumb to the fumes during the night. Obviously we cleaned her cage today.

It's quite an ordeal for Caroline to get Pumpkin out of her cage. As Caroline reaches in, Pumpkin will run around the perimiter of the cage avoiding the very hands that are going to bring relief to the filth that she's been living in. Frustrated, Caroline then has to remove all of the obstacles that allow Pumpkin places to hide leaving Pumpkin feeling exposed and vulnerable. I'm guessing here, Pumpkin hasn't actually given voice to these emotions. Once Caroline has caught Pumpkin she'll calm down and settle in quite well, allowing Caroline to lavish love and affection on her. Do you see where I'm going with this?

How many of us have made such a mess out of our lives, hiding from the very One who can rescue us from the muck and mire? Sometimes He has to remove our hiding places and comfort zones to bring us to a place where we will surrender to His loving care.

I feel the urge to stop and interject some comic relief. My job in the whole cage cleaning process is to actually dump the soiled litter into a trash bag because it is too big of a job for Caroline to do alone. Today's dump definitely involved gagging.

While Caroline has Pumpkin out of the cage (usually with the scratches from the battle) she likes to take the opportunity to hand-feed Pumpkin and just love on her. Recently Caroline had the idea to put her on a leash so that Pumpkin could safely get some exercise and expand her horizons beyond the four walls of her cage. We went to the store and Caroline bought, with her own hard-earned money, a Guinea Pig harness. I know...what will they think of next? Each week Caroline will patiently try and coax Pumpkin into her harness knowing that what feels to Pumpkin like an unwanted restriction will actually result in greater freedom than she's ever know before. Pumpkin, not understanding the better plan, just squeals and carrys on like someone is trying to kill her. Again, do you see where I'm going here?

God has given us His Word and boundaries not to restrict us but because He loves us and wants what's best for us. Sure, Caroline could turn Pumpkin loose to run free in the house and I'm sure Shorty (our dog) would welcome a new "playmate". Caroline, however, loves and cares for Pumpkin way too much to take even the slightest chance that an encounter with Shorty or other death trap might occur. I know, just like Pumpkin, that I can be so stubborn and stupid. (Yes, Maria, I know that stupid is a mean word.) How many times have I left the safety of God's harness to venture out on my own with devastating results? God gives us a free will to accept or decline His offer for safety and security. Safety and security that cost God a huge price. Will I ever quit squealing about it?

I don't know if this makes sense and I certainly don't know whether or not it's sound theology. I think it's safe to say that these thoughts won't make their way into any commentary or volume of Biblical insights. What I do know is that Caroline and I both paused for a moment today to think about God's love and care for us in His instructions for godly living. Thanks, God, for allowing even the mundane tasks in life to speak to us.

Simply stated: There is freedom at the Cross!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

What would you have done?

I think aerobics class is going to be a great source for blogging entries. Class number 2 went fine on Friday although once again I did get pulled aside by the instructor. Apparently I'm not doing my lunges correctly and she's afraid I'll hurt myself. So on Tuesday I'll be doing my leg exercises sitting in a chair. I can hear you laughing!

But that's not the most bizarre thing that happened on Friday. As is my way, I found someone to chat with after class while Maria ran around the multi-purpose room with her "new friends." I was wrapping up my conversation when I fortunately looked up just in time to see Maria sitting on the stage as a little boy threw her back on the floor and proceeded to choke her. I'm talking two hands wrapped around her precious little neck! I think I might have had a bit of an out of body experience because I remember thinking to myself before moving to intercede, "surely that boy is not strangling my child." I quickly made my way to the front and asked what was going on. Maria confirmed that yes indeedy, he was choking her. The boy had no defense. It gets even more bizarre...since I thought I knew who his mom is and I didn't want to cause a scene, I demurely told him that wasn't very nice.

What is the matter with me? I mean my daughter is being choked by some psycho bully and I tell him "that's not very nice." Do I really think he cares? What I should have said was "where is your mother?" and dragged him over to her by his shirt collar. I'm so slow to act in these kinds of confrontational situations. And then I get so mad at myself afterward for not standing up for myself or in this case my child.

The incident did lead to a conversation with Maria about inappropriate ways that people might touch her. We gave her permission and even had her practice yelling as loud as she could "Get off of me!" I only hope that one doesn't come back to bite me in the butt next time I have to grab ahold of her in a store. Seriously though, I think a good lesson came out of it and she knows that no one is allowed to hurt her. She's afraid that he won't be her friend. I explained that real friends don't hurt you and that she needs to stay as far away from him as possible.

Simply stated: What would you have done?

Explaining the rubber tire comment

I realized after I made that post that not everyone (all 3 of you) who reads my blog may understand the whole rubber tire thing. Allow me to explain.

To put it mildy, I have a very keen sense of smell. This can be good and it can be bad.

It's good since I can diagnose a problem with my car long before it breaks down just because it smells different. Oh, and there was the time the freezer in the garage died with a turkey carcass in it. I could smell something was a bit off in the aromatic balance of my house for days until Don finally went in search of the offending odor just to shut me up. I won't go into the details of what he found but I will tell you that the freezer quickly made its way to the top of the driveway for trash pick up.

My over-sensitive nose can also be a curse because, well, let's face stinks...and then I gag. For instance, when Maria first came home from Guatemala I had to collect a stool sample. It was quite an involved process which I had to explain to Spanish. She was much more excited about the plan than I was. First I put plastic wrap on the toilet. (There are so many things wrong with that sentence.) Then Maria proceeded to make her, hmmm, let's call it a deposit. I then had to scoop it with a small plastic spatula into even smaller test tubes. This is when the gagging began quickly followed by vomiting (mine, not Maria's). This traumatized poor Maria so badly that for the next couple of weeks she would ask me not to throw up each time she had to poop. It really is a wonder she's adjusted so well.

Back to the rubber theme. For some reason pregnancy only heightened my already freakish sensitivity to smell. Some women have food cravings when they're pregnant but not me. I had smell cravings and I couldn't get enough of the smell of rubber. Like most obessesions it started out harmless enough. A quick sniff of a rubber ball or back of a mouse pad soon progressed into lingering strolls down the sneaker aisle at the local Payless and clandestine detours through the tire departments at Walmart or Sam's Club. I asked my OB what he thought. He was clueless and retired shortly thereafter. Maybe he'd finally heard it all. I thought labor and delivery would cure my rubber cravings. Not so much. Here I am 12 years post-partum and the obsession as well as the stretch marks remain.

Some of my family just roll their eyes at my quirkiness while others are my enablers allowing me a quick sniff of their tennis shoes before they wear them for the first time. Last year for Mother's Day, Zack bought me a little rubber tricycle tire! So imagine my glee when the dealership put 4 new tires on my car. It's like having the Sam's tire center right in my own driveway!

I could go on about my fedish but I think I've embarrassed myself enough for one post. And don't look at me like that. I know y'all have your own issues and idiosyncrasies. I'm just woman enough to share mine!

Simply stated: I think I've said too much already.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Simple Pleasures

My new car smells like rubber tires!!!!!!

Simply stated: I may need therapy.

You know you're out of shape when...

Yesterday Caroline and I started our first Body and Soul Aerobics class. It was a lot of fun and we did get a good workout. It was also a bit humbling and revealing about my personal fitness level and coordination (or lack there of).

For any of you who have participated in aerobics, you know the scenario. The instructor calls out moves and demonstrates up front while you follow along. Sounds easy enough. Now add some music, pick up the pace, hold in your stomach, try not to trip or pass gas and you've got yourself a workout. While I did manage all of that I couldn't seem to master my left from my right or my forward from backward. Instead I developed my own personal routine of ambiguous moves and kicks. At least I was moving and somehow managed not to trample anyone. I thought I did a pretty good job of being inconspicous. Apparently I was wrong.

When it was time to slow it down a bit and work with the elastic bands I started to feel a little more confident. How hard can it be, right? Let's just say at one point the instructor came off the stage to show me how to hold the bands correctly. It was o.k. though because the PREGNANT instructor was keeping everyone else on track! AGGGH!

The floor exercises were fun. We did squats and the instructor related the stance to the one you take when positioning yourself over a public toilet. Now this I could do! I knew those bathroom phobias would come in handy at some point.

After class the instructor mentioned that next time I might want to move to her side of the room so I would have a better vantage point. Apparently looking diagonally across a room can really wreak havoc on your coordination. Who knew? "Now remember" she says "when we move right, you move left." Then she glanced down at my shoes and gently mentioned that I should get a sneaker with better support. I thought the cute Payless slip-ons were rather stylish but when one fell off during the class I quickly discovered for myself my erroneous thinking. I guess she saw that too.

Now to add insult to injury (or at least strained stomach muscles) when we first arrived, as is my way, we were some of the first people there. Someday I will learn that early isn't always better. We took a spot somewhere in the middle of the auditorium. What I didn't realize until we were well into second song is that middle somehow became the front row! This is disturbing on so many levels...for me as well as the unfortunate women behind me! Caroline later informed me that she thought we were a little close to the front. Someone ought to teach that child to SPEAK UP!

Friday is our next class. Hopefully by then I'll be able to take a deep breath without it feeling like someone has hit me in the ribs with a baseball bat. Then, once I've gathered the remains of my dignity and shopped for a new pair of sneakers, I'll hold my head high, arrive 5 minutes late, and take my place at the very back of the class!

Simply stated: What doesn't kill us only makes us stronger. Right?!