Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Monsters in the Night

As a child, I stayed awake many nights wondering what kind of monsters lurked in my bedroom. Were they mean ones or nice ones, the furry kind or slimy kind? Did they want to eat me up? Surely they weren't there to make friends. I was convinced that if I put my shoes on the floor with the toes facing the bed, the monsters would think I was still up, just standing there by my bed, not actually in my bed, and wouldn't mess with me. If I had to turn off the light myself before getting into bed, this posed a tricky situation that could result in a monster grabbing my ankle on my way to the pillow. So, I would literally leap from my doorway into my bed in hopes of tricking the monster and avoiding him having me for a midnight snack. Don't laugh, but I remember doing this well into my teenage years.

These days, or nights rather, I rarely consider the monsters I imagined as a kid. But I have encountered a new set of monsters that are comparably scary. The difference is, I'm not afraid to talk back to them now. I even know some of their names . . . Worry, Anxiety, Frustration. Anxiety visited me last night and he brought his friend who always mean to me. I don't know the friend's name, but he relentlessly kicks me while I'm down and tells me how I have failed once again.

It was 4:00 am and I shot up in my bed, suddenly realizing we are this close to running out of toilet paper. Big deal, except it's supposed to snow half a foot today. And I just braved the store yesterday afternoon with both kids in tow, fighting and carrying on as we whizzed past the toy section. And the craft section. And the dresses. And the cookies. And then Miriam slammed the cart so that poor Charlie ran into a display, which commenced the crying, and the scolding, and the hissing and the embarrassment. I am vaguely certain I saw the kids AWANA director stroll by at this point. I was sure that he was calling social servies or texting God, but either way the kids shaped up right away after that.

So, you can imagine how the monsters started berating me in the middle of the night. "You're kind of a dummy. Why don't you make a list." "Better not tell Glenn. He will tell you he told-you-so, that you've got to make a list." "How are you going to drive in the snow? What if you get stuck at the end of your driveway, or at Walmart, or worse?" "Maybe you can use Kleenex if you run out of toilet paper. Hahahahahaha!" "Did I mention what a dummy you are?"

This badgering went on for quite a while while I tossed and turned, unable to sleep. Finally, at ten to six, I got up. I checked the toilet paper. We have at least nine rolls.

(To make matters better, everything is cancelled today. Homeschool moms hope for snow days too, you know.)

Here's a set of verses that I have hidden in my heart but need to pull up to the surface more often so I have something to chuck at my monsters when they come to call.

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." Philippians 4: 6-8

Had I remembered this passage, I would have asked God for His peace and gone back to sleep. I thought that memorizing scripture was enough, but for certain things, at certain times, I guess I need a more in-your-face approach. I will write this verse on a card and tape it somewhere in the bathroom . . . above the toilet paper holder, perhaps?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Story Dice!

Have you ever heard of story dice? They're just about the most fun thing ever for a cold or rainy day. It's good fun for ages 3 to 103, once you let loose and let your imagination go.

Making your own set of story dice is simple.

1. Buy some blank wooden cubes. You can find them at Michael's or Hobby Lobby. Or, if you want to buy them in bulk, here is one example of a website that sells them:

2. Sew or buy a cute little pouch to store the dice.

3. Decorate your cubes. It doesn't matter how many you want in your set, but six is a nice number to start. The older the kids, the more dice they can handle. You can use crayola fine tip markers, sharpie fine tips, paint if you are really adventurous, or do what I did. Find tiny stickers to stick on each side and (voila!) you have a great set of story dice, done the lazy way. I found packs of 1000 tiny stickers at Dollar Tree a while back and they were perfect for this project.

4. Give the pouch to your kids and let them go crazy. Reroll to make the story go on and on and on and on and on.

The best part of the game is that any kid can participate, regardless of reading level. Bonus!

Here's where I got my orignial inspiration:

Oh, and please don't give these to your baby. Age 3 and up, people!

Here is our set:

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Better To Burst Into Tears, Than Into Flames

Bedtime. Kids stayed up too late. They're stalling, ignoring my repeated requests to get in bed and settle down. I didn't get enough accomplished today to feel good about myself (another neurosis for another day). Dog won't stop barking at the door all day even though there is no one there. And my clothes are all too tight-fitting. Again.

So my solution to this frustration is to snap at the little children and make one of them cry, big gushing puddles of tears. No happy tickets for me today . . .

My boy is one of those head-hits-the-pillow-and-he's-asleep types, but when bedtime is rushed and the kids are overtired, my daughter always needs one more hug, one more question, one more kiss, one more observation. Lately she has been asking about what will happen when she dies. What will happen when all the people on the earth die? Will new people be born? Will she "go to the devil?" I don't know where she got that one (I've never used those terms before). These questions, as I am sure she is aware, make me linger in her room with her for a long time while I attempt to give her meaningful answers that she can comprehend. I treasure these moments and feel completely ill-equipped to guide her at the same time.

Our Sunday school class is gearing up to start a study of Heaven by Randy Alcorn in the next couple of weeks, and I am especially looking forward to it. I read some reviews and although most people love the book, several complain that it is heavy on speculation. But, wouldn't any book about heaven be speculative? I mean, have you been there before? . . . me neither.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

I Don't Know Art, But I Know What I Like

My new question of the day is where do I draw the line with keeping the kids' artwork? (Pardon the pun very much!) Do I keep every scrap of every tiny piece of paper they touch? No, this will surely send me to the funny farm in short order. Even without all of the paper that goes flying around the house, between and dog and the kids (er...and the husband), we have plenty piles of "stuff" to drive me crazy all day. Do I only save the really good ones? No, how can I judge which ones fit the bill anyway? What about the art that shows a kid has mastered a new skill or has made his very best letter "P" or bunny or flower or whatever ever? No, how do I know that's their best? Tomorrow they might come up with something that amazes me even more.

I try to keep it all around as long as I can, but as normally happens, I couldn't take it anymore so just a bit ago I chucked a big pile in the trash while the kids were distracted with Spongebobby. And I always look through the pile and pick out or two of the best work for each kid. We have a special place to stash those so that one day, a long, long time from now, when I decide to take up scrapbooking, I will have some material. Ok, that made me laugh. Allow me to be candid for a moment. I will never scrapbook. I am just too lazy and disorganized. (And it doesn't interest me. Does that make me a bad mom? No. Does that make me feel a tinge guilty? Yes. ) The children will be sent to college or married off with a large plastic bin containing all of their treasures that they can sift through and laugh and remember the good ole days of being a kid, scribble-scrabbling all the time. If they want to make volumes of books from these papers, so be it. I'm not doing it.

One thing I love to do, however, is frame the kids art and put it in the house. It makes me smile when I look at it and also makes me feel less bad that I don't catalog my kids' every move. Here is one of my favorites by Charlie. It's a guy, standing next to another guy, and I think one of them might also be a monster.

"Charlie's Guys" 2010

Friends for Life (I hope)

Originally posted on my old wordpress blog Jan. 21, 2011.

My daughter issued a strict no-boys policy for her room this week. I absolutely can empathize with her on this one, but even so, I wondered if I should remind her that it is actually my room that I am allowing her to occupy free of charge.

Besides, her little brother secretly adores her and although neither one will admit it publicly, they are each other’s best friend. He will play Barbie and babies with her; she will play trains and dinosaurs with him. They wrestle and giggle and tickle and fight. If one is coloring a picture, the other has to grab a page and do one too. If one jumps on the dog for a snuggle, before I know it, there is a literal dog pile in the living room. They are inseparable and I love it.

All the same, I told her she doesn’t have to let Charlie in, but she simply may not sit on him in the hallway until he squeaks to prevent him from coming in. I have a feeling he is going to be her friend whether she likes it or not.

Happy Tickets, Happy Momma

Originally posted on my old wordpress blog Jan. 20, 2011.

I’m not one to bribe my children. Ok, that’s not true. I find myself bribing them all the time and they love doing things for treats. (Puppies exhibit a similar trait ;o) But if I’m not careful or consistent, the kids tend to morph into greedy little monsters who refuse to act until they are promised some special treasure. And I don’t like having to threaten them to get their work done, obey or get along . . . something I find myself doing all too often as well.

So today, we have started the happy ticket program. Do something good and get a happy ticket. Do something bad and get nothing. Turn in 3 tickets for such things as 1) a chocolate, 2) TV time, 3) a shiny quarter or 4) any kind of small little prize that I think might suit their little fancies.

As of lunchtime, the program is working. My dishwasher is unloaded, everyone is dressed, the dog is watered, no one is fighting or whining and Miriam is sitting down long enough to complete a drawing before running off to do something else. In other words, everyone is HAPPY.

Here is where I got the idea and the pdf for some cute little tickets to print:

Bleached Memories and Fabric Softened Thoughts

Originally posted on my old wordpress blog Jan. 13, 2011.

It’s well past 11 pm and I am still doing laundry. Kids are sleeping. Dog is sleeping. Husband is working. All’s quiet and I can see my laundry room floor. This is a good thing.

The kids’ dresser drawers have been nagging at me for some time, to the point that I don’t even want to put laundry away anymore. Each drawer is filled to the brim with little pants and shirts, socks and underpants, pajamas and hoodies. But none of them fit. Or, in my daughter’s case, many of them just don’t feeeeeeeel right. So the clean laundry sits on the guest room bed until my in-laws call to say they are coming in two days and then I dump it all in a basket and tuck it away someplace safe from peering eyeballs. This state of disarray has been a reality for so long that it feels normal to me to never have my laundry finished.

But tonight, perhaps while too deeply inhaling overly-Snuggled shirts from the dryer, I think I realized the problem. I don’t want my kids to grow up. Their little clothes that don’t fit anymore but still sit, stuffed in their dresser drawers, are the symptom of my denial that they are indeed growing up. And very fast! But here’s the thing. I think I really do want them to grow up . . . I think I should want them to grow up . . . I know that they will, eventually, grow up. I mean, that’s the goal, right? Maybe I’m afraid they will do what I did and move away from home when they are old enough. Maybe I’m afraid that the older they get, the older I get too. Maybe I’m afraid that tossing their things somehow fades memories. Or maybe I regret that time passes so quickly and I just want them to linger a bit longer in this stage when they want me in every moment of their world.

Whatever the case, I think I can finally start emptying drawers now. Does anybody need some clothes?

A Touch of Lazy

Originally posted on my old wordpress blog Jan. 12, 2011.

Some days I wonder if I have ADD. Or maybe I’m just a touch lazy and wildly disorganized? Either way, I can find creative ways to procrastinate each and every day. In fact, I am procrastinating right now. As I sit and type. As I live and breathe.

Well, no more. Finally at age thirty-mffpfhmh, I’ve declared (silently, to myself, until now) that 2011 is the year I am going to “get it together.” The van will not look like a war zone. The dishes will be done. The laundry room will be a place of refreshment. There will be a hot, fresh meal on the table every night, whether the picky eaters like it or not. The closets will be organized and only hold the things we actually use. The children will learn how to read.

This all sounds like a pile of resolutions, but it’s not. Much like a crash diet is destined to fail, resolutions are usually sincere, but fleeting, thoughts on how I wish I somehow could be better at everything; they generally end up as big ole flops. This time though . . . this time, it’s different. It’s not a resolution. It’s a new way of living. (Yeah, that’s the ticket. That sounded believable.)

So, here we go. Let’s see how I do. First, the laund ooooooooo, shiny . . .

Confessions of a Former Aspiring Super Mom

Originally posted on my old wordpress blog Feb. 2, 2010.

Have you ever had one of those days when you absolutely blew it with your kids? Lost it on your husband? Threatened to send the dog back to obedience school – or the SPCA? If you said “no” then you can stop reading…and you are probably lying. If you said “yes,” then read on, Friend. We might have a lot in common.

Yesterday was one of those days for me. It didn’t begin that way and most assuredly it didn’t end that way. But the middle…the middle was a certifiable wreck. The morning began quietly enough. The children were happy; the husband slept late. Bacon for breakfast was on the horizon. When Glenn woke up with a sore back from lugging 500 pound radiators and shoveling snow over the past couple of days, he kindly asked for a back rub. Of course I obliged, even though I had been up with the children for three hours by then and was very interested in closing the kitchen for breakfast before I was on the hook again for the noon meal. After I rubbed his back for a solid 30 minutes, Glenn asked, “Do you not like giving massages anymore?” Defensive, because I knew I hadn’t done my best, I replied with a short ”What?” and a snippy “Why?” He said, “Well, it’s just that you don’t seem to enjoy it.” My reply? A very loud ”Maybe I would enjoy it more if you weren’t so ungrateful!!” What ensued was a lot of stomping out the door, flying down the stairs and banging things around while I started frying the bacon. And you better believe I was slamming drawers and flinging cabinets the entire time. And you know what? That bacon that we anxiously awaited wasn’t good at all today. It was tasteless and bland. The toast was dry and the eggs were cold. I had forgotten the essential ingredient - I forgot that I have GOT to sprinkle the food with love . ( And a little no-cal – am I right, ladies?) So, Glenn left for work annoyed. I was still a little mad, not because of the massage incident, but because of a bunch of bottled up emotions that I have trained myself to choke down like you would a McDonald’s sausage biscuit when you’re running late for school.

And then Miriam started up.

“That’s not the book I wanted to read.” “Why does Charlie get to sit closer to you?” “This blanket I am sitting on is not right.” “I want to go out.” “I want to go in.” “This isn’t fun.” All day long.

We were outside shoveling snow with a good-for-little crappy plastic shovel for a couple of hours and I thought I would take a little break to call my mom. As soon as I dialed the number, guess who started jumping and whining and begging for my attention?

“Miriam! I am talking on the phone. Be quiet. Five minutes!” But I was bombarded with more “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! I want to go in! I want to stay out! Wahhhhhhhhhh!” I told my mom I would call her back. Scolded my child. Called my mom back. Miriam started in again. “Mom, I am going to have to call you back.” And then…then is when I lost it. I launched into Super Nasty Mom mode, yelled at that poor little girl and scolded a quite unsuspecting Charlie for putting stickers on the furniture. Because we wouldn’t want to damage the FURNITURE, now would we? Nevermind breaking their spirits – It’s the furniture that is important! After sufficiently scaring the children with a memory I hope they don’t carry through to adulthood and then sitting them in front of the television for a round of Horton Hears a Who, I went back outside to pace in the freezing cold snow and called my mom back to gripe about how annoyed I was with “the children.” Then I wondered how annoyed they were with me…? I came back inside the house after awhile and approached the kids cautiously. I apologized. “I am so sorry that I yelled at you. I am sorry that I was so mean. Do you forgive me?” The most amazing thing was that Miriam looked up at me and very casually said, “Oh, sure. You’re fine.” Wow. The innocence and unconditional love of a child can really teach lessons to us adults. Me? I can hold a grudge until the end of tomorrow, but a child can show you the love of God. She knew I was temporarily having a bad day. She knew it had nothing to do with her. And she still offered love, unconditional. Oh my, how I adore being a mom. Not a super mom. Just a regular, old ordinary mom. I can’t tell you how much more I have learned in the last four and a half years than I have learned in my entire life altogether. It is absolutely amazing to ponder.

Fast forward to the rest of the night. The kids were thrilled that I let them eat Cheerios for dinner. (I was thrilled to serve Cheerios for dinner.) Glenn came home in time to help get the kids in bed. We had time to have pleasant, quality conversation as adults. Glenn got another back rub, properly this time, and we all went to bed feeling well loved. It turned out to be good day after all.

R.I.P. Wooly Bear

Originally posted on my old wordpress blog Jan. 31, 2010.

Today marks the loss of our beloved wooly bear caterpillar, Squirmy. It started when Miriam thought her tiny pet might be suffering from a fit of boredom. She looked up from her favorite lunch of PB&Js and smoothies and asked, ”Do you think he would like to slide?” Before I knew what was happening, she had jumped from the table and came back down stairs with arms full of Polly Pocket paraphernalia: a bathtub, a bathroom sink, a chair, two convertibles, a pink table complete with umbrella, some sort of merry-go-round and, as you may have guessed, a slide. She filled his trifle dish with her treasures. Squirmy sat in the chair. His hairs blew in the breeze while he rode in the back of the convertible. He may have taken a bath. He relaxed with a snack of grass underneath the umbrella. He sped down that slide. And then somewhere in Miriam’s room, Squirmy went MIA. He may be free or hiding under the bed or the dog may have eaten him; the world may never know. But wherever he is, whatever he is doing, two things are for certain. He had an amazing day and he will be dearly missed.

The Bright Side of Winter

Originally posted on my old wordpress blog Feb. 2, 2010.

This winter I am more ready for spring than any time in recent memory. Could it be that I am looking forward to the impromptu picnics at the park with my favorite littles, the warm sunshine waking up the flowers and everything seeming alive again? Or is it simply that I am turning into an old crotchety lady who is weary of the day after day “partly cloudy” or worse forcasts? How can I possibly want spring more than I did the winter I lived in Chicago?

And although I crave the warmth, renewal, hope and FUN that spring brings, it did help my outlook that today’s snow was utterly picture perfect. No driving wind, no blowing snow this time – just lots of generous fluffy flakes floating down to gently fill the dog’s paw tracks and lovingly dust the evergreens out back. It’s a masterpiece and I wish you had been here with me to share a hot cup of coffee and watch the display.

“Be joyful always; pray continuously; give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Here is a very amateurish picture of the view from my kitchen window at dusk, but you get the idea.