Thursday, October 27, 2011

Inspired to LOVE

This morning, as my alarm broke the silence of my peaceful--albeit short--night of recuperating sleep, I said a quiet and short little prayer that when I peered through the blinds, I'd see that our trusty weather people had accurately predicted the forecast.  I knew it was a long-shot, and that the next sound I'd hear from my phone wouldn't be one of my colleagues calling with good news, but rather from the second alarm I set on my phone as a 'just in case'. 

As much as I didn't want to, I exited the warm cocoon of my bed to peek through the blinds.  As predicted, the snow dance I assigned for *extra* homework didn't work, and I crawled back in bed for a glorious 10 extra minutes of 'me' time, before the second alarm began blaring. 

Of course, now, I couldn't seem to find that magical little pocket of time between asleep and awake; the time when you can fall back into the dream you left behind in the violent wake of a ringing alarm.  Instead, I rolled over to turn on my phone and check my email. 

One of my emails was a notification from a blog that I follow, GraceFULL Home.  The blog is written by two amazing women.  They are both moms of students where I teach, and I've had the priviledge of teaching two of Amy's three children (if you count directing them in drama club, I've worked with all three of them, as well as had the opportunity to have Jen share her talents in photography when she shot portraits and candids of my cast).  I've enjoyed reading their blog, as they both provide inspirations for developing and strengthing my faith and relationship with God.

This morning, I read an entry written by Amy entitled "How Well Do You Love?".  I had never read that variation of 1st Corinthians 13 before, but immediately began drawing parallels with my own life.  Of course, there are parts of that version that don't yet apply to my life, which is why I was inspired by the challenge Amy presented, in re-writing a version that reflects where I am in my life now.  Despite the non-stop pace of this day (and so many more before it, as well as those to come), I found myself thinking about this post.  The hour is late, the science tests that rode home with me sit unscored in my work bag, and the laundry needs switched (sidebar: the washer buzzed just as I typed that...a little extra reminder from God, since laundry is, in my opinion, the worst.chore.ever.??).  All of these factors aside, I feel compelled to take on this challenge tonight.  I know it won't be my 'ideal', but that illustrates just how organic motherhood and womanhood can be--tomorrow, this whole thing could be different.

Here goes...

I can sing the theme song to Spongebob and recite The Little Mermaid by heart, but without love, I am merely a car alarm going off during naptime.

I can change the diaper of a squirmy baby in ten seconds flat while watching a three year old's impromptu dance routine and listen to my five year old read a book for his homework  I can chop veggies so fine they can't pick them out of the sauce, while making a grocery list complete with a stack of neatly trimmed coupons.  I can hold a conversation with a magical fairy princess and a Storm Trooper from Star Wars while tossing a football and blowing bubbles, but without love, I am nothing.

Love is patient while listening to the minute-by-minute account of a fight, told by a frustrated child who wants validation in their decision to show their anger toward their sibling with their fists.

Love is kind even when I'm overwhelmed and exhausted, and I've heard 'moooommmmy....?' for the three thousandth time in the tone is nuturing and calm.

It does not envy the mommies who somehow have time to work out, have standing pedicure appointments, or a wardrobe from stores I can only dream of shopping in...but trusts the Lord to provide me with my own joys and pleasures as 'treats' for myself.

Love does not brag about the blessings which have been bestowed upon us.  Love rejoices in the blessings God bestows upon our friends and family.

It does not boast, when I've come home from a full day of work to prepare a healthy and well-rounded dinner for my family when my husband's 'chef's special' incorporates peanut butter and jelly with bread.

Love is not rude, even when other customers at the grocery store are oblivious to the family circus I am trying to keep under control, and run into my children with their cart in an attempt to be first in the check out line (despite the screaming baby in my carseat)

It does not immediately seek after glory after I've unloaded the dishwasher, or folded the laundry.

It is not easily angered by other drivers who *love* to drive in my blind spot, or by an endless slew of red lights on mornings I'm already running late and evenings I

It does not delight in evil when I'm obviously right, but rejoices in the truth...that I was right. (room for growth...I know!)

Love does not give up hope when you're supporting your best friend through the fight of her life.

It always trusts God to watch over my husband when he's driving in the middle of night on limited sleep, to keep my children safe when I can't be there or can't put my 'mommy bubble wrap' around them.  It always perseveres...through 3 kids in 5 years, thousands of miles from family, non-traditional work schedules, crying babies and tears, angry outbursts and tragic loss.

Love never fails.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Brothers and sisters

I always knew that when I became a mom, I'd want my children to have the kind of relationship I share with my brothers.  My mom did a fantastic job fostering the love/not-so-love relationship we value so highly today.  In our adulthood, we've moved away from the 'not-so-love', as that mainly existed when we were younger and fighting over toys, privacy, bathroom/phone usage, or just being around each other far too much.  Without those little speed bumps in our feelings toward one another, however, we wouldn't have been able to develop the closeness we share today. 

My brothers are both busy and well-established businessmen, both of whom are engaged to be married next year to women who I am honored to be able to call my sister-in-laws.  They have busy schedules and other priorities besides catching up with their oldest (and only) sister, yet at least once every week or two we'll find a pocket of time that works for both of us to catch up on things, share a laugh, or have the kids get a chance to say hi to their beloved uncles.  Our conversations may not be as often as I'd like, but I treasure each of them, along with our silly inside jokes that we share via text message throughout the week.  They make the distance between Colorado and Pennsylvania seem a little less; a little easier to handle.

When my 'baby' brother called me this past spring to tell me he was going to propose, I was so thrilled to be one of the v-e-r-y few who knew of his plans.  When my middle brother called to tell me he was proposing, and when I had the opportunity to actually watch that proposal via FaceTime (thank you to my future sister-in-law!), the tears of happiness I shed were not pretty.  They were definitely from a place of happiness, but they were not pretty.  I was a blubbering mess (and extrememly grateful that the phone froze and disconnected in the frenzied excitement of her response to the proposal, so as to not subject anyone else to the emotional mess I'd become).

Next year, I'll have the honor of standing up for each of my brothers in their wedding as a bridesmaid.  Being asked to be a part of their day in such a way means a great deal to me.  I am already practicing making a more attractive 'trying-not-to-cry' face, so as not to mess up any candid shots from the ceremony that might extend to the bridal party.

Having such a close relationship with my brothers has helped shape the person I am today, and especially contributed to the way in which I raise my own children.  Granted, I have the 'opposite' of what my mom has (2 girls and 1 boy compared to the 1 girl and 2 boys), but the approach is similar.

I encourage love.  mutual respect.  fun.  laughter.  apologizing when they're wrong.  giving each other space when they need it, and hugs when they need them.  fun.  laughter.  game playing.  book reading.  teaching each other (good things, and ornery things, too).  empathy.  being sick together (so as to streamline the number of days I miss work--a skill I learned from my mom).  running.  playing pretend.  rescuing the princess from the castle.  going into battle together--nerf guns a-blazing.  helping each other in any way necessary--whether it's opening the snack cupboard or coming up with an excuse for not eating their veggies.  forgiveness.  appreciation.  cooperation.  standing up for and looking out for one another.  love.  love.  love.

The relationships that exist between my three kids are still in the developing phases.  They have many years of fights and hugs, tears and laughs ahead of them.  The important thing for me to remember is to keep the 'finish line' in mind.  While my brothers and I aren't at the 'finish line' by any means for our relationships, we have both experience as well as expereinces that we've been through together that allow us to have the closeness that we share today. 

Maya Angelou has said "I don't believe an accident of birth makes people sisters or brothers. It makes them siblings, gives them mutuality of parentage. Sisterhood and brotherhood is a condition people have to work at."  I want my children to grow up sharing brotherhood and sisterhood in the way that their mom has been blessed to experience.

with my 'baby' brother, summer 2011
my middle brother, summer 2010

sisterly smiles

compassion, love
fun and learning
teaching his baby sister about T. Rex
being sick together.  for days on end.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Peas and Carrots

While feeding Raegan tonight, I seem to get Forrest Gump's quote about peas and carrots out of my head. 

Randy and I met 9 years ago.  We were randomly assigned to the only dorm on PSU's campus that boasted co-ed floors.  At the beginning of the semester, he and his best friend (and roommate) were making their rounds on the floor, introducing themselves to everyone on the floor (and, as it turned out, scoping out who was old enough to become their own personal beer supplier).  A few weeks passed by, several encounters in the hallway, and a few smart-alec comments (made by...guess who?), and before I knew it, we were chatting it up. 

 It's around this time of year that I remember back to the first few weeks when we had just met.  We were both involved in different relationships, but the physical distance, coupled with a plethora of other factors lead to their ultimate downfall. 

Out of the ashes of our long-term/long-distance relationships emerged a fast-moving and *adorable* friendship that morphed along the way into yet another long-distance relationship.  The attraction between us was obvious, however we were still not ready to fully admit our feelings toward one another.  Fear of commitment, unwillingness to give a name to what was transpiring, or just plain 'smitten and slightly shy'...our friends all saw what we were too hesitant to declare.

I remember getting ready to leave for fall break.  I was driving home for the weekend, with a friend of my brother in tow.  Sneaking away from the roving eyes of a curious 'spy', I found a moment to steal a hug and smooch before spending three hours in the car cautiously skirting around the obvious connection my brother's friend witnessed between myself and the tall mystery man.

Over the course of the semester, our connection was deepening, the time we spent together became greater and greater.  In the late hours of the night, I'd lay my head on his chest and say, "tell me a story".  In these hours, we traversed through the uncertain land of 'new relationship', even if we didn't want to admit it at the time. 

Getting to know someone, learning all about them, takes a huge commitment.  It's a scary and uncomfortable place to be.  You feel vulnerable, uncertain of what the other person is thinking about you as you share the pieces of you that define your being.  Randy and I spent many hours learning about each others' pasts; tales from our childhood and high school years that were cautiously selected so as to not give the other reason to reconsider moving the relationship further along.

As the time approached for Randy's 21st birthday at the end of the semester, I realized we were getting ready to cross the bridge into a whole new territory.  We'd be a part of a large group of friends hanging out at our favorite bars; dancing, laughing, and enjoying the ambiance of a college bar scene.  The comfort of others in our group took some of the pressure off our 'yet-to-be-defined' relationship, but the need to give some sort of identity to our feelings became prevalent early on.  Even before he donned the 'black x's' of a brand-new-21-year-old, the social scenes we participated in gave opportunities for us to test the waters of our "relationship status".  When we walked in to a party (and later, bar), hand in hand, we thought the message was pretty clear.  However, there were those ocassional times when curious members of the opposite gender would sidle up next to one of us in an attempt to see what could possibly transpire.  Despite their best efforts, Randy and I would inevitably leave hand in hand--still avoiding the blaring truth that was staring us in the face.  We were obviously 'together'.  What took us so long to define it, I'll never quite figure out--but in the scheme of things, it doesn't really matter. 

9 years ago, I met a boy.  He was tall and cute, and had a great sense of humor.  I loved the indentation of his hip bones, the way he looked in his favorite hoodie from his high school basketball team, the way he'd let me borrow that same favorite hoodie.  I loved the countless hours we spent getting to know each other in the dim light from the glow of the computer screen or the solo string of white Christmas lights that lit the tiny dorm room.  I loved the night we were heading out with a group of friends, and he reached out to hold my hand for the walk there, despite the snickering comments made by our friends who were following behind.  I loved those beginning weeks and months, when we had no idea what the next decade would bring, but we were drunk on the smitten feelings we had for one another.  We had no idea that in 9 years, we'd have 6 years of marriage under our belt and 3 kids running around.  We were just in the moment.  Together.  Like peas and carrots.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Behind the curtain

Last night, I hurt my back doing the most basic of all things...getting up from the couch.  Thankfully, the kids were in bed and I had already laid Raegan down in her crib for the night.  This happens every so often, thanks to not only the *delightful* aging process, but the degenerated discs in my back and years of issues with that.  I'm sure many people can relate.  Needless to say, when mommy is knocked down a few pegs in her abilities to 'do it all'...the usual flow of life is slightly interrupted. 

This morning, while attempting to get the kids ready for school, the pain I was feeling caused me to become upset with Gavin over something that, in the scheme of life, is a miniscule and forgettable event (as I type this, even, I can't really remember what it was--but I remember my reaction.  And I'm ashamed.).  Getting the girls in to daycare shifted slightly for me as well.  Squatting down to release Raegan from her carseat was an impossibility this morning, so my final morning squeeze n' smooch from my munchkin didn't happen.  Minor detail, but it was major enough for me to notice, and be upset by it.  Teaching proved to be a challenge as well today, as the non-stop slew of questions, visits to my desk for affirmation, and one-on-one assistance gave my swivel chair quite a swiveling work out today, compared to 'normal' day, when I'm able to just turn at the waist.

And then there was our evening.  I try to plan out in my head, a skeleton set of plans for our evening in my few moments of solitude as I drive from my school to Gavin's.  Tonight's plans included: me, not cooking dinner, and bathtime for the kids.  I knew Randy would be home for a pocket of time, so I had a good idea that my skeleton of a plan would soon come to fruition, and I could go to bed feeling somewhat accomplished, despite my inability to do much else. 

I should have known. 

The weather has been pretty cooperative, and very 'un-fall like', so the kids played with some neighbors from the minute I turned off the car in the garage.  Score.  Playing with Raegan was more 'up my alley' with my extremely limited mobility...although, she's quite roly-poly nowadays, so I was forced to try and contain her a little more than usual. 

Randy was puttering around online, looking at houses (typical), and I was trying to contain a little munchkin while keeping my movement to a minimum.  Dinner time approached, and I had previously announced my plans to not cook dinner.  Perhaps I should have been more explicit.  I assumed that the whole 'I can't move' thing would have been an indicator that I really didn't even feel like standing in the kitchen to heat up leftovers much less chop, dice, or sautee anything.  Silly me. 

In the end, I wound up heating up dinner and shuffling it over to my hungry brood.  Randy had gotten a call for work and was trying to coordinate the other guys going on the rig with him.  Hungry kids don't wait.  I winced in pain as I spooned pureed squash into a wiggly baby girl's mouth because the angle at which I needed to sit gave me a feeling simliar to that of someone strumming my spinal cord like a guitar string ( was that pleasant). 

Randy leaving meant my back-up, my 'kid bathtime giver' was leaving as well.  I knew that kneeling in front of a tub to suds up the kids was not going to happen.  Gavin is pretty independent when it comes to taking a shower, so I had that going for me.  Just a few reminders to actually use soap, wash behind his ears, and stop dancing in the shower, and he'd be set. 

The trouble was Brynn.  She is p.e.t.r.i.f.i.e.d. of the shower.  But, for as scared as she is, her ego is far more important to her.  She couldn't be 'the girl afraid of the shower' in this house--or in public, either.  (If you don't know...Brynn has a 'public'.  It's anyone and everyone she comes in contact with who has the slightest potential of complimenting her in some way, shape, or form.)  So, I had to problem solve in a way that would leave me with a clean kid and a mom whose back has not been further injured by a three year old who manipulated things to get her way. 

The solution?  Well, she wants to be just like her brother in just about every way.  If Gavin shares something about school, Brynn has to have a story that either is equal to or greater than the interest level of his story.  (It makes for a *fun* and very competitive car ride home.)  I used this to my advantage and had Gavin 'teach' Brynn what to do when we take a shower.  He described the steps for her, and after observing her still-uncertain-face, asked her if she'd like company so she wouldn't be scared.  In my eyes, they're still young enough to make this be ok, especially since it's just for the sole purpose of me having some relief in my mommy duties.

My allowance of 'shower sharing' this evening will pay off in the long run.  As it turns out, Brynn apparently has never been afraid of the shower, because when I was getting her jammies out, she proceeded to say, "Mommy, showers are fun...I want to always take showers".  When I pointed out that not 14 minutes prior, she was having a mini-meltdown over the prospect of running water hitting her, she laughed a ridiculous laugh and said, "ohhhh, mommy....that's crazy". 

The laughs and giggles, splashes and shouts coming from the shower gave me reason for pause...but I was in too much pain to do much about it besides lay on the bed and take pictures of Raegan.  But, before turning the water off, I had to capture a memory (of course).  Thankfully, my kids are well-trained by now.

Hopefully the rounds of heat and ice, coupled with a few stronger-than-usual medications with help reduce the inflammation in my back well enough for me to become a better-functioning momma.  The laundry, dishes, cooking, and pretty much anything involving Raegan will greatly appreciate it.

oblivious to mommy's pain

no tubby time tonight...just a quick sponge bath for my chunk-a-loo!

Sunday, October 2, 2011


Tonight the older two are each hosting a friend for a sleepover.  They have been unbelievably excited about the entire concept for the past week or so since we've made plans.  I'm currently listening to the boys down in the basement up to some sort of little boy mischief (most of which is being taken out on the blow-up spaceman Gavin got at the fall fest a few weeks back), and the movie Tangled (for the 137th time).  The girls are starting to lose a little steam, and I'm sure they'll be heading up to bed shortly after the credits roll.  Even Raegan, who normally thrives on extra-special cuddle time with mommy, is upstairs snoring softly in her nursery.

And so how to I take advantage of this delightful pocket of time for myself?  Well, I should be doing some work, as I have a few things going on this coming week at school that need require my attention (aside from the usual lesson planning, that is...).  But instead, I take a mental time out and remove myself from the reality of my non-stop life for a little 'check in' with me.  And boy, does it feel good!

Earlier this week, Gavin had a splinter in his finger.  A certain casualty of war thanks to the swing set in our backyard so desperately in need of an upgrade.  When it happened, and during the process of removing the miniscule shard of wood, you would have thought we were severing his finger without the assistance of numbing medication.  Based on the fact that daddy was simultaneously holding a squirmy baby and using tweezers to extract the splinter, and that mommy was running downstairs to grab the camera (then back downstairs to grab the camera card) so I could try and snag a photo or two of Gavin's 'ordeal', Gavin should have figured out that it wasn't that big a deal and we could quickly remove the splinter if he would stay still, calm, and patient.  Unfortunately, his inability to cooperate made way for the splinter to break and half of it stayed in his finger.  I tried to convince him to let me get the last part out, that he'd feel so much better in me doing so, but he wasn't on board with the idea.  On the positive side, he got the chance to sport an awesome Star Wars band-aid.

the (barely visible) culprit

the (unused) tools

the happy patient (it's all about the fashion statement)
Randy was mildly annoyed by not only my incessant photo-taking, but also my need to remove the rest of the splinter.  He told me to just leave Gav alone, that it would come out on its own when he was in the tub or washing his hands.  Because Gavin was obviously on his dad's side, and was absolutely unwilling to cooperate with me, I was left to feel a little unfulfilled. 

I'm the type of person who thrives on that feeling of relief one gets when something unwelcomed is removed.  Splinters in fingers, eyelashes in eyes, dirt under fingernails, weeds from gardens, items from 'to-do' lists, etc.  You get the idea. 

Today, I cleaned and rearranged the snack cabinet--a task that was long overdue.  Simple things such as combining two opened bags of animal crackers, throwing away tortilla chips that were stale because 3 year olds do not know how to properly clip the bag, and putting all the fruit snacks into a canister just so I can toss the box all gave me such a sense of relief.  I realize, that sounds sad.  The joy I felt as I manuevered the large trash can lid open and disposed of unnessary items should not be so fulfilling, but it is. 

I've been working hard on feeling 'ok' with the fact that the house will be cluttered.  The dishes might sit.  The dog hair may accumulate longer than I intend.  The laundry won't get folded (ok, so that one's a lie...laundry has ALWAYS been an area of weakness for me--kids or no kids). 

There are these little 'splinters' that we encounter often.  They're different for each of us, but they're purpose it to cause us a bit of discomfort until we figure out the way to extract them, thus enjoying the relief. 

The problem with extracting a splinter, however, is that it leaves behind a small hole.  Over time, depending on the size, this hole closes, but there is always that vulnerable time when the hole could be filled with something else unwanted, like an infection.  But, if you're pro-active about it, you can find something to prevent that from happening, whether it be a band-aid or positive thoughts and dedicated behavior.

So, going back to the events of my'd assume that my need to remove 'splinters' would have paved the way perfectly for  me to spend my evening researching the PLC working enviornment or creating gift bags to thank the classified members of our staff for their hard work and dedication...but no.  I blog.

I indentified what 'my splinter' was this evening, and as fate should have it, my splinter came in the form of a noisy, busy house.  Even though Randy was fantastic and kept Raegan at bay while I made pizza dough, cleaned the kitchen, organized the snack cabinet, and looked after the four older children whose volume grew as the evening moved foward, I still was ex-to the -hausted.  Removing the need to relax from my list of things to do meant I'd be left behind with a hole and feel vulnerable (sidebar: is it sad that I have 'relax' on my list of things to do?!).  See, the splinter of my lesson plan book/standards/and PLC professional development plan I need to work on is pinching me with an increasingly more obnoxious manner the closer I am to the conclusion of the weekend.  

I guess I could take a lesson from Gavin, however.  If I can only remove part of my splinter now, and rely on soaking and/or hand washing to help remove the other part, I should absolutely take advantage of that.  I often times become so overwhelmed by the enormity of each of my 'to dos', that I have a hard time seeing the forest for the trees.  Trees, that ironically enough, are the source of the actual splinter.

On a side note...this post isn't happening until 11:15 at night--long after the girls went to sleep...however there were a few little minor speed bumps along the way--bathroom, read stories, whispering eyes have been fluttering, only to be opened by the splintering need to finish the sentences (and the ocassionaly snort from the sleeping pugs in the kitchen).  And now, the  most piercing splinter I could experience when I have a quiet house full of sleeping children...a screaming baby.  Off to deal with that, and full the hole that remains from an incomplete night of sleep with several catnaps tomorrow, while trying to find the time to somehow complete the tasks that I now realize I should have just bit the bullet on and completed tonight.  Thanks, splinter *nice* of you...