Friday, October 26, 2012

Kid Confident

You have to be a pretty confident kid to rock the star glasses.  You have to be an even more confident kid to rock the heart glasses. Um, well, maybe the confident one is the grown-up.

The one who is rockin' both the goofy, wide-open mouth and over-the-top spiral perm...yipes!

Building confidence in our kids is tough, and it's most certainly even harder in a world that is completely self-absorbed and insecure.  And I should interject here that I'm not merely writing of tots, as there are enough of us adults struggling with the same issue.

I've found that most concerned parents wrestle greatly with this question, "How do I build confidence in my poor, insecure kid without turning them into an arrogant fool?" Ah, Mr. Balance!  Why are you so elusive, and what must we do to find you?!

There are some pretty big nonnegotiable items in most of our parenting toolboxes:
  • We all love our kids more than anybody else loves our kids.
  • We all think our kids are amazing.
  • We all die a little when our kids face heartbreak...of any kind.
  • We all want others to enjoy our kids as much as we do.
Okay.  I can picture a few of you right now laughing and saying, "Enjoy?  Not really enjoying the little treasure right now.  Can't imagine anyone else enjoying 'em!"  So, maybe instead of the word "enjoy" I should use a phrase like, "We want to see the awesome God-given potential in our kids and hopefully, one, fine and glorious day...others will see that, too."

One of the challenges I faced...being a tad, tiny, miniscule bit older than some of my that I was raised in a time of "confidence = pride."  And a human's confidence in self alone is pride.  And not the good kind.

On the other hand, God-confidence is amazing.  I fortunately had parents who were fans of saying, "Pride goeth before a fall..." AND "I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me."

There he is!! Mr. Balance!!

I'm sure you're not having epiphanies left and right out there.  I haven't felt the earth move one, single time as I've typed this.

I just encourage you today to remember that while we can do nothing of outrageously incredible eternal value on our own...through Christ...look out!

Remind yourself first.  Look in the mirror and do what I used to do when my boys were little.  "Hey, girl.  Lookin' a little rough this morning.  Maybe no more cookies after midnight.  But, you know what?  Hear that?  That's some kids.  And they're yours.  And God thought with His help, you could do a pretty bang-up job of loving 'em and raising 'em.  So, let's wash face and get to it! Before they burn the house down!"

Once I remembered who I wasn't and was in Christ, I could go remind my guys who they weren't and were in Christ.

We're all still growing here in the Land of Oz, but the growth is so much easier when we remember that the best way to a confident kid, or human of any kind, is having confidence in the One Who was - and is - confident He is the help and hope of all.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

No Debate

It's been a little bit since I've blogged.  You see,  I've been debating on what to bring to you.

I didn't have to debate about what picture to use.  We didn't debate with the boy on the left when he was little and wanted to tear the house up with his brothers by playing "Power Rangers."  We just put our foot down and didn't do Power Rangers.  He didn't end up warped, and look...even though he wasn't allowed to watch or play Power Rangers, he grew up to meet and play with a Power Ranger. But, only when he was self-controlled enough to not tear anything up.

This picture also serves the blog well in that who would ever debate a Power Ranger?  Yikes!

Tomfoolery aside, it seems like some of you have been debating. You've been debating whether or not to let your preschooler trick-or-treat. You've been debating whether or not you should let your tween read "The Hunger Games."  You've been debating whether or not your teen is ready to date.  You've been debating whether or not you should vote...and who you should vote for.

I know of these debates, because in some moments of desperation, you bring them to me.  And it humbles me.

And, I'll be overwhelms me.

Then I start debating.

What in the world do I think I'm doing trying to encourage people? Most days, I'm just a cat shy of being my town's crazy lady.

And...I digress from there.  You know the digression.  It's similar to the one where your friend simply did not see you when you waved to her from across a packed football stadium, but within 30 minutes you have her hating you.  I knew you knew what I was talking about.

If I didn't have a Bible and a very big, patient, wise and loving God, forget the town...I would be North America's Crazy Lady.

Thankfully, II Corinthians 4:5 keeps the crazy under control:  "For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake."

Debate over. It's not what I think.  It's not what you think.  It's not what politicians think. It's not what our well-meaning Christian friends think.  It's not what the world thinks.

I'm not preaching the gospel of me. 

If you know me, you know I say this a lot.  I just also forget it a lot.  But, it's so grounding.  So calming.  So, so true.

So not debatable.

It's the Gospel of Christ.  No debate.  No pressure.

While it may seem like I'm taking the easy way out, I'm actually taking the only way out.  We have to pray, read the Bible, and listen like crazy for the Holy Spirit to lead and to guide.

Because unfortunately, most of the time...we fret over gnats while camels run amuck.

What are you debating?  What bugs are keeping you distracted?

Go back to basics.  Remember your Source.

Remember a loving God Who saw a dying world and hatched a plan to save it.

He had to make a painful choice.  He sent His perfect Son to the most imperfect of places.  And people.

We would have agonized.  We would have requested a fact checker.  We would have wanted to see the polls. We would have wanted to know what our friends thought.

Fortunately, when God chose to send Christ...there was none of this.  There was no question of what He would do.  No hesitation.  No reservation.

No debate.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

So, You Had a Bad Day...

Two things about this picture make me smile.

1)  It wasn't taken today.
2)  It was taken at Disney World, a.k.a. "The Happiest Place on Earth."

I miss having small children in my home...I'm not gonna' lie about that one.  I don't miss having small children melting down in my home...not gonna' lie about that one, either.

But, unless you've been living under a rock your entire life, you've probably noticed all sorts of people melting down at one point or another.  Old people, teenagers, pro athletes, the Cavewoman...

We typically melt because something is wrong.  We are experiencing a crisis.

We are having...a bad day.

One of my boys' favorite books was, "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" by Judith Viorst.  I don't know Ms. Viorst and I'm not receiving any compensation for this plug, but if you don't have this in your personal library - get it.

Not only because it's great for children, but also because it helps us big people put things into perspective on occasion.

The screaming child in this picture, and his older brothers, were not strangers to thinking they often experienced "very bad days."  I hate to single him out, but Boy #2 could be especially dramatic. I have no idea who he got that from...

When he was in elementary school, I would often pick him up and before he even hit the backseat of my vehicle, I knew.  His face would have this look of despair that was unmistakable.  Very, bad day face.

I would try to pretend I hadn't noticed, "Hey, Keither!  How's it going?"  "Terrible!  I had the worst day ever! EVER!"

The first few times he pulled this, it worked.  My mom heart would break and I would try to figure out and fix.  Because I thought that's what a good mom did.  Figure out.  Fix.

Somehow, it didn't work at all.

Then I had a wise talk with my wise mom.  "Don't you remember those early days of high school when I would drop you off on my way to work?  You were such a mess!"  (That was my mom talking.)  Oh, yes, I remembered.  I would be freaking out about my hair not being perfect or not liking my outfit and then break into a rant of "worst day ever."  My mom?  Unflappable.

She would not say much at all, except, "I'll be waiting in the car.  Better get it together."

Once in the car...silence.  Or, worse yet, she would hum.  HUM!  Like she was happy and completely oblivious to the world crashing down around us!

As I slid out of the passenger seat, I would sadly glance back for one last crack at empathy.  "'Bye!  I'm not going to let you ruin my day!"  Seriously.  She said that.  My mother is a genius.

I hate to tell you guys out there in caveland, but sometimes, this is just what our little cave-darlings want.  Doting.  Sympathizing.  Catering.  Caving-in.  (Pun intended.)

But, sometimes what they need is reminders. 

The world still spins.  The sun shall rise again. God is on His throne.

I needed these reminders as a teenager - one who could be quite vain.  I need these reminders as a (cough!) young woman - one who has varicose veins.  And when shorts' season comes, has a mini-meltdown. (Now that I've made that public, maybe I won't be so pathetic next summer.)

I'm not stupid.  Well, not too stupid anyway.  I know some of you have a pile of life-garbage to deal with right now.  But, some of us...we just think we do.  And we let that thinking keep us from letting our light shine through the cracked pots we call our persons.

Be encouraged today.  All of us, at times, are pressed, crushed, persecuted.

Thankfully, with Christ, we can't be destroyed.  Thankfully, He - not mom - is the Master of Figure Out and Fix.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Sore Shoulders

I could have posted pictures all day of these two…just like this.  Little Guy up on Dad’s shoulders. My third-born wasn’t only very young in those days, he was very little.

I remember practically throwing a party when he broke the 30-pound mark.  And he was already in school.  Big kid school…not preschool.

Little Guy, like all boys in my cave, experienced a late growth spurt and though I still see him as too little to be playing varsity football…there he is, and one of the bigger guys to boot.  Makes my mom-knees shake.  And my mom-tummy hurt.

When Little Guy was in every way little, he never could see.  I don’t mean he was physically blind, I mean he was constantly trying to see past kneecaps.  Fortunately, he had a dad who didn’t mind hoisting him up top.

Long before ads posed the question - “Can you hear me now?” - our family often heard Dad asking the baby, “Can you see it now?”  Sometimes it was a quick, “Yup!”  Other times, it almost became a game, “Nuh-uh, Daddy!  Over!  Tan’t see it!  Over, pwease!  Nope!  Utter way!  Wittle more…dare!  Dat’s it! I tan see it!”

I never asked him and I never heard him complain, but I’m thinking Caveman’s shoulders had to get sore…or at the very least, tired.  Add to that the times the kid got excited during a parade or fireworks spectacular, when I’m sure there were bruise marks left in the armpit area!  But, really, I never heard him gripe.  It came with the territory of being entrusted with new life…it’s what we do. 

We help others see.

My shoulders get sore sometimes.  My armpits have been kicked by flailing feet.  But, man, is it worth it.

Who are you hoisting up today?  Think about the people you get to help see.

You get to help them see God’s love, His goodness and their potential.

Wow, now that’s heavy.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Happy Pants

Obviously with pants like these, it's easy to get your happy on!

Don’t you wish it really was that easy?  Feeling blue?  Well, just find those denim wonders with the elastic around the ankles and BOOM!  Bliss!

Sad?  Go put your Cookie Monster slippers on and smile those troubles away!

Grumpy?  Dig out that “Frankie Say Relax” t-shirt from high school and cheer up!


While some things make me very happy initially…like a new fall-scented Yankee Candle or a big bowl of cookie dough…the “feeling” just doesn’t last that long.

Candles burn, cookie dough calories don’t.  Happy feeling…gone.

“Cavewoman, you are so weird,” you may be (okay, most likely are) thinking. “You’ve been MIA for a couple of weeks, and now you’re rambling on about happy pants and cookie dough.”

Well, my days are once again filled with children. Not my own, but “mine” in many ways.  As a teacher, looking around my public school classroom, I remember. And I am reminded.

I remember how easy it is to make a child happy.  Treats for reading quietly.  An extra five minutes at recess.  I also remember how “fleeting” the happiness coming from these things can be.

Now…reminded.  I am reminded that my own happiness often comes and goes.  Quickly.

I am reminded that I must differentiate between happiness and joy.  And I am reminded of my weaknesses.

The joy of the Lord is our strength.  For real.  Don't just take my word for's in the Bible...Nehemiah 8:10.

Happiness is affected by circumstance.

Circumstance is affected by joy.

May you wear the roomy and reassuring jacket of joy today…even if you can’t squeeze into your happy pants.

Friday, August 31, 2012

It's a...

...person!!  That's right!  In January, I will become grandmother (amazingly hip grandmother) to a PERSON!  Seriously!  I know!  Crazy, right? 

Okay, we did find out last night that the person will be in the form of a boy - which is awesome for our family as boy is something we know well - but, still...a person.

"Um, Cavewoman?  Where are you going with this?" Hang on.

You see, in this age of incredible tech and medical advances, we don't only have the ability to learn whether a boy or a girl is coming into a family, we know - well before birth - how many fingers, toes and whether or not it has particular health issues.  And while discovering the well-being of the child is paramount, there is much hub-bub swirling around the question of "pink, or blue?"

Oh, trust me, I was chomping at the bit to find out.  Have you tried shopping for a baby lately?  Not much out there that is NOT gender specific.  Caveman is probably going to bemoan my new-found knowledge when he sees how much I can spend on tiny overalls and miniscule basketball shoes.

But, as much as I love babies - and believe me, I didn't get the nickname "baby-stalker" from my own kids for nothing - they are so much more.

They're people.

Caveman and I did not take the miracle of having children lightly.  Though we were as giddy and excited as the next couple, we knew.  We knew we were having people.  We were bringing more lives into a fallen world and we would - for several years - be completely responsible for their well-being.  Whoa.

This sobering thought is probably the only thing that stood between me and a contract with The Discovery Channel for my own reality show: "30 Kids & Multiplying."

I'm all for kids.  I think family is just about my favorite thing on this entire planet. I don't get political much in public, but I do have some very strong convictions.  One of those convictions leads me to being as pro-life as a person can possibly get.  I've pleaded with friends contemplating abortions to the point where, on a couple of occasions, Caveman and I offered caring for the children until the indecisive parents could get things together. Neither of those friends took us up on our offer, though one decided to keep and care for her child and one did not. Though the latter decision is heartbreaking, I still love both women. And so does God.

That heavy moment was brought to you only to make something very clear...babies - all babies, from conception on - are people.  People.

And while we get caught up in the excitement of cribs, car seats, baby showers, naming and sweet, little clothes, we must always remember that God has entrusted us with people. And this is a very, very big deal.

You may have given birth to people, or maybe you have adopted people.  Maybe you don't have people you're responsible for in your cave, but you have people at work or within your extended family.  People that would benefit from you doing your part in helping them be all that they can be.

When we look at others as God-created, purpose-filled, amazing bundles of potential...we see things in a very different light.

Makes you want to exclaim, "It's a girl!" " It's a boy!" "It's a person!" "It's a responsibility!"

And, maybe...hopefully, "It's an opportunity!"

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Peer Pressure...It's for Everyone!

As you can see in this picture from Valentine's Day of 1982, I have struggled with peer pressure.  Well, to be honest, I don't know if I was the one pressuring Carolyn (cute, flippy-haired girl on the left) to wear the red overalls to school, or if she was pressuring me (gum-smacking goof on the right).

I also don't remember which one of us thought it would be a good idea to stay up all night (in seventh grade) and then ride our bikes to the convenience store (newly opened wonder-emporium in our teeny town) for ice cream sandwiches at six in the morning.  And the time we decided to climb up into the middle school locker room ceiling?  Don't remember who was pressuring on that one, either.

But, not all peer pressure is bad.  She peer pressured me to work harder as an athlete, and I peer pressured her to play a saxophone solo at the music festival. She peer pressured me to do my Algebra homework, and I peer pressured her to be my friend forever.  Okay, that last one was weak, but she's been a way better influence on me than I have been on her.  I just ran out of stuff to balance it with...

ANYWAY, school is back in session for most, or soon will be, and so is peer pressure. That's what we all think anyway.  "Oh, Lord, how will I keep little Pumkin' from being influenced by those around her?  What if others around her are making bad choices and she starts to do the same?  What if she starts talking like them, and it's not appropriate?  What if she picks up some other kid's bad attitude?"

Listen, if I had a way to make sure Pumkin' never went with the crowd or made poor choices, in addition to reading my'd be watching my show.  During prime-time.  And Dr. Phil would be calling in and asking me for advice. Nobody's kids - including and especially mine - are perfect. We just have to keep doing what we can...and pray.  A lot.

Even if we put up every guard rail imaginable, kids are still going to be tempted to crack under the influence...of peer pressure, that is.  And you know what?  So are we.

Who do you hang out with? Who is pressuring who?  Who is influencing who?

"Cavewoman, I hang out with church people only, so you know I'm good to go on this one."  Um, I have a couple of problems with that defense.  First, just because we label ourselves "church people" doesn't mean we act anything like Christ. And even if we are truly trying, it certainly doesn't mean we act like Christ all of the time. (I had at least two bad thoughts in the past hour, one involving trying not to hate naturally skinny people.) Second, I think Jesus hung out with church people and non-church people.  So, we should, too.

If it were ever appropriate to ask, "WWJD?" - it's now.

When Jesus hung out with negative, slanderous, gossipy or hypocritical church people, He loved, lived and died trying to influence them.

When Jesus hung out with devil-may-care, full-on heathens, He loved, lived and died trying to influence them.

We've talked about kids watching us "pack" and watching to see what kind of time-stewards we are, so...believe me when I say that they are definitely watching to see if we're the influenced...or those doing the influencing.

We model a lot of things for our kids. We model life attitudes, we model life management skills, but one of the greatest things we'll ever model for our kids is life relationships.  Let's all purpose and pray to make our lives - and our life relationships - the kinds our kids will want to immitate.

No pressure.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Tardy Parents

Today is one of the few days in which I am thankful my mother does not really know how to operate a computer.  She would be laughing her head off.

You see, as everyone (and I do mean everyone...look two blog posts back) returns to school, schedules and routines become quite important.  I didn't say we all do a good job with them, I just said they're important.  Sigh.

One of my mantras is "20 minutes per kid."'d better stick an extra 20 minutes per kid into your morning routine.  So, for me, I needed an hour for the kids to get up and around for school on top of however long it took me to get ready.  This is where my mom starts laughing.  And my youngest son's second grade teacher...she's laughing, too.  And the nice police officer who once gave me a warning as I was driving my kids - in a mad, late rush - to school.

"...however long it took me to get ready..." doesn't mean much once you've seen the Cavewoman wearing her pajamas to drop her kids off.

There are times when I try to bring you encouragement and it comes from a place I perhaps did well in.  As a mom.  This is not one of those times. To cut myself a little hindsight slack, I got things way more under control when my three boys hit third, fifth and eighth grades, respectively.  More on that later.

In another life, I think I would have made a great jazz club singer.  Sing at the 8pm set, followed by the midnight set, bed by one and sleep the next day until noon.  But, in this life, I'm not a club singer.

Many of you feel my non-morning person pain.  It was so rough in the boys' early years.  Fortunately, none of them were super early risers either.  The middle one is quite the happy morning kid, but we're talking 7am, not 4:30am.  So, we were good there.

But, when school started, we struggled.  My oldest has my club-singer DNA, and getting him up in the morning was a nightmare.  We missed the bus often and so I had to drag his two, small brothers into the minivan so we could haul ourselves across town to his kindergarten.  It was ridiculous.

The only thing that saved my maternal bacon with the teacher is the fact that I volunteered for her often and blessed her with kind words, notes and gifts, when possible. And though it sounds really braggy, I also presented her with one of the brightest, easiest kindergarteners ever.  But, wherever Mrs. Thompson is, I just would really like her to know how sorry I am.  Oh, she would probably laugh and say, "Mrs. Weaver, you were great!  You put up bulletin boards and were such a conscientious young mom. No worries!"  But, no matter.  I have something to be sorry about.

You see, a few years later, I had a realization...thanks to my laughing mom. She loves me and tries to see the good in me.  She knows I love my boys like crazy and I really, genuinely care about others.  So, that's why she thought she'd better speak up, "KyAnne, you know when your kids are late to school, they miss valuable instructional time.  In addition, it says something very hurtful to the teacher.  It says that you don't care about her...about her time."

I was devastated.  My mom is good.  Real good.  She knows that if she brings the possibility of hurting someone's feelings in - not to mention something I may be doing to hinder my kids - she can get my attention.  So, did I instantly become the gal that gets everywhere 20 minutes before everyone else?  Um, no.

I did, however, start compensating for my weaknesses.  Weaknesses.  I said it and it's okay.  We all have them and we all have to let the Lord help us compensate for them.  I started using a filing system for the boys' things...I set clothes out the night before...I packed lunches the night before...I made the boys bathe the night before (until middle school)...I signed and returned papers ASAP.  Second nature to some of you naturally-organized people...extra, extra purposeful planning for folk like me.

Am I ever late now?  Um, occasionally.  But, I'm a better?  Ask my husband.  A man who hates being late in a very big way.  I learned to compensate because I did care about my kids' teachers. And my kids. (Being late hurt them, too.)  Now, as a teacher, I feel compassion towards my "late kids," but more towards their parents who struggle. The kind of compassion that allows me to speak into their lives from a place I know well in hopes to help them they way I've been helped.

If you've been a tardy parent, please know that I pray you find the encouragement, tools and strength this year to make the change.  Because, as always, your kids need you to be your best.  And honestly, there aren't a lot of openings in life for club singers.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

What's in Your Backpack?

Lots of talk about backpacks this time of year.  Maybe for some, it's because the weather has finally cooled off enough to go for a hike. For the majority, it's because school is starting up again.

Cue:  collective sigh.

With all of the things I could zero-in on when it comes to getting our kids (and ourselves) prepared for a great school, I chose backpacks.  Yes, backpacks.

Remember, I'm not Dr. Phil or the Supernanny, so even though I may spend the bulk of my next blog sharing "tips" about beginning well this fall, you can just chew the meat and throw away the bones.  Well, you pretty much can always do that with me.

That stated, over the past few days I have been thinking about being spiritually prepared and backpacks.

Before the pencils are sharpened and the right folders are purchased ("...the kind with the fasteners or the kind with pockets or the kind with...?"), and way before they face the peer pressure and bullying issues, our kids need to be equipped.  That's where the spiritual backpack comes in.

Now, for all of you born-and-raised church folk, I know and love the thought of running kids through the "Armor of God" from Ephesians 6 in the Bible. It's vital, I know.  When my boys were young, we put on our "armor" while driving to school each morning.  Me:  "Helmet of?"  Boys:  "Salvation!" Me:  "Belt of?"  Boys:  "Truth!" And so on.  Maybe I'm playing off of that to a degree, but let me quickly give you another word picture to mull over...

As parents, we have a job to prepare our children in every way possible for life.  Life that includes schooling.  We need our armor on, they need their armor on.  We need our backpacks stuffed with the right things, they need their backpacks stuffed with the right things.

What's in your spiritual backpack?  Have your kids had a chance to see inside?  Regardless, I'll bet they've seen the results of what you have or don't have in it. 

Have they seen you packing it?  What do they see you put into it?  Do they see you setting aside time for God?  Do they see you going to the gym, the movies or even to volunteer at church more than they've seen you read your Bible or pray?

When you pack wisely, your kids are more apt to pack wisely, too.  Oh, you won't be a perfect packer and neither will they, but the better you both try to pack, the better you'll both be prepared for what life...or school...may throw towards you.

Purpose today to pack well.  If you're like me, before you pack, you have to dump.  I have to dump my pack often.  Dump all the junk.  The bitterness, the jealousy, the hurts, the anger.  If you're like me, you quite often have young eyes watching you and your, dump and pack wisely.

After all, a backpack full of useless stuff is just, well...excess baggage.

What's in your backpack?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Kids Aren't the Only Ones...

Sometimes I don't sound very teachery or parenty.

For instance, the other day in a local store, I saw a young mom I knew.  And like most young moms at a store, she had some kids in tow.

After I stupidly asked one of her youngsters if he was ready for school to start, he angrily replied, "No!  I don't want summer to be over yet!"

Before I could stop them, the words, "Hey, you're not the only one, mister!" tumbled out of my oft open mouth.

Fortunately, my boss wasn't around.

Today, I'm kicking off a short series of blogs centering around everyone's "favorite" time...the start of the school year!

I actually put this question out to students and parents alike the other day: WHAT ARE YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGES AS YOU GET READY FOR A NEW SCHOOL YEAR? Loved the feedback I've received.  So, based on said feedback, I decided to try to find some good stuff to encourage you with regarding the following:
  • Routine & Time Management (Some of you are laughing at the thought of me having tips on these, but maybe you can learn from my mistakes, okay? Man!)
  • Peer Pressure (Both the student and the parent...seriously, parenting peer pressure is huge!)
  • Finances (Even in public's like a money pit!)
  • Where To Go (Deciding where to actually go or where to put your child in school.)
  • Anxiety ('Nuff said.)
  • How to Prepare (More than just getting school supplies!)
  • How to Spiritually Equip Yourself &/or Your Kid (Last here in writing, but first in real life!)
As a former student, as a parent who has now seen children go from preschool through (please, God, spring of '13!) college, and as an educator...seeing this time of year become one that is not only survivable, but THRIVABLE, is near and dear to my heart.

I feel that ALL of us should be involved in supporting those going back to school like ALL of us should be supportive of those who are parenting.  Some of us are not, or may never be parents, but all of us have been children.  Some of us are not currently students, nor do we have children headed off to school this fall.  But, all of us have been students.

Whether or not we're first-hand parents or back-to-schoolers, we should relate enough on some level to support and pray.  So, pray for parents, pray for students, pray for teachers, pray for administrators, pray for school boards, pray for custodians, pray for lunch ladies...see, a lot of people are starting school!  And, they all need prayer.

So I guess I just have one, major take-away for you today.  And you really don't even have to take it...completely your choice.  But, if those of us in the Body of Christ know we are to be a universal family...well, then, I guess we should be making people going back into a school environment a major point of prayer.

And this is where we can have an epiphany of sorts. This is where we all can see it.

Kids aren't the only ones going back to school.

When we pray...we go, too.

Monday, August 6, 2012

"Why Can't We be Friends (and Siblings)?"

The siblings seem to be fine with one another...probably just wishing the mom wasn't so annoying! :)

Friday, July 27, 2012

Star Wars, Siblings & Stuck in the Middle

I spent more than a few years thinking I should just get up each morning, put on a referee jersey, place a whistle around my neck and then brace for the day.  My three boys could fight over the most minute things. One, particular, Lego block.  One, particular, dinosaur juice glass.  One, particular, video game controller. Sigh.

I can't imagine having fewer than three kids, and many times I wish I had more.  A fourth might have solved the odd number issue we faced on road trips and in amusement parks.  Someone was always stuck in the middle.  Someone was always complaining about feeling "squished out."  Someone was always looking for a place to fit in. (See photo above.)

Oh, the fights.  Oh, the screams. Oh, the dumped "ants" from the "pants." Oh, the thrown Star Wars figures. 

Star Wars role-play. It was the best of was the worst of times. The youngest couldn't even talk when the boys caught SWF (Star Wars' Fever.)  But, the oldest, our SWD (Star Wars' Director), didn't mind, as the noisy, babbling baby was perfect for just holding up the Chewbacca and making that wookiee roar.  As long as it was when SWD told him to. 

It would be adorable.  For a while.  Then the middle boy, well, he would have his land speeder full of the SWD telling him how to be Luke Skywalker.  As a matter of fact, not only was he sick of being a puppet of a Luke, he didn't even want to be Luke.  That's right, he would shout, "NOW! I'M GOING TO BE HAN!" Cue:  intergalactic war.

I don't know why everyone wanted to be Han.  I don't know why everyone wanted the same Lego block.  I don't know what was so stinkin' special about that dinosaur juice glass.

All I do know is that even though I was pretty sure the boys loved one another, I was going to have to stay very involved if they were going to live each other.

When I say "live each other," I guess I mean do life together.  My caveman and I desired that our boys be best friends...not in a strange, "have no other friends/have to live with my bro until I'm 40" way.  But, to truly grow into more than brothers.  To be there for each other.  Even when "there" might be on the other end of a phone line.  Or a text message.

I learned quickly that I was going to have to forget those referee stripes. The coaching cap had to come out.

My kids grew up, for the most part, in the Northwest region of the United States.  But, when they hit their tweens, we made a few moves in just a little more than a few years.

People are always amazed that the boys have not only fared well, but truly appreciate the fact that they have lived in different places and have had some incredible experiences.  I just think the moving made them close.

Before the moves, I would say, "Well, at least you'll already know two boys when you get there, and they can sleep over every night!"  Or, "Aren't you blessed you get to take your best friends with you?"  I would be a big fibber if I said they always responded gleefully to these statements, but somewhere along the moving van's highway, these thoughts began to take root.  Moving is tough.  So is not making the ball team.  So is being picked on at recess.  But, these are times when it's good to have a sibling.  These are times when my mind goes to this verse...

"A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity."  Proverbs 17:17

I framed a picture of my boys, taken when they were quite young, walking up a road together. The following is written on the mat surrounding it:

"On the road of life it's a gift to have friends...a blessing to have brothers...a treasure to have brothers who are friends."

I know siblings are going to have their "issues."  I've so been there, you can't even imagine.  But, it is my prayer for any parent out there at wit's end today to stay the course!  Ask God to help you help your kids work through their disagreements - no matter how large or small.

Life's challenges are a lot easier to face with a brother or sister born for adversity.  Someone to have your back.  Someone to make you laugh until you cry.  Someone to treasure.

Someone to be the Luke to your Han.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Fear Factor...Parent Edition: Part II

 Join us for the first vlog from the cave...little discussion on "fear" in parenting...

Friday, July 20, 2012

Fear Factor...Parent Edition: Part I

I was one of those parents who let a kid go to the midnight showing of that movie last night.  It wasn't to a theater in Colorado, but still.

As my heart goes out to the families of victims, my mind is struggling not to go out of control.  Racing from one fearful, life scenario to another.

It doesn't matter if you're an expectant mother or expectant grandmother, or somewhere in between.  If you are connected to kids, you understand this reality show.

Today, I'm not going to take a lot of your time.  I'm going to just share a few fears, some pictures and set you up for a video blog I am doing with the last kid I have in the cave.  That vlog will be coming your way on Monday.  He and I are going to briefly chat about how we cope - or don't cope - with the fears that pop up in the parent/child relationship.  Whether the boy and I are helpful to you and yours will surely be debatable.

But, the good stuff we try to apply from God's Word will surely be iron-clad.

If you could, please share some fears you have in parenting...just post them right here on this blog page in the comment section.  We will see if we can address a few of them. The tragic events of the past 24 hours won't be our focus, but more the fear that is surely being spawned from them.  Fears for the well-being of our children, whether young or old.

You can see the photos representing just a few things this boy does or is involved in that can make my heart, trust me when I say I get the parental fear thing.  The broken leg photo was from sliding into third base his freshman year in baseball.  That set off my obsession with constantly making the stairs leading up to his room free of any object - including a dust bunny - as he could trip and break something else.  I know, I know.

I'm a Christ-follower, so I try to remember to run His way when fear grips my heart and invades my mind. I don't know what those without God do.

When I fear for my children, I truly don't know where else to turn.  The words of Simon Peter in John 6:68 & 69 often ring in my mommy ears:  “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

While prayers go up for hurting families today...and all of our families today, you may want to cling to - as I am - the following.  Some hopeful words of eternal life.

Isiah 49:13b, "For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones."

May God's comfort and compassion be strong in Aurora today.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Ham or Eggs?

Which are you?

I've heard the analogy that commitment vs. involvement in life is like ham and eggs at breakfast.  The chicken was involved in bringing you the final product.  The pig...100% committed.

Why ham, eggs and the picture of my oldest holding up an incredibly noisy Christmas present that only a grandparent would give?

Parental commitment, cave friends. Parental commitment.

You see, long before some well-meaning relative presented the "Sing-A-Song" cassette recorder, I dreamed of my children being musical. And smart, and athletic and blah, blah, blah. You get me.

Anyway, while I was very excited and involved in getting my boys to listen to and enjoy music, being committed to them becoming musicians was another story.

As much as I love music...well, music tends to make noise. Shocking revelation, I know. But, with three boys coming at me in under five years time, I already had a lot of noise going on in my cave. Ironically, I'm actually sort of a musician...old piano teacher and everything.  But, I could only take so much noise coming from multiple sources at one time.

I love to talk and sing, but when I listen to music of my choosing, words are rarely involved.  Maybe it's because the voices in my head never shut-off, but I pretty much only have background stuff coming through the music devices around me. When my boys were small, I had a Debussy cassette in the minivan, and I'm pretty sure my youngest could hum all of "Clair de Lune" at age two.  Now 18, he was watching a current, very popular, sci-fi TV series a couple of nights ago. When a guitar began to play a haunting piece as the credits rolled, the boy - just in from football conditioning - said, "Hey!  Cool arrangement of 'Clair de Lune'!" 

As the boys lived much of their childhood in Seattle, a great city for some good jazz, I piped a local "smooth jazz" station through our intercom system, pretty much 24/7. One of my sons now says that he nearly convulses whenever he hears the genre, so I apparently over-did it. 

So, when they all wanted to sing/yell through the "Sing-A-Song," I wasn't that committed.  Same went for when they wanted to bang on the piano right after I had sent the last of my piano students home for the night.  I mean, didn't they realize I had just listened to what seemed to be the same measure from "Little Brown Jug" over and over for the past three hours?

These are times I thanked God for the quiet joy a plastic tub of Beenie Babies could bring.

Please don't get me wrong, I exposed them to music.  I even had moments in our day (non-piano teaching days) where I would sit at the piano and the three would march around singing everything from "Little White Duck" to "Old Blue."  I even taught them to vocally harmonize using the "Mail Time" song from "Blue's Clues."

But, still...involvement.

The commitment did show up.  It just took a while.  We eventually embraced the 6:15 AM band practice carpool and staggering saxophone prices. We fashioned patient parenting "hats" when the first guitar seemed to only play one one key...for one year.  We smiled (but, didn't laugh) when we were presented with the first song written.

I do think I laughed when the boys announced that they were forming the band "3-2-1."  They were about 6-8-10 when this transpired, and if you saw the CD cover they designed (I still have it in the cedar chest) and saw the titles of the potential songs for their wouldn't be judging me for laughing.  Hilarious.

I'm just zooming in on music.  There are plenty of other things we have to either get eggy or hammy about.  Sports, school, even relationships.  Especially relationships.  If you don't bring the meat to that table, you'll have egg on your face. (Couldn't resist!)

What about spiritually?  A lot of us think that if we are "involved" -  show our kids what going to church and taking our turn teaching Sunday School looks like - well, they'll get it.  Be moral, be ethical...don't worry, they'll pick it up.  Better gear up for a bit more than that, or things may get a bit scrambled.

Parenting is not for the faint of heart.  It is not for the casually involved.  It is for the passionately committed.

Bring on the bacon.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Backs of Their Heads...

Odd post title, I know.  And though this picture doesn't show little tykes (just one of my big tykes being dropped off at college a couple of years ago), it makes me think of when all my tykes were still wee ones in the cave...and a funny thing a friend used to say.

We'd be at the Golden Arches, carefully watching every move of the children, eating our McSalads and...KIDDING!

We'd be at the Golden Arches, listening for the screams of the children (a sign that all was well, as quiet typically equals calamity when kids are playing) and eating our two-whole-beef-patties...laughing and talking about the glorious days ahead.

The days, my friend predicted, when we would be "...watching the backs of their little heads riding off to school on that big, yellow bus!"

We'd guffaw over our super-sized fries, rolling our eyes and giving one another the "That'll be the day!" look moms often give.  Then, about this time, the bubble would burst and someone would have to run and get a manager to unlock the play-place restroom, or pull Mr. Poopie-Pants out of the ball pit.

For those of you chuckling to yourself at the vision of this scene...welcome!  You are either still in a cave with little ones, or you are a lot like me (sorry!) and just refuse to get too old or too judgmental to ever forget.  I'll arm-wrestle anyone out there who thinks they love their kids more than I love mine, but when I was right in the middle of cavedom, well...I had my share of daydreams about that bus.

After my version of this magical school vehicle pulled out of the neighborhood, I would work-out, write the Great American Novel and whip-up gourmet meals.  And that would all be before noon. I'm even funnier than you initially thought, uh?

I'm thankful that you stop by my cave and read my musings.  I hope that no matter what stage of life you find yourself in, you can pause every once in a while and latch on to something helpful and hopeful.

Currently, my heart is hanging out somewhere between little tykes underfoot and big tyke's underwear underfoot. Both seasons have moments...of grief and greatness.

I pray for those of you in caves filled with little ones today.  One minute you feel like you're going to blow your top, and the next you're blowing a soft, slurpy "raspberry" in the sweet neck on the back of a little head. Listening to one of this cavewoman's favorite sounds ever:  the hearty, baby laugh.

I pray for those of you in caves filled with middlers today.  One minute you feel like you can't take one more sassy sigh from a tween, and the next you're running your fingers through the messy hair (you wish was trimmed) on the back of that same, sassy head.  Listening to one of this cavewoman's favorite sounds ever:  the sweet, rare, heartfelt adolescent apology.

I pray for those of you in caves filled with grown kids' boxes and bins today.  One minute you feel like you're just going to donate all that junk to charity, and the next you remember the back of that head.  The one you watched go off to college...or to the military...or to a trade school...or to a cave of his or her own.

Then, you daydream about the next time you'll wrap your arms around the back of that head and hang on like you'll never let go.

Listening to one of this cavewoman's favorite sounds ever:  "Hey, Mom...I'm home."

Monday, July 9, 2012

There's Always One...

Look at the kid on the far right.  Notice anything? What was going on in that little preschool head of his?

How about, "I recall being perfectly clear that it was 'Pumbaa' I wanted." Or maybe, "Is this a girl toy?  If it is, I am so not playing with it!"

Most likely, "Why, for the love of Mike, does my mother dress me in these fruity wind suits?!"

Whatever he was thinking, this cracks me up.  It's a classic, pictoral example of one of my cave family theories.

There's always one.

There's always one who isn't happy at the water park.  He forgot his goggles. His aqua-socks are "squinchin'" his feet.  The "lazy river" is too "lazy."  The clearance swimsuit (cheap cave-mommy bought) he's wearing is actually some other kind of bottom-covering garment.  Meaning, it is missing that net-underwear thing guys need inside their shortage. And then, there's the ever-popular sunblock making him "scratchy." And "scratchy" typically leads to "whiny." 

There's always one who isn't happy with the vehicle seating arrangement.  There's always one who forgets he has homework.  There's always one who forgets it's his turn to put the snake back in the habitat. (That last one may be a little more specific to my cave.  Oh, the reptile stories I could tell!)

When you start bringing kids into your may find yourself muttering, "There's always one!" on occasion.

I used to look at my three and question, "What do you guys do?  Do you pow-wow every night for a game of 'rock-paper-scissors' to see who is going to give Mom grief the next day?!"  Additionally, I would ask the Lord if a time would ever come when the musketeers would just get it all together...simultaneously.

But, you know...the theory of "there's always one" has its upsides.  The odds can be very favorable for a cave to experience some pretty sweet stuff, too.  Such as...

There's always one who will play with you when nobody else on the block will.

There's always one who will give Mom a hug, just when she needs it.

There's always one who will say "thanks" when everyone else forgets.

There's always one who can make the others laugh...right when they're about to cry.

Which one do I want to be today?

Which one do you want to be today?

Let's up the odds.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

No Monsters-in-Law Allowed!

That's me and my big hair on my middle son's wedding day.  It was in the late spring of 2011.  And it was wonderful.  He decided to marry the most beautiful and wonderful of, that's made my new job fairly easy.

My new job? Mother-in-law.

We've all heard the in-law jokes.  Hopefully, heard and not told.  Growing a family is a big, important and - if done with care and selflessness - rewarding job.

The "care" part is often easy.

 "Selflessness," on the other hand, well...

Most of you reading today have some in-law connection.  You may not be or have a parent-in-law, but you likely have a brother-in-law, sister-in-law or cousin-in-law. I was thrilled to get my first sister-in-law, when I was only five, because although having three brothers was was fun to finally have a sister.

Mother-in-law? I hate to brag, but mine is amazing.  She actually deserves an award.  She won the crazy daughter-in-law jackpot and has always acted like I'm really enjoyable to have around.  Amazing.

From what I've seen and heard, my own mother is pretty awesome at the in-law thing, and she says my father's mom was amazing at in-lawing as well.  I'm obviously blessed here, and I know it.

But, I still hear the jokes.  And sometimes hear the not-so-funny woes of those with in-law issues.  I've even seen most of that movie where Jane Fonda is a crazy mother of the groom...and even another where some guy's mom is freakishly jealous of her son's new wife.  And I did an entire blog once on my "inner Marie Barone." 

So, what's the point of my blog today?  Well, you's this crazy bag sitting on a little bistro table in the corner of my kitchen.

We got another CD from the wedding photographer as a sort of 1st Anniversary gift a while back. And it was given to me to give to my kids.  But, the thing is...the boy is in Africa and with work, I may not see the girl for a few more days.  It's killing me.  That cute bag holding what I know to be amazing bonus pictures from an amazing day...and yet...

My first thought was, "I'll just pop it in my computer real quick and look.  Then, right back in the bag it'll go!"  Then, I reasoned, "I'll just call and ask if I can pop it in my computer real quick and look. They won't care."

Then, I asked, "WWO/PD?"  Translation: "What Would Olena/Pearl Do?"  Olena and Pearl are my mom and mom-in-law.  We'll just call them "O.P."  Or, "Opie."  (Sorry, now I'm just amusing myself at your expense. And theirs.)

Well, I'll tell you what O/P wouldn't do.  They would never, ever think about doing a thing with the contents of that bag, other than getting them into the rightful hands.  I can hear O/P's thoughts in my head right now, "It is not mine.  It is my daughter-in-law's. It was her big day.  I already had mine.  I will get to see them soon enough."

My daughter-in-law's eyes should be the first pair to see those pictures.  Of course, I know that.  I haven't looked at them, I promise.  I just wish I was to the O/P level of mother-in-lawing where I wouldn't even consider dabbling with the thought!

Well, maybe I'm doing some things right.  By God's grace.  A month or so ago, the couple had stopped by on the way to my son's in-laws' house.  Some time passed and it was getting late.  I asked my son if they shouldn't be getting on down the road.  "Oh, I thought we'd wait until Dad got here." ("Dad" was coming home from a missions' trip and not due back for hours.)  I pulled the boy aside. "Look, buddy. I love you to know that.  And we love seeing you. But, you've got a sweet, little wife who needs to see her mom, too.  I love you, but please leave."  He smiled at me and said, "You're right, Mom.  We should go." I hugged them both tightly and off they went.

I'm so used to having my boys in my cave for the past couple of decades, that even though two-thirds of them no longer live here, it's easy for me to just let them come home and get back in the old routines.  But, especially with Mr. Married...that's not exactly the healthiest of things.  It would be easy to keep being "mommy," and I'll absolutely always be "mom," but...the only "mommy" he needs to be paying attention to right now is the one he's going to be a "daddy" with come January 2013.

Everyone knows that in-law is different than, well, different than "I'm the one who changed your diapers."  But, in-law should be seen as a blessing and not a curse.  Hey, I'm not entirely stupid.  Not everyone has the nerves of steel my poor mother-in-law possesses to put up with daughters-in-law like me.  I also know each family is unique and there are those things that are completely out of our control.

What I'm thinking about today is the things we can control.  Like not talking badly about our in-laws in front of our kids...or in front of anyone, for that matter.  How about even choosing to treat in-laws simply as "in."  In our family. Period.

Yep.  Things we can control.

Things like not ripping into that stinkin' bag!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Dream Weavers

No, the title of this post has nothing to do with my family's surname.  And no, this post is not going to be about how dreamy my family members are.  Though they do have their moments.

It also does not refer to the Gary Wright song that haunts anyone with a '70's childhood. Great.  Now, it will be playing non-stop in my head for the next week.

Sitting in my cave, knowing I should work out, but wanting to bake cookies...I am thinking of dreams.

Not just mine or yours, but also those of our children.

I may be more focused than usual on dreams today because:  
1)  I have recently decided to full-on pursue my own dream of a big way.
2)  I had a dream last night that my friend, Peggy, and I were sitting in my car praying and eating donuts.  Seriously. And really, there's not much better than good friends, prayer and donuts.

Just last post, I referred to my middle son dreaming of being a soldier, but also...a ninja, a puppy or an Irish River Dancer.  As a 1st grader, my oldest dreamed of being a missionary artist to Texas who would spread the Gospel throughout the vast state via his purple Toyota Tacoma.  My youngest took the ninja dream one step further and 20 feet higher when he aspired to be a tree ninja.  Don't ask.

We all have dreams.  Or, had dreams.  Some of us started with dreams and let them fade away. Some of us had dreams crushed or stolen.  Some of you, like me, have experienced the birth of a dream, the death of a dream and then a resurrection of a dream.

This is where it all gets a little dicey. Dreams are really, really good.  Dreams motivate and elevate.  Dreamland is where most of our good life stuff starts.  But, then, one by one, we watch some of our dreams disappear...maybe with each passing year. I guess we simply grow up.

That's what we call it anyway. "Growing up."

Then, we get kids.  And with these kids, come more dreams. Theirs. Astronaut, archeologist, movie star, zoo keeper and even ninja.  "Cute," we tell ourselves.  Followed by, "She'll grow out of it."

A bit later on, kids' dreams change.  Evolve, if you will.  Teacher, business person, doctor, coach or mechanic.  "Good," we tell ourselves.  Followed by, "We'll see."

This is where the "weaver" comes in with the whole dream thing.  There are reasons dreams die.  Sometimes a reason is that it truly needs to.  Like in the case of tree ninja.  Trust me, that dream dying is a good thing.  Other times, though, dreams die for lack of a good weaver or two.

One definition of "weave" is this:  "Twist and turn from side to side while moving somewhere in order to avoid obstructions."

Isn't that awesome?  And isn't that what we should be helping our kids do in life?

I feel that I'm getting to live a dream just by writing something you might possibly stop to read during your busy day.  But, even in doing so, I need people to help me "avoid obstructions."  Obstructions like self-doubt, discouragement and distractions.  Same stinkin' obstructions that would love to throw our kids off.

That's why we need to weave, friends.  Don't be a dream crusher.  Be a dream weaver!

Oh, we have to use wisdom...I squashed that tree ninja dream like a bug.  But, too often we see the majority of our kids' aspirations (and maybe a few of our own) as tree ninja delusions instead of heart-felt dreams. And we squash them. 

I confess I have done that more than a time or two with my own boys. And myself.

Who knows? The Texas countryside might have really benefited from a nice, young man passing out paintings from a purple pick-up...

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

What Kind of Parent Would...

Okay, nobody has come right out and said this to me exactly.  To my face, anyway. You know what I'm referring to...the, "What kind of parent would let their kid..." rhetorical question.

I call it rhetorical, because I laugh when I think of what anyone asking that would do if the parent "in question" actually came back with an answer.  Pass out or swallow teeth, I suppose.  This comment is uttered when one parent has come to conclusions regarding another parent's actions...minds are already made up.  No answer required.

We just had Memorial Day and 4th of July is right around the corner.  In my cave, the latter tended to get caught up in one thing at times...all-out firework extravaganza that would rattle the windows on the block.  My husband always liked to use the , "We're supporting the local youth groups raising money for their summer camps!" excuse to justify the purchasing of massive amounts of multi-colored explosives.  Whatever.

Oh, we are extremely patriotic in our cave.  Caveman served in the Air Force prior to our union, and took part in the '83 invasion of Grenada. One nephew is an officer in the Marines, and yet another currently serves in the Air Force.  But, back when little boys lived in my cave, fireworks took up a lot of our thinking and planning.

While we were watching war movie marathons and making firework shopping lists, we noticed that one of our little guys was quite taken with it all.  Lots of questions about different conflicts throughout our nation's history, with interest in everything from land mapping to specific battles down through the years.

If a young man we knew joined a branch of the Armed Services, our curious child would try to get a copy of the recruit's first picture in uniform.  We watched an old cave movie the other day, and there in our boy's the background of the shenanigan's being could see those pictures.  Proudly on display for all of his 5th grade buddies to see.

He wrote to those servicemen and prayed for them.  At the time, I just thought he was a sweet kid.

Oh, sure.  He talked about being in the military from third grade on. But, he also talked about being a ninja, a puppy and an Irish River, we didn't really pay close attention in those early days.

By the second half of high school, we knew.  We knew he wouldn't be happy doing anything else.  We knew he wanted to serve his country.

Over the years, I've heard the "question."  Overheard (double meaning intended), I should say.  "How can they let him (or 'her,' thank you very much, ladies!) join the military?!  What kind of parent would be okay with that?"

"What kind of parent would support putting their child in harm's way? Don't they care more than that?  I don't understand!  I love my kids too much to go for something like that!"

We remembered last month.  We celebrate next month.  My kid (an Army officer-in-training) is in Africa this month.  I'm emotional every month (and day.)

Thank you to all of the men and women serving in our Armed Forces.  Thank you to all of the spouses and children who also sacrifice so much.

Thank you to all of the parents who have gone before me and set the most incredible example of selflessness.

You don't just care about your family being care about an entire nation being safe.

You don't think solely of your own wants and desires...but, also those of your children.

You don't put having everyone home for Christmas before having a country we can actually say "Christmas" in.

What kind of parent...would I like to be?

(That's definitely rhetorical.)

Friday, June 22, 2012


This is how the boys clean the kitchen, when they're all back at our cave. It's not pretty, and typically involves a lot of slurping up leftovers, smacking one another on the backside with a dish towel and more often than not... one brother doing the majority of the work. However, it gets done.

Believe me, their methods are different than mine.  And believe me, if I had my way back when the wise husband said it was time for them to start pitching in - when they were small - I would have corrected their methods right away.  Every time. Translation:  done it all for way.  The best way.  Or, at least the best way, as I saw it.

I'm not saying I didn't initially spend time showing them a proper way of doing things. I did.  But, one day, Caveman caught me "perfecting" a chore one of the boys had just the best of his little Kindergarten ability.  "Honey, if you're always 'fixing' things, after he's done a great job for a six-year-old... well, think how defeated he must feel.  He's going to start asking 'why bother?'"

I thought about that.  I couldn't expect my three, little guys to fold towels like Martha Stewart. But, I could expect them to pitch in as best they could around the house.  We are a family, we all chip in. We just all chip in differently, in different ways with different abilities.

One boy was great with yard work, another could organize the pantry better than your grandma.  Yet another didn't have to be told to take the trash out.  More than once or twice a day, anyway.

Did I mention towels? Starting when the boys were two, four and six, I would dump the clean towels on the couch where the youngest folded the wash cloths, the middle folded the hand towels and the oldest folded the bath towels.  It was quite a sight to watch them, their little tongues hanging out and pressed down to one side, working hard to accomplish the task.

The oldest would have a fairly nice pile of somewhat folded linens.  The middle, well, his were at least "stacked."  But, the baby...he pretty much just made a new pile of wash cloths that looked like the original pile of wash cloths dumped from the basket.  And you know what?  With the wisdom of my hubby wringing in my ears, I learned to overcome the urge to "fix" and cheered, "Good job, guys!" and put them in the linen closet.  Exactly as they were handed to me.

That baby is now 18, and my mother says he produces a folded towel better than those found in luxury hotels.  It's true.  He's like a towel-folding guru.

This is just a simple admonishment for all of you out there holding your tongue as you painfully watch a child, his or her own tongue pressed, working hard to accomplish a task. Big task, small task, silly task, life-changing task.

You do what you can.  You model.  You love.  You pray.

In the blink of an eye, you have nicely folded towels.

Enjoy the wadded up wash cloths while they last. My almost empty cave has a linen closet full of perfection.  And it makes me about as sad as kitchen clean-up without a little tomfoolery.

It all gets done, cave friends.

Much sooner than you think.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What They Don't Know...

Look at 'em!  Crazy kids!  So excited at the thought of new life coming into their cave!

Those of you with children remember your initial excitement, too.  I remember mine quite well.  And as many first-time parents are, I was really awesome at documenting everything from pregnancy until my first child was...let's see...oh, I remember...until he was a big brother. At age two. Two years out of twenty-three that are recorded in detail.  Way to go, me!

With the inaugural son, I actually "wrote" to him while he was yet in the womb.  Oh, man. That child, the one who is now old enough to be in another country on his own for six weeks, and I laugh when we read the pastel, cloud-covered "pregnancy journal." Whoever he marries will probably think it's sweet.  But, Firstborn and I think I was a dork. What I didn't know then, that I know now. 

What I know now, is that if you plan on having more than one child and aren't extremely organized -  or at least a bit OCD - you will not have completed baby books for each of your off-spring, let alone "write" to each of them while pregnant.  Try communicating with the one confined to your tummy while the others, who are already fully mobile on the planet, are off playing in another part of the house...well, let's just say you are going to have some things to clean up.

Another thing I didn't know then, when I was waiting for the first, blessed arrival, was that there would very soon be a day when I wouldn't do things on "my" time anymore.  Or even experience "my" time anymore.  Merely trying to bathe myself became something I would have to carefully slip in between feedings or poopings. Or cryings.  Often my own cryings.

Something else I didn't know then, is that I would not be able to go on any kind of outing with my incredible husband for over two decades without doing a bit of the Freaky Fret.  "Honey, I don't know.  He's really little and the babysitter is only, like, I don't know, 42?"  "Babe, let's just call and see how they're doing.  I know we talked to them 20 minutes ago, but a lot can happen in 20 minutes."  "Kev, just text the boy (age 18) one more time and make sure he locked all of the doors. Please?"

I could go on for hours making a "What I didn't know then..." list.  But, I won't.  Since we all have lives outside of blog-land, I'll wrap this up quickly today.

I didn't know, when I was dorkily writing in that journal in the late 80's, that I would be (still a bit dorkily) writing a blog in the 21st Century with even more love and intensity about the wonders of family.

I didn't know, when I wasn't carefully documenting everything my kids were doing, that it would be okay. That the memories we were making would forever be imprinted in our hearts and minds anyway...with or without a camera. Or a journal.

I didn't know, when I wasn't getting "me" time, that when I finally did get back to having "me" time...well, it just wouldn't be nearly as magical as "we" time.

Congratulations to my middle son and his beautiful wife.

At this very moment, their hearts are growing to make room for a love that they truly can't even begin to fathom.

That is what they don't know. Yet.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Clown Proud

For all of you out there with a fear of clowns...don't worry. There are no clowns like that here.  I mean, there are clowns here, but not the kind you're thinking of.  Not those guys...with their rainbow wigs and large knives.

No, not those guys. Not them. No, sir. Nope.

Be back in a minute, need to go make sure the doors are locked...

Back!  And no sign of Rainbow Wig Chucky anywhere. Phew!

The picture on this post is of my baby.  Not the adorable child on the right...mine would be the somewhat creepy-looking, but still handsome, clown-kid on the left.

This picture just came to me via bro-mail, as one of my brothers is on a missions' trip in Central America with my youngest child.  Thank goodness for picture people in the family!  I still have a roll from '92 to develop.  (I know, I know..."good luck with that!")

When I saw this image, and a few others of my boy dancing around making small children happy, I mused, "I need to share this."  Not because everyone needs to see how cute I think my kid is.  Or, to show an aunt how much he's grown since the last time she saw him.  Not even to show grandparents that he is safe.

I was simply overcome by the thought that we "brag" on a lot of things we see kids do, but rarely on things that really matter.

Hey, don't get me wrong.  When this same clown-baby was on local TV news for having a great baseball game a while can bet I shared the link with others to view. I'm still a human mother, for crying out loud.  And I very much enjoy "liking" the precious pictures of friends' children doing everything from graduating preschool to dancing in their first recital to picking their noses. Seriously, cute. If they're under the age of 10 and picking their noses, that is.

But, what if...and hang with me here for a minute...what if, every once in a while...well, what if we just bragged on the often unacknowledged acts of goodness in the lives of the youngsters around us? The random acts of kindness.
More like intentional acts of Christ-likeness.
Sounds a bit strange, doesn't it? I know, but it shouldn't.

We fill stadiums and auditoriums to cheer our kids on to victories and curtain calls.  I get this.  I've done this. And it's what we should do. Yet... I sit and look at the image of my clown-child, well, I just feel differently regarding what I want to get excited about in young people's lives.  Oh, you can bet your last chocolate bar that I'll be yelling from the stands this fall at football games, and whooping it up from my folding chair next spring when they start making chalk lines on the baseball field. His graduation (God willing!) next year from high school...of course I'll be excited.

I just want to make sure I’m prudently proud. I want my children, and those around me, to see that I value what God values. Like a teenage boy who would rather put his hard-earned money toward a trip to a place requiring a clown suit than toward a trip to a prom requiring a tux.  I'm sure tuxes are in his future, and I'll have my brother take a picture (remember: undeveloped roll of film from '92) of the charming boy in them. But right now, that clown suit looks great.

How about the 7th grade girl I know of who is taking care of younger siblings while her mother slowly loses a long-fought battle with cancer? Too heavy sounding coming from the cave? Albeit it true?  Well, then what about the child who may never sing in front of people, but makes sure the chairs are put away after the program?

In no way am I saying that these children displaying servant-hearts are somehow super superior.  I can promise you clown-boy has his moments of selfish non-greatness…just like his mama. I am just so challenged today to get my pom-poms and megaphone out for things we see in people not making the news or the honor roll or the Hall of Fame.

A kid scoring a touchdown is cheer-worthy, but so is a kid who is always kind to elderly people.

A kid who can draw amazing pictures is awe-inspiring, but so is a kid who can draw a bullied peer into a loving circle of friends.

A kid making a 4.0 is due praise, but so is a kid who truly always does his or her best...regardless of the outcome.

A teen wearing a varsity jacket covered in recognition patches can make a mom proud. And should.

So can a teen wearing a clown-suit covered in calico patches.

Look in and around your cave today.  Notice the unsung and unappreciated things those in our world are quietly doing.

You just might experience a little Clown Pride yourself...