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!