Wednesday, April 27, 2016

True Wealth

I recently saw a picture on Facebook.  The picture was of an older, distinguished gentleman, standing on a New York street.  The caption was this:

"I've been working for 45 years, and so has my wife.  But we have no money.  You know why?  Because my five kids have two bachelor's, a master's, and two doctorate degrees.  They are my wealth."

I was really touched by this quote.  My husband and I will likely never have much money to speak of.  We are careful with our finances (remember my Budgetary Smackdown and the Freedom Budget?), but still, two church workers raising five kids doesn't a wealthy lifestyle create.  We will probably pay as much as we can toward our children's college educations, with them working to cover the rest. We and the kids will probably have loans too.

But as I read this quote, I read more into it.  It wasn't just about money.  It was the true wealth that children afford a couple.  With each child we had, we knew our discretionary income would be decrease.  But we also knew that our blessings would blossom thousandfold!  Our children are our true wealth - worth far more than expensive vacations, designer clothes or a big fancy house.

The kids sometime say things like "Why don't we ever get to stay in a hotel on our vacations?  Why can't we go out to dinner?  I really, really want _____ like so-and-so has.  Why is our van such a piece of poo?"  A friend of mine, who has three siblings and is the daughter of a Lutheran pastor and teacher, said her parents often told her, "We are rich in God's love".  I often give the children this answer when they moan and groan about being "poor" (they don't know what poor is!).  It has become a bit of an inside joke now, but the meaning is not lost on them.  God's love, shown to us in this instance through family, is our true wealth.

Behold, children are a heritage of the Lord
Psalm 127:3a

Sunday, April 24, 2016

How to Score a Free Lunch

1.  Have a meeting and lots of errands to run.
2.  Decide to grab lunch and take it home.
3.  Go to new Qdoba because you hear it's awesome.
4.  Park car, enter building and realize there are 20+ people in line.
5.  Go back to car and head next door to Panda Express drive thru.
6.  See a longish line at Panda Express but decide to stay anyway.
7.  Because orange chicken.
8.  Watch two people ahead of you pull out of the end of the line.
9.  Truly commit to the actual drive thru, which has curbs and therefore no escape options.
10. Surf Facebook.
11. Answer a couple emails.
12. Place order for orange chicken.
13. Feel guilty for ordering such a junky lunch.
14. Text two friends.
15. Get annoyed that you have been in line for so long.
16. Realize that you have been sitting in the Panda Express drive thru for 25 minutes of your life.
17. Use iPhone to look up Panda Express' phone number.
18. Plan to ask the good folks at PE if they are experiencing a natural disaster inside.
19. Or perhaps a medical crisis, rendering them unable to slop fried chicken and rice into a bowl.
20. Marvel over how simple it should be to fill an order at this particular establishment.
21. Finally see the person in front of you move.
22. Decide how to phrase your thoughts. "What the heck is happening in there?" doesn't seem nice.
23. Pull up to window and start to hand the very animated cashier your debit card.
24. See her hand out your order and hear her say with a smile, "No charge since you had to wait!"
25. Feel suddenly validated with restaurant choice.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

True Confession Time

If you know me at all, or knew me when I was younger, or read my blog ever, you know that I love my children.  I love my children so much that my heart might explode.  I love them with a voracity that surprises me and even at times scares me.  I cannot in any way, fathom a life in which I do not have these precious beings - these gifts that God has entrusted me with.

I love them to the depths of my soul.

From the time I was very young, I always wanted to be a mother.  I also wanted to be a teacher, but that was secondary to my desire to be a mother.  I thought I might teach in the years before and after having children, but the real career drive was to be a wife and mother - a mother to many children in fact.

After being married a few years, my dream of being a mother was about to be realized.  I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl and I cried and I loved her and I held her in the hospital and I looked at her tiny precious face and thought I had never seen anything more beautiful.

Then I went home.  And perhaps it was a bit of the baby blues, or hormones or a whacked out world in which I was now in charge of this human being, but I felt a little off.   Life was not the same anymore, and while it was wonderful and I still thought this child was the most amazing gift to me EVER, I felt disoriented.

Three days after I had my baby, I was at home, struggling with nursing and pain and some lingering medical issues from childbirth.  My mother-in-law, mother to two boys, was staying with us to help out.  The following picture is incredibly vivid in my mind:  The three (four, actually - my little babe was there too!) of us were sitting in our family room talking.  And my husband said these words to my mother-in-law: "Now I know how people feel when they say they would run into a burning building for their child!"

The conversation went on, but I was left behind.  I looked at them blankly and thought, "What is wrong with me?  Would I really risk my life for this child? What kind of mother am I? This is my life long dream - my entire life's wish, and I am failing already?  My baby's only 3 days old!  How is this possible?"

It was a bit of an earth shattering moment for me.  On the one hand, I was already desperately in love with my child.  But on the other hand, my brain, my crazed post-pregnancy hormones, the pre-baby version of me, something, some part of my subconscious apparently didn't realize that I should be willing to risk my life for her.

Blessedly, my body evened out quickly and in the next few days, I began to feel more like myself, and I realized what had always been true, from the moment she was born:  I would indeed risk my life for this child.  But it was the first in a series of on-going lessons about motherhood.

That was my first dose of reality that motherhood was not this blissfully wonderful experience all of the time.  It was hard and emotionally draining and exhausting and I felt like I was failing much of the time.  Even now, 16 years later, I still battle those same anxieties and fears and worries.  Parenting is unbelievably rewarding one moment, and unbelievably heart wrenching the next.

And so now, 16 years later, and 5 kids in, do I have it all figured out?  Not even close.  I have learned a lot of practical things along the way, but that is a list for another post.  The most important thing I have learned about parenting is that it's all grace.  We pray, and we pray and we pray some more.  We do our best with the abilities we are given and then we have to trust that God will take these souls and work amazing things in them.  And you know what?  He does!  In spite of my many, many failures as a mom, God has created some incredible people in our children.  These children are ours for just a short time, His for eternity.

I'm thankful He knows I was the best one to mother them, faults and all.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Bits and Pieces #9

  • My grandma recently moved out of her assisted living apartment and in with my aunt and uncle.  My dad was handling some of the details of the move, once of which was disconnecting her phone. When he called into the telephone company to do so, the rep noticed what an old number it was.  My dad told the gal she had had that number since 1953, when his parents had built the house and moved into it.  She asked my dad if he was sure he wanted to let the number go.  Well, once it was brought up, he really didn't want to let it go! So my dad changed his cell phone number to his childhood number and the phone number lives on!  I have great happiness in dialing his number now - a number I have known my whole life, and he almost all of his.  

  • Ok - this is a rant.  You have been warned.  What is with teenagers and twenty-somethings on all the sosh meeds (that's social media - see I'm a hipster too)?  They seem to start all their "sentences" with when!  Examples:  when your dog eats your homework - or- when you realize tomorrow is Monday - or - when you realize your cat is more thug than you.  It seems the youth of today only know how to write in fragments, and it's driving me crazy! #WhenYouForgetHowToConstructAProperSentence

  • Today I removed my 6.5-year-old's 5-point harness carseat from the van.  She has been in a high back booster in the suburban for quite a long time now, but we didn't have a second booster, and she was still small enough to stay in the 5-point, so we just kept using it in the van.  But she was really getting too big for the 5-point, so I bought a high back booster from a friend and put it in this morning.  And as I released the seat belt of the big car seat (it's hard to do - those things are installed tightly - see my post here about car seat installation!) and lugged it out of the van, I realized it was the end of an era.  (I know I'm always saying that - there are lots of eras in my world, and it's a big deal when one comes to an end).  We have had a 5-point carseat for more than 16 years, and today we no longer do.  Sixteen years of buckling someone in, of tightening straps and wrestling with coats.  Sixteen years of sweating and frustration while installing (did you read my post I linked?), and sixteen years of having little kids.  Now our youngest is too big for a carseat.  And since this is me we're talking about, my heart ached a little for those younger years.  Those younger years which were fabulous, but simultaneously really hard -- yes, those years.  As our family grows up, these "lasts" are more and more frequent.  Thankfully, though, for my heart, "firsts" are also cropping up everywhere -- first days in high school, first driver's license, first date, first job.  Truthfully, my heart hurts a bit with both the firsts and the lasts, but it also overflows with each as well.  Parenting never disappoints! 

Friday, April 8, 2016

On Brides and Fathers and Dresses

For the past few months, I have been trying to show my teenage daughter the movie Father of the Bride - the Steve Martin version from the 1990s.  I was about 18 or 19 when it was released, and it quickly became a fan favorite amongst my family and close friends.  We could recite much of the movie and laughed uproariously at Steve Martin and Martin Short.  It was (and still is) quoted often in our family.  I would watch the movie and think ahead to when I would be the bride - what a glorious day it would be!  When Mr. Right and I tied the knot!

Fast forward about four years. . .and indeed Mr. Right had entered my life and things were getting serious between us.  I brought him home during spring break to meet my family, and my dad, ever the sentimental goofball, instinctivley channeled his inner Steve Martin.  We were at The Sizzler (it was really just called Sizzler, but doesn't it sound a lil more sophisticated this way?), and, per usual, I wasn't able to finish my steak.  My dad, who had been eyeing the remains on my plate, sat ready and waiting for me to offer him my leftovers, as I had been doing for the past 20+ years.  Instead, with a sinking stomach he watched me stab the steak and turn to my new beau and say, "Hey babe?  You want the rest of my steak?".  He told me later that it was at that moment that he knew he was replaced.

So, after a few tries with a scratched rental, I finally broke down and ordered a copy of Father of the Bride from Amazon and we watched it yesterday.  I haven't seen it from beginning to end in many, many years, and my memories didn't disappoint. I held my tongue (most of the time) so as not to recite every single line, but it was every bit as funny as I remembered it to be.  All the kids who were in the room thought it was hilarious.  I translated for Frank (the Kek!  the chipper chicken!  Armani don't also make polyaster! where are those cares? we don't want to looose him - he's a genius and we need his maaand!), calmed Shadow down when the dobermans were barking at George holding the bank book, and wiped my eyes when they were filmy at the wedding scene.  And as I watched the movie this time around, everything had shifted.  Instead of relating to Annie, the bride, I was suddenly relating to George and Nina, the parents.  During some of the movie, I sat on the couch with my 16-year-old daughter's head on my lap, and my heart ached a little.  Soon I will be the mother-of-the-bride and we will be the ones who will be "replaced".  It will be awesome and exciting and everything we've prayed for, God-willing, but it will also be hard to let go of her childhood. How time changes one's perspective.

After the movie, my youngest daughter asked me to get my wedding dress down.  I pulled it out - for the first time in almost twenty years.  And oh!  The memories!  I tried it on (I couldn't zip it all the way of course -I don't always offer the steak to my husband anymore!), and looked in the mirror and remembered the girl who wore it almost twenty years ago.  We took a bunch of pictures to show my mom (who made my wedding dress!!), and then I asked my 16-year-old daughter to try it on.  It fit her perfectly!  Looking at her in the dress made reminded me of how I looked in it all those years ago, and it was a great feeling. I took several pictures of her wearing it too, and then my little 6-year-old tried it on too, and we got lots of pictures of her.

While I don't think either of my girls will choose to wear my dress (enormous bows were the fashion in 1996 - I swear!), the whole process of trying it on with them was special to me.  I recall trying my mom's dress on when I was young and thinking ahead to 'one day'.  Time moves quickly and before I know it, my daughters will be trying on their wedding dresses (and my sons will also be preparing for their weddings), and our hearts will be catching up.  And it will be then, Dad, that I think I'll finally understand how you felt that day at The Sizzler.