Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sleepless Season

Weighing sleep in the balance. I long for it. I crave it. I watch my husband plodding through days and evenings where just sitting down brings on a doze. For what, you ask? A newborn? A baby cutting teeth? A young child struggling with nightmares? Absolutely not! Our sleep deprivation is thanks to an 18 year-old boy who can't get enough of us!
Each night this boy is somewhere nearby, at least intermittently involved in our family life- not running around, not on the phone with his friends, not texting. At least three nights a week we read aloud from a series of Edgar Rice Burroughs' "Tarzan" books. Twice a week we watch movies together. Wouldn't you think that's all he could handle of us? I would! After all the evening rituals are complete, the dogs, bunnies, and mice fed, lights out, daughters tucked in, the parents are nearly comatose and the bed is looming enticeingly, we hear the pitter-patter of giant footsteps coming up the stairs....
He knocks, enters, and flops face-down on the bed saying "How you do?" Thoughts on the day, reflections on life, sweet banter keeps sleep at bay. We savor these moments. They are treasures. They will soon be over, but they will last forever. This is our routine, our son. What did we do to deserve this?

We were willing to miss a little sleep!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Priorities: Phase II

One week down on the new priority system, and I'm still feeling cautiously optimistic. There are so many things that seemingly must be done, and so very many more that I want to do! How to make it all fit...that is the question. The sad discovery is that no matter how hard I try, it just won't all fit into one day or even one week. The good news is, that with my new system, the things I'm getting done are important things, and I'm accomplishing lots of the big ones!
My list of important things includes 8 broad categories: Jesus, relationship time, teaching, work (housework, etc.), relaxation time, grooming (ugh! I begrudge all the time showering, hair, and makeup require!), exercise, and oh yes, blogging. These are broad categories, but they basically sum up my life. This way I can keep track mentally. I pick the main focus points the night before, or even that morning. Then I don't feel guilty about the things I'm not getting to that day. I just feel good about the things that are happening.
Layni is the main thing in my teaching category. The older kids don't require nearly as much teaching time any more. Within that category, I've had to think in terms of the "big 3." I try to get these in every day. The rest is gravy! These 3 consist of therapy (occupational, 30 minutes, twice a day), learning to read, and piano practice. My reasons for focusing on these 3? First, the therapy is building a foundation that will make everything else easier. Second, being able to read will allow her the independence to do a myriad of other things. Lastly, piano has mathematical and therapy benefits, and even more importantly, if you're paying for piano lessons, you need to practice every day, besides to the fact that Layni doesn't cram well. Hence, the "Big 3." All that being said, I feel obligated to mention that I'm not including scheduled events. They happen without extra planning. I teach a group of four little girls language arts two full mornings a week, and we make a concerted effort to get math done as well, so no alarm that she's not getting educated, and the big girls have quite a few co-op classes :). I'd just forgotten that first grade takes so much "me" time!
Each day the priority list looks different. If, for example, I tried to do a full Bible Study, exercise, and shower/makeup, it would take somewhere near 3 hours including breakfast. All before my day even begins. Is that unbelievable, or what?! Some mornings, therefore, exercise wins over grooming, and I stay grubby all day, but with that healthy glow! Some mornings, relationship time gets combined with exercise, meeting special friends at the gym. Those are great mornings. Two for one, gotta love it. Occasionally I do all three, and Layni and I start school late. As long as it stays generally balanced, I feel like I'm winning.

The main reason for a priority list is to ensure that I'll stay focused, on track, and being a responsible steward of the many gifts with which I've been blessed.

Hopefully this is helpful and stirs some creative thought! How do you prioritize and accomplish everything on your list?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Blew It Again, Sam!

Well, nothing like starting the day off wrong! Today, my baby, who happens to be 7 years old, woke up excited to wear a new outfit. A new/old outfit that is. Our friend, who is a great blessing, brings us all her girls' hand me downs, and I give her mine from my big girls. We do a lot of beautiful sharing, and since her girls are first grandchildren, we get some amazing goodies. Today, Layne intended to wear a pair of polka-dotted sneakers that came in our last load, which incidentally, had not been put away yet (don't tell!). What came next reveals how little I've truly learned in 18 years of parenting. Let's just say God isn't done with me yet!

When I describe Layni, I say she has "I" for initiative. I don't believe I've ever seen a small child with more! I literally cannot out-think her. The merest hint of a suggestion on my part sends her running ahead to accomplish some feat without a second thought. If we could siphon some off and sell it, we'd be rich, as the old saying goes.
A great part of the time she gets "in trouble," it is because I am exasperated that she's gotten ahead of me again, beginning some project I'm not yet ready to tackle. It is a cycle we live and re-live continually. I don't enjoy messes, and she creates them by the dozen. I like to observe and ponder, she likes to touch and explore. To say she stretches me is quite an understatement.

Fresh out of bed, she breezed into my room this morning, holding a set of shoelaces in her hand, asking if she could put them in her new, laceless sneakers, making them ready-to-wear today. I immediately knew they'd come from her one and only set of adorable pink and navy plaid tennis shoes~ my favorites! She wanted to use them in a pair of second-hand brown sneakers probably to be used only as "grubbies." You can already see where I'm going with this. My sinful, ugly heart made itself plain by planting a frown on my face, and I proceeded to snap at my baby. "No, I told you we would buy laces for those. You pulled those out of your good sneakers, didn't you?" Poor child, she was appropriately shamed, and headed back to her bedroom to try to remedy the situation.

Repenting again. My children know the drill. "Mommy is the one who did something wrong here, not you. Please forgive me. I'm still learning. You are still learning too. I love you."
Are shoelaces worth more than a little girl's spirit? I think not. I just wish I could 'think not' before I open my mouth. We had a good hug, she had a good cry, and she forgave me. In all this, my prayer is that she will learn to repent quickly when she blows it. I certainly model the fact that it's a frequent occurrence in a mommy's life. This mommy anyway.

I guess beginning the day repenting is not such a bad thing. After all, dependence on Him is the best foundation on which to build a life. I certainly must depend on Christ to be the parent I want to be to this precious gift of a daughter!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Priorities: Phase I

Lately, I have devoted quite a bit of time to pondering why I am always struggling to feel a sense of accomplishment in my day. Time management, a term I am allergic to, is a chronic struggle for me. I prefer to live life as a free spirit, not tied down to a schedule. I detest doing the same thing at the same time every single day. In fact, when I wake up in the morning, what charges my battery and puts a smile on my face is thinking "What about this particular day is different?". All that being said, however, free spirits like me don't really seem to finish anything particularly well. Sad, but true! The path of my life is littered with great beginnings, but few of them are brought to completion. As my friend Kim at tells me, I need to "Change my thinking to change my life." That has been my back-burner priority for the last few weeks.
What emerged as a result of said pondering was a totally new thought. Perhaps I have been coming at this process from the wrong end... I am an expander, not a condenser. I am a divergent thinker, not a convergent thinker. Hmmm... If too many details overwhelm me, and I have discovered that I only need, and in fact, I prefer only a few key things to fire my jets (the operative word here being few), then maybe making a complete schedule of my days is not the best way to ensure that my time is productive. This was a brand new twist on a very old topic in my world!

I feel confident someone else could have arrived far more quickly at my revelation, but for me this epiphany seems perfectly marvelous. I decided to simply make a list of the very most important things in my life that I want to make time for. Broad headings, not too much detail. Then, each night, create a general mental sketch of which ones I would fit into tomorrow. All of this I can hold in my mind. If a pencil needs to be involved, you can rest assured: this plan is on its' way to the graveyard! So far? Revolutionary! It's working! I am cautiously thrilled!
In my next post, I will enlighten you specifically and fill you in the goals & the experiment!
...Stay tuned for Phase II...

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Out of the Frying Pan & Into the Fire

Does life ever catch you off guard? Do things sneak up on you that in hindsight, perhaps, you should have been more prepared for? I occasionally find myself gasping for a gulp of air, a gulp of prayer, as I submerge once again into the heart of the battle- you know, those battles that take place beneath the surface. We all look great on the surface. We smell good, our kids are beautiful, and we even sit together in church. Meanwhile we're gutting it up to invest time quickly before our window closes, and teach and preach and sow good seed and pray and water and hold on by faith, not by sight, until the harvest time arrives, when we'll see if our crop survived the storms served up by the teenage years.

Such precious gifts, ours to love and teach, but not ours to keep. The challenge of a lifetime is bringing them to a place of independence gracefully. Helping them find their own way, while realizing that they don't have to fight us to find it. We want them to be strong, not weak, seeking for them only that which is for their good. Still they struggle, trying desperately to fling off the layers of protection in an effort to identify where the parents end and they begin. It's a separating process, a tearing away, and after all, tearing is painful.
After doing this wild ride on the bucking bronco once, never knowing which way life will pitch you next, you might expect that I would have been more prepared the second time. I suppose if I'd had a moment to catch my breath, I might have. I was looking forward to a season of respite. Silly me! However, a little ray of sunshine is always present, if only we have a notion to look for it. I am exceedingly grateful that thus far, only one horse has been bucking at a time. No small blessing for an intentional mama who already manages to overburden each day with too many expectations and responsibilities. After all, when this season arrives, the ante goes up, and the rest of life must be allowed to slide by, unattended. Prepared or not, we must, forgive the expression, take the bull by the horns, gulp some air and lots of prayer, and dive in for the ride of our life and theirs, planting God's word and His truth in their hearts so that in due season we will reap a harvest, if we faint not.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Fishing With the Guys

The boy has been on a journey of late, which is both delightful and amusing to watch. He is really defining himself, what his interests are, and where he wants to spend his time. His experience this week helped catapult him forward on that journey. Two of his friends asked him to go fishing with them. It is Spring Break, after all, he reasoned, so I should do something fun. This time, however, the boy's paradigm of a fishing outing proved inaccurate.
His buddies requested that he spend the night with them, so they could get an early start. They were fishing on a lake about 2 hours away. He made his plans to join them, but the evening of the scheduled event, he discovered that his friends, being of a far more laid-back nature than he is, were then just beginning to obtain parental permission. This was a shock to my well-planned boy! After everything finally sifted itself out, they got to bed around midnight, but the "early" wake-up was at 3:00a.m.~ not enough sleep for my boy. The next thing I heard from him was a text about noon, bored already. When we questioned him about his estimated time of arrival, he informed us they'd be leaving somewhere near dark. The next text rolled in 9:00ish. He and the guys had just left, and were savoring their first meal of the day! Three voracious, teenage boys?! How can this be?
We welcomed our boy home at last shortly before midnight, weary and brimming with humorous anecdotes from the adventure. He looked similar to the boy who had departed 24 hours before, but as though he had just popped out of a toaster. My tall, dark, and handsome boy was a lovely shade of deep red from the tops of his bare feet to the tip of his neck and forehead. At first glance I realized that the senior pictures, which were to be taken the next day must be postponed. It was worth it, I suppose. He began to tell us how the day unfolded. My boy, who is a prolific communicator, had spent 15, yes, Fifteen hours on the lake with boys who love to fish. That is lot of time to think- especially when he told me the fish tally. It's consistent with the story of his life when he's playing other folk's games. We have never encouraged video games, feeling that there is always something more productive they could be doing. For that reason, when he does play, it's generally hilarious. For example, playing ___ game, friend A has 100 kills, friend B has 99 kills, and the boy? 5 kills. In his own words, he's the one falling off the sides of the stairs. And, after all, if your stair-climbing skills aren't well-developed, your overall game will suffer. The fruit of 15 hours of hard fishing? Friend A- 22 bass, friend B- 19 bass, and the boy? 2 bass.
He discovered several important things that day. First, he discovered that if his reasons for going on an adventure were purely social, perhaps fishing should not be the best activity of choice. Fishing is a quiet sport. Secondly, one perhaps ought to ask how long one's day is going to be before one gets hauled out into the middle of nowhere on a boat without food or sunscreen.
And most importantly, he learned that there are those people who like to fish, and then there those people who live to fish. My boy belongs to the former group. He'll think twice the next time he says yes to something! Better to know yourself and your personal limits, and spend your time carefully doing things you love. Next time, maybe he can fish locally (a moderate dose), and then take the guys to beach!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Who's in Charge Here, Anyway?

Today it hit me that perhaps an unhappy change crept into our family dynamics while I was not paying attention. #1 son, whom we refer to in our household simply as "The Boy" set a precedent in our household in recent years. This is not an unusual event at all, in fact, it seems he sets all the precedents. This one, however, caught me by surprise.
I spend so much time with my now 18 year old, that I seem to have forgotten that the "darlings" as we call them, are not yet 18 themselves. Below is the sad tale of how this was impressed upon my consciousness.
We travel roughly 45 minutes for tennis lessons on Monday afternoons, which becomes Monday evening by the time we finish. Normally I like to rush directly home to prepare dinner and begin one of our family nights which includes the reading aloud of what is now, I believe, our 8th sequential Tarzan book. (They are fabulous and the entire family enjoys them, Dad included!) We have, however, become somewhat desperate for a Target run, along with another quick errand which could only be accomplished in that city. So, knowing this would put a major hitch in my already tight schedule, and leave Dad home alone wandering aimlessly in a too-quiet house, we set out on our expedition anyway.
I had "hurry" on the agenda, but somehow this message did not transmit itself to the darlings. They were overflowing with their own agendas: cosmetics and bathing suits. I heard their longings, and believing myself to be a generous, thoughtful and benevolent mother, I encouraged them to peruse the bathing suit section thoroughly while I acquired all our little necessaries. When I returned, ready to make a run for the checkout, what should I find but pleading eyes, tales of desperation, and woes of depleted sizes. They simply must try on the few remaining cute suits before they disappear, and of course, they need them before Saturday! In retrospect, these are all perfectly logical concerns, but to a harried mom in speed-mode this is not a welcome surprise!
This is where, perhaps, all my great parenting flew out the window. If these children were 5 years old, I would not have hesitated. I am the mom, and I set the agenda; I am confident! We must do this another time. To these young teenagers, however, I seem to have given a disproportionate amount of influence, and consequently, I grudgingly give way, and we schlep back to the dressing room with my mood deteriorating with each step as I clock the minutes...
After a drawn out fashion show, one of the darlings is happy and the other, disappointed as we check out. To add insult to injury, my quick errand to Target has cost me a cool hundred dollars. Ugh! When finally we can leave, my darlings remind me that their triumph will be complete when the begged for "Mocha Joe's" are duly purchased and consumed- another ten minutes of painstaking delay. I am now finding it difficult to be civil.
The ride home was quiet except for the chattering of the baby and the slurping of the Mocha Joe's. I mentally plan the quickest meal we have on hand, and try to keep my mouth shut. My silent musings led me to check the motives of my heart. Whose best interests am I truly seeking? The painful conclusion of this introspection reveals that I am actually desiring the approval of my kids and my husband. Never mind what is best for them, what is best for the family, what is the right decision. I'm just concerned they won't be happy with me!
It occurs to me that what I'm really doing is patronizing and insulting to them. They are big girls, and are old enough to want to contribute to our family in every way possible. I do them a disservice every time I give in to an ill-timed whim which detracts from the overall good of the family. If I had taken a moment to explain the situation fully and plan a time to return when we could enjoy the process, think how joyful the shopping experience could have been! I cheated us all out of that joy by taking what seemed to be the path of least resistance. That is not the path I set out to follow. I guess we all catch ourselves asleep at the wheel every so often, eh?
The good news, and there is always good news, is that through this very minute crisis I have had my eyes opened, and will henceforth commit to remember that I am the parent, and not a contestant in a popularity contest, and that real love is not demonstrated by giving in to every desire a child displays at the moment they voice them, no matter how old that child may be!
Will you pray for me in this?

How may I pray for you?