One of my favorite family pics of almost all of us a few years ago!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

THE REAL POWER IN BEAUTY IS OUR ABILITY TO RECOGNIZE IT.

THE REAL POWER IN BEAUTY IS OUR ABILITY TO RECOGNIZE IT.
By Anna Giattina Lee
April 12, 2014

It’s spring again.  And just like the miracle of seeing a baby in the womb of a pregnant women never ceases to amaze me, the transformation that takes place throughout spring overwhelms me with moments of unspeakable joy.

I go to bed in darkness, although sometimes the moon moves through the frames of my 6 windows like a movie in super slow motion.   At first, I awake each morning to light flooding through the empty branches of the 50 foot tall trees, lighting my spot on the bed. 

But as spring makes it’s way into my heart, the light turns to sparkles and flashes as it makes its way through the dense green leaves and is reflected back, making me feel like I’m inside a crystal looking from the inside out. 

The windows are open, and I get to hear the leaves as they gently rustle against their branches and rub across my screens to remind me of their presence.  I hear the geese fly over my house with their familiar sounds and I imagine their predictable formation as they make their way over the mountain to the lake a short distance from our home.  The birds sing their various songs.

The house is still amazingly quiet and my littlest one, who still sleeps in our room, breaths gently and mumbles in his sleep as the sun does it’s job and gently pries his tiny eyes open.  He smiles from ear to ear with his eyes still slightly full of sleep in that sweet way that adds to his innocence.  Whether he sees me or not, his first word is always “Nanna,” which he speaks in a raspy small voice that is evidence that he has just woken up.

“I’m here baby,” I say as he looks for my head poking out of my old quilts that I layer to cocoon myself.  He climbs out of his bed dragging his blanket behind and comes to join me in bed for some cuddle time before the day begins full force.

These moments are beauty.  And when I am aware.  When I allow myself to see and feel and hear beauty.  When I recognize it for what it is, I am stunned all over again.  As if it is the first time I have ever understood beauty. 

Why?  I ask repeatedly.  Why do I have the ability to recognize and appreciate beauty? God you didn’t have to make that possible.  But you did.

And then the answer comes in almost the same words every.  “The most incredible thing about beauty is not that we can see it and feel it and hear it.  But that God gave us the ability to recognize beauty.  To experience it.  To appreciate it.  To love it.  To take pleasure in it.  To let it excite us.  Motivate us.  Enliven us.   To make us happy and creative and joyful.”

And my friends, that is a gift.  A grand gift from God. 

And one that leads us back to Him and His beauty. 


Thank you God.

Monday, March 3, 2014

CASTING BLAME: There, but for the Grace of God, Go I."

Yesterday, I posted the story of God waking me up from a deep sleep prompting me to think about the possibility of accidentally leaving one of my little ones in the car by making me think I had forgotten my 5-year-old in the car the night before!  I hadn’t actually left him, but within 2 hours of being jolted awake with that feeling, my visiting 4-year-old granddaughter was actually forgotten for a few moments in the car after a quick trip to school for drop off. 

God knows me well.  If it had been a vague feeling about something that might happen in the future, I probably would have dismissed it as my thought. 

If I had actually left a child in the car, I like to think that I would have been prompted much sooner! But by making me stop, process and think about what I had done it was at the forefront of my busy mind.

When my son wasn’t at breakfast (which actually isn’t unusual), it made me ask for more detail and gave me the chance to talk to the kids.

So, because I was so checked into this crazy feeling, when it actually happened within a few hours, God had prepared me to act.
 
The truth is, even if she had been left longer, it was neither too hot nor too cold to cause any long-term damage to her body.  But it would have messed with her emotions. And it would have been terribly scary.

But God protected her.  If it had just been me or my husband, we could have forgotten her for longer.  I could have thought she was back upstairs in the playroom playing with her cousin’s Barbies.

When new factors are introduced - a grandchild that isn’t usually with us on a school morning and normally doesn’t ride along for the trip to school – it is easy to go into rote action mode, not really thinking about what you are doing, but just doing it.


Likewise, when you do the same thing over and over again, sometimes you actually think that you have done something, when actually you did it yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that, but NOT today.

But your brain can play tricks on you.  And so can the Enemy. 

It’s not always about caring or not caring. 

It’s not always about loving or not loving.

It’s not always about selfishness or selflessness.

It’s not always too many children or not enough experience.

It’s not always about work or something else being more important.

It’s not about anything other than humanity.

When tragedy strikes a family, I cringe when people are critical of the parent(s). I can’t stand to see the daggars come out as people try to find someone to blame, as if that will solve the problem. 

Although it is certainly possible for some of these situations to be the result of abuse or neglect, the result of drugs or alcohol, truthfully, that isn’t the norm.

I know what abuse and neglect looks like.  I live with the consequences every day.

I also know what it means to be human.  To be overwhelmed.  To be lost in your own thoughts.  To make a mistake. 

And who is going to suffer more than the parent who makes this mistake?

The people casting judgment will forget the incident.

They will forget the name of the one who is now gone.

Their lives will move on as if nothing ever happened. 

Some of these people feel, “It can’t happen to me.”

“I would never let that happen to my child.”

“How could you forget your child?”

 How can you think that you dropped off your child at daycare when you didn’t?"

And it is these people that scare me.  The ones who actually believe they could never make this kind of tragic mistake.

I am an educated woman who has voluntarily dedicated most of my adult life to helping children.  I have more experience than most people.  I have more education and knowledge than many.  Yet, I could easily make a mistake that harms someone else.  And that scares me enough to be hyper vigilant and to listen to the promptings and intuitions that I am given.  

But if I ever did make this kind of tragic mistake, I would hope that people would consider my humanity and the bigger picture and not cast immediate judgment on me.

For the record, I’m not above reproach on the judgment problem.  I confess that on the same evening all this happened, I read about the Sommer Wilford, a Birmingham woman who supposedly watched her child burn in a car fire following an accident without telling the police or firemen her son was in the car.  They found his body after the fire was out.

The article clearly implied this she knowingly let him die.  It even mentioned charges of reckless murder.  And possible drug use.  Her wild hair and what looked like a smirk in her mug shot didn’t help her case.  Admittedly, I went in the precise direction that the author of the article intended.  Casting blame on the mom for ruthlessly watching her beautiful son die in the fire.  I even repeated the story to my husband.

But thankfully, I make it a habit not to comment publicly before I’ve done my own research. Out of curiosity, I checked out her young fiance’s Facebook page and found family portraits of a large extended family together with his handsome blonde-haired little boy. 

And this was his last entry.

People look if someone has shit to talk its (deleted his address) where I am I mean you people are clueless she didn't let him die she would never do that that baby was our world and it got taken from ous all of you saying dope was involve I can assure you there was no dope involved no one knows what happened bc guess why no one seen what happened but them and god So before you make all these horrible assumptions stop have some respect and dignity this news thing has taking it way to far and I will personally be putting a stop to it But no matter what is said done etc. nothing can bring my precious baby back he will dearly be missed and please All I am asking for is for everyone to stop until you find out the true story bc I don't even know yet but she was my better half and either of us would have done anything to stop this anything and yes No Matter what I will stand behind her till the end please pray for my family and stop the nonsense

Suddenly, Sommer Wilford wasn’t an object of blame.  She was a human.  With a story.  And a fiancĂ© who believed in her. 

And that’s when I had to recognize that I was judging without all the facts. Perhaps she was under the influence. Maybe the tragedy itself caused her to go into a state of shock that caused her to dissociate from reality.  Or she could be an evil person who wanted her son to die. 

I have no idea what the truth will turn out to be.  And I’m not going to try to figure it out.


Instead, I will pray.  God the Father, wrap your arms around this family and their friends.  Reveal yourself to them during this tragedy.  Let their minds be filled with joy.  Protect them from the comments and people’s opinions.  If drugs or alcohol are involved, I ask that you remove addictions.  Keep the family focused on what is important.  Heal their wounds and surround them with others that will lead them to you.  

Amen.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

"Thank God: I Can't Do This Parenting Thing Alone."

"Thank God: I Just Can't Do This Parenting Thing Alone"
By Anna Giattina Lee

Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and my brain goes from 0 to sixty in 0.4 seconds.   

Yesterday, I woke up an hour earlier than normal with a panicked feeling that I had left my 5-year-old asleep in the freezing cold car overnight. 

I had driven home from church last night in our 15-passenger van filled with children that fell asleep during the ½ hour ride home.  I am fairly cautious because I am not dumb enough to believe that I would never get distracted or change my routine, accidentally forgetting a child in the car.

But after a mental playback in my head, I distinctly recalled giving him my ipad for his nightly video ritual.  I also knew that I had made a visual check of the many sleeping kids in the car when we got home from church and that with only one remaining, I saw my husband unbuckle the baby and out of an abundance of caution, I reminded him to make a visual check of all the seats one more time before closing the doors. 

Persuaded that this was not one of “those” times when I was specifically being called to act immediately, I was able to go back to sleep for another hour. 

As soon as I woke up, I went straight to the kitchen to begin making breakfast. I noticed that my 5 –year-old wasn’t in the kitchen.  So I asked where he was.  My husband said, “He’s still in bed.”

Unconvinced, I said, “Have you personally seen him because I woke up with the feeling that I had left him in the car.”

Pausing for just a moment, he says with confidence, “He is definitely in his bed.” A few others joined in claiming that dad was right and I believed them.

Realizing I had a teachable moment, I talked to the kids, including my 4-year-old granddaughter who had spent the night with us.  We talked briefly about watching out for each other to be sure that we all get out of the car. 

My 10–year-old asked, “What do we do if the doors are locked?” 

Almost in disbelief, I look at her and say, “You reach over and unlock the door. “

She laughed saying, “I’ve never thought about that before.”

At that moment I realized that the technology had skewed her understanding.  She always waited for me to unlock the doors and it didn’t occur to her that you could do it another way. 

My husband was not in the room during this conversation. It was a short conversation – more of a reminder than anything else.  

But my brain was clearly fixed on this idea.  Images of a child left in the car by her mother or father reeled in my mind.  I have done it myself  more than once – although for just minutes. I know one person who endured this heart-wrenching loss.  And as an attorney, I am always thinking about what is reasonably foreseeable.

Fast forward 30 minutes.  It is time for my husband to take the kids to school.  My granddaughter Ava asks if she can ride along. Five kids get into the car for the 2-minute ride to school.

Less than 10 minutes later, my husband walks into the house while I’m folding the laundry and comes directly to where I am. Without any thought, my first question is “Where’s Ava?” 

With a somewhat stunned expression, I see his brain trying to process what I’m saying.  I shout, “She’s in the car.  She’s locked in the car.  Run.  Run.  She is going to be terrified. “

My husband bolts to the parking pad, unlocking the doors with the remote and running to open the door.  Inside is our granddaughter, tiny tears just beginning to stream down her cheeks.  We grab her and hold her tightly, apologizing for leaving her behind. 

When she gets back inside, I rock her and tell her that everything is fine and that God has protected her by prompting me. 

The entire incident from locking her in to retrieving her occurred in less than 2 minutes.  But it was that two minutes that convinced me that God is looking out for his children far better than me or my husband are capable of doing. 

With the memory still fresh, we talk about why she didn’t get out of the car.  In her tiny little voice, she squeaks, “I tried, but Papa locked the door with the remote.”

I know that she had just heard us talk about this exact situation, but it was too abstract for her.  So we took her back to the car and showed her how to unlock the car from the inside.  And how, if the child locks were on, she could always get out through the driver's door.  Confident and with a smile, she came back inside realizing that she could escape if it ever happened again.

The whole situation is so predictable.  There was a change in my husband’s routine. The one he has followed for years.  An extra child.  Young.  Unusually quiet.  And one who didn’t know how to unlock the doors from the inside.

I don’t blame my husband.  And no one should.  There, but for the grace of God, go I. 

And I hope you know that is not the point.  Rather, it is to say, that this episode is one of many that persuade me that I can’t do this parenting thing without God.  It is simply too hard.  Too many things can go wrong. 

But he’s got my back. 


This isn’t the first time I have been awakened from a deep sleep by a compelling feeling.  And I’ve learned to listen.  I must.  Or I’m an idiot. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

ADOPTION: THE JOYS OF CHOOSING TO BE FAMILY



I live a mixed blessing.  I thrive and regenerate when I am alone.  But my house and my life are always full of people.  The 16 who live here, plus my other kids and grandkids, friends, and sometimes people who literally wander in off the street!  Our normal is chaotic on a good day, but it is generally organized chaos in the loosest sense of the words.  When I suddenly have an extra 3-10 children here on an unplanned visit, all the cousins immediately begin to play.  My grandkids barely greet me as they run to go find their best friends.

We don’t watch over them, partly for our own sanity and partly for the personal growth and development that occurs naturally when 10-15 cousins and friends can play together and work out problems without parents watching and judging every move.  Besides, if anything goes wrong we will either hear it or someone will make sure we know about it! 

Obviously, when you allow 15 or so kids under age 10 to play upstairs for hours without parents constantly shouting “Stop!” “No!” and “Don’t do that!” – the only words that we could possibly say if we were to witness their goings on – then something is bound to get broken or destroyed!  I generally accept that as the consequence of free play.  We don’t own much that is worth anything.  And generally, the breakage is not malicious, but the result of 8–10 high energy boys and a few girls playing creatively and physically with every object that they can get their hands on.

Of course, I like it when they are playing.  Sometimes, I get a little frustrated when I have to investigate the damage, which sometimes is just every single toy we own from every single container - even those in storage -  piled onto the floor 2 feet high!

But the part that makes my weary bones come to life is what happens with my older children and their spouses. Even though there are times that the last thing I want is a house full of people – family or not – I LOVE to watch my older ones interact.  I like watching them joke with each other.  I smile when I see them sharing photos or parenting advice, or when one of my college kids shares what she has learned with her siblings.  It gives me warm fuzzies when I find out that my adult children have all planned to meet at mom’s and dad’s house.  I laugh when aunts fight over who gets to hold or play with their nieces and nephews first!  It's funny to me that all the young men/husbands find themselves in the basement in front of the x-box bonding over some silly game for hours on ends. 

And it’s super special to me because it says that while the blood bond is strong (we have lots of sibling groups), the bond that we have chosen to make with each other is equally as strong. 

So, on the days when I’m weary (which is almost daily) and I wonder if what we are doing really matters to anyone, I am allowed the privilege of seeing my answer – live and in person. 


And weary or not, I can continue for another day.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Nappy Hair, Shredded Shoelaces and Financial Decisions: Learning to Be Happy With What We Have

Nappy Hair, Shredded Shoelaces and Financial Decisions:  
Learning to Be Happy With What We Have 
December 12, 2013

We were already supposed to be in the car on the way to church when my 7-year-old comes to me with nappy hair.  We took down her hair yesterday with the intent to wash and re-braid it. 

But that didn’t happen.

Instead, I spent last night in deep conversation with my daughter about some pretty tough subjects.  And today, her hair isn’t even brushed because even that would take 30 minutes and it really needs to be wet and reconditioned to do it well. 

To make matters worse, this same child shredded her shoelaces yesterday when she tried to get them untied after she played in the mud.  It wasn’t her fault.  They are designed to shred so we will have to buy more.  But I have only had $1.09 in my bank account since November 24, the day after my daughter’s beautiful wedding, and we try not to use credit unless it is absolutely necessary.  So buying new laces seems like a luxury.

So I make two quick decisions.  Let her go to church with nappy hair and hopefully find time to fix it before school tomorrow.  And meticulously braid the shoelace so that it can be re-tied. 

These were both choices. 

I could have chosen to skip church or buy new laces.  But I didn’t.

And life is all about choices.

Yesterday, I read that it costs $1.50 MORE per day per person to eat a healthy fresh diet.  That seems like such a small investment given the long-term benefits.  However, for our family, who already eats lots of fresh food, that translates to about $500 per month more than our current budget – the cost of pre-school for one of my young boys with some special needs.

Twenty years ago, when we were a 2-income professional family with three children, that was absolutely no big deal.  I could spend that much on clothes in one month. 

But our choices have led us down another path.

Quite frankly, I realize that we are so comparatively wealthy that the decisions I am going to write about look asinine to a divorced mother trying to raise 3 children alone, or to one of the poverty stricken families that our family engages with on a daily basis.  

We are not wanting for anything that we really need.  But in the social, financial, and neighborhood circles that are my life, we know that we are not the norm.

I guess my thoughts are really for those of us who have the capacity to make choices. I’m speaking to those of us (myself included) who recognize that sometimes we really aren’t making choices at all.  Rather, we have fallen into the trap of believing that we must or should have something to show for our hard work, our position of privilege, our education, or our training – even if that means going into debt to have it.

I dare to say that we aren’t actually choosing.  Rather, we have allowed ourselves to be conditioned by the world of marketing, fashion, privilege and planned obsolescence to believe that we actually need a fancy house, expensive clothes, a zillion extra-curricular activities, lots of toys, a new car every two years, and generally, the best of everything – or at the very least, the best we can afford or obtain on credit.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not criticizing those who make these choices.  I have made them myself more times that I care to admit.  I still do. But I’m trying to re-condition myself to understand the difference between want and need.  The difference between it would be nice and I can wait or forego it all together. 

I was raised with incredible opportunities.  My parents were not even remotely wealthy, but my parents modeled for me how to live frugally and without credit, while sharing everything we had and never asking for anything in return.  

Moreover, as far as I know, my parents never made a decision based on what other people had or thought about us.   We weren’t given the latest and greatest anything unless it was useful to our lives in some way.  I recall a blow dryer and a calculator as the really big gifts for the entire family one Christmas in the mid-70’s.  

We didn’t have a color television or the trendy toys.  We had baby dolls and erector sets and crafts and Lincoln logs and Legos and swings and sandboxes and trees.  (The fact that my father was an architect might have something to do with all the building sets.  I had never thought of that before!)

My mother cooked every night and we had visitors at our home almost all day every day.  Yet, she made one major monthly shopping trip (and smaller trips for fresh goods) and we rationed food.  She made the same amount of food every night – no matter who joined us for dinner.  And somehow, it was always enough.

With the help of my parents, I made a lot of good decisions when I was a young adult.  I was able to attend law school because my parents had the foresight to invest in my education throughout my life.  My first house (which my grandparents helped me buy) made a huge profit in a short time, which set the stage for our future homes. Even after I quit working to stay home, my husband’s career, his choice to quit renting space and move his office to the basement of our home, and the booming economy allowed my husband and me to invest in a much larger home that was custom built for our fast-growing family of birth, foster and adopted children. 

The story of our home is wonderful, miraculous and heart-warming in and of itself. Many people, including the builder and many of the sub-contractors, went above and beyond to give us exactly what we needed, as well as some of what we wanted, to raise our super-sized family. 

As a result, we live in a great family-oriented neighborhood with caring neighbors who look out for each other.  Our home is 6600 square feet designed to blend into our mixed income, but upscale neighborhood.  However, our home is furnished in what I like to call “Early American Thrift Store.”  I pinch pennies every day.  Yesterday, as I finished pre-cooking 40 pounds of potatoes that I got for $8.00 at Aldi and then washed 15 Ziploc bags to re-use, I ruminated about how time-consuming it is to save pennies.

Things are different than they were in the 80’s and 90’s.  The economy has tanked.  My husband has lost many of his clients, in part because his clients have lost their businesses.  We have chosen to care for 21 children and we financially support almost all of them in some way.

And instead of practicing law or teaching, I’m staying home always looking for ways to be thrifty and save money. (Now that I think about it, I would have to have an excellent job to justify the childcare expenses for our 8 children that would need childcare, so working isn’t really an option anyway – but it was when we had many fewer children.) 

Nonetheless, for us to have so many children and for me to stay home and forego my potential income, we have to make choices.  And we choose to make do.  We choose to scrimp and save. 

We choose to allow our nappy-headed girl with braided shoe strings go to church looking pretty raggedy. 

We choose to live in an upscale neighborhood where we are sure our children are safe and free to roam around. Yet, we choose to wear hand-me-downs,  clothes that are donated to us, and what we can find at thrift shops, consignment shops and garage sales.

We choose to drive older model cars until they literally can’t be driven again, and to leave the bumper hanging down on our ugly 15-passenger van, which was damaged by a hit and run driver in front of our house.

We choose to send homemade nutritious snacks (that the kids hate) to school instead of the more convenient, but expensive, junk food that they LOVE!

We choose to have 8 bedrooms filled with young children and many of our young adult children, who use the bedrooms when they need them.

We generally choose to give away everything when we finish using it, rather than selling it to make money.

We choose to have a family of 5 living in our basement with a make-shift kitchen and a half-bath with huge painter’s canvas stapled to the 2x4’s, because we spent our money on the toilet and sink and decided not to invest our resources in having it sheet rocked, finished and painted. (If we had more money, we would add a bathtub!)

We choose to allow our 5-year- old to wear pants that are 4 inches too short – not because he must – but because he insists on wearing the tan corduroy pants with pockets. 

We choose NOT to give our kids extra money in their lunch account for ice cream, and we rarely give them money for junk food except on very special occasions.

We rarely choose to eat out because it could easily cost $60-100 per meal to feed us – even at a fast food place,  although we hate that we miss multiple opportunities to socialize with our friends.

We choose not to give our kids money to spend every time they ask.  Ironically, as I type these words, my 6-year-old runs up to me from basketball practice begging me for money to get a drink from the vending machine.  With no qualms, I tell him to go get water from the fountain.  But my resolve doesn’t lesson his determination.  Even when he pleads that he is sooo thirsty and he doesn’t want water, and he’s hungry and he will find something "healthy" like chips, I stand my ground.  

Instead, we choose to give our children a very small allowance that forces our children to make choices too.

We choose to allow one particular kid, who shall remain nameless, to wear the same stupid shirt over and over again (washed daily) because it is his favorite.  Even though they have plenty of choices.  Even though it looks like he doesn’t have any choice.

I say these things not because I want anyone to feel sorry for us.  

There is absolutely no reason to feel that we are somehow missing something.  We have good credit.  We can borrow money.  If there is a real need – our parents or family or friends will help us – often without us asking.

Don’t get me wrong.  We feel grateful and honored and loved when people take the time to notice what we need (or want) and either ask us how they can help, or simply surprise us.

But we try not to live in expectation that this is how we will manage to keep up with society’s view of what we should have and what we should do. 

I don’t think it is an accident that we tend to surround ourselves with people who could care less that we don’t keep up with the Jones’.  There was a long period when I felt judged and guilty because it looked like my kids didn’t have equal opportunities – although I really think it was my insecurities rather than other’s actions that caused my feelings. 

The reality is that others know our situation and our choices and when our children are with them, some choose to pay for things that we can’t, or that we decide against.   I would never know about these acts of kindness, except that my children tell me.  These people know that we aren’t in a position to make the same choices or to reciprocate in kind, so when they choose to bless my child –  I have learned to feel grateful without feeling embarrassed.  I rest knowing that these friends are making their own choice and I don’t have to feel guilty because I don't provide everything for my children that they are providing for theirs.

I don’t worry that my kids are in need.  If there is a need that we can't meet alone, God will prompt someone to give us exactly what we need when we need it.  And if we are impatient and have a need, then we aren’t too proud to ask for help.

I don’t worry that my kids aren’t wearing the newest, most up-to-date clothing.  As an independent thinker and non-conformist, I love that they have each developed their own sense of style.  Well, I must admit I don’t always love the way they look and I would hesitate to call some of it a style– but it is a price I’m usually willing to pay --  unless they are going to a place where it is important to ME that they look a certain way.  Just so you know, I did have to draw the line at wearing underwear yesterday! One of my young boys decided that going commando was a good idea.  I had a strong opinion about that!

I don’t worry that my kids have already spent their allowance and don't have money to go to the movies, or the arcade, or out to eat, or whatever with their friends every time that they are asked. I’m training them to make choices and decisions for themselves.  I would love to have the money to freely allow them do more without worrying about taking money from the food budget, but like myself as a child, I think that our limitations force them to be more creative and resourceful and ultimately, more responsible. And I have witnessed the blessings of others as they give their time and money to us and to our children – not looking for anything in return.

I don’t worry because I know that I take into account my childrens’ emotional needs when making each financial decision.  There are times when one of my kids has an emotional NEED to feel special, or to experience something, or to try something out - and that is a priority.  So no matter how broke we are – I will make sure that we use our limited resources in a way that helps meet this child’s emotional and psychological well-being – to the extent that money makes a difference.

So, some days, hair and clothing gets missed, I forget to send in the 50th white t-shirt for an art project, the nap towel gets forgotten, or we don’t buy the professional photos of our child’s first day of kindergarten and a photo with Santa, because we have chosen to dedicate our limited resources, like time, money, emotional strength, etc., to something we think is more valuable.

In the end, I want to be okay with what we have.  I want to be satisfied.  I don’t want to be trying to look for the next best thing.  I’m not there yet.  But I don’t want to try to keep up with the Jones’.  And I want the same for my kids.  I want them to be happy and grateful for what they have – even when it isn’t what others have.

That requires choices.  And we make them every day.  Some good.  Some bad.  Some wise.  Some not so much.  But in the end, we want to be known as a family that trusts God to provide what we need, even when it isn’t what we think we want. 


And that’s my approach to Christmas this year.  I want to go into that day satisfied with what we have, and knowing that what we are given is exactly what we need. And that is good enough for me. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Confessions of An Angry Mom: It’s Time To Get My Heart Checked.

  

Confessions of An Angry Mom:  It’s Time To Get My Heart Checked.

Warning:  If you are sensitive to certain word choices, you might not want to read this the third column of this post.  It is honest.  When I’m really frustrated or overwhelmed, I use words that some would consider impolite. Consider yourself warned.

I’m a mother and a teacher and a coach.  Most of my days are spent teaching, training and taking care of others.   My favorite verse is directly related to my obvious NEED to remember that if I do not have a servant’s heart, then my service is just good works and I’m screwed.  The verse I quote over and over to my kids and my students is from Luke 6:45:   “... For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” In other words, if my heart is full of good, good things will come out.  If my heart is hard and angry, then bad things come out. 

I’m a good teacher and coach and I know exactly how to help my students, friends and clients.  But it would really help me to have a ME in my life, someone who is willing to call me out.  Although it might not be obvious from my conduct, I spend a good portion of my day in self-evaluation.   I’ve decided that I’m pretty selfish and self-centered.  Otherwise, I wouldn’t be upset about anything, because my anger seems to be rooted in the problems that someone else causes for me.

I’ve decided it’s time for true confessions.  I’m speaking for myself, but I’m willing to bet that if people are honest, almost all moms and dads find themselves thinking, if not saying, similar things.

WARNING: If this makes you laugh or cry, you might need to check your heart!



What happens.


What I say on a good day.


What I think and should - but don’t always - edit before I say on a bad day.      
My 3-year-old is play wrestling with his 5-year-old brother. I warn them that someone is going to get hurt.  Someone gets hurt. 
“I’m sorry.  But I warned you that you would get hurt.  Go wipe the blood off your nose.”
“What is wrong with your brain?  I tell you every single time you are running through the living room and doing head butts into his stomach that you will get hurt.  Big surprise.  Tough it out.  Now go wipe the blood off your nose and clean it up off the floor because I’m not cleaning your mess.”
My teenager waits until the night before a big paper is due to start. 
“Son.  You know the rules.  You must have the final draft ready two nights before it is due so that I have time to help you edit and figure out your problems.  I have 50 other things I need to be doing right now and I’m exhausted.  I can’t start helping you at 10 p.m. the night before it is due. You are on your own.  But if you don’t make a decent grade, you won’t be going anywhere this weekend.”
“Stupid.  Stupid.  Stupid. You are too smart not to understand the problem here.  Procrastination doesn’t work.  Don’t expect me to feel sorry for your decision to procrastinate.  I’m not feeling the slightest bit guilty.  Just pissed that I have to keep repeating myself. Now go fix the problem that you created. “
Two children get into an argument.  One hits.  The other returns the hit. 
“I’m sorry, but you deserve each other.  Both of you are hitting to solve your problems and it hurts.  Both of you know not to hit.  Use your words.” 
“Why do I have to say this 25 times per day?  Haven’t ya’ll figured out the problem yet?  Maybe you will beat the living crap out of each other and decide on your own hitting is not the best plan. “
I tell my extremely stubborn 6-year-old to go pick up his towel and hang it on the hook.  He starts shouting and wailing, “No!  It isn’t my towel.  I already did.  I don’t want to.  Why do I have to get the towel, no one else did?”   
“Excuse me. ‘No,’ is not one of your options.  The correct answer is ‘Yes Ma’am.’  Now go pick up the towel.”
“UGGGGHHHH.  I can’t stand this!  I hate stubborn disobedience and intentional defiance. What am I doing wrong that makes you think that it is okay to refuse to obey?  I get so mad I just want to throw something or hang YOU up in that towel.  Why are you so damn stubborn?  It makes me not want to be around you at all.  Is that what you want?” 
My adult daughter calls to tell me that her car just died and she needs help getting to and from work.
“Sure.  What time do I need to come get you?” 
“Really?  Really?  It is always something.  I finally get a few hours to myself and what do I get to do?  Drive my adult children.  What fun.  I can’t wait. “
I tell my 7-year-old to get her snack and put it in her backpack for school.  She hears me, but continues to play and forgets. I move on to the next thing. On her way out the door the next morning, she suddenly remembers and tries to run back inside to get her snack.

NOTE:  This is not a child who must have a snack to function in school. I have some kids that can’t afford to miss a snack.  She can.
“I told you to put the snack in your backpack. I’m sorry, but we are running late.  You cannot go back to get a snack.  Next time, maybe you will obey when I remind you. And you are not allowed to get a snack from the teacher.” 
Thinking… “Oh great.  Now I have to take the time to email the teacher so my child doesn’t use this as an excuse to get a junky snack from the teacher’s community snacks.  Uggh!  I don’t have time for this! But I know that she is going to whine at school and tell the teacher that I didn’t give her a snack.  And I don’t want the teacher to have to deal with her either.  If I don’t call, then the teacher will feel sorry for her and give her a snack out of the community snack bucket.  It will be chips or something she loves, so the lesson will be lost.  And I’ve already spent far too much time thinking about this stupid issue.” 
My toddler crawls behind the couch and unplugs the lamp cord which is directly below the safety cap on the upper plug.  He then proceeds to take a fork and stick it as far as he can into the socket.
Leaping forward not knowing what he is sticking into the light socket, I shout…
“OMG!!!  NOoooooo!
Stop baby. That is a No No!  No! No! That will hurt baby.  OUCHIE!  No baby No!  Thank goodness we use plastic forks!  That would hurt baby.” 
“OMG!!!  NOoooooo!  Stop!  What are you doing child?  Are you crazy?  That is a No NO! Did I say that is a No No, because I meant to say it was a NOooo NOOOOO!  You can’t do that!  OMG.  OMG. OMG.  Thank you God for watching him and taking care of him. Thank you for plastic forks. I can’t do this.  I’m not smart enough or fast enough.  I can’t be  everywhere all the time.   Ugggh!!! Pant. Pant.  OMG. OMG. OMG.”
My teen doesn’t want to go to church with the family.  He would rather sleep in or go to the church where his best friend goes.  He whines and moans and complains and asks if he can just skip “this week” or  go to another church.
“I understand that you don’t want to go, but this is my only opportunity to gather the entire family together at one place and I need that every week.  It is important to me.  And because it is important to me, you must go.  Sleeping is not an option and you can go to youth group at your friend’s church.  Now get dressed without complaining and be ready at 9:30.” 
“Screw it.  I don’t care if you come or don’t come.  Sleep all freakin’ day or go with some other family to church.  I HATE listening to you complain week after week.  It puts me in a pissy mood and makes going to church miserable.  Every time you try to get your way it is saying to me that I’m not important enough to you to cooperate.  I hate that feeling.  I want you to go whether you like it or not just because I need it. I spend most of my time meeting ya’lls needs.  Is it so wrong for me to ask ya’ll to fulfill one of my needs?  But whatever.  Do whatever the hell you want and I’ll go worship God by my damn self!”
My son spills his juice accidentally.
“It’s not a big deal.  Go get a towel and clean it up. Then get the juice and I’ll pour you some more.”
“Crap. Crap. Crap.  I know it was an accident and you weren’t doing anything wrong, but now I have to get all the sticky juice off the floor and counter and chair.  More work.  More work.  Does it ever end?”
My son spills his milk after I tell him to sit down and quit playing at the table. 
“Go get a towel and clean it up.  That is what happens when you play at the table.  No more milk tonight.”
Crap. Crap. Crap. I JUST mopped the floor an hour ago! I tell you over and over again to stop playing at the table.  Can’t you just obey me? Can’t you just listen so you don’t keep making messes?  I’m tired.  I’m sick of cleaning. I’m sick of disobedience.  I just want to quit this job forever!”
My adult child calls at 10p.m. and just wants to process with me.
“No. I’m not busy. What can I do for you?”
(Eyes rolling.) Ahhh.  Maybe if I just don’t answer the phone she will go away.  It’s late.  I just got into bed.  I’m exhausted.  I hate talking on the phone on a great day.  I have already had my fill of helping people today. Do I really have to listen to more people talk?
My son needs to go to the bathroom in  a public place. He must go in the women’s room with me.  He starts to pee without lifting the seat and gets pee all over the seat because he has unsophisticated aim!
“Sweetie.  You need to remember to lift the seat before you go potty.  If not, you get pee on the seat and girls don’t like to sit on your pee.”
“Lovely.  Just what I want to do.  Wipe your  pee off the seat in a public bathroom.  Whatever!”
Same bathroom trip… My child tells me that he needs to go poop.  Before I realize what he is doing, he has LIFTED the lid and is going to sit on the toilet!!!
“Wait! I didn’t mean the lift the lid when you POOP! Oh well, at least you tried to obey!”
What can I say.  Good or bad day --- this is the point to simply laugh!!!!



My adult daughter wants me to play Nanna and keep her kids while she and her husband get away for a few days. 
“I can’t wait to see the grandkids and I know that you guys need a break. Can you bring them over now?” 
“Agggh.  I really want to see the kids and I definitely want to give my daughter a break, but I am so freakin’ tired.  I just want to crawl into a hole and hide.  When is it MY turn to take a break?”
The teacher sends home a note asking for a family picture. I read the note and remember it 3 days later. 
Note to the teacher:  “This is our family picture.  It contains as many kids as we can gather in one location at one time. Please don’t expect my child to be able to explain all of our rather unique relationships.  All he knows is this is his family!”
“Crap.  I vaguely remember that I am supposed to send a picture to school, but I have no idea which kid is supposed to bring it.  Crap!  Crap! Now I have to look through 8 school folders and assignment books to figure out which child OR I have to print 8 copies and send one with each child and hope for the best. Doesn’t anyone know how hard it is to get a picture of this crazy group?  My kids, even my teenagers have to ask how many siblings they have.  Anyway, I’ve looked in eight folders, and I still have no idea.  Whatever.  My kid is the only one with a family the size of Texas and not a single photo to prove he has a family at all.”
My pre-teen gets so angry at me that he punches the wall and his fist goes through it.  He runs upstairs to his room and sends me a text.  “Just tell me when you are going to make me move out and where I will be living. I need to know now.”
“Son, what makes you think that just because you make a mistake we won’t keep you? I needed to know what you would do if you were pushed to your limits.  I needed to know that you wouldn’t hurt me even though you were raging.  You didn’t hurt me.  You hurt a wall. And your fist.  The wall can be fixed.  The important thing is that you proved that you won’t physically hurt a woman. 

As for the hole:  You need to research how to repair sheetrock and start learning.  Either you will pay to fix the hole or you will learn to do it yourself. 
Oddly.  I don't have bad days when I'm dealing with really big stuff.  I would have reacted this way no matter what my mood on any given day. It's the little stuff that gets me.