Date Night with my Daughter

Last night my oldest daughter and I had an impromptu “date night.”

Over the past month, she read all of The Hunger Games Books (she’s 11, almost 12.) I waffled back and forth over whether or not she was “old enough” to read them, but I finally decided to let her go ahead. I read them and loved all them – I think it took me about a week to finish all three (the first one I devoured in about 24 hours.)

Anyway, her dad got the first 3 movies for her and they had a little movie marathon over the weekend, much to the dismay of my other children – I’m somewhat adamant concerning my “read the book before you watch the movie” stance.

So last night, he took over dinner and bedtime duties and sent the two of us out on a Mockingjay Date. As we drove to the theater, I explained to her that this was a big honor for her, since usually if a movie is one I really want to see, I go by myself. That way I don’t have to worry about anyone talking, asking questions or ahem, or making fun of (I’m talking to you, dear husband) the story lines, plots, special effects, etc.

She replied with, “Tell me about it! Dad talked through all three movies because he didn’t know what was going on! I had to explain everything!” I cast a sidelong glance her way. “You know why?” Simultaneously, we said, “Because HE didn’t read the books!” Then we laughed. It’s nice to share a love of reading with my girl, who is growing up at a somewhat exponential rate of speed.

Sometimes I feel like I don’t know how to talk to her anymore and it scares me. I know she’s my same little girl in there, but she looks (and acts) so mature. She “gets” things – jokes and puns and metaphors – that a couple of years ago I would’ve had to explain to her. Heck, she “gets” more things than I do these days.

We only whispered necessary information to each other (like “What happened when I was gone to the bathroom?”) and she was a perfect “important movie” companion.

My favorite moviespart of the entire night was when she reached over to hold my hand during one of the scary parts (she knew it was coming – I’d forgotten all about it.) Later she put her head on my shoulder. Snuggling with this one is a rare occurrence… she’s got it in her head that she’s a loner, but I suspect otherwise.

On the way home, we stopped for a milkshake. She’s a Mint Chocolate Chip and Oreo kind of girl. We talked about the movie and the story line in general. We talked about possible meanings and themes and applications in our lives today. I tried to listen more than I talked. She’s such an interesting little person.

Well, not so little. She’s almost as tall as me. She’s strong, she’s thoughtful, she’s helpful, she’s kind, she’s so smart and reflective. I’m so proud that she’s mine… and that she’s her own person, too.

I have to remind myself to enjoy these moments more instead of worrying that they are going by too fast. Sometimes I ruin them by overthinking it. Live in the moment, right? Seize the day!

And also, when your almost-teenage daughter offers to hold your hand and snuggle with you, especially in public, seize that too.

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Why Didn’t Someone Tell Me?

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This past weekend I spent a LOT of time with my daughters – ie: every waking and sleeping moment, since we were traveling in Canada and staying in the same hotel room.

Believe it or not, part of the time they got on my nerves (insert sarcastic tone of voice here.)

Don’t get me wrong – I love my girls. I adore them! And as they were taking turns annoying me (that was a lucky break, since usually they plan it out and work together), I was blindsided by the terrifying and undeniable fact that the things they do that drive me nuts are:

The same things that I do myself.

For instance, 5-year-old Adelaide slept with two tiny braids in her hair. In the morning, she wanted to take them out. I warned her that if she undid the elastic bands, the braided hair would be crimped-looking and it would stick up.

She took them out. 

She spent the next FORTY-FIVE minutes wallowing in self-pity, staring at herself in the mirror with a disgusted look on her face, repeatedly brushing her hair down (in vain) with a wet hairbrush. Then she threw the hairbrush on the floor, stomped over to the hotel bed, and heaved herself face-down into a pillow.

I laughed (to myself) and tried to console her. I ended up making some pretty cute (wavy) pigtails on top of her head that she could live – and be seen in public – with.

Then I noticed that not only did I forget to pack my special curly-hair shampoo, but horror of horrors – I had NO HAIR PRODUCT AT ALL.

As someone who usually looks like I have a wild animal attached to my head, this was not a good scenario. People with naturally curly hair do not simply “comb” their hair. After 15 minutes of trying to tame the frizzy beast on my head, I was nearly in tears. I pasted it down with water and stuck in a hair clip. A llama-looking creature mocked me from the mirror. I yelled in frustration at the llama, then kicked the bathroom door. I gave up, put on a hoodie and went out to face the world. Adelaide was still sniffling on the bed. I gave her a hug because I realized that she is ME and no one should have to go through that.

And then there’s Josie. 8-year-old Josie cries at the merest provocation – for any reason and for no reason at all. Josie loves so deeply and resolutely that she is almost scary in her capacity for devotion. Josie has emotional outbursts that bring to mind a 1940s movie where someone has to smack a hysterical woman across her face and then smack her again to get her to calm down. That’s my Josie. Her unending search for her Blankie (lost yet again) and sad woe-is-me freak-outs always drive me up the wall, and this trip was no exception.

When my husband took pity on me (I need 5 minutes of alone time now and then) and took the kids to the Ferris wheel, I happened to see the new Canadian Kraft Commercial about a little girl and her bear (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6SFYKzUt7Fo) and I completely LOST IT. When my husband and kids came back in, they found me in a slobbery, wailing puddle in front of the TV. So I gave Josie a hug because I realized that she is also ME and let me tell you, it is rough!

Sadie, who just turned 10, takes FOREVER to finish things. She has to have everything lined up just perfectly. She cannot possibly leave until she’s done – she has yet to learn the fine art of prioritization. I’ve tried to explain that when we are already 10 minutes late for our lunch reservations and we haven’t even left the room yet, that is NOT the perfect time to rearrange and label your extensive rock collection that you have smuggled into your luggage. She daydreams, she sorts, she organizes, she obsesses, she rearranges, she daydreams some more. This annoys me to no end.

The next day, when we were supposed to be packing up everything in the hotel so we could come home, guess what I found myself doing? That’s right: playing Bejeweled Blitz in the bathroom. Sorting out my make-up bag. Rearranging Jed’s suitcase. Cleaning out my purse. Two minutes until check-out, and I’m still looking through drawers, checking under beds, and looking for my earring back that fell off and rolled somewhere. So I gave Sadie a hug because she annoys me – only because she IS me!

I’ve always heard that if you’re too much like someone, then that person will get on your nerves. Since my weekend revelation, I guess all I can say now is:

I can be pretty darn annoying. Why didn’t someone tell me?

Purging the Junk – 40 Bags in 40 Days

My house is full of STUFF.

Even though I always have a box behind the laundry room door to toss random “Goodwill” items into as I come across them, a couple of months ago I decided that I needed to step up the “Stuff Exodus” just a little bit.

I had read an article near the beginning of Lent that talked about purging your house of unnecessary things. It was called The 40 Bags in 40 Days Challenge (from whitehouseblackshutters.com) and the whole idea really appealed to me. I generally don’t give things up for Lent, but this year, I decided to give up a lot of the junk in our house. Not because having it is sinful (though it probably is), but because I felt like I wanted a new start for spring. A less-cluttered start.

I started with the kitchen cabinets. For a long time (during thousands of dishwasher loadings/unloadings) I have dreamed of scaling down and making everyone have their own plate, cup, spoon, and fork. AND NOTHING ELSE. Hey, that’s how it was for Laura Ingalls. Heck, she and her sister even had to SHARE a cup and they turned out just fine. And if it was good enough for them, it should be good enough for me, right? Plus, I was really sick and tired of getting knocked unconscious from over-stacked ceramic mug avalanches. (I did keep my Elvis ones from Graceland, though.)

In the end, I didn’t go completely overboard – we still have enough plates to host people for dinner – but my kitchen cabinets are SO much easier to deal with now. Not to mention the dreaded “Tupperware Cabinet.” Since I had a quota to meet, I gave up on saving mismatched lids and threw them all out!

And it felt good.

The kids got in on it too – they helped me clean out the toy room. With the help of some $1 plastic shoeboxes, we sorted everything out and cleared 6 bags out of there. It’s nice for them to have a place to play where they can actually move around and not be completely surrounded by toys. They even admitted that it’s nicer to have fewer ponies and Barbie dolls. That was surprising.

I cannot even begin to tell you how much unnecessary stuff we had in our house (well, we still have a lot, but not nearly as much). I took it one room at a time and I purged. I sold it. I threw it out. I passed it along. I recycled it. I donated it. I gave it away. I sat it on the curb.

Doing this challenge has given me a little bit of a new perspective. Since I included my own closet in the clean-out, now I’m really picky about what I want to put back in. I hauled out 5 garbage bags full of clothes, shoes and purses – and now I’m not about to waste money and that beautiful empty space on anything I don’t absolutely love. I’m really hoping my attitude will become contagious because I’d like for the idea of “love it or lose it” it to spill over into the rest of the house too.  

Perhaps my next challenge will be The 40 Pounds in 40 Days Challenge. Kidding! Just kidding.

But seriously – we are so blessed to live in a country of abundance… most of us have “enough.”

And I’m learning that sometimes, less really is more.

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Are these really necessary?

Passover and Butter Sheep

We aren’t Jewish.

But we did celebrate Passover this year.

I’ve always been interested in Jewish festivals and how, for Christians, the New Testament fulfills the prophecies of the Old Testament. A few weeks ago I went to a class about the seven major feasts of ancient Israel. Does it sound dry and boring? Well, it wasn’t – it was fascinating!

We learned some ways to incorporate parts of these ancient feasts at home – I was super excited to try the bits and pieces that would work for our family. It just so happened that this particular Passover was on the same night as the Blood Moon. Since it was also the first time we’d ever done anything like this at home, the whole idea seemed very special.Image

As we got all of the food together (traditionally, every part of the meal has its own symbolic meaning) and spread a special tablecloth on the table, there was a definite air of excitement in our house. We read the story in Exodus – it says that “you should eat with your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste.” We all felt like we should be in a hurry!

And hurry we did.

Sadie, 10, pulled down all the shades (because we weren’t supposed to look out the window), turned off all the lights, and lit lots of candles.

Josie, who is 8, said she had goose-bumps on her arms and butterflies in her tummy. She collected robes and “staffs” for everyone (since we had a shortage of staffs, we ended up using our marshmallow-roasting sticks from the firepit.) 

Adelaide, my 5-year-old, painted a picture for decoration. She also ran around and set the table with real plates and silverware.

Then the girls and their 3-year-old brother, Jed, tried to sweep out every single bit of dirt from the kitchen floor. “This is impossible!” one of them said. “Exactly!” I told them, and then we talked about how the bad things in our lives can be like dirt.  We can try and try to get rid of it all, but it’s just impossible. That’s why we need a savior. Sigh. I love when things come together like that.  

Each child chose three favorite things that they would take with them if they had to leave home in a hurry – stuff they couldn’t bear to leave behind in “Egypt.”

Sadie chose her Snoopy, her favorite book – The Penderwicks, and her old, falling-apart quilt. Josie brought her Bear-Bear, her Wolfie, and her stuffed pink lamb. She used her Crunchy Blanket as a belt for her robe so she was able to sneak in a freebie. Adelaide chose two little stuffed doggies and a little red and white bear that Sadie gave her. Jed brought his stuffed Dino, his Mousie, and his fuzzy blanket.

If I were going to choose, I would need a wheelbarrow so I could take all of my scrapbooks with me.

Finally, the meal was ready (and no, I didn’t try to make lamb on my own – I bought gyro meat – this IS my first year, after all!). I did try to stick with what it says in Exodus, though, so we had lamb, horseradish, green onions (bitter herbs), and unleavened bread. We also had other “Bible foods” like olives, dried fruit, and almonds.

Their dad said a prayer and symbolically “killed” our butter sheep (by chopping its head off with a butter knife) and then we put red crepe paper around our doorframe outside.  I know, I know… our neighbors are gonna think we are so weird!) Then we talked some more about the story of Passover – the wicked Pharoah, the horrible plagues, the sorrow of slavery – and the joy of freedom.

To top off the night, the kids watched the movie The Prince of Egypt.

The kids liked the lamb okay – they liked the unleavened bread better, though. And they loved the movie.

And me? Well, what I liked best was bringing the meaning of the Easter season a lot closer to home.

 

It’s Breakfast Time!

I’ve never been a morning person.

Left to my own devices (this never happens), I could easily sleep until 9:30 or 10:00am on any given day.

Since neither my plans nor preferences matter very much to the small people currently inhabiting my home, these days I’m usually up around 7:00am. I’m up, but I’m definitely not “at ‘em.”

Usually 3-year-old Jed sneaks in first. He throws one leg up on my bed and then uses the comforter to pull himself up the rest of the way. He whispers (it’s more of a stage whisper, which you are very familiar with if you’ve ever tried to keep a 3-year-old quiet): “HEY! MOM! I CAN SNUGGLE WIF YOU?” Then he nestles in next to me with his head on my pillow, his hand on my arm, and his freezing cold feet thawing out on my legs. It’s always a rude (yet cute) awakening.Image

As we snuggle (usually he has his two fingers in his mouth, slurping, so I don’t go back to sleep), I hear the pitter-patter of little bare feet running down the hall, down the stairs, and sneaking into my room. It’s always 5-year-old Adelaide, and she is always hungry. “Mama? What’s for bref-tast? I am staarrrvvvving!” she exaggerates. Then she scootches her brother over and squeezes in under the covers with us.

She tells me about her dreams (recently she’s had a series of them about our family going to the grocery store and meeting other people that have our names) then she reiterates her “starvingness.”

I start breakfast while she and her brother snuggle, look at books, and watch Peter Rabbit cartoons. Sometimes they come and help with breakfast (they’re especially fond of cracking eggs) or they let the dog out and scout for birds at the bird feeder.

Their older sisters, just-turned-10 Sadie and 8-year-old Josie, almost always sleep late. They both like to stay up late reading, so unless we have to be somewhere early or it happens to be their turn to make breakfast, I don’t wake them until after breakfast is ready.

When Sadie comes down, she’s usually dressed and already has her nose in a book.

Josie, on the other hand, is usually wrapped up in her fuchsia bathrobe with her “Crunchy” fuzzy blanket around her neck like a scarf. She almost always has an amazing case of bedhead.

Sleepy-eyed, they give me hugs and sit down at the table. We say a morning prayer and read a devotion or some Bible verses (one of my favorites is Lamentations 3:22-23: “His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness.”)

Then I might read a chapter or two from whatever our current read-aloud is (right now we are working on two: Mary Poppins Comes Back and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.)

They love real bacon (except Josie, who says she can only eat turkey bacon because real bacon tastes like PIG) baked in the oven. They love turkey sausage and corned beef hash. They love pancakes and waffles (Adelaide always gets those two mixed up) covered with whipped cream (sometimes called “sour cream” by Adelaide and her brother). When we are in NC visiting family, they love fried livermush and gravy. Adelaide and Jed love eggs – any kind. Sadie will almost always opt for an English muffin with butter and jam. Josie asks for orange juice or chocolate milk (which is a rare treat at this house!) Everyone tries to steal a sip of my coffee (and Jed will chug the whole bottle of French Vanilla creamer if he isn’t intercepted first!)

Adelaide cleans her plate (and sometimes finishes everyone else’s, too). Jed runs away before he’s finished. Someone spills something. There’s a fight about who gets to take Dad’s breakfast to his home office. It’s all a daily ritual.

Nope, I’m not really a morning person, but breakfast together is almost always our starting-off point for the entire day. I feel blessed to be able to have this time together with my children –

But another forty winks still wouldn’t hurt.

Funnies vs. The Never-ending Winter

To battle my “woe-is-me-ness” brought about by The Never-ending Winter, this week I’ve compiled some of the funny (and random) things my children have said recently. It’s a good thing they’re here to lighten my mood.

 

Sadie to her sister Josie, after watching her eat a burrito: “You disgust me.”

 

Josie at the pet store: “I think I want a chinchilla. Or one of those hot dogs.”

 

Jed: “If I had a baby goat, I would name him Weasel.”

 

Adelaide at the Mexican restaurant: “Oh, I’m not doing anything. Just puttin’ cheese dip upon my beans.”

 

Jed, after giving his dad a Rice Krispy treat: “Here Dad, I didn’t even lick it.”

 

Adelaide: “My legs are going to eat you. They are very hungry.”

 

Sadie, after seeing a Christmas tree still up in March: “Wow! Look at that! Those people must really love God!”

 

Sadie, smelling a stink while we were on the road: “Hey! No poopages allowed in this car!” Jed: “Oh yes there is! Adelaide and Josie!”

 

Jed: “I just not like potatoes very far.”

 

Adelaide on St. Patrick’s Day, after hearing something rummaging through our trash can: “Maybe it’s a leprecoon.”

 

Aunt Sharon, coughing: “I have something in my throat!” Jed: “Is it a bug?”

 

Adelaide: “Jed got a blue race car that goes by itself! It’s a commode control!”  

 

Sadie, confusing her love of jewelry with her love of Christmas songs: “Over the hills we go, laughing all the way… bells on cocktail rings…”

 

Adelaide: “I have a surprise for you!” Josie: “Maybe it’s another me!” Sadie: “That’s one thing I don’t want!” Jed, out of the blue: “Maybe it a penis!”

 

Jed: “Mommy, I grow up?” Me: “Yep, you’re a little boy but you will grow into a man, like Dad.

Do you want to be like Dad when you grow up? Or Papaw, or Grandpa, or Pop-Pop?” Jed: “Nope. I want to be like Jed.”

 

Me: “Sadie, what are you eating? Candy?” Sadie, dramatically: “It’s not just chocolate, Mother – it’s Turkish Delight!”

 

After singing the Oscar Meyer Weiner song, Adelaide ended with the refrain: “Everyone would be in love with me!” Jed: “No! Not wif you, Adelaide!”

 

Josie, after I told her I would pay her to rub my sore shoulder: “Well, it only costs a quarter. That’s a pretty good deal. Yeah, I used to sell hearts for a living, red ones that I cut out of paper. But that didn’t turn out so well. I sold one to you, one to Dad, one to Grandpa, and one to Aunt Lydia. I made a dollar, but you can’t live forever on a dollar. I guess I should probably move on to the next thing.” 

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Has anyone seen Spring?

Double Digits

Double digits.

My daughter, my Sadie (Sadaroo, as she’s sometimes known as affectionately around here) is going to be double digits this month. TEN.

I can hardly believe it.

My baby, my first real-life-honest-to-goodness-miracle, the sweet little blessing from God who gave me the enormous gift of being a mom – TEN.

It seems like yesterday that my husband and I were speeding down the highway toward the hospital in North Carolina on a bright, cool March morning, talking about how when we next traveled that road the entire world would be forever changed.

And now, a decade later, here we are. I’ve been a mommy for ten years. It’s been many things – days of amazing amazement and other days of awful awfulness. It’s been a roller-coaster of joy and fear and breathlessness and bittersweet, heart-wrenching beauty.

That chubby-cheeked baby girl is now a long, lanky, smart, kind-hearted, precious, spunky, amazing girl. She has a creative spirit, a great belly laugh, a thirst for knowledge, and the cutest little nose-crinkling, eye-scrunching grin ever. My, how she has grown.

And I think I’ve been growing up right along with her.

Being a mom has done crazy things to me. I’m simultaneously the most selfish and the most unselfish person in the world. I’m terrified in some ways, yet in other ways I’m stronger than I’ve ever been. Before Sadie, I didn’t know how deeply I could feel or how much I could love or how much I could handle. I had no idea what it was to love sacrificially.

I’ve worried myself into oblivion. I’ve learned that sometimes, the only thing I can do is pray – and I’ve prayed more in the past ten years than in the other 27 years of my life combined. I pray for help, for patience, for her safety, for her healing, for her future, for her feelings, for her heart and her decisions and her happiness and her relationships.

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My Sadaroo

And I’ve wasted time that I could’ve spent with her. When I think about this, I get a lump in my throat and have a bit of a mini-panic attack. She’s TEN. How much time do I have left with her now? 8 more years at home? 8 more years of her in her fuzzy robe, reading on her top bunk? 8 more years of “Coming, Mom!” and “Got it!” and “Have you seen my Snoopy?” and “How do ya catch a candy cane” songs? How many times have I gone to tuck her in and she’s already asleep so I’ve missed out on holding her hand to say prayers or to sing her special bedtime song?

She is so wonderful. But sometimes I wonder, how present am I really in her life?

I have so many doubts and fears about doing the right things for her and teaching her all she needs to know. I want for her to be able to make a living when she grows up, but I’m more concerned that she has a LIFE. That she’s HAPPY. Have I been training her for that for the past ten years? For happiness? I’m not sure – I’ve never been too good at it myself, honestly. Every day, I struggle with myself. I want to see her through the eyes of my heart instead of with my controlling, micro-managing brain. I can’t expect her to be perfect. I’m certainly not. Will perfect handwriting on that homeschool assignment really make her a better person? Will a spotless bedroom and perfectly folded clothes help her to one day be HAPPY?

I have to remember that every step she takes away from me is a step toward the life that God has planned for her. I have to remember to hold her hand, yet not hold her back.

For me, it’s a difficult (and emotional) distinction to make.

I admit it – I don’t want to let her go. I scrapbook because I have to hold on to how she was! I write because I don’t want to forget how she is right this minute. I want to be able to recall exactly how my life has been with this little person. My (not so) little girl.

My Sadie. My love. My blessing. My dancing, twirling, leaping, butterfly-chasing, sunbeam of a child.

I’ve loved you for ten years (plus all of the nine months before we met – and maybe even before that, back when you were just a someday-dream in my heart.)

So much about you (and me) has changed since that life-altering, purpose-giving, direction-changing day all those years ago. And one thing is sure: things are just going to keep on changing. For both of us.

But my beautiful, wonderful, first child – you can be certain that one thing never will: my love for you.