Eyes Wide Open

Almost exactly one year ago I wrote this:

P.S. I’m taking a Facebook break, friends.  Mostly it’s about regaining some of the enormous amount of time I waste there.  I’m thinking, though, that less time wasted means more sleep.  And more sleep might mean eyes wider open to watch out for those opportunities for joy.  I’ll try to let you know how it goes.

I mostly stuck to it.  It helped that I made Jay change my password because I have the self control of a four year old when it comes to plans like this.  I admit I did end up checking a few favorite pages regularly like HONY and Ginger Runner and Momastery, but there’s only so much time to be wasted when you don’t log in.

This week, though, I had to break my fast and get Jay to rack his brain for the password he chose so many months ago.  I needed to contact a few people that I don’t have in my address book for a school project.  And while it was initially fun to scroll through new baby pictures on pages of far off friends and see signs of new relationships on others, I found myself right back where I didn’t want to be a year ago.  Jay, time for another password.

Perhaps my only tiny hesitation is that not signing on to Facebook for a year makes you miss notes like this:

Dear Tracy, I know school has started and you are very very busy, but it has come time to gently remind you that were another post to appear on your blog, your fans would very likely enjoy it.

This September note from a sweet college friend made me smile.  With the help of her gentle reminder, here I am again.  Better late than never?

So back to the sleep and eyes wide open and joy.  I can’t say that it happened just like that.  I’m sure this comes to no surprise to anyone who really knows me, but I quickly filled my extra time with everything but sleep.  This semester I completed over half of my master’s degree and ran a marathon.  Sleep was squeezed somewhere in between, and it was rarely enough.

But as for eyes wide open and joy…I think it’s a yes.

I don’t have Facebook photos to prove it.
I don’t have blog posts to prove it.
I don’t have a journal of 1,000 (or even 47) gifts to prove it.

Joyful still:
For new Life Group friends that encourage us through their struggles and ours
For legs that were strong enough to run 17 miles and then walk 9 more
For neighbors that show relentless love
For friends that let you cry in their kitchens
For new friends, if only for a short season
For God-planned reunions with old friends
For a new job for Jay after many months of waiting
For slow mornings with all four of us piled in the bed
For five minute emails from a friend half way around the world
For the Word that is taking root in our lives in such real ways
For five dollar family dinners on Wednesday nights
For a husband that willingly washes the dishes and puts the kids to bed
For the precious personalities of my two year old friends at church
For heartbreak and forgiveness and reconciliation
For eyes wide enough open to see growth in my children as a result of prayer
For Friday afternoon silent dance party bus dismissal
For the giving-est group of parents a teacher could ever want
For handmade gifts by Chica
For Bubba’s thumbs up and winks

Oh, and one more…
For friends that remind me it’s time to write again

May your 2016 be filled with joy and eyes wide enough open to spot it, friends.

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Two By the End of Breakfast

I started (again) to try to record 1,000 gifts.  I think my last attempt made it to about 70.  That’s a whopping 7% of the way, friends.   But this is what new years are for, right?  Trying again with new hopes that this time you might make it.  Or at least make it further than before.  This time I’m using the Joy Dare collection, prompts that make you think a bit, focus your thankfulness.  Check it out.

I realized ‘round about Saturday that my chances of thinking of something to fit the prompt increase if I read it in the morning and not wait until I’m crawling, defeated, into the bed at well past my bedtime.  So I checked this morning’s suggestion, “3 graces from people you love,” and casually mentioned it to Jay.  Seeing as how I had no plans to leave the house on this unexpected snow cold day home from school, I knew I had to watch for three graces among the three other people that live here.

I just didn’t expect to already have two by the end of breakfast.

photo20.  Jay agreed to take Bubba to school.  While we were enjoying together our healthier version of breakfast (also inspired by the New Year), Jay offered to drive Bubba to school.  Not just agreed…offered.  Anyone living anywhere in the United States today knows that it was hellacold outside.  Chica’s kiddie thermometer (thanks Betty, what a timely gift!) said 5 degrees when we checked it this morning.  In addition to the scarf on the weather girl and the snowflake which I’m assuming means it’s cold enough to snow, there was now an exclamation point next to the snowflake too.  I guess that’s the No-Joke-Stay-Inside symbol.  So as we made jokes about hypothermia and losing limbs, he offered to be the one to go out, and I was thankful.

21.  Chica invited Bubba to share her chair at the breakfast table.  This morning, as most mornings, breakfast was a battle.  By (what I thought was) the end of it, Bubba was a sobbing mess, crumpled over on the kitchen floor.  “Do you care if I just let him cry?” I remember asking Jay.  He didn’t, so I vowed I would enjoy the breakfast I had fixed for myself then try to help him pick up the pieces and get our day back on track.

photo 1Next thing I know, tenderhearted, sweet Chica had invited him to perch beside her in her chair and keep eating.  As she scooted his bowl over to his new seat, I watched in amazement as he kept eating the same soggy “Fwok Fwakes” he had refused a few minutes ago.  “Grace number two, and breakfast isn’t even over,” I remember remarking to Jay.  That was fast.

22.  The shredded cheese smeared on the dining room floor.  So grace #3 from people I love came after dinner, and I guess it’s technically for someone I love.  In one of my many moments of distraction today while trying to complete a writing project, I decided I would do something I’ve been meaning to do for a while:  teach Chica how to unload the dishwasher.  So I did, and it was mostly painful and slow, but there was one bright exclamation of, “This is fun!”  (She got over that real fast, don’t worry.)  This got me thinking that it’s about time she have a few regular jobs around the house.  So I printed her off a checklist and tried to explain with every positive spin I had why her four new “jobs” this week were a really cool thing.  She totally bought it.  I love five.

So tonight she set out to accomplish job number three:  vacuum the dining room floor after dinner.  Except Bubba had conned Daddy into giving him a pile of shredded cheese for dinner and then proceeded to use it like confetti.  (I don’t love two, so much.)  I know that the vacuum and shredded cheese aren’t a great combination, but I forgot to tell her that before it was too late.  So I handed her the rag and encouraged her to try wiping it up…a skill that she has also not quite mastered yet.

Shortly she was “done” and ready to go join Daddy and Bubba for the nightly see-what’s-cool-on-Daddy’s-iPad-in-Bubba’s-bed party, and I had to survey her work so she could be dismissed.

There was still cheese.

But thankfully (I guess maybe this is what I’m really thankful for!) some small piece of a conversation with a friend resurfaced.  I can’t even remember for sure which friend, but I know she reminded me of the importance of not going back behind your kids when they start to help.  Let it be good enough.  So I extended grace and I let her go, squeezing her and reminding her how proud I was of her hard work.

And the cheese smears are still there.

Tomorrow, and likely the next day and the next, when I walk past them I’ll try to keep reminding myself to extend grace.  And I’ll keep reminding myself, too, that I only have strength to do this because I’ve been given grace upon grace myself.

Grace in the parenting.
Grace in the working.
Grace in the eating.
Grace in the counting of the gifts, even.

Grace upon grace, to you, friends.

Don’t Send Your Kindergartener to School in Ivory Tights

But she really looked cute this morning.

A hand-me-down pink ribbed shirt with tiny matching rhinestones at the collar that I’m not sure she’s ever worn.  A brown and pink flowered corduroy skirt with an extra ruffle at the bottom.  And the ivory tights.  It was a whole outfit of things that matched.  And it was really my only option since she had (literally) not a single pair of clean pants.

So we went for it, and she was cute.  Cold, but cute.

Then 3:45 rolls around and she appears out of nowhere in my classroom just like she does every afternoon.  “Hi, mom.”

Woah.

Shoes untied.  Hair staticky and everywhere from her fuzzy hood.  A stain mingled with the rhinestones.  The ivory tights are now mostly brown, and one knee cap is completely poking through.

Not so cute anymore.  Looks like she’s going more for the Mom-Doesn’t-Take-Care-of-Me look.  And it only got worse.

I had made plans to work with a friend in her classroom on one of those ridiculous paperwork things that make teachers want to poke their eyeballs out and/or just retire early.  Chica, armed with a few markers, scissors, construction paper, and her creative genius, had her mind set on creating a whole flock of turkeys.  And if you have a kid or teach kids or have just ever been a kid, then you know that pretty much the only way to draw a turkey is to trace your hand.

So perhaps 45 minutes later we discover her….left hand completely black, black marker smears on the brown tights, and black marker all over her face.  She is truly talented…at making messes I mean.  The turkeys were pretty good too.

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Tonight we had planned to have dinner at Bubba’s school, but there was no time to take this piece of work home and clean her up.  Her daddy could barely look at her he was so embarrassed.  I just tried to keep reminding myself that it was all a sign that she had had a good day.  A really good day.

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On the way home I knew that the image of Chica and her holy tights had to be my thankful picture for the day.  Sure, I’m thankful for her creative spirit that will not be squelched by dirt or lack of materials or a grouchy mom.  But I think even more, today, I’m thankful that tomorrow is a new day.  The tights will go in the trashcan, the clothes will go in the washer, and the girl has already been in the bath.  Tomorrow she’ll skip to the bus a new kid, ready for a new day.

Tomorrow will be a new day.  As I turned on the bathwater, I thought of all the things I wanted to wash down the drain from my day.  The shortness I had with a friend that just wanted help.  The hurried and grouchy words with my kids.  The even more grouchy words with my classroom full of big kids who just four years ago were turkey-making little kids.  That yucky feeling of not doing what you know you need to do.

I’m thankful for forgiveness and that I get to try again tomorrow.  It’s a new day.

Oh…and I guess I’m also thankful that I now know never to send a kindergartener to school in ivory tights.  Shouldn’t I have known that already?

Horn Beep Beep Beep Town

I feel like I write the same story over and over.   For every one time I write it here, I’ve lived it 20.  Here’s how it goes:

Kids do something annoying.  Mommy gets mad.  Mommy stays mad.  Kids do something beautiful that catapults Mommy from chronos to kairos.  Mommy asks for forgiveness and tries to see the blessings.  Repeat.

So for this morning’s version of the same ol’ story:

Today on the way to church we had to pick up fruit from Kroger for lunch.  Here’s just a sampling of what you may have overheard had you tagged along…

“No, you can’t take the bright orange tie down straps into the store with you.  Why not?  Because that’s just ridiculous, that’s why not.”

“Bubba, sit down.  SIT DOWN!  Sit. Down. Nooooooooooow.

“Chica, puh-lease watch where you are pushing the cart.  No, never mind.  Just stop.”

“Stop talking, I can’t concentrate.”

“Where the heck is my wallet?”

“No.  I already know what you are going to ask.  Just no.”

Yeah.  It wasn’t pretty.  All while I should have been preparing for what has the potential to be my most peaceful hour and a half of the week.  And then we got in the car, and I just wallowed in it, like Templeton wallowing in the muck.

But thankfully, cutting through my annoyance and anger, came the sweetest words from the back seat.

“Horn.  Beep beep beep.  Horn.  Beep beep beep.  Tooooooown.”

Bubba was singing.  Not following along with his sister or me…just singing his own song.  How much was I missing while swimming in the mire?

And somehow his simple words sang to me…

Come awake!  The straps and the cart and the wallet and the begging for gum are just not worth it.  Be thankful.  Be thankful and awake to the gifts around you.  This boy.  His song.  This girl.  Her imagination.  Her freedom.  Her dance in church.  Come awake. 

Sing on, Bubba.  Keep reminding me.  One day I just may get it.

Image:
NY CITY BUS  
© Shankar S. | Flickr Creative Commons

Eighteen Gifts Before Nap Time

70.  Accidentally sleeping in.
71.  Nana, who was keeping the kids, so that I could accidentally sleep in.
72.  Leftover pizza for breakfast, washed down with buttered tomato biscuits.
73.  My Saturday morning running group.  So. Fun.
74.  A new friend who slowed down to run with me while I (slowly) pushed my clunky stroller.
75.  Chica’s sweet spirit as we walked from the Depot to the Market.  “Mom…It’s just like we are on a play date.  I like being with you.”
76.  The zigs and the zags.  As we walked the new Lower Bluff Walk up from 9th Street to Commerce, Chica said, “Now we’re on the zig!”  And then we’d make a turn, and call, “And now this is the zag!”  Thanks to the zigs and the zags, we got up a really steep hill very quickly!
77.  The Community Market.  I can’t say enough how much I love that pace on a summer Saturday morning.
78.  The two tiny little kids eating some great big peaches on the back of a farm truck while their momma worked.  The older of the two was double fisting it, and the little girl had juice just pouring down her bib.  What I wouldn’t have done for my camera in that moment.  It was so perfect.
79.  The guy with the goat cheese.  Man, he is one friendly dude, even when I sample his stuff every week and only seem to buy it every thirteenth visit or so.  I’m thinking next week’s the week.  I’m might go for the spicy pimento flavor…it’s a winner.
80.  That extra $20 I found stashed in a pocket of the diaper bag.  The $4 I found in my wallet wasn’t going to make it very far.  My kitchen table is still loaded with tomatoes, new potatoes, green beans, zucchini, squash, an onion, Gala apples, and cucumbers.  This summer is going out with a bang.
81.  The lady who piled my bucket of apples til overflowing.  We had already devoured three of them before we were even home.
82.  A calm moment to just sit at the fountain and watch Bubba gnaw on an apple core while Chica hunted for pebbles.  The music, the little kids dancing, the bigger kids rolling down the hill…grabbing my kairos moment for the day right there.
83.  Living room picnics.
84.  Bubba’s giggles and giddiness when I finally convinced him to swing with me.
85.  Free hotdogs at Miller Park.  And that orange paste that can only be a result of kids eating Cheetos.
86.  Pre-K teachers that are (and always will be) magical.
87.  Nap time.  I’m certain I’ve probably already listed this somewhere in my list of 87, but I’m also certain it’s just that good of a gift to mention multiple times.  I know this won’t be the last.

Gifts #38-69

Thirty-one gifts to celebrate my thirty-first birthday:

38. Cucumbers, prickly off the vine.
39. A little boy that is learning to help. Today Bubba helped me sort clothes into a box and a giveaway pile as I pulled them out of the drawer.
40. Skype & FaceTime. I had visited with both my mom and mother-in-law by the end of breakfast today.
41. Birthday wishes from Facebook friends. Just wow.
42. A husband that tells me he still has the hots for me.
43. Birthday cards in the mail. Even one from Jay…that takes some pre-planning. Impressed!
44. Bubba’s, “Hi Mommy,” that skips up a note (or three) at the end.
45. Nights and mornings with just one kid. Thanks Nana!
46. Wal-mart trips that don’t end in tears or great embarrassment.
47. Unexpected mid-morning naps followed by the usual afternoon nap.
48. Catching up with a dear friend after what must have been a year.
49. A happy birthday text from a friend that doesn’t have Facebook.
50. Bubba’s new way with words. Tonight on the way home he said, “Mommy, make it sing,” and pointed to the front of the car. After a few wrong guesses, we realized he meant the radio. Smart kid.
51. Hand-me-down clothes from sweet friends.
52. Summer tomatoes. The only kind worth eating, really.
53. Time and peace to read. I actually sat down and read a bit of a book today. Granted, it was followed very shortly by a few minutes of snoozing, but I did read, nonetheless.
54. Witnessing a friend using her gifts in a big way. Read her post. You’ll be blessed.
55. Chica’s delight as we picked out school supplies. “Is this for me? My OWN glue?!”
56. Leftovers for lunch. I almost took a picture it was so good.
57. The neighbor friend who can always pull Chica away from the TV.
58. Good hair days. Yeah…that was vain. 31 gifts is just a little harder than I thought.
59. God’s timing. He has worked so many things out recently, better than I could have orchestrated myself. I’m trusting that he will do the same for our move at the end of this month.
60. Deer in the front yard.
61. Spying a hummingbird perched on a branch.
62. Neighbors who offer up the leftovers from their thornless blackberry bush.
63. The first twenty minutes after Jay gets home from work. I love those moments of reviewing our day for each other.
64. Bow ties. And one particular man who wears them well. Mmmmm.
65. A weekend full of FUN plans followed by yet another week of no school.
66. Bubba’s talent for lip-syncing. Today it was to some Christmas Barbie toy of Chica’s.
67. The Wal-mart lady who willingly packed my school supplies separately from my groceries.
68. The feeling of peace as I made lunch today. Two months ago I would have used any word other than peace to describe this part of the day.
69: Time to write and be thankful.

Gift #37: Fist Pumps

He must have known.

He must have seen that I was really dragging, less than one mile into my four mile jog.  I’m sure he saw the sweat already pouring from my pink, scowling face.  Maybe he noticed that I was trying to suck my belly away from the shirt that is probably too small anyway.  Perhaps he spotted my dejected look as the group of perky, neon running ladies passed me from behind, chatting it up about pilates as they pranced along.

Yeah, I think he knew.  He knew I doubted that I could really do this.  That I was lamenting the fact that five years and two babies later, it’s just not as easy as it once was.  Maybe I’m not still a runner after all.

Most runners you pass at 7 a.m. offer a, “Morning,” at best.  Sometimes it’s a wave, or a head nod, and occasionally, nothing at all.

But not this guy.  Not this 60-some (70, maybe?), chartreuse tank-top wearing, sweatband sporting, big belly guy.  Nope.  He gave me a full-on, arm all the way raised fist pump.  Awesome.

As if to say to me, “You got this!  We got this!  We’re out here, and it’s hellahot, and we’re doing it.  Forget the prancing ladies and the ripped dudes without their shirts.  I see you, and we’re both trudging along with our bellies that used to be much flatter.  Go us.”

So I mostly got over myself at the urging of his enthusiastic fist pump.  And I slid into my now comfortable mile pace that would have before made me cringe.  I got this.

Two miles later, after I had turned around to head home, I saw him coming towards me again, still trudging in all his neon glory.  I knew what I had to do.  So as we passed that second time, I offered first my wave, but then my best, full-on fist pump too.  And I’m not sure whose smile was bigger, mine or his.

Day officially made.

As I ran that last mile, I thought about the power of a fist pump for a worn out soul, the kind stuck comparing herself to those running past.

So today I offer up my best fist pump for the worn out mommies:

The mommies letting their kids watch the third straight hour of movies before lunch time.
The mommies feeding their kids PB&J for the 97th day in a row.
The mommies letting their kids eat the dropped cereal off the floor because it’s easier than sweeping.
The mommies (and daddies!) comforting crying toddlers at 2 a.m. for the 7th consecutive night.
The mommies falling asleep during story time.
The mommies eating crazy things for breakfast like guacamole and brownies.
The mommies (and daddies, again) who find themselves saying things like, “Don’t suck on your socks…you won’t have any friends,” or, “Please don’t use your fork to scratch your armpit.”

I see you.  I’m right there with you.  We got this.

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Pit stains and all.