What Do You Do?

7:45 a.m.  Fifteen minutes later than I like to be.  Eight things on my to-do list when I get there.  Two kids in the way back seat slowly driving me the rest of the way to crazy.  And I hear one quick story on the radio that snaps things back into perspective.  It went something like this:

A man looking for a new job was in the habit of asking people he met, “What do you do?”  One day he met a woman who told him, “I give people hope.”  When he inquired further, turns out she was a supermarket clerk, but she viewed her real job as hope-giver.  She tried to find the grouchy or sad person each day and give them a little extra attention.  Hope, even. 

Oh.

So I, of course, had to imagine then how I might have responded to the same inquiry…

I teach.
I write lesson plans.  I stay up too late searching for the next big idea.
I carry a bag of papers home each night.  On weekends I grade them.
I assess.  I record my assessments, and then I try to figure out what to do about it.
I often fail.
I write emails.  I write more emails.
I plan field trips.  I fill out three different pieces of paper with the exact same information.
I form stacks of paper that I never end up filing.
I make videos.
I dance.  I write songs.  I sing.  Often.
I run to the bathroom, holding my breath, hoping that I will be fast enough.
I teach self-centered little people how to be a little more other-centered.
I find missing pencils.
I bandage boo-boos.
I mediate.
I call parents when kids miss the bus.
I comfort kids.  I comfort their parents even more on some days.
I fix computers.
I use both sides of paper so we won’t be wasteful.
I hoard staplers and tape and pencil sharpeners and glue sticks.

And then there are the moments that I’m never proud of…

I yell.
I make kids feel bad for something outside of their control.
I shame.
I forget to do things I promised I would do.
I choose not to forget and move on.
I get short with my teammates.
I complain.

So what about the lady at the supermarket?  Something tells me that if she stepped into my shoes, she wouldn’t describe her job in any of these ways.  Her answer would be way better.  So after putting on my perspectacles and thinking about this today, here’s what I hope I do…

I inspire.  I cheer when I see them go home and keep digging for more.
I challenge.  I don’t let them give up on themselves or each other.
I connect.   Math to them, them to each other, them to the world.
I apologize.  I forgive.  I try to be an adult that’s not afraid of those words.
I love math, and I love learning, and I’m learning to love the kids even more than the math.

I love.

What do YOU do?

 

 

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When It Rains…

…we make pancakes.  Today was my first day of sleeping in for many, many weeks.  And by sleeping in, I mean staying in the bed (not necessarily sleeping) until sometime after 6:00.  I was still wavering over going for a morning run, but the steady rain outside quickly helped me reach the conclusion that the run was a no-go.  I attempted to get a head start on schoolwork, but Bubba had other ideas.  Eventually I decided, if you can’t beat him, join him.  So together we made pancakes while Daddy and Chica snoozed. IMG_0025

I sent Bubba in to tell them about the surprise once our stack was hot and ready.  I overheard from the other room, “Guess what we made!?  It’s S-T-O-Y.  That spells pan-a-cakes!!!”  The pan-a-cakes of course got both of them out of bed in a second.  Good work, Bub.

…we remember who doesn’t own a raincoat.  Against Daddy’s better judgment, we decided to follow through with our plan to peruse Day in the Park.   It wasn’t raining that hard.  So I put on my raincoat, a green classic (read: dated) L.L. Bean coat I likely got in high school in preparation for my summer as a camp counselor.  Chica has an equally classic (but much less dated) Lands End hand-me-down from a sweet friend.  No worries that it’s probably 2 sizes too big.  This just means 2 more years I won’t have to buy her one.  Jay reluctantly donned his red one.  (He’s the only member of this house with 3+ raincoats, none of which are ever quite right.  I do love that guy.)  And then there’s poor Bubba with just his everyday hoodie sweatshirt.  How many times have I reminded myself I need to get that kid a raincoat?!  Thankfully Chica’s raincoat is green.  If he can wait two or three years, he’ll eventually have one that fits.

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…I get lots of compliments on my footwear.  What else would you expect with these hand-me-down beauties from Nana?

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…there are no lines at Day in the Park.  Our kids hardly ever ride rides because they either cost too much or the lines are too long.  Well, today we had neither excuse to deny them because the rides were free and only crazy people take their kids to play in the park in the rain.  So Bubba rode the train two times in a row, they both tried out the ponies, and all three of us rode the spinning ride until I was afraid I would get sick.  I hope to never forget the sound of all three of us giggling as we whirled round and around.

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…you still run into lots of friends.  Apparently many of our friends happen to be crazy people as well because we still ended up seeing lots of them there.  Perhaps my favorite was seeing our friends together as a family of four instead of their usual weekend family of three. Yay for new a new job as a student that means dad gets to do fun things on the weekend!

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…it doesn’t always pour.  Sometimes rain means just as much fun, or more!

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What I Should Have Said to My Friend Who Doesn’t Want Kids

The threat of the coming snow on Wednesday meant a welcomed lunchtime early dismissal for teachers this week. While I was busy planning out a location in which I could woof down my leftovers and keep working in the few hours before daycare closed, my coworkers were making plans to enjoy lunch out together like normal adults. It took some major convincing on their part to get me to agree to go. My mind was stuck on the fact that I hadn’t accomplished one-fourth of the things I had hoped to get done during the work day AND I was about to get stuck in my house with my crazy little people for at least five days. In a row. “I HAVE TO GET MY WORK DONE!!!!!” my task-oriented brain was screaming.

But they were offering to go to my favorite new restaurant, and they did say we were going to talk about work stuff we need to get done anyway. AND the pork stew in my lunchbox was only so appetizing for the third straight day in a row. Oh, and that still, small voice that often tries to remind me that it’s completely possible that relationships can be more important than work. Oh, yeah, that. So I went.

I’m glad I did.

We talked about work, the drinks were free, the food was good, and the company was even better. As our conversation wrapped up, I attempted to make my exit and eek out a few more minutes of work time before the 3 p.m. daycare closing. Again I said, “I have to go get some work done BEFORE I’M TRAPPED IN MY HOUSE WITH MY KIDS FOR FIVE WHOLE DAYS. AHHHH!”

As everyone laughed a polite laugh, my honest, child-less friend observed, “Wow. Everybody makes having kids sound so bad. I’m just dying to have kids,” she said sarcastically.

Boom.

I don’t really know what I said at that point. Nothing, I guess. But I’ve been thinking about her….and me, and them….often as I’ve been stuck here in our snowy fort: Is it really that bad? And if having kids isn’t that bad, then why do I always talk about the bad parts?

I think sometimes we talk about those hard parts because if we don’t attempt to find the humor in it, then the only other choice is anger. Like the pencil drawings on the wall, the blue paint stains on the floor, and the orange permanent marker to the carpet. I’ve just chosen to find it amusing now that my two year old can find the most destructive item in any given room, in spite of my best efforts to hide all of those things out of reach. He has special ninja powers that help him seek out, find, and acquire the contraband, all while being so silent, you’d never suspect him. It’s either laugh or stay mad. I’m choosing laughter….and those stories are fun to tell.

Maybe we talk about the bad parts because we need to know we’re not alone. I’m not the only one in the world (or likely even my circle of friends) who has been woken up on a snow day by grubby fingers exploring every interesting hole on my face. I’m not the only one who has to check for peanut butter and snot stains on my shirt before leaving for work. I’m not the only one who loathes bath time and pushes the limit each week on the acceptable amount of days between torture sessions. Do you know just how much relief and freedom I felt when I shared this with a friend who then proceeded to tell me she has been known to go two weeks between baths before?? (Don’t worry friend, I won’t blow your cover.) We need to know we’re normal. Our kids are normal. Talking about the crazy parts usually leads to confirmation that everyone else is just as crazy.

I’ve been wondering, though, if we don’t talk about the good stuff because we’re afraid we’ll sound like we’re bragging. Or maybe because we don’t want to give an unrealistic view of what this parenting thing is all about. Even more likely, for me, I just don’t stop dwelling on the icky, mundane, tough, exhausting, painful, confusing, whatthehellhaveigottenmyselfinto moments long enough to recognize and be thankful for the good parts.

So that’s where I am today on snow day number 2.5. I’m busy counting up the good things, trying to articulate what I should have said to my friend who us grouchy mommies have scared kid-less.

This:
You’re right. It’s hard, and I make it sound no fun, but there are so many good parts. Go get another glass of green tea and bag of pita chips, and I’ll tell you about those parts that make it fun too…

Watching your big kid happily play outside in the snow by herself from your warm, sunny window, singing made-up words to a tune from Frozen at the top of her lungs.

Figuring out that the same big kid is now big enough to help with housework. Don’t underestimate the gift of one more person in your family who can unload the dishwasher or push the vacuum.

Seeing your little kid napping snugly on Daddy’s warm lap, both snoring like it’s going out of style.

Hearing either one of them say, “Thank you,” without having to be reminded, reassuring yourself that you are doing at least one thing right.

Being comforted by a little person when you’re the one with the tears and the pain.

Witnessing your kid learning to read. It’s magical.

Catching them playing and sharing with each other without any help from you.

That amazed, fantastic look when they accomplish something they didn’t know they could do. It doesn’t matter if it’s reading a whole book on their own or just stepping off of the porch into the snow unassisted….when they squeal, “I DID IT!” you’re still amazed right along with them.

Overhearing your kid say funny things like, “That’s my fravrite!” when he gets ketchup (with a side of pickles and grilled cheese) for dinner. Right now that same funny kid is saying, “Really? Really??” to the vacuum like it’s telling him a story he doesn’t believe. Last night, as we all watched a movie together, he said, “What the…?” and “Oh my word!” at all the right times. They make you laugh all. the. time.

Your kid (finally) successfully getting a haircut without a need for excessive tears or force.

Oh, and snow days stuck in the house to slow down and remember why you really do like them after all.

But here’s the real thing, friend….aren’t all the things that are really worth doing both really hard and really good at the same time? Wouldn’t you say that about marriage? And teaching? Having a house? Being a friend? Knowing Jesus? Aren’t each of those things messy and frustrating and time consuming and tiring and overwhelming right along with rewarding and stretching and amazing and life-giving?

So it’s worth it friend, and it isn’t all bad. Thanks for reminding me of that. Thanks for reminding me to see and talk about the good parts too.

Ok….off to bathe that kid who just had a haircut. Don’t ask me how long it’s been.

Hey, mommy friends:  Leave me a comment.  Remind me (and those friends we’ve scared kid-less) of the good parts I didn’t mention. 

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.