Whose mans are these?

If you have teenagers, or peruse social media enough, you may have heard the phrase, “Whose mans is this?” I first heard it several months ago, from my 15-yr old. when we arrived home to see Stella (our Vizsla) standing like a sentry at a front window. Her physique — standing up with paws on the window ledge — can sometimes look eerily humanish.

Whose mans is this?!” Sam said, as we laughed at Stella. Hearing him utter this phrase made me laugh even harder. Sam’s verbal delivery is everything.

I figured it was pretty much self-explanatory, something along the lines of, “Who IS this person?” and/or “What is this person even doing?” Even so, I double-checked my resources (me and Urban Dictionary are like this *crosses fingers.*) which supported my assumed definition. Since that day, I’ve thrown the phrase around a few times, when appropriate. I like to think subtle references to current slang gives my street cred a li’l boost — at least in my sons’ eyes. (They tolerate me so kindly.)

This particular phrase has been rolling around my head lately, because I’ve noticed in the month or so since school let out, I’m seeing the four still-at-home-kids in new and different light. Glimpses of more maturity and responsibility,… and I swear Bobby’s had a five-inch growth spurt. (Eight-year-olds can often grow like weeds, am I right?!)

Whose mans are these?!

Perhaps the catalyst for this shift my perception came the last day of school. I was in the car, heading out somewhere with Bobby, while the two almost-18 ManChildren were leaving as well. They both stopped to say goodbye, and give their little brother hugs and high-fives. Charlie appeared at the passenger side window, and motioned for me to lower the window. When I did, he leaned in with his trademark smirk.

How does it feel to have two SENIORS now?

There was a certain amount of glee/excitement in his voice at his and Jack’s newly-acquired status, while his words pierced my heart. Seniors. SENIORS.

Ten weeks (actually seven weeks at this point) and the twin-babies will begin their senior year of high school. We’re officially on the clock. This should come as no surprise, as we’ve already had two kids graduate from both high school and college (one of whom has even relocated to NYC). It’s been several years though, so time has blurred the emotions, much like a mother will “forget” the pain of labor after delivering a baby. It hadn’t resurfaced until Charlie said those words.

WHOSE MANS ARE THESE?!

The three older boys arrived home last night after a friend’s graduation party, and it was a genuine pleasure to see them. Don’t get me wrong — I’m always glad to see the kids — but they’ve become so fun/funny and entertaining as they’ve grown older, that I enjoy our time together on a completely different level now. Rather than immediately retreating to their bedrooms, they stayed downstairs in the kitchen with me and Bobby. We talked and laughed… a lot.

Later, after saying good night to each of them, my emotions ran bittersweet. While I’m sad to realize their time at home is dwindling, I’m overjoyed to send smart, funny and kind young adults out into the world, much like we did with Tyler and Kate. And I know that who they are now has been shaped by both family and friends. I hope and pray for equally smart, funny and kind friends to merge paths with them in the future, enhancing who they’ll become — to mutually broaden each other’s horizons, and introduce them to a world bigger than their high school campus.

Whose mans are these?

These are my mans.

 

 

 

 

Adaptability

It’s been a full four weeks since last posting. Admittedly, that’s a long time. In my world, however, it’s passed in the blink of an eye.

Beginning one day after that last post, the following events passed our radar:

  • Hand surgery to correct a painfully arthritic basal thumb joint in my left hand. (And the right hand is next!)
  • Our daughter’s graduation from Purdue — after which, we’ve enjoyed having her home for three weeks prior to beginning her professional career in NYC.
  • Mother’s Day, including a day-trip with the kids to visit my mom
  • Work, home upkeep, grocery-getting, laundry, etc.
  • Dog to vet appointments
  • Kids to dental appointments
  • Post-op follow-ups, physical therapy sessions
  • End-of-year school functions
  • Varsity baseball games for the two man-children

This holiday weekend alone, there have been three sectional round baseball games for the man-children (resulting in being crowned Sectional Champions this afternoon!), various household projects and an extended family cook-out dinner tonight before we move Kate to NYC in three days.

Through it all, in the craziness of the month, my key, go-to phrase has been ADAPTABILITY — the quality of being able to adjust to new conditions. ADAPTABILITY, because even when you’re functioning one-handed, there are still showers to take, meals to make and bras to be hooked. ADAPTABILITY, when someone is moving from the sweet, down-home Midwest to the hustle and flow of The Big Apple. ADAPTABILITY, when I feel that aching twinge in my heart, seeing my mom deal with day-to-day life almost two years since my dad’s been gone. ADAPTABILITY, as I see a group of talented young men prepare, pull together and perform on the playing field. ADAPTABILITY, as the remaining kids at home prepare to finish one school year, and begin the next as a 3rd grader, sophomore and [gasp] TWO seniors.

There’s always a new situation to overcome, whether it’s a huge life-changing event, or a tiny concern, like what to make for dinner. ADAPTABILITY is going to get me through — because whether we like it or not, we’re all nowhere near being done. We’re still learning, growing, ADAPTING. And through my faith, I know that whatever comes my way, I’ll either have the strength to get through it, or I’ll find a new measure of grace shine down on me, providing the surge of “I can do this” necessary to pull through.

It’s been raining for days. Six days, to be exact, and I’m rained out.

I know it’s necessary, and I do enjoy the occasional rainy day — even a good, cleansing storm. But six days? Please.

Misery hit it’s apex Friday evening, when our two 17-year old “man children” came home from their baseball game soaked and cold. I’d be straight-up lying if I said I was devastated to hear their double-header and our 8-year old’s flag football game were canceled Saturday. Sitting outside in 40-something degrees and rain? No thank you.

But the silver lining to living under continual rain clouds is that we’ve been forced had the opportunity to spend a lot of time together this weekend as a family. Not that we necessarily did things all together, but just having everyone home and under one roof for a while has been nice. Our usual hectic pace drew to halt. Or at the very least, a slow crawl.

This morning I’m squeezing in this writing time between school-drop off and Stella’s vet appointment. Usually I’d be running around doing who-knows-what, and already throwing weight on my own shoulders. My ability to heap pressure and expectations on myself is professional level, and the resulting stress markers (shallow breathing, tight shoulders, irritability) feel normal to me.

Until today.

Today, I begin teaching myself to throw down the worry and stress, and just enjoy everything, especially my family. A friend lost her husband yesterday quite unexpectedly, which (naturally) makes one stop and take stock of life around themselves. Something I caught on the radio this morning related to how worrying about things will never change them. I’ve heard it before, but for some reason it struck me differently this time. Maybe it’s my age catching up with me, but I’m beginning to see that taking everything in stride and really seeing the joy in every situation is so, SO what I need.

So, while the storms will continue to swirl around us, I’m going to stand in the calm.

Slow the pace.

Worry less.

Enjoy.

 

6×8

It’s 12:19am on December 31. Nineteen minutes past my 48th birthday, and I’m thrilled to say (based on my last post) that I definitely re-established my faith in the past month, as well as finding peace & joy. It didn’t happen by reading a book, making drastic changes or going on a pilgrimage — rather, I opened my eyes to the world around me, and made a conscious effort to notice that blessings come in every shape and size. I realized that my faith hadn’t been lost; it was hidden under a lot of junk. I cleared the junk, and gave my faith room to stretch out and grow. I know my path is already laid out before me; I just have to focus on enjoying the walk, rather than straying and trying to create a path on my own.

Peace & joy came one night as my family and I were all together, watching a movie. At one point, I looked away from the television and looked at the individuals around me: husband, children, friends. That snippet of time spent watching a movie brought me more peace and joy than any holiday special, Christmas music or gift I could have ever received. In the time since that night, I’ve had several occasions to repeat that exercise — stop, take note of my surroundings and be truly fulfilled. Truly happy.

So, it’s with a happy heart that I begin 2017 in about 23 and-a-half hours. I’m walking into the new year fresh off my 48th birthday. And despite that number, our youngest child declared several times today that I look far younger than that… “maybe even 39,” he said. HELLO, FAVORITE CHILD.

A long time ago, I came up with the description for this blog as, “Celebrating the overlap of chaos and hilarity.” Many things have changed in the past seven years, but those words still ring true. Our family will never be perfect, nor will my house, my marriage, or myself. We are our own best hot mess. It’s taken me the latter of the last 48 years to wrap my mind around the concept of embracing imperfection, even though moms everywhere have been staging this revolution for a few years now.

The New Year tempts many of us to create resolutions, and I’m no exception. I want to become a work-in-progress in 2017, being a person who will…

  • Be kind to others
  • Be kind to myself
  • Read/write more
  • Finally submit a 15-year-old manuscript, in hopes of finding an agent and get published
  • Hurry less; stop and appreciate more often

I’m sure there will be other goals I create as I go along, because that’s how works-in-progress do it. New Year’s Day isn’t always ground zero for self-improvement. As my niece, Shelby, said so well on a Facebook post earlier this evening, “I wonder if people understand they can stop bad trends in their lives at any point, not just January 1st…”

Happy New Year!

 

 

Juxtaposition

Thanksgiving was two days ago, and I’m sitting here on a Saturday night feeling grumpy, out of sorts and snappish. As the season of peace, love and good will kicks off, I’m feeling more inclined to stomp around and feel sorry for myself. In all honesty, stomping around would take much more energy than I even want to expend — I’d much rather sit slumped on the sofa, brooding.

The fact that almost every radio station is now playing holiday music 24/7 isn’t helping. Somehow in the past several years, I’ve become highly susceptible to blatant displays of emotion when hearing a majority of Christmas songs. Translation: I completely lose my shit and become a hot mess of tears.

Awesome.

So, yes… while everyone’s all “peace & joy,” I’m over here all “could you just not?”

The catalysts of this funk in which I find myself aren’t as important as my reactions. I can’t control the events around me, but I sure thought I had a better handle on my responses. I can talk big about having faith that things happen for a reason, when things are going my way. When it seems like the odds are stacked against me, for whatever reason, my faith crumbles. This is a problem. When you factor “wavering faith” into the other factors in this equation, it sets up a perfect storm: a + b + c = nothing good can come of this.

I decided tonight, post-pity party, that the thing I want most for Christmas (besides, maybe, a new pair of running shoes) is a restoration of faith in … well, just about everything. As I put together lists of errands and things to do for other people, I’m going to do something for myself as well:  rebuild my faith. And, if all goes as I hope, I’ll find true peace & joy. There has been so much to be unsettled about lately, I’m probably not the only one who feels like the ground is slipping out from under their feet, am I right? The best I, or anyone else, can do is just start shoring up our foundations, getting back to solid ground. I think occasionally stumbling in one’s faith offers a chance for building up and strengthening our relationship with God, so that’s what I’m going to do. After a good, solid cry to release all the pent-up stress and frustration, I’ll pick myself up and start building faith again. Maybe then I won’t feel so “out of season,” with a preference for brooding on the sofa or snapping at people.

I’m still going to cry at Christmas music though.

“We are all broken, that’s how the light gets in.” — Ernest Hemingway

Tough Love

Tough love.

I’ve heard the term thrown around before, but never had to add it to my parenting agenda.

Until yesterday.

One of the children in our house — I’ll refrain from naming the culprit — has built a solid history of “crying wolf” when it comes to staying home from school due to illness. Whether the reason behind the charade was lack of preparation for a particular class, or sheer desire to take a “personal day,” I’ll never know for sure. What I do know for sure is that this crap isn’t going to be put up with any longer. We’re a solid six weeks into the new school year, and yesterday was the day this child decided to test the waters. Thirty-eight minutes into today’s school day, I received the following text:

“I just threw up. What do I do?”

“Go to the clinic,” I type back.

It kills me, by the way, that I had to say this.

This began — I kid you not — a three-and-a-half hour volley of texts, in which my child pleaded and begged to come home. Ordinarily, I’d have keys in hand and jump into the car in a heartbeat — if the vomiting had actually been witnessed by a credible source. Claiming to throw up in the bathroom, with no one else around, does not guarantee a ticket home. Don’t get me wrong — I’m not wishing a classroom or hallway incident upon my child, the teachers and custodians. However, just like the a tree falling in the woods when no one’s around to hear it, if a child claims to vomit at school, and no one’s there to see it, … as far as I’m concerned, it has not happened. Luckily, a quick and insightful conversation with the school nurse tipped her off to this child’s penchant for playing the vomit card. She, having raised three kids already, and being responsible for over 1,000 students in our school system, was instantly on the same page as me. Combining forces with the school nurse shouldn’t have made me as giddy as it did, but hey… on the parenting battleground, you take any ally you can get.

As messages popped up continually through the lunch hour, guilt tip-toed around my mind. The “tough mom” part of my brain was giving “guilty mom” a hard side-eye, which prompted them to spar.

“You know he can’t keep doing this.”

“I know, but…”

“Another text? Just ignore it.”

“I can’t ignore my own child — besides, what if he’s really sick”

“Please. We all know he isn’t really sick.”

“I know, but…”

“You come at me with another ‘I know, but…’ and I swear to Heaven we’re throwing down.”

To pacify Guilty Mom, I fired off quick texts to my other children at school, asking them to be my eyes and ears during lunch period. Reports came back that my allegedly sick child went to the cafeteria, did not eat, and was on the quiet side. This is not typical. At that point, Guilty Mom grew bold and began digging in her heels against Tough Mom.

“See?! He isn’t himself. He’s definitely not feeling well.”

“Simply not feeling well isn’t worthy of leaving school for the day.”

“But if he’s feeling light-headed and queasy, that’s a miserable feeling, and I’m forcing him to feel miserable at school, rather than at home where it’s comfortable.”

In the end, Tough Mom won by reassuring Guilty Mom that this was a life lesson my child had to learn, and the end justified the means. My child will (hopefully) learn the following:

1.) One cannot cry wolf repeatedly, and expect to be taken seriously.

2.) If this was a way to avoid something at school — an incomplete assignment, a test for which he hadn’t studied — he’ll learn that one must face the consequences of one’s actions.

3.) Tough Mom is the new sheriff in town, and Guilty Mom has been relieved of her duties in the parenting department.

Tough love.

Most people probably thing the “tough” part of that phrase refers to assessment by the person on the receiving end. I, however, have first-hand experience that tough love can be toughest on the parent. We are so programmed that being a good parent means being everything to our children, and doing everything in our power to make our children happy. I think back to my own childhood — which I loved, and have no complaints about whatsoever — and I’m straight up telling you that some of the shenanigans that kids pull today would have never passed with my parents, or my friend’s parents. Never. My parents never sent notes or made phone calls to a coach, just to raise hell and get me on a sports team. My parents never took time out of their work days to hand-deliver a forgotten homework assignment to me at school. If I forgot something at home, it stayed there until I remembered to bring it to school myself. All of this to say that my parents were great, and I have to admit, I think I turned out pretty well despite the fact that they didn’t cater to my every whim, or drive themselves crazy trying to pave the way for me.

In a few conversations about the situation since yesterday afternoon, my child insists, and swears that he did, in fact, get sick at school. I have a pretty good hunch that allergies may be the culprit. I had forgotten that when this particular child was little, any sort of “congestion situation” would end up in him throwing up with very little warning. (Those were fun times, when we had to stash plastic bags in coat pockets in order to consider ourselves fully prepared to deal with the problem. To this day, I still keep a few plastic grocery bags rolled up in our cars, so apparently I’d been scarred for life.)

Most times it’s easy to love our kids, despite their fits, tantrums, sass and basic ability to drive parents to the outskirts of Crazytown. But it’s those days when tough love is the only way to solve a problem that you really understand how going against the grain can be sheer torture, yet also be the best, most loving and caring thing you can do for your child.

 

We interrupt this hellstorm…

I don’t think anyone would argue that lately our country — our WORLD — seems like it’s turned into the Hell Express. Hatred, intolerance, general ugliness that fuels hate fire and all too often results in death and destruction. I’m not much of a news-watcher these days, generally keeping up on events with a quick scan of local or national news websites. Or, (and I feel superbly ashamed to admit this) many news “tips” come from scrolling Facebook, seeing someone repost or comment on something. Despite my inaction, I do, in fact, aspire to be a well-informed citizen and decided to make an effort to watch the news this morning.

First topic was Trump’s acceptance speech at the RNC last night, which I completely expected. Next story was (another!) shooting — this time an African-American healthcare worker, who had been trying to assist a distressed, autistic client. I’d heard of this the other day, but as this man’s attorney and supervisor (I think… I missed his introduction) recounted and reacted to the incident, my blood began to boil. What had he done wrong? And, I have obviously missed something in the story, but why were police called to this situation to begin with? I’m guessing because the client was sitting in the middle of the street, refusing to move and causing a public disturbance. The man clearly stated who he was and what was happening, yet for some reason, an officer pulled the trigger. Now, don’t start lumping me into any specific ” — Lives Matter” category, because I’ll say right here and right now that I feel ALL lives matter. Every life. I believe people shouldn’t be assumed to be dangerous based on other incidents. I also believe that a person armed with a weapon should be able to defend himself/herself if there is a threat to his/her well-being, or those around them. Sure, there are always going to be questions — to what degree should they defend themselves? At what point? Define “threat to their well-being.” I know these are horribly tense, complicated situations that often have to be dealt with in seconds. Split-seconds. I know I couldn’t do it, and I have the utmost respect for the people who are trained and able to quickly assess dangerous situations, making those split-second decisions that have the best possible outcome for all involved. But this isn’t my point today. My point is that hearing about this latest situation gone awry pushed me over the edge. I’m on violence overload, people, and I need to take a mental break. Sensational media thrives on being just that: sensational. And I’m not talking fabulous-sensational, I’m talking about shocking-sensational — bringing viewers as much shocking, appalling, graphic information as possible. With this media hellstorm literally at our fingertips, we often have no buffer between the ugliest news of the day and our hearts. And some days, my heart hurts too much.  I need a chance to step away for a few minutes, shake off the awfulness and re-focus on the GOOD and the LOVE that surrounds us.

So, first, here’s this:

tired puppy

Sleepy puppy — giving me the evil eye because I dared sneak up on her to take a photo. Whatever. She’s sleeping off the two miles we logged this morning out and around the neighborhood. You’re welcome, Stella.

And, because puppies and kittens are ambassadors of cuteness,… may I present our cat-niece Luna:

LUNA

Speaking of nieces, our human niece Chloe celebrated her 15th birthday yesterday. Her mother — my amazing SIL Jenny — honored the occasion with a Facebook pictorial that was all kinds of awesome. While there’s one other photo that claims all-time favorite status, this one stopped me in my tracks and literally turned my day around:

CHLOE

That’s a hellalotta fabulousness to pack into three years of life!

Next, an unedited photo of sunset at the lake, July 02, 2016:

SUNSET

Gorgeous, yes?

Finally, I’ll close with a meme that jumped off the screen at me the first time I read it. Credit goes to Rachel Macy Stafford at http://www.handsfreemama.com:

CHOOSE LOVE

We aren’t here to judge.

“Why, then, do you judge your brother? Or why do you belittle your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.”   Romans 14:10

We’re here to love one another.

“This is My commandment, that you love one other as I have loved you.”  John 15:12

There’s so much badness out there, but there’s also goodness.

There are puppies and kittens.

And birthdays.

And sunsets.

And love. Choose love. Choose love next. And over, and over, and over again until it’s all you do.