“Mama, there’s a booger stuck in my teeth!”

Life can’t prepare you for parenting. It’s the final exam, homework, lecture, and mid-term all rolled into one.

Other declarations that have taken me by surprise:

* SURPRISE, Mama! I got an ice cream sandwich for breakfast! [Gather your attack quickly.] Oh look, I have one for you too! [Well, in that case…]

* [From the bathroom] You better not come in here. You’ll be mad!   . . . . .  CANNONBAAAAAAAAAALL!

* GASP! Mama, you used to be a Princess?!?!? [note to self: remove wedding portrait from master bedroom immediately]

* Hey, Mommy. Look! I made footprints with my tee-tee!

* Mom, do you want me to put this booger in my mouth? Because I did this morning, and it was really yummy!

* Is that Jesus? [note to self: a bearded Zach Galifianakis in the movie The Hangover should not be causing this much confusion. Plus, pretty sure Jesus never strapped a baby named Carlos to his chest in a baby backpack. That’s not what he meant by “Let the little children come unto me.”]

Turned my back for 2 seconds, and that little stinker had emptied the shredder and was "cooking" on the treadmill.

Turned my back for 2 seconds, and that little stinker had emptied the shredder and was “cooking” on the treadmill.

And while we’re at it… Things I Never Thought My Adult Self Would Say Out Loud

* Please don’t lick me when you hug me.

* Yes, you have to flush your poop. No, we’re not saving it.

* If you make me late to work this morning, I’m going to call Santa and tell him to forget Christmas!

* If you aim that sword at your brother one more time, I’m going to call Santa and tell him…

* If you whine about your spelling list again, I’m going to call Santa…

* NO! The tooth fairy would NEVER forget about you! She’s so clever! She’s playing with you. Now, think about a place in the house where she knows you’ll be able to find your tooth money. Somewhere you go every morning.   …the kitchen counter? YES! I bet it’s still there.

* Please don’t lick my leg again.

*No, I don’t think the baby likes wedgies.

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If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy! If Daddy ain’t happy…

…ain’t nobody care.

A news push I received on my phone once. Maybe I'm having a bad day, but it's not nearly this bad!

A news push I received on my phone once. Maybe I’m having a bad day, but it’s not nearly this bad!

Y’all, I am not having a great week. You name it, I’ve experienced it and, thankfully, lived to tell about it.

This evening, while I was sitting on the side of the road in my idling car– just yards from the building where I was going to make my final pick-up and head home with the boys– I had a few moments to reflect on my week. After all, that nice officer behind me was still deciding whether to return to my driver’s side window with a verdict of warning or citation. While I waited, I contemplated whether or not I wanted to just let it all go with a guttural “screw it” and succumb to the meltdown that was, by now, simmering barely below the surface of my sanity.

Well, what I really wanted to do was find the next person gutsy enough to say, “But it’s just teaching…” when I try to explain the intricacies of getting at-risk 13- and 14-year-olds to learn to read and then punch him or her in the throat.

And then youtube it.

Yeah, I might have a problem.

It’s silly, I know, but I was too embarrassed to let the officer return to my window and see me crying. I’m a closet crier. No way am I going to parade that business in front of the world! I’m way too much of an introvert to let that loose. So I had no choice but to summon the stoic look of my inner Queen Elizabeth and keep it all together.

And I did… long enough to remember something I’d learned a little earlier this summer. I think it applies here just fine… And thank you, Holy Spirit, for reminding me of what I already know. Thank you for knowing I needed the gentle push to call on it once more. What a difference a change in perspective makes!

{from June 2013}

I was reminded of the most refreshing idea tonight at our small group. (That’s our church’s version of “Sunday School.”)

About a third of the way into the video part of the Bible study we’re doing (Matt Chandler’s Philippians), I realized I wasn’t really invested much in what we were sitting down to learn. I just kinda showed up at the small group because it’s Wednesday and that’s what you do on Wednesdays. I was still feeling the aftershocks of a bad day and I didn’t come ready to hear a fresh word or to directly connect with the Almighty.

"To live is Christ & to die is gain"

“To live is Christ & to die is gain”

And then Chandler said something along these lines: Scripture says that we’re not under God’s wrath. When things don’t go the way we wanted them to or when something bad happens, it’s not God pointing down at us, shaking a wrathful finger in our face. Those times are a gift. They’re uncomfortable for a purpose– to remind us that this world, this life, is temporary.

How easily I lost sight of that today. I believe that the Bible is real and it is God-breathed. Therefore, I believe that Heaven is real. First-world problems plagued me today, and Biblically speaking I can look at them from a different point-of-view. They are gifts– to learn from, to laugh at, whatever. But regardless, they are temporary. This world is not my home. Technically speaking, I will spend waaaaaaay more time in Heaven than I ever will here on Earth.

I’m going to try to “keep my eye on the prize” as Philippians says. One day, I’m going to see my Christ face to face and hear the angels singing glory around God’s throne.

That’s the day I will live for.

Caviar dreams on an iced tea budget

I love, love, loved seeing everyone’s Back-to-School posts on facebook today! As a parent, I get a kick out of seeing everyone else’s first day and their takes on what that looks like in their families. I’ve found that people basically fall into two groups: those with perfect first day of school pics– smiling, happy kids, professionally made “First day of ______ grade” signs, finely sculpted hair– and then there’s the rest of us.

The defense would like to offer Exhibit A to the court.

Ole' boy cannot fake a natural-looking smile to save his life. And I didn't think he needed a hair cut until I critiqued him here.

Ole’ boy cannot fake a natural-looking smile to save his life.

Aside from the goofy grin on that boy, I’m just proud that I got the thing taken. Working moms all over understand me when I say first days back are simultaneously exhilarating and exhausting. It’s an old-fashioned tug-of-war between parenting and bringing home the bacon. Well, I am a teacher after all. In my case, bringing home the spam. Or Vienna sausages.

Any questionable carnivorous fare would suffice for that metaphor.

Accepting my position as a working mom was more difficult than ever to swallow this year. My heart’s desire has always been to make my family my main ministry. Here’s the way I see it: I have to do right by my family no matter what. No matter where I’m teaching or where I’m working, my primary responsibility is to raise my children to know God and to spiritually, emotionally, and physically support my husband. If it were up to me, I would just make that my focus then. Because either way, it’s got to be done. But you know how it goes…

Caviar dreams on a beer budget.

But we don’t drink beer.

So an iced tea budget.

I have loved teaching for ten years and I have loved raising my family for more than six. And even though it seems like I’ve had all the time in the world to figure this thing out and find a nice, neat balance to work and family life, I’ll admit that it’s just now coming together for me.

And it all has to do with acceptance.

This year as the usual back-to-work panic sank in, I felt the Almighty speaking to my heart. “This is your story.” As much as I’ve wanted… and TRIED AND TRIED AND TRIED… to fight it, I’m learning that my story is a unique one that He wants to share. Why? I have no idea! I’ve said many times before I love my life, but it’s never smooth. I’m a textbook example of what NOT to do! I wish I was a SAHM instead of rushing the kids every morning because I chose to hit the snooze a second time and now I’m not fully dressed and mentally ready to go when I wake the Under 7 set, I wish I could spend more time with my kids outside of the transitions of going and coming during the week, I wish I didn’t sometimes forget to make sure my middle son has BOTH shoes on his bony little feet and underwear underneath those flappy shorts when we leave for Pre-K, I wish the laundry and dishes wouldn’t pile up faster than I can tear them down, I wish I had time to work out. Wait, I lie. To be honest, I’m kinda glad to excuse that one. I teach 8th graders; I chase my own three kids. I’m totally qualifying that as cardio.

The bottom line is this: I could wish all day until I’m blue in the face. But right now that’s not my calling. God has called me to be this story. A teacher. A mom. An occasional blogger, sharing my faith. A wife of a coach (It’s a lot like being married, just without the expectation of seeing your spouse before June. “Hi, I’m Martha. Have we met?”) That picture-perfect life I’ve imagined is someone else’s story, not mine. Maybe I’ll own it someday. But today, I’m learning to own this one. I have no idea what He has in store, but I am confident it’s more than I ever would have imagined for myself anyway.

God be glorified in my hot-mess of a busy, working life.

And if you run into me this week and catch my four-year-old sporting one tennis shoe and one sock, don’t feel sorry for me. I’m fulfilling my calling by living the story I was called to live.

Besides, the bigger issue at hand is whether or not he’s going commando.

Elementary sho’ aint easy!

beer and school

I miss the good ole’ days.

Half-day kindergarten. “Pirate Special” served in the cafeteria on Fridays. (Ooh-wee the best part of that steak finger plate was the buttery roll!) The legendary book fair. The annual Halloween carnival. Your favorite teacher was all of your elementary teachers who hugged kids instead of standing in the hall with crossed arms and a scowl.

I’m almost 34, but just like you, I easily remember my first teachers. Ms. Shipp in kindergarten who wore a short, black bob; Mrs. Lawson in first grade, who still attends my parents’ church and still makes a point to speak to me when I visit, Mrs. Benton in second grade who gave me licks, which was apparently a first for both of us (another story for another day, albeit a funny one.)

Those days seemed easy and slow.

Nothing like the impression elementary school leaves me with now.

And I don’t like it.

I trudged to Open House with my second grader tonight. Thankfully the teachers seemed to have adopted the frozen smile by the time I finally got close enough to shake their hands because the block we walked to get to the school’s entrance in this Texas evening heat already had me dabbing my upper lip, the whole while I’m saying silent prayers that my mascara wouldn’t arrive before I did. And I won’t even go into detail about all the other places that were dripping by the time we walked the gauntlet called Everyone-in-the-entire-district-is-in-this-hallway-at-this-exact-moment. “Brennan?  … Brennan? … BRENNAN? Do I have mascara on my cheeks?”

“Scared? You’re scared?”

“No, ma.scar.a.”

“What’s your scara?”

“Oh. Nevermind then!”

Brennan proudly led the way into his “Homeroom” Teacher’s room. I’m air-quoting that phrase, Homeroom Teacher. More on that in a minute.

We exchanged the usual pleasantries; Brennan went through the usual routine of finding his desk, locker, etc. I signed the usual papers, accepted the usual parent letters that I promised I’d look over when we got home. No big deal.

Until I got home and looked over the parent letters.

Big deal.

Included was Brennan’s schedule. Sure, it was printed on colored paper with a big, fun looking font something akin to RAVIE. But I’ve taught both middle school and high school and my second grader’s paper was nothing shy of a child-friendly version of a Schedule, like the ones teenagers use.

His classes weren’t labeled as 1st period, 2nd period, and so forth. But every 42 minutes, his class is apparently going to rotate to a different teacher. In the course of a typical day (admittedly including PE), he will spend time in 7 different rooms. FAMILY, hear me on this. Ole’ boy will have SEVEN teachers in ONE day. Reading, Math, Science, Social Studies, Writing and Spelling, PE, and an elective (music, or art, or computer lab, or library day). If they’re trying to use the time-out method– one minute for every year– one teacher for every year– I think they missed the boat.

He just turned seven this week.

He’s only been tying his shoes one summer.

And to be honest, he still sucks at it.

Am I the only one who thinks this is a bit much?

Have you met my child?

Maybe he’s not really ADD; maybe he’s just having a harder time molding to seven different personalities in a day and trying to please all of them.

Which brings me back to the air-quoted Homeroom Teacher. Really, his HT is his first period Reading teacher. He spends no more time with her in his day than he does with any other teacher and he doesn’t even end his day in her room. Seems like that’s a loose-fitting crown to claim.

All summer long I’ve been praying for Brennan’s HT. I’ve pleaded for someone who will care about him first, understand him second, and be able to guide us as parents down this second grade path last. I’ve prayed that his teacher was enjoying her summer and refilling her love tank with her own family. As teachers began reporting back to campuses in the last few weeks, I’ve prayed that our teacher was growing excited about the kids coming into her room and that she was genuinely looking forward to teaching a roomful of new faces and that she was feeling more and more prepared to do so. I even prayed over her today, knowing these are the last few days teachers will cram to get everything perfect and ready to hit the ground running on Monday morning when school starts.

I had a slight moment of panic when I realized all this time I kind of was praying for the wrong thing. Essentially, I was praying for a Ms. Shipp or Mrs. Lawson or Mrs. Benton experience for my son. I so want him to bond with a teacher he loves.

Can he do that with 7 teachers?

I remember my second grade teacher. When he’s my age, will Brennan be able to remember his?

Baseball vs. God: When Worlds Collide

baseball

In theory, we have a rule in our household: church comes before anything extracurricular.

That’s in theory… it sure was easy to naively decide what the rules and values were going to be for our little family when we were early into parenting, before any of those rules were actually ever tested. How pompous we were as young parents! Or maybe we were just optimistic. Like everyone else, we wanted what was best for our children. We thought we had it so together.

Here are some of the ridiculous promises I very overtly shared early on:

I once vowed my kids would NEVER watch more than half an hour of television in one day.

Ha!

Family movie night is an almost weekly ritual at our house now. And that’s just the planned part.

Oh, or what about the one where our children would NEVER under any circumstances EVER drink soda?

Pretty sure I barely even grimaced when my husband ordered root beer for both of the older boys at lunch after church the other day. I told myself, It’s not like we do it every day. Or every week even.

Oh, here’s a good one. I, being an educator myself and having suffered the burden of some well-meaning parents, promised myself I would never become a helicopter parent.

I made that covenant long before my first even started preschool. But then big bad kindergarten came. And I was forced to trust a total stranger who had never taught kindergarten before to act patient and caring toward my little tornado, yet still have the presence to challenge him academically. And as if kindergarten wasn’t tough enough, then came We-barely-survived-oh-my-gosh-we-have-to-do-this-at-leat-two-more-times-with-the-other-kids first grade. You think the adjustment to kindergarten will make you lose your mind? First grade is what I now consider the first “real” grade. The “I’m eating carpet every morning. Lord, take care of us today” phase. Ok, when I feel desperate, I become dramatic. But seriously big changes here– no more nap times, y’all! No, the teacher won’t help you tie your shoe. Figure it out or stuff those loose strings into your sock. No more adjustment period. Now you really do have to be silent and still in the hallways. And warning! You’ll be in the hallways a lot son, because now you have five teachers and will rotate classes every time you turn around.

I’ve made a conscious effort the last two years not to be the helicopter parent, but I cannot say with honesty that I succeeded at every turn. The world is scary. And now, more than ever, even school feels scary. My child is one of many in a classroom and I need to make sure what is in his best interests isn’t being neglected. And now I rarely apologize for the times I’m labeled as the helicopter parent (Though, speaking objectively, those times are few and far between. I really do value a trusting relationship with my kids’ teachers. I don’t need people coming into my classroom telling me how to run things. I certainly don’t want to turn and commit that sin in the boys’ classrooms.)

Another rule gone with the wind (and this is bad, y’all)  the “Church comes first” rule.

For as long as I’ve pictured myself with a family, I have envisioned myself as the parent who boldly and unwaveringly  takes  a stand against sports or other activities if they demand participation on Sunday or coincide with a church related event. In my mind, I’ve made a phone call to an imaginary head coach a dozen times, practicing a polite if smug apology– No, we’re sorry our son won’t make it to the game this evening, but we feel like going to church is more important. We’ll work with him at home over the weekend and be ready for practice first thing next week.

I’ve practiced that call in my mind more than once. Yet, the time came recently when we could have made that call to a real coach.

And we didn’t.

#1’s little t-ball team was in the playoffs to be city champs, and until that particular week, were undefeated. And that particular playoff game was scheduled for the exact same time as the big, culminating concert to end a very spirited week of VBS.

We couldn’t do both, no matter how we tried to work it. And believe me, I tried every possible angle. Then we did what I never thought I’d do; we chose baseball.

Much of the anguish I felt that day stemmed from the fact that I felt a little blind-sided. This is our eldest; we’re still very much learning as we go. And while most of our “rules” (more like flimsy expectations) have already been debunked, the “Church comes first” one is not one I ever imagined I would be facing so early. For some reason, I always pictured my athlete in middle school or high school when that phone call had to be made. T-ball family! My son plays T-BALL! I had no idea I’d be disappointing myself this early in his short life.

In the end, that’s what it all comes down to, I think. Our expectations. The vision of how we want life to be, sometimes how we want our children to be, versus what really is. My sister once quoted on her own blog (ucfpeggy.wordpress.com): ”What screws us up most in life is the picture in our head of how it is supposed to be.” How it is supposed to be. There’s a fine line between setting high expectations and unrealistic ones.

Oftentimes, in my blundering ways I can’t tell the difference.

I wonder: what rules or expectations did you set for your family early on only to find yourself later breaking?

Don’t offer me cheese. I’m not whining.

My man and I at our favorite sports venue in Texas- the Texas Rangers' Ballpark

My man and I at our favorite sports venue in Texas- the Texas Rangers’ Ballpark.

Well, this morning was the morning I’ve been dreading since summer started. Somehow, I let it sneak up on me. I’ve just been truckin along, soaking up every second possible with my family, kind of oblivious to the inevitable.

But this morning, summer came to a screeching halt: my husband, a coach, reported back to work bright and early. His summer officially ended yesterday; my family responsibilities just jumped up about 12 notches. Case in point: Brad went to work at about 8:00 this morning; I can expect to see his handsome face again around 10 or 10:15 tonight.

His work week carries about this same schedule during basketball season, which runs roughly October to February/March. Thanks to our district’s ____________ (insert your own adjective here) school board, instead of following this schedule during Coach’s “main” season, we now get to add July- October to the mix since all head coaches are required to assist in a second sport. Brad’s additional duty is volleyball, which is quite entertaining. He likens his trying to coach volleyball to a dog using a fork. Either way, it’s just fun to watch and little disturbing at the same time.

I wonder if other coaches’ wives feel a tinge of panic on  this day each year like I do. Surely I’m not the only one! But the feeling of shouldering the responsibility of the family in the day-to-day always catches my breath for just a bit before we get settled into the routine. It feels overwhelming sometimes. My strategy is to bathe this thing in prayer and thank the Almighty for all the times He is filling in the gaps for a hard-working but busy dad and my own shortcomings– the times when we overtly see Him at work and especially the times when He covers the bases for us and we’re none the wiser.

Coach and I sure had a great summer together, probably one of our best. These 8 weeks were my favorite of the year. Stress-free, lots of sunshine, time to sneak away together sans the 3 boys. We had a great run! I’ve got about 3 more weeks left of luxury before teachers report back to work. That’s plenty of time to love on my boys more and rock the baby a few more nights.

I’m feeling anxious, but I’m confident it’ll be okay.