Saturday, January 29, 2011

Motherhood Changes Everything

There's something about becoming a mother that changes everything about you. Things that you never gave a second thought about are now things that must be pondered carefully and fully. Case in point: when 3 out of my 4 kids were all in car seats, I suddenly became consumed with what I would do if I somehow drove into a large body of water. How would I save them all? Could I get them all out of their car seats and out of the car rapidly filling with water when only one of them could even remotely swim? I had a plan that included holding a little one in each arm, a 3rd one hanging onto my back, encouraging the oldest one that he could swim and somehow, without the use of my arms, kick my legs furiously to get us all safely to shore. Never mind that I live in west Texas where large bodies of water are about as common as snow drifts. That didn't seem to matter to my mom mind - it was a possible emergency that needed my full and undivided attention, and above all, a plan. I wonder, do thoughts like these consume dads?

I don't know, but I do know I am not alone in this. I was talking to some girl friends the other day, and one of them talked about how she lived in a trailer park in college that wasn't in the safest of places, and she would think about how she could escape if an intruder ever got in. She never even considered the possibility of a confrontation - just get away. That all changed when she became a mom. She would never even dream of escaping if her babies were still in the house.

Then another friend, Rebecca, told a story that still has me chuckling. They live in a small town that is completely safe. They rarely even lock their doors. Until recently, when there was a rash of break-ins in their small town. The criminals broke into 5 of the churches in town, one of which was the church her husband was the pastor of, and it was right across the street from their house. The low-lifes even broke into some houses. So, that pretty much shattered their small-town peace and serenity. So, one night she told her husband that she thought she would just sleep on the couch.
"Why?" her husband asked.
"Well, I just think I would hear someone quicker if they were coming in our window."
"You don't think you would hear them just as quick in our bedroom?"
"Well, if I was right here, I could just jump up and start beating them with my bat."
"But, don't have a bat!"
"Well, why not!?! You leave me here alone all the time! I need a bat!"
And that just pretty much sums it up. When you're a mom, and there are crazy criminals on the loose, threatening the safety of your babies, the thought of sleeping on the couch with your bat seems like a perfectly natural and sane thing to do.
Fortunately, for the safety of the criminals, they are in custody. Because if they ever picked the wrong house, and came in contact with Rebecca, bat or no bat, I'm not sure they would live to tell the story! After all, she's a mom.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Face Lift

Saturday was a beautiful day, and we decided that it would be a great day to do some yard work. Here's the front of our house before we bought it:

I've never been a fan of big bushes. And I really hated the ones that were in front of our front windows. It kept us from seeing all the weird and interesting people that are always walking in the park in front of our house, and really, shouldn't that be one of the main perks of living by a park - people watching?

So, the bushes were out! Here it is after the little tree and the first bush was out.

Here's what it looked like a little later. What a mess!

So we loaded all the branches in the back of Steve's truck, and he took them off to the branch recycling place. And we had all these leaves in the yard that needed to be raked. Now, usually, we would just mow them up, but for some reason the mower wouldn't start. So, we decided we could rake them ourselves. After all, we do have 4 kids who do things like clean baseboards, so raking a few leaves should be a piece of cake, right?

There was a lot of this

Posing for pictures was fun! And there was a lot of this:

Jumping and rolling around in the leaves was fun! And Joey had the very important job of jumping on the leaves in the trash can:

Yes, Joey is still in his pajamas. And I think he's barefooted too - what of it?

And when it came right down to it, raking the leaves wasn't so bad. It was the bagging of them that got a little old. Okay, more than a little old. I must have said at least 5 times, "Okay, this should be our last bag!" When we were done, we had bagged 13 bags of leaves! Thir-teen! Ugh!

But, then I swept off the porch, and got to put out my new red rockers, and it looked so pretty.

And then Steve climbed on the roof to take down the Christmas lights, and started blowing the leaves out of the gutter. Nice. Oh well, at least somebody enjoyed it.

Next weekend: paint all the shutters black, and the front door red. I love projects like this!

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Organized. It's something I'm not. At least not naturally. Having 4 kids has forced me to be at least somewhat more organized than I have ever been before, but it's not something I do naturally or willingly. I much prefer to have other people around who can do that for me.

Case in point - I married Steve. A very wise decision on my part for more than one reason, but his organization is definitely one of them. When we were dating, he actually had a typed schedule hanging on his wall. We were in college, people! He had a schedule for every minute of his day, and bless his heart, I teased him unmercifully until he finally took it down out of self-preservation, I think. But for all my teasing, I appreciate it because it means I don't have to be organized if he is. Unfortunately, maybe my teasing scarred him for life because he seems to forget things more than I ever did now. So, I'm sorry Love. Please forgive me and go back to your formally organized self. I liked it, I really did.

So, this year has been my first year to go back to work full-time since I have had kids (well, it's really 30 hours a week, but it feels like full-time since I have to get up and go every day.) And so, all the things I usually got done around the house are not getting done like they used to. And I have an absolute aversion to doing house work on the weekends. Weekends should be fun and restful.

So, I looked around and said to myself, "I have 4 kids. Technically, they are the ones creating all this work, so I think they should help out." And really, they have been helping out - we have chores every day, but I decided they could step it up a notch. And sooo, in an extremely uncharacteristic organized burst of energy, I have made chore charts. They are color-coded and everything. I still laugh a little bit when I see them hanging on our fridge.

The hardest part was coming up with chores for Joey, our 4 year old. Because there is no way I was going to deal with the whining of why isn't Joey doing anything? waa waa waa! I've already told them I love him more, and they aren't buying it anymore, so I had to come up with chores for him. I was looking at lists online of cleaning chores that should be done in each area of the house, (because Lord knows my idea of clean is the toys off the floor and no major pieces of trash showing) and I would ask myself, "What can Joey do?" And so, God help me, I have my 4 year-old doing things like cleaning the baseboards. I kid you not. It really cracks me up, but I figured, 1. He's short so he's pretty much already almost to the floor anyway and 2. I usually clean the baseboards, let's whatever effort he produces has got to be better than that! And he actually likes it! And Lily-Grace was jealous and wanted to know when it would be her turn to do that.

My only fear is that he will actually remember this, and grow up and tell his friends horrific tales of how his mom made him clean the baseboards when he was 4 years old! And I'll have to say, "I used to be fun! I did! And then I had all of you, and I had to do things like make color-coded chore charts!" My only consolation is that one day I will be a grandmother, and I will be sure to be a fun one! I can hardly wait to go to their houses and teach my grandkids things like taking off their dirty socks and shoving them in the couch cushions. And when my kids tell their kids it's time for bed I will be sure to lead the chorus in whining that I'm not tired at all, and how life is so unfair it's hardly worth living. And if I ever see a color-coded chore chart on their fridge, I'll be sure and teach my grandkids all the ways to cut corners and do a sloppy job. Yes, I think being a grandma just might be right up my alley!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Homebuilders Class

We have a Homebuilders Sunday School class in this church. I would venture to say that most churches have a class by this name. When you see this name, you know what to expect - young families in the throes of raising babies and toddlers, the moms looking either beautiful and young or exhausted and frazzled, the dads looking young, confident, ambitious. In this church it is different. Sixty years ago they would have looked that way, but now, they are the oldest class in our church, their numbers slowly dwindling as their members die. It is mostly women now as their young and ambitious husbands have already left this world, their ambitions realized or else abandoned. And the women remain, walking slowly, some stooped, some leaning on a cane, some with a twinkle in their still-beautiful eyes, and some with eyes that carry a sadness of untold hurts.

I think about this class. It is a beautiful and rare thing these days in our mobile society - for people to remain in one place so long that the friends who brought over casseroles when your babies were born are the same friends who come to your funeral and mourn your death, and bring warmed-up green beans and corn (as casseroles are just too much work these days for their tired arms and legs) to your funeral lunch to feed your family. Do they remember how they used to go shopping with each other for cute clothes and laugh now at their 20 year-old dresses? Do they get teary-eyed when they see pictures of each other’s great-grandchildren, remembering when that child’s grandmother was a rebellious teenager giving her mother fits? I think about this class, and I grieve that I will never have it. Admittedly, we chose this life, one of moving and new adventures and friends in many places, and roots that are not deep so much as they are wide.

As we move, I am struck by how, at each new place, you are naturally drawn to people who have kids the same age as your own. You have an immediate connection. You can talk teething, potty training, homework, or hormones, whatever stage your child is in. Having 4 kids spread in age from 4-10 gives me a wide range of people to connect with. If my kids aren’t there now, they were at one point or will be soon.

But I can’t help but think about my friends in Crowell who were all pregnant at the same time as me. We had those babies and talked about nursing and sleeping through the night and teething, and we moved before my first one was even potty trained. And then in Denver City where I feel the most loss for a Homebuilders Class - maybe because we stayed there the longest, or had the closest friends, or went through Joey’s cancer together. When you go through something like that with people, you share a history. You never have to tell people about it, in a short, condensed version, because they lived it with you. They prayed and cried and laughed, and showed up with casseroles and chocolate ice cream and margaritas (it’s a good thing we’re Methodists!) It was with these friends that we talked over things like potty training, and first days of kindergarten, and helped each other through the mind-numbing, wonderful, exhausting days of having toddlers and babies and young children. And we would talk about how in a small town everyone else but the parents seems to know when a teenager has done bad things, and we swore that we would tell each other the truth about our kids, no matter how painful or uncomfortable. But even as I said it, I knew that I would not be there when my kids were teenagers. I might hope and even pretend that, but I knew it would not come to pass.
And so now I find myself here - grieving for a Homebuilders Class that I will never have. That ship has long since sailed. I am 3 moves removed from my original Homebuilders. And while it makes me sad, I will move on, never being one to spend too much time on what is lost (maybe to my detriment?) Instead I think about how some friends from Crowell have recently come to visit us at church here in Abilene, and my boys told me once we got home, “These people came up to me and hugged me, and said, ‘You don’t know me, but we love you!’ Isn’t that weird? Weird, but kind of cool too.” And we ran into some friends from Denver City recently, and we were hugging them, and catching up on old times, and Sam said, “I don’t remember you, but I’m going to hug you anyway!” He may not remember the face or the name, but he realizes in some small way that they share a history, that their lives intersected for a time.

And so, my Homebuilders Class may not be one where I get to see them everyday and go shopping with them, and help them pick out new curtains for the living room, and cry together when our babies start Kindergarten and when they graduate from high school. But I guess my class is still here, just spread out over several cities. And so I go on with the sometimes difficult task of sharing my life with new people. Telling the condensed version of my history and listening to theirs. Hopefully getting to share in the part of each other’s lives in the years where we are together. Letting our roots run together for a time, knowing that at some point, we will have to untangle them and move on. Knowing that the untangling part can be painful and usually involves ripping part of yourself off and leaving it there, but also knowing that letting your roots get all tangled up with someone else’s just means you both have a stronger foundation.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Can't a boy poop in peace?

Yesterday I was letting Joey play on my laptop on my bed while I was enjoying something I haven't done since moving to Abilene - reading a novel. He was playing a Diego game on Nick Jr. when he decided he needed to go to the bathroom. As soon as he got the bathroom, he could hear Diego's cheerful voice, "What color is the hermit crab's shell?"
"Just a minute," Joey called out sweetly.
A few seconds later, "What color is the hermit crab's shell?"
"I SAID just a minute, Di AY go!" Joey called out, decidedly annoyed by Diego's persistence and cheerfulness.
Diego, not one to be ignored, called out again, "What color is the hermit crab's shell?"
"I'm NOT answering you!" he grumbled, "Can't a boy poop in peace?"

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Well, I've got a week off from my preschool teaching before my older kids are off from school, and I feel like I've got all this time suddenly! I also have about 10 million things on my "to-do" list, but for now, I am ignoring them in favor of updating this sad little blog that has been totally ignored and mistreated for 3 months now. I just thought I'd share a few highlights from the last few days.

Levi has started sex-ed in school. It has been interesting. Every few days I'll ask him what he has been learning, and my questions are always answered with eye rolls and sing-songy voices, "My growing and changing body" "the male penis" "my vocal cords," etc. But yesterday, I asked him, and he looked absolutely mortified, "Oh my GOSH mom! We had to learn about the GIRL'S body! Gross! Why do I need to know that?? We learned all about how a baby is made. Of course, I already knew (I don't think I ever told you about my exceedingly awkward sex conversation with Levi where I had to bite my cheeks to keep from giggling like a nervous junior high kid, but at this point I was seriously patting myself on the back for having the conversation at all, because at least he knew and didn't have to suffer the same fate of his poor classmates) but everyone else was going, ewww! And this one kid was so grossed out he actually threw up! Really, he left the room and threw up right in the hallway!"
Now, to be fair, there are several stomach viruses going around right now, but that doesn't make nearly as good of a story, as saying that when you learned about sex you actually threw up. That would be a good reminder to that boy when he is a teenager with raging hormones.

Guess what? The other day I spilled a whole gallon of paint in my utility room! Isn't that great? Let me tell you, spilled paint has a way of paralyzing you. You just sit and stare at it slowly oozing its way across your floor, ruining everything in its path (which in my utility room is a shockingly large number of things) and are completely at a loss as to what to do. It all just seems so big and uncontrollable - like you just have to say, "That's it! We're just going to have to burn this room down!"

But I just started throwing rags on it, which did absolutely nothing but ruin the rags, and Steve was just staring at it going, "Think! think! think!" Which apparently, it actually helps to talk to your brain like that, because he came up with the idea of getting a dust pan and trying to sweep the paint into it. Which actually just ruined a broom, BUT it stimulated my brain to think of my Pampered Chef scraper which worked like a charm to scrape all the paint into the dustpan and into a trash can. And then we were able to wipe up the rest of the paint with wet rags.

And we only ruined the broom, one trash can, one dustpan, my jeans, Steve's sweater, Lily's church shoes, one of her teddy bears, Levi's jacket and backpack, and several mismatched flip-flops! Good times! Note to self: setting a gallon of paint on the washing machine is not a good idea - spin cycles have a tendency to move things, if you know what I mean. But Steve told me this was not the most expensive spill we have ever had - I've forgotten all about this, but apparently when I was taking fertility drugs to try and get pregnant with Levi he spilled a whole vial of medicine, which was $150. Now, I'm pretty sure with all the stuff we ruined that this exceeds that one, but I agreed with him anyway since technically he is still responsible for the most expensive spill in our family. (I'm not sure why this is a necessary family record to keep, but apparently we are) And I take comfort in the fact that I completely forgot that spill, so I feel sure that I will also forget this one day.

Hopefully I will not forget it so fully as to ever place a gallon paint on the washing machine again.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I love to run, I love to run, I love to run

That is what I repeat to myself every morning when the alarm goes off at 5:45. A.M. I type A.M. in all caps because it still shocks me to see that number. I consider anything before 6 to still be the middle of the night. I also repeat to myself, "I love to get up early, I love to get up early..." So far, I don't think my body is buying it, but I'll keep trying.

You see, I've decided that I've got to get in shape, and hopefully lose some weight. But I love to eat, and so therefore I've got to exercise in order to support my eating habit. And for me, that means I've got to do it first thing in the morning. Any other time just will not work for me because I am much too good at justifying and making excuses for why I do not need to exercise today. And because I started working at our church's preschool, and I'm pretty sure even 2 year olds would not appreciate the stinkiness of my body after I run, I must get up in the middle of the night in order to exercise and shower before work.

So, I started this Couch to 5K running program. In all honesty, I started it back in May before we even moved. I am now on week 5. I think it's important to take things slow. It started off all innocent sounding and sweet - jog for 60 seconds, walk for 90 seconds. Yes, I like that. I liked it so much, I think I stayed on week 1 for about 3 weeks. And then I would stop for a few weeks and have to start all over again. So, you are supposed to be able to run 3 miles at the end of 9 weeks. Since I have never been able to run 3 miles my whole stinkin life, I don't think it will hurt me too badly if I end up taking 9 months instead of 9 weeks. I've never been one to push myself too hard anyway.

See, before Joey was born, I was running with my friend Virginia, and I lost a lot of weight and was in pretty good shape. And, Virginia, bless her heart, tried to get us on this program then. I told her she was absolutely nuts, that there was NO WAY I could run 3 miles, and I was perfectly happy with our little arrangement of running and walking for 45 minutes that we did - it was not too hard, and most importantly we could chat the whole time which was really my motivation for dragging my butt out of bed anyway. So, now that I no longer have the motivation of getting to talk with a real, live grown-up every morning, I figured I needed some other type of motivation - thus the couch to 5k program.

It is a very humbling thing to be dragging your large hiney around the track, thinking to yourself, just 5 minutes, just 5 minutes, you can do it, and you get passed by a grandma doing her morning walking. (okay, not really, but it feels like it sometimes!) And there will be people who are just running by, seemingly effortlessly, and I will try to motivate myself by telling myself that someday I will run like that - no more huffing and puffing and gasping for breath and counting the seconds. One day, I couldn't find any short socks to wear, and I was all embarrassed by my tall socks that I had to scrunch down, until I gave myself a reality check - come on, Alayna, do you really think anybody will even notice your socks when you are gasping for breath and they are worried that they may need to give you CPR? Nah, I don't think your socks are going to be noticed.

The other day there was this guy who was running with his dog, and running is really not the right term. Leaping may be a more appropriate word. Bounding like a gazelle. He ran on the grass, not the track, and the look of sheer joy on his face made me think of the look I get when I take a bite of warm brownie. I couldn't help but smile just watching him. And I saw him another day, as he effortlessly leaped past me, and he called out, "Good day, mate!" And I smiled again, picturing him running on the savannah with the kangaroos, so graceful was his leaping. I couldn't help but think that this was the way God intended for us to run - loving it, for sheer joy, not for drudgery on a track, but effortlessly bounding through the grass with a smile on our faces. Or... maybe he was made to run like that, and I was made to eat brownies like that? A definite possibility.