Thursday, May 31, 2007

Brothers and Sisters

Siblings. Brothers and sisters. The last couple days I went about my life with the beginnings of a blog about siblings fermenting in my head. More specifically I was planning on lamenting how impossible it seemed to be to get my children to get along with theirs.

We have 4 children. The older two bicker constantly. This is not an exaggeration. Almost every moment they are in a room together they will pick at each other, belittle each other. Fight...until I separate them or threaten them with a punishment severe enough to get them to stop speaking all together.

We had 4 children because we wanted our kids to grow up in a large family. We wanted them to feel part of a community, to learn to share and problem solve. I liked the idea of a noisy, chaotic house full of children. And years down the road, grandchildren. It was also important to me that they have siblings that would be in their corner, when we were no longer here to help them fight their battles. So when it seems that my kids, not only can't get along, but genuinely don't like each other. It feels like a failure, the end of a dream.

So I pray a lot. I pray for God to help me teach my children to love each other. To change their hearts. And some days it's just a desperate plea..."Lord, please today, just let my kids Not Fight!"

Then, as part of research for this blog, I started really watching my kids yesterday, observing the way they interact with each other. Looking for interesting anecdotes to share. What I found surprised me, though it shouldn't have. I knew these things, I just got bogged down in the negative.

I saw Ben crawling along the floor next to Clara just to watch her laugh. I saw him bring her a cracker to share. I saw him try to comfort her when she was crying. I saw Brandon wrestling with Ben. This happens every day in our house and I usually discourage it because Ben ends up hurt. But I saw it for what it really was: a rough, physical expression of love. They really enjoy each others company. I saw Brandon cooing and talking to Clara with a tenderness we never see from our 15 year old.

No it wasn't idyllic, Brandon & Allison still fought mercilessly and I sent them to their rooms. Ben still snatched his toys away from Clara and made her cry. But in the cracks, between the fighting, the crying, the nitpicking there were glimmers of genuine kindness and love. So last night when I prayed my familiar prayer asking Jesus to help my children love, I first thanked Him for showing me the ways they already do.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Walking on Memorial Day with...Saint Nicholas?

I am hobbling today.

For reasons that seem ridiculous now, I decided that this Memorial Day I was going to walk in my town's annual 5k. I recruited my walking partner Mandy to participate with me so I wouldn't chicken out. A 5k is 3.1 miles, not a particularly big feat for most people. Mandy and I actually walk almost that much, a few times a week, pushing our double strollers piled with infants and toddlers. But it doesn't come easy to me. I have spent most of my life avoiding exercise; in awe of the athletic people who actually enjoy playing sports or breaking a sweat. But now, as part of my continuous efforts to fight the battle of my waistline, I huff and puff my way around the lake each week with Mandy; doing my best not to slow her down too much.

So I proposed to Mandy that we do this 5k, as it fell on one of our regular walking days anyway. I thought it would be a breeze. We wouldn't be pushing strollers after all. The idea appealed to me. A group of people walking together on this patriotic morning, through the streets of our town. Was I just naive, or am I an idiot? Please don't answer that.

When I got there and saw the the real runners, the race-junkies all lean and muscle-y, decked out with their running gear, I knew I was in trouble. Then the race started. While the race coordinator did tell me that people were welcome to WALK in the race, she neglected to mention that no one actually does. So Mandy (sweet Mandy who turned out to be in much better shape than I realized, but still stuck tight to my side) and I walked with half a dozen other people while the rest of the hundreds left us in their dust. The lowest point (and funniest) was when Santa Claus, complete with white beard & round belly, and sporting red and white workout clothes, went jogging by. No I am not making this stuff up! He even gave us a cheerful greeting as he jiggled on down the road.

So if any of your children ask what Santa does the rest of the year, you can tell him he's out the mortification of 5k walkers everywhere.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Lost in Translation

This week I dove head first into blogging. Then I stayed in the pool learning to swim, splashing water on my friends, and getting a bit sunburned in the process.

Once I had created my own blog, I was obsessed with reading the blogs of my friends, their friends, and eventually perfect strangers. I wanted to know what people blogged about. How did they structure their site? Were they blogging to journal or were they speaking to an audience? In the process I found a whole new world of some truly amazing writers. And then I started leaving comments. I wanted them to know how great their blogs were. I wanted to impress them with my own wit and perspective. In fact, I had to stop myself or I could have stayed out there for days in my frenzy of reading and commenting. Sigh. I am such a dork.

Then I got an email. An email, from one of those really amazing writers, apologizing for offending me. Apparently one of my comments which was meant to be 'thought provoking' and 'supportive' was taken as criticsm. (And don't go bother looking for it dearies...I deleted it!) I was heartbroken. How could I be so misunderstood? Then I remembed something I have thought a lot about lately, but forgot in my heady entry into blogsville. Sometimes in writing, things get lost in translation.

We have become a society of writers. Emails, message boards, blogs. We are more connected than ever before. But we are also different than we would be in person. We're braver in our criticisms. Quicker in our responses. Stonger in our opinions. And in all of this, something gets lost. Without the inflections you hear in a voice, without the smiles (or hurt or surprise) you see in a face we don't soften our blows as much. And sometimes, as I was, we are just plain misunderstood. A quick response to an email might seem uncaring. A humerous response to a blog might seem critical. So maybe we have more connections, but I can't help but wonder if they are as genuine.

Well my blogger friend and I made up after a heartfelt return apology on my part for not speaking more clearly. But as a result, I am challenging myself to pick up the phone more, meet friends in person more and to remember that cyber-speak will never be an adequate substitute for a voice, especially the voice of a friend.

Oh! And on a lighter help me keep this resolution my darling husband got me a new cell phone. Okay, not really, that was a failed attempt to segue. He actually had a credit for a free phone that he used on me and took my old one, which still makes him darling in my book. It's so cool. It even has an MP3 player, but I have to admit that my favorite part about it is that it's hot pink. There is just something about a hot pink phone that makes me happy. I am a very girly dork, after all. ~grin~

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Middleschool Battlescars

For the first time in 10 years, I no longer have a child in elementary school. The awful picture of my family above is from Allison's 5th grade graduation ceremony yesterday. She's moving on to middle school. The thing about that is, no one is happy about it. Not me...and definately not Allie. She's terrified, and I am sorry to say I think I am to blame.
My middle-school experience was something that makes me a little sick, even today. It was the time in my life where I realized that all the things my parents told me... about how beautiful and talented and likable I was...were actuallly, well, wrong. People, at least not 12 yr old people, didn't really care about what a wonderful person you are on the inside, they just care about your hair and your bluejeans, and other things I was pathetically clueless about. It has taken me many, many years to get over the self-esteem issues I developed in middle-school. I am only starting now to understand that being "fearfully and wonderfully made" doesn't mean the world will see you that way, and that's okay.
That being said, it's possible that when Allison expressed some concern about entering middle-school I may have cringed and turned a little green. It's possible, that when she asked me if it was going to be awful, I may have mentioned the word homeschool. Sigh. So yep, she's scared because of me. Maybe my scars haven't faded as much as I thought. Lets hope I can keep from passing any more on to her. :-)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Is he really 3???

Well I decided to bypass the Clara-monthly email in lui of a blog in honor of Ben's 3rd Birthday. And what a birthday it was! On his actual birthdate we went to the children's museum in Atlanta: ImagineIt! If you haven't been there, you should go. It's an amazing place for the 5 & under crowd!

Then on Saturday we had a party at Gymboree. I cannot imagine a child having more fun! He's a bit of a wild boy these days, but it was an appropriate place for him to run and play. The smile never left his face.

Overall he's doing great! He talks up a storm and loves to sing loudly off-tune. He still doesn't eat much but we have finally started to make baby steps in that area as well. He actually ate a bite of my PB & J and I could barely keep myself from calling everyone we knew. It's amazing how something so small can feel like such an accomplishment.

He's still obsessed with baseball and he knows he gets to start tee-ball now that he is 3. It was a struggle for us to make him understand he didn't actually get to start playing ON his birthday. He appears to be left handed so Shane is already lining up coaches for his career as a pitcher. :-)

Alright Already!

After a bit of nudging from some friends and some blog-envy on my part, I have decided to jump on the bandwagon at last. So here it new blog. This is where you will find me, updates on our family adventures, my thoughts on life and motherhood, and pictures enough of my kids to drive anyone crazy. So visit often, comment freely, and go start your own blogs already.