Monday, September 29, 2008

Status Report - October.

My friend Lisa does these status reports at her place when she is struggling with what to write. I have no idea if this idea originated with her as I have seen it on other blogs as well. Either way, I'm filching it, and it's not even Friday. My problem isn't so much not having anything to say, as having time to say it. Or at least to say it well. Assuming that's something I ever actually accomplish. So here goes,

I'm: the desk in our dining room. Which, as it is the location of our only computer, is not surprising. (There is talk of Santa bringing me a laptop though. Then I could start blogging any old place. The living room. The kitchen. Maybe even the bedroom. Shocking.)

Smelling...The chicken pesto pizza we had for dinner. I think we have had this once a week for all of September. It's just so easy and Ben and Clara love to help make it. There is something about watching Ben meticulously place each piece of chicken while Clara just piles on the cheese into little mozzarella mountains that feels like what motherhood is actually supposed to be about. But so seldom is.

To squeals of laughter as Brandon wrestles with the Weekids in the other room. Brandon (poor kid) is grounded again. The positive aspect of this is he spends a lot of time hanging out with his younger siblings. Resulting in me actually having time to write this post.

Diet coke which will magically turn into chardonnay when The Man gets off work in 30 minutes.

Reading...The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. I'll withhold my official review until I finish it but so far I'm impressed. While eerie and compelling in it's own right, I think it's biggest appeal may be the way it pays tributes to classics. Jane Eyre, Rebecca, Wuthering Heights, Great Expectations... A book for those who love books.

Also reading...Prayer, Does It Make a Difference? by Phillip Yancey. Not too far into this one yet.

Also Reading...Little Women. I am actually reading this aloud to Allie. I try to read the classics to her because they move so much more slowly than contemporary fiction that I'm not sure she would finish them without me. In a world of young adult books such as Twilight, The Uglies, and Aragon I fear she's growing up with a very short literary attention span. Classic literature may never be her thing, but it won't be for lack of trying on my part.

Loving...That fall has brought Pumpkin Spice Lattes back into my life.

Dreading...The Holidays. I saw Christmas decorations at Cosco today and my blood pressure immediately started climbing.

Eagerly anticipating....Heroes! I have last week's premier and this week's episode on DVR and the moment the kids are their beds I am climbing into my own for a Heroes marathon. So excited! I am also pretty excited that Iron Man came out on DVD this week because I missed it in the theater. I'm such a dork.

Worrying...way too much. This thing with the bailout and the stock market is making me so nauseous I had to keep the news off today. I'm wondering WHY we are still out of gas everywhere. The election mess. The economy is affecting everyone. The Man is barraged with calls from customers he put with AIG. Even my job just changed due to low enrollment at the preschool. I had to say goodbye to my 3-year-olds today (Sad!) and I am now working with babies in mother's morning out. It also means Clara is changing days and classes. And now I have to worry if the Hadron Collider is going to end the world. (OK, I'm not actually worried about that because of, well, you know...Jesus.)

Wishing...that I could convince Brandon to learn from my mistakes instead of making his own.

Also wishing...that I could guard Allie's heart from ever again feeling the ache of rejection.

Praying...a lot.

Grateful...for so much, I have a beautiful life. But right now, especially for my husband who works really, really hard yet still can't wait to get off work every night and play his games with Ben before he goes to bed. And who never complains about messy houses, or empty sock drawers, or missed appointments, or pounds I just can't get off, or two much time on the computer. God Bless Him.

Sharing...This silly The Office/Veggie Tales video that made me smile!

Sigh. I heart Jim and Pam.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A work in progress, very slooow progress.

I believe I owe the sweet, sweet people who read this blog an apology. Apparently my dramatic late-night ruminations have led some of my loved ones to fear I may be on the verge of driving the ol'minivan off a cliff. The simple truth is that I am just overwhelmed by the responsibilities in my life right now. I doubt there is a mother, a woman even, in America that doesn't feel this way from time to time. Right now, I need to be meticulously organized just to keep my head above water. Me, for whom organization is the great white whale of my existence. And so things are slipping. Lots of things. And I have fallen into a bout of self-hatred induced melancholia. It's not a new place for me. Nor is it a particularly useful one.

It's hard at these times not to wish I was someone different. Someone who doesn't frantically try to locate school forms the morning (or the morning after) they are due. Someone who always remembers doctor's appointments and to wash the orange shirt for "orange day." Someone who actually knows where the hair bow is that matches Clara's apple dress. Someone who's husband never has to say "I'm out of clean socks. Again."

Our verse for September in preschool and in 3-year-old-choir happens to be the same one: Psalms 139:14 "I am fearfully and wonderfully made." Lately I have been thinking of that verse a lot. The whole verse actually reads:
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
I praise my God for my husband. I praise my God for my children. For my friends, for the weather, for watermelons and rainclouds and strong coffee. I look for reasons to praise Him every single day. But I feel certain I have never offered Him a single acclamation for the wonderful way he made me. Because - probably like a lot of people - I spend a lot of energy wishing He had made me differently.

But He didn't. This has been my personality, these have been my shortcomings, for as long as I can remember. For some reason (and I really would like to discuss this with Him) He designed me - knitted me together - to be this flighty, emotional, undisciplined mess. Well, OK, the mess part may have been my addition but I was undisciplined and disorganized at age 5. I'm sure of it.

Which leads me to believe that God can use me for His glory just the way he created me. That, in fact, I should be offering praises for being fearfully and wonderfully made. Praises that he can take not-nearly-enough-me right where I am and use me despite of, or maybe even because of, my flaws. Because God, he's not just in the habit of molding pots. He also the maker of the clay. Lumpy and ugly and hard to handle, but with a potential only he can see.

Hmmm... It's an amazing thought.

And now, I wish I could end this post with a divine revelation on how exactly God is going to do this in my life. But honestly, I got nothin'. I'm still tired and overwhelmed and I don't see that changing in the near future. And, I'm still a bit down because of it. So for now, I'm just going to keep doing what I am doing: Trying to get organized. Praying that God will help me keep these balls in the air or maybe just give me permission to drop one.

But I do feel like I have learned something. That I may have taken a step away from my old home in the land of comparison and self loathing and towards a place of hope. And I believe that those small steps are really what this journey is all about.

So fear not friends I won't be slitting my wrists with that tardy permission slip any time soon. Besides, I couldn't...I have no idea where it is.

Monday, September 22, 2008

But I have promises to keep,...

"The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep."
~Robert Frost
It's been a frustrating kind of day today. Crammed full of errands that, while necessary, made me feel as if I had accomplished nothing but another 100 miles on the minivan. To work. To school. To the store for just-enough-to-get-us-by. To the dermatologist for Brandon followed by the lab for blood work. (It's $100 cheaper at the lab.) To the dentist to pick up a book Allison left there last week for she simply-must-know-how-it-ends. (And how could I ignore that request?) To the jewelry store to pick up a ring I had re-sized. An important ring - the most important - unworn since sometime before Clara's birth. The resizing itself a concession to one more area where I can't seem to get my act together.

And I am tired.

Tired from the defeat of one too many balls shattering at my feet. One too many forms turned in late, one too many phone calls from teachers. Too many appointments rescheduled or missed altogether. And too many children calling my name, needing my time and I... just me. Just one. Too many angry words and "not now"s. Too many broken promises to finally get organized. Too much being not quite enough.

Not. quite. enough. Not quite good enough for this job that I have. Mother of four. Keeper of the home. Fulfiller of needs and dreams. His and theirs. It's an ugly voice that whispers to me tonight. And it's words are so familiar I know them by heart. Words that chant, "I'm failing. Oh Lord, I'm failing."

And so I will go now and pray. Pray to The One, who promises to be more than sufficient, that He will help me be simply enough. Just for tomorrow to be enough and not let them down. Him and the people that are counting on me.

How did I come to have so many people counting on me?

Because right now I just feel small and unworthy. And tired. Really tired.
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." ~Matthew 11:28-29

Homecoming - A Flashback Post

We arrived too late to the first location. We were misinformed of the time. The group had already left to catch a reservation; an inauspicious beginning to an evening already ripe with nervousness. Driving too fast, we followed her father's directions to the restaurant. We were both rattled by the change in plans and didn't speak much. He fidgeted with his tie. The few words we exchanged were brittle with feigned optimism.

We pulled into the restaurant and saw the group of gangly teenagers at once. The girls, like colorful birds, flitted about showing off strappy heels and inappropriately deep necklines. I couldn't help but notice how they were constantly touching each other in the way we only do when we are young. The boys slouched in starched shirts and neckties attempting to pull of nonchalant confidence. All of them covering their their awkwardness with silliness, and sarcastic barbs delivered without malice.

I noticed her immediately. He told me she would be in red. A pretty little girl in a shiny red dress. Her overdone hair and make-up beguiling her fifteen years of age. We got out of the car and approached her. I could feel the insecurity radiating from him. I tried to will confidence into the tall boy beside me. She greeted us with a grin and reached up to hug him. He patted her back uncomfortably and then she turned to me. We introduced ourselves with overbright smiles. Each of us assessing. Evaluating.

Then, in an awkward gesture, my son shoved a clear plastic box into her hand.

"Here's your flower."

I laughed as gently as possible, attempting to ease his tension and said, "No silly. You can't just give her the box" I removed the corsage, red to match her dress, and handed it to him. He looked a little stricken and she stepped in to rescue him.

"Will you put it on me?" She proceeded kindly to show him how it went on her wrist. Obviously more familiar with this routine than he was, she did her best to make him comfortable. I could have kissed her.

I asked if I could take their picture, as we had missed the photo time earlier at the house. I snapped a couple shots and then asked some questions about how they would be getting to the dance. She indicated two of the slouching boys and pointed out their luxury cars, obviously borrowed for the occasion.

My heart skipped a beat.

We had talked about this. He had assured me adults would be driving, that no one in their group was old enough to drive. He knows my rules. Was he lying to me or was this this just another last minute change? I stammered a moment and was unable to catch his eye. His awkwardness got the best of me and I nodded. I told them to have fun, reminded him to call me when the dance was over, and went back to my car.

And I sat there.

What had just happened?

I am not the mother that wavers on my rules. I call and drill other parents before parties. I drive to the football games to pick him up when the boy across the street could have driven him home, because he has only had his license for 6 months. And yet, in that moment. I couldn't do it. I knew what it would mean to him, singling him out in that way. Forbidding him to go with the group. I caved. Was I showing grace or weakness? I still am not sure.

I drove home praying all the way. For his protection. For his choices. For his heart.

He called me when the dance was over and I went to pick him up. His date had gone on without him to an after-party. He had asked on the phone if he could go as well and I said no. It was already almost midnight and we had never met the parents. He acquiesced without a fight.

When we arrived home he immediately went downstairs to change. Then he plopped down in the chair in the living room, dressed again in his familiar t-shirt and basketball shorts. His foray into the world of dating and adulthood over, for now.

And I think it's possible we were both relieved.
I wrote this post last year after Brandon's Softmore Homecoming. His Junior Homecoming was this weekend. This year, he opted out. He's not dating anyone and decided he'd just rather hang out with some of his friends instead. I didn't push it. He seemed sure if his decision and in a way I was relieved. He's an outwardly funny guy, but deep down he's shy. And those kind of awkward social situations are hard for him. Camping out at our house with his friends playing basketball and video games, eating our food and destroying our basement was just easier for him. And it was a good bit easier on this mama's heart as well.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

"And I can see Russia from my house!"

For the most part I have a no-politics-on-this-blog policy here at Joy in Chaos. But, for the record, I am still not sure what side of the fence I fall on in the Sarah Palin debate.

I do, however, feel strongly that Tina Fey rocks.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Dear Ike, Please leave my friends alone.

The biggest effect (should this be affect? I'm not sure) this blog has had on my life was the most unexpected. Because of the time I spend here, I now have slivers of my heart spread across North America, and even the world. People, friends, whose faces I have only gazed on two-dimensionally. Their words, funny, and heartbreaking, silly and sarcastic, introspective and mundane have carved a place in me. And I now care about you all in a way that must seem disproportionate.

As I result, I watch Ike looming with even more anxiety. With a hand clenched around my stomach that now feels personal. Worrying about homes I have never seen and people I think I know. If you are being affected by this storm, please know that my heart is with you, my prayers are for you, and I wish, desperately there was something I could do.

But, please, please keep yourself safe. This world, my world, would be a little dimmer without you.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Not really a break, but kinda.

I wasn't really planning on taking a blogging break, but it's been nearly a week since my last post so I guess I have. I seem to have lost my writing mojo to the time-sucking vortex that is back-to school. My free time is currently being limited by a need for sleep. I do, however, take occasional late night breaks to rewash clothes I have let mildew in the washer or wallow in guilt at what I have forgotten that day. Like attending Brandon's open house (the first time ever) or sending Clara's "favorite toy" to share at school.

I also pop onto Facebook and Twitter daily where I am forced to keep my news below 140 characters which fits my current time restraints perfectly. If you're feeling left out, my updates there tend to fluctuate between "I love my awesome kids/life/husband" and "Where did we hide the booze?"

So, see? You're all caught up. I'll be back here soon. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe next week. But eventually.

And, stupid Ike, fizzle and die already! I'm praying for you my Texas friends. I mean it, stay safe.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Happy September

This week Ben, Clara and I all started preschool. Ben's first day was Tuesday and to say he was excited wouldn't really cover the -I have to wake up at the crack of dawn and put on my backpack and wait and whine and wait - fervor we had going on around here.

This was his third year at the same small Baptist preschool and he walked in like he owned the place. This will be his last year before he starts kindergarten. I feel blessed that he has been able to transition into elementary school these last few years in such a wonderful God-filled environment.

Clara, however, went into hysterics the moment Ben got out of the car and left her behind. Her heartbreaking screams of "Want Boo Boo! Want Boo Boo!" brought me to tears. It took me a full thirty minutes, and some serious diversion bribes, after we got home to get her to stop crying.

The next day went better. Clara started in her own 2-year-old class two mornings a week. And I started working in a 3-year-old class those same mornings. Clara wasn't really into the whole picture taking thing though.

She was much happier to run around with her brother.

Her brother was just happy that his mama actually made it out to the store and bought him a new back to school outfit. Something she didn't get around to before his first day. Poor #3 child.
Clara did great on her first day of preschool. My stomach was in knots all day worrying about her but she didn't seem to miss me at all. Her class and mine shared the playground and I expected her to melt down when she saw me. But, nope, she just said "Hi MOMMY!" excitedly and went back to playing.

Is it wrong that I wanted her to miss me as much as she missed her brother?

Here she is playing in the housekeeping center in my class.

The start of school this year has been a little hard for me. All my kids are doing great and are happier in their new structured schedules. Clara and I - once she gets over her screaming - are actually enjoying a little one-on-one time. She's so different without Ben to torture play with.

But the insanity of overfull schedules and too much time in the van has descended upon us as it does each September. And I know that it will not abate for the next four months. That the sports and lessons and back-to-school meetings of the fall will morph right into the even greater busyness of The Holidays. And before I know it I will have lost another whole season.

And these days, right now, with my littlest ones so excited to be learning letters and colors, days of the week and Bible Songs, feel exquisite and fleeting. And tonight as I was sitting with my family at our weekly Friday night dinner, looking at my rowdy, happy family around me I felt overwhelmed with gratitude. And I just hope I can remember when the stress of life settles around me, to stop and find time to bask in these moments. Before they slip away and I wish I had.

Happy September my friends. I have a beautiful life. May I never forget it.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

All the Beautiful Silliness...

I am going to get the back-to-school pics up soon, I swear.

But in the meantime here's a little silliness from tonight. I wish the video wasn't so dark, because they were both so darn cute, dancing to Clara's very favorite song. "Happy Birthday, Princess."

And yeah, my house is a mess. Shocking.