My mom adventures in Fort Collins

Another Gratitude Post: 19 Things I’m Thankful For

Once I set out to accomplish something, it’s hard to get me to set down the baton and admit the race is over. Furthermore, I’ve publicly announced my goal, so there is no stopping me now–the fact that Thanksgiving has been over for 3 months means NOTHING to me. Two more posts about gratitude… after this one.

Since it is the nineteenth of the posts on gratitude, why not go for “Nineteen things that I am thankful for RIGHT NOW”?

1. Ruby is a bit sick, but she’s holding it together rather well. She keeps calling her cough a “Naughty Cough” which is mostly inexplicable but quite hilarious. I can only hope that we don’t all get Ruby’s Naughty Cough. But if we do, we will shame it into submission.

2. Cory did the dishes for me tonight. I have been trying to convince him for several years that he should get around to doing this a bit more, and lo and behold it is WORKING. Turns out nagging DOES work.

3. I am thankful for my friend Polly who took a very long walk with me in the sunshine today. Today was a glorious day, and it was made all the more lovely by the river, the sound of a meadowlark, and connecting with a good friend.

4. I am grateful to both Ruby & Scout for a good–I’d even say GREAT–morning around here that didn’t involve any yelling. Woohoo!

5. I am grateful for The Cellar, and I’m especially grateful to their employee Becca who directed me to a delicious red wine that I am sipping presently.

6. I am grateful for my health, and that of my family. My dad is healthy, my mom is healthy, and though they both have their issues, we are NOT where we were last year at this time.

7. I am grateful to people who have a sense of humor, like whoever took the time to make this:

8. I am grateful for a warm, safe house. After a gorgeous day with temperatures in the 50s, I find myself suddenly feeling chilled to the bone after the weather turned cold.

9. I am grateful to Mary Pope Osborn, and the great work that she does that has entertained my children so much in recent months. Jack & Annie are almost real people around here, I think Scout even asked if we could look for Frog Creek, Pennsylvania on a map.

10. I’m grateful for my Secret Sister. Secret Sister is this thing we do at my daughter’s preschool, sort of like Secret Santa but all year round. My SS gifted me Enstrom’s toffees. If you’ve never had such a delicious treat, check them out here.

11. I am grateful to my sweet hubby, who is currently gearing my kiddos up in the living room something like this:IMG_4718

12. I am grateful for good books. I read a lovely one recently called The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. It’s a story about a young woman who aged out of the foster care system. Also important to the story: this woman communicates in the Victorian-era “Language of Flowers,” where a red rose means romantic love and a thistle means misanthropy. If you’re at all curious, there is a great interview with the author here:

13. I am grateful for coffee. EVERY DAY OF MY LIFE.

14. I am grateful for my sweet niece who turns 8 today. Years ago, on the day she was born, Cory and I drove up to Cheyenne, Wyoming so that we could catch a glimpse of her. Seems hard to believe that she’s now so mature, when it doesn’t seem that long ago I held her in my arms.

15. I am grateful for small favors, like when someone holds the door for you while you’re carrying something or when you find exactly what you’re looking for at the grocery store without having to wind your way back to an aisle that you inadvertently forgot.

16. I am grateful for The Mindy Project, which is not coming back until April 1st, but I can be patient a bit longer. PLEASE, please, please, Danny, DO NOT SCREW IT UP. You either, Mindy!

17. I am so incredibly grateful for the teachers at my daughter’s elementary school. Her kindergarten teacher returned today from a 3-month maternity leave, and the long-term-sub was such a gem in her absence. The other kindergarten teachers and the paras pitched in so incredibly well. I feel so fortunate that there are so many kind people who are out in the world working with these littles and teaching them about life and literacy and how to hang your snowpants up.

18. I am grateful for my church, a place of community and love. The pastor recently gave a sermon on “Faithfully Side Stepping Tradition”–about welcoming EVERYONE.

19. I am grateful for it all, this messy, imperfect, bittersweet life. I am not a person that exudes joy in every step, or pretends that all is well when indeed it is falling apart (as it often does in parenthoodland), but I think I can honestly say that there is nowhere I’d rather be than right here in this place.

Do you have something that you are grateful for RIGHT NOW? 

Judging Judies, you know the type

It’s all part of adulthood to make decisions based on what you think is best. I find myself having difficulty with people’s viewpoints that seem narrow and restrictive. When a person I know may consider herself open-minded and loving, and then shares an opinion that I find bordering on prejudice and mean-spiritedness, I think, “Wow.” What’s right, what’s wrong? I get so confused sometimes. I find myself wanting to judge people… for judging other people!

Here’s what I saw on Facebook last Friday. A “friend” posted:

So, it’s really okay to buy your Valentine’s chocolates wrapped in velveteen packaging with food stamps while purchasing your cigarettes with cash all while making me wait 10 minutes behind you in line to buy my groceries??? I must have this system all wrong.

And in my mind, I had a flash of what I would have LOVED to write under this person’s post to dismiss this self-righteous attitude. But I realized that her public opinion on poverty, nicotine addiction and welfare fraud were not likely to be swayed by my comment. In person, I guess that I would have said something like, “You don’t really know the whole story,” or something of that nature, but I don’t know that this would translate to something public like Facebook.

And then I remembered my friend Mama T’s words on the subject:

If you judge people, you have no time to love them.

I want to try to think better of people who are judging others. If they judge others so harshly, just think of how hard they are judging themselves. Geesh, must be a hard gig to live under such scrutiny.

I think this just about sums it up:

I will try to love better, judge less, and allow others their moment with Jesus. Tell me what you do to get through your day when you feel like you’re surrounded by a bunch of Judgey Judies. I need some wisdom here.

Another Gratitude Post: Day 18 (Alternatively titled “Lice: A Hate Story”)

This is the getting to the end of the gratitude posts I started in November. I’m so terrible at keeping commitments. I’m great at keeping commitments that have some bearing on life: I remember to pay water bills (most of the time), I regularly keep track of when I need to pick up my kids, and I frequently remember to have food in the fridge. But remembering birthdays, keeping track of what I said I’d do for someone two weeks ago, finding time to exercise? Not my strong suit.

However, I have a source of gratitude: Our family is lice-free. While this may seem like an everyday occurrence to many, it’s a reason for celebration around here.

I remember when I lived in Nepal, working as a volunteer with a Jesuit volunteer organization. My roommate and I would say something that we were thankful for every night around the dinner table. After spending a lot of time adjusting to the diet and various bouts of bacterial dysentery, a frequent source of gratitude was our Health. You see, when you are often healthy, health is taken for granted. Likewise, when you are free of bugs in your hair, you don’t think to stop and be grateful for your parasite-free head.

My daughter--with a head full of Nix--on Christmas Eve Eve

My daughter–with a head full of Nix–on Christmas Eve Eve

When you KNOW you have lice, you have a few options. I didn’t know all of those options then and I wasn’t about to be delayed by my internet searches, so I ran straight to the local drugstore, talked with the pharmacist (who acted bored, quite frankly), and bought some permethrin-laced pesticide that would kill those blasted bugs.

In retrospect, slathering a known neurotoxin all over our heads was not the best way to celebrate Christmas, but it was a bonding experience. If I had to do it all over again (saying a quick prayer right now), I would skip the $26 lice kits (yep, $26 a piece, making it a pitiful $100 purchase around Christmas-time), get at lice comb or two and bunch of good movies.

This is an image: kids on the floor, spotlight on their noggins, mom & dad carefully combing through their heads

This is the image: kids on the floor, spotlight on their noggins, mom & dad carefully combing through their heads

Where did we get the lice? I’m pretty sure, based on the 300 or so nits I pulled from her head, that Scout had them first. Her school has had a number of lice cases this year, and I can only think she must  have somehow brought them home from school. If you do your research, it’s actually not all that common to get lice from hats or keeping your jacket next to another jacket. Lice like to live on people’s heads, so they don’t hang out on the floor or the desks–they pretty much need head-to-head contact to transfer from one person to another. They cannot jump. They crawl awkwardly, and it’s sort of a mystery how Scout got it, but somehow, some way, they became part and parcel of Christmas of 2013.

That we all got it from one another is no mystery. We constantly bed share–well, our girls share a bed frequently and Cory & I share a bed–and we read stories to the girls in their bed, propped up against pillows. How was I to know that this put me right in the line of fire of those buggers? The big problem with lice, other than making you feel like a dirtball, is that they are freakishly annoying to get rid of. You must remove all the nits, and the only way to do that is by sliding the little egg sac (probably the size of a droplet of water) down the hair shaft. Did I mention that I estimate that Scout had 300 or so nits?

At first, our kids did well with the removal. “Come, sit on the floor while I pour over your head and you can watch copious amounts of TV!” But, as with anything, nitpicking got old. The kids dreaded the whole process. Then we discovered that heat can kill them–BINGO! In addition to the scalp-scraping, we then tried blasting them with the hairdryer until they begged for mercy. It’s no coincidence that my hair dryer died, and I had to get a new one.

The infestation also raised a whole host of issues that made celebrating Christmas at my parents house just a little absurd–keeping our brushes in individual ziplocks and keeping the girls hair tightly tied back in buns & ponytails during our visit. Having lice as a family is an odd situation–it’s a laugh-one-minute-cry-the-next-type of situation, at least it was for me. The kids seemed rather oblivious, thank goodness. I was like a vacuuming, laundering freak of nature for 48 hours or so.

My mom--the brave grandma--holding Ruby who is rockin' the 'up-do'

My mom–the brave grandma–holding Ruby who is rockin’ the ‘up-do’

Here’s the thing, even a parent who is with her kids 24/7 can miss the fact that her kids have bugs running around in her hair. Neither of my kids ever complained of itching, and I never saw them scratch or appear uncomfortable. For Scout, she is very independent and has been washing, rinsing, brushing and combing her hair for the past year or so. Ordinarily, she hates having her hair tied back, so I had not had that many occasions to run through her hair myself. Sure, the school sent home a flyer saying, “Someone in your child’s class has been identified with lice,” but I was the dummy that thought, “Good Heavens, I’d know if my kid had bugs in her hair!” I never even bothered checking. Big mistake. Based on the amount of nits Scout had and the average rate of egg-laying for an adult louse, I’d say she could have had the bugs for a month. A MONTH. Now, you think you had a bad a parenting day? Let me put this in perspective for you: I unknowingly let bugs crawl around in my daughter’s gorgeous, thick chestnut brown hair–and further infest our whole family--all because I assumed that I’d know if my kid had bugs in her hair.

I always say it: parenting is a humbling experience. Again and again, I am humbled. I just wish I didn’t need an expensive, time-consuming lesson like lice to teach me that I can be an arrogant jerkball. The other thing that makes you feel like an ass is that in my inattention to detail, we could have affected other families. I had to call two families that were over for playdates and alert them to the fact that their kids may now have the gift of lice–quite an unconventional Christmas gift. I sent emails to teachers, the Sunday School director and the director of Ruby’s preschool. More than anyone else in the world, I dreaded telling my mom and my brother–the two biggest cleanfreaks that I know. I actually thought my family did rather well with the news–they touched and hugged the kids anyway, isn’t that sweet?

If you’ve never had lice, then kudos to you. I checked that one off the list and I will be perfectly happy not to relive this little rite-of-passage for the school-age set. If you have an experience of lice or anything even slightly related, I’d love to hear about it. C’mon, it’s okay to come out of the lice closet.

Fair enough, independence seekers

It’s been a snowy winter and I can’t help feeling attached to home, wanting to hunker down and avoid the elements. The snow is gorgeous when the sun makes it sparkle just so, but today is gray and unshiny. And even when it is magical, I enjoy it through the window just fine. I’ve read books, done some crafting, drank lots of coffee and tea, enjoyed some soup, watched movies–all the many perks of a snowy winter.

AND I’ve been taking jaunts in the neighborhood–to get Scout to and from school, not for fun or anything like that.

The walk looks something like this:

IMG_4518Well, the walk looks like that when it’s a good walk. Sometimes the walk looks like this:

IMG_4542You see, it’s cold outside. And not everyone enjoys that part about the cold. For some, it would seem, Snow=fun AND Cold=misery. You can understand the conundrum, right? Feeling compelled to play in the snow, one is suddenly surprised about 15 minutes into all that fun that the white fluffy snow turns oddly harsh and uncomfortable. Ruby’s relationship with snow is further compounded by her love of  snacking on the stuff (the pretty white snow, NEVER the yellow or dirty snow). Imagine her face when she realizes the stuff is driven up her sleeves and into her boots… Well, I think you can SEE the look on her face in the above photo. 

The other day, Ruby and I were walking back from school after dropping Scout off. I was trying to keep her occupied with a quasi-snowball fight, when I noticed an elderly neighbor struggling to shovel her driveway. I asked Ruby to wait for a second while I approached this woman. I had no previous contact with this lady, and she had her back turned to me, so I tried to call out, “Excuse me” so I wouldn’t startle her. When she turned around, she was surprised (I doubt she heard me coming). Our exchange went something like this:

  • Excuse me? Can I do that for you?
  • What? [She looked mortified.] Why would I want you to do that?
  • [I probably looked rather startled.]
  • [She continued.] Well, there’s ice over there, and you could fall and slip.
  • [I glanced down at my suitable boots.] Well, all the same, I’d be happy to help you.
  • [The woman pauses.] No. I don’t want you to. I need the exercise.
  • [I back away.] Fair enough.

After this odd exchange, I turned back and collected Ruby. Ruby then said, “She didn’t want to have a snowball fight with us?”

Ruby’s sweet comment pulled me out of my fog and I laughed. We continued walking back home through the snow. All the same, I couldn’t help pondering why this communication was so abrupt and uncomfortable. I surmised that this woman must look forward to snow shovelling; perhaps shovelling snow is her greatest love in life. I tried not to take it too personally, but I had to admit: I got my feelings hurt. I am a helper/pleaser-type, and, if I’m honest, I would have really enjoyed helping this woman clear her drive. That she rebuffed my offer did sting a bit.

I shared this story with Cory, with my mom, with a close friend, and, feeling compelled by something at church, I shared it with my close-knit Crosswalk community (though, afterwards I had this regret that I shouldn’t have shared it because it didn’t really relate to what we were talking about all that much, oh well, they’re churchy people, so they have to forgive me for being tangential).

In sharing this, people seemed to have these general thoughts:

  • The lady is a crabbyappleton
  • I shouldn’t take it personally
  • Perhaps this woman is struggling with aging and she wants to assert her independence over something she can still do
  • [And my favorite] Maybe the AARP is advertising about a scam where a stranger approaches you and asks to shovel your driveway, then falls and sues you for all you’re worth

But here’s what I know, after wrestling with my ego: The exchange I had with this woman was purposeful. I’d even go so far as to say she was sent to me to deliver a powerful message. This woman was a stranger to me, and I offered her help. By suggesting that she needed help, I didn’t intend to undermine her abilities but perhaps that’s how it was perceived. When she said that she didn’t want my help, I respected that. It hurt a bit, but I respected her wishes and I backed away. Incidentally, I drove by her house later that day and saw that her entire driveway and walkway were clean as a whistle. She KNEW she could do it, she WANTED to do it, and she didn’t want my assistance.

You know who else this reminded me of?IMG_4537Yep, this girl.

My sweet girl. Scout is everything you would ever want in a little girl–sweet, kind, helpful, funny, creative–but, when she asserts her independence it is a Hummer not a VW bug coming down the street.

During the Crosswalk service that I attended, there was a parable of the 99 sheep retold as a modern parable of a Lost Emporer Penguin. The penguin was stranded far away from home and the community rallied to help it. Our pastor encouraged us to think of God’s love as the extravagant, abundant love that these strangers showered on this poor penguin, who misguidedly filled his belly with sand and required surgery to save his life.

What is life-saving to this penguin is the attentive love of those who found him stranded on the beach. But love is not limited to attention and assistance. What is life-saving to some, including my big girl, is a love that encourages her independence. My own need to “help” should not overshadow her need to assert her independence. My “helping” actually undermines her, rather than assists her.

Here’s my lesson: BACK AWAY, MOM. (In the nicest way possible.)

I must respect others autonomy and give them the space to complete their tasks without my help. I shudder to think… I’m THAT Mom, the one that hovers and tries to “help” when really I’m hindering.

Thank you, neighbor lady, for teaching me what I hope will be a valuable lesson. The extravagant, abundant love that I must give my children is to BACK OFF. This will sometimes look like allowing them to wield their own knives, wrap presents with an entire dispenser of tape, assemble their own homework packets without ever putting it in their backpacks, forget hats & gloves, dress themselves in inappropriate clothing, make a scrap heap of several reams of computer paper, make a mess in the kitchen and leave the caps off an infinite amount of markers, but it is love nonetheless.