Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Those Awkward Times When You Realize You Aren't As Young As You Used To Be

1. You are invited to playgroup with all of the young moms at your church.  You glance around the room and smile awkwardly. You have just realized that if every person in this room were to get pregnant, you would be the only one to qualify for a high risk pregnancy due to advanced maternal age.

2. Your husband texts you from work. "Hey honey. So I went to the gym today and worked out. However, I threw my back out getting dressed." Hmmmm..when you need ibuprofen after getting dressed in the morning, it's not looking good.

3. Day after day you stare at the cute young parents walking to pick their kids up from school. You are silently embarrassed. You think to yourself from your air conditioned car, "yeah...I did that too...10 years ago. Jerk."

4. My husband got a job offer because someone told him that they  were hoping for a "more experienced looking" candidate.

5. You're three year old can outrun you. Granted, I have nerve damage down my right leg. But come on...she's THREE!

6.  You used to wake up several times night to feed a crying baby.  Now you wake up several times a night to go to the bathroom.

7. On the same note, during an amazingly terrible karaoke rendition of "The Devil Went Down To Georgia" at a Christmas party, you abruptly cut your act short because you are praying no one can see the urine running down your legs.

8. As long as we are being honest here...the rebel in you decides to take your rebelliousness to the next level. Seriously. Wait for it....just wait. Yep. That's right. We are staying up past 10:00 tonight. Not sure what we are going to do. But we are doing it.

Friday, June 1, 2018

A Talk With My Teenager

It was dinnertime. Dinnertime and chaos are synonymous at our house. I had kids all over the kitchen whining and spilling food in all sorts of random places. I looked out to the backyard. It was green, breezy and quiet. I silently slipped outside by myself and hoped no one would see me eating alone is peace.
This was the life.
I then gazed back through the sliding glass door and saw my teenage son. My heart knew I wanted something much more than a moment of peace. I wanted my son to talk to me.
I beckoned him outside to sit with me. He complied. Not willingly, but he complied.
I stared at him in silence for a moment. You see, he really has nothing to talk to me about. But I have so much I wish I could say. I would have said,
"remember all those times we used to laugh together?"
"remember when we slid down the stairs in sleeping bags?"
"remember when I accidentally killed your beta fish?"
remember, remember, remember...
But he has grown.
He's a teenager.
And very good at it.
But I had him here, on this gorgeous night, all by myself.
 I decided to tackle the elephant in the room.
"So when did you start not liking me?"
He looked at me.
And smiled.
I love that smile.
" was probably sometime in eighth grade."
I've always loved his honesty. That kid is as honest as the day is long.
I respond,
"so you haven't liked me for about 18 months?"
"Well,  you're brother still likes me and he just turned 13. How much longer do you think I have with him until he starts not liking me either?"
He smiled again.
"I'd're lucky if you get another year."
I smiled back.
It was a beautiful night. I silently thanked God that my son was talking to me. Even if it was just about his dislike for me.
Moms of teenagers learn very quickly to be grateful for anything.
I used to enjoy his voice, but I've learned to accept a glance in my direction. I used to be a welcome guest in his room at night, but I am now grateful that he lets me in the door if only to say goodnight.
I used to take him out to dinner, but now I'm just glad he says thank you when I bring dinner home to him. I used to love when he said, "I love you too," but I know...deep down, he kindof still likes me. He may possibly even love me.
He has just temporally forgotten.

Is It Worth Growing Up?

I slipped half consciously into her pale teal and purple room. She was laying beautifully in her bed. I felt prompted to ask her about how she felt about growing up. She stared at me. She is 10 years old as of last month. We chatted about what the next few years has in store for her. As I was talking, her little chin started quivering.
"Oh, no. does this scare you?" I asked.
She nodded that little tween head and couldn't speak...afraid if she did, tears would surely come. She was desperately trying not to cry.
My heart was aching.
I told her my story about how I didn't want to grow up either. I felt the same way. I wished God had made me a boy because then I wouldn't have to deal with all of the unfair girl stuff.
Her chin continued to quiver.
Her dad walked in at that moment.
"What's wrong babe?"
She could no longer contain the tears.
"I don't want to grow up," she feebly replied.
He hugged her. Again and again.
I wiped her tears and spoke.
"Hey, I know it's not fun...but guess what? It's all worth it. Do you know why?"
"Why?" she whispered as she continued to wipe those innocent tears.
"Because one day, you will be sitting on a bed with your own little Ne Ne. And you're going to realize that you wouldn't give up that moment for anything in the world."
She smiled.
We went to bed.
The next day, I was busy sending some random text message to some random person. It was so important I can't even remember what it was. But she kept holding up her pinky finger wanting me to promise something.
"Just a minute, just a minute," I hastily replied.
I finally turned to her and asked what was so important.
She stuck her pinky in my face and told me that I had to pinky promise her something.
"It depends," I answered with a half smile.
"Promise me that growing up is worth it?"
I looked around. I laughed out loud.
I pointed her to one corner of the kitchen where the baby was licking a melted popsicle off the table. In another corner a toddler boy was having a tantrum. A thirteen year old boy was bored and asking what we were going to do for the rest of the day. A fifteen year old boy was cooking ramen in the dirty kitchen.
I held up my pinky finger and locked it with hers.
“Absolutely," I assured her.
"Life doesn't get any better than this!"
I pulled her matted, blonde head into my chest and kissed it. Over and over again.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

When I Paid My Son To Stand Up To His Bully

He was in fourth grade. I saw it every day. The moment he slowly walked out of his school with his head hung down.  He carried the weight and sadness of being a victim of an elementary school bully.  "Retarded. Weird. Stupid. Idiot. Loser." All of the words that hurt. Sometimes it got physical. The school counselor was aware. The principal was aware. The behavior continued. I am a mom. I did what moms do. I took that little boy in my arms and I told him exactly what would happen if he finally stood up for himself.  I explained that the adults at his school weren't protecting him. I get it. I come from a family of educators. They can't deal with every issue. I have no doubt they had bigger problems than my son's bully.  But we were going to end this together.  I told that blonde hair little boy that I had five dollars just for him. The moment the bully touched him, my son was to push him back. And if he did this, I would have his money ready. And I would be so proud.

Several days later I saw that same little blonde boy exit the school and walk proudly toward my car. His head held high. I couldn't help but smile as he walked toward me. He entered the car. His smile was magnificent.
"Why are you smiling?" I asked slyly.
"I pushed him back. I get five bucks."
I smiled along with him. I held up the money and he grabbed it with delight.
We won.
The school counselor called the next day. He explained that there was an issue the day earlier. My kid had started an altercation by the drinking fountain. I explained kindly that the other little boy had actually started the altercation by shoving my child's face in the drinking fountain while my son was trying to get a drink. I explained that I had given my son explicit directions to stand up for himself. I told him that not only was I proud of my son, but I also gave him monetary reimbursement for his behavior.
The counselor didn't know how to respond. He told me that they prefer not to deal with bullies in this way. I was very sincere. I explained that I have a responsibility to protect my son. Well, actually, teach my son how to protect himself. I continued to tell the counselor that the way the school was dealing with it was not working.   I further told him that he did not have my permission to ever discipline my son again if it pertains to him defending himself.
The bully never bothered him again.
I have a soft spot in my heart for school bullies.  So often they are fighting a bigger battle than any eye can see. I loved my son's bully because he was a child who was silently aching inside. Our children have a responsibility to always be kind and accepting. But they should never have to be a victim.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Are we done having kids?

I'll be honest. I was pretty exhausted after three. Somehow we ended up with five.  Every parent knows there comes a time when you must decide, "how much more can we handle?" My husband and I recently had this conversation. It's not a decision that you take lightly. However, if you're anything like me, sometimes every day experiences can be blazing sirens of warning that help you make your decision a little easier.

1. I was driving my two oldest boys somewhere and thought I'd ask their opinion.
"What would you guys think about having another baby?"
My oldest son's mouth dropped wide open.
"No. Absolutely not. Don't you think we already have enough of those things running around this house?"
"What things?" I ask somewhat perplexed.
"KIDS. They everywhere."
 Point taken. I guess that's a no.

2. My baby wakes up and begs incessantly for chocolate ice cream. I give it to her as I load up the other kids for carpool.  Yep. I am giving my three year old chocolate ice cream in the car for breakfast. I actually find myself feeling extremely grateful. At least it's only ice cream. It could be worse. If she asked for a piece of cake to go with it, I'd probably give that to her too. I realize I am too tired to fight the battle. I've been doing it for fifteen years. Being grateful for an ice cream breakfast probably shouldn't be a thing.

3. You are filling out a permission form for your daughters dance class. Your daughter looks over your shoulder in horror. Her heart is broken and her exasperation tells me I have done something terribly wrong.
"What did I do?" I softly question.
"Mom, you didn't even put my right birthday. Do you even know when my birthday is?"
I looked at the form I had just filled out. I couldn't tell. It seemed right to me.
"Are you sure that's not your birthday?"
"Are you kidding me right now, mom?"
I looked again.
She was right.
It was her brothers birthday.
"Shoot, sorry babe. I totally know your birthday. Just give me a second. It will come to me. I promise."
I sit there racking my brain going through each child's birthday and birth year.
I finally figure hers out.
"See. I told you, I totally know your birthday."
She was mortified.
"Mom, I think you have too many kids."
 She may be right.

4. School carnivals. My hip, younger self could hardly wait to donate all of my time, talents and resources to make the school carnival amazing. This year I found myself standing in the middle of bounce houses, cotton candy and snow cone machines feeling completely dazed. I felt so overwhelmed. Instead of cheering and counting how many milk bottles my 5 year old was triumphantly knocking over, I found myself fumbling for my phone. I pulled up the calculator and figured out just how many school carnivals I had left in my future. I realized if I had another baby...I'd have to add another 3 years... which means three more carnivals.

5. See #4.  When you have to pull out your phone because mental math seems nearly impossible in your current emotional state, it may be time to reconsider your priorities. 10 (age at which my child graduates elementary school) - 3 (age of my youngest child) to find out that indeed I do have 7 more school carnivals in my future. SEVEN. That's 7 more raffle baskets I will guilt myself into organizing, 7 more thanksgiving feasts, 7 more teacher appreciation pots of chili,  7 holiday parties that need donations and 7 times to bring in a special birthday treat.

So, yeah. I think we're done. However, my brother just sent me a beautiful picture of his newborn son. I cried. He looked so perfect. So amazing. So straight from Heaven. A piece of my heart was aching. Maybe I want one more.

And then I remembered the school carnivals.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Parable of the Granite Countertops

We've been married nearly 17 years. We have lived in 5 states and 8 houses.  We've had 1 beta fish, 1 leopard gecko, 1 garter snake with 30 little garter snake babies, 2 kittens and 5 kids. No granite countertops.
I find myself taking my two little kids down to my favorite granite warehouse. They sell remnants. I stroll down the remnant isles dreaming of what could be mine. I know how many square feet we need. I've measured. I've made my husband measure. I've priced it out. Over and over again. After all my hard work and research, we still have the dark, outdated brown and black swirling laminate countertops. There is absolutely nothing wrong with them. No reason to rip them out. They are sturdy, durable and clean up fairly well. But everyone else has granite. Well, actually, I'm starting to worry that I completely missed the granite era. All of my friends are now ripping out their granite and replacing it with an even durable quartz. Seriously? That could be even farther away in my future. Maybe never.
I think about granite as I fade to sleep. I dream of the light, beautiful stone sprawling across my long, open kitchen. It would look amazing. I would be so happy. So blissfully happy...for a moment.
If only granite could buy happiness, we would all be set.
I know too much. I've lived too long.  No amount of granite can make me happy. It is a fact of life. As soon as I install my dream granite, my wants will immediately go to something else.  My happiness will still be unfulfilled even after my prince in shining granite comes with his beautiful granite truck. It makes me so sad. Yet, unequivocally happy.
It's all too simple.  It requires my time, not my credit card. It requires me to find joy in the present, instead of dreaming of the future.
Don't get me wrong, if the chance arrives, I will be driving speedily down to my granite warehouse and picking out the most beautiful granite remnant you have ever seen. And I will be happy. For a moment. But I will know in my heart, that it is temporary. Just like all worldly possessions. The happiness will fade and be replaced with another want.
Luckily for all of us, true happiness, or joy, is not bought. It is earned.  Joy is a smile running toward my car in a school parking lot, a jump hug in my arms  and a soccer game in the backyard.  It is my 15 year old getting behind the steering wheel for the first time and my 5 year old being snack boy at preschool.  Joy is fifteen hugs and kisses at bedtime, and a laughing hysteria as I chase the kids around the house.  It is watching their smile light up a room when they find my random love notes in random places.
It takes my most selfish resource, my time.
Luckily, joy is something we can all afford. God gave us everything we need to find it.
He just forgot the granite countertops at the Ford house.
I’m starting to think it was on purpose.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Why I Don't Apologize For My Messy House Anymore

If you would have happened to stop by my house a couple of years ago, our conversation would have probably gone something like this:
"Hey, it's so good to see you. Sorry my house is a mess. I've been trying to clean but my kids keep creating messes that I can't seem to keep up with."
You would have been polite and said something like this,
"Oh, don't worry about it. It looks great. It's so hard to keep a house clean with kids."

Not. Anymore.

Now you come over and I try not to say anything.
I own it. Did you hear me? I OWN it.

I've had at least one toddler roaming my Sherwin-Williams beige painted walls for over 15 years now. I have another 15 years to go.  I keep painting them. And washing them. And painting some more. It's not as if I don't try to keep my home looking fresh and clean. I do. In fact, I believe in the age old proverb that indeed,  "cleanliness is next to godliness."  But I also believe something even more.
I believe that to embrace motherhood in its entirety, you will miraculously find yourself reverently wondering if God could possibly love you just as much as you love the little hands that leave dirt on your walls. And suddenly, the dirt on the wall becomes a sacred stain that forces you to understand how much you, yourself, are truly loved by your creator. The stain becomes an emblem. A flag of victory. A sealing to your calling in this life.
I am a mom.
I choose the little feet before the little messes. I choose the building blocks before the building frustration.
There's one thing that occupies my mind each day.
"In 15 years...what will I regret the most?"
It shapes me.  It haunts me.
I know I won't regret a messy house, but I will certainly regret a missed moment.
I will regret not pushing my child on the swing, or playing tackle football in the yard.  I will regret not going to the park or playing in the mud. I will regret yelling. Or losing my cool. I'll regret not pushing trains around the track and not memorizing all the names of the fiercest dinosaurs. I will regret not putting down the phone when they ask me a question.  I will regret not making them mow the lawn. I will regret not letting them light fireworks in the driveway and matches on their birthday cakes. I will regret not letting them struggle to solve their own problems.  I will regret not laying down at night with each child in their bed, reassuring them of my love. Even when they ask me not to.
I try to spend my days doing the things I hope I will never regret. Not the things I hope you see.
You will see my house and you will see my kids.
If you happen to see the sacred stain on my painted walls, I just want you to know,
I will not apologize.
I choose them.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

My Husband. Your Doctor.

Speeding through town, I had just dropped off a kid at football practice. I raced back to the church to drop off another kid,  then drove quickly to a soccer practice for a third.  At about 7:00, I start to lose my cool.  I'm used to my husband being late. But tonight I was frustrated. I sat in the parking lot with two babies, strapped in their seatbelts, fidgeting and whining behind me. I sent a rather mean spirited text to my husband.

"You said you would be home tonight to help with carpools. Where are you?"

He responded,

"I'm sorry honey. I just made a grown man cry like a baby. I'm doing my best to hurry"
You see, my husband is a pediatric hematologist/oncologist. That's code for a kid cancer doctor.

I stared.
At that blasted phone.
It was that same phone I stared at months ago after driving with five kids in a freezing Nebraska blizzard to our child's' first piano recital. James never came.  I had to take the two disruptive little kids out.  I missed the performance. I sent a similar frustrated text to my husband.

He responded,

"I'm sorry honey. We just got some labs back for a patient. I had to tell his parents that there was nothing more we could do. They are crying. They asked if I could please help them tell their son."

These are not isolated instances. This is our life. A mom at home trying desperately to save her family. A dad at the hospital trying desperately to save yours.
I continue to stare at the phone. Ashamed at my frustration. Knowing a family needs my husband much more than I.  I sit in the parking lot and cry for you. I bow my head as our minivan becomes a sacred altar and I pray for you.  And I pray for him. Every night. That he will be inspired how to help you. And your baby. I don't know who you are. And I never will. But we share something in common. My husband. And your doctor.

He leaves the house before the kids are at school. He misses soccer games, Scouting Court of Honors, piano recitals and football practices. We chose this life. And we chose it together. I forgive his absence. And he forgives my frustration.

My husband has two lives. Ours and yours.  I'm grateful that he's mine. And grateful that he's yours. There's no one else I'd rather share him with. I think he's pretty great. And sometimes I really miss him when he's with you. But I know you need him more.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Why does my husband always get hit on, and I never do?

 Seriously...people of my gender... when did a wedding ring became an invitation?
I will be completely honest with you. If I ever considered having an affair, it would not be with a married man. Chances are, he has kids. I've already got plenty of those.

He started getting hit on in residency. An older woman came up to him in a patient room (just the two of them) and pronounced, "Um-um. I could drink champagne straight out of your dimples." Wow. Even I had never thought of doing that.

Once at a medical conference, a girl came up to him at a restaurant. He was sitting with his colleagues. Apparently, in his words, she was pretty attractive. She brushed his shoulder and gave him the eye. He ignored her. But his buddy didn't. He saw what was going on and said, "hey, if you're not going after that, I will."

In fellowship, another woman called him, "Dr. Sexy."

I try to explain to him that he gets hit on because he happens to be a doctor. My mom is married to a doctor. She warned me a long time ago that it would happen. But he is sure it is because he is so darn good looking.

Your not alone in wondering what may be wrong with me. Why doesn't anyone want to drink champagne from my dimples?

In my defense:
My car smells like old French fries and spoiled milk (and that's after I've been through the car wash).
I have a gut that hangs over my pants because I can't give up Coke. Oh, and in case you missed it, I carried five children in there too.  I am hardly ever, without at least one child with a runny nose and bare feet. And let's be honest, school book fairs and PTA meetings aren't really known for being pick-up parties. Let's just say, I don't get out much.
And to be honest, if anyone wanted to hit on a mom with five kids, I don't think they are in it for the long haul.

So here I stand. With a hit on husband. I love how he thinks it's funny.  He is my Dr. Sexy. And I get to be his best friend.  Maybe one day I'll even get hit on too. But for now,
I think I'll go drink some Coke from his dimples.

Being a YES Parent

It's not easy...I know. Trust me, I am one of you. We all know that it is easier to let them play video games then let them outside. It is easier to do it for them, instead of letting them fail trying to figure it out. Luckily for me, I was blessed with this kid. He refuses to take NO for an answer. And so I have learned. I have learned the blessings of becoming a YES parent. It's as if we all want strong, independent, confident children...but don't have the patience to let them become such. It's messy. It's tiring. No,'s downright exhausting. And above all, it is humbling. I decided a long time ago, that I would not care what my neighbors thought of us. It isn't easy. There is an invisible social norm to raising children. And I don't fit it. My house isn't white and beautiful. It's worn and tired. My walls have marks and the carpet has stains. Mud lingers in the entryway. Hand prints line the windows. Pillow pits and blanket forts greet you at every turn. Play doh and paint have left my table stained. But I am devoted to YES. The word NO is reserved for running in the street, doing drugs and having sex before marriage.
When you become a YES parent, your life may look something like this...
broken chairs become catapults
and drum sets shouldn't cost you anything
people will stare

and neighbors wonder why...

wanting something doesn't mean buying it, but rather, creating it

bedspreads are meant to be the home of solace seeking activities
 costumes are never purchased

power drills have no minimum age limit

and haunted houses appear in your driveway

laundry baskets become machines of creative movement

Playing with fire...well, it actually should be accompanied with gloves. My fault. For reals.

kids actually really don't need you hovering over them in the kitchen

and no one said you need a fishing pole.

Next time you find your child doing something out of the invisible social norm:  Breathe. I suggest closing your eyes. And just say,
Side Note: One day I was explaining to Jake that he is going to be a millionaire because his mom was so amazing and always let him invent things. As a payback, I was wondering if he would pay for my nursing home care when I get super old. He thought for a minute. He smiled.
"O.K. Here's the deal. I'll pay for your nursing home. Just don't think you're getting the best one." 
Hmmm...can't wait for my economy living conditions! Thanks buddy. 

Have my last 15 years been in vain?

I was in the car with these two teens. We were talking. Not sure about what. But my oldest decided to take the conversation in a different, unexpected direction.
"Mom, I can honestly say that I don't think you have ever given me one piece of advice that has actually been helpful."
I thought he was joking.
"You're joking, right?"
"No..I'm serious."
"'re joking, right?"
"No...I don't think you've ever given me any advice that has helped me to be a better person."
I was dumbfounded,
I didn't know what to I laughed.
And then his younger brother figured it was a good time to air all the dirty laundry.
"Oh yeah, and mom. You REALLY stress me out."
"What is going on here, guys...what are you talking about?"
"'s just that when you get stressed...I get super stressed because you're so stressed."
"Jake, I am seriously like the most laid back mom I know. I let you destroy my house. I let you cook in my kitchen and use the drill and hammer and nails and, and, and...I was trailing off."
I was in a state of shock.
"Mom, I think your laid backness actually makes you stressed."

O.K. I couldn't help but laugh. I had to do something besides cry.
Perhaps the last 15 years of my life had been in vain. All of this stay-at-home mom stuff was a waste. Perhaps a day care lady would have given them better advice? I continued to drive home in a stupor of thought. They were both dead serious. I had to do I saw a McDonalds up ahead.
"I don't know about you guys...but I need a coke. And you need ice cream."
Upon receiving their ice cream, they both said, "thank you, mom."
I won.
I smiled to myself.
I guess my last 15 years weren't in vain. I was forced to praise myself because obviously no one else was going to.  Alright, Jessie. You're rockin in.
After 15 years, you've raised brutally honest, grateful for ice cream boys.

P.S. Later that night, Will admitted that if it makes me feel any better...his dad has never given him any good advice either. So yeah, I feel better now.

Those Awkward Times When You Realize You Aren't As Young As You Used To Be

1. You are invited to playgroup with all of the young moms at your church.  You glance around the room and smile awkwardly. You have just ...