Watching the Turkeys

My brother has a family of turkeys that live in the green belt behind his home. Every morning, they are in his lawn, seeking breakfast in the grass. Normally, they are already in the lawn when I get up. This morning, I had the pleasure of watching them arrive. At first, I saw a slight movement from the side of his lawn. And then, here came this little baby turkey. (Chick? Are turkey young called chicks? I don’t know, I’ll have to ask my best friend. She has a flock of them. Wait. Is it a flock of turkeys? It’s a murder of ravens. I know that one because it’s super weird. A menagerie? Whatever. I digress.) This little bitty turkey just waddles his/her way onto the lawn – eager to investigate. That one is followed by mama, who I can only describe as regal. She is a real beauty. And then, two more little chicks (yeah, I’m sticking with it now) follow her out onto the lawn. Mama gracefully struts through the grass, looking for unsuspecting bugs, calling for her babies when she finds something, and continues to forage across the lawn and into the neighbors property.

It’s been a while since I’ve stopped to watch the turkeys. It’s like this thing you know is happening – an everyday ritual – but it just happens in the background while you continue to stress about whatever the day’s given stress is. Or, sometimes it’s not even that day’s stress. Sometimes it’s something that happened weeks or months ago and you’re still going over it in your mind. Or maybe it’s your mental to do list and you’re planning your stress in advance. Whatever it is, there’s no time for turkey watching.

Last summer, I took a job as an elementary school teacher. When I started this blog, I had just left a job teaching high school journalism after our funding ran out when our grant expired. Every job I’ve ever had (journalist, teacher, advertising executive) has some with its own degree of stress. But nothing – NOTHING – stresses me more than being a mother. It’s not the same kind of stress as fearing that you’ve somehow screwed up an account for a client, or the stress  of not having a lead story for that night’s news, or the stress of not knowing if a student is truly grasping a concept you’ve been working on all quarter. No, motherhood is full of its own special stresses. Stresses like, “Are my kids growing up to be productive members of society?” “How do I get two of the three kids to point A and the third to point B at the exact same time, despite the fact they are 15 miles away from each other?” and (recently) “Will this lice infestation ever end?!”

Stress is something mamas (at the least the human ones) are good at. And if we can’t find something to stress about with our kids, we can just wait a moment because the next stress is right around the corner. But, the turkey mama – she doesn’t worry. She doesn’t stress. She just is. The fact that I got to watch her this morning with her three chicks is not lost on me. It’s the simple things – God showing me how to take a moment and relax. To smile.

I’ve been reading the same thing a lot recently in my morning devotionals – the same message but in different verses:

“Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all he has done.” Philippians 4:6

“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” Matthew 6:34

Or, especially fitting for today: “Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to Him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” Matthew 6:26-27

So, today, I’m watching the turkeys and I’m taking note. Worry less, watch more. Don’t stress over the small things. Except the lice. But that’s a different story for another day.

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Death, Kissing and Parent Teacher Conferences

My kids say a lot of weird stuff. So much so, I have an entire category dedicated to it on my blog. So, by now, it really shouldn’t surprise me when they come out with something completely off the wall. And yet…

Here are the prize winners from this week alone:

“I don’t want to go to death!”

My 9-year-old son was reading aloud a section of the bible that talked about how kids should be respectful to their parents, or they would be put to death. (Matthew 15:4) It really struck him as important, so he told his brother and sister to listen up, as he repeated the passage. “For instance, God says ‘honor your father and mother’ and ‘anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father and mother must be put to death.'” Upon hearing this, our 4-year-old says, “But, I don’t wanna go to death!” Later that night, he brought it up again after supper, when the other kids had left the table.

“I don’t want to go to death. I’ll hide. I’ll hide in the refrigerator! He can’t get me in the closet, right? When?! When am I going to death?”

“Spin the bottle? I love that game!”

The award for the most alarming statement goes to my 12-year-old daughter who, seemingly out of nowhere announced in the car, “Spin the bottle? I love that game!” Turns out, she was reading her comic book and saw the game being played, which reminded her that she loves it so much. Thinking (and praying and hoping) that maybe she innocently had it confused with another game, where maybe you just spin the bottle and nothing nefarious happens, you know, like kick the can, I asked her, “Honey, what happens in spin the bottle?” “Oh, you spin the bottle and whoever it lands on you have to kiss.” Panic. Slight panic rising up. Yes, yes, I know she’s getting older and she’s going to experiment with things and I should get used to change and she’s growing up and does anyone have a paper bag I can breathe into? “So, sweetie, have you ever played spin the bottle?” “No, but my friend has at a party and she told me about it.” Insert conversation about not doing things we’re not comfortable with and how we can always say no and get out of situations like that…

“What? They’re going to put me to death?!”

After parent teacher conferences tonight, I arrived home armed with notes from my 6th and 3rd grader’s teachers. My son asked if he could see his report card. I said sure, having forgotten about the fact that I put a sticky note on it, with my reminder note to write a post about my preschooler’s thought that he could hide from death. My 3rd grader stared at his report card, without even opening it, and quietly read the words, “‘I don’t want to go to death?’ MOM, what did you and my teacher talk about?!”

Oh yes, raising kids is certainly interesting. I just wish I had a hidden microphone to catch all the other crazy stuff they say. You know, the stuff I forget to write down. What crazy things do your kids come up with?

Two Times Two Equals Four

Four years old is an interesting age. It’s funny, scary, adorable, innocent, silly, frustrating, loving…. need I go on?

My four-year old has had a tumultuous last two 24 hours. He had his belated four-year old check up – which led to some interesting results. The two things he remembered most from that appointment?

“They gave me shots and it hurt and there was lots of blood!” (There really was. I’ve never seen an injection site bleed like that!!!)

AND

“Don’t look at ladies’ boobs. The doctor said they don’t like that.”

Yes, indeed. His pediatrician mentioned – to me – how I should stress to my son that he shouldn’t be checking out the lady parts (which he is prone to). I guess if the doctor says it, it must be true. He’s been pretty good about it today, although he did get sent home from school this morning. Not for cat calling… His legs hurt from all those shots!

You have to love the point-blank nature of the four-year old. My eight year old commented on this the other day – after his little brother was sent to his room, mid-tantrum. He said to me, “Why do they call them ‘Terrible Twos?’ Four is much worse! It’s two times two!” How true is that? I’m thinking of making up T-shirts…

What age have you found to be the most challenging  for kids?

 

 

 

Getting Involved

You know that expression, “time is money?” The older I get, the more I realize the truth in that statement. There is so much that needs to be done: laundry, dishes, homework, housework, lawn chores, etc. And yet, the hours in the day remain the same. Every day, we get the same amount of time to get everything done. Often times, we spend our time complaining about what all there is to do. I know I do. But, it catches me every time I really think about it: what we spend our time on, is what our life can be measured or defined around. It shows what we value. The same can be said about money. It’s not what we say we value or cherish, it’s what we do with our time and money that shows what we value and cherish. I am so guilty of this. One does not equal the other.

What I really want, what I value and cherish, is for my kids to grow up with such a moral compass that they’ll just do the things that I constantly say are important to me, and yet don’t find time to act upon. Things like those we’re all called upon by Jesus to do: help those who can’t help themselves, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned. I know, I know these are things I’m called to do. And yet, I fill my time with other things. Laundry, dishes and daily life get in the way of what I feel is really important. I can always find an excuse and something that will fill my time. But the hole is never filled. I always feel lacking for what I haven’t accomplished.

So, today, I am making a vow to myself. I’m going to take the steps to raise my kids knowing what needs to be done and actually doing it. I vow to get involved in things outside the small circle that makes up my life. And, I vow to bring my kids along for the ride. It may start small. It probably will. Maybe it will just be offering to help a neighbor take out the trash. But, we’re going to do it.

Here’s where you come in. I want you to hold me – us – accountable to this. Quite frankly, I want you to call me out on my BS. When I write about something (or, don’t), I want you to ask me what I’ve done to model the values I say I hold dear. Call me out on it. Please.  Because, time is money. And every day we run a little lower on both. Lets measure or success not in wealth but in the hours we spend helping others.

If you want in on this, please, lets act together. Share what your family is doing. Our kids deserve this.

Impulse Buys and Healthy Dinners – An Unlikely Marriage

Typically, those impulse buys you make at the grocery store- you know, the ones you make when you shop when you’re hungry which is exactly what they tell you not to do – are not the healthiest of choices. Typically you end up tossing something in your cart that you definitely don’t need. Things like – oh, I don’t know, a three gallon container of Brownie Blitz ice cream or a bag of chips or a Snickers bar. That is the typical impulse purchase. Tonight was atypical.

Tonight, I made a few impulse buys. It started with a pineapple. They were on sale for ridiculously cheap. $1.50. That’s crazy. So, when my son asked if we could buy one – I went through the checklist in my head: Is it healthy? Check. Is it expensive? Nope. In the cart it went. But then, then, I saw the new fangled pineapple slicer.

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I mean, you can’t spend all evening cutting a pineapple! You NEED a pineapple cutter to help you through the process you only embark on once, maybe twice, a year. $9.99? Sure, it’s only 6.66 times more expensive than the fruit. An evil ratio, I say! In the cart it went. (For the record, it actually works really well.)

Then, we continued our trek through the store – throwing in more items we didn’t need, including brocoli slaw. I had some kale at home (which I failed miserably over the weekend trying to turn into kale chips) and I thought it might make a yummy salad. We made it out of the store with only one really naughty impulse buy. Soft brownie cookies…

Anyway, we went home and I started to prepare dinner. Dinner that typically might consist of something unhealthy, from a typical impulse buy. Instead, I made a kale- brocoli  slaw – pineapple salad. I used the pineapple juice as a dressing.

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I’m going to take the nearly empty bowl as a compliment.

For our main course, we had tofu curry. Kids scarfed that down, too.

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And, for dessert – watermelon.

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Now – let me set you straight. You may be rolling your eyes over our very vegan dinner. I’m not a vegan. I love me some bacon. I’m not sure how supper ended up so healthy. But, it was yummy. Oh, and I am now (after the kids are in bed) enjoying that soft brownie cookie we discussed earlier. All is right with the world.

One more thing before I go. Just to leave you with a WTH moment, while garage saling with my husband this weekend, we discovered the oddest thing.

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Yes, indeed, that is a real live alligator. In ALASKA! About two and a half feet long. It was just chillin. Oh, and did I mention I got to hold her? Thank goodness my kids weren’t there. When I told them about it later, they asked if I bought it. Um, no, she wasn’t for sale. And a good thing, too. I probably would have to account for yet another impulse buy. At least I wouldn’t be tempted to eat this one.

One the Eve of his 7th Birthday

My big boy turns seven tomorrow. Okay, one hour and 57 minutes from now, but who’s counting?

As I was making him cupcakes tonight, he stood next to me, licking the…. you were going to say beaters, weren’t you? Yep, well, we don’t have any beaters right now. They are packed somewhere as we get ready to sell our house. So, instead, he stood there, licking the giant fork I was using to mix the enormous bowl of cake batter. I poured the batter into the cupcake pans. I think this is truly the defining moment between the Mrs. Brady moms and the rest of us. Wait, Mrs. Brady had Alice. Okay, the Martha Stewart moms. Wait, she doesn’t have kids, does she? Well, you know what I mean – “those” moms and the rest of us. The moms who can pour the batter into each individual cup without spilling and the rest of us who go around licking our fingers and smearing the batter off the spaces between the cups so the whole kitchen doesn’t smell like burning while they are baking. I digress.

I stood there, messily pouring the batter, vowing to somehow evolve into a better mom-cook-person. We were talking. He was stalling. The night before your birthday does that to you. After I poured the last of the batter into the cupcake pans, I placed the bowl in the sink. As I turned the water on, he exclaimed, “My precious!” It made me laugh. So, I repeated it, Lord of the Rings style. Then he asked, “Mom, what does ‘precious’ mean, anyway?”

I explained, in my best attempt at grasping mentally for a dictionary, that precious meant special and rare and wonderful and great. He said, in that moment you long for as a mother, “Mom, I think you’re precious.” My heart gleamed with pride. I smiled to myself. I thought, “YES! YES! Seven years in and my son values me! He loves me!” But, before I could gloat any further he completed his thought:

“Precious… and chubby.”

It All Adds Up

   You’ve all heard the same line from your kids: “Mom, can we have (insert pricey and needless item here)?!” It’s a close cousin to “How come we can’t have that?!” Explaining the concept of cash flow to your kids is, well, difficult. I’ve found some things help, like only letting them watch PBS. No commercials. I don’t do allowance. But, they get money from outside sources. (Geez, that makes it sound like they’re selling drugs.)  Most recently, it was from the Tooth Fairy. Neighbors hire them to do odd jobs. I try to help them remember to spend their money wisely. But, what about our money? Parents’ money? They are all too eager to blow through any and every penny.

A friend posted this decal on her Facebook page yesterday. She’s a DINK. (Duel income, no kids.) I found it amusing and oh so true. Everything from new pants, to diapers to school supplies to soccer cleats costs money. It all adds up.

So, here’s my question for you today: Should kids be responsible to help chip in, in their own upbringing? This may be more directed to parents of teens. Do you charge your kids for things? Gas, rent, food, etc? Or, is paying for all the stuff of life what you agreed to when you signed up for having kids?