Friday, May 31, 2013

Lemons to Lemonade

Ever have one of those "Oh, Crap!" moments turn into an "Oh, sweet!" moment?  Happened to me today.  I spent the morning running around checking off my long list of errands.  Dropped forms off at the school, stopped at the bank, went to Target, hit the grocery store...did I mention I had BOTH of the kids with me?  I must have lost my mind.

The carrot I was dangling in front of them to ensure good behavior was the fact that the last stop was the party store where they would get to pick out decorations for their joint birthday party.  I only had to threaten to take the little one home before the party store about three times, not bad.  It even worked each time!  Believe me when I tell you it wasn't an empty threat.  Mama is not afraid to make good!

We finally get everything else done and head to the party store...and it is now a Tuesday Morning.  Oh.  Crap.  No banners, no cups, no plates, no goody bags, no balloons, nothing.  What to do?  We're standing in the parking lot and beads of sweat start to form as my girls start asking, "Mommy, is this the party store?"

I frantically look around at the other options offered at this particular strip mall and I spot my salvation, a Dollar Tree.  Sweet!  They must have party crap there, right?  Oh yes, they certainly do!  They have a wide selection of princess junk that delighted both the kiddos.  Thank you, God!  I cannot imagine the revolt I would have had on my hands had there been no alternative.  Extra bonus, I only spent about half of what I had budgeted.  Dollar Tree may be my new party destination.  I highly recommend it.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Thank Heaven for Little Girls

Last night my older daughter had her end-of-the-year preschool program.  It was super adorable and cute!  There was singing, instruments, and choreographed dance moves.  My favorite part was when one little boy used a pink scarf, which was a prop for one of the songs, as a superhero cape and ran back and forth across the stage. It was a delight to my heart to see this group of four- and five-year-olds find so much joy in performing for their families.  As we sat down for our little ice cream social afterwards, I felt a little catch in the back of my throat when I realized my daughter only had one more day of preschool left.

I had one of those "when did my baby get so big?!" moments.  It was followed by a sobering thought.  When do I need to stop treating her as my little girl and begin to groom her into the young lady I want her to become?  In my heart, she will always be my little girl with skinned knees and pigtails.  I want to hold that image in my mind forever.  I want to cherish these moments when Mommy is both guardian angel and best friend.  I want to hold her close and keep the world at bay.  At what point do I need to begin the release?

We have all seen children who are the product of parents who don't want to let go, who have hamstrung their children by arresting their development.  We see five-year-old children walking around in 22-year-old bodies.  The last thing I want to do is handicap my children because it made me feel better to hold them too close.

Two of the greatest gifts God has given me has been my two beautiful girls.  They make me smile every day.  I know that they are mine for only a short while.  I pray that I will teach them what they need to know, when they need to know it.  I hope they go out and face the world as strong young women, not scared little girls.  We are looking down the barrel at full-day kindergarten and I know some of the preparation needs to begin now.  Lord, please give me the wisdom to guide my little girls.  Please help me mold then into young ladies who are ready to go out in the world and find Your will for them in it.  Help me do this as I continue to see them with a mother's eyes.  My precious little girls.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Laundry Day is Any Day That Ends in Y

Laundry is a never-ending chore at my house.  I have a chair in my living room that I only see about once every six weeks because it is where I dump the clean clothes that need to be folded.  By the time I get to the bottom of the stack, I have another load coming out of the dryer or off the clothesline that immediately buries the chair I was finally able to successfully unearth.  It is a vicious cycle that is never-ending.

I think there is a conspiracy in my household.  There is no way four people can generate this much dirty laundry on a regular basis.  My husband and my children are conspiring against me to keep me bogged down under a mountain of laundry...the reason is as of yet undetermined but I am convinced it is sinister and malicious.

They must put on layers of clean clothes and run through the pasture, stopping to roll in the mud and skid through the grass.  I've got it!  They have hired body doubles for the sole purpose of generating more and more laundry!  The depth and reach of this wicked plot is so much greater than I could have guessed!  What do they have to gain?  How do I begin to fight back?

I will not allow this mountain of laundry to conquer me like the Blob that consumed the town in that terrible old movie.  It will not swallow me!  I will fight back!  As it threatens to pour onto the floor, I will fold like there is no tomorrow!  I will vanquish it with hangers and an iron!  I will not allow it to beat me, although I fear it has already claimed my living room chair.  Such a shame.  I really liked that chair.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Half Price Day at the Thrift Store

I am a homemaker, a home economist if you will.  My husband works very hard, easily 60+ hours a week, and more when he is really busy.  I stay home with our two daughters and run our household.  My husband and I make our financial decisions together, but we made a quick discovery at the beginning of our marriage.  After a bit of a comedy of errors, hmmm...shall we just say that we decided that I would make the better bookkeeper?

I am what you may call a nerd, and proud of it!  I run my household on a budget every month and I do a pretty good job of sticking to it.  Groceries, clothes, pet food, restaurants; everything has a designated amount at the beginning of the month and I do the nerdy cash-in-the-envelope bit.  I get enjoyment out of stretching our dollars so we are able to accomplish our bigger goals.

Anyway, all that to tell you the following story:

This month I performed a major closet purge.  I only meant to put away my laundry, and I don't know what came over me!  I started tossing clothes out of my closet and out the door into the hallway.  I was merciless!  Everything I didn't wear last year went flying.  With that finished, I made my way into the boxes in the spare bedroom.  I dug out what I called my "wishful thinking" clothes (aka all the clothes I was still clinging to from before my first pregnancy) and out it went!  "YOU WILL NOT MAKE ME FEEL GUILTY FOR NOT BEING A SIZE 6 ANY LONGER!!!!" I silently declared. Ok, now what?  Alright, we aren't planning on any more children so my maternity clothes made their way into the pile.

I have FINALLY de-cluttered.  I should have done this two or three years ago!   I feel free and refreshed...until I peek out the door and see the mountain that I created in the hallway.  And there it sat for the next week.  Oops.  I believe I mentioned to you before that I am not perfect, and that includes housekeeping.  Fortunately I have the blessing of selective tunnel vision and I am able to ignore stuff like that for at least a short period of time.  This time it only took me a week. Now everything is organized and priced for our June garage sale.

Unfortunately, I am now painfully aware of what is lacking in my wardrobe.  If you remember my aforementioned nerdiness, perhaps you can understand why I was a little bummed when I realized that I had not put any extra pad in my clothing allotment this month. We were closing in on Memorial Day weekend.  We live 40 minutes from an awesome outlet mall that always has great Memorial Day weekend sales.  Crap. Twenty bucks in my clothing budget.  I resign myself to the fact that this is just not going to happen this month.

Then I get the email of awesomeness!  Half price day on clothing, shoes and accessories at my favorite thrift store!  Yes I am on the thrift store's email list but I swear, I am not crazy cheap.  I do not shop at the scratch-and-dent, mystery meat section of the grocery store.  I am happy to use a coupon but I do not have a 50-year supply of beenie weenies and 3,000 flea collars for a cat I don't have stashed in my basement.  I am, although, very excited about half price day at the thrift store.  I have no problem with my family wearing "experienced" clothing.  Probably 95% of my girls' clothes are second-hand.  If they aren't old enough to care, why should I?  We took the girls and loaded ourselves into our SUV for a shopping trip.  I spent an hour and a half (sorry hubby and kiddos) digging through name brands.  Banana Republic, American Eagle, Lands' End, Gap,  Anne Taylor Loft, Eddie Bauer, Abercrombie and Fitch and, oh yes! Old Navy, you were there, too! Most of the stores I would have hit up at the outlet mall.  I found myself some cute tops, some slacks and a pair of capri pants.  The older daughter needed a new light-weight jacket and they each got a new swimming suit. The girls got to take out their little purses and buy themselves a "new" toy and a book.  My husband found some work jeans and a new beer mug.  We even found a replacement for our broken floor lamp.

Grand total...$38.51 (Nerd Alert!  I know it's over the previously mentioned $20 but I used a little cash from the babysitter envelope since we did not have a chance for a date night this month).  Half price day at the thrift store is now one of my favorite days:)

Do you have any recent money-saving victories or any great tips?  If you do, please share by commenting below:)

Sunday, May 26, 2013

What a Difference a Teacher Can Make

Today I saw a status on Facebook from my ninth grade Language Arts teacher.  She is retiring this week after many years of teaching.  She was one of those unique teachers who will be remembered by all of her students (and fondly by most of them).  She was a teacher who would reach out to troubled students and bring out the best in them.  She was a teacher who would help shy students find their voice.  She was a teacher who encouraged students to be their true self for she is one of those people who is not afraid to show her own true colors.  She was one of the people who helped me come out of what had been an utterly hellish junior high experience and begin to build myself back up, to start becoming a person who could once again believe in my own self-worth.  I'm sure she is completely unaware she even did that for me.

I had her again as my Creative Writing teacher my junior year.  She was the first person who made me believe that perhaps I had a bit of talent for writing.  Believe me when I tell you that was in the back of my mind when I decided to start a blog last week.  She made me believe that I had the ability to tell stories and connect to an audience through my writing (I suppose you can disagree if you wish:).

As I read her farewell status, I couldn't help but think of other teachers who have had a strong impact on my life.  Some may have known at the time that they were important to me, others perhaps not.  Some are still teaching but many have, or are about to retire.  Those teachers have influenced so many students, and at such a critical time in their lives. There are few occupations that offer the chance to leave a long-lasting legacy the way teaching does.

I had many teachers, from preschool all the way through college.  Most were good, a few were bad, but I will be eternally grateful for that small handful who were truly extraordinary and and made a positive impact on my life. Those people were a blessing not only to me, but to my family because they helped shape me into the woman I am today.  I am a better person because of them.

I pray my children will be blessed to have caring, compassionate teachers placed in their lives at the times when they most need it.  I hope God will put teachers in their path who will be able to reach out to them in a meaningful way, especially at the times my kids don't want to reach out to me.  To all of you who are teachers, thank you for what you do.  Your influence is so much broader and wider than you could ever guess.  A great teacher can make all the difference in a child's life and thank you doesn't seem like near enough.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The House is Always Cleaner on the Other Side (of the road)

Anyone else have neighbors like mine?  Our across-the-road (and we live in the country so it is a road, not a street) neighbors are empty-nesters.  They are very kind, sweet and helpful.  Their house is ALWAYS clean!

Now, I realize that they are heading towards retirement age and toddlers and young children have not lived in that house for many, many years.  Intellectually I know this is not a fair comparison.  I spend a whole day cleaning and when I wake up the next morning, little gremlins have come out of the woodwork to destroy my previous day's efforts.  She cleans her house and there is no one coming behind her to undo it all.

Hold on now!  Come on!  How is it ALWAYS clean?!!!  She works a full-time job.  It isn't like she spends all her days scrubbing surfaces with a toothbrush.  Doesn't she ever have a really busy week when the unread mail piles up on the kitchen table, the laundry overflows the hamper and the dishes get stacked in the sink?  (I know about the laundry because I always use the back door which opens into the laundry room)  I AM home everyday, albeit I am running around after the tornado I have claimed as my children, but if she can do it why can't I?

Ok, now I know you are asking how I know it is always clean.  Easy.  Random drop-ins.  We rarely call ahead.  We will both just walk across the road and knock on the door.  When I am on the receiving end of the drop-in, 9 times out of 10, I feel a little embarrassed at the state of things.  I KNOW she must be judging me and wondering what the heck I spend my days doing. (Ok, probably not really, she is too sweet, but I can't help but think it)  When it is reversed and I perform the drop-in, perfection!  I head back home in awe of her domestic prowess.  Not just in awe, but perhaps even a little jealous.

Until the evening everything changed.  I walked across the road to perform one of my drop-ins.  I walked up to the door and I could hear country music blasting from inside the house. This was odd.  My neighbors are not the type you would expect to shake the window panes with Miranda Lambert.  I knocked at least three times and rang the bell, but no one answered.  Now, I feel comfortable enough with my neighbors to come by unannounced, but not enough to actually walk into their house uninvited.  I had given up and was walking down the porch steps when the door opened behind me and I turned to see a woman I didn't recognize.  She said, "Sorry!  I couldn't hear you over the music!"  I asked her if my neighbors were home.  She said, "No, I don't know where they are.  I'm their cleaning lady."  Mental head slap.

I learned an important lesson that evening.  A lot of energy is wasted in comparison and, odds are, perhaps things aren't exactly as they seem.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Preparing for the Future

"We may not be able to prepare the future for our children, but we can at least prepare our children for the future." -FDR

"At least"?!!!  I hardly think making sure our children are prepared to meet the world warrants an "at least"!  Don't get me wrong, this is an amazing quote and the sentiment is oh so true, but come on!  Preparing our children to face the world on their own is a monumental task!  I look at my two girls ages three and (almost) five and everyday I wonder what the world will look like when they become adults.  So much about the world today scares me and I constantly wonder, what must I teach them?  From what must I shield them?  How do I empower them to have a voice to stand against the things they know are wrong?  What must I be doing to ensure that when they reach adulthood, they have a functioning moral compass so they are able to DETERMINE right from wrong?

I pray, and probably not as much as I should.  I know that it is not within my power to protect my girls from all that is bad, and dare I say evil, in our world.  I pray that God will help me pass on wisdom to my daughters.  I pray He will stand in the gap when I fall short, which I am sure happens more than I am even aware.  I hope that when I wave to them as they step out into the world, I am able to smile because I know I did my job.  I want to be confident that they are able to take on the world, and not worry that they will be swallowed up by it.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Wow, my first blog!  I got a wild hair tonight and decided I must not be the only mother out there who is constantly comparing herself to other moms, both real and fictional, and feeling like she constantly falls short (or at least I hope I'm not alone!).  I recall memories of my mother's seemingly always spotless house and home-cooked meals and wonder if a gene skipped a generation (or perhaps more likely my brain is cruelly forgetting the times the house looked like an atom bomb went off and we sat in our pajamas eating PB&J for the third time that day).

I am not perfect.  There it is!  I admit it!  I sometimes let the dishes build up in the sink for three days, secretly hoping my husband will take the hint before I finally start loading the dishwasher.  I let my daughters run around the house in swimming suits and Halloween costumes in the middle of February because I long ago decided that was not a battle worth fighting.  I will let my kids watch TV all day when I'm feeling sick (and ok, other days as well) and just pray their brains won't rot before junior high.  I probably feed them fast food at least once a week and let my picky eater survive on a diet of peanut butter sandwiches, chicken nuggets, pizza, cereal and fruit.  I wish I spent more time playing with my kids, praying over my kids, and modeling for them what it means to live as a Christian woman in today's world.

On the other hand, I truly love my life.  I have a wonderful husband who is my partner and my rock.  He understands what my contribution is to the family and the household and he has never once come home and asked me "what do you do all day?"  I have two beautiful daughters that I love more deeply than words can express.  I am blessed and I would not change my life for anything.

I am human, though.  I make mistakes.  I lose my temper.  I constantly compare myself to other women, other moms and wonder why I don't measure up to them.  As Paul said in Romans 7:15 (and no, I didn't know the chapter and verse offhand, I had to look up the reference), "I don't really understand myself.  For I want to do what is right, but I don't do it.  Instead, I do what I hate." (NLT)  I hate to admit how often this verse speaks to what I am doing and feeling.  Every day is a new day and, with God's help, I hope each day can be better than the last.

Do you want to get real with me?  I will share with you my struggles and my triumphs, my joys and my fears, and maybe a really great chocolate cake recipe.  I hope this blog will help you know you are not alone if, like me, you are an average mom trying her best to be  Supermom.