Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Play Outside!!!!!!!!! Turning a mistake into a time to learn aka the time I didn't lose my cool

On Thursday, I was hauling our big tomato plants from the family room out to the deck for their time in the above 50 degree sunshine, since we live in a place that requires we baby our tomato plants more than our toddlers. I'm kind of joking, but with the incredibly short growing season and the hail, the elk and the rocky soil, I'm also kind of serious. Anyway, I was dealing with tomato plants when I heard, "uhhh. I just wrote on our dry erase board with Sharpie."

Background: Each day in the summer I make a list of the things the kids need to do before they can play outside. It's stuff like chores, math, instrument practice, and writing. Elliot asked if he could add play outside to the end of the list, and I happily obliged because more handwriting practice is A-OK in my book.

I replied, while holding my big tub o' tomato plants, "you're kidding, right?" As you can guess, he wasn't kidding. I headed toward our dining room/school room expecting to see Play Outside written in nice normal-sized letters. That did not happen.

Play Outside!!!!!!!! was written in bright pink sharpie on our gigantic dry erase board that a friend sold to me for $20 and we love to use for our homeschooling.

We immediately thought it was ruined, which seriously bummed all of us out. Elliot felt terrible. We tried wet paper towel and a magic eraser while Audrey asked Monsieur Google for ideas. As our attempts failed, Elliot felt worse. To get him giggling, I complimented him on his nice penmanship, on the proper use of a capital letter to begin the sentence, and on his very excitable use of many exclamation points. We talked about sentence type, exclamatory and imperative with the implied you as the subject, to get him thinking about things he'll study in Essentials next year.

By this time, Google had advised that we take a dry erase marker and go over the sharpie in thick strokes, erasing while still wet. We gave it a whirl. All hands were on deck to copy over the letters. This was great fine motor practice for my littlest guy and the original sharpie use.

Each pass of the dry erase marker and eraser improved the board slightly, so we were actually hopeful this thing was salvageable. About 30 minutes later, and all that was left was a slight pink tinge covering most of the board, but it definitely lived to see another homeschool lesson.

This was an honest mistake. In the hustle and bustle of the day, I know that I roll my eyes too often or breathe deep, annoyed, huffing breaths too often. It was probably my first inclination on this day, too. But I didn't, and I'm so thankful for that. Some nights, after the kids are tucked in and I'm reading a book in bed, I look back on the day and realize I expected perfection in situations where kids were just being kids. How irrational is that?! I'm sitting here racking my brain for a single day in my many years of life where I have lived perfectly, and I'm coming up empty. Mistakes happen. People mess up. We hurt each other. We act in ways we shouldn't. We are impulsive. In short, we are humans. As parents, we expect our kids to do their best, but we also tend to forget that they are little humans traversing a big world with lots of rules and expectations and that they will falter just as we do.

I'm reading a book called Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus. How about this quote? "Pure, unadulterated, consistent love for God and pure, unadulterated, consistent love for others is the summation of all the law God has given us in both the Old and New Testaments. Of course, the problem is that we never obey these simple commands. . . .Even though our children cannot and will not obey God's law, we need to teach it to them again and again. And when they tell us that they can't love God or others in this way, we are not to argue with them. We are to agree with them and tell them of their need for a Savior."

I often point to my child's behavior instead of pointing to our (our meaning the kids AND the grown ups in the family!) need for a Savior. It's a huge distinction. And maybe it's a bit of a stretch to go from sharpie on the dry erase board to forgiveness of sins, but seeing that slightly pink dry erase board serves as a nice little reminder of the day I kept my cool, saw a mistake for a mistake, and loved my kid through it. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

this kid

I have never felt so unprepared for something in all of my nearly 40 years. I have spent 13 years parenting small humans, and the oldest one is now almost as tall as me, and the youngest one still needs help getting on the toilet, and I am so out of my league. When pregnant with Isaac, I read parenting books and went to all of the classes and obsessed about accidentally riding a roller coaster at the McLeod County Fair while about 4 weeks pregnant.

Then they put Isaac on my chest and, while I was in no way an expert, I could just love and snuggle and instinctually feel my way through motherhood. More kids and older kids meant new challenges, but we worked through them. Please don't read that we worked through them seamlessly. I cried and ranted and raised my voice and questioned my ability to do pretty much every single thing. But, we kept on chugging along.

Now I'm looking at this one teenager and this girl about to be 11 and this boy about to be 9 and this youngest one who still needs help on the toilet, and I really see how short a time I have with them and how fast they will be grown up and how tender their hearts are and how brave their souls are and how easily tender and brave souls can be busted open for the world and by the world. For the world and by the world. One small word changed, but that one small word changes everything.

I tucked a kid in tonight. Prayer. Song. Chat. Then, all of a sudden, tears. I gently asked what was wrong. "I'm just so sad for all of the people who don't have people who love them." This particular kid has a heart of gold, a heart for loving others and more empathy than a little person really knows how to handle.

We talked about adoption, homelessness, thieves, family, murderers, church, kidnappers, Christ, foster care, hunger, lack of drinkable water, alcoholism. We talked about loving others, saying goodbye to people we love, serving others and being served so we are well enough to keep serving, having fun so life isn't all about fear and worry and sadness. We talked about God and Satan and shining God's light and courage and fear. Other kids came into the room to see what was taking so long and we sent them away. This was important. This was deep soul work and deep soul work requires time, hugs, and Kleenex to wipe away the many tears. But mostly time.

This kid has so much to offer and is so quietly, unassumingly strong. Bending with the wind and wilting in a storm, this kid comes back stronger, roots stretching deeper, back a little straighter. How did I get chosen for this grand honor of watching this kid grow? I want so much for this kid. This kid has so much to offer to this hurting, beautiful world. Please, world, don't bust this kid up. I know you're rough around the edges, but be gentle enough that this tender and brave soul can be busted open FOR you, not BY you. You need this kid. We all do.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Finding my way from disappointment to joy

A few years ago, I ran a marathon that I wasn't proud of. The training was a train wreck, I wasn't physically or mentally healthy, and my end time reflected both of those realities, but still left me completely bummed out and doubting myself as a runner. Ever heard that running is 90% mental? Yeah. True story. Except maybe it's 99% mental. Since then I've struggled to find my happy place while running. Since then I've also felt like I needed a "redemption marathon." I guess I thought I needed to prove something to myself. To that end, I signed up for the Colfax marathon for May 21, 2017. Yesterday.

I started training for it and things were going well enough. I was getting my long runs in, but not being as consistent with mid-week, shorter runs due to parenting duties, Jim's travel schedule, homeschooling four kids, and generally being a grown up with responsibilities. I assume almost all of you reading this know what I'm talking about. Being a grown up is just so much less exciting and freeing than I imagined it at age 7! At any rate, I was still feeling good about training. Then I went to Mexico with my oldest son to build a home with friends from church with the organization Casas por Cristo. That meant I missed two big runs, an 18 and 19 mile run. I was sorry to miss the long runs at a key point in training, but would also do it a million times in a row for the experience I got to share with my son, people from church, and a truly amazing and deserving family from Mexico.

I tweaked my training schedule and set out for my 18 mile run on the Saturday I got back from Mexico. I had my route planned, but was dreading the run from the very start. I drove to Flying J ranch to get the show on the road, started running, and just stopped. It was a gorgeous morning, the temperatures were perfect, I was healthy, but I just didn't want to run 18 miles by myself. I just didn't want to. So I decided not to.

There are plenty of things in life that we have to do. DMV. Laundry. Wash the dishes. Gynecological exams. Here I was dreading running, which, by the way, is something I choose to do for fun and for release and relaxation. If I am dreading it, it has fully lost its joy and just becomes another thing I *have* to do instead of something I *get* to do because I love it and it clears my mind and helps me feel strong and capable.

So I just didn't run 18 miles that day. Instead, I hiked for about 2 hours on the beautiful trails I intended to run and assessed my goals. How important was this marathon to me? Why did I even think I needed a redemption marathon in the first place? Would training for this marathon add to my joy or detract from it?

After a few weeks of soul searching, I decided the marathon wasn't that important to me, I didn't need a redemption marathon because my first (and only, so far) marathon was the very best marathon I could have run that day, and continuing to train would only detract from my joy and love of running. These decisions didn't come easy because I psychoanalyze myself to a fault and took just enough psychology classes to be a danger to myself. Annoying. Plus, I felt like a loser for dropping this race. Also annoying.

I finally started telling some friends that I wasn't doing the marathon, and a few of them were kind enough to inform me that I could drop to the half. (I should also note that none of them taunted me and called me a loser for not running the full. We really are stupidly hard on ourselves!) Well, I can run a half any day, which is both a blessing and a curse, since a person really should train for 13.1 miles, but since having a fourth child, I just never do anymore. So, instead of running a full 26.2, I dropped down to the 13.1.
Race day. Downtown Denver with the Rocky Mountains in the background
That happened yesterday. I'd love to say that I trained well and consistently for it, but that would be a big, juicy lie. Instead, I showed up with no goals or expectations other than to finish. Thankfully I wasn't shooting for a great time because I forgot my watch at home. Whoops! Therefore, I just got into my corral and ran a pace that felt good. I figured that if it started to feel hard, I'd slow down, and if it started to feel easy, I'd speed up. Novel idea, huh? Listen to my body and do what feels good.
It's go time. My corral inches closer to the start line.
I ran my slowest half marathon (2:18), ran a negative split (second 6.5 miles was faster than the first by a hair), didn't run with a single person I knew, had no family of friends to cheer for me or meet me at the finish line, and loved it. It felt good, comfortable, fun, and easy. I shouted thanks most of the volunteers. I looked at all of the animals during the mile that took us through the Denver zoo. I gave high fives to all of the kids. I smiled my biggest smile for all of the race photographers in hopes I'll have a nice race photo. I had fun. That little word, fun, has been missing from running lately. I hope yesterday's race serves as a long term reminder that run and fun belong together.
Happy runner earns cool medal.