Siblings Abroad: My wild European Adventure

I have been sort-of persona non here-a this summer, sorry about that!  But I have a lot to share!  I DID take my Mommy trip (sans family but avec my littlest brother) to Europe at the beginning of August.  And it. Was. Fabulous.  I plan to write a more detailed set of posts all about it soon, but here are a few highlights:

DUBLIN, IRELAND

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This is me and my brother outside the gates of the Guinness Brewery (or, as I like to think of it,  “Disneyland for ale-drinkers”)

THE HARBOR AT COBH, IRELAND

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Most likely, if you have Irish ancestry, your forbears left from this port.

COUNTY KERRY, IRELAND

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It was a dreary, wet, rainy day but Ireland was still magnificent.

LONDON, ENGLAND

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I didn’t realize it at the time, but when we heard Big Ben chime the hour it was one of the last times it would chime for the next couple of years!  They are going to be doing extensive repairs on it through 2019 and the bell (which is the actual “Big Ben”, not the clock) will be out of commission.  It was lovely to hear!

STRATFORD-UPON-AVON

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I love these Tudor windowpanes!  This is at Shakespeare’s Schoolroom/ former town Guildhall.

WARWICK CASTLE

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I’ve been slightly obsessed with Warwick Castle and “Warwick the Kingmaker” since I saw the Starz miniseries The White Queen.  Both my brother and I really thought seeing this fabulously maintained and imposing historical structure a highlight of our trip!

PARIS, FRANCE

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This was my second trip to Paris and it is still my favorite city in the whole world!  A lot has changed since 1999, but Paris still had all of its old charm in abundance.  Je t’aime, Paris!

THE LOIRE VALLEY, FRANCE

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Chateaux country!!!  I think I may retire here…there are so many chateaux to choose from, and a dilapidated one probably wouldn’t cost too much, right?  One of my favorite things about the Loire Valley are the gorgeous gardens and flowers everywhere.  (This is the Chateau du Langeais, isn’t it delightful?)

NORMANDY

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The World War II sites at Utah and Omaha Beaches were poignant reminders that we owe so much to those brave young men (and women) who gave their lives to stop Hitler.

BELLEAU-WOOD, FRANCE

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This World War I battle site and village were of special interest to my brother and me for two reasons: our great-uncle fought here and was permanently blinded by German mustard-gas; and US Marine Corps history was made here when those men held the line and kept the enemy from advancing toward Paris.  My brother (a former Marine) was honored to see where the men who came before him fought so bravely.

More soon!!

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The purpose of a bad day

Not often, but occasionally, I have days that hit me with the enormity of the fear that maybe, just maybe, all my struggles and triumphs and day-to-day banalities are all for naught.  That it doesn’t really matter if I live this day well, or try a little harder to get that task done, or remember to curb my tongue of the petty criticisms that may make my daughter cry.  Why would it matter, if life is indeed pointless, whether I were a good mother to my children, faithful and loving to my spouse, or tried to be a good neighbor to my fellow man?  What would be the point, even, of getting out of bed?

I have a tendency to be over-sensitive to other people’s moods and attitudes, and today was a poster day for that.  My mother, meaning well, sent me a light-hearted text about how she just saw the State Department had issued a travel warning for Europe, citing terrorist fears.  She knows that I have been beginning to plan for a trip to Europe with friends in 2017, and she knows I am excited and have been furtively sneaking away from my kids to Google search hotels and tourist sites in anticipation of this journey.  So while I appreciate her concern (and, really, do I think the threat of terrorism anywhere will decrease in the next decade or so?) I didn’t see how this benign text added anything of a positive nature to my day.  In fact, it sort-of depressed me.  Yes, it is true.  Yes, it is scary.  But…why share it with me?  Was her goal to scare me?  Or to let me know she was worried for my safety in some way?  Whatever her intent, the text irritated and depressed me.  It seemed almost a subtle way of saying, “I know you have this fun plan for your life, but guess what? It is raining on your parade.  Right now. You can’t win, so don’t even try.

I got through the rest of my crazy day with the kids and karate, and came home, proud of myself for having prepared a crock-pot minestrone so we could eat right away after getting home at 6:30.  I grabbed the mail and saw that some travel guides I requested had arrived; we want to go to the West coast this summer for vacation.  Excited about that, I mentioned it to Hubby, who I instantly realized had arrived home under a cloud of crabbiness.  He said, “I don’t even want to talk about vacations.  The new company [who is taking over operations at Hubby’s work tomorrow] sounds like it wants to get rid of our division/make everyone move to somewhere horrible if they want to keep their jobs/fire me/make me take a huge pay cut and work 1,000 hours of unpaid overtime.”  Instantly, my mood switches to OMIGOD WE ARE GOING TO HAVE TO MOVE AND THE KIDS CAN’T GO THROUGH THAT AGAIN AND I DON’T WANT TO MOVE AND MAYBE WE WILL BE BROKE AND HAVE TO FORECLOSE ON OUR HOUSE AND DECLARE BANKRUPTCY AND I AM NOT QUALIFIED TO WORK ANYWHERE BECAUSE ALTHOUGH I HAVE A DEGREE I HAVE NEVER HELD A REAL JOB AND EVERYTHING I HAVE DONE THIS LAST NINE YEARS WILL HAVE BEEN FOR NOTHING BECAUSE STAY-AT-HOME MOMS ARE NOT VALUABLE IN THE GRAND SCHEME OF THINGS AND THIS CROCKPOT MINESTRONE I MADE FOR DINNER IS ABSOLUTELY AWFUL I AM A HORRIBLE HOUSEWIFE.

It really should be said that Hubby and I got very little sleep last night because Spike, who is recovering from a horrendous sunburn, couldn’t sleep and came down into our bed last night.  And then, that adorable 3-year-old proceeded to have a horrible day of “three-nager”ness (which Hubby defined as, “Spike’s feet woke up on the wrong side of my back this morning.”) which was such fun.

Ok.  No sleep.  No sleep makes you feel like life.  Is not worth.  Living.  Seriously.

Anxiety can be caused by little to no sleep.  Anxiety makes you fear things that are…mayyyybe real possibilities…but very slim chances.  Like terrorists targeting you on vacation.  And anxieties relating to job loss and perpetual poverty.  And freaking out over the fact that you might not be a perfect wife and mother.

Hubby is nervous about the new company taking over.  That is completely understandable.  New management, new way of doing things, new corporate culture.  But perhaps we should focus on what we can control.  We can’t control if our boss decides to downsize us.  We can’t control if the company wants to headquarter elsewhere.  We have no control over what the future ultimately holds.  We really don’t.  It’s honestly terrifying.

I seek solace in the knowledge that about four years ago, we were in the same place.  Spike was on the way, Hubby was laid off, we had no permanent dwelling, and Hubby and I were both scared to death.  I prayed.  I prayed without ceasing.  I was so afraid of so many things, and God said “Trust.”

Trust.

Trust that I have your future in my hands.  Trust that I know exactly what you need, and will not give you more than you can handle.  Trust that I love you and I will not let you falter.

Be not afraid.  Be not afraid.  I am with you and will never leave you. 

I can believe.  I can believe God is in control.  I can believe that he will be beside me in whatever I may encounter.  I can believe there is a purpose and a reason to everything.  When I doubt, when I want to run the other way, God is there to remind me that His will pervades all.  His love conquers all.  And his purpose for our lives permeates and engulfs us all.  So it is not for nothing that we struggle with [yes, the banalities of laundry and stinky diapers] our tasks and it is not for nothing that we strive for Heaven in our lives.  It is what makes life worth living…it is what makes life so precious…and it is what we will not abandon when we are forced to abandon our dreams for anything else.  It is through trust in His plan that we can forge ahead with all we may encounter….even on a bad day:-)

 

 

 

 

 

Musings on Memorial Day

We are a very veteran-heavy family.  In fact, in the course of three generations, every branch of the U.S.Armed Forces is represented save the Coast Guard.  Some of them volunteered, some were drafted, some had very high ideals about patriotism while some were merely doing what they were ordered.  At any rate, all of them were (and are – my little sister is still serving) ready to leave their familiar, ordered lives at the drop of a hat and – if necessary – fight, and possibly….die….in service to their country.  It infinitely humbles me, because the thought of being shipped off to

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My great-uncle trained here before shipping out to France in 1917, where he was blinded in action.

some foreign land to fight for my country scares the pants off of me.  I am a coward, I confess…I could not do it.  And that is why I am so glad, so grateful, that there are men and women out there who are willing to make that ultimate sacrifice for me and my family.

Luckily, my immediate family members who served in Iraq, Bosnia, Vietnam, and WWII all came home safe and sound with their bodies and minds intact (if not irreversibly changed by what they had seen).  They all knew fellow comrades who did not.

I’ve been doing lots of genealogy research lately, and the current quest is to locate, somewhere back in my family, a veteran of the Revolution.  I am really interested in becoming a member of Daughters of the American Revolution, and am convinced there is a member of the Colonial army back there if I can only find the right records.  Well, actually, I did find a great-great- twelve times back or something grandfather who helped the Colonial cause for one month!  Apparently he was like 76 or something and offered guiding service or let the troops stay on his property or something.  Not sure if that really counts as being a Revolutionary soldier, but it still sounds like he (and his son, an uncle not in my main line, who was a recorded soldier) was a Patriot.

It makes me think how easily those Patriots could have all been seen as Traitors if England had won the war.  Traitors are generally not treated super-kindly.  George Washington and all his buddies (including my grandpa a million times removed) could have easily been marched up to the gallows and today we would all be driving on the left.

I am grateful for the freedom I enjoy and for the soldiers who have died to protect it.  May this nation always be worthy of the sacrifices brave men and women have made for it!

 

 

{7QuickTakes} Belated weekly mishmash, Vol.5

My kids are watching The Good Dinosaur while I attempt to get something actual contributed to this blog!!  I haven’t abandoned it.  But y’all – May. Is. Crazy.  And I only have two in school.  But the programs, and the field trips, and the catching-up-on-everything-academic-because-the-school-year-is-almost-done-ing.  Plus, the kids are all antsy to be foot-loose and fancy-free and have all this pent-up “school’s out for the summer” anticipation and it is making me batty.  But…..I am sure I am not alone on this one.  Check out more moms (and dads!) who are probably going through this exact same thing at Kelly’s bloggin’ linkup.

ONE.

Hubby is back on shift work after a blessed hiatus.  The overnights are the worst.  The days (14 hours gone from home) are pretty bad also.  It is, for me, like being a single parent the days he is working.  He basically comes home, eats, and goes to bed.  Trying to focus on the positives…like, he does have a job.  This is a big plus.  And also, he does get to have 4 days off after his 4 days of work.  Which is nice, so we can do things together, like have a conversation.

TWO.

Two of my brothers came for a visit this week.  It is always nice to see family, particularly when we live so far away.  My youngest brother is moving back to the Midwest after his Active Duty stint in the military and my oldest younger (got it?) brother flew out to help him move back.  We are located conveniently half-way from California.  My kids get such a thrill seeing their uncles [aunts too]when they come visit.  Plus it helps that my brothers are really, really great with kids.  (PSA: Youngest brother is single, ladies – he will make a great dad someday!!!)

THREE.

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Current drama streaming obsession: PBS’s Poldark. (Find it on Amazon or DVD) What a great costume drama!  What a great love story!  What fabulous scenery!

mv5botq3nzm1mzq0ov5bml5banbnxkftztgwnjazntqxode-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_ Current comedy streaming obsession: Fox’s The Last Man on Earth.  (We watch it on Hulu).  I absolutely love the character of Carol (Kristen Schaal).  I think she is my favorite part of the whole show…Will Forte is good, too, but I love Carol.

FOUR.

We were at the local indoor-kids’ play gym (thanks to torrential rain and a Hubby sleeping off his night shift) yesterday and Evvie completely ‘imprinted’ on this other mom who was there with her twin boys.  It was somewhat amusing for me, because baby Evs can be pretty choosy about people she goes so far as to smile at.  But this fellow mom must have been magical to her, because she kept toddling around after her and her sons and would walk right up to her and look up at her all longingly.  The other mom, blessedly, did not find it annoying or creepy like I might have in her place, but just laughed and told Evvie, “You’re so cute!”  Then, my oldest, Junior, said (loud enough for everyone to hear), “I think Evvie wants a new mom!”  Yeah, I must be totally rocking this parenting thing…

FIVE.

I have 5,954,256 items on the floor in my office right now.  When I started writing this blog post, there were zero.  My children love me so much that they feel the need to be close to me at all times, particularly when my attention is not 100% devoted to them.  They take this opportunity to helpfully pull out every available book, crayon, office supply, piece of garbage, sticker, plastic baggie, craft item, and toss it, tornado-style on the floor of my workspace.  And Hubby thinks it would be a “breeze” for me to work from home!  Well, maybe, but at the end of the workweek the house would need to be condemned, pretty sure.

SIX.

Been seeing the chiropractor for my shoulder for a few weeks now.  It is helping, but slowly.  I find it is less painful (surprisingly) when I am well-hydrated.  And I am awful about drinking water.  I was a water-drinking champ when I was in college, or working, or pregnant.  But now that I am none of those things I find it difficult to get the requisite ounces in every day.  My main issue is that I fill a glass or bottle with water but through the course of the day, I am running all over the house and/or the car and I forget where I’ve left my water.  I think I just need to fill my Camelbak backpack and wear that all day so I don’t lose my water.  Where’s my Water? is one of the kiddo’s favorite games.  I should have invented it.

SEVEN.

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French fries?  They put me right to sleep.

 

That’s all folks, have a great week!

 

 

A Mom’s ABC show-and-tell

This week, Bellie’s kindergarten class has started reviewing the alphabet by doing an “ABC Show-and-tell”.  Every day, each student is to bring in an item (or person or pet) that corresponds to that day’s letter of the alphabet.  Bellie is having a great time trying to come up with what she wants to bring each day.  [“D” day is tomorrow and Bellie really wanted to bring Hubby for “Daddy”, but unfortunately it is during the work day….luckily Hubby works 4-10 hr shifts during the week so he is off on Fridays.  I told Bellie she could bring her daddy in on Friday for “E” day instead – for “engineer”.]

If I were participating in this weeks-long ABC show-and-tell, here is what I would bring:

A – Anxiety.  Lately, especially because toddlers just learning to walk are little anxiety-producing balls o’ fun.  I love musing on how mine might fall down the stairs, take a nose-dive off the porch, hit her head on some piece of furniture containing right angles, pull down a bar stool on herself, trip over a geriatric (and unassuming) pet, find a Lego to nosh (and potentially choke)on…etc….etc…..

B – Bottoms.  I spend way too much of my time concerned about the state (wet? dry? stinky?) of those of my fellow household members.

C – Candy wrappers.  Everywhere!  Under the bed, in the couch cushions, squirreled away in underwear drawers, stuffed in pockets, hidden in the piano bench, left in car cupholders. Anywhere but the garbage can!

D – Diapers.  Don’t think I need to elaborate on this one.

E – Elephants.  As in, “Why do my children sound like a herd of elephants when they come in the house after school?”

F – Fair.  My children are very very very concerned that things in life are not this.

G – Goodnight Moon512bmv1xuuqlThe classic children’s fantasy tale in which a young rabbit settles himself down quietly for bed before eight o’clock while his caregiver relaxes by the fire doing needlework.

H- Hugs.  The best.

I – Introvert.  Me!  I should have considered this fact a little more carefully before filling my house with lots of additional people.  Who love me so much they want to be around me all. the. time.  Like when I’m in the shower…or on the toilet…

J –Jelly bean.  Something that may, at some point, be stuck up your toddler’s nose that might require medical attention.

K-Ketchup. My children’s favorite food group.

L-Laundry.  The never-ending story.

M- Minivan.  Heh.  I was one of those moms. The one who swore I would never have one.  Believe it!  I am now one of the cool ones.

N- No.  Why do I feel like I am always saying this to my kids?  It would help if their requests were “Can I help you out, Mom by (insert any conceivable chore here)?” instead of “Can I jump off the roof/drink an entire 2-liter of Mountain Dew/use the chainsaw to do an art project?”

O – Oasis.  A mother’s code name for the (5 seconds of peace she gets alone in the) bathroom.

P – Prayer.  With a whole lotta this and a little coffee, I can conquer the world.

Q- Queen.  As in “My family treats me like” (well, on Mother’s Day anyway)

R – Romance.  The sexiest thing my husband does for me is empty the dishwasher.

S –Surprise! Or as Hubby likes to say, #3 and #4.

T – Tampons. Fun toys found in Mommy’s bathroom drawer, to be brought out to entertain dinner guests.

U –Umbilical hernia surgery. Something fun you get to do following pregnancy #4 after your progeny have successively stretched out your belly button.

V- Vacation.  Or, as I call it, a trip to the grocery store without the kids.

W-Wind.  Gets passed (and laughed about) much in my house.

X-Xeroderma (look it up!) the condition of my skin after washing 10,000 sink-loads of dishes.

Y-Yoda – the wise, infinitely cool alien creature my children respect who I strive to emulate but what I actually end up being is a…..

Z- Zombie. I am still waiting for all of my kids to sleep through the night, EVERY night.

Mama said there’d be days like this

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photo: Wikimedia Commons

There’s something to be said about days when you wake up to kids fighting, a baby screaming, juice spilled on the floor, a splitting headache and a husband who is MIA. (What?  He went to church by himself to commune with God sans children…I pretty much want to be him right now).  And that word is  POOPY.

As in poopy diapers that need changing, seemingly constantly.  A teething little one who won’t stop crying in a decibal that is about five degrees short of making my ears bleed.  A house that looks like a hurricane visited – and this only five minutes after I completely cleaned and tidied yesterday.  A toddler crying inconsolably because his big brother won’t let him play with his Hex Bugs and Santa was mean and didn’t “bring me my own Hex Bugs!!!!” Plus a shoulder that has been in moderate-to-severe pain ever since I wrenched it carrying a 357-lb infant carseat around following the birth of my youngest.

Needless to say, not shaping up to be a stellar day.

Can this day be saved?

Generally, at this point, I start snowballing down the spiral of “woe is me” and “my life sucks” and “maybe I should just crawl back in bed with a bowl of ice cream”.  It is really tempting.  Particularly when my chosen vocation is vastly thankless, undignified, and fraught with tedium and noise.  What is the point of cleaning the house if it is just going to fall into disarray again?  What use, wiping that bottom, when it will need wiping again in an hour? (my kids like prunes)  Why should I even attempt to take a shower if two three four of my children bang on the door and cry the entire time because I have left them bereft for the five minutes I can hasily loofah myself?

The truth is, (as Hubby so  kindly reminded me) no job, no vocation, is without its repetition, occasionally monotony, and frustrations.  The janitor at Walmart is never “done” with his job.  He cleans the restrooms, and a few hours later, he needs to clean the restrooms again.  The teacher at my children’s school faces challenges during the day, and her job is definitely never complete.  That ER doctor, I’m sure, in between rushing around saving lives, needs to fill out boring paperwork that is probably no fun and not very rewarding.

It’s helpful to know that everyone has days like this.  The difference between the “woe is me” Rebecca and the “I can keep going” Rebecca is attitude.  Or, in the very least (if I aI cannot summon positive thoughts) to FAKE IT TIL I MAKE IT.  This little mantra has helped me out on more bad days than I can count.

I pretend I am in a positive mindset and eventually I really do feel more positive.  It’s kind-of like that dumb(I thought) tip I read in a teen magazine years ago.  Even if you are not happy, smile – and that will trick your brain into thinking that you are.  The weird thing is, there is some truth to it.

My other “Get out of a bad mood quick” hacks are:

1.) Stop what I am doing and sit down with a good book.  It seems kinda counterintuitive, but when  I am frustrated with the futility of getting housework done with little tornadoes underfoot, taking a book break can give my mind a rest and energize me to get more work done afterwards.

2) Put on my ear-buds and turn up some tunes. This is especially effective to tune out the fighting, crying, and demands from the kiddos.  Make sure you perfect your “What?  I can’t hear you!?” face.

3) Watch a 22-minute show on Netflix that inspires.  My go-to show right now is Fixer Upper.  I don’t know why, but I find Chip & JoAnna Gaines really upbeat, and I get super-motivated to beautiful my house afterwards.

4) Tackle a project that I can finish.  I never realized how effective this one was, until I read Gretchen Rubin’s Happier at Home.  She says that motivation leads to more motivation and the quickest way to get motivated about getting things done is to complete something. I think so many times in our lives, we moms get used to being interrupted.  Ergo, finishing projects, activities, movies, chores, etc is often a rarity.  I am actually surprised sometimes I ever finish cooking dinner.  But coming up with something that I can tackle and finish (the finishing is the important part) in the space of a certain amount of time is inspiring and encourages me to keep going, or at least move forward with a more productive mindset.  I have 5 minutes while the kids are distracted with something shiny!  I can match socks from the lost sock bucket.  30 minutes left of naptime?  I can do a marathon tidy of the downstairs living room while plying the older kids with candy to stay out until I am done.

5) Sometimes, the one that is the most effective is just to stop whatever I am doing, or attempting to do and SIT DOWN WITH MY KIDS. I often feel like my days are only as valuable as the number of things I can check off my “To Do” list.  I view my kids as distractions, interruptions, inconveniences to my great master goal of “Getting Things Done”.  Uh, hello?  They are the reason I have to get things done, not the distraction from it!  It can be easy to forget when you are tired, or overwhelmed, or sick of listening to kids yell at one another.  (I adore this article from Danielle Bean, which perfectly highlights the struggle and response I strive to have.) But often, I have found that my kids can sense when I am trying to put my mental and physical energy elsewhere and actually act out to try and get some of that energy back to them.  And it can be more effective in the long run to take some time out to sit down with them and play, or talk, or just be present for a few minutes instead of worrying about the laundry and the dishes and dinner and the bills and the ants that have invaded Junior’s room because he squirreled away crackers under his bed.  Sometimes a cuddle is all that is needed to rejuvenate a day gone sour for Momma and cubs.

I am a firm believer in redemption.  Redemption for human beings (no man is beyond it) and redemption for days (no day is beyond it).  This train got derailed pretty early this morning but it is not too late to drag it back onto the tracks and turn it around.  But I might go back to the cafe car and grab a bowl of ice cream just in case. ♥

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m Rebecca, and I am afraid to ask for help.

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They tell me I shouldn’t help others with their masks until I get mine on. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

I took a course from a life coach several years ago, and one of the weekly lessons was “Learning to Trust Others”.  Among the activities that week was “Asking Someone for Help” with something you needed.  I have to admit, this was one of the hardest activities of the entire course for me.

After being raised by independent, Republican, “we-don’t-need-anyone’s handouts” parents, the concept of asking for help seemed foreign to me.  Especially as a teenager after watching my recently widowed mother shun offers for help numerous times.  Eventually people quit offering.

Is this because she really *didn’t* need help?  Because those 8 kids under the age of 18 were super duper easy to raise all on her own?  Because she *could* Do It All Herself?  That she was getting by quite beautifully, thank you?  Heavens no.  She could have used the help.  The companionship of friends to talk to.  The convenience of having someone else run errands and get groceries so she could spend more time comforting her children in their time of grief.  The reliance on having other male family members step in to mentor young children suddenly growing up without a father.  But she didn’t.  Because you don’t ask for help when you can – feasibly, whatever the internal and emotional struggle – Do It Yourself.

Now, I don’t blame my mother.  She was only operating on autopilot, the only way she knew how and believed to be the mature thing to do.  Asking for help meant revealing her own vulnerabilities and perhaps having to be “beholden” to another person.  She had lost her parents young as well, and there was no one there to help her cope with those losses then; why on earth would she need anyone to help her through her loss now?

As an adult, I vowed that I would not follow that same path. I would ask for help if I needed it.  And especially after dealing with debilitating rounds of depression that left me hospitalized, it was a fact that I needed help in order to get better.  So I enlisted my husband, my friends, and my sisters to be my Help Squad.  And, by the grace of God, I have gotten through those episodes, not quite unscathed, but certainly wiser and more in control of my diagnoses.  Without their help I would, most certainly, no longer be alive.

I am doing much better these days.  But I still have little hiccups.  And I need to ask for help.  I need help with the kids so they don’t overwhelm me with their needs.  I need help with the housework so I can focus on my own needs.  I need help from someone who will listen to me free from judgment.  And I find it very, very, difficult to ask for help in those times.  Because I should be capable.  Because I am not a danger to myself or others at this point, just feeling a little stressed and down.  Because I *should* be able to Do It All Myself.  Because I don’t want to be a burden.

Sensing a hereditary pattern here?

Deep breath.  I remind myself of that and make a plan.  Number one: Call Hubby and ask to have an afternoon “off”, where I can go sit at a coffee house and read a book.  Number two: Call my good friend just to chat.  Number three: Pay another friend’s school-age daughter to come in for a few hours to act as Mother’s Helper so I can get some chores done.

See?  I can ask for help.  There is no shame in needing the assistance of others sometimes.  It doesn’t automatically mean you are “taking advantage” of anyone’s generosity or are willing to lazily accept “handouts” from hard-working individuals.  It means you are taking care of yourself.  And by taking care of yourself, it means you are better able to take care of others.

Who might, in turn, need your help some day.

 

The Mercy of Failed Best-Laid-Plans

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photo credit: freeimages.com

I have trouble leaving the house on time.  And with four little ones to hustle to the minivan with all the requisite lesson stuff and shoes and coats and underwear (yes, as it so happens, my dear Bellie one day “forgot” her undergarments on a trip to the grocery store.  And she was wearing a skirt.  She didn’t get what the big deal was.) it gets a little frenzied at times.  We generally are never more than 10minutes 15minutes 30 minutes late.  So, I have taken to “padding” our ETL (Estimated Time of Leaving).  It takes approximately half an hour to get to town from The Ranch. (We love living in the country, but the time to commute must be factored in).  Then, I add 15 minutes to “transition” from house to car.  I don’t know why getting the kids out the door, into the van, and strapped takes 15 minutes, but it does.  Prior to that, I make sure the kids are properly anticipating the Leaving of the House.  They get warnings at 10-minute intervals for at least thirty minutes prior to the “transition” 15 minutes.  Needless to say, it is a process.  And one that requires constant vigilance to the clock on my part.

Yesterday, I considered it a victory when I had herded all the kids plus myself into the car so we could leave the house at that exact 30-minutes-to-commute mark.  Phew!  I turned my key in the ignition and – CLICK.  My battery was dead.

Now, our geriatric minivan battery has been on its last legs for several months.  I was not sure if I would even be able to jump start it back to life, and we were late for Junior’s karate class anyway at this point, so I opted to just say screw it and stay home.  I texted Hubby to be sure to pick up a new battery on the way home from work.

The weird part was, I was really ticked off about this turn of events.  It was no big deal.  Karate wasn’t a requirement, and the kids were, by and large, pleased that they got an evening off from running to town.  It gave me extra time to get the kitchen cleaned up and dinner on the table.  We could afford a new car battery and my car had died, conveniently, in our own driveway so I was not stuck somewhere foreign with four unhappy kiddos and the logistics of getting home to think about.  The situation was nothing bad.

So, why was I irked?  Because, it was not in my plan.  And, certainly, when I had begun the whole “count down” routine an hour and fifteen minutes before Junior’s karate class was due to start at 5pm, I was single-mindedly working toward my goal of getting out of the house and to class on time.  My reward was to be that, having dropped Junior off, I would sit in my car and gloat over the fact that I was such a great CEO of my time.

Best-Laid-Plans.

I was just musing over the fact that we human beings are obsessed with control.  Regardless of whether you consider yourself a control freak or more laissez-faire, each one of us is invested somewhat in being able to control our looks, our health, our family members, and, yes, our future.  Or perhaps, I should say, invested in the illusion that we are, in every instance, in control.

As a mother, I really struggle with the concept of control.  First of all, having four littles running around like banshees the vast majority of the time makes one feel very out-of-control.  And, by nature, I am a control freak.  I want to be able to control my children’s behavior at all times.  And shouldn’t I?  Won’t the general populace look upon me with derision and scorn if I am unable to control my children’s behavior in a public place?  Won’t I be neglecting my duties as a parent if I don’t control my children’s media time, the friends they have, and their time spent doing homework?  It’s commonly agreed that involved parents are better for creating the next generation’s leaders and contributing members of society than parents who let their children do whatever they want.  Isn’t this all about control?  If I can control every aspect of my day, including my children’s behavior, activities, and schedule, won’t that guarantee they will lead happy, safe, and successful existences?

The truth is, I can’t.  None of us can.  Trying to be in charge of our circumstances 100% of the time is impossible.  We do our best, and need to learn to let go of the rest.  And honestly, if I naively think I can or should be in control all the time, where does that place God in my life?  It relegates Him to a minor, supporting role.  As a Christian, I believe in an All-powerful, All-knowing, All-in -Control diety.  I need to remind myself that much of the time, IT DOESN’T ALL DEPEND ON ME, and then leave the rest to Him.  He is in control, and He knows what He is doing.  His plans may not be my plans.  It is merciful that He allows me to have “reality checks” once in awhile that remind me of that, even in the annoying guise of car trouble.

Those two blue lines on the pregnancy test when Hubby & I were “done” having children?

Only able to find a minimum-wage retail job after I graduated from college in the midst of the recession?

Having to cancel a much-anticipated trip when Hubby lost his job?

All dressed to the nines for Christmas mass when the youngest child gets a violent incarnation of the stomach flu?

God says, “You’ve done all you can, now let me handle this.  It’s OK.”

And you know what?  Somehow, it does always wind up being OK.  And I breathe a sigh of relief that I no longer have to be the Atlas of Control.  But I probably will still ask God’s help for getting me out of the house on time.