{7QuickTakes} Spring Break Edition

The calendar finally says it’s spring!  Hooray!  Be sure to check with Kelly to see if everyone else over there is as excited about it as I am!

Here’s what has been going on here lately:

ONE.

This last week was my older children’s spring break.  Because Hubby had to work most of the week (ugh…he is on an insane schedule currently!) we were only able to take a few days away.  Our destination: Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

I am a mountain girl and I love me some Tetons.  We stayed up at the ski resort but, mainly due to the expense, did not downhill ski.  We settled for going into Grand Teton National Park and doing some cross-country skiing.  This was the first time Spike got on a pair of skis and he was a trooper!

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The couple that skiis together…is probably yelling at their kids through the course of this photo shoot because the oldest is hogging the camera, the middle two want to take pictures too, and the youngest one is trying to eat something in the snow that looks suspiciously like a chocolate egg but is more likely elk poo.

TWO.

This Lenten fast from alcohol is hard for me, not gonna lie.  Before, I enjoyed my glass of wine with dinner most nights and usually a cocktail or two on the weekends.  It was something I looked forward to.  Especially after a long day of dealing with the demands of several small (and oftimes crabby) people.  And now, I realize, maybe my alcohol consumption was tipping the scales at being a little too much.  Particularly because I miss it so much after only a few weeks of abstaining!  Yikes.  But maybe that is good.  To step back and reassess exactly how much I had been drinking.  Along with that, just to see if I can fill my craving for something more healthy (or…how about spiritual…since this is Lent, after all?).  But still it is hard.  I absolutely love wine.400px-glass_of_red_wine

THREE.

Earlier this week the two younger ones helped me clean.  I have to remember that it is the effort that counts.  Even if I have to clean up after them cleaning up.

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This is right before she ran off to do something else and slipped dramatically in her puddle of doom.

FOUR.

My framing project of a few weeks back is complete!  I ended up ordering a custom frame for the oddly-shaped oblong poster (which STILL wound up costing around $70 – AND I had to assemble it myself) and then bought a $15 poster frame at Michael’s for the other one.  The problem was this generic frame was slightly too big and I was faced with the problem of trying to make my own mat.  I had initially thought of buying matting board and cutting it to size, but ended up using a burlap ribbon I had lying around.  I glued it onto the backing and it seemed to work OK.  I was worried it was going to look goofy, but I am pretty happy with how it turned out.

FIVE.

Evvie (at 2 years 2 months) is currently in the violent throws of the Terrible Twos.  Today she had a knock-down drag out tantrum because I refused to let her play with a colorful feminine sanitary product she found in my purse.  This morning at breakfast she was upset that she wasn’t permitted to eat off her sister’s plate. She tossed her bacon onto the floor in disgust, loudly proclaimed, “No WAY, Mom!”  After a two-second pout, she announced, “I hung-y” (toddler speak for “hungry”), climbed down off her chair and, before I could stop her, grabbed the floored bacon and put it in her mouth.  Mommy’s gray hairs are fast appearing thanks to this one!

SIX

I have been really, really craving some alone time lately.  I am an INTJ on the Briggs Meyers personality scale, and that basically means “I Need To Just be alone sometimes for my sanity”.  Just kidding.  But it does mean that I am an introvert who recharges by being by my lonesome.  Which is really hard to do when you’ve got a family that includes young and hyper-demanding children.  Whom I love very much and would not trade for the world.  Just need a break from once in a while.

In the last two weeks, I have gotten the following exciting and fun opportunities to recharge:

1) One hour sans kids at the Public Library.  This pretty much is like winning the lottery for me.  I mean, going to the library alone. Never. Happens.  It was so invigorating.  I got to look at books without a devious toddler methodically playing snowplow with the books on the bottom shelf.  I got to read the summary on the back of a novel that looked interesting without my preschooler tugging my shirt and whining that this was boooooring.  I didn’t have to be embarrassed by the stern-looking adult book section librarian when my older two decided to illustrate their maturity to the masses by kicking each other and then announcing in very-unacceptable-for-the-library voices that it’s her/his fault, not mine!  Sigh.  Heavenly.

2) Annual lady exam at the gynecologist.  Well, the exam was not the rejuvenating experience to which I refer.  It was the waiting room.  Alone.  I got to read a magazine.

I guess I need to take what I can get!

SEVEN.

It was with great sadness that I heard about the latest terrorist attack.  In London, no less, where I anticipate going later this year.  With every fresh and horrific (and need I say, senseless) tragedy of this kind that occurs around the world there is an aura that we are not safe.  There is an insidious yet persistent scuttlebutt that fuels our worries: We are not safe when we travel, we are not safe when we are at home.  There is terror and mayhem lurking everywhere.  There is evil everywhere and there is no recourse for us.

Pretty much every time there is another extremist attack, another bombing or assailant driving a truck into crowds of people, my mother contacts me in fear and disgust.  Fear generally provokes her to say how crazy it seems to her that I want to travel to Europe. (I think she would be happier if I had announced I was going to sneak into and flamboyantly wave an American flag in North Korea).  Every new terror attack seems to cement in her mind that Europe is a dangerous, unstable place teaming with evil-minded religious zealots.  And she tries to make me feel nervous and bad about my decision to travel.

The truth is: travel will always be a bit dangerous.  It is fraught with risks.  But then again, so is life.  You have the option to embrace it, and open yourself to the opportunity for growth, or you can “play it safe” and stay home.  At home, you may never put yourself in the kind of situations where you might be unsafe, but expanding your horizons is a whole lot harder when you’re standing in one place.

So, that is my operative philosophy going forward.  I definitely hope and pray that a terror attack doesn’t ever affect my daily life or that of my loved ones.  I pray for the victims and for the souls and minds of the attackers who feel murder and mayhem is the answer.  But I am not cancelling my trip because it comes with risk (sorry, Mom!).  And, like wiser people have said before me, that the best way to stand up to terrorism is to show the terrorists that we will not be cowed by attempts to make us so.

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Have a wonderful week!

 

 

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A Perfect Marriage

 

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Hubby showing me his moves on the dance floor.  (And he is doing a bent-leg shimmy here…he is short but not THAT short!)  It’s always a good thing when you can laugh at with your spouse.

I’ve been musing about marriage lately,  and it just so happens today is my Twelfth wedding anniversary!  That seems crazy to me that we’ve been married a dozen years.  It has gone by very quickly, but there are alternately those times where it feels like it has been forev-ah.

Jacob and Nancy Crookse

Marriage means stickin’ it out through thick and thin…and sometimes making do with chicken wire instead of those fancy backdrop thingees.

 

Which leads me to wonder how many marriages, particularly those of my generation,  will end only with the death of a spouse instead of divorce. How many couples will choose “til death do us part” instead of dissolution and lawyers and custody battles and alimony. Because it’s hard. It’s hard to stay in a marriage when you are having problems. It’s hard to “work on it” when your spouse seems indifferent, when you feel neglected or unappreciated or just too dang overwhelmed and frazzled with LIFE to really be willing to focus energy on a marriage you secretly wonder may have been a “mistake”.  Especially when all of your friends and others you respect seem to have their love lives all together…

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You don’t just marry your spouse…you marry their whole family.

Back in the day, when Hubby and I were doing marriage prep classes, I felt like I was mooning around in a hazy rose-colored fog of smugness.  He and I were so “compatible” (the little test they gave at one of the sessions said, apparently, that Hubby and I were an emotionally mature couple who had no unrealistic expectations of marriage.  Which, at the time was entirely true. ) We were both ready to be married and loved and respected each other.  Stupidly, at that time, I also thought (for that reason) we were much better matched and ready for a lifetime of conjugal bliss than the majority of the population.  That we would Never. Have. Problems.  (Well, at least not more concerning than someone leaving clothes on the floor or the toilet seat up.) That simply being “made for each other” as the trite little saying goes, would make us utterly and completely immune to the forces of the world that would try to tear us apart.  That we would be one of those marriages that people looked at, years from now, when we were little old people puttering around in Assisted Living, as “such a Perfect Marriage.”

A and J Lagowski c1950

If it isn’t work, you are not doing it right!

Oh, I realized that marriage was bound to be work.  But I didn’t realize to what magnitude that work would be.  No one really goes into the nitty gritty of how hard life as a spouse gets when you have to face things together you hoped you’d never have to deal with.  Job loss, serious illness, sick children, fights over how to best care for elderly parents.  I didn’t think seriously about what it was going to be like with four young children in the house screaming all day and then the violent, irrational Resentment I would feel when he got home from work and wanted to “relax”.  How it creeps up on you; you start looking at your spouse as that man who “did this to you”, instead of as this wonderful human being who God placed in your path to fulfill your vocation as wife and mother.  How you begin to blame each other for life’s annoyances.  How you begin to question, “would I be happier, really, if I could just leave?”  And, “Do I deserve better?”

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For better or for worse.  But never for perfection.

Thank God that marriage is a sacrament.  Thank God for the vows that I exchanged with my Hubby, who really is a good, Godly, honorable man who loves me deeply.  But I honestly don’t believe love alone would have saved our marriage during its dark times.  I meant, very seriously, those words I said twelve years ago.

I promise to love you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health.  I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.

Burvee Marriage 1890

“You want to do what?  Homestead in a barren wasteland?  Yes, please, I’ll follow you anywhere!”  Now that’s love.

The vows I made have gotten me through the tough times.  And the knowledge that Hubby and I am not in this marriage alone.  (God’s definitely got His work cut out for Him.)

Do you like all these wedding/couple pictures?  As I was putting this post together I was thinking how each one of these married couples, my antecedents, made a commitment for the long haul.  They did make it to “til death do us part.”  Did they have perfect marriages?  Did they have blissfully romantic unions chock full of whimsical serendipity and only marred by small inconveniences?  Hell no.  They knew hardship.  They knew loss.  They may have spent more time thinking about how unhappy they were in their marriages than anything else, I don’t know.  They may not have even liked each other very much.  Who knows, some of them (those I have known personally excluded of course) might have been miserable human beings who really weren’t balls of fun to be around.  But they stayed together.  Of course divorce wasn’t as viable an option back then, but maybe they too had some sense that marriage was a fundamental building block of society, that remaining married proved economically smarter, and children retained untold benefits from their parents being and remaining married.

 

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This photo was taken right before they realized they’d left my little brother at the gas station.

 

One day, in the midst of one of our nastier arguments, I made some snide comment to Hubby about something I felt he had done wrong.  I will never forget the look on his face when he said, very quietly, “I never said I was a perfect person.”  That statement gave me pause and I recognized that I had been expecting him to be.  Why is that?

Years ago, I read the novel Recipes for a Perfect Marriage by Morag Prunty.  It was a great book that captured the way I think many of my generation think about marriage: as a fairy tale romance for those lucky souls who meet and marry their “soul mate”.  It comes down to the idea that if you find the “right one” marriage should be a breeze.  Oh, and you should always feel blissfully “in love” most of the time.  If that isn’t the case, you should probably get divorced so you can find someone else who might, this time, satisfy your every emotional need and desire.

In Prunty’s novel, the reader follows the protagonist, Tressa, who is newly married and carries an idealistic view of how marriage works, due, mainly, to her perception of her grandparents’ “perfect” marriage.  When her own marriage isn’t as great as she thinks it ought to be, Tressa wants out.  Little does she know, her grandparents’ marriage was not the magical union she thinks it was.  Tressa learns, as she reads her grandmother’s diary, that her grandfather was a “consolation prize” for her heartbroken grandmother, who refused to show affection for the husband she felt almost forced to marry.  In fact, it wasn’t until years later that love finally began to take root, nurtured by shared experiences and affection.  But even on his deathbed, Tressa’s grandmother struggled to tell her husband she loved him.  Even though she did.  Very much.  Not your typical “romantic” marriage, but it worked.  It was imperfect, but happy.

Why do we want to have that “perfect” union? Our heads are filled with visions of Hollywood romance, usually focusing on the wedding, but also filled with spouses who listen always, criticize never, and always, always know what we want (love means being a mind-reader).  We think we should perpetually feel a deep, sensual and exciting love for our spouse.  We constantly want to feel as though we are “in love”, like we did when we first met.  We don’t want to ever fight.  People who love each other shouldn’t disagree, right?  We also want someone who respects our individuality while remaining completely selfless when it comes to our desires.  Someone to have and to hold who never has a bad day and takes it out on us.  Someone who will uncomplainingly do all the household chores (most particularly the ones we don’t enjoy), go to work, and still have time and energy for long, intimate talks and walks on the beach.

Ha.  This person doesn’t exist. (Well, maybe on someone’s match.com profile) Because this kind of perfection is not attainable by human beings.  So, what do we do?  Give up on marriage as an institution because we can’t make it what we want, because we can’t expect it (and our spouses) to be our end-all, be-all?

No.  We need to realize that God adds that element to our marriages.  Our marriage can be “perfection” but only through God.  I will never be able to be the perfect wife.  Hubby will never be able to be the perfect husband.  But Christ is the Perfect Spouse.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  This includes a loving marriage.

With His help, our marriages can be Holy.  Our marriages can be purposeful.  Our marriages can be Perfect.

40

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:-)

 

 

 

 

 

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.