Monday, June 30, 2014

Commom Sense

No, it's not a misspelling. I said "commom" sense- as in common sense you learn during motherhood.

Things we have learned as a mom (kid ages birth through potty training):

Babies aren't as fragile as we think.
We can handle smells that would fell the biggest, toughest man on the planet.
Avoid anything with yellow mustard- just to be safe.
Your hearing becomes so acute you can hear a gnat sneeze.
You can get away with watching any kiddie shows, as long as you have a toddler with you.
Toddlers teach you to have fun. In the mud. 
Sometimes it's isn't mud they track into the house.
A sleep deprived body can still care for the entire household without falling over- much.
Despite these little people messing up the house and turning us into sleep deprived zombies, we can still love them more than anyone else.

Things we learned as a mom (toilet trained until puberty):

Kids aren't as tough as they think.
Sometimes we get nice smells- like when they pick the neighbors flowerbed clean and hand us a bouquet of flower heads- no stems.
Yellow mustard can now be safely put back onto the menu.
When the noises stop someone is either doing something they shouldn't, they are definitely doing something they shouldn't.
Kids make you change the channel because they are "so over" those shows for babies.
Kids teach you to have fun- by making you run for the ball, Frisbee, or anything else that rolls or flies through the air. 
They still track mud in the house- and by this time, you're glad it's just mud.
When you're sick, the kids are old enough to care for you- as long as you don't look in the kitchen and can live on dry cereal or kibble.
Despite these semi-little people messing up the house and making us exhausted, we can still love them more than anyone else.

Things we learned as a mom (puberty to semi-adulthood)

Even big kids need their Mom.
They enjoy tormenting us with excessive body odor or noxious emissions- girls included.
Anything in a squirt bottle needs to be confiscated, due to ketchup and mustard fights.
No noise is the goal, but silence also means they could be sneaking around and raiding your private stash of snacks.
Watching anything together becomes problematic; your shows are much too boring or silly, and their shows lack any kind of plot or makes sense- unless you've learned astrophysics in third grade like they did.
Teens help you to have fun by programming your multi-media gadgets, yet don't tell you how they programmed it, so you can no longer use it without consulting them.
Mud becomes anathema unless they are heavily involved in sports. The stuff tracked in has now reverted to organic matter, because they were too busy texting on their phones to notice what they stepped in.
Teens have no problem caring for you if you're ill or hurt- as long as you don't ask for anything and enjoy canned soup.
Despite these semi-adult people messing up the house and forcing us into therapy, we can still love them more than anyone else.

As for when these people become adults? I haven't gotten there yet, so I'll have to let you know. My kids are lucky that they survived this long. And yes, I still love them!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Critique vs. Criticism

Do you remember that old cowboy song Home On The Range? There's one line that stands out to me- "where never is heard, a discouraging word...". Can you imagine living your life without ever hearing a word of discouragement? Wouldn't that be a wonderful thing?

The song doesn't say you'll never be critiqued- because that is something entirely different. Criticism lacks advice, while critiquing encourages by giving advice on how to make it better. 

I never realized just how often I criticize my kids instead of critiquing. A perfect example of these differences happened this past Father's Day.

My daughter drew my husband a picture for Father's Day. I expected the work in full color, because I've seen her put in a mighty effort in when she drew for her friends. However, when Father's day came, she handed him a pencil sketch- no color. It bothered me that she didn't put her best foot forward for her dad, though the drawing was excellent.

"I thought you were going to color it." I blurted, just as she handed it to her father. My tone was one of disappointment. Her face flushed, and I realized that I had embarrassed her as well as made her gift look less than it was. 

I had criticized without giving her helpful information.

Of course, my husband loved it- she put a lot of effort into the line drawing and even added a little background scenery that she'd thought he'd like. But she and I both knew from exchanged glances, that she didn't do all she could have done. So I changed tactics. I wanted her to give him her best, but not embarrass her further.

I suggested, "If you color that for him, I'll put it in a nice frame so he can hang it on the wall and see it every day." She perked up at this (because she loves it when we show off her work), and happily agreed to do so- and dad will have something awesome to hang when she's finished.

Crisis averted.

Okay, so this wasn't a crisis- but it helped me to see what I was initially doing was wrong. Too many times I've criticized my kids when I could have been encouraging and teaching at the same time. Too many times have they stopped doing something because they didn't want to hear bad feedback- and it is bad if I do nothing but tell them "That doesn't look right" without actually telling them why- and how to fix it. Intonation counts too- I come from a City of Snarkiness where sarcasm abounds- and it flavors everything I do. It works great in comedy and blog posts, but not so great when raising kids.

I'm not the best mom, but with God's grace and patience, I'll learn new things each day and get better at it.

Maybe I'll get the hang of this child-rearing stuff by the time they graduate. Sigh.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Snap, Crackle, Pop- And I Don't Mean Rice Crispies

Living for the better isn't easy.

Lose weight, they say. All you have to do is eat right and exercise. And by "eating right" they mean eat three spinach leaves and a handful of something you hate a day, and by "exercise" they mean running a triathlon, build a house, and ignore the fact that your joints sound like bubble wrap. And only then you might lose weight. Phht.

And by "they" I mean anyone who gives advice on weight loss without ever having a weight problem in their lifetime.

I'm lucky if I can get up on the first lunge out of bed- most times I look like a walrus on it's back, limbs flailing helplessly as I try to make myself vertical. When I do manage this feat, gravity hits and I'm somewhere between Jabba the Hutt and a human puddle of flesh. I step on my own body parts as I make my way to the bathroom to depressurize and deflate.

I no longer look in the mirror- the last time I did, my hair looked like Don King and Einstein had a love child and my skin resembled a (nearly) hairless Shar-pei. Not entirely a motivating sight first thing in the morning. I really need to get a poster of Keira Knightly- I'd never have to worry about my looks or weight ever again. Or a cat. One that's smiling. Anything but the older chick with the wisdom highlights and crows feet so deep it looks like Big Bird hop-scotched across her face..

Getting dressed is fun too- I have to lower the bra further and further to scoop up the girls- pretty soon I'll be perky again- all I have to do is wait a few more years and I can roll those puppies up like socks and tuck them in. Then I'll be good to go. I'm not quite in wind-sock territory yet, but I have no qualms that that day is coming- probably sooner than I think.

There are also surprises sometimes when getting dressed- like finding my feet. I thought I lost them last week, but I found them again this morning! Of course when I stand up, I lose them again, but I have faith that I'll find them later. If I can't I'll ask my husband- he knows where everything is.

Stairs have become interesting. My knees crack when I go up or down, so if I do it right, I sound like a metronome. Sometimes I hum a tune in time to my knees- I wonder if I can hire myself out to traveling musicians- as long as they don't travel too far- a couple of blocks and I'm winded.

By this time, I've done more snap-crackle-popping than Rice Crispies- and I haven't even had breakfast yet. If I listen to the experts, breakfast will consist of a single bran flake, one raisin, and water. I'm a rebel, so I usually have eggs with cheese and bacon- I add a little tomato and spinach to the eggs to make the experts shut up. 
Exercise after breakfast- what could I do? Forget jogging- not only would I get two black eyes from the momentum, but all that bouncing would probably make something rip off- and it's never anything you'd want ripped off. Besides, I'd have to jog outside, and all that joint-popping and skin-slapping would probably get me fined for breaking the city noise ordinances.

Luckily by body compensates for this and makes me run up and down the stairs to the bathroom and back every few minutes. I never have to leave the house. I am the StairMaster.

It's time to eat again. Lunch consists of  some peas and a lettuce leaf. I shoot the peas at the groundhogs in my garden, then garnish the lettuce with a cheeseburger. 

After lunch I'm tired, so I take a nap. Most times I don't intend to- I find out I needed one after I wake up at the desk- or the couch- or when reading a weight-loss book.

I've tried walking. This I can do rather well, if I have the right cheer to go along with my knees. It usually goes something like this:
Snap, crackle, pop,
never gonna stop
Til my snap goes crackle,
and my crackle goes POP!

By this time the POP is my hip, and I'm done walking for the day.

Dinner is supposed to be any kind of salad, so I make mine with french fries, pizza, and Italian sausage- not that crumbly kind they use at the pizza shops, but those whole links you get at the grocery store- them's good eatin'! Oh, and extra cheese and crumbled bacon on the fries and a little fresh parsley- that last topping makes it count as a green salad.

Yet for some reason, I don't lose any weight. Experts my big fanny. "They" don't know squat!

Living for the better isn't easy. But at least it's fun!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Almost to the "Finished" Line!

It's happened. I've gotten the last chapter of my book back from my friend, the "critiquer". Now all I have to do is make the changes and send it back to her for another quick look, make any other changes she suggests, and my book will be ready to go to the agent.

Yes, you heard that right- not "an" agent, but "the" agent. I've got someone in the wings who wants to take a look at the finished work. I'm so excited!

Have you ever felt the undercurrent of God's power working in the background? If you have, you know exactly what I mean. I've been feeling it for a very long time- since the last writer's conference in fact. Something good is about to happen, but it feels like an underground stream; I can't see what's going on but I can feel the vibrations of something powerful running under the surface. 

I'm so close, I can almost taste the water!

There are other things happening too- remember that video I made? A new publisher asked if she could post my song video on her website. Isn't that awesome? All this started from a joke at a writer's conference- crazy! 

I promise to post the link(s) when she has the site finished. 

Unfortunately I can't post any "vlogs" just yet because my camera broke. But I'm not going to let that stop me!

I feel like Maxwell the pig in that insurance commercial- I want to stick my head out the window and yell "Whee! Whee, whee, whee!"

I'm almost at the "Finished" line- Next stop, "Published"!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Even God Rested!

I. Am. Tired.

This has been an insane month. I spent way too much time dealing with red tape concerning my son's fractured foot- three weeks of drama due to an insurance company that can't seem to find paperwork we sent three times- and clinic waiting rooms with wait times so long, Methuselah would have died had he gone in as a teenager.

I think the grand wait-time total was fourteen hours.

You'd think I'd be able to catch up on my writing and editing while we waited, but the staff interrupt you just enough that you get nothing done. They must have checked every corpuscle in his body by the time we actually got to see the doctors. This wasn't just once either- this happened every single time I had to go to an appointment with my  poor gimpy son in tow, because it was a new building, or a new wing of the hospital.

My son, however, was having a blast! No school until I could get the doc's note to allow him to use crutches, he was fussed over by the school staff, students, doctors, nurses and anyone he passed by on the street (he would wobble more on the crutches than usual when someone came near, then gleefully say "I fractured my foot!" getting the appropriate "Poor Guy!" response), taking in the essence of sympathy like the IRS takes in taxes. 

But these people never dealt with him at home, where he became a total invalid, incapable of doing anything but eating or sleeping- unless no one was looking. Then he would hop on one foot and do whatever it was he wanted to do, the little sneak.

Since the accident, he's been on no chore duty. My chore staff was down by one-third. It was just me and my daughter. Mostly not even me, since I was in the waiting rooms with my son. My daughter was...let's just say she wasn't thrilled.

So now I have a very messy house, a husband that was either doing overtime at work, or was at church (he's a deacon and also head of the church building care committee), a gimpy son and a really grumpy daughter. A daughter as of last week, had become sick with a spring cold.

I was the only remaining member of the housecleaning staff. Then my allergies hit me like a ram on a roller-coaster.

It's times like these I'm glad I have Jesus. But I would have liked to have a cleaning service too.

It's also times like these I know I'll never be caught up until everyone is a bit better (or available), so I took a cue from my kids. When I got too tired to move forward, I rested. And last week, I rested a lot.
I needed some time to recuperate from all the stress, not let a less-than-perfectly-clean house bother me (it's never really bothered me before this mess started, but I wanted the house to be somewhat cleaner than it was) and listen to what my body was telling me- If you keep this stuff up, I'm gonna hurt you. I've learned to listen.

I'm not God, so I can't do everything. God can do everything, and even He took a day off to rest- so who am I to try to do better than God? I'm not superwoman, I assure you. So when the kids are at school, and the morning chores are done, I'm going to rest- before my body decides to do it for me while I'm out food shopping.