Sunday, October 24, 2010

Back to the Basics

Let me just be blunt. Parenting is honest. I joke that I was a much better parent before I actually had children. That is because I really thought that if I did things a certain way, was a certain kind of mother, my kids would be these beautiful little creatures that brought joy to the world. I will admit that I naively would look at children who were misbehaving or causing problems, and I would think, "Oh, the parents must not be doing something quite right..."

I don't believe in karma, but if I did...well, it bites.

Sorry. I shouldn't have said that. And I still could erase it but I won't. I am too tired to erase it. And I meant it. I still shouldn't have said it quite like that.

Anyway, I apparently forgot a couple of factors.

I am not perfect. I want so much to be perfect, to a fault really. But I am so not. And my attempts at being a perfect parent have failed big time. I rarely make lunches and even more rarely put in sweet notes of love and adoration. Lauren does that for me sometimes in Maria's lunchbox (who despises getting them :). I haven't made a Halloween costume in years. I don't have big birthday parties for my kids. I yell sometimes and sometimes say the wrong things. And when met with some challenges, I sometimes feel like I am grasping at straws as to what to do, how to handle them.

The other factor? These children. They have their own personalities. What works for one doesn't work for another. Ultimately, they make their own decisions.

And really, how could I not know that? After all, at the beginning of time, human time, God created this amazing earth. And He brought forth some amazing creatures...animals, plants, etc. Finally, he created (out of dust) a man and then brought forth a woman to complete the picture. And they had this incredible garden to live in. They had no jobs they were required to do. There was no war, no sickness, no death. No sadness, no hunger, no fatigue. It was a perfect place. And God was and is the perfect Father. Yet even with all of this in front of them, what did that man and woman do? They made their own decision to eat of the ONE tree that God told them not to touch. And then life was never the same.

If two people, grown ups no less, made such poor decision even with a perfect heavenly Father, what on earth will my children do with a very imperfect mother?

We also have our own circumstances that may differ from the usual household. We have two children who are not only dealing with our expectations in their life but also dealing with shadows of their past. Any adopted child, no matter who they are, how old they were when they came home, and how much they are loved, struggles with feelings of loss and pain. Some more than others.

All that to say, parenting is hard. Sometimes I do all of the things I think I should do, but ultimately my kids make their own decisions. Sometimes I am proud of their decisions, other times I am left shaking my head in wonder and dismay.

So what do I do? I cry. I pout. I question every word, everything I have done or said. I compare and wonder why other families look so more normal than ours does. I share my worries with friends and seek any solutions I can.

This morning I was thinking about one child who has been a bit more challenging recently. I was going through all of the things I have just mentioned, wondering why, what can I do to fix things, how can I be such a failure as a parent...

And God stopped me.

Pray, Reba.

Um, what, God? I do pray. Almost every night before they go to sleep, I pray with the kids and specifically pray for the challenges we face.

No, Reba. Not with them. Pray for them.

Uh, God, I do that too. Maybe not every day. Maybe just when I am at the point of desperation. But I do.

Reba...Reba...(Do you think God shakes His head when He speaks to us like I do when I am dealing with my children?). Pray for them. Earnestly. Not in passing. Not when the whim hits. Be intentional. Truly pray. And don't just pray...listen. Let Me work. Trust that I am in control.

So that is my goal. To pray. Often and unceasingly. Specifically for each child. And to listen. To truly hear what He says as He guides me through this crazy thing called life.

Hold me to it, dear friend(s).


Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Way We Were

This Tuesday, we will celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary. I have been thinking about several anniversaries we have had since our wedding day...

Like our first anniversary. We had just moved to NWA earlier in the summer (well, I had...Mark had lived here some while I finished out the school year in LR). I was in my first year of teaching at the school where I still teach (fifth year in all). We had just had parent/teacher conferences and I was battling allergies in a big way. We had a weekend away in Eureka Springs, not far down the road (not sure what we were getting away from...we were childless). And I could barely talk. We had fun, I think, but I may have put a damper on the mood when I announced (on this trip) that I thought my biological clock was ticking and maybe we should have a baby. :) I am not sure Mark said much the rest of the trip. True, we had said we would wait three or four years, but you know, a girl can change her mind...

I don't remember much about our second anniversary. We probably didn't have the money to do much of anything. We had just moved into our first house. And I was about 7 months pregnant (though we didn't know at the time who we were having :). Mark was in a new job, then switched jobs again shortly afterward.

I don't remember every anniversary (aren't you thankful?). I know we have gone to Branson a time or two for the weekend. One year, we just went away for a night at a hotel in a neighboring city. Child 3 had joined our family a few months prior, and she was VERY clingy. So getting away was a nice treat. One year, Mark surprised me with a night away at a Bed and Breakfast nearby. Another year we just stayed at home as a family. I made dinner, then attempted a chocolate pound cake. Well, the cake turned out fine, but then I decided to clean out the oven with "self-cleaning" mode which apparently was a bad idea since some of the cake batter had spilled over. I ended up smoking us out of the house (I don't think there was actually fire...); thankfully it was a nice evening as we hung outside in the fresh air. Another year we spent our anniversary (as a family) in the Memphis area, celebrating our friend Cole's No Mo Chemo party as he finished up treatment for leukemia. We visited the Memphis zoo (a favorite) and ate at Joe's Crab Shack. Last year, we dropped the kids off at my parents' house for a night at home alone. We had our first meal at Theo's (YUM) and then went on a hike the next day at Devil's Den. It was a lot of fun in 24 hours.

This year...we really thought we would have a weekend away in New York City. Mark has been before, but I haven't. It is high on our list of places to visit. We have talked about it off and on. In the end though, at least at this point in time, life is too busy and NY is too pricey. So we are at home. (We have some special plans for our actual anniversary this week but right now, there is rain in the forecast for that day which would ruin our plans...)

And that is okay.

Oh, New York would have been a lot of fun, but the truth is, we have fun no matter where we are (even when there are screaming kids in the background).

And being together is what really matters.

Maybe next year, Big Apple!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Late Breaking News

Not really. I mean, I have no late breaking news to share. Didn't want rumors to get started. :)

I am referring to the miner situation...the big rescue. Wow. That is really all I can say. Wow. (Of course, you know me, I will say more anyway :)

I have lightly followed the situation in the news but unfortunately it all started around the start of school so life was a bit crazy at that time. I missed a lot of it. It has just been the last few weeks I have understood what these men were dealing with. And it amazes me. I am fairly claustrophobic, so the thought of being underground that long in the dark makes me ill to my stomach. That makes me just sit here in awe in itself that they did it...and did it well.

There there is the rescue. All of this technology, and yet it was a simple pulley system that brought that first miner to surface (I do realize technology was responsible for helping figure it all out). I actually missed the first rescue since I wasn't familiar with the time difference between our two countries. Thank goodness for the many proclamations on Facebook; I was able to watch the next two rescues. This morning, while we were getting ready for school, we turned it on and caught another one (a big treat since we NEVER turn on the TV in the morning).

At school, during calendar time, I shared with my students about what was happening. Then I turned on the t.v. to see if we could catch one of the rescues. It was in between, but a few minutes later, we caught it. It was very sweet sharing that moment with my students. Of course, I talked alot about how hard this must have been for their families, how long it had been, etc. When the wife of miner 14 started to cry, my students were touched. One yelled out innocently (and correctly), "Those are happy tears!" And they were. Another one commented about how much they would miss their family if they were apart that long. It was very sweet and very "deep thinking" for kindergarten. I really enjoyed sharing that moment with them.

Later this afternoon, I turned on the t.v. after school and watched any chance I had. I missed several, but I saw several...including the last three. Even child 3 was plopped down in front of the t.v. (being very quiet so I might not notice her bedtime :). And even at the end, I could only shake my head (with tears in my eyes) and say, "Wow."

I am so thankful that there are happy endings still.

Aren't you?
PS For a couple more happy endings or at least happy moments, I would encourage you to read Bonnie's latest post and our sweet friends J and A's latest post...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Healing Hearts

I feel like I walk a fine line with blogging some days. I want to share my heart, be honest, and hopefully connect with someone who will say, "I know. I know what you mean!" On the other side, I never want to embarrass my children or share too much. I don't want to use the blog as a political forum or as a way to retaliate against others when I am angry, tempting as that is on occasion. So many thoughts that cross my mind and are just itching to make it to the screen never do.

Which leads me to today's post which will be very brief. And will be much a tightrope experience, walking that line I mentioned above.

I forget sometimes. And then a comment is made and I remember.

Today we saw some pictures of babies in Guatemala. They showed up on my Facebook page via a friend. The babies had been abandoned at the hospital. Three precious faces. (not related that I am aware of) Sadly, there are no current adoptions with Guatemala, so the babies are headed to a hogar/orphanage to live for now and possibly years to come. I am sure the hogar is a wonderful place (from what I have seen), but life in an "institution" is not life in a family.

The kids happened to notice. The youngest is always curious about pictures. Child 2 wanted us to bring them home. And Child 3...

A few minutes later, I heard her voice. "Do you think they miss their mommy?"

I assured her I thought they did.

And then I remembered.

In my heart, child 3 is our family. She was brought to us.

But in her heart, she belongs to two families. One family she knows, the other is just a vision in her mind made up of memories and ideas I have shared (with little information to go on).

And that is always there. I always try to be open about it all when it does come to surface, but when it buries in her heart again for a while, it slips my mind...

I forget sometimes.

There is so much more to this story. Some I will share later, other parts I will keep hidden in my heart.

More later,

Thursday, October 7, 2010

No Superwoman

I had a little discussion with a friend/co-worker of mine who is currently battling breast cancer (and still teaching). She recently wrote a post on her own blog about how she wasn't the Superwoman that others made her out to be. I had to laugh because I was one of the people who suggested she was. She had had chemo one day and was at our teacher in-service the next. I thought that was pretty deserving of the title Superwoman. I really think so much of it is that I am in awe of what she does because I could only hope that if I were ever in that situation, I would be the same way. But I am not sure I would. (Not hoping to find out any time soon...)

All that to say, I often get the same thing. "Wow, Reba, I don't know how you do it!" "Four kids and a job? How?"

And I completely understand what my co-worker meant.

I am no superwoman.

I am far from it.

I have piles of laundry that need to be done.

My dining room is filled with clothes that need to be switched out for the fall...except of course, once I did that, it got warm again.

Some days I cook, other days I don't.

My youngest daughter hardly ever takes a lunchbox to school; we don't think to check until the morning.

On any given day, if you asked me where something was, I may or may not know. I almost always find what I am looking for, but it may take all day.

We have WAY too much clutter.

Exercise? Only if you count hiking on the weekends.

Quiet times? That would be at breakfast time when it is anything BUT quiet and I have four kids all trying to get my attention.

Well behaved children? Depends on the day...the hour...the moment. I am realizing more and more that we can teach them the right things to do but ultimately they are their own person. Please remember that if you see them not being the people I want them to be!

Star teacher? No. :( I love what I do, but I am not at every school event, am still working on classroom organization, and sometimes I am puzzled at how to help kids the most.

I could go on and on, but in another example, it is morning, I fell asleep last night, and once again, I failed to post the thoughts swirling in my head. Now I must get up and going for the day.

I wish I could be Superwoman. I could use some of those powers. Maybe then I wouldn't walk around with a load of stress on my shoulders, my stomach tight from the stress. Maybe then I would have the house I dream of (as in organized and inviting). Maybe then I would be about fifteen pounds lighter. Maybe then I wouldn't wonder all day which child had a bad day or if I am failing in the parenting department.

More later,

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Sunset Project

I mentioned not long ago that the sunsets recently have just captivated me. They continue to do so.

This fascination in God's artwork each night has developed into the Sunset Project for me.

Basically, I try to capture the sunset each night via camera. I considered setting up a separate blog and posting a picture daily but I am not sure there are many out there who are interested in an unprofessional photographer's poor attempt to capture the beauty of the skies every night.

Still, I click away on the camera. The main reason is because it makes me stop and take just a few minutes each day to truly behold and consider God's greatness. It also is a reminder to me that there is beauty around even when I cannot see it (like after a rough week of allergies, conferences, and other health stuff). Even our little guy often runs out with me to take pictures (I promise my neighbors I am not crazy or stalking...just trying to get a photo of the sky), exclaiming, "It is so beautiful, huh, Mommy?"

And it is.

Here are just a few pics from recent days. Remember, I do not claim to be a photographer. And I am pretty sure no camera could truly do it justice...but I try anyway. :)The cloud in the sky absolutely amaze me. They are so beautiful, especially with the sunlight behind them!

I love that you can actually see the rays of the sun in this one.
More later,