Sunday, August 18, 2013

School, Here We Come

Tomorrow is the big day. The first day of school. Unless you're a kindergartner at our kids' school, in which case, it might be your first day of school, or it might not be your first day. It could be Tuesday, or even Wednesday. Don't ask me to explain. I'm weary of it. In our little kindergartner's case, tomorrow will be First Day of School Eve, which means I have 24 more hours to completely dread my little Lukey heading off to Big Boy School.

I have to change the subject immediately, or I might end up in a puddle of tears on the floor.

So, being the fab mom that I am, I have the homemade whole wheat muffins for tomorrow's breakfast cooling in the kitchen. Lunches are mostly made, except for the fresh ingredients I'll add in the morning as the children are happily and quickly getting ready for the day. (This is the plan. Keep in mind things do not always go as planned.) Clothes are laid out, notes and corny school jokes are written to add to little lunchboxes. And I'm right on track for breaking my new school year resolution for getting in bed on time every night so I can be up and at 'em bright and early.

I will not mention that I was snippy with my kids at bedtime and that there are dirty dishes in the sink. Except that I just did.

In all seriousness, I've been dreading this day for months and months. Not only is my little Momma's Boy heading to kindergarten this year (the child has never even been to preschool), but my first born and only daughter is starting....



I can't bring myself to type it. M-I-D-D-L-E S-C-H-O-O-L!!!

Oh the agony.

I know it sounds crazy, but I've been unable to thing about these two facts for more than a few seconds and have hated talking about them at all since the middle of the last school year. And I always said I'd never be that mom! The one who's all weepy about something as silly as your kids doing what they're supposed to do. But I am that mom.

Or I was. Until God gave me a good smack in the head and changed my perspective.

You see, I'm 36. And last time I went to my doc for that fun yearly visit that we all circle on our calendar and put little hearts beside, I was 34. Which means last month when I encountered that blessed day, it was time for my first mammogram.

What a fun year. A kindergartner. A middle schooler. And a mammogram. Who said getting older isn't fun?

So, I went in for the dreaded test, and the technician could apparently tell from the look on my face that I was less than thrilled. She quickly chided me for listening to all the horror stories and assured me it wouldn't be that bad. To my great surprise, she was right. In fact, the whole thing was rather comical to me. I felt like a Chinese contortionist in the circus, only half naked and with my boob squished flat under a giant Panini press. I do love a good Panini. It was hard to keep from laughing because the whole thing just felt ridiculous.

I went along my merry way, thankful it was over and that it hadn't been that bad. I finished the week by watching my husband's return to the stage (He was in The King and I at age twelve. Please ask him about that.) in our church's children's musical production. Needless to say, he gave a moving performance as Coach Q, the preachy leader of a kids' summer running club. Then we packed up enough stuff to survive for the rest of our lives on a deserted island and headed to the beach for a week. Remember? I was going there to de-stress.

Turns out the joke was on me. I was all stress-free until about three days in when I got a call from the nurse. Something had turned up on my mammogram and they wanted to take a second look.

What a vacation killer.

We actually had a really great week, except for all the quiet, still moments when I thought I might die from fear since I had already diagnosed myself with breast cancer and given myself a year to live. No, I'm not dramatic or a pessimist. Why do you ask?

So I spent the rest of the week riding emotional waves, fighting a battle in my mind, praying, and trying to just live in the moment.

Two days after we got home, I was back with the reassuring technician. This time the look on my face must have been one of pure terror, because she couldn't quit saying, "I told you not to worry!" And the more detailed mammogram was no laughing matter. It was all I could do to keep from crying it hurt so bad. When Miss Positive Mammogram Lady says, "This is going to be very painful. I'm just warning you," you know it's going to hurt. That lady don't lie.

You can imagine the worry I was fighting back, so I won't draw this out by trying to describe it. Now that it's over, I will say the Lord was gracious to give me many moments of peace as I wrestled through all of this with him. And then he was very gracious to have the nurse call back 24 hours later to tell me it was fine and there would be no further testing needed.

Oh, the relief that swept over me. I was so thankful, but also so aware that I did not deserve that news any more than anyone else. It was simply a gift.

And so I sit here, late to bed, which will mean a groggy momma tomorrow, with a bit of a new perspective of tomorrow (and the next day in Lukey's case). While it's still going to be a bittersweet week, I am thankful that I get to be here for it. I'm thankful for another start to another year of my children growing and learning, and I'm so glad that I get to be the one to bake their muffins and pack their lunches and sign all those thousands of pieces of paper they'll bring home and help them with homework. I'm so glad to share these fleeting, precious moments with them, and I look forward to seeing the people God is shaping them to be.

Is anyone willing to come whisper those words in my ear at 5:45am when that dreaded alarm clock goes off?

Now I will post this without proofreading so that this Night Owl Momma can get to bed. (I want to proofread it so badly!)

Happy School Day!!

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Not-So-Lazy Days of Summer

Ahhh, summertime. A time of relaxing, sleeping in, hanging out, taking it easy. A time when schedules go out the window and obligations are at a minimum. A time when a sandwich and fruit easily passes for a meal and kids need nothing more than a backyard and a few friends to keep them happy.

Sounds divine. Especially when your husband is a teacher, and he gets summers off too. Yep, just the six of us, kicking back and enjoying life.

Only the total opposite of that.

As a mom with kids in school and hubby "in school" and obligations to certain things that tend to run with the school year, summer begins to beckon me about mid-February. Spring break is that teasing taste of the long days of summer that wait just around the corner, and Spring Fever sets in big time. The countdown until the last day of school begins, and we all look longingly at the date on the calendar that signals freedom from all the stress.

But this year (and last year, too, to be honest), summer has been a big disappointment. It's not that it hasn't been good. It's that it has been filled with as much or more stress and busyness as the school year. Here we are, staring at August on the calendar, and I'm feeling a little cheated.

We've been blessed with mission trips, VBS, a vacation (with one more to go), extra jobs which equal extra income (you know, just in case our septic tank were to have issues), a great week at camp for the big kids, swimming lessons for Lukey, and a coming out party of sorts for Designs for Hope. So many "good things" have filled our time.

But those good things come at a price. I fear they've cost us some precious memories and some much needed rejuvenation. I think much of it could have been salvaged had we approached some of these events with a different attitude and I wonder if some of it could have been avoided by saying the dreaded "no."

I've come face to face with the differences in our culture in America and those in other parts of the world, such as Africa or Latin America, several times over the past few weeks. Now I'm reading a book about a man growing up in India and hearing all the ways in which his culture affected his whole life, and it makes me wonder. Are we all slaves to this hurried, stressed-out, make a buck, climb the ladder, get it together or get outta dodge society?

Stress is a word that is so frequently brought up in our lives, and we are now barraged with ways to deal with that stress so that it doesn't kill us, to the point of being stressed about fitting in all of our stress-relievers. Ridiculous. As a self-proclaimed Type A perfectionist, all this stress is about to get the better of me. Really. I'm going bald. And that is stressful!

In the midst of the chaos that characterizes my life and my mind all too much, I feel like the Lord is bringing some things to the surface. He is shining his bright, sometimes harsh, spotlight on some areas in which I need to change. A few things I need to do include:

1. Keeping my perspective eternal. One of the questions I frequently ask myself, and my children, is "Will this matter when we're in heaven?" And sometimes, "Will this matter tomorrow?" Often, the answer is "not at all." I haven't been asking myself that enough lately.
2. Remembering who I aim to please. This is huge for me. HUGE. HUGE. And I think this is the root of so many of the mistakes we make in our culture. I am so darn worried about what people think of me, sometimes I think I'll drown in all the unmet expectations. I am ashamed to admit that this thought has been known to roll through my mind all too often as I look around at my disheveled house: What if I were to die today and people were to come in and see the way I left this house? Okay, I usually try to laugh at myself and blow it off, but I think many of us live our lives that way.

I'm always late. People will think I'm unreliable.

Our yard is a wreck. What do the neighbors think?

My kids acted atrociously tonight at that restaurant. Hope nobody we know was there.

We are all about impressing and pleasing and catering to all the wrong people. How about we just give and receive a little grace for a change? And only worry about pleasing God?

3.  Okay, I totally had a #3, but ironically, I've been so busy in the two days since starting this post, I can't remember what else I was going to do to reduce stress in my life. Ahhh, isn't that how life goes?

I think it had something to do with lessening the guilt around our house. I am constantly pouring guilt out onto myself, and then it spills over onto my children. The things I'm wanting them to do, such as being grateful for their food and making healthy choices, are typically good things. But often I resort to the familiar tactic of guilting them into these behaviors and choices. We all know guilt is a lousy motivator and a fabulous discourager. It does nothing but increase our stress as we feel ourselves failing to measure up.

So, in an effort to chill out, we're headed to the beach. Nothing spells relaxation like packing for a family of six to go out of town for a week. It's basically been like a day at the spa, except for all the cooking and cleaning and piles of clothes and the to-do list a mile long. See, this stress-free lifestyle is a breeze.

While we're there, I will attempt to dig my toes in the sand, encourage my kids, not worry about the little things, and press closer into Jesus, who came, died, and rose again to give us the abundant life, not the stressed-out life. As believers, it's time to stop allowing the thief to steal the peace that is ours for the taking.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10