My Daughter’s Brilliant Shoe Surprises

feet-349687_1280I recently told my daughter a story from my early elementary school years. I feel like it must have occurred somewhere in the 2nd to 4th grade range, because I still resided in the bedroom with the rosebud wallpaper that had a slight metallic sheen to it. In that room, I slept on an antique bed, played in the window seat, and enjoyed 2 closets- one for toys and one for clothes and shoes.

One morning, I ran upstairs to put on my shoes in order to finish getting ready for school. I had one shoe successfully on and was in the process of putting on the second shoe when my toes bumped against something. I stopped and looked into my shoe, but I didn’t see anything. I tried to put it on again, and again my toes bumped up against something foreign. Perplexed, I removed the shoe again and shook it.

Tumbling from the shoe came a solitary black cricket. I had instantaneous feelings of guilt that I may have hurt the poor, little fellow while shoving my foot into my shoe and of disgust that my socked foot had touched an insect. Twice.

I don’t remember what I did next that day way back in elementary school, and I certainly didn’t tell this story to my daughter in this much detail as we were having our own struggles to get out of the door and arrive at school on time. Nonetheless, the story clearly made an impression on her and, using her own vivid imagination, she seems to have created her own details and attached her own emotions to the story. How do I know this to be the case?

This morning, my daughter thought it was absolutely hilarious when her pink and green striped soccer sock got stuck to her hind end with the help of some static electricity. I mildly acknowledged the humor and strongly encouraged her to continue getting dressed by putting her shoes on. She exited the room while I finished up in the bathroom, then I went to put on my own shoes. The first boot went on without a problem. With the second boot, my foot met with some resistance. Upon inspection, what did I find in the toe of my boot but a bright pink and green striped soccer sock.

Friends, it matters not if my shoes are in my room, in my closet, on the living room floor, or waiting for me by the kitchen door, they are quite regularly full of surprises. Legos, crayons, orange wiffle golf balls, small plastic La La Loopsy dolls, and various other treasures have taken up residence in my shoe in an attempt by my daughter to recreate that element of surprise from the cricket-in-the-shoe story.

On a morning that finds me irritable and in a hurry, these little surprises in my shoe can elicit an exasperated groan. On a morning that finds me happy and ready to conquer the world, a shoe treasure can bring a sentimental tear to my eye. This morning was a response mixed with irritation and curiosity about why this behavior lingers on. It has been weeks, maybe even a couple of months, since May Lee and I actually discussed and had a little chuckle over the shoe surprise bit. I realized this morning that I have been quickly dumping the shoe intruders onto the floor and carrying on with business for some time now.

Something about that response didn’t sit well with me as I thought it over this morning. As I continue to ponder it this afternoon, it is starting to feel like my daughter is trying to engage me in a playful way and in response to a piece of my childhood that I shared with her, and I have been completely ignoring her attempts. On a morning like this morning, it is likely my daughter’s way of saying “Lighten up, mom. Life can be fun if you let it”. While it may be easy to fall into a parenting shame spiral at this point, I see no need to go that route. I’m not going to catch everything every time. I simply do not possess superpowers that morph me into the Perfect Parent.

Now that I do recognize the potential importance of this little game, it seems clear that I need to respond. Lately, I have been learning that it really is never too late to go back and make something right if you missed it the first time. In the same vein, I’m learning that showing up is always important-the most important- even if you happen to show up a little late. In this case, I also better show up silly and with a light-heart.

Therefore, in the spirit of this new parenting revelation, tomorrow the shoe will be on the other foot, if you can pardon the pun. Come morning, May Lee just might find a surprise with her little toes.

 

The Weekly Recap: Snickerdoodle Lattes, An Empty Purse, and a Farm for Christmas

 

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This week has continued to be insanely busy with to-do lists that are never-ending. My ability to multi-task has grown substantially, and I think that is due in part to the fact that I’m sitting down and planning my week. I’m not getting it all done, but the structure is helping me use my time more efficiently. I’m working errands and tasks into the margins, so to speak, and I feel like I was rewarded handsomely for my efforts when I set out on my Monday lunch break to run an errand that would end up killing 3 birds with one stone.

A while ago- we’re talking a couple of months, maybe longer- a FedEx package was mistakenly delivered to my house. After a couple of futile attempts to get the package to its rightful owner, I queried the FedEx guys who delivers to my job about what to do with it. He suggested taking it to Mr. Postman.

Monday, I finally pulled into the parking lot of Mr. Postman with the mystery package, my Stitch Fix items to return, and a bill to mail. Friends, let me tell you, when I opened those doors and crossed that threshold, I was in heaven. I was so bumfuzzled by the divine aroma of freshly brewed coffee, the sight of cafe tables and chairs, and the dazzling collection of adorable home decor and gift items that I must have looked like Dorothy taking her first steps into the land of Oz. Somehow I communicated to the barista the nature of my shipping needs, and she took care of me well. Once that errand was complete, I eagerly chatted with her about their selection of coffees, ordered a snickerdoodle latte, and perused the many treasures in the shop while my coffee was being made. I have to say, this sweet little find may have been the highlight of my week

staxThe next morning presented a challenge, as it was Stax’s surgery day. After his escape from the backyard last week, it seemed clear that I could no longer delay getting him neutered. He was also due for some vaccinations, so my excuses for delaying the inevitable were running out. To get him ready for the vet is no small thing. I legitimately need the skills of a rodeo cowboy to get Big Yellow into his harness, but we managed to get to the vet where he promptly marked his territory 3 times. Bless that staff. One of them even helped me get him into the car after the surgery. On the way out of the clinic, we were talking about how confused Stax must be, to which the staff person remarked “Yep, he came in with a full purse and is leaving with an empty one”. I don’t know why, but that cracked me up.

As for my growing girl, it has been another great week. I can no longer escape the fact that May Lee is growing and maturing in leaps and bounds. Last week at her soccer game, she performed the chicken dance and numerous somersaults but gave very little effort to playing the game or following the coach’s directions. During one of the breaks, we had the following talk:

Me: May Lee, I want you to go out there and make a WHOLE BUNCH of mistakes. Like, hundreds of them.

May Lee: Huh?

Me: Yes, I want you to go out there and make a whole bunch of mistakes. I’d rather you make a whole bunch of mistakes than not try at all. And listen to your coach and do what she says.

May Lee ran out of the field and continued on in the same fashion as before. However, during soccer practice this week, I could tell a difference. She was “in it” and not so hesitant. She was trying instead of letting herself get intimidated by her own fears. I was a proud mama. This was quickly followed by another proud moment when we got home and she read 3 little books to me that she had made at school. She’s really growing and coming into her own.

May Lee is also pumped for the upcoming holiday season. She celebrated the first day of fall then immediately asked how many days until Christmas. She cannot decide what she would like to be for Halloween or whether she would like to dress as a pilgrim or a Native American for her school’s Thanksgiving Feast, but she does know what she would like for Christmas. Her Christmas list is as follows: horse, pony, unicorn, kitten, puppy, turtle, an Octonaut set, and toys of all our friends and family. When I heard that last one, I immediately pictured all of our friends and family members as little bobble-head dolls, then I giggled a little bit and wondered if I could actually make that happen.

As for the health journey, I’ve been doing pretty well, but I’ve been really hungry the last couple of days. Plus, I’ve been a little stressed. Therefore, I have indulged, but I don’t really feel guilty about it. I’ve come a long way with being mindful about whether I am eating out of true hunger versus eating because I’m stressed. What I am bummed about is not doing my new morning exercise routine the last couple of mornings. I think I feel more bummed about the missed exercise, because I can tell the biggest difference in my body from the exercise and not the diet change. I haven’t been doing that routine for very long, but just stretching and doing some crunches in the morning has really relieved my aches and pains and my brain fog. So, I’m thinking missing these last couple of days has set in stone my resolve to incorporate exercise of any kind into a lifelong, daily routine.
The weekend ahead looks like it is going to be just as full as our week, with soccer, lots of school assignments, and pulling together a donation for the silent auction at May Lee’s school. But we are going to make time for fun as well as business and hit up a local festival. Maybe a $5 pony ride will satisfy the pony craving and remove said animal from the Christmas list. One can always hope.

Girl Culture: Part 1

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This week I found myself in the high heat of a tempering process that culminated in a new and hopefully more mature perspective about women and female culture. The timing of the events that lead to this epiphany can only be by divine design, so let me preface this story with a brief synopsis of what has been stirring in my heart for the last few months.

Well, in actuality, the interest in taking a deeper look into what is going on with the female gender in culture, in church, and in relationships has been stirring in me for years. Giving birth to a daughter will do that, you know, and other things have come up at church or work, but my attitudes and relational styles have essentially remained the same. Over the summer, our church was doing a series on the minor prophets, so I was reading along in my morning quiet time. In fact, I was reading in the prophets and in the gospels at the same time, which was absolutely mind-blowing, and I was happy as a nerdy little clam.

But then an incident occurred that really stirred up some past trauma, and I discussed the incident and its ramifications on my mental and emotional state with my therapist. Being an older and wiser woman, she was able to brilliantly tie in my growing interest in women’s issues with what I was currently going through. She floored me with the undeniable truth of this simple statement “Well, your wounds are really a product of being a woman”. My awareness and perspective was immediately opened up to a higher level that allowed me to see a new and very real truth about the attacks on my life, and over the course of the following weeks some things really started to make sense.

With my interest in all things uniquely female now peaked, I found myself grudgingly leaving behind my nerdy love of those crazy prophets and hopping all over the bible. I started in Genesis, which seems like a logical choice for new beginnings and perspectives, and looked into the creation of Eve, the only being not created from the dust of the earth but from a piece of creation already animated by the breath of life. Eve was the first earthly being to recognize deception, which I found to echo beautifully in the proverbs where the voice of wisdom is the voice of a woman. The voice of the woman appears again as the voice of love in the Song of Solomon, a book that neatly parallels the proverbs. And if you really think about it, it is no mistake that the attribute of wisdom and the attribute of love is given to the same voice, the same being. Speaking truth in love is a theme echoed throughout the bible, because wisdom offered without love goes nowhere, whereas wisdom offered in love goes straight to the heart.

That is no small charge, to be the voice of wisdom and love. As I studied more and more deeply into what the female image of God really means, the responsibility grew heavier and heavier on my heart. Which leads up the events of this week, where in one day I found myself in the dead center of the crucible of female relationships. In the morning, I was rallying with multiple women who are battling in their homes a war that is common to all women. In the afternoon, I find myself in the middle of a group of women rallying against another group of women. I went home that day absolutely reeling from the effects of finding myself in the middle of those 2 extremes. My mind full of questions, I stumbled around in a haze for the next few days trying to figure it all out.

Here is what my eyes have been opened to thus far. As girls, we learn immediately what being in girl culture means. Not one of us passed through the early years unscathed from this battle. You were either “in the sorority” or you were in “the anti-sorority”. I use the word sorority here, because I can think of no other word that captures the idea of a group of women that have banded together as a closed group that allows new members in only after those members have been approved by a certain set of criteria. Anti-sorority refers to the group of women that forms in reaction to that group and the hurt it can cause. They may seem like the “good girls” in the scenario, but that group is often just as closed and just as hurtful with it’s own set of criteria as the sorority. (So not talking about Greek life here, so carry on unoffended, my Greek life friends)

And the truth is, those groups do not form and remain static. As I reflected upon how this dynamic has played out in my own life, I see now that there were seasons of my life where I slid into the sorority-like group and mentality, seasons where I slid into the anti-sorority group and mentality, and seasons when I was somehow able to rise above that dynamic and interact with all groups and all females as individuals without much static. A deeper truth about this dynamic is that it is often so ingrained in female culture that we don’t even recognize that we are sliding into those factions of femininity, or that we are being exclusive or reactionary in response to the dynamic playing out in female culture. We don’t see it and we end up placing blame and responsibility for conflict on people that it doesn’t belong to.

At least, that is how it plays out in youth. As girls, we can’t really see it. We know it’s there, but we really don’t have the first clue about what is going on. As we get a little older, we have a better understanding of the dynamic at play, and the social struggle gets real. As fully-grown women, some of us grow out of it and some of us never do. A great majority of us see it and bemoan it but continue to participate in it on some level because we can’t see a way out of it. Some of us stay bound to it as a result of the lies that our insecurities feed us and thereby blind us to the truth that will set us free from it. I can honestly say, that I have walked through all of those scenarios in my life.

What’s worse, is that the whole ugly thing ends up getting written off as being “just how women are”, and to that grossly false idea I shout a resounding “NO!” I am still sorting through the full impact and meaning of this dynamic at play, the whole idea of female culture, and what can change it to bring it back around to reflecting the female image of God as He intended it, but I do know that right now I am standing firmly on “NO!” I am officially rejecting the sorority and anti-sorority culture in all areas of my life- personally, professionally, socially, and spiritually. Finding a new way of relating and participating in female culture is going to take a place of top priority on my life overhaul to-do list. And you can bet your bottom dollar that I’ll be raising my daughter to recognize the sorority/anti-sorority dynamic, to stay away from it, to release herself from it when she finds herself in it, and to conduct herself in a manner that honors the female image of God. With that being said and publicly declared before my mom and the 3 other people that read these things, I must get busy figuring out how to conduct myself in a manner that honors the female image of God. Rest assured that you will be hearing more from me about this piece of my journey.

The Road Trip

Details kill me, and the final hours of prepping for a road trip are nothing but details. It’s brutal. I hate it. So therefore, I make the process much easier on myself by doing things like changing my mind last minute about arrangements for my dog. However, in a flurry of text messages, I was able to secure a last minute dog-sitter to come to the house, and this solved so many problems related to travel and getting back at a certain time to pick up Stax from the vet, not to mention the additional costs of boarding at the vet. I breathed a giant sigh of relief and went to bed Thursday night with that stress off of my mind.

I woke Friday morning to the ripping sounds of the dog pulling apart the fabric of his stuffed duck. This noise carried on long enough to pull me out of the haze of half-sleep to being awake enough to feel like it was important to make sure the ripping noise was in fact the stuffed duck and not one of May Lee’s precious stuffed animals. I rolled over and Stax raised his head to look at me with his giant, pleading eyes and perky, puppy ears while my shredded bra dangled from his mouth. Of course my dog would eat my one good t-shirt bra on the morning that we leave for vacation. Who wants to wear white at the beach anyway? That is the yin and yang of vacation planning: by securing a dog-sitter, I relieved myself of additional expenses and errands, but by failing to secure the dog in his crate that night, I ensured that those savings would now be invested in a new bra and that one of the first places we would visit at the beach would be the local JC Penney. Come to think of it and ironically enough, I bought that now shredded bra at the Panama City Beach JC Penney. The circle of life and what not…

After leaving work at 1 to run errands and pack up the car, I was right on time to pick up May Lee at the first stop for the camp bus. Then, we were off on our beach adventure! Except, it was dinnertime and she was starving, so we hadn’t even made it out of town before we were driving through the Chick-Fil-A for dinner. We stopped several more times for bathrooms, making this 4-hour trip feel like it lasted for all of eternity. When we finally did pull up to the Holiday Inn Express, we were greeted by a line of tween boys in various stages of dress but all wearing uniform baseball hats coming of the sliding double doors. “Baseball team?” I asked the woman checking us in. “Yes,” she said “Half of them just filed outside and the other half are in the pool”. She also informed me that we were getting the Jacuzzi king, since it was the only room left in the hotel, so that seemed to make up for sharing the place with a tween baseball league.

I grabbed a luggage cart and May Lee hopped on for a ride. It is my single-parent travel survival trick. When one has to get all the luggage in while also corralling the child, it is much easier and efficient to make sure the child can ride on the cart. We made our way outside, and I noted that chaperones nursing beers had finally made their way outside. The boys were nowhere in sight, but from the ruckus coming from behind the tall fence of bushes, I assumed that they were doing whatever tween boys on a traveling baseball team do in that general area. One of the chaperones looked at May Lee and said “Fun! Can I ride the cart too?!” May Lee just giggled. The woman then looked at me and said, “Bless you” with knowing and sympathetic eyes. I didn’t know what to make of that comment….was that pity? Was that empathy, because she also had her hands full with a team of young teenage boys and also a beer, which I can only assume was to help cope with the tween baseball team? Whatever the intention was behind it, I simply said “Thank you” because I’m not one to pass up a free blessing.

The next morning, we ate breakfast with the baseball crowd and attempted to navigate our way in and around them as they packed their cars full of gear and children and I packed up my one child that could still easily fit on the luggage rack. These dedicated parents were chasing boys and their siblings while wrestling with no small amount of baseball equipment. I couldn’t help but think that I had the way easier deal this morning, and I had a new found respect for the mom who blessed me last night as I watched her herd 4 boys into her car. Solidarity sister!

May Lee and I were feeling good as we took off down the highway. She was in the back seat exclaiming, “I can’t WAIT to be at the beach! I can’t WAIT to dig in the sand!” I realized that I had forgotten to get gas before we got on the highway, so we stopped about an hour later to get gas and use the restroom. The station was full of other beach-going families, some going to the beach and some returning home. All of them were generating an enormous amount of noise. I quickly shuffled May Lee to the bathroom, hoping we could make a quick exit from this place before my nerves were completely shot. May Lee was doing her half-panicked dance around this unfamiliar toilet and I was trying to coax her on it so we could leave this insane place! She finally acquiesced and went to the bathroom while 2 more families filed in. We exited the stall just as a mom with a child screaming the shrillest cry I’ve ever heard entered the bathroom. We quickly washed hands and were ready to get the heck out of there when I realized that I didn’t have my keys. The image of my keys hanging on the hook inside of the bathroom stall flashed before my eyes as I remembered hanging them there during May Lee’s unfamiliar potty dance.

What is the least creepy way to get your keys back from a now occupied toilet stall while the child next in line for the bathroom continues to scream at levels that threaten to rupture your eardrums? I didn’t know. I didn’t care. I posted up outside that bathroom stall, and when the woman exited I shot inside before anyone else could get in there and grabbed my keys. As I bolted out of the stall, I grabbed May Lee by the arm and essentially flew her like a kite out of the bathroom door and out of that infernal gas station.

We were happily back on the road in minutes and made it all the way through Birmingham without incident. We had planned to stop for lunch outside of Birmingham, but we hit a traffic jam just as we merged onto the highway out of town. I thought we could wait it out easily and stick to our original plan, but that was not to be. We were still in traffic and hour later, and we starving and in desperate need of a bathroom. I got off the highway at the next exit, only to discover that the only thing at this exit was a Home Depot. Good enough. We walked through the aisles of appliances, paint, and freshly cut wood to the bathroom. When we got back outside to the parking lot, we decided that we might as well break open the cooler and each lunch right there. So PB&J with Doritos was had by all, and we enjoyed it immensely.

Once our tummies were satisfied, we made our way back onto the highway and into the traffic jam. After 20 minutes, we decided to take advantage of our slow pace and get some fresh air. We rolled the windows down and said hello to our fellow traffic jam neighbors. We were, after all, surrounded by other cars packed to the gills with all manner of beach paraphernalia. These were our people, might as well say hello. Once the pace picked up a little and we could no longer socialize, we cranked up the tunes and had a little song and dance party. It passed the time and made the whole stuck-in-traffic-for-all-eternity thing a little more bearable.

I would like to say that once we were out of Birmingham that traffic died down, but that was not the case. We were in beach traffic from Birmingham to the coast, and it added 2 hours to our trip. But we did arrive, and we executed our luggage cart routine all over again. There are pieces of our travel routine that we have down to a science, and then there are the details that continue to be the bane of my existence. Either way, I sure enjoy this time with my girl. She is growing up so fast and pretty soon she will actually be able to drive the car on our road trips instead of just pretending to from the back seat while shouting at me to “just turn all ready!”. And really, that’s what this trip is all about, making memories and spending uninterrupted time with my girl. I’m excited about the memories we will make during this trip, so stay tuned!

I Am Where I Am Supposed to Be

I can only describe this week as an other-worldly experience of deja vu and the promise of something brand new competing for top billing in my brain. And those 2 things were battling it out so intensely that things like basic motor and language skills ceased to work properly. Granted, the lingering sinus infection and the Zyrtec-Sudafed cocktail that is keeping me from completely collapsing may have also played into the inability to speak coherently or to recognize that the keys I’m searching for are, in fact, already in my hand. But I digress…

The fact that I’m even currently living in this town should have been proof positive to me that big change is a-comin’. It sincerely took an act of God to make me willing to relocate from the beautiful, white beaches and warm, crystal clear waters of the Gulf Coast, but trying to raise a child while living at the poverty line will make a person re-evaluate and re-prioritize. Hmmm, shall we eat just enough to keep us alive and live at the beach or shall we have enough to eat and not live at the beach? I don’t know if you’ve heard, but I really like to eat, so we don’t live at the beach anymore.

We now live in a town that I said that I would never live in, and I approached settling in here with all the trepidation of a paranoid feline flying through the air toward a very large body of water. I have been a little wary, you might say. But the events of this week, which have been a series of very small details coming together inexplicably at the perfect time to point a certain direction, have proved more than anything else that I am where I am supposed to be. I am at the right place at the right time doing the right things.

I thought when I started this little blog thing that I’d be recording the journey of making my life over in this new place. A life makeover, if you please. But as this week started to unfold, it became very clear that the whole “life makeover” was a cute idea and all, but what God has in mind is more along the lines of a complete life overhaul. God is moving, y’all, and I feel a deep sense of reverence and excitement along with a great deal of anticipation and anxiety. That whole “fear of the unknown” and “I need to know exactly where I’m going at all times” thing is responsible for those last 2 emotions, but these adventures never do come with a roadmap, do they?

Also, I feel like for dramatic emphasis, we all need to pause here and go directly to The Chronicles of Narnia and find the place in the book (or movie) where the characters say “Aslan is on the move”. But I’ll leave you to do that on your own time.

 

I want to sponsor all the children

May Lee and I had a fantastic surprise waiting for us when we got home today- our first letter from our sponsored child! We began the sponsoring journey a little after the New Year, so we’ve been anticipating this first correspondence for awhile. Our little fella is just about May Lee’s age, and he shares my birthday. Some might think that the common birthdate would have sealed the deal on the sponsorship, as it does for many people, but they would be wrong in this case. It was his little, half angry-half sad face peering out from under his 4 year old semi-mullet that led my heart to know that this was the child for me. And the fact that he was just May Lee’s age, shared my birthday, and lived in Peru, a country that I have always wanted to travel to, simply confirmed that this was the child we needed in our lives.

It has really been a great experience so far. Besides the monthly monetary support, we’ve sent a couple of letters to Renzo, as well as a birthday gift. May Lee likes to get out her Hugg-a-Planet and her little atlas to find where Renzo lives on the map, noting how far away it is from where we live and discussing how much we look forward to taking a trip with Compassion International to meet Renzo one day. In the letter we got from him today, he told us that his favorite food is papa a la Huancaina. I have already consulted Google for the recipe, which looks delicious, and I may have to attempt to make it if I can find the ingredients here in town. May Lee also asks me frequently how to say different words in Spanish, and again, we consult Google and press the little speaker icon so we can hear the word and attempt to repeat it. I’m very sad to say that my child has inherited my complete lack of ability in the language department. Her attempts to repeat the word for blanket in Spanish were highly amusing but not even close to resembling any of the sounds that she was trying to imitate, which only goes to prove that she is most definitely my child.

One of the inserts in the letter we received today was a plea for sponsors for older children. Just like our American foster care system, it seems like the older kids are harder to find sponsors for. And just like I have wanted to take home so many of the foster children that I have worked with over the years, I want to sponsor all the children. Obviously, it is impossible for me to foster, adopt, and/or sponsor all the children, so this is my shameless plug for getting involved with fostering/adopting/sponsoring a child in hopes that it will inspire someone to bring a child into their hearts and lives in some shape, form, or fashion. Renzo has certainly made an impact on our family, and we are all the better for it.

If you’d like to learn more about Compassion International,  check out their webpage at www.compassion.com

 

 

Sick Day Shenanigans

Sick Day

When you teach your child anatomically correct words, there will inevitably be a day that your child has a sinus infection. That sinus infection will clog her ears and cause her to speak at high volumes all the time, even after you lovingly suggest that she give her sore throat a break by being quiet for a minute. The need for a doctor will arise, and a prescription will be issued that requires a trip to Walgreens and Wal-Mart to pick up medicine and all the sick day things. At Wal-Mart, the child will insist upon helping you scan the things at the self-checkout station. The temperamental nature of the self-checkout machine and the “helpful” nature of the 5-year-old will compel you to maneuver your body in ways that are not natural to your normal range of motion. It will be during this deranged checkout dance that your child with clogged ears who can only speak at maximum volume will announce to you and everyone in a 12-foot radius: “You just put your nipple in my eye”. And if you can make it out of the store without nearly wetting your pants while tears of laughter stream down your face, you are a better woman than I am.