Friday, August 28, 2015

It's only a game...an experiment in parenting



So today, we have to run a bunch of errands before we head to the beach tomorrow. Parenting in these tedious situations feels fraught with peril. Everyone is tired from a late night of driving. We are sleeping in a different place. People are cranky from being cooped up.

Enter my crazy parenting experiment.

I've written out a series of Super Secret Missions for my kids and asked them to be a Super Secret Spy Team. If they complete their missions, they'll be eligible for a Top Secret Bonus Mission that will earn them a trip to the playground.



Why am I doing this? Shouldn't they be able to mind me and behave in a store without engaging in elaborate pretend play? Did I just become one of those over-the-top moms who try to make everything into a theme/educational/fun experience?

Maybe. 

But I am on vacation. I don't want to spend our first day together nagging people to behave properly. If I can get a little extra enjoyment for everyone by calling them by code names, I'm up for it. 

Will they make it? Will we survive? 

You'll have to wait and see.

Follow our adventure on Instagram with the hashtag #teamdupuy to see how it's going. I'll recap the whole thing here later. Who knows? Pretending this whole thing is a game might make more bearable for everyone.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Lauds (Monday)



An "accidental" shoving incident
(no it wasn't)
(yes it was)
led directly to a spilled juice incident,
accompanied predictably by sticky tears.

The oatmeal's exploded in the microwave,
which isn't clean any more

and the phone keeps ringing,
its urgency all co-mingly with the baby's grunts and tray smacks
"ma! ma! ma!"

I never answer the phone.
Babies must be answered, not always according to their place in the queue.

"Mama! Can you untie my doll's sunbonnet again?"

Is an eyeroll ever an acceptable response to a little girl, aged three and eleven months?
I lift up mine eyes to the ceiling
(an eyeroll of Biblical proportions),
glancing out the window on the way to the sink to clean up the mess.
The sun's barely started up the sky.

No help is coming today, and it's a long, long time until afternoon naps.

The only prayer I can find is my Gram's well-worn Mercy!
I wonder how many times she said it.
This morning, I borrow it,
moving my lips without stopping my feet. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Five-Minute Friday: FIND


On the kind of day when the not-quite-as-hot summer sun almost seems like it’s ready to yield to fall, there’s nothing better than piling a bunch of grouchy children into a van and driving to a completely new place to pick some peaches with cousins. End of summer bliss, those peaches…juicy, fresh, with just the right amount of fuzz, glowing rosy-cheeked yellow against the blue sky. I could eat a hundred and let the juice run down my chin, down my wrists…and the more I told my kids about it, the more excited I was.


This made it all the worse when the GPS left me stranded in the middle of a residential area on a dead-end street, miles from any orchard but surrounded by streets with different kinds of apples for names. "Destination is on your left." Um, no. It's not. Completely unhelpful. Completely frustrated. With the children growing louder and more restless by the second and my phone battery running lower by the minute, I fought to squash the rising fear.

We’ll never find it.

Pulled over on the side of the road, fumbling with maps and apps and facebook pages, I eventually got us back on track. We pulled back on the road, drove a few miles, and turned into the parking lot to meet my sister-in-law only 45 minutes later than we’d planned.


Luckily for me, she’s a gracious woman…and as the children tumbled out of the van and I tried to get my feet under me, there were nothing but smiling faces there to greet us. The cousins embraced. We outfitted ourselves with bags and headed out into the row upon row of green arched branches in search of fruit- off to find the perfect peach.





To find out more about Five-Minute Friday, head over to Kate's blog, Heading Home.

http://katemotaung.com/2015/08/20/five-minute-friday-find/











Friday, August 14, 2015

Five-Minute Friday: LEARN


You were so sure you'd never be able to do it.

"I...Can't!" you'd wail, eyes filling, tears that escaped tracing rivulets in the day's collected backyard grit on your cheeks. "It's impossible."

"It's a felt thing," I kept insisting, standing behind you, trying to guide your body through out, in, out, in as you swung to and fro, struggling to coordinate your legs and never finding the sweet spot, the flow where the swing is an extension of your body.

I tried to show you- watch me- but it only made it worse.
"I'll never be able to!" you howled, and stalked off to scratch in the sandbox with sticks.

When your sister did it without even thinking about it, you were crushed...and so was I. Taking you aside, I tried to talk with you. "Maybe you're overthinking it?" I offered, knowing in my heart it was the first of many times I'd say those words to you, the one whose brain is always, always running ahead to the next possibility. You have to overthink, to dissect and diagram, to put together and take apart every permutation in your mind until you are satisfied. It's the way God made you...and to you, certainly the rest of us seem to be chronic underthinkers.

Imagine my joy as I looked out the kitchen window one random morning over the breakfast dishes- I think it was cereal that day- when a bit of dew still hung on the swatch of shaded grass beside the A-frame swing set, the ground underneath it parched and brown where little feet had worked it clear of any living green thing.

Scrunching bare toes in that dirt, you pushed yourself back,
body outstretched,
taut,
waiting (I held my breath)

then lifted both feet and flew forward,
one, smooth motion, legs extending before you like the long wing of some flying machine, head thrown back. At exactly the right moment, you folded in, tucking your legs beneath the yellow rubber seat, heels drawn back under you. Your legs pumped in, out, in, out, sending you higher with each repetition of the rhythm until the chains almost slackened in your hands, your body nearly parallel to the earth.

I always knew you'd learn-
knew you'd break it down until it made sense and then put it back together again,
the way you do everything,
usually without any help from me.

You often don't need my help to learn things, and that's okay.
You can count on me to be standing here, as I am now, dishtowel limp and unused, watching you with a hooray in my heart and maybe a tear in my eye.


http://katemotaung.com/2015/08/13/five-minute-friday-learn-a-post-retreat-post/

For more Five-Minute Friday, head over to Kate's blog, Heading Home.


Friday, August 7, 2015

Five-Minute Friday: HERE







Five-Minute Friday this week is HERE.
(If you are new to Five-Minute Friday, here is all the information you need to know. Come join us- it's a great community!)

When I look around here, sometimes all I can see is the mess.

There are Legos trickling out into the hallway from Sam's room, and there's toothpaste on the wall outside the bathroom. I'm not even going to look in the sink. A tiny plastic pig is lying under the kitchen table, stranded on his back with four stick-like legs pointing helplessly into the air. He's been there all day. I'm not sure anyone is coming to save him.

There are remnants of Spartan battle attire and swords made from PVC pipe littering the bathroom floor, and someone's rainbow sock is on the front porch. I have no idea where the other sock is.

It is easy to see the mess here. It would be easy to let the mess be the only thing I see.

But tonight, I look at a wiggly, giggly tangle of arms and legs here on the sofa, and I see more.

They're crowded around a book, as they always are this time of night...a book held by their dad, who always squishes himself into the middle of the chaos and reads to them before bed. How many times have they crowded around him, around this book, laughing and soaking up the words I loved as a child? This book, like so many others that line our shelves and sit in stacks on our floors and under our bedside tables, has been dearly loved. Its words have been treasures to me for years. Right here, right in the front, is the inscription from my friend Brenda on my seventh birthday...and now my almost-seven-year-old is throwing his head back and laughing at the same poems I've loved.

What's going on here is a lot more than messy. It's life. There's so much good in it. And if things are a mess, they're a beautiful mess, because the mess is proof we're alive.



http://katemotaung.com/2015/08/06/five-minute-friday-here-one-year-anniversary-post/




For more Five-Minute Friday, visit Kate's blog, Heading Home. A special thanks today to Kate for hosting...every week...for a whole year! Happy Anniversary, Kate- I'm so glad you said "yes."



7 Quick Takes: Felix is one edition












So, this baby is one. One! A whole year has gone by since that day when the midwife met us at the hospital for my favorite birth ever. In case any of my kids ever read this, please know that saying it was my favorite birth ever doesn't necessarily mean that he's my favorite child. Not necessarily. I love all of you in your own special ways.

Ahem.

Because he is the fourth child, Felix has suffered in the baby record keeping department. I don't have a baby book for him with all the carefully recorded milestones and the dates his teeth came in and what face he made the first time he ate peas. I do have a lot of pictures on my phone. (What did people do before they had smart phones to take pictures of their kids?)

I guess they just remembered to write things down in their carefully-kept baby books.

This week, though, I'm focusing on letting good enough be good enough, and I'm not going for perfect. So pictures will have to do, Felix. Good thing we have so many wonderful pictures of you!

I made a collage of pictures from Felix's first year for the birthday party. It's amazing how much he's changed.


Our gift to the baby who already has everything by way of hand-me-downs was a plastic baby pool with ball pit balls in it.


It was awesome. He loved it. I think it's the perfect one year old present, and I kind of want to give it to every one year old I know.

My nephew will turn one on September 1, but we will not be sending him a plastic pool filled with balls, because he lives in Nome, Alaska. His mother will probably be grateful.



If she had experienced this gift, though, she might appreciate the ball pit more.

George's sister and her family, in a gesture of love (and possibly out of a desire to get even with us for that child-sized electronic drum we gave their son- our nephew and godson- on his first birthday), gifted Felix with his own Rock and Roll Elmo.

Elmo sings, dances, taps his foot, plays the tambourine and the bongos, and will share his instruments and microphone with any child who takes them out of his hand.

"Okay! Your turn to use the microphone! Ha ha ha ha!"

(Why does Elmo sound so maniacal when he laughs? It gives me the creeps.)

Anyway, our baby boy was delighted with Elmo and crawled right up to him to put his chubby baby fingers in Elmo's mouth. Elmo just kept singing, but I thought it was kind of charming. It turns out that if my baby loves Rock and Roll Elmo, I kind of love him, too. I was even happy about the extra set of batteries they gave us.



Since the arrival of Elmo, Felix has started dancing. I don't know if Elmo really gets credit for this development or if it is just coincidental. Either way, it's really awesome. He dances sitting down, standing up, and in his car seat. I could watch it all day.

video



A one year old's birthday party is a tricky thing. It needs to be kind of low-key and comfortable. We were so precious about Sam's first birthday- our "first" first birthday. We tightly controlled the guest list, the food, the start and finish times (carefully chosen to protect both morning and afternoon nap) and Baby Sam's overall sugar consumption.

No longer a baby. Semi-pro cake eater.

This time...well, yeah. Our family is bigger, so there's a certain amount of chaos around here all the time. Our siblings' families have also grown, and most of our close friends have several children, too. It ended up being a rather sizable crowd with children running everywhere in our backyard. We bought a bunch of kites from Dollar Tree and gave them to all the kids. That led to a wonderful, harmonious time where everyone seemed to be flying a kite. The only downside was that I felt like the soundtrack from Mary Poppins was in my head for the rest of the weekend.





Although I have never been one of those people who talks about how fast time is passing, I feel like time is passing fast with this baby. How is it that he's already one? The rest of our children seem to be exactly the right ages, and I don't feel time rushing by when I look at them (even though Sam is doing all kinds of big-kid things this summer every time I turn around). There's something about Felix, though- there's something about his turning 1 that makes me want to slow things down just a little bit.


Unfortunately, if I slow down at all, I'll just have to run faster to catch up with all the others...and who knows what they'll get into before I get there. Might as well keep on going, I suppose!


Happy birthday, Felix. You are the most, and we love you.



For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain't the Lyceum!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Ditching perfect

I've been seized by an attack of perfectionism lately, especially where writing is concerned. Nothing seems good enough. Everything seems to just sit on the page, staring back at me, all loose ends and unconnected sentences and uninspiring, flat descriptions. I can't make it hang together the way I want, so I leave it in the draft folder and go away.

I keep coming back to try again, but it is always the same...I can't get the words off the paper on which they're written or the screen on which they are typed. Everything is so frustratingly two-dimensional.

*      *      *

Yesterday, morning, around 10:30ish. Snack time. I baked some muffins and put some water on for tea and put a stack of books on the table.

It was our first official poetry tea time.



We sat and nibbled muffins and drank our tea, and each child shared a favorite poem (either by reading it from a book or by asking me to read it for her).

We giggled at Shel Silverstein and smiled at Robert Louis Stevenson as we welcomed them to our table.

There was a spontaneous group recitation of Christina Rosetti's The Caterpillar.

We ate too many sugar cubes and smeared extra jam on the muffins. The butter dish got sticky with strawberry, and we added too much milk to our cups.

It felt like a party.


Sam brought a poem that he wrote himself.

He wrote a poem.

But he wouldn't read it.


He said he was too nervous. I tried to encourage him- we're a safe audience, we will love it!- but he refused to read.

Then, it was my turn...and as I prepared to read something from the book nearest me, Lucy said, "But I want you to read that grasshopper poem you wrote."

My eyebrows went up as my stomach dropped. How did she know? Sam must have seen my notebook, the one in which I'd hastily scribbled earlier about the grasshopper, and told her. It wasn't ready. I wasn't going to read it. I wasn't finished with it yet!

They all chimed in...read the grasshopper! We want to hear about the grasshopper!

Amazed at my own reluctance, I tried to talk them out of it. I have this poem over here, guys (this poem by a real poet). That one's not finished yet. It's not ready to be read.

 Then Sam offered his poem to me.

You can read mine if you'll read yours afterward.

Inspired by his bravery, I took his words, carefully written on thin, blue and red lined paper in his best almost-second-grade writing, and I spoke them, breathed into them, let them rest on the ears of everyone listening. A satisfied smile settled on his face.

Then I took a deep breath, picked up my poem and spoke it into existence...and I felt better about it than I thought I would.

*      *      *

Again and again, I come to this place where I find myself paralyzed by the specter of perfect.

It could be better.
It isn't enough.
You could do more.

Perfectionism is a gut-punch that knocks all the air out of me and makes me afraid. We have a long history. It pursues me through the years and always finds me...but I'm the one who chooses to keep standing there and letting it hit me over and over again.

The hardwiring that makes me susceptible to perfectionism is something I inherited...maybe genetics, maybe life experiences, maybe some combination of both of them.
But standing there, standing still in that place? Getting hit over and over again? That's a choice.

The quickest way out of that fearful, tentative place is a deep breath, then straight through and onward.

Deep breath. Straight through...and onward.