Stevia in my Greek Yogurt

Am I the only one who puts Stevia in her Greek yogurt?

I hope not, because for some inexplicable reason, it makes me feel guilty.

Now, I know that sounds ridiculous, and I don’t mean that literally. I don’t always do it and honestly? I don’t really care, but sometimes we need things to be just a little more palatable. What I mean by it makes me feel guilty is that I know yogurt is good for me, I know the Greek kind is the better, healthier choice, yet I am weak enough (smart enough?) to realize that I can’t choke it down on its own.

It’s too bitter, too sour … too much sometimes.

That’s my metaphor for today.

A day filled with stuff that could easily be too much. I know we all go through this. Monday’s in general and this Monday especially, as we have to slough off the decadence of the last lazy weekend there is until President’s Day, or Saint Patrick’s Day … or Spring Break.

And this weekend was especially decadent. Swim practice for all the kids Saturday morning consisted of me going on a 2 mile walk, reading my book,  and coming home knowing what was for dinner because my mom, brother and his family were coming over. (There is an inordinate amount of peace in knowing exactly what’s for dinner.) Added loveliness and harmony came in the form of Lucy being home for the weekend so that she and her sisters could go spend $25 each to get the you-know-what scared out of them at Netherworld. I was more nervous about them driving there (across town), all my eggs in one basket and all that, than I was about them seeing scary stuff. Sunday was spent after church with me going from the bed to the couch reading my book, watching The Little Vampire with the kids, to driving girls to the mall and to Life Teen. Easy.

Today, however presents an entire week … an entire forthcoming chunk of the calendar of stresses and schedules and appointments and deadlines and hurdles to leap. Music to learn and music to teach. Shaky branches to tiptoe out on, hoping the tree is sturdy enough. Food to make and give away. But … as an optimist, I am starting this marathon the best way I know how.

Music.

Pumpkin candle.

My paper, handwritten list of things to get done.

And stevia in my Greek yogurt, because it makes everything sweeter and easier to eat what’s good for me.

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Lamposts

hope, faith, life, love

dream, joy, truth, soul

e.e.cummings, 1894 – 1962

These eight words keep popping up these days.

I see them in Emma as we plan her college visits and her hopes for the future. Dreams of tomorrow.

I see them in Abby as she faces the truth of herself, finding what it is she wants and facing down the fear of making it happen.

I see them in Mollie as her life is changing and growing, giving her new challenges and forks in the road before her. Watching as she navigates the social scene, learning the discernment process.

I see them in Lucy as she follows the yearnings of her soul that is beginning to take definite shape.

“I think I want to write,” she says to me yesterday.

“I think that is an excellent idea,” I say, a satisfied grin on my face that she cannot see because we are on the phone … me in my kitchen, her in her apartment. She is not here with me any more, but she is constantly with me. “Now is the time for you to do this. The number one thing that hampers most authors? Finishing. Just finish it and let someone else fix it.”

I have the faith that it is all for a reason … all for a purpose.

Taking the risks, facing the unknowns. We do it every day and it becomes second nature, but the fears never go away. This is what we are all being taxed with. I’m seeing it everywhere. Ironically, the only thing constant in our lives these days? Change.

New ideas. New friends. New places. New challenges.

I am trying to find, and document, joy these days. Not because I don’t think it is there or because I am joyless, but because I want it to be one of my constants. I want to see it. I want to acknowledge it. I don’t want a day without a recognition of the joy.

Joy in Mary’s face when she sees me show up at swim, just in time to see her daily cannonball challenge. It never gets old, watching them curl into a ball, determined to splash Coach Ashley, ten feet away.

Joy in Lizzie’s face when I tell her we are having pot roast for dinner (her very favorite).

Joy in the cacophony when Dad gets home.

“Dad! Dad! Dad!”

These are small things, but in our small life, they can be the lampposts that light the way.

Find your joy. Hold it close and make sure it knows you are watching for it.

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Plan away the Panic

We have Emma’s 11th grade advisement this morning.

Part of me is really excited about this. Em and I sat and made two college visit reservations yesterday. There are still three to go, which we will make in the spring, but for the moment, I feel good about where she is. ACT in December, SAT in January and then we will assess what else she might need to do at that point. Will she need to take the tests again? Most likely. Will she need to take any prep classes? The Common App opens in August, and she needs to be in the right place at that point. The good news is, I learned a lot with Lucy, and we are on it.

And, by all accounts, Lucy was ahead of the game. I will never forget sitting in the auditorium of the high school on February 14, 2012 (yes, Valentine’s Day of all days because where else would I rather be on Valentine’s Day?). It was Lucy’s junior year, and I was listening to a discussion and advice about the Hope Scholarship, the Zell Miller Scholarship, weighted and un-weighted GPA’s, FAFSA, and tons of other acronyms that I can’t even remember. What struck me was the looks on the faces of the other parents.

Outright fear and panic.

Most everyone in that auditorium was a senior parent. Because Lucy is the oldest of all mine and Candice’s kids, it was my responsibility to blaze the path of information so that we could both benefit. The notes I took that night were as much for Candice (who’s oldest was a freshman at the time) as they were for us. I remember seeing that fear and panic and thinking, wow, if I am more than a little overwhelmed, I can’t imagine what these parents are thinking, knowing that colleges want decision money by May.

Here it was February, remember.

It is never too early. That is my advice.

You know how old people, your parents mostly, tell you the day of your fortieth birthday how surprised they are that you are forty? Or thirty-five, or whatever? And how quickly it goes? And then you nod and smile, knowing it is an “old person thing to say,” but then, quite suddenly, find yourself with a sophomore or junior in high school and two more coming up fast behind.

Listen.

Do you remember how quickly your own college years went by? Of course you do, we all spend our twenties and thirties saying, “If I could go back and do it again, knowing what I know now, I would …” Well, your kids’ high school and college years go by even faster.

So here’s my advice: start early. Visit colleges when they are sophomores. Take the SAT and ACT when they are freshman, or eight graders, or seventh graders even. Remove the mystery and the fear. Give them a goal. Let them hear from the schools themselves in the 90 minute discussions what it takes to get it. Because, I’ll be perfectly honest, your kids won’t hear a word you’re saying when you bring it up … they don’t listen to you when you ask them to load the dishwasher, do they? Parents know nothing. It is a fact … that is, until the child in question is out in her own and needs to know how to pay a bill online. Or buy a house or a car. Let the colleges tell the kids what to expect.

Help them set their goals by exposing them now to life beyond high school and what it will take for them to get there. It doesn’t necessarily make it any less stressful, but it does help take away the panic, I promise.

Posted in Children, College, College Applications, Exams, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 2 Comments

The Scary Road

images-1Its dark.

Its terrifying.

And frankly? Its creepy.

You don’t trust it, knowing for sure there is something horrible waiting there, just around that corner you can’t see. You stare off, down through the small opening with the eerily menacing crooked and faded sign that has that hand pointing picture.

“This way.”

You can almost hear the evil laughter in the trees as you stand on the comfortable, wide, brightly lit, groomed … easy … path you’ve been on staring at the beckoning, unrelenting, pointing finger. There is a wind at your back, breezing and whispering past your ears.

“Come on, you can do it,” it murmurs, tickling your ear and causing goosebumps and making you stretch your neck and look around you for the source. There isn’t even any sunlight filtering through down that path that you can see. Just a winding, twisting, disappearing-into-nothingness path that you are expected to walk down.

imagesBy yourself.

Except that, you aren’t really by yourself because you know the people that love you will support you 100%. But still, it feels like you are by yourself because after all, you are the one who will have to do the work. You are the one who will have to spend your days practicing, studying, driving there, whatever it takes. You are the one who will have to answer the tough questions.

Am I good enough? Will people laugh at me? How can I possibly make this happen? Will I be rejected?

Since August and all the upheaval in our small, albeit boisterous and insanely hustling lives, there are many things that have changed. We’ve had a new schedule to adapt to. We’ve had a new team to adapt to. New people to meet. New personalities to dig in to and discover a happiness through. New understandings about ourselves and our abilities to adapt. The old ways have been put aside, not necessarily to be forgotten about, but just so that we can be open to the new opportunities that we have been blessed with.

These new opportunities … they can be scary. Terrifying, in fact. We are being asked to set down the suitcases of the past, suitcases that include both good and bad, happy and sad, thoughts and ideals that represented us for the last 10 years and leave them on the side of that bright, paved and groomed safe path we’ve been walking. We are only allowed one bag on this new flight, and it must fit under the seat in front of us.

So, rifling through the three, four, ten bags of old, we can bring only the bare minimum, and therefore only the most important things with us.

Humor. Patience. Understanding.

And above all that? A willingness to learn, to grow and to change and to love, knowing it is what should be done.

It is a scary, scary road.

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#thestruggleisreal

IMG_4649Picture this …

It is 6:52am.

I’m sitting on the couch, Lizzie is across from me bleating out “Amazing Grace” on her recorder that every now and then squeaks for no apparent reason. Bennett is standing in front of me talking about how he has good news! He found the bag for the book he’s supposed to return, now he just needs to find the actual book. Mary is reading aloud from a stapled, photocopied book titled, Mother, Mother, Where am I?

“Look Mom! I can read it! … Mama, Mama …”

“Mary, it says, ‘Mo … th … er ...'” (sounding out the words).

Mollie is standing in front of the open pantry mumbling as is her habit. I caught the words “Sun Chips” and “Did you…” and that was about it.

The minutes tick down.

It is now 6:55 and they need to leave to make the bus. Like now.

“Wait! I forgot something!” Lizzie exclaims and runs upstairs, her sneakers stomping so loudly on the stairs, I thought the house might fall. Seriously. It’s like she tries to make noise.

“The book is stuffed in my desk drawer … I think,” says Bennett.

“Mom, can Dobby go out?”

“Go!” I say, pointing to the front door, the very last thing I need is to have to take them to school after they’ve missed the bus because they squandered the full 56 minutes they had to do things that collectively take maybe 17 minutes. Maybe.

Do other mom’s deal with this? I’m just wondering.

The door slams, finally, and I am left in relative quiet. Mollie is shifting around, making breakfast. I walk in the kitchen to survey the carnage and am stunned, gobsmacked, speechless.

Peanut butter. Jelly. Toaster. Plates. The empty Nutella jar. Full cups of sipped on drinks. The frying pan with dried egg. Cheese. Bacon. The ramekin that the egg was mixed in. A sink full of the dishes from the previous evening, including the soup pot from last night left to “soak” because … why? A dishwasher full of clean, un-emptied dishes.

I had a super nice, long chat with a dear friend yesterday. We laughed about how we don’t expect much, really. Good grades, good attitudes, a smile every now and then, helping around the house. And in exchange for that they get swimming (me), trips to Europe (me) or Florida (her) or downtown Atlanta museums (me) and other cool places (both of us) with their schools. New dance shoes, make up, costumes (her), dinners out, food on the table, nice warm beds and better than decent clothes (both of us). Why then, is it so difficult for them to do what needs to be done without us having to ask?

I fold their clothes and put them on the stairs. They walk right past.

She ties up the trash and puts it by the back door. They put things in the tied up trash and walk right past.

I make the dinner at 10am, just so they have something made and ready. They complain that they don’t like it.

I know this isn’t just me. I know it.

But sometimes …

During times like this I need to remember that little story about the Silent Mother. The story about the workers who build the cathedral and are never thanked or acknowledged. I know there is a purpose to all this, and I also know that if I do this job correctly, one day … ONE DAY … they will come back because they want to be here. Because they know how good they have it, this place makes them the happiest, and I will have taught them by example how to create such a place for their families.

But until then … the struggle is definitely a struggle sometimes.

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Soup Saves the Day

IMG_4648This was Candice’s text to me … as though she was reading my mind. Scary.

It’s been one of those mornings. The kind where you thought you had everything planned out. Emma had a pulmonology checkup, Mollie had Allstate rehearsal, Abby had a Pre-Ap Human test. All was well … Dad was taking Mollie to school for me, Emma and I had a plan to leave at 7:45.

Then it all started to disintegrate.

Emma woke up late because she’d been to the fair the night before. So, when she went to the Y to swim, it was an hour later than usual, which put her getting home at 7:35. Abby was freaking out because even though the doctor appointment for Emma was on the calendar, she never considered that it would affect her getting to school (this is what they try to teach them in AP classes … A + B = C … C, being that Abby’s ride wasn’t going to school, Abby’s ride was going to the doctor, sigh … what can you do?). So, Abby decided to catch the ride with Mollie and Husband, freaking out that she was now going to be late. Meanwhile, Emma really was late, and the hour and fifteen minutes that I’d planned to use getting down to the perimeter, was whittled into one hour and five minutes. Actual time getting there, given that we live in the fabulous city of Atlanta where the Butterfly Effect can shut down the entire roadway system in the blink of an eye? An hour and a half. 25 minutes late.

But … we made it and thankfully, the doctor was late as well. I’m assuming that Abby and Mollie made it to school and Husband made it to work, because Abby texted me about her test, and I haven’t gotten a phone call from the police or anything. Win.

We get home and I have an hour and a half before I have to be at my Bookfair meeting, so I start thinking about dinner. Which makes me think about the schedule. Which makes me remember that I am scheduled to spend the better part of three hours going to or coming from the pool or the school or the meeting place of the pool carpool.

Which makes me panic about dinner.

Thursdays, as you know are our usual soup and sandwich night. This Thursday however, I have the privilege of chaperoning the high school elite choir to UGA for the entire day and listen to choral music (I am extremely excited!) all day, and so I bought a Boston Butt (on sale, of course) to put in the crock pot early that morning and let Husband and kids do what they want with it. That left Tuesday open for soup night! Hallelujah!

I have a board on Pinterest that is named Soup (come follow me on Pinterest!), so I pulled out my phone, scrolled through the offerings and decided on Trisha Yearwood’s Creamy Chicken Tortilla Soup. Normally, I am not a huge fan of her cooking, but this looked good and got good reviews. Of course I changed it a little (because this is what I do) by adding carrots and celery, heavy cream and pinto beans (not a huge fan of kidney beans), but the end result is quite similar.

Soup saves the day again.

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Un-Doing Drama

Whoa … it’s been at least a week. Sorry for that, but we were on vacation from school last week, and I took that as an opportunity to just … do nothing except be with the kids and the Husband. We went camping, we went to swim practice, I went to Athens to see Lucy, Husband and I went to Charlotte for a day (yes, just a day, it was a trek!). Everything was fun or rewarding, but very, very busy.

School began again today, and thus the regular ridiculous schedule. Drama always seems to strike at that moment. You know the one, the moment you have everything back on track and humming along nicely, if a bit slowly because you’ve been off for a week.

The drama was kid drama. I say that not to discount it or play it down, because it can be extremely disrupting, but I am a firm believer that if it “Isn’t World Peace,” it needs to be kept on the appropriate level and given the appropriate amount of attention. Nonetheless, it was disruptive and agonizing for those involved, and the bystanders who got an earful (and an eyeful) from one of their siblings learning one or two of the hard lessons in life. The main one being that the expensive iPhone she carries around belongs to me, is paid for by me, and therefore everything on it belongs to me and represents my family. If there is ever anything on it that reflects badly … well, consequences are swift and just.

How do we regroup though? That is the main question. When everything is normal (and by that I mean the usual chaos normal), and there has been a major shift and break in the brittle calm, how do we pick up the pieces and go forward? Seriously, when it was all over and she was safely at school, I just wanted to go home, take a shower, crawl into bed and start over. But alas, that isn’t how it works.

Candice told me about this story she’s reading by a missionary’s wife. The husband was kidnapped and beheaded by cannibals … I mean, seriously, can you imagine? Makes our problems look like dust mites. I can’t imagine. Not at all. That is a good thing that I can’t imagine, I’d say, but it does help to put things in perspective. The wife found her solace in making the beds. Controlling what she could control because the other options were unthinkable.

She shared that story with me and I was reminded of our Mother Mary. What did Mary do when Jesus was flogged in the town square and carried away to be crucified? She cleaned the floor. Why? Because she could and she knew it was important. I would also imagine it brought her a certain amount of calm. A way to regroup her thoughts and still her shattered senses.

We mothers are lucky really, as we have an endless amount of things that need to be done. Boring, tedious, jaw-achingly mundane things that we must do. Drive. Cook. Do laundry. Wait for the refrigerator repairman. Pay bills. Shop for groceries. Plan meals. But they are all, in their own way, extremely important as these things keep our families strong and healthy and moving forward despite the hiccups of life. Their very stodginess is what provides the tranquility in the midst of the whirlwind of drama that slams open the front door and leaves a mark on the wall of our hearts.

So, this morning the drama petered out, and she got out of the car with a terse goodbye. I didn’t really take it to heart because I knew it was mainly her fragile fears showing … that and the fact that I’d poked the bruise of her ego a little because, I’m her mom, that’s my job. When they don’t live up to the expectations, it is our job to point it out, as not-fun as that is. If we don’t show them where the bar is, how will they ever reach it?

As I drove away, my morning fractured with emotion, I did what all mom’s do to thread back together the frayed edges of my family … I did the errands. Shopped for vegetables. Took the stuff back to Lowes. Dropped off the Comcast box at UPS. Waited for the repairman. Hung the sheets on the line. Folded the laundry.

Because this is what we do.

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