Land of the Free

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I have said before that my Facebook friends are a carefully curated lot. So what I’m seeing regarding the football protests during the national anthem is pretty reasoned, rational stuff.

But I know from some of them that what’s out there in the general population is pretty scary stuff.

It’s all over the news that while most of the teams found ways to protest injustice by standing together, the fans in too many stadiums booed the president on the jumbotron when he made a special 9/11 speech, much as Bush was booed during his term.

Or that a local pastor in Alabama made this statement before a high school football game Friday night:

If you don’t want to stand for the national anthem, you can line up over there by the fence and let our military personnel take a few shots at you since they’re taking shots for you

And the crowd cheered wildly.

I am proud to be an American and stand for the Pledge and the Anthem.

But I can stand while those who protest kneel. There is room for us both. I see them. I know their concerns are real. They are doing what they feel called to do, and for 240 years Americans have died to defend this very freedom.

We can’t decide who is worthy of the sacrifice. It doesn’t work that way. The blood was shed. The price was paid.

Sound familiar?

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Sunday at Church, where there are no coincidences, the theme of the Scripture readings was Mercy.

Exodus 32:7-14. 1 Timothy 1: 12-17. And Luke 15:1-32, the Prodigal Son.

Maybe that’s the problem, on both sides. We’re too much Self-righteous Older Brother, too linear, too worried about the scoreboard. We have to be more Forgiving Father and recognize that those who are taking themselves outside the circle are hurting, hungry, desperate to be seen and loved.

Outside the circle is never the solution. Too easy to say “Hey, they left!” Too easy to say “Hey, they pushed us out!”

The truth is somewhere in the middle, like it always is. And that’s where we meet to heal.

The Mother Becomes a Saint

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When I sit at Mass and listen to the scripture readings, I try to quiet my mind and be led.

But things pop up anyway. Like Sunday, I got stuck on Paul’s letter to Philemon. Onesimus?? Who’s that guy???

But then we got to the Gospel and I was swept into the concept of “pick up your cross and follow me”.

I’m sure it’s no coincidence that Sunday marked the canonization of St. Teresa. The woman knew a thing or two about leaving everything she had behind to follow God’s call on her life.

In her obedience, she faced down suffering so profound that it could not be conquered—not by her work, awards, recognition, celebration or even her sainthood. She served it anyway, in confusion, depression and spiritual darkness. I wonder if that was her cross, having to accept that God had not called her to save the starving baby, the mother with leprosy, the child bride laboring to bring forth a child, but only to witness and love.

Maybe it was to carry the criticism of those who wanted her to do more, to change the very fabric of human nature and condition.

Or maybe it was that she believed God called her to this service and then abandoned her there.

But here’s the thought that humbled my soul on Sunday. What if it was all three?

My God in Heaven…How did she do it?

Could I?

Teresa is named after Mother Teresa. She wrote a beautiful reflection for her company, MySaintMyHero. You can find it here

Ciao, Summer

It has been one of the greatest summers of my motherhood.

But I am not sad to see it go.

We’ve been to all the movies. I liked Kubo and the Two Strings best with Pete’s Dragon a close second. We swam in pools, lakes, rivers and oceans. We camped and hoteled and grandma’d. Went to bed at 10 and woke up at 9. We ate a lot of ice cream.

We are fat and tan and sassy.

It was a wonderful season, but the wheel is turning and I am ready for the greatest season of all: SCHOOL.

Blessings to the teachers whose school year started weeks ago with trainings and planning and classroom setting up. I see you.

But please, do not expect to see me until at least October.

My ears are bleeding from the 13 million times they have had to process the word Mom since June 10. Or Can I have a snack? Or Can we do something fun today?

My back is aching from loading the dishwasher twelve times a day with thrice the number of drinking glasses as children in the house.

My brain is weak from trying to solve the mathematical conundrums of laundry, like the ratio of shorts to underwear (many vs. hardly any) and family word problems (If five people are going to the pool and mom asks you to pack towels for everyone, how many towels do you need? SHOW YOUR WORK.)

My heart must recover from things like this cup of yuck I found on my hutch:

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“What in the HIGH HOLY HEAVEN is that??” I thought to myself. Then I called for Gabe.
“Oh yeah” he said. “I wanted to see what would happen if I rehydrated a piece of beef jerky.”
And if that wasn’t enough, Annie ran up the stairs yelling “Is it swimming??”

Or this hide and seek playdate run amuck:

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YES, I took a picture. I’ve learned to grab my phone when someone screams.  My friend said I’m like a war photographer. But who’s going to believe this stuff without proof?

I need a moment, just a month-long moment to recharge.

And then come October 1, armed with a pumpkin spice latte and orange cranberry muffin, I’ll be ready.

No Time for Martyrs

 

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Here’s why the Martyr Mom thing doesn’t work.

You know what I’m talking about right? It’s the mom on the receiving end of back talk and side eye whose only response is to wonder where her baby went? The kids have moved beyond Share, Take Turns and Be Nice, but the parenting hasn’t.

All bad. And I’m not talking about the kids. We need a moment to grieve the loss of our sweet cheeked littles who used to be easily subdued with time outs and that’s what Moms Nights Out are for.

In the face of a surly 10 year old, we cannot fold.

Like a pack of velociraptors, our preteens are testing the fences. They will remember where the weak spots are. It’s futile to wish, whine or even pray it away. God can only do so much. The rest is up to us.

Here are the two most important things I learned in the trenches while teaching other people’s children.

  1. Words are not your friend: Negotiation Moms and Talk It Out moms, I see you planting the seeds for the long game and I like it, mostly. But when you find yourself having the same conversation for the third day, hour or minute in a row, it’s time to admit that your kids have Einstein’d you. They know they just have to look like they are listening patiently, nod in the right places, apologize and maybe give a parting hug—then they can continue to do whatever they want. It doesn’t cost them a thing. Not. One. Thing. They just have to wait you out.
  1. Anger is not a consequence: It’s an emotion, not a punishment. Maybe it used to work, but pretty soon they’ll figure out that anger is a lot like words—it’s easy to harden their hearts and wait it out. To drive this point home, consider—I once listened to a 16 year old girl tell her friends that she decided to sneak out of the house to meet her boyfriend after her parents told her no because “all they’re going to do is yell at me anyway. It’s not like they’ll take prom away.” When I told her that if I ever caught my daughter sneaking out, I’d take her phone, computer AND prom, she said “I feel sorry for your kids. You’re mean.”

DAMN SKIPPY. If one of my girls ever hooks a leg over the window sill at midnight, I want her to know exactly what it will cost her.

Teach them to call your bluff at their peril. Be the mom who says “I do this because I love you” while removing the hinges from their bedroom door, flinging their cell phones out the window of a moving car, and breaking their fishing poles over a knee in front of their friends.

I did that to one of my kids earlier this summer as a result of backtalk. Said child almost broke a smile when I did it. Not because it was funny, but in recognition that my mama game is strong.

Martyr Moms, now is the time to get down from the cross where you hung yourself, and decide you are not going to spend the next ten years—or more for those who super screw it up—battling your baby.

Lest We Ourselves Be Judged

I took the girls out to dinner a few weeks ago to our favorite taco place.  After we got our food and sat down outside, we prayed over our dinner.  As we ate, the girls noticed that bull riding was on the TV.  They had never seen it before, so we talked about why people do it (um, I had no answer), how you win, and why the bull goes buck wild.

After they finished, they asked if they could chase birds and play.  I said of course.  We were seated on the outdoor patio and I could see them in my periphery.  At the table next to us sat 3 women.  They were actually there before we were, but they were chatting, laughing, and seemed pretty jovial.  As I sat there by myself, I heard a comment that the one in the jeans and sweater made in my direction… “…get off the phone… pay attention to her kids.”

I looked up and the one in the black pants and tank top made eye contact with me, then rolled her eyes as she looked away.

I’ll tell you what.  That lady sure did catch me on my phone, but there are a few things that she didn’t know at that moment:

She didn’t know that I had sent a picture to Tory, who wasn’t going to be home before the girls went to bed, and they asked to send him a picture to say I love you.

She didn’t know that after I sent that picture, I went to the teaching job website Edjoin.org because I needed to find a full time job.

She didn’t know that I needed to find a full time job because the girls’ father was refusing to pay any of their tuition next year.  That’s over $800 a month that I will shoulder, because I believe it’s important. So I NEEDED to find a job.

She didn’t know that I only ordered one taco instead of my usual four because, well, money’s tight.

She didn’t know that for literally the last 10 days we had been doing SOMEthing… swimming at various friends’ houses, going to the beach, BBQing with my mom, visiting with friends, going on walks.

She didn’t know that Violet got up at 6am and wanted to snuggle with me, so I held her in my arms and we’ve spent every minute together since then.

She didn’t know that just an hour before dinner we all piled on the couch and watched a movie.

She didn’t know that on the way to visit my niece that morning, they wanted to listen to the “Zootopia song” literally 7 times in a row and I allowed it, partially because I do love me some Shakira, partially because it’s catchy, and partly because I tear up when she sings “I won’t give up, no I won’t give in till I reach the end, then I’ll start again,” because it has become my mantra.  I.  Won’t.  Give.  Up.

So when she said that, I could have gotten up and said something back.  I could have gone large, but then, I know I would have just looked defensive.  So I let it roll off my back. But what really bothers me about it is that this is something we as society “do” now.  We want our freedom, we don’t want anyone daring to tell us what to do, how to parent, that we can’t carry our precious guns, but we sure will troll people on the internet and judge them. We’ll find strength in numbers and bully those we just know are wrong.  We point fingers (and pitchforks) at anyone who doesn’t think the same as we do.  We sit in judgement, constantly looking over our shoulders because if we are sitting here judging, we’re probably being judged ourselves.  And we want to be the first one to strike, to build ourselves up before being torn down.

I could have said something, but instead, I just blogged about her while my children were taking a bath. #lastlaugh

Moms and phones and little kids are a hot button right now.  I wonder if I would have gotten that same comment if I had been reading a novel.  But nope, I’m just another disconnected mom who cares more about selfies and Facebook than watching every minute of my precious children’s glorious childhood.  (And side note, so what if I was spending 5 fricking minutes on Facebook while my children are fed and playing and safe?  Who.  Cares???)  I’m not asking for reassurances here that I’m a good mom and that I’m raising great kids.  What I’m asking for is that we give each other a little bit of grace in our daily lives, as we would like to be given.

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Cooking With Grandma

Last Thursday Shea had his knee surgery so my mom has been here helping out.

She always comes with a trick up her grandma sleeve and this week, she made her famous taco salad.

A warning for my Mexican friends: Gringa. And very loose use of the word “taco”. Proceed with caution.

She cooks up a pound of ground beef and heats a mixture of refried beans and pinto beans. Then she layers Fritos—FRITOS—beans, meat, lettuce with chunky fresh tomatoes and cheese.

Top that all off with…Catalina dressing. TRUST ME. It’s delicious.

Her last morning, I made a breakfast my grandmother used to make when we were little (but not, my mom pointed out, for her and my uncle when they were little, but there’s the power of grandkids).

Hawaiian Bread French Toast.

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It’s an easy substitution—sweet and fluffy Hawaiian bread for regular. Cinnamon, vanilla, butter and syrup, with a dusting of powdered sugar over the top.

There’s not really a recipe. I just whisk eggs, milk, cinnamon and vanilla in a bowl. Then I dip the bread on both sides and cook it up on my pancake griddle until a crispy golden brown.

And—this is God’s truth—I have never looked at the nutritional information on a loaf of King’s Hawaiian Bread so I have no idea what the calorie damage is on this meal. But there’s a part of me that truly believes that if I don’t look, they aren’t real anyway.

Happy Friday!

Lose on Purpose

 

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You know this whole American culture of win at all costs?

It’s got to go.

Our fellow humans are not our opponents and at some point we have to realize that sports is not a great analogy for life.

I’m not directing this at any one person.

Although Donald Trump is kind of the poster child of this whole King of the World movement. And doesn’t he constantly look like a five-year old with a bad case of pouty face? I would have sent him to his room in January and he’d still be there by our house rules, which are “Don’t come out until you can be nice.”

(#lifesentence)

The other day I was trying to think of any great historical leaders who made their people or places better by maintaining their own personal superiority to everyone.

I came up blank.

I can think of lots of great historical leaders who made their people and places better by putting their people and places first. Or even better, their God first.

There may be a lesson for Americans in there somewhere. I don’t know. I’m not responsible for all of us. Only my people and places.

So for us, this has been the summer of Lose on Purpose.

Which does not apply when wearing a uniform (so my brother and Dana don’t have coronaries and die when they read this.)

What I mean is that my kids are going through that phase where they need to be right. Even when they’re wrong, which means it’s really about winning. After a Spring of listening to ridiculous “No, it’s not—Yes, it is” one day I lost my mind and yelled “DEAR GOD IN HEAVEN, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU???”

It was a rhetorical question. But God answered me:

They take after you.

And so they do.

I started thinking, What’s the hardest thing for me to do in a situation where I feel challenged?

The answer is—to let it go.

To choose not to take it personally, or to make it my mission to correct others. To let them be wrong. To let myself be wrong. To admit that I am not in charge of everyone.

And—because people who want to be right and win more than anything else really struggle with this—to always be truth-full.

Which is why Hillary would also still be in her room by our house rules.

I figured we could go cold turkey on this whole idea, hence the summer motto. It actually has two parts: Lose on Purpose. Lift others up instead of squashing them down.

Like every other piece of parenting, it’s a marathon slog, not a sprint. There have been moments of understanding, like when Gabe rode his sister’s pink bike so his friend wouldn’t have to.

And there have been afternoons where they’ve been banished to the basement to preserve their own lives and my sanity.

But I knew we were on the right track when, after watching Trump in a news conference the other day, Kate said “He needs to learn to lose on purpose.”

And then some.