Dasher

Sisters, we got a puppy.

I KNOW. But here’s what happened. Two weeks ago I was driving the kids home from Sunday school and when I got to the intersection where the Humane society is located, I felt the command to turn.

“Where’re we going?” Gabe asked.

“Let’s go look at dogs.”

“Are we getting one????” Annie squealed from the back seat.

“Only if there are puppies” I said. In the almost two years since Sugar crossed the Rainbow Bridge there have never been puppies at the Humane society. Not. Even. Once. But that day, there were four. Litter mates, surrendered without parents so only God knows a single thing about their pedigree–probably closer to ketchup than whole wheat. Two of them were all black, one looked like a black and white Springer Spaniel and one was colored like a German Shepherd.

He was the most chill. I sent Shea this picture:

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He texted “You had one job. Go to Sunday School. WHY ARE YOU AT THE HUMANE SOCIETY???.”

“God made me” I texted back. “I’ll explain when we get home.”

Other kids wait for their moms to say “Yes”. But my kids know when I text dad the picture, the deal is sealed. If it was up to me, we’d live on five acres and breed bassets. If it was up to Shea, we’d own a zoo.

Surely it is not news that our crazy sits on the front porch and hollers at the neighbors. What’s one more dog? Especially when he’s cute.

 

 

 

 

 

From One Jen to Another

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Dear Jen Hatmaker,

I just finished Of Mess and Moxie. Thanks for the laughs.

Like all good books, it taught me a lesson. I thought I should share it, because sharing is caring and all that jazz.

You wrote this in Chapter 21, How To (Part Four): How to do the laundry:

“8. Remember the darks! Yay, you! Despair at the light load in the dryer. This is like discovering the dishes in the dishwasher are clean. Throw load of lights on your bed to “fold in a few minutes” while you move the darks to the dryer. 9. Co-Sleep with the light load that night. Give them their own bed space, like a person.”

When I read this, even though I have Jesus in my heart, I judged you. I did. Who sleeps with laundry? I thought in my most OCD voice. Someone should tell Jen Hatmaker that laundry day is a process, not a string of one-off events where it’s ok to skip an event here or there. Wash. Dry. Fold. Place in various laundry baskets to be put away by minions when they get home from school. This is not rocket science, although it may have been informed by a scientific approach. For the love, indeed.

I read that chapter Thursday night.

On Friday, we picked up our new puppy. Saturday morning, I awoke at 6 am so that my son and I could drive 8 hours round trip to his play-off football game in cold and pouring rain. I left Shea home with the new puppy, the grumpy old basset hound, our two girls, a volleyball game and two soccer games. Divide and conquer.

My sweet husband thought he would knock out the laundry. He did four loads. He did them all the way to dry, good man. In the middle of that, I called in a panic because I had a flat tire on the 5 in the middle of nowhere Oregon. You may think my panic was about the tire, but it wasn’t. I needed my husband to find the nearest teammate traveling up the 5 and send them to get my football player.

(Full disclosure–there was a screw in my tire. I saw it two weeks ago. It was wedged in there good and I figured it would hold.)

The same time I arrived in pouring rain to watch a football game (new tire safely in place), he arrived in pouring rain to watch two pee-wee soccer games. We left the middle child at home with the puppy and she called no less than five times to give and get timely updates: “Dash pooped on the floor. I cleaned it. Is Gabe still winning?”

When we got home, my son jumped in the shower and my husband took him to a Halloween party. I sat down for a whole four seconds before the grumpy basset hound decided she’d had enough and started nipping at anyone who came near her. Took me a good twenty minutes to recalibrate her attitude, by which time the puppy had pooped on the floor, the five year old was screaming in a cold shower and I’d lost my drink. That is not a metaphor. I had a nice vodka tonic and I set it down and I can’t find it.

You see where this is going right? When I finally dragged myself to bed, there was all the laundry. My husband and I stood there looking at it in silence. Then he said “I’ll sleep on the couch with the puppy?”, I said “Yep”, shoved the clothes over to his side and climbed in to co-sleep with the laundry.

God is good, Jen Hatmaker. Grace is good. Humility too. Honesty. Sisterhood. And sometimes, co-sleeping with the laundry .

 

 

 

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To the Cougar at the Pool


Let me get this straight.

You really thought you were going to bring your perfectly make-up’d, perfectly coiffed, cougar self to the club on a holiday to lounge in the pool, flirt with the lifeguards and keep your hair dry?

Lady, you had one too many organic agave margaritas. There is a reason the rest of us are wearing ball caps. We all have salon hair. We all have dreams of keeping it safe.

It’s a pool full of water and kids though. The hats are really only a gesture, so that we can tell our stylists without sinning that yes we did take steps to protect the weave.

When you waded in with your drink in your hand, what did you think was going to happen? This isn’t Vegas. There were four babies in swim diapers. Water in your hair was the least of your concerns.

But no. You huffed and puffed in annoyance. You dropped an f-bomb or two. Most of the ball-capped mamas rolled their eyes at your expecting to stay dry in a pool and shooed their kids away from you.

It says something about you–and it’s not nice–that you are willing to be rude to kids, counting on the fact that their moms won’t confront you.

It must have surprised you to learn that sometimes, a ball-capped mama with her third vodka-poolwater-tonic in hand will witness you giving her kid and his friend the business along the lines of “You need to stop splashing. I already told you to stop. I’m not going to tell you again.”

She will get up from her seat at the table and grab a water cannon. It’s not hers but that doesn’t matter because she is going to war for all the mamas. You’ll see her coming and harden your face for a “chat”. She’s not coming for words. She’ll walk down the stairs into the pool next to you and load that cannon. Then she will hold it in the air like the freaking Terminator and say “What are you going to do, Gino?”

You won’t know–how could you–that this is a time honored challenge in her family. You’ll look confused as you wonder who she’s talking to. It’s hard to tell through her sunglasses under her hat brim.  Maybe Gino is that big guy across the pool laughing out loud. She waits for an answer. You’ll decide that your hair is not worth the mystery. You’ll get out of the pool.

Good call. Gather your things and leave with all the dignity you can muster. And next time remember: family-friendly pools come with a 99% chance of wet hair.

So bring a cap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Mom Gets in the Pool*

*With a tip of the hat to Allison Tate’s “The Mom Stays in the Picture”

If you don't get in the pool, you can't hurl your one year old across the pool. But look at her face!

If you don’t get in the pool, you can’t hurl your one year old across the pool. But look at her face!

Yesterday I spent four hours at the official opening of the neighborhood pool, which we joined for the summer. There were at least 200 people at this party.

You know how many moms got in the pool over the course of four hours?

Six.

At one point I counted the number of moms wearing suits: 15. Every other mom in the joint was wearing regular clothes, huddled up with a friend or hunched over a phone while their children frolicked with dad. Or alone.

This was not a weather issue. It was gorgeous. A high of 81. I spent the whole time in the sun with SPF 50 and hardly got any color.

No, I’d bet my bathing suit top–a significant bet, trust me–that it’s more of a bathing suit problem.

And ladies, let me be clear. I HEAR that. Me and bathing suits go way back and not in a friendly way.

But that will not stop me from getting in the water, for three reasons.

1. I’m a So Cal girl and I love the water more than I don’t like the way I look in a swimsuit.

2. I gave birth to three children who are half fish.

3. Two of them are girls and I would rather poke my eyes out with my big toe than make them feel that only women who look the “right” way or wear the “right” size deserve to be seen in a swimsuit.

Sometimes, I can can rock the suit out of the gate. And other times, like today, I take a deep breath and fake it til I make it. Today that moment was when another mom leaned over and said “I am so glad that you swim. So many moms don’t swim.”

Dana pointed out a long time ago, it’s really true that nobody’s looking at us.

I mean, they may have been looking at me when I was screaming, laughing, splashing with my kids. Or doing the Chicken Dance on the pool deck—that’s because I do a mean Chicken Dance.

But they aren’t looking at us like that, like “Who does she think she is walking that fat a** all over this pool?”

Not the nice ones anyway, and who gives a flying fig what the mean ones think?

Your children will love it. When you get your hair wet, and do cannonballs and partner up for the water balloon toss. You’ll be that mom, the fun one. And if you think they won’t remember, they do. I do.

My mom got in the water with us and played hard. You ain’t seen nothing in this world until you have seen your mom come down a water slide head first and shoot through the inner tube hooked on the end.

I can’t tell you what she was wearing or how she looked in it.

But I can see the grin on her face and hear her scream as she hit the water. WHOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

So what if this summer, we made a pact to do it differently? And what if I could promise you that all of the following are true:

The kids are waiting.

The suit doesn’t look as bad as you think.

Your hair will recover.

And you know you want to.

So let’s all stand up. Take off our t-shirts.

And be the moms who get in the pool.

Teaching Gratitude

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We went to Lake Tahoe for Easter. We stayed with cousins. We went to the sno-park and had a seafood dinner and there was ice cream and swimming and prime rib and an Easter egg hunt.

And then on Sunday afternoon, when I wanted to hit the shops before dinner, one of my lovelies threw a fit: I don’t want to go shopping. That’s not fun for me. Can I stay home?

Sometimes, when we do stuff, I see my kids grow and learn and I think “This was worth it.”

But sometimes I think “We give them too much for nothing.”

I’ve talked about this before—my worry that the life we give them because we are older parents with more working years and discretionary income under our belts comes with a cost.

My kids have travelled a lot. Shea and I like to travel and make it a priority. But there are moments where I see that the children have come to expect certain things.

At 4 am that troubles me.

In the middle of a condo in Lake Tahoe on Sunday, my head exploded.

That’s not fun for me.

I think teaching our kids gratitude may be the hardest of all parenting lessons. It’s so big and goes on for so long. First, say please. Then thank you. Wait your turn. Share. Be a good listener. Let others go first.

Those are the easy ones.

The older kids get, the more conceptual gratitude becomes. It’s not enough to say please and thank you. Some of the rudest pre-teens I know always remember to say please and thank you.

So here’s what I said: “Life is not all about you. It is not about what’s fun for you. It’s not about you at all. It will never be about you, not ever, ever in your whole life. Unless you are the Grinch and live in a cave with your dog. Even then, you will have to think about the dog. But if you want a family, friends, a job and general happiness, then life will never, ever, ever be just about you. EVER.”

It was a moment. Such a moment that I thought maybe I had cut off too big a slice of truth for their ears. I retreated to my spiritual mom guilt cave and thought about it. For like, 20 seconds, because mom guilt is not my thing and the cave is small.

For five of those seconds my mom ego yelled But these kids ARE special and there should be whole years dedicated to their specialness and one day if we just love them and protect them and write their college entrance essays, they are going to RULE THE WORLD!

I shut her up fast because that is the wrong thing. Jesus wrong, kindness wrong, other people matter wrong. Wrong.

Teaching them that they belong to and are responsible for each other? That’s right. It’s not too early either, because the secular world is selling a different message and selling it loudly. We have to start today so by tomorrow they will realize how connected they are to others and that decisions have rippling consequences and those ripples can be positive and turn into waves and help them CHANGE THE WORLD.

Much better.

In the immortal words of my dad, Papa T—parenting is a marathon, not a sprint. Which means start early AND stay the course. We can’t stop at please and thank you and think we’ve done our job.

It’s bigger than that.

 

My Babies Are Your Babies Are My Babies

“We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”  Steve King

I have grown.

I used to fear and pray for and love over only my own children. For so long, that was my measure of personal well-being, if my own babies were healthy and happy.

My world was small because I was so scared. And I was scared because my world was so small.

Once I saw it, I fought hard to spread my net of love and prayer farther than just my own babies. And when I did, when I reached out my hands in benediction for more than just my own, my world got bigger. I touched hands with other mamas, spreading their light of prayers and love outward over more than just their own too, and my babies got safer.

My babies are your babies are my babies.

There’s a responsibility here though. To feel the pain. To stand in solidarity with the mothers who have lost.

Who are losing.

Are fighting.

Hiding.

Fleeing.

Searching.

Grieving.

No matter their color, country or creed.

“There’s no such thing as other people’s children.” Hillary Clinton

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How do we get The Talk right?

I was having coffee with a mom friend of mine and the subject of sex and chastity came up. Her son is 12 and Gabe is 10 and Kate is 8 and while she’s early for all this, some of her girlfriends are wearing bras.

So far, we’ve covered just the facts, ma’am, with both of our older kids. I wish I had a camera when I told Kate the proper names for her parts. Her face. I pulled over, I was laughing so hard, but I have to agree with her here. We could have found more user-friendly names.

Or maybe that was the point.

Anyway, I was saying that the facts were enough for now. And maybe moving to side hugs for a few years, since the boys are face-to-boob-level now. My friend told me that in 6th grade, our Catholic school runs a sex education program with an emphasis on chastity. It has led to some awesome conversations with her son. As of this moment, she reports that he is holding out for marriage with one eye on maybe becoming a priest. Solid.

“But, Jen” she said. “When I was his age I thought the same thing! I’m still worried about when the hormones kick in. What do we say then?”

I think we all know what we don’t say. We don’t say “Because I said so” or “Because God said so”. Teenagers are naturally programmed for rebellion. Ultimatums are a bad idea.

We don’t threaten hell or excommunication from the family or church. How many times has fear of family reaction driven pregnant 16 year olds to abortion clinics? The life of my grandchild and the mental health of my child are worth far more than my need to be obeyed.

And we don’t tell them “Don’t do it. But if you’re going to do it, be safe.” Or we do, and accept that we’ve given permission to carry on.

My friend told me that another friend tells her kids what the church believes about chastity, love, marriage and children. (I did some research and found a wonderful resource here at National Catholic Register, written by Simcha Fisher)

Then she cut me side eye. “Although,” she said, “that may or may not have worked for me.”

It may or may not have worked for me either.

I had to think about why that was.

My young perception was that God lived at church, up on that cross. I heard all the reasoning about why chastity was important and I believed that God loved me. But when I started making dodgy decisions, I just stopped hanging out with him. Then I didn’t have to feel guilty. And if I wasn’t honoring Him, he surely wasn’t going to come looking for me.

Which is all wrong.

Would my behavior have been different if I knew that he was there with me? If I had a more rich prayer life where I listened as much as I talked? Where I trusted He had a plan for me that was greater than any plan I had for myself?

It’s hard to know for sure, but I will say this—for a long time in my young adult life, it was my MO to do things the hard way.  I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

So this is my new goal, as my babies turn into tweens.

TO LOCK THEM IN THE BASEMENT.

TO GET A MONTHLY DELIVERY OF KETTEL ONE FROM AMAZON PRIME.

To teach them what a give and take, talk and listen, love and be loved relationship with God looks like. To pray out loud, to model patience and to talk about how my prayers are answered. To make sure they know that God is on that cross but He will get down and come after us if we walk away. He will get down and walk next to us in the darkness when we need him, before we know we need him.

In the darkness. Like of a dorm room or the backseat of a car.

Right. There.