“But It’s Not Like Last Time!”: Finding Joy in Unmet Expectations and Change

Remember this?

Her face was red and wet with tears. Her fists were clenched and she was shaking her head spastically making her blonde hair flail around her head. She continued to whine and complain, but I could barely understand her words through her deep sobs. She was having a full-fledged meltdown.

Baggage was to blame.

No, not figurative baggage, as in difficult life circumstances that travel with us from our pasts into our future, I mean baggage, as in, our suitcases.

My 9-year-old daughter, Kenzie, was sitting in the one back row seat of our van that we had not folded down so as to have more room for our luggage. The van was still snuggly parked in our garage, and we were testing out the seating arrangements for our twenty-hour drive to Florida. This would be our second year taking a Spring Break vacation as a family of five. There was a lot of stuff shoved into our minivan: golf clubs, suitcases, beach chairs, snacks. Kenzie was surrounded by all of it in this trial run of making sure we could get everything in the van, including the kids.

Kenzie wasn’t crying because she was crowded or uncomfortable, she was crying because the suitcases were not close enough to her.

Sob. “Last year when I sat here the suitcases were right up against me!” Sob. “That was one of my favorite parts of the drive.” Sob. “I want it to be just like last year!” Wail.

There are moments in parenthood where you lose your cool. There are also moments when you’re overjoyed with your child. Then there are moments like this one when you’re just plain confused.

“So you’re telling me that you’re throwing a fit right now because the golf clubs are closer to you than the suitcases?” I said with a bit of a growl in voice.

Sob. “Yes! I want the suitcases to be closer to me so it’s just like last year!”

And thus began year two’s vacation where we frequently heard the phrase, “but last year we ___________ (fill in the blank).

My kids are huge fans of tradition. They savor life and enjoy each season and activity that comes with it. Each fall, they want to make a trip to the same apple orchard. Each Christmas, they want to hang the garland on the banister just like we did the year before. They love each tradition and have big hopes, expectations, and emotions involved in each one.

Speaking of apple orchards… the apple has not fallen very far from the tree. I wish I could say my husband was the tradition-lover who has thus modeled big feelings toward repeating expectations, but he ain’t that tree, folks.

I’m going to have to take the blame on this one. This baggage comes with me.

I love tradition, and I have a lot of hopes riding on expectations. And for many reasons, I’m going to say that’s a fine way to live. We tradition-lovers are also big on noticing and appreciating things, and we are often full of gratitude. If I do say so myself, we can be really lovely people to be around when traditions and plans go as scheduled.

But hitching our hopes to tradition and expectations can sometimes lead to a bumpy ride when plans come unhinged.

Over the years, I’ve had to learn how to recalibrate when it comes to traditions and expectations. Just as an infant is trained to self-soothe when she cries in her crib and no one comes to pick her up immediately, I’ve learned to self-soothe when expectations turn into disappointments. I’ve come to understand that joy can still be found in the changes, even if joy seems to be wearing a disguise.

Our first year in Florida, we went to a beach on a beautiful intercostal waterway where we found about a dozen whole sand dollars. It was amazing, and the kids loved these fragile sea treasures. But on our second trip, when we returned to the same beach, the wind was strong and the choppy water churned in a way that made it impossible to find any sand dollars. The kids were super disappointed.

But, as we walked along a different beach, we found some really cool shark teeth, a treasure we hadn’t found the year before. I capitalized on this and starting saying a five-word phrase each time one of the kids, or myself, would let disappointment creep in over a failed expectation or change.

Sand dollars and shark teeth.

Guys! Think about it! Both are treasures! So we didn’t find sand dollars this year, kids. But, we found shark teeth! How cool is that? It doesn’t have to be just like last time to be good.

“But last year ate at that one restaurant that had the popcorn shrimp!”

Sand dollars and shark teeth.

“But last year we made those apple pies!”

Sand dollars and shark teeth.

“But it’s our tradition to have cinnamon rolls every Christmas morning!”

Sand dollars and shark teeth.

And this doesn’t just help my kids deal with changes and unmet expectations. It helps me!

When my second book launched and it didn’t go the same as the first book had, I repeated “sand dollars and shark teeth” in my mind often. It was a mantra to remind myself that it didn’t have to be just like last time to be successful or good.

When my child’s schoolteacher didn’t run their classroom the same way my older child’s classroom was operated when they were in that same grade, I had to recalibrate. Wait, I thought I knew what to expect and how this was going to work! But it’s okay. Sand dollars and shark teeth.

When holiday plans changed last minute due to illnesses or activities beyond my control my gut reaction was, “this won’t be as good as last year.” But maybe it was. We made new memories! Sand dollars and shark teeth.

I’m going to be honest, Kenzie’s meltdown over not sitting close enough to the suitcases was a little over the top for me. I did not initially understand her response and I got pretty upset with her.

But after a week of finding zero sand dollars and realizing that unmet expectations and change were the reason for her tears, I understood a little more. I didn’t let her off the hook for behaving like she did, but I file the realization away in my mind.

“But, it’s not like last time!” can be baggage that travels with each of us. I get it. I’m a frequent flier in this club. But just because it’s different, changed, or not what we expected doesn’t mean it can’t still be good.

Sand dollars and shark teeth.

Tuck that phrase away in your baggage.

Book Excerpt – “Letting Go and Moving Forward,” From – If Only It Were a Piece of Cake

Letting Go and Moving Forward

With school starting, parents dropping their sons and daughters off at college, young people beginning their first jobs, and empty nest transitions of no more preschoolers in the nest during the day, or kids living under the parents’ roof at all anymore, there’s a lot of LETTING GO and MOVING FORWARD happening this time of year.

Here is an excerpt from my book, If Only It Were a Piece of Cake, that deals with that very topic!

An excerpt from chapter eight, “Letting Go and Moving Forward”


There’s a difference between moving on, and moving forward. Not to brag or anything, but I’m in the company of Albert Einstein with this thought (this sentence may be the only time I’m mentioned with Einstein. Savor it.)

He said,

“It is the same with people as it is with riding a bike. Only when moving can one comfortably maintain one’s balance.”

Moving forward indicates you’ve already been somewhere, and by moving, you’re continuing the journey. It doesn’t mean the past is forgotten, but that you’re now moving forward from it.

Moving on sounds a bit more like you’re leaving the past behind. You’ve finished the delivery, you’ve made the stop, you’ve completed the task. Now you move on and forget. This is fine if you’re a pizza delivery person, but as a general rule, we can’t just expect to move on to the next stop in life and forget everything else.

We cannot deny that the past happened. We should not deny the good or the bad. The past, the stages and seasons we loved and lived, are always going to be a part of us! The stages and seasons we loathed are too. That’s okay. We shouldn’t move on from them, but move forward in spite of them, through them, with them.

I often call to mind 1 Corinthians 4:16-18 in times of change and letting go. It reads,

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Yes, this passage is about dealing with hardships, but also about change and letting go. You see, as we live, we are “wasting away.” Each day we are moving closer to the end of this earthly life. But inwardly, those of us who are in Christ are being “renewed day by day.”

This renewal is a process. It’s preparing us for eternity and shaping us to be more like Christ on this Earth. We can’t always detect the process or see the change, but it’s happening. Our bicycle wheels are barely spinning, but it’s enough to keep us upright.

Being renewed each day by Jesus requires letting go of what we were yesterday. Not denying it happened, but moving forward anyway.

A sweet little girl, a friend of our daughters, was learning to water ski last summer. I sat in the boat with my girls and our friends, who were driving and shouting out instructions to the little girl. My husband was in the water trying to help her get her skis on and learn how to hold the rope.

And she did it! She got up on the skis and took a long ride around the lake. In fact, a very long ride. I realized we had not clearly explained that she only needed to let go of the rope when she’d finished. Simply let go. But we didn’t make this clear to her, and so, she never did. She skied on and on. After awhile, her little body bent forward at the hips and she looked exhausted.

“You can let go!” her aunt yelled from the boat.

“Do you want to let go of the rope?” my girls yelled as they made a motion with their own hands of dropping the handle.

She wasn’t understanding, and so she skied on, looking as if she were about to break in half.

Her uncle, the boat driver, wasn’t sure if he should stop the boat because we weren’t positive if she wanted to be done, and getting up again would be hard work. So she just kept on going.

Finally, we looped back around to our shoreline and stopped. She fell slowly into the water, still not letting go of the rope until she was forced to by the plunge.

“My back hurts! I’m so tired!” she said.

We all laughed. She could have stopped long ago if she would have just let go of the rope.

I get it, girl!

Sometimes I want to move forward into a new season, and I know it will be exciting once I get there, but I just don’t want to let go of the rope. I’m comfortable where I am. I’m not sure how the transition will feel. I like the way things are going now. Even if my back hurts and I’m tired of the fight, I’d rather hold on and be safe then let go into the unknown.

It’s not just about the unknown. Sometimes it’s about the sadness I feel that a particular stage is ending. I’ve loved it so much, whether it be having preschoolers at home, or working outside the home, or watching my children compete in a sport that they have now finished, that I don’t want to face the sadness by letting go of the rope.

But facing the sadness offers the chance for joy in remembering, and anticipation of what’s ahead. Just as looking grief in the eyes helps bring healing, admitting the sadness of leaving a season of life helps us to move forward with it. When we face the sadness, we also acknowledge the goodness of that particular season, and then hopefully that turns into gratitude that it happened!

As Dr. Seuss says,

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

I say, if you want to cry too, that’s okay. Cry, laugh, remember, grieve, and then move forward. And if you need to cry, laugh, remember, grieve, and move forward again later this afternoon, that’s okay. This isn’t a one-time deal. You may have to let go of the rope multiple times. You may not realize you’ve grabbed hold of it once again.

Letting go is a process. It’s a healthy and natural process at that.

As I said in the Chronological Change chapter, Genesis 1 shows us that God created the seasons and time on the fourth day of creation. (Genesis 1:14) They were part of the original creation, before the fall, when sin entered the world. A part of the original design. So, this tells me that even if sin and death never entered this world, seasons and time still would have existed. Now, they would have been different in the sense that they would not have led to death, as time does for us now, but they would have still been part of creation. Seasons still would have been a beautiful framework by which to live, and this encourages me.

We see cycles in life when one season begins, and another one ends. When the leaves fall off the trees, they yield to winter. When the snow melts and the flower bloom, winter yields to spring. And so forth. If we’re still holding on and trying to live in the fall, we’re going to miss every other season.

Letting go is part of living.

I always remind myself that the alternative to letting go and moving forward is holding on and stagnating. Stagnant is never a positive word, is it? Nobody desires to drink from a stagnant pond that is holding on to its growths. Instead, we want to drink from a babbling stream that is moving, and fresh, and purified. Jesus didn’t call Himself  “Stagnant Water,” but “Living Water.” (John 7:38) Stagnating and holding on to the past doesn’t seem appealing anymore, does it?

So how do we let go of the rope?

We process the journey, remember the moments, grieve the loss, move forward. Process, remember, grieve, move forward.

Opening our grip and releasing the rope frees our hands to grab the present in front of us. 

When we’re free to move forward and live in the present, we’re ready to open the front door and usher in life, with all of its opportunities.

We shouldn’t put it off any longer.


For more, you can find If Only It Were a Piece of Cake on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1091280215/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i1

 

Assault with a deadly pair of socks.

 

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I’m not sure if it’s a blessing, or a curse. Maybe it’s both.

I’ll just come straight out and say it. I have an unusually good sense of smell.

I hate to brag. But, yes. I’ve got a good sniffer.

Case in point, I have called the city gas company on several occasions alerting them of a specific address or intersection where I smell a potential gas leak. Do you know how many of those times I have later seen a crew repairing said gas leaks in the exact spot that I’ve reported? Every single time. I’m not saying the city should hire me as a “gas sniffing unit” just yet, but they might want to keep the idea in the back of their minds.

Anyway, this sense of smell can come in handy, but it can also lead to suffering. Suffering in the form of extreme awareness of foul odors.

And let me tell you, I have I met some foul odors in my day. But just this past weekend, I experienced a new level of one particularly rancid odor.

And it wasn’t it a gas leak.

It was my son’s socks.

Granted, the poor kid has been hearing complaints from me for years about his socks. They’ve never smelled like roses. In fact, roses are probably now offended that I even dared make the comparison. Please forgive me.

Anyway, one time, in a hotel room, our family decided to put Karson’s socks and shoes in the hallway overnight because none of us could stand the odor with them in the room. We figured if anyone dare steal them, then bless their hearts. And noses. We’d buy new ones. But, his socks and shoes were there in the hallway the next morning, and my son’s pride remained in tact. Karson owns up to it. He’s just thirteen, but he’s a true man when it comes to owning his stinky feet. He’s not ashamed.

So, this past weekend, my husband and I “divided and conquered” with the kids. I took two of the kids to Michigan for my son’s basketball team to play in a tournament, and my husband stayed home to coach our third child’s game. We all had fun. It was a wonderful weekend of friends and basketball, and my son’s team got to play in seven basketball games over the course of two days. And bonus, they won them all! What great memories!

But here’s the problem. Minutes after getting into our van to drive the two hours home Sunday evening, I smelled trouble. I did not even have to turn around to verify my suspicion. Karson had taken his shoes off.

And I was about to pass out.

And then I find out why it’s this bad. This whole new level of awful. This “my eyes are burning” odor that is now assaulting me from the back seat.

He wore the same socks for all seven basketball games.

Yeah. You heard me. All seven basketball games. Same pair of socks. No washing machine. No spray deodorizer. No “airing them out outside.”

No comprendo. 

So… the conversation went like this.

“Karson. Something has to happen right now with your socks. I can not make it the rest of the way home in this condition. This situation is not going to work.”

Deep breath. Hold it. 

Exhale.

I continue. “I don’t care if you like those socks or that they’re Under Armor socks. Do we need to pull over and throw them away?”

“Hmm.” Karson thinks. Karson shrugs. Karson barely notices the odor and doesn’t understand why wearing socks seven games in a row without washing them is bad.

I exhale and reload. 

“Okay,” I add. “I have an idea. Why don’t we find a bag and you can put your socks in it and wrap them up SUPER tight to try and stifle the odor.”

Karson thinks. Karson shrugs. Karson slowly wraps the socks of death in a trash bag that we miraculously found in the van.

And we made it home.

Who knows, we may have passed several gas leaks on our way and I was not able to sniff them out and call them in because of the sock situation.  I guess I may never know.

But this I do know.

Seventh grade boys aren’t always going to smell great. Or even acceptable.

And they don’t care.

But, if you can hold your breath for awhile, and remember how much you love them, stink and all, you’re in for a great ride!

 

 

I Care About How My Kids Look During Their Sporting Events.

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When we were kids, my younger brother owned a sweatshirt with words on the front that read,

“It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you look playing the game.”

Oddly enough, this statement was accompanied by a cartoon penguin wearing a baseball cap. Apparently this image was to help convey the message that we too could look as cool as an athletic penguin while competing in sports. Built-in tuxedo not included.

Regardless of the marketing scheme, I remember the motto. “…it’s how you look playing the game.”

I never really bought into the sentiment.

I’m more for playing the game with determination and grit than winning any style points. But, as I’ve gotten older, and have become a mother to young athletes of my own, I’ve changed my mind a little.

The sentiment has taken on a new meaning to me.

Don’t get me wrong; I care very little about my kids’ appearance on the court or field when it comes to their fashion. The cartoon penguin may have them beat in the “cool” department.

But, I do care about how my children look during their sporting events.

How they look in the manner of what they do.

Because what they do is an overflow of who they are.

For example, if my son accidently collides with an opponent at first base, I’m concerned about what his next actions look like. Will he get up and brush himself off and argue with the umpire over the call? Or will he get up and reach out his hand to help his opponent to his feet? No matter the umpire’s call.

If my daughter is called for a travel on the basketball court, will she slam the ball down and roll her eyes, or toss the ball to the referee and continue to play the game to the best of her ability? Even if she knows in her heart she didn’t travel in the first place.

If my son’s team wins on a buzz beater will he still line up to give the other team high fives and congratulate them for a game well played?

If my son’s team loses a heartbreaker, and he’s the one to miss the game-deciding free throw, will he still believe his life is no less valuable than it was twenty minutes before?

You see, how my kids look during their athletic competitions is the indicator of who they are that I can see as their mother. Their actions are an overflow of their heart. Their responses and reactions to the game show me their character.

And as their mom, I care deeply about their character.

Matthew 12:34b says, “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.”

I want them to be children who value kindness more than victory. Empathy more than points. Integrity more than statistics. Sportsmanship more than sports.

I want them to look their coaches in the eye and truly listen to their instruction. I want them to be respectful to the referees, as well as to their own teammates, and opponents. In victory, or in defeat.

Don’t get me wrong. I want them to win. They get their competitive nature from both their dad and me. And it’s a pretty strong one at that! But, as much as I want them to win, I care about their character even more.

The games will end. The scoreboard lights will be turned off. But who my kids are, as a result of what they learn on the court, will remain. And that’s how I ultimately define winning now.

I guess how they look playing the game is pretty important to me now.

Too bad I don’t have one of those penguin sweatshirts to wear to their games.


This article originally appeared as a guest post on the Winning Women website: “Connecting and Equipping the Female in Sport.”

Cheers.

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My turn signal pinged its rhythmic song. I heard it, but wasn’t really listening. I watched the oncoming traffic, and waited for my chance to make a right turn.

My thoughts were ringing in my head, playing the harmony to the accompanying noise around me. I was trying to give my thoughts my full attention in hopes I could corral them into orderly conduct.

“You, over there. Yes, I know I have laundry in the washer that’s been sitting there wet for three days. I’ll run that load again when we get home. And yes, I’ll add detergent again. I know it stinks.”

“Excuse me, what? I have to write two checks to the school when I get home? One for a lunch account and then I have to order that sports gear. Oh, and the photograph form. Got it. I’ll try to get that done before picking up Karson from practice. Wait, is his jersey in the washer? What time is his game Sunday afternoon?”

“What’s that, Mr. Stomach? I haven’t made dinner plans yet for this evening? Give me a break. I’ve barely even been home this afternoon. You’ll just have to wait.”

My own mental conversation was not the only one echoing in my ears. In the backseat of the van, my daughters, ages seven and nine, were having one of their own.

I could hear them, but I wasn’t really listening.

“Let’s make up our own cheers, Kenzie.” My oldest daughter was saying.

“Okay. Let’s use letters and then think of words that they stand for,” Kenzie replied.

I tuned them out again.

Where did I put the checkbook?

“I know. For the letter ‘O’ we can make it stand for ‘Honesty!’ ‘O’ says ‘Ahh’ so honesty is a good word! I like honesty!”

“Yeah! ‘O’ for ‘Honesty’. Good idea Kenzie!” Karly responded to her little sister.

“Honesty actually starts with an ‘H,’” I chimed in. “How about ‘Octopus,’ instead?”

“No way, Mom!” Kenzie said. “I like ‘honesty’ better.”

I looked back at the road. I never was a cheerleader. What do I know?

“Okay, now for the letter ‘C.’ Kenzie continued, “Let’s use the word “Kind!” I looked in the rearview mirror. She was smiling and enthusiastic.

Once again I broke in to the conversation.

“Kind actually starts with a ‘K’ not a ‘C.’” I informed.

“No, it doesn’t.”

“Yes, it does.”

“No, it’ doesn’t”

“Yes, it does.”

The turn signal kept the beat.

“Well, we don’t really care. We like honesty and kindness so we’re going to use them.” Kenzie said.

I thought about it.

Whose team mascot is an Octopus, anyway?

“You know what?” I said in my best Mom Authority voice. “I like honesty and kindness too. Go for it!”

And they did. They completed their homemade cheer and happily chatted the rest of the drive home.

They may not be winning the spelling bee anytime soon. But, I’ll tell you what, I don’t really care.

Honesty and kindness trump winning in my book, anyway.

Hip. Hip. Hooray! You go girls! Let honesty and kindness be traits you always cheer about.

And who knows. Maybe I could have been a cheerleader, after all.

Gratitude through Gritted Teeth

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I knew there was a fee to park at the venue where I was taking my two young daughters to the Disney Princesses on Ice show. But I forgot.

Not until I was driving in to the large lot did it dawn on me that I had no cash. And they don’t accept credit cards for parking. I could not enter. Instead I was turned away and drove back onto the busy street. My daughters began to panic.

“Mommy! Isn’t that where the Princesses are going to ice skate?”

“Why did you turn around, Mommy?”

I pulled into a retail parking lot and searched the van’s cup holders for loose change. Not enough. I scavenged through my purse. I came up short. I did not have my ATM card on me, and by the time I drove home to get enough cash to park, we would miss most of the show for which my girls had been counting down the days.

I let out a deep sigh of frustration.

And then it hit me. I had friends who were also attending this show. Maybe they could meet me in this lot and let me borrow some cash. I called. They were already in their seats at the show, but in an act of complete kindness, my friend’s husband ran cash out to me near the front doors.

We made it! We settled into our seats just as the show was starting. It was a beautiful and mesmerizing performance. My girls, ages 6 and 4, had huge smiles and twinkling eyes as they watched the princesses twirl and jump. I had a huge smile just watching my girls.

It had taken me part of the first act to stop sweating and to settle in, but I had done so. I tried to take in each magical moment of making this memory with my daughters.

When the show ended, we walked down the long, concrete corridor winding our way out of the massive building. Hundreds of other people flowed along with us. Every ten feet or so, vendors were selling Disney merchandise. Princess dolls, toy swords, glowing sticks, and more. My girls begged for something. I hesitated, but gave in to the pressure as I again reasoned it was such a special evening.

The snow cones came in plastic souvenir princess cups. I forget the exact price, but it was somewhere near $400.00. Okay, maybe not quite that much, but it was probably close. I bought two. I figured my girls’ delight would last for weeks to come.

But I was wrong. As we continued to walk down the long hallway we passed more vendors.

“I really wanted a doll, Mommy!”

“Why won’t you buy me a Princess dolly?”the little one whined.

The complaints continued. Didn’t they know I had already spent a lot of money just on the tickets for this show, let alone the parking fiasco, which had left me indebted to my friends. Then, I had just bought them SNOW CONES in a PRINCESS CUP and I had about HAD ENOUGH of this giving spree to UNGRATEFUL little people.

A few more words of complaint came out of their mouths before I stopped. Dead in my tracks. I put my hands on their shoulders and walked against the flow of traffic until I squeezed the three of us into a corner and guided the girls to stand with their backs against a cold concrete wall.

“I am tired of this complaining. You have been given so much already. We are not moving until you guys are thankful!” I said in a huff.

I further stated my case. “I just spent a lot of money on tonight and instead of being thankful for it, you’re complaining and asking for more. I’ve had it! You will stand there until you are thankful. Do you hear me?”

The girls nodded as their little lips, stained purple and red from their snow cones, began to quiver. The whimpered and cried as the crowd slowly moved by us.

There they were. Two little blonde girls standing against a wall trying to feel thankful.

(PS. This was not my finest parenting moment.)

“Are you thankful yet?” My voice was firm. I demanded an answer.

They sniffed and cried and shook their heads. After a few more minutes I decided they were thankful enough and we continued on our way. I heard no more requests for princess dolls. Only sniffles.

Today as I was doing dishes, two years after that evening, I picked up the souvenir princess cup off the counter and smiled.

“Are you thankful yet?” I laughed to myself.

I’m not proud of how I handled that moment, but I am thankful for it. Today as I thought back over the memory, I realized that I was trying to instill gratitude in my children. I was aiming to make thankfulness a habit for them, an automatic response. And I was trying to get out of there without going bankrupt. But mostly, I was teaching my kids to be grateful.

And that’s a hard lesson to learn.

I know how they felt that night. Sometimes I don’t feel very thankful either. I get caught up in what I don’t have instead of noticing all the blessings in front of me. Sometimes I need someone to stand me up against a cold wall until I can get my wits about me and express the gratitude I don’t feel.

Feeling grateful isn’t necessary for being grateful.

Sometimes you say thanks though gritted teeth.

And, that’s okay.

It’s all part of the training.

 

 

That’s How the Cookie Crumbles

This morning in church we studied the passage in Luke 18:16 where Jesus says,

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.

Such as these. Children. Kids see things from a different perspective than adults. At some point as we get older we loose that child-like perspective. The one that is easily accepting of those who are different than us. The one that is so quick to forgive without explanation. That one that naturally trusts and expects the best from those they love.

And I was once again reminded of this true story that happened about five years ago with my middle child, Karly. In her child-like way she forgave me without a moment’s hesitation. She unintentionally reminded me of the beauty of a child-like perspective.

And that’s how the cookie crumbles.

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If I’d had one of those fancy interrogation rooms and a bright light, I would have used them. But I didn’t, so sitting my three-year-old daughter in a kitchen chair across from me was the best I could do. I wasn’t about to let her big blue eyes and blonde pigtails fool me. This kid was guilty. And she was going down for it.

Today Mommy was playing prosecutor, judge and jury. Court was in session.

The crime? Oh, it may sound trifle… and yes, it really was. But that wasn’t the point. I didn’t care about the Hershey Kiss that had disappeared off the top of the peanut butter cookie. I cared about the truth. All I wanted was a confession so that this kid could learn her lesson, be forgiven, and move on toward better obedience.
The gavel had been banging in my brain and the evidence lay nearby on the counter. The container of cookies was mostly full, but when I had lifted the lid, one of the chocolate kisses was gone, leaving a little round dent in the sugary peanut butter dough.

The defendant sat swinging her little legs as I paced the kitchen floor. I began to present my case.

I had clearly instructed Karly to stay out of the cookies. She had asked, she’d been given an answer, and she had defiantly disobeyed by taking that little chocolate morsel. And she thought she’d get away with it too.

Karly kept claiming that she was innocent. But, oh… she was not.

Had she been able to read and write I would have, at this point, slid a piece of paper and a pen in front of her and asked her to write out her confession. But I was going to have to settle for a verbal explanation. So I sat down and waited.

And did I ever hear a story.

In her sweet, high-pitched little voice, Karly told me that I had it all wrong. She was being framed. It wasn’t her that took the candy, but instead a bird.

A bird?!

Her plea continued as she explained that a bird had, in fact, flown into the kitchen through the window over the sink, taken the Hershey Kiss, apparently put the lid back on the cookie tub and then had proceeded to fly out the same way it entered.

Mind you this was in the middle of winter when that window hadn’t been opened in weeks.

That’s it!! The jury has made their decision and you, my dear little one, are guilty! You are guilty of disobeying and now lying to mommy. I sighed deeply to show my frustration and disappointment.

It was at this point that my husband entered the crime scene and was given a recap of events. He then walked over to the cookie tub and lifted the lid. After looking at the cookies for a moment he picked up the container and walked over to me. We looked inside together and there, stuck to the bottom of the another cookie, was the missing Hershey Kiss.

The bird had been exonerated.

I looked over at the adorable little defendant. Apparently she had been proven innocent as well.

What had I done? I had been so focused on getting what I thought was the truth from her that she had made up a story to appease me.

Nancy Grace is going to love this one.

Case dismissed. Court was over. But now I was the one who had some explaining to do.

I sat down across from Karly and told her that we had found the missing piece of candy. I told her that I knew a bird hadn’t flown in and taken it, and that I now knew that she hadn’t disobeyed and taken it either.

I admitted to her that Mommy was wrong. And I told her that I was really sorry.

She shrugged in that toddler way and accepted my apology faster than she’d conjured up the bird story. She forgave me without a second thought and off she skipped without a care in her mind.

I stayed in that chair for awhile. Though the jury box and the courtroom was emptying out in my mind, I felt full of regret. Why had I gotten so riled up over a Hershey Kiss? Why had I pushed Karly so hard for a confession that she had to make one up to calm me down? And how had she been able to forgive me so quickly and easily when she could have easily pointed an accusing finger right back in my face?

She forgave me because she’s a little child. In her toddler mind she wasn’t out to get me or seek revenge. She could forget the offense in the blink of an eye and never bring it up again.

Apparently I took her to court that day, but she took me to school. I had been shown a great lesson in how to forgive and forget.

To this day, I can’t look at a peanut butter cookie adorned with a Hershey Kiss without laughing about that crazy bird story. And believe me, though Karly has forgiven and forgotten, my husband delights in bringing up my interrogation blunder. That’s okay. It’s good for me to be reminded now and then. I’m reminded that I’m not always right, even when I think I am. And that sometimes I have to confess my mistakes and accept the forgiveness of others.

I hope I can forgive and forget in the same way Karly forgave me. I want to experience forgiveness and give forgiveness completely… skipping away, as free as a bird!

Together.

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The five of us knelt by the couch in our family room. Our hair was blonder and our skin more tan than three months before when summer began. Now it was the night before school started back in session. The eve of routine and alarm clocks.

My husband asked if I’d be the one to pray aloud for the family as we prepared for the next morning and new season of life. I agreed, but took a deep breath first as the thoughts of all the transitions to come filled my mind.

Our oldest child would be heading to middle school in the morning at a somewhat ungodly hour. Many days he’ll leave before the sun comes up. He had practiced his locker combination and reviewed his new schedule sufficiently, yet it felt like the unknowns still trumped our preparation.

Our middle child was off to second grade, where reading skills and independence increase at a surprising but encouraging rate. She’s turning into a little lady right before my eyes.

And the biggest transition that was looming over me and causing my shoulders to be tense with dreaded anticipation was sending our youngest child to Kindergarten. After twelve years of staying home full-time with my children, I felt a sadness about my impending empty day-time nest.

Finally I began to pray aloud. My voice quivered a few times as thanked God for His goodness and the gift of a wonderful summer. I had to swallow several times and clear my throat as I asked Him to guide our children this school year and to give them each the two things I most often request on their  behalf: wisdom and courage.

Wisdom to know what to do and the courage to do it. 

As I said “Amen” my son glanced my way to verify his suspicion that I was holding back the tears. I shrugged and made small talk about getting up to bed. Transitions are hard enough for the kids without them realizing Mommy is about to melt.

Before they got their last drinks of water for the evening and headed up the steps we gathered in a circle and put our hands together. We were as ready as we could be to face the newness.

Now five days later with a week of school under our belts we’ve dealt with a few highs and lows. We’ve rejoiced about sitting next to best friends and eating really good middle school cafeteria lunches (really?). We’ve also had sobbing at the bus stop wishing for more days at home with Mommy. My heart and neck muscles have been wrenched even further. We’ve had excitement over new opportunities to play in the school band, and disappointment for getting scolding for taking too many grapes in the 2nd grade lunch line. Oh, the grapes of wrath!

But we have each other still.

We’ve got each other’s back and we’ve wiped each other’s tears. We’ve delivered forgotten items to the school and slapped each other on the back with joy over new successes.

And so dear family, my favorite home team, here’s to a great school year and to acceptance of all the transitions that comes our way.

May we have the wisdom to know how to live well, and courage to make it happen!


This post is linked up with the Five Minute Friday blogging community. Each Friday a one-word prompt is given here and bloggers are challenged to write for about five minutes about whatever come to mind based on the word. This weeks’ word: TEAM

 

 

Snail Spa

I’ve heard it said that no lake vacation is complete without a man-made snail habitat. Er, something like that. But I can’t argue with the saying, because it certainly rang true for us.

While spending a week with our extended family, my daughters and their cousin not only discovered the snails in the shallow water of the lake, but “rescued” them and carried them a good twenty feet from the water to our deck railing. The girls then spent hours caring for the snails and building a natural habitat out of paper bowls, water from a squirt gun, leaves, scissors, and dish soap.

Of course the scissors and leaves were part of the snail clothing design unit and not so much the living quarters, but useful nonetheless.

The habitat was complete and the snails were quite spoiled with their own bathtubs, showers, and even a hot tub. I can’t speak for the snails, but who could really dislike such a variety of hygiene and relaxation options?

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As I watched the girls bathe the snails for the forty-second time it occurred to me that as parents we really don’t need to create fun for our kids as often as we think we do. Sure, sometimes it’s good to play a family board game or a round of “I Spy” in the car, but most of the time, kids just need a little freedom and maybe some Palmolive.

It’s a delight to watch a child’s imagination at work and to see their little hands design and create- even if it leaves you with a mess and a few less paper bowls in your stash.


This post is was inspired by the Five Minute Friday blogging community where bloggers are invited to write about a topic for about 5 minutes based on a one-word prompt. To see more of this week’s post from other bloggers visit here: http://katemotaung.com/2016/07/14/five-minute-friday-create/

This week’s prompt: CREATE

Old News.

I call it the “preemptive strike.” I don’t actually say that term aloud, but I use it in my own head in order to feel like I am in some form of command as a mother. It sounds so official and impressive.

The preemptive strike will look something like this. At bedtime, I will inform my son about what he needs to know the following morning. Listen up, soldier.

“You have a basketball game tomorrow morning at 9:00. We need to leave our house at 8:30. Your uniform is washed and laying on the floor beside your dresser. Make sure you have eaten breakfast and you are in the van by 8:30.”

My son will look me in the eyes and nod his head with a look of apparent understanding. He does not salute me, but I feel the small nod is a good start. All signs point to an agreement between the two of us. Carry on.

Then the following conversation will occur approximately 12 hours later.

“Mom! Where is my basketball uniform?”

“Hey, Mom! What time is my game today?”

“When do we need to leave?”

The preemptive strike has fallen on a dry and barren land and has apparently left no sign of impact.

I smack my head (sometimes quite literally!) and answer his questions while making a mental note to abort all future preemptive missions.

Later in the week, I try a new tactic. I repeat and remind my son of something multiple times in order to give him more opportunities for intake. And then I hear,

“You already told me that. That’s old news.”

Perhaps I should turn in my dog tags.

I am caught between the land of “old news” and the land of “why doesn’t my mom ever tell me what’s going on.”

I’m considering calling a press conference in the morning to complain.

But then again, my son would miss it because he’ll be too busy looking for his basketball uniform.

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This post is a part of the Five Minute Friday challenge, where a group of bloggers write for approximately five minutes after being given a one-word prompt. This week’s word was: News. To see more, click here. http://katemotaung.com