Starting over is hard. Moving to a new city, finding a new job, starting kids at a new school, learning to find a new favorite grocery store… its a lot of new, and a lot of tough stuff. This past year has been a year of starting over for us. We finally moved from outside Memphis TN to Decatur Alabama, where my husband had been living nine months prior to our move. We’ve spent the last year with lots of new in front of us, and its been quite the journey.
We didn’t find out the gender of either of our kids. I remember sitting with my mom looking at baby things, and her saying “What if its a boy?” I had a momentary sense of panic. I’m an only child, of the female variety, so neither my mother nor I had any experience with boys. We didn’t understand them, and were pretty convinced that the aforementioned baby would have to be a girl.
Then they were boys…
5 years apart they were both boys. God’s funny that way, right? I was convinced that when my first son was born that it might have been some kind of cruel joke. What was I going to do with a boy? With all of the little sports onsies, tiny baseball caps, and overalls?
I wish I’d known how great it would be.
I wish I’d known how much fun it would be to play in the dirt. To button up little plaid shirts, roll up the cuffs of some jeans, and put tiny sneakers on to go to church, without frilly dresses and tights.
I wish I’d known potty training wouldn’t be the nightmare I thought it would be. That they’d be rough, fall down the stairs, yank out a tooth and laugh about it. Or how they’d fall asleep on the couch with me watching Harry Potter, and I would wish they could stay that little forever.
I wish I’d known that, while it would be hard to fight people when they didn’t act the way culture tells them boys should act, it would be worth it. That I would be raising them to be whole people, not media portrayals of boys. That they would love Nerf guns, and Pokemon, and Super heroes, but they would also love My Little Ponies, Princess movies, and singing along to “girl power” songs on the radio.
Being a mom of boys has been such a blessing, even when its hard. I cringe when I hear things come crashing to the ground, or when one comes in crying because his brother hit him. I have given in on more violence in video games than I ever said I would. I’ve not been as patient as I should have been. I’ve let them sleep in their clothes and go to school in those same jeans, because we all woke up late. And we forgive each other, and try again.
I wish I’d known that having boys would be amazing, and now that I do, let the adventure continue.
So. There’s some sort of political stuff going on right? My guess is, if you haven’t been sequestered or living under the proverbial rock (where are these rocks people live under anyway…) then you have heard plenty about politics. There are inflammatory statements being made over every media outlet social and otherwise, on both sides, and people are getting really upset about it.
I don’t want to write about politics, which may seem strange from the title of this article, I want to talk about the changing nature of friendships. I currently have 517 friends on Facebook, (my husband has 2,606 as he is quite the social butterfly). While scrolling through my list I smile at the names that spark childhood memories of skipping rocks, grass-stained knees, and singing into hairbrushes. I see high school classmates who, for a time, were woven into the fabric of my life in such a way that to tear us apart would have been unthinkable. I see former church members who rocked my babies, and whose babies I rocked. I love seeing those same babies win state championships, sing solos, and make their parents proud.
However not all of these people are what people may consider real friends beyond Facebook, nor am I a friend to them outside of cyberspace. Time and distance have created their inevitable rift and we grew in different directions, as happens when time and distance combine. But much of this speaks to our actual understanding of what a friend actually is.
I pride myself on my use of words. Much of the time this pride is probably undeserved, or at the very least blown way out of proportion to my actual abilities. But overall I love words. I love the power they have to enthrall, woo, convince, enlighten, and entertain us. A good book and a warm mug of coffee are possibly the greatest paring for me on earth, and if I’m not in the mood to read a movie or television show with witty banter is a great second.
As a part of my seminary studies we discuss our strengths frequently, and one of my top strengths is communication. I agonize over word choice in emails, ensuring I don’t unintentionally offend the recipient. I sit with students and try to mediate arguments caused by the careless use of words thrown out in anger. Words have an amazing amount of power, but sometimes, there are no words.
In youth ministry we often use the phrase “that” kid, to describe the one that frustrates us the most, or completely exasperates us. Sometimes its the child on the spectrum, or the one who can’t sit still and just listen for 5 minutes. Or its the sullen too-cool-for-school kid that sets the tone for the rest of the group, or the know-it-all who has an answer for e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. Often its the one who just doesn’t fit the mold of what we’ve decided kids should be like, and so they become “that” kid in our minds.
Well, I have that kid. He’s highly intelligent, speaks sarcasm like its his second language (can’t imagine who he got that from), and is a total nerd. To quote him, he is “so far past nerd”. I asked him what is so far past nerd and he said, without missing a beat, “2,000 lightyears past nerd” and promptly stuck his earbuds back in to finish his Dr Who episode.
It is now the beginning of Shawwal, an Arabic month that indicates the end of the holy month of Ramadan. For the past month many of our brothers and sisters who are followers of Islam have been fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. The holy month of Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, which has 10 to 11 fewer days than the Gregorian calendar, so the month moves in comparison to the calendar we traditionally use.
I love traveling. I enjoy road trips, airports, ferries, and especially trains. I don’t know what it is about train travel that I delight in, but I do. I remember being about 10 and my family taking the auto train from Baltimore to Florida, and being very excited (although super concerned about my barbies having to ride in the hatchback of the Taurus). I loved going up to the observation car and watching the scenery fly by.
In my professional life I have worked in three fields, bill collection (gross), ELL education, and church work. I love church work. It is the most rewarding, challenging, inspiring, and fulfilling profession I can imagine. As with any profession we have busy seasons, collectors have the end of the month, educators have testing periods and end of terms, and church workers have…
I love pinning. Pinterest is my time filler of choice. When I first started using Pinterest two years ago I was looking for gift ideas for my kids, a task that seemed never ending. How many presents do they actually need? We would end up with piles of presents every Christmas, from us (parents) from grandparents, great grandparents, aunt, and countless others. Every year I couldn’t think of enough things they wanted for all of the people who wanted to buy presents, and then I found this little nugget on Pinterest.
I remember thinking “This is genius! Where has this been all my life?” And so a new family tradition has begun, and I can’t sing its praises enough. I was worried that the first time we tried it (Easter) we would have some push back, but really both of my boys really enjoyed it. Here are some reasons why it works so well for us.
1. Limiting the amount of gifts. Four, that’s it. Sometimes I really want to buy more, because I get swept up in the excitement of it all, but this helps keep some perspective on how much we really need for each kiddo.
2. Keeps expectations in check. The boys know what they will get, something from these four categories. They also know that the only thing they really get any input on is the want category. My older son (AJ) told me this past week “you know I never really like my wear. I mean, I know its not my want… but still”. However, does he wear what I get him? Yes. And does he complain? No. This also keeps the “I want I want I want” way down at our house. They might tell me four or five things they want, but they know they need to narrow it down, because they are only getting one of them.
3. Teaches Prioritizing. We know at our house that if we only get one “want” then we’d better weed out what is really unimportant. My older son spends lots of time researching what he wants online, to find out what the best thing will be. Sometimes this helps him find out that he doesn’t have the correct equipment to run something he wants, or he finds out that he would need to replace the batteries so often that it wouldn’t be a good use of his money. This teaches skills I want him to have for the future when he spends his own money.
4. Extra $ for others. Because we don’t spend as much on our own gifts, we have extra money for gifts for others. In our church a Sunday School class sponsors gifts for children from the Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse. This year we purchased a remote control truck for a 3 year old boy. Both boys contributed their own money for the truck, and AJ (who has been tithing longer than his brother) saw this as a natural extension of what we already do. My younger son (CW) had a little trouble parting with his money, but we talked about how this little boy should have his own want, need, etc. He still wasn’t thrilled, but he understood that other people deserve a “want” as well.
5. Family giving made easier. Because the boys are good at narrowing down their want lists, it has become easier to tell family what they might like. I know which “want” I’ll give them, and I can let them know the other ones they requested. This has also simplified our family events, because family knows that we only give four presents, and we request they limit theirs to one big present, or two small ones. This has made our family giving times focus more on being together and less on the gifts themselves.
I have really enjoyed these more simplified holidays these last few years. My prayer is that my boys understand what we are trying to do as they grow older, and grow to be generous and cheerful givers.
May your Christmas season be filled with joy, and simplicity.