March 31, 2010

Who Loves You, Baby?

It's a universal truth among mothers that no one, no matter how much they come to care for your children, can ever love your children as much as you do. It's simply not possible. The times that my kids help prove that truth are some of my favorite moments.

Driving home tonight, Bubba was upset because he had to miss an episode of his favorite show. His trauma was short lived, however, as he told me he would just go home and watch it on his invisible television. I told him that was a great idea. He then spent the entire drive home having a very animated discussion with an imaginary friend (audience? admirer?). I only caught a word or two here and there but apparently he and his friend were having a good ol' time. He did share with me when we were almost home that he was going to invent a video game and he was going to post it on his destiny (trust me, I have no idea what that means either). He said in a very enthusiastic voice, "You've heard of 3-D? Well it's gonna be in 5-D! That's a mixture of 2-D and 3-D." I, of course, answered in the usual way, "Alright."

Where all this comes from, I have no idea. And what any of it means is even more of a mystery. Even so, I couldn't help but smile as I spent fifteen minutes listening to his excited conversation...with himself. I just love that kid.

March 23, 2010

Make Yourself at Home

Have you ever had a friend that you were so close with you were just as at home in their house as your own? I've been pretty fortunate in life to have had two such friends, both named Amy.

Amy D. was my middle school best friend. We met in the 6th grade and we were inseparable until a tragic falling out in the ninth grade. Until then, we did everything together. We spent every weekend with each other. We invited the other on family vacations and we were like an extra daughter to the other's family.

The falling out that broke up Amy D. and I actually brought me closer to Amy R., who had been in my group of close friends all through middle school. We spent the next next four years together, the best of friends. It was just a given that we would be at the other's house. I started attending church with Amy R. and that brought us even closer.

I was so close to my friends that I was comfortable in their houses even when their families were home but they weren't. If I wanted something to eat, I could just help myself to the fridge. I knew where the TV and movies were if I got bored. I could just hang out and visit with the parents and siblings.

I did, however, learn the hard way that no matter how close you are, you should always knock before you enter. One morning, I arrived at Amy R.'s house around 7am. I was afraid of waking anyone so I decided to quietly let myself in (not something I was in the habit of doing). I walked in on her dad exercising on the mini his underwear. I'm still not sure who was more embarrassed.

But what happens to us as we get older?

I have a few (very few) close friends. One of them came over the other day and as I was showing her my new bookshelves she remarked, "I keep forgetting how big your house is." It struck me as odd that she didn't know my house very well. When I was at her house some time ago, I happened to be in her bedroom and I realized that it was probably only the second time I'd been in her room. I'm not saying that bedrooms should be open to the public, I'm just saying that I'm not familiar with her house.

Do you have friends that feel so welcome in your home that they can just help themselves to anything? My parents have this kind of house, they always have. The door's always open and everyone's welcome. Sometimes I wonder if my house doesn't look more like a fortress. It's not that I don't welcome my friends when they're here, it's just that I don't invite them to begin with. I want my kids to have friends like I did--ones who feel like this is their second home--but they haven't been learning from my example.

I can rightly put some of the fault on the fact that as an adult I have many more things pressing on my time. I don't have the luxury of hanging out and watching "The Brady Bunch" reruns for hours at a time. But that's just an excuse. How can my friends feel welcome in my home when I won't even let down the drawbridge for them to come in?

This my sanctuary, my place to unwind, but why not unwind with good friends? Why not take shelter with the company of those close to me?

I can't help but feel like God (if He blogged) would be writing this same thing. "My children make themselves at home in the world, why aren't they as intimately familiar with my home?" I know every inch of my house. I know where the floor squeaks and the windows draft and the water drips. I know the coziest spot on the couch and where to sit to soak up the best sunbeams. I know where everything is kept and the things that are never put back where they are kept. But am I as familiar with God's house? Can I honestly say that it's just as comfortable to me as being in my own house? Am I certain of walking in unannounced, knowing that I'll be embraced with open arms and told to kick off my shoes at make myself at home because, after all, I'm family?

There is no moat around God's house, no drawbridge to be let down. I doubt He even has a front door that we have to knock on. It's just always open and He's standing there in the doorway, beckoning us to come on in and "make yourselves at home."

March 19, 2010

Here I Am To Worship

Yesterday I was driving home from Federal Way in rush hour traffic. The kids were being especially rambunctious--wrestling, hitting, shouting. I had the radio turned up in a pathetic and failed attempt to drown them out while my white knuckles gripped the steering wheel. It is in these ordinary, sometimes chaotic moments that God likes to make His presence known.

A song came on the radio, "Here I Am To Worship". It's a song that the kids know from singing at church and it's Sassy's favorite. When the song started, the kids stopped everything they were doing so they could sing along. There were no words spoken that brought their games to a screeching halt, just the first few notes of the song. Everything else ceased to matter because they had to sing. It couldn't be helped.

After the song was over they went back to their usual routine of driving me insane but it didn't bother me nearly as much this time. In hearing them sing that song, I knew that God was laying on their hearts words that would bring them closer to Him. It is in those random, seemingly innocuous moments that God can be felt and heard. I am grateful to be in His presence.

March 12, 2010

A Spot of Tea

We are creatures of habit. We have our routines, our way of doing things. Even if you aren't a branch in my particular obsessive-compulsive family tree, I would bet that you have a lot of routines that you rarely veer away from. When you shower, you do everything in a certain order. There's a right way to load the dishwasher. When you get home, your coat, keys, purse, shopping bags, etc. are all dumped in the usual spot. When you get ready in the mornings, there is a system to follow. For me, it's go to the bathroom, get dressed, do my hair, brush my teeth, eat breakfast.

But what about those things that we do that aren't habit? Do you have anything you do just because the act of doing it is enjoyable? Do you do anything that's become more of a ritual as opposed to a blind habit?

Dictionary dot com defines habit as an "acquired behavior regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary." We've performed these routines so often that they've become second nature to us--like going on auto pilot on the drive home from work. Your brain checks out while your body performs it's ingrained tasks.

Ritual is defined as "any practice or pattern of behavior regularly performed in a set manner." There's a slight difference between the two but it's there nonetheless. Habits are done so frequently that we can do them in the same way each time without thinking, but a ritual is deliberate. We perform in a set manner. We perform on purpose.

I have a ritual that I perform most every morning and sometimes in the evening. For me, my ritual is making tea. I know, I know. That sounds insignificant. How can that possibly be a ritual? Isn't that just a part of your everyday morning routine? Yes and no.

I do make a cup of tea most mornings to have with my breakfast but I don't do it out of blind habit. When I go through the steps of making tea, it is a very deliberate, even soothing, task. To begin with, I refuse to microwave my water. It's not that I have anything against the microwave, it's just that it's not the same if I don't use my water kettle that looks like a cow (it's a water "cattle", get it?). I fill up my kettle with water and set it on the burner. I listen for the sounds of the water heating, the burner quickly drying up any spilled water that may have run down to the bottom of the kettle. When I stay in the kitchen, I can tell the moment the water is about to boil and can take off the kettle just in time. Most of the time, however, I wander out of the room until I hear the familiar high pitch whistling, alerting me that I'm needed again in the kitchen.

I don't drink my tea out of a dainty, decorative tea cup. No, I drink my tea out of a mug, one that is ideal for a cup of cocoa with lots of marshmallows or even a cup of soup. My tea mug has weight to it. I can wrap both hands around it and let the heat seep into my usually frigid hands.

I use one bag of Stash peppermint tea. I don't use loose tea leaves and I don't drink other flavors, just peppermint. Peppermint is the flavor of winter, the flavor of cozy blankets, the flavor of comfort. And I always add sugar, real sugar--two scoops.

My favorite part of making my tea? The sound of the water as it fills my cup. I always have my mug ready and waiting with the teabag in it. When I pour that steaming hot water in, I almost want to sigh. It's a soothing sound. At that point, I can almost taste the mint, I can almost feel the ceramic warming my fingers, I can envision myself wrapped up in a quilt while I lose myself in my favorite book. Although this is rarely what happens next, the thought is comforting.

What happens next is always different. Usually I busy myself with chores or the computer until my tea has cooled enough to drink without scalding my tongue. Quite often I'll get distracted and only notice my cold and neglected mug hours later when I'm getting ready to fix lunch. At that point it's usually heated up in the microwave and drunk so it won't go to waste.

But how and when I drink it is never the focus behind the ritual. The focus is simply the task itself. The motions of making my tea bring more comfort than the tea itself. This is my ritual of contentment.

March 8, 2010

Life Lessons

Howdy had a grand plan the other day. He decided he wanted to create his own version of a Pokemon game. We cut up a bunch of cardstock for him to draw on and color. He started out disappointed because he knew he wouldn't get the desired color effects he wanted with marker or colored pencil and he was a little leery of possibly making a mistake and leaving eraser marks but he took everything up stairs and got to work.

That lasted all of about ten minutes.

He came downstairs with tears in his eyes, frustration obvious. Here's what he said:
"Mommy, something keeps happening to me upstairs. I'm trying to draw but something is making my body not do it and it's making me lazy."

Welcome to perfectionism, son.

I've known for years that he's picked up that particular family trait from both his father and me, and I do my best to help him cope. What struck me about his words were how accurate a description they were. If you're not a perfectionist (do I even know anyone who isn't?) then let me explain. Being a perfectionist means that you don't just keep trying something until you get it right. It means it has to be right from the get go, it has to be PERFECT from the start. If perfection can't be guaranteed, why start? And so you procrastinate. There's no point in starting something if you know it will be less than you imagine or expect.

I am well versed in the trials of perfectionism. I had my first stress related ulcer in the first grade--I was 7. I am now 30-something. It's taken me years to identify my perfectionism, which areas it relates to (spelling, scrapbooking) and which it doesn't (housekeeping, cooking), how to keep it reined it as much as possible and how to let some of it go. It took a long time to realize that I am a procrastinator BECAUSE I'm a perfectionist, not in spite of. So to hear Howdy be able to put words to what he's feeling at so young as age, I'm heartened that we'll be able to help him deal with the things that come along in life.

Knowing that life doesn't have to be perfect and ISN'T perfect is a hard lesson to learn.