Monthly Archives: May 2014

Happiness in a Bag of All-Purple M&M’s

My sister has always been a bit of a jokester. When she was a freshman away at college we recieved an official looking envelope with beautiful coligrific writing addressed to our family. My mom excitedly opened it up, then immediately began to cry. It was a wedding announcement, complete with photo of the happy couple (a curly-haired boy she’d never even mentioned holding her in his arms on a picturesque bridge) and velum paper. My mom was hysterical. It was a good ten minutes later that my dad and I found the tiny paper tucked inside a miniature envelope that said, “April Fools!” and were able to deter my mom from doing anything irrational.

For Christmas the year after My husband and I were married we all sat around our living room exchanging gifts. My sister handed my new husband a round, nicely wrapped presant. As we opened the paper, we found our pajamas getting totally soaked and the paper soggy! “It’s a fish!” She proudly announced. And sure enough, we found ourselves holding a basketball-sized glass bowl full of water.

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Growing up with her was no different. My junior year in high school I happened to sit next to her good friend (now husband) in Architectural Drafting, and had planned to share a few M&M’s with him. Our teacher was giving instructions, so I discretely tore the package and began to pour them into my hand. Purple. Purple. Purple… ALL PURPLE! I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. 100 million yen… that’s what the package said. Get a bag of all purple M&Ms and that’s what you’d win. I felt like Charlie finding Willie Wonka’s Golden ticket. I hadn’t a clue how much 100 MILLION yen was, but it sure sounded like an exorbitant amount! I whispered to my neighbor. “Look. Do you believe this?? This is just crazy! They’re all PURPLE!” It didn’t take long before the entire class and teacher were in on my little secret. I couldn’t work. I couldn’t concentrate. I was contemplating what this would mean for my future. Money, money, money! I was going to be rich!

After the bell rang, I stood in the hall showing my friends. Soon a large crowd had formed, students and teachers alike. Everyone as astonished as I was. Word spreads fast in a small school, and I was feeling more and more famous by the minute, probably enjoying my moment in the spotlight a little too much. A while later I happened to spot my sister sitting on a bench not too far away and, clutching that M&M bag tightly, ran over. I could hardly contain my excitement. As soon as she saw me running, that mischevious grin spread across her face. I began to relate to her the events of the morning when she began to chuckle. Her chuckle turned into a laugh, and soon we were both in tears howling hysterically. She had totally got me.

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In my brief time visiting dream-world as a rich, famous, bag of all-purple M&M winner I imagined myself being so happy. Who wouldn’t be with money beyond the imagination, right?? I could buy a beautiful house, fancy clothes, throw elaborate parties for my family and friends.

Since my foolish 16-year-old days I have learned a thing or two. When I went to college, I didn’t have much money and worked at odd jobs on campus. We never did elaborate, costly things, but I will always look back on those tight-budget college years with fond memories. When my husband and I were just married, we lived in a tiny, kinda dumpy, one room, kitchen-the-size-of-a-closet, apartment. The walls were thin, our neighbors were grumpy. But we were so happy! Those were some wonderful times. My sweet, stubborn kids each have one icky t-shirt that they love. Any time I bring a new one home hoping they will finally retire their old ones, they become heart-broken at the mere suggestion. We have so many toys that go abandoned and forgotten, while sticks and rocks rarely are. I have learned in my years since opening that bag of M&Ms that while it may be nice, convenient, and handy, money really does not buy happiness!

That same amazing prankster sister has taught me much about living simply and finding joy in it. She and her husband ride bikes almost everywhere. She buys the cutest clothes for her and her kids at goodwill and garage sales. She builds benches, decks, kitchen cabinets, grows a garden, and has a beautiful home. She is a professional in the art of frugality. They  are, without a doubt, some of the happiest people I know.

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It is so easy to get greedy. Clothes, cars, toys, new furniture, phones, electronics… To wish for more and not appreciate what we have. I know I have been guilty of such selfish thoughts. But the truth is, the more we realize that our most valuable possessions are family and friends, the richer we will be. At 16 for that brief moment I thought I’d found all the happiness in the world in a bag of all-purple M&Ms. But as I look back at those exciting college memories, blissful newly-wed years, through the abandoned toys in the closet, and at my sister and her sweet family, it’s easy to see that 100 million yen could never truly bring happiness. Our real treasures are staring at us across the dinner table, crawling under the covers at night, calling on the phone to say hello, and giving hugs before walking out the door in the morning.  A treasure worth far more than a silly bag of all purple M&Ms.

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Categories: Life Lessons, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Observations of a Mother

When my first son was a baby, we had an absolutely amazing paediatrician. My husband and I, naive, brand-spanking new young parents, hung on to his every word, did everything he said, and took every little bit of advice as gospel truth. If he would have told us to feed our kid a tablespoon of chocolate syrup and a jar of pickles every night before bed, by golly, we probably would have done it.

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So when he recommended reading Scientist in the Crib, we picked it up at the book store on the way home from his office and read it that very night. Basically, to sum it up in one sentence, it was about how children learn an unbelievable amount in a very short time. They are truly incredible tiny human beings! An interesting book with great information.

In the past six years I’ve been doing a bit of observing of my own. A little less scientific in nature and much more informal, but I do believe that my results are fairly informative and note-worthy. In my six years of study, I’ve concluded (similar to the studies cited in Scientist in the Crib) that children have talent unparalleled to that found in the adult world. Here’s some evidence backing my findings…

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1. Children have the uncanny ability to go through six outfits in 30 minutes. Eight, if you include the adult caring for the child.

2. A mere tablespoon of peanutbutter can be smeared over their entire body, making it seem like it was an entire jar.

3. They can eat a bug and not even be phased by the squirmy legs going down their throats. Then do it again moments later.

4. They have the amazing ability to remember how you’d promised eight months prior that you would buy them a fish for their fourth birthday, then make sure you held to that promise by giving those puppy-dog eyes and reminding you over and over how you’d promised those many, many months ago (thinking they’d forget).

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5. They can become best buddies with the complete stranger behind the checkout counter at the grocery store in one visit.

6. A perfectly spotless house can become a train-wreck in a matter of minutes using their superior demolition skill.

7. Using bare hands they can crush the nastiest, ugliest crawling creature without a tinge of disgust or fear.

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8. While eating home-made cookies, they can detect exactly which ingredient you’d forgot to add.

9. They know 54 more uses for a wooden spoon that you’d never even dreamed of.

10. As soon as they fall asleep, they have this amazing ability to transform into the sweetest, most precious angel you’ve ever seen, despite the fact that they had just accomplished #6.

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11. A bouquet of dandelions can become as beautiful as a dozen long-stemmed roses when they are picked by a child.

12. They have total and unwavering faith in something they have never seen.

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13. After you have eaten the last few bites of the cookie left on their plate (thinking they were all through) then find out they’d planned to save it for later, they have the talent to, after some tears, forgive and forget and still love you enough to share next time.

14. They can fight furiously with a little brother that hit them on the head with a giant block and ran away with their monkey, then want to play cars with them a minute later.

And finally…

15. Children have the unparalleled talent to make you laugh, cry bawl, have a panic attack, jump for joy, feel unbelievable frustration, want to hug them till their eyes bulge, scream, cheer, squeal, and sing all in a matter of five minutes. I’d like ot see an actor or actress in Hollywood evoke such emotions.

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I find myself in awe at all that my children can accomplish in a day (and often what I feel like I can’t accomplish because of it!). They truly are amazing, talented, little scientists that have abilities I wish so much I still had. In so many ways I feel like they are such better people than I am. I try every day to be more loving, more forgiving, more brave and courageous, and more filled with faith because of the example they set. I’m thankful every day for those three little rascals and all their talents and abilities!

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…What did I forget? Any observations you’ve made watching your talented little scientists, all you amazing moms out there?

Categories: Motherhood, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Second Chances

We hadn’t been the movie theater since before kids. Movies are just so incredibly expensive! So when my parents gave us a Fandango gift card for Christmas, we knew we had to make it the best movie experience ever. That summer we saw that Toy Story 3 was in theaters and we decided that was it–the movie we’d been holding out for. Our oldest was two, my brother-in-law (who loves Toy Story) was in town visiting, and the gift card was starting to burn holes in our pockets. Now or never, we thought. We even invited Grandma. This was going to be so fun!

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I had high hopes for this adventure. Being the first time we had gone in years AND being R’s first time to the movies, I was determined everyone was going to have a good time. The smell of way-too-buttery popcorn was thick in the air, R was enthralled at the monster screen just ahead, and we had our pick of the best seats in the house. The previews began and the first twenty minutes went off without a hitch. R was full of questions, but that came as no surprise. Suddenly, about ten minutes into the movie my motor mouth two-year-old went silent. Something had to be wrong. As I leaned over to ask if everything was ok, out of nowhere he got sick. Everywhere. The floor, his chair, himself, me, the arm rest, grandma…NOTHING was spared. No parenting book had prepared me for that. How on earth do you handle screaming, sick child, smelly, disgusting mess everywhere, in the middle of a dark, crowded room? Thank goodness grandma was in the next seat over because I froze. After a few dozen rolls of paper towels and apologizing profusely to fellow bathroom goers we had ourselves a semi-clean boy and a new reason wet wipes are a mom’s best friend. The guys met us outside the bathroom and explained how they’d tried to clean up the best they could by the glow of the giant screen, then went out to tell a janitor of our little mishap. I felt terrible. Terrible for my poor, sick son, terrible for Grandma and Uncle J having to help clean up a yucky mess, terrible for wasting that gift card, terrible for the janitors, terrible for ruining the movie for everyone sitting in that theater that now, no doubt had to smell it the rest of the movie (if they could even manage!). That night I will always remember as my crash course in toddler humiliation 101.

Here we are 4 years later and we have yet to set foot in a theater. The trauma of that night has lingered in the back of my mind, surfacing every time the suggestion of seeing a movie arrises. Parenting has a funny way of humbling you and reminding you that no matter how good you are at split-second solutions in sticky situations, your toddler can dish you a doozy that totally throws you for a loop.

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I can think of countless times in my life when one bad experience has tainted my view of something, caused me to form an unfair opinion of someone, and ultimately prevented me from giving that someone or something a second chance. So many opportunities I’m sure have been lost. Having three lego-obsessed kids, I would have loved to take my boys to see the Lego Movie, but my fears of one spewing all over the audience held me back. Because something happened once doesn’t mean it always has and always will. In life we have those moments. Moments we stumble, or get sick at the movies, or offend, or terribly mess up, or are wronged. When that happens, when that humiliation ensues, when the pain is too much to handle, the easy thing to do is quit trying. To give up. But that’s what life is all about! Messing up, having a bad day, failing miserably. Then picking ourselves up and trying again. And again, and again. Life is about second chances, allowing ourselves and others to step up to the plate and take another swing. Where would we all be without that?

For all you movie-goers out there, don’t worry, we still haven’t worked ourselves up to going back. It could be a while. But when we do I promise I will have plastic bags, a bucket, towels, wet wipes, water bottles, a mop, extra clothes for everyone, maybe raincoats…you know, just in case. Cause if you don’t learn and change, what good is that second chance? 😉 Someday we’ll give the movie theater another try. We’ll sit in those big, bouncy chairs, smell that buttery popcorn, and enjoy more than the previews. In the meantime, I hope we can give other bad moments, other people, other failures a second chance. Cause that’s what life’s about. And when we fail, and I’m sure we will, we’ll pick ourselves up, brush ourselves off, and try again, and again, and again.

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Categories: Life Lessons | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Because We Love Them, No Matter What

This morning M, my middle boy, sat at the table for 15 minutes howling and carrying on enough to rival that of a werewolf on a full moon night. All because I refused to cut up his waffles until he could ask me nicely. I had the fork in my hand. It would have taken two seconds. But I was so fed up with the whining I decided to put my foot down and show some tough love. When I was student teaching, my supervisor would tell me that kids need discipline. They want it! And if you really and truly love them, you’ll give it to them. Ugh, that was so hard. As a mom I learned this on an entirely different level. I would never let my sons play with my best set of knives, not because I’m a sadistic, mean, hateful parent, but because I LOVE my kids and would be so sad to watch their pain as I sewed a finger back on. We have a rule at our house that everyone must wear shoes outside. This one drove me insane at first (and not necessarily enforcing it…more following it. Who can resist the feeling of green grass between their toes??). But within the first month of moving to the country and having Our 5-year-old almost step on a rattle snake on two separate occasions, once being in our yard, I caved and realized it was a necessary precaution. Because we LOVE our kids.

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But there’s more than just laying down the law. A friend reminded me the other day that “…Sometimes we just have to let kids learn about gravity by falling. It’s what good moms do!” (Thanks, Donna!) As parents we set the rules. We teach them what’s appropriate, then we allow them to make choices. I hope and pray every day my children will make good choices, but I know that being human they won’t always. The hardest part (in my opinion) is allowing children to make mistakes, get a little dirty, and experience consequences on their own. Of course I wouldn’t hand my kids a set of knives and say, “Go ahead! Juggle ’em!” But consequences to their actions should certainly be in place. We allow our children to reap what they sow because we love them. We want them to learn. It’s what good moms (and dads) do.

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I wonder if one reason God gives us children is so that we can have a better understanding of him and his relationship with us. When I held all three of my boys in my arms in the hospital after they took their first breaths, my heart just about burst with love. I knew that no matter what happened in their lives, no matter what mistakes they made, what successes they experienced, no matter what, I would love them. I was their mother, and those feelings were different, in some ways stronger than I’d ever experienced. I think it must be how God feels about us. No matter what, good or bad, whoppers of mistakes or perfectly clean slates, he loves us unconditionally. He loves us so much that he’s set boundaries to keep us safe. He knows far better than we do what our actions, good and bad, will bring. He’s made rules and asked us to follow them, then he’s allowed us to experience consequences in order for us to learn. And when we come back, he welcomes us with open arms.

Im so glad I have a wonderful mother who taught me. Who set boundaries then allowed me to experience consequences of my actions, good and bad. she allowed me to make mistakes, do stupid teenage things (though I’m sure it ripped her apart inside), then let me come back with open arms. If that isn’t unconditional love, I don’t know what is. In my limited, mortal understanding, I think that must be how God teaches us, with that unconditional love.

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When dear M came down those stairs and plopped his pajamad bottom at that kitchen table, I loved him. When he whined and demanded I cut his waffle, I still loved him. When the consequences of no breakfast followed (though for 15 minutes I debated my stance and wondered if this was a battle worth picking) and he howled and carried on and on, I loved him just the same (ok, so maybe with an edge of impatience and frustration). When he finally caught his breath and sweetly asked, “Mommy, would you please cut my waffle?” I gladly cut it and loved him as much as I always had. Whether it’s waffles or late nights past cerfew, parents love their children. Sure, they feel disappointment, discouragement, and pain, but never does the love go away. I don’t believe anything can change that. Just as God loves us in all of our mistakes, failures, shortcomings, and sins. No matter what.

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Categories: Motherhood | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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