This Where the Nonsense Turns to Makesense

..A large family working to perfect our sweet skills: Loving others, making an impact, parenting on purpose, living simply, and embracing sarcasm.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Talk To Your Girls; Make It A Habit

I've heard a lot of women say their girls just stopped talking to them once they got to a certain age. I am sorry to say I have been this girl to her mamma. None of this is actually God's plan for a mother and her child.
I started researching parenting the minute I had my first kid. Before really. I read every book and took every class I could possibly get ahold of because I was placed on bed rest with that first little turkey, and she kept insisting on making an early appearance. As it turns out, in true rude gus fashion, she ended up being 14 days late. 14. 14 days. Late. I'm not over it. 
Anyway, my research consisted mostly of conversations with moms who have been there, who have good adults for children, and who were happy to be honest and not sugar coat things. If you don't currently have these people around you, find them. Stop what you're doing and go find them. Pray for God to bring these moms around you. Keep your eyes open at the next baby shower, party, or any gathering where any women seem to congregate. These women are your life line. They exist to teach you what you need to know to survive some trying parenting years. They aren't all hard, but those moments seem to happen often and with a sea of emotions. 
One amazing mother of four incredible kids suggested I start early with my girls to talk about the awkward stuff, so that when we got to the REALLY personal chats, talking about it would be old hat. Then my friend, Jessica, suggested this journal. 

Because I love writing and written records and journals so much, I felt this was the best route for me and my girls. Over the years I have purchased three, one for each daughter. Izzy, now almost 18, was an early teen when we started. I think she was about 12. She was really struggling with so many things, and I kept hitting a brick wall when I would bring up a topic. Any topic. Even simple questions. Then we started this book. 
I started with something simple. I guessed the contents of her bag, and when I passed on the book I had her guess the contents of my purse. Our guesses were crazy and funny and weirdly spot on. She was hooked. She got to choose the next topic in the book. She chose to draw pictures of her dream outfit for her first day of work. The doodling is what drew her in, I think. The relationship is what keeps me checking under my pillow every night to see if she has hidden it there with a new message.
Before we got started, we went over rules. 
  • Do we use a special pen? Nah. Just make it legible. 
  • Are drawn responses acceptable? When you draw like Isabelle they are. 
  • How often should we pass the book back? Just get to it when you can, but know that someone on the other end is excited to see what you have written or how you have responded. 
  • Do we share this information with other people (aka siblings, daddy)? No, never, unless we agree on it or unless I think something harmful is happening with her. I gave her permission to tell her dad anything I wrote, because. Let's face it. That guy has known me since I was a kid. He is in all my stories. 
  • How do we pass the book on? We chose to hide it under the other's pillow.

I cannot stress enough how major this interaction has been in the relationships I have with each of my three daughters. We own three of these books now. And, yes, that can turn into a bit of a chore when I have three of these journals hiding under my pillow in one night. But talk about a worthy investment. The lines of communication are so far open. 
My girls have incredibly different personalities and therefore will share things differently. Some are so blunt and open I feel like I am perpetually sporting that shocked big eyed emoji face. You know the one? Another daughter is quiet, reserved, and honestly not as trusting. It takes a little more to get through her guards, but now that we have moved into the territory of personal body changes and boyfriends, I am happy to say that she is open with me about the things that matter. 
With my oldest getting things set to leave for college, this is a book I all treasure while she is gone. I may find a way to pass it on to her a few times a year even after she leaves, just to check in with her and give her a little piece of home when she is missing home. I don't know really. But I know that we have made it through her teen years with nearly zero typical girl dramas. Part of that is due to the fact that she is simply rad and she lives her life for Jesus. I am positive some of that is thanks to what we set up so early on: an easy path for dialogue. 

If you don't want to use a pre made journal, no problem! Take your girl out on a date and make up the page themes together. Or make it a birthday present. Here are some things we write about- they are both made up by us and preprinted by the authors of the book.

Top Ten Favorite Songs
Draw Your Dream Outfit
What's Your Favorite Bible Verse or Bible Character
Ten Ways You are Like Rory & Lorelei Gilmore
The Last (fill in the blank ) you just did/had { food you ate, person you talked to, book you read, movie you watched, etc.}

They go on to share some embarrassing moments, dreams of the future, what I was like as a kid and what she thinks she will be like as a mother. It doesn't really matter what you talk about. Just talk. Make it easy. Don't discipline. Be true. Be kind. Be encouraging. Be on purpose. It could change everything. 

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

2016

The song on my iPod had just finished, and I thought to myself "the next song that comes on is going to be the theme song for our next year." Naturally, it was Justin Bieber. I'm calling this a win. 

I laughed about it for a few minutes all to myself, told my kids what just took place inside of my head, endured their mock of my love for Justin Bieber, and then declared, "Jesus uses Justin Bieber to talk to me." 

It's only funnier that I've taken the idea of it all more seriously. The song? Purpose. 

Seriously?? JESUS USES JUSTIN BIEBER. 

The more I get into my new routine of things (more to come on this) the more I realize "PURPOSE" is the perfect word for my year. It's just a happy circumstance that there is a song about it. 

But really, what's the point of anything we do, of everything we do, of all the things we skip if there is no purpose behind them. Know your purpose. 

I want to know my purpose. I want my purpose to be God's purpose. I want to do all things on purpose, so that my God is glorified with the life I lead. So I earn the tombstone that reads, "she did what she could". 

Otherwise it may as well say "she stayed busy, but did very little." That's how I feel sometimes. Like my whole life is spent shouting into the wind. And do you know what I am beginning to realize? 

I jump to my feet when I'm offered something easy to accomplish. When something intimidates me or seems too hard, I hide. It's fear. Fear is bigger in my life right now than purpose. 

Well, not for long. Justin Bieber and Jesus have gone out of their ways to deliver me a message, and I'm stepping into it. I'm reaching deep. I'm stepping out onto that water. I'm staring that wave in the face. I got this. Well, I don't, but Jesus has got me. Who else shall I fear? 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Winter Break

Oh how I love the sound of that phrase. Winter break. Brain break. Pants break. You can't make me. I won't. No pants, no finagling, no hectic. My minutes will be spent doing all the things I love most. 

Ok, maybe I promised myself I would clean something, but don't expect miracles. I'll spray the counter and walk away for a good five minutes just to avoid using elbow grease. Come at me, syrup stains. I'll soak a pan like I'm waiting for it to get pruney. Get behind me, caked on scum. And yes, I'll probably run that load of laundry through twice, but the second round will have a drop of lemon oil and therefore zero mildew smell. Yah. I got this winter break in the bag, and we are only two days in. 

You know what else has already  happened? After about a month of asking my husband to handle a few Unwelcomed visitors we named Rebecca, I caught the mice myself. Yes. We named all the mice Rebecca. Yes. I purchased four different mouse trap types and placed them silly nikky through my home. And, yes. Auto correct just changed "willy nilly" to "silly nikky" and I'm leaving it because maybe it fits better. The point is, I did it. I caught two mice in this strange glue contraption. One died straight away, and I'm sorry to say that another held on for a few ten minute sections of time (I didn't want to say an hour. It sounded meaner). 

What's a girl to do? How do you humanely rid your home of field mice that are eating through every food package in your pantry and leaving little black licorice bits like its the best surprise they can offer? 

No thanks, Rebecca! I don't want none. 

But I did it. I think my kids looked at me like I was just a smidgeon taller in their eyes when it was all done. Except Layla Grace. I don't know how she looked at me really. I avoided her eye contact on account of this conversation: 

Me: gross. Get away from the mice. 
LG: aw. It's so sad. Can't I just put him out of his misery?!
Me: what are you going to do??
LG (calmly) (too calmly): stab it. 
Me (commence avoiding eye contact)

Isn't this what winter break is all about? I'm just sorry I don't have a happier story.

Like the time Sam found the mouse trap my husband set. The peanut butter and cheese had been removed so precisely, yet the trap had not been set off. Almost as if Rebecca has thumbs (please don't have thumbs, Rebecca). And there was this conversation: 

Sam: mamma, since your trap has been licked clean, can I set it off with this stick?
Elijah: OH MY GOSH
Me (calmly): Sam. Never say that again. And no. 
Mike (chokes)

 If you love us you must love all of us. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

What's My Role? What's My Job?

I'm at odds on the inside. This time it isn't due to the rude amount of dairy I ate. This time it's my brain and my thoughts and how they intertwine with my heart. What I know verses what I feel. What I see verses my true reality. 

During the week, I spend a solid 35 hours looking into the faces of these tiny little clowns- 28 fifth grade clowns. They are a group of incredible humans, but most of the time I seem to know it more than they. 

I say, "that was awesome. Thank you for walking us through how you did that math problem!" 
They respond, "Uh. Mrs. B. I got it wrong"
I attempt to high-five them and they accuse me of being too enthusiastic. So I offer them a low five and attempt a serious face. I ask, "what do you mean you got it wrong?? Did you learn something just now by working through this problem?"

"Well. Yah. I know how to solve it now," they add with confused faces. 

"Perfect. Well the right answer wasn't '11'; the right answer was figuring how how not to solve this problem so you could get to 11!"

They walk away slowly assessing me while I chuckle and the rest of the class laughs, mostly happy none of them was on the spot just now. 

We laugh so much in my classroom. Sometimes, when I feel the day is taking too long or what we are learning is threatening our understanding, I stop the lesson for a story. I overdo it. I use big hands. I engage them in silly stories and banter to further their sarcasm and wit, but more importantly, I show them what it looks like to interact socially with an adult. 
There are too many "right answers" in these kids' lives. Too much of "do it this way or get out". Sometimes there's a punishment for simply having a different opinion. By the time this crowd is ten, they've learned to lay low and please their people. There's no disagreeing. 

So I am at odds. I walk a fine line as an educator. I'm not the mom, I'm the teacher. But what happens when a student doesn't need a teacher, she needs a mom because her true mother called her a slut earlier that morning. She's ten and an exceptional student, and even if her mother didn't mean it, she said it, and sent her daughter to school to process that with her little ten year old brain. 
I'm at odds because a boy who is handsome and tall and funny with a mound of potential gets kicked out of his house each morning. His step dad wakes him up at 7:30 and tells him to go. School starts at 9:30, and the walk is roughly five minutes. He doesn't open up much about this but it hurts him. He's told me it makes him sad. 
So, my question, dear readers, is where do I stand? If I was their mother, I could hold them and pray with them and say I am sorry. If I was a social worker it would be easy to say these kids are at risk. I would have a plan and a program and support. But I'm not. I'm a teacher. I have to stay neutral. I would never speak against a parent to a child. So what do I say? What do I do? 

For the time, I find myself being the recipient of hugs from students I don't yet even know. Kids in other classes. Kids I've never taught. It seems they aren't looking for a teacher or a new way to solve math; those are irrelevant in their hierarchy of needs. They need love. Of which I will never have enough to give. 

So for now I hug. I hug and I practice handing this weight up to Jesus because I can't win at this. I can't love enough or say the perfect words to change these kids' home life. I'm just one girl. #kathleenkelley

I'll continue living my real authentic life in this place where I've been so clearly sent. I'll attempt to be a peacemaker and a silent set of arms that hug back. Maybe that will be enough. Let that be enough, Jesus, or show me what to do because I know I'm not in this alone
 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

5.5 almost

We've been over this. I don't sleep. Last night I got a new oil that is said to have powers to keep you asleep once you fall there. It smells like grass. Some foreign grass one might find in Asia. I'm torn between two worlds: the man do I love sleep world and man do I dislike the smell of grass in Asia as I imagine it. But at the end of it all, I put a couple drops on my pillow and got a solid 5.5 hours of sleep. Not even a lot of tossing a turning. 

This could be a fluke. I always sleep better on Fridays. And why wouldn't I? My brain is fried between holding down my position as a teacher and leading the troop I call the Brew Crew. 

On the other hand, Saturday is a big night. Tossing and turning would make sense. I get to emcee Awaken's 4th annual fundraising banquet. It's sold out. My belly is at peace, but my mind is a jumble. I was focused and full of peace. And then terrorists came to Paris. 

Now my heart is unsettled which always gets me thinking which always wakes me up. What a web. 

It's so easy for me to stay unattached to traumatic situations. It's safe to say I fall somewhere in the spectrum of having an attachment disorder. There's been no clinical diagnosis, but I've been through enough training to help kids through it, and I know the hand I was dealt. Knowing this about myself, it's easy to understand when I don't engage the same way others do. But it's not acceptable. I don't accept it. 

If we strive to be the remnant of hope here on earth by pointing to Christ then we are to strive to hurt over the things that hurt Him. This is so counterintuitive. Place ourselves in harm's way? Lay our heart out where the pain is? Open our fists and sit by with palms wide open?this goes against my grain. I've mastered a life of keeping people just where I want them. 
I can love Jesus and care for people and keep all my emotions in order without ever being vulnerable. Until I come to realize that's not truth. That's a coping mechanism. It's a fleece thrown over my eyes that has slowly been thinning. The opaque takes on the sheer. 
Every morning I pray that my eyes would be open to see the people around me. And suddenly I'm understanding that this isn't his way. Instead, he's attempting to do that thing- that bit where he prunes and shakes and lovingly squeezes- where he pours a concentrated dose of love right down into my grinch of a heart and makes it swell to three times its usual size. That way he has about making me soften at the edges and dare to trust his kindness. That way he has of convincing us that we can wrap our hearts around the hurt in Paris and know we will walk out the other side still in tact. Maybe even a little bit stronger. 
I don't know how he does it. But I know it's his grace. The minutes I move from "everything is a trigger threatening my calm" to "I am willing to care about what you care about". I want to trust in his kindness enough to jump on the back of compassion and ride it like the pony I should have owned. 
I have practical steps to get better at this. Awaken is a an anti trafficking organization for local guys and girls here in Reno. I am mostly the writer and social media girl for the organization, but I've also connected with some of the girls we work with. Rather than keep them at arm's length and attempt to force sympathy, I think of their stories. I picture what their heart felt like at each section. How their moms and dads felt during that time. How others looked at them and knew they were hurting but maybe didn't know why or how or what they were really doing. 
So often at my work as a teacher, I come across a kid who seems loud and rebellious and in your face. Yesterday one such girl was giving her teacher an especially hard time. This girl is a button pusher. She has more than mastered the talent of I hurt you before you hurt me. She yells and teases and swears like a pro. She instigates and stirs up girl drama. So I put myself in her shoes. 

For a few minutes I stopped and asked, "what's really going on here?" And then I really watched her. She has no friends. When I ask her about family and what she did last night or how she gets along with her mom, she changes the subject smoothly but immediately. She's never answered. So I put myself in her shoes. 

And my heart aches. It squeezes and hurts and aches and wakes me up in the middle of the night to pray for these girls: the ones already working the streets and the ones at risk. 

And then, at 3:30 in the morning, this is when I start to realize that God doesn't want me to open my eyes. I see plenty. He wants me to open my heart. And he knows I'm not at all up for this challenge. Not at all. I will never have compassion enough for others. Part because I've been damaged and don't trust yet and part because love is a fruit only the Holy Spirit can perfect in me. My only job is to let him. 

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

The All Time Angst

You know those nights when your dinner was good but not enough substance to carry to morning? When you eat too early or too light or dang it you're just hungry. 

I'm having one of these minutes. I ate. I even ate at a normal dinner hour: 6:30. But when you eat at a football banquet they give you an unabashed stink eye if you even look like you're going to ask about wheat free, allergy friendly menu items. There isn't an allergy friendly section. There isn't even a menu. Take your styrofoam plate with those little hilly dividers, grab your dinner roll, handle your plastic ware, and just pick those croutons out of your heavily dressed Caesar salad yourself. 
Fine. But may I please sneak a bite of that cheesecake? Oh. You saw that, did you? You noticed me sneak a cheesecake bite when I was standing in line for dinner? Huh. Interesting. What's that you say? The dessert line wasn't quite open yet? Hmm. Well. In that case, I took two pieces of cheesecake when your back was turned. 
I'm still hungry. I think I'll try some ice cream. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Just The Two of Us (and no more)

The Man and I snuck out for five minutes of uninterrupted eye contact paired with an hour of talking freely. We didn't speak code even once for fear little ears might hear and hold us to whatever they picked up in their eavesdropping. Heaven bless them, but if one of my kids doesn't grow up to be a spy for the government, I may not have helped them discover their true calling. I've never met a crew that can gather Intel and decode our stuttered sentences and anagrams in the way my children can. 

Hubby: hey babe, want to go to the thing and get a D just ::opens eyes wide and winks twice:: 
Some child of mine: You guys are leaving!! To get drinks?! Just the two of you!!


Me: hey babe, there's a special thing and I was thinking of getting a ::points to ceiling:: for 5. 
Some child of mine: you're getting Sam a new hat for Christmas. 
Me: son of crap!! How do they do it!?

They are spies or wizards- I haven't decided. But the point is, we had time alone speaking freely like humans and not robots. It was glorious. 

Our conversation weaved from updates to goings on. We talked of funny stories and remembered our babies who are now college bound. We relayed the mocking we've done lately and got misty over the feelings on the horizon when our oldest leaves for college. 

We partook in the trivia cards strewn about the bar table and got caught up in each other's eyes a time or two. We sat close, so we touched the whole time. We remembered who we are- I am his and he is mine and no one else gets to fit in between us. We've left a pocket for Jesus, but nobody and nothing else is welcomed here. Not in this space. 

In this space, I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine. The end. There's no grey space here. There's no compromise. We were attached 22 years ago this January. Then we married almost 20 years ago. I've been his longer than I haven't in this life. What an overwhelming blessing. What an unexpected gift. 

Thank you, Mike Brewer, for always being my man. You are loved, sir.