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Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

Similar Yet Different

I love the beach, especially during off-season. My autumn love affair began when our daughters were young. David’s vacation days landed in October and the weather co-operated enough to enjoy the surf. Apparently kids don’t realize how cold the water is when they’re having fun.

Fast forward about thirty years. Our firstborn lives in Illinois and her youngest daughter Kianna happens to love the beach too. However, they seldom get to visit there since it’s at least a fifteen hour drive. Kianna turned sixteen on Halloween so her parents surprised her with a long weekend at the coast. She is such a great kid and was thrilled with the gift even though it included me [her Grammy], her mom Stephanie, and Stephanie’s sisters Amanda and Hannah. Together the five of us stayed in a beachfront condo on Ocean Isle for three days. The Lord graciously blessed us with gorgeous weather: sunshine and mid-seventies; a beautiful harvest moon shining down over the sparkling water; and breathtaking sunrises and sunsets. Watching the waves lap at the shoreline was the best therapy of all.

We capped off Saturday night with a Bob Ross painting party. Stephanie collected the supplies we needed beforehand plus a YouTube video on how to paint a seascape. Though all of us watched the same recording, listened to the same instructions, and by the end of the day even had similar hairstyles as our teacher Bob, our paintings are very different. It is actually rather surprising how different they are. As the mother/grandmother it reminded me of an important truth. No matter how similar the parenting, our kids are going to grow up to do their own thing. Just as we were given freewill by our heavenly Father, so also were our children. With each personality, set of circumstances and choices made, our character is developed. It seems the best Parent of all loves variety.

I wonder why we struggle with that. We look at others and wish we were like them. They always know where they put their keys. When they pull off their shoes, their toes aren’t poking through their socks. They never take their kids to the grocery store with jelly on their faces. Their purse is not hiding last week’s banana and their credit cards are never declined.

Maybe it’s time we cut ourselves a little slack. Maybe those of us who march to a different beat are the very ones the Lord will use to make others laugh. Perhaps we’ll lighten a load and make the world a better place.

So to you who live on a continual guilt trip over your imperfect kids and your crazy life, I recommend jumping off that train. Lick your thumb and wipe the jelly from your kid’s face… or not. Relax and be glad that your offspring are different. At some point they’ll probably wonder why fruit flies are hovering around their purses and you’ll know the answer.

Paint the scenes of your life to suit yourself and the Lord. It just so happens, He loves variety.

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When I look at my hands I see my daddy’s. His are larger but ours are both rough and shaped the same. His are more calloused from all the work he does. I just use my little man hands to type and occasionally dig in the flower beds. But they are still pretty rough for such a delicate woman. I also inherited my daddy’s sense of humor, his feistiness, and his love for sharing a good story. Oh how I wish I had them all recorded so you could hear them too. He told me one the other day about sneaking out to swim off the coast of the Philippines when he was in the Navy. The next day they pulled a shark from those same waters large enough that daddy said he could’ve easily crawled inside it.

“Still sends shivers up my spine!” Daddy laughed as he recalled it. I’m just glad he lived to tell about it.

Daddy came from a family of twelve children. His generation raised their kids with a firm hand. Being blessed with three daughters, I’m sure daddy tempered his words many times though I can’t remember any examples of that at the moment. I don’t know how the man lived with three teenage girls in a house with one bathroom. We knew better than to mess around when daddy spoke. However, I never doubted that he loved me.

I remember warning a guy I dated not to be afraid of my father just because of his rough exterior. He picked me up one Saturday and admitted later that he had polished his shoes in hopes of impressing my dad. Bless his heart. I could’ve saved him the trouble. Daddy was not impressed with any of the young men who expressed interest in his daughters. And this particular guy had very long hippy hair. I’m sure daddy’s steely gaze never made it down to the poor guy’s polished ankle boots.

They say that a girl will ultimately choose a husband who reminds her of her dad. The man I married is nothing like my dad… except that he too has three daughters who knew better than to mess around when he spoke. He loved each one of them through the teen years, coached their teams and watched their suitors with a careful eye. Come to think of it he has a great sense of humor and loves a good story too.

Like my father he loved his wife unconditionally through the horrors and uncertainties of cancer; through good days and bad; through the raising of daughters and eventually their marriages. With a firm hand he taught them the importance of obeying authority and especially that of the Lord. They watched as he quietly started every day with time in Scripture and prayer for his beloved ones. Though his daughters did not inherit his giant man hands, they certainly inherited his heart; his gentle but firm leadership in their own families; his smiling eyes and great sense of humor; and best of all his love for the Lord.

I think that when I get to Heaven, the first thing I’m going to do is check out my Father’s hands. I have a feeling they look like my daddy’s: calloused and worn from all the things He’s protected me from. But when I look into His eyes, I bet they’ll sparkle like my husband’s with kindness and love.

Happy Father’s Day to my two favorite men! Because of your example your daughters chose well when picking men who would become daddies too. May the resemblances continue through the next generation. And may we all live to tell about it.

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We were headed to the beach for a vacation when the girls were approximately five, seven, and nine. They were in the back seat of a car whose air-conditioner was on its last leg. Our middle daughter, Amanda, began to complain, “I’m hot.” I assured her that she would be fine. Besides, we were only a half hour into a four hour trip. “Think happy thoughts sweetheart. What are we going to do when we get there? We’ll play in the ocean, and look for shells. Won’t we have a great time?!” She would not be comforted.

“I am so hot,” she moaned for about the tenth time. Her daddy, usually a very patient man, pulled the car over to the side of the road. He was also hot. He turned around and looked her in the eye and said, “You may NOT say, I AM HOT for the rest of this trip. We all know you are hot. But those words may not come out of your mouth again. Do you understand me?”

Wow. Very clear instructions hung in the air. He pulled the car back onto the road. It was obvious that he meant business. Playing the good cop, I pulled out little note pads and pencils and passed them to the girls. “Here you go. Draw a picture for me. You are such good artists!” The car was silent as they began their masterpieces.

“Oh how pretty! Look at these, honey! Didn’t they do a good job.” I was determined to lighten the mood, as steam was still coming off David’s head.

Amanda’s was especially well done. Besides the flowers and grass, the sunshine in one corner, and clouds in the sky, there was also a very good drawing of an Indian. He had a headband with a feather and fringe on his clothes, and a frown…and what I assumed to be a giant tear. “Why is he sad?” I asked. With great sympathy she replied, “Because he is SO HOT!”

Sometimes you just have to laugh. Even her daddy thought that was well played.

This beautiful strong-willed middle child and I bumped heads an awfully lot while we were growing up together. There could be only one Queen in the Clark Kingdom and I was determined that it was not her. She was not so sure.

She lost control of her bicycle one day and lay sprawled in the gravel driveway. Through much wailing and gnashing of teeth, she announced for the neighborhood to hear that she had broken her leg. I helped her into the house and explained to her that not only had I seen her fall, but that one does not break a leg simply by sliding sideways off a bike. It was not that hard of a fall! She mourned and whined from Wednesday til Saturday, at which time I proclaimed in my kindest and most nurturing tone, “I WILL TAKE YOU TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM FOR AN EX-RAY. IF YOUR LEG IS NOT BROKEN, WE WILL DEAL WITH THAT WHEN WE GET HOME!”

Notice parents: You never actually state what the punishment is going to be. You just leave it hanging in the air like fire about to rain down from heaven. Anyway, her leg was broken and I felt like the uncaring parent that I was often proclaimed to be. Please don’t report me to DSS. How was I to know that her mourning was valid this time?

This week she turned thirty seven and is currently reaping all the rewards of the mother’s curse. She has a very determined three year old son who pushes her buttons so fast that she lives exhausted. She finds herself saying things like, “Able, don’t write on the window with your banana.” I find it extremely fulfilling watching her do motherhood.

Sometimes I just have to laugh.Able & AmandaAmanda & Able

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It might be a Southern thing, parking buggies nose to nose in front of the Prilosec at Walmart sharing deep personal issues.

Guilty as charged.

I try to stay out of Walmart because I don’t function well there. Something about crowds and long walks between the raisins and the hair gel ticks me off. How spoiled am I? Nothing against Sam Walton or the fine folks who work there. Thankfully the company has provided much needed jobs for lots of folks who might otherwise be unemployed.

But could someone please shut off the video ads in the aisles so us old people can think?

Annyyywayyy…

I bumped into a dear friend whom I’ve not seen in approximately seven to ten. I know what you’re thinking. Either she just got out of prison or she’s not really that dear if I’ve not seen her in that space of time. You would be incorrect on both accounts. We just got busy living life and forgot how much we like each other. Or I could be incorrect and she’s been avoiding me all these years. Hmmm…

So right there in Walmart with buggies nose to nose we talked about wayward children. Not mine of course, as they are all perfect. Through tears we shared the angst of parenting and how it seems that we raise our children to be strong and independent and above all to think for themselves… until they do. That’s when the defecation hits the oscillation.

How dare they question the belief system we’ve poured into their hearts and souls? What is that about?

I loved the wisdom she shared through her pain.

“I’m asking the Lord to take me out of the way of His plan.” She spoke with tears. “For if I can just stay out of His way, He will work this out.”

Wow.ad in wmt

That has become my own desire as well. If I can own the fact that He has a plan which includes me, but doesn’t depend on me, all manner of crapstorms shall be avoided.

So Lord, take me out of the way. Let Your will be done. Work through me as Your tool of grace. You love drawing all men to Yourself. Help me to never get in the way of that.

And please cure the lady of heartburn who tried her best to get something over the counter without interrupting our visit.

Thankfully that is also a Southern thing.

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Do you have someone in your family who’s always got your back? You know that if you’re in trouble they will be there to kick butt and take names. I have someone like that in my family. It’s my sister-in-law Gail. She is one of those rare souls who will take care of you when you need it most.

Once when I was hospitalized I was on so much medication that I was very sick and overheated. [Sounds like most of the vehicles we’ve owned.] Anyway, there was not a fan to be found according to the nurses. My sister-in-law Gail came to the rescue. After a quick disappearance down the hall she returned with a fan. She set it up, turned it toward me, and immediately I felt better. I asked where she found the fan. “Some old man down the hall was asleep so I took his. He won’t miss it.” Holy cow! And she did that for me.

Another time we were in the middle of painting the inside of our house when I went into labor. She came over and finished painting and cleaning so everything would be nice when I came home with the new baby.

I love that she calls her mother every morning and every evening. I know that if she cannot reach her she’ll call me and I can walk over to Nina’s and make sure she’s ok. Poor ol’ Nina can’t make a move without us knowing about it. She even calls us to let us know if she’s going out with friends so we won’t worry. Gail has finally got her trained to keep us posted. That’s a very good thing.

Gail has raised the most well-mannered and hard-working children I’ve ever known. Her three oldest sons are now raising children of their own to do the same. Her three younger children will no doubt be just as great, because some things are just not an option in her household.

Has her life been a bed of roses? Not so much. In fact like most of us, her strength is in direct proportion to all the trials she’s been through. That’s why she is so strong. Well, that and the fact that she is the middle child, which she will gladly point out if the occasion arises.

She’s currently raising her second set of children. I think of the verse in Job 42:12 which says, “So the Lord blessed Job in the second half of his life even more than in the beginning.”

Today is her birthday. I wish her many, many more, because somebody needs to be in charge! I’m so glad it’s Gail.

Gail and granddaughter Savanah

Gail and granddaughter Savanah

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A roach scurried out from under the microwave. Yes a roach. How many years has it been since I’ve even seen one of these detestable creatures? Between shrieks I grabbed the nearest weapon. He waited, taunting me with his beady eyes and twitchy antennae. Back under the microwave he slipped just ahead of the flip flop. With no time to extract the microwave from its tight fitting home, visions of a roach mutiny filled my head. I might have had a mental breakdown at that point but again, there was just no time.

“Grammy come get on the boat! We don’t want to leave you! GRAMMY GRAMMMY GRAMMMMY! The boat is leaving! The boat is LEAVING!”

“Honey I can’t play boat on the bed now. We need to eat and get ready to go. C’mon, hurry hurry.”

Plunking the two toddlers into their chairs as they looked curiously at their Grammy was not to be done quickly. Questions about the shrieks came tumbling from sweet Marie who wondered what should be feared and if her attractive young grandmother was even grown up enough to be in charge. Jesse being the strong silent type peered at me with sky blue eyes of wonder as I shoved cereal bowls toward them and spoke in words he knew not.

“Woof it down kids, woof it! No time to dilly dally.”

“Pray?”

“Oh yeah. Go for it.”

Marie being the spiritual one of the bunch flew into blessing everyone she knew and thanking God for all things that may or may not happen while they stayed with their grandparents. She reviewed the fact that Mommy and Pop were flying on a big plane higher than the sky across the water to work with Mario the missionary. Jesse got bored with all the details and peeked to see if the cereal was worth all the fuss. A few Aldi O’s during the prayer surely wouldn’t hurt as his sister seemed to be taking her sweet time invoking the Almighty.

A loud triumphant “AMEN!” signaled the end of the blessing. “Spoon?” asked sweetie Marie. Tossing utensils in their direction I too shoved a spoon into the Pumpkin Seed Flax Granola which promised health and yumminess. As soon as the spoon hit my tongue I knew something was amiss. Apparently yesterday’s peanut butter was on the back side of the spoon even though it had been through the pot scrubber cycle in the dishwasher.

“Yuuuuuuuuuuukkkkkk!!!” and other exclamations of displeasure rolled off my milky peanut butter tongue.

“We not say yukky at table!” reminded sweetie Marie. “Pop say we no say yuk at Mommy food. Not nice.”

“Poopoo. Poopoo! POOOPOOOO!!!” exclaimed my strong silent one. Apparently the urgency of the situation was more important than breakfast conversation etiquette.

“Hurry Jesse hurry! Good job going poopoo potty. Hang on! Poppy’s getting out! Hurry hurry hurry!”

“Go away Grammy.”

“Okay. Call me when you’re done.”

Back at the table wielding a clean spoon, one bite of healthful yumminess and a sip of lukewarm coffee later I was summoned from yon potty.”

“Gammmmmmmy… I fwoooooo!” Holy cow little man! That is some giant poopoo in the tiny potty. I guess there IS something grosser than roaches and yesterday’s peanut butter. Wait wait wait. Let me clean you up before you go back to breakfast. Wash hands baby. Soap soap soap!

Okay kiddos. Get a move on! Let’s wear your pretty clothes we picked out last night. No Jesse not that shirt. You slept in that one. Here’s the one you liked last night. No honey please don’t cry. Your Superman shirt has milk on the front. Please Jesse please… okay. No problem. Superman will be dry before we get there. It’s okay. Yes. Mommy will be home soon.

Marie please be still while I put your pretty tutu on. How do these shoes fasten? Do they still fit? No honey your Superman shirt doesn’t match this tutu. Let’s dress up pretty okay? Please?

Okay. Superman will be fine. Do you know where it is? No Jesse don’t tear all the clothes out of the suitcase honey. Stop jumping on the bed. You might fall. We’ll find it. Maybe it’s on the dryer… Nope. Marie honey I don’t know where it is. Will you please wear this pretty outfit? Please don’t make your pouty lip. Thank you sweetie, that’s a good girl. Yes Mommy will be home soon. You and Jesse go play with Poppy while I get ready.

Poppy helping

Poppy helping

Three minutes later I emerged from the bathroom looking lovely in yesterday’s clothes. I tried to remember the last time I had showered and washed my hair.  When I sat down I realized my pants were unzipped. “Thank You Lord for that timely revelation.” An unusually loud thwack signaled my phone had fallen out of my pocket. Several cracks spread across the face of our other grandson who serves as my screen saver. I looked at sweet Able who is three and thought of how much I miss him since his parents had the audacity to move to Texas. My heart smiled at the thought of our teen granddaughters in Illinois as I knew they were making their own breakfast and dressing themselves. Three daughters spread across the globe, all with children getting ready for church this morning gave me joy as we wrangled our two little passengers into car seats.

The sweet happy chaos of raising children is so rewarding and actually quite… easy.

Easy like Sunday morning.

Fun after church

Fun after church

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She drove twelve hours to get here. This beloved daughter of mine has not lived at home since she graduated high school in 1994. Off to college she went where she would meet her sweetheart and together they began their own great adventure. They’ve explored exotic places like China and Russia and South Carolina; birthed babies in New Orleans and eastern Kentucky. Put down roots for a while in the bluegrass of western Kentucky. Recently they settled in the beautiful Midwestern state of Illinois where they’ve bought their first house. She spoke of it fondly and her eyes sparkled when she mentioned “home.”

When she first left for college, which was only two hours away, my mama heart hurt. I’m such a weeper. But I knew it was only temporary… or at least I thought. I recalled my own mom saying how hard it was when I left for college. She’d look at the toothbrush holder with one empty space and miss her redheaded girl in south Florida. Not being a weeper like me, in her mind the best way to fill the void was to buy an extra toothbrush. So she did. Thanks mom.

When our Stephanie arrived last week with her youngest daughter Kianna we asked what they wanted to do before the time got away from us. A day trip to the beach was their number one, after visiting the grandparents of course. They haven’t seen the ocean in a very long time so off we went. The four hour drive there and back was just a skip and a hop after the long journey here. It was totally worth it to watch them play in the ocean and chase umbrellas down the beach when the tide suddenly sucked the life out of our party. Coolers, extra clothes, towels, snacks, and flip flops were pulled away when the last wave of the rising tide came in a lot stronger than expected, leaving even faster than it came. Several days later Steph was still shaking sand from her purse which was snatched off the back of a beach chair and dumped into the surf. Her wish to take a little coastal life back with her has surely been granted.photo (67)

Time flew and before we knew it our visit was over. David and I stood on the porch and waved till they were out of sight. Thanks to her dad the fluids in her Jeep were checked, fresh pork chop sandwiches were ready for lunch down the road, and a crepe myrtle tree she bought was carefully loaded. Kianna having the same weird humor as her grandfather commented that she was not crying at all. Her eyeballs just get sweaty sometimes.

Back inside the house an empty rocking chair reminded me of the best part of the visit. Steph had pulled it from the den into my little reading nook where we shared a footstool and coffee in the mornings. We talked of family, the things the Lord is teaching us, and of hardships He’s carried us through. We shared decorating ideas and the crazy terror of raising daughters. We laughed at our wild hair and cried over hurtful relationships. Well… I cried because I’m a weeper. She just listened and related. Our time together confirmed what we’ve known since 1994. The shortest distance between two points is the love we share.

But it doesn’t hurt to have an extra toothbrush to fill in the gap.empty chair

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