Been played

“Time to make your lunch and wipe the table,” I told Adrian.

His little eyes welled with tears and he looked at the floor, twisting his fingers.

“I….I….I’m too tired to do my chores,” he said quietly.  He glanced up at me sadly.  “I’m so tired,” he repeated.

“Aw,” I said.  “Do you want to just go straight to bed then?”

He nodded, tears sliding down his cheeks.  “But….but what about my lunch?”

“I’ll take care of it for you,” I assured him, patting his shoulder.  “It’s important for you to get your rest.  You had a long day at school.  But you have to go right to bed.”

He smiled through his tears and sniffled.  “Thank you, Mom!  I’ll go straight to bed,” He promised, giving me a big hug.  “I wonder what you’re going to make me!  I’m going to go put on my PJ’s!”  His brown eyes shone like a cute little fawn.

“I’ll make you a nice lunch, you get your rest,” I said, feeling like a good mom taking care of her baby.

Poor little Adrian,  I thought.  So tired after all his hard work at school.  Poor little guy, so worried about his lunch.

“AAAAARRRRGGGH!” I heard shrieking from the basement.

Then again, “AAAAAARRRRRGGHHHH!!!!”  Followed by the twins squealing and loud bangs.


I stopped making the ham sandwich and went downstairs.  Adrian, not in his PJ’s, was chasing the twins at top speed and yelling.

“I thought you were so tired you had to go straight to bed!” I exclaimed.

Adrian stopped immediately and his face dropped.  “I….um….I am really tired Mom!”  He tried to wipe the big grin off his face and replace it with a pout….unsuccessfully.

“Yeah, if you have energy to chase and wrestle the twins, you have energy to finish your chores.  Go back upstairs.”

Adrian stomped angrily up the stairs and finished all his chores, with chasing energy to spare.

Mom got played!




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The Stories we tell

I have loved novels since I read my first chapter book, The Phantom Tollbooth, at age 7.  I was hooked.  I read constantly, so much my mom actually took my book away one day to make me go do something else.

I majored in English in college, and loved delving into novels, analyzing and writing about them.  Stories are art; they express emotion and experience that we can’t otherwise explain.  And they allow us to distance ourselves a bit from reality to gain perspective.

Life is about the stories we tell ourselves.  Like a novel, we analyze and interpret everything that happens to us.  This blog is so valuable to me because I am writing my own story.  I CHOOSE to tell my story my way.  Although it isn’t fiction, it is still a story, that I write and voice.  It keeps my sense of humor in the challenges of parenting.  When I am going through something with my children, I think about how it will make a good story for my blog…and I write a funny story.  Is my life always funny and cute and I’m always appreciating it all?  Of course not.  But I choose to make my story one of joy and laughter.  When I look back at raising my young children, this is the story I’m reading.  I’m forgetting the tears, sleeplessness, and tantrums.  I’m remembering the goofy fun.  Life is the stories we choose to tell.

Adrian’s birth was one of the most difficult things I’ve gone through, but I have nothing but good memories of it.  You can read about it here  and here and here.  When I look back at Adrian’s early weeks, I remember God’s provision for our family.  I remember the overwhelming support of my parents, aunt and uncle, and friends.  I remember how wonderfully Eric took care of me and Adrian.  I remember the breast milk donated for my baby.  I remember Adrian’s strength, and I feel amazed at the wonderful, loving boy he is today.

The rest–the part where I broke my tailbone in delivery and was in so much agony I couldn’t walk, or the part where my breasts were so engorged I just cried and cried, or the part where I kept vomiting because of the narcotics to try to control my pain–I’m not telling that part.  That’s not the story I want to tell.  I am telling a story of triumph and love.

Last year, I experienced another of the most difficult times of my life when my mother was very ill.  It’s a story where bad things happened, and good intentioned people inside our family and outside it made mistakes.  These mistakes resulted in significant harm to my mother.  But that’s not the story I’m telling.  I am going to tell a story about love, courage, and sacrifice.  And that’s true, just like all the bad things are true.  I wrote about that experience as a fiction, here.   I still think that’s the best way to tell the story–which still feels raw–with the distance of fiction.  When I look back, that’s the story I remember.

This thanksgiving, I am very thankful for my mother and her health.  I thought I would lose her last year, but this year she is happy and healthy.  My admiration for my father has only grown as I have witnessed the selfless love he has for my mother.

Every story has good guys and bad guys; conflict, sorrow, pain.  But in the stories we love, the good guys overcome evil, courageously fight for what’s right, and live happily ever after.   That’s the story I will be telling.

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Anyone but you, Mom

Adrian happily swam across the deep end of the pool.

Not after I asked him to, no.  NO.  Definitely not that.  When I asked him to let go of the side and swim 10 feet, all I got was screaming and helpless flailing.

But one glance and an “I-think-you-can-buddy” from unknown lifeguard, and he was off.

Just like my months of encouragement to ride his bike without training wheels failed miserably, even when supplemented by bribery.  But the boys in the neighborhood had him riding in 5 minutes.

I might think it was just an Adrian thing, but the twins have also proved not just incapable of learning from me, but incapable of learning in my presence.

My mom enrolled them in skating lessons as early Christmas gifts.  What fun!  We thought.  Until we stuffed 3 year old feet into boots attached to blades.  On cold hard ice.  They acted like it was complete torture, wailing tragically and crawling desperately across the ice, unable to stand.  When they saw me, they threw magnificent tantrums, their red faces contorted with misery.

Unable to watch their distress, I left the rink feeling guilty.

But after I was gone, they stopped crying and started marching.  The next week, they were gliding.  By the end of the class, they passed all their “Snowplow Sam I” skills and marched across the ice with smiles on their faces.  As long as I wasn’t around, of course.

I’ve similarly failed to teach Stephen piano.  He happily learns from his teacher, but we had lessons that would have made Tiger Mother feel sorry for him.

What’s up?  Why can’t we teach our own kids?

I know it’s not just me.  I’ve interviewed other parents, my own parents….everyone experiences this phenomenon it seems.  I mean, remember all the good times you had learning to drive with your dad?  Yeah.  That’s what I thought.  Still in therapy.

I’ve been trying to figure this out.  Is it because Moms are too nice?  The kids think we’ll give them a break?  Then I realized, it’s the opposite!  I’m harder on my own kids than any one else’s.  Maybe we’re too mean, and our expectations are too high?

I listened to this podcast about mental illness, and they found that schizophrenic men who returned to their mothers or wives after being hospitalized were 2-3 times more likely to relapse than men who went to live in a group home.  They tried to figure out why, and came up with 3 main factors that harmed psychological wellness:



3)emotional over-involvement

So I was right.  We’re too mean becuase we care too much.  Well, what else are moms for?

We’ll use our own spit to clean your face, love you more than anyone else on the planet, make you do your chores, wring your neck if you disrespect your teacher, and feed you lots of good food.

And we’ll just have to hire teachers for the rest.

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Mystery solved!

I was sitting in the lobby at church with Will while my mom took Reid to the bathroom.  A woman walking by stopped suddenly and asked, “Does he have a twin brother?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Oooh!”  She said, laughing and putting a hand to her head.  “I was in the bathroom and a woman came in with a little redheaded boy and helped him wash his hands.  Then a few minutes later, the same woman came back with the same boy and washed his hands again!  I couldn’t figure out what was going on!”

I laughed.  “Identical twins!”


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Reid and the snake

As I was in my bathroom getting ready for the day, I heard Will shrieking from the basement: “REEEEEIIIIID!”  He bellowed.  “REID REID REID REID REEEEEEEEIIIID REID REID REID REID….”

Reid appeared, looking smug.

“I think Will wants you,” I said.  He just smiled and rifled through my bathroom drawers.


Finally, Will appeared, with beet red cheeks.  He ran up to Reid.  “REID!”  He shrieked in his face.

Reid ignored him.

“REID REID REID!”  He yelled.

Reid crossed his arms and looked at the floor.  Will looked at me tragically.  “He’s not talking to me,” he sobbed.

“Reid, why don’t you talk to Will?” I asked.

Reid crossed his arms, looked at the floor, and hummed, “Hm hm hm hm!” in a singsong voice.

Will began balling.

“Will, just ignore him,” I advised.  Will yelled in Reid’s face until Reid ran away, and Will chased him all over the house screaming “REID REID REID!!!!”  while Reid ignored him.

Reid reappeared in the bathroom, Will close on his heels.  “Will is being a whiny boy!”  He pronounced.

“Dear, he’s frustrated because you won’t talk to him.”

“I don’t want to play food,” Reid responded.

“Then tell him that!”  I said.

Reid crossed his arms, “Hm-hm-hm-hm”-ed again and ran off, Will shrieking after him.

I shook my head.  Here they go again!

When it was time to put on shoes for church, Reid transformed into a snake.

“Hisssss!  Hsssssssss….” he snarled, velcro-ing his shoes.

Will looked despairing.  “Mommy, he’s still not talking!”

“He’s a snake now, what do you want me to do?  Ignore him back!”

“Hsssss, hssssss, ssssss, ssssss,” commented Reid.

Will suddenly slapped him across the face.

The hissing paused momentarily.

“Will, don’t hit!”  I scolded.

Will’s face was sour.  “But he’s not talking to me!”

“You still don’t hit someone in the face!”

“Hissss, sssssss, ssssss, sssss, sssssss,” said the snake.

Reid resumed human form and acknowledged Will’s existence once we arrived at church, and all was right in twin-land again.


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Wagon Riding

If you would like to see something misused, abused, and broken as quickly as possible, give it to young boys.  They will take care of it.

My mom got the boys a wagon, a cute little green one with plastic wheels.  I pull the twins around the neighborhood in it, they collect rocks in it, they love it.

One evening, the wagon was parked at the front of the house, in front of my older boys and two of their friends.  They wanted to play with it.  Sure, I said, envisioning idyllic, peaceful wagon rides around the cul-de-sac.

I pulled a chair out of the garage, sat down, and then looked up to see the wagon hurtling through the air and over the curbs, its wheels spinning wildly.  Two boys were airborne in the wagon, two others behind it running at top speed.

“Boys!  BOYS!”  I yelled, my voice echoing off the houses, barely heard over raucous laughter.

“Don’t do that!  Use the wagon nicely.  Pull it from the front, and don’t be shoving it from behind off the curbs!”

“Ok….” they sighed, their shoulders slumping.

Next thing I knew, Adrian was in the wagon at the top of the driveway, serious-faced and looking like an astronaut ready for launch (yes, he was actually wearing his helmet).  He clutched the handle tightly and yelled, “Go!”

Stephen and a friend stood behind him, preparing to run Adrian down the driveway and into the street.

“STOP!”  I said.  “Remember what I JUST SAID?  You are going to hurt someone!”

Stephen looked at me with a sour face.  “I don’t see what’s dangerous about this, Mom,” he said.

“Those wheels could break or turn suddenly, and then the person inside would fly out,” I said.

He looked skeptical.

I returned to my book while Stephen and his friends rolled the wagon down the street.

Soon, I saw them coming down the sidewalk, Stephen lying in the wagon, his friend pulling him gently along.  They both wore somber expressions.  When they reached our driveway, Stephen sat up and lifted his arms tragically.  Blood dripped from scrapes on both elbows.

“What happened?”  I asked.

“We were pulling the handle and flipping each other out of the wagon.  I fell out and scraped my elbows.  I think it is a little dangerous,” he commented as we fetched band-aids.

Maybe some people have to learn at the school of hard knocks!


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The Little Years

I am in the little years.

The days drag but the years fly.

Overwhelmed by the demands of life, and overjoyed by the delights of toddlers.  I am too often too exhausted to enjoy the fun, and I long for bedtime so I can rest.

I want to work, but I feel guilty when I’m away.  I want to be home, but I feel drained by the demands of little boys.  I want to stay home; I want to work.  I want to play; I want to be alone.

Facebook reminds me that the years zoom by.

Piles of dishes and laundry call.  One boy poops his pants, and another scrapes his knee. One screams when his brother takes his toy.  Milk drips off the table, pooling on the floor.  An endless cycle of little kid crises.

In the midst of the crying and wiping, I wonder if I’m good enough for my children.  I want them to have everything while being grateful for everything they have.  I want to love them perfectly; I know I fuss too much.  I want to create a safe, clean home for them.  I want them to experience a happy childhood; I feel inadequate.  I am torn between work and home and play and chores.

In the ultrasound room, the expectant mother and I look intently for a flicker on the screen.  We stare, desperate to see the flutter of hope, future, joy.  It is not there.  No movement, no life.  We cry for a baby not meant to be.  My arms ache for my own babies, and I long to feel their breath on my skin, their hearts beating against my chest.

Mommy, say yes to go fish and hide-and-seek and play-dough and pretend, because the little years are flowing by, like a river rushing; I try to catch these moments as they slip between my fingers.

Now I have family pictures of me with boys in my lap and clinging to my legs, but too soon I will be the smallest one in the picture, surrounded by grown men.  I don’t want to wish away the little years, tired of the demands.

I have so many drawings and “I love you” notes I ran out of room on the refrigerator.  I hear toddlers singing “Jesus Loves Me” and I don’t want their voices to change.  At 6 am, the door creaks open and a toddler snuggles up to me in bed, and I kiss him and love him so much I can’t breathe.

But I struggle to live in the moment, love the little years, forget crises and messes that make up our day.

I want to be with them; I want to be away.

This is a time of love, and a time of labor.

These are the little years.

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