Thursday, August 7, 2008

Top 20

Today is a lazy day for me as I enjoy some relative peace and quiet at my parents' house. Cupcake is napping and Brownie is playing beside me. I'm reading my new Real Simple magazine and choosing not to feel guilty about it. This month's question was: "What are the top-three things on your lifelong to-do list?" It got me thinking, "What are my top-three things?" Well, brevity is not my strong suit so I came up with 20 (in no particular order.)

1. Become fluent in French

2. Live abroad
3. Write a book (which presupposes that I have something meaningful to say and that others actually care about what I have to say...)

4. Run a marathon
5. Organize every square inch of my home
6. Have all my favorite photos scapbooked and documented
7. Make it to my 50th wedding anniversary
8. Travel cross country in an RV with my husband and kids for the summer, stopping at historic sites and kitschy tourist traps

9. Go to New York with my daughter to see Broadway shows

10. Take dance lessons: Ballroom, Swing, & Hip-Hop
11. Travel the world
12. Get my nose pierced
13. Sing a duet with Bono

14. Learn to sew
15. Take photography classes
16. Read ALL the hundreds of books on my "to read" list
17. Do short-term missions work with my husband and children
18. Hang-glide
19. Successfully educate my children
20. Live on the ocean

A fave from my family blog: "Today Screamed 'Blog Me!'"

Monday I was Momzilla: edgy, cranky, screaming, impatient, anxiety-ridden, scary to level uncooperative children with a single glare, or at least a swat of my hand. (DSS, I hope you're not reading this.) Anyway, I'm not sure why I was so evil but I was and I talked The Man about it and he determined two possible (non-pharmaceutical) remedies: more sleep and more prayer. So, I've been going to bed a bit earlier and he's been praying for me more during the day. Plus Cupcake is getting back to his pre-vacation sleep habits so that's helped.

Today I got up feeling fresh as a morning daisy. I was calm, patient, and even spoke to my children in that soothing June Cleaver like voice I so rarely posess. Brownie has swimming lessons every morning this week and next so getting 3 kids out of the house by 9:30 without being hauled off by DSS is no small thing. There are breakfasts to prepare, faces to clean, teeth to brush (on a good day), a baby to nurse and keep happy, bottoms to wipe, sunscreen to apply, the mother of all beach bags to pack, lunches to fix, water bottles to fill, a van to load, and most importantly coffee to make and pour into the sacred travel mug. There are so many little tasks that I had to make a packing list for each day just to make sure we're good to go by 9:30. This morning was perfect! The children were cooperative and cheerful, I was organized and had everything and everyone smeared, packed, and loaded up by the appointed time. I was also sporting a new bathing suit and felt half-way decent for a 6-month post-partum, 35-year-old mother of 3. As I sipped french-pressed Starbucks from my stainless steel holy grail, I felt content, blessed, and oh-so good about myself. I was Supermom incarnate, a far cry from her arch-enemy, Momzilla, who had been slain less than 48 hours prior. Nothing could shake me or wrinkle my cape today.

Then my cell phone rang. It was my neighbor, CA, informing me that the swanky neighborhood pool where we have lessons was closed until noon because it had been treated the night before. As we're brainstorming about options (we pay a private instructor by the hour but we provide the swim location, so time is money), my cell phone dies. Apparently my superpowers can't bring a dead phone back to life and my alter ego, Absent-minded Mom, lost the car charger weeks ago. Momzilla probably crushed it. We arrive at the pool, trying to think of other options, calling directory assistance for other friends who have access to pools, and arranging make-up options with our instructor. Our kids are sunscreened, lunches are packed, and we're in swimsuits...must find water. My aunt and uncle have a pool and it's probably not in use, but I can't call ahead because of dead cell phone. I say to CA, "We'll just drive over there." 10 minutes later, we arrive at their driveway, only to find the pool full of little kids for a pool party. Plan C. Let's go to the local beach! It's certainly not our first choice. Even though our lovely region is dotted with gorgeous lakes, this particular public access beach is, well, public access. All we can think however is, sunscreened kids, packed lunches, it's hot, must find water.

The next part of the story is like something ripped from the pages of the Southern Redneck Handbook. For all you non-local readers, I live in the South not far from the city limits of a quaint college town. But my 10 minute distance from this quaint town is just enough to remind me, daily, that God indeed has a sense of humor. Those who know me well know that I am an urban wannabe. I regularly lament that I do not live in a major metropolitain area and I frequently imagine myself strolling the streets of Manhattan, far from the Confederate-flag-flying homesteads and stores selling Dixie Outfitters merchandise that dot my real-life commute to and from town. This cultural context is important for the rest of the story. We arrive at public access beach. I unload my minivan, load up the stroller, load the kids' arms with the necessary items and trek to the water to meet CA and her kids. I unload the stroller, the kids, the towels, quilt and cooler. Ahh, we have finally arrived at a wet destination. Oh, I left out one part of the story: the beach was 10 minutes from my aunt and uncle's pool and when I got within sight of the beach, there was bridge construction so I turned around and made the 10 minute detour allowing me to get to the other side of the bridge. The amazing part of our journey thus far is that Momzilla was still no where in sight. Supermom maintained grace, compusure, humor, and June's voice through it all. I assumed that The Man must have been leading his Economics class in intercessory prayer during this whole time because such composure was indeed a miracle.

Back to public access beach. Everyone's happy. Cupcake is sitting on my lap splashing in the water. He tried to put a rock in his mouth but Supermom was on it and saved the day. I notice Brownie nearby, pulling a sludge-covered dripping something out of the lake while remarking, "Hey, somebody left their sock in the lake. That's silly," and he threw the sock back in. A moment later something brushes up against my foot. I look down to see a clear tube, sort of like the kind one would employ for intravenous drug use. Only minutes later, my 5-year-old neighbor spots a band-aid floating just beneath the surface. And as if all of that wasn't enough to remind me that I have landed on Planet White Trash, Brittney Spears' twin and her string-bikini-clad friend walk by with their nasty dog and into the lake, only 20 feet from where my pure precious children are catching minnows in their lunchables containers. My 6-year-old neighbor tells CA, "Hey Mom, doesn't that sign say 'NO PETS ALLOWED'?" Apparently on Planet White Trash, small children can read better than celebrity look-alikes. The thought of my children swimming in canine fecal matter was simply the last straw. Supermom supressed her gag reflex and calmly loaded up the baby stroller caravan to get as far away from public access beach as possible. My stroller isn't made for loose sand so I had to pop a stroller wheelie and heave poor screaming, sweating baby Cupcake and all our gear at least 100 yards back to the van. Just as Momzilla was about to make her appearance, my sweet Blondie observed my struggle and said, "Mommy, what can I do to help?" She pushed the stroller while I pulled it and as I fought back the tears, I thanked God for the abundant grace He poured out on me and my children this morning.

We journeyed back to homestead as the kids sang silly songs about talking strawberries and Cupcake laughed. CA and I told the kids we'd have a P.P. party on the deck. "Popsicles in the pool." Our sweet kids piled in the giant kiddie pool on our tiny deck and had a ball. (Page 2 of the Southern Redneck Handbook: inflatable pools that all but exceed the size of one's deck.) All I could do was marvel. I'm sure the lessons are many but here are just a few observations:

1. Motherhood is not for the fainthearted.
2. My attitude and response to stress or plans gone awry directly determines how my kids respond.
3. God's grace and mighty power is for all of us. He meets us where we are. I realize I don't "suffer" in the sense that many people do; I'm just an everday weary and inadequate mom begging for strength so I don't lose it with my kids.
4. Sleep is huge.
5. God answers prayer and He daily provides what we need, whether it's bread or just the ability to see the humor in the unplanned and maintain one's gentleness, thereby keeping Momzilla at bay.

Sometimes I believe God's greatest miracles are found in the day-to-day. Changed hearts. Renewed minds. A child's creativity. My daughter's ability to see I was struggling and her help (literally) to lighten the load.

Until next time...

About Me: The Unabridged Version

{Also known as the post where you learn more randomness than you ever wanted to know about me.}

I'm Marian {aka "Scooper"}. I love words, beauty, and funny people. I have been a wife for 17 years and a mom for 12. Once a history professor, I'm now a stay-at-home mom, having traded in a college classroom six years ago for five years of homeschooling my own kids around the kitchen table. 

In December of 2011, we made the big decision to put our kids in public school. It's been a welcome change for all of us and we vow to simply take things one year at a time.

You can find me reading, writing, taking pictures, sipping Starbucks, over-thinking everything, rearranging furniture, and not doing laundry. I write for many reasons but mostly because it's cheaper than therapy. I joke about that but it's the truth. Through blogging, this glass-half-empty girl spills thoughts one letter at a time until lemonade is squeezed from the lemons. It's a serendipitous thing really, not at all the reason I started but the sweetest reward. Through my posts, I often find perspective.


I think I blog partly because it's the only thing in my life (of keeping home and teaching children) that stays finished. I don't have to wash, sweep, or fold my blog countless times a day. Once I click "publish post," I actually have something to show for my time. I like that.

I have many loves and an equal number of disclaimers. Here it goes...

I love fancy food and drink, though I've been known to feast on PB&J remnants from my kids' plates. 

I find great fulfillment in writing, though I remain ignorant of countless grammar rules. I also like to make up words.

I was a history professor until 6 years ago but I rarely know the correct answer to the esoteric history questions asked on Jeopardy or in Trivial Pursuit. I am not a history buff. I have never been to a re-enactment. While I enjoyed 14 years of university life as a student and a professor, I now consider myself a recovering academic.

I adore books but I'm usually reading about 17 at a time resulting in an embarrasingly low completion rate.

I'm a fan of all things "girly": make-up, fashion, hair, etc...but confess that on most days I am sporting yoga pants (though I don't do yoga), unchanged running clothes, a pony-tail, and a face that's lucky to get Chap-stick & mascara.

I describe myself as an introvert disguised in an outgoing personality. {Classic INFJ.} I love people yet crave solitude, in part because I can't take a shower or go to the restroom without being interrupted by tiny humans or a dog who always need something as soon as I close the bathroom door. 

I'm the only person I know who is equally inspired by make-up and History. I actually own a book entitled, The Cultural History of Lipstick. For real.

I will admit to loving smart people, thoughtful books, and great journalism. But I can also devour three People magazines in one sitting while on vacation. And I get school-girl giddy for televised red carpet events. I may or may not covertly watch Entertainment Tonight when my kids aren't in the room.

Laughing is a drug for me and I'm crazy for people who are funny. Ironically, I have a tendency to take myself and life in general much too seriously.

Ever the bargain junkie, I actually don't mind living a frugal-ish life. But, I have been known to blow money on crazy thrift store kitsch and forget to mail in valuable rebate coupons. My husband jokes that I could write a book called How To Go Broke $1 At A Time.

A clean, organized and orderly home makes me happier than it should. Currently, however, a 7-year-old's half-written story, jewelry beads, pre-school workbooks, an iPod, hair clips, fruit puffs, a dismembered Polly Pocket, the newspaper, a dish towel and a bowl of half-eaten pasta graces the kitchen table where I'm writing. Such disarray is an accurate reflection of the general state of affairs here.

I have never gotten a tattoo, ripped my jeans {on purpose,} or sported funky hair. But at 36, I pierced my nose, something I'd inexplicably wanted to do for 10 years. My nose, however, {quite set in its ways after 36 years of minding its own business} didn't like it and I kept snagging the tiny jewel on towels and tissues. Goodbye, nose ring. Hello conformity {and common sense.} I'm still kind of sad about it.

As I mentioned earlier, I home-schooled for nearly 5 years and then abruptly did the unthinkable: sent my kids to public school. They love school. I love the quiet. Sometimes the "real" collides with the ideal and sometimes that's for the best. I've learned to never say never and to hold all plans loosely.

I always wanted a career, a husband, and a family {in that order.} But I fell in love with a charming boy I met my freshman year of college and we started dating two years later. Three months after we graduated, I married him. I'm convinced he's the only man on the planet who could put up with me. Marriage has been hard {we are, after all, strong-willed first-borns} but God has been faithful. The charming boy is still my best friend and he is still irresistably charming. Marrying him is one of the smartest things I ever did.

Growing up as a pastor's kid, I was in church every time the doors were opened. You might think that skeptical notions about faith and God and truth would have not an ounce of non-conformist air to breathe in a churchy upbringing like that. My heart, however, has a fierce will of its own and has forever been the heart of a skeptic. Faith does not come naturally and my "story" from belief to unbelief and back to belief is simply a testimony to God's irresistible grace. 

On any given day I still look to people and circumstances for happiness and personal peace. I often trade pleasure for joy and reason for faith. I'm immensely grateful for a God who delights to pursue, longs to forgive, loves without limits, and never gives up, even on a crazy skeptic like me.


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