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But, Mom, you helped ME this morning

It was one of those mornings. Making school lunches, signing permission slips, trying to figure out the after school agenda, calculating rides home, trying to arrange doctors appointments. There was a middle school gathering/Halloween party/dance-ish event that my kid needed money for, and I got called in to substitute teach so I labored over that decision because I already had a commitment. IMG_2312

The commitment I had was to be at a social media conference, which was starting at 9 am, and I was nowhere close to leaving. My middle schooler was was running late getting to school because of said middle school gathering, so I told him that I would just drive him to school that day. We were getting on the website, trying to figure out the cost and the permission forms needed and all the details.

I was mad at myself for being late to everything that day. I should have had my kids’ permission slips ready and I should have gotten up earlier to get myself ready for my conference and I should have had the after school events taken care of before the day of the event and I should not have been late to my conference.

 But, I had to get these things taken care of for my kid. I made him breakfast and lunch and we talked about the dance and what he was going to dress up as.

 “I’m not dressing up for the event, “he informed me.

“Really, why?”

 “Well, they do not let you wear a mask and mine has a mask,” he said.

I added that he could still wear the rest of the costume but he didn’t want to. So we talked about that. And because he was running late, I had to drive him to school. The morning just got away from us all.

So while driving my kid to school that morning I said in the car, more to myself that to him, but nonetheless, audibly, I said:

“Man, it’s already 9:30 and I’ve gotten nothing done today.”

Then, my sixth grader says to me something so profound, so true, so beautiful, so real, and so full of what really matters.

Gus in Car 10801993_10152610586594652_1842713820656244942_n“But Mom, you’re helping ME out this morning.”

Wow, oh wow. This kid of mine is surprising me over and over again with his insights.

I felt so terrible, so low, so raw. This kid of mine, my sixth grade son, had the right values. That people matter, that time with people matters, that time with my kids matters.

We are so busy sometimes that we miss the very ministry of the moment. Why do value certain activities over others? What do we consider “getting something done.” What activity counts for that? Is it something that brings in money? Is it a perfect house or a perfect yard or a perfect kid or a perfect schedule with no interruptions?

Our lives are so full of so much to do. As a mom, I work at least five jobs right now: substitute teacher, freelance editor, freelance writer, conference director, and photographer. Then, top that off with managing the schedules of three kids at home, managing my household, being there for my two married kids, being emotionally there for my three kids at home, being a wife, etc. etc. Oh, there’s also exercising and cooking and cleaning and laundry, which some of that can be part of other categories. Add to that would be spending time with my wonderful friends and extended family, etc.

There is just so much to do. What it the most important thing?

We just cannot do it all. And it’s okay if we don’t.

I think of the story of Mary and Martha in the Bible, in Luke Chapter 10, where Martha was so busy running around doing all these things on her to-do list, while Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus. When Martha complains to Jesus about Mary doing nothing, Jesus says:

IMG_3113“Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42).

Hand it to Jesus to not allow for comparisons. He sets the record straight on what is important. This story humbles me. It reminds me to make others most important, to make God most important, to make reading and praying most important. To remember what really matters.

And, it’s not always my to-do list.

Ask our kids.

Posted in balance, Character, Children, Faith, juggling, Kids, Life, Moms, Motherhood, Navigating Motherhood, Parenting, Parenting Philosophy, Real LIfe, Real-Life Mom column, Real-Life Mom column - The Oregonian, Teaching Moments, working moms, working parents, Writing.

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About that new double three-ring zipper binder

The other day, during a break at school where I was working as a substitute teacher, I got a call from my sixth grade son Gus, who was home from school as he had had three teeth removed. My husband took him as I had to work, and I was feeling really badly that I had not been able to take him.

DSC_0366“Hi mom,” he said in his sweet, innocent, determined, serious, sincere voice.

“Hi sweetheart,” I said, and asked him how his mouth was feeling. “Good,” he said with his standard answer. He does not like to complain no matter what.

My son is not one to “just call” to say hello, and I had a feeling this call was not just for fun.

“So, what’s going on?” I ask.

IMG_3095“I want to go get my new double three-ring zipper binder today. I found it at Office Depot and Office Max. They have two in stock at the Tualatin Office Depot and three at the Milwaukie one and three at the Happy Valley Office Max.

The closest store of the ones he listed was about 15 to 20 minutes away, during rush hour traffic. On a day when I had a commitment later in the evening.

And, my husband literally works within minutes of that Office Max store, I thought to myself, and practically speaking we could have called him to ask him to pick up the notebook. That made the most logical sense.

That would have saved gas.

That would have saved money.

That would have saved the environment.

That would have saved time.

That would have saved me stress.

But, the experience would have been missing.

When I got home, my son had not forgotten the double three-ring zipper binder with extra folder. So, I asked him to call the store in advance to see if they had the exact notebook he was looking for. I wanted to at least be somewhat practical. IMG_3092

They did.

Maybe I was feeling badly because I had to work while he had his three teeth removed that day, or maybe it was just so endearing to see how important this three-ring-double-zipped binder was to him.

I just felt such a prompting to go. Forget the schedule. Forget what I had to do later. Forget the time.

So, I said to my 11-year-old, “Hey, get your stuff, put on your shoes, grab your jacket. We are going to Office Max to get your three-ring-double-zipper binder

You just cannot believe how excited my sixth grader was to go.

In the car he said, “Mom, it has an extra pocket on the outside. And mom, it has two sets of those three rings for notebook paper. And Mom, it has an extra zipper area for different subjects. And Mom, it comes in blue and red and black. I like the blue but I will decide when we get there on what color I want.”

You’d think it was Christmas.

We walked into Office Max and meandered toward the aisle with the notebooks and binders. He scurried ahead of me and found where the goods were. You’d think he had won the lottery when he found them.

“Here they are, Mom. They have three colors, blue, red, black,” he tells me as he picks each of them up and turns them over. His eyes focus on the blue one as he begins to unzip it to see all the bells and whistles this notebook has.IMG_3091

“Look, see the extra three rings for paper. My other zipper binder has only one section. And, look here’s another compartment on the other side of the binder,” he carefully demonstrates as he turns the binder over.

After we purchased the binder and got home, we told my husband, Gus’s dad, where we were and that we got the binder.

And, my husband’s natural, practical response was, “But, I work minutes from that Office Max and I could have picked it up for you.”

Gus responds quite confidently, “But, I wanted to go myself.” 

And, I thought, and later told my husband, that it is about the experience for the kid.

And for me.

The time that Gus and I had together, the sharing of something so small, purchasing a three-ring-zippered binder, but something that meant so much to my little one. On a day that he had three teeth removed.

I believe we need to as parents to value and treasure the experience more than just the practicality of everything. It’s not always the most time-efficient, practical path that makes the most sense that matters.

It’s about the experience. And, there is no way to measure that.

I remember hearing a couple of moms share with me that they get their family’s yearly Christmas trees sans kids. They drive to a tree lot while their kids are at school or at sports, and purchase the tree. Another mom told me that she decorates her family’s Christmas tree alone, while they kids are at friends’ houses or other places.

“It’s just easier,” the moms have told me. Or they’ve said, “The kids are so busy and they tell me that they do not care anyway. It’s a lot less hassle this way anyway.”

And, I wonder to myself, what about the experience? For our family, it is about the experience of getting our tree as a family. Then decorating it together while listening to Christmas music.

The other day at the grocery store, a lady was in the aisle with her twins in her cart. The twins were about 3-years-old. As a mom of twins myself, I just smiled to myself thinking how I remember those years shopping with my kids.

This mom at the grocery store was walking down each aisle and before I even saw this mom with her twins, I heard this mom with her twins. The twins were so inquisitive about everything. They asked questions, they pointed, they squealed in delight when they saw something they wanted. “Captain Crunch, Mommy. Look it’s Captain Crunch,” one of the 3-year-olds exclaimed loudly.

“Mommy, there are the Gold Fish. Mommy, can we get Gold Fishes?  “And, Mommy, look, pop tarts, mom Gushers. I love Gushers. Mommy, can we get some Gushers. They had gushers at preschool.”

The mom was so patient in responding to her active twins as the sound level increased with each new item her kids wanted to purchase.

She finally said at one point, very patiently I might add, “Shh, not so loud, okay.”

In fact, she said this about the time I was heading down the same aisle she was in. Perhaps her comment was to show consideration of other people in the store at the time.

I wanted to acknowledge her, to somehow make her feel that it was okay. That her kids were okay. That she was okay.

“So, are they twins?” I ask, trying to start a conversation with what was of course the obvious.

The mom replied to me, yes, as we both looked at her kids who were scanning the next items they were going to ask their mom about.

I say, oh, they are so cute. And then I tell her I have twins and that they are 17-years-old now, and that having twins is so much fun and so crazy and wild and so amazing.

And then I tell her that I did the same thing, bring my twins to the grocery store with me.

And, that even though some people told me I should not bring my young kids to the grocery store, that it would be easier for them to stay home with their dad or with a friend, I did it anyway. Because I wanted them to have the experience with me, to see things we were buying and to help decide what items we needed. And, I as a parent wanted to watch my kids’ reaction to things and I wanted to see what interested them and what intrigued them and what gave them pause.

The mom wasn’t so sure at that exact moment but thanked me for that comment as I moved on to the next aisle.

Sure, it can be easier to leave the kids at home and it can be easier to just do things for our kids, but there are no short cuts to experiencing life.

No matter how big or small.



Posted in Kids, Life, Moms, Motherhood, Navigating Motherhood, Parenting, Parenting Philosophy, Writing.

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Mom, can we just go alone?

The other day, my twins, still 16, were heading out for their co-ed soccer game “Under the Lights,’ which DSC_0195 means they were going to get to play where the regular competitive school soccer teams play, the ones who compete against the other high school varsity and junior varsity teams.

I am a mom who goes to all my kids’ events if I can. I always want my kids to know their mom is their number one cheerleader.

All of my five children have been involved in many activities over the years, from sports to piano to band to Boy Scouts to youth group and I go to as many of their performances as I can. Because I have a lot of kids, sometimes my husband and I have to tag team, juggle, switch off. He’ll go to one event of one of our children and I’ll go to a different one for our other children.

But right before this particular first co-ed “Under the Lights” soccer game, they said to me, “ Mom, can we just go alone? You really don’t have to go.”

I immediately said, “But, I like to go to all of your games guys.”

They came back with, “Mom, it’s not a real game. It’s just a bunch of us high school kids getting together to play soccer.” DSC_0193

“But, don’t all the other parents come,” I say, secretively showing perhaps one of my other motives in going to the game is not wanting to be the only parent who doesn’t show up to their kids’ game (translated, meaning, loser parent).

DSC_0199“No, not many come to this, Mom. Really, don’t come.”

And so I don’t. I realize at that moment, at that age in their lives, as they begin to become more and more independent, I need to let go little by little, and it’s okay; they are teenagers, they may want space, and I need to honor that.

So, while I so want my kids to know that I am there for them, that I support all of their activities, that I am their number one cheerleader, I also need to allow them as they become young men, to have some freedom. To just be with their peers.

I was talking to another soccer mom, Kate, about this the other day, asking her if she has been going to the Under the Lights games at the high school.

She said, no. I felt such relief, as I did not want to be that one parent who doesn’t show up to certain games while all of the other parents were there. I told her what my twins requested, that I not go, and she said, yeah, those under the lights games are the kids’ own thing, a little bit of their hang out time, just them, away from, let’s face it, sometimes hovering parents.

My twins turned 17 this week, and I had mentioned to them that I would like to take them out to lunch on their actual birthday. IMG_2458We already had dinner plans as a family that evening, and I was set to make them crepes for breakfast, which I do every birthday, and I also thought about taking them out for coffee before school.

IMG_2544But, I like to take them out to lunch as well, to pick them up in the middle of their school days, and treat them to lunch. I’ve done it for several years now.

This year, though, the day before their birthdays, they asked if they could just go out with their friends for lunch on their birthday. I could see, in the sensitive, half-hesitant way they asked, that they wanted to be careful to not hurt my feelings.

I offered that I could take their friends out to lunch as well, and we could all go together, but again, they said, in a very sweet way, “Can we just go alone?”

Oh, okay, of course, that sounds like fun, I say, while not showing that I am, if I am honest, a bit disappointed. Part of it has to do with my background and parenting philosophy of always honoring my kids’ special days, concerts, games, and events, to make sure they know I am there for them.

So, I pointed to the fact that we were going out to dinner as a family in the evening and that we could go out for coffee in the morning and that I’d make them crepes before we went out for coffee.

In working through all of these happenings and decisions, I realize that while my parenting philosophy includes wanting to be there for my kids, I also feel it is important to listen to my older children when they politely — or not so politely — ask for space to be independent. To begin to feel that independence, by hanging out with their peer groups.

We need to, I believe, slowly let go of the strings, as our kids get older. The middle teenage years are a big transition for our kids.

In middle school, pre-teen age, kids begin to test their wings, little by little. They want to go to the park alone, or walk to the neighborhood store by themselves or arrive at the bus stop sans mom or dad. As a parent, you begin to let that string out a bit.

IMG_2503Then in high school, it gets release more and more as they get their driver’s permits and licenses.

My childhood friend Jeanie, who is not a parent but works with parents in her job as an educator, notes the difference in generations of parents. As children, we loved our time alone, to just “be” with our friends. Parents didn’t have to go to every game that we played in, getting together with our friends was spontaneous and not all activities were pre-arranged like today’s “play dates.” We just got together with the neighbor kids. Now, parents are at every practice, every game, every everything.

I tell my friend Jeanie that, as a child, my parents were the extreme of that less-involved generation of parents, and I later mourned the fact that they missed some important events of mine. Once in junior high I had the solo for a choir concert and no parents in the audience to smile at because they were at my sister’s event (which I understand, as I do not think my parents even considered doing something separately).

And I was sad that my parents missed my high school graduation due to travel plans in Germany, though I do not think I was sad at the time. It was as it was.

But, I think because of my childhood experience, as well as understanding that we, as parents, need to be our child’s number one cheerleader, I make every effort to be at every event of my children. Once, my daughter had a district track race and she had one of the top times going into both the 1500 and 800 meter races; while making my way to the meet, I came up against some traffic and the first race she was in started earlier than I had originally realized. When I arrived, the 1500 meters had just ended and my daughter had won.

Loser parent I was.

So, what did I do? I told her good race and when she asked if I saw it, I lied: “Yeah, I saw the end. Great job.”

Double loser parent.

I so desperately did not want my kid to feel like she was all alone and that no one cared, so I fibbed — and prayed she’d also win the 800 meters so I could at least see that race.

She did win.

There’s a balance when it comes to supporting our kids and their events. On the one hand, they sometimes say that I don’t need to come to this event or another event, and I’ve said, “Look, I want to see your concert,” or “Hey that is a big race, I’m coming,” or “Yes, this is a big game, I am going to come watch you.” IMG_2510

But, there are some other times when we need to give our teenagers independence. To allow our kids space. With their friends, peers.

Each child may be different when it comes to this. Some children may want us to be at every event, even through senior year in high school and beyond. My kids like it when I substitute teach at their schools, for which I am grateful.

So, when they want a little space, just to breath, apart from me hovering, I need to give them the space they need.

And, when those big events approach, I can insist, and say, “I’m going to be there. . . You’ll appreciate it later.”

Posted in 31 Days of Parenting Philosophy, Family Life, Kids, Moms, Motherhood, Parenting, Parenting Philosophy, Real LIfe, Real-Life Mom column, Real-Life Mom column - The Oregonian, Sports, Tradition, Transitions, Twins, Writing.

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The art of breakfast- It’s what they remember

I love making breakfast for my kids during the summer and on Saturdays off during the school year, and when their friends have spent the night. Crepes are my specialty; crepes smothered in whipping cream and Nutella IMG_9356or sprinkled with lemon and powered sugar or in the summer, topped with fresh Oregon strawberries or raspberries and whipped cream. IMG_9392

I love gathering with my children, with the table nicely set with my good German porcelain and the pretty containers for the lemon juice and the Nutella and whipping cream and strawberries and plenty of napkins. And we say a prayer to thank God for our meal, and it is pure joy. It’s a great way to start our day together before everyone goes his or her own direction. We have grounded ourselves together. IMG_9389

When my kids write me Mother’s day cards and birthday cards, they thank me for making me crepes for them. They remember the crepes. Of all the things I do for them, they talk about the food I craft for them. From scratch. Wild. And my kids friends talk about eating crepes at my house and the my tell their friends  when they are spending the night that their mom makes crepes and their friends want to eat breakfast in the morning with our family. And while I am making them, the house is filled with the aroma of butter and fresh thin pancakes frying on the stove top and that is what they wake up to. And it makes me feel good, if I do nothing else I day long, if I’ve made homemade breakfast for my kids.

But crepes are a mess to make. My kitchen turns to shambles and greasy butter flies everywhere and the batter splashes in nooks and crannies of the stovetop and my kids eat the crepes in minutes then dash off to do other things for hours and there is still the mess.

IMG_9382But it’s oh so worth it.

My husband on weekends when he is home used to never join us for breakfast. He’d eat his granola with cold milk and take off into the yard or to the garage to get his work done.

“Takes too much time. I have too much to do,” he’d say to me about eating breakfast with us as he meandered off.

But I said to him, this is an important part of life, taking the time to have this breakfast together; it’s so simple, yet so profound. This art, making breakfast for my kids; it reaches the kids in ways that I cannot explain but it just does. Crafting crepes is an art. It cannot be measured with the word “Accomplishment” and “check it off your list of things done today.” Art is not a check-off list. Yet, like good art, it’s what matters in the end. It’s one of the things that our kids remember.

Sounds so simple. It is.

My kids once in a while get to go to their grandparents’ house, which is about 15 minutes from our house. Their grandpa makes a mean pancake and they say, “Grandpa makes the best pancakes,” and when I make pancakes, they tell me they are not as good as grandpa’s. That is what they remember about grandpa and it is fabulous. And we tell grandpa this and it makes him feel good. He has a secret recipe and he’s proud of it.IMG_9358

My husband is starting to recognize the importance of our weekend and days off morning breakfasts together. One day recently, it just hit him. He began sitting down with us to join us eating breakfasts together. And, he also began making pancakes as well. And bacon and buying good syrup to smother on top of the pancakes. It takes him away from his weekend projects for a few hours in the mornings and it is a mess and he only has so much time off and I totally understand that.

But, he realizes now that it is important to share that time with our kids.

Now, we argue over who gets to make the breakfast on a Saturday morning.



Posted in Art, Family Life, Home, Life, Moms, Motherhood, Summer, Writing.

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