Thursday, January 19, 2012

Grandma Mary

Every family has that person that they don’t necessarily take for granted, but just feel will always be a part of everything. For me, that’s my Grandma Mary.

After my Caroline was born, I was fortunate enough to be able to stay home with my girls. That was the same year Grandma Mary was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Because of my lack of work schedule and the fact that Hope wasn’t in school yet, I was able to make several trips up there to see her that year. The thought of a 9 hour trip with 2 year old and 2 month old sounds daunting, but the first one was one of my favorite road trips ever (I’ll post later on what we did to make it so fun). During that trip, we stayed with her for 10 days. I’d leave Caroline rolling around on the floor by Grandma’s chair and she was in heaven.

Not knowing how Alzheimer’s would affect her, I took several opportunities that year to ask her to re-tell stories and I filled in books I had given her so we would have those when/if she wasn’t able to remember any more. I noticed a significant change in her short-term memory almost immediately, but she was able to remember lots of funny stories about her and her brother growing up.

Up until the last few years, she has always been one of the strongest people I’ve known. She lived through raising 3 boys on a farm, being married to an abusive husband and starting completely over on her own in a time when it wasn’t as easy for a woman to do that as it is now. I think she has actually even traveled to every state in our country.

I have not seen her as much over the last several years as I used to and honestly, most of that has been out of fear. Fear that I would forget the way she used to be and only remember how she is now. Fear that my girls would have memories of her like I do of my great-grandma (who was a great woman, too, but always scared me as a little kid because she was cranky). Fear that her last memories of my girls would be those of a couple of rowdy kids who messed up her house.

I wish that the end for us wasn’t as sad as it is—I wish that our bodies and minds didn’t give out on us. I guess that’s part of why we look forward to heaven more as we age.

All in all, I have some great memories of her:

• Going to do laundry in the basement at the farm as a little girl.
• Tiny—the farm dog
• Her peddle sewing machine
• The giraffe, dog and elephant Tupperware toys
• Homemade ice cream on the back porch
• Her glass Christmas tree with the lights on it
• Robes with hoods for all the granddaughters
• The candy dish
• Puzzles
• Her 2nd wedding at age 60 (in a church with no air conditioning)
• Her little church
• Golden Corral and Ryan’s Steakhouse
• Her “Give Thanks” plaque
• The car she gave me in college
• Birthday cards with $10
• Buying cheetos for her and watching her love them
• Watching her surprise as all but one of her grandkids and their families showed up for her 80th birthday.

Just to name a few. Praying for more…

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Teachable Moments Aren't Usually Planned

Sometimes teachable moments and conversations come along when I really don’t want them to. On Sunday, we were driving to church and Hope told me that she heard God’s voice in her head telling her not to do something. On the surface, this sounds great—we all want our kids to hear God’s voice and obey, right?

Let me backtrack and explain how we got to the conversation. We talk a lot in the Royal house about being people of our word. When we tell someone we are going to do something, we follow through. That doesn’t mean we say “Yes” to everything—it means before we give someone an answer, we need to really think through the impact of our choosing to say “Yes.” One of my big questions is, “If we say ‘Yes’ to this, what are we saying ‘No’ to?” Sometimes “Yes” is still the right answer; sometimes the consequences of saying it are too great upon other things and it’s not the right answer.

Earlier in the week, Hope was invited to do something that was going to require she get out of bed early 2 days in a row. And she is not a morning person—not to mention that she had another commitment that was going to require her to get up early the other day—giving her one day of sleeping in on her 4 day weekend (and sadly, that was interrupted by a squirrel who got in the soffit above her room and decided to run back and forth while she was trying to sleep in on Saturday).

Back to the commitment. Before she said she would do it, we talked through all the pros and cons. And the decision was tough, but she decided to do it. So I responded to the adult, told her Hope was "in" and we were set.

Until Sunday morning rolled around. And she didn’t want to get out of bed. And she let the whole house know about it. After many conversations about keeping our word, she decided she was going to back out of her commitment, knowing she still had to get up and go tell the person she had committed to that she was backing out.

Have I mentioned parenting is exhausting some days?

Now, we’re back to the part where she informed me that she heard God’s voice telling her not to do this. So the conversation started again. This time, it was about how God doesn’t want us to make promises we can’t keep. And, that voice might be Him telling her not to commit to doing this any more in the future. BUT, it could also be fear. Or laziness. Or pride.

Please hear me, I really am good with her backing out of this commitment in the future—it’s a standing one that she has the choice to accept or decline about once a month. I love that she does it, but it would be easier some weeks if she didn’t (any parent who has shuffled kids from one activity to another can feel my pain here).

All this before 7am.

Looking back, I’m so glad we had this conversation--and we will continue to unpack it—but it was not one I really wanted to have at that time. One of the hardest things I’m learning about parenting (and by “learning” I mean that I usually mess-up the first few times) is that I need to be constantly aware of when to speak up and when to be quiet. Those teachable moments often come at times when my guard is down and I’m not actively looking for them. When I don’t feel “prayed up” and am winging it.

Just another reminder to me that I don’t own these daughters—they are mine to shepherd and guide—but I can’t do that in my own wisdom and strength. Makes me appreciate the Holy Spirit’s presence so much more!

Now, if only I would learn to rely on that the first time instead of trying to forge ahead on my own…

Monday, January 16, 2012

You Might Be a Hoarder If…

I border on the verge of hoarding. In fact, I don’t watch that hoarder show because I’m kinda scared I might see a lot of similarities between myself and those people.

Yesterday morning, I finished off the last of the orange juice in our fridge and I couldn’t bring myself to throw it away. It wasn’t a regular carton, it was a gallon jug. It was heavy, clear plastic with a great handle and I really thought it could be re-purposed. So I left it sitting on the countertop.

When I came home from work, it was in the pile to go out to the recycling bin. I pulled it out and told Brian that it was a great container—did he think we could use it for something? It would be great to use to fill up the dog’s bowls (even though we have a perfectly good hose) or keep in the car in case of a breakdown (which Brian reminded me—we live in the city—there are people around and I probably won’t be in a place where there is no water).

As I was talking, between hearing myself and seeing his face, I realized…I might be a hoarder. After some laughs, I let it go, but later, I noticed that the jug was gone. He had taken it out to the recycling bin. He says it wasn’t to keep me from saving it, but I wonder…

I CAN throw things away—I just choose to keep them around for a while. Nothing gross, just things like shoeboxes, old sour cream containers (which I DO wash out before using) and little pieces of scrapbook paper—things that I truly do use. At least I don’t rinse out my plastic bags and re-use those—that’s progress, right???

I KNOW—I’m on the verge. So for now, I will continue to pick up the 734 pencils I see on my floor each day and place them back in the drawer. And I might re-use a dryer sheet or two. But, I won’t ask to save plastic jugs anymore.

What thing(s) do you save that you would be embarrassed for people to know about? C’mon—it will be therapeutic to spill the beans…

Thursday, January 12, 2012

I may have Accidently Gotten it Right

Have I said before that marriage is hard? I’ve heard it likened to a mirror—held up to show us what we REALLY look like. We never talk about the kind of mirror, though. Sometimes, I think it’s a funhouse mirror—making me look a lot thinner and taller or even one of those magnification mirrors that make your pores look like craters.

But I digress…

Every now and then, like with parenting, I feel like I finally “get” something. Never do I presume to know it all or be an expert—there are more things I do wrong than right on any given day.

One of them is putting my hubby first. Often, I leave work and enter the survival mode of picking up kids, reminding them to do their homework, checking over the homework, getting them to practice or Brownies (although—I must confess, I regularly get out of being the carpool mom—yay!!!!), fixing dinner, cleaning up dinner, supervising showers and refereeing fights along the way. When they finally get into bed, I collapse and any thought of conversation with my hubby—except to re-hash my day—leaves my head.

And we don’t do the date night thing. I always think I would love to—after all—I like my traditions and habits. But I don’t make the effort to be consistent. I use lots of excuses: it costs too much to hire a babysitter AND pay for dinner (and I don't have time to organize the whol co-op thing with other couples), we could just do dessert, but we are both overweight and don’t need the extra calories, it’s been a long time since we’ve had a family night, so we really need to stay home with the girls, our schedule is so crazy, we can’t consistently plan a night to do it…and the list goes on. If making excuses were a subject in college, my gpa would have been a whole lot higher than it was.

I realized last night that, while I don’t do most things the “right” way, every now and then, I catch a glimpse of things that work--in their quirky, unconventional way. For the past few months, I have been going to my bed to read, play Words with Friends, chatter on facebook and unwind before going to sleep while Brian watches TV. I’ve justified it, saying I’m tired or that I just need my down time or don’t care to watch whatever crazy show he is watching (which is valid because if I do watch it, I get sucked into things like “Gold Rush” and Pawn Stars”).

But this week, I’ve been sitting in the living room with him. By no means was it intentional, although I wish it had been. It just worked out that I was either working or interested in what he was watching or just wanted to have his company.

What I’ve realized is how much my perception has changed this week. So often, as parents, we divide and conquer the mountainous tasks that need to be done (I never thought I’d miss the days of grocery shopping together). In doing this, I often feel like I’m alone in my task. We are working as a team to accomplish things, but, because we are not doing it side-by-side, it often feels like we are on opposite ends of the spectrum and frankly, not on the same team.

It’s amazing to me at what a little physical closeness has done to change that perception in my head. We haven’t had any deep conversations (last night’s consisted of me complaining about the peanut butter stuff in my M&M Blast and listing all the reasons it was a good thinkg I didn't have a peanut allergy or I could have sued them or died). In fact, I feel like we’ve talked less (of course, that could be a good reason—I haven’t said any crazy stuff), but communicated more.

I realize this isn't the end-all-be-all. I still have a lofty goal of a weekly date night. Honestly, I would settle for monthly at this point, too. In the meantime, I’m gonna enjoy just “being” with my hubby on the couch.

What things, intentional or unintentional have you found that help your marriage? No pat answers here—just honesty.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Tearing Down the Lattice

I was caught off-guard today.

We told Hope back in November that we would re-do her bedroom for her 10th birthday. In the busy-ness of the season, it’s just now becoming a reality.

This weekend, Brian took the boxes that have been sitting in our living room for the past month (which have been used as “transporters” for the girls in some crazy game they’ve been playing) and he and Hope filled them with stuff from her room. Then she taped them shut with some designer duct tape and moved them out of her room.

As I was eating my lunch, I heard a loud C-C-C-R-R-R-R-A-A-C-C-K-K-K-K! A few seconds later, Brian passed by, carrying lattice. Yep, I had lattice in Hope’s room. It was one of those ideas I had that seemed crazy, but made me so stinkin excited.

When I was pregnant with Hope, I convinced Brian to mount lattice around her closet door. I wove ivy and flowers all through it and—along the top—her name was spelled out w/baby’s breath. As I read my description, the word “cheesy” comes to mind, but it was the perfect touch to finish out her 1st room.

I always thought we would move before it was time to re-do her baby room. When I saw Brian walking down the hallway, dragging the lattice out of the room, I had to hold back the tears.

It’s time to take it down. Ten years is a long time to keep your walls the same—especially when you are a little girl who is growing into a young lady.

But seeing the old ripped down made me sad.

Partly because I remember working so well with Brian creating that environment. Even when we didn’t agree, we pushed through, gave in to each other and created something that had both of our prints on--not to mention--we were proud of the finished product.

It’s also because I realize I have fewer years left with Hope at home than have already passed. Eighteen is creeping up on us.

And, let’s face it, change is just plain hard for me—even good change.

I’m excited to see what the new room will look like. We have some great ideas and I think they will come together in a way that reflects Hope’s personality now.

But, I had to go hide as he started pulling the pickets off her walls. A girl can only take so much in one day.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Geography Bowl--Here we Come!

I am constantly amazed at Hope. She’s the child I most often butt heads with, making it hard for me to show and tell her how stinkin proud I am of her. She’s truly amazing.

Today, she was selected to be in the Geography Bowl. Sounds like it’s similar to a spelling bee, but they have to answer geography questions. There will be 2 people chosen from her school to go to state—she has a 1 in 8 chance of being one of them.

This is where parenting gets hard. On the surface, it all looks good. I should be proud and excited for her. And I am. But, I also know the kids she’s up against—and they are brilliant, too. In fact, many of them are in the LEAP program (which Hope is not). One of them is the smartest kid I know and I’m pretty sure he will win (he looks at Google Earth for fun). When we go camping with his family, I have no fear letting Hope go explore with him because I know he will find his way back (and probably find the quickest route, too).

So the hard part is being excited for Hope and encouraging her, but not letting her define herself on whether she wins this or not. Don’t get me wrong—I would LOVE to see her win it—and I think she really could if she wanted it bad enough. But I don’t want her to feel like we are less proud of her if she doesn’t. Or that she isn’t as good as those who beat her.

I think I posted something like this a couple years ago when her artwork was selected to be shown throughout our district. Guess it doesn’t get any easier as they get older…

Monday, January 2, 2012


Last weekend, we got together with my entire family for Christmas. There are 6 of us kids, spouses, and grandkids—altogether totaling 25 of us. Our stockings fill an entire mantel:

It’s always loud and there’s typically at least one kid mad or sad at any given time. But, it’s also so fun to see the kids get to play together for an extended time—something they don’t do very often. They came up with the name “Fuzzins” this year—combining cousins and friends, which they felt described them.

One of my nieces took this pic last year of some of the Fuzzins and it is one of my favorites:

Fuzzins rock!