Thursday, February 28, 2013

go look at the moon

every now and then we get a glimpse that it’s working.  i love that glimpse. truth be told, i even live a little for that glimpse.  i bet you do too.  so often it seems our words fall on deaf ears, our requests go unnoticed, our wishes ignored and that blessed, blessed back door seems always to be left wide open.  even in winter. 

i’m talking about kids.

i’m talking about how hard it is to parent when we don’t always see the progress.  i mean, maybe things are different for you.  maybe it all goes incredibly well at your house everyday.  your kids wake up with sunny smiles each morning and obediently drift off to sweet sleep each evening.  your toddlers don’t tantrum in the grocery store and your teenagers don’t test your patience.  perhaps your children make their beds without being told, put their dirty socks in the laundry and wipe their feet at the door.  heck, if that’s the case, i bet your children do their own laundry and wash your kitchen floors on friday afternoons -- just for fun.   i bet they cook healthy dinners for the family, eat all their vegetables and only drink milk.   i bet they never leave empty ice cream containers in the freezer, empty soda cans in the fridge or empty toilet paper rolls in the bathroom.  they probably don’t sass over the phone, roll their eyes at the dinner table or stomp off to school. they close doors quietly and they empty the dishwasher eagerly. because they love you.  i bet they read books to the baby and help little brother with his math facts when bored.  in fact,  i bet your kids are never bored.  

maybe it works this way in your home.
but that’s not my house.  

nope, not at all.

i mean, we do work hard on these things.  really we do.  it might not be obvious to the casual observer.  you’d have to come and hang out with us for a little bit to see.  if you do, plan to bring your running shoes.  but, truly, we address our issues -- all the time.  i tell myself daily, we are works in progress.  sometimes it seems we are seeing more work than progress, but that’s just the name of this parenting game.   and with five of them, it does seem i am always dealing with someone.  it is easy for a mother of many to feel much like a nag.  like the charlie brown teacher: “wanh, wanh, wanh,wuh-wahn, wahn...” i have seen that same blank look on the faces of my offspring in the middle of a lecture lesson.

do they hear me? 

are my words sinking in? 

God is so clear in His word, “train up a child in the way he should go;  even when he is old he will not depart from it.”  (proverbs 22:6).  and though i’m putting an awful lot of stock in this verse, please notice that no where in His words does He promise it to be easy.  nope, it takes work.  especially the day in and day out stuff --  the nitty gritty of that great training. it's downright daunting some days, isn't it?  heck, even mary and joseph struggled a bit in raising their perfect son, Jesus.  remember the whole losing Jesus at the temple fiasco?  they were on their way to nazareth before realizing he had gone missing. (we can, unfortunately, relate).  parenting is hard.  kids don’t come with instruction manuals and each one is completely different.  and just when we think we have a situation or a child finally figured out, they grow an inch and everything changes.   

blame it on the weariness of long winter.  blame it on the lack of vitamin D.  blame it on the addition of a new puppy.  blame it on whatever you want,  but we’ve had that kind of week: every one of us a little bit off.  everyone a little bit snippy, a little bit snappy, and sometimes, even snide.  the boys wrestling too hard, the girls fussing too much.  the mother not enough on her knees.

 “wanh, wanh, wanh,wuh-wahn, wahn...”

then there’s the stealing of stuff.  thieves!  we have five little thieves living snug under our roof.  sweaters, ballet flats, snow boots and laptops.  favorite pens, novels, headphones and the very last lovely square of dark chocolate.  you name it,  they take it.  lately it’s been my tweezers. yes, my tweezers.  they have been stolen from my bathroom so many times i have had to attach them to a chain.  well, okay, not exactly a chain, but a string.  a really thick string, mind you.  a woman's got to do what a woman's got to do! and it's not just my beauty products, my iphone charger has been stolen so often from the kitchen counter i finally had to write (in sharpie, because this is serious) “mom’s: leave in kitchen.”  notice i didn't even write "please"...we are well past politeness, folks.

i tell you, these are desperate measures for desperate times. 

and speaking of time, it is running out.  if i don’t hurry up and fix my kids, i will have five little thieves grow up to become five big thieves in no time flat. empty-container-leaving, dirty-feet-tracking, messy-room-making thieves! and oh, friends, i cannot bear the great burden of contributing quite so criminally to our society.

even now, as i furiously type this post, my oldest daughter and i are on an airplane headed to texas.  we are flying from the twin cities to dallas-fort worth to embark on the great college tour.  this is our first time visiting colleges for emily and it practically paralyzes me with fear.  how can this be?  how can we possibly be peering over the precipice of our last year with emily in our home?  there’s this part of me that wants her junior year to be endless. continuous. forever.  she drives.  she’s responsible.  independent.  motivated. for the most part, clean.  why or why do we have ruin it all just now and throw college in the mix? of course, i want her to go.  but things have just started to straighten out.  why must my oldest child, my leader of the sibling band, my capable eldest girl begin planning her exit. it has happened too soon.

not to mention she still has things to learn.  only last week did she admit she doesn’t really know how to bake all that well.  i kind of new that, but had brushed it aside, telling myself we had time.  well, guess what? we don’t.  we don’t have that much time left.  i'm feeling like perhaps we should turn this plane right around and head back to our kitchen for some cookie making lessons. 

on occasion, emily still leaves her room a mess, her socks on the floor and her dishes in the sink.  and without a doubt, she is the biggest thief of them all.  let’s just be really clear here, when this girl finally does go off to college i will have to check her bags before she leaves.  i’d bet good money she’ll at least try to take my tweezers.  string or no string.  

so, this crazy, chaotic mama feels time slipping fast between her fingers. we are 30,000 feet up in the sky and traveling at the speed of 500 miles per hour;  and this seems about the pace of my parenting these days.   each one of my kiddos moving on quickly to the next some kind of fast, frenzied video game.  i want to push the pause button and stop this nonsense.  the controlling side of me wants to make a bucket list of all the things we still have to do, to address, to fix, to finish...

“slow down, jody!” i hear your collective yell, "she’s only a junior!"  you have months and months and months with her still at home.  lots of opportunity for lessons and life and lectures (when needed).  but i am on an airplane today flying toward texas at 500 miles per hour and this is how fast it feels these days. 

baking aside, have we covered the important things?

has she gotten what she needs?

has she heard what we've said?

i know i am not alone in my questions.  if you have or have had older children in your home, you know of what i write.  you've asked yourself the same things.  we spend a lot of time teaching our children how to fold their pajamas and tuck in their sheets.  we spend time instructing and modeling and correcting.  we've put every morsel of ourselves into rearing right kids.  we hug them hard and we hold them tight and then we begin to see the day approach when we will have to let them go...

and we fly 500 miles per hour to texas today. 

so, that glimpse i mentioned.  it might not really make sense in this post.  i had a different direction in mind when i began writing today.  but, as if often the case, this is where i ended up.  

that glimpse happened the other night while emily was on her way to volleyball.  she (after, i'm certain, safely pulling over and putting the car in park) texted me this message:  “go look at the moon!!”  that was it.  “go look at the moon!!”  two exclamation points, but still so simple.  some shred of eloquence in that quick text spoke softly and soothing to my mother’s heart.  “go look at the moon.”  i may not produce a daughter who can remember always to return borrowed shoes to my closet, but i have a girl who texts me, “go look at the moon.”  and somehow, that makes the stolen tweezers and the dirty socks and the missing sweaters all worth it.  

those “go look at the moon” moments are what we mothers long for ... listen for ... wait for ... wish for ...

“go look at the moon, mama....go look at the moon.”

her text buzzes in while i'm stirring potatoes at the stove. i read her words and my stirring stops. laying down spoon, i pick up my camera and, without even looking, i head outside in search of this moon. 

because, i know...

i love this photo... notice the two snowmobiles.  snowmobiling by moonlight.

okay, by the way, emily is looking at three colleges this visit:  baylor university, texas christian university and southern methodist university.  we'd welcome any feedback, opinions and letters of recommendation.  
p.s. we just drove through dallas...everything really IS bigger in texas!  

Friday, February 22, 2013

seeing in snow

another snowfall.

in just a week it will be march and yet winter continues to come. come hard. marching forward. there is no halt.  no holding.  no winding down. no letting up. no light at the end of this long, frozen tunnel.

the novelty of snow-things feels rather frayed today.  worn thin.  shovel rests against garage wall a bit slumped. tired sleds abandoned in backyard. soggy boots piled high at back door. dirty mittens missing their match.  scarves unravelling and abandoned in basket. and, of course, that grimy, grimy car covered in the slush and salt of severe weather.  everything subdued.  all things silently stark. color drained, dull. hushed cold, quiet.  woman, slightly weary.

another snowfall.

i stomp into my boots and bundle up in the down of my coat -- slipping on gloves and hat, my second skin.  and as i stomp and bundle and slip, i am faced with the choice:  embrace this day? greet this gift? or grumble at the Giver? door opens and the question hovers in the rush of icey air.  fist desiring to shake at sky.  flakes falling at my feet.  it's a choice. and it's mine for the moment. mine for the making.

and this white stuff reminds me.  it reminds me that we have choices every day. each day. in all sorts of storms.  do i allow something which seems so much, so heavy, so hard,  even something so hurtful,  to keep me from the gifts that He has left along the way.  i can claim blinding snow, but is it truly a blizzard or do i just choose not to see.

what has the Giver left for me today?

where are His gifts along my way?

blessings can be lost in the continuous swirling of this season. but, seeing is a choice.  even in blizzard conditions.

i have to remind myself. often.

i can claim blindness or i can claim His goodness.

and this reminding makes me think of the israelites when they rebelled and grumbled against the Giver. they shook fists at the flurries of falling manna.  tired and tempted. the novelty worn out, the gratitude worn off. in ezekiel God condemns israel as a "rebellious house."  He says she has "eyes to see, and ears to hear but does not hear." (ezekiel 12:2).  israel had a choice, but she shut her eyes.  she willfully went blind. and what about us? even in the midst of blizzards, God offers up the beautiful.  do i believe that?  am i israel?  am i going to allow myself to freeze in the feelings of winter frustration?

dear one, what is your winter right now?  what are you buried under at this moment?

in matthew 13 the disciples asked Jesus why he spoke in parables. and He answered them, saying:

“‘you will be ever hearing but never understanding;
    you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
for this people’s heart has become calloused;
    they hardly hear with their ears,
    and they have closed their eyes.
otherwise they might see with their eyes,
    hear with their ears,
    understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’

but blessed are your eyes because they see..."

i don't know about you, but i want blessed eyes, not blind eyes.

Jesus is clear.  if we won't see and hear what God gives, the time will come when we can't any longer.  when we willfully choose to look away, when we continually refuse to open wide, we will eventually grow more and more blind.  call it judgment.  call it justice.  call it just plain laziness. for it is only in the embracing and exercising of our spiritual eyes that we learn to truly see God's gifts.  even in a blizzard. especially in the blizzard.

oh, am i israel?

windshield wipers swipe furiously to keep up with the winter whoosh rushing past me.  i peer out at a road covered in white.  Lord, let me see.  allow me see what you bring even in the midst of this wintry mix...this mess...this momentary madness.  minnesota march a week away and all remains in the milky shades of faded color.

give me eyes that see your goodness.  your gifts.

remove the blinders from my eyes, that i may see your beauty.
remove the grumble from my heart, that i may see your grace.

wash any trace of blind rebellion from me...and leave me white.  white like winter.

Monday, February 18, 2013

in defense of the dog

so perhaps you've heard about the brown bear cub living in our home since christmas.  i've watched neighbors slow down and peer out their car windows when driving by.  looks of confusion,  curiosity and bewilderment.  what are those southerners up to now? and i know what you are all thinking.  really, i do.  i've read some of your comments on facebook.  i've even read in between the lines of your comments.  you think we're crazy. you at least think i'm crazy. you think moving to minnesota has caused some kind of madness to finally set in. it was only a matter of time.  you think i have no boundaries and too many kids...

and perhaps you're right.

exactly how did we end up with a second dog come christmas?

i bet a few of you wish you could have been flies on the wall when i brought up that conversation with the husband. but what you really need to know is that my kids have me figured out.  a part of me likes that fact and a part of me knows i am in big trouble because of it.

this dog thing is a perfect example.

about a month before christmas, the kids came to us.  “mom.  dad.  we'd like to call a family meeting tonight.”  they were calm and mature and oh, so polite.  i knew immediately they were up to something.  there had been some whispering...some disappearing together behind closed doors.  i’m a mother who (likes to think she) has her finger on the pulse beat of her children, i could tell...something was astir... something was amuck.  something was about to go down with the mcnatt children.

that evening, as we all sat together in the family room for our meeting, the children could barely contain their excitement.  our oldest, emily, presiding over the gathering began,   "parents, we have an important proposal for you this evening."  and with her introduction, the children thrust a typed, two page document into our hands. it was titled, "the mcnatt family gets a dog." and it was all there -- set out in black and white before our eyes.  graphs and charts and bullet pointed arguments explaining why this was the perfect opportunity and the perfect time to add a perfect puppy.

they were so persuasive and so prepared.  each child took a turn presenting some part of their research.  they had put some effort into this.  clearly, knowing they couldn’t bring it up like a last minute thought or a spontaneous idea.  it couldn’t be a whim, it had to have some substance...  a backbone of possibility.

we listened carefully.  rick rolled his eyes occasionally.  i was simply impressed with the mere blessed rallying of our troops.  the kids had worked together on something.  they seemed to all be on the same page.  no one was bickering, arguing, whining or crying.  i loved the sheer comradery of the moment. that alone was enough to convince me.  

but rick knew we were really in trouble when they got to the breed and name portion of their puppy proposition.  “we have researched this extensively and we believe that a newfoundland  puppy would best suit our family."  they paused, eyeballing our reaction and allowing that proclamation to sink in.  "why a newfoundland, you ask?" emily went on,  "well, that is an excellent question."  the kids continued to stare at us shaking their heads in agreement.  "we have just moved this year and we believe that a newfoundland dog will best capture the adventure in our new found land of minnesota.  it is the perfect representation of what we’ve all been through in 2012...a symbol of our new found land, minnesota.” emily explained in a confident and clear voice.  her brothers and sisters all smiling from ear to ear  in their support.  sarah elizabeth chimed in, “plus, the newfoundland breed was voted the #1 family dog in 2011!”  now, how can you argue with that???

their collective and persuasive argument went on and on.  i was dumbfounded, impressed and (if i'm being honest) pleased as punch with their organization and delivery.   rick new we were in trouble.  this kind of argument is exactly what i have been trying to teach my kids when they want to really get our attention.  this was textbook "how to approach your parents 101."   i am pretty sure the movement was led by our oldest, but, regardless, i was over the moon with their momentum.  they could have proposed the addition of a baby elephant and i probably would have at least listened.  i loved their sibling demonstration of research, reason and creativity.  afterward rick's comment was, “oh no, this is totally your love language and we are totally in trouble.”  and it is and we were.   i used to teach the persuasive essay to my high school english students years ago.  this was exactly the approach i attempted to drill into them.    do you want the car keys from your parents?  then don’t whine and whimper about it, persuade them with your reason and responsibility.  prove to them your maturity and motivation.  it's really quite simple, but it does take kids some time to catch on.

the children informed us that newfies were working dogs or rescue dogs.  of course that sounded pretty good to me.  i was all about adding another "worker" type to the family.  do you remember "nana" from peter pan?  she was the big newfoundland dog in that story who was employed to actually nanny the darling children -- even administering medicine every evening to them. now that might have been a bit of a fictional stretch, but it certainly sounded like a good fit for us.  i wasn't sure if we needed another dog, but we could definitely use a nanny for the "darling" mcnatt kids!

they went eagerly on explaining how they would be 100% in charge of this potential pup.  "you won't have to do a thing, mom, we'll take care of the dog all by ourselves." when i raised my eyebrows they became more passionate in the pleading of their case, "it will be a growth experience for us.  we will learn to be more responsible and reliable. having a puppy will teach us things...important things.  life lessons..."  at one point, connor even threw out the line, "just think, mom, it will give you something else to blog about." 

nooooow, as much as i was impressed with their initial research and delivery, my amazement ended there.  i've been a mom long enough. i've hung out with this crew of kids for enough years to know their M.O.  i might be easily convinced over the joy of a new puppy, but nothing would convince me that my children would be 100% in charge of this puppy.  school would begin again. life would resume.  sporting events and practices would take place and homework would, without doubt, take priority. the new puppy novelty would eventually wear off and i would be left alone to care for this little big critter.  i knew that.  we could make promises and plans, come up with charts and chore lists, but i would be the one, at some point, holding the rawhide.

we had a 100 reasons for our kids on why this wasn't the perfect time to add a puppy.  but somehow, in that week before christmas, when i stumbled upon a local breeder with two chocolate newfies left in her litter...and somehow when i talked rick into driving out to "just take a look"...and somehow when we took that look and fell in love with these large, goofy cuddly pups...and somehow when we thought about how surprised our kids might be come christmas morning...somehow...we ended up with this little big girl who looks more like a bear cub roaming our yard than a family pet.

yes, there are lots of instances when i am the one left holding the rawhide.  i am the one cleaning up the mess or filling up the water bowls...but somehow, it's still okay.  we love our miss minnetonka.  she is an absolute doll.  and though i have to now step over two big dogs when i am cooking in the kitchen...somehow i don't really mind.

 connor is (by far) the most reliable about taking the puppy "out"...even in his pajamas!
 another one of the kids' bullet points in their proposal:  a puppy would give cooper a buddy.
and indeed, it has.  they are great pals....this is how i find them all the time in the makes getting to the stove or refrigerator a bit challenging...but they're awfully cute together.
bella likes to lay down right between them.  i need a picture of that.  

 one of my favorite photos:  connor's first day back to school after the christmas break.  minne was like, "please don't go...don't leave me!"

 we certainly won't lose her in the snow!

 minne is a good buddy on the lake...she goes down with tyler to ice fish or just run around.  newfies are water dogs...we can't wait to see that in action when all this stuff melts! they have webbed feet and have a natural instinct to save people or things from the water...thus we have to be careful swimming with her next summer.  apparently she will spend the entire time trying to drag us to shore and "rescue" us. as working dogs, newfoundlands,  were first used to assist fishermen off the coast of newfoundland (imagine that).  they were used to drag nets full of fish or move piles of lumber. even the navy has used them on ships in the past.  now that's kind of cool!
we named her minnetonka because of living on lake minnetonka this year.  it's such a perfect name for her.  "minne" means water....and "tonka" means big.  yes, this gal is one big drink of water!

newfies, nicknamed "gentle giants," are known for their loyalty, courage and devotion.  i am pretty sure we won't have minne hauling firewood or babysitting bella anytime soon, but what family wouldn't benefit from more loyalty, courage and devotion in their home?  and speaking of the gentle giant...last week i took minne in to the vet for her second puppy appointment.  she had gained 20 lbs. in 5 weeks.  at four months she's approaching the 50 lb mark.  newfies grow for the first two years of their life.  they typically stand eye level with the dining room table and can get up to 150 lbs at full size.

we are now looking for acreage...