Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Worry, Thy Name is Woman

My apologies to the Bard for a clumsy attempt at wit, but don't you feel like it's true?  I know men worry, but it seems they do it on a more broad spectrum scale: job, money, who will win the Super Bowl this Sunday.  But women - and it seems especially mommies - have the capacity to worry about everything.  In infinite detail.  Given 10 seconds alone to think, the worry center of a woman's brain kicks into high gear.

Did I lay the baby on her back?  Is it too cold in her room?  I don't want her to get sick.  Maybe I should lay a blanket over her.  But what if she pulls the blanket over her face?  What if it smothers her?  Maybe I should skip the blanket.  But she didn't cry when I laid her down.  Maybe she's already sick.  Maybe she was too weak to cry.  She felt a tad warm earlier today.  Does she have a fever?  What if it's the measles?  I knew I should've vaccinated her on schedule! 

Before you know it, mom's laying in the crib next to the baby and trying to test-breathe through a blanket while waiting for the doctor's answering service to return her panicked call.

Maybe that's why God rarely gives mothers 10 seconds alone to think.  I know if I find the time I worry.  In fact, I'm kind of worried that I worry more than normal people. 

Yes, I see the irony.

I'll be fine for awhile; life is trucking along at it's usual breakneck pace, giving me plenty to blog about but not much time to write.  And then I get side-swiped by a fear I didn't see coming and my anxiety skyrockets.  I can't sleep.  I can't focus.  My kids, my husband, and my responsibilities slip to the wayside.  I forget to eat.  Sometimes it lasts a few hours, sometimes a few days.  But in the end, I'm always ashamed of the way I let that fear take control of me, especially when my worry was so often for naught.

The question that always comes back to me is, "Do I trust God?"  And the answer is an emphatic YES.  I don't have enough time or room here to detail God's faithfulness to me throughout my life, but after 30 years as his child, I know for certain that my God is a trustworthy God.

So why the fear?  If I trust God, why do I allow my anxiety to control me when circumstances appear to be out of my control?  (And why do I continue operating under the delusion that I have any control?)

Two things occurred to me recently:

1)  God made me.  He wired me to be exactly this way.  I don't think He's looking at me in confusion wondering "That's odd.  Why is she so worried?"  He knows all about my morbid imagination, my capacity for assuming the worst, and He's not shocked by it.  The truth is, I think if I stepped out of His way He'd be able to leverage my feelings for His glory - that He'd remove my worry and replace it with insight.

2)  He loves me.  And He has given me His Word to remind me of that love, but I have to be willing to read it.  I confess that I read less when life is going well.  But when I'm facing anxious times?  Oh, the Scriptures I find!

Matthew 6:31-34
So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Philippians 4:6-7
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Isaiah 41:10
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Deuteronomy 31:8
The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.

So I'm not going to waste any more time wondering if I worry too much.  I probably do, but worrying about that isn't adding any value to my life.  Instead, I choose to accept my worry as a natural part of who I am.  And then I choose take it before the throne of the God who made me, and trust Him to take care of my every need.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Hair (Apparent)

Kids are like apples. They don't fall far from the tree.

Unless the tree is planted at the top of a hill, in which case the apples will roll.

Unfortunately, my kids aren't rolling anywhere. I'm rooted in land as flat as Kansas, which explains why we're all able to provide such regular, blog-worthy material. I've actually been producing blog fodder for years. I just didn't bother to write about it until my children started emulating it. But truth be told, they come by their exploits honestly - and I have the collection of stories to prove it.

One of them came to mind last week when I saw my brunette neighbor gathering her mail. My brunette neighbor whom I've only ever known as a blond.

"It looks great!" I told her.

"Thanks. This is round three, though. I don't know what I was thinking."

I knew what she was thinking. She was thinking, I'm bored and broke, but this box of Clairol could be fun!

I totally get that. In fact, it was my college motto. My hair has hit just about every color in the rainbow, including an unfortunate run-in with orange. But my worst hair-dye-gone-wrong story isn't about my hair. It's about Callie's.

Callie was my beautiful, blue-eyed college roommate. And her crowning glory was her waist-length, virgin blond hair. Virgin, as in never dyed. And of course, as her hair-dying, maniac friend, I felt it my duty to add just a touch more blond what to what was already perfect hair.

I finally convinced her to let me work my magic over Spring Break of our senior year. We were staying at my parents' house, on our way to Florida for the week. After a quick Target run, I was all set to go: 2 bottles of blond for her and a bottle of chocolate brown for me.

Can you see where this is heading?

After applying one entire bottle of what I now realize was suspiciously dark-looking goo, I started in on the second bottle. Which looked a whole lot lighter than the first.

"Um... I think you need to get in the shower. NOW."

"Really? Already?" she asked. "I thought we were supposed to let it sit for 10 minutes."

"Uh, yeah. You know, just start washing. I have to make a phone call."

The phone call was to the Loreal customer service number listed on the back of the box. While Callie was busily shampooing, I hastily explained the situation to a guy named Ted: Chocolate brown dye applied to light blond hair.

"Well, s---," Ted replied.

"Really!?!  That's the best you can give me!?!" I screeched.

"What's going on?" called Callie.

"Nothing! Just keep washing!!"

In my panic, I bolted down the hallway in search another box with another customer service number on the back. One that wouldn't pass me off to an uncooperative man named Ted. Unfortunately, I didn't notice the drop of chocolate brown hair dye on the bottom of my sock until I'd tracked brown spots up and down the hallway of my parents' newly carpeted house.

Callie came around the corner as I was stripping off my socks and trying not to throw up.

"This looks awfully dark. Is it supposed to lighten as it dries?"

It cost $180 to have Callie's hair dyed back to its original color. (Although Callie swore it looked a touch lighter, and "isn't that what we were going for?") Since then, I've left all of my hair-dying to the professionals. Sure my hair might have some purple highlights once in awhile, but I pay someone to do it on purpose these days.

But my boxed-dye days might not be completely behind me. Ella told me today that she'd like to try painting her hair.

"I think it could be fun, Mommy."

Poor little apple. That kid ain't rolling nowhere.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

8 Things I Learned While Taking My Children to See "Annie"

One of the things I most appreciate about my family are the gifts of experience that so many of them give my children at Christmas.  For example, this past Christmas my parents bought tickets for the kids to go see "The Fresh Beat Band" live in concert this spring. 

Not familiar with the Fresh Beat Band?  Well, the FBB is to my sheltered six- and seven-year old girls what Justin Bieber is to... well, I suppose less-sheltered six- and seven-year old girls.  In other words, they're a pretty big deal in my house.

Over the years, my husband has figured out how much I love these types of gifts, so he surprised the whole family this Christmas with tickets to see "Annie: The Musical."

"We're all going?" I asked.

"All six of us."

"Ty, too?"

"Sure!  I think it'll be good for him to have a cultural experience."

"Did you just say the words 'cultural experience' without wincing?"

In all seriousness, though, I was super proud of my man.  Having seen "Annie" at the historic Fox Theater himself as a child, he was really looking forward to today's matinee show.  In the end, we had a fabulous day together.  But I did learn several things while taking my children to see "Annie." 

Eight things, in fact - mostly because my mind prefers even numbers.  Just thought I'd share:

1.    Some children come with more than one volume, but not mine. 

They could have two, but only if you count "asleep."  I can't tell you how many times we reminded the children today to always, always whisper in the theater.  Apparently, whispering means speaking at the same volume, but making your voice sound a little hoarse.  As in: "MOMMY, I CAN'T SEE AROUND THAT MAN'S BIG HEAD.  CAN YOU MAKE HIM MOVE?!"

2.    They should let you know that alcohol is available at these events as you're
       walking in the door.

We decided to nip the whole snack battle in the bud by letting the children pick out one - and ONLY one - treat at the beginning of the show.  Our motto is, "You eat what you get and you don't pitch a fit."  I picked out a box a Rasinets, because I like to delude myself into thinking that something as healthy as a raisin surely cancels out the chocolate it's dipped in.  I was just diving into my box of chocolat-y goodness when I saw a lady walk by with a glass of wine.  By golly, they should have posted a sign somewhere.  I was stuck with my chosen treat, but it might have been a whole different show with a little "mommy juice" on hand.

3.    Sally Struthers' most recent weight loss attempts must be going as well as

Okay, I'm dating myself here because I'm assuming that everyone knows who Sally Struthers is.  She's probably known to the older generation as that cute blond with the baby-doll voice who starred in All in the Family.  To my generation, she's that overweight blond with the raspy baby-doll voice who shows up on infomercials selling fad diets.  And to the generation after me?  Well, I'm not talking to you...

Anyway, Sally Struthers got top billing in today's show as Annie's arch-nemesis, the infamous Miss Hannigan.  And from the looks of things, she's eaten a few too many boxes of Rasinets.  I'm going back to Weight Watchers first thing tomorrow right after Valentine's Day.

4.    I sense a kindred spirit in that mean Miss Hannigan.

Even if Miss Hannigan hadn't been looking a tad pudgier today, I still would've viewed her in a different light.  As the drunken head mistress of the miserable orphanage Annie hales from, Miss Hannigan is supposed to be the villan of the show.  But as she staggered around the stage today singing "Little Girls," I found myself feeling sorry for a woman in charge of SO. MANY. GIRLS.  I only have three and most days I feel like I'm "going to end up in the nut house with all the nuts." 

"And the squirrels." 

Maybe Miss Hannigan isn't a drunk.  Maybe the woman is just plain tired.

5.    Children will never ask the questions you expect them to ask.

My kids ask questions.  All day.  Every day.  Seriously, they don't ever stop.

So yes - DUH - they were going to ask questions during the show.  But I thought the questions might be about orphans.  Or poverty.  Or even the drunk (tired?) Miss Hannigan.

But, no.  My kids wanted to know what was in all of those packages under Daddy Warbucks' Christmas tree.  And who got to keep them after the show.  And if they can be the kids in the show next time.

6.    No matter how hard you work, your children will never quite look as cute in
       public as you know they can.

Those pictures of my kids in the sidebar?  That's as good as they get.  And thanks to Andrea, I have some pretty spectacular photographs to document just how cute they can be.  Lucky for me, because her camera doesn't necessarily capture my reality.  My girls started out the day in dresses, bows, tights, and patent-leather shoes. 

By the time we sat down in the theater, all that was left were the dresses.  The bows were in my purse, the tights were in my pocket, and the shoes were on the floor.

7.    If you're taking children to a musical production, buy the cheapest seats
       available and pray - don't pay - for an upgrade.

My husband loves to treat his family, but taking a family of six - four of whom may or may not pay attention to the show - gets expensive.  So while our noses certainly weren't bleeding, let's just say we were well-placed to make a hasty exit for the bathroom / water fountain / snack bar.  Which - if you have a lot of kids - makes great sense... unless you forgot the binoculars at home. 

I don't know how it happened, but despite their stripped-down, rag-tag appearance, my children managed to pull off "cute."  Five minutes into intermission, a woman walked up and handed me a stack of 2nd row tickets.  Let me tell you - when you're sitting in the second row of a theater watching "Annie," Miss Hannigan's fanny is larger, Annie's hair is curlier, and Daddy Warbucks' head is shinier than you can possibly imagine.  And you don't need the binoculars you forgot at home.  The children who were falling apart towards the end of Act I were mesmerized in Act II.  Thank You, God, for that!

8.    Just because the show is over doesn't mean the singing and dancing is done.

Apparently, "Annie" was a hit for the kids.  Well, the girls, anyway.  Ty was a little ticked that Sandy the dog only showed up twice during the whole performance.  But Evie has a whole new repertoire of songs to sing in the car, Ella has a new movie addiction, and Emily's learning how to tap dance. 

In high heels. 

On my hardwood floors. 

Oh, Annie.  I just have a feeling that you're going to be the gift that keeps on giving.

Friday, January 13, 2012


I'm not afraid to admit when I make a mistake.  I mean, we all make mistakes.

Buying that super-sized box of Oreos at Costco last week?  Mistake.

Weighing in at Weight Watchers three days later?  Also a mistake.

Of course, some mistakes are bigger than others.  Like adopting 2 adorable orange kittens.  Or volunteering to organize the class Valentine's Day party.  Or taking German in high school, instead of Spanish like everybody else.

That one really screwed me up, because after floundering through two miserable years in high school - and then cramming two semesters of college course work into three, "Ich still spreche kein Deutsch."  I was a pretty big disappointment to the Frau Professor who finally passed me out of pity.  Or sheer exhaustion.

Fortunately, my kids seem to have inherited their language proficiency from my husband's side of the family.  Their Nana is fluent in French and - according to Ella (who is in the throes of her "Parisian phase") - is taking her eldest granddaughter to France when the girl turns ten.  I really hope that's true, because I'm not above stowing myself away in Nana's suitcase.

Unfortunately for Nana, not all of my kids are interested in learning French.  Evie, for example, seems to have developed a passion for Spanish.  I suppose I could blame "Dora the Explorer" for Evie bursting into my room shouting "¡Buenos días, Mama!" every morning, but I prefer to think of her as a genius who understands America's bi-lingual future. 

The only problem is, between my ineptitude in all things language related and Nana's bias towards all things French, Evie has few fellow Spanish-speakers to interact with.  Several months ago, two women from a local maid service came over to help me get my house under control.  Evie came bounding in the door from school and screeched to a halt when she heard the women conversing in what can only be described as her love language.  She listened for a minute, then grinned and shouted "¡Hola! ¿Cómo estás?"

The ladies' eyes lit up and one bent down to rattle off a bunch of words I couldn't make out.  Evie hesitated a moment, then replied, "Um... Muy bien?  Um... Si?"  The lady smiled and Evie continued, "Uno?  Dos?  Tres?"  At that point, it became clear to even my uneducated mind that Evie wasn't so much conversing with the woman as she was pulling out every Spanish word she could remember.  The woman patted her head and winked at me, and Evie walked away with an even greater passion for Spanish. 

Of course, her twin sister is not to be outdone.  A few weeks ago, Ella was going on and on about the Eiffel Tower and Evie was going on and on about... well, whatever Dora's in to these days.  And Emily pipes in from the back seat, "I'm going to learn Texan!"

"Texan?  I don't know if I've heard anyone speak Texan before."

"Yes, you have," she replied.  "You know - Yee-haw!  Howdy!  Gittyup!  Ride 'em, cowboy!"

Ah yes, Texan.  The language of kings.

She's pretty serious about it, too.  Today she climbed in the car and asked, "Is it okay if I move to Texas before you die?  I was going to wait until after you were dead, but if I go when you're still alive then maybe you can come visit me.  You can even ride in an airplane and hold my babies."

Awesome.  She's already thinking of me as a grandmother.  Or dead.

She paused a moment to think.  "Are there pet stores in Texas?  Because I want to get a puppy.  And two kittens.  Cowgirls can have kittens, right?"

Apparently I can't get away from kittens.  Or discourage my daughters from pursuing the things they love. 

Even if what they love takes them away from their mommy.

That would be a mistake.