Wednesday, June 30, 2010


2 a : something expected: awaited or looked forward to

Back when we were planning out the kitchen remodel, I thought this week would be a week with lots of work getting done while my daughters weren't here to be in the way.  Everything was going along remarkably smoothly until last Friday evening.  I had spoken to the installers about my counter tops, had the other contractors work harder and more quickly and everyone pushed to be ready for the templates to be made last Wednesday so that installation could happen Friday.  And then the installers broke a piece of granite while getting it off the truck and into our house.  Everything ground to a halt.  And will remain at a halt until next week when a new slab of granite has arrived and been cut and installed.  Only then can the backsplash be tiled, the dishwasher installed, the sink hooked up.  So instead of coming home to a nearly finished kitchen, my daughters will come home to a kitchen where not much has changed.

I was talking with a friend this morning about recent developments and she said that all of this definitely falls under the heading of expectations.  I was looking forward to work being done without my daughters here.  I was looking forward to a week with them back in town and it not being necessary for us to leave the house everyday.  A week where we could just enjoy our home and each other.  That week will hopefully still come, but not in the timing I anticipated.

We all have expectations that go unmet.  We all have to adjust.  The concept of unmet expectations is something that I address regularly with my daughters, who have a difficult time when their expectations are thwarted.  Last Sunday, when we flew up to Chicago together, our flight was longer and more turbulent than expected.  This meant we did not get a snack or a drink en route.  My eight year old was frustrated, especially since the flight attendants had taken our drink orders but never delivered the drinks.  She and her sisters were eagerly anticipating their Sprites - a special treat.  But her expectations were not met.  I was sad for her since she rarely has the opportunity to fly and the snacks were part of what she joyfully anticipated.  But I couldn't change it.  I couldn't fix it.  I couldn't make the turbulence go away or ask the pilot to change his mind about whether it was safe to serve drinks.  I couldn't really even explain the situation well to B because she and A were sitting together across the aisle from K and I.  But B coped fairly well.  She questioned me about it several times and even asked as we were deplaning, "Can I get my Sprite on the way out?"   But she kept her emotions in check and didn't let her disappointment get the best of her.

Which is what I'm trying to do with my own thwarted expectations surrounding the kitchen.  I'm trying to be thankful for the quiet that enveloped my home yesterday, with no one hammering, sanding or working.  I'm trying to remember that it will all be worth it the first time I prepare a meal for my family in the new kitchen.  I'm trying to not let my disappointment get the best of me.  Because I don't want to ruin the little time J and I have alone together by mourning my unmet expectations.  And because I don't want to go through life thinking I'm entitled to having all of my expectations met.  I want to hold my expectations loosely, fully prepared to let them drift one way or the other.  Which is, of course, easier said than done.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


4 a : an appointment to meet at a specified time; especially : a social engagement between two persons that often has a romantic character b : a person with whom one has a usually romantic date

I have a date tonight.  With a cute guy.  A guy who makes me laugh.  In fact, he's on his way to pick me up right now.  I've known him for seventeen years and he can still make my heart race.  My kitchen has been out of commission for more than two weeks.  My daughters are out of town this week.  If there exists a more perfect set of reasons for a date, I do not know it.  In fact, it's pretty much date night followed by date night followed by date night.  And then we'll hit the road to drive north and retrieve our beloved daughters.

But in the meantime, we've already seen a funny movie together, hung out at a local pub, and had dinner and drinks at my new favorite East Nashville restaurant.  I've also slept late, worked out every day (OK, OK, it's only been two days, but still!) and had lunch with a friend.  Tonight J is picking our dinner location, so it will feel like an old fashioned date.  He'll pick me up in his car - a car any high schooler would be happy to drive.  He'll open the door for me.  He'll pay when the check arrives.  Only this time I'm sitting on the sofa typing on the laptop, not primping in the bathroom mirror while I wait for him.  And if he wants to hold  my hand, I'll definitely let him.

I love the opportunity to have dates with my husband.  Sure, we spent a portion of our date last night talking about things like work, the kitchen renovation and my preparations for homeschooling A next year.  But we also laughed together, had cocktails with dinner, ran into friends at the restaurant, ate great food and enjoyed being together.   I envy my friends who manage to schedule a weekly date night.  We've never managed that with any consistency over the course of our nearly fourteen years of marriage.  But we do try to make time for each other and with each other.

So instead of standing on the back deck and grilling something for dinner, then serving it up on paper plates, I'll be out on a date with my husband.  Sounds infinitely more appealing, doesn't it?

Sunday, June 27, 2010


:an international association football competition contested by the men's national teams of the members of Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the sport's global governing body

Some people never watch sports.  There are people who don't know what first and goal means (some of them may even live in the South!).  There are people who change the television station if Wimbledon is on, don't know the significance of the green jacket or have never kept score at a baseball game (ok, I haven't done that either).  These same people probably don't know what a vuvuzela is.  I'll admit I didn't know until World Cup 2010 started.  I'll also admit that while an MLS game doesn't hold my attention, I have been a bit of a World Cup junkie over the last two weeks.  I've watched all of the US matches and several matches where I had no connection at all to either team. Why?  That's a tougher question.

Part of the answer lies in the general excitement of this once-every-four-years event.  If you miss your chance here, you wait a while to get another shot (just ask Italy or France).  I also have become gradually more interested in World Cup as I've aged.  I remember twenty years ago being in England when their team failed to qualify for World Cup, while Ireland did.  There was a period of national mourning.  Not really, but close.  At the time, I didn't grasp the significance, but I understand it better now, even if my own national pride doesn't hinge on how well team USA performs in each match.

My enjoyment of World Cup has grown in nearly direct proportion to my understanding of the game of soccer.  Having watched B play soccer for several seasons, I understand the game much better than I used to.  This helps because I can more fully appreciate just how gifted these players are: stopping a ball in mid-air with no hands, kicking a ball in one direction while running in another, heading a ball to a teammate or into the goal.  Phenomenal.  Amazing.  Entertaining.  I watch these elite goalies and can see why B was best at this position - she was fearless, quick and smart in the box.

I watch to cheer on our country.  I watch to see some of the many amazing things the human body can do.  I watch to cheer for the underdog.  Apart from England, I nearly always cheer against the European countries.  I guess I feel they've had their fair share of World Cup success, so I'm happy to root for Mexico, Uruguay or, on any day other than today, Ghana.  Next time around, I may pull out a world atlas and make A and B watch with me (since K is willing to watch anyway).  We can have a geography pop quiz while also getting some soccer watching done.

While I'm sad to see the US World Cup run end, I have enjoyed seeing the 2010 team play and I'm sure I'll tune in with more enthusiasm and knowledge in 2014 than I've had this time around.  Perhaps I'll get treated to a bit less heartbreak then.  Regardless, I'll be watching.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


1 a: a declaration that one will do or refrain from doing something specified
2: reason to expect something (little promise of relief); especially: ground for expectation of success, improvement, or excellence (shows considerable promise)

Sometimes a word just begs to be a blog post.  The word promise kept appearing and reappearing last night.  Promises from a wizard to a dragon, from a son to his mother, from one friend to another, from a snake to an alligator, from a grandmother to herself, from a vendor to a client, from God to me. Some of these promises were kept, some broken.  As I fell into an exhausted sleep, I tried to ponder the significance of the word promise figuring so prominently in a few short hours.  I'm not sure I reached any conclusions worth sharing (or any conclusions, given that I fell asleep very quickly thanks to the previous night's insomnia), but I do think it's worth considering the meaning of the word promise.

The first definition of promise makes it clear that a promise is stated aloud - verbally or in writing.  Yet the second definition of promise is merely that of an expectation.  And expectations are far trickier than declared intentions.  I can reasonably or unreasonably expect something, whether I've told anyone about it or not.  A friend asked me the other night if I would be OK with A deciding to stop dancing.  I didn't hesitate to reply, "Sure.  The life of a professional dancer isn't an easy one.  I'll gladly support her if she decides to go a different direction."  While all of that is true, I played back that conversation to myself yesterday and had to admit that my reaction would be partly based on when she decides to give up dancing.  I've always hoped my girls would have a life preserver in middle school - an activity that captures their hearts and minds enough to keep them anchored to it through the rocky waters of the tween and early teen years.  So if A decided to drop dance right now, I probably would hesitate.  Not because I expect her to dance forever, but because she does show such promise as a dancer.  She does seem so alive on the stage.  She does seem to both feel joy while dancing and elicit joy in others by sharing her love of dance.  I'm not keen to cut the rope on that promise.

Is a promise more powerful when issued to someone else or to ourselves?  Because when you talk about unspoken expectations, I have quite a few for myself that are probably entirely unreasonable, perhaps even unattainable.  If I break a promise to myself, is that as bad as breaking a promise to someone else?

I ponder the breaking of promises as I work with multiple vendors to get our kitchen renovated.  Yesterday, the crew arrived to install our counter tops.  They started with the desk area, where I now sit typing this post.  Then they moved on to the largest section of the kitchen - the counter top that will stretch from one door to the other and will turn a ninety degree angle behind the stove.  We were eating a take-out dinner upstairs in order to stay out of their way as they worked in our kitchen, so I was excited to anticipate seeing the color we'd picked out and how it looked with the cabinets and wall color.  When J headed down to dispose of our dinner remnants, I asked him to see whether they'd started on the sink area.  He came up to report that they had and said I should look at the sink since there was a rough spot.  Excited to see it all come together, I hurried down the stairs.  The color was great.  I love the honed granite, which lacks the shine of most granite counter tops.  It looked great with the cabinets - anchoring the ephemeral white without weighing it down.  And then I looked at the sink.  Yes, there was a rough spot.  Two, in fact.  I looked closer.  The rough spots were the result of a break.  They had tried to patch it up, but it was clear that the stone had been split clean through.

J talked with the crew and they agreed to return Monday with an unbroken stretch of counter top.  But J pointed out to me later that they had planned to just install the damaged piece without calling it to our attention.  He told me that I'll need to be very careful and diligent in examining their work on Monday.  For a person as conflict averse as myself, that's a bit daunting.  And it's good that J verbalized the need for me to be vigilant because I hope for the best in people.  Until my trust is broken, I have faith that people will fulfill their promises.

How has that worked out for me?  Both well and not so well.  There are certainly scars from promises broken - broken by others and broken by me.  I've left my share of scars on the hearts of those who care about me.  I hope that I continue to see the promise in others - the promise in my daughters that they will one day be the women God envisioned when he created them, the promise that they will use their gifts to bless others.  And I hope I can see "ground for expectation of improvement" in myself.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


: giving hope or promise

On Tuesday, I took six children with me to the Frist Center: A, B and K and three friends. I didn't really plan it that way. It just sort of happened. But it had some great advantages over other ways we could have spent our day: it was air-conditioned, there were two exhibits the kids were very interested in seeing and ArtQuest never fails to entertain. That said, I was pretty exhausted by the end of the day. K's friend is a lot like her - they seem to be almost the same person in different bodies, in fact. And two K's is an exhausting proposition.

The day after our visit, a friend posted the following comment on my facebook page: Thanks so much for taking O. Telling me about the exhibit, she said, "Shannon had us tell her what our favorite piece was and why - just like she did at the Greek exhibit. She's like a teacher! I love her. She'd make a really good teacher." That's almost verbatim, because I repeated it to myself many times in my head so I could tell you! She liked your other questions, too - like why did artists have series, etc.

This was so unexpected and spontaneous that I found it very encouraging and I told the mom that one of the best parts for me was hearing their responses to my questions. In fact, O's response about why artists create things in a series was one I've never considered - that one piece doesn't have the same power that a series does when seen together. I love seeing an art exhibit through their eyes and learning from them. And it was encouraging to hear a child who is bright, engaging and fun think that I'd be a good teacher - since that's pretty much what I'll be when I start homeschooling Anna in (gulp) less than two months.

I was also encouraged to meet with a few neighborhood moms last night who homeschool their middle school daughters. I found most of my questions were technical (where in your home do you sit? how much space do you need? what grammar curriculum do you use?) and that as long as I focus on my excitement about tackling renaissance history with A, the fear stays at bay. Because I am excited. As I talked about how A and I want to weave history and literature together, a friend suggested getting a blank timeline that we can fill in as we go. I love this idea and suggested to A that we start that this summer, by filling in the people she's read about in her historical fiction books. She's read books set during both World Wars, the Victorian Era, the Revolutionary War, the Depression and much more, but I'm not sure she knows where in time those events relate to one another. So starting with fictionalized historical characters is a great way to get the ball rolling and help her see how much she already knows about history.

It is encouraging to feel myself and hear myself get passionate about what A and I will learn together. And I hope some of that passion will get me through what I anticipate will be the most difficult part of homeschooling: the emotional side of it. As I walked home from the moms' coffee last night with a friend, I told her that I think the hardest part will be conflict resolution. Both A and I are prone to avoid or deny conflict rather than work through it and that won't be an option if she's going to learn well. We'll have to actually work through things instead of pretending the problem doesn't exist. (My friend is a counselor, so she found it pretty funny that this is my big concern about homeschooling.) That said, it will be healthy for A to learn how to work through conflict at an earlier age than 37, which is when I'll be putting these skills into action and it will undoubtedly change me for the better. In fact, I have a feeling that by this time next year, I may have learned more than A. And that would be very encouraging indeed.

Images are some of the history books I've purchased for A and I to read next year (or now).

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


2 a : a disadvantage that makes achievement unusually difficult

A friend recently wrote about her daughter's audition for a play. In her post, she talks about learning to separate her daughter's passion for theater from her own. She writes that she is grateful to have the skills to help her daughter "construct her wings to take flight" and that she is carefully treading on the line most parents walk between encouraging our children and pushing them.

Today, A danced with a group of other students. She's done these dances dozens of times. She wasn't nervous. And she had no need to be. She did great. But as I watched her rehearse, I wondered how much of a handicap it is for her to have me as her mother. A was one of five dancers there. Two of the other dancers have mothers that are dancers. I heard one of these moms capably discussing some dance move with the instructor prior to the performance. All I did was make sure A and her friend J were there to dance - and put A's hair in a bun.

B wants to enter an art show at church. She saw mention of it last week, pointed it out to me and said, "I want to do that." And while I nodded encouragingly and will call to find out the details, I'm apprehensive. B flits from interest to interest and while J and I always make her fulfill her commitments (i.e. soccer, basketball, dance), I don't make her follow through on every idea she mentions. That would be near impossible. So how do I provide just enough guidance and encouragement for her to follow through on this project? I've queried her about medium - she says she's better with pencil or watercolor and she knows the kind of paper she wants. Beyond that? I'm not even sure what to ask her. It's hard to not feel like I'm making it difficult for my child to achieve even the most basic realization of her dreams.

And K? I have no idea what to do with her. I can tell that she needs attention, so for now she's taking dance. I know she loves any sport that involves a ball, so in the fall she'll be back in soccer. And then? Who knows? Because her personality and needs are so far different from my own that I'm certain her passion, when it emerges, will be something I know nothing about.

Surely other parents face dilemmas like mine. I know we hear about baseball players whose fathers pitched in the majors. Or dancers who have learned at the barre of their mother's studio. But I can't possibly be the only mom whose daughters have passions all their own.

For a long time, I've enjoyed the fact that my daughters' passions aren't my own. It made it easy to be their cheerleader, not their coach. But I don't want them to be placed at a disadvantage because they have a mother who is unable to navigate their path. But is it my job to navigate their path or just walk alongside them? I know God has a plan for each of them and that his plan will unfurl without my assistance. I just don't want to be the roadblock to whatever he has in store for them.

Monday, June 21, 2010


1 a (1) : a small and rather deep body of usually fresh water (2) : a quiet place in a stream (3) : a body of water forming above a dam
4 : swimming pool: a pool suitable for swimming

What images does the word pool conjure for you? A calm, quiet area in a river bed complete with slick rocks nearby for lounging? Ice blue, crisp, cold water surrounded by concrete, folding chairs and tanning bodies reclining with the latest novel? An oasis, almost mirage-like in its difference from its hot, urbanized surroundings?

My thoughts on and experiences of pools are remarkably complicated. Nearly daily, my daughters bemoan our lack of a neighborhood pool, a YMCA membership or a backyard pool. I've tried buying an inflatable pool for them to use to at least cool off - nope, not doing it for them. I've tried to explain the reasons we don't have these things they want (we live in the city, not the suburbs - there are no neighborhood pools!). I've tried to engage them in other ways - we've do a Fun Jar every summer for the past seven years, for goodness' sake! But what they want is more pool time. And I am incredibly ambivalent about this.

I don't want to spend three or four days each week at the pool. I have friends who do this - and they're great people. I even considered buying a summer Y membership, but decided against it, partly due to sending every spare dime to the kitchen renovation budget, partly because I'm just not sure how I would handle it.

"Handle it?" You might be thinking. What's to be handled about laying in the sun, reading poolside or lounging in some cool clean water? The problem with that line of thought is that it is rational. And my thoughts on and feelings about pools aren't entirely rational. I get nervous at the thought of having a Y membership that needs to be used. Would I have to talk to the people in the chairs near ours? Would the other children play with my daughters? Are my daughters' swimming skills too far behind their peers? Would they be ridiculed? What if I don't know anyone? Even worse, what if I do know some of the people? This isn't so much about body image as a fear of/desire for community. Because pools inevitably seem to conjure inclusion and exclusion for me.

If you have a membership or live in the right place, you're in. Otherwise, you're not. Even once I'm physically at the pool, I still feel out of place. Yesterday the girls and I went swimming at my brother-in-law's neighborhood pool. No one looked askance at us or visibly seemed to wonder what we were doing there. But the camaraderie between most of the people there was evident. They were neighbors, after all. And they clearly spent a lot of time at the pool. As I listened to them, I pondered whether I would want a neighborhood pool as a meeting spot. But it's crazy to even try to imagine that. Who would go there? Only three people on my street have kids, so it wouldn't be full of families. Maybe I'd meet some hung-over wannabe musicians, a recent college grad or two, the odd man who lives across the street but whom we only see when he opens his gate to enter or exit. Nah, he'd never show up, even if we had a pool.

What about the neighborhood Y? It's not an intimidating place. It's filled with middle of the road people who live around here, like me. But my fear is that they would all know each other and I'd sit there counting the minutes until I could tell my daughters it was time to go. Crazy? Perhaps. OK, probably. And the craziest part of it is that my own childhood summers were spent largely at the pool. I swam nearly every day. And loved every minute of it. But I have this fear that if I let my daughters spend their days that way, they will morph into empty-headed bimbos who live for pool time and have no idea how to entertain themselves and engage their brains when the scent of chlorine isn't nearby. As a good friend pointed out, this is a pretty silly fear since I spent countless hours at the pool growing up and I wouldn't describe myself this way. Again, rational thoughts just don't seem to help me when it comes to my feelings on the pool.

A part of me is also sad and hurt that the summer experience I provide for my girls isn't enough for them. Instead of trips to the museum, visiting parks all around town, walking through the botanical gardens or picking berries, they want to be at the pool. They want what I don't want, what I'm afraid of. I guess I should be thankful that they don't share my fear, my anxiety, my insecurity. So I'm trying to work out why I feel such a bizarre mix of emotions over a little thing like the pool. And in the meantime? We're joining a friend at her neighborhood pool on Thursday. My daughters will be thrilled. Your prayers for me are welcomed.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


1 a : to remove from the usual or proper place; specifically : to expel or force to flee from home or homeland

Do you ever have insomnia? Last night I was awake from 3 AM to 4 AM, thinking about, amongst other things, our kitchen renovation. We've hit a few snags in our first week of demolition, electrical and framing. The first was finding HVAC running through a wall slated to hold a bar and pass through area. We solved this particular problem by removing the HVAC to our master bedroom. Not an ideal solution, but the one vent we had didn't make a huge difference in making our room more temperate, so it's no great loss.

The other, bigger problem, is that we ordered the wrong kind of stove for our space. We ordered a freestanding stove, like the one you probably have in your kitchen. It's a five burner gas stove with a double oven. The problem? Our stove is going to be placed at a diagonal in our kitchen, with a granite countertop running behind it. So a freestanding stove leaves the countertop eight inches below the back of the clock display. Once our contractor pointed out that a stove without a back display would have been a better option, J and I could easily see that we had ordered the wrong stove. We've never renovated a kitchen before and were doing the best we could with the kitchen planner's blueprint. How did we miss this? I don't know, but we did.

This still doesn't sound like a huge problem, does it? The stove hadn't been hooked up and we've had possession of it for less than a week. Surely we could just return it? The only problem was we had special ordered the stove and were told we would not be able to return it, so we were nervous. Would they allow us to pay a restocking fee and simply buy another stove from them? Plus, we still needed a refrigerator and would be happy to buy it from them as well with a bit of help on the stove situation. No such luck. The store were we bought it refuses to allow us to return it. (I'd recommend that you not shop here if you're ever renovating your kitchen.)

So I lay awake last night fretting over trying to sell a brand new stove and the need to get another new stove in our home before Wednesday when the granite company arrives to make the template for our countertop. I didn't know it at first, but I wasn't the only one laying there awake. About twenty minutes into my inner dialogue about our options for the kitchen and how our budget would fare with not only a new stove to be purchased, but an old one to sell, J mumbled, "I'm so awake." I responded, "Me, too." So we spent the next half hour talking through our appliance options and the kitchen renovation in general. At one point, I shared with J that it's been exhausting to have people here working all the time.

His reply? "Well, of course. You've been displaced." That word captured it perfectly. I have been removed from my usual place and have been forced to flee my home for the park, the playground, anywhere but here, where dust covers everything and none of us can relax.

I've spent years trying to make our home a haven for our family. It's a place where we eat together, play together, rest together. So it's disconcerting to feel in the way while here. It's humbling to need to think through the gyrations I have to go through to put a meal on the table (Need to heat something? Pick up the microwave from the dining room floor and haul it into the dusty kitchen. Heat your veggies. Carry the microwave back to the other room as a daughter holds the tarp separating the two rooms out of your way.) It's sad to be unable to use our home in one of the ways I love best - by having others here. (Poor B desperately needs some friend time, but I just can't bring myself to invite someone else's child to spend the night in this makeshift situation.)

The saddest part of this? Our kitchen renovation is voluntary. We want a new, more functional kitchen. We're not doing this because we have to. (Although we do have to at this point. We certainly can't leave it in process!) But there are others in my own city who are completely displaced from their homes. Who are living with friends or family. Who don't know when - or if - they'll be able to ever get back into the home holding years of memories. Knowing this doesn't really make me any less heartsick that we've made a $1,500 mistake in buying the wrong stove. But it does make me thankful that I can look forward to eventually being back at home in my home. I'm not forever displaced.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


1 : being at once bitter and sweet; especially: pleasant but including or marked by elements of suffering or regret

If ever something has been bittersweet, it is watching my daughters grow up.

This morning was a quiet one. I woke without an alarm, dressed and made coffee before hearing sounds of wakefulness from K's room. I peeked inside her door to find her laying on her side, eyes open, somewhat awake, but not fully. As I walked over to her, I said, "I heard you waking up and I thought to myself, 'K needs a back rub.' Was I right? Do you need your back rubbed? Do you need a cuddle?" K smiled broadly and nodded. I climbed into bed beside her and she snuggled up. Although she is six, K is tiny: she can make herself the size of most toddlers when she curls up. As I rubbed her back and loved on her, I thought about how fun it has been to see her grow up this last year, but how sad I will be when she (like A or B) doesn't want me to rub her back as she wakes up. When she gives hugs and kisses only on occasion, when she is more independent, when she grows up.

For the most part, I absolutely adore seeing my daughters grow up. I have some friends who go ga-ga over toddlers or babies, but give me an older elementary school kid any day. I love hearing about what they're reading, learning and doing. I love seeing who they're becoming. I find I can relate easier to an older child because I can remember roughly what it felt like to be ten. I can't remember being five or six. (And I think I was a very different child at five or six than exuberant little K.)

I've said many times that I'm excited about homeschooling A next year, but largely because she'll be in fifth grade. I don't think I'm cut out for homeschooling an early elementary child. Partly because my daughters are incredibly social beings who need far more interaction than I alone can provide, but also because I simply can't get excited about teaching ABCs and 123s. But the renaissance? the French Revolution? the implication of monarchies being overthrown centuries ago on our present day experiences? Those things I can get very excited about. And you can't get to those things if they don't grow up.

So I'm OK with the growing up. But there's definitely some sorrow and sadness mingled with the pleasure of seeing them transform from young girls into confident young women. A's sweet friend who is moving to Mexico had a final gift for K when we went by today to say our good-byes: a Dora the Explorer alarm clock. As she gave it to K, she explained that it would be a great big girl clock because she could set it and it would wake her up for school so that mommy wouldn't have to. I smiled, but a tiny piece of my heart broke at the giving and receiving of this gift. Because it's one more bittersweet good-bye. It's good-bye to waking K up by cuddling with her and rubbing her back.

A's friend taking a picture of K with her new alarm clock

Monday, June 14, 2010


1 a : prepared mentally or physically for some experience or action b : prepared for immediate use

After a weekend of wrapping crystal, stacking plates, removing cabinets and boxing up most of our kitchen, we were as ready as we were likely to be for renovation of our kitchen to start. We've lived in this house for nearly eight years and while I had no idea until we moved in just how dysfunctional the kitchen was, I've hated the black and white floor from the start. If anyone should not own a home where the kitchen floor shows every speck of dirt, it is yours truly. As work started this morning, our contractor moved the refrigerator from one part of the kitchen to another. As he did so, he tore the floor. It didn't break my heart.

I'm ready to have the old floor gone, but even more, I'm ready to have the new floor put in. I've wanted a cork floor for about a decade. I saw it used on a home improvement show long before I had any need for new flooring, but it has stayed on my mental wish list ever since. I'm especially excited about the gem collection that we found. Hopefully the sheen of the flooring will hide my housekeeping indiscretions far better than the lovely black and white linoleum.

It's been a stressful few weeks leading up to starting the kitchen renovation. While we've been planning for a while, the reality of choosing a hundred tiny details didn't fully set in until about a month ago. And really, could we have started much earlier? My living room has 160 square feet of flooring and a 120 pound sink sitting in it right now. I'm fairly sure I wouldn't have wanted those here for any longer than absolutely necessary.

Last week, as the stress mounted, I had a feeling that once the renovation actually started, I would feel better. That's been true. Today has gone surprisingly well. The floor were the cork will be laid is now level (if you own a home as old as mine, you know this is nearly miraculous) and the really fun stuff starts tomorrow - the wall between our dining room and kitchen will be cut through to make room for a bar and pass through area. It will open up the flow in this old house and expand our seating without a new dining room table. I'm prepared to be surprised (and pleased) by how different our home will look this time tomorrow.

While all of this work has been going on in the heart of our house, my girls have been playing wonderfully. B played all morning with the son of our contractor while K watched a bit of Dora upstairs (a treat for her since her sisters are too cool for Dora and always object to watching it) and A? A played with her friend (whom I'll call L) who leaves Nashville in two days for a year in Mexico before moving to Florida.

A and I aren't really ready for L to move. They met last year in third grade, when A was placed in a third grade class where every girl came from a different second grade classroom. L reached out to A near the beginning of the year, including her in a playground game and inviting her to her birthday party. L has just the kind of personality A likes in a friend - she's bubbly, fun and outgoing to A's more calm and measured approach to life. I've loved watching their friendship from afar and have appreciated many things about L. But what stands out to me is that L lets A be A. She doesn't urge her to make poor decisions. She doesn't pressure her to act older than she is. She just enjoys her company and plays well with her.

One blessing of A and L ending up in the same third grade classroom was that I got to know L's mom, D, better. From this , I know that L gets her approach to friendship from her mom. D is real. She's herself and she lets others be who they are. I have friends (or perhaps I should call them acquaintances?) who make me feel like I need to be more of something or less of something else in order to be their friend. Not so with D. She likes who she is and that gives her a confidence to let others be who they are. I'm sad to have them leave Nashville because I like D and would have loved to have more time to grow a friendship with her.

I'm happy for D and L (and T, the dad) that they are moving to Mexico. What a fabulous experience they're about to have. They'll create family memories that last a lifetime and give L an experience few children get to have. But am I ready for them to move? No. I'd like more time to hang out with D. I'd like for A to have more time in friendship with L. I'd like to invite them to a kitchen warming party in a few weeks. But instead, I'll have to be thankful for the time we've had getting to know them and hope that there are friends ready and waiting for them in Mexico.

Friday, June 11, 2010


:not adequate: insufficient; also :not capable

Sometimes it's the little things that rock my world. K had a friend over to play today. All was well for the first hour or two until I heard from K's room:

"I want to take it home to keep!"
"But it's my favorite one," was the reply.
I go in to find K sitting tearfully in one corner, her friend glaring from the other corner. When I asked what was wrong, K burst into tears and said, "She won't be my friend if I don't give her my pony!"

I thought this surely wasn't the case, until I questioned the friend more closely. K was pretty close to right. Her friend insisted that she would not be happy until K gave her one toy to keep and one toy to borrow. I was baffled. We talked about that we go to friends' houses to be with them, not to have them give us things. She replied that whenever another little girl came to her house, she always gave her a toy.

I asked how it made her feel when her friend asked to have one of her toys and she replied, "Happy." K was still crying and when I asked how it made K feel to be asked for a toy, the friend replied, "Sad, but I want at least one toy to keep." K offered to let her friend play with the toy the entire visit, but this did not satisfy her friend. K even explained that she had initially told her friend she could have the toy, but changed her mind. I think it's OK for a six year old to change her mind, but I don't think it's OK for a six year old to bully her friend into giving away a toy.

I felt completely inadequate to handle the situation, especially when K's friend picked up a toy, threw it at K and hit K in the head - with me sitting right there. At that point, I offered to call the friend's parents to come and get her early. She burst into tears and said that she wanted to stay, she just needed a few minutes to herself. She said she didn't mean to hit her with the toy and was only trying to give it back without getting close to her. I'm not sure whether this was true, but it gave me an out, so I asked if she'd like five minutes alone.

K and I retreated and got together a snack of ice cream. The ice cream seemed to smooth over the rough edges my words were unable to soften and the two girls managed to play together for another hour or so.

I, on the other hand, was left shaken. As I retreated to the basement to take care of laundry, I pondered why a six year old could make me fearful. Because I'm pretty sure it was fear I felt as I tried to help K's friend understand that she was hurting K by demanding that K give her something. She was unrepentant and unrelenting in her demands, but I'm the grown up, so why was I afraid? My elder daughter A has a friend who scares me as well, but she's older and looks at me with such malevolence that I've always understood my fear of her. But understanding it doesn't make it reasonable, rational or acceptable. Can I be a good mom to my daughters if I walk through life afraid?

If I'm not afraid of my own daughters, why do some of their friends intimidate me? Why am I incapable of seeing that these six, eight or ten year olds don't have power over me? Why do I even care if they disagree with me or look at me scathingly? If I can't handle a fight between two six year olds, how do I expect to navigate parenting three daughters through adolescence?

This isn't one of those posts where I'm going to come up with a nice, neat solution for dealing with my inadequacy. I honestly don't know the answers to these questions, but I feel a bit better having asked them out loud.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


1 a (1):perceived directly (2) : to be understood (3) : to have one's nature recognized: discerned

Sometimes it is a beautiful thing to be known. My 8 year old daughter B is reading a book called The Underneath. She started this book back in April, when she listened to it on a playaway during a road trip, but didn't finish it then. When she started reading the print version, it's been a different experience for her. She's paid closer attention to the words. In fact, she's read me several passages aloud. Here's one:

"And then, right there, on the shore of the silvery creek, that creek full of tears, Puck knew that he would never see his mama again. Never.

It's a soft-sounding word, 'never,' but its velvety timbre can't hide its sharp edges. Especially to a small cat who has broken the rules and conjured the word in the first place. He sat down hard, soaked and cold. In his deepest bones, he knew that no matter how long he stared at the cold water, he would never see his mother again. Never pressed down on him. It grabbed him by the neck and shook him. He sucked in a deep breath, sucked in all that never and started to sneeze. Never filled his nose, his eyes, his soaking fur."
After B read me one such passage, I came over to her and leaned over her shoulder.

"How did you know I would like that?" I asked with a smile.
"I know you love words," she replied.
"You know what else I love?"
"You," said with a kiss on her cheek.

B accepted the kiss, but moved quickly out of reach before I got carried away and gave her another one, or tried to hug her. She's affectionate, but solely on her own terms. This tendency of B's to love on her own terms makes it all the more beautiful for her to share words with me, for her to think of me while reading her book and take the time to share something she thinks I would enjoy.

B is right that I love words. And I particularly love the way this author uses words in a different way, making the abstract concrete. It reminds me of my favorite book and while B hasn't read my favorite book yet, sharing these words with me has shown me that she knows me.

It's striking and perhaps reassuring that I am pleased to be known by my daughter. I've been thinking a lot about intimacy lately and have been pondering its definition in a book I'm reading by Harriet Lerner. Lerner essentially defines an intimate relationship as one where each person can be themselves, openly express differing opinions and remain in relationship because there is mutual respect. It's not so different than being known by another person. Upon first reading the definition, I immediately thought to myself, "I'm not sure I even want that." I am so accustomed to swallowing any differing opinion I have that I can hardly imagine relationships where I am my true self. Even with friends of many years, I stay silent rather than voice disagreement. I am a peace-keeper, who keeps the peace by keeping quiet.

I've been questioning myself on the value of this approach to - or avoidance of - intimacy. It's clearly not ideal. I have only one, possibly two, relationships in my life that I believe meet Lerner's definition of intimacy. I am very quick to minimize my importance to another person and find it easy to believe I'm replaceable in nearly any relationship, the possible exception being my roles as wife and mother. But even there, I think J is a great catch and who wouldn't want to raise his beautiful daughters if I'm gone? A replacement could surely be found.

Yet it is good to be known, even if it's scary. It's especially good to be known by a daughter who is a mystery I long to solve. Is it scary to be known by her? Not really, but only because I believe B, fabulous though she is, has an eight year old's understanding of me. I tell myself that she doesn't know the real me because if she did, how could she love me as her mom? So can I bring myself to continue to let her know me as she grows and matures? Can I risk letting her truly know me?

Here's where I am: scared to let the real me peek out from behind the me I let the world see. Here's where I want to go: uncharted waters where the wind can blow away my fear of being known.

Monday, June 7, 2010


1 : a part of a whole: as a : fragment

My life, even more than usual, seems to be more about the pieces than the whole. A major renovation of our kitchen starts one week from today and while it is my belief (hope?) that the finished kitchen will look like a kitchen, we have spent many hours choosing many, many pieces that will assemble the whole.

This focus on the pieces has left me feeling a bit fragmented myself. When your life is filled with minutiae, it's hard to take a step back and see the whole picture. It's not that I don't try. Even tonight, as I was heating dinner, I tried to envision how I will execute those same steps in our new kitchen.
The pot will come from a drawer beside the stove, not a pot rack above it.
I will have countertops on either side of the stove, for stacking plates to fill with food for my family.
I'll be able to get ingredients from one pantry instead of nearly standing on my head to get something from shallow cabinets under a bar counter.
And, perhaps most exciting, I'll be able to do all of this while walking, standing and cooking on a cork floor instead of a black and white linoleum one that shows every speck of dirt that touches it.
But I am still a long way from standing in that completed kitchen and there are many more pieces to find, sort and fit into place to get there. Perhaps even more important, I must sort my fragmented self into some semblance of a whole person in order to get through the chaos that stands between now and a renovated kitchen.

I know the kitchen efforts are taking a toll on me as a mom. K is participating in a Vacation Bible School this week and on our way to drop her off this morning, I was already frustrated with my daughters before 8:30 AM. Should they quick the bickering? Yes. Should I let it get to me as I did this morning? Absolutely not. I knew in my head that I was being irrational. I even reminded myself that they were just being kids. But that didn't help calm my racing mind. It didn't help me stop making a list of all of the things that needed doing today. I hate that even when I'm aware of my irrationality and the fact that I am letting the pressure of all of the moving parts get to me, I don't have a reset button I can hit. Or do I?

For several weeks, I've been thinking that I'd like to study the Beatitudes this summer. Not in a group, but by myself, just as a way to consistently be studying the Bible. While I enjoyed doing a Beth Moore study in the spring, I missed digging in deep to specific scriptures, reading the Greek definitions, developing my own understanding on the passage. The Beatitudes are short, so they seemed like a good summer attempt at a solo inductive study.

This afternoon after VBS, the plumber, the flooring delivery, a quick drive through lunch, a trip to the dentist and a restocking of the book supply at the library, I sat for a few minutes. And while my daughters were upstairs watching a movie, I tried to let go of all of the pieces that need mending. I tried instead to ponder the phrase, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." And I think maybe that was exactly what I needed to hear: that I'll be blessed when I know just how little I know, when I see just how little I can do on my own. Here's hoping the lesson sits on my heart, marinates overnight and results in a fresh me tomorrow.

Photos are some of the pieces of my life.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


1: violently separated into parts :shattered

A wedding gift that we've held on to for nearly fourteen years was broken yesterday, just weeks before it was to be installed in our new kitchen. It was a gift from my former ceramic instructor, a tile of a landscape with blues that would have matched those to be used in our kitchen. It was, of course, broken by accident.

I was sitting outside on the front porch, nursing an aching head, when I heard A calling me. I stepped inside and she told me that J was upstairs calling for me - and that he was crying. As I headed up the stairs in alarm, A went on to explain that her dad was crying because he'd broken something. This was a relief because I was worried he was hurt. I'd rather an object (even this one) be broken than need to rush my husband to the hospital for an injury. And as I rushed up the stairs, I knew in my heart of hearts what must be broken for him to be this upset about it.

I arrived upstairs to find the tile in three pieces, J crying on the floor beside it. I didn't immediately start crying. This was partially because I was in shock, but also because I was telling myself, "It's just a thing," over and over in my mind. I immediately went into survivor mode and started sectioning off the pain and disappointment of losing this little piece of a dream of a new kitchen. And I focused on comforting J, who clearly felt terrible about what had happened. We talked for a bit and he finally left the room, still devastated about the accident. And his brokenness over a broken ceramic tile that was special to both of us worked a minor miracle in my heart because it let me actually feel some sadness.

With difficult emotions, I'm pretty quick to shove them aside and move past them without actually moving through them. It's easier to numb myself than to feel a bit of sadness, even over an accident. So I sat on the floor and cried. And as I cried, I reminded myself that it was far better to be crying over a broken tile than a broken marriage. Because, in a way, I saw this tile as a part of our marriage. That was why I had wanted it installed in our new kitchen - in the home we've made together for our family. And while it was sad, it was also a blessing to have a husband with a tender heart. A husband who knows my own heart and is devastated when he breaks something dear to me. A husband who is able to stand there broken about his mistake and love me in his brokenness.

I'll take that any day over the perfect kitchen with a tiled back splash unique to our home. I'll take a husband who knows and loves me over one who takes my approach to pain - to shove it aside and partition it off in an effort to survive life's storms, both big and small. I've learned a lot from J over the years and while I'm sad this particular lesson came at the cost of this tile, I'm very, very grateful to still be learning from him.

Saturday, June 5, 2010


1 a : mentally dull : stupid (a slow student) b : naturally inert or sluggish
2 a : lacking in readiness, promptness, or willingness b : not hasty or precipitate (was slow to anger)

It's been a slow morning, prompted by my sluggish mood and assisted by daughters who have not been hasty to make this day a fast moving one. After starting my day by reading a few chapters in bed (yes, reading in bed, one of life's small luxuries) before the lure of coffee made me forsake the bed for a comfy chair, the day has continued at a snail's pace.

My three daughters, being the three very different individuals that they are, have spent our slow morning in their own ways:
10 year old A has devoured the second Harry Potter book, upon realizing that it is now June and her six month waiting period is up. Our original rule was that the girls could start reading Harry Potter when they were eleven - like Harry - and could add one book every six months. We surprised A for her 10th birthday by modifying our rule and allowing her to start the series. But the six month wait between books remains - I am all about delayed gratification, especially when it comes to wonders of the literary world.

8 year old B has watched a recorded iCarly episode, played a Wii game, read a book and played in her room. My theory is that B's mind is hard wired for creativity, making her more prone than her elder sister to flit from one activity to another. While she can certainly maintain concentration when something captures her imagination, she has a restlessness to her that is largely absent from A. While I love this about her, it can also make me feel like she needs a cruise director more than a mom. Unfortunately for her - or perhaps good for her in the long run? - she has a mom who is unwilling to be her cruise director and often simply reminds her of the activities at her disposal, while encouraging her to entertain herself. If this leads to a bit more electronic media than I would like, I believe she's old enough at 8 to make most of these decisions for herself.

6 year old K has watched the Smurfs (she thought it was really funny when I told her that I watched it as a little girl), drawn a picture, talked, talked, talked and watched a Giada cooking show with me while I folded clothes. K doesn't do slow days quite as well as the rest of us. If B is hard-wired for creativity, K is hard-wired for interaction, making a mom with a nagging headache, one sister immersed in a book and another sister off in her own world less than an ideal companions. She mostly handles this well and is currently talking to her grapes as she eats them for a snack.
Me? I've finished a book (back on the fiction wagon), drunk coffee, tried to no avail to rid myself of a nagging headache and held down the fort while J went in for a Saturday morning of work. I am feeling "naturally inert and sluggish," if not "mentally dull." And I'm certainly "lacking in readiness, promptness, and willingness." While I've made a token attempt to tackle this week's laundry (how do I always forget that summer activities generate more than their fair share of laundry loads?), I am essentially hoping that a slow morning will lead me to a restorative nap that will find me headache free. Likely? Perhaps not, but I can dream, even if I have to do so slowly.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


1 : upset, overthrown
2 a :covered over completely :submerged c :overpowered in thought or feeling

I woke this morning overwhelmed at all that awaited me. The sink full of dishes that I fell asleep thinking about might as well have been laying on my chest all night since it was my first thought before getting out of bed. The mountains of laundry needed climbing. The van had to be taken to the shop for a tune-up. A plumber needed to be called. Glass tiles to order. Before 8 AM, my eldest daughter A had asked if we could go to the local bakery for breakfast (closed, they're on vacation) and then asked if we could bake brownies instead.

I didn't want to talk about brownies (especially ones that can't be baked since I used all of the eggs in last night's frittata). I just wanted to drink my coffee and get some sort of plan in my mind for how to manage not just my day, but my expectations. I knew if I could settle my heart down, I could tackle the work that awaited me. But if I stayed flustered inwardly, I would have little to show for my day.

And then, when I am feeling overwhelmed by all that awaits me, K walks out of her room looking like this (check out her chest)

For the uninitiated, those are bendaroos adorning her chest. They aren't made to stick to fabric, but apparently this is what K had been working on for the last quarter hour as I heard her moving around in her room.
"Hi, Mom!" K said with a big smile.
"Hi, Honey," I replied with small smile in return. "Is that an I on your chest?"
"Yes, it's 'I' as in 'I love you!'"
My face split open in a smile as I replied, "I love you, too!"
And suddenly I was overwhelmed in an entirely different way. Overwhelmed that this tiny child could emerge first thing in the morning so excited to see me, so filled with love that she was nearly bursting. Overpowered by the idea that all of the tasks to do in my day were of far less importance than K giving me her first hug of the morning. Stunned that I could get so lost in the details that I momentarily forget the many blessings of my everyday life, no matter how overwhelming it gets.