Why Do I Keep Saying Yes?

Who says you can’t learn from T.V.? You remember on Friends when Monica, when catering an event, said, “I planned and I planned and I planned …. Only I forgot to plan to make the time to get it all done!” I probably should’ve paid more attention to her the first time I saw that episode (or the tenth or fortieth.)  Now that it is spring and we are full-on into our family’s activity schedule, the business is wearing on me (again.) Just recently we dropped one after-school activity in order to free up a portion of our school week.

Finding balance in these activities is hard. I adore watching my kids explore new activities – from dance to basketball to trapeze class. (And about five more, but I didn’t want to bore you yet.) I can literally watch them grow in character as they take on new challenges of scoring goals on the soccer field and using facial expression in musical theatre class (a no brainer for my five year old, but a conscious decision for my reserved seven year old.)

As rewarding as it is to witness their feats, the back of my mind eventually says, “hey! Why aren’t we playing outside in our yard today?!” I think some parents make it much easier on themselves – one activity per kid. Done. Between my husband and me, we desire for our kids to participate in opposite types of activity. I want them to try out dance, gymnastics, and trapeze; he wants them to play basketball, soccer, golf, and piano. Ok, I’ll give him the piano without a fight. I never learned an instrument and think of music as a foreign language I can’t even begin to comprehend. Luckily basketball season and soccer season don’t overlap so it practically boils down to one activity.

Not only are our kids’ schedules demanding, but I’ve added on a few of my own activities and tasks to our short Monday-Friday window. I’ve taken on tutoring several groups in German which I absolutely love, but if you look on paper, there are not a lot of 3:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. time segments in a week! Pretty much if anyone asks me to teach German, I’m going to automatically say yes, but maybe I should program my iphone to say, “your schedule is complete at the moment, Jody!”

Last year I spent a lot of time beating myself up for never getting around to going to yoga and not getting on my road bike. It took discussing all these “failures” with a friend to start to consider if I was mistakenly thinking a day has more than twenty-four hours in it! And I wasn’t giving myself credit for “getting around to” the things that I really love, like having coffee with my Father-in-law (best two hour coffee you could have!) and for meeting my friend for our Kaffeeklatsch, our hour of speaking German together.

The Pope schedule at the moment is like a juggler steadily juggling three balls. It’s in a groove, busy, but nice and steady. But throw a “make-up” class into the mix and that’s where the juggler is being thrown an extra ball from the lady standing ten feet away. Pros make it look easy, but I’d be the amateur juggler, balls spilling all over the floor and me running around picking up one at a time, then staring at them, not sure how to get them air borne again.

I’ve tried to learn from mistakes of those around me, including my mom and sister (never wrap your retainer in a napkin or it might get accidentally thrown away!) My mom at one time had an impromptu twenty minute conversation with someone who called or came by which made us late to wherever we were headed and she was so mad about it. I asked, “Why didn’t you just say you can’t talk right now?” “Because I’m nice!” she screamed. About a fifteen minute monologue later, I realized she was actually just mad at herself. And I vowed to try to pay attention to my own nice-ness. While I think I’ve been pretty good about not saying “yes” just to be nice (except for one dumb pity date I went on,) I think I have room for improvement when it comes to practicality. I’m glad I’ve taken on all things I’m excited about, but I ought to crack open that lovely mommy calendar the hubs got me and show myself what my days look like on paper.

We are going to enjoy our busy Spring, some days more hectic than others (those usually are the ones that involve a child shimmying into a pair of dance tights.) And I will personally hibernate on the days the deck is yellow from pollen. Since I’ve already booked this family silly for the time being, I’ll look ahead to next fall and try to set myself limits on how many activities we can take on between the four of us. But the real kicker is … as busy as we are now, when it becomes Summer we all know what phrase will be uttered the most …”Mom, I’m bored!”

 

Switching Churches

Going to a new church is hard. I grew up Baptist, but I can still remember taking communion for the first time at a Presbyterian church. I was kinda stunned to see a big ol’ loaf of bread being passed around. My boyfriend (before he became my hubs) told me to pinch some off and take it. I pinched about half a dinner roll’s worth. Then I sat there and watched everyone pinch a tiny little piece off the loaf. Oh, now I get it! At my old Baptist church you had these tiny unleavened bread squares come around on a platter, so you just took one and tried not to crack a tooth. I think my husband said something like, “enjoy your lunch” instead of “Christ’s body was broken for you.” And that was another thing I didn’t know about the Presbyterian ways. All these key phrases you are supposed to know. You might think you are safe when it comes to the Lord’s Prayer, but wrong! You gotta watch out for “forgive us our debts” versus “forgive us our trespasses.”

I had grown up in my same Baptist church my whole life. We never moved, so I was there from diapers till graduation. I had the pattern down pat. Even as a kid when I would rest my head in my mom’s lap I could hear Dr. Gannon’s cadence slow down and I knew he was almost at the end of his sermon so I should stop my daydreaming, sit up, and be ready to sing. When I started attending church with the hubs way back when we were dating it was really hard to get used to the order of events. But over time I became accustomed to it and even started to have a couple new favorite Presbyterian hymns (especially Lord of the Dance.)

Over time I not only got familiar with saying “thanks be to God” after scripture was read, but I got to know my husband’s church family. We were tended to by sweet “extended family” and we served others and enjoyed the fellowship of working with the youth group. Our church married us, saw our babies come into the world, stood by our side in time of loss, and provided a lot of joy in various get-togethers. (I had no idea you could drink a beer with a pastor!)

I miss that dear church. Especially today when thinking of the passing of one of our extended church family members. I’m still stunned at the loss of a great lady named Dolly. You can’t picture her face without seeing a smile on it, with a smile in her eyes as well. She was in the wedding guild when Chris and I got married. She hosted many a Christmas party and Easter Egg hunt, not to mention our wedding shower. And let our kids play in her pool. What a gift she was, to be such a care taker to us and so many of the other “young couples” at our church.

Why in the world did we leave such a loving church with all of those sweet friends and framily? That was a difficult journey to navigate. See, Chris actually grew up Methodist, but was invited by his friend Dave to join the youth group at his Presbyterian church. Then, aside from going to college, my husband never left. Various friends came and went during their grad school years, but at one heavenly point, everyone made it back to Covenant. There was lots of fellowship, even Texas Hold ‘em fellowship. Unfortunately God called Dave home at the age of forty-two. It was a difficult time, and still is.

Around this time we had two toddlers. Let’s face it- taking little people to church is not a lot of fun, especially since church ends when lunchtime and naptime begins! Oh, the meltdowns!  Despite the chaos, we were pretty happy to be going to church on a semi-regular basis. It was really hard to be in that church without Dave’s presence, most especially for Chris. But we kept going. It was difficult yet comforting to be with our loved ones who were also sad.

The following year my oldest daughter “graduated” out of nursery and into Sunday School. Oh, the tears! The crying! The meltdowns! I felt like a caveman dragging a chunk of meat into my cave every week. And not just on Sundays, but also on Wednesdays.

After a couple years of dragging the meltdown to church and noticing the slowness of Chris’ steps on Sundays, with no shine in his eyes, I asked myself what in the world we were doing this for. For some reason, something was not altogether adding up. It also dawned on me that I had never searched for a church before. I had gone from my parents’ church to my husband’s church. It was lucky that it was a good fit, but for some reason the shoe just wasn’t fitting right at this stage in our family’s life. Missing my old Baptist hymns and organ, I decided this would be the right time to do some looking if that was what was needed. And like a text from Above, we suddenly received an invitation to attend a service at the church where our kids had gone to preschool. We were there mainly for support in the recognition of a retiree from the church preschool, but at the end of the service, Chris and I looked at each other and said, “let’s come back here again sometime!” Maybe Dr. Doak’s prayer to “startle, us, oh, Lord” worked. It was the first time in a couple of years that our family was jiving at church. (Ellie of course, was fine all along. That girl is pretty much fine wherever she is!)

We felt immediately welcomed into our new church. It fit me on a sensory level so well. First Pres reminded me of Smoke Rise Baptist Church. The chandeliers looked the same; the color scheme of the sanctuary was the same; the scent of gas burners warming Wednesday night supper smelled the same; the organ resonated in my bones the same; and if my child ran through the church, an adult would put up a “stop” hand signal the same (yay! Less work for mama!)

I still had unanswered questions. Would we still have meltdowns? What do the people here stand for? I knew my old church stood for equality and I joyfully witnessed two of the most beautiful moments ever at two separate same-sex marriages. It was hard to leave a church that stood for so much good. Yet, I was acting as the mama bear of our family, on the hunt to get all my bears in a good spot. Our new church home has fit us like a good shoe so far. The hubs has a fresh light in his eyes, eager to serve again. My meltdowner has quit melting down (at least at church; getting there is a different story!) It’s hard still loving our old church family and not seeing them each week, but mama bear thinks she did the right thing at the right time. At least now we have doubled our amount of church love. Thanks be to God.

The C-minus Stay at Home Mom

I have thought about my job a lot over the past few years. Or over the past seven years which is how long I have been a Stay At Home Mom. I still call myself a stay at home mom even though I work part time. But it has not been all soap operas and bon-bons. Not at all. (Although I have snuck in my fair share of daytime Frasier and Golden Girls and wolfed down some Reece’s cups!)

I’m not the most structured person in the world. This is probably a big reason why I have always loved school – you arrive and the schedule is set for you already. No thinking involved. I know a lot of moms who do laundry on Monday, go to the park on Friday etc. But I never really had a systematic plan like that. We had a pretty good groove when Sammy was little – Bundles of Joy breastfeeding group, Baby Signs class, Gymboree playgroup, but we switched it up whenever we wanted or needed to. But no matter what I did, I always felt at the end of the day that I hadn’t actually accomplished anything. How exhausting! And that was just with the first child!

By the time I had one toddler plus one baby I felt even less accomplished. I suppose I had completely unrealistic expectations. Why should an adult expect for a child to put on their Velcro shoes in under six minutes? And why would I expect to successfully go to the grocery store and cook dinner in the same day? It was enough of a struggle just to keep the kids content enough that they wouldn’t scream and yell during shopping so that I could read my list clearly hopefully return home with the key ingredients for the intended dinner. (There were a lot of postponed meals replaced by frozen Bertoli pasta dinners.)

Along the way I had a few job opportunities fall into my lap. I volunteered as a “guest speaker” to help out a high school German class for a week, I served as a long term sub at my kids’ preschool for a semester, and assisted taught for another semester. I did open my mouth to the right person about wanting to teach German Enrichment to preschool kids which came to fruition. That job worked in part because my father-in-law was able to stay with my three-year-old for an hour and watch my older daughter get off the bus in the afternoon. I knew I was craving these little chunks of “real life,” but kept trying to sort out if it was really what I needed or was just an escape from my Stay at Home-ness to give my life some added validity.

Later I worked as a second grade assistant. The kids, school, and staff were terrific. It felt so good to wake up and leave the house with a purpose. (But as a former teacher, it is less satisfying filing papers than writing up and executing lesson plans.) I quickly learned that the effort of that job was outweighing the benefit and was glad to be relieved of relying on friends and family to pick up my four year old from preschool for me.

So what was all this job switcharoo about? I sensed that I was trying to run away from my Stay At Home Mom job. I still wanted to be a Stay At Home Mom. I wanted to get my kids off the school bus, help out in their school, shuttle them to dance class after school, but aside from completing those tasks, I felt that I was otherwise a pretty mediocre Stay At Home mom. If you add in cooking and cleaning I was for sure earning a C-minus (at best!)

If you think about “real jobs” there are performance reviews, raises, bonuses, a paycheck … all these things that indicate you are making some kind of forward progress. When you are home with your kids, you are happy when they get tucked into bed safe and sound at night but it’s not like you gave a test and had your two rugrats make A’s to show how great of a Mom you were that day. And usually, by bedtime you just don’t even care anymore. Like Samuel Jackson said, just go the *@#$ to sleep!

One day I received a text from the preschool. Would I be willing to be the preschool foreign language teacher? Yes! Yes, I would! NOW we’re talking! I work two days a week teaching Spanish to teeny tiny toddlers. And I love it. They move the correct body part when we sing songs; they memorized the words to a song I made up; they help me look for little mouse! It is pretty dang rewarding to ask a two year old, “donde están las piernas?” and see him pat his legs in reply!

So am I “fixed” now that I am loving my new, perfect part-time job? The real answer is no. And I only just opened my eyes to it the other day. My new job makes me feel good. It is the line of work that I am passionate about. But it is only part time. I am still a Stay At Home Mom the rest of the time and I still don’t see a paycheck or a performance review to let me know how I’m doing. And guess what? It took a giant football player telling me that to finally see what I was doing. When Benjamin Watson came to speak at UGA last week, of course I had to hear him. I was his academic advisor his senior year at UGA and I followed him on the field at UGA and on the New Orleans Saints (yeah I missed a team or two because let’s face it, I’m not that sporty.) In his leadership speech to the Terry College of Business students he said something that brought me to tears: Your self-worth is not tied up in your job. Well, holy crap! That is exactly what I have been doing for over seven years- Trying to feel good about myself through my new Stay At Home Mom job. Inherently I know that I am still me. Still Jody. And that I have value. But for all this time I had been valuing myself based on my Mom job. I’m sure I will still struggle with my Mom duties and probably still give myself a C-minus (have you ever seen my clutter?!) But for right now, thanks to my listening ears and some wise words, I feel freed up from all the cobwebs of value I had tied myself up in. Thank you, Ben!

Top Four (Four, really? How random.) Highlights of a Girls’ Weekend

4.Driving for six hours in your car without your children is as good as meditating. On Friday morning I woke up, rolled my suitcase to the mudroom, and lingered in the kitchen waiting on Sammy to finish breakfast so I could braid her hair. Knowing that this was my only task to serve others for the day made all kinds of random lolly-gaging thoughts run through my mind and out my mouth – “you think we put the sand box in the right place?” I found myself asking my husband while he quickly scurried from backpack to pantry to backpack loading school snacks. I just watched and sipped my coffee. It was glorious.

Eventually I was on the road at exactly the time I planned to be on the road. I turned on the radio which I don’t always do since my alone time in the car is usually my brief dose of tranquility. I switched my music as the scenery changed. A little Pit Bull to get the road trip started; a little country as I zoomed past fields, farms, and pecan orchards. I let myself daydream. Suddenly I spied Neil Diamond at the Taco Bar in Seaside. Of course I couldn’t blow his cover so I cleverly used a line of one of his songs to let him know I knew what’s up. Then I was at my favorite breakfast spot indulging in praline bacon and a bloody mary without worrying about kids’ orders or shushing them when they didn’t get the seat they wanted. Oh yes, I was envisioning a beautiful weekend for sure.

3.Farts. Those guys who sit around the poker table telling jokes regarding bathroom humor may feel ashamed for their sophomoric ways, but little do they know how much (some) women talk about farts! Ok maybe it’s just me. My friends are far too classy to talk about farts. But know what feels good? Sitting on the same sofa as friend, “accidentally” passing some wind and comfortable enough to either let it go stealth or take on the wrath of your friends if it gained too much power. Yes, boys, even girls like to feel like they are still in fourth grade from time to time. Fart and laugh. It is so freeing.

We may have even made up a new number for the “old number 3,” diarrhea. When you are sitting around a pool sipping on tasty cocktails that go to your head and suddenly realize that Pool Rule number 7 states: No Swimming if experiencing diarrhea. OMG, why is this a rule?! Yes, people, please come bathe in a shared body of water if at any second liquid poop could suddenly come flying out of your butt! Ain’t nobody got time for pink eye or the stomach bug from your wrongful shit! Well, like I said, it was funny under the influence of strawberry vodka. Go have a couple drinks and re-read those last lines if it wasn’t funny. Nobody is watching you read this, so it’s ok to laugh on the inside. Anyways, PSA:  keep those number 7s at home.

2.The Truth. The truth is I love my family, but oh my goodness does it feel good to love them from 400 miles away. When I talk to my kids when I am far away, I hear their sweet little voices saying things in one breath like, “Oh! We went to Puglix, boughted pizza dough, and now we’re on the way home to make pizza wif Daddy! Oh! And I got a sugar cookie, but Sammy got a chocolate chip cookie!” And the other one filled me in on her correspondence with the Tooth Fairy. “Mommy, Pearl broke her wing in the lightning storm! I made her a sling and a get well card.” This part I already knew because my husband had previously called and made me aware of our daughter’s long unanswered (three nights) letter to Pearl, the Tooth Fairy. The broken wing was my idea since that answered the question of the delay. The good news was, here I am at the beach where I can go to bed when I very well please while the hubs has to make sure that Sammy gets to sleep and he does not go to sleep before that letter gets delivered!

I have to admit I had grand ideas of getting things done before I left: laundry of both kids, my laundry, clean the playroom, and organize the garage. What actually got done was: putting away a few Barbies, cleaning up some cat throw-up, and having a bad case of Number 7 which threatened my ability to get away on my girls’ trip. Thank goodness I recovered. I dreaded the thought of the cleaning lady coming for Mopping Day with all those chores left undone. From talking on the phone with the hubs I learned that he and the girls managed to get the house prepped. “How?” I asked. “Encouragement!” he replied in a sickeningly peppy tone. “And I told them they couldn’t go to the roller skating party unless they got it done.” Ah-ha! A threat. Yes, the truth is threats work.

1.VACATION. What is vacation? A get-away? A new location? New scenery? What does vacation feel like? Now that is the real question. Last fall I went on a one-night vacation with a girl friend to a cabin that was no more than three miles from my house! It was fresh scenery but also it felt completely relaxing. We sat outside by a fire and talked for hours uninterrupted! Getting a full thought out of your head without being interrupted – now that’s vacation!

Today feels extra vacation-y because my sister and her friends have already headed back to work. So it feels like I am on real vacation when it is supposed to be a work day. Originally I had planned to return home on Monday as well. But a while back during the week that my daughter had the flu, I was dying for a vacation, and convinced myself to add a vacation day at the end of Girls’ Weekend. So while they are making their drive today, I get to enjoy one more day of doing anything I want when I want, without having to meet other people’s needs. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah. I could fall asleep just thinking about it. And after a big lunch maybe I will.

Top Four (Four, really? How random.) Highlights of a Girls’ Weekend

4. Driving for six hours in your car without your children is as good as meditating. On Friday morning I woke up, rolled my suitcase to the mudroom, and lingered in the kitchen waiting on Sammy to finish breakfast so I could braid her hair. Knowing that this was my only task to serve others for the day made all kinds of random lolly-gaging thoughts run through my mind and out my mouth – “you think we put the sand box in the right place?” I found myself asking my husband while he quickly scurried from backpack to pantry to backpack loading school snacks. I just watched and sipped my coffee. It was glorious.

Eventually I was on the road at exactly the time I planned to be on the road. I turned on the radio which I don’t always do since my alone time in the car is usually my brief dose of tranquility. I switched my music as the scenery changed. A little Pit Bull to get the road trip started; a little country as I zoomed past fields, farms, and pecan orchards. I let myself daydream. Suddenly I spied Neil Diamond at the Taco Bar in Seaside. Of course I couldn’t blow his cover so I cleverly used a line of one of his songs to let him know I knew what’s up. Then I was at my favorite breakfast spot indulging in praline bacon and a bloody mary without worrying about kids’ orders or shushing them when they didn’t get the seat they wanted. Oh yes, I was envisioning a beautiful weekend for sure.

3.Farts. Those guys who sit around the poker table telling jokes regarding bathroom humor may feel ashamed for their sophomoric ways, but little do they know how much (some) women talk about farts! Ok maybe it’s just me. My friends are far too classy to talk about farts. But know what feels good? Sitting on the same sofa as friend, “accidentally” passing some wind and comfortable enough to either let it go stealth or take on the wrath of your friends if it gained too much power. Yes, boys, even girls like to feel like they are still in fourth grade from time to time. Fart and laugh. It is so freeing.

We may have even made up a new number for the “old number 3,” diarrhea. When you are sitting around a pool sipping on tasty cocktails that go to your head and suddenly realize that Pool Rule number 7 states: No Swimming if experiencing diarrhea. OMG, why is this a rule?! Yes, people, please come bathe in a shared body of water if at any second liquid poop could suddenly come flying out of your butt! Ain’t nobody got time for pink eye or the stomach bug from your wrongful shit! Well, like I said, it was funny under the influence of strawberry vodka. Go have a couple drinks and re-read those last lines if it wasn’t funny. Nobody is watching you read this, so it’s ok to laugh on the inside. Anyways, PSA:  keep those number 7s at home.

2.The Truth. The truth is I love my family, but oh my goodness does it feel good to love them from 400 miles away. When I talk to my kids when I am far away, I hear their sweet little voices saying things in one breath like, “Oh! We went to Puglix, boughted pizza dough, and now we’re on the way home to make pizza wif Daddy! Oh! And I got a sugar cookie, but Sammy got a chocolate chip cookie!” And the other one filled me in on her correspondence with the Tooth Fairy. “Mommy, Pearl broke her wing in the lightning storm! I made her a sling and a get well card.” This part I already knew because my husband had previously called and made me aware of our daughter’s long unanswered (three nights) letter to Pearl, the Tooth Fairy. The broken wing was my idea since that answered the question of the delay. The good news was, here I am at the beach where I can go to bed when I very well please while the hubs has to make sure that Sammy gets to sleep and he does not go to sleep before that letter gets delivered!

I have to admit I had grand ideas of getting things done before I left: laundry of both kids, my laundry, clean the playroom, and organize the garage. What actually got done was: putting away a few Barbies, cleaning up some cat throw-up, and having a bad case of Number 7 which threatened my ability to get away on my girls’ trip. Thank goodness I recovered. I dreaded the thought of the cleaning lady coming for Mopping Day with all those chores left undone. From talking on the phone with the hubs I learned that he and the girls managed to get the house prepped. “How?” I asked. “Encouragement!” he replied in a sickeningly peppy tone. “And I told them they couldn’t go to the roller skating party unless they got it done.” Ah-ha! A threat. Yes, the truth is threats work.

1.VACATION. What is vacation? A get-away? A new location? New scenery? What does vacation feel like? Now that is the real question. Last fall I went on a one-night vacation with a girl friend to a cabin that was no more than three miles from my house! It was fresh scenery but also it felt completely relaxing. We sat outside by a fire and talked for hours uninterrupted! Getting a full thought out of your head without being interrupted – now that’s vacation!

Today feels extra vacation-y because my sister and her friends have already headed back to work. So it feels like I am on real vacation when it is supposed to be a work day. Originally I had planned to return home on Monday as well. But a while back during the week that my daughter had the flu, I was dying for a vacation, and convinced myself to add a vacation day at the end of Girls’ Weekend. So while they are making their drive today, I get to enjoy one more day of doing anything I want when I want, without having to meet other people’s needs. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah. I could fall asleep just thinking about it. And after a big lunch maybe I will.