The Dreaded 8th Grade Angst

It’s Saturday night and I’m home after a very busy day. I took my six youngest children with me to my parents house by the lake and we spent the day swimming. The kids had a great time. And the big bonus, they all got along well today. It helped that I only had the six. My four oldest, the teenagers, are all off having adventures of their own. 

My oldest is in Alaska and, as I write, she is embarking on a wilderness adventure that involves bush planes, isolated lakes, river rafting, and hiking. She will be off-grid for seven days. The people she’s adventuring with are close family friends and wilderness experts. I know she couldn’t be in better hands. But still. Moms can’t help worrying a little. 

The next three teens are on an inner-city missions trip in Buffalo, NY. This is their 4th year of going on this trip. They spend the time leading kids camps, being involved in a large food pantry, doing “intervention” where they visit low-income homes and see if they need basic furniture items like beds and then help deliver the furniture. They are moving from early in the morning till late at night. And my kids love it. Every year when we discuss the summer plans all the kids put the Buffalo Mission Trip as top priority. If I can only do one thing this summer, then I want to go to Buffalo. 

Right now I’m kind of basking in that “My teens are so awesome!” glow…Of course, it helps that they aren’t home to burst my little proud bubble. 

I’ve been thinking about my teens today and my mind drifted to the dreaded “8th grade year”. This is the year when all of my teens have lost it. It’s like they get all the way through 7th grade and then one day they wake up and think, Hey, wait a minute! I just realized I’m my own automonous person. I am not an attachment of my parents or my family at large. Maybe I should isolate myself in my bedroom while I figure this whole thing out. And  while I’m at it, maybe I should start testing my ability to be my own person. 

Of course, how that comes across to the rest of us is that our sweet family-oriented child suddenly doesn’t want to have anything to do with any of us and they have an attitude every time I ask them to participate in the chore and family times. 

Every family is different. I’ve talked to other friends of mine. Some of them have had all their children become problematic at the same age, but the age is different. Others have had each of their kids choose a different age or stage of development to become difficult. I haven’t talked to any parent yet who just skipped the whole process. If you are out there, don’t tell me. I might feel bad. Right now I take comfort in the fact that everyone seems to go through it with their teens. 

The benefit of having a large family is that you get a chance to learn from your mistakes. By the third child I had adopted the strategy of becoming very hands off. Here, I’ll slide a plate of food under the bedroom door occasionally. See you in a year when you start 9th grade. Just kidding…Kind of. 

Even my sweet, mild-mannered 4th child seems to be heading into the dreaded 8th grade angst. It’s rather shocking when your “good” kid starts to have attitude. Like someone just threw a bucket of cold water in your face. Et tu Brute? Of course, being one of those mild-mannered kids myself, I fully understand that under that sweet facade can lie deep depths of turmoil and anguish. So, I have grace even for my sweet kid to become moody. (No, I don’t have favorites, but I’m honest. Some kids are just programmed to be sweet while others aren’t!)

I don’t know what you are going through with your teen at the moment.  I just want to share with you parents who are still relatively new to the teen thing. Let you know that I too have struggled. And my kids are turning out ok despite it all. It’s not easy. It helps if you dredge up your old memories of being a teen and try to remember what it’s like. There are no magic formulas for parenting teens. Lots of grace. Lots of love. Lots of patience. Lots of prayer. And hopefully, they’re going to be ok. 

Fat Fridays: Week 27 Esther Tries out Intermittent Fasting

Hello Internet Friends, hope you all are doing well! I have had an interesting week. This past weekend I finally came to that realization that my life was not going to get “normal” any time soon, the stress was not going to back off and if I was serious about my health, I needed to do something despite circumstances being crazy. I’ve been seeing all kinds of articles about Intermittent Fasting, and so I thought, Hey, that sounds like a good idea! Why not? It seemed to fit with my desire to hit the restart button on my diet plan, so I set a day and went for it. I ate supper and snacked a bit till about 8pm on Sunday night and then I didn’t eat again till Tuesday morning. A thirty-six hour fast. Aside from when I had morning sickness, I have never done that before.

I kept a diary throughout the day. It was kind of a way to keep myself from going crazy. An outlet of sorts. I’m not going to share it with you because basically, it was the same theme throughout the whole day. I’m hungry. I have a headache. This is totally not fair that I still have to grocery shop and cook for 16 other people while I am fasting. And then hit repeat. That was the sum of my diary. Except that by Monday night I was feeling so sick that I couldn’t journal any more. I went to bed around 8pm and every time I woke up in the night, I still felt bad. But, when I woke up Tuesday morning, it had passed. I really didn’t feel very hungry. I was up at 6:30 am and I sat and ate a bowl of blueberries. Then around 9am I started feeling really hungry and so I heated up a plate of leftovers from the amazing supper I had made the night before that I wasn’t able to eat. I thought that the day after fasting I would probably be gorging myself, but really, I didn’t eat. I think I ate less on Tuesday than I usually do. I didn’t feel like snacking and I was feeling full a lot faster.

I’ve been trying to do more research on fasting this week. I was really surprised that I had the discipline to fast. I didn’t think I could do it. And actually, it did get easier as the day went by. I would like to know more about this whole Intermittent Fasting thing. As I research though, I am running into the problem of everyone wanting to charge me money so I can read their “specialized” version of how to lose lots of weight while doing Intermittent Fasting. Uggh. I don’t have any extra money to be spending on this right now. That said, I was really excited today to find an email in my inbox today from a health site that I trust, sharing a link to a session with Dr. Jocker as he explained the “Top 7 Things that Sabotage a Fast”. I clicked on the link to watch this “free webinar”. Free! Yay! I watched about fifteen minutes, it was very fascinating and helpful. And then all my kids ran into the room where I was and there was no way it was going to get quiet enough to watch anything so I hit pause and figured I’d come back to it this evening when I actually had some time alone to watch it. Alas. When I tried to open the site again, my time had run out. I now was supposed to pay money to access the same information. But, hurray for YouTube. I found it over there and watched it, or at least skimmed through it, for free.

Apparently my big mistake in fasting was that I tried to do too much too soon. You’re supposed to work your way up to a longer fast. Start with twelve hours, then fourteen, then sixteen, etc.  I’m learning. I’m glad that I did a longer fast right away though, because I proved to myself that I could actually do it, and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

For whatever reason, trying to stick to a separate diet as I take care of my family, and another family that is with us, is just too hard for me. But simply not eating for periods of time seems doable. I’ve dropped two pounds this week. It’s worth trying it out for a while.

So, that’s what I’m going to be doing this week. I’ll let you know how it goes next time.

See you later!

Some People are Not Worthy

Some people are not worthy of our help. Or at least, that’s what we profess with our actions and attitudes. Let me throw out some hard words for you. Registered Sex Offender. Mentally ill. Homeless. Drug addicts.

Registered sex offenders deserve the death penalty. The mentally ill need to be in some kind of institution. Homeless, well, they’re homeless because they won’t work and be productive. Drug addicts? No help for them, they just want a handout so they can get more drugs.

Believe it or not, I am not going to stand on some higher moral ground and point fingers at everyone below me. These are sentiments that I subconsciously hold. Sentiments that stare me in the face every once in a while and challenge me.

I’m going to tell you a story. .

Several years ago my husband’s company moved their workshop into a new location. It happened to be in a rougher part of town. One of the first problems my husband ran into was homeless people camping out behind his shop. Somehow, in the way my husband has, he got to know one of the couples that were camping out there. He was an exconvict, a registered sex offender, his girlfriend was ex-military and was pregnant with twins. She was somewhere around the age of forty and was having difficulty with her pregnancy. They were sleeping in a tent.

Andy gave him some work and he proved to be a decent worker. Housing was a much bigger problem. As a registered sex offender he could not live anywhere near children. There was not any cheap housing that fit into the requirements and so they ended up moving into a hotel room. $200 a week. No stoves allowed.

They got married. She lost the babies in a miscarriage. I met them a couple times. She was not mentally stable and I felt very uncomfortable and unsafe around her. Registered Sex Offender, nope, you can’t come near my family. All outreaches to this couple were through my husband.

The man spent the next couple years going in and out of jail. My husband tried to help Her when he could. Some grocery money. Help with rent on occasion. He would talk to me about their problems and I would commiserate, but I really didn’t feel like there was much I could do. My ministry to people is always done in the context of my family, and this couple was not family-friendly.

While He has been in jail, Her health went downhill. She had a stroke. Had some kind of surgery. She was renting a room in a house with lots of roommates. My husband visited her and said she could hardly get around, he didn’t know how she was going to take care of herself. He had asked and she said she was working with a social worker to get help.

We found out today that at the age of forty-two, she has died. Possibly on Wednesday. People noticed they hadn’t seen her. Called the police. Her body was found on Friday. The end.

And now I analyze. Could I have done more? Should I have done more? Are there people that you just simply can’t help? Their choices have led them down a path of no return? I possibly could have helped Her, but she had married Him and so I felt like that door was closed. I have to protect my family first.

But she was a fellow human being. Once upon a time she was an adorable little baby, and perhaps people cooed over her and said, how lovely! You’re going to grow up to be a wonderful woman! And perhaps she never had that. Perhaps right now there are people who would mourn if they knew she had died. And perhaps not. What I do know is that no matter what choices she made, God loved her. I don’t know where her relationship with God was, but I do know that he loved her.

I want to share with you all the tiny sliver of her story that I know. I want to say to the world at large, this woman lived. And now she has died. Let us at least give her a moment of contemplation in honor of her life. It is all I can do for her now.

And perhaps I can issue a challenge to myself and my readers to just think about this issue for a moment…how do you help the “unworthy” ?  What can we, as a society, do to help this segment of our population that we are reluctant to interact with? Do we have any responsibility towards them? How do we be responsible and safe but still have charity for those in need?

 

 

Questions on the Nature of Peace

I just read a blog post on Peace Hacks. Here is the link: Peace Hacks The article was about the nature of peace. Is peace simply the absence of war? Are we truly at peace if we know that injustice is happening where we live? Can we truly be at peace if we make ourselves fully aware of how many people are actually starving to death, right now, while we sit here reading stuff on the internet?  

The idea is, are we at peace, or are we simply choosing to ignore the problems around us so that we can feel comfortable.

This has made me think about Peace, and about burying my head in the sand. First of all, I’m going to go ahead and give my definition of peace. For me, peace is knowing that I am right with God. My sins are forgiven, He loves me, I look forward to an eternity with Him. That is the true source of my peace. When my world seems to be unraveling, that is what I cling to.

But what about peace in my world? Right now I do not feel like the world is at peace. The news shows a very rigid divide between political parties. It feels very much like people are choosing sides and drawing lines in the sand, preparing for battle. I am horrified as I watch people make moral decisions that defy logic. I am truly frightened when I see laws being passed that erode my parental rights. I am completely boggled as I look at the upcoming presidential election. I’m not even going to go there right now.

I look around and think, maybe we should move. Surely there is another country that isn’t as crazy as mine. But, if you read the news, you quickly learn that every single country in the world has got some pretty serious flaws.

And then there is all the suffering going on. Religious persecution is a very real thing, happening all over the world. Poverty at a level where people are starving to death, this is happening right now. Human trafficking is everywhere. Prejudice, injustice, foster kids in need of care, domestic violence, homelessness. All these things are happening right here, in my city. And I sit in my house, occupied with the very tame jobs of washing dishes, cooking meals, entertaining children.

What is my responsibility as a human being, as a Christian?

I find that when I read the news regularly, stay up-to-date with all the horrors that are happening,  I start feeling very anxious, afraid. Unsettled. Overwhelmed. I don’t like feeling that way. And so I withdraw. I stop reading the news. I stop engaging. I want my peace back, and so I turn my back on the world’s problems, ignore them.

Is that right though? Throughout history, time and time again, change has occurred when a person, a group of people, say, That is enough. This is wrong. We must stop this. Isn’t it our responsibility to be one of those people?

But there has to be a balance. I am a wife and a mother. I have a job to create a peaceful atmosphere where my children can live in a calm, safe environment while they are developing mentally, physically, spiritually. It’s hard to create that environment when we are focusing continually on all the bad things in the world.

Let me try to sum up the problem here. I am actually looking at two kinds of peace. Peace with God, and peace in my city/region/state/country/world. How do I address the lack of peace in the world without letting it disrupt my spiritual peace, and my own little haven of peace that I’ve created in my home?

I do not want to be someone who turns a blind eye, ignores the problem, pretends it isn’t there. Nor do I want to live a life of worry and fear and stress as I get overwhelmed, feeling like I, alone, can do nothing to change what’s happening around me.

I was hoping that as I wrote this, I would come up with some conclusions. I think instead I have just defined the problem really well for myself. But, that in itself, is progress. I guess I will have to write a Part 2 for this piece when I get some insight.

 

Fat Fridays: Week 26 You are Beautiful

Hey Everyone. Hope you all are well. I am doing fairly well. I have not stuck to much of a diet, but I have made some good choices. Stop eating when you’re not hungry. Choose the healthier option. Don’t have junk lying around your house to tempt you.

What has been on my mind this week is body image.

When I first started this diet I had this secret desire. I wished that I could just like myself and the way I looked no matter what weight I was. I wished that liking my appearance didn’t have to be dependent on how much weight I had lost.

There is a pervading attitude in our culture that you must weigh a certain amount before you can even be considered to be attractive. Or at least, that’s the idea the magazines sell. But, actually, if I’m honest, my issues with body image started way before I started putting on weight. I remember as an eleven year old pinching the extra skin on my stomach and thinking to myself, I’m so fat. I remember as a skinny little teen thinking I was so much bigger than all the other girls. I remember before my wedding, silently lamenting that my stomach wasn’t as flat as it should be.

Now, of course, I look back at photos of myself and gasp at how tiny and skinny I was. How cute I was. What a perfectly normal, nice-looking person I was. And of course I then latch on to that past young me as the unattainable thing I wish I could have. If only I could have my twenty year old body back. There is a meme that sums it up perfectly:

fatmeme

Yep.

But, realizing that I wasn’t fat as a teen still doesn’t solve the underlying problem. Not liking the way I look.

So, I actually went through some pretty devastating soul searching in the past couple years as I dealt with some of my issues, and the way that I see myself. I had a lot of long talks with God. A lot of journaling. A lot of talks with my husband. I talked it all out, until I finally got some clarity. Understood why I thought the way I did. And slowly, some of those raw areas started healing.  But, I still had a habit of just not liking the way I looked. And I kind of latched onto the idea that when I lost all my extra weight, then I would be happy with my looks. But secretly, I wished that I could like myself no matter what the scale said.

Well, I have been noticing this week that a shift seems to have taken place, probably over a long period of time, and I’m just now noticing it. I look in the mirror and I smile at myself. I turn this way and that, pat my hair and think, you look nice. I realized that I’ve been taking little selfies of myself occasionally and sending them to my husband, just because I feel happy with my looks and I know it will make him smile to get my picture in his messages. I put on a dress and think, wow, that looks really nice.

Today, I was standing in front of a mirror, pleased with what I saw, and it struck me how momentous this was. I like Esther. I think Esther looks pretty. Miracle of miracles. Even now, I get a bit teary-eyed thinking about how far I have come in this area. I feel like this deserves some kind of public proclamation. So here it is.

For all of you reading these blogs because you also are on a weight loss journey, I pray that you too can learn how to look in a mirror and like what you see. You are beautiful, just the way you are.

 

 

Kid Tune Torture

It’s a rainy summer day here in East Tennessee. All of my teenagers are off living their lives somewhere else today. I am home with six of my children plus three bonus children. And amazingly, everyone is getting along and playing nicely. I made all the kids work and clean up the house so we’d have a peaceful environment. It’s not immaculate, but it’s tidy and welcoming. The older boys are in a bedroom playing legos. The older girls are cleaning the girls’ bedroom and making a game out of it. The three youngest are sitting at the dining room table playing playdoh. Talking quietly and cheerfully to themselves. I have been playing my piano for the last half hour. Schubert’s Serenade, some Preludes by Chopin, a Waltz by Brahms. I’ve been skimming through my piano collections, finding the simple, peaceful, pensive pieces. My piano is right next to two large windows and the falling rain has accompanied my music. Ah. So peaceful.

I retire to my chair in the corner of the room, my own little private space. And then. Then, my brain resumes it’s torment. “I AM THE IRON MAN…toodootoodootoodoo,doo doo doo….I AM THE IRON MAN…toodootoodootoodooo.doo.doo.doo…” You might be wondering what on earth that is all about. There is some kind of spoof song about the Iron Man that my son showed me once on YouTube several years ago. That song has taken up residence in my brain and it won’t leave me alone. I only know a couple words of the song, but my brain helpfully fills in all the rest with toodoo toodoo toodoos. This song won’t leave me alone. I try to replace it with other songs. But, I have children, and there is a whole repertoire of annoying songs ready to take its place.

The other day I realized that I had been singing the Alphabet Song all day long, under my breath. With great feeling and emotion. Kind of like a sad ballad. I stopped. What are you doing??? I asked my subconscious. My subconscious refused to answer, and instead continued it’s sad wailing, “Q, R, S, T, U, V…” and then, with great feeling, “W, X, Y and Z…”

AAAAACCKK!!!

New song. I need a new song in my head. Then I hear the piano in the background. Two of the girls in my house have learned the same arrangement of a song from the Disney movie MOANA. I, of course, do not know all the words to this song, and so my head does another rendition of, “Too do dooo, to do doo, to do doo, doo, doo, DOOO, doo, And now I Know, how far it goes…too doo doo, too, doo doo, doo doo, DOOO doo, and now I know, how far it GOES!” (now the key change…) and on and on that song goes in my head. Just a short part of it, cause that’s all the girls play.

If it’s not Moana, Iron Man or the Alphabet song, it might be the little song from the tv show, Sarah and Duck, in which a narrators’ voice says, over and over and over again…”Sarah and Duck…Sarah and Duck…Sarah and Duck…Sarah and Duck…quack.” (By the way, on Youtube, somebody was nice enough to post a video where they had looped this song. You can sit for nine hours and listen to a narrator say “Sarah and Duck.” Apparently, I’m not the only one who is bothered by this song.)

It would be nice to have a Praise Song, or a Bible Memory Song, or a beautiful hymn running through my head all day. Occasionally, I’m fortunate, and I do have something like that repeating through my thoughts throughout the day. “Amazing grace, how sweet the song, that saved a wretch like me…” And then, out of nowhere…I AM THE IRON MAN!!

Good grief.

 

Happy Father’s Day!

Today is Father’s Day. I want to wish my Dad a wonderful Father’s Day. Thank you Dad for loving me. Thank you for sharing your passion for the Bible. Thank you for showing us how to love people. Thank you for playing your guitar and being the soundtrack of my childhood. Thank you for teaching us the importance of working hard and always doing your best. Thank you for teaching me how to edit papers and enjoy a good joke. Thank you for loving Mom and faithfully taking care of your family. I love you.

Happy Father’s Day to my Father-in-law! Thank you for all you did to help my husband become who he is. Your legacy is being passed down the generations.

And last, but definitely not least…Happy Father’s Day to my wonderful husband.

We’ve been on this parenting journey for eighteen and a half years now. It’s fun to look back…

I remember when we brought our first born home from the hospital. We were having problems with nursing and I didn’t know what to do to help this poor, crying little baby. I remember how you confidently scooped her off the bed, cuddled her to your chest and began rocking her and murmuring to her. She instantly got quiet, staring intently into your face as you talked to her. I was slightly jealous, she didn’t get quiet for me! But, mostly I was just relieved that at least one of these new parents was succeeding. You have always had a way with infants!

I remember you playing on the floor with a bunch of toddlers and small children. All of them climbing on your back, trying to ride the horsie. You would play “rough” with them and sometimes I couldn’t stop myself from yelling “CAREFUL!!” but the kids would just laugh and laugh and run back for more.

I remember you mowing the lawn. Our son, maybe three years old, following along carefully behind you as he pushed his little plastic mower. He was quite convinced that he was helping you with this important chore. And you just walked carefully, keeping an eye on him.

I remember when I headed off to my first weekend Women’s Retreat. I was leaving you with a four year old, a three year old, and a one year old who was going to be weaned while I was gone. I looked at you doubtfully. You got this? Sure. I’m going to take them camping. Cause only you would think it was easier to take three babies camping than it would be to stay home with them for a weekend alone. And of course you guys had a great time.

I remember late nights, when the baby had been weaned, I was pregnant with our next. You took over all night time problems. The toddler would start crying. You would grab your pillow and head off to lay on some bedroom floor, soothing the crying child with your presence, your deep breathing as you fell asleep next to their crib.

I remember how you would always take the newborn from me at the dinner table. Settling them on your knee as you ate with one hand, giving me a break from the nonstop baby-holding. And you would always give them tastes of your food way before I was ready to take that step.

Then the kids started getting older and while we still enjoyed holding and cuddling the infants, we also had to start dealing with teenagers. I remember your patience. Your grace. Your love for these kids who were doing everything possible to not be lovable. I remember your willingness to forgive. Your humbleness when you asked your child for forgiveness when you messed up. I remember your prayers for wisdom.

You are an awesome dad. I love your sense of humour that makes the little kids cackle and the older kids roll their eyes and groan. I love your willingness to put our two year old to bed every night. I love how our children clamour for you when you walk in the door. I love how you enter the room and the energy instantly gets revved up. Dad’s here. The Fun has Arrived.

You love your kids and you model the life of a man who walks after God. I thank God for giving me such a partner. Happy Father’s Day!