School Mornings are my Frenemy

School is in the full swing now and dare I say I’m kind of enjoying it. You don’t have to feel guilty for loving to leave your kids at school. Seriously. No guilt. It makes me look bad.

Having all 5 home means more fighting, more meals, more dishes, more discipline and more wackadoodle Mom. I’m not totally pessimistic though. I do, I so so so do, miss sleeping in past 7 AM, and I will admit I miss spending time with them when they are being nice and acting like perfectly mannered drone children. I’m just one of those moms that is a better person when I have some time away from my kids. Surprise!

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It’s wasn’t Christmas, but on that first day, I totally danced to “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” in my active wear (a.k.a. PJ’s), baseball cap (a.k.a. greasy hair cover), and yesterday’s make-up, while I watched them go to the glorious teachers, who teach the marvelous things and put the big smarts in their crazy little heads. Okay, okay – my eye holes might have leaked a little bit, or maybe it just rained on the playground on that cloudless day….on that one spot…on my face……

P.S. Mom’s who make those beautiful, first day, chalk board signs. Please stop. You are making me look bad. I tried one year but I used printer paper and a marker that was too light. The resulting picture was of my kids holding up, what looked like, a piece of blank white printer paper. They’re going to see your pictures, at your kids’ graduations and ask me why I didn’t do that. I will just have to point to their first day picture, the one with the piece of blank white paper and say, “I tried.” Or maybe I will just point to their empty baby book and shrug my shoulders.

Why School Mornings Make me Cray Cray  (But just a little….mostly, I’m sort of sane…. I think.) 

During school season, in the morning, I walk into my kids room and usually say in my best June Cleaver voice, something like “Wakey Wakey Eggs and Bakey! Except I don’t have time for that so just eat your cereal.” P.S. If you make eggs and bacon every morning, don’t tell me. It will have the same effect as your chalkboard sign.

So, if you haven’t guessed yet, there’s is a slight snag in my perfect back to school family picture. I little snafu, a hiccup, minor hurdle, if you will. Okay, it’s a flipping house sized boulder, but I’m gonna laugh about it and poke fun anyway cause, well, that’s what I do to stay sane. That’s right! The dreaded “Morning Routine”. Can I get an AMEN? You know exactly what I’m talking about if you have kids that attend school…. and a pulse.

In our house, there are very few moments that someone isn’t screaming or crying as though they either lost a limb or are about to cut someone else’s off.  Here’s a mental picture for you because I know you’re curious. Children #1 and #2 are throwing barbs at each other to see who can make the other one mad first. Child #3 is constantly asking for something in broken record form because he’s learned if he doesn’t just obnoxiously repeat himself he won’t be heard over the other 4 (classic middle kid syndrome).  Children #4 and #5 are usually crying, screaming, pooping, peeing, spilling, falling, or demanding something! And then, just as I’m about to bite into my own breakfast, which I rarely have time to eat, someone yells from the bathroom, “WIPE ME!”

The two big kids take it in stride pretty well, and they put up with a lot, but even I want to rip my eyeballs out at the noise some days, so you can’t blame them for being a bit on edge. Often, after a few minutes of thundering, one of the bigs starts screaming “BE QUIEEEET!” at the littles which only makes them cry and whine harder; the big kid who didn’t yell “Be Quiet,” then snaps at the other for snapping at the littles which in turn causes a yelling fight between the bigs. About 15% of the time that comes to blows…in other words true and utter chaos and it’s LOUD.

A Little Throwback For You. (Imagine me 25 years younger with an ugly boy haircut, no boobs to prove I’m a girl, and Spock ears cause I haven’t yet grown into my head. Pretty, isn’t it?) 

Growing up, my sister, Traci, and I used to line up cereal boxes…three of them in  a sort of U-shape around our bowls. That way we didn’t have to look at or talk to each other when we weren’t “awake yet.” Or maybe it was to spare ourselves the horror of seeing Spock ears and 80’s bangs, but that’s another story. This cereal tent was a great tactic, but there were only two of us. My calculations concluded that I would need 15 cereal boxes to do this with my kids and inevitably someone would be mad because they got the bran flakes box instead of the frosted wheat. Maybe I will just take those 15 boxes and create my own little fort to hide in.

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Back to the Future (My all time favorite movie BTW.) 

Not much has changed for me morning-wise since those days of hiding behind cereal boxes with my sister. Talking to me before I’m awake is still a dangerous practice, which is probably why the majority of my children are the same way. The apple doesn’t fall far. Am I right? I can’t blame them really. I try to imagine what it must be like to be in an almost pitch black room in a dead, and I mean D E A D sleep, have someone pry me out of my bed and sit me at a counter in the bright morning light,ask me what I want to eat and then to have someone next to me make a noise. A NOISE!? Any noise…. my eye is twitching just thinking about it. So imagine 5 little Katie’s sitting at a counter every morning waiting for breakfast.  Both funny and scary.

Yes, I Have a Point (Hang in there. I just might make sense of all this yet.) 

I’m not a perfect mom! The Lord knows this, you already know this, my kids certainly know this. I used to care, however, in the last few years I’ve decided that I’m okay with not being perfect. I’m okay with what anyone thinks really. They can judge or not. It really doesn’t phase me anymore. Perhaps it’s a side effect of this blog’s transparency or I’m passing some imaginary threshold as I grow closer to 40. One with a banner over it that reads, “Who gives a poop what everyone else thinks.” (Yes… I said poop. Not the other word. I’m not a monster! Most of the time.)

Quite frankly, I’m glad my kids see my mugly (messy/ugly) most days. My job is to raise them to love God and be ready for their future. They are my legacy. What better way to show them that they can’t do it alone, than to live out my mugly, loud, not enough, but forgiven, and complete with Jesus life, right in front of them.

You do You. (Not a little of them and mostly you. Just You!

We are all a little mugly in the morning. Both in person and with our kids, but no matter what your morning routine looks like… June Cleaver, Lorelei Gilmore, Clair Huxtable, Marg Simpson, let me just put this out there. You do you!

I tell my kids this all the time. They love to point fingers, compare, and blame each other. Well, here’s a news flash that’s not actually a news flash: mom’s and other adults who, frankly, should be adulting better point fingers too. We all know plenty of “adults” who point fingers and compare. If we’re being honest with ourselves that includes us. It’s human nature, but that doesn’t me we shouldn’t try to improve.

Our kids take their cues from us. That’s where the “you do you” mentality is so helpful. A very wise mom I know once told me, “You can’t change the people around you.” You can cheer them on, you can communicate with them, even better, you can pray for them, but you CAN NOT change them. The thoughts you can change, habits you can stop, barriers you can break through, mountains you can climb are your own. As that same wise mom said, “The only person you can move is you!”

So… just do you, and if that is sometimes a mugly, loud, chaotic affair, then embrace it or change it, but don’t try to be the mom who made the chalkboard sign if you aren’t her. Your morning may be full of difficult, selfish, angry faces, but when you push through, you take difficulty and model perseverance, you take selfishness and model servant-hood and you take the anger and model love. Sometimes it isn’t as beautiful as the “June Cleaver” next door but it’s you. And whether you believe it or not it is good! You are a beautifully and wonderfully made and even in your broken morning, little lives are being changed simply because you showed up. Even in your chaotic mess… God is there!

Happy schooling everyone! And here’s to you doing you like a bad beast this week! Until next time, go share some chaos, create confidence and inspire some grace in your home.

 

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That Time I Forgot My Kids’ First Day of School

So it took me a while to write about this, and in total honesty, I’ve been putting it off. I’m actually still a bit ashamed about this one, but my pledge has always been to share even my most humiliating moments with you, so cherish it and share it with those who will benefit from its equaling power.

(Deep breath.  Here we go.) 

August 23, 2016, 8:01 am

It is a beautiful summer morning, and I’m snuggling comfortably in my bed. In fact, this is the last day of summer vacation. The last day of constant bickering, the last day of sleeping in, the last day of having my 5 kiddos all to myself! I quietly admit to myself that I will miss them when they start school again.

Emotions, which bring both sorrow and glee together in one big hormone pot pie, swirl around in my one-step-beyond-comatose body. I’m also relishing in the simple fact that I don’t have to get up if I don’t want to. In fact, I might not. I will probably just tell the kids to grab some bowls and dry cereal and eat on the living room floor while they watch some mindless cartoons. I can vacuum the floor in a couple weeks. Heck, they can get the baby up too! She’s old enough to eat cereal. She might spill it all over, but she can just eat it off the (relatively) clean floor.  

I haven’t heard from even the youngest three this morning. They are usually the first ones up yelling for “ceweal” or saying they are “hungwy.” This must be God’s gift to me for all my hard work this summer. One last day to sleep in. I have really perfected my sleeping-in craft over the summer. Even my kids are well accustomed to dawdling in the morning.   

Tonight, we are scheduled to go to the school’s orientation. The supplies for each of the older kiddos has been packed in their backpacks waiting by the door for over a week. I am really on top of it this year! I feel relaxed and somewhat euphoric thinking about how I have survived the summer. I managed them all over these past 3 months: I tutored 3 of them, I baseballed one of them, I family vacationed with all of them, and I even managed to sunscreen and bathe most of them! Between all this and my ingenious dry cereal in the living room idea, I probably deserve an award! I psychologically pat myself on the back and look forward to afternoons of one or two young napping children and quiet. This is gonna be great!

8:06 am

My phone’s text message notification goes off.

I note the time and think about how tomorrow, I will have been up for an hour and a half already. I figure it’s my mom or sister. I grab my phone, hopeful to look at some pics of my adorable nieces and nephews, or maybe a shot of mom and dad enjoying breakfast on the beach. Nope, it’s my good friend Michelle.  

Michelle has always been a bit of a mentor for me and a very generous person.   She is texting to see if she can meet me, as she has some clothes from her youngest son to pass along to my eldest. It’s a group text to both me and my husband, who is in the garage getting ready to leave for work.  

It reads, “I’m swinging by the school now. Can one of you meet me?” Before I can answer, my husband responds and I watch as the following plays out on my messaging app:

Husband: St. Pats starts tomorrow. Sorry.

Michelle: Hahaha! Your poor children! Have another!!

Husband: I can stop by the house tonight after orientation if you like.

Michelle: Ha! I am here….

     Where are you parked?…..

     I am in front of Methodist church….

Husband: Confused. We are at home. Kids start school on Wednesday.

Michelle: No they don’t.  Seriously- I have to get to work.

End thread…..

(20 second pause….)

8:14 am

Cue husband arriving in the bedroom where I left my euphoric, self praising, slumber somewhere around, “Where are you parked,” to search the school’s webpage. Bart walks in somewhere around, “Ooooooh… sugar loving donkey!!!!!!!!!!!! TODAY IS THE FIRST DAY!!!!!!!!” At least that’s what I think I said.

I immediately start yelling, repeatedly, “Today’s the first day!!!! Today’s the first day!!!! Today’s the first day!!!! How can this happen? Today’s the first day!!” like some kind of crazed broken record. Meanwhile, my husband does his infamous finger run/pull through his hair with both hands, and says things like, “I don’t know, I don’t KNOW!!!!” and other locutions I can’t retype here.

I start to cry. Bart walks out to the living room to call Michelle and shamefully explain why we weren’t joking, but we really aren’t at the school. I manage to pull myself together enough to wake up my second oldest, Evelyn, and explain that mommy messed up and today is the first day. I need her to jump up and put some school clothes on because school started about 10 minutes ago.  

It is at this confusing, awkward, mortifying mommy moment, that I  go to get my eldest up and when I don’t find him in his bed, I realize something even worse!!! HE ISN’T EVEN HOME!!! He spent the night at his cousin’s house last night!!!  You know an-end-of-summer hoorah! Super fun idea if it wasn’t on the eve of THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL!  I forgot because I always forget when one of my kids sleeps somewhere else. I’m even known for looking for them in their bed in the morning and having a moment of panic when I don’t see them. Now I’m guilty of forgetting the first day AND where my child is.  

I start to seriously wonder if parts of my brain have been oozing out of my ear while I sleep. I stick my fingers in to check and notice no crust or fluid. Curious. Maybe it’s those creepy earwig bugs. You know why they call them earwigs, don’t you? Creepy little devil bugs made me forget stuff! I knew I couldn’t trust them from the first time I saw those pincers and heard they had the word “ear” in their name.   

8:16am

I pick up the phone, while I pull on some clothes that I hope will look something like I didn’t just roll out of bed. My sister-in-law answers, and I explain my mommy fail as I try to sound like I haven’t been sobbing my brains out.

(Ahh haa… that’s where my brains went! I really need to stop crying so much.)  

Because my SIL is awesome, and also a mother of five, she saves her laughing for the next time I will see her. She sounds sympathetic and understanding while she hands the phone to my eldest, Martin.  

“Martin, mom messed up. The first day of school is today, not tomorrow. I’m so sorry.”

“WHAT? REALLY? Oh no. What are we gonna do!?!?”

Before answering, I silently think to myself, the exact opposite of what I was thinking in my bed this morning during my euphoric self tribute: I don’t know… I’m dumb. I’m worse than dumb. I’m a laughable, senseless, air headed, loser who is too incompetent to be your mother! People talk to me all the time. I see their mouths moving, I nod, but I don’t know what they are saying! I drive to your school often, and when I get there I realize I was headed to the grocery store, or I go to the grocery store when I’m supposed to be at the doctor! I have lost my car in almost every parking lot in this town! When I’m late getting you from school it’s usually because I forgot about you, but I don’t want you to feel unloved so I blame it on your baby sister and say she pooped her pants right before I had to leave. I went to look for you in your bed this morning because I forgot you weren’t here!?! Did you know there are bugs eating my brain?!? You should probably replace me with someone more qualified and with less brain oozing going on.

(hard swallow)

Instead, I try to sound like I’m not sniveling and snotting all over myself, and I say “Well, I can come and get you, but by the time I drive out there and back, get you ready, and get you to school, it will be almost lunch time and today is an early out. Or you can stay, and miss the first day. I’m so sorry buddy. I know you have been nervous about starting 5th grade.”

“Don’t cry, Mom.  It’s okay. I will stay here. It’s not a big deal. I can just go tomorrow. We never do anything on the first day anyway.”

My sob-cloaking trickery is obviously out of practice. Ashamed of my mistake and my lack of emotional self control, I surrender and let my kid comfort me. “Okay buddy.  Have a good day. I love you!”

“Love you too, Mom. It’s okay. Bye.”

“Bye, Martin.”

There’s something about my kids trying to comfort me that pulls at the string that connects my stomach, heart and tear reflex. You know the one. If my kids comfort me, or I have to watch them try to be brave, I’m a salty puddle before I can finish telling them I love them. I’m also crying because I’m realizing how big my 10 year old has gotten while I had my back turned.  

8:19 am

By the time I compose myself and walk from the bedroom to the car, my stellar 7 year old is smiling and ready for her first day. I try to clear the bloodshot from my eyes as I drive her to school, but I sob and blow my nose on the way in and out of the front office and up to her room. 

8:30 am

Her classmates all cheer, “Evelyn’s here!” when she arrives at her room. I silently tell myself, “Well no other kid got that kind of welcome on their first day, so there’s that, and she’s really only 25 minutes late!  Never mind the child you didn’t bring in at all!!”

The Icing on the Cake?

There is one thing I have failed to mention yet about this whole ordeal. The part that puts the shame in my shameful. The reason I slinked my way past the principal’s office, so as not to make eye contact and affirm my humiliation. A couple months prior to this mishap, I was appointed President of our School Board. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, have a chuckle at my expense! I am not only the mom who forgot the first day of school, I’m the School Board President who forgot the first day of school! You know, the lady who has heard the date for the first day of school in every meeting for the last six months!?!

In my defense, there was a misdated flyer for school orientation in our registration packet. Add that to the lackadaisical “who cares what day/date it is” attitude of summer, and the fact that I completely ignored the CAPITAL LETTER SUBJECT of the email the office sent notifying parents of the mistake on the flyer, and you get the embarrassed blubbering snotty mess that left the school defeated that day!

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Since there was no time for a picture on the ACTUAL first day, we caught it the day after. Evelyn, 2nd Day of 2nd Grade — Martin, 1st Day of 5th Grade (on the 2nd Day)

Lessons Learned

Now that the dust has settled on what is sure to go down as an epic folktale in this family, I not only mustered the courage to share my story and laugh at myself, I’ve learned a few things: You shouldn’t change your calendar based on one flyer, earwigs don’t actually eat your brain, and my husband should never rely on me for dates. (All my friends know this, I know this, it’s always been this way, but now we are certain beyond a shadow of a doubt, Bart is the only reliable date keeper in this relationship.) I’m okay with this. It’s safer that way.

I’ve also realized something even more important: there is so much beauty to be found in our mistakes!

The most rewarding thing I’ve learned from all of this, is that when we make mistakes as parents, and we admit those mistakes to our children, we offer them the opportunity to show us their best selves!

My son comforted me…I’m raising a stand up young man.

My daughter got ready in record speed…I’m raising an efficient young women.

Both my children easily forgave me for my mistake…I’m raising loving, empathetic people.

What more affirmation could a mother possibly need!?! This kind of beauty in the darkness is the reason I started this blog.

But that’s what God intended for us to do with our trials. To find the joy in them! This quote from the first chapter of James, verses 2-4 spells it out for us.

My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.

JOY? Oh, I’ve found the joy all right! As I told my story, my friends hemmed an hawed and as they laughed I started to chuckle too.  

ENDURANCE?  I got that too, sister. When you make a big doozy like this to start off the year, all the other mistakes pale in comparison. I’m feeling pretty good about where the rest of the year can go now. Nowhere but up, baby!

MATURE? Yup, I’m totally mature! Just ask my husband.

In all seriousness, sharing this has grown, or  rather, “matured” me into someone I can only be with God by my side…

a mother who is “lacking in nothing.”

I mean it! I’m not tooting my own horn!

I’m just saying that with Jesus I can forget the first day of school, yell at my kids, say a curse word in front of them, miss a game, forget a concert, or worse, and it won’t matter!

He will fill in my gaps and I WILL LACK NOTHING!

YOU lack nothing!

Jesus has given us a beautiful gift. Take it!

It doesn’t matter how big or small your mistake, Jesus loves you like you love those beautiful kids, and He doesn’t filter whom He forgives, nor does He run out of grace to show you the beauty that can come from your mistakes. So share your story of chaos, create confidence, and inspire some grace among your people. You never know when your ugly story will spread some unexpected joy of it’s own!