Well I didn’t want to win mother of the year anyway.

One of the hardest things in life is being wrong, but when it’s your child you’ve messed up with it’s even worse. It’s just one more reminder that parenting is a crap shoot, and I really don’t know what I’m doing. And yet, my older kids keep coming to me for advise. I mean that should kind of put my mistakes on them, but still I feel bad. There is only one good thing that has come from moments like these. I’ve learned to say I’m sorry quickly and without a defensive tone. The older I get the more I realize that batting a 100% in this parenting thing is impossible. My goal is to do my best not to cause harm. And if I do? I’m happy to hug them until they stop crying…or punching my arm.

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It’s all up to you.

Recently, I attended a thing called girls camp. Since I was in charge of the whole darn thing I got to choose the service project, and I picked tying quilts. It was a project that took several months to bring to fruition, but by the time the girls saw these child-size quilts up at camp their edges were already bound and they just needed to be tied. Nobody in my area had ever done quilt-tying for the girls camp service project so I’d had a ton of skepticism from other leaders. And even the girls when they initially got to camp didn’t look too thrilled at the quilting station.

“Tying quilts? I’ve never done that before,” a lot of them said.

“Well…consider this your opportunity to learn,” I said and handed out needles with yarn already threaded through the eye.

From that first day to the last day of camp I watched the attitudes of the girls change. Many came for their obligatory thirty minutes of work and ended up staying for hours upon hours. I was pretty confident this project would go well since I’m not the craftiest of persons, yet there is something strangely soothing about tying a quilt. And I wanted to give the girls an opportunity to learn what really is becoming a dying art, since most people just get their quilts from department stores rather than make their own.

Now, I wasn’t successful at reaching every girl. Some just flat out refused to participate. Things like that used to bother me but I’ve come to realize that another person’s attitude is not something I can control, and neither is that a reflection on how well I’m doing as a leader. My mother always said, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink.” So whether or not someone is discovering new skills, or even better enjoying the processes of learning them, really falls on each individual to make that happen. Hopefully, you find yourself in the camp of trying new things as often as possible, you’ll be a better person for it.

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No Touchy!

In my backyard I have lots of types of roses, because of my love for the traditional English garden. Some of those roses make up a living wall that splits my backyard into two sections. The beautiful New Dawns that make up this wall are considered a climbing rose, though they need far more structure than most ivies to actually climb. It took over five years for this wall to reach its full height, and it has been painstaking nurtured and trimmed by me along the way. They bloom only once every summer, and it is a spectacular sight to behold.

Last week, most of the blooms had reached their zenith but I allowed the withering blooms to linger longer so any late ones would also be completely finished. On Saturday I finally began the process of removing all the dead blooms and trimming the wall back into its perfect shape. The process is not easy and a little knowledge of climbing roses is necessary.

The process in total took over seven hours to complete. After the first three of those hours my oldest son, was taking his turn to clean up the discarded blooms, asked me, “Why don’t we just take the hedge trimmer to this? It would be way faster.”

“You’re right, but these are roses. If we cut them in the wrong place they won’t bloom as much the next year and it can cause lateral overgrowth that can even kill the roots.”

“Then at least let me help you prune them.”

“No, these roses have thorns so big it’s impossible not to get scratched.” I showed my son the little drops of dried blood along the many tiny cuts on my forearm.

“And your mother doesn’t want you possibly damaging her babies,” my husband interjected from the other side of the wall

I pursed my lips at him over a perfect section of trimmed wall but I couldn’t deny it. The darn man knew me too well.

I turned back to my son and decided to kick his offer further down the road, like next year or the year after that, or maybe after I’m dead and I won’t be able to see my beautiful babies destroyed by my impatient family’s hands. “You know there are other things in the garden that need pruning too.”

Looking back on the exchange I know my overprotective response is ridiculous but I can’t help it. I’m not this psychotic with anything else in my gardens or house, but these roses represent years of dreaming of my own English garden and it’s finally coming to fruition. No touchy!

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The worst excuse ever!

My daughter and youngest son have spent a lot of time driving each other crazy. They are like oil and water, and both think its the other person’s job to change before the irritation will stop. I spend a lot of time refereeing where I can and reminding them that they are family.

This week when I came around the corner I saw my daughter flipping off my youngest son before she turned to walk out the garage door. Yeah, that kind of crass behavior is not going to fly in my house. I told her to come here.

“Mom, I’m going to be late.”

Yeah, that excuse wasn’t going to fly. “Then you better get over here faster.”

Of course I got the arm-cross of attitude and eyeroll once she stood in front of me, but I let it slide for the moment. I wanted to tackle the more pressing matter. “Don’t you realize how vulgar it is to flip someone off?”

“What? I see kids do it all the time, it’s not that big of deal.”

And there is was, the very thing I hated most to hear. “Just because others are willing to do it, doesn’t make it any less wrong. You can’t rise to your full potential if you chose to wallow around in the gutter with everyone else. You are far too intelligent and know many better ways to communicate than that.”

Her arms stayed crossed but she did drop her gaze to the floor. “Yes, mom.”

I truly hope I hit a nerve with her. There’s nothing I hate more than the excuse of “well someone else it doing it.” The impact of bad behavior is not negated just because you can point many people doing the same thing. Trust me, those doing the bad behavior aren’t going to come to save you when the consequences of following along come due. It’s your life, so be sure you are always making a conscious effort in the ownership of it.

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Can life be fun? Well that’s up to you.

With two children out of high school, I find my house filled by a lot of twenty-somethings. The way they proudly state themselves to be adults, then two seconds later often lament about how hard their life is cracks me up. Finally, yesterday I said, “You know, having struggles is part of life.”

“You mean this won’t end as I get older?”

“Not really.”

She had such a forlorn look on her face, I feared she might jump from the nearest tall building if my small town had any tall buildings to speak of. Thank goodness we don’t. I decided it best to try and soften the reality blow I’d just landed on her head.

“Look, just because struggles are a part of life doesn’t mean it’s all terrible. We often grow the most when we overcome really challenging things. It’s the purest sense of accomplishment you’ll ever get to feel. And remembering those highs can help you face whatever will come next. I guess the struggles do kind of get easier over time, because with enough experience you’ll start to realize everything eventually passes. So you keep plugging ahead.”

“That doesn’t sound like fun.”

“Life is what you make of it,” I said. “I have found moments to laugh hysterically, even when terrible things were happening around us, like my husband being out of work for six months. Our attitude is more than half the battle, and I chose to see my life like a rollercoaster. Yes, there are ups and downs, but oh how I still love the speed of a rollercoaster and the way my tummy rises a falls. I just figure the harder the climb I have to go through means the bigger hill on the other side and I get to fly down for a time.”

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The touch of a mother

This week I found myself incredibly busy, trying to get ready for my daughter’s high school graduation while still carving out time to do the endless business of an editor for a publishing house. My husband happened to be home that day so he did his best to help me out with the household chores.

The next day, I opened the cupboard where we store our plates, bowls, and cups. The items were all on the right shelf, but not in the right order. I never store the glass items ahead of the plastic ones because my youngest son who is fourteen always seems to be in a hurry, and has broken more plates, bowls, and glass cups than I care to count. To alleviate the issue I’d been putting all glass and breakable items in the back for years. Had my husband never noticed this before?

Not long after this, my youngest son came into my room, unable to find leggings to put under his shorts for football practice. I sighed and went to his room, knowing I had thrown them into the wash the day before. I finally found them, but not in the draw I always put them in. Had my husband never notice that his leggings were stored with his underwear and not with his shorts?

This kind of stuff went on for the rest of the day, little things, here and there, out of their normal place. Even my own clothes hadn’t been separated like usual in my drawers, and I had to go searching for them. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m super grateful for the help my husband gave me that day. But what I found interesting is that even after all these years he didn’t innately know where everything went. I mean, after all, he’s lived here as long as I have. I know the ins and outs of every child’s room, even the shared spaces like the kitchen and living room. I even take care to pay attention to things like if the cereal in the canisters are getting low. Maybe my family just thinks they’re self refilling, because they are never empty though I don’t eat it.

My husband does all kinds of things well, but I guess being a mother means I pay attention to so much more when it comes to running this house.

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Never be just one thing in life

Over the years I’ve mentioned my husband quite a few times, but this week he showed off one my favorite things that he does, his willingness to constantly learn knew things.

Sometime this week, I noticed that some of the shingles on our home were missing. Neither my husband nor I had ever shingled a roof but I wasn’t worried. My husband watched some videos on how to thread new shingles back in with the old ones and “whaalaa” he’s ready to take a crack at it.

He has learned to do all kinds of things, from laying cement to taking appliances apart to figure out what is wrong with them. And that’s not even his day job. He has saved us countless expenses over the years, but what he’s doing is even more important than that. The person that never stops gaining knew skills, no matter how remedial one might think they are, keeps themselves mentally sharp and more valuable to society in general. So never box yourself in with thinking some skills are beneath you. You might just find yourself shocked at how handy and indispensable you can become.

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Blow my lid

My husband came home one day this week to a very angry wife. He hadn’t done anything personally; he’d been working the whole day. And to be honest, it wasn’t any one particular person or event that had set me off–it was a build up of multiple events and interactions until a domino of pure rage came flowing out of me. After my husband took the brunt of my sudden explosion, I felt bad once I calmed down.

It got me to thinking about all the moments of overreaction I had witnessed over the years by others: in parking lots, grocery stores, restaurants. Maybe those unreasonable reactions to simple problems wasn’t what the explosion was about, but a drip of frustration that had built up over time. Just like me. And maybe, just like me, they felt just as silly in the aftermath. And once I master how to direct my anger at the correct people and the appropriate time, I’ll be sure to fill you in on that secret to the universe.

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Almost Prom-mageddon

My daughter’s date to the prom this year entered a romantic relationship with another girl a few weeks ago. That was fine with my daughter since they had only ever been friends, and they would only be attending the dance as friends. But he came to her this week and told her he wanted to go to the dance with this new girlfriend.

Disgusted, my daughter reminded him that he had agreed to go to the dance with her several months ago. She had already purchased a dress, which every woman out there knows wasn’t cheap.

“But I want to go with the person I have romantic feelings for,” was his response.

My daughter didn’t come home crying, she came home pissed. All those months of having a date to only be dropped two weeks before the big day was very shallow and selfish of him.

“It’s not your fault, and you can still go stag,” I said, trying to give her options.

“I don’t want to go stag! That’s why I worked so hard to find a date.”

“Then, do you know of somebody else that would be willing to step in on short notice?”

After racking her brain she came up with a past coworker that had moved an hour away, closer to the city. This young man graciously agreed to help, and I’ve even offered to let the boy sleep in my house following the dance so he won’t have to drive home so late at night.

There is a big part of me that hopes Karma smacks her original date in the face and he finds himself without a date at all. Romantic relationships seldom ever last in high school. I witnessed it when I was in high school, and my daughter has seen the same thing with her generation. A very stupid, untrustworthy young man, indeed.

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Nail-biting test results

This past week my family and I finally got to go a vacation we had put off for more than two years. (Stupid COVID) Anyway, we had to have our entire family tested before we would be allowed to go and the testing place didn’t have any rapid test available so we had to wait 1-3 days for our results to come in. Ugh, I had a hard time pushing the rising nerves that came with every hour that past away. If any of us tested positive our trip would be over before it had even begun.

Late the evening I received the email we had been waiting for, but for some reason I struggled to open it right away. Even though none of us seemed sick, I’d heard stories of people testing positive with no symptoms. I wasn’t sure if my heart could take it if the unthinkable happened here. Each result required a corresponding birthday to open so I took several minutes before we all knew whether our trip was a go or no-go, and of course my name ended up being last. I look back on it now and laugh over how hard my heart was beating in that moment. It really wasn’t life or death, but it sure felt like it. Everyone coming back negative is what I imagine winning the lottery feels like.

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