To Everything There is a Season

There is a lot of reflecting going on for me. Some days I think it’s too soon for this to be happening, but then I remember that I was younger by two years when her dad and I tied the knot over 27 years ago. Having recently located our misplaced-during-the-move home movies and watching our amateur wedding footage and how serious I was, I said to my daughter, “Whatever you do, enjoy the day. The day may not go as planned, but you’ve done your best.”

Following are just some of my experiences and thoughts as a MOB (mother-of-the-bride).

Soon after the engagement the planning started because the happy couple didn’t want a long engagement and picked a date 7 months out. My daughter, being Dave Ramsey conscious of funds (Yes! She was listening when we saw her eyes were rolling!) planned to have the reception under the big tent on our church grounds. So I started calling around for caterers only to discover that there weren’t many that even had that day open because of said 7-month timeline. So out of curiosity, I ended up calling a couple venues that had Sunday dates open, which prompted me to ask if folks really got married on Sundays to which I was told, “all the time.” One of the places I looked at was one that Emily had previously considered but crossed it off her list because of the cost. “Dad will never okay this,” she said when I brought it up. So one day, her father comes home from work and I ask him to have a seat so I can show him something. I ask that he not comment until I get done explaining. Naturally he hesitates because he’s not sure what’s about to happen, but humors me nonetheless as I go through everything. His only question when I finish, “What’s it gonna cost?” I tell him. He pauses, takes a deep breath, sighs and responds with an “okay.” I give him a kiss and a hug, “You’re a good daddy.” Personally, I think he was relieved because the burden would be taken off of us. All we had to do was bring in centerpieces.

Therefore, we needed a florist. Emily did not want real flowers because of the cost, however was a non-negotiable for the MOB and something I told her I would take care of back in her teen years. Calling a couple florists, some were booked, some just never returned my calls, I started to panic. I am not creative and can experience what I call “searing abdominal pains” when I have to be. My good friend tells me to call the florist they used for her daughter’s wedding. I was insistent that they are closed on Sundays. She ignored me and said, “Call her!” So I did and of course the florist would definitely do this on a Sunday. So Emily and I met with her. Nice lady … she went through everything with us and came back with a quote thinking we would take it home with us to think about. However, having heard stories of prices that folks were getting on wedding flowers, I didn’t hesitate and whipped out the checkbook. “How much of a deposit do you need?” In the course of our conversation, I mentioned where I had gotten my wedding flowers 27 years earlier. “That was my dad’s store,” she said. I so love when God gives me confirmation.

The happy couple made the decision, based on their personalities, that they were going to get cupcakes instead of cake. So the search for bakeries ensued. The soon-to-be groom was still in school so I had the privilege of going to taste-test some cupcakes with the bride-to-be.  It was rough, I know. We find a small reasonably priced bakery on the outskirts of the city that does all kinds of fun summer cupcakes. The problem was, choosing which ones. So there will be 5 flavors, one of which will be a groom required fun-fetti. I don’t ask … as long as there is something chocolate, MOB will be happy.

Happiness is shopping to find a MOB dress … NOT!  After countless hours searching online, I dragged myself to the mall. I knew what I didn’t want and that was to not look like me. I am a plain, non-blingy, non-flashy person, the opposite of what is out there for MOB apparel. This was definitely the most painful task to do, the one I prolonged but wanted to get over with at the same time. So I visit some high end stores, try some fancy dresses on and am certain the sales associates can hear my disparaging comments to myself in the dressing room because they came in to ask if everything was okay. “Uh no, I look like a sausage!” I wanted to yell. I am on my third or fourth store, about to give up when I see a dress that I had seen online. It fit … done! I go check out and the sales associate comments on what a nice dress it is. Quite frankly I don’t think it’s any great shakes, but told her I was looking for something for my daughter’s wedding that would hide my midlife midsection. She did a once over on me and saying behind her hand, “You’re shameless girl. Do you see the people walking around this store?” Oh goodness … I am hoping that the next person in line didn’t hear that, but ummmmm “thank you,” I think?

The bridal shower was another task for the MOB. I wanted to have the shower at a venue but the bride insisted it be at the house. She wanted it laid back and casual. So I had to call in reinforcements and her name is “Grandma”. Now my mother and I do not see eye-to-eye on many things like cleaning, frequency of laundry, ironing anything, freezing leftovers, etc. but if you ask her to help … it’s off to the races. Sometimes you have to reign her in so she doesn’t go overboard, like the dessert table at the shower. One of the items that Emily wanted at her shower was a mimosa bar. Those who know me know that I don’t imbibe (not because I don’t believe in it, I just never acquired the taste for the beverage) so the fact that I found myself in a liquor store was quite humorous. I did my research online ahead of time to find out what the best champagne/sparkling wines were to mix with juices so that I wouldn’t sound totally stupid at the store. I enter and immediately panic when I see all of the bottles. My eyes scan the room quickly and I calm down when I locate the section labeled sparkling wines. So a nice lady helped me pick out six sparkling wines and there I went out of the store with a box of bottles hoping no one from church would see me.

After the shower came the invitation mailings. This task was generally uneventful because we had made up the invitation months ago and all we had to do was proof and print them. The bride and groom took care of addressing, stuffing and stamping them, but when the MOB mailed them, that’s when it hit me.

Things became surreal at this point for me.  I’m thinking … “Wait, what’s happening?”  Isn’t she still 5 and watching and singing along to “Pocahontas” or playing with her Polly Pockets?  Isn’t she still 12 trying so hard to be grown up but still being silly? Isn’t she still 16 and causing my gray hairs to appear? She must just be starting college then, right? What do you mean she’s graduated and is now working?

She met a really nice young man at college. The young man asks her father for permission to date her. She falls in love with the young man. The young man asks her father for permission to propose marriage to her. The young man proposes and she says yes.

The nest is getting prickly as the big day draws near and I have learned through my role as a MOB that my need-to-know everything self is often nowhere to be found. In her place is a stand-back and let the chick do what she needs to do to fly. I am still there off in the distance, watching, ready to jump in if needed, but trying so very hard not to interfere.

We are told that as part of wedding ceremony tradition, there is a reason the parents enter and leave the ceremony when they do. They enter ahead in the place of authority, but leave behind the couple in their new role of counsel. Looking back, I think God prepares us for this new role in those tumultuous teenage years, where our kids test us and exhibit signs of independence and we struggle with learning to let go.

Have the last seven months flown by? Yes and now we are a few days away and time keeps marching forward. She tells me earlier this week, that these days are going to go by slowly. I smile and try to keep my composure because for me it’s moving too fast. She won’t know what I’m feeling as her mom until she raises her own children some day and prepares them to begin a new season in their life. Yes, this MOB is crying again.

“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under Heaven”

– Ecclesiastes 3:1

 

Advertisements

Celebrating Mediocrity

Bob Parr: It’s not a graduation. He’s moving from the 4th grade to the 5th grade.

Helen Parr: It’s a ceremony.

Bob Parr: It’s psychotic! They keep creating new ways to celebrate mediocrity.

I would like to congratulate all of those 8th graders who have made it this far in school. I remember when graduating from high school was quite literally the biggest deal of your school career. As a mom for 25 years, today I was able to witness yet another school-endorsed milestone before that long-anticipated, well-deserved high school graduation.  I’d like to say that today I sat through the last of 4 middle school graduations, but I’m pretty sure it was just child #4. We are two years into a new district and I don’t think our old district did this, but I could be mistaken. I know I’ve I sat through 4 preschool graduations and maybe 4 moving on day ceremonies when my 4th graders moved to 5th grade and then again when my 6th graders moved to 7th grade and quite frankly, was inspired by this last one enough to write about it.

My kids do well academically, but celebrating moving from one grade to another, and in our case, one building to another, a building that is literally connected and on the same campus, has me scratching my head. I guess they are graduating from walking out of one door, down the sidewalk and into another door? Or perhaps I’ve just been hanging around the school system too long, 22 years if you count preschool, and am just tired of the over emphasis on events that really aren’t that awe-inspiring. We now celebrate things that in the past were simply expected by our parents with no need for recognition until high school graduation.

I was that mom who back in the mid-90’s followed child #1’s school bus on the first day of kindergarten because I was sure the bus driver was going to get lost on the way to school. But by child number 4, had become that mom who counted down the days of summer vacation with restrained jubilee and showed up to school for events with sidewalk chalk and cookie dough stuck to my clothes, trying to remember if I had taken a shower or even combed my hair that day.

So kudos to those kids moving from middle school to high school. Did this warrant a mini graduation-like ceremony? My own 8th grader didn’t seem to think so. She warned me it was going to be long and boring and I’m pretty sure she would have preferred to have her fun field day activities that she excitedly talked about the day before as her last day of school instead.

The ceremony started at 9. I arrived at 8:40 thinking I’m way too early only to find that the school had multiple parking attendants directing traffic in a rural district that has less than half of the kids that were in our former suburban district. I am directed to park on the lawn. When I enter the auditorium it immediately became clear that there was no restriction on number of guests. I guess lots of parents arrived as the sun was making it’s appearance to reserve rows of seats for their extended family members and friends for this auspicious occasion. So after being rebuffed when asking if one measly seat was taken, I located a folding chair in an overflow makeshift row in the back of the room, thinking it was a good thing it was just me who came.

The kids were asked to dress up for the occasion and there were very clear instructions sent home for the young ladies to keep their shoulders covered. So my rule-follower daughter, who is always modest, wears a thin-strapped dress with a nice sweater over top.  The music starts and the kids start coming in looking thrilled (NOT) and I notice that most of the girls must not have received that same notice of dress instruction as evidenced by the bare shoulders AND open-backed, very adult looking dresses coming down the aisle. It appears that the problem with authority and obeying rules starts young.

I sat through the recognition of those who maintained the highest GPA.  Usually this is where you make a mental note that come high school graduation these names are going to appear again as valedictorian and salutatorian, right? Well, I couldn’t keep track of all the names that were read because they recognized everyone who maintained the highest GPA all quarters while they were in grade 6 (multiple teams), while in grade 7 (multiple teams) and while in grade 8 (multiple teams). Now I’m smacking myself in the head.  How about recognizing those two or three kids who maintained the highest GPA from grades 6-8 combined? Perhaps I shouldn’t have said to the lady sitting next to me a few minutes earlier that I wasn’t sure how I felt about these ceremonies only to find out that her daughter was one of those recognized for the highest GPA every one of those middle school years.

It’s as if they tried to include as many students as possible, but instead kept reading a lot of the same names over and over and it became so that the clapping was noticeably diminished by the time they read the names for the last quarter of the last team of the last year. It just makes it less special.

I watched the school’s head and vice principal, the superintendent and the guidance counselors sitting on stage and wondered if they recall their middle school years and what they think about all of this hullabaloo … the parents and grandparents coming in with bouquets of flowers, the high powered cameras to capture the “moment”, the parents blocking views and tripping over one another to get videos, the speeches, etc.  I have estimated that by the time child number 4 graduates I will have sat through over 250 band concerts alone … just band concerts, not steel band concerts, not guest artist concerts … just band.  This does not include award ceremonies, moving on day ceremonies, dinners, swim meets, track meets, etc. I wouldn’t be surprised if that number exceeds 400 by the time number 4 walks across the high school stage!

My kids struggle with so many of the things that most kids struggle with at these different stages, but they are grounded and well-rounded. They do well in school, they play sports, they play musical instruments, they sing, they teach, they create, they volunteer, they work.  I like to think they became how they are because my husband and I love them unconditionally (and if you don’t yet have middle schoolers or high schoolers  … wait, your patience will be tested and you will quickly and painfully learn the meaning of unconditional). Those toddler and early school years are but a distant memory of a wonderful, magical time. I am reminded and convicted daily of my failures as a parent, but my kids love and have parents who love the Lord and who teach them what’s really important in life … relationships, not awards (of which they have received plenty), not stuff (also recipients of much).

So today I am most thankful because the last of my children survived the drama, chaos, mean-spiritedness, traumatic, clique-ridden world of middle school, mildly bruised, but basically unscathed. I congratulate my daughter, not with flowers, adoration or accolades, but because she persevered, passed the 8th grade and now has the privilege of continuing her education.

Love you to the moon and back Abby!

Latte Rush Hour to Land Enrichment

My commute to work has gone from a 15-minute drive trying to avoid the line of cars going into the Tim Horton’s drive-thru backing up onto the main road to 6 minutes of trying not to get stuck behind manure trucks, both of the solid and liquid variety. My drive is also now on the milk run as I pass multiple farms, thus explaining the number of manure trucks.  But the views of the landscape are priceless. Even with all the dang-blasted snow and cold our first winter here, it’s beautiful and I am feeling truly blessed.

When we were in our former residence, I was one of “those” people who mowed their lawn in different directions each time, which was at least once a week, sometimes twice when I knew no one would notice.  I would edge, over-seed in the Spring and lay new mulch every two years on top of getting the lawn treated for years. Now I have no lawn and am already thinking about how that will bother me when the snow melts and I am left looking at first mud and then dirt in the excavated area surrounding the house. We still have the final grading and seeding to be done to create an area of lawn, but I am convinced I won’t have anything to mow until late summer. What will I do? If Tim had his choice, he would leave the area immediately surrounding the house in its natural state with minimal lawn. Therefore, I must have a back-up plan for something to take care of outside come Spring. Perhaps a garden? I’m thinking somewhere in this space … minus the snow.

Winter

I miss growing tomatoes to make spaghetti sauce to freeze for the winter months. I miss growing zucchini the size of small baseball bats because I hadn’t checked on them in days. I miss growing green beans and lettuce and getting frustrated that the rabbits got to it before I could harvest any of it. I miss growing butternut squash for Thanksgiving dinner.  I want to try and grow eggplant for the first time even though my husband swore it off after he left home.  I want to try for the umpteenth time to grow peppers that aren’t intentionally “mini” in size.  It might be fun to grown corn again, on a larger scale, but it’s so abundant at roadside stands out this way that it might not be cost-effective. We can stop by a local stand and pick up our 240 ears to freeze easily enough. What I do know is that I would love to start growing a lot more of our own foods now that we have the space to grow it. But we now have more than rabbits being the only wildlife to graze on the produce, as evidenced by the tracks and apples strewn in the woods.

Coming from a dandelion-free zone in our previous home, our lawn care and garden pest treatment options have just beome very limited as we not only have a septic system, but a well. Thank goodness we have natural gas, because propane would have surely meant we arrived in rural USA.  My cousins who grew up on a horse farm told me at our family picnic last summer that I should subscribe to a different kind of magazine.

Grit

My daughter informs me that we’re not out in the “country” because the houses are not far enough apart. I think we are out in the “country” because we’re not down the street from Target or even that annoying Tim Horton’s that causes traffic chaos on a daily basis. We are however down the street from the only general store in town, established in 1855. It’s certainly not Target, but I had been in there at least four times in the first month we lived here. Maybe they will  have the seeds I need to get started on that new garden.  Plus, I know where we can get lots of fertilizer!

And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. – 2 Corinthians 9:8 (NLT)

Wigwams and Muck Boots

Three years ago if you would have asked me about living anywhere but the suburbs, I would have laughed. We lived in a very nice tree-lined subdivision. Our house was manageable in size to clean, when I actually felt compelled to clean, and maintain. We had just enough lawn for me mow so I could get my yearly exercise crammed into the late spring, summer and early fall months. I could walk to the end of my driveway in my slippers to get the mail in all seasons and we were minutes away from the convenience of grocery stores, clothing stores, gas stations, big box stores, restaurants and the kids schools. For 16 of our 25 married years we dwelt in suburbia. Lancaster However, from the day we moved from our blue collar neighborhood of 1940’s cape cod houses bordering the city to our white collar, tree-lined neighborhood of late 1990’s colonial houses bordering a park, I felt unsettled. 14 years later, God pricked our hearts and we started to look for a piece of property to build a home on. This has always been a dream of my husband’s, but the older we got, the more we resigned ourselves that perhaps this wasn’t to be for our family. I thought as I wrote this about how we teach our kids that with God all things are possible, yet we resign ourselves to “not possible”? So we ventured out on weekends and looked at parcels ranging from 1 to 25+ acres. If it didn’t have trees, Tim didn’t want to look. I showed him this one particular piece of land online in July 2012 that I had been watching for some time but thought he would balk at because it was raw land and would require a well, but he agreed to go take a look. Needless to say, we were beyond overwhelmed. Trees would not be a problem and there were multiple ponds as a bonus (which my Dad, the fisherman, has already begun to stock). So we went home, prayed and began to run the numbers; a month later we became the owners, but it would be almost 2 years before any building would occur. God had plans for us, but we had to be patient. Woods One of the very first things Tim said after we bought the property was that it wasn’t going to be just for us. This house and property was meant to be a blessing for many people, people we already knew and people we have yet to meet. We weren’t going to move out there and shut ourselves off from the world. This is easy to do as you get older and comfortable with your day-to-day life, but I don’t believe that’s what God wants for us. We are relational by design. I am not a very spiritual person, but how can we be a light if we have no place or opportunity to shine and express God’s love? Over the course of the two years before the construction happened, we had brought family and friends out for tours which ended up being more like hikes … I was exhausted each time! My lawn mowing exercise was over-shadowed by these tour-hikes.  Our brother-in-law was the first family member to see the parcel outside of our kids. It was important that Tim share this with him, not only as a brother-in-law, fellow architect and hunter, but as his long-time college friend. Another hike occurred with our good friends. They were so excited and encouraging to us and would be throughout those two years. But that day they took the tour-hike, they prayed over the land. Never having been part of something like that, it was at that moment I knew we were supposed to be here. DSCN0358 We were supposed to be there, but I honestly don’t know how or why people would want to build multiple houses in their lifetimes. We only built one and I am convinced that God wanted to teach us patience and lots of grace because in the course of 7 months we designed a modest home, sold our old home, moved in with my parents for 5 months, built the new house and began our life in non-suburbia going into the long and cold winter months. Our journey to this point was not without its struggles, both in our marriage, temporarily moving back in with my parents and in the building process itself. There was more stress than I like to think about, but God who took us through … got us through all of it and did it through His grace.  Even though it wasn’t easy at times, there were so many good things that happened throughout this to-be-continued adventure that can only be explained by saying that God was totally in control of every part of it. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. – Proverbs 3:5-6 So I’ve traded my suburban mailbox slippers for Wigwams and Muck boots to begin the part of our journey in small-town USA. Pond

What Do You Mean There Can’t Be Two Chiefs?

One Christmas morning years ago my husband gave me a book called The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands, by Dr. Laura Schlessinger.  I looked at him, laughed and distinctly remember asking, “Is this is a joke?”  The mere receipt of this gift was so impactful that, to this day, I actually remember where I was sitting in my family room when I opened it and that’s saying a lot since I can’t remember what I did yesterday.  When I saw the look on his face, I knew it wasn’t a joke.  I guess he felt like I needed some help.  I set it aside, but as is my way, my curiosity got the better of me and weeks later I picked it up, prepared to read it and complain about everything written within its pages.  Much to my surprise, Dr. Laura was right on … example after example she took on the whiny, overbearing wife, the wife who struggled for the upper hand in the marriage, and put her in her place, which I soon discovered, was not the head of the household.  Even more surprising was that I found myself in more of the examples than I wanted to.

So began some self-reflection for me.  For someone who has trouble admitting failure or someone who can defend a point of view to the death even when it their own mind they know it’s completely wrong, is not as easy task.  It was more important that I “think” I’m right; whether I was or not didn’t even enter into the equation.

When I first started coming to the church I currently attend, I had just read this book.  This topic fascinated me to the point where I thought it would be interesting to have a Women’s Bible Study on this very subject; find out if there are other wives out there who felt like me and struggled with this.  When I approached the then Associate Pastor’s wife about it, she chuckled and referred me to the Senior Pastor’s wife, whom she fondly referred to as the “Right Reverend Mother.”   Nine years later, I am still pulling for a small group on this topic because I consider the “Right Reverend Mother” one of my mentors.  I go to her often when I need advice on tweens, teens, college kids and yes, submission!  She is my fellow melancholy but as an outsider, who knows my family, she gives unbiased feedback and has the wisdom to redirect me when she sees I might be wandering.  She has been on both sides of this sticky thicket of a topic, so I keep trying to “encourage” her that this would be an awesome small group!

It’s really not hard for me to see fairly quickly and with pretty good accuracy who “rules the roost” in a husband-wife relationship; my mentor says I may have a gift of discernment.  Unfortunately, it’s also easy to see what happens when the wife dictates the course of the family.  We live in a culture that demeans men and their role in order to put the woman in a higher place.  Remove any marital aspect out of that statement, and it still never ends well; it’s just tearing others down to build oneself up.  It’s amazing when you actually pay attention to how men are portrayed on television.  It’s quite blatant and it’s no wonder our culture is a mess.  Our young men and women are getting their direction on how to treat one another and what their roles should be from television shows or even from what they see in the home.

My own mother cooked and cleaned, worked a part-time job, and as is usually the case, was the primary care giver of us four girls while my father worked to support his family. So what broke down between her generation and mine?  Why, when I was first married, was I so hell bent on making sure I was the complete opposite? Did I grow up seeing what she did and think that I was going to be different?  I would cook when I felt like it, clean when I felt like it, iron what?, etc.  If it didn’t get done, then oh well!   For those of you who know my mother, she is a feisty, opinionated, food-bearing, w/a tad OCD Polish lady who took good care of my sisters and I and my dad; and still does.   I’m sure she may see her role as mundane some days, like many of us see those same roles in our own lives, but it works and has worked and I know that my dad would do absolutely anything for her.

Years later, I would come to watch these roles exhibited in my in-laws 50+ years of marriage.  They live out Ephesians 5:21-33.  Their devotion to one another is rare.  I have no doubt that my mother-in-law has a say, but I also believe she knows that my father-in-law’s place is as the leader of the family.  There is a reason God put this order and it’s not a bad thing.   Our husbands are our covering.  We may come across as “I can take care of this myself”,  but if we’re honest and get out of our own arrogant way, I think we want to be taken care of.  It’s our nature and while it took me years to figure this out, it’s okay!

I look at the different areas outside of our families where this authoritative structure should also be in place, school, church, government, etc. and is not.  The dysfunction is rampant.  There seems to be little to no respect for authority and that starts in the family.  I am convinced now more than ever that feminism has played a significant role in the demise of the American family.  I worked outside the home from age 17 to age 34, took a break to stay home when children 3 and 4 arrived, and went back at age 40.  I am not a feminist, I do not hate men, I do not think men oppress women, I know I can do whatever I put my mind to and I like to work, go figure.

Recently Candace Cameron-Bure (DJ Tanner from Full House) was getting a lot of flack from feminists about a small comment she wrote in her new book about being submissive to her husband of 17 years.  One video clip I saw was of a panel discussing this issue, consisting of feminists and non-feminists.  The non-feminist panel member could not even complete her statement (which ironically was Biblically based) because the head of the panel cut her off, stuttering and stammering her anger that there are actually women out there who think this is okay (like we’re living in the dark ages).  The venom with which she spoke with was so disturbing that I had to “Google” her to find out what could possibly have caused her to be so angry.  If feminism is supposed to be a good thing, why did this woman seem so unhappy?  I was not surprised to find that dysfunction wove it’s way though this woman’s childhood and adult years.

Does being under my husband’s covering mean I don’t get a say?  Have you met me?  I have a say and I always have an opinion!  Just ask my husband, my parents, my sisters and my friends.  But admittedly, the best and most peaceful times in our 24 (soon to be 25)  years of marriage are the times when I have submitted to my husband’s leadership.  Those early years were pretty rough.  It was my way or no way and when I look back, it was not a good thing.  We could have saved ourselves a lot of aggravation.  Those lessons I learned are important to me to pass on to my daughters.

So I still find myself occasionally reverting back to my old ways of trying to get the upper hand, but the difference is that now I can see it when it’s happening and at least try to stop my stubborn self.  All it really takes is that I just have my say, leaving those big decisions to be made to my husband, remembering how much calmer and happier I am.  And he can vouch for just wanting me to “be happy”.

Years ago, I loaned that original copy of The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands book that began my period of self-reflection out to a woman at our church and is usually the case, it was never to be seen again.  My hope is that it’s circulating.  In the meantime, a replacement copy went on my Amazon Wish List a few years ago and I’m happy to report that it’s back in the house again.

 

I Do Believe That’s One Of Our Apples…

I guess I thought I was doing my part in raising our kids to be self-sufficient. My two oldest think they are because they had lived (recent graduate) and are living (junior year) away at college. I suppose in a way they did function as if they were independent, because the good Lord knows, I can count on one half a hand the number of phone calls we, their birth parents, received from them. The threat of turning off their cell phones if they didn’t respond in a 24-hour period usually prompted a courtesy check-in call from them which I know was done on “the way to class” so they wouldn’t be subjected to any call longer than a walk from the dorm to their next class.  They love to remind their two younger siblings how “tough” they had it growing up. They enjoy telling them how I made them make their own school lunches when they were just barely able to reach the kitchen counter, how they had to clean the bathrooms, eat foods they didn’t like (ask our oldest about the time we had him eat an apple), how they never received an allowance for any chores they did and how I didn’t tolerate grades below a 90.

When I was that age I was not only making my own lunch and cleaning bathrooms, but also doing laundry, making dinner, mowing the lawn which also included enduring numerous blisters from raking said lawn because for some reason my father never bought a mower with a bagger or if he did have one, we never knew where it was. I also had to take in and unpack the groceries week after week and eat whatever was made for dinner which was always something my father liked, never mind what any of us kids wanted. I never made my kids eat cube steak the way my dad likes it, DRY! As a matter of fact, I don’t even think my kids know what cube steak is.

I will admit when they first left for college I wondered if they would get up in time for their early classes, if they would eat healthy, if they would go to bed at a decent hour, how often would they do their laundry, would they study? I never really worried about them making friends because they both take after their father and get along with everyone. But because of that I did worry that they remember why they were there and not buy into this “whole college experience” malarkey that some parents want their kids to have. Your father and I are helping you pay for an education whereby the goal is to choose an employable field of study, attain a job in said field of study, earn a living and stay out of debt and out of our basement when you are older. After their first couple visits home I could see they were still alive and well and that they must have figured it all out, although I’m pretty sure my son knew before he left for college that he wasn’t supposed to do all his laundry in one load, as evidenced by the white socks and t-shirts not being so white anymore. Perhaps he thought he was making good use of his time saving skills?

My daughter’s recent visit home from college began with her dropping her bag in her room and noticing that her bed was not made. She came to me asking where her sheets were. I told her I had washed and dried them but they were still sitting in the dryer. Instead of her offering to going down two flights of stairs to get the sheets from the dryer she gives me a sigh, my guilt sets in and I retrieve a set of sheets from the closet and she begrudgingly makes her bed. Thankfully I had gotten rid of the Care Bear and Barney sheets before she got home.  It is getting late at this point (we had been at a very long swim meet and ate dinner very late) and I am now in bed, literally about to fall asleep when I am awoken by same daughter now asking where her “big blanket” is. “Probably in your closet?” I say groggily. “Oh.” she turns and leaves my room not to be seen until mid-day. I am wide-awake again.

The next afternoon I come home from work to find her watching America’s Next Top Model or Boy Meets World, both of which I am convinced are in programming cahoots with the college break schedule. I come home to a sink full of dishes that held whatever food concoctions she has made in the two hours between her awakening and my coming home.  Those in my family know that one of my pet peeves is dishes in the sink when there is a perfectly good dishwasher nearby that is ready and waiting to receive the remnants of breakfast, lunch and dinner.  I think my kids suffer from dishwasher dementia. They are unable to determine if the dishes in the dishwasher are clean or dirty even though the big red light tells them so, because they know if they are indeed clean they might be asked to unload and that will create a snafu in their attempt to do as little as possible, so instead they play dumb and resort to putting them in the sink and exiting the vicinity as quickly as possible.

Day three of her visit she awakes, comes downstairs, looks around the kitchen and proceeds to tell me how her friend Jenny’s mom makes Jenny and her brother breakfast EVERY morning when they are home from school. I respond with an eye roll and tell her there is yogurt in the fridge. I can’t keep up and frankly after four kids, I’m tired. I was 23 when my first was born and 35 when the last one arrived. Something happened in that 10+ year time-frame…I think I got old!

So she spent her time with us, eating, studying, watching TV, napping, along with a constant reminder that she needed some supplies (aka groceries) that she wrote on a list that she subtly placed on the part of the counter where she knew I would see it. “Who’s paying for this?” I ask. $60 less in my checking account, she flashes her big smile at me and I follow with yet another eye roll.

So I got to thinking and asking myself what exactly is my job? If I didn’t bring the washed, dried and folded towels up from the basement and restock the towel “less” linen closet, would the kids resort to pulling pillowcases and placemats from the closet to dry themselves? If I didn’t replace the toilet paper on the roll or have extra rolls waiting in the wings, would they just sit there and wonder before panic sets in and they begin to yell in desperation? I wonder too how small they can let that sliver of soap get before they don’t think to reach under the vanity located directly across from the shower for a replacement bar? And my personal favorite … witnessing this game they play to see how much trash can they balance precariously on top of itself before thinking, “Hey, I should probably take that out.” And then decide, “Nah, I can make it fit in there.”

Now in all fairness my kids are great, but I don’t like to tell them that too often. Exhorting does not come naturally to me, as any fellow melancholy can tell you; some might see me as awkward if they ever caught me in the act. And in my defense, I think part of the problem with a lot of kids today is that their parents make them feel “too great” and these kids are growing up thinking they are the end all be all…narcissism, I think is what it’s called. We don’t make excuses for our kids and expect them to make good choices, knowing full well that will not always happen. But they know regardless that we love them…unconditionally. Part of our job is to get them ready to leave the nest. So without wishing time away, I admittedly look forward to seeing how they will function when they are really self-sufficient, out on their own, out from under our covering, how they will live with their spouses, how they will raise their families and how they will run their households, because as I have discovered after almost 25 years of marriage , which my father-in-law said the day he married Tim and I, “The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.”

But that’s whole ‘nother story …

Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. – Proverbs 22:6

Is It “I Do” … Or What I Didn’t Do?

There are very few shows I DVR on television, as the selections are slim pickings these days.  They are Duck Dynasty,  Last Man Standing, Say Yes to the Dress (NY and Atlanta) and Four Weddings.

Four Weddings is a show where four brides who don’t know each other go to each other’s weddings and judge them in different areas (i.e. dress, venue, food, etc.).  Whoever scores the most points wins a honeymoon.   For the amount of money that is spent on some of these shindigs, it boggles the mind that they have to enter a contest to try and win a honeymoon.  Which begs the question of any reality show, “why are you REALLY doing this?”  I think we all know the answer.  That being said, if my wedding 23+ years ago was being judged by the standards of this show, I would have been the first contestant to come out scoring in the negative.

They have expanded this show to areas other than New York City and Jersey, which is a good thing because some of these brides are B-R-U-T-A-L.    I found that the Boston area, California and southern brides were the kindest towards one another.

Let’s start with the dress.  I first saw my dress in a Brides magazine, found out where it was sold locally and took at trip to the Wedding Gallery, a store that when I drove by years later was turned into a fish taco place.  It was the first dress I tried on and the one I ended up buying myself for $500.  The average dress on these shows is around $2,000-$5,000, although there are many that are upwards of $10,000+ and many where the brides want multiple dresses for the day.  Strapless was unheard of in the 80’s and now you’re considered “old-fashioned” if you don’t have enough skin or your figure showing.  Nothing says beauty and grace like asking the bride how she wants to look on her day and she replies, “sexy”.  Really?  No offense, but I don’t care to see your valleys and alleys as you’re walking down the aisle or out on the dance floor.  Save that for your husband and spare us the show please.  My three daughters all know how I feel about this. They know I have absolutely no problem with strapless dresses at a certain age and as long as I don’t see their “business” we’re cool.

I watched a Say Yes to Dress episode quite some time ago where a young bride had augmentation done JUST for her wedding, waited until 5 months before the big day to get a dress and was quite distressed when told that the sample dresses (which she had to choose from for time purposes) were mostly B cup sizes and didn’t come in DD.  She was distressed because it was most imperative that she be able to “show off” her “ladies”, as she called them.  I about gagged.  Where have we come as a society when the goal of finding a wedding dress includes showing your “ladies” off.  What are we mothers raising?

Did you know many weddings have themes now?  If so, mine would have been standard minimalist, competing with the likes of Hollywood Glam, Country Chic, Tree Hugger Extraordinaire, etc.

Cocktail hour … well, I don’t know where to begin on this one; big hairy deal apparently. These days you can have your own signature drink created and made available to your guests.  Now I don’t agree with a cash bar, however, if you come to a wedding where the comments are that you can’t have a good time because there is no alcohol, perhaps you have other issues.  I must say there is nothing classier than guests in a drunken stupor at your celebration and even more so, a drunk bride and/or groom.  In addition to the beverages, many of these receptions have full-on hors’ d oeuvres and carving stations, something that would resemble a buffet dinner somewhere else.  I’m guessing my veggie platter and cheese and cracker platter would have been a sure flunk!

As mentioned above, food is a big hairy deal.  I’ve told myself that when my children take the plunge, food must be a priority.  It’s nice to see on this show that they still have buffet, family style and sit down options.  The buffet doesn’t score big period, unless the food choices are exceptional and HOT.  Some of these brides had never heard of family style, which is what I had, and sit down, the most expensive option to have and which seems to be the favorite with the caveat that the food must be five-star.

Most brides on this show frown upon live music.  Guess that leaves the Polka band out!  DJs are in, but they must know how to get people out on the dance floor, because nothing says reception flop like an empty dance floor.  Thank goodness my dance area was so small that it appeared full most of the time.  I did like our DJ because he played real music, not music that guests felt the need to bump and grind to.  I’m sure grandmas and grandpas would appreciate not seeing that display!

Entertainment does not necessarily include the music these days.  Apparently it’s common to have special guests at your event.  You can have impersonators, belly dancers, acrobats, fireworks, flash mobs, etc.  Who knew? I guess we must be constantly entertained because of our short attention spans.

It’s fascinating to see where these brides (and grooms although we never see them) decide to spend the money on this one-day event.  You’re judged harshly if you don’t have enough flowers (and don’t even think about having fake flowers) or if you don’t pull you theme off.  I, the minimalist, can fix that, don’t have a theme!  See, I was ahead of my time. One episode had a $160,000 price tag on the event, the most expensive of the four weddings in this particular competition.  She was the most opinionated of the brides and despite all of her attention to detail, did not win and actually came in last place.  How’s that for a kick in the chops?  Her one-day event cost twice as much as my first house! And her husband joked during their vows about sleeping in his car to pay for the day.

Now let’s get to the last portion which should be the first portion … the actual ceremony, you know, the portion which actually legalizes the union.  Prepare to be judged if your ceremony is (1) in a church, (2) in a church or other venue with a long service, (3) in a church or venue where the officiate speaks in a foreign language such as Greek or Latin, (4) in a church or other venue without much décor.  Notice a theme here?  Don’t get me started on making your guests suffer through a ceremony lacking air conditioning or worse yet, having an outdoor wedding! We’re not spoiled, are we?

It’s a shame that we’ve grown up in such a self-centered world and we think the world revolves around us, especially on this special day.  Do we raise our daughters to believe that this day is all about them instead of being about their commitment to their future husband? Believe me, if during your planning, you think that your guests will remember everything about your wedding, trust me, they won’t.  Remember, we have very short attention spans. It’s a very important day in your life, a day to receive God’s gift to us, His covenant of marriage. Your guests are mere witnesses to this important covenant.  My husband kept telling me not to focus so much on the day but rather our lives afterwards, but I was a naïve 21-year-old and didn’t listen. And therefore, the day after I thought, “Now what do I do?”

I guess it was to think about everything I didn’t do?