Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Day We Came Close To Losing Our House-Part 1

Eight years ago we had an above ground pool removed from our backyard.  We had every intention of turning the now blank space into yard, but life and time got away from us.  Which means for the past eight years I have looked out my back windows and seen this.

We tried several times to tame the beast of weeds, my mother-in-law took a crack at it and ended up with a wicked case of poison ivy (sorry Mom!).  But every year the beast just kept getting worse and worse.  And every time I looked out my windows, it just made sad and stressed because it was ugly and meant I had this big project hanging over my shoulder.

This spring I'd had enough.  I informed Hubby that I was calling a landscaping service and paying to get it turned into lawn.  I had two companies come out, and when I was standing outside with the second guy, I started looking at the five nearly dead pine trees and asked if he also did tree removal.  Thus was born a much bigger project.

The landscapers came out last week and started cutting down the trees.  I watched from the window as the two guys attempted to cut down tree number one.  I was horrified.  Their methods were completely wrong even to this lady who has never cut down a tree.  But I assure you their methods looked nothing like in the movies or on YouTube.  I asked Hubby what I should do.  He asked me if they were bonded and insured.  Yes, I did check before hiring them.  He said to sit back and enjoy the show.  I watched their chainsaw break three times, get stuck twice, and one of the guys get nearly crushed when the tree started falling and he was in the way.

The guys did manage to take down the first tree without killing anyone or destroying my house.  But when they got to the second tree, things went a little.....crazy.  First, they tried to straight cut the tree.  No notching.  I watched them struggle for a while to get the tree down with more cutting, pushing, and even using chains to pull it over.  Not sure how safe that option was.  The boss showed up and looked over the tree.  I then watched them strap the nearly cut down tree to another tree.  I assumed so it would fall in the right direction.  Next thing I know the three guys are in my driveway getting in their trucks about to drive away.  I ran out the door in my socks to flag down the boss to see what the heck they were doing just leaving the tree like that.  Turns out they decided the project was too much for them and were calling in someone else with the right equipment.  They should be to my house in under two hours.  O-kaaaaay.

This is NOT how you cut down a tree

This is NOT how you keep a tree upright

They left around 1pm.  I left to run errands and get the kids from school.  We got home around 4pm and no tree crew.  I took pictures of the tree and their tow rope hack job.  I looked at the tree some more and realized it was leaning toward my house.  I decided it was in my best interest to take videos of the contents of the rooms on the backside of my house.  Just in case the tree fell on the house.  I then called Boss Man and asked when the tree crew was coming.  He said he would call them and call me right back.

In the ten minute interim, David went into the backyard to examine the tree and then get the lawn mower out of the shed.  He had just made it to the front yard and I went outside to talk to him when I heard a loud crack.  It took a second for the sound to register and then I went running.  Oh my gosh!  The tree just fell down!  What did it hit?!?!?!  

The tree fell down

This shows how much of the tree was not when they
decided it was safe to just leave it

Thankfully, God blessedly, it fell into the woods and hurt nothing.  But my heart was racing and Boss Man chose that moment to call me back.  Some words that were not the nicest flew out of my mouth.  "The tree just fell down!  It could have killed my kids who were just back here!  It could have taken out my house!  What were you guys thinking???  Those guys who were over here cutting down the trees are idiots and have no business being around a chainsaw until they are properly trained on how to cut down a tree.  Even I know that their methods were wrong and I only know what I've seen on TV and YouTube!"  And so on and so on.  I was mad, I was pumped up on adrenaline, and he caught me right in the moment.  

Boss Man kind of apologized, said that wasn't good, but that a tree crew would be at my house as soon as they finished up their current project.  No real apology, no remorse for leaving a big, hulking, nearly cut down tree just standing there where it could have fallen down on anyone or anything.  I hung up the phone disgusted and vowed never to use that landscape company again.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Life As A Track Mom

I spent seven years as a soccer mom and two years as a cross country mom, but nothing about either of those roles prepared me for being a track mom.  I've watched soccer games in the snow, in the rain, in the blazing heat, and in the middle of mosquito swarming season.  I have watched cross country meets in the rain and in the heat, slapping off mosquitoes.

Watching David's soccer game in a sleet storm

I found soccer to be fun, mostly because my kids were part of the homeschool soccer league and many of their friends were also on their teams.  Meaning I got to hang out with the parents and catch up.

Soccer on a really hot day

Cross country I found to be a little less than...thrilling.  They run on courses that take them through fields and woods, most of which are out of sight, so you stand around for twenty or so minutes while your child is running, and you catch maybe three glimpses of them between the start and finish lines.  But the good thing about cross country is that the meets are short.

This spring I became a track mom.  Nothing I have ever done as a mother adequately prepared me for what it means to be a track mom.  The meets are not local.  Local meets are for weaklings.  No, David's meets require waking up early on a Saturday morning and driving a minimum of an hour and a half across the state to parts of Michigan that we have never seen before.

You must pack food, large quantities of food, because track meets are long.  Not a few hours long, but a few hundred hours long.  At a track meet, time literally stands still.  Or at least that is how it feels.  After you think that you have already been there for an eternity, you look at your phone and realize that it's only been five minutes.  You think about crying.  You sit there on a hard bleacher for hours and hours, waiting in between the various races that your child is competing in.  Which means that depending on the events your child is in, you could sit there for 4-8 hours, just to see your child run for a total of 1-2 minutes.

Notice the hate, 2 hoodies, and blanket--track meet--still cold

Track meets can be cold.  Bone-numbingly cold.  David's first track meet lasted more than seven hours (and that does not count the field events that happened earlier in the morning that David mercifully did not choose to participate in).  I had on a shirt, two hoodies, a winter hat, gloves, wool socks, and wrapped myself in two blankets.  I was still cold.  I lost feeling in my legs and feet.  My nose nearly froze off.  I contemplated strangling the people running the track meet for being so inefficient.  But I made it through the event and decided this would be the last season David was allowed to do track.

The second meet was overcast but warmer and mercifully, shorter.  We were only there for a little under four hours.  By the time the track meet was over, I still had feeling in all my extremities so I considered it a success.

The third meet was a lot like the second.  Except this time the sun came out.  Of course I did not factor in the need for sunscreen.  After four hours of sitting in on and off again sun, my face looked like a tomato.  Lesson learned.  But at this meet, David actually made the cut to run in the 100 meter dash final.  First there are the prelims where all the kids competing in the 100m event race in heats.  The top 8 runners move on to the final race.  David ultimately fell in the final, but it was exciting to see him do well.

Which brings me to his final meet.  David's relay team made the cut to go to the State finals for the 4x100m relay.  The meet is an hour and a half away.  As we were driving home from his meet this past weekend, it dawned on me.  We will be spending three hours in the car to go to a track meet where we will sit and wait just to see David run in a race that lasts about 1 minute, his part being about 15 seconds.  Yes, we will be driving three hours to see David run for 15 seconds.

Thus is the life of a track mom.


Thursday, May 18, 2017

When Life Doesn't Feel Worth It

A teacher in my area committed suicide recently.  He wasn't a teacher at my kids' school, but was a favorite teacher at their friend's school.  For various reasons, it came up in conversation in my house.  We have talked about suicide in the past, but only in very simple terms.  

Today on the way to school, Lizzy asked about this man and why he would decide to end his life.  The news hasn't indicated his motivation.  I could only speculate--I said that there are many reasons why people feel their only option is to end it.  Financial stress, relationship issues, mental illness, physical ailments, addiction, abuse, feeling hopeless.  For teenagers, the most common reason I read about is from being bullied.  My kids were shocked.  

"I want you to hear me very clearly:  If you ever find yourself in a place where you think that it would be better to be dead, you come to me.  If you are being bullied, we will pull you right out of that school.  If you have made choices that leave you feeling trapped, you talk to me and I will help you.  I don't ever want you to think that there is no other choice.  Because that just isn't true."

When you are in the thick of things, it can be hard to remember that there is light at the end of the tunnel.  I have been there.  Five years ago I found myself at a busy intersection wondering what would happen if I just drove on through when it wasn't my turn.  As a middle school kid, I thought about suicide on more than one occasion.  I couldn't even tell you what was going on in my life when I was 13 that made me feel that way.  

As an adult, as I sat at that red light, I knew that it was time to get help.  I hadn't realized I was that bad off until that moment.  And it scared me.  I made an appointment with my doctor and got put on effective meds.  Best decision ever.  

Again, just a few months ago, I found myself understanding why people with chronic pain/illnesses/disabilities would feel suicide was the answer.  After months of dealing with chronic muscle/joint/nerve pain with no diagnosis or end in sight, I started to see how it could get to be too much for someone.  Living life in pain sucks.  Without God sustaining me, I could see myself falling into depression and feeling hopeless.  

So I get it.  I get that life is hard and painful and scary and ugly.  That people can be mean and nasty.  That jobs can be lost, finances gone.  That addictions can leave people feeling trapped.  These things are real issues.  The struggles are real and difficult.  

Which is why I am real with my kids.  I can hope that they never feel this way, but the reality is that they probably will find themselves at least once wondering if life is worth living.  I need them to know that it is.  That there is nothing that we can't work through.  That in the moment they may feel hopeless, but God, Hubby and I will see them through to the other side.  

Friday, May 12, 2017

Life In The Sweet Spot

Parenting used to be a lot harder when my kids were younger.  Midnight feedings, inconvenient and stinky diaper changes, teaching little children about impulse control...  Of course I loved my kids, but  the end of the day usually found me burned out and just wanting them to go to bed.

As time has gone by, and as my kids have gotten more capable, things are shifting in my house.  The burden of care has shifted from me doing everything to them doing almost everything for themselves.  And they are now helpful members of the family.  They do yard work, dishes, cleaning, some cooking.  Basically, my kids now pull their own weight.

Along with this, my kids have matured as people.  My kids are funny, intelligent, creative, fun to be around.  They are pursuing things they are interested in.  They're becoming young adults.  And it is so fun to watch them grow.  I am fully aware that right now we are living in the sweet spot between "young kids" and "hormones."  And I fully plan to enjoy every blessed moment of it.

Over the past year, each of my kids have discovered new interests that they are excited about.  David took up cross country and track last year, but this year he has really gotten into it.  He enjoys practice, he enjoys the meets.  He even runs at home outside of practice.

Lizzy has found a love of kayaking.  Her grandma got a kayak that she keeps at the lake house.  My kids have all taken turns trying it, but Lizzy LOVES it.  So much so that she asked for her own kayak for her birthday.

Joy started in cross country and track this year.  She really looks forward to practice, but has chosen to forgo the meets until next year.  Which is just fine with me.  But something new that she has taken to is the guitar.  Hubby had his guitar out the other night, Joy expressed interest in learning how to play, and the next thing I know Joy has her own guitar (Hubby's old one) and is practicing the four chords Hubby taught her.

Time really does fly by when it comes to raising kids.  Yesterday they were all still in car seats and diapers.  Today my oldest is about to graduate from middle school and my youngest is telling me that she will make me breakfast because I am too busy getting stuff ready for the Confirmation party to make my own.  We've transitioned from Thomas the Train discussions to having in depth conversations about things like North Korea and birth control because my kids asked.

It is so much fun watching my kids grow into who God has made them to be.  To see them become their own people.  To encourage them as they discover new interests and passions.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Confirmation: What's The Point?

I grew up in a very small Evangelical church that had some traditions, but not many.  Yes, I was baptized and went through "classes" to learn the Apostle's Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Ten Commandments, and other pillars of the Christian faith.  My church was definitely Bible believing, but it was very much not a "traditional" church.

Fast forward to my adulthood and married life.  The church was disbanded, so the Hubs and I were tasked with finding a new church home.  As a Protestant, finding a church isn't as easy as it would seem.  We spent two years at a larger Evangelical church, but it was over a half hour away and was hard on the family to get there.  We then attended an Anglican church for two years, had our kids baptized, and were about to join the church when the Pastor announced he was moving away.  The church floundered at that point, and we decided that we were ready to try something else.  We visited many churches--Baptist, Presbyterian, nondenominational, Lutheran.  I didn't like any of them.  We stopped going almost all together for about a year.

It was at this point that I had to wrestle with my faith as an adult, to decide what doctrine I actually believed apart from my upbringing.  I had to decide what aspects of church life were essential to my faith, and what aspects just got in the way.

One day I remember Hubs laying on the couch, I was sitting on the floor, and we were talking about church and my wanting to stop homeschooling.  I jokingly told Hubby that we needed to join the Lutheran church so we could get the school discount and then send our kids there.  He said, "Yes we should.  I liked that church."  I gave him a funny look because we had visited that church several times over two years, but he hadn't ever expressed an opinion of it either way.

But it was that conversation that changed the course of our family church and school life.  The next Sunday we started going to our church, went through the church membership class, dropped out of the membership class halfway through after I encountered aspects of the faith that I didn't agree with.  Hubs and I worked through it, I decided to agree to disagree on a few issues and go with it anyway, we joined up with the next membership class,finished it and then joined the church.  Our kids started at the school the next fall.

David began the two-year-long Confirmation process at school.  As David was going through all the work involved--prayer journals, writing weekly family devotionals, service hours, required family service projects, sermon reports, etc, I started to wonder if it was even worth it.  What was the big deal about being Confirmed?  I was never Confirmed and I turned out alright.  Yes, it meant he would be able to officially take Communion, which was about the only benefit I saw in actually finishing the process.  The education aspect was a good thing, learning the Creeds, the Bible, the Salvation story, so that was good.  But I didn't see the point of the actual act of Confirming kids.

On Sunday David was Confirmed.  It wasn't until the 8th graders all stood up and stated their beliefs in God, the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, the Faith, that it really made sense to me.  These teenagers stand there in white robes, publicly proclaim their decision to follow God, are blessed by the Pastor, prayed over, and receive their first Communion.  It reminded me of a wedding.  Which I am sure is actually the point.  It is a believer's decision to join in Holy union with God.  They say, "I do" and God says, "Eat my Body which was broken for you, Drink my Blood which was poured out for you."  The entire thing is actually completely right and beautiful.  And it really is a big deal.  

Showing off his Confirmation present stash--
a Bible and devotional were not pictured