Thursday, December 25, 2014

The First Day of Christmas

It's been a great day, brimming with a myriad of minor notables. Here are the highlights:                        
  • Hannah's quiet excitement over finally receiving a backpack of her own.
  • Lucy's not-so-quiet excitement that I finally got the super hero capes finished (thanks for your help, Mom!)
  • The crazy-loud, aleatoric scream-o version of Go, Tell It On the Mountain that my children sang in the car on the way to church this morning. 
  • Sitting in the balcony for the glorious final verse of Silent Night, sung a cappella, a full church of folks praising Almighty God, with two or three brave souls adding their descants into the mix. Absolutely breathtaking. 
  • A house full of people that I love.
  • This picture of my little super hero:
  • My nephew and my daughter snuggled up with my brother-in-law, watching Snow White.
  • Dining seat assignments scrawled on torn up sheets of binder paper, artfully arranged on fine china.
I could go on, and the truth is, these tiny things probably don't mean anything unless you were there. They are very minor miracles, but they are a still, small reminder that if we are paying attention, we can catch glimpses of the faithfulness of God. Every single day, He shows Himself trustworthy. We spend Advent in anticipation of things to come, but we are still in advent. As God's kids, we are still leaning into this time of waiting, trying to catch glimpses of the way things will be when the fullness of time comes about, and we are waiting no longer. To me, this Christmas has an air of eagerness about it, as if all Creation is whispering, "Just wait. The best is still on its way." In that way, I look forward; forward to tomorrow, when the seemingly endless march of Christmas parties continues; forward to the new year and the promise it holds; forward to the end, when I will see my Savior face to face. You see, this is merely the first day of Christmas - the best is still on its way.

Silent night! Holy night!
Son of God, love's pure light 
shines anew from Thy heavenly face,
greets the hour of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord at Thy birth,
Jesus, Lord at Thy birth.

The hour of redeeming grace came two thousand years ago, and it comes again today, and it will come again every day until the end of time. The best is still on its way. God is faithful. Always.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

I Need a Bigger Form

Forms. I have mixed feelings about them. I see the need for them, but filling them out can be a drag. I turn in an AWR (assignment work record) for Lucy's homeschool every three weeks or so - it's basically just a list of the different things that we do for school. There's a slot for every subject: math, language arts, spelling, history, science and a convenient little section labeled "other" for things like PE, arts and crafts, music lessons, etc.

This form actually isn't a drag to fill out...unless I forget, and then I'm scrambling at the last minute. :-) Life isn't easy to put on a form, though. There's a whole lot about school that can't be measured. I remember from my days as a high school teacher - the administration/BTSA/powers-that-be always wanted to be able to measure progress. There needed to be a tangible way of assessing kids' advancement, their knowledge, and their ability to apply what they had learned. Teachers had to be able to present evidence that our students were getting better at what we were trying to teach them.

As Lucy's teacher, I have to be able show my lead teachers that she's getting better at her handwriting, that she's learning how to do addition and subtraction, and that she's learning how to earn and use money, among other things. However, as Lucy's mother, I also want to be able to measure a different sort of progress. One of the benefits of homeschooling is that I get to be directly involved in the character development of my children, but it's tempting to take it too far. Sometimes I want to make myself into the powers-that-be, arming myself with an imaginary checklist: honesty...check; good work ethic...check; progress. And so it goes. But, life isn't easy to put on a form, right? I'm not the administrator of my kid's life. It's not my job to follow my daughters around with a list for them to live up to. When I do that, I'm merely teaching them how to be good citizens, instead of showing them the Gospel.

The truth is, there's not enough room on any form to tell the stories that make up so much of our schooling. Our area has been experiencing a severe drought, and our family (along with everyone else!) been praying for rain for a very long time. Well, this week we got it. The heavens opened up, and we rejoiced in our rain boots. Lucy and I stood in my bathroom a couple of days ago - the skylight in that room makes it the perfect sounding chamber for the merry pitter-patter of raindrops. As we stood there listening, Lucy asked me why God had waited so long to send rain. So I told her the truth that I am still trying to grasp; God is in charge of everything, and He makes us wait sometimes. He always gives us what He knows we need, even when it's not on our timetable. We can trust Him to be faithful, because He has proven Himself faithful again and again, over and over, from the dawn of time. When we have to wait, it is important that we do our waiting with our face toward God, trusting in our faithful Father's purpose. As we talked about this huge truth, Lucy looked at me with her big blue eyes, framed with a smattering of freckles, and I saw the wheels turning in her head. I saw the foundations of faith being laid, and it did my mama heart good.

Where do I put that on the form?

Sunday, November 30, 2014


Hey, social media. I'm calling you out. Let's take this outside.

I see what you're doing there, with your perfect pictures of Thanksgiving centerpieces and coordinating placemats.

I see you getting under my skin with adorable collages of my friends and their kids, overflowing with syrupy sweet captions about being grateful for the blessings of the season.

I see the pictures of healthy post-workout snacks, of the cute Halloween costumes, of the beautifully decorated houses.

I see the polls, the quizzes, and the click-bait articles, all waiting for me to fall into a time warp.

You see, social media, nearly every time I log in to your version of reality, I start feeling less-than: I feel bad about myself, bad about my parenting, bad about my relationship with my husband. I start feeling dull, and uninspiring, and frumpy. I start finding fault with my husband, for a multitude of infinitesimal and exceedingly stupid reasons. I start finding fault with my children, because I see the things my friends post, and they look so much better than the things I'm doing (or not doing) with my kids.

Aha. "...they look so much better..." There's the punchline. I know all about the dangers of comparison. When my fridge door is clean, this verse is the first thing I see staring at me:

"Be sure to do what you should, for then you will enjoy the personal satisfaction of having done your work well, and you won't need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct." Galatians 6:4-5 (NLT)

Truth words, those. And yet, I find myself falling into the comparison trap time and time again, and each time I come up short. The genuine, deep-in-my-gut thankfulness that I normally feel turns into heartburn. Less-than.

Since I'm being honest, I have to say that there are parts of social media that are great - I love logging in to see that a friend from college just had her first child, or to see the awesome video of my students playing the piano for their grandparents. It's things like that that keep me from closing my account and becoming a hermit (albeit one disguised as a social butterfly).

I will be the first to admit my part in this - I have been a purveyor of comparison as well as a consumer of it. I am deeply ashamed to say this, but I have been guilty of living my life from Facebook post to Facebook post, and sometimes my motives for posting have been less than awesome. Maybe it's to prove that I can be creative with the best of them, or that I too, can take artsy, quirky photographs of my children doing insanely adorable things. All of it boils down to one thing: reputation management. Trying to make myself look as good as possible. It's really ugly, right there in Times New Roman, isn't it?

Here is my antidote, my proposition, my December-resolution: this season, I will be posting exactly zero photographs of my children staring in wonder at our beautiful Christmas tree, the twinkle lights reflecting in their eyes. I will also refrain from sharing the heartwarming, meaningful Advent activities that our family somehow (never) finds the time to do. Oh, and no cake pops. I guarantee you will never see me posting about cake pops. Ever.

My motivation behind this is simple:

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life." Psalm 139:23-24

I don't think God is offended by cake pops (well...), but if I'm posting things on social media just to make myself look good, or to prove myself, or to make another person feel like they're less-than, then my heart is ugly, and God knows it. He knows it, and He wants more than that for His kids.

So, here's to a Christmas without Facebook leering over my shoulder, whispering about what a cute post that would make.

Social media, you are excused.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

If you ever needed proof that I'm a little neurotic...

I don't consider myself a control freak (No, really! Stop laughing, Mom!), but I think everyone has their trigger points. Some of us, like myself, have really stupid trigger points. Example:

People, this is the sort of thing that keeps me awake at night. The missing leg to the anatomy puzzle, the missing rod from Lucy's Goldieblox set, the missing magnetic octopus from the fishing game, the missing wooden knife from the play food cutting set, the "pencil" for the Magnatab, the missing ball for the top of the stacking rings...I could go on, but I won't. I know they're just toys, but I can't seem to let it go. All these missing things dance around in my head during the wee hours of the night like psychotic sugarplums, slowing eating away at my sanity. Okay, that was a little dramatic. However, I will confess that we are currently keeping an extra couch, partly because I can't get rid of it until I'm certain beyond a reasonable doubt that there are no toy fugitives lurking within. I have been known to spend my time after the kids are in bed armed with a flashlight, crusading on my hands and knees for the great cause of completed toy sets. It makes me feel rather noble, really.

Most of the time, the missing pieces turn up in due course. I have a checklist that I follow when searching for missing odds and ends:

1. Under the couch cushions
2. Under the couch
3. Behind the overstuffed chair
4. Under the china hutch
5. In my car (that's a terrifying prospect in and of itself)
6. In the girls' beds
7. In my bed
8. In the subwoofer (no, I'm not kidding)

This list has saved me time and time again, and every time I find a missing bit that I've been looking for, I do a happy-mama dance and sleep a little better at night, secure in the knowledge that I have helped humanity in some small way. Or, that I've somehow fed my growing obsession with order and completeness. Same difference, right?

But here's the weird part: how am I supposed to feel when the missing pieces show up on their own? What am I supposed to do when I've been turning the furniture upside down looking for the missing leg to the anatomy puzzle, and I walk out to this:

It kind of seems like it was waiting for me, doesn't it?

What's weirder (is that a word?) is when the missing piece somehow magically appears and puts itself back in its place, and no one seems to know how it got there.

Tonight, I'm happy to say that New York is back on the map, the Magnatab is usable again, Goldie can again build her spinning machine, and all is right with the toy world. But one thing will keep me awake tonight [cue: dramatic music]: where did that leg come from? 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Serious Business of School

By some crazy fluke, I ended up having no commitments today until mid-afternoon. Now, if you know me, you know that this is as rare as a Dutch person dancing: it almost never happens, and it's always a cause for celebration (and photos). My short people and I celebrated by doing school...hard-core. And I have for your viewing pleasure, photographic evidence of how seriously we take school:

Lucy clearly has her sights set on the goal of learning - you can practically see her holding aloft her lamp of knowledge.

I am a hard taskmistress - can't you tell? They have their backs to the camera, but if you could see their faces, you would see their little freckled brows furrowed in concentration. 

But see, I did have a plan in all this spontaneity. I had a grand science experiment planned; I won't give it all away, but it involved magnets and a plastic bag and salad oil and iron filaments extracted from the sandy river bank. It was going to be awesome, until this happened:

Lucy made it most of the way down the ramp (ostensibly chasing Hannah so that she wouldn't fall, guffaw), but gravity caught up with her, and therefore, I had to catch up with her. Unbeknownst to me, our beloved horseshoe magnet (read: experiment lynchpin) migrated out of my purse on my hasty trip down the ramp, and I didn't realize it until some lovely passerby had claimed it for his or her own. Boo. See here, sir or madam, this is what Julia thinks of people who steal:

 So, when we finally made it to the river and I realized that my science experiment had gone awry, I was forced to come up with a plan B. So, I took the box of Teddy Grahams (don't judge!) that I had brought for snacktime, gave the bag to my tribe (who claimed they were dying of starvation), and filled the box with sand so that we could perform our science experiment at home. I know...moment of brilliance. I've never been so thankful for Teddy Grahams. And then it was back to the serious business at hand: getting as dirty and wet as possible.

Nose to the grindstone.

After a long meander along the riverbank, we made it back to the car relatively unscathed, and managed to get home in time for lunch (the full box of Teddy Grahams merely whet their palate). But here's the punchline: I reached into my purse to unpack our precious science cargo, picked up the box...and saw a steady trickle of sand running out of one corner. Whoops.

This should have been a bummer of a morning - a lost magnet, an alarming amount of sand in the bottom of my purse, a science experiment temporarily foiled, and a pair of yellow toddler pants that will probably never recover. But really, it was a jewel, and here was the crowning moment: when Lucy found the ziploc bag on the side of the path (missing its magnet), she had a moment of sadness, but then brightened up and started using the bag to gather red and orange leaves to take home. This was huge. Let me tell you, the Lucy of six months ago would have let that pilfered magnet ruin her day. That, my friends, is character development, and it's (one reason) why I signed up for this gig in the first place. And I'll tell you another thing: I needed to see that, and I needed to write about it tonight, because it's been a bummer of an evening, and I've been sitting here letting a handful of little things ruin my day, instead of asking the Lord to open my eyes to everything that He wants me to learn, to everything that He wants me to gather from this and take home. Lucy's not the only student here...and that's (one reason) why I signed up for this gig in the first place.

"Let the fields and their crops burst out with joy! Let the trees of the forest sing for joy."
Psalm 96:12 (NLT)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Babies and Ballerinas

I've been waiting for the other shoe to drop. I knew that there would come a day when Lucy would broach the subject of race. I kept waiting for the questions and the observations to start. Then, the other day, we were buying some fabric, and there happened to be a display of baby dolls next to the cutting counter. Lucy picked up an African-American doll, and here was our conversation:

Lucy: Mommy, I know people that look like this.
Me: Yes, you do, like Zoey and Cousin Elijah, right? Isn't it wonderful that God makes people in all shapes and sizes and colors? God is so creative, isn't He?
Lucy: Yup!

The end. Very anticlimactic. 

Lucy got a painting set a couple of years ago - one of those DIY deals where you mix plaster and put it in a mold, and then paint the figurines (in this case, ballerinas) when they're dry. She's had a lot of fun with these, and we've had a set on the counter for about a week, waiting patiently to be decorated. I feel silly admitting this, but I enjoy painting them as much as Lucy does - she tends toward the abstract in her painting method, whereas I prefer a more realistic approach. Here are hers:

She's actually getting quite good at layering the paint for different effects - the more paint, the better, right? ;-) PS - I apologize for my grout - yuck!

Okay, show and tell time - here's my first ballerina, from a few weeks ago:

I artistic prowess has rendered you speechless.

Anyway, I guess that conversation I had with Lucy must have still been rattling around in my brain, because this is what I came up with during this afternoon's painting session:

I had a lot of trepidation about painting a doll that did not look like me - it felt weird and somehow wrong, like I was treading on forbidden territory. I have to think more about why I felt this's a loaded subject. But, I really wanted to continue that conversation with Lucy, so I took a risk. Here was what transpired:

Lucy: Mom, she needs more sparkles.

The end.

This conversation will probably replay itself many times - I'm not ready to talk to my five-year-old about Ferguson, or slavery, or all the many forms of inequality that she will encounter. Like I said, it's a loaded subject. But for now, I'd like to think that this conversation means I'm doing my job well.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Out of Breath and Laughing

I sat on the side of the field, crocheting and doing the mommy-scan, making sure I had occasional eyes on Hannah and Julia up on the playground while still keeping tabs on Lucy during her PE class. Eighteen or so little people ran up and down the field, chasing a soccer ball and each other. Lucy was right in the thick of it, and she seemed to be doing fine. That is, until I saw her face and realized that she was crying hysterically.

I froze mid-stitch, unsure of what to do. Do I swoop in and rescue her? Is she hurt? Do I let her figure this out on her own? And seriously, what could possibly be THAT BAD about running around playing bunch ball? Why the hysterics? I have a horror of being "that" mom; you know, the helicopter mom who won't let her kid fall down or fail at anything. And yet, I didn't want to just let her cry - it's her first time doing anything like this, and I wanted it to be a positive, fun experience for her, not something she discusses with her therapist as an adult. And so it went, this wild oscillation of thoughts and feelings as I watched my five-year-old with tears running down her face. I brought her a water bottle and knelt there on the field, patting her back and lamely encouraging her to keep trying. It was the best I could think up on short notice. I truly have no idea what I'm doing.

This is brand-new, uncharted territory for me, and let me tell you, it was rather uncomfortable to be the mom of the emotional shipwreck in a sea of seemingly well-adjusted kiddos. I could feel eyes on me like gnats, and I tried to ignore them and focus on the little girl in front of me.

I found out later (when the storm had subsided) that Lucy was crying because running was so hard for her. She was hot and winded, and she didn't like that sensation, hence the tears. Andrew and I talked about it that evening, and decided to start making more of a point of playing with the girls after dinner each evening, just running around, kicking the ball, being active, having fun.  No pressure, just fun.

I try to run in the mornings before Andrew leaves for work, but that's for my own sanity, not in order to be a shining example to my children. The girls don't see me run (no one would see me run if I had my druthers), although when I get back they are sometimes plastered to the front window like those little suction cup cats, just waiting for me. The soccer incident made me realize that I need to involve the girls in the physical part of my life. Lucy needs to see me exerting myself. She needs to see that it's okay to get sweaty, to use her body. She needs to see that it's fun to run around - I want her to know that I don't run in the morning so that I will be thin (thankfully, she doesn't even know what that means yet), or strong, or even fit. I do it because I enjoy it. She needs to see me out of breath and laughing. I don't even care if she plays soccer past this month's class, but ten years from now, I want her to love using her body. Ten years from now, I want her to be right next to me, out of breath and laughing.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

My Favorite (Broken) Things, or, A Sixth Love Language

The other day I discovered teeth marks in my deodorant, and upon further investigation, I observed that Julia's breath was remarkably shower fresh. I debated whether or not to call poison control, but I'm not sure if they keep a running total of how many times you call. I've already called once this month...I didn't want to push my luck.

It's official - nothing is sacred, not even the stuff that I smear on my armpits.

I've had my suspicions for a while - my favorite necklace that got broken, that perfect camisole that got transformed into a tube top by a toddler armed with scissors, the constant clomping of little feet shod in my shoes, their obsession with my latest crochet project, my broken watering can, the pen marks all over my sheet music, my super-cute purse that died a sad death from being sat upon, Julia's insistence on chewing on my running earbuds, and their deep-seated conviction that my food tastes better than theirs. Sometimes it feels like being beaten to death with feathers.

There's a book that's been around for years - the Five Love Languages. It's supposed to be really good, although I haven't found the time to read it yet. In spite of this, I propose an addition, because I am fairly certain that my kids' love language is destruction.

I know that my children love me, but it seems like they can't leave my stuff alone. Wait, let me rephrase that. I know that my children love me, and therefore, they can't leave my stuff alone.

How does that saying go? Imitation is the highest form of flattery, right? If you translate that to short-person logic, it goes like this: I love you so much that I'm going to play with (and subsequently break) all of the things that I see you wearing and using, because playing is how I learn and I'm learning all about you so that I can be just like you. 

Well, girls, I'm flattered. And...I'll try not to take it personally.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

FOMO, or, Teacher God

In my younger days, I had this fear that someone was always doing something more interesting than I was. I remember one incident from college when I was scheduled to work and had to miss a concert that I'd had been looking forward to for weeks. I was devastated - I mean, over-the-top angst that all my friends had spent the evening in an outdoor amphitheater under the stars, while I had to work the tool corral at the hardware store. Looking back, it was such a silly thing to get so worked up over, but when you're nineteen and a little high-strung, missing something like that feels like your whole life has passed you by.

That fear has not gone away as I've gotten older; it just keeps dressing up in different costumes. I struggle with a tendency to overload my family's schedule with social events and day-trips, because I don't want to miss out on anything. It doesn't seem like I'm doing it at the time, because when we get invited to something that sounds fun or worthwhile, my natural response is YES! But in saying yes all the time, I sometimes ignore the needs of the rest of my family, especially its more introverted members. I also ignore my own needs, because I desperately need a little margin in my life. And it goes deeper than that, because as we've started school, I've begun to unintentionally project this onto Lucy - I don't want her to miss out on anything, and there's a temptation to overload her school day with field-trips, enrichment, art classes, PE, workshops, etc.When I overload our day, bad things happen: the meat for dinner gets left in the freezer, lessons get double-booked, and my three-year-old starts doing things like cutting the straps off my favorite tank top with the scissors that I forgot to put away (true stories, all three). But, I digress.

When I was getting my teaching credential, I learned a technique called spiral teaching. If you're not familiar with it, here's the gist - a concept is introduced in its most basic form, and then revisited many times over a long period, each time spiraling upward in complexity, thereby committing the concept to long-term memory. This idea struck me not too long ago: God is a teacher as well as a potter. A potter works in a spiral, revisiting the same material many times, each time deepening the complexity of his movements until the form of the pot is set. The fact that I have fears does not mean that God is unfaithful to me, because whenever my fears put on a new outfit, I have another chance to trust the Lord. God is faithful to mold me, and with each turn of the wheel, He asks, "Child, will you trust Me?" As I've gotten a wee bit older and have taken a few more steps down this road of faith, it's gotten easier to recognize the disguises that my fears take on - I've gotten better at seeing them for what they are.

That internal pressure I feel to say yes to an invitation, even though the party falls on our family's only free evening all week? Same fear, different clothes.

That irrational feeling that homeschooling will somehow doom my children to a life of social isolation, despite the fact that we are surrounded by a network of extremely supportive friends and family, and despite the fact that my kids spend tons of time with other children their age? Same fear, different clothes.

That nagging doubt when I scroll through my Facebook feed and see all the activities that my friends have their kids doing, when I wonder if my kids are missing out by not doing T-ball, or soccer, or whatever, even though two of my kids are too young, and Lucy has no interest in doing any of those things? Same fear, different clothes.

And each of these things is another time around the wheel, with my faithful God gently pressing my heart, molding me, giving me eyes to see my fears for what they are, His Spirit whispering in my ear, "Child, will you trust Me?"

Sunday, August 31, 2014

We Might Need That Someday, or, The Lilies of the Field

I can always tell when Hannah has been in her room unattended, because it looks like a tornado ripped through her clothing drawer. Clean and dirty clothes mingle unashamedly on every imaginable surface, including, on one memorable occasion, the fan blades. It's impossible to tell what belongs with what, what needs to go back in the drawer, and what was worn just long enough for her to wipe her nose on it. Indeed, it seems as though most of her clothes spend more time on the floor or in the hamper then they do on her body. Our laundry basket reflects this, because when I finally get around to washing clothes (which seems to happen way too often and not nearly often enough), I can divide the pile into thirds: two-thirds Hannah, and one-third for the other two girls.
How many clothes does one child need? Three children? My girls each have a drawer full of clothes and they share a closet that is bursting at the seams, but they wear the same favorites every single week (except for Hannah, who wears everything for 30-seconds at a time). For all my lofty talk of not acquiring more stuff, we always seem to have way too many clothes. Someone offers me a bag of hand-me-downs, and I gasp, "Yes, we need those! If Lucy doesn't wear them, I'll save them for Hannah, or for Julia..."After all, my family motto has long been, "I might need that someday." ;-)
Do I really want to be storing clothes for five years, just on the off chance that one of my children could maybe, someday wear them? Elastic wears out, and the worn-out clothing that I save for play time and camping trips will still be ripped and stained the next time I pull it out of the box. The adorable dresses that I so lovingly hoard could be clothing someone else's child right now.
Fear: that's what this really comes down to. I have this fear that as soon as I get rid of an article of clothing, one of my children is going to need it. There's this voice in my head that whispers, "Just you watch - you're going to give away the shorts that Julia never wears, and then there will come a day when she'll rip holes in every pair of shorts she owns, and you're going to wish you'd kept those extra clothes, missy..." Well, I say boo to that little voice, that boogeyman that keeps me clinging to that adorable little sweater from Gymboree, because it was so sweet of so-and-so to give it to us, and maybe the last of my girls will decide that she likes this sweater, even though the other two didn't like it at all. Boo, I say, Boo, to quote Foghorn Leghorn.
Lucy and I were just discussing this the other day. She had broken her toy airplane, and she wanted to know why it had broken. We talked about being careful with her things, but we also talked about how plastic toys usually break pretty quickly. She wanted to know if her wooden toys would last forever, so we talked about how nothing here on earth lasts forever, and how we need to be sure that our lives are filled with the most important things. God has a sense of humor, because if I'd kept reading that passage, I would have found this:
"Why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and see how they grow. They don't work or make their clothing, and yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown in the fire tomorrow, He will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?" Matthew 6: 28-30
There it is: why do you have so little faith? Why do I try and put my confidence in cute little dresses from Osh-Kosh and Children's Place, rather than clothing myself in faith? It's time for me to open my hands and trust that God will give us enough, rather than trying to provide for myself. It's time for me to remember all the times when He has been faithful to our family and to the people I love, rather than being scared of what tomorrow might bring. It is time.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

My Daughter is Not a Commercial, or, A Battle Lost

Lucy and I went to the local big box store to buy some last minute supplies for Kindergarten (including a new backpack, since Julia (aka Hulk-toddler) managed to rip Lucy's brand-new one right down the side). We got everything else we needed and headed back to the rack of backpacks and lunch boxes. As we approached, I immediately began thinking, "This was a BAD idea - I should have done this on my own..."
You see, from the moment I became a parent, I've been pretty picky about the media that I allow into the house. My husband and I don't watch TV while the girls are awake, they don't spend much time (if any!) on the iPad or computer, and I'm pretty choosy about the shows I let them watch on Netflix. We don't do princesses or battery-operated toys, and I do my best to encourage cars and spaceships in addition to dolls and play kitchens. I don't let the girls wear clothes with cartoon characters on them (PJ's are an exception, since no one sees them but us) - I hate the idea of my girls being free, mobile advertising for Disney and Nickelodeon. I just think that part of my job as a mother is to act as gatekeeper - the amount of aggressive marketing directed toward kids (especially girls) is staggering, and I just want to stem the tide, if I can. I'm not anti-media, but I want my girls to be thoughtful consumers, once they're old enough to be making those decisions - at age five, three and two, I don't think that day had come just yet. Now, I'm not going to lie, this is not a perfect system. My girls do watch Disney movies occasionally, and I let Lucy watch Frozen twice. Meh. I'm actually rather partial to the movie Tangled, as much as I'm ashamed to admit it. ;-)
So, back to the story - as we walked up to this sea of school time goodies, I saw nothing but cartoon characters. As we started looking through the various offerings, I found a really great alternative - it had ice cream cones all over it, lots of pink scribbles, and (the best part) lit up when you tapped it! Totally cool, right?? Nope, because my five-year-old had fixated on a Frozen-themed pink and purple confection of a backpack. I did my best to talk her out of it, but all my big ideas just wouldn't come out of my mouth when I wanted them to. Somehow we ended up taking that monstrosity home, and Anna and Elsa sat there smirking at me from my kitchen counter that evening. Ha ha ha, they said. We've won, and it's all downhill from here...
Here's the thing: in some ways, things have gone downhill in the past few days since this backpack came into our house. Lucy has become obsessed with watching Frozen again, and whenever it comes up, she throws a tantrum when I say no. It started before we even left the store, in fact. Once she got the backpack she wanted, she started asking for everything! It was ridiculous! I kept reminding her of all the toys she has at home (despite our recent effort to clean out, it seems like they multiply overnight), but she just whined and complained about wanting that toy/shirt/book, whatever it was. It was disappointing, and looking back, I should have trusted my gut, put all of our school supplies back (including the backpack) and walked out of the store. 
I spend much of my prayer time asking the Lord for parenting wisdom, especially when it comes to our "stuff". I want to teach my kids how to be grateful - grateful for what we have, but more importantly, grateful for what we don't have. The more toys, the more clean-up you have to do. The bigger the house, the more you have to clean. The more clothes you have, the more laundry you have to do. The more money you have, the more likely you're going to be a slave to it. Life is not about stuff acquisition!
Lucy's a really great kid, and there are times when she blows me away with her generosity. She's smart, articulate, social, and very responsible. And I know, maybe I'm reading too much into a backpack, but as we make this transition into school, I want to be very conscious of the things she's taking in - it's a (small) part of the reason that we chose to homeschool. And the thing is, it's not even that I'm afraid of her becoming obsessed with something. Every kid is obsessed with something at one time or another. I was no exception, since I spend most of my childhood enamored with poisonous spiders. ;-) But if she's going to be obsessed with something, let it be ladybugs, or horses, or rocks, or building with tinkertoys, or anything besides a movie. I guess it could be worse...she could have chosen the Monster High backpack. :-p