7.18.2017

More then Enough

Recently I read a blog post from one of the few bloggers I follow. And apparently I like this blogger so much that if you would have asked me her name ten minutes ago, I could not even have recalled the beginning letters. (My attention to detail may be lacking in a few areas....as it turns out, Adderall does not fix everything.)

At any rate, she recently reposted a post that I loved the first time around and clearly she did too because she sent it out again (or maybe she was just out of ideas that day.....or even more likely, maybe it just popped up again when I was trying to clear out the 4,000+ emails in my inbox.....please read my above statement about some things NOT being fixable!)

Her name, for the record, is Ann Voskamp. She is a Christian writer and mom and farmer's wife and I will admit to admiring her on so many levels. Maybe even wanting to BE her at times. But mostly, I am inspired. Like most people frantically making it through this life, I need grounding and Ann offers that in ways I don't even know I need sometimes.

This particular post she wrote really hit home though. To put it simply, she offers you three words, neatly packaged in a sweet little story, to remind you that what you get in life is sufficient. Those words, "I get enough," inspired my new mantra:

I get enough.
I have enough.
I am enough.

Whenever I feel shortchanged, I remind myself that, like the child in Ann's story, I get enough. I get enough of everything I need. Food, water, sunshine, happiness, sadness, challenges, all those ordinary days that seem to last forever and go by too fast...oh, and oxygen! (Laugh, but until my doctor got my asthma under control this allergy season, I was not getting the oxygen I needed and trust me, you definitely want enough of that! I now hoard it. I admit it. I am an oxygen hoarder because I now know how much I LOVE to breathe!) But seriously, I get enough. Growing up, I had incredibly generous parents who gave me more than enough. Now that I am an adult (at least on paper) I have an amazing husband who provides us with a life beyond what I could have imagined. And while that doesn't mean we have no problems, I can honestly say, I get enough.

And because I get enough, I have enough. I have enough messes to clean up; my house is bigger than I could possibly stay on top of....if I lived in a third world country, I could host the whole village....and maybe the competing one down the street with the second watering hole. I have more kids than I can keep track of, more activities than are humanly possible to manage alone, more ideas and dreams than I know what to do with and even if I may try to tell you otherwise, I do. not. need. any. more. cowboy boots. (Or chickens. Or rabbits because holy guacamole, forget the carrots, we have RABBITS coming out our ears!). I have enough.

But the big one. The one that I need to tell myself and hear most often. The one thing I need to believe with all my heart and soul lest I mess the whole of this life up and waste it chasing something I cannot even pinpoint:

I am enough.

This last year, I turned forty. 4-0! About six months before that happened, I started freaking out. Like really, truly, clearly-having-a-midlife-crisis, all out panicking. Now, I do not believe I know anyone who, at some point, doesn't question who they are and what they are doing with their lives (you know, unless they are, say, six) but this was a real monster of a wall. Who am I? What am I? What am I doing? What have I done that is important and noteworthy and worthy of this life I have been given? What about me and my plot in life is good and noble and lasting? What will be my legacy? Do I even have one? If I die tomorrow, will my life have mattered beyond my family and few friends? (And no, don't argue with me that my life's worth is in my having 5 ridiculously wonderful kids because my rabbits do that every. single. month....not impressive.)

Six months I tortured myself. Maybe even longer. And then my birthday came and went, like all 39 before that, and the monster at the end of the book was just me and life kept rolling along and when I finally settled down and realized forty is no big deal, I began to grasp that our ultimate purpose, our ultimate worth, is not some big, impressive something that needs to be acknowledged by the world. Really, it isn't even about us at all. It is simply this: We are, we exist, because God loves us. Created in His image, for His love alone, His hope and desire for us is beyond our comprehension. You. Me. We are enough. Enough for God to create, to wait for, to hope for, to fight for.....Enough for God to love. Even enough for death on a cross. We are enough.

It isn't showy. It isn't an Ivy League degree or a high powered job or a wardrobe of designer clothes or a segment on the national news. It doesn't put us in the spotlight of the world or even in our tiny towns. It doesn't make us a rock star to a flock of chickens or help us win soccer games or fold the laundry or put dinner on the table or build our clientele. And yet.....it is more than enough. More than we could possibly imagine or create for ourselves. And if we, if I am enough for that, I am enough for anything.

And so are you.

****

And since everything sounds cooler in Latin, I leave you with a new mantra to try out for yourself:

Adepto Satis,
Habeo Satis,
Ego Sum Satis


And if I were preaching this in a church, I would now cheesily have the congregation sing (to the tune "We are the Church"):

I am enough.
You are enough.
We are enough together.....

And they would go about their day, humming it to themselves, remembering. (And trying to get that blasted tune out of their head!) Just like you will. (You're welcome!)

Much love to you all my friends!

(p.s. Don't trust my Latin....)






6.13.2017

To Where Does Time Fly?

"Mom, I saw something really funny at school today," Lily says.

I try to listen but anymore, the rush of words spewing from the mouths of my kids seems to get jumbled in my already crowded brain and the best I can do is stare at them blankly. Sometimes I nod. 

"Lily, I am so sorry. I couldn't concentrate on all of those words. Could you repeat it?"

"Oh, I totally get that!" she says honestly. "So, I read this at school and it is really funny:
Friends are like snowflakes..... 
If you pee on them, they go away."

The humor snaps me back to the present and I glance over at Lily. We laugh for a very long time. 

* * * *

How did it get to be summer break already? These last few weeks and months have flown by yet in the getting here, their heels were dragging! Or maybe those were mine. 

For months I fretted over the impending decade change that I experienced on this year's birthday.....I lost my way, found it again, lost it, stopped bothering to look for it.....but found it anyway when I stopped freaking out and realized that the monster at the end of the book was just me....still me.....fury, lovable old Grover Graceful Chicken. (With an emphasis on the old now I guess.)

Where did the time fly off to anyway? 

Playing soccer against a high schooler recently, he was unable to take me on 1v1. He had been smack talking the other boys all day so I said, "Hey, how does it feel to be beat by a lady old enough to be your mother?" 

It was really funny at the time but when I pause to think about the truth behind it, I'm stumped. How did I get to be the adult around here? I pondered this question as I helped cut Solomon's fingernails yesterday. He was complaining that it hurt and Lily told him: Well, THAT'S why I do my own! I flashed back to conversations with my grandparents about how to cut and file your own fingernails. I must have been about 5th grade and my grandparents were taking me out to lunch I think. I don't know why it was just the three of us but the moment still stands vividly in my memory. My grandpa thought we were still talking about using the nail file properly but grandma and I had changed the subject to the best way to cut your dominant hand's fingernails, yet there he was, chiming in: "I just hold it still like this and move my other hand back and forth across it like this."

Grandma and I took one look at each other and burst into giggles. 

Grandma is 98 now and Grandpa has been gone for over twenty years. And somehow, someone thought it was a good idea to put ME in charge! I mean, for real y'all. I still laugh over 'friends being like snowflakes because they both go away if you pee on them'......that's who's running this show! (At least in part....)

The absurdity of it struck home last week when I emptied out Solomon's school backpack. 


Look closely......what doesn't belong? Ding ding ding! That Leatherman knife/tool combo probably doesn't belong in the kindergarten classroom. But this adult in the room? She did not even know she was missing one!

"Solly, you can't take knives into school buddy," I told him, withholding my chuckles as best I could. 

"You can't?" he asked, as if he didn't realize it until just now. (He's sneaky, that one.)

 "No, Solomon. They will expel you from school if you take in a knife. Do you know what that means?" I asked. He shook his head no.

"It means you wouldn't be able to go back to school anymore," I declared. 

There was a pause before he slyly responded: "Really......hmmmmm."

The wheels are a'turnin'. I want to tell him, "Hold on to this moment, Solly, because someday, someone is going to get the bright idea to make you the responsible adult in the room and...." OH! MY! GOOD! LORD! 

You have all been warned! 


 
 

3.10.2017

Sollytude

It's that time of year....Lent. If you would have asked me in the fall about the next Lenten season, I would have given you all sorts of wonderful challenges I wanted my family to accept. I started writing about conquering fear. I had epiphany moments where I ran straight into the face of some of my own fears and knocked them out of the park. At least temporarily. I focused on supporting kids through their fears: Lily, afraid to "try out" for a solo at school. Madeline, afraid to keep pushing through her anxiety with a new soccer team. Aidan, well, he's another story, one wrought with apathy more than worry (maybe a topic for next year).

Then LIFE happened. Fat Tuesday arrived and quite honestly, I did not even realize it was upon us until it was almost too late. Maybe we would just take a pass. Let the challenges and the sacrifices move around us, through us, by us, into the Easter season. God is good after all. And that goodness is with us regardless of our deeds.

But the girls insisted: they wanted to give up something. Sugar? Desserts? For Madeline it became obsessive and I started coaching her on the notion that maybe giving something up was not a good idea for her mental health right now: try adding something like "Being nice to your sister" or "Making your bed."

"What are you going to do, Mom?" the girls wanted to know.

"I am not focusing on that which I take into my body. I am going to work on giving up the frivolous spending. There are too many odds and ends we do not need. I need to put a stop to the buying of those things. And that it mostly on me."

"What are Solly and Liam going to do for Lent?"

"They need to cut back on screens: You know, read more, watch/play less."

And then Solly proved that maybe there were other things he needed to give up.

You see, over the last year he has really begun to take his camouflage seriously. He hides in bushes. He squats down, quietly waiting, barely breathing, until he thinks you can't find him and then he ambushes you. It's cute.....it's hilarious really.....unless you are the neighbor who is supposed to be watching him and all of a sudden he is gone. MIA.

I was sitting in the dentist chair, my mouth full of who knows what, the hygienist asking questions I could not physically answer even if I wanted to, when the phone rang. Madeline was sitting there and I had her call the mom back. She quickly handed me the phone and I listened as this neighbor frantically explained that she could not find Solly anywhere. She had gone upstairs briefly to get her stuff and when she came back down, the door was ajar, he and all of his belongings gone. She searched her yard, yelling. She drove up the street, checked all my doors, which were locked. And by the way, "I really have to leave like right now!" (to get her son to an appointment.)

"It's ok, just go. He is in the neighborhood somewhere, I am positive. I will just call the other neighbor and see if she can find him."

"I can't leave your kid!" she exclaimed.

"It's fine, really. I will come home if I need to." (Obviously he is the fifth child, not the first!)

At that point, I call my bestie neighbor and ask if she is home.

"Why yes! I was just getting ready to drive your son up to your house 'to get something'; I found him sneaking through my yard," she said.

"Of course you did. He was hiding from his friend's mom," I explained.

"Well, he is fully decked out in his camouflage today," she laughed.

Yes, yes he is. As with every other day.

I am fortunate to have good friends. Solly is fortunate he is so darn cute.

"By the way," she said, "I asked Solly why he wanted to be at home when there was no one there. He said he likes it when everyone else is gone, because it is nice and quiet."

I guess the kid has to get his Sollytude somehow.....

The next day, after apologizing profusely to the other mom (this is the SECOND time he has wandered off on her watch....I might have to reexamine his going over there come to think of it), I picked up her son and drove the boys to school.

On the way there, his friend dramatically exclaims: "You were REALLY BAD yesterday! You should not have left! My mom looked everywhere for you! She was yelling for you and even went all the way to your house looking for you!"

Solomon snickered.

"I did NOT leave!" he insisted. "I was hiding in your bushes the WHOLE time and she couldn't see me because of my cammo! I saw her leave and kept hiding until after she got back! My camouflage kept me hidden! BUT I WAS RIGHT THERE THE WHOLE TIME!"

And not to compare my kid to God or anything, (but, you know, if the Fatigues fit.....), well, sometimes in our chaos and the frantic mess of life, we think we have been abandoned. We might even search wildly, thinking that our yelling and shouting out and worrying will bring Him closer......but like my little Camouflaged angel, He is there, hushed: watching, waiting, maybe even ready to ambush us when we least expect it.

Sometimes we just aren't looking in the right places.

Sometimes we just aren't really looking at all.

Sometimes we just require a little Sollytude....and the picture clears and we see what has been right in front of us all along.

Maybe Lent is not really about sacrifice at all. Maybe it isn't about that outward showing of "giving up" or "taking on"....maybe it is actually about simple openness: slowing down just enough to see that which is already there. Listen closely my friends. He comes in a gentle whisper. And maybe wearing cammo.....

Happy Lent Ya'll.




He was told to get ready for bed.....this was his answer.

I'm not kidding about the hiding in the bushes....
They don't call it "amBUSH" for nothing!

Solly takes on Colonial Williamsburg


Even Soldiers have off days.....(He thought he was getting a shot.....he wasn't.....I just let him think as much!)








1.12.2017

On Prayers with Children

"Jesus, tender Shepard, hear me,
bless this little child tonight.
Through the darkness be down near me
Keep me safe 'til morning's light...."

Dear Younger (read: inexperienced) Self:

When you start to tack on blessings at the end of your children's night time prayers, keep it simple. Please just trust me here. Your time becomes far more valuable (and your patience quite a bit shorter) and well, you see, if you start adding pet names it might go something like this:

God bless Daddy, Mommy, Aidan, Madeline, Lily, Liam, Solomon, Leroy, Stripsies, Storm, Oreo, Sparkles, insert the names of 6, nope 12, chickens, wait, make that 24......no wait.....

And then, oops, Sparkles, the fighting fish, went all kamikaze and jumped ship.....out of the tank (we are guessing) and well, I'm pretty sure the cat ate him....because there were no remains.....not anywhere. And then Oreo, well, that abscess was no joke and while his jaw got bigger and bigger, to the point of caricature, his body withered away until your kid found him stiff as a board (and the only thing you could think to say, but fortunately knew not to, was "Well, I guess the vet was right after all!" but then there was that constant reminder every single night that his name was missing). And then, a chicken will die, and then another, and you will subtract their names and with those down, you pick up a couple more rabbits and Messi and Morgan quickly become a family of six, but instead of keeping them all you only keep two, so while you added Messi and Morgan and Ham and Baggio and Ranger and whatever the heck the orange one was named, you will have to cut a few from the roster when they get sold off. And then Leroy will break the Dish and run away with the Spoon and while we are going to pretend he did not get eaten by some bigger animal and is now just shacked up at a better home, after months go by, we scratch him off the list as well, and then those 6 cute peeps are now 58! And who names ALL 58 CHICKENS?! I know you think you will but I assure you, you get over that when you realize you can't tell those six white silkies apart at all! NOT EVEN A GUESS! And get this, you hatched them! All. By. Yourself! (Well, you know, with the help of those hens.) But you can't even tell which is which! Oh, and while we are at it.....you know those three black roos you thought you couldn't live without? Larry, Moe and Curly? Well, don't add them to the prayer either because they do MUCH better at someone else's farm! I know, I know, so hard to imagine now. But one day you will speedily gather up six thoroughly unnamed chickens, throw them in some make-shift cage and just haul them away to someone else's house, without a second thought at all......BECAUSE YOU HAVE WAY TOO MANY GOSH DARN ANIMALS!

So please, when you start tacking on all those names, just stop. Ask yourself: is this REALLY the road you want to travel?

(No! The answer is NO! Put away that quizzical look and shake your head back and forth because it is unequivocally, without a shadow of a doubt, N-O!)

"God bless Daddy, Mommy, Aidan, Madeline, Lily, Liam, Solomon, all of our Pets and all of our friends and loved ones (See? It even works with people!)......help me be a good child, praise in Jesus's name. A-frickin-MEN!"

12.10.2016

Solomafia Strikes Again

Guess I wasn't thinking straight
Couldn't tell wrong from right
Went ahead and called you up
I got a little drunk last night
-Eli Young Band

You might wonder how the above lyrics relate to my five year old child (unless you know him, then you are nodding your head: Yup, sounds about right.)

To be totally truthful, Solly has been having a tough time "adjusting" to Kindergarten. It's not like we didn't see this coming, I mean, after all, I warned the new, incoming principal over the summer about this kid. I even called out, "Good luck with that!" as I dropped him off on day one......and every day since. (And then hopped the curb as I rush out of that parking lot with a crazed look on my face!)

And it doesn't help that they gave him the novice teacher; the one they brought in from the middle school who has had ZERO experience working with 5 year olds. Her initial emails were full of frilly hope and excitement; about how she was so fond of sitting on the floor with her grandchildren, quietly reading books, doing puzzles, creating cherished memories. (GAAAAAAG me now before I shoot myself!!)

We knew from the start that she was in trouble. The rose colored glasses were blinding her to the stark reality that this was a room full of boorish monsters! And this one Solomonster in particular, whose main goal in life outside of completely ignoring anything she might have to say, is to cause her daily heartache and sorrow. 

Before I paint a horribly negative picture of our little beast, please know, he is a super sweet child. He loves warm hugs, kissing (bordering on creepy), being held tight while sitting crawling around in laps and being read to.....and adventures.....and excitement......and super heroes......and total and utter destruction.....

So, the first "Yellow Card" came home (on week one) kindly informing us that Solomon was talking too much. We all laughed because "Oh my Gosh! It could be SOOOO much worse!" We patted him on the back and told him to be quieter and listen more. But really, we were secretly relieved. Oh, talking. No real harm in talking......

And the Yellow Cards rolled in every week or so: too much talking. And we smiled, feeling like our little card carrying NRA murderous devil, the kid who recently asked what body parts we didn't need, which ones we could "just get rid of", was at least under control in the classroom. 

But as the Mafia might have it, put one monster with another and all of a sudden, there's a pair of them......and then an entire clan......and Solomafia Boss hooked up with "another kid who is a bad influence" according to his teacher at his conference (Really? Are you SURE it isn't the other way around???.... This was the same conference she compared him to her son.......who was expelled in ninth grade......and is now in jail.) First impressions are a B!%$H. 

One thing led to another and this week we received his first red card (and subsequently our first trip to the principal's office.)


The principal, who is apparently trying to qualify for an early Sainthood later this year, spoke softly and kindly to Solomon, explaining that he was not mad but that it was not okay to rip down the classroom decor and tear it up with his buddy. Solomon sat, almost abashedly, in my lap, arms around my neck, unable to even look at the principal. We told him we knew he could do better and we don't want him to make a habit of seeing the principal in his office. I hugged him, told him to be on his best behavior and sent him on his way.

That afternoon, Solly came home with this:

Sigh. So, he went from destroying to creating. Perhaps the pendulum swung a little too far.....but really, "placing paint on another student?" As in, art class? At least he wasn't flinging it right? And holy smokes, HE WAS PARTICIPATING! This time last year, he wouldn't even sit through an art class at school, let alone, "place paint" on anything!

The next day, he came home with yet another one:

I'll admit I am running out of excuses here but, hey, at least he bothered going into the bathroom right? I mean, my biggest worry before he started school was whether he would bother using the restroom at all and opt instead to just go outside at recess! I even warned the principal. But look! He made it to the bathroom! Bonus points! 

OK, ok, I am not trying to make light of this. As I dropped him off on Friday, before meeting with the principal for the second time of the week, (which means he has been to the principal's office more in one week than any of our kids COMBINED in all the years they have been in school!), I reminded Solly of his behavior, of listening and following directions. Short of pleading, I just hugged him and then noticed the police officer standing by. 

"Solly, I know! Why don't you tell the Police Officer that you will try harder to behave in your classroom?! Go ahead! Tell him!"

Solly looked at me as if I had lost it, a big grin spread across his face as he replied: "Nah, I'm not gonna do that!"

The amused Police Officer chimed in: "Well now, maybe I should walk you to your class." 

And THAT is how he got his first police escort. 

"Get used to it, Kid!" I called out. The Officer at least has a good sense of humor. 

After meeting with Solomon's Principal (God Bless Him) I immediately drove to the girls' school where Lily was to read her D.A.R.E. essay in front of the entire 5th grade, the Sheriff, the Chief of Police, the School Superintendent, State Reps, the District Attorney and other such important people.  
As she got up to read, I noticed Solomon's principal sitting behind us. He has a daughter in 5th grade as well. 

"My uncle went to prison and my cousin died because of drugs," she began. Attention granted by all. 

I shook my head. At the very least, it encourages some perspective from Solly's principal, after all, it's all relative.

****

That evening, Kurt asked Solly what color he ended up on today, expecting him to finally have a green day, for which we could go overboard congratulating him. 

"Um.....Yellow," he said plainly. 

"Really?" I asked, slightly sinking. "Yellow? Again?"

He looked at me, head cocked in contemplation. "Yup!" he finally exclaimed. 

"For what?" I wanted to know. 

"I don't actually remember," he said, which was probably the honest-to-God truth.


****

Later, Kurt and I were discussing what to do with this situation when Solomon came up singing from the basement.

"I got a little drunk last night," he sang. "Somethin' bout a midnight rain...."

"Um, Karen?" Kurt asked.

Sigh. 

I simply poured another glass of wine. (So sue me!) I'd ask what's next but something tells me it won't be long before we find out. At the very least, he is a creative little bugger.....I mean, rarely does she get to mark an ACTUAL box on those cards.....

Way to keep her on her toes, Solomontosaurus! 

(#NotWinningMotheroftheYearOverHere)


 


 

9.30.2016

PHEW! That was a close one!

For those of you who are not on my email list and sometimes check in to the blog to see if anything new has come out, you may have been faced with the horribly traumatic experience of finding that the blog was gone recently. Or at least, you couldn't find it at gracefulchicken.com!

You see, apparently when you set up a domain for auto-renewal and then cancel the credit card it renews on and then don't read your emails in order to get the final notices that the domain has not been paid for and therefore will not renew, the registrar takes it away! I know, crazy, right?

So after a week of hair pulling stress, too much reading and rereading (in a failed attempt to understand how it all works and what I need to do to reacquire my domain name), several conversations with different people at the registrar who told me the best they could do was have me transfer the name so that they could charge me for it so that I would have access again, (which still doesn't make sense since I had no access to the domain anymore in order to transfer it) and then a little stroke of luck as the light went on (briefly) in my brain and I put two and two together and figured out a way to get around it......www.gracefulchicken.com is back up and running.

Phew!

That was on top of a ridiculous week that included (but was not limited to): missing an IEP meeting for Liam, as well as five kids' dentist appointments, sending Solly to school with an ear infection (and apparently "because he wasn't running a fever and needs to suck it up" wasn't a good reason when I spoke to the nurse who calmly replied, "Yes, but he hurts."), missing the bus every. single. day., and then losing a rabbit (seriously, who loses a rabbit?.... Fortunately, it missed us and came back....sucker!), and finally, showing up at the Vet's office to get meds for the dog but forgetting my wallet. (As it turns out, you can run a tab at the Vet's office....they are good like that!) And then, because I forgot my wallet, I couldn't go get the medication at the pharmacy that I needed to pick up for Aidan who also had an ear infection (which he had been complaining about for weeks but I had just finally gotten him to the doctor that week, because SOMETIMES I SUCK AT MOTHERING!)

Apparently, this is what I get for vowing, after the death of another friend the week before, to appreciate each and every day, regardless of what it brings. Serves me right!

But all faith in the world was restored when my bestie showed up at the Pharmacy to bail me out, pay for the meds and even had a Starbucks drink for me to brighten my day. Never a day goes by that I am not thankful for my friends!

Have a great weekend, friends!


9.23.2016

More OCD Tales

People ask how Madeline is doing all the time. She is doing fairly well. She is still in school and only begs me maybe once a week to homeschool. This is great progress.

Her intrusive thoughts currently all revolve around cheating, which is not surprising with school in session. (Did you write the answers on my pencils? Are the answers on the tags to my shirt? Am I cheating? Oh no, I need to change into a different outfit because there are answers on this one!)

It is sad and scary and sometimes a bit ridiculous bordering on comical all at the same time. She suffers. She is tormented. But she also recognizes the illogic of it all. She knows her brain is tricking her, that her mechanism for turning off irrational ideas is simply not working, but it is so real to her that she suffers all the same. There are set backs, and there is progress. And she is pushing through.

She was getting out of the car the other day, wearing a tank top and heading in to take a quiz when she stopped and looked at me, that wide-eyed horror stricken look I have come to know so well.

"Did you write the answers on my arms?" she asked.

"What?" I asked, exasperated. "That's silly. Just the OCD talking, Madeline. Move forward."

"You did! You wrote all the answers on my arms!" she exclaimed, emphatically.

"Madeline, do you see answers on your arms?" I calmly asked.

"No."

"Do you have a potion to reveal the invisible ink that I must have used to write the answers on your arms?"

"No."

"Then I would suggest you just wipe the invisible answers off your arms and get into school," I said, half amused with myself.

"You are so mean," she said as she rolled her eyes and exited the car.

Yes, yes I am.

What's worse is I wrote the WRONG invisible answers, kid!

(I swear, I am the worse mom for this job......or maybe, just maybe exactly what she needs....)