TRIPLE THREAT

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The cordless phone lies in pieces on the floor. Another broken item, I thought silently. One more example of a lack of self control, an immature temper tantrum. I couldn’t get on to the perpetrator or lecture anyone, however. I couldn’t punish them either.  Why? Because it was me, the mom.

Reaching a boiling point was an ongoing issue for me rearing my brood. Somehow, it seemed the extreme would occur and I’d be past my limit and explode.  My triplet sons seemed to make a sport of it too.  The only proof I have is that a large smile would erupt on their faces when I’d charge like a mad bull or start “raging” as they like to call it. Because then I became the problem, not them.  It was an interesting tactic on their part and it took me years to adapt.

When the boys were 3 year old preschoolers, I was barely done feeding and dressing them and their sister when it happened. Three sopping wet, muddy bodies appeared when it was time to load up. I burst into tears, undressed them, and began the laborious process all over again.  I also called their dad to come get them because mommy was losing it (again).  Why did I not send them wet and muddy to preschool? Because I believed it would reflect poorly on my parenting.

Occasionally I’d take all 4 children shopping.  BIG mistake! I somehow repeatedly forgot they couldn’t be captive that long.  Wanting so desperately to lead a “normal” life, I’d set myself up for failure. Thinking I could handle it, I’d get two grocery carts and put two children in one and two in the other.  I’d push one while pulling the other.  I’d also restrain the child from standing in the lower part of the cart by using a belt from a life preserver or by adding piles of groceries on top of him. (One goes to extreme measures when determined.)  This tactic did not stop Houdini-like escapes or hair pulling, however.

Once a sitter had them during nap time.  I use the term “nap time” loosely because it was more for me.  However, we knew they needed a break from each other, so we had them go in their rooms to play or read quietly. Inevitably, they were like magnets being pulled towards one another. Their doors would open slowly and they’d creep towards another’s rooms. One afternoon, a sitter was unaware and found all three boys in one room with a mattress barricaded against the door.  The boys were 4 years old and incredulous at times.

I prayed for patience a lot back then which I found out was one of my biggest problems. I was gaining patience alright but it was because of the inevitable, “can’t make this stuff up” incidents which occurred on a daily basis. So maybe it’s true you have to be careful of what you pray for. They are adult children now (isn’t that an oxymoron?) and I pray for their safety instead since I don’t want anymore patience.

George Bailey & Me

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“Why the heck does it have to be SO HARD?!?!” I wailed to God that Christmas Eve.

Once again, wanting a loving, Christmas Eve family experience, I attempted to force the concrete square through the circular opening and failed. We were all dressed up and driving into town to attend Christmas Eve services. The children were in their early teens by now. I thought surely we can do this! However, my anxiety was at a fever pitch and my tolerance was shot. Five minutes on the way into town, loud arguing was beginning in the back seat and I just couldn’t handle anymore fighting. So, I did what any rational parent would do. I turned the car around, drove myself back home, got out and told my husband to take them to church by himself. How kind of me. And that saint of a man did.

Back inside the house, I poured myself a huge eggnog and put on “Its a Wonderful Life” to distract myself. I fussed at God, “Why would you allow it be so hard if you know I am trying?” All of a sudden a near audible thought ran through my head, “The journey is worth it. I sent my Son into the world knowing He’d be rejected and crucified by man, but sent Him anyway bc His life on Earth mattered. Your journey is worth it too.” I nearly fell off the couch. This jolted my mindset just like George Bailey’s in the movie I was watching.

Ever since that moment I’ve quit expecting things to be easier. I realize it’s not about comfort or lack of conflict. This life is a gift with all the good, bad and ugly. It’s a process. But if God loves me enough to send His Son even though He knew we’d reject and crucify Him, I suppose I can handle some conflict and difficult circumstances myself. Praise the Lord for His infinite goodness where a worn out mama can belly ache to Him and He will answer our prayers- just like He did for George Bailey in the movie “Its a Wonderful Life.”

BAH- HUMBUG!

Christmas Eve was always action packed with high expectations. Somehow, I’d blissfully forget each prior year and repeat the same, self defeating cycle. This ritual was like going to war but forgetting you’re going to lose. It involved dressing four children in holiday finery and attending Christmas Eve church services. It was our family tradition, mandatory, and we’d do it…NO MATTER WHAT.

Early in the afternoon I’d begin the bathing and dressing process with the beautiful, clean clothes, nice shoes and all. Of course, the boys didn’t care and proceeded with their obligatory wrestling (albeit inside the house). By 5:30pm I’d be ready for a nap but still had to forge ahead to get kids in car seats and unintentionally get my Scrooge on. I had no idea I was increasing my own blood pressure, stressing out my poor husband and forcing energetic children to do the near impossible.

Ever since I could remember I promised myself my family would be together, have traditions and celebrate Jesus. It was very important to me that my family be what I wanted so desperately for myself but didn’t have since childhood- a loving, stable, Christian home. That idealized dream met my rambunctious family and we’d be deadlocked year after year.

Nonetheless, one particular year, before the Fire Marshall determined we were cramming our church way over capacity, my family sardined in like everyone else. We stood in the back near the entry of our sanctuary and tried to hear the message and participate. I really wanted to feel peace and engaged in the worship, but HELLO!?! four youngsters standing through a long service isn’t conducive to meditation. Recognizing my young sons weren’t able to take much more, I decided we’d go into the adjacent alter servers’ room so they could move a bit but I could make out what was going on. Well, that idea was met with….”let’s try swinging these long candle snuffers around!” So, I exasperatedly said, “No matter what I do, I’m not going to be able to enjoy this service am I?” One son stopped, glanced my way and said, “Well, you put us in a losing environment.”

OH, CHRISTMAS TREE

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I often wonder why we practice certain traditions.  For instance, why do we bring huge, live trees inside our home during the holidays?  It seems absurd to cut down a tree, drag it inside our homes, argue over who is going to water it, and then proceed to add lights and decorations just so we can remove it and complain about all the needles for the rest of the year.  To further add to our bizarre behavior, we have evolved to convenience ourselves with fake, plastic, “feel real,” $1,000 trees to simulate the same experience but avoid the mess and allergies.  You can even buy Frasier Fir room spray to emulate the fresh, woodsy scent of the real thing. Next, we will likely add fake bugs and a simulated squirrel like in the movie “Christmas Vacation.”

Growing up I couldn’t wait to get the Christmas tree up in our home.  Being a small child in the oh so stylish 1970’s meant a pathetic, fake, poor excuse of a tree with gaudy, colorful, blinking lights, homemade ornaments, and silvery, thrown tinsel from the dime store.  But, oh what a thrilling sight!  I recall us children pestering our mother to please get the tree down from the attic so we could begin.  Once retrieved, we still had to wait additional days before she would let us decorate it. It never dawned on me she was stalling by saying the metallic-limbed tree needed “to fall” first. I suppose all mothers have to preserve their sanity somehow.

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Once married, my husband and I were quite frugal but it was mostly my being dutiful that we got our tree from my husband’s Christmas Tree Farm.  Before you imagine rows of lush, evergreen, sky-reaching pines, picture this instead…. He had planted a hundred Virginia pines a few years prior but didn’t adequately space, trim, nor shape them.  Lo and behold, we took the “Charlie Brown Tree” to the next level.  The gaping holes, missing sides and contorted shapes ensured our tree was truly one of a kind.  They were also usually 9 feet wide- go figure.

When our children were little, my controlling nature was tested every Christmas.  They loved helping mama decorate the tree but having triplets meant all our ornaments went to the bottom of one side of the tree and I had to (gasp!) leave them that way until they went to bed.  Since our boys’ grabby little hands were always pulling on the ornaments, my husband would use fishing wire and tie the top of the tree to a hook in the ceiling.  We had way less downed trees after that.  Necessity is truly the mother (or father) of invention.

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Pants, Wings and a Nudist Beach

 

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Young children are blissfully unencumbered by awkward things we adults have to navigate.  They tend to take things head on and react exactly how they feel or, ignore them altogether. There are three such instances that make me smile every time.

The first occurred when we took our children on a cruise.  Aside from lots of swimming and games, we also took them to an evening show in the ship’s theatre.  It was a show featuring lavishly dressed dancers and music.  One son, being approximately 6 years old had never seen sparkly, dancer’s costumes before.  When the velvet curtains parted, his eyes got wide, he turned around and blurted out, “Daddy, those women forgot their pants!”

Another surprising moment occurred when my husband took one of our 10 year old sons out for wings on a football Saturday.  We were out of town and he took him (here it comes) to Hooters.  When they returned, he said where they had gone. I was very curious how our impressionable, sheltered son would react to the scantily clad servers.  So, I hesitantly asked while fearing the worst but he said he DIDN’T EVEN NOTICE!

Last, but not least, one occurred when our 10 year old went snorkeling with his grandfather in the Caribbean.  When rinsing off in outdoor showers, his grandfather told him not react but a nudist couple was walking nearby on the beach. Not only did his face more than give away his feelings on the matter, but he was reportedly more appalled due to their being old……

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