Sunday, February 16, 2014

I've become my mother…..

When I was a kid, my mom would hang a fancy blue tablecloth in front of her closet doors, move the piano bench or a kitchen stool into the room, and have us kids stand there and pose for pictures. 

It worked great -- if you ignore the ugly 80s sweaters and hair, it looks pretty darn good, maybe even professional (by 1980s standards, of course) doesn't it?

It was the 80s, so of course Mom shot on film and didn't want to waste a bunch of film, so we had to be on our best behavior for the entire photo shoot. I don't remember having professional pictures (aside from our yearly school pictures) until we were seniors and got to have senior pictures done. Yet our childhoods are very well documented, thanks to my mom's bedroom-turned-photo-studio.

I realized last week as I hung a tablecloth in front of the closet doors in my craft room, I have become my mother.

I really wanted to take some pictures of my kids together and Valentine's day seemed like the perfect excuse to snap a few. I told them all I wanted for Valentine's day was a few updated pictures of them. How could they argue with that?

The little girls were happy to pose for me while I figured out if the tablecloth would even work.

Despite their help, I wasn't in love with the tablecloth (sorry Mom). I remembered seeing something on Pinterest about making a photo background out of plastic tablecloths. So that's what I did. It took me six tablecloths to fill the space, but they worked so great, because they are long enough to cover from floor to ceiling (I kept getting carpet in the shots with my cloth tablecloth). My professional photographer friends would probably cringe at my makeshift background, but it worked.. and it was cheap! I held the tablecloths up with push pins, and added the "I love you" banner I found on sale at Hobby Lobby.

Now, came the hard part: getting all four kids in the same place at the same time. I wanted to use natural light, so I was hoping to get them together before it got dark. 

Like that would ever happen.

My kids are busy! The big kids weren't home much all week, between school, basketball practice, basketball games, and church class.

So I had to come up with a compromise.

That compromise was to take their pictures individually and piece them together into one picture later. It took a couple of days, but I finally got at least one good picture of each kid (my standards for a "good" picture have been lowered immensely over the years… we're talking if their eyes are open, it's a keeper!).

I put the four pictures together into one using an app called "pic collage." It was super easy, and a creative way to get around the my-children-are-never-home problem!
I also used the Pic Collage app to make individual valentine greetings. We sent these to grandparents, godparents, cousins, aunts, and a few other special people. It was easy, cheap, and fun, and who doesn't love getting a cute picture in the mail?
I guess it's not so bad to be turning into my mother… if only I had her photography skills. At least I have technology on my side! 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Happy Birthday Mom!

Today is my mom's birthday. I won't tell you how old she is, because I'd like to remain her favorite child. (Yes, I know there are three of us, but I'm pretty sure I'm her favorite.) What I'd like to do instead, is tell you how amazing my mom is -- she's got the patience of a saint, and for some reason, it's taken me quite a few years to figure that out (I can't tell you how many years, because I also refuse to tell you how old I am!)

I’ve been writing since I was 7 years old – my first “project” was cleverly titled “Jody’s Journal.” The weekly newsletter, typed very slowly on my mom’s super-cool typewriter (hey, it was the 80s!) included all the highlights of my family’s life. I sold copies of the Journal for 25-cents a piece and while I never could talk my older sister into forking over a quarter for her very own copy, my grandmothers were faithful subscribers, and probably even bought more than one copy. More than 30 years later, I realize I never thanked them for reading my literary masterpiece and for making me believe I was a brilliant writer. I never thanked my mom either, who never once complained about all the paper I wasted or all the correction fluid I used (I think I made mistakes on purpose because correcting them on the typewriter was so much fun!)

This morning as I cleaned up scraps of paper piled on top of my computer keyboard I thought of my mom’s patience, and that kept me from freaking out on my 14-year-old daughter, who made the mess I somehow got stuck cleaning up. As I thought of my mom and of my childhood, I calmly cleaned up the papers, found the keyboard, and when the computer finally came to life, I smiled when I saw what my daughter had been printing and cutting out: she was printing inspirational quotes. Some of them were really great, and exactly what I would tell her if she asked for my advice. So how could I be mad?

As a mother of four creative kids, I spend a lot of time cleaning up the messes brought on by a burst of creativity. I find myself thinking about my own childhood, and my own mother, as I clean. How did she not lose her mind cleaning up our messes? My little brother used to raid the kitchen cupboards for things to use on his farm: mini marshmallows became hay bales, cans of soup/peaches/vegetables were grain bins (once the labels were peeled off). Mom never yelled. When the marshmallow hay bales dried up, she quietly cleaned them up and threw them away. One by one, she took back the grain bins, and upon discovering what was inside the can, made us something delicious to eat.

My four-year-old is currently obsessed with taking notes – she never goes anywhere without a pen and paper and leaves papers scattered throughout the house. I get annoyed, and sometimes I yell at her. And then I realize, it is just paper. My mom never yelled at me for my paper messes. Her patience with my habit of using up all the paper and typewriter ink was nothing short of amazing. In fact, I think her patience and encouragement likely shaped my career: I’ve been able to make a living as a writer of some sort my entire adult life.

I should probably tell my mom thank you and happy birthday. I would write her a thank you letter, or a birthday card, but all the paper in my house has disappeared….

Monday, February 3, 2014

Answered Prayers

Every night, I ask God to help me be a better mom.

I ask Him to make me more patient, more forgiving, and less of a perfectionist. I ask God to help me remember my kids are KIDS, and to help me take it easy on them, even if their rooms are a mess and they forget to feed the dog.

Most days, I wonder if He is listening, because I often feel like I am the world's worst mom.

But then, there are little miracles, and little signs that God is listening and is even answering my prayers.

Today, that little miracle came from my 12-year-old son.

Jake wasn't sure what time basketball practice was, so he promised to text me after school and let me know.

True to his word, he texted me.

Here's our conversation:

A few minutes later, Morgan and I arrived at Jake's school. He was standing on the sidewalk, waiting very patiently, but looking very cold. I beeped the horn so he'd see me and he ran over and hoped in.

This was our conversation:

Jake: "Mom, I just have to say, thanks for being a great mom."
Me: "Um, you're welcome."
Jake: "No, seriously. I was just thinking about how lucky I am. While I was waiting for you, I watched some other kids getting picked up by their moms and I could tell their moms aren't nearly as great as you are."
Me: "You are such a sweet talker. Keep talking."
Jake: "I'm being serious Mom. Those moms were honking and yelling at their kids and seemed really annoyed that they had to pick up their kids, and that they even had kids. So thanks for always picking me up and taking care of me."
Me: "Sorry I honked at you."

I couldn't say anything else.

What a good reminder that God really does hear my prayers, and even answers them. Sometimes it just takes awhile to realize.

So tonight, when I talk with God, I need to thank Him for listening, for helping me be a better mom than I was yesterday, and for blessing me with really great kids.

And tomorrow, I promise not to honk the horn at any of my kids.