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When my oldest son, Caleb, was 3, he won a goldfish at a local fair in our town. This wasn’t one of the “quality” aquatic creatures, but a simple feeder goldfish.
Now, the life of a feeder goldfish usually has one of two paths. One, he is bought and fulfils the destiny his name suggests and becomes food for another animal. Or two, he is given to a child. In most cases, it really is a draw as to which destiny gives the fish the longest life span.
Caleb was oh-so-proud when he won his goldfish in the goldfish races and didn’t seem to notice that every other child also got to keep their free racing fish, whether they won or loss. He won a goldfish to take home, and that’s all that mattered. When we got to the car, Caleb asked me how we were going to cook him. Yes, he wanted to eat his little goldfish. This boy was a fisherman, still is, and to him getting a fish apparently meant a meal, not a pet.
After I explained the difference, he warmed up to the idea of a pet, so we brought the fish home and stuck him in a bowl. I was not a novice at the fish-keeping business. I know the drill. You get a fish for free. You are prepared to be a good pet owner, so you buy all the equipment. Two days later, said fish dies and you are left with a bunch of boring equipment.
So I waited to buy any equipment. I think the first day, Caleb named him Nemo, but to my knowledge, he has never been referred to as Nemo again. We have always just referred to him as “the fish.” Surprisingly, several days later, the fish was still alive, and I went ahead and coughed up the money for a small aquarium. I wasn’t going to buy a huge one when I was sure the little thing was just waiting for me to spend money on it.
So I got the little aquarium set up. And I waited. But the fish still didn’t die.
He didn’t die when Caleb was 4 years old either. Or 5. Or 6.
No dead fish at age 7.
8 was a good year too.
Caleb is 9 now.
And the fish died.
For six years I have cleaned his little tank. Bought his food and tank filters. Made sure he was cared for whenever we had to leave for a few days.
I was the one to feed him. I tried to have the kids help, but the entire jar of food would end up in the aquarium every time, so instead, it became my job. The fish grew big, and didn’t really fit in his little aquarium any more. His long beautiful tail filled the tank nicely as he’d sashay around. But I never bought a larger aquarium because I just knew he was going to go belly up any day. He then made the move from our old house to the new house, and I managed not to spill him out as he sat beside me on the car ride over. And he still lived, his box aquarium parked on our counter.
For six years, I waited for the fish to die.
But then, I didn’t want him to.
I have bad guilt. I may have forgotten to feed him a couple of times. My head knows the fish didn’t starve to death. After all, he’d been sick for a few days and stopped eating. In terms of being a feeder fish, he lived an exceptionally long time. But I still have the guilt. Poor little fish with no name!
Then I got to wondering why the death of our little nameless fish was bothering me so much. The reality is that I’ve been in a pretty bad mood about it and definitely channeling attitudes from Eeyore and Grumpy the dwarf.
I guess I feel sentimental because we had him for so long. I never really wanted a fish, and I don’t want another. Our little fish tank will not be getting a new occupant. Like I said, I’ve been waiting for him to die for six years. But I’m still sad to see him go.
But my bad mood is more than that.
It’s the exhaustion from caring for a baby and three other young children.
It’s the stress of trying to remember everything for everyone.
It’s the worry that I’m not doing enough.
And the fish died.
It’s the fact that I have a million things on my to-do list and no time.
That I rarely get to mark anything off the to-do list.
It’s looking around my house and seeing the mess of three tornados and no hope of fixing it.
It’s the hundred things I’d like to put on my husband’s to do list if he actually had time to do any of them.
And the fish died.
It’s the books I have floating in my head, pestering me to be written and no time to do it.
It’s the best sellers that have come to visit my brain and left before I could capture them on paper.
It’s everything that others say need to be done in order to be successful.
It’s the driving need to push myself and do what I love and feel called to do.
It’s the worry that it will all disappear before I can write the next book or put the time into my career I need.
And the fish died.
It’s the frustration of a ministry my husband and I have felt called to do yet have been in the waiting mode for several years.
It’s the confusion of not understanding what God is up to.
It’s the fear that somehow we will or have screwed things up.
It’s the constant worry that I’m not good enough.
And the fish died.
Headaches. Kids fighting. Concern for my extended family.
Caleb is playing tackle football, and I am TERRIFIED!
Am I good mom? Am I a good Christian?
What am I missing? What am I making for dinner?
Did the 3 year-old get his teeth brushed this morning? What about yesterday? A week ago? What smells so bad? Oh, it’s me.
What am I forgetting?
And the fish died.
In short, it’s life.
As I thought of all of these real reasons behind my attitude, I felt my agitation increase. And then, before the worry could completely consume me, two beautiful thoughts popped into my head.
The minutes of a day is like chocolate. There is never enough. I shouldn’t be wasting so much chocolate (I mean minutes) worrying about things that I really can’t change.
Instead, I should turn them all over to the only One who really can change them.
I should take all those worries plaguing me and count them out to God like counting dollar bills into his hand. And then… I shouldn’t accept any refunds.
Giving my worries to God is difficult because I like to take them back. It’s something I need God’s help on. And while God is still working on me, I’m going to try to focus more on the little things. Life. Enjoying the moments that include free fish with no names and being thankful that the rest of us made it through another day relatively intact.
Eventually, I won’t feel so sad that the fish died. Life will go on. I’ll figure out what to make for dinner (McDonalds?), and today’s worries will be paid off by the One who owns them. And I will be thankful that for six years, we had a fish that lived.
How to Screw Up a Really Great Art Project
(In 5 Easy Steps)
Task: Make an art project about a book with your 6-year-old son for the library summer reading program.
Have a fabulous idea.
Well, he says he wants to do it on a Curious George book. You can work with that.
Hmm… maybe something artsy from your childhood. Something fun that you remember doing with your mom.
That’s it! A decoupage project! You can make a model of a hot air balloon like in Curious George and the Hot Air Balloon!
After all, you did a really cool one as a kid. Which means you’re pretty much an expert. And you can save time. You already know how to do it. It isn’t like you’ll need to waste time googling it. After all, it was only, what? 30 years ago. Piece of cake.
Do the project completely wrong.
Note to self: decoupage is not the same things as paper mache.
As a child, you used decoupage to make a basket for your grandma for Christmas. As an adult, you once used paper mache to make a piñata (note the “once.” Never. Again.)
Somehow these two techniques need to become tangled in your brain so that you remember the difference only after you have a mess of napkins and flour water. Yes, for those of you who don’t know decoupage (using a mixture of glue and water) makes things nice and shiny, while paper mache (using a mixture of flour and water) makes things, well, yucky.
Don’t get enough supplies.
You really don’t need to buy more supplies. Save money. Just use what you have on hand. You know those birthday napkins that you never used from two years ago? Use those.
No, it doesn’t matter that no store even carries that same design any more.
Don’t worry about it. You’ll have enough.
And if, on the off-chance you don’t, you can send your wonderful husband to the store at 7:00 in the morning before he goes to work, to find some that, well, don’t match and are still unusable anyway.
Try to fix the mess when you remember how to actually do decoupage.
Go over everything with the decoupage glue wash, so that now you have a shiny mess. Forget those nifty napkins your husband bought and just cover the holes with standard white napkins instead. After all, then you can decorate the white part with marker afterward.
No, it won’t look like toilet paper. Promise.
No, it won’t look like dirty toilet paper when the color underneath comes through. Double promise.
Label the Monster.
Maybe if you name the monster, it won’t be so scary.
Everything is dried. All the pieces are attached. It doesn’t look great, but it sort of looks like a hot air balloon, and after the hours you and your son have already put into the thing, you’re calling it.
Last step is to label it with the title of the book.
You have to do this part. As fantastically smart as your 6-year-old is, you can not trust him to do this right. It needs to be legible. It needs to be spelled correctly.
Here we go. Permanent black marker in hand. Positioned over the (sort of) white toilet paper at the top of the hot air balloon. Curious George and the Hot Air Balloon. Curious George…
Why doesn’t that look right? What’s wrong with it?
Of course you spell Curious, C-H-U—cue hysterical laughter.
Then hurriedly draw a hot air balloon over your mistake and get the 6-year-old to come “fix” the rest of it. If anybody asks, he can honestly say that, yes, that part the looks like it was drawn by a 6-year-old was in fact his very own work. Because you’re an awesome mom like that. You let the kids do their own work. Even if it looks bad. Pride of ownership. Make your own mistakes. Clichés all packed and ready. Turn that monster in!
And there you have it, the full free tutorial on how to screw up a really great art project. In our next installment, I will be writing about how to screw up licking an envelope. Challenging, I know, but this super-mommy has done it, and will show you how to do it too.
I am very fortunate that I get to live out my dream of being an author. I write books and people actually read them. And what’s even better is that they like them!
But there are some things that I am not good at. I am a very busy mom of four young children. My oldest is 9, and my youngest is 3 months. I am a full-time mommy, with no babysitter, so naturally, some things just have to go. I’m pretty bad about keeping my website up, and not great at doing the social media thing or advertising. When I do have time, I’d rather be writing than trying to figure out creative ways to get more people on social media to buy my books. And honestly, I really don’t feel I’m interesting enough that people would care about a Facebook post chronically the number of times I changed a diaper today!
As I mentioned before, what I like to do is write. I really can write about absolutely anything and be happy doing it. (Cue post about watching paint dry). So then it occurred to me that maybe I could write about my life in a way that people might enjoy reading it. What if I did the things I normally did, but then wrote about it in a fun way?
For instance, I tend to be rather obsessive. This serves me well when writing books because I research things ad nauseam and am quite perfectionistic. But I also obsessively research non-writing things as well. Do you know the best way to get marker out of a hardwood floor? Or the best present for a 9 year-old boy? Or the best and safest shampoo for your kids? Or how to navigate Disneyland with a 2 month old baby in tow? I know all of those things. Plus, I’m fantastic at screwing up daily life and surviving to laugh about it.
And you know what else? Along the way, I write some pretty awesome books!
So my new goal for my blog is to write. Not just about my books or writing. Honestly, trying to keep myself to those subjects is very limiting and rather boring. My life is so much more than that. Instead, I’m going to write about whatever suits my fancy. But do it in a unique way with some different, rather entertaining angles.
So I’ll share some stories, write about things I’ve learned or find interesting, and probably share some products that make a crazy life easier. Some of my product links may be affiliate links, which simply means, if I share about a product and someone buys it, then Amazon pays me a small commission. That just seems smart and we both win. You get something you like and I get some money that I will most likely spend back at Amazon to find more things you’ll like. Because honestly, Amazon is kind of my best friend. (Remind me to tell you about the Fed Ex guy who delivers my many Amazon packages. I keep him employed.)
Chances are, if you visit often, you’ll probably learn something, be inspired, shed some tears, find some great books to read, and get plenty of giggles. If you happen to enjoy any of my posts, please share the link and / or leave a comment and let me know! I appreciate knowing these things don’t go into a great black hole in cyberspace.
Ready? Here we go.
Hope you enjoy a few Tru stories!