Friday, November 21, 2008

Babysitter Drama

     For some reason or another, my husband and I didn't leave our kids with a babysitter for several weeks.  We've ended up going out the last couple of weekends though and have had a very sweet older woman come and keep our three boys.  Now when I say older, I would put this woman at about the age of my grandmother.  Even though she definitely looks the part, she has an amazing amount of energy and is great with small children.  My seven-year-old has told me how nice she is and how she will do anything for them.  Well, our three-year-old has not been taking to the idea of a babysitter.  In fact, when he realizes he's about to be left with the aforementioned babysitter, he goes into complete hysterics and starts crying and screaming and  attempts to fling his small body out the door when we try to leave.  She tells us, and I have no reason not to believe her, that he calms down the second we toss him back in and close the door.  But still. . . the drama.
     Tonight there was a large squadron social function, and the older babysitter is quite the hot commodity and was already booked.  I was able, however, to get our pastor's thirteen-year-old daughter Elizabeth to babysit.  I told our little guy that we would be going out tonight, and he wept bitterly, saying he wanted mommy, not a babysitter.  However, as soon as Elizabeth showed up, his demeanor changed immediately.  He started doing little flips in the living room in front of her and telling her every species of bear he could name in a voice that was even more high-pitched than usual.
    I went back in my bathroom to finish getting ready, and our three-year-old came in a few minutes later.  "Mommy," he said (he was positively giddy), "I didn't know Miss Elizabeth was going to look like that!"  I could only guess as to what that meant (she's tall for her age and very cute).  Then he made an announcement. "Mommy," he said, "I've decided that I like parents, and babysitters, . . . and all kinds of people!!"  I'm pretty sure he added the "all kinds of people" in a somewhat pathetic attempt to convince me that he had actually opened his heart to all of humanity and didn't just have a huge toddler crush on Miss Elizabeth.  "Well, good, "  I said.  I mean, what do you say?  I half expected him to ask for a squirt of dad's cologne and some mouth wash, but he just bounded back into the living room.
     Isn't it a little sad that we start judging people based on how they look when we're three?  Not that Elizabeth isn't also oozing inner beauty, because she is, but that wasn't why my son was doing flips in the living room.  
     Why does parenting have to be so hard? 

     I thought I should include a picture so you would have a better idea of what I'm dealing with here.  Do you see the utter mischievousness dancing in those brown eyes?  Heaven help me.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election Reaction at the McCadams' House

     My husband and I sat watching the election coverage last night, and although neither of us agree with Barack Obama's economic or foreign affair policies or his stance on social issues, we both realized that it was a momentous night for our country because our first black president had been elected.
     This morning my seven-year-old came in my bedroom and asked with great anticipation who had won the election.  I told him that Obama had won, and he fell prostrate on his face and started crying.  I knew he was pretty wrapped-up in the election, but I was shocked at his reaction.  He sat up, and I sat down next to him.  He said through sobs, "Nobody I ever want to win wins, and I never win anything either!  This is just like the Halloween costume contest!"  Ahhh, here was the true source of all the emotional angst. . . the Halloween costume contest.  He had been Batman and was beaten out my his friend who was a very convincing Hulk.  The real issue here was that my son was just a really sore loser, and Obama happened to be the straw that broke the camel's back.  
     We talked about what it meant to be a good loser.  We talked about how he should be happy for his friend that won the costume contest, and that we would also be happy for Obama.  I told him that God was still in control, and that Obama was a very intelligent man and that we would pray for him when he becomes our president, and that it was going to be okay.  I also told him that it was a big deal that he had won because he will be our first black president.  He looked at me like I had just said the most absurd thing imaginable, and said, "What!?  Just because he's black?  It's just the color of his skin.  What difference does that make!?"  Hmmm.  How to answer that one.  Well, he was totally right, of course.  He was just missing one major component of the equation--American history.  
     I explained to him that when his grandparents were his age, black people had to use separate bathrooms and water fountains, and there were places like restaurants where they weren't allowed to go.  I told him that they hadn't even been allowed to vote for a long time and that white people had treated black people very badly in our country for a really long time.  I assumed he knew about slavery, so I didn't go into that.  In retrospect, I probably should have.  
     I saw my son making the same mistake I see many in my own generation making.  We understand that we're not better than black people because we're white, but we don't understand their story.  
     Neither of my parents experienced segregation.  My mom grew up on a farm in Nebraska, and my dad grew up in rural Texas, and in both these places, my parents grew up never seeing a black person.  When I learned about segregation in school, I asked them questions, amazed that this had happened in their lifetime, but there wasn't much to talk about.  I suspect that white families that did grow up with segregation aren't talking about it much either.  However, all black families, especially those from the South, have a personal history with this issue, and they are passing down their stories to their children.  They remember their history to honor those who fought to give them their God-given rights and to instill gratitude in their children.  Most white Americans, especially those from the South, would just like to forget this chapter in our history.  And in the end, we have two different stories.  For blacks of my generation and the next, the civil rights movement is a history handed down by those who lived it.  For us, it's a story from a dusty book that seems irrelevant to us and our children.
     Then there's another problem.  We don't know each other.  I am so thankful to my few black friends who have been willing to be a part of predominantly white churches, otherwise I would be in the same boat as my parents.  My husband and I lived in a small town in Mississippi for a couple of years before we had kids, and we talked about going to one of the black churches there (because we suspected they were having more fun, and we would like them better than the white churches), but we were never  brave enough to go.  I'm so thankful for the few black women that I know and am able to call my friends.  For me, they put a face on segregation and the civil rights movement.  I hope that as white Americans, especially those of us who are Christians, we will own up to the sins of our fathers and approach the subject of race with much more humility.  
    Last night as I watched Jesse Jackson listen to Obama's acceptance speech, I couldn't help but imagine him on a balcony in Memphis watching Martin Luther King, Jr. die.  Last night a dream was re-born.  No wonder he cried through the whole thing.
    I don't know how much of my talk with Sam really sunk in.  I feel certain we'll be revisiting the issue of loosing graciously.  He disappeared for awhile, then I found him taping this to his bedroom wall.  It seems he felt the need to document the occasion.
     Originally he had written "Booo Obama!" which reminded me of the real losers last night--the people in Arizona who were booing Obama as McCain was attempting to make a very gracious concession speech.  I told him to erase it and write "congratulations" instead.  He added, "a little bit."  I told you--we've still got work to do.
     Here's a plug for home-schooling.  Aside from doing formal school work today, Sam and I also worked on character development, social studies, American history, and did an impromptu art project, and I was still in my comfy pants at 10:30 a.m., okay 11:30. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Scroll down to see my last post

Is there a way to change the order of these posts?

Monday, September 22, 2008

More on Being a Jennifer

     I know--you're already bored, and you've only read the title.  But please bear with me.  What I have to say isn't nearly as self-absorbed as I've led you to believe.  
     Shortly after writing my last post, I had the privilege of reading a play written by one of my dear friends from high school called "Going with Jenny."  In the play, he chronicles the history of his love life, from childhood through college--all with girls named Jenny, each with a different spelling.  See, there really are 50 million of us.  In my total narcissism, I of course skipped right to the "n-n-i" section of the play.  Thomas Ward and I had three big dates over the course of three years, and it was fun to relive them, only this time through his eyes.  Once I got over the fact that my junior homecoming date had been immortalized in literature, I was able to read the play again and fully appreciate it.  It's a really smart, funny, honest portrayal of infatuation, love, and the fear, comfort, boredom, understanding, and satisfaction of marriage.  It made me realize that our real life stories and relationships are what art is made of.  I never understood this until I saw my own experiences expressed in someone else's work of art.
   The first act is written from the man's point of view, and the second is from the woman's.  His wife wrote the woman's part, and I really loved it, probably because I could relate to it.  I have to admit that parts of the first act confirmed my long held suspicion that boys are weird.  I should know, I live with four of them.  The last act shows the man and woman together.  Seeing them interact is a reminder that despite our histories and our differences, our doubts and temptations, we are able to give something to each other that no one else can.
     Okay Thomas, if you ever write a novel, I at least want a shot at writing the blurb on the jacket.  Have your people call my people.  Wait, you actually have people.  Never mind.
     So, in closing, I guess having the most common female name of my generation hasn't been all bad.  At least it's made for good literature.  And if you're in Atlanta in January, be sure to see Thomas and Sherry Jo Ward's play "Going with Jenny."  You won't be sorry.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Waiting for the Window to Open

     Friday, September 19 was a sad day for the residents of Altus, Oklahoma.  Perhaps you heard a few months ago that Starbucks would be closing 600 stores--you know, to compensate for over-saturated markets that have four Starbucks on one city block.  So guess who was on the list?  Yes, Altus.  The store that had been open for eight months with the closest store being over an hour away.
     When we first moved to Altus two years ago, we were told that Starbucks was coming to town and that they were building on a lot that was then the site of an abandoned Carls Jr. that shared a parking lot with my son's school.  I would have been elated if someone had only torn down the Carls Jr. and planted a tree, but we were thrilled to be getting this bit of city-life in our new small town.  Then nothing happened for a really long time, like over a year.  Finally, late last spring when we were just about to give up hope, my van load of boys and I rejoiced when we pulled into the school parking lot and saw a track excavator shredding the former fast food joint.  The building process seemed excruciatingly slow.  Anxiously we watched the building be bricked, the windows go in, the cool, wooden arch go up over what would be a drive-through.  
     My husband was visibly altered once they opened.  There was a spring in his step and a glimmer in those blue eyes that had been missing.  I didn't even give him too hard a time when I was at home with three screaming boys, trying to make dinner, and he would walk in with his flight suit smelling of fresh-roasted, caffeine-infused goodness.  I would just sniff him and roll my eyes.  He would grin sheepishly and go change clothes.  It was okay because now I had a place to go meet my friends after the kids were in bed.  We could get a drink and dessert and pretend we were living some place cool and cosmopolitan.  All that ended last Friday.  I made sure my husband didn't spend any time alone that day.  I wouldn't call it a full-blown suicide watch, but it's better to be safe than sorry. 
     The last time I went through the drive-through, there was a sadness in my barista's eyes as she handed me what would be my last decaf white chocolate mocha, but I didn't know what to say.  I didn't want to get teary in the drive-through, so I just said, "Have a good day," with a weak smile and drove off.
     Now the parking lot is empty and there is paper covering all the windows.  It's incredibly depressing.  When I drive past now, I find myself muttering things like, "Corporate bastards," under my breath.  Even my seven-year-old is really upset about it.  Understanding his frustration, I didn't say anything when he used the s-word yesterday.  "The people that closed Starbucks are so stupid!!  They're stupid, stupid, stupid!!" he shouted from the back of the minivan.  "I know, Sam.  You're right--they are," I agreed.  My poor three-year-old was completely confused by his big brother being allowed to use this forbidden word.  Not only have they left an empty building in the middle of our town, but Starbucks has also introduced my pre-schooler to moral ambiguity.     
     I heard Beth Moore say once that unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die from it.  So in the spirit of forgiveness I say to the greedy Starbucks executives, "I release you.  May God be your judge, you corporate bastards."  Okay, I still have some work to do.
     As with all frustrating, disappointing situations in my life, I'm trying to lay it at the feet of the One who created coffee beans and gave me the desire to have a cool place to enjoy them, and trust that God has something even better in the works.  I'm reminded of when we were told last year that we would have to move from our house on base so that it could be torn down.  We had worked hard to paint and settle into the bad '80s reno of a '60s ranch house that we happily called home.  I prayed, "Lord, please don't make us move."  I had gotten pregnant right before we moved into this house, and it had taken forever for us to get completely unpacked.  Although it was a ton of work, today we're re-settled into a house that we bought off-base that has another bedroom, 1000 more square feet, and a beautiful, shady, fenced backyard for the boys.  Even though I cringe knowing that the moral of my story is a country song, it doesn't make it any less true.
    So now that the door of Starbucks is closed forever, I'm waiting for the window to open.  I'm waiting for a really cool independent coffee house to open in Altus, Oklahoma. 
This is the downtown building that I would buy and turn into that really cool coffee house if I wake up to find $70,000 under my pillow.  The decrepit looking building on the left side is for sale for about $40,000.  I'm estimating $30,000 to get a business up and running on the first floor, but I really have no idea.  The other side is also empty and could probably be purchased at some point as well.  For those of you who haven't had the opportunity to visit our fair city, this is actually the most run down side of the square.  The other sides have some respectable, successful businesses.  On the opposite side, our church meets in the renovated old town theater.  
     I don't actually want to run a business.  Quite frankly, I don't have the time.  I just want to tell someone else what it should look like, where there should be a kids play area, a stage for live music on the weekends, and which healthy muffins and yummy pastries to serve.  Then I want to plant some flowers in the front and walk away.  Well, I guess we'll see what happens.  If you happen to have $70,000 and want to give the gift of espresso to a deserving town, please contact me.

Monday, September 15, 2008

New Title

  Just a quick note of explanation as to why I changed the title of my blog.  I never really intended to chronicle the life or happenings of my family, so McCadams Fam didn't seem quite right.  My intention is that this be a more personal endeavor, so I needed a new title.  You can thank my incredibly wonderful mother for the numbers in the web address because there are approx. 50 million thirty-something women in this country named Jennifer.  Lane is apparently a fairly common middle name as well.  The numbers are my birthday as well as the local Nashville area code, so maybe it won't be too hard for some of you to remember.  As an added bonus, you can unlock all my luggage.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Things I Love About Eli (15 mo.)

--  I love that when I go to get him out of his crib in the morning, he gets his blankie, puts it up on my shoulder, then reaches up to me with a huge smile.
--  I love that when he hears absolutely anything with a beat, he starts dancing--I'm talking big head and shoulder movements, a reach and pull motion with his arms alternated with some hip shaking--I know this begs for a video posting.  I'll get on it.
--  I love the way he chuckles with delight whenever you give him something to eat.
--  I love that when I cover him up late at night, he'll look up at me and smile, wave to me, then roll over and go back to sleep.
--  I love the way he nudges me out of my snobbish comfort zone when we're in public.  Sweet old ladies who try to talk to him get blank stares.  It's the indigent-looking men that I would normally never make eye-contact with that he beams at and waves to.
--  I love that his favorite things are the vacuum cleaner, the broom, the mop, kitchen utensils, and toothbrushes--especially Daddy's.