That’s Not My Son Lady

I had the craziest conversation for over 45 minutes last night with someone I had never met. The first text asked me when I was going to pick up my son. I didn’t recognize the number so I responded with, “I don’t know who you are and my son is home with me.” This person told me her name was “Jenna” and to quit messing around and that I was supposed to pick my son up two hours ago and he was driving her insane. My younger daughter and I were having fun with it and I responded that I if she wanted the boy picked up she should recheck the number and send the text to the right person.  She proceeded to insist that I was messing around and to come pick up my son.

This went on for a while. We went back and forth with her accusing me of being coy and me trying to convince her that I wasn’t “Olivia.” At one point, I even considered getting her address and picking up Olivia’s son just so she’d quit texting me.

I had actually wondered if it was one of my kids’ friends or a niece or nephew joking with me because it was so crazy that this lady just wasn’t getting it. Finally I gave up and decided not to answer any more texts (even though my younger daughter and I were cracking up and having fun with it).

I had planned on writing a blog this morning and relaying the whole conversation because it was quite comical and it reminded me of a conversation one of my sisters and I might have if one of us was acting silly and being difficult. Actually, it was far too much like that. And now. . .the rest of the story.

Most people don’t like to be fooled.  In some people it evokes feelings of weakness and foolishness. And as strange as it sounds, it can even make people feel subordinate or submissive to the offender. It especially stinks when that person is your thirteen year old daughter.  And after the lengthy text conversation, she finally admitted it had been her the whole time. I hadn’t recognized the number because it was from her ipod and I didn’t have that number programmed into my phone.

Last night I was mad. I can take it most of the time, but there was a certain feeling of, “Oh my goodness, she has arrived,” that I experienced last night. At some point she went from silly, made up jokes to full-fledged pranks. It was hard enough with just my husband and son, but now my daughter too? Oh boy.  After a semi-good night’s sleep, I’m torn between being miffed that she kept it going so long (Even after I asked her point blank if it was her and she said, “no.” We had a talk about lying still being lying if your mom asks you something flat out-even if it’s in the midst of a joke.) and being impressed with her creativity and ability to keep it together while asking what the person was texting.

I’d like to blame my husband. He likes to aggravate people just to see their reactions. You would think after about 20 years of being together I would have learned to let it roll off my back, but instead of trying to learn to do that, I have been hoping all of these years that he would just stop. “How’s that working out for you?” you ask? Not well.  Not only does he still do it, but I now have two teens who also think it’s a blast to poke and poke and poke and poke.

So I said that I’d like to blame my husband for it. However, while we may have different styles, I also like to joke.  While his is more blatant and in your face, mine is at times much more subtle. My favorite poison is sarcasm-you know the kind where people aren’t really sure if you’re being serious or not. My friends and family obviously know most of the time that I am being sarcastic, but it doesn’t always bode well with people who don’t know me, and it can be hard to turn the button off. It really runs in the family. It trickles down from my maternal grandpa-maybe further-I never met his father.

So my children have been “blessed” with both kinds of “humor.” I should begin praying for their future families now.

The crux of all this “playing around” is that it can be difficult to know when to quit. Mama helps them decide this. And it varies from day to day, depending on my mood. So really, I am teaching them to read people’s cues to know when they’ve had enough before it gets ugly.  Needless to say, it’s not often boring at our house, but it takes some tough skin to be here very long.


It Didn’t Matter Anymore, Grandpa

I don’t feel like the issue was fully resolved. I don’t feel that you completely understood where I was coming from or just how much you hurt me in those years of disconnect.  I don’t think you fully took responsibility for your part in it, though you apologized in your own way-not really ever using the words “I’m sorry.”

But it got to a point that I didn’t care. I hated not having you in my life and not really knowing my kids. I hated them not knowing you-the man who had had an immeasurable impact on who and what I had become.  The hole didn’t go unnoticed. I spoke of you often and then, like today, I felt you in many of my words and actions. There were many, many days in which I wanted to let it all go, and I would call you and see that you were still bitter. I don’t blame you entirely, perhaps I could have put in more effort.

I know that in that time (the few years in which we only spoke a couple of times a year), all the comments you made about being disappointed in me, or about my “head not being in this world” came from a place of hurt.  I know from experience, that pain often manifests itself as anger and bitterness. I know it was hard for you when I “stopped needing you” as much, as my own family was forming. What you didn’t understand was that I still needed you, just in different ways.

So, perhaps the God-ordained timing was just right, perhaps we were both at a place in which it didn’t matter anymore, but that one summer visit changed it all.  I am thankful that I had an “excuse” to come over to see my Aunt, (I’m not sure I would have come otherwise,) so I could see that the bitterness was gone. I felt we were finally both in a place to let it all go and just be Grandpa and Cyndy again. I told you I was sorry I had stayed away so long, and you told me I had misunderstood the things you had said to me about not finishing college to stay home with my son, and the comments you made about me homeschooling the kids as they got older, and that you didn’t mean it the way I took it. In my mind I disagreed, I still thought you had meant them exactly as I took them, but at that point it didn’t matter anymore. You told me you were never truly disappointed in me, and I took that. It was enough. You were 87, I believe, and I knew we were limited on time.

We found out a year later that cancer was widespread and aggressive. My emotions were so mixed as I was thankful that we had reconnected, and deeply saddened that we didn’t have more time. My older kids would remember you, but my little guy definitely wouldn’t.  I was thankful that you got to see me in my girls and it brought you back to when I was that age. And I will forever be thankful for that visit, right after I found out about the cancer, when it was just you and I, and I was your little girl again. It could have been 25 years prior and it was just us.  We reminisced about the past and you retold your favorite stories about us, and we laughed, and I cried. I told you that I wished we had more time. You said, “I guess our time was always limited, we just didn’t know how limited.” More words of wisdom, Grandpa-good for everyone to remember.


The Strongest Thing


There are some strong things in this world.  Some things are almost unbreakable-or at least labeled as such. Certain metals, certain rocks and gems-natural and manmade things-some things are tough and can take a beating. However, after being a mom for 15 years, I think I know what the most durable thing in the world is. I know what outlasts Tupperware, is stronger than a diamond, and could even make Adamantium metal alloy look cheap (that’s for you son).

It’s a mother’s heart. Seriously. It breaks over and over again, is repaired and filled with joy, is emptied and broken again, is repaired and filled again-and sometimes all in one day.

It’s been a long week in our house. My daughter stayed with my sister for the week to help out while my brother-in-law was out of town for work, so a piece of my heart was there as well. Meanwhile, my little guy, the two-year-old, had a pretty nasty virus that he is still recovering from. All week he wanted to be by my side, either nursing or cuddling and watching his favorite movies.  It broke my heart to hear him whimper and whine and feel his hot little body.

As he recovers, so does my heart-and something my 12 year old did helped fill it back up. She brought me Tupperware she found at a garage sale while she was gone. She spent the money she was given on her mommy. That little lady has broken and filled my heart countless times, and the love I have for her only grows as she does.

Kids do it without realizing it. A mommy’s heart can crack a little when an immature child says the wrong thing. A mommy’s heart can crack a little or even break when she has to give a punishment that she knows will be tough to handle. I have denied my children certain things that they have been looking forward to for a long time to correct a long term character issue, then gone into my room and shut the door and cried.

I have held my daughter while she cried and tried to explain why people are just mean sometimes: why the neighbor kid who doesn’t even know her would call our family weird; why her friend would talk about her behind her back. My heart would break as hers did.

My heart would break a little as I tried to explain to my sweet spirited boy why he would be overlooked and forgotten about, or why someone would steal his Kindle from the Y.

Then there are times in which my heart couldn’t be fuller. Like when I see the back of my man-boy’s head in the front of the church raising his arms in worship to God. Or when my youngest daughter turns off a show she was watching because she thought it may be inappropriate.  Or when my middle girl, the 12 year-old, tells me, “Even though you may be a little strict for my liking-because I’m 12-I think you’re a good mom.”

It’s amazing how durable God made a mother’s heart. How no matter how many times it breaks, it can be restored. How the very little-or big-children who contribute to its destruction are the very same ones who contribute to its restoration. And how no matter how many times it happens, the love for them only grows. It’s an amazing dynamic. And no matter how insane it may seem-most of us wouldn’t change the process for anything.



Middle Sister Syndrome?

Being a middle child is often lamented.  It is spoken of in terms of something to overcome.  “Middle Child Syndrome” and its effect on the emotional development of children is studied in Sociology, Psychology, and Child Development.  I even know of people who had only two children, or made sure to have a fourth to eliminate this factor for one of their children.

I am not technically a middle child.  If you consider the four of us who grew up together, I am one of the middle children.  If you add in my brother who has a different mom, I am second oldest.  If you just look at the sisters, I am the middle sister.  So, in a lot of ways, I grew up feeling like a middle child.  I wasn’t special for being oldest, or babied for being youngest.  I did fade into the background a lot.

However, as I have gotten older, I have seen the merit in being in the middle.  I am five years younger than my older sister, and five years older than my younger.  This has given me a unique opportunity to bond with them both in similar ways.  I shared being pregnant with my older sister. She was pregnant with her second, and I with my first. She shared her knowledge with me; including the little things you would be mortified to tell anyone else.  Then, I was able to be pregnant with my younger sister (she with her third and I with my 4th) many years later.

As the years pass, I think I can relate to them both well.  My older sister and I share the joys and frustrations of raising teenagers, while my younger sister and I share the joys and frustrations of raising  toddlers.  I glean wisdom from a sister who has already been there.  She jokes that I can learn from her mistakes, but I am constantly impressed with the mother she is, and I learn from what she does right.  I then pass that on to a sister who will be approaching it in the blink of an eye (with a little of my own thrown in.)  Although, if I’m honest, my younger sister has taught me a great deal as well.  I am continually amazed with how much she accomplishes with excellence.

I feel that I am in a very blessed position-sandwiched between two of the greatest women I know.  Good or bad, the position I hold in my family has a lot to do with the woman I’ve become.


I Don’t Want to Just Complain

I’m the type of person who has no trouble writing a complaint letter to a company if I feel I’ve been mistreated, jipped or duped, or if I think something should be brought to their attention. I once wrote a letter to the Detroit Tigers’ Organization because a security guard was standing by and doing nothing while a man near our section was using extremely foul and offensive language and threatening anyone who dared confront him about it.  I’ll say they were very apologetic and offered us free tickets.  I also wrote to the company we bought our trampoline from after it literally began falling apart after less than a year, and heard nothing back, (Pure Fun Trampolines, by the way) but I felt better.  I figure that if it’s a good company, they want to know about what can be improved upon, right?

I also have no problem telling other people about my experiences.  I don’t want them to waste their money too. I also feel that if a company has no interest in addressing problems their customers experience, they don’t deserve customers.

I’ll get to my point: An experience we had this weekend got me thinking- I don’t know how often I write letters of compliment.  I give recommendations to people based on places I like, but I cannot remember the last time I actually wrote a letter to tell a business what I really liked about a place.  I am going to attempt to remedy that.

My husband and I have talked many times about how hard it is for a big family on a budget to do anything.  All we want is a good value, friendly and helpful staff members, and a safe family atmosphere.  It is so hard to find all three. We have experienced only one of those at many places, are pleased when we experience two of those, but rarely find somewhere that fills all three.

I am not really a camper.  Growing up my dad took us camping. I mean real camping.  He thought campsites were for chumps.  He would find a secluded spot by a river and dig us a hole in the woods.  You know what for.  I prefer toilets that flush and electric and water on the campsite.  As an adult I have stayed at a few campgrounds and because of some of those experiences, I shied away from camping.  The biggest issue I had was the crazy inappropriate behavior and foul language of the campers who drank a little too much and forgot there were other people around.

Well, I had the idea of going camping this past weekend to bond as a family away from electronic devices and other distractions. Upon a recommendation from a family member, we chose Wesleyan Woods Campground.  The website looked fun enough and I was pleased to see that it was an alcohol free camp-so no chance of a repeat of previous experiences.

I am ecstatic to say that they fulfilled all three of the aforementioned wish list items: good value; friendly, helpful staff; and a family friendly atmosphere. We had such a great time that we are already planning our next visit. I welcome you to read my open compliment letter to them:

Dear Wesleyan Woods Board and Staff:

I am writing to tell you how pleased our family was with our recent stay at the campground.  Actually, pleased seems too ineffectual of a word.  We were blessed by our stay.

We were looking for a place to get away and bond as a family by removing ourselves from the distractions of daily life and interacting through fun activities. Wesleyan Woods far exceeded our expectations. Between the self-directed activities and staff-directed activities, there was more than enough to do for all ages.

Everyone we came in contact with-whether staff members, volunteers, or other campers-were friendly, kind and helpful.  While there this past weekend, someone anonymously blessed us with wood, and someone else offered the use of their heater when I mentioned we had been cold the night before.

Thank you so much for providing a safe, family friendly place at a great value.  We are already planning our next visit, and we will happily and enthusiastically recommend the campground to our friends and family.

Thank you,

The Jamie and Cyndy Payne Family