Monday, January 30, 2012

He's Not Smiling Much


This evening our home was hit by what some might categorize as an F1 tornado…no real structural damage but it certainly shifted our belongings around with the sound of a freight train. Of course, I’m not referring to an off-season catastrophic meteorological event, rather one of my 5 year old son’s “tantrums”. I hesitate to use that word…”tantrum”. To me, it suggests that such behavior is performed by a spoiled little baby. From the outside that may very well appear to be the case. In my heart, however, and based on multiple visits to various counselors and doctors, I know that not to be true.

Tonight my son was attempting to interact with his brother and after meeting typical sibling rejection, I watched him literally fly down the stairs, somehow successfully taking at least three steps at a time, screaming incomprehensible phrases, landing in my husband’s lap, bucking his body as though he were possessed with multiple demons…I would not have been surprised to see his stinky ass levitate 5 feet in the air. (Just yesterday the gentleman attempted a $20 bet that a slight swab of Holy water across the child’s forehead would lead to instant blisters and steam. Don’t think I didn’t strategically stroke his temples with my freshly dipped fingers after settling into our pew just to see! Nothin’.)

It took 20 minutes of swaddling restraint this evening to get him calmed to the point he was no longer offering a reverse head-butt to his father and could actually hear our voices. Literally three minutes later, after being sent up to his room to don PJs and brush teeth, he ever-so-calmly (and very clearly off task) returned downstairs still in his clothes with a tiny container of soapy liquid…gingerly blowing sweet bubbles through the living room, full of smiles, using an inside-voice like nobody’s business and seemingly incapable of hurting a fly. Fast forward another ten minutes and he was again a bucking bronco, speaking in tongues, accusing me of hating him and stealing all of his belongings. The usual.

Sigh…

I fear we have hit the dreaded plateau of inefficacy with pharmaceutical treatment attempt #4. Almost two years ago the gentleman and I began to realize that he was a little more rambunctious than most. Well…let’s back up...we realized that about FOUR years ago but began to notice a significant stratification between he and his classmates two years ago when he was preparing for Pre-Kindergarten. We spent a grueling Pre-K year communicating with his amazingly gracious teacher literally on a daily basis, attempting every known behavior modification tool found in books, online and from friends who found success. To no avail. Although we hated to admit it, the look in the teacher’s eyes told us what we already knew…it was time to seek medical/behavioral advice. What I wasn’t prepared for was the reaction I would receive from our pediatrician’s office after finally deciding to take the step toward evaluation.

Me: “My husband and I would like to see about a behavioral evaluation for our...”
Nurse: “Ah…you think your kid has ADHD and want to get medication. First you’ll have to fill out the Connors…”
Me: “What? Wait…no! I don’t know WHAT my son has, if anything at all, and I most certainly don’t want to medicate him!”
Nurse: “Oh.”
(We obviously didn’t stick with THAT doctor long.)

Really? Was my response truly that atypical? Is that really what most parents call for...skip the small talk and toss me the Ritalin? I had no idea if we were dealing with Aspergers, ADHD, bipolar disorder…no clue, still not entirely sure. I just knew that I was worried about my little man and unfortunately was entirely disappointed with the “help” we were getting so far.

He was eventually evaluated by both his pediatrician and a psychologist who determined, without officially diagnosing him, that we were likely dealing with a combination of ADHD and Depression. How can a four year old be “depressed”? But it all began to make sense. I flashed back to multiple conversations with the teacher indicating he didn’t seem happy, he doesn’t socialize, he never smiles, he doesn’t enjoy classroom playtime. This was all so new to us…our older two children were very well-adjusted, pleasant, and extremely engaged children in the classroom. Were we dealing with bratty third-child issues? Or were we over-compensating in discipline, fearful of the potential of third child syndrome leading to total backfire? I literally made myself crazy with this. I didn’t think I really “believed” in ADHD, if that makes sense. Having a degree in Social Work and having spent several years working with children, I had seen my fair share of the over-diagnosis of ADHD. To have my own son on the podium awarded with such a badge had me feeling a little defensive. But a year and a half of counseling and an official diagnosis later, I’ve come to terms with it.

I realize that we are extremely lucky parents…that we could instead be dealing with devastatingly severe health issues. But he’s my son. He’s supposed to be a happy five (almost six) year old boy, enjoying school and friends and playtime. Instead, we have been back and forth with medication and counselors, hitting what I thought was a low resulting in his declaration that he should kill himself after a heated argument with his sister. A swift halt of ineffective medication, another visit to the doctor, and subsequent prescription later, I am once again reading his teacher’s words “He’s not smiling much”. We are now back to paranoid accusatory statements, declarations that everyone hates him, distaste for school in general for fear of rejection by his classmates…again, the usual.

I see through the conniption that he wants to be good, that he wants to enjoy life. His sad little eyes break my heart. There is a sweet innocent boy inside but I feel like I’m the only one who can see him buried in there. I hate that we are relying on trial and error with chemicals to pull him out. I hate that very few people seem to get him like I do…few who can bring a genuine smile to his face. I live to see that baby smile.

Friday, January 27, 2012

One Life to Live

Last night my 10 year old daughter and I took a small road trip to comfort our two of our best friends as they celebrated the life of a beautiful young woman who lost her battle with Leukemia. As we made our way I lost myself in thought…reliving the end of a life to this treacherous monster was more emotional than I anticipated. Two and a half years ago we said good-bye to my father-in-law who fought the same fight. Hearing about this young lady’s diagnosis, treatment, isolation…it was all too familiar. I let myself go back to the age-old question –

“Why do bad things happen to good people?”

This beautiful woman was a cheerleader, a prom date, a best friend, a wife and most importantly a mommy to two boys under the age of five. She was diagnosed with Leukemia 18 months ago while in the hospital, giving birth to her second child. How quickly one of the most beautiful experiences in life can become the scariest. My father-in-law choked on his dinner in a restaurant one night and was taken to the hospital where they ran a normal battery of tests, only to discover that HE had developed Leukemia. This man was essentially a saint…never smoked, drank, abused anyone or anything. He was a loving son, devoted husband and doting father and “papaw” to my children. Why was he being deprived of the many years he still had left to live? There were no choices that either of them could have made differently in life that would have resulted otherwise. It’s not fair. I realize that I’m being human and selfish in saying so…the reality is that God has a plan and we are all better for having been a part of their lives, despite the brevity.


If I can look beyond the sadness of losing the physical existence of such wonderful people, I see the legacy that is left behind. The impact that we have on this earth is never more evident than when celebrating the end of one’s life. Last night as we entered the town square, I very quickly found our destination as I saw the line of family and friends literally a city block long eagerly awaiting entrance to the church and their moment to hug her mom, dad, husband, brothers…and share with them what their daughter/wife/sister meant to each of them. I fortunately made my way through the side door with the family and sat as witness to this line of people slowly getting their opportunity to say good-bye. The two hours that each of these people waited just to do so spoke volumes about this angel.

Though I don’t find it particularly enjoyable to see such sadness in the faces of those who miss her dearly, I do attempt try to see the good in any given situation. This woman was loved greatly…she was a good person…she lived her life to the fullest and left this earthly existence having taken advantage of every last moment she had. While last night I can say that I truly enjoyed the company of our best friends and am happy to be a support whenever I can, I also walked away with the ever-so-important reminder that today is no guarantee of a tomorrow. Am I doing everything I can to live MY life to the fullest? Am I hugging and kissing my babies often enough? Am I giving my time and resources enough? Do I give a shoulder and open ear enough? No need to ponder…I know I am not. That is human nature. We all get comfortable and take life for granted…in some ways that’s a good thing. We can’t always sit on pins and needles waiting for the day that it’s all over. But we DO need the reminder from time to time to raise bar, kick it up a notch, do more, be more. I’m thankful I got that reminder last night. Today, for certain, I’m going to hug my babies until they yell at me to let go.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Gift that Keeps on Giving


Alright, kids…we are a mere 16 days away from my favorite holiday of the ENtire year. Stop doing the math and checking your calendar…I’m not referring to Valentine’s Day. I AM, however, referring to the culmination of all that is lovely and glorious: The 2012 Indy Wine Trail - Chocolate Lovers Wine Tour. (Cue angels singing and golden glow from the heavens.) Okay so maybe it’s not Napa Valley or the rolling vineyards of Italy (I will get THERE someday!) but for now it is my bliss.

What has become our annual beacon of light amidst our Indy tundra of cold and dreariness actually began as a fresh attempt at a Valentine’s Day gift from the gentleman. I say “attempt” because gift-giving has not always been his forte. For example my very first Christmas gift from him was the complete set of plastic Rudolf the Red-Nose Reindeer cartoon character toys. Um…I’ve loved Rudolf since I was sportin’ yarn bows in my pigtails but…really??? It doesn’t scream romance…or even “I’d like to maybe possibly get laid in the next 6 months”. Gifts generally have served a dual purpose when given by my husband…they technically count as a gift for me but are typically things that entertain him (movies, video games, you get the picture).


And then, of course, there was the Christmas I received…

Well, let’s start from the beginning. My husband and I have historically been rather thrifty when it comes to gifts. We’ve always stuck strictly to a budget, spending what I would say is significantly less than most. Fine by me, neither of us really needs anything and the joy has always been on buying for the kids, particularly at Christmas. So we had our budget…and this particular year I surprisingly stuck to it, being the one out of the two of us who tends to be the “spender”. I was actually quite proud of myself, spreading my budget pretty damn far, if I do say so. That Christmas Eve, as is our tradition, after the children predictably hit their sugar crash from the junk-food buffet that is our family holiday gathering, the gentleman and I settled in to exchange our gifts. He asked to give mine first, which met no argument from me. A crappy gift is still a gift. He dramatically sat me down in our bedroom upstairs to explain that he had in fact, exceeded our budget, begging for my forgiveness while exuding all the confidence in the world that I would be astounded and thrilled with his generosity. Naturally I was quite curious as to how much he spent and what on earth he may have purchased…FINALLY a Coach purse…or, or a diamond necklace…the possibilities were endless (keep in mind we spent the first few years of our marriage living on his salary as a non-tenured teacher while I was a SAHM…so ANY gift over $50 made me feel like a Kardashian.)

He then confessed that he actually spent four times what he had originally budgeted for me (holy shit…THREE Coach purses!!) and that it was something that we could take with us when we move someday to our dream home (hmm…a new bedroom suite?), that it was for my kitchen (a new appliance??), and that it was shiny and silver (a new God-bless-ed stainless steel refrigerator!!!! I love this man…but how the hell will we fit that in the small space of our…nevermind). I was practically bouncing on our bed, literally more stimulated than after a couple glasses of wine and 3 solid hours of watching 24 (okay so Jack Bauer really did it for me). He asked me to close my eyes and carefully walked me down the stairs so I could see what wondrous gift was awaiting me.

As my eager foot met the ground floor I ferociously slapped his hand away from eyes, quickly looking left into the kitchen...no new appliances?? Then looked right, maybe a new TV…that I could maybe someday use…in…a kitchen. No new TV. As I stood there stupefied, I glanced at him for a little guidance…what the hell was I supposed to see? He impatiently pointed his arm back to the kitchen…when upon further inspection and focus I saw them. Lying upon my kitchen countertop was the 13 piece Cutco Galley + 6 knife set, complete with party pack and kitchen tool set. Wow. (Knives cost that damn much??) They were definitely silver, belonged in the kitchen and with the apparent lifetime warranty, they would in fact follow us to any home we move to in the following 50 years. Some would say “that is the gift that keeps on givin’ the whole year”…and I would say “that it is Edward…that it is indeed.”

Those knives will forever been known as the “that could have been three Coach purses” gift…or the “that could have been a weekend getaway” gift…but neither were meant to be. God love him, I know he tried. On the flipside…four years later I can still dice a mean onion, and melt an ice cube in my ice cream scooper. How many of you can say that, eh??

So I come back to our wine tour…and the first year he signed us up, as a surprise Valentines gift to me. When he told me he had a surprise gift for me that I would LOVE, you can imagine I was ever-so-skeptical. I clearly was all set where cutlery was concerned…and had no idea he had such a fitting gift in mind. This is where the gift-giving tide had turned and my man became a genius. He really had been doing his homework and started to pay attention to those things that entertain and bring joy to me. To my evident (and still unbelievable) surprise, we would spend the day with a wonderful group of friends, sharing a limo, touring wineries in central Indiana…tasting countless varieties of vino and chocolates…sharing laughs and memories that will last a long time. Three years later it is now a standard in our winter regimen…our only source of giddiness as we remove the Christmas d├ęcor. I can’t wait to do it again!

More to come and pictures to follow…

Friday, January 20, 2012

No, really, I'LL do it!

Why do we martyr? Anyone??

Sigh…

This week has been a challenge for me in a variety of ways. I underwent a very minor surgical procedure on my feet Tuesday afternoon which I was to have recovered from quickly, keeping me from functioning normally (working, walking, driving, etc) for only a couple of days. Unfortunately the physician clearly did not take into account that I had BOTH feet done at the same time and sorely underestimated my recovery. Add to that a severe reaction to the pain medication with no pharma alternatives (other than good ol’ Tylenol…really??) and you’ve got a Momma who is a hot mess.

I’m not going to take up your time bitching about all of the things I’m unable to do but my limitations certainly have spurred thought. I haven’t been this incapacitated since giving birth to each of my children. Even THEN I was on my feet doing normal daily duties the moment I walked back in our front door. I realize the gentleman is not accustomed to administering many of responsibilities that historically have been under my charge. This whole issue was unexpected for both of us. I would say he’s trying…but I’ve found myself more frustrated than thankful over the last few days. Poor guy. I don’t make a habit of publicly grumping about my man…and while I’m venting some frustration the point is to shine light on WHY I’m so damn particular with a tendency to martyr myself. I know I’m not the only woman who does this. Yes?

But why?? We take on multiple duties at home and with the kids maybe because we truly enjoy it, maybe our significant others simply refuse to help…OR maybe because we’ve never given them a chance to do it their way without being a complete and utter control freak hovering over their every move. I’m going with “C”. And it’s not just women who do this…men too! For example: when the gentleman and I were first married we thought it would be enjoyable “quality” time to do laundry together...awwww (PUKE). We were both folding sheets when he suddenly pulled one of mine from my “folded” pile and literally refolded it before my eyes. That was the last time I touched the laundry…and that was 11 years ago. Kiss my ass…you can get intimate with Downy all by yourself. Why WOULD I volunteer to take that on when I know in his mind I’m an epic fail?

Fast forward to this week…and my inability to do a God-blessed thing around this house. I’ve needed his help with the cooking, cleaning, book-bag sorting, lunch-boxes, kid dropoff/pickup, and helping me get from A to B when necessary. Thank GOD I don’t need assistance in the restroom or with bathing. (Shoot me when I get to that point. I will happen…it’s inevitable.)

Both sinks are piled with dishes, kids have been buying their lunch at school, not a single surface in our house has been wiped down, piles of clothes left scattered across the bathroom floor, doors are being left unlocked at night…I could go on but my head might explode. While I’ve had to pick up the slack on the door-locking (safety issue not worth arguing about) I am doing EVERYthing in my power to not hobble, begrudgingly, and audibly to the sink, sighing and grumbling under my breath to clean those crusted dirty dishes. I’m fighting the urge to sloppily, and with my one crutch, gather all of the clothes from the bathroom and dramatically drag them up the stairs one evidently painful step at a time (again, sighing and grumbling under my breath…that is a martyrdom requirement.) I’ve thought about offering to make dinner…picturing myself standing pathetically in the kitchen (don’t forget about the one crutch) magically making a phenomenal dinner that doesn’t include a cellophane wrapper or cheese in a foil packet. Why is THIS what I spend my time fantasizing about??? Someone help me understand.


Instead I lay here somewhat useless on the couch…legs propped as directed…being a good girl, not pushing myself physically but feeling rather frigid about it. Why the hell can I NOT just enjoy the fact that I don’t have to do a damn thing around this house for a solid week? Who cares if it’s not getting done the way I would prefer…it clearly doesn’t bother the gentleman. Why should it bother me? I shouldn’t be up on my feet looking at that mess of a kitchen anyway. (But I know it’s THERE.)

Sigh…

My point is this…we have GOT to keep the martyring under control. “No no no…I know you offered ten times but I’LL do it. Goodness knows you’ll do it wrong and I’ll end up redoing it myself anyway. Let’s just save us all time and let me do it to begin with. Alrighty?” So maybe I’ve never said that out-loud but it sure sounds familiar. My inner voice and I chat regularly…

Monday, January 16, 2012

Doubting Thomas

As a mommy, I am perpetually in a state of de-cluttering. Those of you with children absolutely feel my pain, yes? I have three wonderfully “spirited” kiddos: the girl is 10, my sweet boy is 8 and the stinky boy is 5. Last spring I had a few days off which I quite productively spent on cleaning out a few of our highly neglected rooms. We recently moved (by “recent” I mean two years ago) and still have multiple cardboard boxes half filled and scattered about the house. I took this time to primarily tackle our boys’ room. I dare not touch the girl’s room fully aware of my inability to control my arm sweeping across every surface in sight…throwing every single cheap tacky nick-knacky thing that girl owns into the trash (including every God-blessed snow globe she has received from her richer, more-frequently traveled relatives…no she has never personally been to Vegas, Baby!).

I digress…

The boys’ room.

The issue here is not nick-knacks, rather a serious accumulation of toys that they NEVER ever play with. I actually took great pleasure and satisfaction filling about four boxes that would eventually make their way to a future Goodwill/Yard Sale pile in our basement. If I could eliminate one more tiny, sharp-edged object that successfully hides in our carpet until I’m stumbling through their room at 2am to calm a crying child…then, yes, I’m one step closer to happiness. I began by filling boxes with impossible transformers that put the Rubik's cube to shame, Bakugans with those little arms that won’t close all the way, not to forget the annoyingly loud noise-makers that were practically brand new but I saw my opportunity and RAN with it. (Don’t judge me.)

After filtering out all of the mismatched car/track sets, random k*nex pieces, broken light sabers I finally came upon the biggest space thief in their room. Thomas. My boys…between the two of them…had been hoarding Thomas the Tank Engine tracks (of VARIOUS sets – wooden, blue plastic, gray plastic…you get the picture), every single engine times three, two different Tidmouth Sheds, I could keep going but I’d get carpel tunnel. ALL. IN. THE. BOX. Because, really…when was the last time I saw my boys laying on their chubby little bellies playing with those trains? Huh? Years. Gone.

With a feeling of overwhelming success and a tad bit of mischevious sneakiness I wielded those overflowing boxes down to the basement never to been seen again.

Until…

Very recently we excitedly planned a trip to visit some friends of ours that live a few hours away…who we adore and only get to see a couple of times a year. They are wonderful parents to two lovely baby-dolls…a 5 year old girl and a 3 year old boy. (You see where this is going.)

The morning before our trip my husband extended a surprisingly generous gesture (he is predictably yet reassuringly cheap)…instead of gaining a write-off by making a Goodwill donation, or making a total of $2.50 by unloading it in a Yard Sale, he offered to deliver all of the Thomas engines and accoutrement (which I had completely forgotten about) to our friends in order to “pass the ‘Thomas’ torch” to their son. Great idea!! I was so proud of him for making the suggestion…knowing their sweet little boy would put those toys to good use. Thomas and Friends would be in good hands. Literally.

The next day as we excitedly placed the box of Thomas gear in front of the boy, his face lit up like a Southern Indiana neighborhood on the fourth of July. He was SO excited and swiftly began tugging each and every engine from the box, calling them all by name. That kid knows his Thomas! As I sipped my coffee watching him that morning I began to feel the nostalgia…it hit me like a ton of bricks. He was lying on his belly…putting together the tracks and placing the engines one by one, hooking them together to make them go round and round. (Crap.) He excitedly pulled one of the sheds from the box and a few additional engines. (Nope…not gonna do it.) Proudly, he began humming songs from the show, smiling from ear to ear. (Why do I feel like someone crammed red pepper flakes in my eyes???) Before I knew it he had all of the Island of Sodor built right there in their living room. (Oh God…here it comes.) And then his Mommy started the song. THE song. And he knew every sweet word…

They're two, they're four, they're six, they're eight
Shunting cars and hauling freight...

(Stick me with a fork, I’m done.)

In the sweetest little three year old voice he sang that whole song. The WHOLE song…word for word. And I bawled like a baby, singing through every salty tear, right along with him. I was so happy that he loved those trains yet simultaneously wanted to scoop them all up and run screaming from the house…”mine, mine, mine!!!” That little bubble faded from my shoulder and I instead spent the day watching him play and truly being thankful that I knew exactly where those toys were spending the next few years. We may not be bringing any new stinky boys (or girls, for that matter) into this world but I love that boy like he is one of my own.



I continue to fight this baby fever…a wicked bug, it is. I find myself thinking of those sweet moments when I’ve quietly snuck into the boys’ room to see them peacefully “shunting trucks and hauling freight”, or lining up their army men in a perfect line, or spying in to hear my daughter sing along to one of her favorite Taylor Swift songs. Those memories will never fade and I will probably always look back on those with a slight ping to my ovaries…a brief desire to have “just one more”.

Thankfully and equally there will always be those moments when I see an exhausted mother who hasn't slept in a year, fumbling with an over-stuffed diaper bag, a stroller that refuses to fold and a baby spewing something from multiple orafices…and then I think “nope, I’m good.”

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Losing My Religion

So it’s time to admit epic fail #9485…or as far as the blogosphere is concerned, fail #2 (see inability to bake bread in Testing, Testing, Sibilance, SSSIB-I-LANCE.)

Thursday afternoon while making our daily trek home from after-school pickup, sharing all of our day’s successes and challenges, my five year old posed the question that landed like a bowling ball in my gut: “Mommy, when can we go to church again?”

(Insert drooping shoulders, sagging head and deep exhale. I..suck.)

Let me provide a brief review of our church participation over the years:
I was raised essentially a C & E Catholic. For those of you who are unfamiliar…that means that when I asked MY parents “when can we go to church again?” we went for about 8-10 consecutive weeks then slowly trickled back down to attending solely on major holidays. The gentleman, on the other hand, was raised in an extremely conservative, 3-day-a-week, stifling, (did I mention conservative?) church. By the time we were married, we knew we both wanted a Plan C.

We’ve done our share of visiting churches over the years, to the extent that we could read instant opinion in each other’s faces upon the start of service. Don’t get me wrong…we’ve not entirely lived our lives as religious nomads. We were fortunate to find a wonderful church shortly after we were married where we spent four wonderful years. We became involved in a life group and for the first time in my life I had a true church family…an extended community. Shortly thereafter the church literally began to crumble before our eyes. A new pastor came on board and significant changes were made to praise and worship. After a few emotionally charged meetings, elders began to leave and before we knew it we were sitting in a church we knew nothing about. Our community disintegrated and once again we had no direction.

Fast forward a few years and MANY church visits later, we were fortunate enough to find the perfect fit. Again. The church was large enough that the programs and services were plentiful, yet small enough that we saw familiar faces every visit. After three years of membership the church made a major change in governance, took an entirely different direction in doctrine, we lost two pastors and here we are. Add to that, our recent move to a town 45 minutes away and you’ve got several sporadic weeks of our butts still in bed at 8am on Sunday morning.

Sigh.

Why is this so difficult for us? Despite what I feel is a genuine desire to find a church home, an extended family and community, the search for said church presents itself as such a chore. We have only good things to reap from finding a place to settle in and call home. Am I a commitment-phobe? An 11 year marriage with three children would suggest that is not likely the case. But maybe I am. Is it like moving on to a new relationship after having been hurt? Is there an abandonment issue here? That just makes me a victim which I can’t swallow. I am a hard-ass that has no problem taking the bull by the horns in every other aspect of my life…why such a back seat driver here?

Today the search began. Again.

We visited a wonderfully pleasant church much closer to our home. We entered to find hundreds of attendees gleefully bustling about with coffee in hand, greeting, laughing and scurrying to get children to class and into the worship center. We were impressed with the organization of the children’s education program and with great ease left our children in their hands and quickly redirected to the service. As we approached the auditorium we heard it. The drums. The guitar. As we entered and saw the full band, complete with flashing colorful stage lights (but the website said it was a “Traditional Service”!) the gentleman and I locked eyes just as the doors were closing behind us.

RUN! Wait…open mind. Let’s just see…

We stood through 15 minutes of music, none of which we were familiar, followed by 10 minute video of the wonders of God’s creation. (Mountains, oceans, canyons, as if I needed convincing of God’s existence…you get the point. 25 minutes I won’t get back.) I believe I may have sighed just slightly too loud when the gentleman glanced my way…and the look in his eyes said “Yes Dear it WOULD be inappropriate if we left now and snuck back in to get the kids at the end of service.” (I never claimed to be good at this…see epic fail admission above.) Fast forward to a decent and surprisingly conservative sermon and the glorious closing song. (Grab coat and purse and run without making eye contact. Now WHERE were those classrooms??) I felt confident that I could call this a solid college try…right? I mean, I’m sure the kids found it awkward too…all is well that ends well. And then…we picked up the kids: “MOMMY I LOVE THIS CHURCH!!!”

Crap. Of course they do.

Herein lies the dilemma. We are now including our children in the search...and while their opinion is certainly important, should it be the sole factor? Are we hung up on style and not seeing the big picture? OR is it a legitimate concern that may hinder our ability to plug in and connect with the message on a weekly basis? This is not a moral dilemma…no concern that this church’s delivery is wrong or un-Biblical. I just. Don’t. Like it. Is that a good enough reason to not go back to a church my children loved? I don’t know.

So here I sit wondering if it is acceptable to make such a snap-judgment with this type of decision. Should decisions on religion and church membership BE open-minded or does that defeat the basis of having a defined belief system to begin with? Why do I feel as though I’m surrounded by families who seem to have all of the answers and never doubt their church involvement and commitment? This is not a topic that arises often with my friends…not a convo I would naturally initiate over a trip to Starbucks. And so I find myself feeling isolated with a lot of guilt and shame. Not simply guilt that I’m not attending regularly…participation should be driven by desire not guilt (as a great friend eloquently explained to me). Guilt...that my children are missing out on something they are quite aware that they desire too. Without speaking, my ever-so-grown-up daughter's face wails "pull up your big-girl pants, Mommy, and lead the way."

You're right. I will. I can’t give up on this one…my gut can’t take anymore bowling balls.