appendixless. {and how i learned what i’m worth to my child}

In 5 hours, we will have been in this hospital for 5 full days.IMAG1135bWell, my daughter will have been here all that time. I’ve taken three breaks, the longest being a 12-hour overnight stay at home while my mom took my place. You start counting these kinds of things a lot, trying to bring some kind of qualitative perspective to a seemingly infinite experience.

I’m not a big fan of taking self-portraits.  It’s not always an insecurity thing.  It’s a battle against narcissism thing.  But this one I needed to take:

IMAG1148bI will need to remember this week and that I was here with my chipped nail polish and desperately cheerful sweater for Gabby.

When she was born, my 24 year old self actually wondered, “What if she doesn’t love me?”

When she was 4, I asked my Sunday School class to pray for our relationship, because I felt it was too distant.  (Yeah, we’re old school.  No small groups.  Just old-fashioned Sunday School.)  As I grew as a mom, I learned how to connect with her better.

My girl is an independent thing, and she’s so mature and intelligent for her age that it’s easy to leave her alone too much.  She doesn’t show signs of needing Mommy as much as I’d think a 7 year old would.

This week (and the 5 days of sickness prior to them) have proven that even a girl like her needs Mama deeply.

It turns out that taking that night off at home caused me to miss the worst (read: most painful) moment of the week.  No one told me they were going to remove the drain from her side.  While they were snipping the suture holding the tube in and then pulling the tube through her incision, I was at Walgreens buying a card on behalf of her little brother.

I arrived to find my little girl sitting in a chair next to my mother, holding a scrap of paper to her chest on which I’d colored her name ombre style.  Through tears, she’d asked my mom to get it down from the bulletin board.  “Did your mom make that?” asked her Nanna.  She nodded.

IMAG1142b

I know it’s not my fault, but it still hurts.  Yes, I needed a solid night’s sleep to function better for her.  Yes, it’s okay for her to rely on other people.  Yes, it was great for my mom to get to be a part of the healing process since she lives almost 9 hours away from us.  It’s true that I had no heads-up that it might happen that day.  But knowing that you weren’t there when she really needed you? That sucks.

I’ve since promised I won’t leave the hospital until she does, and I mean I’m not even leaving the unit.  She’s stuck, so I will be, too.  Whatever we need can be brought in by someone else.

There have been other ways to learn that I’m still needed.  Her head rested on my shoulder while we sat in the bed together and watched TV.  She let me rock her when she was so frustrated that I wondered if she’d spawned another personality.  My girl’s eyes dart to me when someone is getting on her nerves and she doesn’t want to interact with them.  She looks for me first when she wakes up.  Her breath deepened when I told her I wouldn’t leave her again.

This is not only my experience.  This is much of what it means to be a parent.

There are times that one parent fits the bill of the day a little better than another.  I know there will be times when she leans more on her daddy, but I don’t ever want to forget the emotional lesson I learned this week.  I’ll need to have it rooted in my heart if she decides to go all “Leave me alone. I just want to listen to my music” when she’s 14.  Maybe I’ll be needed in a different way at that time, but I’ll be there.

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you may say i’m a dreamer…

Some of you may have read posts from my New Normal series back in the Fall.  If so, you’ll understand how I could be so motivated and end up doing very little.  About a week and a half ago, I had probably the worst day I’ve had with fibromyalgia.  It took 4-5 days to get past that flare, but that was complicated by a sinus infection and a stomach thing.  I’m not sure if it was a stomach bug or if it was side effects of 2 doses of a fibro drug that I took.

All that to say that one doctor has now given me a fibro diagnosis.  In the meantime, I have bloodwork, a skin punch biopsy, an MRI, and a glucose tolerance test scheduled to continue to look for causes of neuropathy in my feet. (And now I think in my arms?)  We did an EMG in January because of the feet thing, and again I was told, “Looks normal!”  Yeah.emgThis being-motivated-but-not-able on many days is problematic for me.  I’m a daydreamer and a worrier, so having lots of time on a couch obviously doesn’t help me balance my imagination with action.  Here is my imagination when I’m not on the couch:

We got a fantastic new sporting goods store in my little town.  Walking the aisles, I know I’m going to go hiking and rollerblading and probably start cycling.

I take my daughter to get a library card.  Standing at the check-out desk, I see myself writing lesson plans here on Thursdays.  Too bad I can’t bring coffee.  I’m also going to check out really cool books that impress the librarians with my excellent choices.

Tsh Oxenrider shares tips on book writing, and oh, man!  I need to set some deadlines for myself on that devotional for teachers.

The Children’s Council meets at my house.  I’m going to revamp this Children’s Church thing, and it is going to be the best.  So much more Jesus-centered, and the kids will beg to go on Sundays.

I wake up.  Today’s the day that I will have clean surfaces and buy the perfect living room floor lamp that only costs $30.

Derek Webb tweets about his wife’s new album.  Why do I not know all their music?  I will fit in a songwriting session on Thursday, too — right after I vacuum the studio lobby for the dance teacher.

We discuss Chapter 2 of The Case for Faith in Sunday School.  Next week, I will have caught up on the reading and bring in more research on related scriptures and give a presentation on sponsoring a child through Compassion International.

Pinterest shows me a baby sweater soaked in sweetness.  I’m getting out that yarn tonight and learning to knit for my niece due in March.  No, I’m not.  I’m calling Tracy to help me finish this baby quilt that my grandmother started.  I stopped working on it a year ago.

You come to my house (theoretically) and tell me about your new project.  I am so interested.  I want to help you with that.

I just found this picture of myself at my sister’s wedding rehearsal last month.  The hands say, “I am a bridesmaid.  I hold flowers.”  The eyes say, “Where are my children?”presentnotpresentIs there such a thing as Life ADD? If so, I have it.  Can this woman learn to be more present where she is?  Can she choose to set aside some things in order to actually obtain others?  If so, I’m going to try it.

I’m setting some very specific goals to be completed by the end of this school year and share them with two women who I know will check in on my progress.  I have to make the most of the days that I am able and be content to purposefully rest (physically and mentally!) on the days that I’m not.  Here’s to less mental wandering and less subsequent guilt over shoulda-woulda-coulda.

31 days of a new normal {day 15} effects on our marriage – part 2

This post is part of a month-long series.  You can read the rest here.

Yesterday, I was telling you about how my husband has carried a serious weight because of my new normal.  It’s not unheard of for marriages to fall apart under the strain of chronic or terminal illness.

Why am I not terrified of my marriage falling apart when life is so “unfair” to my husband and it seems like it’s because of me?

1)  I see dedication in my husband in other areas of his life, even when circumstances are tough.  He does the hard things and barely grumbles.  (If I said he never grumbles, he’d call me out.)

2) When we locked up our life courses together, we did it in covenant, which is quite different from contract.  We both strongly believe in the concept of “I’m holding my end, no matter what you do,” because we daily receive that kind of grace from God.  In other words, we’re just trying to be a picture of God’s love.  “In sickness and in health” had a whole new meaning for us when listened to my cousin repeat his vows last weekend.

3) He tells me when he gets frustrated.  Communication, y’all.  Sometimes we really suck at it, but when we get it right, it makes everything better.  Just dragging things into the light makes it not so scary.

4) I know that God cares for my husband and will take care of him, just as they are taking care of me.  Look at Jesus’ promise in Matthew 11…

 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

That’s seriously comforting.

BANG! {and they’re off!}

The boys are down for a nap, and I’m waiting for my brand spankin’ new 1st grader to come home.  (New to first grade, not to me.)  “Waiting” makes it sound like I’m killing time, but I just finished writing my to-do list in green dry erase ink.  Everything needs to be purposeful (including blogging!) because school is back in session.  Go back and read that last phrase in your slow motion voice.

Whiteboard Markers

The kids’ laundry is cooling in the dryer, my big honkin’ pink binder impatiently waits to collect yet unwritten lesson plans, and a black leotard is faintly calling, “Find me!  T minus 2 hours…”

There is some wisdom in advice that says to leave your work at work, but I find that impossible to do, even if I leave my copy of my curriculum standards in the school building. During the opening day assembly in the dim gymnatorium, I smiled to myself remembering how excited G was this morning.  When I got home, I wondered how many of my recruits will actually get to have their schedule changed to include a music class.  My two worlds bleed into each other in my mind and heart, whether I like it or not.

I loved the reminder from Lara Williams today that God prepared these jobs (big and small) for me.  I don’t feel overwhelmed by them as long as I remember that he chose and has equipped/is equipping/will equip me for this spot I inhabit today.  I feel like I have quiplash after typing that.

T minus 30 minutes til I hear how awe-inspiring it is to be a first grader.  Better get that laundry before it’s stone cold!

zeroing in with your help

If I say, “music teacher mom,” what are you thinking?

If I said, “a blog written by a music teacher mom,” what would you expect to read?

In staff training at school last week, I learned that I’m a “green” personality with almost equal “blue” tendencies, according to the True Colors personality assessments.  To simplify, this means I’m an {over}analyzer who looks for the heart connection. (Mr. Man, the hubs, interjects here to say that he thinks I’m way more green than blue.  I digress…)

I need to know why and for whom I’m writing.  I think I’m finding the purpose for this blog.  I’m a mom.  I’m a teacher.  I’m a learner.  Put those experiences in the blender with some coffee and froyo and pour it into the address currently in your browser.  (That is, unless you’re reading in a blog reader.  I digress…)  Back to my questions:  Does ‘music teacher mom’ create that expectation for you?  And what kind of things might a music teacher mom have to say that could be valuable for you?

Thanks for helping me with my green and blue traits today, y’all.

possibly too much pre-coffee irony

A few of you may have noticed that button over to the left that says something about mornings.  You may have groaned at the sight of it just because of the ‘m’ word, but it’s a heart warmer for me!

Columbia River Gorge at Sunrise, From an Elevation of About 7,000 Feet 05/1973

Here is an excerpt from an email that I sent to some other women who are taking the Hello Mornings Challenge.

#myHMCstory

I began this challenge back in January, when groups were assigned (randomly, I guess?) and I hadn’t met any of the participants.  The challenge started about a week before I went back to work after having taken a semester off.  A few weeks after that, I began experiencing odd medical symptoms that have had me back and forth to doctors all year long.  Weird symptoms, a stressful teaching environment, an infant who wasn’t sleeping well… It sort of seemed impossible, but it wasn’t!

Because of the Winter session, my heart is believing more and more that early morning time with the Lord is crucial Twenty more minutes of sleep isn’t going to make a difference in my symptoms, but twenty minutes of time with the Lord will make a difference in how focused and loving I am today.  And you know what else?  One of the people I have leaned on the most through these tests and doctor visits is a woman with a similar story that I met through #HMC11.  Think that was a coincidence for us to be put in the same group?  I don’t!

I sent that 2 days ago.  Then this morning, my youngest woke up crying 20 minutes before my alarm went off.  And I was so focused and loving irritated.  The irony is not lost on me.

Really, I was irritated because I knew he wasn’t going back to sleep easily (or maybe at all) and I just wanted the silent morning all to myself.  I’m selfish.  And that is exactly why I need the Hello Mornings Challenge.  I need some accountability – via social media – from other women who have the same thing in mind:  getting up earlier than the rest of the family so I can spend time with God (and maybe even exercise and plan ahead for the day!)  I’m a selfish woman who will become less selfish if she gets that all-to-herself time with God.  (Again, ironic?)

Taking on my days this way has impacted me so much that I decided to be an Accountability Captain this go round!  Being a leader makes me step up my game, so here’s to more consistency!

I’m linking up at Inspired to Action today and Kat (our fearless pre-dawn leader) asked if we have any tips.  I do.

Use a plastic baby utensil to stir your coffee, and you’ll never hate your silverware for being too loud.

i’m teaching for the money

I’ve been dragging my feet on this whole “next year” thing.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve given some ridiculously vague answer to some person who I know well or don’t know well about what I may be doing with my time when the school year starts… or may not be.  You know.I snickered when I saw this on a friend’s Facebook page tonight.  We don’t even have to have that discussion today, do we? Fine. Short version. Most of us (except that handful of disheartening folks who need to find a different profession) don’t do it solely for the money, because the pay doesn’t come close to the value of the work when it’s done with passion. Good.  Glad you agree. And guess what?  If I go back to teaching this Fall, I’ll be doing it for the money. Ha!

Here’s my thought process this far:

1)  If I had no children of my own, I would go full-time, full strength back into teaching at the same school I’ve been at for the last few months.  After a semester of earning my stripes, I think I make a pretty decent maestro for those precious students.  My little ensemble would be putting on the Best Stinkin’ Musical Ever.  We’d be so good, Bev Perdue would have us performing to open the next session of the NC Legislature, and we’d make all the representatives cry and stand in line to hug us.  I’m feeling pretty good about us, me an’ them kids together.

2)  If we can squeeze it out financially, I would stay home full-time, and the Lutz kids would have SuperMom [trumpet fanfare!!!] to grow them into the best little Lutzes the world ever saw.  Gabby would have lunches packed with funny notes tucked inside them, Ben’s preschool teacher would never have to send another “ahem, your tuition is late again” note, and I’m certain Nate would be reading The Hardy Boys before he turns 2.  The boys would accompany me to sing at the assisted living home on Thursday mornings, and every neighbor of ours would know us as “that family that brings the awesome desserts” because I’d finally learn to bake while the kids tell me all about their day over a tall glass of milk.  I’m feeling pretty good about us, me an’ these babies together.

Time is so precious.

It’s easy to imagine that if I wasn’t dividing my time, I’d be so much better at the one thing on my proverbial plate.  However, I waste a lot of time as it is.  How much better a mom and teacher might I be if I was a little more organized, a little more focused, feeling a little better a little more often, a little… Yeah, that’s a quick way to beat myself up. No good.  Even if I tried to pour every bit of myself toward a single worthy goal, I’d still never achieve those pretty pictures I painted of perfection.  The fact is, we aren’t robots.  We aren’t designed to run at 100% efficiency, or with unlimited energy resources.

It’s not hard for me to know what I’d choose to do if money weren’t an issue.  I do have three very young children.  I’d go on most of the field trips with Gabby, and we would eat out waaaaay less because I’d be cooking gourmet meals to go along with our homemade pies.  I’d be more available for all the people who share the same address as me.

So in that sense, I do teach for the money.  If I teach during this season of my kids’ lives, it’s because I have to. But shame on me if I ever let my students – or my children – feel that I don’t want to be there with them.  In either case, that would be untrue.

What would you do if money weren’t an issue?

name-calling

I hate Facebook.  I say that a lot, either in my mind or to a friend who’s commiserating with me regarding that portal to darkness that I inexplicably continue to visit on a daily basis.  But that’s probably another post for another day.  Anyway, Sunday I didn’t hate Facebook.  Sunday was my birthday.

Thanks to Facebook, I was receiving notifications throughout the day that yet another handful of people had kindly taken ten seconds of their day to think of me and wish me well.  It was seeing how they might have personalized their greeting that was the most fun.

One of my college roommates:

Happy happy day, Larlo!  Can’t wait to see you soon!

She picked up that name from my AIM/ICQ handle circa 1999.  (Remember those?!  I miss that little incoming message giggle sound that ICQ made.) I was branded “Larlo” by my youngest sister many moons ago, since somehow that seemed to be easier to pronounce than “Lauren.”  It stuck.  Nicknames say, “We’ve got history.”

A co-worker from a school I used to work at:

Happy birthday, Lutz!

Like frat boys yelling across campus at one another, many of my teacher friends at that school just called me by my last name. No “Mrs.” to precede it.  Just “Lutz,” which rhymes with boots, in case you were wondering. There’s a certain energy and camaraderie to it that I find very endearing.  Teaching buddies can sometimes feel like fellow soldiers that are crawling around a bunker with you, so maybe it’s appropriate to bark at each other the way Sgt. Dan yells, “GUMP!”  Just-last-names says, “We’re in the trenches together.”

Other names I was given on my birthday: friend, lady, Lauren, niece, favorite music teacher (ahem, their only music teacher) — All these are signifiers of individual relationships that I’ve built, and what a lovely thing to be reminded of on a day that inevitably leaves me pondering what I’ve been doing for the past 31 years.

What do the names you own tell you about yourself?