Tuesday, February 24, 2009

You're Only as Old as The Young People Say You Are

By Kelly

A few weeks ago, I spent some time on the campus of my college alma mater. It was fun to walk around the familiar corridors -- this time, toting a baby instead of a backpack -- and marvel at how far I had come in the years since I graduated.

Of course, I got a huge kick out of watching the students -- the girls wearing sweet smiles and skinny jeans (which, I'm sorry, I'm a child of the 80s and I wore pegged jeans for years, but I'm here to tell you it's not a flattering look on anyone, ladies; return to the forgiving legs of the boot-cut denim), the boys sporting scraggly goatees and newly discovered muscles.

They looked young. But not like kids. I didn't feel like I stood out that much -- except for the baby.

Then I went to chapel.

While waiting for everyone to take a seat (while simultaneously doling out Cheerios to Teyla), the campus ministries director came over to say hi. He recognized me, since he had been on staff back when I was in school.

"Remind me again, what years were you here?" he naturally asked.

"Well, technically I attended college from 1989 to 1994, but since I grew up down the road, I know people from a 15-year time span," I joked.

And then it hit me: I just said I was in college when the students sitting around me were born.


I sunk into my seat a little, laughing at my own self-awareness -- or lack thereof. If I had heard someone say, "I went to college from 1970 to 1974" back when I was in school, I would have immediately thought, "OLD PERSON! OLD, OLD, OLD!"

But I'm not old.

Am I?

It's a strange thing, this aging. Time passes faster externally than it does internally, it seems. On one hand, I know I'm 37. It's fact. But on the other hand, aren't I still hip and fresh, with an added side of maturity?

Truth is, I rarely think about my age at this stage of my life. I'm too darn busy. I can tell you how old my kids are (7, 5 and 1), but my age? Most days, I have to stop and do the math (2009 minus 1972 is....) to figure it out. My age is irrelevant to day-to-day life, and those detail consumes me right now. (Hello tyranny of the urgent.)

Maybe having young kids in the house keeps you young. Or maybe having young kids in the house doesn't leave you a spare nanosecond to obsess about aging. Either way, it works.

At least, it works until your kids are teenagers. Because then, there's no getting around it: You're OLD.

Kelly also blogs at Love Well. She would like to thank you for your indulgence last week in giving her the day off while she was on vacation with her family. Instead, she spent Wednesday sitting in the sun at SeaWorld, invariably getting wrinkles which will make her look old. Someday.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Love, True Love

By Kelly

With apologies to Paul and the real 1 Corinthians 13.

My children were on time to school today. But if listened more closely to “Morning Edition” than their stories during the drive, I am just a chauffeur.

My house is in order, and the kitchen floor is mostly crumb free. But if I don’t see the blessing in the ministry of the mundane, I am just a maid.

There’s a pot of beef bourguignon simmering in the oven for dinner. But if I didn’t make it with a heart full of thankfulness for the bounty God has provided, I am just a chef.

Love is unwearied, even when the baby doesn’t nap for the third day in a row.
Love is compassionate, even when that paper cut doesn’t really need five Band-Aids.
It doesn’t grow bitter when the spouse gets to go on another business trip and stay in a hotel and sleep all night and eat in nice restaurants, while she stays home with the kids and eats chicken nuggets for dinner. It rejoices in the blessings of another.
Love is joyful and expectant.
Love lives every day with eyes wide open to God possibilities.
Love seeks to see her children and husband as God sees them.
Love rests in the knowledge that God is the author of her story.
Love orders her day in light of eternity.

True love doesn’t come from Hallmark or the candy store or the florist. True love isn’t the work of romantic evenings with my husband or long talks over coffee.

True love comes from God.

Lord, teach me to love.

Kelly also blogs, ironically enough, at Love Well.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Portraits and Paint Chips

By Kelly

If all goes according to plan, this morning I will take Teyla to get her picture taken at Target Portrait Studios. It will be her first foray into the world of professional photography.

She is one.

Do I even need to say that she is my third baby?

Natalie, my oldest, had her picture taken every three months on cue, in addition to special occasions and those days I thought she looked particularly cute. I decorated my house with her many portraits. Each wall was a panorama. “Natalie: 3 Months.” “Natalie: 6 Months.” “Natalie: Valentine’s Day.” “Natalie: Wearing Sunglasses.”

When Connor came along two years later, I struggled to keep up with the pre-ordained portrait studio schedule. His six-month pictures weren’t taken until he was six months and one week. (Quelle horreur.) I was vaguely chagrined but determined not to fall victim to the multiple child syndrome.

And then came Teyla. Connor was four when she was born, Natalie was six. No longer just a mom to preschoolers, I was learning the rhythms of a school-aged child. I was straddling two worlds, learning to balance my older children’s activities with the demands of a newborn.

I didn’t even think about documenting Teyla’s stages for posterity. I felt lucky just to survive them.

I remember, when I was a teenager, overhearing my Mom and her friends talk about the trickle down economics of multiple children. They laughed as they talked about the special privileges afforded their first, the lavish attention and care. And then, they commiserated, came the second baby, and everything went downhill.

“I filled in Kelly’s baby book religiously,” my Mom groaned. “Michael’s has a few dates in it. Emily’s is empty. And Jonathan doesn’t even have one.” Her friends laughed in guilty simpatico.

I stood to the side, both appreciative and aghast. I understood that there are so many hours in a day, and surely, the more kids you have, the more your time is split. But such apparent neglect baffled me. Wouldn’t my younger siblings feel slighted by their empty baby books? Wouldn’t they wonder if they were as loved, as wanted, as special?

But now, as a mom myself, I understand. My relationship with each of my children is equal in potency but not equal in appearance. I think of it like a handful of paint chip cards. My children may be different colors, but they are all at the same saturation level.

Natalie is my firstborn. Everything she does amazes me. She is the sunniest yellow, a window open to the world.

Connor is my boy. He is completely other. He stands in contrast to Natalie and to my femaleness. He is aquamarine blue, bright and inquisitive and mischievious.

And Teyla? Well, Teyla is my delight. By the time she was born, I was ready, nay, eager for another baby. Because of her siblings, I know what’s in store for me – and I’m ready to soak it in. Because she is her own person, I get the delight of discovering someone completely new. And already, I can see that she’s fire engine red, curious and joyful and strong.

So she might not have a bunch of portraits in her scrapbook (Oy! What scrapbook?) when she’s older. But I hope she knows that I’m enjoying her babyhood more than her siblings. Such is the gift of being the third baby.

And … I just heard someone throw up upstairs. Sounds like an aquamarine. Guess we won’t be making that portrait appointment after all.

Poor third baby. It's a good thing I have a digital camera.

Kelly also blogs at Love Well, although maybe not today for obvious reasons.