Not quite "Location, Location, Location"

We want to buy a house in the next 6 months or so. I've been pinning things to my "Dream Home" board on pinterest. Some things extravagant, and some not-so-extravagant.

So... Pastor Hubby and I are sitting here looking at potential houses to buy. Suddenly, while clicking through pictures, we see this big laundry room. I gasp loudly and say, "I COULD PUT A GREAT WALL OF LAUNDRY THERE!" He looks at me like I've finally, completely lost it and says slowly, "Nooo... We don't need a "Great Wall of Laundry." He didn't use air quotes or anything, but the quotation marks were in his voice. Trust me, I can hear them. I'm an English teacher. So I excitedly say, "No no no! We DO want one! Look!" and then took him to this post by a woman who understands my life (just take a look at the title of her blog!).

Now, being, well, Not-Me he's not nearly as excited as I am, so he made comments like, "So you just dump things in them?" and "But they get all wrinkly!" I told him he could continue hanging his own clothes (because I long ago stopped doing his laundry) and he hesitantly replied, "Oooookaaaay. I could get behind something like that." as if The Great Wall of Laundry was not The. Best. Idea. Ever.  Whatever. I am now only looking at houses that could possibly fit a Great Wall of Laundry.

So, my house list will look something like this:

  1. Location/ School zone (you didn't think I'd take that off the list, did you? I'm a teacher, remember?)
  2. Big backyard - is it too much to ask that it already have grass and a covered patio? because this mama has GOT to have a place to throw my kids where they can yell and scream and it be somewhat acceptable and in my line of vision. 
  3. Great Wall of Laundry possible

Bedrooms-schmedrooms. My kids love "sleepovers" together. As long as I get my Great Wall of Laundry, I don't care.

So, that's it. A place for them to learn, and learn well. A place for them to run. And a place for the massive amount of clothes they require.

Too many feet!

Another first happened to me at church yesterday.

I'm unpacking the kids from the van on-time-ish, and the newly-4-year-old comes to the door barefoot.

I say to him, "Go get your shoes!"

Then, all very quickly, I think, "What if his shoes are not lying on the floor back there? Did I ever see shoes on his feet today? Uh, nope. I know that I said 'Put your socks and shoes on.' But, man, what a newbie mistake to not check!"

So, after all the quick thoughts, I said, "Did you ever put them on?" He looked me in the eye and said simply, "No." His voice had a hint of, "Huh. That would have been a good idea," in it.

I couldn't help myself. I asked him why. His answer was something like, "Well, you told me to get into the van." Ah, well, yes. That makes perfect sense. Because there were many things I told him to do this morning, and, well, he missed one. It seems like an important one to me, but, apparently not to him.

What could I do at this point? My mind quickly flipped through my available options: 1. Take everyone home. 2. Leave a few kids and take him and the baby home. 3. Let him go to church barefoot and not miss church, and not miss the music section.

I should pause to say that, in the 6 months that Baby Girl has been alive I've made it to church approximately 65% of the time. And of those, I've been to the music section of service exactly 3 times. I should also add that I really love the music section. Music changes me. The sermons are amazing, and I learn from them, but I really, really need that time of praise. I married a music pastor, for crying out loud!

I told the kid to go to class and he couldn't play outside afterwards. 

I'm hoping that this is the kind of mom I'm becoming. Honestly. To my kid: You didn't listen to me? Ok, well, that doesn't necessarily mean that all of my plans change (although, of course, it might). It doesn't mean that I'm going to lose my cool and yell at you about it. It also doesn't mean that I'm going to internally berate myself for not checking - something that would have happened, without fail, in the past.

So, this was the first time I took a (walking) kid to church with no shoes. (I gave up on shoes for non-walkers 3 kids ago.) But it was also another first.

This time, I evaluated the situation, made a decision, and, mostly, moved on. I quivered a little as certain people saw him or brought attention to the situation. But, I laughed. And this time, it wasn't just for their benefit. Oh, how many times I've laughed to hide my self-loathing. Not so much this time, although I could feel it hiding below the surface, like an enemy submarine waiting to torpedo my whole  self. I just laughed and said, "Yup. I forgot to check that he actually put them on when I told him to! Rookie mistake!" And, internally, instead of telling myself what a horrible mother that made me, I said, "This kind of thing could only happen to a mom of at least 3 kids! There are just too many feet to check!"

I'm learning to roll with the punches. I'm starting to wonder if that's why God gave me 5 kids. Perhaps I was just so stubborn that I wouldn't bend in the wind with fewer kids - I just kept breaking. With each new kid, I couldn't fathom how I was going to stand in the storms they would inevitably bring. I see, now, that it's not about being strong enough. It's more about being flexible enough. That includes being flexible enough to not fit into what I and others have thought or said were the necessary things to making a good mom - like shoes at church, even! Even more, to be ok with not fitting that mold. Maybe, what will make me a good mom is instead my response to him, and to me, a mixture of grace and natural consequences. I'm still figuring this whole thing out, but being flexible enough is so much easier than being strong enough.

On orphans and hipsters

I haven't branched out much in my blog-writing. Today, I do.

Most of you have heard about the Kony2012 campaign. If you haven't, watch this.

It's pretty compelling, isn't it? Of course, as with anything else big these days, people quickly started coming out bashing the video. I needed to figure out where I stood. So, this is a long post to help others see as many sides as possible of this campaign without spending hours on the internet. I'm not a professional researcher. I'm just a former student, now teacher, who likes accurate information. Feel free to contact me if you think any of this is inaccurate, but, please, do so politely. 

First, the problems people have with the video:
1. Kony is no longer as dangerous as the video makes him sound. He was once this dangerous and deserves to be tried for his crimes, but these crimes are largely in the past. 

2. Finding Kony is not as simple as making him known. He's been on the world radar for a long time. America already has troops dedicated to this cause, and there has been no talk of pulling them. Part of this problem is that we're looking for him on his turf. And his turf, being the Congo, is a tricky turf for outsiders. Another huge issue is that he uses child soldiers as his bodyguards, and our forces would likely have to kill those children to get to Kony. Obviously, this presents a problem for our forces. I imagine even the most seasoned of assassins would hesitate before killing a child.

3. There's also the whole premise of White Man's Burden. What are our motives for going over there? Is it to "help the savage" find redemption? Or is it a gut reaction to seeing children abused in a way we can't fathom?

4. Lastly, Invisible Children seeks to give the Ugandan government more control. This government, like many African governments, is corrupt. They are raping and kidnapping also. Some suggest that they are not fully trying to apprehend Kony because when he's around, it gives them an excuse to have a presence in Northern Uganda. With this presence, they are sending the Acholi people to concentration camps, killing them, and basically trying to eradicate their people and history.

Then, there are problems with Invisible Children, the non--profit:
5. Charity Navigator only gives the 3 out of 4 overall stars, with various rankings of 2-4 stars in different areas. Go here for that full report. 

6. The filmmakers are young guys who went looking for a problem in order to make a film. Now that Kony is on the run, they are still looking to "cash in" on an already-solved problem.

7. They've made mistakes in the past, such as taking a group of people to Uganda, without a plan of what they could actually do. Some of these mistakes could have caused more harm than good. 

8. Their salaries are too high - about $88,000. 

Here's my take about each of these issues, in order. 

In order to understand my response to #1 (Kony is not dangerous), you have to look at #2 (Finding him is not simple). Notice that Kony is still using child bodyguards. That means he is still terrorizing children, even if it is on a much smaller scale. Even the criticisms that pointed out #2, also listed #1. I don't see how you can believe both of those facts to be true. I've seen several criticisms saying that the film is awful because it makes it sound as if the war in Uganda is still going on, and Kony isn't even in Uganda anymore. But he still has child bodyguards. It doesn't matter to me in the least where the man is terrorizing children, just that he is. See this New York Times Opinion article by Lisa Shannon for more. 

Also, it could be argued that, even if his crimes are in the past, justice still needs to be served for all those killed, enslaved, kidnapped, raped or harmed in any way. One blogger said several different things that Christians should be aware of regarding this campaign, one being that Christians are not supposed to be out for revenge, we are called to love. This is true, so personally, I'm not saying Kony should be tortured/hanged/treated the way he's treated children. But, since it seems that he is still harming children, I don't think it's wrong to pursue capturing him. I don't see that as revenge. I see that as loving those kids. I also think that blogger's point of praying for these kids is completely necessary as well. 

For #3 (is this White Man's Burden, or a desire to help kids?), I think it's the latter, plain and simple. People want to help kids. No one is trying to convert them. No one is trying to make all the children come to America, be adopted, and become good little Americans. I truly believe that most, if not all, people reacting to this video are reacting to the heart-wrenching story of these kids. 

Moving on to #4 (Invisible Children's partnership with the shady Ugandan government): in this Washington Post article by Elizabeth Flock, Invisible Children defends their partnership with the Ugandan government by saying, "There is a huge problem with political corruption in Africa. If we had the purity to say we will not partner with anyone corrupt, we couldn't partner with anyone." The article goes on to point out,"Human rights activists agree, however, that the abuses of the LRA are far worse than those of Uganda's security forces." To me, that answer is not only good enough, it's incredibly transparent and honest. Sometimes you have to choose the lesser of two evils. 

Invisible Children also addressed #5 (3/4 stars by Charity Navigator) in the Washington Post article above. I feel like 3 out 4 ain't too shabby, especially when you consider my responses to #6 and #7. 

#6, 7 and 8 (They were looking for a cause, they've made mistakes, and they make too much money)- This comes down to one fact: People don't really like seeing the hipster/indie filmmakers. I get it. They are young white guys who went out looking for a film to make and found one. But, the thing I keep coming back to is, they have talent. They could have used that talent to market soda, video games, or sweaters to teenagers. And instead they chose to market a cause. They chose to tell a story that kids in America can't fathom and ask them to think about something beyond themselves. This, above all else, is why I'm inclined to like these guys. So, they wear cowboy hats and ties. So, they're excited about this thing and make mistakes like mentioned in #7. So, the 3-year old pictured also has a hipster haircut. Does that change their purpose? Does it change the fact that I see, on a daily basis now, 12 and 13 year olds talking about helping - excited about helping - kids hurting in Africa? That fact doesn't change at all. And, judging from their FAQ page (see the first question) they're learning from their mistakes, so that is even a step in the right direction. 

Also, for #7: This may be another misguided attempt to help. But, what does it hurt? 

That brings me to #8 - how do you expect them to afford hipster clothes and haircuts on anything less? No, seriously. $88,000 is not a ridiculous amount of money. Yes, it's more than my husband and I make together. But, again, they could have chosen to do a ton of other things with their time. They could have been home with their kids more. But they chose to do this. I also had the opportunity to look at the blog of a friend of a friend who knows a few of the founders, and see what she had to say. 
"I've seen some criticism that they are taking HUGE salaries of around $80,000.  Seriously?  Ben and Laren graduated at the top of their classes.  They went to major universities that most students cannot even be accepted into.  They could be making 5 times that amount in different careers.  They work around the clock and even recruited their wives to work for Invisible Children.  I think their salaries are more than fair and even very low.  I know assistant pastors who make more than $80,000 at big churches.  No one seems to shout about that being wrong."
Well, *my* assistant pastor isn't making that much! LOL But, really, they chose to spend their time helping others. They're not making 6 figures. That's enough for me.

I feel as though I didn't adequately address #2. To me, that is the only issue not fully resolved. I don't know that doing all these things will actually help the cause. But I don't think it will hurt. As a parent and teacher, if a kid is excited about trying something, I try very hard to not step all over them with my pessimism. Or even realism. Kids need to believe that they can make a change. Even if you and I don't think that putting up posters will do a dang bit of good in capturing an evil man on the other side of the world, it could spark an interest in these kids, and show them that there is so much more to life than playing video games and complaining about homework. That not getting an iPad for Christmas is not such a terrible thing, on the scale of things happening to children in the world. 

So, will I pay $30 for a kit? Probably not. Not because I don't think it's worthwhile. I don't think it's responsible for my family right now. Mainly because I don't see how spending that money will help catch Kony. Will I encourage my kids (students) who are excited about spreading the word? Of course (while also asking them to be law-abiding citizens the night of April 20th). Will I use this opportunity to teach both critical thinking and community awareness? Most definitely. 



It's my new acronym. Got Her Milk? nope. Going Half-Mental? no. (ok, that one sorta works.) Get Hot Mustard? nuh-uh

God Help Me. 

This is my response to the plethora of FML posts I see. For those of you who don't know, FML stands for *eff* my life. It's supposed to be about the everyday crappy things that happen. Here's an excerpt from the site: "Today, I sneezed while at the office. I felt snot shoot out, but I couldn't see anything on the tissue. I ignored it and went on with my day. When I went to the bathroom hours later, I noticed a huge wad of snot had dried onto the front of my shirt. No one told me about it. FML" (I gave you an excerpt so that those of you who have a problem with profanity or crudeness don't have to go there to understand what I'm talking about. Good blogger etiquette, however, is to put a link to the site for those who do want to look further.)

I realized today that, most of the time, when people write "FML" I want to write "FWP" on their post. [First World Problems - another meme that pokes fun of how we get upset about things like our iPhones not working or our favorite Keurig coffee being out of stock.] 

I also realized that I catch myself thinking "FML" often, but then, out of ...well, guilt, I change it to "God help me." This started as simply a replacement that didn't make me feel so guilty. {"FML? Really? I may have 5 crazy kids, but they're all healthy! I may have 12-year olds disrespect me on a daily hourly basis, but I have a job!" in case you wanted a peek inside my head} But, one day, it changed. I found myself saying, "God help me... literally." It became a sort of prayer. Maybe not the most reverent, but often quite heartfelt. 

So, I'm going to start using GHM on Facebook and such. Sometimes you might be able to use either God Help Me or Going Half-Mental, but that's okay. Here's a few examples:

3/5 kids crying loudly in the car. No place to stop for the next 30 minutes. GHM.
2-year old found my toothpaste and painted the new couch. GHM.
30 7th graders. Full Moon. Friday before 3-day weekend. GHM. 
All 5 kids sick with the flu. I only have 2 barf buckets. GHM. 

Ok, maybe you can always use either one and it will work, but I guess that's the point. When I'm losing my mind, the only thing I can do is say, "God help me!" 

What scenario could you write GHM on?