10 Things I Learned

July 8, 2021 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Kim Stokely –

Well, the day has finally come. My youngest has gone off to college. For my friends who are still battling the mommy blues, wondering what happened to your life, I provide the following 10 things I’ve learned about surviving the early years.

10. Most unauthorized things they eat won’t kill them. My children survived eating cookies they’d made out of Play-Do and various old cereal pieces they found on the floor. I’m not saying to let them get into the ant bait, but really, a bug or two won’t hurt them.

9. Germs are smart and understand human language. They hear the word “vacation” or “deployment” and get to work. Your best laid plans will be way-laid by an ear infection or strep throat. Learn to roll with the punches and carry a small pharmaceutical department with you. Especially on road trips.

8. Let your “no” mean NO and your “yes” mean SURE THING. Never confuse either of these words with MAYBE.

7. This one is a corollary to #8. If you’ve threatened a consequence for a behavior, follow through with it, even if it means more pain for you. A dinner out in a restaurant often became take-out when we had waiters pack up our food to go.

6. The best toys are free or really cheap. Walks in the trees became grand adventures in the Hundred Acre Woods. The latest gadgets soon broke or were forgotten, but a picnic lunch in the toy closet with flashlight became a lasting memory.

5. You can’t spoil children by giving them things you want to give them, but by giving them things they demand. It’s a subtle but important difference kids pick up quickly.

4. As often as you can, eat together. We rarely had conversation that I’d label intelligent, but our kids knew they were important enough that we wanted to sit down and talk with them. As they’ve gotten older, my husband and I have saved a bunch of money on tickets to movies and comedy shows. Our kids perform for us regularly over pasta bowls and sloppy Joes!

3. Be prepared to read your child’s favorite story book over and over and over again. Not just at bedtime, but several times throughout the day. You may want to gouge your eyes out, but they are learning and loving the gift of your time and the magic of a story.

2. As a corollary to #3, don’t be afraid to change things up a little when they get older. My husband got tired reading the same books to the kids at bedtime and one day changed up some of the story. It soon became a tradition to see how far he could mangle it and still come up with the same ending. I can still hear the gales of laughter coming from their bedrooms!

1. Again, I know you’ve heard it from a lot of people, but these early years do go by fast. Enjoy them for everything they’re worth: the good (when your kids think you’re superhuman, hugs after bath time when they’re still warm and their hair smells like baby shampoo), the bad (temper tantrums in Wal-Mart, birthday parties with 15 screaming pre-schoolers), and the ugly (stomach flues at midnight). Know that there is life after parenthood, although you may have a few more gray hairs and a little less of your sanity.

Mistaken Identity

May 31, 2021 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Kim Stokely –

Almost everyone who calls the home of a friend with teenagers has experienced something like the following:

(Sound of phone ringing)

Voice on the other end: Hello?

You: Hi Mary (or Alice or Karen…) Have you heard about the sale Kohl’s is having on bras? Buy two get one free. I remembered you saying yours are shot—your bras, not your—

Voice: Let me get my mom.

You: (Loud groan as you realize you’ve been talking to her thirteen-year-old daughter.)

My kids try and pick up the phones in our house that have caller ID so they can prep the person on the other end as soon as they answer. My son even goes to the extreme of sounding like we’re a mortuary or rehab center, “Hello, this is Ian of the Stokely House. How may I direct your call?”

The funniest mix-up happened a couple of years ago when we arranged to reunite with friends we hadn’t seen in over ten years. The restaurant we were meeting at was crowded so my husband and I saved a table while our kids, 14 and 16, went to place their order. My friends walked up to my son exclaiming, “John! You haven’t changed a bit since college.”

My son, with eyes like a deer in the headlights, stared at these strangers a moment before pointing behind him, “I think you want my dad.”

It’s been a fun journey, watching my children grow up into adults. They may not like being mistaken for their parents, but my husband and I take a certain pleasure in thinking at least our voices still sound young! Physically, the resemblances between us are becoming more prominent too. My son, fortunately, has inherited my thick hair. I’m sure he’ll thank me when he’s fifty and nowhere near balding. My daughter has my husband’s metabolism. She’ll never have to worry about gaining weight. (I’ll try not to hold it against her.)

It occurred to me the other day as I watched my son pass the phone to my husband after another case of mistaken identity, that I too, hope to be mistaken for my Father—my heavenly Father, that is. I hope that the words I say, and the things I do, might always be such a reflection of His truth that people see Him in me. It would be awesome to come to the end of my life and have God exclaim, “Welcome to heaven! I’d know you anywhere! You look just like me!”

Driving Me Crazy

March 26, 2021 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Kim Stokely –

I pulled up behind a minivan today while waiting for a red light. Through the rear window I could see the glow of a television screen.

I sighed.

Not that I begrudge you if you own such a decked out vehicle, but oh, how I remember the simpler days when parents had to listen to inane children’s songs over and over again on rides around town. Like prisoners in a torture chamber, those of us who survived Raffi’s “Baby Beluga” a hundred times-a-day became tougher parents; able to withstand the onslaught of the latest teen sensation without batting an eyelash.

And if your child is watching television while you’re driving, you no longer have to endure the constant barrage of questions I remember so well:

“Mom! Where are we going?”

“The store.”

“Why?”

“Because we’re out of milk.”

“Why?”

“Because you and your father and your sister drank it all.”

“Why?”

“Because you like it.”

“Can we get a toy at the store?”

“No.”

“Why not?” Sniffle, sniffle.

“Because it’s a grocery store, they sell food, not toys.”

“Why?”

“Because they do.”

“But why?”

“I don’t know why. They just do.”

“They do what?”

“They…uh…they…” I’d completely forgotten what we were talking about. “Because.”

But lest my train of thought get permanently derailed, I’d get kicked from behind by a light up sneaker. The blue and red LEDs flashing in the rearview mirror like lights on a police car. “Why don’t they sell toys at the food store?”

And our conversation would circle back around like an airplane in a holding pattern.

I feel sorry for those who no longer take pleasure in a four-year-old’s random thoughts. I learned a lot about my kids on those rides when we had errands to run and doctor’s appointments. No one can enjoy a puffy cloud like a child. Or dump trucks on a construction site. And a trip through the car wash became a wild, underwater adventure with giant blue squids and hurricanes.

Without a television to distract us, car rides also became lessons in faith for myself as well as my kids. Nothing makes you hold your tongue quicker than a precocious two-year-old. Instead of letting loose with my anger, I often found myself yelling, “God…bless that man and help him get to wherever he’s going safely!” and “Please God, not another red light.” A premier parking spot in the pouring rain became a time of praise, “Thank you, Jesus!”

As my kids are now old enough to drive themselves, I have a new perspective on God’s sense of time. Psalm 90:4 reminds us, “…a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by” (NIV). When you’re in the midst of diapers and play dates you can’t believe you’ll ever miss the chatter, the clutter and the constant attention your kids demand. But I know I do. Perhaps I’ll dig through the basement, I’m sure I’ve got an old Raffi CD hiding in a box down there. If not, maybe I’ll download a song or two and drive around town singing “Baby Beluga” for old times’ sake.

Getting Stronger, Even if it Kills Me

March 12, 2021 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Kim Stokely –

A young friend (I now consider anyone under the age of 40 to be young) recently posted on Facebook, “It’s amazing how running makes you feel better. I love endorphins!”

I stared at the post for several seconds. I reread it two or three times to make sure I understood her meaning. Then I posted the following snarky comment in response, “I can safely say that running has never made me feel that way. Although I always feel better after I exercise, I think it’s my body’s way of thanking God that I’m still alive!”

I hate to run. Actually, I hate all exercise. Hate is probably too gentle a word. I despise it with every fiber of my being. I have nightmares of passing out on our elliptical machine only to be found hours later by one of my children while the pedals mysteriously keep turning and whacking me in the head. It’s quite frightening. It reminds me of the phrase, “That which doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger.” I can only hope my battle with the elliptical is making me stronger, because most days, I feel like I’m losing the war.

My loathing of exercise is one of the reasons why I hate action movies. They depress me. I know I’d be the person left behind to be captured by the terrorists or become dinner for the aliens because I couldn’t keep up with the rest of the group. And those scenes of the heroine clutching onto a cliff or window ledge by her fingers? I cringe every time, not because I’m scared the heroine won’t hold on, but because I know, if that was me, I’d be plummeting to my demise in a matter of seconds.

Why is it so often the things that are best for us are the hardest to do? It’s far easier to stay in bed an extra hour in the morning than get up and exercise. And how come we can stay up an extra half hour to watch a television show, but opening up our Bible before going to bed is so difficult? I think it’s because the things that are the best for us, don’t provide us with instant rewards. An extra hour in bed makes that morning a little easier to handle. Making the effort to exercise means working harder each day for a long time before our bodies begin to transform into leaner, healthier machines. The laughter a half-hour comedy show provides is an instant distraction to the troubles of the day. Spending a half-hour in God’s word means taking the time to examine our hearts in the light of His truth, and letting it work its way into the very fabric of our souls.

The best things in life aren’t free, and they certainly aren’t easy, but they are worth the effort. And so I’m off to face the instrument of torture, I mean the elliptical. Wish me luck. And kids, if I’m not in the kitchen when you get home from school, please make sure I haven’t passed out while getting stronger.

The Joy of Juicing

January 2, 2021 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Kim Stokely –

My husband and I have started juicing. (Just as an aside, when did nouns become verbs like juicing or texting? And I no longer exercise, I “ellipticate.”)

A friend of ours gave us a juicer. “It works great,” she said as she handed it to me.

“It could juice a cracker!” her husband promised.

“If it’s so great,” I asked, “why are you giving it away?”

“We just don’t have the time.”

Time? How much time can juicing take? You throw some stuff in the machine and voila! Juice, right?

A recent Saturday morning found me in my kitchen surrounded by various fruits. A veritable orchard out in the Nebraska cornfields. I had mangos, strawberries, tangerines, apples and pears all piled high and ready to go. I plugged in the juicer, let the motor run for the allotted ten second “start up” time and then threw the fruit down the chute.

The machine roared to life. It shook and rattled as the inner blades decimated my offerings into a tall glass of colorful goodness, chock full of various vitamins and antioxidants.

*sigh*

Really? All that fruit and all I got was one lousy glass of juice. Ok, it wasn’t lousy. It was actually quite tasty, but besides the cost of the fruit, I now had to clean the machine. I understood what my friend meant about the time factor. To squeeze the pulp out, the machine chops it up then spins out the dry pulp. The juice runs out a little spout, the pulp collects (theoretically) in the tub behind the machine. In reality, it goes everywhere. The machine has to be taken apart and each component washed separately.

With the cost of fresh fruit and veggies nowadays, I hated the thought of wasting all the pulp. We’ve started putting it into waffle and muffin mixes. They’ve been delicious. The other day I snuck veggie pulp into my meatballs when the kids weren’t looking. They loved them and anytime I can get them to eat an extra vegetable is a good day for me.

It got me thinking about how God views our lives. (It’s a stretch, I know, but work with me here!) Every moment of our lives is precious. It costs us something, time we can never get back. It’s easy to spot the good stuff that comes out of each day. We drink that down easily and thank God for his gifts. But even the bad stuff, the “garbage” can be turned into something good if we take the time to let God clean it out and mix it with His love and mercy. It may take some work, but the results are well worth the effort.

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