Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Parenting lessons at the Pinewood derby

The pinewood derby cars have now collected dust in the "favorite" things box.

In the blink of an eye, the brightly painted wooden cars have now taken the back seat to drivers licenses, tolo, SAT's and discussions about sexting.

(take a trip with me down memory lane, as once again the Strehle family paints a picture on how NOT to parent)

Twin B was coming off of his 2nd consecutive pinewood derby blue ribbon season.  He was arrogant and haughty in his pinewood derby prowess.

Twin A was coming off of his 2nd consecutive pinewood derby NO-ribbon season. He was seemingly unfazed.. maybe a little bit bothered about his lack of derby prowess.. but as per his usual easy going nature, taking it all in stride, like the easy going Twin A he is.

In step Mom and Dad (and a friend who we won't name to protect his identity)

**Lesson #1-It's most likely one of the most acute pains you will ever feel, at least it has been for me, watching your child suffer, physically, emotionally and well...unjustly is the worst.. or heck even when they deserve it! It still hurts!!! Momma bear is a term for a reason.. and sometimes we wrongly act out thinking we are protecting our wee cub**

Feeling particularly sad for Twin A's seemingly unjust derby situation we knew we had to take matters into our own hands.. Twin B needed to be put in his place! De-THRONED!! It was Twin A's time to shine.. plus it just was NOT FAIR!! Could Twin A's car beat Twin B's car just ONCE?! Was that too much to ask??

**Lesson #2-Um.. life is not fair.. EVER and trying to manipulate people, situations is dishonest and wrong. Yes I'm talking to us.. the coach/parent that rigs things in favor of your child.. you are doing him/her ZERO favors. Yes we ALL want what is best for our child.. but sometimes it turns out its more about our perception of what is best.. or even worse, its more about us.**

Race night!! A packed room full of pre-pubescent boys! The universal smell of pinewood derbies across the nation..

Now it just so happened my hubby had volunteered to help run the race.. and he had a plan.. maybe, just maybe if him and friend were to accidently oh say.. gently tweak a wheel on Twin B's car.. well maybe it was just going to slow it down enough for 2nd place.. 3rd? Not placing at all?? Just a little bit, not full on sabotage or anything.

**Lesson #3-Wrong is wrong.. but the good thing about messing up and doing something wrong is God can still work despite our error.. Yes we have the choice, but thankfully God still speaks in our failures.

Cars lined up for the first heat...

Twin B takes the race by a long-shot.

Then the next race, and the next.. then even after another "adjustment" before the final race...

Took the whole dang thing.  Even going on to the district competition and placing in the top 3.

It was like he was meant to win or something.. and nothing we could do would stop it.  Despite our best efforts to ensure what we thought was right, just and fair.. well God apparently had his own plan.

I have this theory on being a parent...

The moment you birth that beautiful chubby cherub is the very moment you have to start slowly letting go.. We grasp those wee fingers and toes so tightly.. know to our core that our very existence as a human has been changed forever.. At that moment we can't possibly imagine letting that hand go EVER. Our Maker is very gracious those first few years.. We trick ourselves into thinking those "milestones" of growing up have something to do with us, that first step might have been to us, but too soon those steps move past us.... and the crazy thing is.. that is how it was designed to be.

Parenting is a long lesson in letting go, having faith and finding the very careful balance between the two.

Fast forward a few years, Twin B has now had his fair share of losses. Some were easy, some well not so much.

And news flash.. Despite my best efforts, most of them had nothing to do with me.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Waking up

Where it began.

I think I've been slowly unraveling for a long time.

Some people call it middle age.

I call it waking up.

Facing ugly little lies that women seemingly buy in bulk.

Measuring self-worth in "Likes"

Impossible air brushed standards for our bodies.

The love of a spouse measured in carats.

Parenting for reflective glory.

Holding onto that job, because being "just a Mom" isn't enough.

Erasing the lines of wisdom from our very faces, because we feel shame when faced with age.

Like this whole idea that maybe when you were created there was some kind of cosmic mistake.

We are our own oppressor. 

Because all we can think about is fixing what is not really broken, looking for validation in everything except the things that actually matter, finding something to fill that void of emptiness that comes from filling your beautiful soul with LIES.

You are enough. 

500 likes or Zero likes 

You are enough.

Stretch marks or a banging body.

You are enough.

Kids that embarrass you on the basketball court or Kobe Bryant.

You are enough.

Never enough money or not a care in the world.

You are enough.

PTO president or CEO

You are enough.

"You are loved with an everlasting love."

You are enough.

Know yourself.

Speak for yourself.

You are beautiful, just the way God created you to be.

Don't believe the lies.

You are enough.

(a very heartfelt thank you for your kind welcome back comments.) 

(I do love all you so)

Monday, January 06, 2014

I'm sober.. I promise.

An unexpected adventure to Salvation Mountain

Dane Cook visited me in a dream and told me I needed to start writing again... like for reals.

Not God, or an angel, or anybody particularly cool.. Anne Lamott, Roald Dahl, Al Gore (just joking about the Al Gore being cool part).

Dane Cook.

Who is Dane Cook you ask? Yeah I had to ask myself that question as well.  I mean when was the last time I had even seen or heard of this guy? Well I just happen to have a little chat with him and his potty mouthed self in dream land. Lucky. Me.

Amber's (short)(but profound) Dream with a washed up early 2000's comedian.

***Picture me sitting around a large conference table in a really fabulous dress (that I saw on Pinterest the night before) chatting with Mr. Cook...***

Dane: How come you never told me?

Me: Well, I just didn't think it was that important?

Dane: It's important.

Me: Are we talking about the same thing? (other than my fabulous pinterest hair and bird dress)

Dane: You need to write again Amber.

Then I woke up... because it felt really real. Like for reals real. Like just as real as I'm sitting here typing this post.

Freaked. Me. Out.

So now you are thinking...

"OOOOHHHHH I know why Amber stopped blogging.. she went CRAZY"

Or maybe even worse.. you hardly noticed I was gone and all my thoughts about the narcissism of blogging are true.

But really here is the truth.. What was once easy became hard.. I'd start a post then I'm like..

"ooooh look, here is that mason jar, super food salad recipe, bed to 40k race schedule I've been looking for on Pinterest!"

I was distracted. I was scared. I was disingenuous, but Dane is right.. it's time.

I feel it.  That tricky muse is whispering.

2013 I wrote like 4 posts.. and they were all depressing... which kinda sorta explains my year, then finally I was like oh he-double hockey sticks, Ima just gonna give this up. So I did. For the first time in EIGHT YEARS I just stopped writing. At first I felt guilty.. it took my mind a long time to stop looking for things to write about, you know if there is an analogy to be found in that rock over there..I'm going to find it! Then I let a whole bunch of other things go.. like just left em'. Turned off the phone, stopped checking emails, stayed off of social media (ok I just lied about that last part) and pretty much just dropped off the radar.


For those of you who messaged, called, made snarky comments about my lack of blogging..

Thank you.

There were more of you than I had expected (humblebrag).

When I sat down today to finish this I looked back over some of the past 8 years of posting.. Some of my posts are awful (ok a lot)  BUT some made me smile, laugh and think, "dang someone needs to publish me" I've made friends here, lost friends here.. found parts of myself that were good and some not so good.

A good friend once told me, "Amber I've known you forever and there is this huge part of you I never knew about until I found you here" It's like this space is piece of my very soul that I feel too sacred to talk about, but safe to write about.

So write I must.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Counting change.

The older boys wanted to talk about it.. My ever current events focused first borns ask all the right questions. I think it might have been 5 minutes after I heard of Boston I received my first text.

"What happened in Boston?"

On the way home in the van we had the discussion about not talking about the bombing in front of #4.. who is 10.

The twins were irritated (which for the record happens everyday).

"Why do you always shelter us?"
"He will hear about it in school!"
"He has to realize that bad things happen in the world Mom."

All truth.

I think back to very moment I saw my Dad in the school office in 3rd grade. I knew something was wrong.  My rough, ginger bearded, old school father did not just stop by school.. ever. The only logical explanation was that I had missed a dentist appointment.

I made my way to the office, a little excited with the prospect of missing some school.. being singled out when the teacher told me to pack my stuff.. It was was a fine bit of fun!

That last bit of fun saw the end of my innocence. A few days later my Mom was gone and that skipping little girl had grown up. The harsh realities we face as (semi) mature adults had been thrust upon a skinny, mousy, little girl.

So last night I kept the radio off, forbade the use of the internet, banned all talk of bombs, races and sadness.  We ate, all 6 of my most precious people around the table. Thanked our Maker for his provision. When it came my turn to talk about my favorite part of the day I said,

"Right now."

"You always say that!!" They cried in unison.

Later #4 was counting the money in his piggy bank. I'm not just saying this because I'm his mother, but he looked angelic, so intent. He has these big plans for saving up a thousand dollars, so much childhood optimism. There is no such thing as a dream too big when you are 10 years old.

That is innocence.

A place where saving enough pennies to make a grand can happen overnight.
A place where you don't have to sit your wee babe down and talk about bombs, guns and evil.

Think what you may, the time will come when the world will chip away that innocence, but for now, I however will protect it.. nurture it.. fight for it.  For once it is gone it can never be regained.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Mad photography skills and rainbows..bloggity blog.

Starbucks in hand and about an hour to kill as #4 was at a birthday party, I headed down to a nearby beach.

A more sacred spot has never been than that of the places gulls cry and waves tease the shore.

I could feel the tension flowing from my shoulders as I wound down the hill towards the water, a briny smell filled my nostrils, clouds parted, the sun peeked out and I was greeted with the most breathtaking view as I rounded a corner..

Of course my iphone does not do this image the justice it very much deserves, but I just had to capture if for you dear reader...

One thing it does not convey is scale, here it seems like this tiny little rainbow off in the distance, when truly it filled the entire sky, and what was most amazing was that this rainbow was smack in the middle of a most angry downpour.. you can sorta see the nasty dark clouds that surround the rainbow.  It truly was a sight to behold.

For a second it occurred to me how often this is how life looks.  Oh can life rage around us... and at times it really does rage, it's angry, dark, a bit scary.. we might wonder.. might wain.. might worry if the storm will ever pass.

Yet in the midst of this storm was beauty, completely unexpected, undeserving beauty.

I parked and walked out on the beach, it was about me and 50 of my closest friends all gawking at this phenom.. the local photogs had suddenly turned up, nikon's clicking furiously... then just as fast as it appeared, it was gone and the storm raged on.

We sometimes forget, there can be no rainbow without first the rain.  We can have no light without the threat of darkness and joy is never so sweet as when it is the emotion that flushes out pain.

Dear reader this storm shall pass and I hope your week is filled with more rainbows than rain.


Monday, January 28, 2013

New car smell

Tree picture that has nothing to do with my post..but oh my stars..gotta love me some Washington yellow light.

Sexiest jogger in all the land husband had a rental car this weekend.  I was driving it back from grocery shopping and basking in the smell...ahhhhhhhhhh.

No crushed french fries in the carpet, 5 starbucks empties rattling around in the back, dirty sneakers, muddy cleats, the dent in the bumper, the gum that never came all the way out of the passenger seat, thousands of road trip miles.. just the general wear and tear of 6 Strehle's, 10 states and about 170 thousand miles..

New cars are so dang zippy! Shiny, exciting, fun, fancy, so many bells and whistles!

I realized that us humans have this funny little thing about the new car smell.. we are always chasing it.

Oh.. look at that one.. so shiny.. smells GOOD.. I'm pretty sure he would NEVER leave his dirty boxers laying 1 foot from the laundry hamper.. right???

Oh.. look.. SUPER exciting! Her facebook profile pic is AWESOME.. she checks in at sbux ALL the time..she repins all my stuff.. and I just know she would never tag me if I had three chins in a picture.. BFF for EVER!!!

Oh.. look.. so fancy. I'm pretty sure if I had 4,000 square feet my kitchen would be sooo much easier to clean!!!!! People would say.."Martha Stewart??".. I would coyly respond.."No, Amber Strehle."

Oh.. look.. so many bells and whistles! This church is so hipster.. meets at unconventional times, unconventional places (hello local tavern..woot-woot!) they even have an unconventional name.. All the people here will never judge me and ALWAYS act accordingly to scripture!!!

Career- (or in my case..my art)
Oh..look.. sooo exciting! I'm sure this new e-course is going to TOTALLY re-spark my vision. I will be Annie Leibovitz in NO time!!!!

Of course there is the rub..

New becomes old.
Like every single time.
The smoking hot mini-van once was shiny, new and super fancy..for reals.

There is just no possible way, to use something.. and not have it become well..used.. soiled.. a bit dirty.. roughed up.. gritty. That new smell fades.. breast sag, friends frustrate, houses are a little tight, religion fails you.


When the smell in the smoking hot mini-van gets a little ripe, I'm going to be honest with you. I would LOVE to just go trade that sucker in for a new one. I mean who wants to risk life and limb reaching under the back seat of a mini-van that belongs to 4 children??

How nice would it be to start all over.. never having to face the fact that I AM at least partially responsible for letting it get that dirty in the first place..

ahh.. the sting.

Our landfills are teaming with the shiny, our bookshelves laden with the newest diet craze and self-help books, court systems over run with the pursuit of that new car smell.

So the question I ask you today dear reader.. do I drive straight away to the nearest car dealership and trade her in (the car that is) (or I guess you could say the wife/husband, friend ect..) or do I dig in? Get my hands a bit dirty, do life and realize that while the new car smell is nice, the flash, the pert breasts, the honeymoon is awesome, but dang it.. it is NOT reality. It fades..

Our character is built and shown not in purchasing the car, but how we maintain it.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

2012 I bid you adieu... gladly. (A List)

It's not that I have hated you, hate is a very strong word.  Let's just say I have battled with you 2012.

Instead of a word for 2013, I've adopted a phrase..

No nervous breakdowns in 2013

Do you think that would look weird printed up on a necklace?? It might be a bit long...

In an effort to try my hardest not to be too dark.. I will mix it up a bit..

Some deep thoughts  about 2012.
Some not-so-deep.. (or shallow) thoughts about 2012.

(The fact that I even think you CARE about what happened to me in 2012 is very narcissistic.. but let's not be too judgmental here.. ok?)

10. God answered so many prayers for me in 2012. (deep) Which of course is awesome, but..there was this rub..I just wish He would answer them the way I told Him to.. sheesh.

9.  Running. (not-so-deep and maybe a bit narcissistic)

You know that quote from Winne The Pooh?? "...you are stronger than you seem.."

Well, this year I found out it's true.  For the first time in many years my body amazed me.  I kept demanding more of it than I thought possible, asking it to do things that I had long ago thought impossible and to my utter surprise it stepped up to challenge.  It's not like I completed the Boston Marathon or stopped eating Queso during that certain time of the month.. but I did push myself farther than I have ever physically done before.. and I'm still surprised at how crazy empowering it is. My time away every night became my therapy.. clarity visited me on the tread-mill.. it's all a little too cliche.. but oh-so true.

8. Humanity disappointed me so deeply durning the election. (deep)
Like so bad.  I feel like grace has been completely lost in public discourse. For some strange reason people say things via a computer they would never dare to say to a persons face. It was vile.

7.  My word for 2012 was, Balance. (started off as deep..but ended not-so-deep)
I did balance out a few areas of my life.. but I feel like I still have sooo far to go in this regard. My wee #4 was diagnosed with some pretty major medical issues last year.  This forced a certain balance when it came to my family vs. work. The whole idea of Amber having limits is still a pretty new concept for me and honestly a bitter pill to swallow. 

6. Hard times create inspiration for me. (deep) (I'm not sure why it took me so long to see this)
It's like I need dark before I can find the light. It makes me feel all emo/goth.. sometimes I wish I was one to be inspired by babies, puppies, glitter and pastel colors.  

5. Pinterest. (not-so-deep)
Seriously... It's like black tar heroin for me.  A place where there are a gazillion eye catching images and people only befriend us based on imaginary talent, taste and witty quotes?? 
SIGN ME UP!!!!! 

4.  (Deep) 
My dear friend Miss Elaine believes that the word "Amazing" is over-used, I agree. So I googled synonyms for "Amazing"...  
Let me please say, that I simply have the most STUNNING people in my life. Some I have known for many years.. (God bless em' they still love me anyways). 
Some I have known for a year or two.. just past the honeymoon phase.. getting to the "I'm not always this witty and have many flaws and I sure hope you can handle it phase" and God bless em' they still are hanging around as well. Healthy, honest relationships are a prize, something to treasure and hold close, I marvel at the power of good peeps in my life.

3. (Not-so-deep) The older a women gets the more maintenance she requires.  Hair dye.. waxing.. facial creams ect... It's funny because you can't get away with faking it as much and sadly these are areas I tend to overlook.  When the kiddos start scrunching up their noses and saying.. "Mom.. really can you get that lip waxed?" it's a game changer... add that to a mini-van and some bozo playing Guns-N-Roses on the oldies station and you have yourself a bit of a reality check.. aging.. you are a bit of a bastard.

2.  The whole Lance Armstrong cheating business. (sad) 
Seriously.. There are sooo many things wrong with his story.  I guess mostly I wonder at point did he change? What was his tipping point? Just image looking at yourself in the mirror and knowing every single part of your life is a lie. Can you even fathom that kind of pressure?

1.  (Deep) Call me weak. Call me small minded. I don't care. 2012 was the year I realized how small I am and how big God is. Some can navigate this harsh world without any help.. I am not that person. The crazy thing about admitting that to yourself after a life time of thinking I'm "strong enough" is the power that comes in letting go. It's a thing of beauty... this whole being a child of God business.

Of course dear reader there is always you and this beloved space. This is my 7th year of blogging.. crazy. The only thing I have done consistently longer is raise children and love Zach. In a special way you dear reader are part of the stunning people in my life. Taping away on this keyboard continues to motivate me more than any other art and I look forward to another overly dramatic, narcissistic and always humbling year.