Do you want to shop or organize a barn?

Friday afternoon Sam said that this weekend he was going to burn cedar trees, run the box blade across the field and start to build a new fence.

“I am so excited about the field work. What can I do to help?” This was my genuine offer. He and I both knew that driving the tractor and digging holes was not really an option.

“You can clean out and organize the barn.” He replied.

“I am great at cleaning out and organizing. You got it. I’ll take on that job.” I felt enthusiastic and ready for the task.

I finished my work at my office, took Kennedy back to school for a movie night, and met my sister, Sally for dinner.

“Oh no, I forgot to buy the Christmas gifts I signed up for that I need to deliver to the youth home tomorrow.” I exclaim with a gasp. This holiday season is just as I remembered the ones before, full of activities and things to accomplish. So many times I sign up to bring something and think there is plenty of time to buy it. And then, before I know it, the deadline is right in front of me. I will make a note to only sign up for things that I can buy the same day that I sign up for them. If I don’t have time to do it that day, I definitely won’t have time to do it on the day of the event.

“Maybe you can go to Wal-Mart tonight” Sally was quick with a solution to my obvious problem.

“Yes that’a good idea.” I agree with her, but don’t want to go to Wal-Mart after I pick up Kennedy from movie night.

After dinner, Sally and I met Sam and the rest of our family at the high school Christmas concert to watch my other sister, Kim’s oldest son perform.

During the performance, I whisper to Sam “Is there any way I can convince you to go to Wal-Mart after this. while I pick up Kennedy? I forgot to buy the pajama pants and wool socks that I signed up for.”

Sam’s face turned very familiar and he says “Wal-Mart on Friday night? It can’t get worse than that. Do you know the people who go to Wal-Mart on Friday night? I don’t want to be one of them.”

“Thank you; I love you so much.” I knew that despite his disappointment with our Friday night plans, he would help me. He always helps me when I am in a situation like this.

After the concert, Sam convinced Kim’s youngest boy to go with him to Wal-Mart, and I left to get Kennedy. I told her earlier in the day that her cousin, Brandon, would be with me when I picked her up and now he wasn't. I anticipated her disappointment.

She was tired and ready to go as I picked her up, but she surprised me with very little disappointment. I didn’t realize that she was too tired to complain about me coming alone.

We drove nearly 2 miles before she fell asleep. While I was driving, I decided that I would leave all of the day’s bags in my car and just carry her inside since Sam wouldn’t be home yet. Once I pulled into our driveway, I quietly turned off the car and got out. As I walked to her car door, I saw her little face contently leaning on her shoulder. I opened her door and lifted her out.

“Mom, is Brandon here yet.” She questioned in her sleep.

“No, not yet.” I replied.

I knew if I tried to walk up the stairs with her limp, heavy body, that I would wish I hadn’t. I also knew that if laid her on the couch in the living room, that Sam’s Friday night movie marathon would be disturbed, and I already disturbed his plans once. So I laid her in our bed.

“Mom, do you believe in Santa Claus?” She had one final question before falling completely asleep for the night.

“Definitely Kennedy. Santa has brought me presents my whole life.” I really didn’t know how to answer, but since she just watched “Polar Express” I wasn’t caught off guard by the question.

“That’s not what I mean.” She fell fast asleep.

I don’t know exactly what she meant, but it wasn’t the right time to ask.

I changed into my sleep clothes, and texted Sam “The last one home looses their place in bed.” I sent it and wondered if he would laugh the way I did when I wrote it. After all, he was helping me out at Wal-Mart on Friday night, and he might not be in the mood to laugh.

Sam is generous, and it was our sense of humor that connected us years ago. He understood the reference in my funny text, and I was relieved. He and Brandon stayed up watching tv, while I went to sleep.

The next morning, I told Kennedy “Let’s go Christmas shopping.”

“YAY - let’s do it.” She enthusiastically replied.

Suddenly, I remembered a conversation, between Sam and I, from the day before. “I am great at cleaning out and organizing. You got it. I’ll take on that job.”  I committed to cleaning the barn.

Uh oh, how was I going to manage shopping and cleaning out a barn? I decided to stick with my plan for shopping and just organize the barn once we got back home.

Kennedy and I made our way through several stores, having a great time. We heard Christmas songs playing in each store, and still, she sang "Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer" everywhere we went. We drove out of one shopping center and towards the mall because I wanted to stop at the book store. I feel like book stores are even more magical in December.

So I tell Kennedy “We are going to make a stop here.”

“But it’s raining, Mom.” She noticed that it was lightly drizzling.

“That’s OK.” Some light rain wasn’t enough to keep me from the book store.

“Mom, I’m not that kind of girl.” Kennedy explains. What kind of girl is she not? The kind that doesn’t get wet in the rain because I remember her jumping through puddles before? I don’t know what she meant.

We found a parking space in the front row, and I figured we were meant to stop there. We looked through the tables with featured books: The table labeled, “You Tube Celebrities” and the one labeled “Mind, Memory and Logic.” We spent a while in the magazine section, and then Kennedy wanted to ride the escalator up to the kid’s section. She convinced me that she just wanted to see the toys but we didn’t have to buy any today. Today was about buying gifts.

We walked past a family that was struggling to feel the joy in the shopping experience. We saw the dad behind the boy with this arms wrapped around him, restraining him from something. We both heard the young boy cry “Stop holding me so tight” in an obviously tense voice.

Kennedy asked me if I heard that. I said “Yes, I feel sad.” She shared that she felt the same.

I told Kennedy, “That’s why I think classes for parents are so important, so we can learn kinder ways to be with children.”

Kennedy thought about that idea and then said. “Well Mom, I think you need to try harder. I don’t think it’s working.” I had a feeling we weren’t talking about the people in the book store anymore. I sighed.

I filed away the reminder that I’m not a perfect mom. I understand that, and all I can do is my best every day. Sometimes I make mistakes and sometimes I get it right. And so it is. I do remember her telling me on Thursday that "even if other people think I'm a bad mom, she thinks I'm the best." I'll cling onto that and take it as a well intentioned compliment.

We finished our shopping excursion and began our journey back home. We crossed a lot off our list, including something for the friends in her class. I felt happy with our experience together and offered a quick thank you to Life for sharing this girl with me. There is a direct line between her thoughts and the words that come out of her mouth. Sometimes I cringe, but I admire her honesty.

As we came down the hill towards our house, Kennedy said “Wow I need to do some detail work on my toe nails with the file.”

I laughed out loud the rest of the way home.

We painted the wooden letters she bought for her friends, then cleaned her room, then cleaned the laundry, then made dinner before our annual Christmas tradition of watching "Home Alone."

p.s. I will transfer “Cleaning and Organizing the Barn” on to my to do list for tomorrow (or next weekend).