The Significance of Cleaning Bathrooms

God gave me children to clean the house so that I wouldn’t have to. At least, that’s my theory–I hate cleaning bathrooms and putting away clean laundry, so I popped out three babies to take care of that problem. If the baby could walk to me when I said, “Walk to Mama; C’mon walk to Mama,” then that baby could walk to the toy box and put away her toys. If the toddler could deprive me of many hours of sleep by refusing to stay in his bed at night, then he could climb back over to that bed in the morning to make it. And if that little girl was adept enough to take off her clothes and run naked through the yard, then she could surely pick out an outfit in the morning and put it on–matching clothes is not a requirement for me.

With all the chores my children know how to do, bedrooms should always look neat, playrooms picked-up, and my house presentable. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. I’m lucky if I have one day out of every week where my house looks clean. In reality, I might have one day where one section of the house is clean, but two days later, that area is a wreck while we’re working on another section.

I find nothing more discouraging. I look at my days as a stay-at-home mom, days full of cooking and cleaning and driving and playing, and many nights I have nothing to show for all my work except for a pile of laundry on the chair and an exhausted mind that wants nothing more but a pillow and a book to pretend to read.

Yesterday morning, our pastor spoke to the life of a mother given that it was Mother’s Day, and he pointed out ‘Three Monsters of Motherhood.’ Discouragement, that emotion I experience frequently, was on the list. However, he read Galatians 6:9-10: “9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”

I tried to take those verses to heart, and they did give a little hope, but I also had to admit that most days I do feel weary. Never before in my life did I question myself as much as I do as a mother. Am I really making a difference? Would they be better off if I went back to work? Have I scarred them forever? Am I too strict? Am I too easy? Did we brush teeth today?

The questions are endless, and sometimes I wonder if I didn’t just waste a day, not making a dent in my kids’ lives at all. This feeling of insignificance was another monster my pastor mentioned. He told us, though, to take hope in the fact that we can have spiritual moments when we’re driving in the car with our kids as much as when we’re sitting around the kitchen table for dinner. We are to remember Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and talk to our children about God during all the moments of our day, from the hours spent in the minivan to moments before we kiss goodnight and turn out the lights. Our days are significant when we teach our children about the Lord.

In his goodness, the Lord showed me that these words were true.

Given my theory on the purpose of children, I figured there was no better day than Mother’s Day to add to my children’s repertoire of household chores. My husband told me to relax on the couch while he made dinner, but he invited our parents over, too. Someone had to vacuum and clean the bathroom, and since it wasn’t going to be me, that left the jobs to the kiddos.

The six-year-old called vacuuming, so I decided my four-year-old would have to clean the bathroom. This job was new for her, so I supervised the activity.

I instructed Hannah Grace in how to clean the toilet.

“Okay, now you have to lift the lid and clean this part, too.”

“Disgusting,” she commented, but she cleaned the whole bowl and lid the same.

“Now, Hannah, when you clean the floor make sure you get back here, too. And clean this white wood here.” I tapped on the baseboard to get the attention of the little girl who was already busy wiping behind the toilet.

She finished, and it wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough considering I had just employed child labor. Hannah Grace then surprised me by wanting to clean her bathroom, too. We made our way upstairs, and she immediately began taking everything out of the bathroom–the little white stool, the bath mats, and the trash can.

“I’m taking all of this out because this is what you do, right, Mommy?”

It was, in fact, what I do so that I can clean the whole floor.

“Can you get me a bag?”

I went downstairs to grab a plastic bag. After I handed it to her, she draped it over the top of the blue trashcan and then flipped the can over.

“That’s how you do it,” she said. I watched and pondered as this little girl who had never cleaned the bathroom with me imitated everything I typically do.

“Eck. Why don’t you ever clean the trashcan?” she questioned.

I was a little taken aback, but as she cleaned the inside of the trashcan, I praised God. Yes! A child who cleans even better than I do!

“There,” she exclaimed, sticking her nose in the can. “Mmm, now this smells good!”

I thought we were finished, but, apparently, we weren’t. I was told that she was going to clean my sinks because, “Mom, your counter is a mess.” Of course, the reason everything was a mess is that Hannah Grace and her sister flooded the bathroom when they turned on the water and left a sink plugged, thereby causing the need for a contractor to rip out the floor and old vanity. However, I simply agreed and let her go to work.

And as I watched this munchkin clean the third bathroom for the day with remarkable thoroughness, I realized that what my pastor spoke was true. She did watch me, and she did listen. And if she had memorized the cleaning techniques that I had never explicitly taught her, how much more had she absorbed those points that I taught her day after day?

My job is significant, and I can’t grow weary of doing it. It’s too important.

As Hannah Grace finished the floor, I pointed out a few spots that she had missed.

“I’m done, Mom,” she replied. “I’m not doing it; I’m done.” And with that she walked away.

It is okay, however, to grow weary of cleaning the bathrooms.

Linking up with Michelle today. Do you battle with feelings of discouragement or insignificance? How do you fight against them? Have a wonderful week!



My Only Hope

The other night I opened the dishwasher and sighed. For the third time, all the dishes were covered with a dusty film, and, having changed dish detergent for the third try, I now knew the soap I was using wasn’t the problem.

“Great,” I thought to myself. I had a sink full of dishes that I couldn’t load because the ones in the dishwasher weren’t clean, and the thought of washing them all by hand was just enough to cause my mind to start to shut down.

I turned to making school lunches instead and ignored the dishes, and while I slapped some peanut butter on bread, my mind began making lists. Matt was going out-of-town, and now the dishwasher didn’t work. I had spent the last two days at the service center after my set tune-up turned into a long list of everything I needed, including new tires and brakes. Day three at the shop was tomorrow. Then there were all the problems and tasks I hadn’t gotten to yet.

The DVD player in the minivan wasn’t working, and we were leaving for a wedding in New Jersey in a few days. I couldn’t imagine driving 17 hours with 3 kids without the ability to play a few movies. And the wedding–I had to pack in addition to dealing with the normal chores of the house (which of course would now take longer because I would be washing everything by hand) all while Matt was across the country for business.

Then my mind began to remember all the tasks that weren’t pertinent to the trip to New Jersey but were still left undone. I wanted to write Junrick.

Every month I set the goal of writing Junrick once a week, but, instead, most months go by with one letter. I really felt the urgency to write Junrick this time, though, when he mentioned in his last letter that he didn’t have a Bible. I, honestly, was shocked when I had learned that he didn’t have one–I guess I always assumed that when we began sponsoring Junrick that some of that money would go towards items like a Bible–and wanted to designate a special gift on his next letter for a Bible in his language.

And I began thinking of Junrick.

His mother wrote most of the letters to us while Junrick was still learning. She told me that he worked very hard doing all the chores around the house while she went into the city to work. He washed dishes and made rice and gave his brother and sister a bath. And, of course, he studied.

I could always tell from each letter that Junrick’s mother thought his only ticket out of poverty was an education. She also sounded so worried, that Junrick was so lucky to have a sponsor, and she didn’t want Junrick to blow this opportunity.

Recently, Junrick began writing to me himself. In one letter he told me that Matt and I were his only hope.

I felt very uncomfortable when I read those words. I wrote back to him and told him how much God loves him. God had brought us together, and Matt and I were so grateful to sponsor him. Whenever I saw a new letter from him, I would rush to open it in excitement. I praised him for the good reports from his mom and emphasized his relationship with the Lord. I encouraged him to stay in prayer and read his Bible. In his next letter, I learned he didn’t have one.

As I finished bagging the lunches, I thought about my problems of a minivan that needed work and a DVD player that was broken and a dishwasher that was useless and a husband who was out of town. And then I thought of Junrick washing all of the family’s dishes by hand and Junrick walking to school and Junrick’s mom working for little in the city and Junrick’s dad who had left the family.

I was ashamed and a little afraid. My heart is for the poor, but I fear that one day when I meet God face-to-face He will say, “Jennifer, you just didn’t get it.”

I know about poverty, I know what Junrick’s life is like, but I just don’t know.

After every letter I send, every missions project I work, I come home. Home to a big house full of furniture. Home to a garage filled with too much stuff so that we have to park our two automobiles in the driveway. Home to a sink full of dishes that held three full meals worth of food for five people. Home to laundry baskets overflowing with clothes I haven’t yet put away.

I want to, but I don’t know if I will ever get it.

I think about Junrick writing that I am his only hope, and I shake my head. No, Junrick–you are mine.

When I Don’t Know W.W.J.D.

Two days ago, I had a blasphemous thought: Would Jesus have remained sinless if he had had to parent my kids? And while I know that that thought shouldn’t have crossed my mind, it did. And, truthfully, on this particular night, I was convinced that even Jesus would’ve lost his cool when He saw his little kids lying amidst papers and toys strewn across the playroom floor after two weeks of ordering them to clean up. I was convinced that the sounds of whining and crying from his oldest and the touch of toddlers clinging to His leg while having tantrums would’ve had Him calling one of the disciples to come babysit so He could head to Starbucks, hiding from the sight of any people three feet tall and under.

After a miserable previous week, I had started this week off fresh. With a new idea tucked away in my brain, I loaded up the girls and headed to Target for some incentive stickers. And even though the Disney princess stickers cost $6 when a pack of butterfly and flower stickers cost half that amount for twice the number, I went through the check-out line with the princesses and a pack of Star Wars stickers for Caleb. After all, for the incentive to work, the kids had to be excited about their prize. I was sure they would pick up their toys for a sticker.


So when we reached the end of the week with two barren charts except for a few stickers awarded ( one sticker stolen, not earned) merely for the kids to realize that they could, in fact, earn stickers, I threw up my hands in desperation. And as I hung my head in defeat and contemplated if Jesus would, in fact, sin, I also thought about a question that I was first asked my senior year in high school.

My mom had come home from the Christian book store one day with a handful of bracelets.

“What are these?” I asked.

I looked over the letters ‘W.W.J.D’ embroidered on the cloth.

“It stands for ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ and when someone asks you what it means, you’re supposed to give them the bracelet.

photo courtesy of

I remember giving some to my boyfriend and hearing his experience having given his away to a girl in his math class:

“She told me it was really hard to smoke wearing that bracelet!”

In high school, when I asked the question ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ I knew the answer. He wouldn’t want me to rebel against my parents by smoking. He wouldn’t want me to cheat on tests or make fun of the awkward boy in my math class. He would want me to try my hardest, act respectfully to my teachers, love my neighbors.

But the other day, as I stood in my kitchen and asked myself that question again, I answered honestly I don’t know.

I thought about the life of Jesus, and since he was not a human parent to any children, I could only look to how he treated those he encountered.

I considered the option of teaching my children in parables:

There once was a mother Wolf spider. She had three children who crawled around under her legs and wouldn’t grow up fast enough. So she ate them.

I wasn’t sure that parables would be the most effective method for my young audience.

And I wasn’t sure what method to use instead. I didn’t know if Jesus would praise the ‘Naughty Step’ or give a swift spanking. I wasn’t sure if He would hand out stars on chore charts or box up toys that had littered the floor one day too many. I wasn’t sure of much other than that He would love.

He would teach them in a way that they would know their sins without feeling the weight of condemnation, being clothed in forgiveness instead.

And they would know love.

And it is this love that would compel them to obedience, to following the One who called.

I find the job of ‘mother’ extremely frustrating sometimes. I have more questions than answers, and I feel the weight of my responsibility to these three precious lives. And most mornings, I wake up not knowing how to discipline a child who isn’t motivated by punishment or reward.

But I can start with love.

And while I don’t know how to do it as perfectly as Jesus, I do have that motherly instinct. And I know the love Jesus has bestowed on me.

So I start there. With love. Some days it’s all I have.


Have you ever pictured Jesus as a parent to your children? How do you think He would respond? Join in the conversation below, or add your own post describing a spiritual journey you are currently taking.

And for those wanting to embark on a different kind of journey, Nikki invited me to share my thoughts on potty-training. I find the timing of these two posts ironic, the one where I say I don’t know how to parent and the next where I give out advice! I’d love for you to check out her site and add any other tips on potty-training that you can offer.

Excuses, Excuses

I sat in the middle of the floor fuming, absolutely fuming, as I picked up each card and slid it into the appropriate box. The anger burned inside my chest, radiating heat all the way up to my cheeks. My brow was permanently furrowed, my lips pursed as tight as I could hold them together, my jaw beginning to ache from clenching my teeth.

Every time I felt the first cleansing effects of a deep breath, all I had to do was look around me to find my fury. After all, everyone knows the expression: “Hell hath no fury like a mother left to clean up others’ messes” (Or something like that). And what a mess I was left!

I only have a picture because I wanted evidence of my rotten week for my husband, my husband who was out-of-town for the majority of the nightmare.

We had already cleaned up half of this mess once before. When I caught my son taking down his father and my games, I quickly admonished him to put them away. Of course he didn’t, as his little body was overtaken by a demon the moment his father walked out the door and headed to the airport, and his curious sister got into some of the cards from the various boxes. At this point, I joined them on the floor and began cleaning up the mess with them, lest things got too out-of-hand.

We stopped only to eat dinner, and as I packed away leftovers, they were to resume where we had left off. Apparently, my instructions were not clear, and they resumed where they had left off before I had intervened.

Every. single. card. of every. single. game. was on the floor.

Normally, I leave my kids’ messes for them to clean up, but this mess was too overwhelming, too vast, and I had to rid all evidence of this day before I tried to manage another day alone with them.

As I followed the kids upstairs, the anger burned inside me. And while I didn’t lose my temper, I definitely used it, reminding my son a half a dozen times how furious I was at him for his behavior this week, threatening the other two if they didn’t move quickly. I wanted them to go to bed and not talk to me until the morning. Of course, they didn’t comply with that request, either. We went upstairs at 6:30, and it was 8:30 before my kids were finished ‘getting ready’ for bed and another half an hour before the first fell asleep. My son decided that 10:30 would work for his bedtime that night.

And in the meantime, I sat in the middle of the floor putting card after card in its appropriate box, all the while fuming and steaming over all the reasons this mess was my husband’s, the man who had not been at our home for the last three days, fault. After all, who better to blame than the man who is out-of-town?

I had completely convinced myself that Matt was to blame for this mess, and as I sat for an hour and 15 minutes cleaning up these games, I decided that I no longer liked him.

Whenever Matt’s away, the kids act like monsters. Or if one of them is good (thank you, sweet Hannah Grace) the others make up for it. Who wouldn’t get angry at kids who behave this way?

I had enough sense to text Matt: “You know when I try to go to bed. Don’t call me.” Even though I wasn’t in bed, I didn’t think I should talk to Matt. Remember, I didn’t like him anymore, and I didn’t think I should tell him that.

So, of course, Matt called me. And I wasn’t nice.

But in my defense, I warned him not to call! I knew I was angry and couldn’t be nice, so he can’t really blame me for my less-than-loving tone.

As I lay in bed that night, I thought about how I allowed a mess of cards (albeit the worst mess of cards I’d ever seen) to create enough rage in me to kill a man. I allowed my fatigue and frustration to cloud my mind into thinking I disliked my husband. And I had created enough excuses to prove I was right.

In that moment, I had my first glimpse into how self-control really works.

Self-control isn’t just making good choices; self-control is eliminating excuses.

I lost my temper because my kids were out-of-control.

I’m so weary because my husband is out-of-town.

I’m having a cheat day today, but I’ll get back on my diet tomorrow.

These shoes were on sale, so it’s okay that I bought them (even though I already own 100 pairs).

And pretty soon, we believe the excuses and justify our behavior.

I lay in bed that night, nauseous and tired, holding on to my last thread of anger for one more moment. I thought about my husband whom I wanted to blame, my kids who were at fault for a mess (a huge one) but not for my anger, and I released them. If I wanted control of myself in the morning, I had to own up to myself that night.

I closed my eyes and said ‘goodnight’ to a horrible day and ‘goodnight’ to my excuses. And I drifted off to (a very short) sleep.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23, New International Version, 2010). Emphasis mine


What are your go-to excuses for bad behavior? Leave a comment below, or link up your own post on ‘self-control!’ Thank you for joining me over the last few weeks as we explored the different fruits of the Spirit. I am worn out from God’s conviction! Stay tuned for more details as to what we’ll contemplate next in ‘Journeys’!

Submitting the Vacation Request

Five a.m. isn’t happening. At least, it hasn’t happened for the last week or so. Nor have the warm breakfasts that can’t be found in a box or little to-go wraps for the husband. Bible study has become Bible speed-read. Going to bed earlier isn’t going to solve this problem–the sleep deficit is too vast at this point, and let’s face it; when the last child doesn’t fall asleep until after nine, getting myself into bed by ten is a lofty goal.

My son is turning five in just under two weeks, and I’ve started to reflect. I think about that little baby who changed the direction of my life forever, the bouncing baby boy who was all smiles and a fireball of energy. And I think about the fact that in five years, the only times I have been away from him for longer than 24 hours is when I had other babies, surgeries, or helped my friend care for her sick husband and her own bouncing boy. While I look back fondly on my times with anesthesia, I’m craving another sort of rest…perhaps a week-long kind of rest.

I haven’t seen a week-long kind of rest, with or without kids, in over seven years. I feel I’m overdue. The way I figure the numbers, most people who have had a salaried-type job with a company for five years get at least a week’s vacation, if not more. So I’m submitting my official vacation request (even though I don’t get a salary) .

I didn’t want to go this route–I know the ‘company’ needs me–but the whole ‘personal’ day thing hasn’t worked out too well, either. In fact, I didn’t even ask for a whole day, just an hour. But the hour I’ve tried to schedule with my friend has been rescheduled four times now due to sick children, children with broken bones, sick mommas, etc. I was gracious enough to schedule the hour while two of the children were at preschool, therefore, not inconveniencing anyone else, but if any of those two don’t go to school because of illness…well, you get the picture.

I look at my life and am in awe of how blessed I am. I read letters from the mother of the child we sponsor, how sometimes she wants her son to stay home from school so he can help around the house, help with chores like fetching water or washing dishes by hand, and I know that I don’t know real tired. I think of my dear friend teaching students then coming home to care for her husband with cancer and her preschool-aged son. She knows tired.

And while their lives help put mine in perspective, I also see that Jesus got away for times of solitude, and He was perfect! He didn’t grit his teeth like I did as I was trying to read the Bible but couldn’t see the words due to the three-year-old who bounded in my bed at six a.m., repeatedly flinging her leg on top of the computer screen. He didn’t show childish behavior like I have, throwing a toy across the room that came too close to my foot. He didn’t lose patience like I do every single day now with my children. And with my husband, too. So if Jesus took times to rest, and He was perfect, how much more do I need some time away?!

I am blessed; I know that. But I am tired, and I have contemplated submitting my two-week notice far too many times lately. And since I really do love my job and don’t want to quit, I’m submitting my vacation notice instead. I really think if I could get a little break, I would come back a better wife and mother, the type of wife and mother I aspire to be…and think I could be.

Now: Who wants to watch three kids almost five and under for a week?

Why I Was Late

Since having children, I have had a tendency to show up five minutes late everywhere, and this year I decided, no more!  I will not be that person!  However, I am still that person but not for a lack of trying.  And for all of those mothers who are on time everywhere and don’t understand mothers like me–I don’t know what to say.  I can only throw my hands up in the air and question, “Maybe tomorrow?”.  However, perhaps if I explain a morning like yesterday’s, I’ll receive a little grace from those who want to condemn me and my lateness.

6:00: Alarm goes off.  I hit snooze (Okay, that may have been my first mistake, but give me a break!  I still got up at 6:10–it’s pitch black outside!).

6:10: Go to the bathroom, wash my face, put in contacts

6:15: Pray, read my Bible

6:45: Begin working on my blog

7:10: Caleb and Chloe simultaneously wake up.  (Darn.  I had one more paragraph to write. I was going to stop at 7:15, anyway.  Now two kids are up before I’m dressed.  I am sunk).

7:12: Instruct Caleb to get dressed. Go to wake up Hannah Grace

7:15: Change Chloe’s diaper, get her dressed.  See Caleb doing karate in the hallway, ask him if he’s dressed.  Haven’t seen Hannah Grace emerge, know she must be lying on her floor doing nothing.

7:20: Redirect Caleb. Go in Hannah Grace’s room to tell her again it’s time to put on the clothes we picked out the night before. (See?  Organization!).

7:25: Give Chloe some books to read. Begin getting dressed myself. Caleb runs in my room, informing me he’s dressed.  Redirect Caleb to make his bed.

7:30: Stop getting myself ready when I realize the baby is no longer reading in her room.  Walk past Hannah Grace’s room where she is still lying on her floor half naked.  Redirect her

7:32: Make it downstairs to where Chloe has pushed a chair to the counter and is trying to get a banana.  Notice all the aluminum foil she unrolled and the dog food she has spilled all over the floor

7:35: Go back upstairs with unhappy baby. Go past Hannah Grace’s room where she is still half naked, lying on her floor.  Redirect Hannah Grace

7:38: Attempt to get ready again.

7:40: Stop getting dressed to yell at Caleb who has found his Daddy’s screwdriver (the tool, not his morning beverage).  Ask Caleb if he made his bed.  He says, “yes” and has, in fact, made his bed.  Check on Hannah Grace who is still half naked on her floor.  Redirect her.

7:45: Attempt to get ready again.

7:50: Put Caleb in time out for tackling one of his sisters.

7:55: Finish getting ready, check on Hannah Grace who is still half-naked, lying on her floor.  Inform Hannah Grace that we are about to go downstairs and that naked people do not eat at my table.  No shoes, no shirt, no service.  Again point out the clothes that we picked out the night before. (At this point I debate if I should just dress her myself.  I decide, ‘no,’ she’s just being defiant and wants me to dress her, and I will stick to my ‘No naked breakfast’ policy)

8:00: Fix Caleb and Chloe’s hair and am ready to do Hannah Grace’s but notice she is still lying on the floor half-naked.  Remind her again of the breakfast policy. Go to my own room to quickly make bed, grab water and cell phone off nightstand.

8:15: Hannah Grace notices the three of us are going downstairs to eat, so she begins to get dressed.  Tell Caleb to get on shoes located in the shoe basket next to the door (More proof that I’m not completely disorganized).

8:20: Serve everyone breakfast, pass out vitamins.

8:23: Grab Chloe’s shoes to put on while she’s in the high chair. Notice the socks that I put on her are no longer on her feet.  Remember seeing Hannah Grace taking off Chloe’s socks during one of the visits to her room when she was lying half-naked on her floor.  Go find Chloe’s socks.

8:25: Put on Chloe’s shoes. Begin to clean up aluminum foil and dog food mess Chloe made previously.

8:30: Give the five-minute warning announcing that breakfast is over soon.  Gather toothbrushes and toothpaste.

8:35: Announce breakfast is over, and tell kids to put their bowls in the sink.  Get bookbags and jackets off of hooks hanging by the door. (I’m really impressing myself with all of this organization)

8:37: Notice that no one has stopped eating; fall into panic mode.  Announce loudly that all bowls need to go in the sink

8:38: Caleb takes a last drink of milk and spills half of it down his shirt.  Hannah Grace grabs her bowl off of the table and spills all of her remaining milk on the floor.  Think to myself that whoever came up with the saying “There’s no use crying over spilt milk” didn’t clean up spilt milk every day.

8:40: Caleb, Hannah Grace, and I clean up spilt milk.

8:45: Everyone brushes teeth.  I grab Chloe and tell everyone to grab jackets and backpacks and head to the car. Then I notice two children who don’t have on shoes.  (Didn’t we already put on shoes?)

8:50: Kids put on their shoes

8:55: Once again, tell kids to grab jackets and backpacks and head out door with strict orders to go straight to car seats and buckle up.

8:55 and 30 seconds: Hannah Grace stops and says, “Oh, look! Leaves!” and begins to waste time admiring the leaves on the ground.

8:58: Finish buckling Chloe who has decided she no longer likes being confined by a car seat.  She perfects the ‘stiff-as-a-board’ body position. Get ready to pull out of driveway.  Look in rearview mirror and see unbuckled daughter in the back seat.

9:00: Begin buckling oldest daughter in the back who then has tantrum because she wants to buckle herself (except she didn’t from 8:55-9:00).

9:03: Leave for preschool (Carpool runs from 9:00–9:10)

9:09: Arrive at carpool.  Kiss children goodbye with clenched jaw and open door for teacher to get them.  Teacher notifies me we are missing a backpack.

9:10: My brain explodes, and then I head home to get a certain little girl’s backpack.

Finding a Moment of Thanks

As I woke up this morning, I immediately was thankful for a new day.  To say that almost all of the 24 hours of yesterday was horrible would not be that much of an exaggeration.  Even after the day should’ve been over, Hannah Grace repeatedly came downstairs while Matt and I tried our best to unwind; she didn’t go to bed until 11.  Chloe cried on and off all night until Matt gave up and brought her in bed with us.  She became our first child to roll out of our bed and onto the floor, giving me a mild heart attack in the middle of the night.

As I struggle through exhaustion this morning, I look back on yesterday and still do not know what I should’ve done differently.  The two oldest were blatantly defiant all day. They didn’t merely find trouble numerous times; they repeatedly sought it out, doing the same wrong things over and over.

By 6:00, I was done.  I was hot, and after hearing ‘no’ and that my children no longer loved me numerous times during the course of the day, I was physically and emotionally tired. It was 86 degrees in our house, thanks to the energy-saving plan I chose to participate in during what will surely go down as the hottest summer on record, and Caleb was sitting on the step, refusing to go up to his room as I had asked.  I had no more energy and no more ideas–I had already taken away every privilege I could remember–and Matt wasn’t going to get home for another hour-and-a-half.  I felt like I was going to lose control in any moment, and I didn’t want to.

In the middle of the floor where I was sitting on my knees, I grabbed my face and squeezed my eyes shuts.  I started to pray a desperate prayer: God help me. Show me what to do!  I don’t know what to do! I sat silent with eyes still closed waiting to hear an answer.  I heard nothing.

And when I looked up and saw my son still sitting on that step, laughing with his sisters, the rage boiled within me. “Go upstairs NOW!” I yelled louder and longer than even I knew I was capable.

Chloe cried, Caleb looked at me in shock, but Hannah Grace’s reaction I will never forget.

She smiled, not a mocking smile, but a genuine smile.  And in the softest voice, she spoke the kindest words I have ever heard:

“Mama, I like you.  I like you, Mama.”

Somehow, this little girl no longer seemed like a little girl, almost three.  She sounded like a wise teacher, a teacher who knew exactly what her student needed to hear.

She walked over to where I was sitting and put one hand in mine, the most gentle touch I have ever felt. “I love you, Mama,” she said, emphasizing her choice of word, and then she kissed me on my lips while wrapping her arms around my neck.

The other children noticed and began to follow her lead.  Chloe toddled over and opened her mouth.  She kissed me, leaving a trail of wet all over my mouth, totally disgusting and totally wonderful.  She wrapped her baby arms around me, surprising me by the actual hug she was giving.  Then Caleb got off the stairs.  He came, adding his embrace to that of his two sisters.  I could hardly balance, three children hanging on me at the same time.  As Caleb pulled away, he, too, kissed me on the lips.

Chloe toddled back to the steps, Caleb following behind her, but Hannah Grace remained. Taking her soft hands, she gently slid them down my cheeks and said, “I love you, Mama.  I really love you.”  She continued to repeat her words, cupping my face, as if trying to ensure I believed her.

A few, short minutes later, I was still waiting for God to tell me what to do, as the disobedience continued.  The night ahead was long, and I didn’t get the rest I needed. However, in that brief moment on the floor, God answered my prayer, differently than I had hoped, but in the way He knew I needed.  My spirit was lifted as I had never experienced before, and for that, I am thankful.

Starting today, I’d like to use Fridays as a way to reflect on the week and find at least one specific thing for which I can be thankful.  I’d love for you to join me, as well! You can list your thanks in the comment section or provide a link for your own post.  We’ve all had different kinds of weeks, some wonderful, some stressful, but let’s all choose to end them the same–thankful.


“Daddy, the sun’s outside!!!” she hollered in excitement from the top of the stairs.  “It’s morning!”  Little feet began to scamper down the steps.

In fact, it was 7:40 p.m., and yes, outside was still light, but the sun was not shining.  Hannah Grace was doing her best to avoid bedtime.  Her brother and sister were already tucked away for the night, sleeping peacefully, but this little girl had no interest in sleep.

“I’m not tired!” she insisted, as I walked her back up the stairs her hand in mine. She probably wasn’t tired.  She had snuck away with her sister’s pacifier into her own room at 11 a.m. that morning and proceeded to take a three hour nap.  I thought about waking her up, but I knew she was exhausted, having still not recovered from her overnight visit a few days ago to her grandparents followed by dinner at her other grandparents the next night.  She reminded me that night of why I no longer allow her to take naps.

I joined Matt again at the table, and we tried once more to enjoy our bowls of baked ziti.  I pushed around my pasta and noticed my own tiredness creeping in.  Perhaps I would go to bed early that night.

We talked a little bit about our days and what we wanted to accomplish with our evening.  I was beginning to enjoy the quiet when we were interrupted once more.

“I see the MOON!!!  It’s time to wake up!”

Clearly, if seeing the sun wouldn’t get her out of going to bed, then seeing the moon had to be the answer.  Matt pushed back his chair as I let out a sigh.  And so the bedtime game would continue.

I cleared the table while Matt stayed in Hannah Grace’s room, using his body to barricade the door.  As I rinsed our bowls spotted with red sauce, I checked the time.  8:40 p.m.  I pulled out the bottom tray in the dishwasher while doing a mental inventory of all the tasks I needed to complete before 24 and those I could accomplish while watching the show.

The truth is, I had no interest in the show anymore, but 24 had become somewhat of a tradition in our marriage.  After our first Christmas as a married couple, watching the season one box set while spooning on the couch, we had continued to watch every season together.  I wasn’t going to abandon the ritual with three hours left in the series.

The dishes rattled as I pushed in the tray and quickly moved to the laundry room.  I just needed to throw the clothes in the dryer, take a quick shower, and then we could sit together and watch our show.  I could upload pictures while 24 was on and write my blog.  My mind was blank, but I knew I wanted to write; I hoped inspiration would hit once I started typing.

I finished the chores and swiftly went up the stairs, allowing a huge yawn to escape my mouth. I met Matt in the hallway.

“I don’t think she’s asleep,” he said, “but she’s quiet.”

“Okay, I’m just going to take a quick shower before 24.”

I started to walk away when,”Daddy, don’t leave. I’m not asleep, yet,” came from the two-year-old’s room.  I kept walking, not wanting to get sucked into the bedtime drama before getting my shower.  Thank goodness for DVRs–it was already 9:00.

Hannah Grace eventually went to sleep, and Matt and I eventually made it to the couch to watch TV.  I, half-heartedly, listened to 24 while uploading pictures to Flickr so that I could order them from Snapfish.  I really only wanted our most recent family picture from Easter to send to our sponsored child, but my gift card would cover a lot more prints.

“Okay,” I thought. “I’ll just order a few more prints and then call it a night after 24. I’m too tired to write.”

I didn’t want to leave a job half-finished, and I did need to print our daughter’s first birthday pictures–no, not Chloe’s. Hannah Grace’s–the daughter who turned one almost two years ago.

24 was over, and I only had $10 worth of prints uploaded.  My gift card was for $20.  I proceeded to spend another hour selecting each picture that would find a spot in my half-empty photo album, empty slots that begged to be filled with images of laughter and babies, birthdays and loved ones.  I sipped the chai tea Matt had made for me, knowing it was decaf but wishing it would help pry my eyelids open.

Why did I insist on continuing?  Couldn’t I go to bed and finish tomorrow?

“No!” I scolded myself.  “That’s exactly why I don’t have any pictures of the kids in albums–it always gets pushed off until tomorrow. Tomorrow I’ll still have chores, and I want to write.  I can’t keep letting days go by without writing.  And I can’t get any of this junk done during the day because the kids don’t nap.  I don’t get free time. This is my free time.  Midnight.”

I felt my blood pressure rising as I argued with myself, the good angel telling me to walk up the stairs to bed, the little demon pressing me to continue.  After all, Matt had been trying to get the wireless printer to work for the last two hours, too.  Neither one of us was ready to call it a night.

I finally made my last selection, confident that I was close enough to that $20 mark.  Tax and shipping should get me there.  I scratched off the back of the gift card, little silver flecks falling in my lap, revealing the coupon code.  I carefully entered the numbers in the box and hit enter.

Snapfish did not recognize this coupon code.

Okay. I tried again, pushing each number key with my index finger, double-checking my entry as I went along.

Same error message.

I flipped my gift card over. Shutterfly. The gift card was for Shutterfly, not Snapfish.

At that moment, the fatigue knocked me down like a wave crashing to meet the shore.  I had spent two hours, arguing with myself the whole time, in an attempt to accomplish this task.  Just something.  I wanted to accomplish one thing that wasn’t related to housework or kids, yet I had nothing to show for my effort.

I angrily packed up my laptop and woke up Matt.  He had snoozed next to me on the couch, giving up on his own venture a few minutes before.

As I wearily walked up the stairs, I thought to myself, “Why do I do this?  Why do I fight sleep?  I’m no different than Hannah Grace….”

I, just like my daughter, had searched for every excuse to stay up when my body was begging sleep:

“The sun’s shining!” ” There are dirty dishes!”

“The moon’s out!” ” I must print some pictures!”

“I’m not tired!” “I’m so tired…but”

I fight sleep in a quest to feel productive, in a quest to elevate my worth.  The more things I can check off my to-do list, the more examples I can cite for my excellence as a mother, as a wife.

I fight sleep so that the next day I can fight with my children and my husband, my body full of fatigue, my mind empty of patience.  I fight sleep so that I can fight with God about the way I should act, about how hard my life is, about why I can’t concentrate when I pray…yawn…

I fight sleep…when really…I should just go to bed.

Civic Duty and the Crazy Old Bat

Caleb, Chloe, and Hannah Grace looked on as their mother visited with their kids.  She sat with a stern look while the children obediently, albeit reluctantly, engaged in polite conversation.

“Grandma, I hit a double last night and got an RBI.  We ended up winning our game,” said Caleb’s son, the most talkative of the grandchildren.

“Very good,” his grandmother nodded. “Your father was excellent at sports.”

“What about you?” the old woman directed her question at the pretty blonde girl.

“I’m still dancing, Grandma.  I have my jazz recital coming up in a few weeks. You can come, if you want.”

“Hmmph,” snuffed her grandmother.  “If I wanted to watch half-naked girls dancing all over the place, I’d turn on HBO.  I can’t believe your mother lets you get up on stage looking like a floozy.  Thanks to the girls who went to Woodstock, you teenagers think you need to take off your clothes all the time to impress people.  Well, you’re not impressing me!”

The pretty blonde turned her head slightly so that she could roll her eyes, crossed one leg over the other, and cupped her chin in her hand.  They had all heard this story a million times, and she wasn’t interested in learning about the beginning of the downfall of society any more.

“Looking back, do you think Mom ever showed signs of having dementia–I mean, earlier on in life?” Chloe asked her brother and sister.  She tucked her legs under her and shifted, trying to find a more comfortable position on the long green couch where she had been resting.

Hannah Grace looked up thoughtfully from her place on the couch, but it was Caleb who spoke first.

“I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately.  And I don’t know why, but this one event always stands out in my mind.”

Of course, Caleb jumped right to the end of the story, not knowing or understanding the thoughts in his mother’s mind that led to this one moment.  He didn’t remember the events of the day that helped create his mother’s state of mind. If he had, this particular event would’ve taken a very different spot in his memory than it did.

There wasn’t anything special about this day many years back in the old woman’s life.  In fact, she would’ve told you the day was anything but special.  The 30-something year old woman was convinced she was raising little elves, grappling at her knees, whining their high-pitched requests all day long.  No one was listening to her, and she was so tired–not just physically tired but mentally exhausted.

It was one of those days when she doubted her ability as a mother.  She wondered many times, “Am I doing my children more harm than good by staying home?  Should I just a get a job and make all of us happy?”  Of course, she didn’t want to go back to work, but she felt ineffective.  She tried to discipline her children, but nothing seemed to stick–time-outs, they were pointless; swats on the bottom–they made her feel guilty.  How could she correct her children’s behavior if she didn’t even know in which method she believed?

When she heard her husband’s car pull into the driveway, she left the dinner she was attempting to prepare to meet him.  She gave him the baby that was on her hip and left the two little elves that were following at her heels.  Amidst the cries of, “Daddy, Daddy!” she fled to the mailbox.  She pulled out the stack of mail and began flipping through the long envelopes.

She began her slow walk back towards the house and stopped suddenly.  Mr. Davis looked up from the children gathered around his ankles and headed down the driveway towards her.

“What’s wrong?” he questioned, concerned by the look on his wife’s face.

And it was at this point in the story that Caleb began.

He described how the crazy old lady bent down and scooped up her daughter, swinging her around.  She then grabbed Caleb and gave him a huge kiss on the cheek.

“Nothing,” she answered, smoothing the hair on the baby’s head, a smile forming on her lips.  “Nothing at all.”

She turned this particular envelope around to show her husband the dark letters that stood out through the plastic window. She actually had tears in her eyes.

“I have jury duty.” The words left her mouth like a sigh of relief. She continued on into the house, a slight bounce in her step.

“Caleb,” Hannah Grace chimed in, “I don’t think Mom’s being excited about jury duty had anything to do with her dementia.”

“I know,” Caleb said.  “I guess her reaction seemed strange to me, especially later on after I learned what jury duty was.”

Chloe looked over at the kids.  Caleb’s son had just said something to annoy the pretty blonde, and she slapped him hard on the arm.  “Maybe,” Chloe said.  “But I think I understand.”

If you’d like to read more short stories in “The Crazy Old Bat” series, click on “Crazy Old Bat” in the tag cloud or the links below:

The Elephant in the Room: A Short Story

New Year’s With the Crazy Old Bat

The Crazy Old Bat and Football

Sweaters and Rabbits

Today was a beautiful spring day. The sky was bright blue and cloudless, and the temperature was perfect.  The kids had their good and bad moments today, but the time we spent outside playing baseball while admiring the flowers and little buds appearing in our vegetable garden helped those bad moments to fade…

…until bedtime.  As the day came to a close, my level of fatigue rose, and my patience level dropped dramatically.  Knowing that Matt wouldn’t be home to help with the bedtime routine made the day seem that much longer, added to the fact that the kids seem to unravel after 5:00 p.m.  No one was listening, and I was tired of going up and down the stairs, corralling the kids back into their rooms.  How I miss the safety gates that were screwed into the walls prior to putting the house on the market!

I felt helpless as I was nursing Chloe in her room, trying to settle her into bed.  I knew every minute I spent in her room was one more minute that a sly child could sneak downstairs for Easter candy.  There was one of me, and three of them–what could I do?

As I prayed with Caleb and Hannah Grace in their respective rooms tonight, I felt burdened and fought back tears.  Why couldn’t I make my children obey?  Why did I struggle–even my ‘fun’ clean-up games failed–repeatedly when others seemed to triumph?

Caleb finally calmed down and was reading on the floor in his room, so I propped myself against the wall across from Hannah Grace’s room.  I knew she would try to escape many times. As she took a nap this afternoon, I didn’t expect her to actually fall asleep before 10:00.  True to form, she made her appearance in the hallway a half-dozen times or so, and I, as patiently as I could, redirected her to bed.

The last few times she came out of her room, she requested that I go rest in my own bedroom.  I assured her I would as soon as she stayed in her room.  That answer did not satisfy her.

A few minutes later, this little two-year-old appeared in the door frame with a heavy, crocheted sweater buttoned up to her neck, her strawberry-blonde hair falling in her face.

“Mommy, you make my feelings,” she stated matter-of-factly.

I had no idea what she meant.  Many times she had told me that I hurt her feelings, typically when she was in trouble, but she had never said this particular phrase before.

“Hannah Grace, I don’t know what that means,” I answered.

With a straight face, and without missing a beat, she replied, “I don’t like rabbits. Because you make my feelings; that’s why you need to go in your room.”

I immediately started to giggle. What in the world was she saying?!  And at that moment, I realized she didn’t have a clue.  Her brother and she were little and probably had as much an idea of why they did the things they did as I.

In that moment, through her cryptic message, I had a moment of clarity.  The good of the day, the accomplishment of beds (finally) being made by all, sweet moments when the kids all played nicely together, baseball outside in the warm sun, was still there.  And tomorrow would be another day full of more good, and probably a little bad, too, because, after all, there are three of them and one of me.

I pulled Hannah Grace to me, and we snuggled together down on the floor in the hallway. And as we lay quiet, together we drifted off to sleep.