Motherhood Summed Up in One Story

The last few weeks have been packed full–spring programs at preschool, sick visits to the doctor, tee-ball practice, birthday parties and holidays–the norm once the warm weather hits. In the midst of all the running, I cut out the trips to the gym. The gym would still be there after all the programs were over, so I would start back into a regular routine after spring break.

Monday was my first day back, and I strangely enjoyed the soreness and stiff muscles that accompanied me on my Tuesday consisting of a parent-teacher conference and excessively long oil change. Wednesday I would visit the gym again.

In the meantime, I finished out my Tuesday with Matt on the couch. We were both drained after a busy day and decided to numb our minds with a little tv before dragging ourselves up the stairs to bed. We had a little company, though. Chloe complained of a tummy ache, so we let her lie down on the couch next to us. Of course she didn’t fall asleep as we had hoped; the thrill of getting her way kept her up and excited, but the intermittent cries over her tummy were enough for me to pull a wastebasket near.

I had passed the last 30 minutes or so half-listening to the tv while trying to achieve something impressive in my games of ‘Words with Friends.’ Matt and I gave each other the look that said it was time to get off our butts and call it a night, so we each promptly moved an inch and settled into a new position on the couch. Chloe also fought the idea of moving upstairs and crawled into my lap.

Of course she would have crawled into my lap before it happened.

I heard the groan but didn’t realize what was happening until it was too late. And then I felt what was happening–all over my arm, all over my shirt, all over my pants. I couldn’t concern myself with me, though; that’s what the husband sitting next to me was for. Instead, I rubbed Chloe’s back, trying to calm her, while I waited for Matt to help me move her to the trashcan.

“It’s okay, baby,” I offered in my most soothing voice. I tried to move Chloe away, but I was in an awkward position and dripping with vomit. I did my best to not drip on any undisturbed part of the couch or carpet and thought how much easier this task would be if Matt just lifted Chloe for me.

Surely, Matt would intervene before the second upheaval. Surely he would help me turn her around. Surely.

Unless, of course, my husband was completely unaware that his daughter was throwing up all over his wife because he was checking his Tweets.

As the second upheaval was happening, I turned to see Matt holding his phone in front of his face, not even offering a glance in our direction.

“Seriously?!?!?!” I yelled at him.

Just like that, the Twitter trance was broken.

“She’s throwing up all over the place! How do you not notice?!”

Matt had already scrambled to get paper towels. I wiped the face of Chloe who was still screaming and then grabbed a towel from Matt to clean my wet arm. I decided it would be easiest for the two of us to strip down to our underwear and throw our clothes straight into the washing machine.

As I was delicately lifting the vomit-covered shirts over our heads, I heard a gag sound coming from the couch. I looked over to see my husband cleaning up with a paper towel.

“Matt!” I called out in a tone that spoke ‘you better surpress all gags from here on out since I am the one wearing the throw-up.’

“I know,” he answered, knowing exactly what the tone meant.

I couldn’t really be mad, though. After all, he was cleaning up vomit.

We all made our way upstairs after the evidence of the night was cleaned away, and I washed and dressed Chloe. I took a shower, and then I made my way to bed where Matt and Chloe had already found sleep. I snuggled in next to my baby knowing that, once again, I would delay getting back into a routine at the gym.

I couldn’t help but laugh to myself at the life of a mother. We get to wear the brunt of the throw-up and  have to change our plans daily while, many times, our husbands are clueless as to the chaos of our everyday.

The next morning, I let Chloe sleep and wrapped her warm body in a blanket when it was time to take the other two to school. We spent the first part of the day snuggling as we listened to Elmo’s laughs and Strawberry Shortcake’s retelling of Cinderella, and we gave each other lots of hugs and kisses. And I had to admit, vomit aside, this morning ended up being much better than any day at the gym.

 

How would you sum up motherhood? Dads, how would you describe being a father?

Just Like My Girls

I need to work on my reactions. For instance, the other day the assistant principal at my son’s school confided, “I would try for another child if I could be assured I would have a girl just like yours.” After staring at her blankly for two minutes, I decided I should emerge from my shock and paralysis and say something. I should’ve just said, “Oh, thank you,” or something of that nature, but instead I admitted, “They are really tough.” We then shared a moment of confession that our children were not perfect and could, in fact, wear us out.

A few hours later, I wondered if this woman would still want my girls after their afternoon of making ‘smoothies’ with a bottle of blue cheese dressing, bananas, leftover chicken soup, parsley from the garden, milk, and, of course, dirt. I will admit that if she did still want them, they now knew how to scrub the kitchen floor.

However, the next day I was convinced that, no, she would not want my girls after she found out that they stole candy from underprivileged children. Yes, here I was collecting Easter baskets from my son’s school to take to a local ministry, and my girls were climbing over the back seat of the van trying to snatch a quick piece of candy before I got back out of the van to strangle them.

I don’t know how long it took me to leave the school parking lot, but I do remember that once the two-year-old latched onto the four-year-old’s plan, I felt like I was involved in the longest running circus act ever. I would buckle the two-year-old in her car seat, and as soon as I walked around the van to my seat, she would unbuckle and jump over the back to the baskets beneath. As I wrestled with her, the four-year-old would look for her chance to snag a piece, herself. Then I entered panic mode as I knew I shouldn’t beat them or scream obscenities in the Christian school parking lot, but I had to stop the madness. I decided to quietly fling them around while muttering threats through clenched teeth.

I immediately recognized the irony of the situation. Here I was, good Christian mother delivering Easter baskets to spread the message of love and peace, while my girls and I violated at least four of the Ten Commandments in the process.

And once again, I should’ve chosen a different reaction. The rest of my day was clouded with thoughts that I must truly be the worst disciplinarian ever. I could hear the chorus of stern mothers and fathers from a previous generation admonishing me that their children would never act that way, and I decided that none of my friends’ kids from this generation would act that way, either.

I was a failure, and my girls would grow up to inhabit the local prison. They would earn the nicknames ‘White Chocolate’ and ‘Cocoa Puff’ for their string of candy store thieveries. And I would die of a broken heart, my house empty of all sweets because they brought too much pain.

While I replayed the Lifetime movie I directed in my mind, I neglected to remember why the assistant principal the day before wanted girls like mine. My two girls have learned the names of every teacher who helps at carpool. As we pass through the line, they beg me to roll down the window so they can yell their ‘hellos’ to the teachers and share their waves and bright smiles. On days when we stop in the school, my girls look in the assistant principal’s office and wrap their arms around her when she’s at her desk. They bring joy to every person they meet.

And sometimes heartburn, but mostly joy.

They are good kids with strong personalities, much like their brother. Luckily, age five seemed to be the ‘coming of age’ period when he graduated from stealing from the poor and actually started giving. I forget that fact, though. I forget that I actually don’t want a ‘weak-willed child;’ I just want to direct those strong wills toward productive causes. I’d like to think that Susan B. Anthony and Rosa Parks broke a few rules as children.

I know my job as a parent is extremely important, but I can’t discount the importance of personality, either. I look at my sister and me. I never got a detention my entire school career. My sister met her future husband in in-school suspension. We both came from the same parents. We both are good women; in fact, if I were to say who is the more loving, thoughtful, and generous person, I would have to say my sister. She just happens to do what she wants.

Sometimes I forget that I’m not the only mother who struggles. I’m not the only mom who tells her kids ‘no’ to have that ‘no’ challenged. There are some people who just have to see how close to the edge of the pool they can get before they actually fall in. And, unfortunately, sometimes, they will fall.

I can’t forget, however, that there is no fall too big that God’s grace can’t cover. Of course, I don’t want my children to have big falls. I hope that when they challenge my ‘no’s’ the discipline I give will sink in one day. I hope that the many literal messes I’ve made them clean up will teach them responsibility and the idea that every action has a consequence.

If not, I know I’ve given them the tools to start a successful house cleaning service together.

I know there are other parents who feel as I, parents whose kids do test the boundaries. It’s hard to open up to other parents whose kids are mild-mannered and obedient most of the time. When I see my kids misbehave, I feel like the failure. I feel embarrassed. And while I am not opposed to trying out other discipline techniques offered from others, sometimes I just want to hear that my kids aren’t the only ones who steal from Easter baskets. I want to hear another mom say, “My kid just pooped in the backyard today. What a weirdo.”

Parenting is rough. The responsibility is enormous, and for this perfectionist control-freak, leaving my kids in God’s hands is scary. However, I will continue to do my best to teach them right from wrong and choose the appropriate measure for when their choices are not so hot. And one day, when my kids are grown up and no longer ‘hiding’ underneath the dining room table while eating ice cream or cutting each other’s hair, I promise that I won’t forget that at one time they did. And when that young mom shares that she doesn’t know what to do; her kids are out of control, I’ll say to her:

“Oh, honey, that’s nothing. My girls stole Easter candy from underprivileged children…and I wouldn’t trade them for any other kids in the world.”

What crazy stories can you share about your children? What stories horrified you at the time, but now years later cause you to laugh?

Nothing Like Me

Anyone who knows my children knows that they are independent little creatures. I don’t mind bragging that at age two, all my children were making their own beds and getting themselves dressed in the morning. No, I don’t mind bragging because their independence also causes them to scale the pantry for cereal and pour milk all over the floor. I hold on to those bright moments of initiative because heavens know how long until their initiative causes another hair on my head to turn gray or another dollar to go towards a Magic Eraser.

For Valentine’s Day this week, I had the chance to beam again. Caleb was tasked with making a box to hold all his Valentine’s, and I secretly cringed thinking about how difficult this craft would be for me. I don’t do arts and crafts, and I’m not very good at wrapping presents. Wrapping a shoebox in a creative manner and using scissors to cut a hole for the valentines left too many possibilities for disaster.

I had wrongly assumed, of course, that Caleb would be the designer while I would have to help execute his design. Instead, Caleb wanted nothing to do with me, not even the creative juices flowing through my mind. He sat down and told me what he needed–red, pink, and white paper. He decided on his own to tear the paper and glue it in a collage-like fashion, and he masterfully created a box that didn’t look like his mother helped him at all, which I didn’t.

No, if I helped him, the box would’ve looked more like the one I helped make with Chloe. Notice the hearts of all different sizes? Yes, those would be my ingenious creations.

Who am I kidding? I didn’t teach my children independence. They learned it as a survival mechanism.

As I looked over our boxes, I couldn’t help but think about how different we are. I was reminded again when I picked up the kids from school, their boxes filled with valentines and sugar. I knew better than to try to restrain them, even though they just had treats at school. I told each kid to take out a piece of candy and enjoy. They could have one piece every day. By the time the kids changed into their play clothes, Caleb was crying because the girls ate all of his candy.

Their little boxes reminded me  of the one I made in third grade. The only reason I remember this box is that my mom brings something from the basement that she wants out of her house whenever I visit. This last supply of ‘unwanteds’ contained cards and mementos from high school and this worn box from third grade.

I reached inside the box and read the valentines scribed in the pen of eight year olds. I tried to remember the faces of each child who signed a card, and, surprisingly, I could remember most. I then had a bigger surprise when I reached in the box and pulled out a large blue lollipop…and another…and another. My daughter reached out, wide-eyed, toward the treasure I just uncovered from the hidden chest.

“Hannah Grace, no! That candy is 25 years old!”

That day driving down the road while my kids’ hands turned sticky, I thought about my box. That day when Caleb came to me with tears in his eyes, his box near empty, I pictured my own uncovered treasures. I waited 25 years to eat my candy. My children couldn’t wait 25 minutes.

In what ways are your children nothing like you?

 

And We Keep On Going

I should not be allowed an iPhone. This weekend, I set a willful child on the toilet in an effort to get her to pee when my phone dropped out of my pocket and went for a swim. Typically, I keep my hands out of toilet water, but I amazed myself at how quickly I stuck my hand in that bowl. I’d like to think that my reflexes would be that sharp if I ever had to rescue anything of true value–I scooped that phone out of the watery abyss in .2 seconds flat.

Despite my laser-sharp reflexes, a turn with the hair dryer, and a bag of rice, the screen on my phone went black (but that stupid phone taunted me all day, ringing and dinging to notify me of e-mails that had come in but I would never see), and my iPhone was useless. It was a terrible day to not have my phone.

Saturday, Matt volunteers at church for most of the day, so I was on my own to take Caleb to a roller skating birthday party and occupy the two girls. My attempt to find a ride for Caleb didn’t work, but I was adamant that I was not going to teach three children to skate that day–I would drop Caleb at the party and then take the girls to the toy store to spend some of their allowance, assuming, of course, that the party location was near the toy store.

Caleb would have to leave the party early to ensure we got to church early as I was also volunteering that day. If I had my handy, dandy iPhone, I could’ve figured out my route quickly. Except I didn’t. My iPhone continued to taunt me.

photo by Ian Munroe

I printed off some directions from one of the map websites and rounded up the children into the van, a little later than we planned to leave, of course. Ten minutes later, I neared our destination. But after driving past 1700 Buford Drive four times (twice from each direction), I decided that the directions I was following was not to the location where we were trying to go.

I would’ve called the grandmother hosting the party, but, oh yeah–I couldn’t. At this point, I had a decision to make. We were already 30 minutes late for the party, and I still didn’t know where to go to get to this party. I could go home and make a second attempt at printing off the right directions, or I could tell Caleb that we would take his friend and him roller skating another day. When the latter offer produced tears from the back seat, I decided the former. We would get to that stupid party no matter what. And we kept on going.

I drove home, ran into the house, printed off new directions, printed off directions from the party to church, and got back in the van (did I mention that we don’t have a land line, so I couldn’t call the grandmother from my house, either?). Looking at the directions to this farther away place, I realized that Caleb would only have about 40 minutes at the party. I explained this fact to him, emphasizing that he most likely will have missed the skating part of the party or the cake, depending on the order they chose. Caleb nodded that he understood and blinked back his tears.

As we sat in traffic due to road construction, I felt my blood pressure rise and created new profanities in my mind. We were going to get to that party even if Caleb only got to shake his friend’s hand and give her her present before he turned around to leave! So we kept on going.

At 4:00 p.m. we arrived at the party that was supposed to end at 4:30. Caleb had missed the cake, but the kids were skating again. Caleb had 30 minutes to learn how to skate. I would’ve loved to teach him, but I had a four-year-old holding one hand and a two-year-old holding the other–two girls who would have to wait another day to go to the toy store.

Luckily, a compassionate woman at the party saw my full hands and took Caleb out on the floor. I watched and held my breath as Caleb flailed his arms and legs around in an attempt to catch his balance. I cringed as his legs flew completely out from under him. And with each wild slam to the floor, I fought between the instinct that wanted to laugh at how crazy my son looked and the fear that I would find a limb dangling in an odd direction as he climbed back to his feet. But despite each painful-looking fall, Caleb kept on going.

While he could’ve spent more time learning how to skate on the carpeted floor, Caleb’s competitive drive kept him on the slick rink. In one moment he looked like a kid at a concert body surfing–on-lookers sitting on the edge of the rink took turns holding him up as he threatened to land on them or crash to the floor–yet in the next moment, this little boy was balancing on two skates making his way around the curve by himself.

I couldn’t have been more proud (or terrified).

The time came to turn in the skates, thank the host, and jump back in the van with my printed directions. Unfortunately, the people who make these things think I know the difference between ‘northeast’ and ‘southwest’. Seriously, ‘left’ or ‘right’ works just fine for me. Now, we were going to be late for church, but we kept on going. Watching my son take fall after fall without a grimace made me realize that I could, too.

photo by Ian Munroe

I kept on going because that’s what moms do. We keep going when the logical choice would be to turn back, save gas, and miss the party; we value the smile on our kids’ faces more. We keep going when we’re tired and want to go to bed because we’d rather our family wear clean clothes, instead. We keep going when that little voice in our heads tells us our efforts are not worth it, reminding us of all the wasted time we spent doing tasks that already needed to be redone, reminding us of the life we could have if we lived for ourselves.

We keep going because, the reality is, no matter how tired we are or frustrated we feel, we’re doing exactly what we want to do. We pick ourselves up off our bruised bottoms and dry our hands of toilet water and kiss goodbye to our gas money because, as contradictory as it sounds some day, the bruises and the stress and the loss of money contribute to a beautiful mosaic of stories and the character we need to keep on going the next day.

We keep on going. And that’s exactly what I’m going to do today and the next, with or without my iPhone.

What keeps you going?

 

Tender

As we drove back from the hair salon, my neighbor Joann thanked me again for driving her.

“You’re very calm, and I like that. Some people aren’t when they drive.”

I smiled a little because ‘calm’ and ‘patient’ are words that many have used to describe me, but, in the last three years, they are words that to me seem the furthest away. I’ve wanted to reclaim them so that my kids would see what others have seen. I’ve gotten a little help along the way, but I’ve also learned a new trick.

I study them, and I savor their uniqueness. Last night, I watched as Chloe ate her ice cream cone. She took a napkin and delicately wrapped it around the cone to keep the melted mess from running down her hands. And I watched her little tongue. She stuck out that little tongue just over the top of the napkin that came up a little too high, and she found the soft cream below. Oh, how she enjoyed that ice cream!

Watching that sweet face, my heart couldn’t help but turn tender. So I watch my children now, and I send up a note of thanks for every ‘Punky Brewster’ style outfit, every nonchalant attitude toward another 100% on a spelling test, and every silly expression that comes out of her mouth. And this heart turns to mush every time I do.

Linking up with the Gypsy Mama for her Five Minute Friday where we write what comes to our minds whether or not it’s exactly right. We spend five minutes getting down those thoughts and don’t change once they’re here. Click below to play along. What makes your heart tender?

 

A New Year’s Post for Moms

As the end of 2011 came near, I had a sudden realization that blew my mind: I am a good mother. Perhaps my depression got in the way or my constant tendency to compare myself to others, but finally seeing myself as good for my children gave me a joy that I hadn’t yet experienced.

Previously, instead of focusing on what I did right, I would only see my faults. I began creating a pile of deficiencies, even lumping areas that were simply not my talents with all the areas that I could realistically improve.

I thought I was doing well as a mom to make a home-cooked meal from scratch most nights. That was, of course, until I knew there were moms out there who grind their own wheat and bake fresh bread for their family every morning. I don’t have a cow in the backyard to milk, so I can’t churn my own butter, and I don’t make candles with the beeswax from the insects that visit our home in the spring.

Your home-cooked meals are nothing with your store-bought flour and pasteurized milk! And you rarely even light a Yankee Candle. Failure!

I love reading to my children and thought I was giving them the gift of imagination and communication and enhanced vocabulary and all the wonderful skills that follow a love of literature. That was, of course, until I knew there were moms out there that read Cinderella and then made a castle with their girls from materials they gathered at their local recycling center. After visiting the recycling plant and creating their masterpiece, they decided to whip up some dresses for the ball with scraps from old clothes and their handy-dandy sewing machines. Crafty and green!

Your reading is nothing without a craft to follow! You can’t even cut in a straight line, your kids only like to cut their own hair, and you don’t even own a sewing machine. Failure!

And so I added to the pile that contained a short temper and anxious personality a lack of arts and crafts ability and ability to homestead. Every day I would throw more ‘deficiencies’ up onto the pile until I couldn’t see on the other side.

Until one day….

One day I simply walked up to that pile and pushed it over. Down fell ‘arts and crafts’ and ‘homesteading’ and ‘homeschooling’ and a bunch of other compound words that start with ‘home.’ I picked up ‘short temper’ and ‘anxiety’ and put them in their proper file folders–they were weaknesses, but they didn’t define me. I took a deep breath and thought to myself, My kids are lucky to have me for their mom.

As I write, I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m not the only mother who makes piles. We’re hard on ourselves, and, thanks to social media, we’re constantly reminded of a billion areas where we’re not as good as the next lady. We wonder how that mom has time to have a successful blog and raise four beautiful children and start her own company out of the home when we haven’t figured out how to write more than once a week and simply catch up on laundry with our two kids.

We find a thousand a different areas where we’re deficient, when the reality is that we’re not deficient–we’re just different.

And I have one more sneaking suspicion: You’re a good mom, too.

Maybe you make the best home-cooked meals and grind your own wheat, and one day your children will look back and think, “Wow. My mom loved me so much and cared so much about my health that she spent time going that extra mile just for me.”

Maybe you order pizza more nights than you’d like to admit, but you get down on the floor and roll around with your children like a big kid yourself. I, promise, your children will remember a mom who loved them so much that she took time to play.

Maybe you can’t cook to save your life, but you are that mom who can create things from what others would throw away. You come up with the most beautiful crafts, and your children will remember a mom who displayed for them creativity. They will forever be in awe of your industriousness and look back fondly on the time you spent with them creating and seeing treasure in others’ trash.

And maybe you are that mom who works full-time. You don’t have time for arts and crafts–getting dinner on the table is a challenge. However, you don’t let a day go by without sitting down with your children and really listening to them. You rub their heads at night and read them a bedtime story when you’d rather be sleeping yourself. Your children will remember. They will remember a mom who taught them the value of hard work, and they will remember a mom who showed them their value.

There is no perfect mother. We all have our flaws, but we all have our strengths, too. Maybe that strength is simply having the patience to let your two little girls dress you up for your wedding day to the prince with beads and hair accessories that you wouldn’t dare leave the house in for a minute–but you’d spend hours wearing them in your home for them.

This year I think that’s something worth celebrating.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Linking up with Mama Kat to share one of my New Year’s Resolutions. I want to hear from you–it’s time to brag. I give you permission! What about you is worth celebrating?

What Did You Just Say?!

My husband, Matt, and I have been blessed with kids who can communicate well. Well, blessed and cursed–smart kids who have an answer for everything can be very trying. Nonetheless, we’ve never had to mess with ‘baby talk,’ and we rarely witnessed the ‘terrible twos’ temper tantrums (how’s that for alliteration?) simply because our kids couldn’t communicate their frustrations. Oh, they know how to communicate their frustrations quite well!

As a result of our little blessings, I would venture to say that we tend to forget their ages when we are having a conversation. The other night, Matt was scolding our five-year-old son Caleb for dumping out the contents of his piggy bank, yet, again instead of getting ready for bed, but he may have been looking at Caleb as a member of his sales team instead of a little kid:

“Put [your piggy bank] away, or I am going to confiscate it.”

“I don’t know what that word means.”

“It means I am going to take it away.”

“WHY WOULD YOU USE THAT WORD?!  You can just say I’m going to take it away!”

And as any supportive wife would do, I laughed downstairs for about five minutes. Then I thought about the verse in the Bible that says, “4 Fathers,[b] do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). I’m not sure whether or not teaching Caleb to clean up the money all over his bed counts as training of the Lord, but I’m fairly certain he was exasperated.

I thought for a minute how I might exasperate my children–perhaps, sometimes my expectations are a little high or I get frustrated before really understanding why they tried to recreate the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel on the playroom wall–but then my mind traveled back to the current moment.

And, Matt, that exasperating was all on you, buddy.

Linking up with Mama Kat for her Writer’s Workshop. How do you exasperate your children (or spouse or mother, etc)?


 

 

 

 

 

Paradox

Sometimes I hate parenting. Maybe parenting is too specific. Sometimes I hate this phase in my life as a stay-at-home mom.

I hate mopping the floor to have someone pee on it or spill milk five minutes later. I hate the mound of laundry that is alway taunting me, even if I just put away three loads. I hate the mess that I find upstairs right after I made the downstairs look perfect and vice versa.

It’s not that I hate mopping or doing laundry or straightening up or cleaning bathrooms (actually, I do hate cleaning bathrooms)–it’s the feeling that everything I’ve just done is for nothing.

Many days I look at the blue numbers on the stove as they near seven, and I just wish my husband worked a little closer, could come home a little earlier to help tame the three wild animals that come out when I’m making dinner. I wish there were someone here to help discipline when I feel mentally worn out by the end of the day. I hate feeling like I’m ineffective and out-witted by three little people whose combined years of education don’t even equal a third of mine.

And, yet, there are these moments….

The other day I stood in the laundry room taking clothes out of the dryer and getting together a new load for the wash, and I had this intense longing, yearning. With each shirt I folded, I couldn’t shake the feeling that our family wasn’t complete, and the desire for another child burned within me. The feeling grew stronger as I dwelled on my longing until I stopped myself: “What the–?” I thought. Here I was holding poopy underpants in my hand while desiring for another child in my heart.

I immediately recognized the irony but knew how it was possible. Even though I hate some of the feelings accompanied with this job, I love having three kids surround me on the couch as I read a story. I love watching my two-year-old shake her hips during our dance parties. And I love my kids on days when they are good and days when they are rotten simply because they are mine.

Parenting isn’t always logical. How I can love a job that I simultaneously hate doesn’t make sense, but that’s how a paradox works. And I find this one quite beautiful.

In what paradox do you find yourself? Linking up with Mama Kat for her Writers Workshop.


Mama’s Losin’ It

Sometimes It’s Okay Not to Care

I guess I could’ve been upset when our ‘Star Wars’ themed Halloween turned into a ‘Star Wars Meets the Disney Princesses’ Halloween. After all, we did plan this idea months ago. Hannah Grace was excited to dress up like the beautiful Princess Leia, and Chloe couldn’t wait to don her ‘Toyota’ costume (otherwise known as ‘Yoda’ to everyone over the age of two). Caleb already had his Luke Skywalker costume, Daddy was living out his dream as Darth Vader, and, since Natalie Portman and I could almost be twins, I thought Queen Amilama-dim-dom suited me just fine.

Hannah Grace was the first to give up. She wanted to be a superhero instead, which was fine with me since super Aunt Lisa bought them dress-up costumes for when they came over to visit. Chloe quickly followed the lead of her sister, and the ‘Star Wars’ theme changed into a ‘Superheroes’ theme–it all still worked.

Until, of course, four days before Halloween when Hannah Grace assumed the role she was born to play as ‘Fancy Nancy’ for Book Character Day at preschool. The girls were adorable, so I really didn’t care that our theme was unraveling before my eyes.

And speaking of Fancy Nancy, I really didn’t care when one little Nancy refused to smile during her parade.

Because, after all, some things are important, and some things are not. Halloween costumes are not important, even if it doesn’t make sense for one’s daughters to ditch the thought-out costumes, the multiple-thought out costumes, for their everyday, ripped, dress-up clothes. Princess dresses without the proper crowns or shoes or wigs–an arts-and-craftsy mother’s nightmare.

But luckily this mother doesn’t care.

Luckily, this mother didn’t care the night before when her husband started carving a pumpkin at 8:30, and the kids had school the next day (okay, I cared a little).

Because, luckily, this mama’s learning that sometimes (many times) life doesn’t go as planned. Sometimes weekends end up a little more hectic than planned, and the kids are up a little bit later than I’d like. Sometimes kids change their mind about Halloween costumes one hour before we leave for the Fall Festival. Sometimes teenagers forget how to read when they come upon an unattended Halloween bag that says, “Take 1.”

Sometimes kids go to school with different colored socks or hair sticking up in the back. Sometimes Mommy is a little too tired to make the healthier homemade pizza crust and buys a packaged one instead.

Sometimes, I have to pick my battles.  And Halloween isn’t one of them.

Sometimes, five happy faces is more important.

And if anyone disagrees with me, I really don’t care.

How did you or your family dress up for Halloween? Are you able to say “I don’t care” to things that really don’t matter?

Writing in the Margins

I slept through my alarm every day last week. A couple of times, I didn’t even hear my alarm until it had been going off for at least a half an hour. I was immediately frightened by the realization–I had become my husband.

In the midst of the exhaustion and frazzled days of the last two weeks, I look fondly on the kindness God showed me. I had already had the conversation with my husband–I’ve taken on too much; I need to figure out what I’m going to let go–when I saw a trend I didn’t like. Each night I hit the sack a little later trying to finish that ‘just one more’ task, and each morning I woke with the need for an IV drip of coffee–and I’m not even a coffee drinker. I hadn’t spent any time in serious prayer or reading my Bible because I kept waking up late, and I was yearning for that time to focus my mind on the spiritual and not just the earthly tasks.

It all started innocently, with the best of intentions. I so looked forward to Chloe starting preschool, giving me two days a week with a few hours child-free. I made plans to volunteer in the kids’ schools, something that proved difficult previously with a baby in tow; to work out more consistently, to improve my writing with regular practice; to keep a cleaner house. As I looked at my cluttered countertops, a blog with the last entry almost a week ago, and a gym bag that hasn’t left it’s spot in a few days, I found out that by pursuing one of those items on the list, the rest quickly deteriorated.

I was so excited to co-chair the missions committee at Caleb’s school, but as 10:00 rolled around each night, it was just one more thing I hadn’t finished. I remember telling Matt, “The other chair seems to have taken over, but, honestly, that’s okay with me right now.” He laughed, and I laughed at the words coming out of my mouth. My had I changed if I was okay relinquishing control!

And that is how God showed His kindness. As I was coming to my own realization as to what I could handle, the co-chair of the missions organization called me: I don’t want you to think I’ve taken over; I just remember how hard it was for me when I had little kids. Mine are older now, and it’s really not a problem to get some of these things done.

The timing of her phone call, not even 12 hours after Matt and I spoke, was confirmation for me. I unburdened my heart, telling this lady how much I want to help, but, at the same time, I appreciate her understanding. I do need to watch to what I commit and maybe let her take a greater amount of the tasks for now. She laughed a knowing laugh and reminded me that my ministry right now, especially during this season of life, is my family. And she went on to warn that, in her own life, she saw Satan use busyness, busyness in good things, to distract her from better things.

I’m pretty sure I’ve written about this topic before. I want my family to be my priority, my ministry, yet I find that line can get fuzzy. After all, I volunteer in the kids’ schools for them, I volunteer at church for God and as an example to my children. I’m the secretary of our homeowner’s association for…well…that’s not a good example. And writing is for me, and working out is for me, and quiet time in the morning is for me–and I find it easier to push aside those ‘me’ activities instead of those for others. However, I’m also learning that if I don’t find those moments for me, most importantly those moments between God and me, I won’t have anything to give to them.

I’m not complaining about being busy. I’m blessed to feel busy doing things I love. But I also know that just because something is good doesn’t mean it’s good for me now, especially if I’ve used up all my margin to do those good things.

One of the hardest struggles for me as a wife and a mother has been to figure out this whole margin thing, to figure out my priorities and how those priorities translate. I want my children to know I love them and the Lord and that I want to serve the Lord with my life. And it’s going to take me a while, but I think God may be showing me that one of the best ways to start serving Him is to play a game of ‘Toy Story Connect 4″ with the kids, get in bed early, read a book, and then wake up rested.

There are too many beautiful moments, fleeting moments, and I don’t want to need caffeine in order to enjoy them.

Do you struggle with busyness and saying ‘no’ to good things? How do you achieve the proper balance in your life?

Linking up with Michelle and Jen today!