Sunday, February 7, 2016

We're More Like a Small Gang.

There are some things in life I would be willing to do without if I had to.

Bottled water.
Mechanical pencils.
My garbage disposal.
High heels.
The dishwasher.
Dryer sheets.

However, there are things I refuse to imagine my life without.

Air conditioning. 
A washer and dryer.
Shampoo and conditioner. 
My family. 
Clean sheets.
And my girlfriends.   (and coffee.)

I have always felt so blessed to have wonderful friends.  I have only a couple of times felt real betrayal, and though it did cut me like a knife straight to my soul, I was able even in grief to look around and see that mostly, I have only been loved.  The friends God chose for me have brought me through the cold winter winds and dry arid summers of womanhood from kindergarten until this very second. 

And I hope they are at my side until Heaven. 

Nothing is more daunting than motherhood.  That's not to say that a career isn't daunting, and certainly doesn't wipe the magnitude of marriage off the list of "Hard Things I Sign Up To Do In Life."  But I cannot wrap my head around one thing scarier or more persistently demanding than raising a human being.  The thing is, the more I parent, even though there are parts that are scary-- ("No, those little red things aren't Skittles... they are Sudafed tablets," and, "You actually cannot fly off the roof of the house like Superman because Superman is on television and has cords strapped to him and you don't...") the next parts are way scarier than the ones before.  That toddler becomes a school aged child and you hear about a shooting that cost multiple children their lives and you want to run to school and check them out just so you can touch him.  That child becomes a preteen that gets to use a cell phone and you have to teach her that just because a "girl" named Jessica "likes" her picture, that doesn't mean "Jessica" isn't really "Ricky" in Omaha with prison tattoos and a criminal record longer than my most recent Walmart receipt. 

The. World. Of. Parenting. Is. So. Non. Stop.

I don't know how I'd make without my girlfriends. 

I'm not just talking about my mom friends.  I am talking about all of the women who walk life alongside me, now and all those years ago.  The ones whose love for me has carved a river through my heart that won't be covered up by the miles between us, nor the years that pass us by.  I'm talking about the ones who see where you are and jump into the ditch with you.  Some of them will lie there by you a while.  Some of them make you look for shapes in the clouds while you're on your back.  Some are there to cry hard with you.  And others only jumped in to hoist you onto their backs and bring you out. 

I'm thankful for the ones who have parented longer than me and help me navigate through the landmines of hormones and sleep patterns.  I am thankful for the ones who don't have kids at all and remind me to go out every once in a while and lighten up and take my yoga pants off now and then.  I'm thankful for the ones who drop it all when I yell for help.   I am thankful for the ones who pray on their faces for me when I ask them to.  I'm thankful for the one who texts me kissy faces and snapshots from her office at work, the one who sends me pictures of her puppy to which I respond with pictures of my son peeing off the porch, and the ones who send me memes with no explanation needed. 
I'm thankful for all the friends I have, too many to name.

I'm thankful for the friends who make me who I am. 

I'm talking about my sister and my cousin and my mom and my aunt.  They show no mercy and take no prisoners.  Ours is an ongoing conversation day after day about everything from recipes to what just happened to us at the grocery store.  And when one of us isn't ok, we're on a plane or at a pawn shop to get a weapon and make it right.  (Not really.  But kind of.)

I'm talking about the friend who cleaned my toilets, fed my kid, cooked my lunch, and gave me a pedicure while I was in the darkest days of depression I've ever known.  I couldn't put my feet on the floor and was clinging to antidepressants as my lifeline.  She saw me.  She saved me. 

And then, there's another friend who got in my face when I was 100 pounds overweight and told me to lose the weight or I'd never have that baby I so desperately wanted.  She chose her words with grace and spoke with a trembling voice.  But she was right.  And she kick-started a life change in me that I needed, body and soul. 

I have to recognize the "snobby Northerner" who became the closest confidant of this Southern girl and is gladly the hider of my skeletons.  She has literally cleaned up my puke, wiped my nose that was snotty from bawling, taken my children when I was at a breaking point and exhausted, and covered our work parking lot in diapers and chalk sprayed messages the day I found out I was pregnant with my son.  I had a major illness and she brought a branch from a tree in my yard to hang on my windowless room's wall.   

Where would I be without my high school best friend, whom I still carry in my heart after all these 21 years?  When life has thrown me heaviness, I have reveled in happy memories of her falling off my bed to reach a bag of potato chips.  Or the time we convinced my mom she had encephalitis.  And when we explained very adult things we didn't really understand to our younger, more curious friend on the side of the road in my car. 

How would I have made it without the friend who betrayed my confidence when I told her I was head over heels in love with my husband (who wasn't even yet my boyfriend) and I begged her not to tell a soul?  She, of course, told her husband, who told MY  husband, and our romance began the next day.  She knew better than I did and refused to keep my secret a secret.  She stood at my side on our wedding day and I stood by hers when we said goodbye to her son as a brain tumor took his young life before our eyes.  She was there when my husband proposed to me, and I was there when her marriage fell apart and then God rebuilt it stronger than it ever was before.

 I don't know what I would do without the two ladies who have cut my hair all this time.  Time in their chairs have made me a better parent, a better wife, a better friend.  They ask me questions that cut me to the bone and leave me scratching my head (no pun intended) in thought. After I leave both of them, I feel like I've been with Jesus.  Or a therapist.  Or Jesus as a therapist.

And then, there's the friend who sees that colic may make you lose you mind and she chooses to stay one night a week at your house with your newborn who will not sleep for MONTHS and she still gets up and goes to work in the morning every single time.   Oh, and she's also the only one willing to babysit said baby because he's just that awful of a newborn.  The end. 

Who knew that I would date a guy 23 years ago who would remain a very dear lifelong friend, but whose wife would become one of the greatest gifts God has ever given me?  Who knew God's version of full circle would be so creative and so profoundly precious?  Who knew He had her in mind for my heart when I was so young thought the world revolved around me? 

I'm thankful for the women who saw me panting for air last week and came over to clean my house when all my Plan B's didn't work.  They know the code to my door and what my underwear looks like. I'm thankful for the friend who is crazy busy being a doctor but wanted to bless my family with take out and had it delivered to my door.  I'm thankful for the two single moms who stepped in and managed my house for me while I was on bedrest for seven weeks with my Spicy.  I'm also thankful for the dear friend who stepped in to nanny my kids years ago when my sister and I had a million babies all at once and there weren't enough grandparents to go around in the work week.  When we moved, I left a part of my heart behind with her.

And how in the world would I make it without neighbor friends and their drive-bys and drop-offs?  From the night we moved into our last Florida house and a Yankee candle appeared on my front porch until the last drop off of a Publix sub when I had a sick baby and couldn't leave the house, how did I make it without my neighbor across the lake who became one of my dearest friends?  How would I survive parenting without grabbing a heating pad from one friend close by and essential oils from another? What would I do without drop offs of bags of coffee and Pumpkin Spice syrup and the leap in my heart when the mailbox emoji pops up on my phone, telling me the treat fairy friend has hit my mailbox?

There's life in your yoga pants, ladies.  But there's also life out THERE when we're willing to take the risk and leave the house and jump into a new circle of women.  Whether you admit it or not, you need them.  You need them for coffee runs and the "Does this rash look normal" texts, and for a safe place to puke your emotions up and for comic relief.  This mothering gig is HARD. You weren't meant to walk through this life without sisters beside you. 

You need them.

I know, I know.  Women can be catty.  Mean.  Cruel.  Two-faced.  Snarky.  Rude.  Judgmental. 
And when you've been hurt, it seems to be safer to swear off of friendships, period.  #beenthere.

But really, that's like saying, "I'm never going to read a book again because that page gave me a paper cut."

There's so much story left you'll never experience if you don't turn the page. 

When I was a kid, I once rode the swings at the fair.  It was a horrifying experience.  I felt like I was falling the whole time, couldn't stop swaying from side to side mid-air, and I was sure that the tiny metal rod that laid horizontally across my lap was all that was saving me from falling onto the Tilt-A-Whirl line.  I left that ride with shaky legs and 100% sure that I would never sit my tail on a swing chair ever again.  Decades later, I couldn't resist the temptation of cooling off in the salty summer air and rode them with my daughter.  We laughed and screamed.  And as my swing moved to the outside of hers and I felt the highs and lows of going round and round, I remembered the childhood fears I once felt.  Only this time, I saw that I wasn't really as high up as I remembered and I trusted the chains that held me.   

So, you got hurt back there.  You're wiser.  Stronger.  More capable and whole.  A little more weathered around the edges and a little more discerning through and through.  That's good.  All that stuff makes for deeper friendships this time around.

Get back on the swing and enjoy the ride

I've heard over and over how it takes a village to raise a child. 
But I have to say that me and my girls?  We're really a small gang. 

I wouldn't miss one single page of my story as long as it's with them. 


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Guilty List.

Guilt is a thief. 

It comes in and plays a wicked game, totally convincing you that it has your child's best interests at heart and that's why it's making you second guess everything in your life from the kind of bread you buy to the way you just spoke to your child, and from the kind of schooling you've chosen to the last round of shots you did or did not give your tot. 

Our society fosters guilt.  It really is the perfect storm.  The Internet at our fingertips, we can diagnose our kiddo with eczema or get a recipe for gluten free Pop-Tarts from carline.  But we also can hear one tiny snarky comment that can make us feel completely incompetent to raise children and render us guilty of the crimes of imperfection and laziness.  We read article after article written by the people who know everything and they're not one bit happy with the fact that we let our children watch television, eat Goldfish crackers, or sleep in our bed in the middle of the night.

I've had enough. 

I've had enough of young moms not enjoying the ride.

I've had enough of the experts taking the fun away from all of us. 

I've had enough of people who have never met my child telling me how to parent him. 
I've had enough of whoever "they" are and how little they really care about the actual person my child is and the human being she is becoming. 
I've had enough of the constant look of failure in the eyes of my fellow moms.

And I've had enough of moms trying to please everyone and losing the joy of their motherhood in the process. 

We only get to go so many laps on the tricycle of childhood before they're burning rubber out of our driveways in the family car, girls.  It's time to get with the program before we're out of time. 

Guilt is an enemy of joy.  It beats us down and makes us feel like our best wasn't enough.  And if you know you didn't actually give your best?  GASP.  You might as well just lie down and quit.  Our Instagram society has painted pictures of motherhood that are as far from our actual reality as a Victoria's Secret model is from my pajama drawer.  All we see are pictures of perfect cherubim children and insanely gorgeous moms who miraculously take stunning pictures every single shot while standing in a house they must not actually live in by the looks of it, and we look around our kitchen at the pot with the dried mac and cheese from two days ago still sitting on the counter and the child with the dried green snot smeared down his cheek and we want to put back on the yoga pants we wore three days straight and get on the couch with Ben and Jerry and the Golden Girls. 

Here's the deal. 

Someone else's happiness may kick start your own journey to joy, but it won't sustain you. 
And in the same token, someone else's correction can give you a wake up call, but it won't carry you through the highs and lows of the process you have to walk out.  Becoming free from mommy guilt may be the hardest process in all of life.  Our total existence as moms is about loving and nurturing and creating a habitat for our children to thrive.  And if we feel we are failing them in the process, joy is stolen from us.

And if joy is stolen from us, the mom thing isn't fun at all. 

Here's some things you shouldn't feel guilty about. 

1.  Napping.  Ever. Take the nap.  All glorious five or fifty minutes. Heck, nap three hours if your kids do.  Nap the snot out of your day.  Nothing is better than a rested mommy.  NAP.  Nap all you can.  NAPPPPPPPPPPP.   And when someone calls and says, "Are you sleeping?  It's 2 pm!"  Say, "YES!  I was napping and when I hang up with you, I'm going back to sleep."  Then stick your tongue out because you can. 

2.  Not looking every time they say, "Look, Mom!"  Seriously.  It's ok to not see every single one of the 503 jumps they make off the couch onto the pile of cushions.  I promise you they won't grow up with a rejection complex because you looked at the book you've been trying to read for six months instead of their 504th jump.  Your eyes can't take it all day long.  Save the eyeballs and don't look every time.  It's ok. 

3.  Putting them in front of a TV so you can take a quick shower.  I'm sure your husband is like mine and would appreciate a fresh looking wife every once in a while when he comes home from work.  The kids can take one for the team on this one.  Just be careful because shaved legs and showered mommas can lead to more babies.  And that may or may not be okay with you. 

4.  Saying, "Not right now" when they ask you to play.  You're their mother-  not a puppet, not a pal, and not a peer.  What you're doing matters, whether it's related to them or not.  It's ok to finish your coffee, read your devotional, or finish last night's episode of The Blacklist (which I highly recommend) while they play alone in their rooms.  It's good for them to have to be creative without you.  I promise. 

5.  Wanting to peel your skin off from all the touching you have to accommodate for.  In fact, it's perfectly ok to smile nicely and say something like, "Please stop touching me or Mommy will have to peel her skin off."  You get the drift. 

6.  Texting or Facebooking.  You have no social life.  Let's be real.  Stay connected with your girlfriends.  Lord knows if your kids had their way, life would be one big playdate.  You're an adult, so you can have one big playdate on your phone.  It's a perk.  USE THE PERKS.

7.  Quick dinners.  Ain't a bit of shame in the sandwich game, y'all. In fact, I am a better woman because of sandwiches.  Sandwiches mean I wasn't in the kitchen for hours and might get to play a board game with my kids or read a magazine for a minute.  Or shave my legs. #nomorebabies

8.  Losing your cool.  We all do it.  Make it right and move on. 

9.  Having days when you'd sell your last belonging for the kids to be in college already.  Enough said.

10.  For being the imperfect mom you are.  We have a very flawed parenting theology that it's doing everything right that makes great children.  I completely disagree.  As I look back on my own parents' parenting, I see that the moments that defined my life the most are the moments when they failed and made it right, the moments when I was able to see their fears and their flaws, and the moments when they didn't have all the answers and were forced to seek the One who did.  I was made by those moments.  They're the gamechangers that forged me into me. 

If you're busy trying to climb the ladder of praise and acceptance from others all the time, you're missing every single thing that really matters.  Did you ever stop to think about how the people you're trying to please or impress, the ones you accept the most guilt from, go home to their own families and aren't there to cut the crusts off of PBJs with you every day, nor do they care you haven't had a hot meal in 8 years?   And the truth is, by trying to please the masses and taking your eyes off course, you're making your motherhood about you and not what you really care about most... your children. 

Stop. Measuring. Your. Motherhood. By. The. Opinions. Of. Others. 

A rule of thumb I use is this.  If you do not directly and positively influence the lives of my children or my own heart, your opinion on how I parent my children does not matter to me.  Surround yourself with co-laborers, not yes people.  You HAVE to have safe people who can tell you straight what you need to hear.  But equally important is this:  don't surround yourself with people who only have ideals and zero of themselves invested in your child's heart. 

Mommas, joy comes when we mandate guilt to leave. 
And we can only mandate guilt to leave when we realize that we are human beings, perfectly imperfect, and doing a better job than we give ourselves credit for.  So you blew it badly before 9:00 am today.  Pause a second and think of a small victory you won by 5:00 pm.  It's in there.  Look for it. 

Now, please excuse me as I celebrate the victory of just now having a completely peaceful conversation with my oldest child that normally makes me want to go unconscious for a few minutes afterward.  I may have felt guilty ten minutes ago for the fact that I yelled at her to get out of the shower a little louder than I should have.  But right now, I am celebrating that we both shared a mature conversation and walked away a little wiser. 

I choose joy. 

Sunday, January 31, 2016

I'm Just Not That Mom.

I love Pinterest. 

I mean, I LOVVVVVE it.  I love to sit and gaze at recipe after recipe, bedroom after bedroom, quote after quote, and meme after meme.  I can easily lose myself in the world of dreaming and wishing and planning.  And in my fantasy reality, I am able to make the cutest little arrows to go on my son's wall, perfect hair ties for my daughter's ridiculously thick hair, and perfectly level cubbies for our shoes to go in by the front door. 

When  I wake up from my plans, I try a craft project that I saw that is usually labeled "Easy Do It Yourself," or, "Beginner's Steps To..." and let me tell you-  I am Pinterest Fail Mom personified. 
Other moms are buying onesies and magically putting the cutest ever quotes on them or taking a wooden pallet and creating a bed similar to one I once saw in Anthropolgie before I fainted at the prices and left, and I am over here struggling to make a Christmas tree on canvas out of my kids' fingerprints and watercolor paint. 

Y'all, I'm just not that mom. 

It has taken me a long time to stop apologizing for the mom I am "not" to my kids.  Somewhere along the way, I began to realize that when I keep focusing on what I am not, I am not focusing on who I am.  And by not celebrating who I am and steadily focusing on who I am not, I am not blooming where I am planted and we are all miserable as a result.   

I am not the craft mom.  I do not own a pack of craft paper or a Cricut.  All my crayons are very used and unorganized.  I don't have a hot glue gun, and I can only really use pipe cleaners to make Christmas candy canes.  I have never painted anything remotely beautiful or anything that looks like an adult held the paint brush, and I have no idea what the difference is between watercolor and oil pastels.  I can't even begin to tell you how much I don't do things with mason jars or know how to glitter paint a single item without my entire house being layered in glitter for two years.

I am not the sewing mom.  I have no idea how to operate a sewing machine.  I have never successfully sewn on a button or hemmed a pair of pants.  If my kids require a costume that needs more than fabric glue and felt, I'm out.  I don't make headbands, I have never attached a flower to anything, and I don't have any idea how to tie together one of those fleece blanket kits. 

I am not the cake decorating mom.  I don't know how to make a rose out of icing.  I can't make a cake topper look like Elmo.  I have no idea how to pipe pretty icing onto cupcakes.  And if it's beyond an old fashioned two-layered cake, I call Publix. 

I am not the handy mom.  I don't hammer things.  I have no idea how to change a tire.  I don't know how to hang a curtain or use a level.  I have never one time figured out where a leak comes from under my car and I don't know how to tighten things with a wrench.  I have never done anything more in handiwork than screwing a lightbulb into a lamp, and I have no desire to have a  pink hammer or any other color one.  Get me a blender or a new frying pan.  Please don't get me girl tools. 

I am not the "let's camp in the woods" mom.  I don't do camping unless it's cold enough to annihilate the chance of snakes entering the scene.  I don't do sweat, mosquitoes, and hard ground sleeping.  I have no idea if we need to be near a creek or away from a creek.  I wouldn't have a clue what to do if a skunk came. We would freeze to death if I had to make a fire for our survival, and if it's beyond roasting a marshmallow or a hot dog, I have no idea how to cook outdoors.  Including grilling.

I am not the "let's work in the yard while the kids play" mom.  See above concerning snakes and sweat.  No thanks. 

I am not the "I loved nursing my kids in the night" mom.  One, I didn't nurse.  (Can I say that outloud?)  Two, I don't enjoy waking up with humans, animals, or bad weather in the nighttime.  I didn't have sweet moment with my kids at 2 am.  In fact, 100% of the wake up times with them were, "Hurry up and eat and go back to sleep and why are you looking at me" moments.  Truth.  Sleep is all we have.  WHY DO THEY CONSTANTLY STEAL IT?  HAVEN'T WE GIVEN THEM ENOUGH DURING THE DAY? 

I am not the mom who reads two books a night to my kids at bedtime.  Who am I kidding?  I am not even the one who reads ONE per night.  When I'm done, I'm just done.  And I'm done at bedtime.  Every. Single. Night.

I am not the "I love to play Barbies and Army men for hours at a time" mom.  I will do it.  I have had Ken and Barbie fall in love at a taco truck and have fought in the desert with GI Joe.  But I have to be honest and tell you that the whole time, I am constantly trying to come up with a new game that doesn't involve role playing.  It's the worst.  I hate it.  So, so much. 

Know who I am though?

I am the mom who can make a mean pot of meatballs.  I know their favorites and I keep them flowing through my kitchen six nights a week.  They want croissant chicken?  Homemade spaghetti?  Chicken soup?  Tacos?  Chicken and rice?  Oreo cake balls?  Homemade buttermilk biscuits in a cast iron skillet?  I'm on it.  And in big quantities.  They will lick their plates and taste love in every bite. 

I am the mom who will say yes to sleepovers.  Nothing makes me happier than a couple of kids giggling over a show on the couch.  I love feeding hungry teenagers from my pantry.  I love kids in sleeping bags, lights-outs that aren't followed because there's too much to say, and big bowls of cereal for breakfast. 

I am the mom who drops it all to do a field trip or a class party.  Nothing makes me happier than making (smudgy icing) cupcakes, grading papers for a teacher, and bringing coffee to school office staff.  I love watching my kids in their element on field trips and will always have the backpack full of snacks on the bus. 

I am the mom who bawls every single birthday eve.  I always have.  I imagine I always will.

I am the mom who still makes out with their daddy.  Very few things make me happier than a good kissing session in the kitchen while I am cooking dinner.  I love to get all dressed up for date night and making it a big deal every other week.  I don't hesitate throwing myself across his lap for a good smooching, and I am sure to pop his bootie when he's wearing my favorite jeans. 

I am the mom who sticks it out.   I navigated my body and emotions through fourteen years of infertility, medications, pee sticks, and false hopes to get them.  I endured 41 weeks of pregnancy with one and 7 weeks of bedrest with the other.  I stuck by Spicy's side through the gates of hell known as colic and the "MY UNDERWEAR IS TOUCHING MY BELLY BUTTON" stage of his big sister.  I saw sweetness in the boy when I know for a fact others were talking about what a terrible toddler he was behind our backs and I am currently riding the identity changing waves of puberty with the girl.  I have sat up with coughing children with gritted teeth (coughing is my literal nemesis), handled 28 days of a fever of 102-104 with one child, and  survived 2 weeks of quarantine once she was well. 

I am the mom who apologizes.  I fail them.  Daily.  Lately, every other hour or so.  But thank God,  I have zero problem admitting to them I shouldn't have raised my voice or should have waited before I reacted or the endless assorted other legitimate reasons I have to say I'm sorry to my littles.

I am the mom who prays with them.  They get a paper cut or have a headache, and I instinctively lay hands on their injury and pray.  I developed a confession for them to speak over themselves at least once a day now for the last six years or so.  I delight in thanking God for them (especially when they're asleep, ain't gonna lie), and I love to spend our nightly time together with their daddy as we listen to him tell us an obscure Bible story we didn't know.  I love having communion with my family at home on our couch, reflecting on how sweet Jesus is and how much He loves us. 

But most of all,  I am their mom.  I am exactly the mom God wanted my children to have.

The day I stopped caring if I was the fun mom or the sports mom or the outdoor mom was one of the best days of my motherhood.  If I am worried about the label, I am locking myself in to an identity that in reality, they may or may not need tomorrow.  Moods change.  Needs change.  Hobbies change.  Styles change.  As they grow, they may need more or less of me in certain areas of their lives.  And as history shows, I will rise to whatever challenge or need it is that their ever changing world throws into my already overflowing lap. 

Tonight, out of curiosity, I asked my daughter, "If you have some friends' whose moms are the fun moms and some are the mean moms and some are the cool moms, what would you tell your friends your mom is?" 

She didn't even hesitate.

"You're the comforting mom.  You're definitely not the sweet mom.  But that's not what I want you to be anyway.  I want you to be the comforting mom.  Because when something's all wrong, it's you I want to comfort me."

In that moment, I realized all over again that if I stop worrying about all the little things I think they need or want and focus on mothering their actual hearts, I'll catch all the moments that matter and I'll be exactly where I need to be and what I need to be as they need it. 

Pinterest can keep its labels and its headbands and perfect cake pops.  I'm comforting my children through a hurtful world. 

I'm gonna sip on that one a while. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

I Won't Miss This.

Sometimes, you just need to talk to your sister. 

Mine called me tonight about something insignificant and as our conversations many times do, we ended up in a therapy session of sorts-  the younger one fixing the older one this time.  (We take turns on most things and I'm glad tonight was my turn.) 

Nothing paint peeling happened today.  (Ok, minus the fact that it is 8:03 pm and I literally just sat down for the first significant time today.  And other than the fact that my oldest got her finger slammed in a door.  And my youngest hasn't had a nap.  And I had to buy groceries.  At Walmart.  And my daughter says her throat hurts.) 

But it's the end of a week.  The end of a very busy, very taxing, very tiring week. There were so many good parts but it's just that there were so many moving parts.  I can't figure out what exactly it is tonight that is making me feel like my emotions are sitting right under my chest bone or why my nose has the very faint feeling that it's making snot for a good cry much like the Florida skies stack up rain for an afternoon downpour. 

I am such a thankful woman.  I really am.  I have blessings stacked on top of blessings in my life in every nook and cranny.  My cup runneth over.  My life is overflowing.  Gratitude is my closest friend.

I see it.  I really do. 

But even the most thankful of us need those moments where you stop and admit the words that our  multitasking female prides want to squish.  The words we have the hardest time uttering because they are reminders that even we are human.  The words that, having just got off the phone with my sister (a mom of three and the most human of us all), I was forced to admit as I told her I was so tired, I couldn't wrap my head around writing my 6th blog in seven days.  She reminded me that I am writing a book and homeschooling a child and raising two children and pastoring a church and working a new job. She also reminded me that being tired is fine.  She told me to write this one from where I am because it's where she is and it's where you are as well.  She told me to write and tell you about Saturday, when my daughter didn't do something I had reminded her twice to do the day before and I cried in exhaustion as I was disciplining her because I felt so underappreciated in that moment of her preteen humanity.  She told me to tell you where I am tonight because she said you'll understand.   I'm going to be real.  And I'm going to be raw.   I'll go first.  I'll say it out loud for us all.  And maybe, in your blurry eyed stupor, you'll nod your head.

I'm tired. 

I'm tired.  I'm overwhelmed.  And I need this cup of coffee to be a looking glass into my heart. 

I need you to nod your head with me when I say I'm not going to miss all of this.  Let's be real.  I won't miss sticky hardwood floors and I won't miss temper fits.  I won't miss the bickering of my children and I won't miss the feeling that I'm either dropping or about to drop a ball.  I won't miss the gnawing thought that I am screwing this up.  I won't miss the fear I am missing something important or the guilt that tells me I should have sat and read a book with her instead of taking that nap.  I won't miss feeling that I reacted too quickly or raised my voice too loudly or misjudged a behavior and hurt his heart. I still don't miss colic or all night feedings or the crying they do before they can tell you their ear hurts, so I can confidently say I won't miss the teenage mood swings or the eye rolling or the spontaneous combustion that comes out of a strong willed four year old.  I won't miss repeating myself over and over or the cold air that hits me in a peaceful shower when my kids pull back the curtain for me to referee a fight or pronounce a word on a worksheet.  I won't miss the days when I feel like I did nothing but fail them, fight with them, put them off, and let them down. I won't miss feeling like I spend 70% of my time at home doing things that don't matter in an hour- like Windexing the front door or reorganizing the Rubbermaid cabinet yet again. I won't miss the exhaustion that seeps into my bones while raising children- the kind of tired that isn't physical or emotional or mental or spiritual, but a sweet and salty and sour blend of them all. 


After I finished that last sentence, life happened.  My daughter came in to show me a new way she's decided to write her name.  My husband came home from a meeting and noticed our three year old was asleep on the couch, unbathed and still in his clothes.  I took our son to potty before I put him in the bed and then laid on the floor beside him.  He smiled at me and reached out gently and took my hand as he drifted back into his blissful sleep.  Both of my children's hands were pivotal tonight in bringing me back around to what I know the most. 

I won't miss the cold air interruptions to my shower, but I'll miss my freshly bathed toddler

I won't miss my kids acting like the other one was placed here to be a device of torture toward them every day, but I will miss seeing them laugh until they snort on the couch watching some stupid cartoon I can't stand.

I won't miss the stickiness of the floors or the crumbs on the couch that make me want to peel my skin off when I sit on them, but I will miss the "This is the best food I've ever had, Mom" comments I get every single meal.

I won't miss the drama or the temper or the repeating myself over and over day after day, but I will miss the noises from their bedrooms when they're having a dance party or making a fort or jumping on the bed.

I won't miss being interrupted every single time I blog or read a magazine or pee, but I will miss being needed to kiss boo-boos and zip jackets and open juice boxes and chips.

Oh my gosh, y'all.  We can't have one without the other.  We can't have the good without the bad.  And in fact, the parts we hate make the parts we love so much richer. 

They reminded me in five minutes what the last six days have erased from my thoughts.

MY face is the one they look for in a crowd of ten thousand.

MY hand is the one they reach out to hold when sleep is sweetly approaching or when they're afraid or uncertain. 

MY eyes are the ones they want to see their new handwriting and their jumps off the highest stair of the step ladder.   

MY ears are the ears they summon for a hundred times a day to hear their grievances, newly written love songs, botched up knock-knock jokes, and bottomless basket of questions. 

MY heart is their home. 

These two little lives that constantly push me to the edge of myself and all my sanity are the same two lives that make me feel more cherished and wanted than I ever knew I could feel. 

This is the mystery of motherhood. 

I am tired tonight. 
There are parts of this that are just "grit your teeth and get past this." Sometimes, those parts seem to last for years.There are entire chapters of raising kids that just flat out suck.  And I mean more than having to load your groceries into the trunk in the rain with both kids while one has pooped all over his clothes and your back gets wet changing him in the back seat sucks. There are parts of this road that leave you feeling stepped on, ganged up on, ran over, overworked, underappreciated, and completely forgotten.

But mixed in are the moments that count. The moments we live for.  The moments we signed up for.  You'll know them because they are the ones that make you feel alive and thankful and humbled and valued and more loved than you've ever felt. 

And for every thing we won't miss once they're gone, there are a hundred holes they'll leave behind that make our hearts ache with a love that defies human language.

I see you, tired momma.
I am you.

We will miss these days.  Just not today.  Not yet. 

And that's ok.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Worry Club.

Hi.  My name is Jill.

And I am a recovering worryaholic.
It's been said that when a child is born, so is a mother. 
If that's true, then when a mother is born, so is a worrier. 

When we finally had our first baby after seven years of trying hard, so many things felt like a dream.  She was angelic and beautiful and had a head full of black hair that looked like a perfect little baby toupee.  She was gentle and patient, almost passive and apologetic in her hunger, squeaking instead of yelling.  So dainty and feminine.  Cuddly and warm, I would wake up and she was laying in her baby wonder, staring at my face so curiously and sweet.  Seven pounds and nine ounces of love, physically perfect from head to toe.  All her doctors and nurses adored her and gave her a clean bill of health right away. 


But like most first time moms, I worried anyway.   

Is she TOO quiet? 

Is something wrong with her hearing?  I don't think she's crying enough.

Why doesn't she blink?  Shouldn't she blink if I get my finger close to her eye?

I didn't boil that bottle.  DO NOT USE THAT BOTTLE, ROD!  I only hand washed it.
Why isn't she pooping more?  Is she constipated?   SHE IS GOING TO EXPLODE IF SHE DOESN'T GO POOP!

Is 98.9 a fever?  She was 98.5 earlier.  She's getting too warm.  She's practically a volcano right now.

We dropped her pacifier on the floor of Walmart.  Throw it away. 

DID THAT CHILD WITH THE CONSTANT GREEN SNOT IN THE NURSERY JUST BREATHE ON MY BABY?   I will never leave her in the nursery again.  Ever.  Even though I am in charge of the nursery.  My baby is too good for this planet.

In my mommy naivety, I would think that if I could just make it through the infancy stage, toddlerhood wouldn't be as scary.  And then, one day, I came out of the bathroom and the front door was standing open and my toddler was nowhere to be found. I screamed at the top of my lungs for what felt like minutes, and I finally heard her two year old voice from what seemed like miles away. 

"I'm going to Chickaway," she yelled as she ran around the corner of our street, headed to waffle fries and nuggets in only her diaper while it was 43 degrees. 

I lost my mind, yelled and screamed, and after fetching her, sat her on the steps and lectured her on child abductions and strangers and how I would miss her if she was gone and how she could never leave the house again without me- not even until she turned 30.  When I finished shaking and talking and crying in front of my little angel girl, I said, "Do you want to say anything to Mommy?"

"Yes," she said.  "Can we go get chicken now?"

I. Can't. Even.

Then, it was, "If I can just get her through toddler years, she will be ok, right?  We will send her to school and all will be well."  Until the day she came home, humiliated by a teacher in front of her friends.  She said she was so embarrassed, she just stared down at her shoes until everyone stopped looking at her.

Scratch the elementary years off the list of worry-free days. 

Entering puberty wasn't a joke either.  Her social life slowly beginning, I've wondered many times if we've told her enough how much she cannot trust people she doesn't know.  Don't go to a bathroom by yourself.  Never let anyone take your phone away.  If you feel weird about something, don't do it.  WHY DID YOU NOT ANSWER THE PHONE WHEN I CALLED YOU?  Do you need me to come pick you up?  And if not, why don't you want to come home?  Sigh.

It's just so hard, y'all.   

I heard my dad say once that he was leaving to go on a ministry trip in the dark early morning hours one day.  As he drove away from the house, he said, "Thank you, Lord, for taking care of my family while I am gone."  He said as sweetly and as plainly as could be, he heard this rebuttal from Jesus...

"Who do you think takes care of them while you're here?" Ouch.

And yes, Sir.

I had to make a choice not to worry.  I think it's ultimately a choice we ALL have to make. 

Like every emotion, worry is optional.  We don't have to let it take root in our hearts just because we feel it.  Is the world a scary place?  Yes.  Are our children vulnerable?  Yes.  Do bad things happen sometimes?  Yes.  But you know what?  Most of the time, they don't.  And most of the time, we get sucked into a news story and fall into a hole of fear that is nearly impossible to climb out alone.  

Every single night of my children's lives, I walk back into their rooms after they've fallen asleep.  I sit at each of their beds and comb through the day in my mind. 

Did I yell too much?

Did I say I love you enough?

Did we play at all?  Did they feel validated and seen? 

Did I give them a reason to believe I am for them?  Did I make them feel insignificant and small?
Did I make sure they were full before bed, both their tummies and their souls? 

Did I treat them like items on my list of things to tend to today?  Did we laugh enough? 

Are these kids going to end up in therapy because of me one day?  Will they always want to come home to me? 

Don't get me wrong.  I don't sit worrying for endless amounts of time each night.  But if you're a mom, only you will understand what I mean when I say that all of those thoughts fly through my mind in a second as I kiss their cheeks while they sleep.  I study their faces every night.  I stop and breathe them in.  Abi's beautiful jaw line and Walker's luscious eyelashes.  I sniff for just a trace of that baby smell and convince myself they both still have it at 12 and 4.   And sometimes, I imagine it's the night before their wedding-- a big finish line of our lives, and I am kissing my baby for the last time before they belong to someone else. 

In that moment, by their beds every single night, Jesus meets me there.  And in my simple prayer, He hears my heart and all I can and cannot say. 

"Thank you, Jesus, for my baby."

I ask Him for the wisdom to see what He wants me to see.
I ask Him that I will feel the nudges He wants me to feel.
I have to make a decision once again to parent tomorrow out of the faith that He sees us and not out of the fear that He doesn't. 

You know what?  Even when my heart feels heavy because of daily circumstances and the wear and tear of raising a teenager and a preschooler at the same time, I go to sleep lighter when I think of how His eye is on them.  And as long as my eyes are on Him, we're going to be ok. 

He's what I should be looking at all the time anyway, isn't He? 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Green Eyed and Ugly.

I don't remember the first time I felt it. 

Maybe it was when my cousin got the purple Velcro Nike sneakers that all the seven year olds were getting while I wore my non-descript generic ones.

It could have been when a friend at my lunch table opened her lunch box and had the strawberry Capri-Suns that everyone was raging about.  JUICE IN A POUCH?  Get out of here.  Get out of here while I drink my homemade Kool-Aid out of my Care Bear thermos. 

Or maybe it was when She was the one who caught his eye.  Of course she was.  With her spiral perm (I had a spiral, too...  But hers was always. on. point.)  And her Guess jeans (my jeans had no special triangle label on the butt pocket because why would a good Christian girl want to draw attention to her rear-end?) 

If not by then, it definitely was when I got to motherhood and saw people with their perfect little cherubs sleeping through the night at 6 weeks of age while I was wrestling a very spicy 15 month old to sleep every single night.  (I literally cannot talk about this one, still.)

You know the word.  It belongs to a Green-Eyed Monster and its power is furious and consuming and as bitter as the winter wind itself.  It has ruined many friendships and squashed new friendships before they could take their first breath.  It has kept us awake at night, cheated us out of fun, and been the fuel behind more gossip than even the most honest of us will ever admit.  It causes us to hide people on Facebook, refuse to "like" cute pictures on Instagram, and post ridiculous and catty hidden messages that require the reader to have a Go-Go Gadget Decoder Ring on Twitter. 

And I am convinced it's from the pit of hell itself. 

If you haven't guessed it, I am talking about jealousy. 

As women, we are taught at such a young age by our society to measure up. 
In our entertainment driven first world, beauty is defined by airbrushed supermodels and perfectly unblemished actresses. Our culture is one of constant hypocrisy, where breastfeeding in public is frowned upon even in its most modest forms while mall lingerie stores flood our little ones' and husbands' eyes with images that are screaming to us confirmations of how ugly and fat we are.  We've been taught that those of us who have the brand new house, the 2.5 kids and the most tricked out SUV are the ones who have made it, while the ones who work two jobs, live in an apartment, and still drive a 1995 Nissan Sentra are "unfortunate."  #blesstheirhearts. 

And while I am all about being better, doing better, living better, I am constantly aware that in our 2016 womanhood, most of us are trying to master the dance of creating a better life for ourselves and our families while trying to avoid the Jelly Monster that is nipping at our heels and making us cynical instead of beautiful. 

When one of my children starts dealing with jealousy, my advice to them is always so easy. 

Look at all you DO have instead of what you DON'T have.  And if it's something you absolutely need in your life, find a way to get it with yourself intact. 

Ouch.  Looking at what I do have is sometimes the problem, isn't it? 

See, as moms, we can't see the forest for the trees. 

The problem isn't that one friend with the nanny who watches her kids while she takes exotic vacations with her husband. 

The problem isn't that some of us chose to stay home while the girls we graduated college with went on to pursue a career.

The problem isn't that our husbands are lazy pieces of crap while HER husband is deeply involved in everything from packing lunches to playdates.

The problem isn't even that she is constantly posting pictures of her perfect little Pinterest laden house and her Baby Gap children and her Martha Stewart dining room table.

The problem is US.  You.  Me.   

We partner with jealousy and let it consume and control our lives. 

The moment I seethe in anger over the success of someone else, I gave in to it.
The second I make a decision to withhold a compliment to someone because I just cannot let the words leave my insecure mouth, I joined hands with it. 

The minute I see what someone has, what someone has accomplished, or what someone is celebrating and I have to make a bitter accusation about why their happiness is unwarranted, I entered a covenant with it. 

The breaker I flipped when I decided she isn't worth my friendship or investment without a single justifiable reason, I actually flipped a light on to show my own insecurities.  Not hers. 

See, jealousy is a thief of life.  It's a thief of time.  And honestly, ladies?  It's robbing you of your motherhood. 

You don't live her life.  You don't eat with her husband.  You don't fold her kids' laundry. 
You don't see what she stresses about.  Your cheeks don't catch her tears.  Your hands don't write her bills.  You have no idea why she celebrates the things she celebrates.  You don't know how much money she has saved or budgeted for date nights and nights away with her man.  You don't see every heartbreaking prayer she has prayed over her children... the burden she carries for their specific needs of each of them...  her earnest cries that come only from a mother's heart.

And honestly?  Focusing on any of HER is taking away from what matters in YOUR home... You. 

Know what the enemy of jealousy is, every single time? 

Thankfulness.  Thankfulness, thankfulness, thankfulness. 

In fact, it's impossible to be thankful and jealous at the same time. 

When I am letting jealousy set its headquarters up in my heart, I am in essence telling myself that my husband isn't enough.  My kids aren't enough.  My home isn't enough. 

I am telling my emotions that someone else's blessings should belong to me. 

And when I put it in those terms, I want to fall on my knees and thank God for the husband I have that makes breakfast every Saturday so I can sleep in, even if he leaves the clean dish rag all wadded up in the bottom of the sink near the egg shells.  I want to sing a song of thankfulness for my hormonal almost-teenager whose room looks like a scene from CSI Meets Hello Kitty Rave Party but whose heart is tender and precious and eager to bless me as her mom.  I want to worship with all my heart for my habanero personality preschooler who makes gray hair pop up on my head every 3.8 minutes but makes my entire being melt to the floor with his romantic heart toward his momma.

Today, as you drink your coffee, how about with every sip, name something in your life you're genuinely thankful for?  The law of attraction states that whatever we focus on, we get more of.  So if you want more lack, by all means, focus on what she has that you don't.  Thankfulness, even if it's forced for a while, uproots the cancerous plants of jealousy and replaces their toxic growth with Spring.  And just like with anything else in life, the more you put it into practice, the more effortless it just becomes for you. 

What's that you've got over there? 
I missed it. 

I was too busy smooching my own blessings. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

I Have a Name.

We tried to get pregnant for seven years with each of our babies. 

And truthfully, after a year or two or five, people often forget you're trying to conceive or they think you've given up.  If anyone does ask, it's almost always a "You STILL haven't had a baby?"  Or the dreaded, "Ohhhhh, I'm so sorry" awkward conversation. 

Imagine the thrill that comes when you do get pregnant with your first child and you become unforgotten and in fact, celebrated.  Ten glorious months of not having to lift anything heavier than a piece of pizza, ten months of getting Taco Bell bean burritos delivered on demand to your front porch by friends and family, and ten month of back rubs whenever you ask.  Every little twinge that hurts you merits someone's undivided attention and your much coveted naps are treated like Willy Wonka's Golden Ticket as your bedroom door is guarded by your husband who won't even wake you if Ed McMahon shows up on the porch.

But hold on.  The minute-  and I mean the SECOND that Little Heavenly Slice is placed into your arms, you lose your identity. 

You become more invisible than you've ever been. 

Identity theft is alive and well in motherhood.  Lucky for us, the tiny robbers are super cute and while they do steal our money and our names, they also steal our hearts.  From the moment you go home from the hospital, you're referred to as Mommy.  People who rubbed your belly with affection at church every week from the first appearance of a bump literally don't even look you in the face as they go straight to your arms, asking ten thousand questions, but only about the baby. 

Is he sleeping well?
Is she nursing ok?

Where did she get so much pretty hair?
Doesn't she look like her daddy?

Did he get circumcised? 
Is he happy? 
How does she nap?
How often does he have to be changed?
How does the dog like her? 

The DOG?  You're asking about the DOG?  Meanwhile, you're over here going, "REMEMBER ME?  I played Bunco with you a month ago.  Remember, I got stuck in your recliner and couldn't get my giant butt out and you hoisted me up and we both almost fell and then I peed my pants? I am losing my mind, I can't find a single pair of underwear in my house, and I haven't brushed my teeth in three days so if you have so many questions, why don't you come over and let me take a shower and you can see for yourself?  Oh, and WHERE ARE MY BEAN BURRITOS AND WHY DID YOU STOP DELIVERING THEM TO ME?"

Don't get me wrong. 
There is so much pride for a new mom in the moments of giving answers to the questions.  We get to brag on their fast weight gain, what a champion eater she is, and what a good sleeper you were given.  But the truth is, after this huge climate change happens in your life, you begin to realize...

Not only am I always going to be someone's mother, but I may never be me again. 

I remember after I had my first child and my husband went back to work after our week together as a new family of three, I felt lost like I had never felt before.  We lived in the same house as before the baby, but it was like I was having to learn how to live in it again with a brand new roommate.  It felt like my life had become one big awkward school dance and I didn't know what to do with my hands. 

Could I nap when she napped or should I fold clothes?

Was something I was eating or not eating making my milk supply so crappy?

Did I spend enough time skin to skin with her today?

Oh gosh... WE FORGOT TO DO TUMMY TIME.  I knew I shouldn't have showered again today.  Showering made me forget tummy time and now she will never be able to hold her head up.  Great.

How long has that Panera Bread been there?  Six months?  WHERE IS MY LIFE GOING?

Self, gone. 
Hot meals, out the window.
Nice clothes, replaced by permanently stained local auto parts store t-shirts and yoga pants.
Identity, removed. 
Name, changed. 

Everything became so different. 

Fast forward twelve years and add another child. 

Of course, I got my bearings.  I learned the baby will be ok on a blanket for ten minutes while I put on makeup.  I learned that if you hear water sloshing, you should attend to that.  But otherwise, it's ok to sit down and read a book every once in a while (gasp) WHILE THE BABY IS AWAKE.  I learned that I don't have to entertain him every hour on the hour and it's ok to take a shower and put a movie on if they're in their padded cell (playpen) for a little bit.  (In all my years of ministry, I haven't counseled a single human being yet who blames their mom letting them watch cartoons for a little while every day for their abandonment issues.) 

But there's still some areas I haven't gotten my mojo back, even after all these years. 
I still find me introducing myself as "Abi's mom" or "Walker's mom" and skipping my name altogether.  It rolls off my tongue as effortlessly as my name itself.  And while being their mother is the honor of my life, I try to pause every once in a while and remind myself that my name is Jill.  Sometimes, I forget that I'm a grown up and I can do what I want (included, but not limited to: eating ice cream for dinner), and I don't have to be home all seven nights every week.  I can go out to dinner with girlfriends sometimes because I want to and in fact, this makes me a better mom.   I don't have to collapse on the couch in a tired disastrous mess every night, but I can steal a ten minute nap in my car on my lunch break or even order pizza to give me more time to sit down that night for a change.  I can tell the kids, "If my door is shut, do not knock on it unless there is a fire or someone is legitimately bleeding from the head" and can read a magazine or spend fifteen minutes crying on my bed over the end of a Lifetime movie I recorded and watched in tiny segments for a month.

I had to learn that the reality is not that the world rotates around my children, but it really does rotate around me as their mom and the woman of my household.  And in order for my little planets to stay in their healthy orbits, I have to know who I am. 

Before I was formed in my own mother's womb, my name was Jill.
God saw that I would love coffee, despise celery, and have a phobia of butterflies landing on me. 
He saw I would need a sister, I would have an affinity for Mexican food and super fun coffee cups. 
He created me to need to write my words down and make lists for everything.
He chose some best friends for me and set them aside for me to enjoy life with. 

He wanted me to have a relationship with Him that was for He and I alone. 

See, mommas, our children increase our value. They do not determine our value.

And the moment we start thinking our worth or our value comes from our ability to mother children is the moment we forget that we are loved because of Whose we are, not who we are.

It's a cold, rainy day in North Alabama as I write these words. 
I have written this chapter with my children in front of a TV, and yes, I bribed them into letting me have this hour and a half to write these very therapeutic words from my heart.  Partly because I am writing a book for you to enjoy with your cup of coffee, hoping some of these words will bring peace to you and remind you that you are seen.  You are known.  You are loved.

But I have to be honest.  A big part of today's writing was for me to pause a second and remember my name. 

He calls me His. 
The Name above all Names sees me.  Right where I am. 
And after I go brew a fresh cup of coffee in a second, I am going to watch the rain and be happy that I have been given so many beautiful names.  Jill, Mom, Momma, Babe, Bug... 


Somehow, today, that's enough.