Tuesday, January 22, 2013
A fresh wave of perspective has hit me like a tidal wave today. A tsunami that has knocked me to my knees and put me on my face with emotion. A realization that was as close as my next breath a few weeks ago when 26 people were taken from their lives in Newton, Connecticut- but sadly a perspective that was easily forgotten through the day to day shuffle of naps, homework, to-do lists, diaper bags, and dinner time rushes. Today, my perspective is back. But that perspective has come with a great price.
Within the last week, two local families in our area have met great tragedy. Two families have lost spouses and children through horrific car accidents. On two very separate occasions, two families went about their normal days and suffered irreversible blows to their core by sundown. Two families are torn in half and trying to figure out how to breathe without their loved ones nearby.
And I was complaining last night about what exactly?
Abi's tangled hair that she (yet again) failed to brush thoroughly?
The fact that my van needs a vacuuming out something horrible and I had no time to do it?
The whimpering that my son does sometimes at night that doesn't require us to go in there but wakes us up nonetheless?
The ache that comes and goes in my right knee?
The fact that I am stuck at a weight that I wish was 10 pounds less?
A cranky baby who was fighting his nap like a champ?
The purpose in life that my daughter has apparently discovered in picking at her almost one year old brother until he snaps a twig?
The fact that I threw an opened container of Greek yogurt across the kitchen and missed the trash can?
Was I really complaining about that?
Because as I look back over those complaints, here's what I see.
Signs of life.
Signs that there are healthy, vibrant, living, breathing people who love each other, love me, and love life, all in my house, warm and safe. Signs that though my life isn't perfect and certainly isn't what I imagined it would be, it's far better than I dreamed it would be and more than I ever hoped for. Signs that I have a safe place to land every day, surrounded by people handcrafted to walk through life with my hand in theirs. Signs that we are living. Signs that life is good.
This blog will be a short one. It's one that doesn't require much explanation or any eloquent words. It doesn't get any simpler than this.
Hug your kids. And often. And look them in the eye. Listen to them when they speak. Touch them on the face. Hold their hand and breathe in their scent. All around you there are parents that would give all their earthly possessions to hear a whine or a shriek one more time--- give their health to answer one more question about ladybugs or what Power Rangers eat for breakfast. Parents who would sacrifice their careers and college degrees for the chance to get up and feed a baby in the middle of the night one more time. Who wish with all their hearts for their child to have a broken arm instead of a debilitating illness or incurable disease. Who see me frustrated and tired with two unhappy children in Wal-Mart and long to go back and push a buggy with a grumpy child or two one more time. Husbands who don't know how to go on without her presence in their home. Wives who regret the morning rush that cost her that goodbye kiss.
My point is this succinct. Stop complaining and live your life. You only get one. And if you're constantly complaining about the messes and the chaos, and you're constantly waiting on the life you always envisioned to begin, it could be that you can't see the forest for the trees, my friend.
Soak it all in. These are the signs of life.
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Burnout. A noun- meaning "the reduction of a fuel or substance to nothing, through use or combustion." Also meaning, "physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress."
When you're just quit of it. (A phrase my daughter coined when she was 5.)
I've decided that when you're a mom, motivation comes and goes like an ebbing tide. You can be super motivated on Wednesday and see your messy house as a canvas for you to work a creative miracle, only by Thursday to feel like if you have to cut one more chicken nugget into bite sized pieces or fish one more blade of grass out of a messy mouth, you'll just lay down in the fetal position and bawl.
You know why? We never stop.
I've blogged many times about the cataclysmic difference between life before a baby and life after. But the fact remains, it's a comparison you can't describe until you experience it. And the fact remains that when you don't have children, you can lie down and go to sleep and never wonder if you'll be woken up by a hungry baby at 3:00 am, or even question whether or not you'll have enough time the next day to watch those new shows that every one has been anticipating. You never wonder if your dinner will be eaten while it's hot or remotely warm, or ponder how many cups of coffee are legitimate before you have what a normal person would consider a drug addiction.
My point is-- there's not much time to catch your breath. And what used to be messes you or your husband would make once and you'd clean up once becomes a mess you literally clean up 27 times between 5:00 and 8:00 pm.
I love my family. Not like a "I-love-you-because-I'm-committed-to-you" love. I'm talking about a drooling, celebratory, fluttery heart, bawl my eyes out kind of love. They make me laugh from my toes. They make me squeal with delight. They make me count the minutes until I see their faces. They make me run my race with excitement for what's coming next. I almost always feel appreciated and valued-- even by my little squishy 11 month old boy who smiles with his eyes with sheer love and thanks for me.
But burnout happens. It happens when you're folding teeny tiny socks that never have a match and are impossible to find because of their microscopic size. It happens when you're picking up child A to take her to one location, while child B is screaming for his balloon that he threw to the back of the van. It happens when you volunteer to do math centers (again) while there's dirty dishes in your sink at home. It happens when you're working through a nap time protest, or an eye-rolling session from a moody 3rd grader. It happens when you look at the clock and realize it's an hour past when you had hoped you'd be in bed and you still have 3 major things that will stop your family's functionality tomorrow if it's not done tonight. It happens when you tuck in a sweet baby or send a cheery 8 year old off to brush her teeth for the night. It happens when you are listening to your kids screaming at each other out of anger. It happens when your beautiful family is sitting on the couch and you're gathering up 38,922 toys the size of a pack of raisins from under the kitchen table and you're green with envy because that couch looks so comfy.
It. Just. Happens.
And you know why it happens? I don't know about why it happens for dads... (and dads, I'm not saying that us moms are the only thing doing anything for the family.) But I know why it happens for women.
We were created with a strength to nurture. And that strength easily and frequently becomes our weakness.
We were created with a womb. To nurture another human being for nine months. And whether you bore a child from your womb or not, the fact remains, you were created with the make-up to do so. Every fiber in your being was imprinted with compassion, sensitivity, wisdom, and intuition. Over time, the way we were raised, life experiences, and our own choices either develop or stunt the growth of those God-given gifts inside us. We aren't just checking off a to-do list like our male counterparts... to us, our to-do list equals nurturing our families' needs at a heart level. Every meal we cook equals full bellies and happy hearts for our loves. When we put clean sheets on our baby's bed, we sleep better ourselves that night. When the laundry is folded and put away, we feel like we've prepared our husbands and children for a successful week... a clean slate to choose from.
But truth is-- though our motives are great and our hearts are open, we get bogged down in the day to day because our own programming works against us--
We give until we give out.
To borrow the definition again, we "reduce our fuel or substance to nothing due to use or combustion." See, to a man, a task is a task. To a woman, her task is her heart's display- especially when it comes to her family.
My husband is extraordinary. In just about every way, he's unusual. And I guarantee you, there isn't a woman on earth more thrilled with her marriage than I. I feel loved, I feel cherished, I feel valued, I feel equal, I feel seen, I feel heard. But fact is, when I enter a stage of burnout, I feel like no one appreciates what I'm doing, no one notices I'm there unless I don't do my routine, and I'm the only person in the house who knows where anyone's stuff is. The "real" me knows that nothing could be farther from the truth. But the "burnout" me is selfish and likes to throw pity parties.
The other day, one of my very closest friends on this planet said to me, "God wants to do things for you because you're you. He wants to do things for you that has nothing at all to do with your marriage or your children, but things just for you."
I hear this. I teach this, for crying outloud. But in the day to day, I forget this. That the Maker of me is so deeply proud of my existence and so full of gracious kindness for me, He wants me to experience little glimpses of Heaven on earth that have nothing to do with anyone in my household except for me. A cup of coffee alone in Target. An hour to read a book by myself. A morning to sleep in. A day in a bookstore alone. A new pair of pajama pants. A chance to sit in my hammock and listen to nothing at all. Two hours to watch DVR shows without anyone needing to be held or fed.
Here's the deal. If you're waiting on someone to make these things happen for you, you'll just live in burnout. You have to create your times of refreshing. Sure, my husband will on occasion say, "Let me give you a foot rub," or "I'll clean the kitchen tonight." Fact remains, he is tired too... he works too, he parents too, he loves and nurtures and plays too, so to expect him to give to me what only I know I need is unfair and builds resentment.
GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION. To:
Take a nap if you're sleepy every once in a while.
Read a book while your littles watch TV. (**gasp** TV????)
Say, "When Daddy gets home, I'm going to Target. Alone. And I don't know when I'll be back." And leave your watch at home.
Stay in the shower a little longer.
Sit on a bench at the park while the kids play and call your mom.
Say no sometimes when they say, "Mommy, play with me."
Leave the dishes and head to bed early.
Find five minutes to read a little devotion/Bible verse in the day.
Go out with girlfriends once a month. (working on this).
Be glad when your kids are: gone overnight, napping, or just out of your sight for a few minutes.
Say no. And for no reason at all.
Ask for help. Beg for it if need be.
216. That's how many months we have them. 216 calendar flips. That's a mere 18 Christmases, 18 birthdays, 18 Valentine's Days, 18 summers. May sound endless at times. But when I think that I am 108 months down, 108 to go with my oldest, I find the urge to keep burnout away at all costs. I can't afford to lose even one precious day. Because she matters. I matter. And if I'm not at my best for me, I won't be at my best for her.
I think I'll sit on my couch tonight. ;-)
Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Will you just listen to me? I have some things I need to get off my chest.
It's January 9, and my tree is still up. I'm not the least bit apologetic about it.
It's January 9 and I haven't made any resolutions/goals for 2013. At least on paper. I'm gonna do it, I promise. But not today.
I am constantly torn between wanting my kids to grow up and stay small. It's like the war of Selfish Mommy versus Loving Mommy. Loving Mommy always wins. But sometimes, Selfish Mommy just wants to eat a meal while it's hot. Or take a nap when she's sleepy. Or read a magazine the month it comes out. Or even the year it comes out.
I don't feel like a dork anymore for treating a grocery trip alone like a spa day.
Sometimes I really worry that I'm doing something my kids will end up in therapy for one day.
I hear people who don't have kids talk about how "busy" or how "tired" they are, and I have to fight the urge to laugh out loud. And then I remember that I didn't have a child for 7 years and tired is tired, regardless of why you're tired. The difference in no-kids tired and kids-tired is when it's kids-tired, you usually get interrupted from your rest when you finally get some and your tired carries over to tomorrow like minutes on a cell phone rollover plan.
I throw away alot of things that my daughter probably intended to land on my fridge door. I mean, really. How many rainbows with stick people can a metal appliance hold? I'm pretty sure all our magnets are interfering with something Nasa is trying to do to bring world peace.
I go on alot of mental cruises, trips to the mountains, and just hotels in wherever with giant fluffy beds and cold dark quiet rooms.
I hold my breath every month. You know what I mean.
I find myself with Baby Einstein playing for who knows how long, and Walker isn't even in the room. Or even on my side of the house.
I also find myself whistling the melodies that I know by heart from the instrumental classical music on Baby Einstein like I used to hum songs from the radio.
I do a happy dance when bedtime comes every night. At least in my mind. Even if they've been super angelic and perfect. I never dread bedtime. Never. Ever.
My heart leaps when I hear that little "bah-dah-bah-mama" spoken over the baby monitor around 7:00 am.
I have actually worn more makeup and fixed my hair more since I had baby 2 than before I even had baby 1. I think it's a mind trick to make me feel less "mom jean" ish.
When I have my sister's boys in public and someone asks "how old my boys are" or says that "my" kids are beautiful, I agree with them.
I have never loved my husband more than I do right this second.
I seriously fantasize about my boy and his cousins playing football and I hope all the time they don't choose baseball.
For some reason, the thought of Abi as a teenager makes my stomach turn way worse than my baby boy becoming one.
Nothing makes me happier than cooking dinner while the bustle of the afternoon/evening is happening around my feet and at my kitchen bar.
I spend way more time than is practical staring at my kids' faces.
I literally can't remember what I did all day before I had kids. But it sure felt important while I was doing it.
I can't figure out my body since I gave birth again. It's like reading a map to a city I went to a long time ago but every landmark has changed and every single street is now a one way street and I need to get over to the other side of the block.
I talk to Walker about ALOT of things that I'm glad he can't understand yet. He keeps really good secrets, and like the typical man, doesn't say much back when I gripe or gossip.
I still find myself spelling words in front of my almost nine year old, like I used to when I didn't want her to know what I was talking about. I flew through a long spelling the other day, and she never looked up from the iPad and said the word I spelled.
I am not the least bit humble about how beautiful my kids are.
When I get a night off/an early bedtime for the kids/a random chance to do whatever I want for hours, I never choose girlfriend time.
I discipline other people's kids in my mind every time I go out in public. Like a whole role play scenario in my mind. For real.
I kiss my kids wayyyyyy more than the average mom does, apparently. And my poor nephews have to suffer through it too. I ain't sorry.
I throw away ALOT of toys from my daughter's room that she never knows about.
There are too many bowls of Lucky Charms consumed in our house than crunchy moms would think is acceptable.
I have never made a single thing of homemade baby food in my entire life.
I wasn't the least bit sad my milk supply was so pathetic with both of my kids and I "had" to use formula early.
I cannot-- CAN. NOT. go to sleep with a dirty kitchen at night.
I literally wonder how many times I hear, "Mom, watch!" or, "Mom, look!" in a 12 hour period.
And there are more times than I can ever document or count when I think I need someone to pinch me. That after years of trying. Struggling. Wanting. Needing. Imagining. Dreaming. Hoping. Hurting. These kids are mine. And that man is mine. And this is our life. It's a reality I never dread waking up to. And a reality I never regret as I close my eyes at night.
My last confession today?
I am totally convinced that I am the most favored woman God ever conceived. Ever. And always.