Sunday, March 13, 2016

Monday. Just Monday.

I'm writing this on a Sunday night.  I have two twelve year olds in my Jacuzzi tub, living it up like they're at a spa and a four year old running around tooting because he's officially entered the Body-Functions-Are-Hilarious stage of childhood.  We had a good, nicely paced weekend and it's that time of Sunday night where I think forward to the six days that lie ahead.  The time changed last night and daylight just now disappeared after what seemed like many extra hours and we sat out on the deck and enjoyed the cool air and loved it all. 

Tomorrow is Monday. 

I don't want it to be just another Monday.  No blahs, no icks, no yucks.  I just don't want it to be that way.  I don't want it to be a day of blues or humdrums.  No gray.  No bland flavors.  No counting the hours until Tuesday.  No spinning my wheels.  No there-has-to-be-more-than this.  No flat soda life day.  I want the bubbles and carbonated butterflies in my tummy about life. 

I want Monday to be neon.   Like Cyndi Lauper meets Vanilla Ice meets black light skate night. I want it to be shiny and blinding.  I want it to be one big infomercial for Bedazzle.  Sequins and rhinestones.  I want the feeling I feel when Man In the Mirror or Vogue comes on the radio.  I want to turn the day up to eleven.  I want wind in my not washed mom-hair and no stains on my tank top.  I want a party in my heart.  I want Monday 2.0.

It's a Monday I will never have again. 

Never again will I wake up to the same small faces.  Next Monday, they will be a little more mature looking.  A little older.  Bigger. 

Never again will the exact questions they will ask me come out of their mouths.  Next Monday, they'll know a little more and won't need those answers again.

Never again will I get the chance to kiss them in the exact moment of love that will wash over me because of their cuteness or their mischievousness or their fragility.  Next Monday, I'll be captivated by something else about them and today's emotion will have been washed away and forgotten in the sea of six days that follow. 

Never again will they need me quite this much.  Never again will they want me this much. 
Never again will I be tired for all the same reasons. Never again will I be this young.  Nor will they.

Nor will our time together. 

Next Monday, I will have scratched another week off my calendar, pushing them closer to being out my door and across the country from me.  Sometimes, like when I walk across a sticky floor I just mopped or don't have a drop of hot water when I want to take a shower, this thought makes me gallop like a unicorn.   

Tonight is not one of those nights. 

I just want to make it count tomorrow.  I want to immerse myself in the routine and the mundane because those are the moments when they're catching more than I am actually teaching.  I want to have given myself to them through the sandwiches I make, the fights I diffuse, the laundry I wash,  and the hurts I tend to.  I want them to see Jesus in how I talk to people.  I want them to recognize His nature in my demeanor and my zeal for the day.  I want them to learn to wait like it's Christmas Eve for what He will do next because they saw expectancy for good in my every move, even on Mondays.   But you know what?  It's more than that. 

I want to soak up Monday with my kids because I can. 

I can touch them.  Kiss them.  Hold them.  Laugh with them.  Dance with them.  Snuggle with them.  Soak them up.  Nibble on their ears and smell their cheeks.  I can look in their eyes when they're talking to me and notice colors I haven't seen before.  I can stare deeply at them and give myself a moment to be in awe of the fact that a few short years ago, my arms were empty.  I can drop everything and play hide and go seek for ten minutes with them or demand we all stop and eat a bowl of ice cream right NOW.   I can tell them to blow bubbles with their gum and then pop them on their faces.  I can breathe them in.  I can jump on the trampoline with them (after I put on an adult diaper because I pushed out said children and haven't jumped or sneezed without peeing a single time since). And at the end of all of it, I can tuck them in and sigh with relief that Monday was done well.

They are my Monday. 

And because of that, I am going to put my feet on the floor tomorrow and choose to suck the life out of the day before it has the chance to suck the life out of me. 

Welcome to Monday, Mommas.  This one will come and go.  Decide today to take a bite or two out of it.  All these Mondays are flying by.  A lifetime of Mondays. 

Grab one and make it yours. 

Monday, March 7, 2016

Is This All They'll Remember?

A smell can do it.  Certain scents of pine and cookie and even an odd blend of the two.

Driving by a house at night with a light on inside it... if the curtains are the right color, they do it.

The smell of dinner cooking when the music for the evening news comes on.  That does it, too. 

There are a few things here and there that immediately take me back to my childhood in a second flat.  I never know what the combination will be, but I can assure you that 99% of the time, the sensation makes my heart full, almost aching to go back to that second in time and be five or ten years old again. 

I'm sure you'll agree with me that sometimes, in the day to day of mommying, there are seemingly months at a time where all we do is raise our voices or shout, "NO," or referee fights or dole out consequences for the heinous crimes of childhood.  For me, a tough day sometimes turns into another tough day as my kids tag team on who's going to take the lead in the ever breathing game of Let's See What Else We Can Do To Change It Up a Little and it often feels like I have fallen into bed fifteen nights in a row frustrated.  One particular day recently, I was having a heated and often repeated discussion with my twelve year old, and I distinctly remember thinking as I was in the heat of my monologue, "Is this all she is going to remember about her childhood?"

Such. A. Defeating. Thought. 

As I stand in the kitchen in my two-days-not-washed yoga pants, my biggest fear is that all they'll remember is my hair was always a mess and I was perpetually irritated about the wet washcloths left in the bathtub.  I fear that they'll look back on their childhood and think I was constantly irritated with them as people.  I worry they will forever attach their mom with the memory of a raving lunatic holding a spatula and mumbling under her breath a language they can't decipher but know isn't a good thing. Or that they'll think I was too busy folding clothes or cleaning a toilet to sit down.  I fear that they'll breathe a sigh of relief when they leave this house one day because they grew very tired of hearing me lecture about kindness and chores and following through with what we start.  I fear so much that they'll look back at entire chunks of their childhood and think it was the worst childhood of all. 

Because of me. 

Will they only remember this?  The stress of me working two jobs and writing a book while trying to give the best of me to them?  Will they remember all the times I raised my voice unnecessarily because I was just so tired, I couldn't manufacture one more piece of kindness to give them?  Will they sit on someone's therapy couch one day and recall time after time that I was too impatient when I needed them to get their shoes on quicker, or eat their dinner faster, or clean that mess up or stop the dadgum whining?  Will they look back on their childhood and see me in shades of tan and gray instead of the iridescent colors I'll see when I look back at their perfect faces?

I can't stomach that thought.

Then I come back to what I know. 

I know that my mom raised two very strong girls.  We weren't the neatest, nor the quietest, and were definitely not the most considerate kids on the block.  We made messes, created chaos, had temper fits, and talked back.  We were as opposite as daylight and dark and both of us required something demanding and consuming from our mom.  Knowing what I know now about being a mother, I see that she had her emotional, spiritual, and physical hands full.  She had very little money to work with, having the budget of a pastor's wife.  She had a high school education and was dedicated to being home with her girls while we were little.  She was the class mom, the room mom, and the sports mom.  We were her job, her hobby, and her very reason to pull every single one of her auburn hairs out of her head on a daily basis.  Yet as I look back on my childhood, I remember the most amazing things. 

I remember cookies.

I remember laughing until we hurt.

I remember lots of terrible singing.

I remember sitting in the kitchen to do my homework while she cooked, just to be in the room with her.

I remember the best bedtime stories on the planet.

I remember lying on my bed with her, getting the best advice about friends and boys and Jesus.

I remember homemade Halloween costumes and the best birthday cakes on earth with made-from-scratch icing every year.

I remember many heart to hearts as she brushed out my thick hair or braided it before bed so I would have waves the next morning.

I remember her greeting me at the door with excitement, asking all about which girl was mad at who since HE asked HER out and not the girl we thought he would pick.

I remember running home and into the kitchen to find her to tell her my one-day husband finally admitted he had feelings for me, even though he made me promise not to tell anyone just yet.  I remember the happy dance she and I did together as we giggled like girlfriends and jumped up and down next to the sink. 

I remember popsicles when I had a fever and sleeping in her bed when I had a cough.  I remember comfy beds made on the couch during sick days and "whatever you want to watch" times when I was home with cramps.

I remember home cooked meals and tenderly packed lunches and Christmas mornings out of a storybook.  I remember every single holiday being celebrated in grandiose fashion.

I remember so much love.

To hear my mom tell her side, she failed a million times.  She raised her voice or got frazzled and lost her cool.  She dropped balls and forgot things and even raised her overworked hand in anger a time or two.  Oh sure, I remember some of the yucky stuff.  But those moments are peppered around in a ocean of all that she did right.  To be truthful, now that I am a mom, I get it... those moments of humanity that she felt.  And in all honesty, those moments make me love her so much more because I know the kind of child I was and how many more moments of the worst of her I actually deserved compared to the best of her that I constantly got. 

She chose me so many times.

She chose to be present in the moments that count.
That must be why I remember the things that count. 

Mommas, you're choosing your kids way more often than you think you are.  You're getting so much of it right.  Give yourself a break.  We were never asked nor expected to hit every piece of this on target.  Childhood really is a big picture ballgame made up of little pieces of significance along the way.  Where you're failing them and you know it, change.  But as you're mapping out a winning plan, consider in the human factor.  That's the spot where you give yourself a margin of mercy for your failings.  That's the part that makes compassionate children over the long term.  That's the part that takes into consideration the overwhelming heaviness of being the entire world to your children.  It. Is. Just. So. Heavy.  You're guaranteed to slip under the weight of that.  And when you do--  when you find yourself standing in the kitchen wearing pajamas from two days ago while burning pancakes after you stepped in poop that you aren't sure belongs to which child or what animal and shouting at your children to stop yelling about shouting, I want you to remember three things. 

1.  What you do after this moment is what really counts.
2.  They'll laugh when they tell this story one day.
3.  So will you.

Go pour a cup and sip on some mercy. 

You're doing just fine.


Monday, February 29, 2016

Super Tuesday, Super Hope.

I write this blog the night before Super Tuesday 2016.

I write this blog as our country is yet again at a crossroads and lost for which direction to turn. 

I write this blog as we are being inundated with promises and threats and smears and gossip from politicians who promise everything from equal wealth to making America great again.

I write this blog wondering what the world will look like tomorrow night or even more so, The night  in November. 

I write this blog with a heavy heart, but one that is determined and focused on the two little lives under my roof who are counting on me-- not the President or the many promises swirling around us.

My sister, who is ten years younger than me, asked today if elections are always like this or was she just not paying close enough attention before.  We all know that election year after election year, the promises come, the insults roll, and the race intensifies with every passing day.  Rumors are spread, scandals leaked, and heads are on the proverbial chopping block as campaigns stop at nothing to get their man or woman behind the desk of the world's most famously shaped office and like sheep led to the slaughter, we believe every single word.  This election season, I have to say, tops all the ones I've been a witness to in my 38 years of life so far.  I've never been so disappointed in our choices, but even more so, I've never been so disappointed in the behaviors we are witnessing among the contenders and their followers.  It's no longer party against party, but now person against person... our own Civil War of sorts happening right under our noses in the most passive aggressive of ways.

Tonight, I wonder as a mom what this means for my children's generation. 

I wonder what it means for them if we continue to let hatred run rampant among us as Christ followers.  Will people ever know what Jesus really looks like if we say we are His but we look nothing like Him?

I wonder if they'll ever learn to respect authority in a world that equates discipline with control and literally lives and breathes entitlement?

I wonder if their generation will get to participate in elections, or has our generation set the bar so low, it will just require them who can land the heaviest punch to win the White House?

I wonder if their view of people who are different from them will be skewed because of the common place practice now of badgering and belittling anyone who shares a different political, spiritual, or cultural belief from them?

I wonder if their generation will ever learn to say what they feel without fear of being called racist, sexist, or ignorant?  Could it be that we aren't setting the best examples for them to follow?  What happened to speaking the truth in love

I wonder if they'll still see people as people when they're my age.  Or will people be obstacles to cross or a means to an end of their quest for whatever it is they're searching for? 

I wonder if in this day of advancement and progress, where we are so overwhelmingly concerned about equality and political correctness, are we missing the forest for the trees?  Isn't every single piece of this a matter of the heart and not a policy we can put into place for humanity to follow? 

Oh, how my Momma heart is crying tonight! 

  • I want my children to see people as people. 
  • I want them to know that every life matters.  
  • I want them to stand for what they believe in, while realizing their belief is useless if it's tearing people down when it's spoken.  I want their principles founded on the granite Word of God and not the quicksand of culture.
  • I want them to work hard and lay their heads down in accomplishment and with a clear conscience at night because they did it the right way and didn't leave a trail of wounded people in their wake. 
  • I want them to sit next to people polar opposites of them and never be affected by it. 
  • I want them to look people in the eye and disagree with them and walk away with their integrity in tact. 
  • I want them to challenge authority while respecting authority even when that person doesn't deserve it.  I want my children to respect authority because they know they themselves deserve it. 
  • I want my babies to see every life through the finished work of Jesus... the greatest world leader, the greatest philanthropist, the greatest influencer of all time.  I want their heartbeats to sound identical to His.  I want their hearts to break for what breaks His.  I want them to line up with His compassion while possessing His steely resolve. 

Basically, I am saying that I want my children's generation to turn the tide. 

We have to be determined in this hour, mommas. We have to remember that those little eyes aren't looking at who sits in the Oval.  They're looking at us.   Every President who has put his hand on that Bible and took that precious oath was once a toddler.  A nine year old.  A teenager. And I don't know about you, but I haven't received a sign from Heaven that I am raising a contender. 

But I haven't received word I'm not. 

Regardless of the paths my children choose, their lives will impact someone.  I have to get this part right so their days will count.  I have to choose to seize the opportunities of dinner time, car pool, Saturday chores, afternoon yard time, and Thursday grocery runs to put into practice before their eyes all that I want their hearts to grab about this world and their place in it.  If I want them to live it, I have to live it first.  I have to live it clearly. 

I have to live it loudest of all. 

Louder than the candidates. 
Louder than their culture.
Louder than their peers.
Louder than the easy way or the popular way that will tempt them.
I have to practice what I preach every. single. day.

I do believe America is great. 
I just believe my children will make it greater. 


Thursday, February 25, 2016

I Sneak Back In at Night.

At some point when you're reading this book, you will have the night like I am having tonight.  If you have more than one child, you'll have more than one of these nights.  And every year, all your life, you'll have them.  They never become easier.  They are never less bittersweet.  You don't look forward to them, but you don't dread them, and no matter how many of them you have under your belt, you find yourself caught in the black hole of nostalgia every single time it rolls around.  

It's the night before my son's birthday. 

The truth is, I was sure I would never dread him turning older when he was a newborn. After having the easiest baby on earth for our first child, I wasn't prepared for number two in any way imaginable.  The first year or so of his life was an endless game of  "How Do I Get Him to Sleep More Than an Hour Per Stretch at Night" tag teamed with my second favorite game, "How Do I Get Him to Sleep More Than Twenty Minutes Per Nap."  It also was a marathon of endless rounds of, "Why Is He Crying More Than Any Other Baby On Earth," and "Why Does No One Want to Keep My Baby."  He's just flat out spicy.  He's been spicy ever since he was anxious to get here and grounded me at 31 weeks pregnant.  He was spicy since he literally came out of the womb with his eyes wide open and was incredibly awake for the many hours that followed.  I remember endless nights of us taking turns shoveling food down our throats in shifts while we held the Newborn Firecracker in lieu of the heavy metal sound of his crying as our dinner music, only to fall into bed for a few minutes before he would wake up screaming, wondering what in the WORLD God must have in mind for this little tenacious life and why He saw fit to choose US to get him there.  I would see people with boys aged three or four and be secretly jealous of how much further down the road they were than me. 

Now here we are with our foot in the last year of the preschool years and I am wondering where it's all going and how it's happening so fast. 

I've written about this before, but I sneak back in every night. 

I stand over my sleeping children and kiss their peaceful faces and wonder if I'm getting any of this right.  I pray a silent prayer of thanks for the gift of them.  And the night before their birthdays, my heart says something like this. 

Sleep well, son.

Tomorrow, you'll wake up a whole year older.  And I swear that tonight, right in front of my eyes, you grew even bigger and stronger than when you first climbed into bed.

I hope I am getting the important things right for you.  You're learning the obvious things-- like no hitting girls, keep your pee-pee in your pants, and don't spit at the restaurant table.  You're growing up to know who Jesus is, how to pray for the Holy Spirit to show you where something is that you've lost, and that we need to talk to God about a headache before we take a single drop of medicine.  You can count, sing your ABCs, and identify all your colors.  But it's not these things that I hope I'm getting right.

I hope I am nailing the less obvious things.  The shaping of your character without the breaking of your will.  The ability to let you be wild without being reckless.  The strengthening of your resolve without feeding your stubbornness.  Building your self-worth without nourishing your pride.  I hope I am teaching you to see more than what's in the room and to be cautious without being afraid.   I hope I am teaching you to ask questions and seek answers.  To admit failure and build bridges. 

I hope I am teaching you by my life to love. 

I know for sure that you know I love you.  I'm quite aware it's the bedrock for what God is going to do in you.  I take pride in my partnership with Him to lay a foundation of love and security in your life for Him to build mighty fortresses on.  Sometimes, it takes my breath away that He chose me to be your advocate, your fan club president, your home.  I make it my daily course of study to learn all I can about this masterpiece He handed to me.  The streaks of darker brown in your left eye that aren't in your right eye.  The one freckle on your nose that's a tad darker than the other ones.  Your chipped left front tooth.  Your underbite.  How you fold your sweet little hands under your cheek while you sleep.  How long your strawberry blonde eyelashes are.  The way you look for my face in a sea of faces.  The tiny things I see that make my heart hurt that no one else sees, like when you're telling a grown up something and they don't know you're talking to them so they walk off and you finish your story to yourself.  The way you walk up to the biggest and scariest looking dog at the park without blinking an eye but freak out over the littlest ladybug landing on your finger.  The way you look for a way to bless me every day-- a flower from the yard, your last piece of cheese, the first sip of your juice. 

I see a giant in you.  A man who will lead nations without hesitation and love his wife hard with humility.  A defender who will slay giants for his family and hold his newborn baby with tenderness and kindness.  I see hands that will fight against injustice but will also raise toward Heaven in worship of His King. I see a lion of a man inside you, my love.  You're little but you're fierce.  I see the fingerprints of God all over you.

 I also see that time is slipping away from us. 

You were three tonight, when I tucked you in. 

You were wearing blue pajamas with cute little monsters on them.  We spent the evening with friends and you hit your head and have a knot.  I wrote this blog and you covered my computer with small, squishy plastic frogs and talked about jellybeans and you gave me a lollipop.  Then, as you fell asleep, I laid next to you, listening to your voice getting sleepier and your breathing getting softer, your little body finally still after a day and night of constant motion.  And in the dark, I got closer.  I smelled your head and held my lips on your cheek and wondered how many more years I will be able to snuggle next to your tiny little body as you drift into sleep. How many more years will you want me to be near?  I thought of how this time four years ago, I had no idea it would be the last night my womb would hold you.  This time four years ago, I had no idea what your cry would sound like or how funny you would be or how enchanted I would be by everything about you.  

This time four years ago, I had never loved exactly like this. 

So in answer to my question of how many years will you let me snuggle you this way...  the answer really doesn't matter.  Because I'm your mom and I'll sneak back in like I always do.  And whether you're 10 or 18 or 35, I will smell your head and hold my lips to your cheek. 

And then, I'll fall to my knees by your bed and thank the Lord of Heaven and Earth that you're under my roof.  I'll thank Him that I was the one who gave you life and put Band-Aids on your boo-boos and gave stank eye to the girls who broke your heart.  I'll thank Him for entrusting the shaping of your heart into my earthly hands.  I'll thank Him for every kiss, every laugh, every smell, every freckle, and every mess. 

I am never going to be able to thank Him enough for filling my heart with you.  But I am sure going to keep trying.

Happy Birthday, Little One.  My heart is so full of love for you, I hurt tonight.  It's a pain I wouldn't have missed for the world.  And it's one I will carry all my days. 


Monday, February 22, 2016

My Daughter Is NOT My Friend.

"Mom, am I your friend?" 

I'll never forget the day my sweet little (then) seven year old daughter asked me that question with all the love in the world in her eyes. 

Everything in me wanted to say, "Yes."  Her eyes are the prettiest green I've ever seen.  She had the most angelic little cherubim childhood cheeks of all time.  The sincerity in her face made me want to sell my last belonging and buy her a snowcone machine and a hedgehog.  But in that moment, I knew what she was really asking and it broke my heart as I swallowed hard and said...

"No.  You're not my friend.  You're my daughter.  But one day, you'll get to be both."

She wasn't happy.  Not even a little bit.  A piece of her heart was broken and there was just no way to explain my heart to her sweet seven year old self at that moment.  "Well, that's not nice," she said to me as she stormed out of the room to tell her daddy the news that her mom just told her she isn't her friend.  Imagine her chagrin when her daddy agreed with me! 

Through the years that followed, I have guarded my words carefully concerning my relationship with my little ones. They're always listening and I always want my boundaries with them to be clear.  I call them my buddies, my loves, my darlings, my kiddos, my treasures, my monkeys, my sweethearts, my babies...  But I refuse to call them my friends. 

Here's why.

Friendship implies equality.  It implies that we are walking through life, side by side, enjoying similar lifestyles and hobbies.  It implies we have common ground and common goals.  That we have paths that parallel and that we are traveling companions.  It implies that we are advisors to each other.  We are confidants and counselors for each other.  It implies we trust each other and need each other for connection and recreation. 

Friendship implies partnership. 

Now, if you've been a parent more than, oh, five minutes, you know that there is literally nothing that screams equality about parenting.  In the duo of mother and child, you know that one is perpetually giving and the other is perpetually taking.  You know that one is always needing advice and the other is living the life of a full-time psychologist.  One of them consistently gets to live being self-absorbed like the little sponge she is, and the other lives like a fountain of flowing water from an endless spring.  One is reckless and na├»ve and trusting, while the other has to be solid and responsible and fortified for all that lies ahead of both of them. 

Bottom line--  if I need her, I can't lead her. 

If I need her approval, I will water down my right and wrong to fit her yes and will create a monster under my own roof. 

If I need her acceptance, I will bend my backbone to reach her level of growth and will sabotage us both on the floor of her immaturity. 

If I confide in her, I will burden her with heaviness that her adolescent heart is not equipped to carry. 

If I treat her as my equal, she will not see my authority as her lighthouse of hope when she's struggling and will look for someone higher than me to cast her anchor on. 

If I include her in all I do, she will feel entitled to my adulthood even though she has to make her own way in this world. 

If I look to be her companion, I am closing the door on the real friendships I need, which truly  equip me to be a better mom to her. 

If I try to keep her satisfied or happy, I will never get to enjoy the grown up version of her that I know is inside of her, but will have to learn to be happy with a spoiled, narcissistic human that I created out of my own need to be validated and liked.  Parenting isn't a popularity contest.  It's a marathon of integrity, tears, and the planting of many gardens that take many years to sprout.  

I've seen all the commercials and the Hallmark movies and the coffee ads that we get this stuff from.  Mom and grown daughter are enjoying a cup of coffee while shopping for the coming grandbaby and they're laughing and making memories and the daughter turns to the mom and says, "You're my best friend," to which the mom replies, "You're my best friend, too."  We all cry and we call our moms and thank her for being the best mom ever and for her constant love and friendship. 

But what we didn't see are the nights both mom and preteen daughter went to bed with tear stained pillows.

We didn't see the times Preteen raised her voice and stomped her feet and screamed into her comforter because Mom said no.

We didn't see the times Mom left Preteen with the babysitter to go and enjoy shopping with girlfriends or even better, alone. 

We didn't see the conversations that ended in, "Because I'm the adult, that's why."
We didn't see the slamming doors, read the text messages that contain the eye-rolling and fire emojis, or hear the school hallway conversations that started with, "Oh my gosh, my mom is the WORST." 

We don't like all of these parts. 

Suck it up, ladies.  We're tending to a precious harvest.  We are herding an ever-moving entity of hormones.  We're deciphering an encrypted code only we have the magic ring for.   We're growing live human beings. 

We're growing our future best friends. 

All of the hard parts for these 18-20 years are the price we have to pay to enjoy the rest of our lives with our daughters at our side.  Because the reality is, one day, we will look over at the passenger in the front seat and say, "I like her.  I think I want her to be my friend now."  And the time will be right.  And we will rejoice.  And childhood will be over.

And it will all be worth it. 

But you're here, now.

If you stay "mom," you'll get to be friend one day. 

Not long ago, I was standing outside of my own preteen daughter's room and I overheard her telling her friend, "My mom is, like, my best friend." 

I smiled.  And then I started counting the days until I can say that little bundle of estrogen is my best friend. 

And then, I went in and told her to put her ice cream bowl in the sink. 

We've got a long way to go together. 
I can't wait until the Vanilla Bean Frappucino with whipped cream she drinks turns into a coffee with an extra espresso added in.  I'll link arms with my friend and we'll girl talk the day away.  But for now, my eye is on the ball. 

Here's to friendships.  And the ones to come. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

When You've Blown It.

If you haven't blown it yet, it's because you're still pregnant. 

If you haven't blown it today, it's because your kids are still asleep. 

We live, we breathe, we blow it. 

My first "blown it" moment came when I was up in the 2 o'clock hour of the morning with my 5 day old firstborn.  She had pooped and I was only using a nightlight, so to not rouse her from her drowsiness while we changed and fed.  I changed her, fed her, burped her, and re-swaddled her.  She rooted and fussed in her bassinet.  I rewrapped her, bounced her, sang to her, and tried to get her snuggled back into her bed.  She squealed.  Bawled.  Fretted.  Twisted and turned.   I tried all of the above again in a tizzy of sleep deprived angst.  Only this time, when I took her diaper off to see if she had already messed up that brand new diaper, I found her old poopy one folded up inside the diaper SHE WAS WEARING.  My baby was trying to tell me she was miserable with an extra poopy diaper on her bottom. 

I changed her and then held her.  There was more crying. 

But this time, the tears were mine. 

I realized in that moment that even though I had read every parenting book on the planet, had studied and asked questions and searched and prepared, and even though my intentions are to walk through hell itself for my daughter's well being, the reality is that I will fail her

I have failed my kids time after time since that middle of the night in February of 2004.  When I raise my voice in frustration over a glass of spilled milk, I've failed them.  When I am quick to assume the worst about them, I fail them.  When I discipline out of anger, I fail them.  When I forget to play a game I promised we would play and bedtime gets here a little too quickly, I fail them.  When I fly through my day treating them like they are subtracting value from my life and distracting me from all I "need" to be doing, I have failed them.  When I treat them like babies and don't give them enough responsibility, I fail them.  When I do something for them because I know they won't do it as well as I would but I don't want to take the time to empower them and teach them, I fail them.   Every time I put them off, shut them down, or overprotect them, I fail them.  This parenting gig is the hardest part of life. 

We fail them. 

Not deliberately.  I get that.  But pain is pain.  When our hearts hurt, it matters not that the pain was unintentional.  The heart, especially a young heart, doesn't have the ability to automatically sift through the situation and get to the bottom of motives and such.  It just knows that pain hurts.  As moms, nothing on this earth is more daunting or consuming to our minds than the fact that all is not well in our child's world.  And if, God forbid, the pain was dealt by our hand?  Sleepless nights and a broken heart are our companions. 

There's a difference between a reason and an excuse. 

A reason tells all the parts of the scenario that led up to the decision or action that was made.  For example, I slept poorly last night, didn't eat lunch, and that led me to have a terrible headache. 
An excuse says, I slept poorly last night and didn't eat lunch, so my head hurts and you're just going to have to deal with how crabby I am as a result. 

The difference?  Accountability. 

Accountability says, "These children are making me want to shove toothpicks under my own fingernails today but their very real and terrible behavior doesn't give me the right to wound them."

Accountability says, "I am overworked, underappreciated, and totally forgotten.  But these facts don't hand me a ticket allowing me to take out my frustration on my children who are going to be children."

Accountability says, "I am responsible for me."

So what now?  What do we do after the moments when we've yelled a little too loudly or we have disappointed or wounded the heart of our child?  Here are some things that will help. 

1.  Take some time and grieve the loss of that moment.  Hurt.  Feel grief.  Feel regret.  But accept it for what it is--  a moment in time, and not her whole life.  Feel remorse but refuse to let guilt set its camp up in your heart.  You're a human who has been given the highest calling of raising other humans.  That's reason to feel the gravity of it all, but is no excuse for letting yourself be sucked into the drain of shame.

2.  Get down on her eye level and say, "I'm sorry that I______."  Don't use an excuse.  Own your part.  "I should not have spoken to you like that.  I am sorry I hurt you." 

3.  Ask her for forgiveness.  In our house, we don't allow each other to say, "It's ok" when one of us asks for forgiveness.  It's not ok if we wound each other, period.  Forgiveness means to release the offender of the need to pay us back for what was taken.  It doesn't mean sweeping it under the rug or writing off the behavior as acceptable.  Remind her that being a mom doesn't remove the ability to make mistakes from you.  Tell her that by forgiving you, it's like opening a brand new pad of paper to draw a brand new picture with brand new markers.  She'll get it. 

4.  Receive her forgiveness.  You need to receive it as much as she needs to give it.  That moment is over.  You won't get it back, so don't dwell there.  Hold her, kiss her, squeeze her, and let her child-hearted mercy heal you. 

5.  Choose repentance.  The word repent means "to turn the other way."  God isn't the least bit interested in modifying your behavior toward your children.  He wants to change your heart.  Worrying about your behavior all the time is exhausting.  Walking with Jesus-spending time with Him so we can become more like Him- just automatically sends us in the direction of repentance.  He doesn't walk in the direction of destruction or hurt unless it's to rescue us.  Walk beside Him and He is sure to lead you in paths of wholeness and before you know it, your apologies will become fewer and farther between.  Instead of making your prayer, "Lord, help me not to lose my temper on my children today," why not try, "Lord, make me just like You"? 

I believe our children aren't shaped into beautiful adults by perfect parenting.  I believe they become compassionate, forgiving, wise, and loving by parenting wins and by our failures.  I also believe successful parenting is a conglomeration of wounds and graces and scars and mercies.  Today, as you sip on your shortcomings, let God do what He does best--  gather together your ashes so He can grow a garden in them. 

You will fail them.  But He won't fail you.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Did I Just Say That?

There is more than a 52 week devotional's worth of content about the power of our words, period. That said, I would dare say that there's more than a set of 1985 Britannica encyclopedias'  worth of content about the power of our words in parenting. 

As in anything you've never done before, it's hard to imagine the gravity of your words in raising children until you're doing it.  We spend the first year speaking baby talk, a good 3-5 years saying only the word "no" for 12 hours a day, and then the next 12 years or so constantly thinking, "I probably shouldn't have said that." 

I'll cut the chase and go straight to the point.

Words are powerful. 

One moment, words from your preschooler can make you feel like a supermodel.
"You're so beautiful in that dress, Momma."

But then, your hormonal preteen daughter can look at you and say, "Are you really wearing that to pick up my friends?"  And you're back to doubting your fashion sense because someone with a foot in current pop culture questions your style.  Never mind she was wearing a blue tennis skirt over neon orange leggings with her purple "My Mom Thinks I'm Fabulous" t-shirt just 365 days ago.  Words are powerful.

A study a few years ago showed the power of words on water molecules.  A group of scientists took two samples of the same, pure water and over one sample, they spoke words of appreciation and life.  Over the second sample, they spoke words of worthlessness and negativity.  Over the course of time, when the study was finished, the sample that had words of life consistently spoken over it had formed crystalline formations in its molecules, creating a beautiful snowflake pattern in the dish.  The other group?  You guessed it.  It literally turned swamp like to the eye and was filled with yuck. 

Y'all, if this works on water molecules, our children's hearts are even more so pliable and porous. 

I've been a mom for 12 years at the time of writing this book.   I've heard and said some of the most far fetched things I never imagined I would along the way.   I've spoken words of life over my children and I have also spoken words I had to fall on my knees and pray God would redeem in their little hearts and minds.  I thought that today, in honor of words, I would share with you some of the most hard-to-believe things I've ever said to my kids.  

I never believed I would say...

Why are your overalls in the toilet?

Did you really poop on that towel? 
WHY did you poop on a towel? 

No, there isn't a doggie Jesus. 

Yes, Momma wipes her own bottom.
No, I don't want you to do it next time.

You can't poke babies in the eye because you think their eyes are cute.
Yes, that baby's eye is real.

You are not wearing your underwear on the outside of your clothes. 

Someone get him.  He's sitting in the fireplace.

Who put the dog in the garage and left her there?

WHY are you sitting there with the dog's foot in your MOUTH?


What do you mean the bug you ate had pinchers on it?

How much of the dog food did you eat?

Yes, Jesus has a pee-pee.

You can't carry a knife to school in your lunch box. 

Do NOT put the iPad in the bathtub with you!

The poop that is laying on the living room floor looks just like a piece of asparagus.

Have you actually been wiping your boogers on the car door?

I can't close the door with you in the refrigerator.

Do NOT take your clothes off in class at church.

Yes, Jesus came out of Mary's you-know-what.

Yes, you can pee in the ocean.
Yes, you can pee behind that bush (outside of Chili's).
Yes, you can pee behind that tree past the slide.

Have you showered in the last three days?

Do you actually wash your hair while you're in the shower? 

If you DIDN'T wash your hair or your body, what were you doing for THIRTY MINUTES in there? 

But more than anything else, I wasn't prepared for how many times I would say:

I love you.

I am so proud of you.

I believe in you.

Will you forgive me?

I forgive you.

You're my favorite.

God loves you. 

You can do anything.

I will help you.

Take your time.

Try it again.

You're so funny.

And my favorite, you are mine. 

You're going to speak many, many words in the lifetime of your parenting.  Some of them will be full of life and power and will navigate your children through the rising and falling tides of childhood and adolescence.  Sometimes, you'll think, "Did I really just have to ask who put a sock in the garbage disposal?"  And you'll laugh until you cry.  But sometimes, you'll cry because you know your words wounded the soul of your little one and you'll lie awake at night trying to figure out where the blueprints are for the time machine that will make it right.  Spoiler alert:  You won't find it. 

But what you will find is that tomorrow, the sun will rise.  And with it, brand new, never-been-seen-before mercies for the words you need to speak to make it right. 

You blew it yesterday.  But I guarantee you that what you spoke rightly far outweighs the bad. 
Shuffle to your coffee pot and sleepily pour your cup.  And while you stand there, determine to choose words that will make your heart happy when you lay your head down tonight.  I promise you, your kids will give you ten reasons to blow it before lunch time. 

But they don't get to choose your words for you. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Depression and Mommying.

I didn't touch a single shopping cart and then wipe my nose and inhale it. 
I didn't eat off of a nasty spoon and contract it. 
I didn't get sneezed on or coughed on, or to my knowledge, barfed on in order to wake up not able to feel my fingers.

One day, depression just happened. 

I'm sure it wasn't that fast.  Now that I look back at it, I can see the markers and flags that were trying to give me the heads up that something wasn't right and that I was about to implode.  But the truth is, the day the final straw hit this camel, I crumbled and it was a long road back to standing up again. 

The truth is, I've always known I have so much to be utterly joyful about.  And after having our first miracle baby, I never felt more favored by God.  She was perfect head to toe, and I survived a mild bout of postpartum Baby Blues and danced through our first year together with jubilant feet.  Our second year was even better, as she finally slept all night and weaned herself off her bottle and said complete sentences and walked, simplifying and complicating my life all in one glorious tangle of pink ribbon. 

Somewhere in year three, I started losing it.  I had gained a lot of weight since her birth, I had a lot on my plate of balancing wifehood and motherhood with ministry, and I'm quite sure my hormones were completely out of whack from a terrible choice in birth control it took me years to recuperate from.  I felt tired, a little more emotional than normal, and sure I was either pregnant or premenstrual every moment for months.  Then, one night, we took our toddler to the mall to play and I had a sudden and never-experienced-before panic attack.  I felt like I was losing my mind.  Tingling limbs, shortness of breath, chest pain, tunnel vision...  My husband wanted to take me to the hospital and I begged him not to, certain a good night's sleep was all I needed. 

The next morning, I awoke with the feeling that I just didn't want to be here anymore.  It wasn't that I was suicidal, but more like a complete disconnect had happened in my mind and heart.  For days, I cooked dinner and felt like I wasn't in the room.  I sat by my two loves as they played with peach colored sidewalk chalk in our driveway and wanted to scream at them for being so relaxed in the cool afternoon air.  I slept next to my husband but deeply wanted to sleep in the guest room.  I rocked my daughter to sleep but desperately wanted the precious lullaby minutes to pass as seconds so I could be free of her and in my bed, untouched and sleeping--even though every night, I dreaded sleep because it would bring another day to face the unnamed monster inside of me. 

The breaking point came when it was one chilly Florida morning and I drove my two year old daughter to work at our church office, where I entered the building with her in only a wet diaper.  I brought no clothes for her, no food, no sippy cup, no diaper bag.  I was done.  My husband came in and asked where all her stuff was.  My answer still chills me after all these years.

I don't care. 

That afternoon found me in our family doctor's office, sitting on an examination table in tears, answering very difficult questions with short answers and with so much more unspoken than spoken. 

Is your marriage in trouble?  No. (But I don't care.)
Have you had something major happen in your family?  No.  (But I don't care.) 
Have you been drinking a lot of alcohol or using any new prescription drugs?  No.  (But I don't care.) 
Are you under a lot of stress?  Probably.   (But I don't care.) 
Have you recently been through a big change?  No.  (But I don't care.) 

He is a Christian, and kindly and sweetly spoke words I don't remember and prayed with me and then urged me to get some counseling to get to the root of why I was, and then he said the word, depressed.  I left his office with a piece of paper that had words so ugly written on it, I would had rather him shouted obscenities at me-  words I avoided looking at until I handed them to the pharmacist to have the prescription filled for medication I never imagined I would take. 

I spent the next three years on antidepressants.

I have to tell you, this cup of coffee we are drinking together today isn't one I am enjoying.  Simply regurgitating these feelings makes me want to cry.  Those were the darkest days of my life.  I hated how I felt when I looked at my husband and saw sadness in his eyes when he would open the bedroom blinds only to come back and find that I had shut them.  I hated how I would hear him tell our daughter, "Let's not bother Mommy right now and let her sleep" from my bed.  I loathed how I felt when I would be listening to our two year old cherub faced baby girl tell me a story about Dora or what she did at her grandparents' house or sing me a song she had made up and all I wanted to do was scream at her to be quiet and to stop touching me.  I still can't think of how I felt when they would leave me alone and I felt like I was going to lose my mind in the house by myself.  Or the fears I faced that maybe I had a neurological disease or maybe I would never get better.  I hated that I couldn't let the TV be turned off in our bedroom when I was sleeping during the day because I would rather hear someone on QVC selling shoe insoles than the thoughts inside my mind. 

I came out of it.  I saw the sun again. 

It was a long journey.  The meds worked, but I was acutely aware they were a Band-Aid on issues my soul just couldn't carry anymore.  I chose to take them as such, and used the better days they provided to do some serious work inside my heart. 

Why was the joy stolen from my heart? 

Why did I pile all this stuff on top of me and carry it for so long without realizing it?

Why did I feel like I wasn't enough?

Where did I start letting myself believe it was never going to be better than this? 

How did I lose my identity in the rat race of marriage and motherhood and ministry?

How long did I ignore the pain before my body and mind shut me down and forced me to look at it in the face?

Momma, if you're facing depression today, I see you. 

The short answer is that you indeed do have so much to be thankful for.  You've lost your sight.  You've had your perspective stolen.  And when you're lying in the swamps of sorrow, all you see is the muck.

But the long answer is much more intricate and beautiful.
You don't have to find the words.
He knows them.  Every syllable you cannot speak.  Every groaning you cannot utter.  Every sob muffled by a pillow in your bed.
God sees you. 
He hasn't forgotten you.
Every tear you've cried, He's collected in His bottle.  (Psalm 56:8)

I could write an entire book on the process of coming out of the muck.  And maybe I will.  I can promise you I will write about climbing out of the swamp later on in this book.
But today, will you just let it be enough for me to tell you that you are NOT alone? 
That you are NOT losing your mind? 
That being depressed doesn't mean you aren't thankful, but rather that you just can't see the forest for the trees? 
That even Jesus was sorrowful and burdened with grief?
Can I remind you that others are also going through this?  That others have overcome this?

Our cup was bittersweet today.  In fact, sometimes, it's just downright bitter.

I see you.  I am you.

The swamp is not your home.

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.