Dear Husband, I Can Explain…

Husband of mine, when you get home you may have a few minor questions for me.  You know, mostly revolving around when and why the sanity left our home.

While I’m not able to fully answer that without a lawyer present, I can at least explain a few of your areas of concern.

For starters…the smell.  If you’re picking up on some briny floral with a vague hint of greasy garage you’re right on track.

You know how I went to our son’s classroom and saw how his teacher used those great essential oils?  I thought I’d try to recreate that calm atmosphere at home by using some soothing lavender in our diffuser.  You know, to keep everyone from losing their sanity.

Except lavender is a liar and doesn’t actually have the solutions to all my problems.

See…shortly after the kids got home from school I followed our sneaky three year old down the stairs and discovered an oily liquid all over the place.  After a brief interrogation, our little man procured a bottle of WD-40 which I can’t imagine how he found. (Side bar- I’m thinking we may need to reevaluate our basement shelving now that we have curious ninja boys.)

So it turns out the calming lavender wasn’t really a match for oil-aggeddon and the irritability and minor panic that followed.  There was a lot of hand washing and label reading and, fair warning, I wouldn’t look in the trash can if I were you.  Although- bright spot- your exercise machine glides like a charm now.  I wish I could tell you which boy to thank for that.

BUT, when I punished our son for lying about his involvement in the oil escapade, I may have caused a teeeeensy emotional landslide.  Which leads me to the situation with the van.  (Don’t look now.) Apparently losing TV and computer privileges for today warranted him packing up the house and plotting a trip to visit Nana and Papa in Alabama. 

I hugged him goodbye and took pictures of the kids because it was sort of funny for awhile.  Except the six year old was dead serious and had a rather robust packing list. 

And eventually I had to wrestle him out of the van and tell him why it wasn’t plausible for him to actually drive hundreds of miles today and return home for school Monday.

Which brings me to that last smell…while I was trying to get God knows what out of the fridge to scrounge them up a dinner to lure them home before they started hitch-hiking down to Dixie, I had some small kerfuffle.  Don’t ask me how I did it, but the short story is that the fridge shelf slid and I lost control of a pickle jar with a poorly secured lid.  (Don’t say a word- we both know I’m the too-lose-lid culprit but we’ll not discuss it again.) 

As with the oil, the lavender was fairly intimidated by the pickle stench.  I may need to give it some self confidence lessons.

So to recap: don’t go in the basement, if you see green on the floor it’s pickle juice not pee, I’m looking into some stronger lavender essential oils…and we might need to plan an actual trip to Alabama to talk the kids off the ledge.

Also, can I go out in the morning?  Possibly?  I could even take just one child…preferably a compliant one who’s in a good mood and hasn’t touched anything with pickles lately.

Thanks and I love you.

~Your pickle splattered Wife

 

 

 

Immature Mom Moment?

My counselor asked me once why I always feel behind.  Oh gracious, I could write a book about that.

But it all starts with intending to wake up before my children, and snoozing in just a few extra peaceful minutes only to find one of them waking me up instead.  (A kid at 6am is harder to ignore than an alarm at 5:45 apparently.)

This morning my usual three year old culprit greeted me and I had to shush him and whisk him down the stairs before he woke up the other two angelic sleeping children. (And “angelic” is a word we seldom use in this house.)

Then I sat down to have my “quiet time” where I read a chapter of a book or some chapters in my Bible or pray (or for the love of all things sugar-free be ALONE).  But I find myself feeling guilty that while I’m trying to have a calm conversation with God I have to keep yelling at a mischievous child.  I think God gets it but its awkward.

Finally my little guy wore me down, as usual, and I invited him to join my “quiet time” if he could, in fact, be quiet.  Bless his heart.  He lowered his voice to a toddler whisper, but the kid never stopped talking. Asking me questions.  Wanting me to see what he was working on.

Death glare.  “Child…you will learn what quiet means if it is the only legacy I pass on to you.”

Finally my older daughter came in and I gave up my not-so-quiet endeavor to look something up on the computer for her.  Next thing I knew, I looked over and my preschooler was wielding his scissors and must have been bored with paper because he was now intent on trying to cut my new blue shirt.

I mom panicked into over-reacting umm….just a smidge we’ll say.  My poor son was surprised and hurt by how quickly I over-scolded him. 

I shooed my daughter out of the room and told her to get dressed, I plucked my crying three year old up and put him in time-out with yet another firm reminder that “we ONLY cut paper” (which his little brain will file away in the same place he puts my rules about not coloring on the wall).

Then in anger I called out passive aggressively to no one in particular (but specifically my husband) something about having to handle all the things myself just because I’m “mom”.  (Translation: obviously we are in crisis mode and if my tirade and a crying child didn’t get you down here…I’m going to lay out an additional suuuuper subtle hint for you.)

Then I sat down for a brief moment, probably to stew in irritability even though my shirt didn’t actually get cut after all.  And suddenly it occurred to me…my husband had kissed me goodbye a good 15 minutes ago and left for work already.  He clearly had no idea of the shirt and scissors kerfuffle and thankfully he also missed my immature mom moment of taking my frustration out on him.

I’m actually relieved because the minute I realized he wasn’t there I saw my Mom meltdown for what it was- that kind of embarrassing time when my kids witnessed me yelling at literally no one because of a blue shirt.  I had made a mistake but since he wasn’t there I got to take it back and start over.  (How often does that happen?)

Whew.  With any luck he won’t even read this blog and he’ll be none the wiser. 😉

Now my big kids are at school and my son has been sneaking his own lunch while I type.  But I think its worth it to take a minute to cheer you up with my immaturity.


 

What about you?  Any embarrassing or slightly over-reacting moments from your parenting career?  Feel free to share- sometimes being able to laugh at ourselves brings us a little perspective on our frustrations for today.

Wanted: Failing Moms

I stifled my suffocating emotions as I cuddled the boy I’d reduced to frightened tears only moments before.  It didn’t matter that he had pushed all my buttons.  It didn’t matter that he’d angrily pulled the dresser drawers onto his bed and had plastered the floor with his crumpled clothes.  It didn’t matter that I’d started out as calm-super-mom patiently asking him to make things right.

He pushed.  And he pushed some more.  And I lost it.

Not in the “Christian” way.  Not in the “Oh Honey, we all make mistakes sometimes” way.  In the way that leaves you questioning why God would for a minute trust YOU as a mother.  What kind of mom could not just misplace her temper but lose it like a lego stuck in the van seat.

And for a whole night all I could think was that I wanted two things: one impossible and the other nearly so.  I wanted to rewind and undo my monster moment with my son more than anything.  And I desperately hoped in the basement of my soul that there was even one other Mom who had struggled with anger like I had.  Just one other mom like me that looked sweet and put together in church or the school pick up line but couldn’t always keep her stuff glued when push came to shove.

I scrambled through my list of friends, but fear has a way of isolating our worst broken places from the very people who could help us walk through it.  Sympathize with us.  Cry with us while we trudge slowly towards a better way to love.  And while I knew none of my friends were “perfect moms”, were there any that wouldn’t just listen to my bad mom confession, but silently nod their head and give me a look that said, “You’re not alone”?

Suddenly, I no longer cared whether I “looked bad” to other moms- I was overwhelmingly afraid of my capacity to BE a bad mom.  Not all the time.  Not most of the time maybe.  But in that broken moment when I didn’t have a blessed excuse to stand on for my actions.

So often the church and even school mom circles feels a little like that scene from “Mean Girls”

when Lyndsay Lohan (Cady) first gets invited with the “mean girl” clique to Rachel McAdams’ (Regina’s) home.  Cady looks on, confused, as the three other gorgeous girls take turns looking in the mirror and lamenting over their physical “flaws”.  One girl laments that her “pores are huge” and another decries that her “nailbeds suck”.  They’ve made it a ritual to feel better about themselves by each sharing some superficial shortcoming with the others.  But their bond is as shallow as their confessions.

In the same way, we’re willing to share what we consider our kind-of-bad stuff.  The way we’re hopelessly late because God didn’t bless us with an internal clock.  The way we indulge in a little too much coffee, but doesn’t everyone?  Even the cute little mistakes we make as moms like accidentally driving our kids to school on a national holiday or caving and letting the three year old help himself to a gazillion church doughnuts.  (Yes, I’ve done both.)

But when and where do we talk about the gritty stuff?  The real “bad mom” stuff?  The “I’m pretty sure I’m raising a murderer” stuff.  The “I cried myself to sleep over my mistake” stuff.  The mom fails that go beyond the superficial bad of dessert for breakfast or lying about the whereabouts of their toy when you know good and well you gave it to goodwill.

And while I’m not proud of myself, I figure the conversation has to start somewhere.  So here it is:

I’m not always a good mom.  I’m not always an OK mom, even.  Sometimes I screw up so bad I don’t want to tell any of you about it.  Sometimes I’m afraid if people only really knew… (and I’m afraid to finish that sentence.)

This isn’t a cry for accolades- I really am not looking for someone to tell me “I’m sure you aren’t as bad as you think, Sweetie.”

I want someone who will look me in the eye and tell me that I did screw up.  And then hug me and tell me that they’ve been there too.  Maybe not the same way.  But that parenthood has broken them in ways they’re afraid to tell anyone about too.  That they’re afraid sometimes of their own capacity to squish and scar the little lives they’ve been entrusted with. That some “bad mom” moments can’t be laughed away over coffee or numbed away over wine, but spill out in hot guilty tears in a pillow and linger long after the offense is over.

To any moms who feel this way: you. are. not. alone.  I see you and feel for you.  And while you may have made a mistake that isn’t “cute” or excusable- you are human.  And maybe you need to take a step to work towards change.  I know I do.  But don’t forget that your love for your child is so much stronger than that moment of brokenness.  Don’t for a second give up completely.  And whatever you do, don’t hide the shame away- because shame has a way of magnifying itself in secret and maybe our healing begins in pulling back the curtain to our vulnerable moments and letting someone see our real flaws.

So I’m putting out the application to you.. “Wanted: Failing Moms”.  Your brokenness is not too big for this space.  And if you need to vent publicly or through a private message, I’m more than willing to listen.  And I have a feeling we’re not as alone as we think.

Three Ships to Neptune (Vaca Day 5)

Hi Again CT,

Miss us yet?  It’s been five days, not that you’re counting or anything.  Virginia decided today that we’d hung out together enough for her to be vulnerable and really be herself…so we got a scorcher.We might brave the beach later.  You know, at midnight or something when we its really too dangerous to swim, but we won’t succumb to heat-induced irritability syndrome.  (And I’m probably the most susceptible to that particular ailment.)

So instead, we took to the sea more figuratively…by checking out a nearby coffee roastery called “Three Ships“.  (Its named after the 3 ships of the Virginia Company of London that set sail in 1606 and landed here at modern day Virginia Beach.)

I’ll be honest…we didn’t all love it.  My middle child felt it was a necessary place to come unglued and take an undying oath to be miserable.  (And apparently the breathtaking smells of java and comfort food were offensive to his untrained nose.) So he and his dad checked out the hip umbrellas outside.Inside, the other kids happily ordered their iced “kid cappuccinos” (an actual coffee-free item on the menu),

And then we all sat and slurped our ice beverages, because when in Rome…And to my Avocado on Brioche, may I just say in a bad paraphrase…(Sorry in advance, Carly Rae) “Hey…I know we just became acquainted, and this is absolutely insane…but I’d love to give you my digits…so…you know, give me a ring sometime, perhaps.” 

Once my husband pried me away from coffee heaven, we headed to my son’s vision of a perfect outing: a trip to see the statue of Neptune at Neptune’s Park.  Because what could a 6 year old boy love more than checking out an oversized muscular hero awkwardly clutching a sea turtle.But although King Tritan here perked up my boys, my wave crashing daughter apparently does not do so well in heat without water.  So we stopped for a quick pick-me-up at a candy shop where we found this random squid…and such delectably unique treats as this…And do you know what my kids first choices were????  Jelly beans and a ring pop.  Pure and generic sugar over high-quality chocolate novelty.  Where did we go wrong as parents??  Anyway, that irrational candy decision making must have been exhausting, because two out of three fell fast asleep on the way back to our beach house.  And a 66.6% napping ratio is about as likely as finding a winning lottery ticket in a dolphin’s mouth.  And that rare miracle, friends, is how vacation is supposed to be done.  Until tomorrow…

Calm, cool and coffeed up…Carrye

 

Son of a Beach (9 Problems With Paradise: Vaca Day 4)

Don’t judge me CT….I love the ocean- really I do.  But there are just a few minor issues I have with paradise.  So I made a quick list:1. Rental coffee cups. (The one of the left.) For some reason, most of the lake-house or cottage rentals I’ve been in are stocked with coffee cups the size of thimbles.  I know we’re on vacation and everyone should be perky and happy but for. the. love.  I have three good pint-sized reasons to require heavy amounts of java regardless of the situation.  The mini-cup is “cute” in an itty bitty baby romper kind of way (aww…) but cute isn’t going to keep me awake.  So my husband picked me up a slightly larger model to try on for size.  And yes.  It is making me Awesome.

2: Beach crabs.  OK, they’re actually pretty cool and probably don’t belong on this list.  But this morning when I woke up early to catch some sunrise and read and I noticed all these little holes in the sand.Next thing  I know, I’m catching sneaky ghost crab movement out of the corner of my eye and a bunch of these little guys prairie dogging out, flinging sand.Not creepy all by itself…but I definitely got a little bit of that Hitchcock’s The Birds vibe from the whole thing.  Or maybe that scene from Jurassic Park when the tiny dinosaurs nibble that guy to his death.

3: STUPID ICE CREAM TRUCK!!!!  OK, does anyone else feel like ice cream trucks are the last legally acceptable form of child-stalking?  They started showing up at my kids’ school earlier this summer and my kids are well-aware that I’m not forking over the money.  The whole world can be at peace and then that irritating carnival music starts filtering in, hazy at first, and the kids melt faster than the ice-cream.  There’s a truck seriously patrolling our block and I’m afraid I’m going to forever have gorgeous beach scenes (like the one below from this morning) eerily tangled up with some creepy version of “It’s a Small World”.  Not cool.4: Shaving.  People, if you don’t know by now, I’m pretty low-maintenance in the beautification department.  I air-dry my hair and my shower schedule is more based around whether I wake up in time than on cleanliness.  (Now you know my shame.)  Anyway…who has time to stay beach shaved all the time?  I see all these apparently “normal” people who seem quite capable of smooth-leg upkeep…not this girl.  Hence my swim shorts and stubble-forgiving flowy bathing suit top.  Moving on before I say too much.

5: Billiards.  No, I’m not condemning billiards, you’ll have to watch Music Man for that.  I’m just saying I don’t play often…in fact, virtually only on vacation at this point. 

So when I played pool with my 6 year old today I had a whole bunch of ugly false starts.  Bad. I finally and proudly hit a ball in a pocket (kind of the idea) and that jerk of an 8-ball followed suit and fell in too.  Then my husband came to watch us and got a front row seat to my embarrassment.  Painful.

6: Photo ops.  I have a little issue with expectations.  I’m sure eventually these expectations are going to create an extensive money-making opportunity for some therapist out there.  And one of my expectations of vacations is that we document with photos. I don’t expect perfect pictures- I don’t need my kids to be matching or smudge free.  But it would be nice if everyone were looking, or heck even just angled slightly towards the camera.  And maybe if every pose wasn’t a growl or a karate chop move.  I don’t know.  Just saying. 7: Diabetes + Beach = LAME.  I won’t go into the whole dramatic sob-story of all my diabetes related fears, but let’s just say it complicates beaching.  You have to bring all this medical junk with you, and somehow I feel like I’m a bathing suit model for a hospital.  Maybe if I stuck a bow on my pump.  Eh. That and everyone and their mother is eating ice cream in front of me.  (Obviously not from the truck.)  And sometimes you just really want to gorge yourself on ice cream, but I can’t.  So I drink coffee instead.  Which only perpetuates issue #1.  8: Sand. You can really only tell your kids to “not throw sand” so many times. And its not even entirely their fault because the wind is a sneaky wingman and doesn’t leave a lot of safe places for shaking out beach toys.  But the eyes, children, for the love of all things sweet, watch out for the eyes!

9: ACDC.  Not the band, actually, I just made up a new acronym.  Air Conditioning Death Chill.  You know that amazing feeling you get when you walk out of the sweltering heat into the cool oasis bliss of an air-conditioned room?  And then, five minutes of AC later, you feel the need to check your children for frost-bite?  The back and forth hot to cold is just confusing. I packed for the beach weather, just not for the AC.

Well.  That’s all for now.  Wishing you peaceful, balmy weather as wonderful as ours here.  And maybe a little less sand?

~Carrye

Beach Blitz Breakdown (Vaca Day 3)

Hey CT…

Short post today- this Mom is tired.  I thought I’d break down the way my 3 kids have tackled this beach thing.   Youngest to Oldest, here goes:

My 3 year old:

This normally fearless kid has always been highly suspicious of water.  No lie, he treated the bath like a torture chamber for the first 2 years of his life.  So the waves are a bit more than his constitution can handle; any time they knock him over he runs away to the safety of the beach blankets, deeply offended.  Still, he won’t admit defeat- plucky kid that he is- he prefers to chase the waves out like Mel Gibson in Braveheart, only to turn back around squealing when the waves go on the offensive.  This is pretty much his zone, right here… I think that might be a karate chop move…or he’s being batman.

My 6 Year Old…This kid is all laid-back goof.  The first day we were out in the waves, he laugh-screamed every time a wave broke over him, as though each one were a hysterical practical joke.  He has no clue that he’s not really catching the waves with his board, nor is he aware that he’s way overdressed for the ocean.  The kid is blissfully and happily himself. Beach hair and all. 

Last, there’s my newly 8 year old, who suddenly seems much older than that.  This. girl. is. a. wave. warrior.  From the moment she went out, she was playing for keeps.  She mastered catching baby waves with her board and she’s undaunted by setbacks.  The girl has been repeatedly tossed under, knocked over, and left gasping for air coughing up sea water with hair askew.  She somehow played rough enough with the waves to end up with a head-full of sand. (??!!) 

But she never quits.  The same girl who would rather play indoors than encounter a bee was clearly born for the beach.

Other than hitting the sand, I’ve been seriously wracking up bad-mom points with the amount of TV they’re watching…although its hard when there’s a tv in their room.…and I may lose face with some of you for letting the following nailpolish moment happen….

But all in all…we’re having a great time.  And I’m soaking up these smiles.

(Which reminds me, my husband bought me a new toothbrush today!! Better than flowers.)

Here’s to another fun day tomorrow,

Your high-volume-haired friend,Carrye

P.S.  Taking a break from “Gray Faith” study this week….will return with another video next Monday!!

Mom Vacation Confessions (Day 2)

Hello Again CT,

I really should have mentioned where we were headed in my last update.  Oops.  Mom details.  As I write this now, we’ve arrived at our destination: Virginia Beach!

Our morning in the hotel was basically…

The Good: The waffle machine worked!!  Free unlimited eggs and breakfast sausage are always a win.  My children even adored the awkwardly frozen-fruit. 

The bad: I had to choose between “bold” and “gourmet” hotel coffee.  What does that even mean?  Can’t I have a bold gourmet without having to mix the two?  Then, my 3 year old gagged on a partially frozen hardboiled egg, and my husband was exiled to a neighboring breakfast table because nothing about hotels is made for a family with more than 2 kids.

The ugly:  Kids don’t readily absorb concepts like “someone is sleeping in the room next door” or “you can’t run up the hotel stairs alone”.  So we spent a large amount of time chasing and whisper-shouting at them, which culminated in me completely snapping at my son in a way that, really any way you spin it, I sound like a jerk.  But if he tells you I used a bad word, that word was “punk”… which was just so accurate a descriptor at the time that my mouth forgot to filter it. 

Moving on.

After refueling, I started looking for a Starbucks. I kid you not, it seemed we passed one every 20 miles in NJ, but upon crossing the state line, there was a sudden Starbucks dearth.  To my credit, I did not find it necessary to drive 20 minutes out of our way for coffee.

Not-so-much-to-my-credit, I researched coffee roasteries on our route and found an amazing one in a quaint little town where

I briefly lost sight of our end destination.  This was one of those little hipster corners just into Virginia with artsy brick buildings and lights rigged up fancy in the trees.  (Notice the fake flowers tied on the branches.)

And my sudden desire to traipse whimsically with the kids to some cute eatery clashed severely with my husband’s desire to actually get to our destination.

In the end, we nixed the eatery but I did get my coffee, which was too amazing to describe in language appropriate to use around the children. After this, we briefly stopped for essentials at a Food Lion store.  I picked up many things, but most importantly…a new toothbrush. I tried to get a picture of my kids holding souvenir shirts that we never planned to actually buy.  I’ll let you be the judge of whether that photo op succeeded. 

Aaaand as we made PB&J for them in the store parking lot, I realized that we maybe shouldn’t use plastic spoons for the peanut butter anymore.OH…then my husband learned something new about me.  I don’t think I have many phobias, but apparently underwater tunnels is one of them.  And if you’ve never crossed the Bay Bridge Tunnel (we called it a “brunnel”)…well…its a whole lot of bridge and tunnel that doesn’t seem terribly attached to….what’s the word I’m looking for?…right, LAND.  We started to cross and I began firing questions uncomfortably: How long is this? How on earth do they do maintenance on this thing? How would they know if something was wrong? Look at those concrete columns!  They look crooked!  (My husband assured me they were supposed to be crooked and that they clearly have the money to pay for repairs with the $15 they charge/car to cross.  But please, you don’t have to explain that to me, you have to convince my phobia… ahem.  See below.)

If the bridge weren’t bad enough, we then had to drive straight down into the bowels of the bay, while my 6 year old rattled off how bad it would be if the water got into the tunnel and all the cars got flooded and sharks attacked us.  (Thanks kid.)

And just when we got to the lowest point of the tunnel my GPS creepily said, “Lost Satellite reception” and I told my husband that this is like a location right out of an apocalyptic film.  And I’m pretty sure right over there is where the meteor hits the water and launches a wave that sends a barge crashing into the tunnel where we all meet our ruin.  So I don’t know if the light at the end of the tunnel is a good thing or if we’ve all died.

Thankfully, our kids made it over the brunnel because upon arriving at our vacation home with family,  they are head-over-heels in love with the beach (more on that tomorrow.)

But for now, I need to use my husband’s tooth brush again before bed because I accidentally flipping threw out that new toothbrush I bought and it absorbed some unidentifiable brown liquid.  For. the. love.

Till tomorrow…

Still-Not-so-fresh-and-minty, Carrye

 

Vacation Confessions (Day 1)

Dear CT,

I’m writing home to tell you how my husband and the 3 kids are doing since we left.  You know, all of 7 hours ago.   Has it only been that long?

Here are some things I learned so far:

  1. If you try to make a giant leak-proof ice pack using a sealable bag, the bag will definitely have a hole in it and will leak out of your soft-cooler and onto your purse.
  2. You should make a packing list.  Or you’ll forget something important like your toothbrush and have to choose between the equally nerve-wracking options of not brushing your teeth at all or borrowing your husband’s brush.  (Although, he reminded me I accidentally use his often enough.)
  3. If you ask your children “what do we talk like when we’re in the car?” your three year old will say “batman” and you’ll find yourself role playing a scenario in which batman politely asks your husband to stop singing so loudly, because NICE and QUIET are how we talk in the car…  Except A) no one is buying your batman, B) your husband doesn’t sing period and C) Not even you are taking yourself seriously.
  4. Hotels are not made for sleeping.  And I don’t mean that as innuendo.  Hotels are like a cruel social experiment where each child strategically pushes you closer to the brink of the abyss.  One of your children will only mildly complain that they can’t sleep.  You will lightly scold.  A second will ramp up the complaining by 90%, only to finally stop flopping and talking awkwardly to himself when you promise a prize to the first kid who falls asleep.  (This idea came from the same part of your brain as the batman charade.  This will come back to haunt you.)  A third child won’t fall asleep even after you threaten to take away the hotel’s free waffle breakfast, suggest that he might make his Mimi cry, and begin to walk him back to the van for a “timeout” at 10:15pm.  (Who are you really punishing there?)  Halfway down the hall he’ll promise to sleep and will somehow finagle his way into nesting on a chair with a towel for a blanket.  Suit yourself, kid.
  5. “The Edge of Glory” is apparently sung by Lady Gaga, not Pink.  Who Knew?  (I don’t want a show of hands, I’m sure lots of you knew.)
  6. Blogging makes everything better.

That’s all for now.  All I can say is, the waffle machine better be working tomorrow…I’ll be in touch shortly….hopefully from an awesome beach view.

Sincerely,

Vacationing (But not sleeping) Carrye

 

 

Saving Our Kids (and Ourselves) From the More We Don’t Need

We navigated through the crowded woodland-themed lobby towards the canopied exit.  As we pushed the double doors open, fresh air filled our lungs and though the warm spring sun was fading, we caught  whimsical glimpses of its reflection on birds flying high above.

We exhaled.  The kids climbed a giant wolf-rock that was probably fake for all I know.  A fellow vacationer wrapped up her cigarette break and thoughtfully asked if we wanted her to take our family picture.  Where were we again?

That moment was like a reality-check-pause in our mini vacation to Great Wolf Lodge recently.  It’s really the perfect all-in-one place to take a young family.  You unload your light luggage and walk into a child’s dream: face painting, crafts, and balloon shapes, capped with a giant woodland character display.  And that’s just the lobby.  Whimsy is included in check-in, where you receive fuzzy wolf ears for all and head up to your hotel room.

There, the kids get to explore their mini wolf cave, complete with bunkbeds and wall mounted TV.  They even threw in some bottled water for free this time.

But that’s not really why you’re there…because the whole place is part indoor water park, part indoor ropes course with an arcade, spa, and mini restaurants.  Since the waterpark passes are included in your stay, this is the true highlight of the trip, and the big kids ooh’d about the wave-pool while the three year old mastered the mini-slides in his goofy, irrepressible way.  

Then we’d move to another area in the water park and my seven year old crossed a rope-over-water obstacle course while the boys floated in the lazy river or gleefully avoided the giant dumping water bucket.

Pure bliss, right?

Mostly.

But I haven’t told you about the fantastic water pass wrist bands, which were probably invented by a genius who loses things a lot.  The adult wrist band is your room key (*everyone freaks out and faints in amazement!*)…and you can conveniently use it at ANY of the Lodge’s on site locations to buy…well, anything: food, spa, arcade, even the Dunkin’ Donuts on premises.  Hallelujah, it’s convenience on steroids.  Except its alarmingly less convenient than we’d think.

We happened to have $50 free resort credit loaded on our card, so we used the wrist bands for purchases till that was used up.  But since my mind doesn’t know how to truly vacation from all thoughts probing, theological or otherwise, I started to actually be troubled by the stupid room-charge wrist bands. Because as easy as it is to swipe a credit card mindlessly to pay for things (which I often do), at the tap of a wrist band and a quick signature I could be on my merry way, hardly thinking about the total I was accruing.

Maybe it was the chlorine saturated artificial humidity or maybe it was my over-analytical brain but as I sat watching people walk through the water park area with their Wolf Lodge Pizzas and appetizers, I started picturing everyone with some dollar sign over their head.  I’m picturing invisible running tallies for that thick cut pepperoni, spa splurges, arcade binge, and plush wolf souvenirs.

I’m not even a math person which certainly didn’t help my sense of panic.

But back to my point, if I can find it somewhere in all the fake dollar signs and magical forest creatures: I don’t think it’s wrong to splurge sometimes to enjoy ourselves, to relax as a family, to embrace something fun and whimsical.  (Side note: Our family was blessed to go, and had a blast.)

Great Wolf Lodge is one of those places where you have absolutely everything you need to be happy, but you’re subtly surrounded by the idea that you could be MORE content if you spent MORE.  You can’t convince me it’s not intentional that you have to pass the arcade, spa, wizard wands and bubble blowers to get from the lobby to the waterpark, and it wasn’t lost on our children.

You have the whole amazing water park and THEN some, but as I’m not the first to point out, discontent is good business.  If someone can insert just a hint of discontent, we’re likely to buy into it in a literal sense.

And then we’re surrounded by vacationers who are spending it up with THEIR adorable kids, some of whom have themed wolf pajamas, spa glazed hands or collectible wolf coins (3 for  only $10!).  And there’s a part of all of us parents that feels like maybe we’re not giving our kids the best- the most fun- the world that they deserve.

But what if the “more” is not what we need?  What if the more is actually squelching something beautiful in our kids…in ourselves?  What if the more is actually feeding our discontent which feeds our more…which…well, you get it.

And I realized that the resort we were staying at was like a microcosm of real life.  Vacations are meant for a little splurge.  But our real world works a lot like that resort: I have really good things that many people don’t have.  I have a beautiful family, comfortable home, food and coffee and entertainment pretty much at my fingertips.  It’s my flipping waterpark bliss.

But I’m dazzled by the arcade and spa of my world, whether furniture or wardrobe or latte or must-have for my children.  And am I really any happier for all my spending and stacking of things?  Are my kids?  In reality, our more is suffocating us and overflowing in giveaway bags and trash cans.  It’s coming out our drawers, filling up the floor of my car with empty coffee cups and yet my mind screams for…more.

And I realized I need a moment, just like at the water park, where I intentionally force myself away from the crowd, out those materialistic doors into….the fresh air of a REAL Kingdom that is built on truth, love, and hope.  It’s a Kingdom that doesn’t run on our currency or pinterest wish list, that isn’t driven by profit or prestige.  It’s a place where the Bible says “I lack nothing” (Psalm 23:1) and God says that everything He has is ours already (Luke 15:31).  It’s not a magical unicorn place free from hardships on earth, and yet it’s a place where we can find strength to be content in every situation (Philippians 4:11-13).

It’s the place where I find that something eternal is growing in the midst of precisely the less that I thought I could never be happy with.  He literally makes my less more.

What are the things that draw me out those doors, back into that Kingdom perspective when I’m struggling with discontent?  Is it listening to others who don’t have what I do?  Is it realizing that while I’ve regretted plenty of purchases, I’ve almost never regretted giving money and things away?  Is it saying no to myself sometimes to realize my heart’s capacity to be content in Christ with less?

No matter what, I believe God is telling me I’m missing something in my excess.  (And trust me, I have a lot of it.)

If you’re looking for your own key to enter the perspective of that Kingdom, I’ve made a printable sheet of mini-contentment challenges for you and your family.  Print out a few and stick them in your wallet, car, fridge, or wherever.  Try a few of mine or use the blank card for you or your kids to write their own.

And if you end up with a cool story to share, or you have other ideas for being content, please comment!

CONTENTMENTCARDS 

*If you don’t want to download, I’ve listed the Contentment Card Suggestions Below:

  • Give Away One Thing a Day for a Week (Be Creative!)
  • Choose to Say “NO” To Yourself Once This Week (When it’s HARD).
  • Do Something As A Family That is FREE But Fills Your Soul.
  • Thank God for something when you feel discontent.
  • Make a List of Things You GAVE AWAY that made you HAPPIER.
  • Send Your Kids on a “Thankful Hunt”: Let them make a list or a Picture.
  • Take a break from Facebook, Pinterest or Social Media that feeds your need for more.

 

 

 

The Week My Compassion Broke

You know those blog posts that start with a problem and end with a cute little moral, a “you-can-do-it” pep talk, or at least an inspirational quote with a gorgeous panoramic picture?

I know you’re starting to feel a little warm and fuzzy at the thought, so I’m going to go ahead and snap you out of it and dump ice water on that thought.  Yeah, this isn’t that post.

This is the post where I tell you how the stomach bug attacked my six year old, while he was at a birthday party by the way, and then proceeded to take the rest of us out one by one like an invisible, icky sniper.  You know how this goes…the cleaning of things you haven’t cleaned since…well…the last stomach bug, come to think of it.  The indefinite holding of the breath hoping no one else will get sick. The way you simultaneously feel deeply sad for your pitiful child, but also think, “How could you do this to me??!!”

The sick feeling you get when you’re not actually sick but your mind thinks you are.

And then the actual being sick when you start bartering with God, asking yourself where you went wrong in life and why you never appreciated normal digestion.

So we finally got past all that in just under a week and had a deceptively blissful couple days of reprieve.  Then Monday two out of 3 kids woke up with ear pain that ended in infections for both.  (Side note: Minute clinic offices are really not big enough for two upset sick kids and a three year old that rivals the energizer bunny.)

So here I am today…and I told my husband my compassion is broken.  They broke it.  Not their fault.  No.  But sickness is like a megaphone that takes alllllll the whining and the tantrums and the baseline drama and amplifies it a gazillion times.  (That is a highly accurate statistic.)  If my sympathy is like a tube of toothpaste, we are down to that last little bit that you can only access through complicated origami folds.

My son asked to play a game today and I flat out told him that I simply didn’t want to.  Sorry.  Not happening today on broken compassion day.  And when those sweet sick little kids tried to get out of bed last night or complain about one more malady, I walked them briskly back to bed while attempting to defend my right to personal free time.

Not only is my compassion broken, between kids out of school and sheer delirium, I can barely remember what day it is.  I keep drawing confusing lines on my calendar where I put the right event in the wrong square.   My son’s birthday is today and I forgot to buy the poor kid a gift.  And based on the straggling few forks in my silverware drawer, I’d say I’m massively overdue to clean dishes.

So how do you play into all this?  Well….  I think you know exactly how I feel because I believe at least 72% of you have just gone through the same thing.  So I promise…I won’t try to cheer you up….I won’t try to pat you on the back and tell you it will get better…I’ve lost my compassion, remember?  But go ahead and share your worst sick stories with the rest of us…maybe we’ll all feel a little better after all.