Parenting SOS!

“Honey, put down the markers, we don’t color on ourselves…or the wall..or the floor…just paper.  PAPER!!  Is that so difficult a concept?”

“If your sister says stop, then STOP!”

“When we get in the car, we sit down and we buckle up.  I shouldn’t have to say that every time we go somewhere.”

“That’s not a sword, and we don’t hit people.” 

“You’re too old to run around the house naked.”

“If you don’t listen, I’ll throw away your toy.  I don’t even care.”

“I don’t actually like to yell, so if you don’t want me to why don’t you listen?”

“I know I said you couldn’t watch TV [Dear God, what was I thinking?]but you could mayyyybe earn it back if you would please just follow directions now.”

“Don’t lick that!”

“I’m sorry that your leg hurts; but it didn’t seem to bother you before I asked you to clean up.”

“If you don’t listen, there will be a consequence…I don’t even know what it is yet, but you won’t like it.”

“No, you can’t have candy for breakfast.  Eat what I gave you because that’s what we’re eating.”

“If I’m in the bathroom, don’t open the door!”

“Don’t worry about what your brother is doing, worry about what I asked YOU to do!”

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I used to have this idea in my head that parenting is more about being with my kids and loving them than disciplining them.  But somehow that’s not how it’s going for me.  Honestly, from the minute my kids wake up I feel like most of what I’m doing is giving them directives: “Get UP, Get Dressed, Eat Breakfast, Pack your library book in your backpack!”  When I’m not telling them what to do I’m telling them what not to do, as the list above reveals.

Occasionally, my child will speak soft, kind words, or try to tell me their whimsical thoughts.  And even THEN half the time I can’t even focus on that sweet moment because one of the other two is acting out.

Is this what parenting is?  Am I missing something?

I’m starting feel right now, especially with my middle child that I’m just in a never-ending battle.  Maybe I’m trying to get him to leave a friends house and JUST want him to put his shoes and coat on.  I like to think it’s a fair request in New England winter.  Yet we drag on back and forth, me taking away treats or fun things; he pushing back with angry words and stubbornness.

By the time we get home there’s something new to argue about, assuming we even made it the whole car-ride home without a clash.

And tonight, I’m sitting there praying with the big kids at bedtime after a whole bedtime saga, and he just says “stop praying, stop praying, stop praying” and I ended up downstairs after just crying because I feel like I’m failing at this.  Failing with him.  Like I must have been inconsistent or faulty in something when the kid was 18 months old and we simply can’t recover.

Maybe I let him have one too many muffins one day instead of firmly saying “no”, or maybe I yelled a bit too loud once and his little brain decided that he’d start fighting anger with his own.  I joke… but really…do you ever wonder if you have been parenting all wrong and you just don’t know how to get back on track?  I don’t even need to be on the track…just maybe parallel to it.

I don’t want to be the mom who spends the whole day saying no.  I don’t want to be the mom whose kids require twenty reminders to do one thing.  I want to give my kids fun things, good things. I want to be a light-hearted Mom who creates a home of peace.  But I’m not sure I’m that mom right now.

How do we let God hold our kids, yet seek Him to strengthen our own for the task He gave us as parents?  How do we encourage our kids to obey without nagging, to listen because we love them- how do we motivate them with less punishment, less anger?  Or maybe, how do we learn to admit that even with our mistakes, we’re really loving them better than we think?

I’m putting this out to you Moms- Dads- Grandparents- Aunts- Friends- What advice would you give to me and other struggling parents who think they might be losing it somewhere?  How can we discipline as needed without creating a negative atmosphere in the home?  Comment, post, text me if you must.  🙂  This mom is ready to listen.

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.

 

 

Dear Anarchist Sons

Dear Anarchist Sons of Mine (age 3 and 6 respectively),

Where to start?  Your attention spans are short, so I’ll begin by saying the important: I’ll love you in and out, through and through till the day I die.  This, however, is because my love isn’t a book or a toy or a paper…that you can shred and destroy like a pack of vindictive lions.

I don’t actually love things being destroyed.  (Surprise!)  So let’s just cover a few examples of situations I don’t like, shall we?

Do you remember when we made that “fruits of the Spirit” tree for our wall?  You know…the one with fruits of “love”, “joy”, “peace”.  I suspect you remember because you stripped that tree, probably while I was in the bathroom.  And I don’t really take it personally, but I do find it more than coincidental that the fruits you unceremoniously ripped off were “joy” and “gentleness”. Could we not rip all things paper…including books and cards?  Ahem.  Moving on.

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s talk broken toys and Christmas presents.  I’m not even so surprised that you break them…but don’t have the decency in your little hearts to wait till the New Year at least?  By the way, you don’t need to turn your whoopie cushion into a “frisbee”…if you want a frisbee we can get you something made surprisingly exactly for that purpose.

Then there’s the messes and so many smells.  You know who you are.  I mean, it should be enough for you that the bathroom is perpetually vaguely scented of urine and the massive amounts of soap you use.  (One squirt, really…it’s quite effective.)  But on top of that, I’m finding gifts of partially processed foods:

…writing on the wall and table (as though we don’t buy you reams of paper):

 

…and whatever paint/glitter love child this is:

Also…I’m not sure if this is a boundary line or security measure, but in either case there’s a more effective and less gluey method here…I’m 98% positive.

 

 

 

 

 

Then there’s a few simple…let’s call them “etiquette” matters.  For one, your diaper isn’t an appropriate holster for your toy gun.

Two, thought I appreciate your budding artistic skills, please save your anatomically awkward “naked sunburnt man” pictures for home and not for your teacher at school. Please. For the love.

Third: Sweet boy, I know that you are just showing me the two fingers that are particularly messy, but the world simply won’t understand.  Let’s work on getting non-middle fingers messy next time.

Finally, I love your building and creativity.  You guys amaze me with those brains.  But you and I both know that behind those brilliant designs and charming smiles are two boys with no intentions of cleaning up anything.  Except for those random moments when you do clean and I’m tempted to take you to the ER for brain scans.

So…I hope this letter has been informative and convincing.  Next time remind me to talk to you about 101 ways to NOT torture your sister.

With Greatest Love,

You Worn-out Mom

 

 

 

 

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (Reality Redo)

‘Twas the night before Christmas, And all through the house,

Of course there was “stirring”, but it wasn’t the mouse,

(On a side note, we think there’s a mouse in the basement,

Because of the droppings in obvious placement).

The children won’t “nestle”, they don’t know that word,

They’re poking and squabbling like two angry birds,

The sir watching football and I with my wine glass,

Had just settled down to wrap gifts and relax…

When up in my head there arose such a clatter,

Of failed mother moments and Christmas disaster:

Like the time that my son squirted windex of blue,

On the floor and his brother and then sister too.

The moon shining bright on the trees bare and brown,

Remind me of Christmas tree needles knocked down,

And that sad small fir tree that I bought as a gift,

That promptly flopped over, it’s branches won’t lift.

The sound from the screen brought my mind to the games,

Where the players from each of the teams would be named,

Now Bengals!  Now Texans! Then Broncos and Chiefs

Would be playing for all of our late Christmas feasts.

For a moment I breathed an unusual calm,

But then dash away, dash away, dash away all!

For then in a twinkling I heard on the “roof”,

The prancing and pawing of each little “hoof”.

Before I could act, as my head turned around,

Down the stairs came the kids with their least quiet sounds,

All dressed cute in their pjs, from heads to their feet,

They needed to pee or more drink or more heat.

They didn’t find Momma kissing “Santa Clause”,

Instead with arms crossed I laid down the house laws,

Their droll little mouths swiftly turned to a pout,

With no more excuses they turned and went out,

And I wondered if Santa, with his round little belly,

Could make my kids eat more than pb and jelly?

If perhaps he’d leave Rudolph with the kids just to play,

So they’d sleep from exhaustion at the end of the day.

But my husband he winked and then nodded his head,

At the sounds of the giggling up in their beds.

He spoke not a word, but I realized with joy,

That despite all the chaos, my girl and my boys

Are a gift, yes a blessing, an endless new wonder,

To hold and to love both in growing and blunder,

Then, snap! Went the football, the ref blew a whistle,

And we sat there in awe, our mirth now official.

And so I exclaim as we savor this night,

“Merry Christmas to all, and to all…better sleep in the future.”

 

 

Warning: High Maintenance Areas

I’m not high maintenance.  Pff.  Absolutely not.  Yes, I’ve been buying more clothes from for-real stores and from fair trade/wages organizations like Imagine Goods and Amani Ya Juu20161110_212757

but I’m still a thrift shop girl at heart.  My long hair means I don’t have a “salon” so much as some friends with haircutting abilities that I occasionally pay to keep me within the realm of acceptable split-ends.  I don’t require expensive jewelry; I admire fancy nails, but I can’t seem to maintain them myself; it doesn’t cripple me to have an imperfect house.

So I’m not high maintenance. Nope.  Not a smidge.  Um.  Except for when I am.

This holiday season I’ve been mulling over the idea of “joy”, mostly because I’m supposed to teach on joy this month.  Drat.  It’s more fun teaching something than learning it myself.

My joy seems to be wrapped up in my expectations.  I can sit here and look at all the other people with their “high-maintenance” whatevers who seem to require more of this or more of that than I need to be happy.  Or their personality is wired so that they really can’t function without a fully cleaned house…or they find an honest-to-goodness happiness in a really great manicure and monthly hair-styling.  And it’s easy for me to think that those things are a wee bit unnecessary- definitely not something to set your joy on.

Yet I set my joy on some high-maintenance expectations of my own.

Let’s start with coffee.  A friend recently told me she only buys coffee out a couple times a year.  Excuse me?  In a YEAR?  That might cover your birthday and anniversary, but what about Valentine’s Day and Groundhog Day?  What about the Starbucks monthly double-stars day?  What about days when the kids are going crazy or you feel hormonal?  What about the “I-happen-to-be-driving-within-10-miles-of-my-favorite-coffee-place” days?  What about RAINY days for heaven’s sake??!!

And then let’s get down to the actual coffee.  I, thrift shopper that I am, have somehow convinced myself that it’s OK to drop 5 dollars a pop on coffee. I’m quite a smooth talker to myself.

” Why, yes self, you DO have diabetes…you DO have a two year old who punched you in the face today…you DO feel a bit tired and YES if you miss this two minute window to buy coffee you’ll probably go into a catatonic state of lethargy from which there’s no return.  What kind of mother would you be if you DIDN’T buy coffee?”

And my joy is suddenly based on the latte-ness of the day, or whether the store has my favorite sugar free syrups, or how often I’m able to escape in java bliss.

Then Christmas tree shopping revealed more high maintenance areas.  We got a wonderful tree but we didn’t get our usual wagon ride and hot chocolate amenities.  A bit of joy deflated.  And even though I “let” my kids pick out a tree, I’m a master of getting them to ultimately pick one I approve of.  Because Christmas just might fall apart (for me) if I let the kids pick out the tree.

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So my gracious husband dragged in our fresh-over-priced tree, patiently stood it up and screwed it into the stand only for me to look at it with an overwhelming sense of discontent. (loss of joy).  The trunk was too tall…the lowest branches were dismally far away from the floor.  Dismally.  Yes I said it. I awkwardly asked if he could re-do it.  If he could possibly take the whole thing down, cut a bit of trunk here, a branch or two there.  Only because my joy hinged on it.

And then I almost started crying, because once he had trimmed the darn thing, the tree was closer to the ground but the branches he was forced to cut off left gaps all around the base of the tree.  Not one sad little gap that you can turn towards the wall so no one sees it.  Gaps everywhere!  And I panicked because we had already bought this tree and there was no going back and now Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas unless I could JAM some extra tree branches into the tree stand to fill out the bottom.  Seriously, I sat there like a mad-woman trying to wedge tree branches until my husband gently asked if I’d like him to tie the branch onto the tree instead.  Yes…we twist tied branches onto my tree this year like the equivalent of tree hair transplant.

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So our tree is complete now and it fills me with joy and it should.  That’s OK.  But it’s also symbolic this year of my expectations for joy.  Maybe I do have some areas of high maintenance that can threaten to steal my joy if I’m not careful, if I don’t own them and tame them through a little letting go.  Maybe we all have those places in our lives…maybe the things or people that give us the greatest joy, when lost or broken, are also the places where we have the potential to lose the greatest joy.

Is there a deeper anchor for my joy than my own high-maintenance places?  Is there a well of joy that runs deeper than my broken expectations?  Is there a source of joy that outlasts my temporary fixes?

I’m finding that a joy bigger than my circumstances must come from outside of myself.  For me, Jesus is more and more becoming that source of joy for me.  He’s becoming more than just a plastic figure or a pat answer and is soaking into the very fiber of who I am.  I’m not fully there yet…but my soul reminds me whenever I’m disappointed in this life that there’s a far deeper joy in the One I can’t see than in the things that I can.

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Where are you tempted to lose joy this year?  How do you refocus yourself when joy seems far away?

 

Call it Creativity?

It was Tuesday morning, circa 8:50am: homeschool co-op day was upon us, where I’ve been entrusted with an hour of activities and playtime for the boisterous toddler set.  Except I had no activity planned.

My fully-adult baby brother and sister came to visit the night before which meant I’d stayed up late talking about all the things.  Sibling time is soul food, and therefore worth shirking other obligations for occasionally.  Right?  So there was simply no time to squeeze out to prepare for class. Not a drop.  (This is where you all smile and nod your head and pretend like it was grossly unreasonable for me to carve out a twenty minute slice of prep time in the two weeks between co-op classes.  Ahem.)

But honorable and brave woman that I am, I became fully committed to preparing for class 20 minutes before I had to leave for said class.  Procrastination calls for nothing more than a healthy dose of creativity.

As a side-this is probably why my home is in the state it is: The theme is basically “functional chaos”.  While I’ve gotten more organized over the years (I can literally hear some of you snickering right now), I’ve mostly learned the art of “creative cleaning” which is more focused on appearance than legitimate clean.  For instance, I still have papers everywhere, some stuck on the wall, some stuck in “planners” (some good they do me), but mostly I stick them in baskets now.  That’s better.  To actually sort the papers, well, that’s asking me to exert a great deal of my limited decision-making ability.  (How does anyone decide the destination of one more financial paper or half-scribbled coloring page and remain sane?) And when it comes to “cleaning” my kitchen, well…I’m much better at artistically stacking the dishes in such a way that the counter appears clean.  Ta-da! (If you want a further window into my home, read this blog post by my friend about HER HOME. It was scarily relateable and will give you a chuckle!)

But where was I? Yes.  8:50am.  Nothing planned.  So my mind played this out: “It’s fall- we’ll just print out some tree coloring pages.  Yes.  Oh! Here we go…this one is  great (clicking print)..and I can totally have them glue on the extra tissue paper I have cut up from 2 classes ago.  Um…except what are we going to do for glue? I don’t think I have time to find all the glue-y things.  Um…wait…I do however have an excessive number of alphabet stickers.  Alphabet…tree-…the Book!  Chicka Chicka Boom Boom!  

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We’ll make a fall themed Alphabet tree and I’ll bring my book if I can find it.  Hallelujah, it’s on the shelf.  What are the odds?  Aaaand…let’s go!”  

So out I ran, probably reminding my kids that they should know enough to get in the car and get buckled without me asking, and probably blaming them somewhat for why we’re always late, when in reality my last-minuteness is killing us.

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When my class started 10 or so kiddos filed in, and the territorial squishy-block wars began as usual, with a couple quieter ones on the fringes playing with magnet dolls or trains.  But then, miracle to behold, my most active boys were totally engaged in the story- kids were chanting “Boom! Boom!” in adorable disunity, and most of the kids sat patiently for the craft as well.  My heart swelled almost as much as my pride as I confidently proclaimed myself “brilliant” and beyond gifted at the art of creative procrastination.  You know what, let’s just call it creativity.

Later that day, I pulled a similar creativity stunt for our non-existent dinner plans- I whipped together some concoction of stew that I believe to be one of my best ever, and which I’ll never be able to duplicate because I, um, just used whatever popped into my head.  Go me.

Except I started thinking…creativity is a blessing, yes…it’s a strength of mine.  But do I sometimes rely on it to avoid actually working?  Yes, sometimes I come up with things on the spot and they are AMAZING.  But other times, my kids suffer from my lack of planning and wonder what on earth the schedule is going to be today?  Sometimes, my spontaneity actually takes up MORE time. Sometimes I think that if I just planned a bit better, I might actually save more money on food and feed my kids less PB&J.  (not that I’m knocking that!)  Maybe what I’d like to call creativity is a cover up for weaknesses I’m less thrilled to admit- being late to things, feeling overwhelmed simply because I didn’t sort out my week, not giving myself FULLY to a task or following through completely on things because I’m creatively bandaiding it for now.

For the life of me, if I knew how to insert an emoticon, I’d put a sad little questioning face right here.

I’ve been thinking about how our strengths can often be part of our weaknesses…  About what it means to acknowledge what I’m good at and what I’m not and surrender it all to God to be used in His way.  And that probably means I need to wake up a little and do some housecleaning of my heart and stop making excuses for the parts of myself that need work.

What about you?  Where have you found that your strengths and weaknesses collide?  What practical steps have you taken to address your weaknesses?  How have you found yourself surrendering it all to God?  I’d love to hear your story!

You Homeschool Too

Today I started my second year of homeschooling my kids.  I’m not a saint- really homeschooling is just trading some problems for others.  When my daughter went to public kindergarten, mornings were essentially a drill to see how late we could get up without missing the bus.  It required a lot of determination- last minute bed-waking, yelling to get her dressed in the morning, setting the kitchen timer like a drill sergeant so she finished breakfast in time and barely making the bus.  And with two kiddos still at home, when she returned, my parenting juice was already squeezed out; I felt like I was missing her most days, putting the TV on so she could unwind from a long day while I invented last-minute dinner.

Homeschool is a different crazy- more prep work to do for lessons, more pressure in one more area of their lives to potentially screw up.  On the plus side, I can tweak our schedule and let the kids sleep in if they need.  We can take a two week vacation or a casual sick day without informing any school office.  I don’t drown in  piles of papers from school about homework, fundraisers, events, and fairs.  I love watching my kids giggle and play so much as siblings; to see their personalities as they interact with friends; to teach them some really fun stuff. It’s a trade-off.20160906_105654

Still, sometimes I wonder whether my quantity of time outweighs the quality.  My one-on-one time spreads thin across three kids.  Today for instance, I had to take a break from schooling to rinse a generous blob of shampoo that my 2 year old squeezed in his hair.  Each season requires being willing to flex and do what’s best for our family right now.20160906_105711  So next year may be a new adventure back to public school.

In the meantime, homeschool has taught me a lot about myself and how I view my kids’ education.  And I don’t just mean academics.  Stepping back from the “normal” way of schooling gave me an opportunity to see the system more for what it is: a positive tool my kids can use to learn- a place to build friendships and independence- an experience that helps shape them…but not the end-all teacher.

School, along with church and organized sports and pediatricians and _________ (add your own), all have certain priorities, goals, and methods that sometimes clash with my own.  With your own.  And we need to occasionally take stock of the places where we don’t totally line up with whatever system it is, because those are precisely the places we have to teach our kids at home.  You too.  Me too.20160906_092642

Yes, academics  are important to me- I want my kids to read well, to be able to understand the world around them, to be savvy and comfortable with math and science, and ultimately to be able to use those abilities to impact the world around them in a positive way.

But I also want my kids to know that learning doesn’t just happen when you get an A+ on a paper.  I want them to see, whether at school or church, that knowing the right answer is empty unless you can use it- experience it.  I want my kids to know that family is important, rest is important, and we will take days off of school shamelessly for both reasons.I want my kids to find that love is always a better motivator than competition, success, or pride.  Because love is always focused on how everyone wins, how people are more important than tasks or even grades.  20160906_124318

So I want my kids to love.  I want my kids to dance and be silly and never trade in who they are for anything.  I want them to ask questions and see what I sometimes didn’t see as a young kid- that being the best in school does not define them, does not make them a more valuable human, does not dictate whether they can impact the world.  20160906_090231

Maybe you want the same things for your kids- there’s probably some places we would disagree. But the point is this:  Whether we see our kids 2 hours a day or 5 or 12- you teach your kids, in some ways far more than the schools ever can.  What you teach your kids sets them up for how to use the rest of the tools in their lives- what you teach your kids gives them permission to honor the system while maintaining personal priorities- what you teach your kids goes far beyond academics into soul and character shaping.  You might just be homeschooling more than you think.

So be brave and be strong- we are bound to get it wrong sometimes- but your kids have no more precious teacher.

 

 

When Your Role-Shifter is Stuck

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                   friends.wikia.com

I’m a wife- a mom- a sister- a writer- a coffee drinker- a fan of Tom Selleck. (But that’s probably for another post.)  I’m lots of things simultaneously, because…well, aren’t we all?  Some of who I am overlaps neatly: coffee, for instance, can work quite nicely as a date with my husband, fuel for motherhood, an excuse to get with friends, a place to squeeze in distraction free-writing, and can even be enjoyed while watching an episode of Friends where Monica dates Richard.  (I promise that’s the last Tom Selleck reference.)

Some parts of who I am and the roles I play mix well- others don’t.  Writing, for instance, is not something best tried in the middle of watching three children.  You’re going to end up with either bizarre blogging or a bizarre household, and neither is pretty.

So while I love to write ABOUT my kids, I have to separate my role of mother and writer for everyone’s well-being.

But I’m realizing the trickiest roles for me to properly sort are those of mother and wife.  To be honest, I function most often in mother-mode.  My cue to get out of bed in the morning is usually when my husband comes in to tell me bye as he heads out for work.  When he comes home, we have an hour or more of dinner and bedtime routines with the kids, at which point my kids promptly take as long as possible to fall asleep.  Sometimes my husband and I look at each other with a sigh at 9pm wondering why the kids are still chatting upstairs, or shuffling through our peripheral to get to the bathroom while we’re trying to watch a movie.  So mom-mode is almost always on.

Wife mode, on the other hand, easily slips into secondary function.  In fact, wife-mode sometimes devolves into sorting and delegating the other roles in my life.  I coordinate kid stuff with my husband, divvy up household responsibilities like which one of us will pick up the milk and peanut butter, and discuss which of us gets a night OUT of the house.

On the nights that my husband goes out for a much deserved social or sport outing, I take my mom-role up another level, just enough to score a bedtime win, and then I’m done.  And by done, I mean I’m ready for tea and a movie or book, or some really focused time with God. Heaven forbid my children should interrupt this moment.

And heaven forbid my husband should come home when I’m still shifting out of mom-role and haven’t had my me-time yet.  Because then, poor guy, I act like this home has been my territory for the last 12 hours, and if he can’t be home for bedtime he has a lot of gall showing up before the kids have been in bed at least an hour.  The nerve of him for coming home at a reasonable time.  Geesh.

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   My “interrupted-me-time” face, obviously.

This whole blog post started because I misread a quote from an interview with Indra K Nooyi.  Nooyi said, “every day you have to make a decision about whether you are going to be a wife or a mother, in fact many times during the day you have to make those decisions.”  And while she meant that you have to choose between your professional role and being a wife AND mother, I initially read it as a woman having to choose between being a wife OR mother.

But that got me thinking- maybe for me, I do need to choose sometimes.  Maybe I need to get better at just being a wife.  Maybe I get so caught up in trying to be a good mom, or at least an improving mom, who teaches my kids and takes them fun places and cleans up most at least 20% of their messes, that I forget to really invest in my role as wife.  I forget to invest in my husband.  I make all kinds of excuses for my wife-role because I simply have so many other roles to fill.

But then something doesn’t feel quite right- almost like I’m coexisting with my husband in parallel worlds that are connected but somehow not quite overlapping like they should.  I don’t think it has to be that way.

My husband is a wonderful man, and he loves me more than I’ll ever comprehend.  And because I love him back I need to better learn how to fully embrace my wife-role, even if I get stuck mid-gear sometimes.

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I can post ways I’ve tried to work on this in the future, but in the meantime, I’d love to hear what YOU have tried.  Please share ways you’ve invested in your spouse and how you’ve honored that role over the years.  Thanks!

 

 

My “Awkward Christian Moment”

Every year our adoption agency hosts a summer picnic with an exotic-to-us playground, food treats galore, and the whimsical highlight for my kids: Derek the magician.  (AMAZING every year)

This year, just before the magical performance, one of the picnic-goers raffled off a couple of truly beautiful miniature fairy gardens.  And I, rare-winner-of-anything, got picked, and wasn’t even paying attention.  My daughter ran over to alert me and proudly skipped up to the table to collect our prize- a mossy, little bowl of life, topped off with a tiny Buddha.

The woman smiled at my daughter, pointing out a little scroll of paper, daintily rolled up near a walnut.  “You write your wish on that paper, and little Buddha here will take care of it for you.”

Conversation Starter
 Spiritual Conversation Starter

 

And I had a moment which I can only refer to as an “awkward Christian moment.”

See, I teach my kids about God.  I explain life to them as I understand it, and I’ve experienced it.  And to some extent, I think we all either raise our kids with the values and beliefs we grew up with, or we branch away from what we’ve grown up with and intentionally teach our kids differently.

But how do we allow our kids to experience other cultures- other religions- other ideas- in a healthy way?  How can we teach them what our heart for them is, without ignoring other beliefs, without breeding a sense of superiority, hatred, or suspicion towards other people and cultures?  Moreover, how to we give them freedom to test what they believe in the crucible of life.

That little Buddha bowl of life spawned a conversation with my daughter later on.  Probably not my most polished moment.  But I hope something positive.

And I talked to her again about God, and prayer- about bringing God all the things we need help with. And I said it out loud, but my heart felt fake just then.  See, at that moment I was struggling with my own encounters with God.  I was waiting on an answer that wasn’t coming and boy was it making me look hard at God and confront once again whether or not I’m holding onto something plastic.

Funny.  I had just spoken at my church about this.  I had just told everyone that often we don’t truly encounter genuine God until “our circumstances contradict our expectations of God.”  I said this because I’ve experienced that.  I’ve gotten mad at God or felt hopeless and He has proven to eclipse even my struggles.  He has shown who He REALLY is when I stop acting like everything is fine.

And, of course, I worked through all that like a champ, and now I can help other people and won’t ever have false expectations of God again.  I’ll never need to doubt the foundation of my belief because me and God have an understanding now…right God?  Wink, wink.  Nudge, nudge.

Or maybe not.  Maybe I’m not one of those people who gets to learn something once.  Maybe none of us gets to be one of those people.  And maybe part of peeling away the plastic beliefs, means I’m going to constantly have to reaffirm whether God is big enough for me- real enough for me- when my diabetes makes me want to kick and shake my fist at God- when depression stalks me and threatens to devour my courage and joy- when I can’t even see where to put my foot next on this climb.

No matter what you believe- the hardest situations in life are what call our deepest beliefs into question.  But I still believe- yes, even through my week of “why?”- that a Presence beyond and inexplicably intermingled with my own fleeting story, emerges from my dark places.

And so I pass that on to my kids, even when I don’t have all the answers.  And as friends have wisely suggested, I use even those “awkward Christian moments”- those places where people don’t see eye to eye with me spiritually- as conversation starters- something my kids ultimately need to work through personally when they’re finally confronted with their own places of pain and disappointment.

What about you?  What have your disappointments and struggles taught you about what you believe, and how do you pass that on to others around you?

 

Beauty in the Season

We were running late. I should know by now that running late to anywhere with three kids spells trouble. We were halfway to our destination when I heard a pitiful whine from my six year old daughter in the back seat:
“We forgot my tambourine! And my ballet shoes!”
She recently joined an informal worship dance class. Half the kids just wear socks, and they always have an extra tambourine on hand. I told my daughter these things reassuringly…she wouldn’t be reassured.
Her drama escalated so that by the time we arrived, she didn’t even want to participate in dance at all. Oh and, conveniently, her loose tooth started bothering her for the first time all day.
“What if I jump and it hurts more? This isn’t the kind of dance I want to be in,” she complained, though she normally loves her class.
But I had lugged my three kids out of the car, and her friends were relying on her to do her part in the upcoming performance, so I encouraged her to stay. I even told her I’d wait to leave until she felt comfortable.
But my two year old had other plans. As soon as I put him down he ran to the water dispenser, happily helping himself to a drink. He just kept refilling, water dripping everywhere, so I sat on the floor ready to block him whenever he made another lunge for the water. At this point we were making a scene in the middle of practice.
Just when I was getting to my breaking point, he dashed in the opposite direction, accidentally colliding with the dance instructor as she twirled towards him with her tambourine. Yes, my son was clocked by a worship instrument.
I scooped up my wailing toddler, gave the other moms a helpless look, and walked back out of dance class with two out of three kids bawling.
Sound familiar?
Some moments in life are so exasperatingly out of our control: The mortifying fifteen minutes at the library when your kid won’t stop screaming; the days when your medical condition flairs up and it’s all you can do to survive the day; the times when you feel rejected by your spouse or friends.
How do we keep these things in perspective?
I had this zany idea this past leap day to make a time capsule to open with the kids next leap year. How on earth am I going to keep track of a blessed time capsule for four years when I lose something daily?

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Still, the kids enjoyed drawing about what they were like now and what they’d be doing in four years as 10, 9, and 6 year olds. I joined in the fun by including a postcard to my future self. I listed exciting things like my daughter starting t-ball and my goal of publishing a book. But I also wrote about some challenges, like my youngest son’s speech delay, and my husband’s stressful work deadline.
I realized that each thing on my card is part of a season. And I wondered how each of these joys and obstacles would seem after four years of hindsight and change.  How would my perspective on the challenges of today change through the lens of the future?  Would I see today for what it really is…a unique season with a unique purpose?
Ecclesastes 3:1 says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” (NIV)
If you’re like me, sometimes seasons feel suffocating or empty. Maybe you’re in the throes of raising young kids, watching work deadlines pile up, or struggling through relationships. Or maybe you’re just tired from winter and you’re so ready for the steady warmth of spring.
We may want to skip this season and go straight to the next, but we’d be missing out. Because a few verses later, in Ecclesiastes 3:11, we read: “He has made everything beautiful in its time.”
Rest assured God is working in your present moment, no matter what it feels like. There’s something beautiful God is unfolding, whether we see it in four years or in the Kingdom to come. Don’t give up. Please hold on to see the beauty, and remember you’re not alone.