Being a boymom

With every big hug, every fist bump, every stick, every stone, every bouquet of clovers and wild onion, my heart beats a little faster.

hands dirty from digging in the dirt

Every spontaneous prayer spoken over me to feel better softens my heart.

voice soft, whispering to God

Every act of acceptance shown to everyone–from the sweet baby in the doctor’s office to the sweaty guys landscaping the playground–sparks wonder in my heart.

knees scuffed on the trees they climb

So when the frustration spikes and high fives are few, I replay these memories. This emotion.

this love

#boymom

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To-Do List or To Dream? Life away from the mom-do list

What incredible things do you do while you dream? I’m always running. Or fighting enemies en masse. Or building skyscrapers. Or just flying near the tree tops.

But then I wake up. Like most of you, I wake up to things left undone and things left to do. And by the close of the day, I’m worn out with a load of laundry waiting to be folded. One night a couple weeks ago, I found myself still folding, there in the dark while one of my little ones was drifting off to sleep a few feet away. I asked myself, is this what I’ve been reduced to?

stealthily folding a basket of tiny clothes in the cover of darkness like some kind of legendary laundry ninja?

dinosaur shirt chop-chop

roll socks

neon plaid shorts chop-chop-chop

Soon enough, morning came again and I was jet setting across the country for a business conference. It’s kind of cool that just since I’ve become a mom I’ve traveled a bit Seattle-Orlando-Boston. My kids may just be impressed with that one day… until they learn the most sightseeing I did was from window of the shuttle from and to the airport. I know, so glamorous. And I was back again to screams and suffocating hugs.

I love how my sons love me. The way they BOTH curl up on my lap.

I’m with my boys all the time . I’m grateful for all their love, but I’m overwhelmed by it.

Overwhelmed: to bury, drown, submerge, defeat, inundate

As a mom, I’m so overwhelmed by how much my children love me and by the mom things I need to do. In this stage of life, these two things are so intertwined. And when I’m afraid of something, I tend to back away slowly, keeping my eyes locked forward so I’m not taken by a surprise attack.

Relationships scare me. There was beauty in my childhood but I was a kid who didn’t connect to my parents or, well, anyone. In many ways, I am still that little girl. I think that’s why I write quite a bit on being a parent. It’s a way to assess and connect in a better way with my children because it doesn’t come naturally. And that overwhelming mom-do list? Failing to complete all the tasks on my list doesn’t make me a failure.

Moms, failing to complete your to-do list doesn’t make you a failure. It makes you human.

In the end, your kids (and dare I say your husband) won’t care if you kept everything spotless and all the laundry neatly folded. What they’ll remember are trips to their favorite playground, visits to the pool and adventures in the woods. They’ll remember laughter and smiles. They’ll remember you. Don’t let the laundry make you bitter. Folding those tiny cartoon underwear (Kiai!) is not so much a reduction as it is a fulfillment.

Is it a dream life? Endless loads to defeat, meltdowns to calm, crumbs to sweep… as long as we let our to-lists be invaded by life and wonder, yes.

adventures

The day I asked my son to forgive me

I lost it, again.

Somebody had an ugly moment, again, and I reacted with my own ugly.

Because when you come from a long line of quick-tempered, overreacting parents and another long line of emotionally distant ones, all things emotional are just a mess.

But instead of just waiting for things to go back to the normal flow, I went to his room and sat down next to him.

“Buddy, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have gotten so mad and yelled… can you forgive me?”

He threw his little arms around my neck, “Yes, mommy!” and after a moment added, “I don’t like when you yell it hurts my feelings.”

And our hearts connected.

The first time I asked him to forgive me was the first time he shared his feelings with me.


I know of only one who never hurt anyone and never had to ask for forgiveness, yet still showed us how we needed to give it and ask for it.

One who is merciful to those who humbly ask for mercy.

One who is quick to love and not judge.

One who is quick to embrace and not trample.

One who brings peace instead of pushing away.


There are so many ways we fall short as parents, as spouses, as friends, as dreamers… In our pride we sometimes fail to see how much we are in need of grace and so we fail to see how much others need it from us. But when we ask for, receive and show mercy, we allow our hearts to connect beyond the circumstances.

As parents may we point our children to the One who is ever gracious, ever faithful, ever loving, even as we struggle to break free of the temptations and traditions that we think define us. And when our children look to us to ask for or give forgiveness may we point them to the One we seek to follow.

To the moms who have it all–breakdowns allowed

Have you heard about the mom (Australian celebrity Rachael Finch) who sends her child to grandma’s house every weekend? Leaving your child with a trusted sitter for 36 hours straight while you have some down time by yourself or with your mate… Sign me up!

Or how about the latest with Canada’s Prime Minister’s wife (Sophie Grégoire Trudeau) who publicly stated she needed more help to fulfill her role? But she doesn’t hold an official title and is expected to perform duties of such an office while also making public appearances with her husband and taking care of their three young children.

If these women were “real moms” they would be available for their children’s every need, be able to perform well at their jobs (unofficial or not), and keep their marriages intact. The one caveat is that to have it all they must do it all by themselves.

Before we feed these women to the unrelenting “real parents,” let’s consider that maybe they are doing the best that they can. The hardest thing to do is let your children go when you love them but you have nothing left to give.

Disclaimer: This isn’t one of those “I wish you were still little” letters about my children. This isn’t a post that diminishes your role as a mother by giving everyone and his brother’s cousin a best-mom ribbon nor a it’s-not-that-bad patronizing pat on the back . This is to you–you, in the trenches.

What’s a mom to do when the stomp-stomp of little feet sounds like the drumbeat of war and the shriek of “mommy” is the battle cry?

I have an ugly confession… This Mother’s Day, in a culmination of stress and defeat, I cried out “Happy Mother’s Day?!? Uh, I hate being a mom!”

But I love my boys. They are why I stay a mom. It’s not all fields of wildflowers and inspired projects and mind-blowing successes at potty training and the letters of the alphabet (in order). It’s the “failing” part that I hate.

I am painfully aware of how much I struggle at liking being a mom because I fall so short of some unspoken June Cleaver code of forever calm in heels with a plate of warm cookies in hand. In many ways, motherhood has helped me to find and define my voice because I’ve had to fight for it. I have to fight the guilt when leaving them with a trusted sitter or even my stellar husband, their dad… the haze of another sleepless night, whether I was taking care of them or working to provide for them… the sadness that a friend has miscarried or is dealing with infertility (and shame that I am not grateful enough).

Struggle is struggle no matter the cause.

Instead of pouncing on perceived weakness of others to boost our sense of accomplishment, we women need to try a new tactic. Let’s throw out the comparing and belittling. Let’s be a safe place for the boundaries of sanity and breakdowns from stress.

This is to you moms who mother–and everything else–the best you can. To you who are there and stay and refuse to give up, even if you struggle or have help along the way. Me, too. You struggle through because you love them. And let me tell you: it’s OK.

It’s OK that you struggle.

It’s OK to admit it.

And it’s OK to have help.

Hang in there.

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Honor, Mother: Beyond the Busy

What do you think of when you think of Mother’s Day? Maybe if you’re a Christian, the fifth commandment comes to mind.

Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. Exodus 20:12 (KJV)

Sounds noble, right? And you get rewarded. You can outwardly show honor to someone but still hold hate for them in your heart. And that’s not love. Is there honor without love? No, I don’t think so. Jesus honored and loved his mother.

He honored and loved her enough that he was willing to cause her pain to give her something greater, a savior. And while he suffered through that pain, he let her know that he did not forget her.

But standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He *said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then He *said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” From that hour the disciple took her into his own household.

John 19:25b-27

Jesus was a good son. Despite his pain and his mission, he looked after her. My own kiddos have kind of been… driving me crazy. I’m sure you’ve been there.

You have things to do…

deadlines to meet…

places to go…

people to greet.

So you do what you have to do to get through. Work through naps. Push through in the middle of the night though your head keeps dropping from lack of sleep. Tag-team it with your spouse. Call on grandma or a sitter. But this week has been one of those weeks. You do all that but you still have things to do. If only they would listen and calm down for a few minutes! You keep thinking to yourself. I need just a few minutes to focus on this.

For me, in the midst of all this trying to focus, and frankly frustration, my heart dropped. I wasn’t going to need just a few minutes because there’s always one more thing to do. And why would they listen to me, when I wasn’t listening to them all of the time. Yes, we have our designated times to run and play and read. Some of my responses (to everyone) during my focused moments leave a lot to be desired:

Yeah, just a minute…

Oh, that’s great.

Silence.

What I’m learning in this season of life is that it’s OK to be focused but it’s best to love. It’s a reminder to do more than the necessary. It’s a reminder to put aside my pain and my mission and honor others with my attention. So here’s to waking up out of the focus, and fog, of busyness.

Does Target Value the Sanctity of Life?

When I saw a beautiful little pregnant calico cat a few weeks ago, I had the sudden urge to scoop her up and take her home. Having grown up in rural America, I knew life was tough and fragile for barn cats. And sure enough, I learned a couple days ago that a bigger animal came along in the middle of the night and snuffed out the life of the new kittens and their momma. I burst into tears last night thinking about it. I wish I would have followed that prompting and taken her home. I wish I could have protected her and those three babies.

I don’t blog about headlines so what does that have to do with Target? This blog is more of my creative outlet for musings on life, my family and my faith. I’m not throwing down the gauntlet because I hate those who identify as transgender. My faith values the sanctity of life, the protection of the weak and that’s why I’m sharing my thoughts on this. I don’t want to look back after some horrible incident and regret my silence.

My faith values the sanctity of life, the protection of the weak…

Even if fathers start standing guard at the women’s restroom to prevent cases like this one, where an adult male accidentally entered the wrong restroom, will they feel the need to stop a boy? What about those teen girls shopping for clothes alone? My concern with Target’s new bathroom and dressing room policy, is that it won’t stop with Target. If there is little outcry, and this becomes standard operating procedure, major corporations, public venues (think children’s museum or zoo), and government facilities (read parks and schools) will follow suit.

I will absolutely continue to protect my children when I am with them, but what happens when the I am not? What happens on that field trip to the museum? What happens if school bathrooms become gender neutral? Trust me, it takes just one incident to haunt or at least color the perception of life for the person who is attacked.

This is bigger than gender identity.

When I ask if Target values the sanctity of life, I’m asking about the vulnerable. No, those who identify as transgender are not evil, nor are they the problem. (Men who sincerely identify as women through outward appearances are at risk with this policy, too.) The problem is people intent on doing evil who will take the opportunity to do so when it presents itself. This is bigger than gender identity. What about the children and women who are at risk for assault? Those who would have to live with the effects of an attack for the rest of their lives? We must speak up to protect their future.

There cannot be a free-for-all, as Target seems to now offer.

 

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I’m still that girl

Life is change. Whether it’s going to college, getting married or getting out, having kids or losing one, or breaking an addiction, whenever we experience a life-altering transition we change. While we can’t go back to the way life was, we still remain who we are. Layers of complexity swirl into our personality.

I’m that little preschool-aged girl whose father said “you could go to college,” which coincided with a night mom read a few stories to me.

I’m that girl who doesn’t know her way around a closet. I surprise myself (and not in a good way).

I prefer a plate of spaghetti and sauce over pretty much anything else. Followed by a bowl of vanilla ice cream with a drizzle (who am I kidding, dump it on!) of hot fudge.

I prefer a long walk in the woods or a book and a chair to a night out.

I’d rather sit on the banks watching the ducks than interacting with my peers.

I don’t know my way in to — or out of — a conversation.

But I organize a shopping cart like it’s nobody’s business.

I’m that girl who fell in love even though she swore she never would.

And I watch through the blinds to see if it’s him turning down the street.

I’m that girl who keeps the door closed because the world is just too much sometimes.

And even though I still like being alone most of the time, I still want to be held.

 

Life Stinks, Sing Anyway

Perhaps you read my last post about real life. Music has such an incredible power to reach us in our mess of life.

What is it about some songs that speak to the deep emotions–on both sides of the spectrum–that we feel? The lyrics bring us to that place of being able to acknowledge our emotion and take us through the process of speaking it to God.

You know the writers come from a place of experience. They didn’t take a sabbatical off to the woods or a seaside cottage before putting pen to paper. The words were written during everyday life, and so many were written from that desert place of pain, when they’ve tasted the bitter waters. And when played with a modern, yet acoustic sound, the music breaches our cultural boundaries and reaches the heart. Some of my favorites:

  • ‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus – The author wrote this in the years following her husband’s death. They had been married only a handful of years and had a small daughter when he died trying to rescue a drowning boy.
    • From my few years in the traditional, fundamental church setting as a young child. I had to search for the title because my soul was crying out this one phrase from the song: “Jesus, Jesus, Precious Jesus.”
  • It Is Well with My Soul – The author’s only son died and his business was destroyed by fire in the same year. Two years later, only his wife survived a shipwreck at sea; all four of their daughters died. The story is that he wrote the song while at the site of their deaths.
    • Another from way back when, but has been redone by modern bands.
  • Worn – This song from a contemporary band was prompted by the singer’s personal story and struggles as a father.
    • A few years ago, I hummed this song mercilessly to my inconsolable toddler while pacing the floor of his room during one of those many upon many sleepless nights (and fighting a tough battle with exhaustion while unknowingly pregnant with our second).
  • Trust in You – This young author, inspired by the words of Mother Teresa, penned this song while grieving the loss of her grandfather.
    • I think sometimes we get into this mindset that God is Santa God, passing out to us beautifully decked packages of everything we ever wanted but this mirage shatters when life steps into the picture. When we don’t receive the healing from chronic pain, when we keep failing, when we are deserted or betrayed, God is still there, in the midst of it all with us.

No, sometimes I can’t appreciate the beauty in a sunset, in my children’s smiles, or in a symphony but I’m learning that God wants me to trust Him enough to sing anyway. He still wants to hear our tear-cracked voices declaring that He is sovereign.

The Lord is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation.
~Psalm 118:14 (NASB)

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Let’s Get Real: Life Stinks Sometimes

Oh, let us count the ways:

  • neon blue highlighter on a white wall (seriously, nothing takes this off, I’m going to break out the white paint)
  • spending your bit of cash on that questionably-fresh bag of chips, which gets stuck on it’s way down
  • the husband’s out-of-town trips, be they through the week for business or a long weekend at the golf course
  • when all the best-laid, perfect-fit plans come crashing down because of one tertiary person’s stupid decision
  • that potential diagnosis spoken over you child but you have to wait months for assessment; and ironically it’s the one that your family of origin can’t seem to handle well
  • my constant failure to meet my own standards (the tub of blocks should be separated by brand for the love of all that is organized!)
  • and (drum roll, maestro!)… my bad attitude

Since connecting (after decades of being sheltered and self-imposed seclusion), I am realizing how messed up life is for everyone. God can still reveal wonderful truths to us in the mess but sometimes we don’t take the time to latch on to them. We continue to stumble through in the tried-and-untrue ways and feel the pressure. I’ve learned a couple of other things:

  • When our minds and hearts are in chaos, we must hand over those emotions to God or we risk causing more havoc when we share our woundedness with others.
  • We can’t pretend to be something we aren’t, but God… he can replace our jerkiness with joy.

Are you trying to handle situations and reactionary emotions or are you handing them over to God?

Most times I probably look like the person trying to shimmy the vending machine around to make the snacks fall out. And when I can’t get it to work out (and I never can), it’s a kick-the-stupid-thing kind of frustrating. When I don’t have answers or solutions, I remind myself (repeatedly) that God does and I should make space for the proper authority before I destroy something. And we just need to hang in there

‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope’ ~Jeremiah 29:11 (NASB)

He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus ~Philippians 1:6b (NASB)

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All that Glitters: 3 Easy Steps to Managing the Home

  1. Hire a cleaning service
  2. Schedule a visit from a home decluttering/organizing professional
  3. Find a personal assistant

Voilà! I have no idea if those will help because I haven’t tried them. When you’re living real life, professionals aren’t always in the budget. As you may have noticed, household management can be difficult.  I have tried to streamline the process through DIY organizing bins, checklists, meal plans, and schedules. It’s so much more fun to find or create and print and post the projects and spreadsheets than it is to keep up with them.

Like this cleaning schedule.  Inspired by someone else’s lovely chart, I created my own and posted it on the wall near the kitchen sink, you know, so I could determine what to do for the day while washing the morning dishes. It gained approval from visitors but let’s just say it’s no longer on the wall.

That’s why you’re not going to see many of these types of posts from me. I’m writing what I know (though I’m thinking of branching into up and coming sci-fi/dystopian parenthood scene). If something has worked long-term for me, I may share it, but it’s come about through a process of trial and error (like this list developed during my four years as a work from home mom, or WFHM (pronounced waf-um). And what I found to work may not in three-months’ time if a curve ball is thrown at schedule.

Let’s just stop self-flagellating with these lists. Yes, it’s tough to stop when someone is posting about how much their toddler’s behavior has improved after using a specific behavior chart (for a few days). Or when you see images of the sparking sinks and smiles. We think to ourselves “I want that.” That loving relationship. That clean house. That well-behaved child. That happiness. And we can be blinded to the beauty already in our lives.

We (and by “we” I mean “I”) have to remember that these are only the briefest of snapshots of cultivated scenes.

 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” ~Exodus 20:17 (NASB)

We don’t know what effort went into producing these charts and steps. For all we know, that poor woman was just pulling her hair out in frustration and hasn’t showered in a week. Or the only time she looked at her husband this week was during a counseling session. Or she’s so elated to find something that got her toddler to sleep for 30 minutes that she has to use that half hour to tell the world about it. Things are sometimes not what they seem…

All that glitters is not gold (a play on Tolkien’s “all that is gold does not glitter” from The Fellowship of the RingImage Source

But before this becomes a dirt-slinging session, let me get back to the point: We are not living our neighbors’ lives. Nor are they living ours.

But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. ~Galatians 6:4 (NASB)

We have to remember that it’s not necessarily the person but the source behind them. I know that any good that comes from my direction is a result of Christ.

why are you amazed at this, or why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk? […] And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all. ~Acts 3:11-16 (NASB)