Posted in Family

If Mother’s Day is Hard for You #ISeeYouMama Week 2

This post right here goes out to anyone for whom the joy and celebration that is supposed to be Mother’s Day is mingled with pain, sadness, loss, or whatever is hurting your heart.   Whether you’re a mom or not, I see you this week.

I have a love/hate relationship with Mother’s Day.

On the one hand, I’m a big fan of days to celebrate stuff and honor people, I LOOOOVE celebrating stuff and honoring people.  It’s my favorite.

Me on Mother’s Day: 

IMG_3071.JPG

 

Yes, I love celebrating my mom, the moms in my life, and my family does a pretty good job of celebrating me.  Mother’s Day has always been pretty kind to me.

But on the other hand, Mother’s Day is not always kind to everyone- and if you know me, you know that I am NOT AT ALL A FAN of anything that is unkind.

Also Me on Mother’s Day:

giphy (9).gif

The way in which Mother’s Day can be painful for some people who deserve to have the day be happy, warm, and cozy is like a cold, hard, snowball in the face. I don’t like it at all.

If this is you, no matter who you are, I want to look you right in the face RIGHT FLIPPING NOW and tell you how much I wish I could fix whatever it is that makes this day so painful for you.  I want to hug you, sit with you and pour you coffee, tea, wine, or perhaps a punchy frozen umbrella drink that reminds you of a tropical vacay. I want to hold your hands and tell you that I see you and you’re not alone.

IMG_3075

Whatever it is that is burdening your heart today: the loss of a mom in your life, the loss of a child, separation from your mom or your child, the disappointment of an unfulfilling relationship with your mom or your child, pain and worry surrounding your mom or your child, a longing in your heart to be a mother that has gone unfulfilled, the delicate dance of being a stepmom- the list goes on and on.  Whatever it is, here is a hug from me.  I’m so, so sorry this is hard for you and you deserve a medal for getting through not only this day but through basically all of life carrying this burden.

And for what it’s worth, it matters to God, too.  God created our hearts and intended us to be a part of that loving, nurturing connection and the pain of that being taken from us in any way is something He sees.  Also, God lived here on this earth in the form of human who had a mother himself, he personally knew what it was to experience a mother’s love- and he knew what it was to see that mother suffer loss. I mean, we all know that Mary was VERY well-acquainted with grief. We also know that Jesus saw that grief, acknowledged it, and made a way for it. During the crucifixion, the following scene takes place between Jesus, his mother, and the disciple John:

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman,b here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. (John 19:25-27, NIV)

Jesus looked at his mother, saw her pain, and made a way for what the loss meant for her, making sure she was cared for by someone he trusted and loved. He could not take away that pain from her, but he saw it, he knew it, and he provided for it.

Each of us is dear to our Heavenly Father, God sees our pain and grief through the losses associated with the role of Mother in our lives and He will make a way for each of us in the way only He can. It may not be an easy journey and His way doesn’t always involve taking our pain away or fixing immediately the source of it, but it does involve His grace, His provision, and His promise NEVER to leave us.  We are not alone and we can count on being tenderly loved.

But, enough preaching.  This is #ISeeYouMama month, and each week we have homework.  So here is your homework for the week:

For yourself:  Be gentle and kind to yourself this week. Whatever Mother’s Day looks like for you, give yourself grace to process it in whatever way you need to. If you are a believer in God and Jesus person, spend some time alone with your God, open your heart, and let Him minister to those wounds that He knows intimately.  If you don’t believe like I do, lean into whatever belief system you have and draw strength from: pray, meditate, walk in nature, whatever heals your heart. And as always, I know my God listens, even if you and He are not super tight at the moment. You can always talk to Him no matter what. I promise. I know Him.  And yes, that was another Elf reference.

For Others:  Think about who in your life might need an extra hug this week.  To some, you may want to say the words, “I see you and I know how hard this must be for you.” For others, you may just want to do something to lift their spirits this week- send a funny card, take them out for coffee, whatever. You know your people, trust your instincts.

And if Mother’s Day is great for you, you run after that joy like it’s your JOB.  Enjoy the gift to it’s fullest, draw strength from it, let it soak into your soul and let the love ooze out of you in the weeks to come.  When we are coming from a place of the strength, joy, and wholeness God intended for us, we can share that love more easily- just as He intended.

Love and hugs, let’s be kind to ourselves and each other.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Family

Rosita Pig: #ISeeYouMama (A Case Study from “Sing”)

Ladies and Gentlewomen (and the two dudes who follow my blog), allow me to introduce to you Rosita Pig. 

Rosita

She may look familiar to some of you (specifically those of you who have seen the movie Sing), but for those who are not familiar with her, allow me to paint you a picture of our friend Rosita.

Rosita Q. Pig (I made up that middle initial) lives with her husband, Norman, and their 25 children in the suburbs of an animated city seemingly fashioned after Hollywood, CA. She is bright, witty, and talented- and she can SING!  Her favorite activities include belting Katy Perry’s “Firework” while washing dishes at the sink while her 25 kids fall all over one another at the breakfast table behind her. 

Despite her obvious talent, her days and nights consist of expertly managing the household  for her husband and copious children. Norman clearly loves her, but he is stressed out and exhausted from work, even falling asleep in an armchair before he can even hear her BIG NEWS about being chosen for a singing competition!!!!! 

Rosita’s main roadblock to participating in said singing competition is, of course, childcare. She tries to find a nanny, but…you know…she has 25 kids and it’s not easy to find a sitter.  Ever the resourceful, amazing creature that a mother is, she spends the night before the first rehearsal rigging an intricate system of pulleys, levers, and wires that would impress even Rube Goldberg himself that is designed to be able to do all of her household tasks for her in her absence.

The next day, her family awakens and goes about their business. Rosita’s systems function so efficiently and effectively that nobody even realizes she isn’t there.  They hear her voice on a tape recorder, have their food handed to them, their dishes washed, their lost keys located, and nobody even realizes that there’s no actual Rosita present. When she comes home at the end of the night and crawls into bed next to Norman, she asks how his day was. He tells her it was just another day, nothing different, “I don’t know how you do it all, honey.” Rosita gives a relieved smile and slips into exhausted, contented slumber.

Every time I watch “Sing,” I want to give Rosita a big hug, buy her a cup of coffee, stare deeply into her piggy eyes and say, “Oh, honey. I feel you. You are not alone.”

I, too, have wondered whether or not anyone would really notice or care if I wasn’t actually there as long as everything they needed was getting done.

I, too, have felt the disappointment and frustration of abandoning plans due to lack of childcare during the day.

I, too, have felt like there is absolutely no time for my dreams and talents and gifts amid everything everyone else NEEDS! FROM! ME!  UGGGGGH!

I, too, stand at my kitchen sink dreamily belting out ballads at the top of my lungs while my kids practically strangle each other at the breakfast table (except for me it’s Kari Jobe, “Foreeeeeeeeeeehver Heeeeeeeeeee is gloooooooooooorifiiiiiiiiiiiiiiied..”)

I have been there, Rosie, and you are not alone.

As a matter of fact, the entire reason the creators of “Sing” invented your character, Rosita, was because they knew so many folks out there would identify with you.

It is so easy to get lost in motherhood. There are a million reasons for it. Many of them are noble and good and represent the best of what we get to do as moms.  Some of them have to do with the circumstances of our lives, things that cause our jobs as moms to feel larger than life- special needs, tough schedules, challenging kids, absent or disengaged co-parents, the list is endless.

And it’s GOOD to give so much of ourselves to our families, it’s what we are called to.  But our families AND OURSELVES need us to hold on to who we are, to have an anchor in the endless sea of need and busyness that surround us.  We are stronger and more balanced when we are connected to who are are ASIDE from being Mom, when we feel valued and seen for WHO WE ARE and not just what we do for others.   And that’s what we are going to dig into this month, work on lifting ourselves and each other out of “Invisible Mom” status.

0

We may not all end up like our girl Rosita…and frankly, we may not want to.  I mean, I could totally see myself up on stage in a sparkly costume singing and dancing to Taylor Swift, but I know that’s not everyone’s jam.

 

So let’s start small, here’s some homework for this week:

-Reach out to a mom this week and let her know you see her. Tell her she’s doing a great job, compliment her on something you admire about her, ask her how something in her life is going- just let her know she’s not invisible to you.  Whether it’s a kind word at school pickup, a FB messenger message, a comment on Instagram, a text or phone call, A CARD IN THE MAIL, tell another mom she rocks and you like her. If you’re really ready to rock, do it for more than one person. 

-Take a few minutes this week and think about the things that make you feel the most like YOU! The things you’re good at, the things you find fun, the things that make you feel excited when you think about doing them.  Make a list of five things and put the list someplace where you can find it.

And I leave you with this final thought:  Even the smallest, most mundane things YOU do for your family- serving them dinner, changing diapers, ferrying them around to school and lessons and practices.  It matters to our kids that YOU are doing them.  Nobody else could do with their mom’s smile, their mom’s voice,  they way you smell, the way you pat them on the head and kiss their cheek.  You being there matters to them more than you- and probably they- even realize. It all counts, it all matters, even when it feels like it doesn’t.

Be kind to yourself this week.

 

 

Posted in Family

“I See You, Mama” Seeing Ourselves and Each Other this May

My Darling Sister-Mom,  have you ever felt invisible?

I’ll go ahead and answer that for you, yes you have.  I mean…you probably have. Have you?  Because I have.

My friend Leah put it like this:

“Today I felt invisible.

On three separate occasions, and three different times of the day as I was dropping off and picking up children, groceries, etc., cars just turned out in front of me or almost into me. Like they never saw me. Like I wasn’t even there.

And it got me thinking just how often I feel invisible.

Today I felt invisible. I swept the kitchen floor but my daughter pointed out the dirt on the bathroom floor.

Today I felt invisible as I watched my sleeping daughter with my hand on her chest as she coughed in her sleep, trying to ascertain if her cough was from allergy drainage or something more. Maybe *fingers crossed* we should skip dance class tonight? But no. She woke up and complained about the leotard she was wearing because the others were in the dirty laundry.

Today I felt invisible as I tried to pay bills holding my fourteen month old son in the throes of an ear infection. Over and over I heard the automated prompt: “I’m sorry, I didn’t understand you.” I will try again tomorrow. Maybe there won’t be so much “background noise.”

Today I felt invisible as I changed my EIGHTH poopy diaper (yay antibiotics) and complained to my husband via text that I felt like I was reaching my breaking point. He texted back the bill amount for his truck repairs.

Today I felt invisible as I showed up at my mom’s house, tired and done, handed her the baby, and she pointed out that he didn’t have socks on. And looked tired. Or hungry.

Today I felt invisible as I served nuggets and tots again. Because today was hard. As my days often are. Maybe tomorrow I’ll have it all together. I’ll get more rest than usual after collapsing into bed early tonight *if the stars align and my children don’t fight bedtime.* I’ll make time to wake up and wash my hair, put on makeup, cross one more thing off that never-ending, ever-growing to-do list. Maybe tomorrow someone will notice me.”

 Did you find yourself wanting to stand up and shout, “ME, TOO!” as you read that?  Did you also want track Leah down and hug her neck and shout, “I SEE YOU, MAMA! I SEE YOU AND YOU ARE AMAZING!!!!”

That’s what we’re going to do here together next month.  I mean- not all of us tracking Leah down and hugging her because that might be a little *awkward*.  Although if any of you happen to live near Leah and want to give her a hug for me, I’ll take it. We live across the country from one another and it’s SUCH a drag.

What we are gonna do is spend the month of Mother’s Day looking around us at the other moms and making a concerted, intentional effort to make them feel SEEN.  We are also going to make a concerted, intentional effort to allow ourselves to take up space in our own lives, to become visible, if only to ourselves.

As Moms, nobody knows the realness of our struggles quite like we do.  We are in a unique position to minister to each other’s hearts from a place of GETTING IT in a way that the rest of the world around us just doesn’t.  Who better to reach out to one another and lift each other up than us?

Now, not all moms are the same.  Not all moms are going to be in a place of feeling invisible and not all moms are going to respond to the same kinds of love that would make us feel uplifted.  But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

What it DOES mean is that the “homework” I hand out to y’all in the coming weeks does not need to be executed exactly as directed. You each need to put your own stamp on it and tweak it as-needed based on what you know about the moms around you.

But the end goal is the same:  To give another mom a moment of feeling SEEN in the middle of her invisibility.  It’s work worth doing.

So follow this blog, follow me over on Insta. And let’s do this thing. Let’s lift each other up, on a wing and a prayer. See you next week!

Posted in Family, Fun

“What U Workin’ With?” Sage wisdom from Justin Timberlake and Gwen Stefani

Are your kids as into the movie Trolls as mine are?  We are a little late to the party since we didn’t see it in the theater (because we can’t hold still that long yet), but we just got the DVD and although we are late, WE ARE VERY MUCH AT THE PARTY!

Kenzie runs through the house shouting “NO TROLL WEFF BEHINE!” multiple times daily.

And the soundtrack- OH, THE SOUNDTRACK!  Cam has it on his iPod and it’s become my go-to when I need TWO CONSECUTIVE SECONDS OF PEACE in the car.

It was just such a moment, one in  which the Trolls soundtrack was giving me a blessed break from sibling squabbles, that the most amazing lyric jumped out at me like a Bergen at Trollstice.

“What U Workin’ With” is basically a kid-friendly club anthem, the usual “move it and work it” narrative with family-safe spin. If you’re unfamiliar with the song, scroll to the end of the post and click “play” on the video and listen while you read.

But at the end of the bridge, Justin Timberlake drops the following truth bomb”

“It ain’t about, ain’t about, it ain’t about what you not. So what you workin’ with?”

Let that sink in for a moment…

giphy (5)

Thank you, Justin, for pausing with us.

But you guys, do you realize that that quote is EVERYTHING!?!?!

“It ain’t about what you not!  So what you workin’ with?”

Women, AND PARTICULARLY MOMS, spend an awful lot of time focusing on what we are not.  We aren’t organized enough, patient enough, skinny enough, put together enough, you name it.  There’s always SOMETHING that someone else is that we aren’t that we feel like we should be.

But how often do we stop to take inventory of what we ARE working with, the wonderful things that we- AND ONLY WE- offer to those around us often without realizing it? I know for me the answer is just about never.

We live in a performance-driven culture in which we are always being urged to move to the next thing, to be better, to do better and to keep our eyes on the prize. Self-help books and blogs, meetings with our supervisors at work, for teachers like me the ever-increasing standards for my students- it all pushes us upward, keeps us focused on what we could be doing better. I have a list a mile long of all of the things I’m not, all of the things I need to get better at, and all of the things I admire in others.

But that list doesn’t tell the whole story.  That list makes Gwen Stefani angry.

giphy (7)

BECAUSE IT AIN’T ABOUT WHAT I’M NOT!!!!

So…the existential question: what AM I workin’ with?

THAT is where my heart and mind should be dwelling.  THAT is what I should be focusing on and running after. Not the things that I’m not, but the things that I AM! What is it that I bring to the world, to my family, to the Justin Timberlake/Gwen Stefani dance party of life? If you’re like me and have a hard time finishing the sentence, “Well, I’m really good at _______” or “My best quality is ________,” then we may be better suited to approach it from the angle of, “I feel most like myself when I am _______________” or “________________ comes naturally to me.”

For those who are Bible-readers like me, scripture tells me that we are formed in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), God takes great delight in us (Zeph 3:17). I mean, I have to be actually pretty wonderful because GOD DOES NOT MAKE JUNK!

“IT AIN’T ABOUT WHAT YOU NOT, SO WHAT YOU WORKIN WITH?”

If we all wrapped our brains around that and worked to live into what we’re workin’ with and stopped worrying about what we’re not- can you imagine what that would look like, a world full of  moms who aren’t held down by thoughts of what we are not and are walking through the world basically throwing sparkle all over the place like that troll who sings in Autotune and toots glitter?

thumb_trolls_guy

Now, I’m not saying we should abandon self-improvement and ignore areas of opportunity for growth, that would not be helpful at all. But if we saw those things as ways to IMPROVE on what we are already workin’ with, ways to become even better versions of who we were created to be? The lies that the world has to tell us about not being enough would be SHUT DOWN and would hold no sway over us. NO SWAY, I SAY!!!!!!

So let us take the sage words of Stefani and Timberlake into the world with us this week, and the next, and the next. It’s not about what we aren’t, it’s about what we are. About what we, AND ONLY WE, are workin’ with as only we can.

Now please enjoy some tunes. And dance in front of a mirror. It’s good for you.

Posted in Family

Confessions of a Worn-Out Brick Wall

I’m exhausted today.  I mean…I’m the mom of two kids under five, I’m exhausted most days. But today, it has REALLY gotten to me and I’m just plum tuckered out.

It’s not like anything epic or out of the ordinary has happened in our lives, you couldn’t look at our days lately and pinpoint any one big thing that should have me feeling more worn down than usual. We’ve not been sick, our schedule has been normal, no big life events or crises have popped up in the last couple of weeks- and yet here I sit, absolutely exhausted and staring down the barrel of the week to come, lifting mine eyes unto the hills for the oomph it’s gonna take to launch myself into this next seven days.

What has me worn down at the moment is The Brick Wall Routine.  Every parent knows it, or at least they should.  It’s the one where we set a boundary or expectation and we hold fast to it despite an at times intense onslaught of pushback and testing. And when I say “at times,” I mean pretty much all the time with my older child. Not only is his attack on our defenses intense and calculated, his staying power is also remarkable.  I’m exhausted from day after day of basically re-enacting the Battle for Helm’s Deep from Lord of the Rings, with myself in the role of Theoden King and my kid as exactly all of the Uruk-hai.

imgres

Nobody told me it was gonna be this hard.  I mean, people certainly stressed for us the importance of setting boundaries and being consistent, and it was something I already believed in whole-heartedly  from a decade of teaching elementary school. I was prepared to be a hard-ass, both Jeff and I were.

What I was not prepared for was how exhausting the work of setting and teaching those boundaries would be.   I mean, I didn’t expect that we would never struggle. I harbored no illusions that my children would respond to my every correction with copious “mea culpas” and then immediately go forth and sin no more.  BUT I WAS NOT EVEN THE SLIGHTEST BIT PREPARED FOR HOW HARD MY KID WOULD PUSH BACK. AND FOR HOW LONG. AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN WITH EVERY SINGLE THING.  I did not realize what an endurance sport this would be. They don’t tell you about this ridiculousness in the parenting classes.

And to top it all of, I am SO MAD at my pre-kids self right now.  And embarrassed.

See, back in those days when I would would see kids running around in the grocery store or being loud or interrupting their parents, I would naively think to myself, “Tsk, tsk, tsk. If their parents didn’t stand for that it wouldn’t happen.”  I had NO IDEA that their parents were in fact probably not standing for it one little bit- but that it wouldn’t stop the kids from trying. Over and over. It never occurred to me HOW LONG window of time could be between the onset of the behavior and the final extinction of said behavior.  And that while some kids learn with just a few repetitions, there are others who have to try again and again and again and again to the exact same result before they FINALLY get the picture that whatever they were trying to make a THING was NOT going to happen.

imgres-1

 

SHAME ON PRE-KIDS ME FOR THINKING I KNEW EVEN ANYTHING  AT ALL ABOUT THE REALITIES OF PARENTING!

I mean, we’re making progress. We are. At almost five, we are seeing the fruits of our labors to some extent.  There are times these days when Cam will respond almost immediately to us shutting something down because he has seen in the past that we do indeed mean what we say and that it is in his best interest to just go with it.  But it doesn’t happen anywhere NEAR as often as it feels like we should have EARNED by now with all of our efforts- and also there are two of them now. On her own, she has a much more natural respect for boundaries and authority than he does. She’s loud and intense in the moment when something doesn’t go her way, but she gets the picture quickly by comparison.  When they get together, however, they completely tune me out and get so wrapped up in each other that it’s a whole new ball game. A LOUD ball game. A really, REALLY loud ball game.

The fact is that I am mostly just sharing all of this in the interest of venting my own frustrations, and also because I think there’s a solid chance that someone else out there might be going through the same thing. I can’t be the only parent who is bone-weary from standing firm amid what at times feels like a CONSTANT and UNYIELDING onslaught of pushback.

This is me basically giving a salute of solidarity to the other parents out there in the trenches, holding the line.  We are fighting the good fight. All the books, the experience,  and the inch-by-inch progress I’ve seen adding up in our family is showing that forth. And don’t get me wrong, there are indeed times we need to give grace, times a hug works better than a frown, and times we just plain need to take a different route to avoid the conflict altogether because the CONSTANT fighting isn’t good for our family either.  But in the end, the boundaries stay firm, the kids are better for it, and the parents drink #allthewine.  It’s Monday, “And so it begins….”

Posted in Faith, Family

The Sacredness of Struggle: REALness over REELness

Image result for the struggle is real

Picture it: Monday morning about 9:30, me dragging my doughy physique reluctantly into the gym, a scowl on my face and a complaint in my heart.  It had NOT been a good morning in momland- at least not in this mom’s land.  Not one but BOTH of my kids had melted down spectacularly in plain view at preschool drop-off  and goshdarnit I had to take one of the little balls of angst with me when I left because only one of them actually attends the preschool where they both melted down. Oy.

I was feeling the realness of the struggle that morning and it was NOT sitting well with me. As I sat stretching before my workout (a loathsome task that reminds me how painfully little flexibility I actually have in comparison to the yoga queens all around me), I allowed a little prayer to grudgingly escape my heart. I’d love to be able to say that I had leaned into the call to praise The Lord in all circumstances but really, this was more like me complaining to the only person around to listen. “UGH!  God why does it have to be HARD? I mean…am I not busting my rear end over here with these kids?  Like, I’m trying my hardest to raise them right- WHY CAN’T IT JUST BE EASY!”

Now, being that God is a WAY better parent than me, when I bring my complaints to him, he does not snap back that HE is not the complaint department and whatever has ruffled my feathers is NOT his fault so he could do with a little more respect from me, thank me very much.  No, he actually acts like he’s just grateful I finally decided to actually talk about it rather than walking around under a storm cloud like I’m Eeyore or something (Huh. Maybe should try that with my own kids sometime).

As I sat there with my hands barely clinging to my toes and my nose resting way, way, WAY above my knees, he poured out grace and mercy and understanding all over me.

“Mom life is hard because it’s supposed to be.  Without the struggle, why would you seek connection?”

 

My mind was instantly flooded with images of the moms I love so dearly, the ones I have connected with over their struggles and mine, and it was laid bare for me in those moments the way the realness of the struggle of raising baby humans is the glue that binds moms together.  I mean, this is true for humans in general.  Anyone who has walked through a challenging season in their marriage (or any other relationship) and come out the other side having worked things out can tell you how powerful struggle is when it comes to bonding humans to one another.  Even groups of strangers who are together during a traumatic experience tend to bond to one another.

But for moms, it feels like there’s something deeper there. Particularly in our culture of social media highlight reels, the Mommy Wars, and Something-to-Prove Motherhood, the struggle can nudge us toward deeper, deeply NEEDED levels of connection- the stuff that sisterhood is made of.

Struggle makes moms NEED one another in a way that abandons pretense and evokes authenticity.

It’s one thing to post a pic on Instagram of me and my mom friends out for some “desperately needed girl time!   #momsnightout  #lovethesegirls” and quite another to sit across the table or computer screen from them asking them what in the heck I’m doing wrong since I CANNOT get my child to stop hitting me.  The way my struggles have forced me to open up to my friends, to lay down my “got it all together” and to really be ministered to by their “me, toos” and their words of experience has bred an authenticity in our relationship that wouldn’t be there any other way.  I mean yeah, we need each other for companionship, release, and reminders that we are something OTHER than the sum of what the people we live with need from us. But when words of love and reassurance from other moms are all that stands between me and desolation and what pull me back from a place of desperation- the realness of THAT struggle is something sacred.

Struggle makes moms real and accessible to one another in world where highlight reels feel like the law of the land.

I remember the early days of motherhood where I would sit with my phone in my hand while nursing my son, stalking the Facebook profiles of the other women in my online moms’ group, CONVINCED that they had it all together and that Mrs. Hot Mess Express over here had  A LOT of work to do to get on their level and be worthy of their friendship.  Slowly, however, that began to change as these women shared their struggles and they began to seem a lot more like me.  This mom had a struggle in her marriage, that mom could NOT get her daughter to potty train, nursing just wasn’t working out for this mom’s second baby, how was that family going to pay the bills and why couldn’t this mom seem to keep her house clean.  It was through seeing that other moms struggled as well, seeing the REALness behind the REELness (if you catch my drift) made them seem like real people, folks I could be friends with.  I mean, some people may be drawn to the girl who seems to have it all together, but she intimidates the heck out of me and being in her presence makes all of my own warts seem larger than life.  If it weren’t for our struggles and SHARING those struggles, we might all walk around looking like the girl who’s got it all together, our sister-moms not feeling like they could draw near to us and become our friends.

As I awkwardly bumbled through the rest of my workout, I grudgingly gave way to a modicum gratitude for the things in my life as a mom that make it less than perfect. The things that cause me to lean on my sister-moms, the things that make us able to relate to one another, the things that make authenticity and the only option. I mean, I wish it didn’t have to be so hard, but I BELIEVE in the power of mom friendships and I’m grateful for whatever it is that makes them deeper and more plentiful.   I’ll take REALness over REELness any day- preschool meltdowns and all. But I would like to be able to touch my toes more easily.  Better get to work on that….

Posted in Family

The Hidden Cause of Fatigue for Moms (Spoiler Alert: It’s Our Kids)

“I don’t understand why I’m so exhausted all the time. I just don’t have any energy to do the things I want to do.  I feel like I’m failing at life right now…”

I hear my friends with kids saying stuff like this ALL THE TIME and I often feel like this myself. We are so tired and we don’t understand why. Some of us have had our thyroids checked, our vitamin levels tested, we’ve tried protein shakes, supplements, and any number of other things in an effort to get us more energy and we stand perplexed as to why we don’t seem to have energy for nights out, projects, working on our writing, whatever it is that we think we would like to do and just wind up too spent to even attempt it.

Well, I’m here with a little insight for all of us, ladies:

It’s because of our kids.

The reason we are so danged tired all of the danged time is because of our danged kids.

I mean, we know this deep down. We do.  It’s kind of obvious when you think about it. But it can be easy to forget when one is marching through one’s days, just doing what is asked of us, and yet seem to have zero energy to do anything that we used to enjoy doing. “Go work out,” they say. “Take up a hobby,” they tell us.  “Hey, honey…you wanna *wink-wink*” he asks.  And yet we are so bone tired that exactly all of those things sound about as appetizing as doing one of those ultra-marathons where you run 50 miles for “fun” (my apologies if you are one of those people who actually does consider an ultra-marathon to be fun- oh who am I kidding. Those people don’t have time to sit and read a blog about being tired).

It also doesn’t help that we are bombarded with both social media highlight reels AND media images of well-rested women who have children just like we do yet seem to be lilting through life with plenty of time for “self-care” and “mommy time” and for “date nights” with the “love of their life who is even handsomer than the very day we met.” (Ok, that IS ACTUALLY true of my husband. He *IS* even handsomer than the day we met- it’s the beard, I swear- but that doesn’t mean we have as much time for date nights as the Moms of Instagram seem to.)

So I’m here today, ladies, to give us a reality check.  To encourage each of us to take a realistic inventory of what is on our plates and agree to STOP BEATING OURSELVES UP FOR BEING TIRED AND NOT HAVING ANY ENERGY.

We are each of us doing motherhood under a unique set of circumstances exclusive only to us.  We have different life paths, different kids, different co-parents (or lack therof), our days and our nights look completely different. Some of us may be parenting in the midst of our own health challenges and some of us may have kids with special needs of one kind or another.

But the common denominator for all of us is that whatever we are doing in life, however and whenever we are doing it, we are having to do it with kids involved.  Kids who need things from us, look to us for EV. UH. REE. THING, who have all sorts of quirks, whose needs and behaviors are changing all the time.  Loud kids, kids who interrupt us, kids who try to outshout us when we are just trying to tell their father about our day.  Kids who zap excessive amounts of our energy just getting them out the door to go to the grocery store. Kids who all of a sudden wake up one day and decide that whatever we cook for dinner that week will NOT be their jam, even if they have loved it exactly ALL of the other times we have made it. Kids who refuse to do their homework.  Kids who fight with their siblings over toys they don’t even like JUST BECAUSE THEY CAN.  Kids who will do ALL OF THESE THINGS AND MORE even after we have made specific, concerted, and well-informed efforts to eradicate and redirect these behaviors.

And here’s the kicker:  These same kids are the ones that we miss to the core of our being when we do manage to get a break from them.  I swear, I get a weekend away with my girlfriends and the ENTIRE TIME I am getting this well-deserved break, I feel like my left arm is cut off and half of my heart is missing. Sigh…

Now, don’t get me wrong here.  We aren’t complaining.  Well, OK maybe we are sometimes. But my point here is not to say that being a mom is AWFUL or MISERABLE or any of those things. Being a mom is life-giving, it is a privilege and a blessing, many of us waited a long time to get to do it and most of us wouldn’t trade it for the whole world. But that doesn’t change the fact that it is A LOT and it can be INTENSE and DRAINING and can leave our bodies feeling depleted even as it fills up our hearts to bursting.

I’m also not saying that we shouldn’t try to do things to combat our fatigue.  Working in time for self-care is IMPORTANT.  Perfecting our routines and procedures to make things easier on all of us is pretty much the only way to get through life in general. And if you suspect there might actually be something compromising your health then get your tail to the doctor RIGHFLIPPINGNOW to get it checked out.

My point here is to gut check us, my sisters, to help us make sure we aren’t placing unrealistic expectations on ourselves (who, us? Surely not…)  As much as we might like to compare Pre-Kids Us to Mom Us, that isn’t always possible.  Personally, I feel like I’m still exactly the same person I was before I had kids, but my LIFE is so much different now with more pressing and immediate demands being placed on me all of the danged time that I can’t hold myself to the same standards as I did before.  I did used to have all of this time and energy to do stuff. I really did.  But life is different now- better in so many ways, but different.

And I trust that it won’t always be this way for me. One day these babies of mine will be up and grown and I will have all of this time to myself, whether or not I want it. I’m sure there will be moments when I would give up all the sleep in the world to have them right next to me, even if they refused to hold still even for HALF A SECOND as they do right now.

So I’ll take exhausted and worn-out me right now. I’ll give her some grace, try to keep my expectations of her realistic, and give her the room to just enjoy these years that I will never get back.  I will try to find more time to do things I love, I will take good care of myself and never stop trying to make our life run as smoothly as possible. But I won’t beat myself up for being tired- and don’t you do it either. I’m serious.  Be nice to you.

 

Posted in Faith, Family

On Surrender: A Kitchen Epiphany

Do you ever have those moments where God uses your kids (or anything else for that matter) to smack you upside the head with an object lesson?  Well, this morning that happened to me, right there at the kitchen island after breakfast.

Cam and Kenzie had finished their Cheerios and were doodling in coloring books and dry erase boards while I puttered around the kitchen, still trying to render  myself fully awake (I may have mentioned before that I’m not a morning person. If you missed it, here that is.)

I wheeled around at the sound of an instantaneous cry of desperation from Kenzie.

“Can you fix it, my board?”  She said tearily.

I walked over to the counter to find that her dry erase board had shed its pink plastic border, which didn’t impede the functionality at all but still feels like a crisis when you’re two and you think you’ve broken something.

fullsizerender-2

“Sure, honey! I’ll bet I can fix that!” I replied reassuringly, as I walked over to where she was seated to take the board from her and commence the motherly magic that would restore her board to its glory and basically save her morning from the clutches of disaster. You know, like the superhero she still thinks I am.

Apparently Kenzie’s plan for getting the board fixed and mine did not jive.

“NONONONONONONO!  No teekee board!”  She objected as I tried to take the board out of her hand to fix it.

OK, I thought to myself, sometimes we can fix things while they are still in the kids’ hands.

A quick assessment of the jigsaw puzzle of 8 separate pieces that made up the plastic border to this board led me to the conclusion that this was NOT one of those times.

“Honey,” I replied in exasperation, “I can’t fix it if you don’t let me have it.”

As soon as the words left my mouth, here came God with nudge and a chuckle, “YOU SEE?!?!?! DO YOU SEE HOW IT WORKS? I can’t fix it unless you let me have it #boomgoesthedynamite.”  (I totally think God can use hashtags, by the way.  I mean, why wouldn’t He?   He abides in all things that are, have been, and are to come.  #NoExceptions)

He also drew my mind to the DOZENS of times that similar things have happened with Mister Cameron, aka Clutch McGrabbyhands.  Cam has always been insanely handsy and has to touch ALLTHETHINGS and learn everything about them.   He wants to know how everything works, fix things himself, and it can be physically hard for him to let things go, even when it’s clear it needs a grownup’s touch, because he wants so badly to figure it out himself.

I wish I could say that this interaction with God yielded a broad-stroked epiphany, that I am forever changed, and I descended from the mountaintop with a stone tablet-worthy list of “Top Ten Failproof Ways to Surrender It All to God.” Wouldn’t that be nice?  Unfortunately that is not so much the case. Not even a little bit.

What it did give me was yet another reminder of the importance of surrender- and also a loving and perfect acknowledgement that my Father in Heaven knows how hard that can be for me.  He is infinitely more perfect and loving than we are, so as tender as I can feel toward Kenzie as she sat heartbroken over her fractured dry erase board, and toward Cam who just DESPERATELY wants to figure things out for himself, I can multiply that times infinity when I picture Him seeing me holding fractured and broken pieces that I just want to put back together somehow.  As always, when God convicts me, it felt like a warm breeze that lifted me up on its wings even has it opened my eyes to a way I can do better in my walk with Him.

But it also came with what felt like the heavenly equivalent of that look I give Cam when I need him to know that I mean business.  Like, “I love you so much, but SRSLY,  you need to get on this.”  I hadn’t figured on “surrender” as my word for this week- I’ve been much more focused on things like “diligence” and “perseverance” lately. But isn’t it just like God to sharpen my focus to something that is less about me and more about Him?

So, I’m going to go forth into this week focusing on surrender.  Surrrrrrrrennnnnnnderrrrr. Let it roll off the tongue and sink into my heart.  Relax. Sit back.  Make like Elsa and let it go, knowing that as I let things pass out of my hands, they rise to infinitely more capable hands, hands that can make sense of things that to me are a jumble, hands that can bring order out of chaos and beauty from ashes, and hands that can tenderly and lovingly minister to my wounds and my needs as only a parent can. If I come up with any stone tablet-worthy epiphanies, I promise y’all will be the first to know- but don’t hold your breath 😉

 

 

Posted in Family

The REAL Reasons My Toddler is Crying

One of my girlfriends just posted on FB that her just-turned-two-year-old daughter, whom she calls The Nugget, is crying over everything these days. I cackled aloud to myself and could not comment fast enough.

Her Nugget and my Kenzie were born within hours of each other two years ago.  We were in labor at the same time and while the girls have different birth dates, the difference is only a matter of hours.  The uncanny similarities continue because seriously, K is crying over everything these days. Ev. Uh. Ree. Thing.  Some days feel like a never ending loop of the iconic “LEAVE BRITNEY ALONE!”  video that circulated the internet several years ago.

giphy (4).gif

#ReasonsMyToddlerIsCrying is a hashtag that has been circulating social media at least since Cam became a toddler three years ago and I’m quite certain it was around long before that Check out some of the posts over on Twitter.

So, this is what the rundown of #ReasonsMyToddlerIsCrying looks like in our world right now:

  • Because I asked her not to play with the blinds.
  • Because she wanted to take her jacket off.
  • Because her jacket was all of a sudden off and she wanted it back on.
  • Because her jacket was on.
  • Because Daddy had to take the markers away (after she colored on the couch).
  • Because I wanted to take her picture.

FullSizeRender (1)

“NONONONONONONONO!  NO TEEKEE PICTURE!!!!”

  • Because I didn’t take her picture.
  • Because Daddy wouldn’t let her frolic freely in the street.
  • Because she was done with her milk.
  • Because I took the milk cup.

You get the picture.  Ev. Uh. Ree. Thing.

It’s intense to try to parent that.  Nap time came 45 minutes early today just because we couldn’t hear each other talk over all of the crying- and bless his heart, we have an entire other child we are trying to parent amid all of the crying.

But here is the thing:  As hard as it is to parent the sporadic geyser of emotion that is my newly minted two-year-old, it has GOT to be more difficult to BE the newly-minted two-year-old.

Because near as I can figure, here are the REAL #ReasonsMyToddlerIsCrying:

  • Because her body can now do all kinds of new things and it’s overwhelming.
  • Because her brain can now process all kinds of new things and it’s overwhelming.
  • Because now she has feelings that Mommy can’t fix by nursing or changing her diaper and it’s overwhelming.
  • Because even though she can now do #allthethings, it turns out there are certain things that she should not do and it’s overwhelming.
  • Because being told that she can’t do things gives her ALL OF THE FEELINGS and it’s overwhelming.
  • Because some of the things she tries to do make Mommy and Daddy act angry or scared and that’s overwhelming.
  • Because AGAIN WITH ALL THE FEELINGS!!! What are these things?  AND WHY CANT YOU JUST FIX IT LIKE YOU COULD WHEN I WAS A BABY, MOM!!?!? #overwhelming

Basically,  the #1 reason my toddler is crying is because it is really overwhelming to be a toddler.

All of a sudden you can do new things, feel new things, you are not equipped with coping skills yet, and it’s pretty darned intense. I would assert that #toddlering is even harder than #adulting- and we all know how hard #adulting is.

The magnitude of the grip toddlerhood has on my kids has been driven home for me these past few weeks as Mister Cameron has neared the to 4 1/2 mark (his half birthday is in a week). As I have watched him begin to emerge from the developmental sh*tstorm of toddler/preschoolhood, I have seen his happiness go up and his time spent in crisis go waaaaaay down.  He is able to make more sense of the world and of his feelings, he has a better grip on how to process things- of course it’s not fully formed yet, is it ever really? How many adults have complete working understandings of their emotions and how to flawlessly process all of them?  I can name at least one who doesn’t and her name is me. But the impact that even a small modicum of emotional intelligence and developmental maturity has had on his happiness is astounding.

So I feel like right now, my job is just to dig deep, pour another glass of wine, and just sit with my daughter in her two-ness.  And also to remember that

“Because I am failing as a mom” is NOT on the list of #reasonsmytoddleriscrying

Being a toddler is just plain hard and there’s no way I can take that away. As a matter of fact, the things she REALLY needs from me right now will probably result in MORE tears instead of fewer in the short term. She needs me to teach her how the world works, set boundaries, keep her away from unsafe things no matter how fun they may seem to her, give gentle consequences, help her understand authority.

But she also needs me to do all of that with a large portion of tenderness, patience, and just plain PRESENCE with her as she processes. She needs me to sit with her as she cries, name emotions, explain it all for the eleventy billionth time, help her find appropriate and healthy ways to gain the control over her own life that she both needs and deserves. I have read in books and blogs that it goes A LONG WAY for kids to hear us say that we see them and we hear what they are saying and that has been true for both of our kids.

“Kenzie, I see that you’re upset because you wanted to play with the scissors.   It’s ok to be mad that mommy took it away, but I had do it to keep you safe. Let’s find something else to play with.”

And I’m not saying I #nailit all the time with this. The fact being a toddler is harder than parenting one does not negate how hard the parenting is.  A full marathon is harder than a half, but a half is still REALLY, REALLY difficult.  This is my second kid and I feel like I’m only a couple steps ahead of where I was at the first. But I’m committed to trying, are you? Here, girl, let me open another bottle of wine. And let’s start another comment feed about #reasonsmytoddleriscrying because we NEED the laughter and the knowledge that we are not in this alone.

PS  She just walked in and is now crying because the sandal she took off is now off of her feet.  Wine me. <3

 

Posted in Family

Less-than-Perfect Mom Moments- and How We’re Still #nailingit Anyway!

IMG_9880

In an online moms group I’m in there exists a mythical award called the “MOTY Trophy.”  M.O.T.Y. stands for Mother of the Year and I imagine it to be a gleaming, golden cup overflowing with sarcasm and self-deprecation because it has absolutely nothing to do with our finest parenting moments. As a matter of fact, the MOTY Trophy is reserved for the face-palm and gut-punch moments of motherhood where we feel we have missed the mark and are not feeling too proud of ourselves.

MOTY-worthy moments can range from the giggle-inducing to the downright painful to both body and soul.  But the common theme seems to be that they all tap into the deep sense of regret we feel as moms whenever we have been less than perfect when it comes to our kids.  At times it can seem just the teeeeeeeeensiest bit absurd, is cereal for breakfast REALLY a parenting failure? At my house my kids would find that to be the best bit of mom-work I had done all day.  But sometimes it can be deeper than that and really leave us questioning whether we’ve TRULY been slacking on the job and have let our kids down.

giphy (3)

“Pass the MOTY Trophy, y’all, my nine-month-old just rolled off the bed and bonked her head.”

“YOU GUYS!  I feel like Mother of the Year over here, my kid has actual eczema and all this time I thought it was just a little rash…”

“I feel like a horrible mom, I yelled at my kid tonight…definitely needing the MOTY Trophy over here.”

My very own personal MOTY highlight reel includes but is not limited to:

-Both of my children rolling off the bed as infants, one time (ok, more than one time) when my back was turned and another (or two) when I just couldn’t move fast enough.

-COMPLETELY missing that Kenzie had torticollis until her pediatrician caught it at her two-month checkup (it was SO! OBVIOUS! How did I not catch this?)

FullSizeRender

2-month-old Kenzie with that DECIDED crick in her neck from Torticollis.  
All her pics look like this. HOW DID I NOT SEE IT!!!
(Also, FOOTBALL LEGGINGS!)

-Newborn Cameron taking three weeks to get back to birth weight because of breastfeeding struggles.

-A call to poison control because Kenzie had grabbed a handful of my thyroid meds, shoved them in her mouth, and chomped down AS I WAS DRYING HER HAIR!  What the heck was I doing having synthroid bottle doing with the lid not locked and how did I miss that she had picked it up when she was RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME?!?!?

-Smacking Cam’s arm pretty hard out of instinct when he hit me in face while strapping him into his carseat

-Other less-then-ideal reactions (read: white-hot rage) to Mister Cameron’s uniquely irksome brand of boundary-pushing and indignant determination.

-Taking Cam in for a croupy cough only to have the doc tell me she was far more interested in the doozy of a rash on his face which he needed prescription ointment for that I had thought was just from drool and had been vaselining all day (turns out that made it worse).

-Way, way, waaaaaaaaaay too much screen time.

-Even more screen time.

-And did I mention the screen time?

But after four years of watching my own MOTY moments and seeing those of others in our online mommysphere, I’ve come to realize that sometimes those moments in which we see a tear in our Supermom Cape can also yield our finest hours, if we are willing to let them.

First of all, it’s a chance for us to set an example for our kids of how to do life in the real world.  We are not raising them for a perfect life, they will stumble along their own ways as well and if they’ve never seen healthy responses or had imperfection normalized for them, imagine how much harder it will be when their time comes. We can model for them the art of NOT taking themselves so seriously, picking themselves up when they stumble, and getting creative in order to find solutions and make things right. They can see that even Mommy’s feelings get the better of her sometimes and when we treat someone we love badly, we acknowledge our mistakes, say we’re sorry, and make a plan for how to do better next time.  We also are building an arsenal of anecdotes to share with our kids when (God-willing, right?) they become parents themselves and are facing their first moments of self-doubt and discouragement.

These moments also allow us to shore up and invest in other moms.  I have seen AT LEAST half a dozen “HOW DID I MISS THIS” MOTY posts specifically about Torticollis since we went through it with Kenzie and I’ve been able to jump in and say, “Girl, me too. TOTALLY missed it. But here you’re a GREAT mom and baby is so lucky to have you. Also, here are some encouraging before and after pics J ” I never would have had the privilege of connecting with that mom in that moment if I hadn’t walked through that MOTY moment myself.  I also remember other moms investing in me when I was struggling to nurse Cam in the early days, their imperfect journeys normalized mine for me and gave me the courage and determination to keep going.

You guys, I don’t even think it would even be helpful if we were perfect moms all the time. Resilience and empathy are EXPERT-LEVEL life skills that we should be doggedly pursuing for ourselves and modeling for our kids and MOTY moments are prime opportunities to live into that.  So, my fellow moms, let us go forth and bravely screw it all up, OK, maybe we shouldn’t be quite THAT brazen.  How about instead we go forth and do the best we can and learn to embrace the teachable moments that are the screw-ups of motherhood.  You can also join me in praying that my MOTY moments never get TOO big because I promise you that it is only by the grace of God that mine haven’t ever been bigger than we could come back from. But let’s trust ourselves and our fellow moms, pursue resilience, empathy, and authenticity, and keep celebrating and lifting each other up as we pass around the MOTY Trophy.