Thursday, August 28, 2014

A case of "The Thursdays"

Cereal arranged by fiber content.  #sheldonalert
In college, Thursday was totally my jam.  Um, helloooooo??  Thursday was basically the new Friday, and we could all get our party pants on and head over to the Neon Cactus with our giant plastic mugs to rock it to some Britney and N'Sync and enjoy filling those mugs repeatedly with Long Island Iced Tea.  AHHHH, SWEET THURSDAY!!!  My adults self obviously didn't get the memo, as I am NO LONGER a Thursday person.  I get a case of the Thursdays every week, and here's how it goes. . .

Mon:  Yay!  A clean slate before me, allow me to rock this week and my ginormous to do list. . .
Tuesday:  Ahh, this is the life!  It's only Tuesday and everything is great!  Plenty of time left!
Wednesday:  I haven't really gotten much accomplished this week, but don't worry!  It's only Wednesday!  The week is still young!
Thursday:  CRAAAAAAPPPPPPP where did this week go?  Tomorrow is Friday??  PANIC!!  Despair!  Discouragement!!  AAAHHHHH!!!!

(Friday:  Oh, well, I'll just do it all next week.)

I don't know why, but my four kiddos are also not "Thursday People".  When everyone is whining, crying, laying around lethargically and moaning and generally just a hot mess, I can look at the clock and be sure it's 4:30 pm on a Thursday, and we are going to need to do some major deep breathing and powering through to get to dinnertime and bedtime.  It starts at breakfast most Thursdays, the tired and whiny voices of kiddos who know they still have two more days of structure before sweet, sweet weekend freedom.  Cereal box walls are built and tiny arguments start to form at the breakfast table over things like "He's looking at me!!!" or the relative fiber content of our four cereal selections.  It's not always like that, just Thursday for some reason, and it ain't pretty.

I maintain equanimity through the majority of the week, but Thursday morning usually finds me snapping at my Whinese-speaking kiddos during the breakfast rush.  So, this morning, I was determined to be aware of my triggers and make this day better.  I got up plenty early to shower and be fully made-up before my kids woke up.  Because, let's face it, I wear enough makeup to go to prom every day, and if I don't have it on I'm just not ready to go.  That's how I roll.  I woke the kids up with hugs and smiles and packed lunches that included notes (because I was informed that "MOMMY!!  THE OTHER KIDS HAVE NOTES!!!") but also was sure to include Bugles and Pudding Cups, because this mama knows what her boys love!

I was patting myself on the back when I looked at the oven clock at 7:35, knowing all my jobs were done and my kiddos were dressed and brushed and loved and peacefully enjoying some basement playtime.  However, I heard the early stages of "The Thursdays" beginning beneath my feet.  I can't remember the details if the next 20 minutes, but it involved way too much refereeing on my part.  I am a pretty peaceful parent for 10 minutes of a multi-child meltdown, but after that I start to lose my Zen.  Now, the meltdowns were all about something sweet, they had all decided to color, but the strife related to selecting appropriate coloring materials was multiplied times three cranky boys.  As we entered minute 20 and there was no end in sight, this mama just snapped.

"WOULD YOU STOP FREAKING OUT!!" (Now I recognize the irony of freaking out about freaking out!)  STOP IT!!  I CANNOT LISTEN TO IT ANYYYY MOORREEEE!!  Just figure it out and COLOR!  I have had ENOUGH!  DANIEL!  PHILIP!  JOSH!  ENOUGH!"

Now, the instant I lose my temper there is immediate remorse, but this morning it was even more so. (Side note- my own mom NEVER lost her temper with me.  How did she do that?)  I looked down at Noah, who was standing a few feet in front of me this entire time.  He was looking up at me with his sweet little 17-month-old face and his eyes were brimming with tears.  His lip was quivering.  His cheeks were red.  Eyebrows raised.  In short, he was terrified.  OF ME.  Then, to top it all of, he cried out, "Mommmyyyy????" as if he didn't even recognize the woman in front of him.  

I scooped him up in my arms to apologize.  Daniel shuffled off to the kitchen and I heard him getting each of his brothers a glass of water as I comforted Noah.  The bros sat in silence, sipping their water and coloring, as I rested my head on Noah's tiny shoulder in shame.  I shouldn't have to lose my patience to get my kids to listen to me.  I know better than that.  I am better than that.  I thought I had that all figured out. . .I woke up early, eliminated all of my triggers so I could be all ready for "The Thursdays."  I had it ALL. UNDER. CONTROL.  

Oh, wait.  I didn't have it all under control.  You know why?  Because IIIIIIIII was the one trying to do it all by myself.  See all of those "I"s in that paragraph above?  See me over there trying to figure everything out? Leaning on my own understanding? Enough time to put on prom-level makeup but not enough time to put myself before God?

Sometimes it takes a moment like that to bring the heart back to humility.  I did not have it all under control.  God has it all under control.  

From now on, I have some tweaks to my Thursday approach (after prom-level makeup time.)  First, breakfast will be served out of Crock-N-Rock cups.  It's Thursday.  Let's live it up.  But most importantly, I will take some time out to humble myself before God before the whole whirlwind begins, lest I be humbled again by a sweet toddler boy who just wants to know where his Mommy went.

I even wrote a prayer for it, a long while back, that I keep in my kitchen.  I need to pull it out every day, but especially on Thursday.  :) 

Dear Lord, walk with me today.
Help me to live with intention,
to live my vocation
with kindness,
humor,
and Love.

Help me to be patient with the needs of my children today,
no matter how small
they may seem.
Help me to remember that their needs
are your needs
and when I am serving them
I am serving You.

Help me to choose Love today
remembering that my words
can give life
or take it.
May I choose the words
that bring your Love.
May I choose the actions
that make your presence known
and honor your people.
May I make the most of the precious time
You have given me
to serve You on earth.
Let me be your hands and feet today
To everyone I meet, may I show kindness, mercy and Love,
Use me to do your will.

Now, if you will excuse me, I am off to get my Thursday kiddos off the bus and power through until dinner!!



Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Vantastic.



A few weeks ago on one of my numerous visits to the pharmacy, I came outside to find a sweet elderly lady circling my van.  
At this point as I was leaving CVS, I was super sick, running a fever and feeling generally awful. . .not to mention totally embarrassed that I was wearing no makeup, a dirty ponytail and for some reason in my feverish state I had selected short shorts and a t shirt to wear when it was about 64 degrees outside.  Feverish AND cold, not the best combo!  I was really kicking myself for the short shorts as I was grasping my paper bag full of antibiotic and cough syrup in one hand and pushing the toddler in the umbrella stroller with the other.
"Is this your van?"  She says, smiling sweetly with her white hair and trim white slacks to match.
When she asks me this question, I am inclined to think that. . .
A. Something substantial has fallen off of my vehicle or is leaking from the bottom of it.   
B.  I left my van door wide open for the entire hour I was in CVS.
C.  It is like on fire or something.
I hesitate. "Um, yes, that's my van?"  
After performing a quick scan I can see that, thankfully, no fire coming out of the bottom, and the door is closed. Perhaps this is a flat tire?  I can only imagine and I brace my hot/cold/dirty self for the news.
"Oh, WELL!!", she gushes, "It is just such a lovely COLOR!  I pulled in this parking spot and I have just been admiring it!"  
Me: (Speechless)
Now, if you have SEEN my van, you have probably not even noticed it.  I mean, I barely even notice it and I drive it every day.  No offense, Van.  It's not like I am embarrassed by my van, I really love it. . .it just sort of blends in to my life and I don't really spend a lot of time thinking about it.  ESPECIALLY not about its beauty! Our 2002 Chevy Venture is what the manufacturers like to call "bronze". . .which is just a fancy way to say sparkly brown.  We bought it from Paul's brother who bought it from Paul's parents. . .it's been a workhorse for this family to be sure!   It's got some rust accents on it, I'm not gonna lie. . .but from my extensive childhood Crayola experience I feel like rust and bronze kind of go together. And I can definitely say that this is the first time in four years that ANYONE has complimented me on my van.
So, comparing her comment to my impression of my van, I think I am somehow being punked, or maybe I am hallucinating, but the lady is so sweet and smiling I have to go around to her side of the van to see what she is referring to.
She continues. . ."I HAD to get out of my car and take a look at this lovely van!  What is this color CALLED????!!!!!"

"Um, Bronze?"

"Oh, well, I just LOVE it. . ." and as she continues to gush about my Venture I look over and notice her car is white (to match the pants and hair.) And kind of lovelier than my car. Definitely cleaner.  Mine is still covered with the half a million bugs we caught on the drive to Michigan last week.  "Oh, there is this little spot!" as she points to the substantial rust spot that has started rippling over my passenger side wheel well over this past (ridiculous) winter.  Her face starts to grow a little concerned as she pokes at it with her finger, like somehow the most glorious Bronze Van has been defiled, so I feel the need to, like, make her feel better about it.
Quickly, I jump to the van's defense.  "Um, yes, well, you know, um, it does have 150,000 miles on it.  But, it is just a little rust but it does hold all of my kids and get them places!"
"Oh, yes, well, isn't that so nice!", she beams at me again, "Bronze, you say?  Just lovely!  Well, you have a nice day now!"
"Um, you, too?!?" 
The sweet lady shuffles off into CVS and I get into my van still kind of confused from the entire exchange.  But, I noticed after that despite the fever and the shorts and lack of makeup, I drove that van a little taller.  And when I went out to my van (in another pharmacy parking lot later the same night) at sunset  I caught myself admiring it in its bronze glory.  Actually, I catch myself admiring my van a lot more lately.  Sometimes it just takes a fresh pair of perspectacles to help you see the things around you with new eyes.
Thank you, white slacks lady.  And not too shabby, old van.  Thank you for getting my kids from place to place, and for holding our whole family.  It's the people inside who make the van anyways, right?  


And, let me never forget that you are BRONZE.  


And aren't you lovely.  :)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Take me to Cloud Cuckoo Land.


I don't like to talk a lot about my oldest son's food allergies. 
After watching the Lego Movie approximately 16 times, I have decided that I might just be a little bit like Princess Unikitty.


"Any idea is a good idea except the non-happy ones. Those we push down deep inside where you'll never, ever, ever, EVER find them!"

Girl, I can SO relate!  And, hey, I like living in Cloud Cuckoo Land.   HAPPY THOUGHTS!!! POSITIVITY!!  No frowny faces!  No bushy mustaches!   I'm there!   If I don't think too hard about his allergies, all of those thoughts don't bring all of the feelings up to the surface. But, the summer brings lots of reminders of living with allergies- cookouts and picnics and playdates at the park and block parties galore- not to mention the annual trip to the allergist.  The poking, prodding and the dreaded waiting for the results.

So, last week I woke up and I just had this feeling that "today was going to be the day." 
The day the allergist letter comes in the mail.  
(dun, dun, duuuuunnnn. . .)
Even though the doctor says to give them 6 weeks and the appointment was just about three weeks ago, I could feel it.  The letter was coming.

Sure enough, when Philip was upstairs putting his laundry away and I ran out to check the mail and there it was.

My hands were shaking a bit when I opened it.  The allergist had given us some hope this year, citing that allergies to multiple foods were statistically very rare and he was doubtful that Phil would show a continuation of his allergy to eggs and tree nuts in addition to peanuts as he had in the past.

I unfolded the letter and scanned the numbers eagerly, looking for that magic zero somewhere.  My heart sank, all of the allergies were still there.  Still avoiding all peanuts, tree nuts and eggs.  Retest next year.  IgE levels, blah, blah, blah, business, business, business, numbers. Really, no change to our lifestyle, but I didn't want to have to tell my sweet little boy the news.  I went inside and puttered for a minute when I heard him from the stairwell.

"Hey, Mommy, did you get distracted?"

"No, buddy, I'm on my way.  I just had to check the mail.
Hey.
Your letter came today from the allergist."

"Oh?"

"Hey, Philly," (I took a deep breath and looked him in the eye.) "you didn't outgrow any of your allergies.  
The numbers are all still there.  
I'm really sorry. . .
I was really hoping that you would outgrow some."

"Yeah, me, too, Mommy."

I could tell he was trying to be brave, but his eyes were starting to well up with tears.  He was biting his lip and looking away, and his voice was starting to shake.  I put my arm around him as we sat there on the staircase.

"Sweetie, how do you feel about it?"

A tear slipped down his cheek.

"Sad.  I feel sad, Mommy.  It's just that eggs, eggs are in everything!  They are hiding everywhere.  I . . .I was just was really hoping I could outgrow it."

Underneath his sadness, I could also sense his anxiety.  Even though his nut allergy is so, so much more severe, the eggs are his first concern, because they are, as he puts it, "an ingredient."  You can't see it, smell it, or taste it to know the egg is there.  Plus, it is an ingredient in just about everything delicious Phil loves. . .cake, cookies, pancakes, muffins. . .the treats at basically every celebration everywhere.  And no matter how yummy and fabulous your mommy's egg-free baked goods are, Phil is old enough to know that he is different.   He has to wait for his special treat, ask questions, be on alert.  He handles it so well, but being different isn't always easy, and even at 7 he knows as much.  His eyes have welled up before asking me why he has to be different, and it breaks my mama heart.

As we sit on the steps, my arm around my sweet oldest boy, my heart is sad, too.  I have learned to live with the anxiety. . .that constant, underlying, on-edge feeling when we are any place new, any place with food, and place with people who don't know us, or, EEK!  All three.  I have learned to deal with the anxiety by being vigilant, being prepared, educating Phil and just praying to God to protect my sweet son.  Phil has many guardian angels right here on earth watching out for him, and for that we are so blessed. Daniel is his number one guardian angel and protector, and who better to look out for you than your brother and best friend?   But even though I can manage the fear, I was surprised by the sadness.  The sadness is new- I didn't have it when he was a baby or a toddler and he didn't understand the severity of his situation.  Just since he is older, and now he is starting to understand the weight of it.  He "gets it".  He has feelings about it, and when we talk about it my heart just absorbs all of those feelings.  His pain is my pain, his sadness. . .mine.  I guess this is what being a parent is all about.

But, being different teaches him important lessons, too.  He's wise, compassionate and insightful, and also the biggest little optimist I know.

"Well, Mommy," he says, as his voice starts to transition from wavering to chipper. . ."there's still a chance I can outgrow it, right?  Maybe next year!"

"Right Philly!" (even though I am not so sure, Princess Unikitty is going to jump right on board with that.)
"And you know what, maybe someday there will even be a cure!  And then you won't even have to worry about it at all."

"Really?"

"Yep."

"That would be great!  Now," (pointing at the swim trunks I have been holding in my other had this entire conversation) "are you going to go put Daddy's swimsuit away or what?"

"Yes,"
I laugh,
"let's go."

I reach out and feel his trusting hand in mine.  I clutch it as we go up the stairs, holding on just as tightly to the hope that things will be okay, and someday, yes, someday. . . they might be EVEN BETTER.  

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future
Jeremiah 29:11

Yep. I can hold onto that.

Friday, July 11, 2014

As sand through the hourglass. . .


"I am kind of sad Noah is a baby TODDLER now.  I kind of like normal babies better.  I wish I could keep him a baby forever, but he keeps growing."

Daniel made this observation as we watched little Noah toddle around the backyard this morning, arms out like a teeny Frankenstein, a joyful laugh as he navigated bumps in the landscape without a fall. He's growing so fast, as observed by my also growing-so-fast five year old whom we jokingly call "Great Dane-iel" when he tries to crawl into bed or onto a lap to cuddle.

And tomorrow, my baby boy, Phil, turns seven.  
SEVEN.  


My firstborn son, who changed my whole heart and my life forever with his entrance into the world, will be in big-kid land, the so-called "age of reason."  I feel nostalgic, of course, but also I have to admit I feel a little teeny bit robbed.  People bring it up as a conversation filler, "oh, yes, time goes so fast. . .blah-dee-blah. . .wow. . .he has grown. . .yada, yada" and as I nod and smile and agree my heart cries out, "SERIOUSLY!!!  YOU ARE NOT KIDDING!! WTF, TIME, WHERE DID YOU GOOOOO!!?????"

Since it is not really socially appropriate I don't normally say that part aloud, but I am totally confused by the passage of time.  I can't help but feel like someone deceived me.  Time seems to be slipping away faster and faster as the days go by.  A cruel trick like this can only have one man behind it. . .Stefano Demira.  
Just kidding.  But seriously.  Who is stealing the Days of our Lives?  TIIIIIIME???  WHY YOU PUNISH MEEEEEEE????

On one side I am bombarded by well meaning grocery store shoppers informing me to "enjoy this time, it goes so quickly" and self-help articles about "how to maximize your time" and a facebook feed full of sentimental blog posts about "oh, how precious it is!!" 
OH MY GOODNESS, how I know!!  My eyes fill with tears and I nod my head and I agree with every word spoken about time.  Yet all the while as I try to grasp it,  it slips all the faster through my hands.

Since the birth of baby Noah, it has only accelerated, pushing me into wistful tear-up mommy mode on a regular basis.  While days home on maternity leave with newborn Philip seemed to go on forever, I would feel as though I had just gotten Noah up from his nap and enjoyed merely a moment before it was time to set him down again.   When we got out the Christmas decorations last year, I had the strangest feeling like I had just put them away.  This is not me trying to be cute- NO, SERIOUSLY.  I had a freaky and off-putting moment, like, I just packed these, why am I getting them back out????  The last two weeks of kindergarten crept up on me so quickly and quietly that I had no idea they were coming until they were RIGHT there, staring me in the face, mocking my unchecked list of imagined adventures for our year.  Nails and hair are trimmed and grow again the moment they are cut, pants creep up above ankles that are no longer chubby, teeth fall and out and come right back in.    Faces change unnoticed until an old photo reminds you of the squishy cheeks, strings of drool, and wispy little curls that once graced them.

Of course, my boys are so beyond thrilled about growing.  My heart aches, and simultaneously bursts with pride as I witness it.  It's a joy that has a twinge of pain, that pain that comes any time we are involved in letting go.  Josh pumps himself on the swing and catches right up to his brothers, Noah bursts with joy as he climbs to the top of the playset, Daniel and Philip check out books on their own library cards and read to the younger boys.  My days are filled with, "Mommy, Look!  Look at me!  Look what I can do now!"  

Yet the look-at-me days that seemed so luxurious in my own childhood go by in a blur.  Most of my want-to's end up getting replaced by have-to's. . .my perfectionist tendencies draw me from the idyllic parenthood I hold in my mind.  .  .probably crafted for me by a Country Time Lemonade or Cheerios commercial years ago.  It seems that despite my best intentions, in the march of time I only manage to grab moments.  A glimpse of sun dancing in the backyard, a lullaby, a tender moment between two of my sons.  But, perhaps, that's why lemonade and cereal commercials are only 30 seconds in the first place, and that's really all I need.  I go back over and over to Glennon's "Don't Carpe Diem" post, which reminds me very much of one of my spiritual heroes, Henri Nouwen.  All in the fullness of time.  

"But sometimes we experience the fullness of time.  That is when it seems that time stands still, that past, present, and future become one; that everything is present where we are; and that God, we, and all that is have come together in total unity.   This is the experience of God's time. 

It is in the fullness of time that we meet God." - Henri Nouwen

Real time may slip by too quickly, but I will relish the moments where time stands still.  Where I meet God, and for just a moment, I get to hold Him as the clock slows.  He's cuddled in my arms as tears are wiped away, loving words are spoken into a mess of sweet blonde hair. That moment is savored before we part ways and I go back to my dishes and He to His Legos.  
Full.

My Philip too, was lamenting how quickly our time with Noah has gone just a few weeks ago.  "I wish we could just keep Noah a baby forever.  Then we could always have a baby.  I just love babies."

I nodded my head in agreement, imagining how much I also wanted to keep Philip little, too. Before I could speak, he went on. . .

"But, you know, some other babies might come into our lives, and we can enjoy them.  And someday (he gets a twinkle in his eye) WE will have babies, and then you will be a Nana!!" (twinkle turns to giant grin and we are both giggling. . .)

All in the fullness of time.



Happy Birthday, sweet Philip. :)


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

When your insides match your outsides. . .


Disclaimer: It is scary for me to put myself out there and share the following and admit some things below.  However, I feel like I owe it to others to be honest, because if I don't break my life open for others and share my struggles, I may never know who else is struggling, too.  I hope that this story is a gift to just one other person!  

You know how you carefully curate your facebook photos?   C'mon, you know you do it, too. ;)

Back in August, I was putting together my little facebook album for Daniel's 5th Birthday.  I caught a picture of myself and as I quickly cringed and tried to pass by it. . . I stopped.

All of the sudden, I realized what I was doing.  I mean, I like to be honest. Honesty is one of my husband's greatest traits, and something I respect and admire in him and others.  I believe what John Wooden said- character is who you are when no one is watching-  so I always make sure that what I represent in my facebook statuses is the real me- not just the happy and loving me, but also the me that is totally working on things in my heart, has a messy house, a dirty bathroom and four goofy kids that eat a lot of fish sticks and breakfast cereal.

HOWEVER, that keeping it real thing was totally not applying to my pictures.   Believe me, maybe only one or two photos of me from the waist down had appeared on Instagram or facebook post-baby, and that was intentional. . . I realized that I would rather post a picture of myself with my cowlick sticking up, food between my teeth and a huge booger coming out of my nose than a picture of my mid-section post-baby #4!   I was not going to be posting this in Daniel's birthday album!



 In fact, here is the VERY first picture of our entire family together.  Easter Sunday, Noah was 6 days old. This should be a JOY!!!  But I was too embarrassed to post it.  It still makes me sad to think of that!


The real low point came when I was at church, all dressed up with high heels and a dress and, of course, Spanx and control top pantyhose.  On this day, I was feeling like I was looking pretty good (my husband told me I was beautiful so that counts, right?) but as I went up to Communion the Eucharistic Minister placed her hand on my belly and gave the blessing of God to my empty uterus.  AAAHHHHHHH!!!!  Considering I have seen the same people at church every week for 20+ years, and Paul was holding a 5 month old Noah right in the back of the sanctuary, this was my wake-up call. 

"WAKE UP, JEN!!!"

It had been easy to put off because I love myself and on the inside, I was happier than I had ever been in my entire life.  The boys are so funny and such a blessing.  But I felt like I didn't have the energy to keep up with them, or, you know, any pants to wear in order to leave the house with them.  And you know what, kids deserve to leave the house, even if mommy's only pair of high-waisted leggings is in the wash. And even if mommy has been up late working and up all night with a baby. . .these four boys deserve to have my full love, patience and attention.  

Also, some of my friends were going through really huge struggles.  Struggles that made me just want to wrap them up in my arms and lift all of their burdens, and also made me realize that you don't know what is going to happen tomorrow.  As scary as it is to admit, thirty four may very well be it.  The very best time in my life.  I have all four of my living and breathing children right here with me who want nothing more than to sit in my lap and cuddle, a husband of ten years who adores me unconditionally, and we have wonderful siblings and all four of our parents right here close to us.  

THESE are the good old days, I am living them today.  

The days that are crazy right now but I will look back on them and think, "Damn, we were so blessed."  Even though we may never feel like we have enough time, or enough money. . . we have all of the people we love, loving us, right here.  What more do you need, Jen?  Seriously?  And what other body am I going to get other than this one to enjoy said life with?  Even though I can only show the physical parts of myself that I like on social media, I still have to take my actual, real body outside of my house every single day.  No amount of Spanx could hide the 30 extra pounds I was carrying around my waist, and quite frankly I was tired of trying to hide it.  The 30 pounds were keeping me from serving my family and friends the way I needed to.  It was weighing me down, both literally and figuratively.

It was time.  If you are at this point that I was, I hope you are blessed enough to have someone find you like my friend Stephanie found me.  Just take baby steps, take control, know you can do it.   You don't have to do it all at once, and you don't have to do it alone.  Stephanie had introduced me to AdvoCare, and after being a huge skeptic for an entire year, I told her I was FINALLY ready to do it.  I jumped on a 24 day challenge.  It worked for me because I had amazing energy I didn't have to count calories, and someone who has to count pennies and count whether they have their four kids with them all the time doesn't need to be counting calories!   To be fair, there are lots of ways to lose weight or to change your health and energy.  The biggest factor is not a product, but having someone that cares who will be right there to help you reach your goals and loves you just the way you are as you do it.  I hope that I can be that caring friend for someone else.  I know I am forever grateful to Stephanie for being that friend to me.

Fast forward a few months- I was loving my newfound energy and my new wardrobe (of my old pants), but I hadn't realized how much my outsides had changed until I was going through pictures of Noah's first birthday to post on facebook and saw this one.  It was a candid.  I wasn't wearing Spanx, and I was SITTING DOWN.  Six months ago, I would have cringed.  Or maybe cried to myself at night.  But when I saw it, I couldn't believe my eyes.  

I looked the way I felt on the inside.
And I am so grateful.


This Easter Sunday, we took a family picture.  I will treasure it always, but I will treasure the one from last year, too.  All five of my guys, right there with me.  The good old days, I am living them right now.







Wednesday, January 29, 2014

New Year's Resolution Slump? You're not alone.


"It's tempting to think "a little" isn't significant and that only "a lot" matters.  But most things that are important in life start very small and change very slowly, and they don't come with fanfare and bright lights." - Fred Rogers

photo credit: flickr
I love me some New Year's resolutions.  As a teacher, I got to experience them twice- professionally in August and personally in January. I have grown to crave that blank slate after the hustle and bustle of the holidays or the freedom and indulgence of summer.  But as with all things new, the honeymoon period wears off as the daily grind sets in. The papers pile up again, the crumbs accumulate in the corners of the kitchen counter, the slush dirties up the new running shoes and all of the sudden, friends, it is the end of January.  For many of us that can mean. . .ugh. . .New Year's Resolution Slump. If we aren't measuring up after a few weeks of effort input, we start to feel as though maybe we weren't cut out for this whole "change" after all.  My new year begins full of exciting ideas, plans to be better, grow spiritually, be healthier, waste less, want less, read more, learn a new skill, exercise daily. . .the list goes on.  And when I make up my mind to change, like most people, I want to do it RIGHT NOW.  

Um. . .
Did you hear me, God? 
Right now!!?
Help me grow. . .NOW!
Change my heart now.
Make me a better person. . .right now!

But here's the thing. 

There's no magic button to change a heart.  (Or become a better reader, or lose weight, or pray more. . .you get the picture.)
But we can take comfort in the fact that the whole year. . .and, in fact, or whole lives stretch before us.
There's no finish line.
It's not a race.
Every day is a new beginning.

So, whatever your New Year's Resolution is this year. . .take some comfort in the words below.  One of my faves shared it and I have been holding these words in my heart as I try to grow as a person this year.  I hope they help you, too.

The Slow Work of God

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.

And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.

Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.

Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ



You can join one of my favorite, and most encouraging bloggers in the whole world, Holley Gerth, here.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A winter with littles. . .

I don't remember a lot of vivid details about the winter when Phil was 3, Daniel was 2, and Josh was an infant, but I have but one clear image in my mind when I try.

I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror in our less-than-sparkling guest bathroom.    I was wearing sort of a misshapen purple tunic sweatshirt (to camo my extra baby pounds, of course), a gray tank top and and black leggings, all of it pretty much somehow stained or snotted on at some point since I had put it on that morning. I had spit up/chew marks on my baby-carrying shoulder where a 7 month old Josh had been teething on it.  I was barefoot, of course.  My mascara was smudged, hair in a messy side ponytail.  I remember stopping and squinting at my reflection in that mirror, and just thinking a little "Whaaaatttt happened to you, girl!!??" to myself before I ran off to clean up the next bodily fluid that was in my path or feed the next snack or dry the next tears.  Not in a mean way, just sort of a befuddled way. . .like, who is that person in the mirror?  Is that me?  The girl who used to wear sparkly jewelry and pantyhose and high heels every day and plan a month's worth of outfits on a CALENDAR?  

All of this motherhood still seemed so fresh and new.  One day with three tiny people that winter could sometimes feel like three put together, and when I fell into bed after mothering all day I felt pretty spent.  Plus, everything was gray and slushy and cold because it was winter. . . in the midwest.  This was also the winter that I cancelled all magazine subscriptions because they felt like too much pressure.  And all I can say is thank goodness Pinterest wasn't around to make me feel like an epic failure because no one was eating vegetables creatively shaped into zoo animals, reading scripture daily and reflecting on it or making leaf rubbings from native Indiana trees.  My house was full of snotty, giggly, teary, goofy, chubby-arm-and-legged boys with messy hair and mismatched socks watching excessive PBS kids.

There's a phrase I see going around on my facebook feed and blog posts, and the first time I saw it all I could think was- YES!!  

"Mama of Littles"  

Would that this phrase were around when I was knee deep in cloth diapers and Cheerio crumbs and lost pacifiers and endless Goodnight Moon!  I was one of those??!! If that phrase had been going around a few years ago, I would have felt like I was in a club!  A super-awesome club!  The "Mamas of Littles" club!  But, instead, I must admit as much as I love being a mom, I felt a little isolated during that period of my life.  And not intellectually stimulated.  And kind of sloppy and messy.  I felt like I never got much done, and I am an over-achiever, so that was killin' me.  I wish someone could have really showed me, during those few long "littles" winters, that I didn't have to enjoy every SINGLE moment, just grab a few and hold on to them.  Or told me how important and glorious that daily work is.  That's why it makes me so happy that so many mommy bloggers are telling mamas to give themselves a break.  Wiping boogies is grace.  Wiping booties- also grace.  Washing dishes- pure grace.  I am so happy to know that now, even if I didn't fully grasp it then.

I am never one to wish away a part of my life.  As the older boys grow, it gets harder in some ways, but also richer and more meaningful and more fun and beyond my wildest dreams hilarious and heartwarming and awesome.  Three years ago, I was cleaning up vomit and other bodily fluids off the floor nearly every day.  Now, people only really vomit when they are sick (knock on wood).  I was reading my kids the same board books over. . .and over. . .and over.  Now, I read my big kids CHAPTER BOOKS- ones that I loved when I was a kid!  We were tied to a nap schedule.  Now we drag the little guys along and they grab a nap in the car.  I had to constantly intervene to break up toy disputes or help with this or that train track piece or block, now they play together endlessly with no help from me.  I would talk TO my kids, but now I can really talk WITH my kids.  They ask me amazing questions.  Spiritual questions.  Science questions.  History questions. They give me insights into human nature.  They challenge me to learn new things.  They dress themselves and zip their own coats and brush their own teeth.  They say hilarious stuff and make me laugh until I cry.  They sing songs with me.  They help me clean up the toys.  They can PUSH THEMSELVES ON THE SWING.  Occasionally, they even wipe their OWN booties.  People, it gets easier.  And I know that there are other great things to come- like reading whole books to themselves, and taking family bike rides, and campouts and sleepovers and watching grown up movies together.  Someday, we'll even sit down and have a beer together, my all-grown-up men and I!  But I don't want to wish away the now- the sweet Kindergarteners who love stuffed animals and Angry Birds and Legos and still love cuddling with their mama and watching Sesame Street.   A sweet blonde head leaning on each shoulder while I read or watch TV has to be the best prize I have ever received in my entire life. I'll clean up a million cups of spilled milk and change a million diapers all over again for that.

So, "mamas of littles", hang in there this long, cold winter.  All my love to you. If you can relate, please do what I didn't do so well in the beginning- give that messy lookin' gal who doesn't get out much and her slightly disheveled children some grace.  A day will come very soon when you will look back and it will all be a mostly-happy-because-you-have-forgotten-all-the-details blur and you are a card-carrying lifetime member of the "Mama of Littles" club who earned her "I Survived a Midwestern Winter" badge.  I am granting you bragging rights for eternity for winter 2013-2014! 


P.S.
I even took some pictures during that period of my life. I enjoyed looking back on them all and noting that in every single one, my hair is in a side ponytail, I am wearing a sweatshirt, and my house is pretty much a mess.  As is my kids' hair.  I am pretty sure I didn't brush it all winter!  And even with all that I am still glad I took pictures! (and at this moment three years later, I am also wearing a tunic, and leggings.  And I am barefoot.  And my hair is in- you guessed it, in a ponytail. But I've grown into the look now, and at least in my mind I'm rockin' it. ;)



 
 
 
 
 
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