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.
Your letter came today from the allergist."


"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."



"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?"

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.  

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.  

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. 


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! 

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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Thursday, December 5, 2013


A few weeks ago, Paul and I had been enjoying a little too much fun time with the kids and had not been enforcing any sort of clean up of the Lego area in the basement.  I feel like it is really important for the kids to have an area where they can just "be" and not have to clean up after themselves constantly- work on their project, leave it, come back to it, be messy, just pretend.  When the Legos were in our family room, that didn't happen because we had to clean them up every night- which when you have tired kids (and many of them) can sometimes be quite the struggle!  The day we moved the Legos to our basement was a happy, happy day. . .but even then, the kids do have to clean them up occasionally, like the other week when there were definitely about 4 Legos in a box and 4,000 Legos on the floor.  So, we pumped ourselves up, pep talked, put on some Queen for "Queen Up Time" and sat down as a family with the best of intentions to clean the Legos.   Well begun is half done, right? Noah was in his Exersaucer, providing a lovely soundtrack of crashing toys, Josh was in charge of the wheels (and mostly forgetting), Phil was cleaning diligently and Daniel was, well, Daniel.  D picks up a Lego, but before he can even put it in a box, his mind is swept away by all of the SHEER POSSIBILITIES of this tiny piece.  What could it be?  What could I turn it into?  What creation could I add this to?  Isn't this Lego funny?  Let me tell you a story about it.  Where is the minifig that goes with this?  What was I supposed to be cleaning up, anyways??  By the time several hundred Legos were boxed away and Daniel had only managed to clean about five of them (one per three gentle reminders to stay on task), Paul looked at me with a raised eyebrow and said, "You deal with him.  I am going to looooose it."

You have to understand, D is not TRYING to avoid cleaning up the Legos.  He doesn't mean to be this way.  He's like our little absent minded professor. . .always dreaming and spilling his milk and tripping over things and drawing amazing pictures and thinking of great stories and jokes and always the last one out the door with his coat unzipped and one shoe half on.   Being the insightful little buddy he is, he seems to get this about himself. . .but sometimes Mommy and Daddy can use a reminder!  So, since it is important that both parents don't lose it at the same time and it was my turn to not lose it, I worked very hard to be patient with him and said, "D. . .honey. . .do I have to yell at you to clean up the Legos?  Why do you not listen when I ask you nicely?  Do I have to get angry with you for you to clean?"  

And he looks at me and drops the knowledge bomb.

"Mommy.  You and I just have DIFFERENT BRAINS.  My brain thinks about Angry Birds.  And Star Wars.  And Legos.  Aaaaand Lego.com.  And Batman.  Your brain is a mommy brain.  It thinks about cleaning and washing dishes and, like, taking care of kids.  We just have different brains."  

(And of course, since this was Daniel talking, it was accompanied by his adorable raspy voice, excessive hand gestures and Legos are most definitewy Wegos.)

Daniel gets it.  We do have different brains.  Different priorities.  Daniel is hardwired for creativity and play.  I am more likely to think about keeping the baby safe and Cheerios off the floor and dishes in the dishwasher and checking things off my to-do list.  Someone has to do it, of course, but I think our kids can be a powerful reminder of how we used to be and how we could still be if we freed our minds just a lil' bit.

And just in case I didn't get the lesson, the same thing happened when he was telling me about school the other day.  A friend wasn't letting him play and was leaving him out (because his name starts with the letter D, you know, the obvious reasons. ;).  I was getting a little indignant and asked him why he thought his friend acted like that, and he simply said in a completely Zen tone, "Mommy, he just has a different brain than me."  What I love about D is that he just accepts that.  He doesn't condone the way his friend acted, or think that he would ever act that way.  He understands that different people just, well, think DIFFERENTLY.  We all have different brains.  Different experiences.  Different ways of being in the world.  And even if we don't always agree, that's OK.

I think as adults it can really be easy to get stuck in our own my-way-or-the-highway mentality.  Daniel reminds me that I need to accept and appreciate that about all of the people who cross my path- starting with the people closest to me!  Sometimes I can come at my kids or my husband from a place of criticism of what they aren't doing, instead of a place of appreciation for the gifts that make them unique and amazing.  And just a quick glance at any comment section of pretty much ANY article on the internet shows that many adults approach life with a preeeeetttyyyyyy critical eye, unlike the littlest members of our society, who simply appreciate.   I am pretty sure Jesus called us to take a cue from our kiddos here.  

Less criticism.
More wonder.
Less judging.
More loving.
Less trying to change others.
More appreciating their differences.

If there weren't a bunch of different brains out there, the world would be a pretty boring place.  We can't really change other people's brains, but we can change our own hearts. . .and bring more simple, childlike Love into the world. 

Thanks for the reminder, Sunny D- just in time for Christmas, when Perfect Love came to Earth as a child.

(One of my favorite pictures of D at age 2, taken by my sis.  I love the wonder of little kids, and this just about sums it up for me.)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Neighborly Wisdom- Specially Prized

I have this fantastic book, by my favorite superhero. . .Many Ways to Say I Love You, Wisdom for Parents and Children from Mister Rogers. . .and if you don't mind I think I will just continue to write a few things about the quotes in the book. Just because I kind of love it and want to share it with the world.  So. . .here's another that cut straight to the core of me!

"Young boys and girls don't really want their mothers and fathers all to themselves all of the time, but they do long for the feeling of being best-loved and most beautiful and specially prized at least some of the time."

- Fred Rogers

For the first 10 years of my life, I was an only child.  I had all of the attention and love of the grown-ups on my life. . .all to myself.  It was awesome.  Then, when my sister was born, I was old enough to not feel jealous at all and just think, once again, it was awesome. . .because now I had a cute little kid sister to show off everywhere I went.  Shoot, I am STILL showing off my kid sister and bragging about her everywhere I go!

Look at me!!  Look how specially prized I am. . .I AM IN A BUBBLE!!!  OVER MY PARENTS' HEADS!!

So, of course, when I had kids of my own I had the expectation that I would be giving them lots of attention and one-on-one time.  However, as baby boy after baby boy arrived in a span of a few short years, I was faced with a challenge I was not really prepared for.  It wasn't the extra laundry or extra time spent cleaning up bodily fluids or the extra dishes to try to artfully arrange in my dishwasher so I never actually have to actually touch them with a sponge.  The greatest challenge has been one within myself. . .and that is how, in the busy, hectic, rushing-ahead whirlwind of time and things to do and people to see and lists to check and noses to wipe and meals to plan and shop and prepare and serve and clean- 

to SEE my children

really SEE them
as individuals
instead of as "the boys".  

When we found out we were expecting a fourth boy, I was actually relieved!  Another BOY!!  They are still 'the boys'- WHEW!  Sometimes it is easy for me to feel like a mother duck, herding my little ducklings from one place to another.  If Noah could walk I think I really would look like one (especially since I have a small problem with dressing my kids in matching outfits).  

But here's the thing. . .God gave me four UNIQUE SPECIAL SOULS to love and guide and cherish.  They have their own thoughts and feelings and passions and interests.  They are truly little presents waiting to be unwrapped.  I have so much to learn about each of them!  But at times it can be more convenient for me to see them as a mass of kids. . .a group of boys needing an activity to keep them busy, an assembly line to bathe and dress and toothbrush and read and kiss and send to bed. . .a line of plates to fill and then have emptied into waiting bellies, scraped in the trash and brought to the dishwasher. Sometimes I can get more concerned with the end result. . .quiet kids, sleeping kids, fed kids. . .that I forget about the fact that God didn't give me these kids to manage or organize.  He gave them to me to nurture.  And the end result has less to do with the efficiency of bedtime and more to do with who they become as adults.  If one is more quiet, or dragging behind, or having a hard time falling asleep, or has a tummy ache, or can't get their shirt on, or is bursting to tell me a story, or needs an extra cuddle, who am I to deny them my attention just because I have three others to attend to as well?  What teachable moment will I miss out on, what chance to build relationship will I allow to pass me by, what opportunity to serve and love will I deny if I simply brush them off or snap at them because they have stepped out of our routine or are keeping me from executing my previously envisioned plan (or they happened to be the unlucky one who spilled the thing that pushed me over the edge or woke me up for the fifth time in three hours?)

So, friends, this has become my challenge to myself.  God in His perfect vision sees my boys as the individuals He created them to be.  They see themselves as individuals every moment of every day. They have one Mommy, and that's me. . .even though I have four of them.  Now, I can't forgo all of our household routines and expectations and procedures and rhythms of our life, because those are an important part of our sanity and our stability as a family.  I also recognize that I can't heap unreasonable expectations on myself and my time, that fair doesn't necessarily mean the same for everyone. . .and that they have the added benefit of attention from each other every second of the day, not to mention amazing grandparents, caring neighbors and friends, and wonderful teachers and playmates to shower them with love.  

There is no way to give them all of my attention all of the time, however. . .

I WILL be more careful to listen when they are talking to me either with their behavior or their facial expressions or their words.   I am going to stop and listen more, to REALLY listen, when one of my little buddies seems to be struggling to have his best day.

I WILL carve out those moments where each one gets to feel the most "specially prized."  I will verbalize the things I notice about them, ask them questions, take just one to the grocery store with me and be present to them.

I WILL take notice when I am starting to fray a bit around the edges and try not to snap at the one little guy who just happens to be the unlucky one who pulls the last thread.  :)  

I WILL be more aware that they are Philip, Daniel, Joshua and Noah as well as "The Boys".  Their place in our family is an important part of who they are, but it is not all of who they are.  It is my job to recognize both.

Everyone deserves to feel seen, heard and loved.  I will give that to my own children, so that as a family we can give it to the world.

"We need to try to show our children that we love and value them.  By doing so, we can help them learn that there is much in the world to love and value as well. . .and that goes for the people in it, too."

-Fred Rogers