Thursday, December 5, 2013

Appreciate.

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



Friday, September 20, 2013

5 Minute Friday- She

On Fridays, a group of writers gather to share their thoughts on a single word. Today's 5 Minute Friday prompt is "She".  Thanks again for another beautiful one, Lisa-Jo! Thinking about my Darlin today and missing her as always.



She

She would have been 90 years old tomorrow.  It's been three years since we said goodbye, and I miss her every day.  Her smile.  Her laugh.  Her whiskey voice.

She made me feel like the most important person in the world.

She loved high heels, Estee Lauder perfume, and the Blessed Mother.
She prayed for me.
She played tea party with me.
She could bake better than anyone I know.
She thought I looked like Cindy Crawford and sang like Julie Andrews.  I doesn't matter if neither of these things are true, because in her mind, they were.
She taught me how to play cards.  How to cook chicken.  How to chop a green pepper.  How to make a Jello mold.  How to pray the rosary.  How to be a friend.

She was my best friend, after all.

She let me drink Diet Pepsi and watch Night Court and wear tanning oil and eat as many pretzels as I wanted.
When I was four.
She taught me that preparing food is all about how you present it.  Or giving a gift, or anything lovely for that matter.
She always wore nylons.
She told me stories.  We laughed and listened and cried and laughed some more.  And watched Jeopardy, and did the crossword.
We still did all of those things together until the very end.

She smoked for a long time.

I used to try to steal her cigarettes.  When I was six, I took all of them out of a crumpled gold soft pack and replaced them with 20 rolled up pieces of paper that said, "I love you" and "Don't smoke!"
She quit.
She started again.
She covered it up with the Estee Lauder perfume.  :)
We called her out.
She quit again for good.
She still got lung cancer.  Cancer sucks.

I miss her every day.
She made me feel like the most important person in the world.  She thought I was beautiful and lovely and smart and funny and stylish and wonderful and bright.
And because of her, I was.
She was.

STOP


 
 
 
 
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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Count.


During my years at Purdue, my girlfriends and I made many, many trips to the mall.  They always included 
A.  The juniors department and Clinique counter at L.S. Ayres  
B.  Bath and Body Works for some sun ripened raspberry body glitter or whatever we were into at the time and 
C. A trip to the Hallmark store to stock up on pansy-themed goodness.  

Being Tri Deltas, we were obsessed with all things pansy, and one of my favorite Hallmark store items was a pansy-covered plaque with this quote. . .

Count your garden by the flowers, Never by the leaves that fall. Count your days by golden hours, Don't remember clouds at all. Count your nights by stars, not shadows. Count your years with smiles, not tears. Count your blessings, not your troubles. Count your age by friends, not years.
~Anon


I still get a little bit choked up when I read it.  Just like one of my other college faves, the song "Seasons of Love" from Rent. . .how do we measure a life?  (Spoiler alert. . .it's lo-o-o-oooooooo-ove.)

As a part of our human nature, we tend to like to quantify, count, measure and mark the things that make up our day-to-day existence.  We spend about 20 years in the incredibly quantitative environment of "school", measuring our age by the half-year and ourselves on our grades and our class rank and our number of credit hours or test scores or clubs or awards or medals or athletic achievements.  Then we are thrown into the slightly less quantitative world of adulthood,  where the measurement isn't always handed to us on a daily basis. . .so maybe we start to measure our own things. . .our mile running time or our number of facebook friends/twitter followers/instagram likes or our salary or our advanced degrees.  Success is measured in a completed work project, a pound lost, a promotion earned, a new car, an award, an engagement ring.  Check, check, check.  Maybe our age is measured a little less closely (I am not sure the last person I met who claimed to be 37 1/2 years old) but, still, we try to count it all.  I am not saying all of this measuring is always right or always wrong, just sayin'. . . it's a part of our human nature.

Then, enter parenthood.  What on earth are you going to measure here?  I learned pretty quickly that starting to count the accomplishments of parenthood in a day can get a little bit depressing. . .15 dirty diapers, 5 loads of laundry, 42 dirty dishes, 8 times through goodnight moon, 60 minutes of Elmo's world, 22 times up and down the stairs to put a pacifier in someone's mouth, 3 vomit messes cleaned up, 5 times up in the middle of the night, 4 hours and 30 minutes of sleep, 1 shower this week. . .well, you get the picture.  Quantifying the world of a parent can get you pretty down.  Or, even worse, it can get you stressed out!  Did I nurse 15 minutes on each side?  Is he saying 20 words?  Did I read to them for 30 minutes today?  How much screen time did they have? (or grams of protein or number of playdates or hours of sleep. . .you get the picture.)

Then, one day I was scouring a parenting book trying to get to the bottom of one of my little guys something-or-other sleep issue he was going through, when I saw a line in a section on the need to take it easy on yourself in the area of measuring sleep and counting feedings that stopped me cold. . .something to the effect of "Do you count the number of kisses you give to your baby?"

Crap.

You got me, lady.

Um, well of course I don't!!  Gosh, if I did, I bet he gets about 500 a day. . .I am kissing those sweet little cheeks nonstop!!?  This one line changed my whole perspective on parenting.  It was time to stop quantifying.  If I am not going to count the number of kisses or hugs or snuggles or tackles or giggles or sweet smiles or deep breaths in of baby smell or high fives or toys cleaned up with no fuss, then I have no need or business to be counting anything else.

Not the dishes, loads of laundry, middle of night trips to the bathroom, hours of missed sleep.  Not the diapers changed or shirts folded or Legos stepped on or countertops wiped down.

I am calling out the numbers for what they are. . .tyrannical jerks.

And It. Feels. Awesome.

Now I try my best to stick to the simple counting- one-two-three-four- got 'em all?  OK!  Let's go!  

And not worry about the other counting, like EXACTLY how many pounds I haven't lost since Noah was born (because even estimating about it gets me stressed) or how many times Paul got up in the middle of the night vs. how many times I got up in the middle of the night. . .yep, an awesome side effect of not quantifying is that my marriage benefits as well.  If I don't count, I can't keep score, and that is the surest way to more love in yo' life.  And now that I recognize data for the collective jerk that it is, I can tell when it is creeping back in.  I can pretty much guarantee any time I feel like I am getting stressed, or starting to lose my patience with my kids, or teetering on the edge of insanity it is because numbers are trying to creep their way back into my head.  "You only have one more day to get this work project done!" , "The kids are up 20 minutes past their bedtime!", "If we don't hurry up we are going to be 15 minutes late!"

A few weeks ago I called Paul in the midst of a mental breakdown about an electric bill, and I've definitely caught myself saying to the kids more than once, "How many times have I told you to. . .", so I am definitely not cured by any means.  But I am trying harder every day to count the things that count.

The golden hours.
 
The smiles.
 
The blessings.
 
The friends.
 
The flowers.
 
The stars.
 
The good stuff. :)


Love.




Photo credits- Pansies by cbransto via flickr, bottom image by Raw Sugar Photography. . .any other images that look good are by my wonderful hubs, he's got skills
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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Five Minute Friday- Story

Ohhhhkkaaaayyy- better late than never!!  We were on vacation, but if you make a promise to yourself you had BETTER keep it, so now I am back and ready to do my 5 minutes on Lisa Jo's prompt this week- STORY.  And can I just say how much I love Five Minute Friday?  I just love reading everyone's takes on the same work and so many times thinking, "me, too!  me, too!!"  And that sort of brings me to what I was thinking today!


Story

I don't remember much at all about when Philip and Daniel were babies.  Less than 13 months apart, I call my sweet little D money (who just turned 5, by the way!) the best surprise of my whole life.  But as sweet and easy of a baby as he was. . .well, I did have two babies.  So I don't remember much at all.  But one day, I do remember.  SOOOO clearly.  Daniel was about 2 or 3 months old, and this might have even been before Phil was diagnosed with his life threatening food allergies so we were dealing with a lot of vomiting on top of oh, you know, probably molars coming in and other toddler stuff.  And on top of it, Daniel was so super fussy this day.  SO super fussy.  Later that afternoon, after his eardrum burst, I figured it all out. . .but early in this afternoon ear infection wasn't on the radar and I was just wondering what had happened to my sweet baby.  In fact, I might have just been wondering what had happened to my LIFE.  I finally coaxed Phil into a nap at about 2 and bounced Daniel to sleep in the Moby wrap at the same time and had a few minutes to myself.  I was thinking about maybe eating some chocolate, or just crying for a while, but then for some reason I sat down at the computer.  And I googled. . ."Babies really close in age" or something brilliant like that.

BAM.

In that moment, a whole world opened to me.  First of all, I discovered that having two under two has a name apparently, it is called "Baby Bunching" and some people actually plan that.  Who knew?  ;) I also discovered in the fact that it had a name, that I was sooooooo not alone.  And not only that, wonder of wonders, I discovered blogs.  I had honestly never read any blogs before besides the ones my friends kept to post pics of their kids before we all started using facebook, and oh. my. goodness.  My eyes were opened.  I started reading these ladies' stories, pouring their hearts out, walking the same walk that I was and thinking, "Yes, yes, oh my goodness, yes!!  I laughed out loud at their stories in the midst of my exhaustion and despair.  I was alone in my basement with nothing but babies and a cat and a huge mess of laundry and toys, but all of the sudden, I was NOT alone.  Their stories reached right through my screen and brought me home to myself.  Everything was going to be OK.

I was not, in fact, alone.

This is what we do when we share our stories. . .we break our lives open to one another, and bring each other in, and it is SO, SO good.  So, blog ladies everywhere, THANK YOU!!  Whether you get picked to be on the parenting page of Huffington Post, or only your mom reads your blog, or somewhere in between. . .your stories are awesome, and you matter.  And someday, somewhere, some desperate young mama in her basement is going to stumble across your honest, open heart and you are going to bring the body of Christ to her right there.  Write on, sisters!!

Write on.

Friday, July 26, 2013

5 Minute Friday- Broken


Lisa Jo's FMF link up is on facebook this week because her amazing post she wrote on love this week apparently crashed some servers or something!!  Check it out.  It's awesome.

So, the word this week is Broken!  A familiar one.  When you have a house full of boys, the fact of the matter is- things break.  Lots of things.  On a regular basis.  That leaves the lady of the house with a few choices. . .lose it or deal with it.  It took me a while to come to the conclusion that #2 was the best way to handle this aspect of my pretty much daily life, and this is when it happened. . .

Broken

I am in the kitchen, putting together some dinosaur shaped sandwiches for my little ones.  Daniel is 3, Philip is 4, and Josh is 1.  This is pretty easy peasy because at this tiny age, the sandwich cutter makes three sandwiches!  2 dinosaurs for the big boys and the crust leftover for the non-discriminating toddler.  Have  I mentioned what an awesome mom I am lately?  Crust for lunch!?? The counter is cluttered as it always is when I am trying to "cook" (and I am going to use that term loosely because really I am just making a turkey sandwich for pete's sake) and the sun is pouring in my window and puddling on the crumb speckled floor.  I am pretty sure I got distracted by the sun or the crumbs and my thoughts or nodded off at the sink or something because before I knew it Word World or Super Why or whatever was over and three tiny friends were bounding into the kitchen looking for lunch.  As I snapped to it and started to scramble to get food on their little plates for them to get into their little bellies, Daniel picks up the sandwich cutter off the counter, turns around, holds it up in the air and just. . .lets. . .go.

Crack.

And the dino sandwich cutter is extinct just like that.  Remember I said I had two choices?  Well, this time I made the lesser choice.  I just lost it on poor, sweet, unsuspecting Daniel over a broken sandwich cutter.  Get down in your face pointing and scolding and angry "lost it".  Seriously?  Now, on one hand I felt pretty justified because Daniel does impulsive things on a regular basis and sometimes it gets a little old.  But on the other hand his heart is gold and his intent is good and sometimes it just gets a little mixed up.  Did I really need to YELL about a broken sandwich cutter?  Did he need to be shamed over that?  If seeing if something can bounce (yeah, that was his reason) is shameful we might need to look again at our definition of shame.  By the time the boys sat down at the table and I walked away for a moment and had all of these thoughts, I came back to find my little friends at the table, eating quietly.  I looked at Daniel with a humble heart and I said, "Sweetie, I am really sorry for yelling at you about that.  I forgive you for breaking my sandwich cutter."

And my little blonde angel of a three year old looks at me with his big blue eyes and says, "Mommy, it's OK.  I forgive you for breaking my heart."  Aaaaaaaaaand then my heart broke.  In a million little pieces.  And I grabbed his little shoulders and I hugged him like I never wanted to let go.

I come back to that moment often.  We have four kids.  And I am really clumsy myself.  Life is messy. Things break, but I never want to break their little hearts, or their little spirits, or my fellowship with them over something like a $5 piece of plastic or a cup of spilled milk or a broken toy or a dish or whatever it is that day.  I'm not saying I don't still lose it every once in a while, because, hey, we're all human here, but if I do I sure do want to ask forgiveness.  Grateful to kids who freely give it to broken me!

(Now, if you want a REALLY good one on brokenness, read my sister's post from last year where she guest posted on Story Fork (a community engaging global disability)

http://blog.99balloons.org/imperfect-vessels-3/

She's pretty awesome.  :)

Friday, July 19, 2013

Five Minute Friday- Belong



So, Lisa Jo's 5 minute Friday is BELONG.  I love it!!  What a powerful word!!  So many emotions!  So beautiful!  I am sure I have so many profound things to say!!  

Or, the only thing that popped into my head is this. . .


Making your way in the world today takes everything you've got. 

Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot. 



Wouldn't you like to get away? 



Sometimes you want to go 



Where everybody knows your name, 
and they're always glad you came. 
You wanna be where you can see, 
our troubles are all the same 
You wanna be where everybody knows 
Your name. 



You wanna go where people know, 
people are all the same, 
You wanna go where everybody knows 
your name.


Yeah.  The theme song from Cheers.  But isn't that what we all want?  Doesn't everybody just need one place to go. . .a living room, a dorm room, a church, a bar, a person's arms. . .where they feel that deep down inside, people are all the same?  Because that's what belonging is, after all.  It's you with me and me with you and we have more in common on the inside than is different about us on the outside.  I need you and you need me and together "WE" are more than one of us alone.  I am me because you are you.  So, let's be together.  And lift each other up.  Laugh and cry together.  Heck, I'll even yell your name when you walk in the door!!  Wow, the more I think about it. . .the Body of Christ sure is a lot like Cheers!!  Let's be Cheers to one another folks.  Make yourself a Cheers for the world!!!  Greet people with love, be their safe place, offer them a manhattan (or just a listening ear I am sure would do) when they feel like a crappy mom, like Sam does for Lilith in the awesome clip below.   I am pretty sure Christ told us. . .people ARE all the same.  And that recognition is how real belonging begins.

Cheers!!


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4L_vWpTAra8

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Neighborly Widsom- Cope.

As I was looking for a devotional to share with our MOMS group at church this week, I was flipping through one of my favorite books on parenting by one of my favorite people EV-AH to walk the face of the earth, Fred Rogers.  I came across this page and it struck a chord with me, and maybe it will for you, too!

"Society is asking so much of parents and caregivers in today's world: "Make sure your child is safe and healthy"; "Develop routines"; "Set Limits"; "Read to your child each night at bedtime"; "Help your child feel secure and loved." And all that is added to the other things we are already doing in our lives.  Many adults feel that they are falling short in one, if not all, of the "assignments" of their lives.  They often feel they are failures.
Well, people are not failures if they are doing the best they can.  If parents are managing to cover most of the important bases most of the time, they have every reason to feel good about who they are and what they're doing.  Our performance doesn't have to be measured against anyone else's- just against our own abilities to cope."

 - Fred Rogers (from the book Many Ways to Say I Love You: Wisdom for Parents and Children from Mister Rogers)

Do you hear that, friends?  MOST of the bases MOST of the time.  Not all of the bases all of the time, or some of the bases all of the time, or all of the bases most of the time. . .just, you know, your personal best.  Most of it.  Most of the time.  No absolutes.  With some extra grace to fill in the gaps.  If it comes from the man in the zipper sweater, I consider it to be absolute truth, so I need to take these words and put them in my heart.

You see, I have a disease.  Maybe you have it, too.  That disease is perfectionism.  I used to think that perfectionism was a good trait. . .I like to do things right!  ALL THE TIME!!  What's wrong with that?  Until I realized that there is a whole lot wrong with that.  It's one thing to have high standards for yourself, and it is another to beat yourself up when you don't meet those high standards.  It is one thing to like to do things right, it is completely another to not be able to enjoy or appreciate the things in your life because you feel like you failed to get them "just right".

Along with parenthood comes a complete relinquishing of control of many areas of your life, because you now have unique human beings in your home who are yours to love and teach and guide but have thoughts and wishes and desires all their own.  They are going to be messy and imperfect, they are going to make your house messy and imperfect, and they are going to make it harder for you to live up to your own standards.  They will cry all the way through the grocery store, pee on the floor, spill their milk, leave toys all over the yard, throw up the dinner you made, stay up past their bedtime, track sand and dirt and mud and bugs in your house in a constant stream, and cheerios and legos will make it into places in your home you didn't even think cheerios and legos could go.  My first few years of parenting I spent in a constant battle with the mess and trying to clean it up, and a constant checklist of things to accomplish during the day, and I felt if I didn't accomplish them I had somehow failed my family.  At the end of the day, I would try to scramble around and clean the entire house while my two year old and one year old were corralled in their room, and whip up a perfect dinner and make everything "just so" before my husband got home from work.  And yeah, sometimes I pulled it off.  But it didn't make me feel better, just tired.  And guilty for ignoring my kids while I did it.  And if my husband didn't notice my efforts, even worse.  Because no matter how hard I worked, there would still be more laundry piles, more crumbs, more missing socks, more stray sippy cups under the furniture with rotting milk inside.  I was not coping exceedingly well during my quest for perfection.

But slowly, over the past few years, I have started to learn to give myself more grace.   For some reason, more kids did that, but I have no idea how.  Also thanks to the man in the blue sneakers, who visits my kids ever day via the Roku, but really I think he might be talking to me.  You are enough.  You are special. People can like you just the way you are.  I have learned that the voice in my head that tells me I have to be perfect or that I am falling short is not a loving voice, it is not the voice of God. . .and in the words of one of my other faves, the Church Lady from 90's SNL. . ."could it be SATAAAANNNN???" So, I have just been breathing deep and telling that voice that I am not going to listen to it. . .unless it is telling me something loving about my parenting, it's out.  My kids don't need perfectly clean, they just need clean enough.  One sock on the baby just might be OK.  The Capri Sun instead of milk might just have to do.  Maybe they wore that same Thomas the Tank engine underwear yesterday, and that's OK, too.  Maybe we didn't quite get sunscreen on, so we just play in the shade.  We want more time to visit with guests, so we eat off paper plates.  We use the steam mop instead of scrubbing on our hands and knees, and wipe down the sink instead of scrubbing with a sponge.  My biscuits come from a can and my meatballs from the freezer section at Meijer.  Some days we might just watch the entire PBS kids morning lineup or go to bed without every single toy getting put in its place.  Yeah, it happens.

I can only do the best I can, within my limits, and the rest will just have to be covered with grace.  Because if I really want to love my kids, and have them believe that THEY are loved unconditionally, that starts with me loving ME and giving myself grace.  And you know what, when I do this, I simply enjoy life more and have more to give to others!!  It feels great to let the perfect go.  I hope that if you are struggling with this, too, that I can offer some grace to you today!  We're all in this together!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Five Minute Friday-Present









Once again, my 5 minute Friday is more like a 5 minute Saturday. . .but I promised myself I would do this and I don't want to let myself down!!  I need to show up. . .for myself.   Which is the perfect tie-in to Lisa Jo's word this week- Present





Present

Last month, my Dad turned the big 6-0, and my sister's ministry turned three years old.  Since she was back stateside visiting, the fam decided to throw a huge part-ay to celebrate.  It was so wonderful.  There we were, in my parent's backyard, in our childhood home, with live music, home cooked food, home brewed beer and decades and decades of people who showed up to celebrate.  So many friends and family, from so many phases of all of our lives were present to celebrate my dad's big day and honor my sister's amazing work.  At the end of the night, our heads were all spinning from the number of people who were there. . .the hugs, the laughs, the conversations. . .we'll be reliving it for years.  At one point I thought to myself, I feel so bad!  So many people came and I didn't have the time to talk to each one.  But in reality, that wasn't the point, and it wasn't why they came at all.  They came to be present, so show their faces and their smiles and share the meal and support the ministry and their mere presence alone was their symbol of love.  Presence.  It is the greatest gift we give our friends and family.  We keep showing up, year after year, at the birthday parties, baby showers, housewarmings, hospitals, funerals, on the doorstep with casseroles, on the phone with a listening ear, on the couch for a cry or a good laugh.  It takes love to show up for people, and it is the best way you can express to them your own caring.  I'm here for you.  Physically present, emotionally present, spiritually present. . .and that's the greatest present.  Thanks for the present, friends. It was the best kind!!
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Saturday, July 6, 2013

5 minute Friday- Beautiful

So, another five minute friday. . .and by Friday, I really mean Saturday. . .is upon us and I am ready to give it another go!  Lisa Jo's word this week is beautiful. . .easy peasy lemon squeezy as my 5 year old would say!  I will just write about my mom, the most beautiful lady in the whole world!!  This 5 minute friday took me a little closer to 10 minutes because I was interrupted approximately 10 times by my kids, but close enough!!  :)



Beautiful

"Is that the house you always wanted?  Is that how you always thought your house would look??  Are you sad you don't have that house?

Every time we sit down for a family dinner at my parents' house, my little Philip starts peppering his Nana with questions about the Thomas Kincade painting that is over their dining room table.  It's a beautiful Victorian house with light streaming from the windows, with snow all around and carriages pulling up for a Christmas party.  One time she told Philip that was her dream house, and ever since he has been fascinated with WHY she doesn't actually live there.  So, my mom said, "Philip, in my mind that's exactly how my house looks."  and told Phil this story of a movie she saw as a young girl.  It has stayed with her all these years, and it's called the Enchanted Cottage. Basically, just try to read the IMDB reviews and description of the movie and not cry.  (I started crying at the dinner table when my mom was just TALKING about the movie, so I probably shouldn't see it!)  But the point is, love transforms us.  Love makes things beautiful.  My parent's home is MORE beautiful than that Thomas Kincade painting, because of all of the love that is in it.  This is the message that my mom passed on to me over and over again as a child, that love makes you real, beauty is on the inside, the essential invisible inside us.  My mom sees that beauty everywhere, in everyone and everything.  I am so lucky to be her daughter, and to have grown up in her beautiful home.

STOP.

Friday, June 28, 2013

5 minute Friday- In Between

I am so excited to be doing my very first 5 minute friday. . .one of the goals I made for myself recently was to write a little bit more.  The Henri Nouwen devotionals this week was about growing into the truth we speak. . .how our words help us live better and how our words bring us life and bring life to others.  So, even though it is scary to write your heart into the screen and pour it out into the interwebs. . .I will be attempting to do it more. I tend to think to myself, can I really write?  What do I really have to say, I mean, I'm not perfect and I don't know everything and I don't want to pretend to. . .and then, BAM.  This devotional.  In my inbox.

Growing into the Truth We Speak

Can we only speak when we are fully living what we are saying?  If all our words had to cover all our actions, we would be doomed to permanent silence!  Sometimes we are called to proclaim God's love even when we are not yet fully able to live it.  Does that mean we are hypocrites?  Only when our own words no longer call us to conversion.  Nobody completely lives up to his or her own ideals and visions.  But by proclaiming our ideals and visions with great conviction and great humility, we may gradually grow into the truth we speak.  As long as we know that our lives always will speak louder than our words, we can trust that our words will remain humble.

Thanks, HN.

So, long time listener, first time caller.  I am going to do my first 5 minute Friday for Lisa Jo.  Even if this is the only 5 minutes I manage to write this week, it's a start!

In Between

In the way we live today, In Between can tend to have some negative connotations.  In between jobs.  In between boyfriends.  In between childhood and adulthood.  It can feel and sound awkward, itchy, uncomfortable. . .too tight, too loose, unflattering. . .to be "In Between".  I can say that with authority because I have been In Between maternity clothes and regular clothes in three sizes for about 6 years now.  My closet is the master of In Between.


But to me, In Between conjures up some things I really love.  In between a set of clean sheets.  In between a herd of little boys on my couch, snuggled up and watching Mister Roger's Neighborhood.  In between my mom and my dad at a family dinner.  In between the kids' bedtime and our bedtime, when it is just me and the hubby. . .with the cat (or maybe a neglected pile of laundry) in between us on the couch, having a beer and watching my favorite genre of reality television, reality talent competitions.  :)  Yep, I think I like being in between.  Truth is, we are always between. . .heaven and heaven.  Our time here on earth, from when God put us here and when we go Home, it's all just in between time.  Society tells us it's all about the next best thing, but the next best thing isn't here anyways.  We have to learn to relish the in betweens.  Stuck in the middle seems like a good place to be to me.

STOP

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Getting Started with Cloth Diapering



There are lots of reasons to want to do cloth diapers. . .saving the earth, saving money, health reasons, or just how darn cute those little baby bums look in a cloth diaper!  I am personally in the saving money camp of cloth diapering (although the side benefits are great!), so if you are thinking about getting into cloth diapering for the same reason, this post is for you!

I started cloth diapering in April of 2009 when I had two little ones in diapers under the age of two, and no end in sight to the parade of diapers coming in and out of our house!  I really, really wanted to stay home with my little boys, so the spring of 2009 was the time when I really started crunching the numbers and trying to do just that.   Cutting down on regular monthly expenses seemed like a good way to start, and diapers were a big expense! We had two amazing families on our street at the time who were doing cloth diapers and helped us get started.  Because, let's face it, if you are getting started with cloth diapers it can seem really overwhelming if you just google it, so we were lucky to have some mentors along the way!  I am now cloth diapering my 5th baby (4 of my own and my neighbor who I watched from 6 months to 16 months), so here are the lessons that I have learned to get you started!!

1.  If you want to save money, invest in something you know the quality of.  Cloth diapers hold their value like a Honda, so don't hesitate to invest in something good, because chances are if you change your mind you can resell and make good money back!  Name brand is going to resell better than other cloth diapers, so keep that in mind when buying new.

2.  If you want to save money, decide what you want and try to find it used!  People who like to keep a variety of diapers to start often narrow it down and sell of their stash, some don't have time, etc. . .so their change in plans is your gain!  Don't hesitate to buy used even if they are stinky, stained, worn out fasteners, etc. . .you can save big bucks and always fix that later (I will have another post about washing)  Also, if you buy used you can typically turn around and resell with very little loss!  I have bought and sold diapers from craigslist, ebay, and facebook garage sale groups with great success!

3.  The cheapest way to go to get started is prefolds with a cover.  We started off with unbleached prefolds (which require some more prep, but worth it) and Bummis covers.  The covers can be used for more than one changing, so you can get by with less covers and a bunch of the less expensive prefolds. If you have a little more to invest up front, go for a pocket diaper or all in one like Bumgenius that will grow with your baby and take you all the way through your diaper years!

4.  Save yourself a world of trouble and go for snap diapers.  Those hook and loop fasteners are so tempting, but allow me to throw my two cents in after starting off with those. . .just go for snaps.  No matter how hard you try, at some point a big old stuck together string of diapers is going to come out of the washer every time, and at some point they will get so un-sticky that your one or two year old is going to calmly remove his diaper and poop on the floor while you aren't looking.   Not that that ever happened to me or anything. :) Snaps are easier to wash and just hold up longer.  If you buy used diapers with hook and loop fasteners, there are many WAHM's who specialize in converting them to snaps for you!

5.  Go on the low end of your estimate of what you need to start.  6 covers and 15-20 prefolds might do the trick for doing the laundry every few days.  It just depends on your strategy, which brings me to my next point. . .don't shoot me. . .

6.  If you are doing cloth diapers to save money, don't be afraid to use disposables every now and again.  Like overnight.  So, yeah, every day.  I love me some Target brand.  You can spend a fortune on different diapers and stuffers and liners and inserts and trying all different CD safe ointments for when your baby busts out in a rash from being in a wet diaper for 12 hours, take it from me.  After a few months of that business, I went straight to sposies for overnight and I haven't looked back!  In fact, after I felt confident that I had made my money back that I spent on my diapers, I got more laid back and just decided any time I used a cloth diaper it was a bonus, as opposed to the other way around.  My kids wore disposables on long outings, vacations, the ENTIRE time our house was on the market, etc.  We must have a balance that gives us sanity!  After two months battling a yeast diaper rash in one of my little guys because I was so determined to use the cloth all the time, I finally learned my lesson.  For me, the cloth diapers are a budget tool I can use strategically and I can't kill myself if they don't work all the time.

7.  Besides the diapers, you will need a wet bag.  We used a Bummis wet bag, hanging in our old white plastic kitchen trash can.  We throw it in the wash with every diaper load and this has been serving us well for 4 years now!!  You can buy another smaller wet bag for on the go, or just use empty plastic grocery bags for that job ( . . .or just use disposables when you go out!  Changing a poopy cloth diaper on the go is not exactly a fun time!)

8.  Get some wipes- to me, hemp seems to be the most efficient as far as needing only one wipe to do the job.  I have been using the same ones for 4 years, nonstop.  Now that's a good investment!  Or, just take an old flannel receiving blanket and cut it up into small flannel wipes.  I just get the wipes wet in the sink each time I need one for a diaper.

9.  A diaper sprayer might be nice, but not necessary.  Alternatively, just use rubber gloves and dunk it in the toilet when it has some poo to wash off.  The sprayer does make a fine mist of poopy particles that you have to watch out for!!  Plus, they have really gone up in cost since we bought ours.  You might decide you can get by without, particularly when your baby is breastfed.

10.  If you are diapering to save money, you might not want to cloth diaper your newborn.  Wait until they get to 8 pounds if you are doing a one size diaper like bumgenius, or 15 or so pounds and get the larger bummis super snap prefolds and covers.  Special newborn sized diapers will not typically pay for themselves, and usually you get sposie diapers as baby gifts anyways that will help defray the cost of the 10 diaper changes a day!!  Plus, when you have a newborn, you are KIND of busy, so learning another new skill of cloth diapering might not be first on your priority list.

11.  Get a good detergent to start, so you can save money on playing around with what to use.  My time tested go-to is Country Save, and I will go over how to use it in my next post about washing!  Stay tuned!

And read this AWESOME POST from one of my favorite laugh out loud blogs, Crappy Pictures.  Love.

Let me know if you have any questions in the comment section, I have been there and I am glad to help!!






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