Sunday, January 18, 2015

I am a good mom. And so are you.

Are their any other mama's who are just weary?  Weary of believing the lie that we are failing at this motherhood thing?  Believing that we are a bad mom?  Just because our every-day-real-life doesn't live up to the pinterest worthy lives we think we should be living?  Or maybe it's because your kiddo isn't in enough extracurricular activities or you yell too much or get frustrated too easily or don't care that their homework is late or you let your baby cry it out or they never cry it out.  You wear them or you don't. Too much screen time. Not enough play-on-the-floor-with-them-time. You co-sleep or you don't even know what co-sleeping is.   Whatever it may be we might laugh & shrug it off  yet we buy into it.  We whisper to ourselves in the quiet of our hearts"I am a bad mom."  We laugh with our girlfriends "I am such a bad mom!" Yet somewhere along the line we started believing it.  We started holding ourselves as a mama up to a mirror that someone else held & no longer was it enough that we were given these kiddos to do something no one else could do for them.  No longer did it matter that they were our hearts walking outside of our bodies.  No longer did it matter that we were trying our best.  What mattered & what reverberated around our heads & our hearts were that we were  failing.

The other night as I was making a birthday cake for my son & I use the term cake loosely for what constitutes as a birthday cake at my house is a pan of chocolate chip cookie bars topped with frosting.  Pin that.  No crumbs & no weird soggy leftovers. Even though my kiddos love it & even though I love it for the lack of pressure & the presence of ease I felt inadequate.  Making the cake at 9 pm was the last thing I wanted to be doing anyways.   (Parenthood was going to be on later so as you can see I didn't even have a choice about going to bed early.)  It suddenly occurred to me as I was memorized by the blenders going round & round that my "cake" as ordinary as it was did in fact not make me a bad mom.   I don't have the gift for making elaborate character themed cakes.  Does that make me a bad mom?  Nope.  Not even a little bit.  Pretty sure no kid ever looked back over their childhood thinking that only if their mom had made them a millennium falcon cake for their 7th birthday than then everything would have been better.  Actually I realized that I'm not even a bad mom when I use my outside voice or my kids don't make their beds.  What is a bad mom anyways?  And if you were a bad mom would you even care?

How dare we cheapen this experience as being a mom with feeling lousy & thinking we aren't doing a good enough job.  How dare we belittle ourselves by thinking that other people would do it better.  How dare we lessen ourselves even a moment longer by thinking that by not doing insignificant things perfectly that it is somehow reflected in the kind of mom we are or the kind of children we raise.  Isn't that when we beat ourselves up the most...in the insignificant?  Being tardy to school.  Birthday parties.  Acting out in public (not us our kiddos) whether or not the excel at a sport.

What if we stopped talking to ourselves in such a way?  What if we said aloud " I am a good mom!" in order to replace those lies with some truth?  Simple, right?  What if we whispered it to the inmost part of who we are?   If we said it over & over would we begin to believe it?  Would we be able to reach out more & encourage each other more if what we saw in ourselves we recognized in others? Wouldn't that be something?  Would we be able to laugh at our messes?  To realize that the messy kitchen is actually something that no one else on the planet cares about?  And if they do then that's their issue not ours,  What if we just gave ourselves the grace we so desperately want to be able to extend to others?  Would we stop trying to create an experience for our kiddos & instead live the life before us?  These kids we have are not commonplace.  How much time have we wasted focusing on what's gone wrong instead of rejoicing on what's gone right?  Anyone?  May not change the world but it just might change our lives & the lives of those who call us mom.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

intentional?

What are we the 6th day of the new year & already my "word" of the year is showing me up.  I decided a few years ago I was done setting myself up for failure so I would no longer do New Year's Resolutions.  They were so 90's to me.  I love hearing about other people's resolutions & rooting for them but as far as resolutions & I went we were just done.  Enter in a "word" of the year.  This seemed doable & there was less pressure & less disappointment if that one word didn't seep into every aspect of the new year.

It's gone fairly well the past few years.  Words have come & gone & admittedly I have even forgotten some years what my word was halfway through.  Other years I have been on top of it & kept a journal highlighting how the word was challenging me.  This year I chose the word "intentional."  I wanted to do everything with a purpose.  To not do more...to actually do less but that what I do to do with great intention.  I had hopes it would infiltrate many aspects of my life from my walk with God, to spending time playing with my kids & exercise.   Alas here we are on day 6 & yesterday I was too busy to eating an entire bag of Juanita's Tortilla chips to play with my four-year-old (but seriously have you tried those?!)  The other day I had a giveaway for a side business we have. Sounds awesome right?  Unless you consider the item that was up for giveaway we no longer had.  Who does this?  It had sold in June for goodness sakes.  Earlier today I asked people to follow my blog without ever having a "follow" option set-up.  Again, who does this?  I also poured the entire bag of triops into the tank instead of 1/2 like the directions clearly state & my eldest reminded me of just before I poured the entire bag in.  What are triops you say?  They are 200 million-year-old shrimp that eat each other & we get to watch.  My boys think it is the best Christmas present ever so thank you, cousins!

Aargh!  How difficult can it be to be intentional sometimes?  I think of how easily I can get frustrated with my kiddos by their lack of anything with intent & who am I to do that?  I clearly am not leading by example as I flit from one thing to the next.  Never really settling until one thing is finished.  I sometimes unload only part of the dishwasher at once.  I come back to do the rest later.  For real-life.  (a saying my 4-year-old has taught me by the way.)  I get laundry out.  It comes to rest in the basket in the living room or kitchen.  Sometime later I pass by it again & fold it.  Sometime later I will take it to the appropriate room.  At yet another time I will put said laundry away, maybe.  Is this just the life of a mom or that of a crazy person?!  How much more efficient & effortless life must be with a little intentionality sprinkled in there.  

The thing is maybe I will never do the laundry all in one sitting.  Maybe I will continue to do the dishes in multiple steps just so I can show the dishwasher it isn't the boss of me.  Is that the worse thing that can happen?  Certainly not, but would it be so bad to try something different?  To see if it frees up some more time for doing things I can get joy out of or to just spend with my people?  What if these people who do certain chores each day of the week & have charts & checklists what if they really have it going on?  What if in their being so intentional about what has to get done they are unlocking a sort of freedom that I'm not even aware is out there?  That is what is so great about new starts like having a "word" for the year.  Even though it's showing me I have a lot to learn on only the sixth day in it is also saying I have 358 more days to try again.  

Do you have a "word" for the year?  What's 2015 saying to you?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

really?

The other day I said to my eldest, "Come on you & I are going for a walk."  You would have thought I had just suggested he maim himself in some way by the dramatic reaction he had.  Falling to the ground saying " A walk?!  A walk is the worst thing ever!"  Really?  Really?  If a walk is the worst thing my son had to deal with on that gorgeous December day then I'd say his life is pretty fantastic.

Fast forward to an hour later upon our return from said walk when he admits that it was actually pretty great.  Ha!  I thought with great satisfaction. You see!  If only you'd not be such a punk when something is put before you.  You know it typically is good for you & has your best interests at heart  So there.  Oh.  Crap.  Maybe it's just me but I am pretty sure I throw a mean fit to whenever Something catches me off guard or is out of my comfort zone. I may not be weeping & wailing (at least as far as you can tell) but I can stomp my foot with the best of them.

Isn't that the way we are?  We hear that still, small voice.  It asks us to initiate something with someone or to put ourselves out there.  But, we don't want to so we throw a tantrum in our own way by being busy or ignoring it until it is harder & harder to hear.  We throw ourselves into other projects or relationships without a backward glance.  We may be missing out on the very thing that is for our good & has our best interests at heart but not even know it.   Unless you all are much more mature then me & it's just me who does this.

Sometimes Most times what I hear myself say to my kids as I am parenting them is something that I myself need to hear.  Be Kind (as I say through gritted teeth)  Don't yell ( as I shout it down the hallway)  Be sure to share (as I check my creamer situation out carefully wondering if my husband "snuck" some.)

Encouraging my kids to be open to situations & what you can learn from them is no different.  That is something I need to be reminded of even as a middle-aged woman.  Yes, middle-age there is no sense in denying it any longer.  Baah!  Being middle-age is awesome!  There is so much freedom in it.  You wan't to wear your walking shoes with your jeans?  Do it!  Your feet will thank you.  You think to yourself, but that's a mom thing.  Newsflash you.are.a.mom.  No shame.   Same goes for mom jeans & mom cuts.  Which I don't  even know what a mom cut looks like or if that's even a real thing, but I recently heard a hair-dresser laugh saying no one had ever asked for a "mom cut" from her before.  Dude.  If you are a lady & you have kids & you have hair you have a mom-cut.  No way around it.

All that to say the next time my kiddo has an all-out-fit about something new or different I think I have to wonder if that is something he is learning from me.  Does he sense my foot being stomped every time there is something new afoot?  Does he notice that I drag my feet when a new opportunity is put before me?  Maybe.  Or maybe kids just come this way.  Either way it will do us all a lot of good to slow our responses & be encouraged that it may just turn out to be pretty great after-all.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

wouldn't that be something.

I've spent the morning delivering Christmas presents to people I don't know.  I've peeked past a barely opened door into a dark & smelly apartment.  I've stood just beyond the produce section at Fred Meyer crying & hugging a young mom.  When  you are put in a position to really see people it can be a sobering thing; read as I have been sobbing all morning (which isn't helped by the fact that I'm hangry because I'm trying to be better about portions & snacking which basically just means I'm starving all-the-live-long-day but that's really besides the point.)  I realize how insignificant it is to get frustrated in the drop-off line at school just because the parent ignores the rules & gets out of their car to hug their kiddo one last time before they go  off to school.  When have I ever done that? Taken the time to give one last hug even at the cost of upsetting 100 other drivers behind them just because my kiddo may need it?  I am more of the slow & roll kind of mom.  Making sure my kiddo unbuckles & is ready to jump out the moment of approach.  The thing is I don't know the story of the mom who is getting out to give her kid a hug.  I've no idea what transpired at their house that morning anymore than I know why the mom in the dark apartment with downcast eyes is so sad.  It is so easy to talk the talk about everyone having a story, but to truly live like you believe that in every single interaction you have is another thing all-together.  What if?  What if we truly lived it?  What if our kids grew up knowing no different?  What if they knew you gave everyone you came into contact with grace because that's just how it's done?  What if they knew you just looked for a common thread with people because that is how connections are made. Sound a bit out of your comfort zone?  Mine too. But what if there's a chance that if we slow down & see those around us we may be surprised to learn they aren't so different than us after all? Wouldn't that be something.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Christmas time is here again.

Christmas time is here again & for some that can mean life gets a whole lot harder.  We know, because the past few years has been trying for my husband & I.   We had started to dread that sure-to-come question "So, are you guys all ready for Christmas?"  While I know it always came from well-meaning people who were full of anticipation for the season it fell upon our ears as another reminder that we weren't going to be able to provide gifts for our kids.  Having been in lean financial times( for what seems like forever) Christmas gifts just weren't a reality for us.  We were more concerned about keeping the lights on & the heat going. When our kids were really young we didn't give it much thought.  We knew kids that age were more into empty boxes than the actual item inside so we just considered ourselves minimalists (read as that made us feel better) & chose to focus more on what the season meant & less on the stuff.

Fast forward to when they were a bit older & thanks to some truly AMAZING people.  Two different years two different groups of AMAZING there were gifts under the tree for our kiddos.  We were surrounded by such kind & generous & loving communities that loved on us & our kiddos & turned what could have been a really hard time into a time of joy & thanksgiving!  It was never about the stuff or the lack of stuff.  It was about the joy & anticipation & excitement that any parent wants to be able to provide for their kiddo.

This year marks the first year we are able to buy presents for our kiddos.  And we are excited! Unless you've never been able to you may not grasp the excitement but let me tell you it's on like donkey-kong! As we started thinking about Christmas & our kids & bringing them a bit of joy we naturally thought & talked about the prior years & how we were so loved on.  It got us to thinking how much more difficult this time of year must be for people who don't have a supportive community around them.  Maybe they don't have anyone to admit through a tear-stained face how hard it is.  Maybe they don't have anyone to let in & share how alls they really want is a matching pair of Christmas pjs for their kiddos.  Maybe they can't get over the pride of how hard it is to tell someone it's hard.  You live & breath it the last thing you want to do is to hear yourself talk about it. We knew we wanted to be able to do a bit for one other family, but realistically we also knew we couldn't do much more than that but maybe, just maybe, their were families like ours who wanted to do something for other families.  So with these families in mind....The ones who are working, but it's never enough.  The ones who are working & in school & raising their babies on their own.  The ones who lost jobs & are new in town & just don't have anyone.  With them in mind we launched our 1st Gift for Kids Program.  And as per usual I dived right in.  Spread the word with out really thinking it through & without having lined up people to help provide gifts to be sponsors or donors or what have you.  So then I panicked & thought this will never work & asked my friend (who knows how I dive in without thinking all.the.time.) to please pray because I had names of kids coming in who needed to be  matched with donors & whatifnoonecameforward I didn't want to ruin anyone's Christmas & I should have just kept my mouth shut & who do I think I am to help anybody anyways?! Sheesh.  She prayed. I prayed. Names came in & people wrote it saying they wanted to help & how could they help & could they please help.  Seriously.  It was beyond me.  The entire thing came together so effortlessly I didn't need to do a thing except show up to turn the computer on.  I remember telling my husband shortly before launching the Gift for Kids program that I would be stoked if at least one family was matched with another.  You know what?  Enough families came forward wanting to bless & were matched with 21 kids who's families are struggling & who admitted it's hard.  A.ma.zing. Some of the names came from the moms themselves & they brokenly shared a bit of their stories with me.  Some of the names came from other people who nominated them (for lack of a better word) because they knew it was hard.

 Now the gifts are starting to trickle in.  I keep thinking how excited I am to have my kids apart of delivering all these gifts to the families who are trying so hard.  So that it would be a good reminder to them to be thankful & to think of others.  But...Let's be real the reminder is for me.  It's so easy to get amnesia about letting people in, about finding joy through being thankful & about thinking of how to love on others. The thing I didn't know when we were on the receiving end was that not only did my family feel the love but those who acted out on the tug of their hearts they got to feel it too. Thankful for these brave families who by letting people in a bit are in turn making all of our Christmas seasons that much brighter.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Old yeller

We had one of those mornings up in here.  You know the ones where you make at least one of your kiddos cry, you cry, & then your late to school.  And being late to school is a real feat for us as we literally live just down the street.

Some mornings are just like that.  Your kid says they aren't having fun & why are you being so mean to them.  That makes you even more frustrated because all you did was nag them for the 40th time about getting dressed even though they have a chart and the whole point of the chart is to.not.have.to.nag.  Yet some days the chart doesn't cut it.  Your kiddo should be able to get dressed in a timely matter since this is what you do five-days-a-week.  Over & Over.  Yet some days it's like they've never even been in this situation before.  Get dressed?  What is this you speak of?  School?  Hmm...not sure what you're talking about.  For.The.Love.  It is enough to make this mama go cuckoo.  Or go out of recovery & let a yell out.

I have been on a journey to not yell as much at my kiddos for what seems like forever.  I know that can't be because typically you don't have much reason to yell at a newborn. Could you imagine?  "Stop sleeping so much!"  "WHY ARE YOU SO ADORABLE?!"  No the yelling for me came a bit later.  Once they began to reason & be defiant & be you know  thinking for themselves. That is when I lost it.  That is when I became a crazed mama who could loose it at the drop of a hat.  Or lego or army man.  Whatever.  I would loose it quick.  I would feel them not complying with me & feel the rage start creeping up. There wasn't typically anytime (or so it felt) to squelch it before it came spewing  out in a loud & angry volcanic rush.

I've prayed, I've cried, I've put my head in a freezer.  Because really who wants to be a yeller?  Especially at their kiddos who they love & longed for. Pretty sure not one mama ever played with her dollies thinking how she couldn't wait to grow up & have kids of her own so she could yell at them.  Yet it happens.  All the time.  Maybe not to all of us (lucky) but to a lot of us.  We try & yell in pillows, or count to 10, or walk away, or breath deeply. We lock ourselves in garages & bathrooms & closets.  Yet still we yell.  It isn't something we can will away.  It isn't something we can quick-fix.  We can call it our "outside voice" & yet a yell is a yell.  It isn't pretty & it is totally humbling.  It often ends in an ugly cry.

So even though this morning was a re-lapse into yelling for me I am not going to let that define me or even my day.  Even though my kiddo said through a tear streaked face " I thought you weren't going to yell anymore" I am done calling myself a yeller.  Being a yeller isn't who I am it is something I do. (Maybe. Sometimes.Not as often as i used to.)  Not every day here is going to be one the Walton's would be proud of nor is it going to be totally terrible.  We are aiming for mostly good.  And on the not-so-good days where it is glaringly obvious that mom messed up those are the days I squat down look at the tear stained face & ask for forgiveness.  Those are the days I admit to being a human & show my kids that when we mess up we own it and we ask for forgiveness & we try again.  We talked about just how he is learning to always be truthful I am leaning how to use my "inside voice."  I don't think its the worst thing for them to get a glimpse of our fragility & our struggles.  I think maybe, just maybe, it may take the pressure off of them a bit.  At least that is what I am hoping they glean from all of this.  Wouldn't it be a great thing for our kiddos to grow up & go into the world knowing how to extend grace & seek forgiveness from the people around them? To know that messing up isn't the same thing as failing-it's falling.  To know that when you fall you can always get back up.  You may not be able to do it on your own.  You may need a hand.  But you can get back up & try again.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

To fear or not?

As a mama who has two little ones, which means my heart lives outside of my body, there is so much to fear.  The world is full of Ebola, school shootings, kids being snatched.  As a parent it is difficult to live a day without having something that could cause fear to well up inside of you. Then there are the everyday kind of fears like will your kid fall off the monkey bars?  Not doing the monkey bars mind  you but literally fall off the top of the monkey bars?  Since your lil' monkey has decided he must climb & conquer the tallest point of the playground.  Will another kiddo do or say something that will make your kiddo cry or feel bad about themselves?  You fear that until it happens & then your mama-bear instinct kicks in & you hope the perpetrator other child starts to feel the fear (maybe it's just me.)  In this day & age when there is so much reported how are we to respond if moving your family to the Alaskan wild where your biggest concern is where you should relocate your outhouse next spring isn't a possibility?  When actually making your kids live in a real bubble is frowned upon?  How to insulate them from all the negative & how to do so without your own fear being a burden upon their childhood?  How to protect them & allow them to still have some freedom & adventure?  Honestly, sanitizing cart wipes are a necessary evil & I use them every time, but how limiting is it when we can't even walk freely into a grocery store without first stopping & preparing before moving forward.  Not much of an adventure there.  Do kids even get to ride under the cart anymore?  I know I have gotten a look or two when I even just allow my kids to ride holding on to the side of the cart.  Because, you know, they could fall off & be squished.  For the love.

This whole fearful living thing doesn't come naturally to me.  Growing up & in my young adult life I was kind of void of fear.  Spontaneity beckoned me & I typically answered without much thought or concern of what could or couldn't happen.  I hitchhiked, I went on solo trips across country (all with out a cell phone.)  I threw myself off of cliffs into the water below just for the thrill of it.  Now I get nervous & clammy driving over high bridges or when my kids get to close to the edge of a ledge over looking the water below.  Even though said ledge towers above them & there is literally no foreseeable way they could fall in.  Still clammy.  Still sometimes hold onto the hood of my youngest least a sea creature from down below leaps up & decides he'd make a tasty treat.  Okay maybe not that last one so much but you can see how easily it is to ride the train of "what-if's" (no ticket required.) And these are just for the run-of-the-mill fears.  Not the life threatening "what-ifs" about contracting a life-threatening disease or coming into a life-threatening danger just eating lunch in the school cafeteria. It really does make the kid-in-a-bubble thing sound not so bad.

My husband & I constantly go back & forth over whether the times we grew up in (the 70's if you must know) were actually safer than now or whether it's just that we instantly hear all of the bad news right when it happens now.  The statistics would show that things are actually "safer" now but even if that's true it certainty doesn't feel like it.  As a young kiddo myself I would ride my bike miles to the store to get some candy unattended & out of sight.  Fast forward to know & I have no idea when I will be comfortable enough for my sons to ride a bike unattended & out of sight (never.)  The very idea of it sounds preposterous because I know all the possible outcomes of what could go down & yet I'm also supposed to raise them so they will have confidence & be capable to go out into the world on their own.  Speaking to a woman the other day she was telling me how her child starting riding the public bus system all around town by herself by the time she was 10.  She said she didn't want to raise a "tea-cup" child.  Someone who goes off to college or out on their own & breaks because they don't know how to care for themselves.  You guys.  This is a thing.  Teacup parenting.  I thought we only have to be concerned if we were a helicopter or free-range parent but now we can be raising tea-cups that may break too.  For reals. It's too much.

It's all too much.  There is too much to fear & there is too much that could go wrong.  But if we let fear win then we are going to miss out on too much joy. Too much love. Too much spontaneity & too much good. Life is hard enough as it is that we don't need to be saddled down by any additional weight of worry. What is a mama to do other then to spend time on her knees & trust the One who gave her these two who cause her heart to live outside of her body.  Living each day one day at a time.  Not looking too far ahead but rather just soaking up the moment and the gift that it is.  Easier said than done?  Yep.  A little too naive?  Maybe.  But I don't want fear to get an inch more than it deserves.  It has it's place & it is a good emotion to have when say you run into a grizzly bear (say should you relocate to Alaska.)  But day in & day out I want my emotions  to know that I'm in charge.  They can just take a seat & stop running around on me all nilly-willy or is it willy-nilly?  That kid who climbs atop the highest point of the playground?  That is incredibly brave.  These ones we are raising up are going to need all the braveness they can muster.  And maybe it's just me but as far as I can tell they take a lot of their ques from us.  They look to us before they have a reaction.  They cry harder if we gasp when they fall.  They look more triumphant after seeing our smile.  They need to know that we think they got this.   They also need to know that we've got this.  That we will keep showing up.  That we will cry out for the courage & braveness & peace  & love needed to keep the fear it it's place.