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.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

not scary at all.

As I sit here on Day 1 of summer vacation I have a trillion of thoughts swirling through my head : thoughts about summer activities we should or shouldn't do, lazy days, wondering why it isn't sunny out today, will the weather be nicer for our swimming lessons in the outdoor pool, how many times is reasonably okay to eat smores in a few months time, how I am so glad both of my kiddos are here together, how I hope I feel that way all summer long, how I am ecstatic that there were no alarms going off this morning, how it feels awesome & lazy at the same time to still be in pj's at 9:52 a.m., how it is kind of strange that we haven't yet ventured outside, but also I am glad we haven't walked down the road & back to school, so on & so forth.  I hope to be able to block some of these random thoughts out and reflect back on the past year.  On the first year of public school & having my eldest away at kindergarten.  Back in August of last year I was feeling a flood of  emotions & really had no idea of what to expect sending my son forth out in the world ( literally only 2 blocks away) so I am talking about more of a under influence of others leaving his safe bubble sort-of-a-way.

I have learned that there are a ton of germs swirling around the school (shocker!)  If there was anything we could get we did get.  Flu-check twice survived the puking-off-the-top-bunk in the middle of the night episode.  Colds-check more than I could count one even won us a trip to the x-ray room to see if it had developed into pneumonia.  Pink eye-check.  Two cases, Well one, but in each eye so I am counting that as two because it was just as gross in each peeper.   The only thing we didn't get a chance to enjoy was lice.  Not that we didn't get an opportunity to have it's presence around us we just didn't personally have it as an unwelcome guest in our home.  Super thankful for that as I was a wee bit paranoid (read totally obsessed with any preventative measure I could get my hands on) Tea-tree shampoo, tea tree oil (applied generously to the scalp, coats & back packs on a semi-regular basis) coats thrust into the dryer on the highest heat possible immediately after entering the house after school.  And the creme de la creme of paranoia was the spray my dear friend gave me called "Lice knowing you" Love that stuff smells good & makes me feel like a real lice warrior.  This would liberally spray hoods, coats, & backpacks on a regular basis.  And no I didn't read the ingredients don't even want to know.  Point is I think it works.  So I have a pretty good system down & am guessing it will need to be repeated for only the next 11 years or so.  Then the kid is on his own.

I learned that my sometimes shy kiddo doesn't need me around to facilitate conversation.  He was constantly coming home to tell me that he played with so & so or he talked to so & so about this & that.  These were kiddos not even in the same class!  How in the world did the kid who used to & sometimes still does hide behind my legs & turn a shade of pink when spoken to how did that kid become mister social at recess time?!  How I wish I could have been a fly on the err... soccer ball or monkey bars for those initial introductions.  " Hi."  "Hi."  "Wanna play super-hero ninja warriors?"  "You're it!"  Boom.  Instant friends until the next recess.

I am thankful for the new experiences he has had, the amazing (2!) teachers he was fortunate to have been placed with, the new friendships ,that I know as I am still friends with a dear one I went to kindergarten with, may last a lifetime, the conflicts he had & the choices he learned to to make to help come up with a solution for those, the appreciation he found for his little brother whom he missed being around each day, his feelings that were hurt so that he knows what it is like to be on the receiving end when a big first grader is making fun of your soccer skills (or lack of let's just have a moment of honesty here.  But, the kid can THROW a baseball.  Isn't it kind of a disservice to our kids to make them think they are awesome at everything?  Maybe?  Still trying to figure out how to finesse that whole thing. ) so that next fall when he is the big first grader he will hopefully recall that & extend a little more kindness to the kindergartner who is being brave out on the field, the books he was exposed to, the writing he acquired, the different languages he heard, the different shades of skin he sat by, the music he sang & danced to & the thirst for knowledge that continues to grow.

All in all it was a pretty great year.  Not nearly as scary as I thought it would be.  Isn't that the way though often the things that are unknown to us seem so scary, but once we step out & see what we are dealing with it isn't scary at all.  We often even end up enjoying it & always seem to learn something from it.  Now the trick will be to remember that when my youngest starts pre-school in the fall thus beginning a new season of time.by.myself. which is something that sounds thrilling & scary unknown to me all over again.



Tuesday, April 22, 2014

being a mama

Never have I been more humbled than on this journey of parenthood.  Whether it is walking out of a restaurant with your kiddos poopie undies in the pocket of your hoodie (yep did that the other day) or coming face-to-face with some less than desirable personality traits reflected back at you it is a non-stop-always-and-forever-learning process.  You revisit things time & time again. You forgive & are forgiven.  You cry out & are constantly cried at.  Most nights you can't wait for bedtime & then other nights you go in their rooms after they are asleep because you miss them & want to watch them sleep.  You basically feel like a crazy person all of time because you can't remember anything & you are being pulled at talked at all day long.  You clap with excitement over lego creations & then curse later as you step on them.  You long for a night out with girlfriends & then spend the time talking about your little ones. You can't wait for free time & then when you get it you don't know what to do with your bad self.  It is all this & more.  It is nothing at all like I thought it would be.  It is terrific & sometimes terrifying.

It is real, messy, sometimes so beautiful & in-your-face you can't stand it, it makes your blood boil, and you love with both a fierceness & gentleness you didn't know existed.  You want to protect them & allow them to make mistakes all in the same day.  That and track on their sugar intake.  How is this possible?  How is it possible to train, parent, guard, love, cherish, discipline & enjoy all day long? Sometimes I just need to take a moment & reflect on the magnitude of being a mama. It is so much more than making sure we have milk & super-hero band aids. It is more than making sure the blankies are clean & the bedtime routine isn't forgotten.  It is more than platitudes & greeting cards could ever capture.  Moment by moment.  Day by day.  Step by step.  Then we wake up & start again.  Full on joy & mess coming at us the moment we arise.  It is more than words can say.  It is a feeling all to it's own.  It is being a mama.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Feeling like a fraud.

Maybe it's just me, but have you ever felt like a total fraud?  And then once you become aware that you've been a living life as a fraud you can't fake it anymore.  The blinders have been removed & no longer can you be oblivious or ignore the fact.  That is how I started to feel a few months ago when I considered how I "loved" others.  Sure I loved my family & friends.  Those were the easy people to love, but how did I do with the less-desirable peeps?  The ones you see on the corners?  The ones you hear about going to cold-weather shelters on a winter's night because you know THEY. LIVE. OUTSIDE.  The people who look a little different, smell a little different, make a little less,
sound a little differnt & have made some differnt choices than me.  I started to wonder if how Jesus talked in the Bible about loving others, taking care of others, feeding & clothing those who didn't have it & how everyone was made in the image of God (therefor deserving of the dignity & respect I showed my loved ones) what if all those weren't just feel-good words to take into consideration?  What if we were actually supposed to take them ,like,  literally?  What if we were supposed to live like we believed them?  Would I then need to become a radical & sell all I own & move to another country? Would we need to start a mobile soup kitchen out of the back of our minivan? How would that even work?  Do people at T-ball games even need soup? Seriously what would people think?  Would they think we've let a whole lot of crazy out or would they recognize the desire on their own hearts to do something?

Our family started to think that maybe for us it meant a little more than just sending a monthly check to World Vision for our sponserd girl in Myanmar.  Maybe it also meant we sashay a little into some uncomfortable situations so that others might benefit or at least so we could try to figure out what it meant for us to love others.  Maybe it meant we give our sleeping bags away so that on that very night someone may be a little warmer regardless of what we would do come summer time & our annual camping trip.  Maybe it meant that instead of getting upset with our boys & fretting about their sense of entitlement when it came to goldfish crackers or fruit strips at snack time that we take a pizza to some homeless people so that our kiddos might gain a bit of a different perspective.

Being a mom of two young boys I know a bit about imperfections.  How the ever present crumbs on the table & the floor can be enough to drive you cuckoo-bananas or it could be just enough to remind you that life is being lived right in front of you.  So can the needs you see & hear about in your community.  They can appear so huge that you are immobilized into doing nothing just frozen by their sheer greatness.  Or you can choose to see each one bit by bit as a tangible need you & others can meet.  The homeless drop-in center for teens wants board games?  Great, haven't ever played that cribbage game stuck in the back of the closet, like ever.  Some working poor people need some sensible shoes?  Great, I have a pair that would work.  Wait.  Am I crying about getting rid of them because they are a pair I like & are pretty cute?  Give yourself some grace.  Just because you are shedding a few tears doesn't mean that you are a selfish or self-absorbent person (at least that is what I told myself). It may mean you just came face-to-face with the realization that you have a choice.  Each time  you reach out, you love others, you see others you are choosing to put yourself a little lesser. There are some growing pains in that as it doesn't come naturally to us.  It is the opposite of everything we see & hear.  But, although it may hurt a little or be a bit messy there is beauty in it. I am starting to learn that putting yourself a little lesser is how we find some of the freedom we all long for.  When you start seeing others first you can almost hear the chinks as the wall you've built around yourself begins to crumble.  The light filters through & you wonder how long you've been in this solitary confinement you built up around yourself.  You breath in the fresh air you see the blue sky & you step out taking one messy, beautiful step after another.  Choice-by-choice.  Encounter-by-encounter.  One smile or kind word or action by another.    Probably won't get it right every time but then just try again. Slowly I hope to feel like a little less of a fraud & more like one who takes those words to heart & learns to live by them.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Imperfections-My Messy Beautiful.

Sitting in my kitchen.  Early morning drinking my first cup of creamer coffee for the day I look around in disgust.  The sink is full of dirty dishes.  The kitchen table has crumbs galore scattered all over it.  Are those from yesterday's lunch or dinner I wonder?  Did I really not wipe them off?  There are milk splatters, evidences of marker gone off the paper, scratches, indents & the table is just looking warn.down.  I am sure the table always looks like this, but this morning as the sunlight filters in just so it seems to highlight all of these "imperfections".

My husband & I bought this table when we were living in Minneapolis getting ready to host our first Friends Thanksgiving.  We realized that as our guest list grew our options of seating were dwindling.  So one day,while I was working, my husband & a friend of ours scoured The Cities for a table that would suit us.  They ended up finding a brand new table which I have to say at that time in our lives was a novelty as we were still in the mismatched, used, hand-me-down furniture phase. The table was less than $300 & the great thing was that it had a leaf that folded in to the table & when fully raised it could accommodate up 8-10 people comfortably. We were set for our feast! The not-so-great thing was that it didn't come with any chairs & our budget was used up at that point.

Thus our first of many Thanksgiving dinners with friends began with everyone bringing their own chair to sit in.  It was a mismatched & imperfect gathering of chairs, but it was a full & joyous gathering. That is the thing I seem to need perspective about so often in this season of mothering young kiddos.  Without it I can easily get amnesia.  On the mornings that I look around my kitchen in disgust I typically either shift into guilt mode: "Can't believe I let it get like this.  What a slacker mom I am that I can't stay on top of it.  I hope no one stops by."  Or I shift into To-Do list mode where I can't stop to play with the boys much less slow down long enough to answer a question they may have.  I get obsessed with the items on my list & crossing them off.  I also write things down I have already done & then cross them off to make myself feel even more efficient. Anyone else?  Seriously try it if you don't already do it.  Makes you feel a ton more productive.  There is no shame.   Don't get me wrong about the lists & accomplishing things & even cleaning  those are not bad things at all.  We are grown-ups and have grown-up things that need to get done at times.  Just for me those "things" can sometimes get in the way of living life.

Will my kids remember that we had a jacked-up table or will they remember making the messes & the memories that came along with it? Will they remember always having a full cupboard of clean dishes or will they remember me saying "Can't right now I have to do the dishes"?  Even though I am no domestic diva I can at times let the to-do's prioritize me rather than me prioritizing them.  Sometimes I see the crumbs & dirty dishes as my failings rather than as evidence of lives being lived in my home.  I see the "imperfections" as a negative & not as the obvious in-my-face reminders of how amazingly full my life is.  I am hopeful that when my boys grow up & reflect back on their childhood that the memories they hold closest to them will not be the cleanliness of our house, but that it was just dirty enough to be a happy home.  And I am hopeful that I will not get amnesia about the "imperfections" as often & will instead look around & be thankful for the beautiful mess that is my life.





Tuesday, March 25, 2014

tricky.

It is a tricky thing to be a mama & have your heart live outside of your body.  You want what is best for your little ones.  You don't want them to have their feelings hurt or to feel disappointment or loss.  You want to protect them from all of it.  Yet, the tricky part is it would be a disservice to them if we did that.  If we shielded them from all of the emotional threats that may come their way & insisted they live under our bubble of protection how would they grow into effective & healthy adults?  How would they be able to function with all of the hurt, disappointments & struggles that come along with all of the adult stuff?  How would they know to turn to a savior to find their comfort & to place their burdens?

That being said it is no fun at all to have your little one come home & say "So & So doesn't want to be my friend anymore."  When I heard that it was literally like someone sucker punched me.  Why wouldn't anyone NOT want to be friends with my kiddo I asked myself?  This amazing, fun, creative kid?!  Then I reeled myself in & started wondering what my kid did to the other kid in order to garner this response.  Then I started thinking about how much more awful things kids could & do say to one another.  Then I wondered if my kid took it out of context or if the other kid even really knew what he was saying.  I didn't want to go all mama bear like I did when this same kid would get pushed down as a toddler at the local park I just hurt for his hurt.  I could feel his sadness & disappointment & I wanted to make it all better with hugs & words & maybe some ice cream?  Okay not ice cream, but wouldn't that be awesome (maybe not for our waistlines) if a scoop of cookies & cream really did make everything better?  I would have a freezer full of the stuff if it actually worked.

 So instead of passing on my emotional eating issues to my 6-year-old I did the only thing I could do.  I asked him how it made him feel, we chatted & I prayed.  Prayed about not letting my relationship "junk" become his issues, prayed about the friends to come, prayed about how thankful I was that God will never leave my little guy & how He is the best friend my kiddo will ever encounter & I am so thankful.  I gave my son  & his relationships over to God & I have a sneaky feeling this will be something I will have to do over & over & over throughout his life.  Amazing how resilient little ones are as he was over it in a second & just wanted to know if he could go play.  I imagine eye rolling & sighing will be interjected into future like conversations, but for now I am just thankful he trusted his little heart to me & thankful I didn't get an ice cream headache from stuffing my face with some cookies & cream.