Jul 202015
 

The one moment when things nare clear and feel do-able as a parent. It DOES happen, really. Though, admittedly, it's elusive. Here's how to find it and why it's important to hang on until it comes--you can do this, really!I’ve never been one for excessive optimism regarding my capacity to handle my kids. I wish I was. I wish I was the type to bound out of bed in the morning with a big “Let’s do this!” fist pump in the air. Instead my first thought tends to be more of the “If I bury my head deeply under the covers, maybe they won’t be able to find me?” variety.

I love my children. Excessively. But I’ve made no secret about the fact that I feel entirely overwhelmed by them–almost always. And the older I get and the more I know myself, I become exceedingly convinced that my personality type doesn’t fit with having young children. What?? I know, this sounds a bit contrived. But here’s my logic: if my natural bent is to find renewal and energy in time spent alone, our current frenzy of group bathroom trips and the need for Mommy to help with Every Single Thing allows for very few of these restorative solitary moments. When they are in school a bit more or able to pour their own cereal, my sanity might have a better shot at existing. For now, it’s dicey.

It’s dicey, and I spend 95% of my days counteracting the stream of “I can’t do this” thinking. I fantasize a lot about naps, wish desperately for an available friend who wouldn’t think me crazy, mantra “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” and call my husband at work in defeated panicky tears during the moments when things like trying to get both children in their car seats and leave the house on time gets to be too much. Somehow we get through and today becomes a yesterday and we move on.

And somehow my kids seem to being doing okay. Better than okay, actually. They’re pretty happy, which I think might be the biggest win in this life. God knows how this happens, because to me, our days feel like a full-on circus show of chaos. But somehow it’s happening.

I will never forget one day, when my son was just over a year old when I was lamenting to a friend, “I have no idea how I’m going to do this.” “But Mer,” she said, “You already ARE doing this.” I’ll never forget her words because I’d never before considered that maybe life is what happens when we aren’t paying attention.

Maybe succeeding at something isn’t some grand finale line we cross or finish, it’s just waking up every day and doing what’s in front of us. Whether we feel like stuffing our head under the covers or not.

Maybe doing something is what happens when we are trying to figure out how to do it.

And maybe, just maybe, I was already doing it.

I was taking care of the children I had no idea how to take care of. Huh.

In the good moments, you know the non 4pm-I’m-going-to-beat-my-head-against-the-wall-if-one-more-little-person-whines-for-one-more-little-thing moments, this positive thinking started to take root. And then, as if God knew I needed I little confirmation to seal the deal on my belief that I might actually be able to handle my children, He gave me my Firework Moment on July 4th.

The one moment when things nare clear and feel do-able as a parent. It DOES happen, really. Though, admittedly, it's elusive. Here's how to find it and why it's important to hang on until it comes--you can do this, really!

You see, we’d always avoided Fireworks like the plague. We are very early-to-bed, early-to-rise people and the thought of dragging fussy kids out late and getting stuck in hours of traffic never seemed appealing. And then this year, our son asked to go. So we did some ill-informed brainstorming about where best to park, packed up the lawn chairs and drove off in the truck.

And you know what? It was awesome. Setting up the chairs in the truck bed in the back of the parking lot gave a us a sweet height vantage point (and made us feel very redneck boss). We were able to throw everyone in their car seats quickly and peal out early to avoid long exit lines. But that wasn’t the victory.

The victory was the moment when, holding my son on my lap as the fireworks boomed overhead, I looked over to my husband, holding our daughter on his lap, both of them captivated by the show. And I thought, “We did this. Wow, we did this!” We had done the very grown up thing of taking our kids out to fireworks. And we were going to wake up at home the next morning and feed them breakfast and keep them safe and happy. We were going to keep taking care of them. We were taking care of them.

Wow.

My Firework Moment. The moment I got it; I was taking care of my kids and I could do it.

I don’t know that we will ever really feel like we’ve got this, friends, but the thing is, we do. I’m here to tell you in all those lonely days of doubting yourself, you don’t need to. You don’t need to doubt you can do it, because you’re already doing it. You’ve got this. Really.

***This post dedicated to my dad, who listened to me whine all day on July 4th about having to take my children out so late. He told me to buck up, and that I’d probably get a blog post out of it. He was right. As always.***

First image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID:9399579, copyright:anterovium

Jul 132015
 

Kids are often WAY smarter than we are about stuff. Here are 6 solid reasons why we should trust their wisdom and here's how to do it. I love my daughter's savvy and never want to change it!Today, my little gal turns the big 4. Mind-blowing when you consider the many days I doubted we would ever make it to 4 o’clock, much less 4 years.

Elyse amazes me. She amazes me in the way that sometimes I look at her and wonder, “Is this creature real?” This astoundment might happen after she does something fantastically sweet, like inviting a child playing alone at the park to join her on the swings. It might be when she does something horridly bratty, like throwing a tantrum so epic I’m certain the surrounding neighborhood will have our house officially declared as a war zone.

A solid 90-some percent of what she does makes no sense to me. Why she refused to eat baby food after 6 months. That she had no time for crawling or walking–just started straight in with jumping and tearing through the house and has never stopped since. There is her staunch requirement that all her dresses must have at least one shade of pink in them and that her Rainbow Dash My Little Pony must be placed on the left side of her nightstand. She takes out her pigtails when anywhere near the vicinity of water and prefers to wear rain boots. Everywhere. I have no idea where she got the notion that it was her necessary responsibility to bathe brother’s stuffed Angry Birds nightly, and moreover, I have no idea why he lets her do it.

But that’s the thing about Elyse. She’s such an insane force, you find yourself accepting her for who she is–and falling in love with her along the way. As her mother, I am wiped before I am first plastered with her endless kisses in the morning, but my prayers aren’t for my own strength, they are for her future spouse–not that she makes the right match, but that he might have the stamina to reckon with her Elyse-ness for the rest of his life.

And then I pray that she never, ever changes.

You see, Elyse is boss. She is my girl, my love, and while with clear eyes I see all the changes and growth that need to happen in her life, I never want her to change. Her spirit, her heart, her energythank you, God. Thank you for making her her.

Kids are often WAY smarter than we are about stuff. Here are 6 solid reasons why we should trust their wisdom and here's how to do it. I love my daughter's savvy and never want to change it!

What I never want to change about her:

1) Her temper can be abominable, but may she never learn to stop standing up for herself. Obviously, the kicks and hits won’t fly and many time outs will be suffered as we discipline her inappropriate choices into acceptable expressions of her feelings. Yet, I am so grateful to have a daughter who recognizes what she doesn’t like and isn’t afraid to fight against it. This life is brutal; taking it lying down is never a win.

2) She gets that being a girl is fun and loves it. I get so confused about what side of feminism enjoying painting my nails puts me on. But I love it. And so does my gal. Princesses, bows, tutus, and sparkles are all pretty, and the more of them we can incorporate into our day-to-day sounds like a win to me. It’s okay to delight in pretty things, it really is. When she spent an entire winter refusing to take off a tutu? Rock your fabulousness, babe.

3) She has no concept of limits. How cool. Fear isn’t part of Elyse’s world, and I’ll be honest, I’m jealous. I wish I could so wholly throw myself into life. And there is no such thing as taking time to save up energy so she doesn’t get tired later. She runs from the minute she gets up until she finally crashes at night. Listen, by the time she’s a mom herself with young ones who exhaust her, I highly doubt she’ll still be interested in running mad circles in her room for an hour post-bedtime. (If she is, more power to her; her Fitbit step count will love her.) In the meantime, if she wants to spend her days racing up and down the stairs, squealing in delight chasing butterflies, fearlessly launching herself into pools and off swings, and NEVER EVER SITTING STILL, good for her.

Elyse places no limits on what she can or can’t do–she just does it all. Go for it in this life, sister! Mommy will just steal naps on the couch as often as she can.

4) Almost all her friends at her princess birthday party were boys, and it was perfect. Elyse has always run with the boys and couldn’t care less. I love how she skips the whole gender quotient when finding her friends. She just hangs with whoever is there and rolls with it. Moreover, I love that she isn’t afraid to assert herself regardless of the crowd. If she’s the only one in a tiara? Who cares. She’s serving the pretty pink cupcakes anyway–and they like them.

Little girls love their princesses and here are some solid reasons to celebrate this! Enjoying the fancy is a blessing in this life and here's why.

5) She doesn’t know how to curtsy. I have no idea where she learned her dramatic dance moves. Her twirls and emphatic leg lifts are impressive, albeit totally sans any real talent. But it makes her happy, so it’s all good. However, after performing a rather involved routine with a friend during a playdate, Elyse was dismayed to learn she didn’t know how to curtsy like her partner. I say, screw it. She ends her dances with entusiastic giggles and claps for herself. In my book, this is better than any curtsy any day of the week. Keep dancing (and finale-ing) to your own beat, love. It’s gorgeous.

6) Her enthusiastic expression of love is overwhelming. Sure, I duck away from her vigorous flying hugs at times (too many unguarded wallops to my boobs), but what a blessing. Love can be in short form in this world. Someone who freely expresses it with abandon? A gift. Bring on the hugs and kisses–always.

Go on, be your fabulous self! Self-expression MATTERS in this world and is too often overlooked. Kids are often WAY smarter than we are about stuff. Here are 6 solid reasons why we should trust their wisdom and here's how to do it. I love my daughter's savvy and never want to change it!

I’m proud of my girl, I’m proud of who she is. Sure, her father and I have our work cut out to guide and temper her spirit–but we’re guiding and tempering it, not changing it. Never changing it, because she already rocks, just as she is. And I’m already in awe of who she will become.

Happy birthday to my hero.

Jun 292015
 

Sometimes it feels like, as adults, our lives can stagnant. Here's why that is isn't true. Look for the growth in your life with this insight and FIND IT. It's there, trust me ;)I know New Year’s is when you’re supposed to do it. I know that’s the time to look back on the past year of your life and check out all that you’ve done and fantasize about where you yet want to go.

But last week, as we were prepping to leave for the beach, it hit me suddenly: an entire year has passed since I last did this. An entire year since I last dug for sand buckets and broke a sweat trying to jam all the sandals I own into a suitcase. Because I don’t know how to pack.

Crap. Everything was the same. And what had I done?

You see, the kids did pretty much everything. Started preschool. Started Kindergarten. Learned to ride a bike. Pooped in the toilet. Related, learned to wipe their own butts. Tried soccer for the first time. Made new friends. Began reading. Began writing. Grew about 5,000 inches. Figured out how to pull a chair over and pull open the security lock on all the doors. Fantastic.

Their lives, every second that they breathe in and out, they change and grow, experiencing newness of life at every turn.

As for me? I’m still crawling out of bed every morning, blindly smacking the power button on the same old tired coffee machine. Nothing has really happened.

Unless…

Unless I’m wrong and lots of things have happened.

I mean, I basically look the same. Sure, my hair is blue now, but I’m still cozying up with the same 15 extra lbs., and you know I haven’t given up my go-to shorts. Our house is the same and my husband still runs himself in circles pursuing infinite hobbies. Our dog is still a grouchy old man who hasn’t forgiven us for having human children.

It’s all the same.

But that doesn’t mean that nothing has happened. Because it has. Countless times over, it has.

I believe there is a victory in the day to day getting up and caring for your family, doing the work set in front of you. This has happened, inarguably, this has happened. But there were new things, different things, things of pride, big things that rocked my own corner of the world in the past 365 days.

I got my blog trademarked. What does this mean? The United States Government has officially titled me Mom of the Year. I know.

Sometimes it feels like, as adults, our lives can stagnant. Here's why that is isn't true. Look for the growth in your life with this insight and FIND IT. It's there, trust me ;)

I was on a national television show for the first time ever. Boss.

Despite a total lack of familiarity with the public educational system, my husband and I navigated our way to our son’s IEP. If you’re not a parent of a grade-school child, this is far bigger than it sounds.

I became an aunt to the sweetest baby girl of all time.

I hung with a dear friend through the worst time in her life and was captured by the depth of our relationship.

I taught myself to create graphics on my blog. I’m not saying I’m good at it, but I DID IT.

I planned an uber-successful second year of BlogU with some of the smartest, coolest women I know and it was awesome.

My hair is blue. I didn’t mean to casually write this off above. It’s not casual. It’s blue.

The thing of it is, the kids look different than they did last year. And they have all these mile-markers they can tick off as evidence of their growth. All these tangible ways to measure their change.

When the adult years roll in, it doesn’t work this way. The surface remains the same. And no one else but you might know of the waves that crashed upon your shore while others weren’t looking. I mean sure, you could get a blog and endlessly pummel everyone with your updates, but really, how classless…;)

But it’s okay. Because while my yoga pants still strain over my thighs the same (albeit with a few more threadbare patches), I know that I’ve done different things.

I may not have changed, but that’s okay; I’ve still lived. I lived a year of my life, and lived it the best way I know how.

And as I continued jamming those sandals into the suitcase and grunting over the stubborn zipper, I reflected on the truth that while I’d tackled no major feats in the past year (such as that nifty learning-to-use-toilet-paper thing my kids were on) my life wasn’t really so stagnant after all. Not really at all…

First image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID:3885753, copyright:alptraum

 

Jun 232015
 

Sending your kids to summer camp can be a VERY scary experience for parents! Use these insider tips and tricks to prepare the whole family--and then relax and enjoy the summer for all the sweetness it is!Now that summer is here, you might be preparing to send your kids off to camp. It’s not easy sending your child off to their first sleepaway. As the parent, you know that camp will give them great memories and will teach them important skills. But for your child, it can seem like a scary experience and cause anxiety that you may not have anticipated. As you begin to help your child get ready for camp, keep them involved in all of the planning. This will help them develop an understanding of what to expect, which will help them to be more excited than scared.

So how do you start to prepare?

Organization is Key

Of course, you’ll need all of your camp essentials. Make a list with your child of all the things they think they will need while camping. If the camp has sent a list of recommended supplies, start with that, but don’t be afraid to add things. This will be a good opportunity to help your child develop an understanding of how to plan for a long-term trip like this. Items to consider include:

  • A good quality sleeping bag, pillows, and blankets. Don’t skimp on a cheap sleeping bag as a bad night of sleep is a great way to compound existing stress for a kid.
  • Toiletries with containers. This should include a toothbrush holder with a cap, a soap dish with a cap, and a caddy to carry everything.
  • A strong backpack that will be good for carrying things while hiking. You should consider looking into personalized kids backpacks, as this will help your child keep track of their backpack so it won’t get mixed up with the other kids’ things. A cool backpack can also go a long way towards boosting self confidence.
  • Plenty of clothing for all weather types: pajamas, shorts, long pants and jeans, T-shirts, sweaters, jackets, a rain coat, rain boots, tennis shoes, sandals, bathing suits, and plenty of underwear and socks. Since clothes tend to get a lot of hard use at summer camp, you will probably want to stock up on some inexpensive items and extras.
  • Miscellaneous items: a few metal water bottles, some pre-packaged snack packs or other little treats to share or eat for some quick energy on the trail, extra Band-Aids, a flashlight, lots of sunscreen, and bug spray.

Have your child sit with you and go through catalogues or look online to find items they like. Go to stores and shop for items together. Let them be in charge of crossing items off the list. This will help them get excited for the trip. Be sure to label everything so it doesn’t get mixed up with your child’s fellow campers’ possessions. You can use a sharpie or even get a custom stamp and ink pad.

Make Sure You Are Listening to Your Child

It’s normal for your child to have some pre-camping anxiety, especially if they’ve never done this before. Have a good sense of what this particular camp will be like so that you can answer your child’s specific questions. They will feel better if they feel like they have a pretty firm sense of what to expect while on their trip. Be sure to go to any pre-trip planning or orientation events and bring your child along.

Also make sure you are giving your child room for self-expression. If your child isn’t getting a chance to tell you how anxious they are feeling, their fear and anxiety might build up without you even realizing it.

Trust the Camp and Your Child!

It’s hard to let go on the first time that your child will be away from home for an extended period of time. Be sure to respect the camp rules regarding cell-phone and Internet policies. Get them some camp stationery and postcards and pre-fill out envelopes for them so that they can send you letters. Also, send your child regular encouragement through nice notes and care packages, but other than that, try to let your child get some distance and have a good time! You’ll be amazed by how much they’ve grown and learned when they come home.

Image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID:43250879, copyright:lightsource

 

Jun 222015
 

This way of thinking will put a huge spin on your idea of a to-do list--and give you more peace than you could imagine! Get organized the right way--and feel like an accomplished Mommy with this simple trick TODAY!It’s no secret that I have a love-hate relationship with my to-do list. I entirely depend on it to do my thinking for me, yet I rage against the unreasonable demands it makes. One day, in the midst of a big fight with my planner, I paused to read a gorgeous post by Julie Bel Connor about finding peace with what you are capable of on this earth. I’ve shared Julie’s beautiful, smart heart with you before when telling you about the wonderful work she does. She never fails to wow me with her on-point smarts. In this post, her concept of a Done List blew me away, so I asked her to tell us more about it below.

Read on and take a minute to feed yourself, friends–and then go mark it off on your Done List, because that’s an accomplishment truly worth noting!

*****************************************************

Getting it Done….It’s Not What You Think by Julie Bel Conner

Who has 87 million things on their to-do list? I know I do. Some of those tasks often seem so daunting. They are things that will make us feel immensely good about ourselves if we complete them. So as a life coach I ask you the question – why? Why do we think these tasks will make us feel so good? Odds are we may never find out right?! So here I am presenting a new way to look at a list, as a mother, wife, friend, employee, employer, whatever your thing is. This is the done list and you may be amazed at the power it has.

How does it make us feel when we aren’t accomplishing the things on our list? Pretty terrible right? I know I don’t enjoy feeling crappy, I prefer to feel happy and although we are humans that have emotions which it okay, this is something that I believe we have a little control over.

What I am suggesting here is to explore, look at, and write down what we do every single day. Even if we don’t get a chance to write it down we can make a list in our heads. Think about a typical day as a mother, whether you stay home or work or work from home. Look at the things you do; change diapers or potty train, feed babies or prepare food, clean the house, do the laundry, drive children here, there and everywhere, take a shower (maybe), bathe your kids (maybe), shop, cook, console, comfort, compliment, adore, connect, love. The list could go on a mile long, but who really crosses those things off their to-do list? I don’t, and that’s probably because they are not on my list to begin with.

This way of thinking will put a huge spin on your idea of a to-do list--and give you more peace than you could imagine! Get organized the right way--and feel like an accomplished Mommy with this simple trick TODAY!

Why is that? Because we, as mothers, just feel these are the “supposed tos” and the “shoulds”, but really they are important tasks that make the world go ‘round. We have a huge responsibility to raise the next generation and all of those tasks are required (in some capacity, we are not perfect) to do this in a satisfactory way. So why can’t we put “changed 4 pee diapers, 3 poo diapers and heated up french fries” on our to do list?  Of course we don’t have the foresight to predict the flow of elimination in the household and what a toddler will eat today, but we can write what we did do today. Let’s include all the seemingly menial tasks that make the world go ‘round and that support the future of our children.

Try to do it at least once a week (I ideally suggest daily), write down ALL the things you did on the done list and let your heart soar. Let yourself release your mom guilt and pay attention to all the things you do every single day of the week. Be proud of yourself and praise yourself for being a good mother and for doing so many things for other people.

Then you know what comes after the done list? Self-care. Thanking yourself by getting some needed alone time. Spending time with yourself and getting a pedicure, going for a run, doing something you love, SOLO. This is how we fill our energy back up and have the energy to give to that endless list of needed tasks that we accomplish every day. Please take the time for you, you deserve it.

Be gentle with yourself, you are doing a fabulous, amazing, incredible, awesome job!

First image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID:25245701, copyright:luminastock

 

Jun 172015
 

Dying your hair blue? Take it from someone who NEVER does anything crazy or wild--it was so worth it! Completely the right decision and the reason might surprise you!We play it pretty tame around here. Our wildest nights consist of deciding to start an episode of the fantastically addictive Orange is the New Black after 8pm. I’m sadly not joking.

So when I trekked off to BlogU the weekend before last and came home with blue hair, it was of note. Not of note in that my husband was particularly concerned. He asked if this was my version of a midlife crisis, I said “probably”, and we left it at that. We do a pretty decent job of letting each other do our own thing.

No, it was of note in the sense that my hair, depending on the last time I’ve made a pass at one of my at-home highlighting kits, has always remained solidly hued in the blonde-to-light brown spectrum. Blue was definitely something new for me and my strands.

My children captured the seeming lack of logic behind my new color splash best, “But why, Mommy?” I, of course, tried to pacify their questions by lying and telling them I did it because I knew blue was one of their favorite colors. A useless explanation and they knew it: “But why, Mommy?”

Why did I dye my hair blue?

Why not?

I’m 35 and work from home. I’m my own boss in more ways than one. This helps lend sense to my reasoning, but still doesn’t explain, I know.

A week before BlogU, I broke into one of my dye kits in the midst of a very full weekend. In my haste, well…let’s just say it didn’t go well. I posted a spoofy advance apology in our conference group for my wonky color job, and some how the conversation turned to how I should just dye my hair blue and forget about it. And I thought, “why not?”.

I mean if Kelly Ripa can rock her pink, and my beloved People Style Watch reports that vibrant locks are the way to go, why not bandwagon it up and hop in on the trend? Plus, in my book, blue is always prettier than brown.

So I had no reason not to dye my hair, but yet I had a very real reason to dye my hair.

You see, I’ve talked a lot about my mother dying 3 years ago. And while this will never become any less horrible, I do us all a disservice by not talking about the blessings that have come from her death. Screeeeech…hold the phone. What’s that, blessings from her death? Yes, blessings. Changes in family functioning, new friends, discovery of fellow kindred spirits, and most namely, abandonment of fear.

I have written about this before, but since my mom took her exit, the things of this world don’t matter as much. I have no control over what happens and I’m very aware of this. Clinging to a careful protection of what transpires seems pretty useless…and this is very freeing.

Four years ago? This would have been my hair! That which I cared for and styled and presented to the world at large. Now? It’s just hair.

It’s just hair. 

Still, this is only further explanation as to why dying my hair was of no consequence, not what the actual reason was that I did dye my hair.

There was only one reason. Jessica D’Pirate.

Dying your hair blue? Take it from someone who NEVER does anything crazy or wild--it was so worth it! Completely the right decision and the reason might surprise you!

Who is she? Until 10 days ago, I didn’t know aside from the fact that she has a cool blog (seriously, go check out Domestic Pirate, you’ll thank me later) and a fun online presence with a rockin’ Instagram account. Now I know she is a mom of four who loves her family so much. I know she has really boss friends who throw her awesome birthday parties and how incredibly gorgeous the bright shade of her purple hair is when you see it in-person. I know that she can cut a dance move like no one’s business and that she is so easy to laugh and is one of those precious people with whom you can be real.

She was the one who kindly offered to hook me up with the blue in that Facebook thread before the conference. And she’s the one who welcomed me into her dorm room at Blog U without knowing me at all and shared her color-changing magic.

I know that she is kind. That she is nice. That she has a sweet spirit and that I will miss her a ton if I don’t get to meet up with her again.

I know that she is a fellow soul on this earth and that if I had been precious about maintaining my ill-highlighted blondeness, I would have totally missed the chance to connect with her. What a loss. What a colossal, colossal loss.

The gift of sharing a moment with someone else? It’s a gift. Meeting someone as boss as Jessica and bonding over hair dye? Worth it–whatever the result looked like.

She was worth it. She was the reason dyeing my hair was a good idea. She was my why.

That I really, really love my blue streak? It’s only a bonus.

Go find your own blue, friends, it might be far, far more valuable than the color of your hair.

May 202015
 

Supporting other people the right way can be tricky. Use these tips to be there for someone--the way they REALLY need you to be. Friendship is a gift--cherish it the right way!Over the weekend, my sister and I made a bold move–WE LEFT THE HOUSE. I know, I know. And it gets even more unbelievable when I tell you what we did: we went to a movie theater to see a grown-up movie. Like, not something animated by Pixar. Again, I know.

And while I wouldn’t typically cite Pitch Perfect 2 as a top resource for valuable life lessons, one popped up in the first few minutes of the film and refuses to shake itself from my mind.  In the movie, a newscaster (spoofily) noted that “wearing underwear is a choice we make every day.” Hot dang! What a silly truth, but it is true. It so is. Perhaps not one of the bigger choices we make, but definitely one that matters.

The thing is, life is full of these choices, underwear-related or otherwise. Some more important, some less so. But choices–lots and lots of them–fill our days. We choose to get up in the morning, to clean our house, to take our kids to school, to lovingly heat-up leftovers from the night before for our dinner, to stay up and watch the end of Mad Men versus going to bed at a sane hour…but I think, of most value, we choose to be there for those around us.

You see, life hands us turns. Some bad, some good, most somewhere in between. Yet recently, there have been a many hurting paths I’ve crossed. Pretty awfully badly hurting, to be honest. And in turn, my heart aches for them. I’ll be straight, I can hate feeling the feels. My decidedly introverted self stubbornly longs to hole up with a book sans doing something as shocking interact with another person. Horror!

But this is how God made me. This is how he made us. This is who we are. We’re going to care about the people He put in our lives and we’re going to love them. Even when it hurts. Because they hurt.

While I may not always want to care, to rather hole up in an ivory tower of contented privacy, it’s not where I’m called. God calls us to the muck and the mire. He calls me to choose to be there.

And you know what? I like myself better when I am there. When I’m where others are. Yes, sometimes this means that my own schedule and days and household will be a little less tidy and pulled-together. That’s okay, I was never good at the tidy house thing anyway. I’d rather have dirty counters than miss the chance to support a friend.

We are called to care.

To love.

To throw open the door to people who need to walk into our homes and sob over their reality. To not judge them. At all.

To be there for them where they are.

To be so real our hearts break.

It is not an easy thing in this world of Pinterest-fab organized closets and gorgeously-designed age-appropriate playdates to feel comfortable hanging out in anything less than pretty perfection. To embrace people where they are at and support them regardless of our own yearning for order and non-yuck.

Yet this is exactly what we need to do.

Supporting other people the right way can be tricky. Use these tips to be there for someone--the way they REALLY need you to be. Friendship is a gift--cherish it the right way!

It’s been wonderful to find real friends through this world of online blogging. It’s been precious to embrace the few in-real-life friends who “get it”. Yet I mourn that in the very picture-perfect suburbia where I live, more realness isn’t easily found.

“Fine” as an answer to “How are you?” will never work for me. I wish it would, as it would be so much easier.

But you see, I don’t see the exterior, the shining athleisure and its ideally-cut yoga capri pants; I see the heart. I see the heart of who we are. The heart of who we could be, and the heart that yearns to connect and be carried.

I see it, and I choose to love it.

Because all of life is a choice; a choice to be the best of our most real selves in the moments that beckon us to selfishly ignore our surroundings.

How do you do it? 

Tell someone you care.

Allow them to see your own imperfection so they feel safe sharing their own. Yes, I’m telling you the sloppy pony and stained yoga pants at preschool pick-up are good things.

Listen and pray for them.

Ignore your own fear of reaching beyond yourself and choose to do it.

When a friend texts you, “Evening plans: taking a bath, drinking straight from the bottle and getting my ugly cry on”, laugh because it’s straight-up hilariously real. LOVE THEM FOR BEING BEAUTIFULLY THEM.

It is an everyday choice to be kind, to be real, and to be there. And it matters. So very much.

I can’t promise a lot on this earth, friends, I’ll be honest. Endless bedtime stories and remembering to fill water bottles before school drop-off suck a lot of energy. But I can promise to always be real.

Will you make the choice, every day, to join me? We might just go ahead and bless each other 😉

 

First image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID:21362879, copyright:rosipro

Second image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID:20756095, copyright:sebastiangauert

 

 

Apr 272015
 

Accepting that as a mom, my kids' needs come first has been a hard thing to get used to. The daily struggle of managing schedules and organizing it all is a beast, but here is the one thing I remember when it all starts to feel too overwhelming. Read on to learn how to press through this season of parenting--it can be done!I write a lot about working hard to accept our age and stage in this life, probably because it’s one of the things I struggle with the very most on a day-to-day basis.

It never seems fair. Or right. Or like it makes sense.

It is that odd 12 minutes you have in between herding children through their morning routine (why is it always such a surprise that we have to put shoes on every morning??) and shoveling them into the minivan for school drop-off. The possibilities reach far.

Do you make a quick pass at a shower and brushing your teeth?

Screw the shower and fight through some vigorous sit-ups in a shout-out to the approaching summer months?

Pop out a few quick over-due emails?

Tackle the towering pile of dirty dishes? Maybe this will be the morning God gives me a shot of super-speedy energy and I could actually get them finished before we leave!

Sit and play “birthday party” with your kids as they’ve been begging?

Speaking of birthday parties, if you don’t get those invites addressed and sent out, your son won’t even have a birthday party.

The problem is that these are all good things. Valuable, important things to you, your house, and your kids. The fullness of this life means that each activity is a calculated trade. Every thing done means that there is something else that is not going to get done.

I want to be the super-mom who gets up before the sun, exercises, dresses in a chic outfit, checks in with work stuff and has time to fill the juice cups before my kids come down the stairs wailing for breakfast. But I want to sleep too, because that matters, right?

I’d love to catch up with paperwork, but there are friends who need me. A nice walk after my husband gets home to watch the kids would be sweet, but when was the last time we actually had a real conversation? Dinner together might be smart. Scheduling a needed haircut, but I have a meeting. Writing a post, but kids’ homework. This but that, thisbutthat, thisbutthatthisbutthatthisbutthat….

One morning when breathing through all of this was especially challenging, talked with my friend. “It feels like I am always robbing Peter to pay Paul,” I whined, “I never get it all done.” “Honey,” she lovingly “got” me, “You can’t.”

She is right. So right. While I desperately long for less jiggly bits around my thighs and passionately organized closets, for this season, I can’t. It’s a season of selflessness. As much as our own wants and needs flare up and jealously vie for a prioritized seat, things like kids needing Mommy to draw intricate sidewalk chalk roads on the driveway and endlessly sit in school pick-up lines power through with their pressing realness.

Accepting that as a mom, my kids' needs come first has been a hard thing to get used to. The daily struggle of managing schedules and organizing it all is a beast, but here is the one thing I remember when it all starts to feel too overwhelming. Read on to learn how to press through this season of parenting--it can be done!

 

When you break into the territory of need vs. need, it can get desperate. Really desperate, friends, I know. Someone’s something is taking a backseat. It’s a very hard line to draw but one that has no choice but to be drawn.

Since we have that darn stickey wicket of not being able to do ALL THE THINGS and since we parents are the grown-ups, it might be time to latch onto some acceptance.

Acceptance in the form that smudgy handprints on the refrigerator are the norm, right along with my dusty baseboards, and if you don’t like that, please leave my home. Acceptance in that if I only squeeze in a few squats, I can choose to focus on my pretty earrings vs. the enormity of my thighs. Acceptance in that I may be dozing off during bedtime stories with my kids, but at least I’m trying to read to them.

Acceptance in that I’m not superhuman and I’m going to have to bag up a lot of the things I’m yearning for and toss them in the backseat. Feel free to throw yours in there too as you drive these kiddos and their world around.

Maybe some day we can unpack our own stuff and pay Peter back, but for now, settle in, it’s going to be a long ride.

 

Second image credit, depositphotos.com, image ID:35208743, copyright:IuriiSokolov

 

Mar 232015
 

This life is so crazy and so very full. Paring it down to the basics, the things that TRULY matter is the key to making your day-to-day not only manageable, but full and blessed. Check the pure truth I found through our crisis and get real--it's actually kind of fun, I promise!Recently, things got rather basic around here. And by basic, I mean that remembering to brush teeth was a solid victory.

Chaos left us scrambling to make sense of necessities while sleep was relegated to a fanciful indulgence.

One sweet result of the fun was some precious family time. Another gift was a brilliant revelation that came to me while shoving underwear in the washing machine and praying that I could find something edible to serve for dinner: this is enough.

You see, for days, dishes went unwashed, toppling against each other in a threat to crash to the floor. Kids were permitted excess hours with the iPad and Mommy decidedly set up shop in a pair of unflattering leggings. It was not Martha Stewart-esque, Pinterest would have cringed, and the Mom of the Year award was never more honestly earned.

I looked at my neglected to-do list and sobbed a little in my heart. It cursed me by only getting longer and infinitely more demanding.

And then I looked at my family. I looked at the kids laughing and happy. And at the fact that somehow we managed to get everyone fed and safely in bed for the night.

And I knew that, despite all, God was still good, and we would get up in the morning and it would happen again.

In the midst of the frenzy, I went dark on my blog and social media. In my foolhearty arrogance regarding the importance of my craft thus far, I’ve never done this before. But days without posting simply was the only option that made sense because we were too busy living life.

Stats were suddenly of the least importance, as things like miraculously getting everyone in the bath at night became of the utmost importance.

And so we went on. And so I realized that the things in this life that continue us, that make this life real, aren’t the things like pretty countertops, checkmarks on lists, or even coolly managing the events raging around us. No, it’s the things like wiping potty-training bums and filling juice cups.

This life is so crazy and so very full. Paring it down to the basics, the things that TRULY matter is the key to making your day-to-day not only manageable, but full and blessed. Check the pure truth I found through our crisis and get real--it's actually kind of fun, I promise!

I did not live in the era of the pioneers; I just read all of the Little House on the Prairie books and watched Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman ad nauseam. So I don’t really know what I’m talking about. But I imagine that in those days, the day’s goal was more about survival and provision than having the cutest Facebook status update.

Than having a perfectly formulated daily calendar. Than making sure your child read the optimal number of popcorn words each day. Than DIY-ing the most gorgeously rustic bathroom storage shelves.

No, I think it was about the basics. About keeping people safe and feeding them. About making sure they were clothed and generally cared for.

I think what was real, was very real. So real that focus was clear and true.

And you know what? I think they nailed it. Nailed it beyond all shadow of a doubt. I think those pioneers had their crap together.

With this awareness, I surrender my piles of unwashed laundry and stale leftovers. I surrender my sad abandoned blog posts and I surrender them in the interest of what is most real: that which is necessary to carry us from day to day.

Life just went and got real. And in the interest of our fab pioneer ancestors, I’m totally cool with that.

First image credit: photography ID:55254163, copyright:alexsvirid

Second image ID:2602245, copyright:EyeMark

 

Mar 162015
 

Bad case of the grumpies? You are not alone with grouchy moods! When I found this perspective to help boost my mood and make me feel better, it was a Godsend--AND a reason to smile!A couple weeks ago, I shared about a rather low spot I found myself in, one which included vehemently slamming my minivan into the garage door. I won’t lie, it was a neat time. And delightfully, for my husband and kids the fun hasn’t quit.  It’s been two straight weeks of “Mommy’s in a mood” around these parts.

Somehow that timely crunch of metal while I was actively mourning my mom broke something in me. It’s as if all the tempered grouchiness within suddenly gave way. It gave way to a torrent of snappy frustration with my daughter’s endless very-three, three year-oldness, irritation with parents in the drop-off line who take too long for my impatient bent, curses on too-tight budgets, and disproportionate tears over broken trash cans. Like I said, it’s been fun around here.

As I sit, wondering if March of 2015 is simply beyond repair for my hopelessness, I am reminded of a flipside that I am carefully ignoring. You see, if I acknowledge it, it might just do wonders for re-setting my mood, and I have so cozily settled into being a grumpy defeatist…

The flipside was last Tuesday morning. One week and one day after I attacked our garage.

On this Tuesday, I was up, out of bed, and at work on my computer by 5:30am. As I breezed through e-mails, I thought, “Awesome! I’ll be done by 7, so I can exercise and grab a shower before the school run!”. Tired, fussy and very needy kids woke up early and had other plans.

I modified my brilliant game plan, “No worries! I’ll drop my son at school and we’ll run to the grocery store quickly before it gets crowded. Then I can get home and exercise.”

Good news! The nearby retirement home decided to shift their weekly visit to the grocery store to Tuesday morning…at the same time my daughter and I arrived.  I’ll just let you imagine what a wonderful match this was for that impatient bent I mentioned above.

Also, my daughter needed to pee–right in the middle of the soup aisle. As I tore across the store to the lone bathroom and got this sorted, I still clung to hope of an ordered morning. We somehow found our way to the check out, where I unloaded a very full cart. While I was bagging and preparing to pay, my daughter had another bathroom emergency that could not wait. The clerk was thrilled. I love potty-training. 

Take #2 on the mad dash to the bathroom; I regrouped further. “Well, no time to exercise this morning, but I’ll still have time for a nice shower after unloading the groceries.”

Now very completely toileted, we got ourselves and the groceries home. Just as I put one foot on the stairs to run up for my shower, the phone rang. It was the school nurse. My son was ill and would need picked up.

“Okay, I will grab him, settle them on the couch with a show and shower before the garage guy shows up.” We had another garage repair estimate scheduled, praying against hope to beat the original $1500 quote we were given.

Right as I returned from getting my son, the service truck pulled in the driveway behind me. The repairman showed up–45 minutes early.

Friends, it was time to call it–there would be no shower.

Bad case of the grumpies? You are not alone with grouchy moods! When I found this perspective to help boost my mood and make me feel better, it was a Godsend!

As he tinkered around outside, I managed to sneak in for a quick change into some fresh jeans and an overdue date with my toothbrush. It wasn’t brilliant, but allowed me to feel slightly more human, slightly less like a sweatpanted poster ad for halitosis awareness.

It also allowed me to be slightly more centered when a few minutes later the garage guy knocked on the door, and simply said, “I fixed it.”

What?! We were told it couldn’t be fixed!”

“No, it wasn’t that bad; I just had to use the lag…(words that I don’t understand but made me further think this man was both an angel and a genius)…and it is only $106.”

$106. $106! For those of you still following this long, detailed tale, you get that this is quite a bit cheaper than $1500. Quite a bit cheaper.

The kind of cheaper that challenges your commitment to doom and gloom. The kind of cheaper shakes you awake to hope even when things have been feeling very grim. Even when you’ve had the most frustrating morning in the world and will never again shower in your life.

The kind of cheaper that reminds you that after every Monday there is a Tuesday.

The Tuesday may not come right after Monday, but it is there. It is coming. There is always another side to the Monday.

 

First image credit: image ID:1323317, copyright:cookelma

Second image credit: image ID:1831863, copyright:ponytail1414

 

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