Waitressing and Parenting are Basically the Same Thing

I was a server for two-and-a-half years post college graduation. Immediately following that, I became a mother. Few things in life have prepared me for parenthood like my stint in the service industry. Just like raising kids, waiting tables was hard, humbling work.

I don’t want to give the name of the restaurant where I worked away, but it may or may not have rhymed with TGI Shmidays. Frankly, the similarities between serving and parenting are a little too spot-on.

In the weeds

There is a term that restaurant staff use to describe their situation when they are really, really busy – it’s called being ‘in the weeds.’ It’s been over five years since I have waited tables, but I still have nightmares about this scenario. All six of your tables need refills, the kid at table 20 just spilled his drink, table 21’s food was ordered 25 minutes ago and they are giving you the stink eye, table 22 has a gift card to use and the machine to validate it is broken down, and table 23 has just informed you that someone at their table has a birthday which means that you have to make their free sundae and lead a troop of fellow servers while you belt out a solo in the middle of a crowded restaurant on a Saturday night. Fun times are had by all. Did I mention that this stroke-inducing stress will only render you approximately $12 in tips?

TGIF

I have just walked in the door from work and find that my kids have barely napped. I quickly change my clothes, assess the fridge for dinner, defrost some meat, sit down for five seconds, immediately receive a request for a sippy cup refill, fill the cup, sit back down, smell a poopy diaper, change the diaper, get the defrosted meat, brown the meat, pick up a fussing kid, cook with one kid on my hip and another one at my legs, avoid burning everyone, set the food down on the table, pray for our meal, a kid puts too much food in his mouth and barfs, clean up the barf, get the other kid more to eat, now everyone needs drink refills, sit down to take my first bite and it’s cold. Guess what – I’m back in the weeds.

86 That

The first week or two of serving, I kept hearing people say, “86 spinach dip!” “86 Jack Daniels sauce!” “86 broccoli cheese soup!”

I had no idea what they were talking about.

It turns out, when you ‘86’ something, it means you are all out of it. I used to love it when guests would come in and ask for something right off the bat, which, of course, would be the one thing that you were completely out of. Then they would complain the rest of the time and continue to ask for that one item for the duration of their dining experience. What did they want me to say? “Now that I’ve handed you your check, I just wanted you to know that I’ve been messing with you this whole time and we’ve had macaroni and cheese bites all along!!! Muahahaha.

I’m trolling for tips, people. I want those mac-n-cheese bites as badly as you do.

I don’t know that I have been able to eat more the three vanilla yogurts in my own home in the past three years. We are always out of it. It is no sooner unpacked from the grocery store before it is flying out of the refrigerator. I was putting the laundry away the other day, came downstairs and found that my son had slammed two yogurts while I was upstairs. Obviously, they were the last two yogurts we had. For the rest of the night, that same son continued to ask for more yogurt. Why didn’t we have any? Where did it go? I’m sorry, did you black out while you housed all of the yogurt that we had? You know that it is all gone and no, I do not know how to make yogurt. I checked the fridge one last time and found that we did have one more yogurt – it was strawberry. Wailing ensued. It.must.be.VANILLA! 86 that.

Bite your tongue

Sure, I remembered the nice customers and the once that tipped well. Ideally, they would be both nice and great tippers. BUT, the jerky jerk guests were imprinted on my brain. I would see them walk in the door, see the hostess grab the menus, see her start to head toward my section, see her set them down at my table and then walk away. Things just got real.

Contrary to popular belief, there are a lot of things that a server has no control over. It would drive me nuts when a guest would say, “this will reflect in your tip…” Oh, really??? At least with them, you knew not to expect a decent tip. The ones that really got me were the guests who ran me around for an hour and fifteen minutes and then would leave NO TIP AT ALL on the table. Just because our titles literally mean that we are servants, does not mean that we are less than or are not working insanely hard. Servers remember you and they remember how you treated them. I can’t even count the amount of times I had to just walk away to keep myself from saying something mean in return to a rude guest.

I have to admit, there have been times when I have been drawn into a verbal ‘negotiation’ with my kids. When frustrations are high, it’s so easy to do. If it’s not a negotiation, then my sarcastic nature will rear it’s ugly head. When my kid wakes up from a nap and promises to behave better than he did that morning, I have to bite my tongue. I want to tell him that he better behave because he was being a real poophead earlier and I can’t take much more of it. Instead, I just give him a hug and we move on. Most of the time, I can remember that I am the adult and they just learned how to use the toilet, so maybe arguing with them is not the most productive thing that I could do. Many days (like getting stiffed on a tip), there seems to be nothing to show for all of the work, but you just show up, keep your mouth shut, and do it anyway.

Leftovers

Whenever a meal was ordered incorrectly or there was an extra meal for any reason at all, my co-workers and I would jump on that freebie like no other. I would take my meal to the back of the restaurant in a dark corner and shovel that food into my mouth as fast as I could. Inevitably, I would burn my entire mouth and get extreme indigestion, but it was totally worth it. I couldn’t afford to spend my tips on Cajun Chicken and Shrimp Pasta even with my discount. So a treat like that was hard to come by.

I cannot tell you how often I don’t get to eat a real dinner. I’m usually too tired to cook and if I do make a home-cooked meal, the kids are suddenly not hungry. Most of the time, I just make them something then eat their scraps over the sink like some sort of rat while I clean the dishes. It takes me back to the good ol’ days of hiding out in that dark corner at work in between checking on my tables.

Last Call 

The restaurant where I worked was across the street from the host hotel for our town’s minor league baseball team. All the visiting teams stayed there and would often come over to eat lunch and then dinner after the game. I can’t complain too much because there were times when I got free tickets to the games, but when it is 11:45pm and you close at 12, you did not want to see 26 hungry ball players walk across the parking lot. I would just be honest with them and say, “Look, you are all more than welcome here. But, if you order a well done steak I cannot guarantee what may or may not happen to it.”

Bedtime is the new last call.  There is something about it that makes my kids request more things than they did the rest of the day combined. They need water, they need their blankies, they are suddenly interested in reading books, they need songs to be sung, they need you to do a River dance, they need their backs rubbed, and just when you think you are done, they will get out of bed and come downstairs to ask for something else. Bedtime is my cardio routine.

Humility 

Right before I finally got a job that launched my career, a frequent guest of mine came to the restaurant and asked why I continued to serve when I was educated.  Basically, he was insinuating that I was too good to work there. I stopped for a moment and responded truthfully. Other than the fact that there were no jobs to be found, I told him, “When I first started as a server, I believed that I was too good for this job. But nothing has taught me more about humility and grace than serving others. No one is ever too good to serve.”  See what I did there??  Pretty deep for someone who was ‘just’ a server.

There were many days when I was waitressing that I felt like the worst version of myself.  I was bitter and angry that this was how I had to make a living and I was frustrated with the way people treated me.  Motherhood is much the same.  I will lay my head down at night and feel as if I did nothing right throughout the course of the day and I am constantly surprised (and disappointed) by my reactions to things both large and small.  But I pray, ask for forgiveness, and my slate is cleaned.

Parenting is one big sacrifice. You serve others daily, often with little appreciation. It is all about humility, perseverance, and more grace than you can even imagine. But it will teach you more about yourself and what you are capable of than any other job this world has to offer.  I cannot conceive of a life without my kids.  They have shown me what an incredible blessing it is to be able to serve others.

Plus, both experiences have given me enough stories to write a book.

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To the Mother in the Time of ISIS

syrianwoman

I didn’t see you at Wal-Mart. We didn’t give each other a knowing glance as we shopped for groceries with our children. You weren’t in line behind me as I waited for my morning coffee. We didn’t have a moment or share encouraging words while our children played at the park.

But I see you.

I see you as a fellow mother whose world is full of horrors I hope to never experience.

This morning, while I complained about not having the right sugar for my coffee, you hid with your family.

When I tossed leftovers that we wasted into the trash, you dug for scraps to give your children and went hungry yourself.

As I looked online and daydreamed of a bigger home complete with a home office and Jacuzzi tub in the master bathroom, I convinced myself that we do not have enough space in our home. You cried because you have been displaced and have nowhere to call home, no space at all that belongs to you, no inch of earth that is your own.

I came home and needed a minute to myself after a long day at the office. A job that I could only have due to my education and opportunities that have been afforded to me, a woman. You struggle to read because your desire for education has been thwarted at every turn.

syrianwomanandchild

I kissed my boys goodnight and stroked their hair, taking for granted that they will sleep through the night without fear for their safety. Meanwhile, your son, who is the same age as mine, washed up on the shore lifeless and alone, never knowing what it meant to be safe as you tried to escape evil. Your heart is shattered into a million pieces as you did everything that you possibly could to save him.

My husband came home from work and sat on the couch beside me then hugged and kissed me. You received word yesterday that your husband was beheaded for his Christian beliefs.

I think of what it would be like to have a daughter and the things we could do together – paint our fingernails, buy dresses with headbands to match. You have an endless knot in your stomach for fear that your daughter will be kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery as she nears the age of nine.

I must admit that it is hard to see you. It is much easier to shelter my heart and to shield my eyes than to truly look at you. There are times when I find myself playing the martyr for no reason at all. You show me that I know nothing of hardship, nothing of persecution. You force me to be raw, real, and honest in my self-evaluation.

I realize that the designer purse I have been longing to buy is ridiculous.  While there is nothing wrong with buying a purse, I am hit with the reality that the amount I would spend on that one unnecessary item alone would most likely feed your family for the better part of a year. I am ashamed and embarrassed by my material arrogance.

You have shown me what it means to have unshakeable faith. All you have left is God and you cling to him every second of every day because you know that He is enough. This world has done nothing but take from you and you place no value in things of this earth. You have forced me to look full-on in the face of unspeakable terror – to look beyond myself and all of this material weighing me down. You have challenged me to embrace my faith at all costs. To love with reckless abandon and give freely of all that I have.

We may not have a mother-to-mother moment in the middle of Wal-Mart, but I am determined to reach you. There is so much that this world can learn from you.

I see you and I love you and I will not turn away.

For a list of ways you can make a difference, click here.

Mommy, What’s Abortion?

babyultrasound

“Mommy, what’s abortion?”

The hair stands on the back of my neck and my heart begins to race. I feel a knot form in the pit of my stomach and I turn around to face my son. He is looking up at me so innocently, yet asking a question that can shatter all childhood innocence.

Suddenly, I bolt upright in bed and realize that I am slick with sweat. I have been dreaming – a nightmare, really.

My mind and my heart have been flooded with thoughts of the unborn. Thoughts of their mothers and fathers. Thoughts of the decisions and circumstances that lead to a lost life. Thoughts of the recent revelation that while the babies themselves are seen as worthless, their organs still hold value and are sold for profit.  Thoughts that break my heart into a million little pieces.

Someday my child will come to me and ask me about abortion and it will be real. I will have to look into his blue eyes and tell him that abortion stops a beating heart and ends a life.   I will have to attempt to answer why this happens when I have no idea why it is allowed to happen myself.

I pray about this future conversation and the words that I will say. I pray that my son will not lose his tender heart in the midst of this cruel world. My sweet boy who asks so many questions and recently had this conversation with me out of the blue:

“Mommy, did you have a blanket in your belly to keep me warm?”

“No, honey, I didn’t.”

“Was I wearing jeanies?”

“No, you weren’t wearing jeans. God made Mommies to have bellies that would keep their babies at just the right temperature – not too hot and not too cold. My belly kept you nice and cozy.”

“How did I eat?”

“There was a cord that connected me to you. It gave you the food that I ate and kept your belly full. Do you see your belly button? That’s where the cord was and that is your reminder that no matter where you go, you and I are always connected.”

“Wow, that’s amazing! Mommy, thank you so much for keeping me warm and taking care of me when I was in your belly. I love you so much!”

I love these simple and sweet words that I was able to share with my son. Since this conversation, he has randomly come up to me several times and thanked me for taking care of him in my belly.  But how do I find the words to explain that it’s not always this way?

In all honesty, I used to have a really difficult time forgiving women who chose to abort their babies. I used to be so filled with anger and could not fathom why anyone would think that this could be an option. But God has softened my heart. My stance on abortion has not changed – I will always think that it is wrong. If we don’t value a human life, then why value anything at all? However, my heart has softened toward the women that go through with this life-ending procedure.

I find it interesting that the media and society in general describe abortion as a choice when most of the time, it is a decision made when one feels that they have no choice at all.  We cheapen the value of life and dilute what really happens during and after an abortion in order to justify our actions.  We don’t want people to think twice about their decision, but what happens if they do think twice and what happens if it’s too late?  We label things as a ‘procedure’ or ‘lump of cells’ and focus on the physical aspects of a ‘simple outpatient visit’ rather than acknowledging that emotional, mental, and spiritual scarring are far more detrimental than a procedure could ever be.

There are women who were pressured by family to have an abortion. Women who felt panicked and had no one and nowhere to turn. Women who believed that when it was all said and done they would be able to move on with their lives only to find that they were plagued with the weight of their decision and consequences they didn’t expect to face.

We need to love these women.

We need to open our arms wide and let our tears mix with theirs. We need to be a safe haven and a shoulder to lean on. We need to be the kind of friend we believe a friend would like to have.  We need to make them feel like they do not have to bear their secrets and burdens alone.  We need to love like the One who loves us.

I have never had an abortion and I am grateful that I have never been in circumstances that would even allow me to consider it an option. But, I have done things in my life that I just can’t get back no matter how hard I try.

I know many, many women who have found themselves pregnant outside of marriage. It always breaks my heart to hear how upset people can become over this. Is it God’s ideal? No. But, a life has been formed – a life that has a God-ordained plan no matter what.  Who are we to condemn rather than celebrate life? Just because the circumstances surrounding conception are not condoned, doesn’t mean that we can’t walk alongside of someone in a time of great need and offer encouragement. A woman doing her best to mother a child should be praised.

In our most broken states, we need to be reminded that God loves us just the way we are. Nothing can separate us from His love. This is a truth that I love to hear time and again.

There are countless women who share their testimony of healing and redemption post-abortion. They have been covered by the grace of God and continually inspire me to reach out to those who are hurting. God withholds His grace from no one – we just have to be willing to go to Him to receive it.

This is what I will tell my son someday: decisions are made that are so difficult and maybe even impossible to explain.  There will be ‘Why’s?’ that can never be answered this side of heaven. But there is faith and hope and love because of Christ’s work on the cross.  Burdens can blossom into blessings when we give them to the Lord.

 

*This is a space of love and encouragement.  Regardless of your stance on any issue, comments that attack or are hurtful in any nature will be removed.

No Bathroom Left Behind

bathroom

My children are on a self-imposed journey to visit every bathroom east of the Mississippi River. They have conspired together and are determined to make this happen. It doesn’t matter if we are in our hometown or traveling – we must check out any and all bathrooms.  There will be no bathroom left behind.

The kids know that if they mention that they have to go to the bathroom, I will move mountains to find them a toilet immediately. This is due to the fact that children don’t mention their need to go until they are a sneeze away from soiling themselves. I can prompt them to go before we leave the house, but if they are otherwise preoccupied, forget about it.

Case in point, we were leaving my parent’s house recently and getting ready for the 20-minute drive back home. I told my 4-year-old to go to the bathroom before we left. He said that he did and we drove away. I stopped for gas and when I did so, he began to yell through the window at me that he had to go NOW. I finished filling up the tank, unbuckled both boys from their car seats, and hustled them into the gas station. The cashier showed us the back room that housed the toilet and I told my son to go.

“Mom, it smells horrible in here! It smells like old toots!”

“Yes, it does smell bad.”

“I can’t go! I’m going to barf. I can’t pee, I can’t pee!”

This is when I tried to take a deep breath (then regretted it because of the awful stench) to calm down. I was holding my 2-year-old who kept grabbing on to a rusty pipe and then popping his thumb in his mouth. He’s up-to-date on his tetanus so he should be fine. Anyway, I managed to keep my cool as I said to my oldest, “You are going to need to find a way to put some pee in that toilet. We are 6 minutes from our own bathroom and you told me that this had to happen now. Make it happen.”

Two drops of pee made it into the toilet. But at least we know what the bathroom looks like at the local Sunoco station.

A few weeks later, we were traveling the hour-and-a-half to my in-laws over Memorial Day weekend. Again, I hear from the backseat that nature was calling and it was calling hard. We had to drive ten more minutes before we could reach the nearest public toilet. Do you know where that toilet happened to be? Boalsburg, PA – the birth place of Memorial Day. Do you know where you do NOT want to randomly stop on Memorial Day weekend? Boalsburg.

As it turns out, it was a false alarm. But the boys can cross the Boalsburg Mart bathroom off of their list of places to see.

We recently took a long trip to South Carolina and back for vacation. Normally, we drive through the night so that the kids are sleeping and the trip doesn’t feel as long to them. However, my husband and I decided that this year we had no desire to struggle to stay awake and then figure out who had enough energy to take care of the kids once we reached our destination. As a result, there were more bathroom breaks.

I always love it when my 2-year-old insists that he use the restroom. He still wears a diaper and I can’t get him interested in using the toilet at home to save my life. As soon as we go somewhere, he immediately wants to visit the bathroom. Part of me feels like saying, “Just go in your pants!” But a bigger part of me wants him to learn to wipe his own butt. So we journey into the restroom where he attempts to unroll the toilet paper and then we all get covered in soap and water because holding up a small child so that they can ‘wash’ their hands is a nightmare.

It’s all worth it because the Buffalo Wild Wings in a random Virginian town is now one less bathroom for us to visit.

Sometimes I’m the one who needs to use the bathroom. On long trips, I try to go as long as possible but that is dangerous because you never know when you might get stuck in traffic. For example, on our recent trip down south, I took over the wheel and about an hour later realized I could use a bathroom break. I didn’t want to stop so soon, so I continued on. At one point, I saw a beautiful rest stop that looked like it was part of a day spa. We were seven hours into our drive and I really could have used some cucumber water and a ten minute neck massage! But no, I soldiered on only to see a sign a mile down the road that said, “Next Rest Stop – 108 Miles.”

Grrrreat. It’s just me, the road, and a handful of shady Exxon’s between my bladder and a decent toilet. If my option is retrieving a key from a gas station worker so that I can walk around to the back of the building to pee in a room that looks like it should be taped off for a crime scene investigation or just hold it, I think I’ll hold it.

Once we reached our destination, the kids were able to hit up more bathrooms than I can even mention. They’ve got to be making great headway with their list.

At one restaurant, the boys took turns making trips with me. My oldest locked the door and then crawled out the bottom rather than unlocking it. Nope, you need to crawl back under and unlock that thing and then I need to wash your clothes as soon as possible now that you crawled all over a bathroom floor. My youngest kept hugging the weird statue that was in the corner of the bathroom and then we both got drenched during the hand-washing portion of the bathroom visit.

*I would like to take a brief moment to discuss family bathrooms.  These seem like a great idea until you realize that your kid is tall enough to unlock the bathroom door and run out, leaving the door open while you are still on the toilet.  This may or may not have happened at Kohl’s.

While shopping, we made another trip to the restrooms. We walked in and my son, always feeling the need to comment on everything, said, “Someone is pooping in here!”

This was accurate, but I quickly explained that this is a bathroom and that’s what people do in bathrooms. Also, just zip your lip.

He just kept at it. “It’s smelly! Are they done pooping yet?” Judging by the orthotic sneakers I saw under the stall, I can only hope and pray that this woman was too hard of hearing to catch what was going on. Given the fact that my son must state everything at the loudest possible volume, especially things that he should keep to himself, I doubt she missed it. My apologies, innocent bathroom goer – but yet another venue has been crossed off of the list.

On the way back home, we stopped at a McDonald’s for breakfast and a quick stretch. The thing that baffled my mind was that this McDonald’s had a PlayPlace, but no diaper changing station in either restroom. Whaaaaat!? You have tried to accommodate the many children that will pass through your doors by offering a place to play, but you failed to allow their parents to change them?? C’mon, man! My oldest could go, but I had to wrestle my youngest in the front seat of the car in order to give him a fresh diaper. At least we put a check-mark beside that location.

The last time I asked the boys, we had only 4,796 bathrooms to go! Ain’t no stoppin’ us now!

 

*On a side note, there needs to be changing stations in men’s restrooms, too. Is it really that much of a shocker that men take their kids places by themselves? I don’t think so. I can’t tell you how many times my husband has not been able to change our children’s diapers in the men’s restroom because there is no option to do so. This is an easy fix, people!

Juggling a Balanced Life: The Exercise

the exercise

I love working out. I love to sweat. I love how strong I feel after completing a hardcore workout – like I can take on anything.

The problem is finding the time to work up a sweat.

To be honest, I took the time factor for granted in so many areas of my life before I had kids. But once the kids were here, life continues to roll on and something had to give. Working out was one of the first things to go.

I was an athlete. I guess I still am an athlete. My body is used to exercise and I find that it craves movement. Lately, the cravings have been so intense that I have decided that somehow, someway I must fit workouts into my schedule.

I keep a pretty detailed planner, so I sat down to search for time to exercise. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I would have to wake up at 4:30am in order to break a sweat the way I want to.   It took even less time for me to know that this would be a bad idea. I have to work around people…and be nice…and be compassionate. I know myself well enough to know that if I got up at that hour I would not be fit to enter society. I would turn into a bear. I would be in shape, but I would be a bear nonetheless.

I greatly admire the men and women who are able to successfully wake up hours before the sun in order to workout.  For a few days I did attempt to slowly adjust my morning schedule to see if I could legitimately wake up earlier.

This is how it went:

Day 1: Nah.

Day 2: The wind howled and sounded cold. I rolled over and stayed warm in bed. It didn’t seem to matter that I was going to workout indoors.

Day 3: I did wake up earlier, but I used that time to go to the bathroom by myself.

Day 4: The boys woke up early so I took care of them instead.

Day 5: Nope.

And that’s as far as that challenge went.

This never used to be a problem for me, but it was a problem in other ways. When I was younger, I would do whatever was necessary to get a workout in. I was obsessed, and in some ways things got a little scary. I was constantly practicing for sports, and then when I was done with my playing days I was terrified that I was going to gain weight so I determined that I would not become sedentary. I would get up and run before classes and then I would stop at the gym after classes in college. I knew exactly how many calories were going in and how many I was burning. There were days when it was all I could think about. Looking back, I firmly believe that I had a type of eating/exercising disorder. Through prayer and God’s grace, I have been able to break that cycle of negative thinking. But it has been nothing short of an uphill battle.

Determined to find a way to balance exercise with limited time, I have begun to do Pilates in the evenings while the boys are winding down.  Usually after their bathtime and before bedtime, they like to watch TV.  I let them enjoy a show and I get on the floor and run through a variety of movements that work my abs, thighs, and butt.  The reality of this situation is that I am planking with a 4- and 2-year-old on my back.  I am doing sit-ups with a toddler trying to crawl through my legs, and I am doing leg-lifts while trying to avoid kicking one or both of them in the face.  But the fact of the matter is, I am doing it.

I recognize my need to take care of my body, but now I recognize how important it is to keep a balanced view of what is healthy and what is necessary.  I am no longer training for anything, so attempting to do two-a-day workouts or beating myself up for missing a day of exercise because something suddenly came up just doesn’t make sense.  What does make sense is coming up with creative ways to incorporate exercise into the life that I already live.  I have found that summer is the best time to do this.  I am naturally more energized this time of year and we are always outside.  We have races in the backyard, I push and push and push the kids on the swings, and we love to go swimming.  Would I love to be able to go out and run several miles every evening?  Yes!  But that just doesn’t coincide with my life at the moment.  Someday, my kids will be able to handle themselves while I run, but today is not that day.

Today I must juggle the act of exercise with the more important job of motherhood.   Right now, a sick child takes precedence over my abs.  Catching up with my kids after a long day at work comes before a run.  I know that choosing sleep over exercise in the morning is an excuse/cop-out, but most days it trumps Jillian Michael’s 30-day Shred.  So I continue to balance things out by power-walking during my lunch break and doing strengthening exercises with the the ‘help’ of the kids in the evenings.  I know that eventually I will find a lasting routine to work up a sweat and juggle all of my other responsibilities.

Don’t forget to check out the ways I attempt to juggle a balanced life when it comes to food and clothing!

Juggling a Balanced Life: The Clothes

the clothes

I enter the dressing room and suddenly it’s as if all the other lights have been turned off and there is just one big, bright spotlight shining down on my body. It’s an interrogation chamber.

I look at the pieces I brought into the dressing room to try on and sigh. I was confident and loving myself until I walked in here and now every flaw is broadcast in this three-way mirror that should not be legal in stores. I mean, seriously, those things should only be found in the haunted house at the circus. Speaking of which, this mirror is telling me that I belong in the circus.

Sometimes, I walk passed a mirror or a window and I think to myself, “That can’t be accurate.” This is one of those times. I left the house looking decent but somewhere along the way I turned into an extra on The Walking Dead. Right now I have several different angles telling me that this is real life and as in-your-face accurate as it gets.

Now that I’m in a great mood, I begin to try on clothes. I always play it safe and pick out a size that I can basically guarantee will fit. Then, if it fits and there is room I will try on a smaller size and hopefully bask in the glory of a lower number on the tag of my jeans.

Not today. Today, my safe size in pants has created a muffin top that would make the Pillsbury Doughboy jealous. Maybe if I do some squats and lunges these pants will cooperate. As I am engaging in my dressing room calisthenics, it occurs to me that the pants are tight enough that I am dangerously close to enacting the you-bust-through-the-seams, you-buy-it policy that most stores have in place.

Cripes. What gives today? Obviously not my pants. Stretch fit my foot.

Why don’t we move onto the shirts? As I take the shirt that I own off, I stare at my torso in the circus freak mirror. It looks like I have more stretch marks than I thought I walked in here with. Normally, I am aware that I am pretty fortunate to have had two children in less than two years and walk away with only the amount of stretch marks I have, but right now I am a human road map. I go through some positive affirmation phrases in my head and remember that this is the price of life and it’s a price that I would choose to pay over and over again.

I try on the first shirt and it’s a disaster. I can’t even pull it down over my boobs. The second shirt looks decent until I catch a glimpse of my back in the mirror and see that it’s like the rolling hills of South Dakota back there. When and how did I develop back rolls and how do you get rid of them?

So let me get this straight – in an effort to make a profit, stores and clothing designers actually want you to buy their products, right? Then why in the world would they put the most unflattering mirror combined with the most unflattering light in the dressing rooms? I’m pretty sure this lighting just showed me that I have cellulite on my wrist – I didn’t even know that was possible. And why would designers cut their clothing to fit a 12-year-old girl and not a woman’s body? This chest would make a 12-year-old topple over. Not only do I NOT want to buy anything, but it’s a good thing I’m not at the mall or else I would march straight to the food court for a cinnamon covered soft pretzel right about now.

I take a deep breath and think about whether or not I should even bother trying on the last item I brought into the dressing room with me. It’s a dress. When I picked it up off of the rack, I thought that maybe it wouldn’t work for me – it might be more form fitting than what I usually wear.

Well, I brought it in here and I’m already in my underwear so I might as well give it a shot.

Once I get the fabric situated, I finally glance in the mirror. “That can’t be accurate,” I mutter. This time I have a smile on my face. This dress hits my body in all of the right places. I check my figure in the mirrors and all three angles show that there is no muffin top and my back rolls are gone. I don’t even need to do any stretches to see if they will help the dress to fit. It is not inappropriate in any way, yet it is sexy. I channel my inner Beyoncé and dance around the dressing room Like. A. Boss.

The dress I bought is a Large, but that is not what I think of myself when I wear it. I feel beautiful.

I have learned that it does not matter what the size tag says on my clothes. It is all about how I look and feel when I wear the clothes. We have all seen people walking around who are clearly trying to squeeze into a size that is not appropriate for them. Just because the button buttons, doesn’t mean the clothes fit. Also, I have found that if the fit is better in a bigger size, I look smaller. I don’t go around pulling the back of people’s jeans out just to see what size they are wearing. Who cares? But unfortunately, I have lived a decent chunk of my life feeling way too concerned about the number or letter on a stupid tag. And for what reason? All that has done is make me feel badly about the way I look when there is absolutely no reason to feel that way.

I would classify my style as ‘modern modesty.’ I want to be in-style, yet I still want to be age appropriate. What worked for me several years ago might not work now. For example, I recently tried on a pair of jean shorts that I have had for many years. They still fit fine, but when I walked downstairs, my son said, “Mom, why are you wearing jeanie underwear?” Perhaps they were a little short and now they’ve got to go. It doesn’t matter if my husband thinks they look great, if my son believes that I am walking around in public wearing underwear and not shorts, that’s a problem.

I’m working on treating my body well with the food I eat, and the things I do, but I also need to be kind to myself by choosing clothes that reflect who I am on the inside. Not everything is made for me nor will it all look nice on my body, but when I find the things that do it’s wonderful. Part of keeping myself balanced involves the thoughts that I think about my body. Just as I wouldn’t want to go around tearing others down, I shouldn’t be tearing myself down either. I spent years hating the way that I looked and now I know what a shame that was. I was bought at a price and I need to treat myself as Christ treats me – worthy of love. I am determined to keep a godly mindset for all things in my life, which includes balancing health, wellness, and body image.

 

Our Mother-Son Dance

I cry at weddings. Even if I barely know the bride, I will most likely use three tissues by the time she makes it to the altar. There is just something about the moment that grips my heart and renders me incapable of holding back the tears.

But the part of the day that stirs me to the core is the Mother-Son dance.

You might find me slipping out of the reception as soon as the DJ calls the groom and his mother to the dance floor. I might go stand outside or pretend that I need to use the restroom, but I simply cannot handle this part of the wedding day.

During this dance, I have heard songs about trucks and skinned knees and adventures with Mommy. I have seen mothers look at their sons with tears streaming down their face as they are full of pride with all that he has become as they twirl around the dance floor. But, I break down because my sons and I are very much in the trucks and skinned knees and adventure stage. I cannot fathom the day that I will dance with my boys and perform the mother’s act of giving her son away.

“I don’t care what anyone says – you can cut umbilical cords, but you can’t cut heart strings.”

Ann Voskamp

When we found out with each child that we were having boys, my husband and I joked that we wouldn’t have to pay for any weddings. But two months after our first son was born, we attended a wedding and it hit me that I would indeed have much responsibility on his big day. To my mind, the Mother-Son dance is in many ways a culmination of raising him. I will be handing over the reins and trusting that through God I have done enough for my son to be a loving husband, leader, and provider to his bride.

After speaking with mothers who have sons much older than mine, I have found that mothers of sons experience a gradual letting go process that doesn’t usually happen between mothers and daughters. While daughters often lean on their mothers for advice during this stage of their lives, especially as they begin to have children, sons often forge their own path or turn to their father for guidance.  For a mother cannot relate to her son’s new roles as husband and father in the same way that she can relate to the roles of a wife and mother.  I pray and try to prepare myself for this and I know that when the time comes for me to loosen my grip that God will give me the strength to do so.

I want my sons to put their wives first.

I want them to make their marriage a top priority.

I want them to be the spiritual leader of their home.

In order for them to achieve these things, I know that I must step back. I am not worried that my sons will no longer love me or be close to me. Of course our relationship will change, as God states it should. I have many positive dreams for my relationship with my future daughters-in-law and I trust my sons will choose well.

“The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.’  That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”

Genesis 2: 23-24

As I have these thoughts of the future, my 2-year-old and 4-year-old boys come bounding into the living room and bring me back to the present. They have heard a song on TV that they love and they pull me off of the couch as they each say, “Dance whiff me, Mommy! Dance whiff me!”mother-sondance

I gladly oblige and hold them close while I twirl them around, dip them, and tickle them. Dance parties are a regular happening in our house. We work up a sweat and then decide to make a snack and share it out on the deck. The boys sit right next to me as one shows me what his truck can do and the other one asks me to kiss his skinned knee. I am showered in a chorus of, “I love you, Mommy-ies,” and I know that it will always ring true.  My heart is so full of love for my children that I can’t begin to describe it. One day I will have to let go, but today is not that day.

Whenever the time comes, I will wear my best dress, proudly display my corsage, and take my place on the dance floor with my son. There will be tears and memories that cloud my vision, but I am sure our Mother-Son dance will be one of the happiest moments of my life.

 

Linking with Equipping Godly Women

Juggling a Balanced Life: The Food

the food

I just found out what kale was about two years ago and I have not been impressed. I could maybe choke it down if I drenched it in ranch, but correct me if I’m wrong; I believe that defeats the purpose. I’m not exactly whipping up kale smoothies as I happily bounce out of bed each morning. Perhaps I would, if I could figure out how to happily bounce out of bed.   I’m not making homemade kale chips and no amount of convincing will make me believe that they ‘taste just like Lays.’ Kale chips would be the only chips that could make me stop after just eating one.

Hummus?  There is a reason it was recalled – it’s nasty.

Avocado?  Green mush.

Quinoa?  I have been pronouncing it so wrong that I didn’t even know what people were referring to when it was said correctly.  So, I’m not going to eat it.

I do subscribe to the ‘everything in moderation’ theory, but sometimes that moderation leads to full-blown liberty to enjoy every crumb of junk I can find. Every now and then I need to rein things in again. When I start to feel sluggish and lazy and that’s when I know that my food intake needs a reboot. But what’s a girl to do?

After my first child, I could not get rid of the last ten pounds. Not to mention, I had been at my heaviest weight ever when I got pregnant, so I had about twenty pounds that needed to come off. Enter Weight Watchers. I knew if I paid for the program that I would be more likely to follow it.

The first week on Weight Watchers, I wanted to eat my own arm because I was so hungry. The great thing about their point system is that, at least at the time, most fruits and vegetables were worth zero points. That means that you can eat as much of them as you want each day. But, when you are used to chowing down on a foot long Philly Cheese-steak sub from Subway and then inhaling both of the cookies that came with your combo, a raw carrot just isn’t going to cut it.  I doubt this is the Subway diet Jared was on when he lost all of his weight.

It took me some time to adjust, but once I got it down, the weight came off and I really enjoyed the Weight Watchers program. Eventually I stopped paying for it and continued to follow the guidelines on my own. Then I got pregnant again and rediscovered Taco Bell.

Honestly, I didn’t eat as poorly throughout my second pregnancy as I did my first. Also, I have found that it’s not the pregnancies that get me so much as the few months following the pregnancy. I have no time to think about food or cooking so I reach for whatever is easiest to shove into my mouth. Usually that is Chips Ahoy cookies (chewy style) and leftover mac-n-cheese (heavily processed style). When I was nursing, I could get away with this crap. Then suddenly, the baby is celebrating his first birthday, the milk has dried up and those calories aren’t burning themselves anymore. Yet, I am still slamming all of the junk like it’s my J-O-B.

About six months after I stopped nursing, I stepped on the scale and saw that I was seven pounds heavier than when Jett was only five months old. Whaaaat!? I had a routine physical coming up and the doctor asked me about it (of course). She insisted that I have my thyroid checked. I told her that I was just making poor decisions, but that wasn’t enough. It took a $158 lab bill and a negative result to prove that I was slacking off. Insult to injury.

Recently, I have been attempting to clean up my diet….again. Someone had given me a sample of this ‘all natural’ appetite suppressant. All I had to do was add it to my water and I would magically not feel hungry all day.

First of all, I noticed that it said ‘ground spinach’ on the packet. That should have tipped me off right there. As I was dumping it into my water, I immediately wondered if someone hadn’t just gone to my yard right after the grass had been cut and packaged up the extra grass clippings and were now selling it to innocent people. While mixing the grass in my cup, the water turned to mud. The grass would not dissolve and I even added it to 20 oz of water and not the suggested 4 or 8 oz. I would like to see someone use only 4 oz of water and try to choke this stuff down. It was brutal. I took two sips and dumped it. I should have taken a picture of the grassy mud mess, but I wanted it out of my sight. Get thee behind me, Satan! I can see why it would be effective, though – lost my appetite for quite some time after just two sips. I probably wouldn’t have eaten for days if I could have chugged the whole glass. (side note: NOT condoning eating disorders!)

Next, I attempted a healthier option of my morning granola bar. This thing was packaged bark. Apparently all I have to do is go out to my backyard and gnaw on a tree and chew on some grass and suddenly I will be healthier. Also, I can attest to this bar tasting like bark because I tried some bark when I was a kid. So you can trust that I am speaking from experience.

I find it difficult to balance healthy eating in the real world. I rarely buy junk food at the grocery store – like chips and cookies – but we do have our fair share of processed foods. We also love the Dollar Menu or Right Price menu at local fast food chains. After a long day at work, the words ‘quick and easy’ describing what is for dinner sound like music to my ears. Making better choices when it comes to food will be a life-long process because it is a lifestyle. In order for good choices to become effective, good choices must be habitual.

My saving grace is the fact that I do like fruits and veggies. I love salads, too – just not salads made with kale. It’s almost Farmer’s Market season and I am beyond excited to get some fresh food into my system. The older I get, I realize that I am finally not as concerned with how I look, but how I feel. I am confident with my body and am grateful for all that it is capable of doing. That being said, I need to take care of it and feed it well. I don’t want to be a stick – I want to have energy! The more energy I have, the more I enjoy my life.  When I think of food fueling my body in these terms, it is much easier for me to make good choices.

If I want to keep my life balanced, food definitely needs to be a part of the equation.  Stay tuned as I prepare to sarcastically discuss staying balanced in terms of clothes and exercise.

 

How Mothers of Boys Celebrate Mother’s Day

muddyboys

I used to wonder why there were never any Mother/Son banquets or get-togethers around Mother’s Day each year. Mother/Daughter banquets or teas are hosted by many churches and organizations, but where are the Mother/Son activities?

Then I had boys. My boys have caused me to realize that no such Mother/Son gathering would be acceptable. These banquets would require them to sit still and perhaps run a comb through their hair. I can’t even get them to sit in my lap while I read to them, let alone get them to attend a tea with me.

It would be wonderful if someday I could experience a Mother/Daughter banquet with my own daughter, but for now I experience them as the daughter of a wonderful mother. In the meantime, here are some possible ways that mothers and sons can celebrate their relationship on Mother’s Day:

  1. You could, indeed, have a Mother’s Day tea as long as there was a chance that the ‘bad guys’ would come and wreck it and your sons were able to save the day.
  2. Grab some toy trucks and pretend to be at a monster truck rally.
  3. Go to Lowe’s and sit on every tractor that they have there.
  4. Sit in the dirt together with the variety of diggers they seem to have and get to work.
  5. Jump in mud puddles together.
  6. Go to the nearest train station and watch the trains come in and out.
  7. Construct swords out of foam and have an epic sword fight dressed in superhero clothing.
  8. Water gun battle.
  9. Find some swings and slides, which will inevitably turn into them jumping off of the swings and slides.
  10. Sand and sand toys.

My boys are pretty simple. They don’t want to dress up and go anywhere. Heck, half of the time I can’t get them to wear pants. But, I have truly come to love their simplicity and have started to understand the way their minds work. They would LOVE to do any of these things with me and we often do them right in our own backyard.

Whether you are the mother of boys, girls, or both, we all celebrate Mother’s Day all year long. I don’t need to have a once-a-year banquet to celebrate the relationship I have with my kids. Like all children, they just want to spend time with their mom and laugh and have fun. I can honestly say that I have laughed and had more fun since I became I mom than any other time in my life. I am covered in way more dirt than I anticipated, but that’s okay.

Happy Mother’s Day! And by all means, put that dandelion bouquet picked just for you in your best vase and display it for all to see.

 

 

The Contents of My Purse Turn Me into MacGyver

purse

Sometimes, when I notice the random collection of junk I carry around with me in my purse at all times, I realize that I could turn into the next MacGyver. As I dig through my purse to find my keys, I am given ample opportunity to see all that this bag is housing. After all, my keys will immediately dive to the bottom of my purse forcing me to overturn every last receipt in order to find them even if they are in there for two seconds.

My current MacGyver materials include:

  • Wallet (obviously) yet no money (also, obviously)
  • 17 cards, none of them credit cards but I am one punch away from a free treat at Sweet Frog. Score!
  • Repeat insurance cards. Every time I turn around our health insurance company is sending us new cards. I forget to purge the old ones, so I end up carrying around three different copies because I don’t remember which is the newest version of the card.
  • 3 Dunkin Donuts receipts. Mama runs on Dunkin.
  • $0.56 – all pennies
  • 2 linty mints
  • A diaper and one pair of toddler underwear. If I can avoid carrying a second bag, I’m going to do so.
  • Old school mp3 player with actual headphones, ear buds do not agree with my ears
  • 4 pens, various colors
  • 2 church bulletins
  • Hand lotion
  • 3 pairs of mismatched earrings
  • Checkbook that still has our old address on the checks
  • Bible, the actual book, not the phone app
  • Bible study book
  • Tissues, cannot tell if they have been used or not
  • Case for glasses
  • Another case for discreetly storing tampons and pads, also known as the first thing the kids pull out when rooting through my purse
  • 5 Band-Aids and 2 sample packs of ointment for cuts
  • Chapstick
  • A bottle opener. I did not know that I owned a bottle opener, let alone that I carried one around with me each day.
  • Texas Roadhouse gift card. Yessss!!!! Completely forgot about this, but my purse does not hold the free time and/or babysitter that would allow me to use this.
  • Lightning McQueen matchbox car. Taken from church unbeknownst to me by my son. I forget that it is in there each week until approximately ten minutes after we have pulled out of the church parking lot.
  • Erin Condren Life Planner. Helps with life organization, but clearly not purse organization.

Despite purging my purse every few weeks, this junk just creeps in there. It feels like I am carrying a ton of bricks, and frankly, I would not have been surprised if I would have found a brick in there. Like MacGyver, I don’t know how I am going to use these materials until I assess what is needed in the moment.

Kid cuts his knee at the playground? I can clean and bandage him.

Stumble upon a wishing fountain? I have 56 pennies for that.

Hankering for beer and steak? Apparently I can both pop the bottle and pay for the steak.  I’m not going to do that, but according to my purse the option exists.

Need some encouragement?  Let’s have an impromtu Bible study while treating ourselves to that free dish at Sweet Frog.

One thing is clear – whatever the need may be – I’m prepared.  The only thing I am missing is my sweet MacGyver mullet.