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.