My Kids are Always Dirty

My kids are always dirty. I don’t take the term ‘always’ lightly, yet I feel confident in saying that they are always dirty.

They will cdirtome to visit me at work and my husband will swear that they were clean when they left the house, yet somehow on the ride to see me they have full-grown dirt beards. They are like dirt magicians. They could attract dirt even in one of those scientific ‘clean rooms.’

I will try to make them presentable when we go out in public, but they are sure to have uncooperative bed head. In the winter it might not be bed head so much as hat hair. Regardless, it is sticking up everywhere. The kids also like to rock the one pant leg up, one pant leg down look. If we are not covered in dirt, we are sure to look disheveled.

They are also stain magnets. New clothes don’t stay new for very long on these guys. I try to save or donate the clothes that I can once they have outgrown them, but usually they are so well-worn that it’s not even helping anyone to donate them. Grass stains, dirt stains, and food stains are constantly being pre-treated in our laundry room.

The dirt just doesn’t stay on them, either. I have finger prints all over my walls and my windows. If you find a light switch in my house, odds are that the paint around it is covered in crud from their tiny hands. I have given them baths only to drain the water and find the biggest ring of dirt circling the entire tub. Our remote control buttons sometimes stick because they have gotten who-knows-what all over it.  Several times a week, I must ask the question, “Is that chocolate, poop, or mud?”

Dirt travels from them and covers me, as well. After their visits to see me at work, it is not uncommon for me to go to a meeting, look down, and realize that they rubbed chocolate on my sweater (my co-workers always give them candy) or gave me a muddy boot print on my leg when I picked them up for a hug. When I’m at home, I’m pre-treating my clothes too because I am joining in on the activities that make them so dirty. Like the time that my oldest son found a huge mud puddle by our old house and ran into it before I could do anything about it. I had to wade into it to get him out but we played for a while first. When my husband came home he found a pile of muddy clothes out on our deck.muddy

Our bathrooms are always in need of a good scouring, not because I don’t clean them, just because the regular dirt mixes with bodily fluids in this room. When asked why there was pee everywhere, I was told by my son that sometimes he likes to stand there with his eyes closed and “see what happens.” I’ll show you what happens – you’re going to start cleaning the bathroom yourself!

Recently, I thought that there was just run-of-the-mill dirt on the rug in the boys’ bathroom. I waited a few days to wash it with the bathroom towels until I came to find out what it really was. My son informed me that he had run out of toilet paper while going to the bathroom, so he just wiped himself with the bathroom rug. Instead of just walking over random dirt, we had all been stepping on a skid mark for a couple of days. What I can’t figure out is why he didn’t just ask for more toilet paper? I mean, he is never home alone so someone could have helped him out. So gross.

I used to try to fight all of it, but I feel like I am getting better at accepting the fact that where kids abound, dirt abounds. I do my best to keep things clean and dress them nicely, but I can’t keep them from playing and having fun. So stain up your clothes and fingerprint my walls – that’s the stuff memories are made of.

Every Woman Needs Her Tribe

Sometimes I collapse on the couch at the end of a long day and I just can’t shake it – this feeling of loneliness that creeps in and stays with me. How is it possible that I am lonely? I am never alone. I spend my days surrounded by kids or coworkers. It is the great paradox of motherhood – I long for ‘me time’, yet I long for connection just as much, if not more.

Every woman needs her tribe.   Those few people who know you and love you in spite of yourself, who pick you up when you fall down and are the first to pat you on the back when you succeed – I need them.  My tribe is my place of belonging.  It’s just that I have been distant from my tribe for a long time – years even – and it’s starting to wear on me.

I have always been one of the guys. I enjoy playing and watching sports, and have never been into girly things. Looking back, I can see how this prepared me to raise boys. But, I need my girlfriends more than ever now. No one is better able to relate to me and where I am in life than the women I call my close friends.

If I have these friends, why am I so lonely? Time, responsibilities, family, career…they all pull us in differently directions and leave little to nothing for any semblance of a social life.

Growing up, you go to school with your friends. In college, you live with your friends. Before marriage, you work, but you have a cash flow (albeit small) that enables you to enjoy time with your friends. After marriage, there is less time, but there is still time. Once the kids come, you blink and realize that six months of your life has passed and you can’t remember if you have spoken to any of your friends in that time-frame.

Some of my friends began having kids a little bit before I did. I didn’t get it. Why can’t we just go out for coffee? Can’t you just keep the baby in the infant carrier? How hard can it be? Then I had a kid and realized that just meeting for a cup of coffee turns into a 57-step process that requires three weeks of advanced planning to pull off. And even then you aren’t guaranteed to be able to keep this simple social engagement. If you are like me, then you found yourself just staying isolated in your own little world because it becomes easier than the extreme effort it takes to leave the house. It’s not that I didn’t want to see or spend time with my friends – I desperately did – it’s just that demand, after demand seemed to pile up on my plate and my relationships were the first things to go.

I have found that the best thing we can give each other as women is grace. Grace in our friendships to know that because we haven’t heard from one another in a while does not mean that the love and caring is no longer there. Grace to realize that this too shall pass – it won’t always be this crazy.

My friends are grace-givers. I pray that I am a grace-giver. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that if something happened and I needed my girlfriends to come to my side, that they would drop everything and be there. I can still depend on my tribe and that is amazing. They don’t hold it against me when we haven’t talked in a while or haven’t shared that precious cup of joe. I try to do the same thing because I finally get it now.

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Just last week I was having a day. You know, one of those days. As soon as I put the kids to bed, I myself crawled under the covers and prayed that God would give me the strength to deal with everything. And I prayed that God would help me to feel connected to others again – that I could find the time and energy to be with friends.

Shortly thereafter I fell asleep. When I woke up in the morning, I saw that I had missed a text from a friend.  She said she was just thinking about me and wanted to see how things were going. The text was sent about ten minutes after I had poured my heart out in prayer. Coincidence? I think not – that’s a God-thing.  I responded honestly and said that I was overwhelmed and would appreciate her prayers and that I missed her greatly. She promised to pray for me and I believe her. I know she cares and I know those weren’t just empty words sent to my phone.

That’s the second best thing we can do for our tribe – remain honest. I didn’t have to share that I was overwhelmed, but it was the truth and hiding it wouldn’t get me anywhere.  I don’t need to feign perfection around these women, or pretend that I can do it all – no one is buying that lie.  Like I said, I know she cares and I know that she genuinely prays for me. Not only that, but these women are willing to give me tough love if I need it.  I trust them to speak the truth to me, even if it is hard to hear.  If my relationships aren’t authentic, then my loneliness will never be eased.

Honesty also provides an opportunity to give and receive encouragement. I don’t know about you, but at this stage in my life, I feel like I need an awful lot of encouragement.  I’m talking about an insane amount of encouragement.  Most of my closest friends are in the same stage as I am – young kids, figuring out how to keep our husbands first, maybe juggling a career, definitely juggling housework. It can be rough, but we need each other.

I’ve often heard it said that “it takes a village to raise a child.” Frankly, I don’t want the village to raise my child because I don’t agree with all that the village does. However, I do believe that it takes a village to encourage a woman. It doesn’t matter if our beliefs or viewpoints on parenting differ, I can still offer encouragement and a shoulder to lean on. Also, encouragement shouldn’t be limited to just mothers. Some of the people in our lives who could use the most encouragement from us might be the ones in waiting – waiting for marriage, waiting for children, waiting for careers. Those can be incredibly difficult and lonely times.

I have seen encouragement come to me from different angles. It has come from the mom with kids the same age as mine. It has come from the woman at church who has been there and done that but has been a mentor to me in many ways. It has come from a fellow working mother with a heaping pile of responsibilities on her plate. Encouragement is a miracle worker and it can be so simple. I mean, that text that I received didn’t take a lot of effort, but it was still sincere and it meant so much to me. Reaching out to my girlfriends does not need to be this elaborate thing. The connection has already been made; I just need to acknowledge that connection.

Recently, I have had friends come out of the woodwork to reach out to me.  One woman noticed that I needed a pick-me-up and sent me a care package in the mail.  Amazing!  Another dear friend had a gift certificate to a salon that she offered to share with me.  Not only did we get to pamper ourselves (rare), but we desperately needed that time together.  It was what I like to call ‘soul therapy.’  There is something so special about meeting the needs of others, especially when you don’t even realize that you ministered to them exactly when they needed it the most.

Realistically, I can’t go and hang out with my friends all the time. I can’t afford to have a weekend away and I can’t meet for play dates in the middle of the day. But, it’s not always going to be this way. My kids won’t always be as needy as they are now and someday I might be able to afford a girls weekend. And when that day comes, I know that my tribe will be there waiting with arms wide open to welcome me back and pick up right where we left off because I will do the same for them.

This Mama’s Easter Focus

I had the cutest outfits all picked out for the boys – colorful polo shirts and printed shorts.  Then, I had backup suits ready because this is the winter that just won’t quit and I was prepared for the egg hunting to take place in below-freezing temperatures.  It was warmer than I thought it would be, but we went with the suits anyway.

They looked adorable in their pastels, vests, and ties.  I had these great visions in mind of the Kodak moments of this Easter morning and I even had a teal framed picked out for a new picture to be placed on my office desk.

Cue reality.  The boys fussed, begged to eat more candy before church, and just couldn’t stand to be near one another.  I tried sitting them on the steps – one of them pushed the other and then the pushee tried to spit on the pusher.  I tried standing them by the wall.  One refused while the other one screamed for me to hold him.  I tried bribing them with more candy.  I tried to tell them that we would take their candy away.  I just couldn’t stop focusing on getting the perfect picture to commemorate this perfect Easter morning.

As you can tell, it wasn’t that perfect.

When we did get pictures, one was crying and the other one wasn’t looking at the camera.  Pictures of them with me involved toys over the face or solemn stares at the lens.  Pictures of them with their father captured one crying for me and one hiding behind his leg.  Pictures of the whole family together show one picking his nose and another one looking nowhere near the camera.

happyeaster

Seriously, this was the best picture.

I know I will look back and laugh.  In some respects, it’s a little funny even now. But as I watch all the pictures of beautiful kids and lovely families clog up my Facebook news feed throughout the day, I’m wondering where I’m going wrong?  Look at all of those dresses and bow-ties!  Are my kids the only ones that won’t cooperate?  Are my kids the only ones who can’t sit still for longer than 0.35 seconds?  Is this a reflection of me?  Odds are, those families had 49,349 takes to get that one perfect picture.

I had the opportunity to teach Children’s Church this morning and we asked the kids about the true meaning of Easter.  Of course, my kid was one of the children who threw their hands up in response to the question.  He said that, “Easter is all about candy….and it’s the day Jesus was born!”  Face palm.  I laughed, but my frustration was growing because haven’t we discussed Christmas and Easter several hundred times!?  But, I cut him some slack because he did just turn four and to me, Easter is a little more complicated to understand than Christmas, especially for a kid who is just learning what it means when someone dies.

Anyway, one little girl raised her hand and said, “Easter is all about Jesus dying on the cross and then in three days – today – he rose from the grave and is alive!!  Easter is the day that Jesus punched death in the face and won!!!”  Without a doubt, that is the most awesome answer to that question I have ever heard.

But it brought me back to what was really important – what is always important.

Jesus died for me.

Jesus died for me.

Jesus died for me.

Jesus died for me.

Jesus saved me for eternity from the sins that I commit today.  He made it possible for the two of us to have a direct, personal relationship because he died on the cross and rose again.

It’s no secret that I tend to be an independent control freak.  I like to do things by myself and on my own terms.  If I had kids who were always compliant and never gave me any grief, I can guarantee you that my relationship with Christ would fall by the wayside because I would probably feel like I was doing okay handling things on my own.   Also, I’m not sure those kids exist.  Instead, I have found that being a mother has made me long for a close relationship with my Savior more than anything else in my life.  Christ’s actions on the cross make it possible for me to simply talk to Him all of the time.  For example, when my kids refuse to take cooperative pictures and I spend Easter morning in a state of frustration, I can just pray.  And He hears me.

Trust me, I know that getting worked up over something like nice Easter pictures is ridiculous, but that was just on my radar this weekend.  Depending on the day and time, it could be any number of trivial things that steal my focus.  My focus should be and needs to be on the cross.  It doesn’t matter if it is Easter morning or not – when I turn to the cross, everything falls into place.

 

*side note:marker one of my kids found a permanent marker on Easter evening and drew on his face.  A permanent marker on his face.  The Easter morning pictures could have been worse.

 

I Don’t Want to be in the Trenches Today

trenchesofmotherhood

It was early on Saturday morning and I was already in a foul mood.  I had been coughed, sneezed, and snotted on too many times to count by 8am.  There is just something about wiping someone else’s mucus off of your face that will cause you to get up on the wrong side of the bed.

Not today.  I don’t want to be in the trenches of motherhood today.  I don’t want to be so heavily needed.

It’s not that I didn’t want to spend the day with my kids – I did.  I just wanted them to wipe their own butts, blow their own noses, properly brush their own teeth, cook their own meals, clean up after themselves, and use their inside voices.  And for the love of organization, I wanted them to just pick one or two toys out at a time rather than dump four bins and decide that they have nothing to play with!  I didn’t want to become the broken record that I am by the end of each day by repeating, “Be gentle.  Be careful.  Be kind.”

After a long week of working mommy, today was stay-at-home-mommy day.  I was girding my loins for a full day in the trenches when I felt so ill-equipped to be leading my troops.  My husband had a ten hour shift and the kids and all of my neglected housework from the week lay before me.  I just didn’t want to do any of it.

Before my husband left for work he could already sense my poor attitude.  I had raised my voice to one of the kids over something that really didn’t necessitate a raised voice.  He called me out on it.  While I knew he was right, I was less-than-thrilled that my weaknesses were being pointed out right in the middle of me displaying said weakness.  I accepted the accountability, but I did give him an icy stare-down for about 30 seconds.

My husband also pointed out that this was my day off and I look forward to stay-at-home-mommy day all week.  That’s when my thoughts overtook me.  Shouldn’t I be thrilled?  Don’t I know how blessed I am?  Aren’t there so many couples who would trade places with me in a minute?  Am I a horrible mother?  The thing is, recognizing how blessed I am only made me feel worse because I couldn’t seem to legitimize my feelings.

Then, as if on cue, Satan made sure that guilt (who he always has on-call) came to keep me company.

I finished my coffee with guilt, grabbed some lunch with guilt (and I severely burnt my tongue), and started the laundry with guilt.

Then something happened.

My oldest son went to spend some time with his grandparents and it was just me and my youngest who was fighting a nasty cough.  My little one coughed so hard that he threw up all over the living room.  Then he just stood there looking at me with his big, blue eyes saying “Mommy, mommy, help me!”

I was the only one who could comfort him and clean him up and assure him that it was okay and he would be fine.  He needed me and in that moment I was so glad that I could meet those needs.

When I got him situated, I suddenly felt like I was walking around without one of my limbs.  I realized that I missed my oldest son terribly and he had only been gone for a whopping ten minutes.  It turns out that I wanted to be needed after all.

I stopped what I was doing and prayed.  I begged God for forgiveness and prayed that He would give me strength and a change in my attitude.  I can’t do this parenting thing on my own.  The trenches can be downright suffocating and I’m truly not equipped to deal with all of these responsibilities every day.  But He is – God is the only one who can give me the ability to deal with life.  Not only that, but my feelings are legitimate to God.  He wants me to pour out my heart to Him rather than keep everything so bottled up that I fantasize about running away (I would never do that, but you know what I mean…maybe just a few hours alone in a bookstore).

I had to continue praying to get through all of my duties for the remainder of the day.  That and the four peanut butter melt-away Easter eggs that I may or may not have eaten seemed to do the trick.  I had a renewed sense of energy to tackle my housework and care for my sick son.  By the end of the day, my precious toddler was feeling better and he asked me to dance with him when he heard his favorite song in a movie.  We danced and twirled ourselves into a fit of laughter and it was amazing.

Not every day ends on a high note and not every day feels like I am deep within the trenches.  But, at this time in my life there are enough of those brutal days that can leave me feeling pretty discouraged if I let them.  I’m just going to refuse to let the hard times get me down.  This is far from my last rough day as a mother, but because I have Christ by my side for eternity I know that I will never be left to handle it on my own.

 

 

I Just Want to Go to the Bathroom Alone

I am incredibly grateful for the fact that all of my needs and the needs of my family are met – roof over our heads, clothes in our closets, and food on our table. We can pay our bills and while we might not have much left over for material indulgences, I can’t really think of much that I actually want on top of what I already have been given.  I don’t take this for granted and I thank the Lord for these realizations every day. But, there is this one thing that I want more than anything else.

I just want to go to the bathroom alone.

I’m not trying to be gross or inappropriate, but being able to sit down and take care of your business by yourself is one of the simplest life pleasures.   And it is a simple life pleasure that has eluded me for the past four years.

I have always had bathroom issues. Case in point, my high school class once took a train from Pennsylvania to Florida and back for our senior trip. I had to be drugged with Dramamine so that I could relax enough to use the bathroom on the train.   I kept thinking, ‘What if the door jiggles open? What if it didn’t lock? What if someone bursts in to see me?’

Then I became a mother and all of these things happen every single time I try to go to the bathroom.

bathroom

It started out innocently enough – put the baby in the infant seat right in front of the toilet. They aren’t going to go anywhere and they won’t remember what’s going on. Soon I found myself multitasking in every facet of my life and the bathroom was no exception.  Let’s face it, nursing while pooping is weird, but sometimes necessary.   I felt weird about it with one kid, then when I added the second kid, I would be nursing, going to the bathroom, and trying to stop the other kid from dumping (pun intended) Q-tips and cotton balls all over the floor.

Once the nursing stopped, I still didn’t find myself with bathroom privacy. Now they will just storm in and verbally ask for things.

“Can I have a snack? Can you get me a snack?”

Ummm. How do you suggest I get you a snack? I am otherwise occupied and pretzels are going to have to wait for a few minutes.

This is when I hear the kitchen chair being dragged across the floor so that my kid can climb up and get the pretzels himself. Heaven forbid we have to exercise any patience in this home.

Even worse, the minute I sit down on the throne the kids begin to fight. Not just little fights, but they start to scream and push each other and come way too close to the edge of the stairs. Pull up your pants and get out there to break up Friday Night Fights, Mama!

The kids don’t seem to realize that they need me for anything or want to be by my side until I feel that nature is calling. They will knock, but despite this polite gesture, they do not heed my instruction to wait outside of the bathroom until I have finished. First I spy little hands reaching under the door. Shortly after that they will just bust down the door and come in to see what I’m doing. What do you think is going on in here?

Lately, my youngest one comes into the bathroom and wants to sit on my lab while he enjoys a lollipop. Is this real life? Should we have a conversation or just sit here in silence and pretend that this isn’t incredibly awkward? Why don’t we open the window blinds and invite the neighbors to this bathroom pow-wow? Sometimes he will bring a book with him and we will read for a little bit. So you’re telling me that you won’t sit still long enough for me to read to you in the living room on the recliner, but when I’m sitting half-nude on the toilet reading suddenly seems like a good idea?  Ironically, he often chooses the book ‘Everyone Poops’ for me to read.

I could shadoobie at work, but there might as well be a revolving door on that bathroom. It is Grand Central Station in there – not exactly ideal for such a private act. So I hold it in all day, take care of everything I could possibly take care of at home, then at 9pm it hits me that I still haven’t had a bowel movement and it’s probably why I have been so miserable for the last 4 hours. By now everything is practically impacted and even though the kids are in bed and I can use the bathroom alone, it is a less-than-pleasant experience. Good luck passing Stonehenge!

Honestly, all I want to do is wake up and take care of business first thing in the morning. If things work out this way, I will literally skip from my car into the office because I will be in such a great mood. It just never works out that way. The life of a mother means that you are endlessly side-tracked from morning till night. So, if you have to go badly enough, you just adopt the open door policy and roll with it.

In a few years, the kids will realize that it’s not cool to barge in on someone in the bathroom because they will want their privacy in there as well. When that day comes I will rejoice and reclaim this precious alone time.

At the end of the day, if using the bathroom alone is all I really want then there is no room for complaints.

When We Uplift a Man

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We had just settled into our booth and ordered our food when I looked over and saw the sign on the wall. As part of the restaurant’s decor was a sign that belittled a man. I wish I could remember exactly what it said but it was something along the lines of ‘I’m just a helpless man who can’t do anything without my wife.’ Meant as something humorous, I asked my husband what he thought of it. He explained that he sees stuff like that every day, but only about men.

This incident happened a while ago, but ever since then I have tried to be more attuned to advertisements and general things in the media that portray men as helpless. The amount of things I have noticed has been astounding. The popular TV show that has a leading man who can’t accomplish anything or be trusted to watch his kids without his wife swooping in to save the day. The commercials that show an overweight man stuffing his face on his recliner while binge watching TV all weekend. The greeting cards that poke fun at a man’s inability to share his feelings. The local morning radio show that has a segment entitled ‘Help me, I’m a husband.’

Conversely, there are many TV shows that portray strong and successful women – whether they work or stay at home. There are plenty of commercials that show all that moms accomplish. You would never see a Valentine’s card from a woman to her husband that said, “I know I’ve let myself go and I can barely keep the house clean, but thanks for loving me anyway.” The media – local or otherwise – would never dare to poke fun at a woman’s inability to do anything.

Yet, when we belittle a man it’s all in the name of good fun.  Why?

Not only does this bother me for my husband’s sake, but it bothers me for my sons, as well. This has been going on for years and I have become immune to it, which leads me to believe that others have, too.

There are plenty of good men out there. There are millions of wonderful husbands and fathers who don’t get nearly enough credit for all that they do. My husband is one of them.

When I think about the sacrifices that my husband has made for our family, it’s overwhelming. He has put his career on hold to stay home during the day with our children. Do I think this is easy for him? Not at all, but he does it willingly and lovingly.  He loads both kids up and takes them grocery shopping. He takes them to play dates even when he knows that he will be the only man there. Then after a long day at home, he heads out the door and goes to work to further support his family. He is an amazing dad and I tell my kids this every chance I get. I also tell my husband that he is amazing, but I’m sure that I don’t do it nearly enough.

The last thing I want is for my husband to be viewed as some fumbling, bumbling idiot who doesn’t know how to do anything. That image couldn’t be further from the truth. He can fix seemingly everything, he can cook, he can change diapers at warp speed, and he can wrap me up in the best hugs. He’s committed to raising our children in a godly manner and he treats me with nothing but love and respect. He deserves to be praised, not mocked.

I want to conscientiously uplift my husband. I want to build him up and encourage him. I want him to know that he is loved and needed. I want him to know that his work is not in vain and we recognize and appreciate all that he does.

Regardless of how our culture might portray men, I am so thankful that my sons have their Dad to show them the way. He is the best example of all that a husband and father can do.  No matter what life throws at him, he stays positive; he knows what it takes to get back up after being knocked down.

I am hoping that our societal perception of men can turn around. This recent Dove commercial tells me that someone gets it.  I wonder what kind of a difference it might make if we built up the wonderful men around us and encouraged them as husbands and fathers.  What if it enabled the next generation to step up to the plate and follow in their footsteps? Let’s see what positive things can happen in our culture when we uplift a man.

 

Linking with Equipping Godly Women

Observations from the Supermarket

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I can’t be the only one who has noticed and experienced these things while going to the supermarket.

Rules of the cart

Upon entering the supermarket, we grab a cart and then must decide who sits up front and who sits in the back. You know the little flap that covers the front seat of the cart? Well, if you actually look at it, it has several pictures on it displaying what you are NOT supposed to do and how kids are NOT supposed to ride in the cart. We ignore all of these rules. We have hung on to the sides of the cart. We sit on things in the cart. We stand in the cart. We unbuckle ourselves and stand up in the front seat of the cart. We even stand and hold our arms out like we are on the front of the Titanic while riding in the cart.  The only thing missing was Celine Dion’s sweet voice crooning over the loud speaker.

Yes, I know that this is dangerous, but I’m not at the store because it’s happy-fun time. I’m there with two kids by myself because we actually need things. If I did a pantry raid to see what items I can throw together for a meal, I would come up with a can of green beans and some stale cake icing. So, we must power through the supermarket and if that means we break every cart-riding rule, then so be it.

Tampons and acquaintances

Why is it that every time I need to go to the store by myself with both of my kids, it perfectly lines up with the few times a year when I have simultaneously run out of every personal hygiene and household product? Not only does this add extra time onto our trip to the supermarket, it also causes me to field a barrage of questions from my children.  It’s the perfect storm. I have one kid in the front seat hugging a package of pads and another kid in the back of the cart shaking a box of Tampax Sport.

“Mom, what is this? Is this lady stuff? How do you use these? Can I use them? Can you eat them?”

Now that I have stocked up on my ‘lady stuff’ I round the corner of the aisle to run into everyone I have ever known. Or at least a couple of guys from church.  How about we save the small talk for Sunday morning and not while my kid is waving my tampons in your face?

Out-of-stock

It just so happens that the only time I could fit in a trip to the grocery store was the day right before the trucks arrive to replenish the shelves. Seriously, I go down through my list and half of the items are nowhere to be found. Because of this, I get what I can now, but will have to find a way to make another trip back to the supermarket in a few days. What’s for dinner? I guess we are still having green beans and icing.

Consider it destroyed

I try to stay focused and motor through the store as fast as I can in the hopes that this experience will be less painful for everyone. In doing so, the kids have opened a box of cereal and a box of fruit snacks.  Now I know why they have been so quiet. On two separate trips, each one of my kids has gnawed through a package of bologna. True story.

I’m going to pay for these items anyway, but I still have a discussion with my kids about the fact that we haven’t paid for then yet so we can’t open or destroy them. I don’t think that a can has made it from the store to our home without being dented when my kids were along for the supermarket experience.

Staring Contest

It’s no secret that kids are observant and riding in a cart through the store gives them the perfect opportunity to people-watch.  Along with the gift of observation, my kids cannot whisper to save their lives and they also have little to no filter before speaking.  So this ends up happening: “Mom, her boobs – I mean chest – was coming out of her shirt!”  Little one overhears boobs and just repeats “boobies” loudly for several aisles.

“Mom, did you see that guy’s butt crack!?  He leaned over and I saw his butt crack!”  Annnd the little one is now saying butt crack instead of boobies.

I swear this is in no way indicative of the way I parent.  But I will give the private part speech again just in case.

How did this get here

I love when I get home and start to unpack the groceries only to find several random items that I have no recollection of purchasing. I forgot cheese and half of the stuff I need to pack my lunches for the week, but I now have the latest issue of Soap Opera Digest, some Ferrero Rocher chocolate, a vile of 5-hour energy, and that matchbox car one of them just had to have. Did I pay for this stuff? The receipt confirms that I did but all of this junk sneaked passed me.  Granted, the chocolate is a nice treat, but clearly my little ninjas were hard at work while I was unloading the cart in the checkout line. Why are the checkout lines so small and compact? I bet they were designed by someone who doesn’t have kids.

I can’t wait to do this all again in a few days.

 

5 Cleaning Tips for the Busy Mom

I am a neat freak and I want my home to be clean and organized – always.  I also want to be realistic.  With a toddler and a preschooler, the toys seem to multiply along with the peanut butter finger prints.  For the longest time, I was trying to keep things as clean as they were before we had kids.  I was also trying to stick to the same cleaning schedule but found that I just wanted to bang my head against the wall.  After a lot of trial and error, I came up with some tactics that work for me and keep me (mostly) sane while balancing family, work, and homemaking.  These tips may not be the right fit for everyone, so please keep that in mind.

homemaking

1. Clean something each day or most days.  I used to take a block of time each week or every other week to clean my house from top to bottom.  I tried to do this for a couple years after I had kids and just grew increasingly frustrated.  Who has three hours of uninterrupted time each week??? I work full-time and just cannot dedicate this much time to cleaning.  Even if I didn’t work full-time I wouldn’t have that much time to set aside.  For whatever reason, I was stuck on wanting everything to be cleaned at the same time.  When I let go of that idea I found that doing some type of cleaning task daily was much more feasible.  Now, I will take 10-15 minutes each day and focus on a task.  When I put the boys to bed, I will sweep and scrub the floors or clean the bathrooms.  I have not gotten to the point where each day has a specific assignment, but I clean the area that seems to need it the most.  With crumbs and potty training, the floors and bathrooms always seem to need the most attention.

I try to utilize the time that I have.  For example, if Jeff has the boys outside, I will take that time to run the vacuum upstairs and then I will go outside to join them.  I know that I can vacuum downstairs while they sleep, but I obviously can’t vacuum their bedrooms at the same time.  I consider the laundry to be part of my cleaning routine.  Again, I have found that for me it works best if I just do a load every other day rather than spend a whole day washing, drying, folding, and putting away.  This way, nothing piles up and it’s not nearly as overwhelming to put everything away.

2. Random pick-ups.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Legos are the worst.  Super fun to play with, but they can take forever to pick up.  I try to do several toy clean-ups each day so that it is not so overwhelming at bedtime.  This works best on weekends when I am home all day.  When the boys take their naps, I clean up their playroom and put things back where they belong.  They have to help me with this, but are still learning the concept of picking up after themselves.  I do the same thing when it is time for them to go to bed at night.  Some days, this is a fruitless effort but I still go for it.  Along with this, I try to rotate which toys are downstairs and which toys are in their rooms or the attic.  They still get to play with everything, but less toys equals less clutter.  I have also found that the boys get a little distracted with too many toys and they don’t play as well as a result.

3. Pick an area of focus.  For me, I like to have the downstairs area of our home clean and organized each night.  We don’t spend much time in our bedrooms; while I still want them to be neat and tidy, it’s not as much of an eyesore as it would be downstairs.  I would say that 70% of my downstairs cleaning is taken care of just by organizing the toys each night.  After that, I just wipe down the kitchen counters and dining room table.  If the dishes aren’t washed, I will take care of them and put them away in the morning.  I know myself well enough to know that I feel much more relaxed when I don’t look around and see a cluttered mess.

4. Little things make a big difference. Just by making your bed and folding the throw blankets in the living room, you will notice a major difference.  At the end of a long day, it makes me feel more relaxed when I can walk into my bedroom and see that it is put together.  Call me crazy, but it makes my room feel fresh and welcoming.  Simply folding blankets can make a space feel much less disheveled.  As a bonus, these are things that take very little time to accomplish. 

5. Lowered expectations.  It may not seem like I have lowered my expectations, but I have.  Things are not going to be perfect and they don’t need to be.  We live here.  If we are playing and having fun, I’m not going to put the toys away at nap time because the boys will want to play with the train track that they built when they wake up.  If we are away for the day and are too tired when we get home, then the dishes will be washed the following day.  I am trying to teach the boys how to clean and put things back where they belong.  So if they pick up their toys and they are not exactly neat, I just leave them where they put them.  For me, this has been huge.  They are proud of their effort and I need to acknowledge their work. I am still working through my desire to have everything ‘just so.’  There are days and times when some or all of these steps are skipped.  That’s okay and it’s certainly not the end of the world.

If you came to my home it would not be immaculate, but hopefully it would not be chaotic.  I am all about finding manageable ways to accomplish everyday tasks.  After trying many things, these steps have given me the greatest success.  For a long time I thought it was just impossible to clean with little kids, but now I know better.

Please do not think that I have it all together, because this is all a work in progress.  These are all ideas I got from various people and I would love to hear what you do.  If you are struggling to find a cleaning routine that works, don’t worry – you will get there!  Like I said, it took me several years to find what worked the best not only for me, but for my family and our lifestyle.  What are some of your favorite cleaning tips?  How do you clean with little ones?

Dreams for the Strong-Willed Child

strong-willed

From the moment we found out we were expecting you, your father and I began to dream. When we found out you were a boy, our dreams got just a little more specific. When I first held you in my arms, so many of my personal dreams were realized.

Do you remember that first night? Of course, you don’t. Long after everyone left the hospital on the day you were born, it was just you and me in the dark room getting to know one another. I held you skin-to-skin, showered you with kisses, and told you all of the dreams I had for you.

As I’ve had the joy of being your mother and watching you grow, those dreams really haven’t changed. Now that your personality is intact, there is no doubt in my mind that you are capable of great things. You, my child, are strong-willed. Or as I like to say, passionate. Everything you do is done with such intensity and purpose and I love this about you!

Many people talk about changing the strong-willed child, but the last thing I want to do is change this part of your personality. To squelch your strong-willed nature would be like forcing you to write with the opposite hand or wear your jeans inside-out and backwards. It might be doable, but it would be awkward, uncomfortable, and unnecessary.

My dreams for you now encourage the use of your strong-willed temperament. As your parent, it’s my job to make sure that you develop this part of your personality appropriately. I want to help you strike a balance that enables you to assert yourself while maintaining self-control.  While it is not okay to talk back and throw fits when you don’t get your way, it is okay to respectfully share your thoughts. While it’s not okay to try to take control over every situation, it is okay to be a leader.

My dreams for you and your strong will include the following:

  • Respect the thoughts and opinions of others, even if they differ from your own. This can be difficult because the strong-willed often feel the need to be ‘right’ or have the last word.
  • I see in you great potential to be a leader. Be the kind of leader that is worth following.
  • Treat everyone as if they matter, because they do. When everyone else walks past the not-so-popular kid in the cafeteria, I want you to sit down and have lunch with him.
  • Know what you stand for and don’t be afraid to stand alone because of it. Being strong-willed gives you an advantage in this area. I pray that peer pressure would be no match for you.
  • Let your work ethic speak for you regarding your skills and abilities. You are still too young for us to know where you excel, but odds are there will be something that you are great at or enjoy more than anything else. Work hard and be humble. Right now, you have a work ethic that I didn’t even know existed in kids your age. I will do everything I can to continue to encourage this in you.
  • Speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves. This includes the disabled, the unborn, the elderly – they all matter.
  • When others run from a problem or tough situation, I want you to run towards it and tackle it head-on.
  • Don’t let the real world steal your love of life.  You have so much energy and ‘zest’ for life – it would break my heart to see you lose that.
  • Come to your own faith in Christ and live your life to glorify Him.

Honestly, I have so many dreams for you that will keep growing and evolving the older you become. But, none of those dreams involve material things; they revolve around the character and integrity I want you to have.  I have never dreamt for you to be a doctor, high-powered business man, or professional athlete. I don’t care about those things and I don’t want you to think that is the measure for success. Actually, you have told me on more than one occasion that you would like to be a garbage man. If that’s your passion and you give it your all, then I would be so proud of you for being a garbage man.

There are days when we butt heads, you and me. I am strong-willed, too. I understand that you want to be right and I understand your intensity because I am the same way. We both have a bit of the perfectionist bug to us as well.  It has been and will continue to be a challenge to help you focus your strong will in a positive direction, to develop self-control. There are times when I am in tears because I don’t know if I am teaching you in the right way, or if I am even getting through to you at all. But there are more times when I see a glimpse of the man you will one day become and I know that the hard days are worth it.

While I am not much of a gambler, I’ll tell you this much – I’d bet my life on you.

Your strong-willed personality is a gift, not a hindrance. I can’t wait to see where life will take you and I pray each and every day that God would use you in mighty ways.

 

Because it’s Winter and I Don’t Enjoy Every Moment

forweariness

I had every intention of writing something uplifting and flowery and everything-is-so-wonderful, but that’s not what came out.  Because that’s not how I feel right now.  I am weary, overwhelmed, frustrated, and exhausted.

Regardless of whether or not you are a parent, life is full of these stages – these hills and valleys.  Winter is always the hardest for me.  As silly as it sounds, things that I could brush off in the summer become big issues to me in the winter.  If we are having a hard day in the summer, we just go outside and literally run it off.  As I write, the thermometer reads zero – as in, zero degrees Fahrenheit.  Running it off is not an option, so we are stuck inside where we find ourselves keeping everything inside until the festering becomes too much and our behaviors show our true feelings.

On top of my winter weariness has been my disdain for the phrase ‘enjoy every moment.’  I just can’t stand to hear it because I don’t – I don’t enjoy every moment.  If I didn’t have kids I certainly wouldn’t enjoy every moment of my life.  So, why I am expected to enjoy every moment just because I am a parent?  This is what I am learning – I don’t need to enjoy every moment, I just need to be there through the moments.

What I’m saying is, I just have to be there to get us through to the times when we are less weary, overwhelmed, frustrated, and exhausted.  I just have to keep showing up.  By saying we should enjoy every moment, we imply that these seasons in our lives shouldn’t exist and perhaps we are doing something wrong if they do.  That’s just not the case.

This is the reality:

I didn’t enjoy the moment when my son clogged the toilet today with a roll of toilet paper.

I didn’t enjoy the moment when my other child ran through a store like a wild man when I needed to get some things (like the aforementioned toilet paper) and we couldn’t just leave due to his poor behavior.

I didn’t enjoy the moment when I worked and worked to cook dinner for my family only to have it met with rejection.

I didn’t enjoy the moment when my kids ignored my request to clean up and instead made a bigger mess before throwing tantrums.

I didn’t enjoy the moment when I had plans with my husband and was asked to stay late at work.

It’s reality and it’s life and it’s okay.  I am reminding myself of this more than anyone.  I serve a God who has overcome so much more than a clogged toilet and a temper tantrum.  That doesn’t mean that I am not allowed to feel frustrated, it just means that He understands what frustration feels like.

Just like the promise of spring, I also know that there are so many rejuvenating and wonderful times when I more than enjoy the moment.

This is the reality:

I enjoyed the moment when my children ran up to me for no other reason than to hug me and tell me they loved me.

I enjoyed the moment when my kid used such great manners that other people noticed.

I enjoyed the moment when my family raved about a new recipe I tried (cooking is neither fun nor easy for me).

I enjoyed the moment when the kids cleaned up their toys without being asked.

I enjoyed the moment when my boss thanked me for my hard work.

I know I don’t have to tell you that the good times far outweigh the bad, but sometimes that hope and that reminder is what pushes us to keep showing up.

Spring is right around the corner.