When your daily activities are in concert with your highest priorities, you have a credible claim to inner peace. – Hyrum Smith


10/30/12

Maddie-girl turns 4!

Dear sweet Maddie-girl,

Today was your 4th birthday.  I almost didn't write this post because I didn't want to admit to myself you were really 4.  Four just sounds so old
 
Sometimes I read back over old blog posts and shake my head in wonder at the girl you have become.  From the chubby little baby I brought home from the hospital,


to the crazy-haired toddler stumbling around in your pink, zippered blanket,


to the babbling child,


and now, here you are... 


You are tall, spunky, sweet as pie one minute and raging mad the next.  You are a perfectionist, lining up all your plastic dolls and animals just so.  You are an artist, constantly creating new masterpieces to decorate our bedrooms.  You are enamored with the Power Rangers.  You are in love with ponies and horses.  You are apparently a perfect angel at school.

God made you with sugar and lots of spice, my dear.  I used to be concerned that being the middle child, your voice might not be heard at times.  Silly me!  You have very strong opinions and have no trouble making them known. 

This year I have had the privilege of watching you blossom in so many ways. You have learned to share.  You have allowed Jack into your room (this is a biggie).  You have shown tremendous empathy for others and exhibit a servant's heart at times.  It warms my heart to watch you grow.

I love you so much, little big girl.  Happy birthday my Maddie-girl!

10/16/12

Walk of Shame

No, I'm not referring to the Urban Dictionary definition of the morning-after-a-one-night-stand-wearing-the-same-clothes-as-the-day-before walk of shame.  I'm writing about something far worse...

The preschool mom walk of shame. 

I can write about it now.  There was a time when I didn't dare.  A time when I so narrowly escaped this dreaded walk that I feared writing about it might somehow make it become a reality.

Last year when Jack was still a nursing newborn and Maddie was not yet in school, the mornings were extremely difficult.

Waking up to find a newborn in my bed (how did that get there?) and realizing we had exactly 15 minutes to get Parker to preschool...not a fun feeling.  Shouting at the kids to "Get a move on!  We're gonna be late!"  Shoving Parker into the least offensive looking/smelling dirty jeans I can find because it's been days since I've done laundry.  Pouring Cheerios directly onto the table (because who has time for bowls on mornings like these?).  Sighing because I know the battle to get Maddie out of her favorite, flimsy, summer pajamas into real, warm clothes just isn't worth it.  Enduring Jack's ear-piercing cries because I know he's ready to nurse, but I just can't do it yet.  Whew!  We're finally in the van.

I'm pretty sure I catch some air as I sail over the speed humps in our neighborhood.  White knuckles as I grip the steering wheel and try to tune out the whines of my children and cries of my baby.  School is a mere .6 miles from our house.  We can make it, we can make it, I know we can make it!

Why was I so frantic, you might wonder?
Simple.  I wanted to avoid the preschool mom walk of shame.
If I arrived in time, I could still pull up in the carpool line and have a teacher escort Parker inside.  However, if I missed this window of opportunity...I shuddered to think.

Picture this.  Disheveled hair.  Teeth unbrushed.  Not a speck of make-up (to hide the enormous bags under my eyes from sleep-deprivation).  Braless, because, hey, I've been nursing.  Wardrobe?  Mismatched pajamas and pink crocs.  My only possible saving grace was Aaron's oversized raincoat (which might camouflage the lack of bust support and cover the hair).  However, should I have to enter the school, my frightful face and dragon breath would likely traumatize the small children inside.

Even worse, I would be pushing a wailing baby in a stroller, carrying a shoeless, shivering 3 year old, while barking at my preschooler to "Hurry up!" for all the world to see.  And by "all the world," of course, I mean all the moms.  The moms sitting in the warmth of their shiny minivans, in their color-coordinated tracksuits, with their perfectly coiffed hair and flawless makeup.  I'm not making this up, people!  I've seen these moms.  I know they exist!  I don't pretend to understand them or their ability to complete morning workouts, coordinate and press their children's clothes, whip up a tasty, organic, balanced breakfast, and get everyone to school ahead of time.  (Okay, I'm guessing about those last details, but I bet I'm right.)

So now you know why I was speeding like a maniac to school.  Thus far, I have managed to avoid this walk of shame.  Jack is older.  We have an actual schedule and routine.  Thank goodness!  However, just the other day, I saw a mom making the walk.  I so wanted to roll down my window and say, "It's okay!  Don't worry!  Your day will get better!" 

I wanted to, but then something occurred to me.  Maybe this mom didn't care.  Maybe she and her daughter were jogging inside because her little one couldn't wait to greet her friends.  Maybe, just maybe, not everyone was as hung up on appearances and what others think as I am.  Ouch.

1 Samuel 16:7"For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart."  

Oh that I would internalize this truth and instill it in my kiddos.  Slow me down, Lord.  Purify my heart.  Help me to focus on hearts (others and my own) as You do.  Amen!

10/12/12

Pinterest Fail

Parker and Maddie are both in school on Fridays.  While Jack does get his designated alone-with-mommy-play-time, the rest of our morning is typically jam-packed with all the things I can't seem to get done with three kids in tow.

On this particular Friday I was feeling a bit cocky as I glanced over my planner.  Oh yeah, this organized, uber productive mommy was going to spend the morning at school putting together the Pre-K Fall Festival silent auction basket.  I even tucked a note in Maddie's backpack informing her teacher of the exact time I'd be picking up the donations the other parents dropped off.

9:15 AM cue the frantic phone call from the room-mom (you know, the one who actually possesses organizational skills), "Um...Mrs. Rausch?  Ms. Nancy said she got a note that you were coming in today?  The supplies aren't available yet.  I believe the email that went out said they'd be available Monday..." (emphasis added to capture the are-you-a-complete moron tone she used, or at least, I imagined she used).

Yeah.  I felt a little deflated as I began to drive back to the house with Jack.  Here I had all this creative energy and time.  When does that ever happen?  I didn't want to waste or squander these few, precious hours... 

A plan quickly began to take shape.  Didn't I see some sort of contest email from our kids' dentist?  Wasn't it about pumpkin carving?  And what about that adorable picture I saw of a baby sitting in a giant pumpkin with her legs sticking out of carved holes?  Was it on Pinterest or Facebook?  Who cared?  I swerved into Walmart and whisked Jack out of the van. 

$3.88 later we were on our way with a fairly large pumpkin.  It wasn't as big as I'd hoped, but hey, I'm cheap.  It's what you get for $3.88.  Besides, I was pretty sure I could fit Jack inside...

Have you ever felt the inside of a pumpkin?  Even with all the muck scraped out, it feels pretty gross, not to mention cold.  I put a towel inside and hoped for the best. 

The first attempt to fit his little legs through the holes was a complete failure.  He squirmed and cried and arched his back.  I rocked him and apologized, assuring him it would be okay.  Little did he know, I would shortly subject him to the same torture a few minutes later after enlarging the holes.  Poor kid.

Once inside, he was not a happy camper.  I just needed one good picture.  If not for the stupid contest, for me - the proud mommy of a super-cute little pumpkin.  That's what I told myself, anyway (to alleviate some of the guilt). 

Suddenly Jack spotted his pacifier sticking out of my pocket.  He bounced frantically, he cried, he began to topple.  I caved.

It may not seem like a big deal to some, but I have been trying to get rid of that stupid thing for weeks.  He didn't even start taking a pacifier until a few months ago.  He happened upon one mixed in with some old baby toys in his closet, and he looked so darn cute with it in his mouth, I couldn't resist letting him use it.  Just for awhile, I told myself.  Yeah, right.  Pretty soon, he was screaming in the middle of the night because it had fallen out of his mouth, and he couldn't locate it in his crib.  Enough!  We weaned him off and proudly reported this to the dentist at his check-up.  We got the double thumbs-up approval, and there was no looking back.

Until Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease came along.  My poor baby was sooo miserable.  How could I deny him that creature comfort when he was suffering so? 

Anyway, here we are.  Jack is stuck in a cold, wet, too-small-for-a-truly-cute-picture pumpkin, sucking on a pacifier (the same one we told the dentist we'd gotten rid of), miserable.  I'm trying to snap pictures and bribing him with cookies if he'll just give me the stupid pacifier, because I'm sure the dentist would much rather him nosh on some sugar-laden cookie in the picture than suck on a pacifier, right?  Ugh.  Forget it.

I take the pacifier.  All hell breaks loose.  I snap some photos for posterity.  (Now this is the part where you are expecting me to write, "I release him from his pumpkin prison.") 

Well, he's stuck.  I mean really, truly stuck.  I don't know how I got those pudgy thighs in the holes, but they are not coming out.  For some reason, his legs just won't bend the right way when I attempt to lift him.  Fabulous.  So I use the round-tipped pumpkin-carving knife and literally saw him out.  I'm pretty sure he is completely traumatized and will hate Halloween (or at least pumpkins) for the rest of his life.
 
(See pictures below for progression of disaster.)

Beloved pacifier in hand (cropped from the only photo that is remotely contest-worthy)
 
Still relatively subdued (thanks to stupid pacifier).
 
Using sign language to say "finished" a.k.a. get me outta here!
 
Pacifier removed.  And that's a wrap.

Pinterest fail.




9/27/12

Fantasizing

In August I visited my dear friend, Gretchen, in Florida.  Without the kids (or husband).  Wowzuhs!  You want to talk about relaxing??
We ate fabulous seafood, we read books, we laid out at the beach, we had drinks, we watched TV, we went to the bathroom [wait for it...] alone!  It was a little bit of heaven on earth.

And now I am paying for it. 

Well, not really paying for it, just serving my time the way Aaron did when I was gone.  He and his mom are currently taking a 5-day trip to San Francisco.  They do this every once in a blue moon.  I think it's sweet that they get along so well and have that special time alone.  I thought it was sweeter before we had kids, but I digress...

So, tonight I am fantasizing.  About chocolate.  Oh how I want some of that sweet, brown goodness right now!  You'd think that the Twix bars I devoured while the kids were drying off from their baths would suffice.  You'd be wrong.

The sad thing is that they weren't even my Twix bars.  They were Maddie's!  Oh the shame!  Even as I type this, I am secretly hoping Aaron won't read this particular post.  He brought them home for her the other night. 

[Cue the excuses.]  Okay, that kid eats wayyy too much sugar as it is.  She has a stash up in her room that she doesn't even touch!  (I'm starting to wonder if she's really my biological child.)  She is more excited about the receiving-a-gift aspect of her candy than the actual candy itself.  She didn't even know it was still up on the counter.  (Nevermind the fact she's too short to see on top of the counter.)  If it really mattered to her, she would have asked for it by now.  Right?  Right???

I am quite the opposite of Maddie.  When I'm feigning [see Urban Dictionary definition] for some sugar, I do not care whether or not it is a gift.  In fact, it's origin does not concern me at all.  For example, that half-eaten, 4-day old chocolate Easter bunny?  Fair game.  "Your bunny?  Oh honey, Mommy had to get rid of it.  You know we start to get ants this time of year!"  Notice I didn't say how Mommy disposed of said bunny. 

I realize I sound downright evil at this point, but I don't think you realize the extent of my sugar addiction.  Even Dr. Oz says sugar is highly addictive.  Look it up!

It doesn't help that Aaron and I recently went on this health kick and got rid of everything, and I mean everything, good in the house.  The only sugar available is in the bag (for baking) or honey (which doesn't even really count as far as I'm concerned).

So here I am, 2 Twix bars with a heavy side of guilt later.  All of my justifications aren't really helping.  And I'm still craving chocolate. 

This is my fantasy (and final confession for the night):

I set the baby monitor up in the middle of the house (to capture any sound).  I crank the receiver way up.  I dial the home phone with my cell phone and set the home phone next to the receiver (so I can hear any noise they make in my cell phone).  Then I hop in the van, speed 1.4 miles to the neighborhood Walmart, buy loads of candy bars and speed back home before anyone even notices I'm gone. 

Seriously, does that not sound brilliant??  *Sigh* If only it were legal.

***UPDATE***
Upon reading this, some concerned friends thought I actually abandoned the children in search of chocolate.  I assure you, it was merely a fantasy.  I have not left them...yet.

9/12/12

Not Safe

I am plagued with questions.  All. Day. Long. 
No, I am not sitting around philosophically pondering the universe.  I am not the one posing the questions at all. 

Instead, I am surrounded by a constant stream of inquiries flowing from tiny mouths.  And all the questions seem to start with the same word: mom.

"Mom, can I climb up this [door frame]?"
"Mom, can we light some fireworks, and I can I hold 10 sparklers at one time?"
"Mom, how high can I climb up that tree?"
"Mom, can we throw rocks at the house?"
More often than not, they are seeking to obtain permission for dangerous activities. 

 
Sometimes I cringe at the mere mention of my name [mom].  I know that 9 times out of 10 I will have to decline the request.  I don't want to say "no" all the time, so often I try to reframe the request into an acceptable activity.  "Well, you may throw rocks at the tree."

Unfortunately, Parker is catching on to this tactic pretty quickly.  Once he realizes I am essentially saying "no" to his initial request, it's game. on

Questioning: "Why can't I?"  All of my reasons are ignored.
Bargaining: "But I'll be careful."  Logical counter-arguments, dismissed. 
Foul play: "Dad would let me do it."  Ooh, now he's really pushing it.

I resort to the age old: "Because I'm your mother and I said so!"

Uggghhhh!

Recently I decided to change my tactics and institute some experiential learningRead on...

The other day Parker asked if we could build a fort.  Sure.  I helped him secure the big green blanket to the couch, the chair, the coat rack, etc.  Then I pulled out the camera because forts = fun in our house.  Even Jack gets in the mix. 


"Can I stand on the top of the couch and jump onto the top of the fort?" Parker asked.  Sorely tempted to recite a litany of reasons why that would be a bad idea, I stifled a sigh, bit my tongue, and nodded slowly.  "Let's see what happens." 

Parker's eyes were as wide a saucers.  He looked at me uncertainly.  Did mom just say "yes"?  The first time? 

"Why don't we put some pillows underneath first," I asked causally.  As I arranged the pillows and moved Jack a safe distance away, Parker eyed the fort suspiciously.  "Is this gonna be safe?" 

I looked him in the eye.  "What do you think?" I asked.  He's a bright kid, surely he can reason through this one.  We have hardwood floors for Pete's sake!

"Yeah!" Then again, maybe not. 

As he climbed to the top of the couch I tried to assure myself this was not reckless parenting.  It was experiential learning, right?  I held my breath...

Wheeeee!

 
BAM!  Parker scrambled up from the now-collapsed fort.  He looked absolutely shocked as he rubbed his sore backside.  "Well that wasn't safe at all!" His surprised tone held just a hint of accusation.


A little demon popped up on one of my shoulders.  "Really!?" it asked in mock surprise.  Meanwhile, the angel on the other side was sadly shaking his head, "For shame, Jessie!"

Eyes wide, using my best "golly-gee" tone, I said, "Well I guess we learned a lot today, huh, Bud?" 

Parker nodded emphatically.  "Yeah!  Jumping off the top of couch onto the top of the fort not a good idea!"

I nodded in agreement and quickly turned away to hide my smile.  I didn't have to say "no," and he learned a valuable lesson in a [relatively] painless way.  SCORE!

"Mom," Parker's voice interrupted my moment of victory, "Can we add some more pillows underneath and jump from the seat of the couch?"

*Sigh.*




9/8/12

Helpers

 
Having a baby is so much easier when you have older children helping out.  I really mean that.  However, there are two key words in my first statement that should not be overlooked: older and children (plural).

Older, because, well, very young children are not particularly helpful when a newborn arrives on the scene.  They may have a fit of jealous rage and pinch the baby while it nurses.  They may initially comply with your request to fetch a diaper only to lose focus halfway across the room when the toy shelf beckons.  They still need a "wipe," a drink, toy, a [you-name-it].  They have no concept of quiet, especially when baby is napping.

 
However, if you wait a few short years, that dependent child can become a huge helper.  Add another child to the mix for some friendly competition, and voila!  Parenting is a breeze.

Okay, maybe not a breeze, but there are aspects that become immeasurably easier.  For example: I can cook a meal now.  It may not be gourmet, but I can literally follow a recipe, prep the ingredients, and cook a real meal.  In years past, if I tried to make dinner and a baby woke early from nap, I would rush upstairs (unable to bear the thought of my child alone, awake, bored or scared in a dark room) and rescue said child.  Then I would try, unsuccessfully, to finish cooking with a baby on my hip.  (Chef's knives, hot stoves, and babies do not mix.)

These days, I will be cooking dinner with Parker and Maddie playing nearby.  When Jack wakes from his nap and starts to cry, I simply ask, "Who would like to check on Jack and keep him company until I can come up?"

"I WILL!" they both cry and bolt up the stairs. 

CONFESSION: One of my guilty pleasures is to tune into the monitor and eavesdrop on the three of them.  I love hearing the door creak open.  "Hi Jackie!"  Giggles, scuffing and scraping (as they climb onto the side of the crib), tinkling toys.  "Mommy will be right here."  "Wanna play?"

One afternoon I allowed myself some extra time in the kitchen.  I hadn't heard any crying and assumed all was well.  I'll never forget walking into Jack's room and wondering where all the toys had gone.  Then I looked over at his crib...


I ran over with my heart in my throat.  He was still so little.  He couldn't even sit up yet.  What if he had suffocated??  What had I done?! 

Then there he was, hidden among pile of toys, happily playing with a plush block.  Whew!  What was that thing I said about parenting being a breeze?  Yeah, scratch that.

 
Even with our minor scares (like finding Jack at the top of the outdoor playhouse because he'd followed Parker up the ladder), it really is great having lots of kids.  Parker and Maddie are big helpers, and I am one blessed mama!

8/31/12

Carefree



Tonight as we were driving home from a birthday party, we passed a familiar property.  Aaron stopped the car in the middle of the road and began to back up.

"What are you doing?" I asked, alarmed.  I scanned the road behind us and saw that it was clear.  Breathing a sigh of relief, I turned my attention back to Aaron. 

"Look," he said, angling his head toward the window.

"No!" I gasped.  A heap of rubbish littered the lawn of where a beautiful old mansion stood just days before.  "That was supposed to be our house!  Our grandchildren were going to visit us there!"

Aaron shook his head and laughed.  We could never afford such a place, and clearly, it would have required so much work to renovate, someone thought it better to simply have it demolished.  Owning it was just a pipe dream, but it made me sad nonetheless.

"What?  What's going on?" Parker asked anxiously from the backseat.

"Oh nothing, honey.  They just tore down that old house."

"But why?" he asked, bottom lip quivering.

Aaron shot me a look.  The why-did-you-have-to-be-so-dramatic, great-now-he's really-upset look.

"Parker, mommy was just joking.  We weren't really going to live there.  It was unsafe, so they had to tear it down."

He sat back relieved.  I did, too.  Whew! 

Parker is such a sensitive little guy sometimes.  He worries about a lot of things.  Is his hair sticking up or down, what if he doesn't choose the absolute best toy at the Dollar Tree, what if he accidentally walked in on someone using the bathroom, etc. He gets upset if he sees cartoon characters get bullied.

While I appreciate his sensitivity, especially when it comes to the treatment of other children, at times, I find myself worrying about him.  Is his skin thick enough?  Will he be bullied?  Will he have trouble with anxiety?

In answer to my concerns, God gave me the perfect Bible verse tonight.  While I recognized the reference, the verse seemed brand new to me this evening.  I was reading in the Message version (not the NIV which I usually read), and the words just leapt off the page. 

First let me share the NIV verse: 1 Peter 5:7  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Now here is the Message version:

Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you.

What joy is summed up in that little verse!  First, I can live carefree before God.  Carefree.  The word conjures up images of Maddie jumping and twirling around in the sunshine, of Parker stooping to watch a line of ants march across the driveway. 


I live before God.  He is watching me, interacting with me.  He is very interested in my little life.

God is most careful with me.  I picture this gigantic, powerful, creator God cradling me in the palm of His enormous hand, lifting me to His eye-level, and smiling.  With hands that were strong enough to mould the mountain, he ever so gently knitted me together in my mother's womb. 

"Most careful" describes the way a parent cradles a soft, helpless, precious baby.  I remember dressing Jack for the very first time in the hospital.  Knowing just how sensitive his skin must feel and how frail his little arms and legs were, I was most careful as I gently guided his arms and legs into his clothing.  How comforting to think of my big God handling me in the same manner!

The best part is knowing that God's love and care extends to everyone.  He's got us all covered.  I don't need to worry about Parker.  God will be most careful with Parker, too.  He will invite Parker to live a carefree life, in His presence.  I can't wait for the morning when I can share this powerful little verse with my sweet little boy!

8/24/12

Craziness

Long after we'd tucked the kids in bed, I heard little feet padding across my floor.  I looked up from my book to find Maddie at the foot of my bed, grinning sheepishly. 

"Maddie..." I started in my warning tone.

"I just wanted to say goodnight!"  Followed quickly by, "What are you reading?  Can I come up?  I promise I won't talk while you read your Bible.  I'll wait patiently!"

She was just so darned cute, of course I couldn't say no.  There was plenty of room on the bed, as Aaron had fallen asleep on the couch, watching T.V.

"Oh, okay," I sighed, secretly grinning.

Though there was ample room for her to enter another way, she awkwardly climbed over me to get into bed, a tangled mess of arms and legs.  We were both giggling by the time she settled under the covers.

She lay beside me and propped herself up on one arm.  "Are you reading your Bible?"

"No, it's a book about Bible stories, but it's not the Bible.  Hush now so I can read."

Out of the corner of my eye I could see her staring intently at my face. 
After a few minutes, she asked, "When are you gonna start readin'?"

"I am reading."

"No!"  Pointing to her lips, "Wif your mouf."

"Oh, you mean out loud?"

"No," she replied thoughtfully.  "You can read quietwee."

"Oh Maddie," I laughed, "I am reading.  I am reading with my eyes."

She gave me a quizzical look.

I pointed to the words and then to my eyes.  "I read the words with my eyes and then they go into my head," I explained.

She paused, cocked her head to the side and cracked up.  Finally shaking her head and still laughing, she informed me, "Mommy, that's just craziness!"

Who knew reading could be so entertaining?

8/22/12

Guilthood (a.k.a. Motherhood)

A friend recently posted on my Facebook wall:  it was nice chatting... sorry I had to go so soon. it's all my fault, i keep the kids up too late and then they behave badly.

I replied:  of course it's all your fault. everything is your fault. you are a mom. i think instead of motherhood, it should be called guilthood. i tend to feel guilty about something all the time. ;) miss you. good to catch up for a few minutes!

I was joking, but only half.  I do feel guilty quite often.  Guilty that my kitchen floor is sticky.  Guilty that Jack's diaper has to sag before I will get around to changing it.  Guilty that Maddie spends untold hours alone in her room creating elaborate scenarios involving Polly Pockets and plastic horses.  Guilty that I didn't read that book Parker requested because it was past bedtime and I was wiped out. 

I feel guilty that I checked my Facebook home page 3 (okay 7) times in a single day.  I feel guilty that I finished a magazine article in the bathroom (which took much longer than the bathroom trip required).  I feel guilty when I don't have dinner ready when Aaron gets home. 

I'm not practicing handwriting with the kids as I'd planned this summer.  I'm not consistently crafting with them.  I'm not even consistently bathing them!  I know, I know, some of you are gasping.  I'm just trying to keep it real here.  (They don't go more than a few days without a bath, sheesh!)

I struggle with guilt.  I think, as parents, most of us do.  I just hope we can quit.  Maybe together even...Hi, my name is Jessie and I'm...

But seriously, guilt is not very productive.  It only serves to make us feel badly. 

I even struggled with guilt B.C. [before children].  Perhaps it was that "good ole Catholic guilt" my mom likes to joke about, perhaps it's just my personality.  I don't know.  Anyway, I was talking with my dear friend, Danielle, about it one day. 

I'll never forget.  She looked me square in the eye and said, "Jess, guilt is not from God."

Say what?  Now wait a second.  Wasn't that how He got us to turn around and shape up? 

Nope.  He uses conviction for that purpose.  Conviction is that nagging feeling you get when you suspect you are doing something wrong.  It is the Holy Spirit alerting you that your behavior is at odds with God's will.  Repent, listen, and obey, and that's that.  Conviction leads to change; guilt leads to anxiety and despair.  

God doesn't want us to feel guilty. 


Wow!  How had I forgotten that revelation?  Did I somehow think it didn't apply to moms?  Sometimes I think we need to hear it more than anyone.  When we are scared we are ruining a generation because we made mac-n-cheese for three days in a row or because our child watched that extra cartoon, we need our Father to help us see the bigger picture.

When we stop, pray, and listen, God can gently reveal the areas where we need improvement.  He can also offer us peace and rest, allowing us to let the small stuff go.  It's my prayer tonight I can turn off my inner critic and hear my loving Father instead.

Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Matthew 11:28-30  Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. "Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. "For My yoke is easy, and My load is light.


8/1/12

Music to my ears

I hear hard balls rolling down the upstairs hall, crashing into who-knows-what, and two, giggling conspirators.  And I love it!

When we first moved into this house, I had my doubts.  No sidewalks and the nearest neighbor was 1/2 acre away.  We didn't see any kids for weeks.  Those we did spot were older and across a very busy road. 

I was sad.  We had come from the most amazing neighborhood in Seattle.  Tons of kids, double cul de sac, park within view of our front porch.  Our kids were always outside with the neighbor kids in the summer or inside a neighbor's house in the winter.  It was great!

When we moved here, I worried about their socialization.  Silly me!  Parker made tons of friends at preschool.  Maddie, still pretty young, preferred to play on her own. 

The best part about living here is that the kids have to play together.  When Jack was a newborn and I was buried in a sea of diapers, sleep-deprived, and constantly grumpy, Parker and Maddie bonded like war veterans. 

Today, after cleaning up the lunch mess, I called up the stairs, "Can Jack and I come up and play with you?"

"We're having pretty much fun up here by ourselves!" 

I smiled to myself.  Glad for once of our isolated little house on our busy, busy street.  Thank you, God, for unexpected blessings (and loving siblings).

7/31/12

Happy, happy birthday, baby!

My baby is not a baby anymore.  We went to his one year check-up today.
Walking? No.
Cruising? Yes.
Introduced table food? Yes (Like six months ago.  Baby food is too much work.  Sorry, Jack.)
Talking?  Barely.  (Says 4 words, signs 5.)
Sleeping?  Eh...(Between teething, ear infections, and mom becoming a total softy, I'm up more than I'd care to admit.)

You got a passing grade.  The doctor said you looked good, needed a few shots, and we could be on our way.

I know these doctors see a thousand kids a day.  They know all the milestones and markers, signs and symptoms.  But they don't know you.

Not like mommy does.  Can I take a minute to tell you about your little one-year-old self? 

When I open your door in the morning you are standing and bouncing, reaching your tiny arms toward me.  What a wonderful way to start the day!

You still take a "bah-bah," as you like to call it, filled with soy milk (since you are allergic to cow's milk).  You love to eat and throw food.  Most of your meals end up on the floor.  After you've had your fill, you sign "finished" and eagerly await your release from your highchair so you can wreak havoc on the rest of the kitchen, emptying the cabinets, raiding the pantry, searching for bits of food on the floor.

You love to be tickled.  You giggle uncontrollably when your brother plays peek-a-boo with you in the van.  You smile when you see your sister.  You call for me all day long, "Mama, Mama, MAMA!!!"  You give the best hugs, wrapping your little arms tightly around my neck and laying your head on my shoulder.  You are a cuddle bug. 

Your nickname is Coo-coo-nu-nu.  Parker gave it to you a few months ago.  No one really knows why, but we all use it now.  Sometimes it gets shortened to "kook" or "kookster." 

You love to climb stairs, suck on rocks, and splash in the toilet.  (We keep all the lids down now.)  You are so happy and charming.  Everyone comments on your sweet disposition.  I love taking you places.  You flirt with everyone, smiling, shyly looking away, only to smile at them again and giggle.  Oh, you are trouble

You have stolen my heart.  Thankfully, I have more than one!  Parker and Maddie were just a bit concerned before you were born about how mommy could have enough love for another baby.  I explained that God gives mommies (and daddies) a brand new heart each time they have a new baby, just for that baby.  I've got several in my chest these days.  Perhaps that's why it's hard to breathe when I look at the three of you.  My hearts swell and my chest tightens when I think of just how blessed I am to be called mom, to get to watch the story of your life unfold, and even get to mould it in my own little way. 

I love you, Coo-coo-nu-nu.  Happy birthday, dear boy.

7/14/12

Feet

I have a confession...I.love.feet.

Not all feet.  Very specific feet.  I LOVE my kids' feet.  I love to tickle them, nibble them, smell them and pretend to gag.  I love, love, love them. 

Though my kids' feet are my favorite, my obsession with feet began years ago, with their father.  Aaron has beautiful feet.  "Jesus feet," I used to call them...with "lollipop toes."  Allow me to explain:  I was raised Catholic and have seen my fair share of crucifixes.  Statues of the crucified Christ always had beautiful feet. 

Similarly, Aaron has lovely feet.  They are soft and slender but masculine at the same time.  His toes are long (but not too long) and slightly rounded on the ends, hence the term "lollipop toes." 

My feet?  Not so pretty.  I have always secretly hoped our children would inherit their dad's feet.  Only time will tell.

I love watching the progression of the kids' growth simply by looking down.

First, there is the impossibly soft newborn foot.  Oh, how I love newborn feet!  Minuscule toenails, bright pink flesh.  They somehow seem skinnier than they ought to be if one were to judge by the fluffy infant socks that slip off so easily.  I love the way they curve inward, still mimicking their cramped position in the womb.  Stroking the bottom of a newborn foot is like stroking pure silk.


Then there are baby feet.  Suddenly that narrow foot has expanded and ballooned out on all sides. Even the top is puffy with baby fat.  Chubby toes line up, like sausages in a row, just begging to be eaten, or at least nibbled.  The best part is the tiny bubble on the bottom of the big toe that disappears not long after the first steps begin.

All too soon those baby feet become toddler feet.  If it's summer, those feet are likely to be brown on the bottom from running barefoot outside.  They get dirty under the still-tiny toenails.  They are still fat and squishy, but now their kick packs a punch when tickled.

Then suddenly those toddler feet are wrapped in socks and shoes, bundled up for preschool and playgrounds.  They escape for afternoon naps and bedtime and still require much tickling and kissing (at least in our house, because, well, I love feet).

And now, my oldest son has graduated to the smelly phase.  He wears socks and shoes at home and school.  He runs and plays and sweats all day.  On particularly busy days, you might catch him taking a nap.  He's usually so exhausted he falls asleep across his bed, still wearing his sneakers.  By the end of the day, when we peel off those shoes, I don't have to pretend to gag.  I still grab his ankle, and growl loudly (like a hungry giant), "Let me smell those feet!" and bury my face in his toes.  Whew!  He laughs and laughs.  "Do it again mommy!" 

Is every family this weird?  (Don't answer that.)

7/12/12

Thank you, Hands Free Mama

A few months ago, I was turned onto another blog by a good friend.  It's called Hands Free Mama, and it's all about one mom's journey to let go (of all the unimportant things) "to grasp what really matters." I liked the blog and thought I was doing a pretty good job of what she was describing...until yesterday.

She had a post about having a "worthwhile" summer with your kids.  She was challenging me to do summery things with the kids.  I began to ask myself, what opportunities am I missing this summer (as I tackle cleaning the basement or organize a closet).  How would the kids remember this summer?  How would I remember it?

Then, of course, my mind took off.  Forget summer, what other opportunities have I been missing with them?  How many times have the kids asked me to play something with them only to get the same response, "Sure, honey, I'd love to...Right after I finish ________"?  I realized that they had stopped asking as frequently. 

What I first saw a sign of maturity (independent play), I now began to question:  Did they stop asking because they never got a real "yes"?  Tears stung my eyes as I read her post.  I ran up the steps and released them from quiet time early.

"Want to play?" I asked nervously.  What if they said no?  Luckily, children are very forgiving. 

Their little eyes widened.  "Yes!" they shouted.  And, oh, have we played since then.

We have had water Olympics in the wading pool, planted herbs, caught a caterpillar and built it a makeshift home on the porch (filled to the brim with all the leaves it could eat in a lifetime), had several water gun fights, you name it!

There is laundry wrinkling in my dryer.  There are stacks of papers in my room.  There is avocado stuck to Jack's highchair, but my heart is peaceful today.  Today I am confident I managed my time and responsibilities well.   

There was no argument as I sent the kids up to quiet time this afternoon.  I think it's because they are tired (in a very good way) and realizing I am not sending them up there because I want a break from them so I can get to the important stuff.  They are the important stuff.  I think that's the big takeaway.  All the other details of my life won't matter a bit in a hundred years.  What will matter is a legacy of love. 

Did my children recognize they (along with Aaron and God) matter most in my life?  Will they look back at their childhood and remember me constantly on the phone or computer or cleaning something, or will they see me bending down to peer in their eyes and listen to the very important things they have to say?  How often do they see me with an impatient frown on my face as I wait for them to finish what they are saying or doing?  How tragic! 

But today is a new day.  When quiet time is over, we are building a fort in the living room.  We'll eat popcorn and watch a cartoon during the rain storm.  Then, per Parker's suggestion, we'll decorate the kitchen to "celebrate all the races dad's won" (though, he's never actually won a race, to my knowledge).

I am determined to celebrate the rest of the summer with these crazy kids.  Thank you, Hands Free Mama, for the much-needed reminder of what summer (and motherhood) is all about!

http://www.handsfreemama.com/

7/1/12

Caught!

(This post is a little out of order...I wrote it about 2 weeks ago.)

We've spent the last few days indoors.  It's sunny and gorgeous, but we are inside due to the severity of Jack's rash (see below).


Poor little guy!  The doctor thinks it's an allergic reaction to the penicillin he was given for his ear infection last week.  He just can't catch a break.  Luckily, it doesn't seem to bother him.  However, it really flares up in the heat.

Of course I allow Parker and Maddie to run around outside, but it never lasts long.
"Mommy, come out and push us [on the swing]!"
"Mommy, can you play wif us and chase us outside?"
"MOMMA!  Just put Jack down for a nap!"

I've been trying to figure out some indoor actives that would satisfy all three kids.  Today we went to the Louisville Science Center with Pappy [Aaron's dad].  It was super-fun!  However, even with the help of another adult, it was pretty exhausting. 

We planned our day just so.  Packing baby food, scheduling our departure for just after Jack's morning nap (which, of course, he decided to skip this morning).  We met Pappy at the entrance and utilized our grandparent pass and Imax coupons [double score for this momma who absolutely sucks at couponing].  After one hour of play it was time to schlep everyone to the adjoining Subway for lunch so Parker and Pappy would have time to eat before their 1PM Imax show.  As the kids ate, I ran two blocks to feed the parking meter with the change I got at lunch.  Running back, I scarfed down my sub and then played with Maddie and Jack in the Kid Zone until Parker and Pappy were finished.  Then we played for another half hour or so, and it was time to head home.

As I drove home I reflected on our day thus far.  I was so pleased with our morning!  How wonderful to live in town and have the help of a fabulous grandpa!  Even with all the planning and running, it was a really good time.  I was also really looking forward to our afternoon.  Quiet time for Parker and Maddie, nap for Jack, nap for me...

Then I noticed the silence.  Oh. no.  No! No! NO!  Don't sleep in the van!  C'mon!  I looked in the rear view mirror.  Maddie's eyes were fluttering, and she was rubbing her favorite blanket against her lips.  Parker was zoned out.  Jack's seat doesn't face me.

"Maddie?  Maddie!  Honey, is Jack awake?" trying to keep the frantic edge out of my voice.

"No, Momma.  He's asweep." 

I sighed and tried to maintain my positive attitude.  Okay, so what?  He missed his morning nap.  I'll just put him down right when we get home.  [How many moms out there are already laughing because you know the punch line?]

"Alright guys, listen up.  When we get home, we are going right up to quiet time.  We will get to watch an afternoon show when quiet time is over, but Jack is going to take a nap right away, so I need you to go up the stairs very quietly.  K?"

"Okay mommy."

Then, as it always does, something magical happened when we crossed the threshold of our home: instant amnesia and energy.  Everyone's eyes brightened, all traces of sleepiness gone.  Jack lifted his head from my shoulder and smiled.  The questions began: "Mommy, want to come up to my room and play wif me?  Mommy, can we watch a show? Mommy, can we have a dwink?"

I continued to talk in hushed tones (or perhaps it would be more accurate to say I hissed), "Go upstairs.  Quiet time.  Right. Now."

I took a wide-eyed Jack to his room, placed him in his crib, and tiptoed out.  "WAHHHHHH!"  I tiptoed back in, patted him gently, and whispered, "It's naptime.  Time to go night-night.  Time for sleepy time...[Don't you speak English?  How are you not tired yet, demon child...um, angel?]"

I tiptoed out again and stood with my head against his closed door.  I could hear him playing in his crib.  "Bwahb, bwahb, duh dud duh!"  I knew he wasn't going to sleep.  However, I knew that if I wanted to survive until Aaron got home I would have to.

I went downstairs, closed myself in my room, shut the curtains and lay in bed.  "Bwahb!  Bwahb! BWAHB!"  I reached for the noise-cancelling headphones.  (I think Aaron uses them for shooting.) 

Ahhhh....Suddenly there was silence.  I set the bedside alarm for 15 minutes. 

BEEP! BEEP!  BEEP!  I sat up, confused.  Where was that light coming from?  Who was that?  A tall figure was illuminated in the doorway.  I quickly slammed my hand down on the alarm, ripped off the headphones, and squinted to see a very puzzled looking Aaron staring at me.  He had his head tilted toward the stairs (where one could hear children playing rather loudly and a baby who sounded like he might just cry at any moment).

Caught!  "What are you doing home?"  "Wait, honey, let me explain!"  Aaron came home early, and here I was, taking a nap (with headphones on, no less) while our three children fended for themselves upstairs.  The scene could not have been more damning...well, I guess I could have been noshing some bon-bons and watching a soap opera.

I hopped out of bed.  I tried to explain that yes, I did use his headphones during quiet time on occasion because we have hardwood floors and Parker and Maddie don't quite grasp the whole "quiet" time concept, but I only used them when Jack was napping...except for today, of course.

As he climbed the stairs to fetch our now-crying baby, I continued my defense.  I outlined our busy day and explained that Jack napped in the van and hadn't taken a morning nap, and I promise I don't just throw him in his crib and sleep for hours. I...I...

"Sure, sure."  Aaron gave me a teasing smile and a hug. 

I still can't figure out if he believes me.




Berry picking

I seem to remember in some anthropology class long, long ago (in a galaxy far far away from my children) the professor talking about differences between men and women and the ways in which those differences assisted early man.  For example, women's eyes are more attuned to fine details, making us excellent berry-pickers.  Let the men go out and hunt, and leave the details to us.  This little differnce can be infuriating at times.  I notice the dust in the house and the small trashs can that need emptying eons before Aaron.  My mom always says, "Men see outside the nest, and women see inside."  She is so right!  He wants to care for the yard, cars, general upkeep of the house.  Meanwhile, I am gazing at the unswept floors and dirty bathrooms. 

Only recently did I realize just how narrow my focus had become...

Last week the kids and I went to the zoo with several extended family members.  (I have learned my limits, and taking my 3 to the zoo alone is too daunting a task at this stage of the game!)

We were sitting on the benches in the splash park area, watching the kids happily run (or crawl, as the case may be) in circles.  I had my eyes on Jack, Mom watched Parker, and Grandpa watched Maddie.  All bases were covered. 

"I love the ice on the buildings," mom mused.

I squinted.  What?  It was 90+ degrees.  What was she talking about?  Then I followed her gaze and noticed fake ice hangning from the roofs of the nearby building facades. 

"I never noticed that," I mumbled to myself.  I blinked hard and looked around.  The kids were playing near some sort of pretend ship.  That much I knew.  I had never (in any of our many, many visits) noticed the details of this area.  It was an arctic ship.  Jack was splashing near some creature.  If someone had asked me prior to this visit, I would have said it was perhaps a seal.  No, it was a giant, white polar bear!  I was literally shocked at the number of adorable (and obvious) details that had previously escaped my attention. 

At first I thought, What is wrong with me??   Why had I not noticed and enjoyed this wonderful place before?  Why had I had such tunnel vision?  I assured myself that it was because I had to look after my children closely.  It was too dangerous to let my eyes wander and take it all in. 

In some ways, that was true.  It was important to keep a close watch on the kids.  But in other ways, it was a cop out.  I'm wasn't seeing the forest for the trees.  I began to wonder about other things I might be missing...

When we got home that day, I prayed that God would change my perspective and open my eyes to the bigger picture.  I prayed my tunnel vision would diminish and that I could soak in all the beauty and wonders I had been missing.  

Then I walked down into our basement.  *Sigh.*  Utter chaos.  Toys strewn everywhere.  Why can't these kids get out one toy at time?  I wondered grumpily.  I began to sweep aside a pile of Lincoln Logs with my foot, when I stopped. 



What was that?  I looked closer.  A super-hero mansion had almost been destroyed by my carelessness.  Each character had his/her own room.  Clearly, Parker (and possibly Maddie) had taken a great deal of time and effort to make this mini-masterpiece.  I was so glad I saw it!  For once, my tunnel vision paid off.

I immediately altered my prayer: Lord, please improve my vision.  Help me to expand my focus when it is too narrow and to zero in on the imortant stuff [like a super-hero Lincoln Log castle].  Amen.

6/21/12

Sparkling floors

I'm not talking about the clean kind.  I'm talking about glitter.  Today, I balanced Jack on my hip and attempted to sweep the living room floor.  It's fairly ineffective to try to maneuver a broom around chunky baby thighs, let me tell you.  I was getting hot and tired and grumpy pretty quickly.  As I swept (or at least, pushed the broom around), I noticed a pile of something on the floor near the fireplace.  At first glance, I couldn't figure out what it was.  Then I realized it was glitter...and I smiled.

This is a very unusual reaction for me.  Especially when it comes to glitter.  Typically, I feel that glitter should only be used in the presence of preschool professionals and should be banned from my home entirely.  However, today, as the breeze from the fan blew bits of glitter from the mantel to the floor, I felt incredibly happy. 

Up on the mantle, in a special place of honor, was a "picture" Maddie had made for me (then changed her mind and gave it to daddy).  Her picture consisted of bright yellow construction paper and a pile of silver glitter.  She hasn't quite grasped the concept that glitter requires glue to stay in place.

I wasn't smiling at the sparkling mess on my floor or even at the picture.  I was smiling at what they represented:

A darling three year old girl who loves to create crafty masterpieces for her parents.

An independent child who frequently insists she knows exactly what she's doing and doesn't require any help, thank you.

A sense of freedom the kids feel to gather their own craft supplies and create something special, just because.

A richly blessed life.  We have the resources to have an abundance of readily available activities for the kids.

Love.  A love that goes both ways.  From a little girl who made a gift unprompted to the parents who received it with joy, praising her efforts and kindness.

So, today as I awkwardly wielded my broom, I didn't really mind that my "sweeping" was ineffective.  Perhaps a bit of glitter left on the floor is not such a bad thing...

6/2/12

She's only little

My kids love a book about a very young bear named Bartholomew.  In these toddler tales, Bartholomew's caregiver, a large bear named George, inevitably repeats himself until he loses his cool and gives a directive in a "big voice."  (Hmmm...sounds a lot like our house.) 

In one such story, George gives Bartholomew a black kitten.  After reminding Bartholomew to "be gentle" over and over, George uses his big voice.  Then George says, "She's only little, Ba."

Of course, George was talking about the poor kitten, but when I think of that phrase, I immediately think of my own precious girl.

She's only little, Ba.  Only, I hear George gently scolding me.  She's only little, Jessie.

It's just that Maddie is not little.  Yes, she's 3 1/2, but she's huge.  She's very tall for her age.  People mistake her for Parker's twin all the time.  Parker, who is a full year and a half older.   And she's not just tall.  She's tall with sass.  This girl has attitude oozing out her pores.  She'll size you up in one glance and dismiss you in an instant if you have the wrong accessory (read: she doesn't like girls who wear bows in their hair).  She'll shriek if her brother attempts to interrupt or talk over her.  She'll stomp up the stairs if she doesn't like your answer.  We have battles over shoes (yes, you must wear them to the store), hair brushing, drinks (no, you may not have any more chocolate milk today), toys (I'm sorry, I didn't realize I wasn't allowed to pick up that princess), you name it.  Daily. 

The other day I was sitting on the steps in the hallway, helping Parker tie his shoes, when I glanced into the bathroom.  The door was open, and Maddie was at the sink.  She was washing her hands.  And I saw it.  She was on her tiptoes.  I was taken aback for a moment.  You see, had I not been sitting, I would not have been at the angle to see her feet.  I never would have noticed that she still needs to stand on tiptoes to wash her hands.  She's much to independent to use a stool.  (Stools are for babies, momma.) 

"She's only little, Ba."  Tears stung my eyes.  She is only little.  How easily I forget.  She is only 3.  She still talks with a lisp and has no sense of modesty (read: she gets naked. a lot.).  She still requests stories and "seh-shull" time ("special" one-on-one playtime with mommy) daily.  She still wants to be sung to sleep at night and carries her favorite, tattered "strawberry" blanket everywhere she goes.  She's only little.


This has been my mantra since the tiptoe discovery.  She's only little. She's only little. She's only little.  Because it's true.  Because there will be spills every single day for a time.  Because there will be battles over barrettes.  Because there will be boo-boo's with every outing, especially when concrete is involved.  And that's okay. 

"Be gentle, Ba.  She's only little."  And she won't be for long.

5/24/12

Dang, my sister is hot!

Aaron likes to listen to country music.  I've never been a big fan of it myself, but some of the tunes are quite catchy.  The kids love it when daddy drives [the van] because it means they will get to listen to "daddy's music" and get a break from the typical kids' tunes and worship music. 

There is a currently a popular country song in which the artist sings, "You're looking so d@*& hot!"  Aaron and I have an agreement that the kids can listen to the music as long as he turns the sound down completely during any curse words.  We thought it was working.  Wrong.

The other day I was driving the van and surfing the radio stations when the kids recognized Aaron's station.  "PLEASE can we listen to daddy's music?"  Fine.  When the popular song came on, Parker was belting it out from the 3rd row.  I was giggling (because it's just plain funny to hear him sing in his twangy little country voice).  I anticipated the curse word, and dutifully cut the sound, only to hear Parker sing at the top of his lungs: "You're looking so d@^& hot!"

[Cue the screeching tires.]  My head whipped around.  "What?!" I shrieked.  Parker looked at me innocently.  "What?"

I focused back on the road and took a deep breath.  Surely my ears were mistaken.  Maybe he sang dang.  Smiling with clenched teeth I asked, "What did you just sing, sweetie?"

"You're looking so [expletive deleted] hot." [matter-of-factly]

"Honey, we don't use that word.  That's a bad word, and we don't say it." 
Please, for once in your five year old life, don't utilize your elephant-like super-memory and contradict me with embarrassing examples of how we have, in fact, used that very word - like when the tool shelf fell on daddy and his car in the garage.

Parker:  Oh, okay.  Maybe I'll just say you're looking so good hot.  Would that be okay? 

Me: [relieved] Sure, whatever.  Let's just listen to a CD, k?

I didn't think much more about incident until a few days later.  Parker and Maddie were on the back porch, getting ready for some fun in the sun (in our luxurious, plastic kiddie pool).  Parker was obviously feeling benevolent and was being uncharacteristically generous and complimentary toward his sister.  Sure, Maddie, you can have the water gun.  Wanna hold the hose?  Wow, Maddie!  You're looking hot!

Whoa!  Say what?!  I mean, I know we live in Kentucky and all, but I felt the need to draw the line here. 

I explained to Parker that while I understood he was trying to be nice and let his sister know her bathing suit was pretty, there was a better way to express his approval.  At first he looked at me as if I were from another planet.  Then he shook his head as if he understood completely and gave me a sympathetic smile.  "Oh don't worry, mom, you're looking hot, too."

Parenting fail.

5/15/12

Grandparents

If someone would have said that something beautiful would come from my parents' divorce when it was happening [when I was in my 20's], I probably would have punched him/her in the face.  It was awful and painful, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

That said, something beautiful did come from that painful event.  (Just another one of God's promises coming true: "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. Rom 8:28)

What was the blessing?  Grandparents.  Lots of them. 

Aaron's parents were divorced when he was very young.  Thanks to remarriages, our children are reaping tremendous benefits.  They have 2 grandmothers and 4 grandfathers.  That's 6 grandparents.  Six!

It is uh-mazing.  One of the biggest joys in my life has been watching my children interact with these wonderful adults who love them simply because of who they are.  It's a perfectly symbiotic relationship.  They adore each other.

That is why I am writing this post.  Not to brag, but because my heart is heavy and troubled, and I feel compelled to put in my two cents.  I know so many folks who have such issues surrounding these relationships.  If you are friend and have confided in me about your own problems in this arena, don't freak out.  I am not throwing you under the bus.  There are just so many of you.  (So don't assume this post is about you!)

I know grandparents who walk on eggshells because their children severely limit their interaction with their cherished grandchildren (for seemingly unknown reasons).  I know so many parents, frustrated or concerned about their own parents' behaviors, they have all but written the grandparents off.

May I humbly suggest we find some middle ground?  I beg you to read this and consider changing your mind or your approach.  I just know how incredibly important my children's grandparents are in their lives, and I strongly desire that blessing in your lives and your children's lives as well...

For the parents who are limiting the grandparent interaction, please consider:

Why are you hindering this relationship?  Certainly there are good reasons to keep your children from certain people (abuse, drugs, etc.).  However, short of those serious reasons, please examine your heart and motives.

Do your parents have different religious or world views [you are afraid your children might adopt]?  Guess what?  They are going to encounter those in school pretty soon or, if you home school, in college one day.  Want them to adopt your views?  Then discuss alternate views in a respectful way.  If it really bothers you, discuss your concerns with the grandparents in private and ask them to refrain to talking to your child about such matters. 

Do your parents have bad habits (smoking, cursing, etc.)?  Talk to your parents about it!  Don't just not ever visit or allow them to visit.  Invite them over and let them know the rules of your house (not in the kids' presence).  Get over your embarrassment or the awkwardness of it, and don't sacrifice a lifelong relationship based on the small stuff.

Do your parents annoy you to pieces?  Get. Over. It.  Guess what?  Your kids are watching.  They can tell whether or not you respect your parents based on what you say to (or about) them.  Want them to respect you one day?  Then set a good example.

Do your parents hurt your feelings and you are worried they might hurt your child's feelings?  This is a tough one.  There is such a thing as emotional abuse, and of course you don't want to subject your child to this.  However, if you are getting your toes stepped on by someone who is seemingly clueless (versus malicious), for goodness sake, talk to them!  If they say something hurtful to your child, confront them in an appropriate manner and reevalutate the relationship. 

For the grandparents who are feeling slighted:

So you only see your grandchild(ren) once in a blue moon...
You have a few options.  You could:

A) Write your child a letter outlining your feelings and desires (to see your grandchild more often).  This is a good option if you tend to get emotional and say things in the heat of the moment you might later regret.

B) Talk to your child.  Let them know your grandchild means the world to you.  Let them know you desire to play a bigger role in his/her life.  Ask them what it is that you could do/change that would make the relationship easier.  I can only imagine how difficult and humbling it might be, but ask them if they have any concerns about your grandchild being around you. 

C)  Use the back door (in a respectful way).  Send your grandchild letters or care packages.  It is one coldhearted parent who doesn't appreciate it when someone is kind to her baby.  Melt mom and dad's heart by showing how invested you really are.  (Helpful hint:  Don't send lots of candy, and don't send money; it's the thought that counts!)


D)  Offer to help.  Could you pick a child up from school once a week?  Could you have the family over for dinner once a month?  Families with young children are busy and could use a helping hand.

___________________________________________

Children and grandparents are like peanut butter and jelly.  They are just meant to be together.  Think about it.  There are so few people in this world who will love a child simply because the child exisits.  The child doesn't have to do a thing to earn this love.  Why would you ever risk throwing that away?  Maybe you think your child isn't cherished by his/her grandparents, so you limit contact, but the grandparents shy away from your family because you are throwing up barriers.  It is a ridiculous, which-came-first-the-chicken-or-the-egg routine.  Just stop it!

Step outside your comfort zone.  Both parents and grandparents need to humble themselves for the sake of the grandparent-grandchild relationship.  There is a very small window in which a parent can tell a child that someone is good and lovable and the child will believe them, no questions asked.  Don't let that window close!  Nurture that relationship before it's too late.  Believe me, it is soooo worth it!

Grandchildren are the crowning glory of the aged;
parents are the pride of their children.      -Proverbs 17:6 NLT

Note:  I know there are a plethora of issues I am missing here on both sides.  I'm just asking you to read the post, and if it applies to your situation or speaks to your heart, and it's in your power to do something about it, well then, get to gettin'.

 





5/11/12

Everything I do...

Jack has been sick for a few days.  It's not fun.  I am tired.  He is up several times each night, requiring Pedialyte (to rehydrate him), diaper changes, clothing changes, sometimes sheet changes.  Come morning time, I am exhausted, and Parker and Maddie are raring to go. 

Today as I was preparing breakfast, I leaned my head against the fridge and prayed aloud that God would grant me strength to make it through the day.  Parker and Maddie chimed in, "Mommy, we love you even when you are tired and grumpy."  That warmed my heart and made me sad at the same time.  They knew what was coming today based on the bags under my eyes.

This afternoon, I caught sight of the black bottoms of the kids' feet as I was pushing them on the swings.  We spend a lot of time outside, and they had been going "barefooting" [as Maddie likes to call it] for a few days now.  Parker's face bore a dried milk moustache, and Maddie's arms and hands were still blue from yesterday's craft time.  When was the last time those two had a bath?  What kind of mother am I?  The tired kind, I decided.

Bath time!

It was fun.  I piled the three of them in the tub.  Wish I had taken a picture, but it's just not safe to even turn my back when they are all in there together.  They create quite a ruckus, and most times Jack can't decide whether he should laugh or cry.  He sits in his bath seat, with eyes wide as saucers, while Maddie "helps" me bathe him.  Poor guy. 

After the bath it was quiet time for Parker and Maddie.  I closed their doors, breathed a sigh of relief, and took my time diapering Jack and placing him in a fresh sleeper.  As I carted him about the house on my hip I began to smell that familiar smell.  Oh boy. 

Stripping off his now-soiled clothes, I was tempted to wallow.  Didn't I just give this kid a bath?  Why bother?  Then I remembered the words of my very wise friend, Phyllis:


"Everything you do is to be undone." 


She was referring to motherhood.  And she was right.  I cook a meal so it can be eaten.  I wipe the table so it can be utilized for a different mess.  I wash the clothes, fold them, and put them away so they can be worn again.

It seems counterintuitive that my friend's statement would give me such peace, but it did.  There is a purpose for everything I do as a mom.  At the same time, I must realize that all of those mundane tasks will be undone almost immediately.  They are meant to be undone.  The fact that my work will be destroyed does not negate the importance of the work.  I can choose to be angry and bitter and resentful that there are crumbs on my floor after every meal, or I can just sweep them up and go on about my day. 

So, as I wriggled Jack's squishy arms out of his tiny sleeves, I kissed his soft head, and tried to embrace the madness of motherhood, messes and all.

5/1/12

Dear Big, Huge 5 Year Old Boy

It's that time of year again; birthday time.  Parker's birthday is the first one of the year in our family (besides mine, which doesn't really count so much anymore).  I've stopped asking, "How does this happen?  How could this be?  When did he get so big?"  I just shake my head and smile in wonder.  He is a wonder - with a personality that can fill a room, a memory that rivals an elephant, a huge heart...He's stolen mine.

This has been a magical year, full of superheroes, preschool friends, bugs, camping adventures, doting grandparents, worms, garden hoses, big-boy bikes, tree-climbing, an adoring baby brother, exploring, cartoons, Legos, books, nightlights, swinging, cookies, candy, sugar in general, soccer, gardening, transformers, even some sweet moments with little sister.

I hope that one day you will read these words and know how much I absolutely adore you.  You filled a hole in our lives we didn't even know was there, and now it overflows with joy, zaniness, and love.  I can't wait to see what the good Lord has in store for you, little man.  I'm so glad to be along for the wild ride!

4/24/12

Under construction


Parker and Maddie were recently having issues with pestering and tattling.  I decided to reach into my old counseling bag of tricks and pull out a discipline technique based on the book, 1-2-3 Magic.  The idea is that when a child misbehaves, you calmly state, "That's a 1."  If it continues, "That's a 2."  If the child persists, "That's a 3; you are in time out." 

It's pretty effective with small children, providing you are consistent, calm, cool, collected (all of which I am not).  I decided to modify this approach, as my children seem to be unfazed by time-outs these days.  Instead, if I reach a 3, they lose all sugar for the day.  Did I mention they were sugarholics? 

I have only reached 3 once.  However, I get to 2 many, many times throughout the day.  You see, you can't catch them misbehaving at 9am, count it as a "1" and then see another problem behavior at 11am and count it as a "2."  There is a grace period during which they can return to a zero (usually about 15 minutes).   

They have had difficulty with this grace period.  They have no issue when it applies to their own situation, but when grace is given to a sibling, oh, the injustice of it all!

Sometimes I will overhear them arguing in the living room when I am in the kitchen.  Maddie will call, "Mommy!  Parker just got a 2!  Tell him he got a 2!"  I have to remind them that I am the only Master Counter in this house [cue the malicious, power-hungry laughter].  I listen to Maddie's argument and then ask her to identify her own role in the problem.  What did you do?  Nuh-fing!

Oh, how this reminds me of my own condition!  I keep coming across the same bible passage from Jesus' sermon on the mount:

Matthew 7:3-5
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye."  

At first, I assumed this wonderful passage was given to me as a teaching tool for the kids...I mean, it even says "brother," right?  Then it hit me.  It was for me.  Uggghhh.

Just 2 Sundays ago, I was listening to a wonderful sermon and thinking so-and-so could really stand to hear this; I'll have to send her the link.  Then it hit me again.  Why don't you listen up and pay attention and see what God wants you to hear and change today? 

It just keeps hitting me from all sides.  Speaking of planks, I feel like I am under construction here.  God uses a still, small voice for some, but then there are people like me, thick-headed, stubborn, hypocritical, and just plain critical.  For me, he has to bang me in the head a few times before I really get it.  Well, Lord, I think I have it...for today.

4/17/12

Sweetness

Things are happening at the speed of life here...not much time for blogging these days.  We're too busy  flying kites, swinging, checking on the eggs in the robin's nest...Just wanted to jot down some things before I forget.






 
 Jack started crawling.  He's also wearing size 18 month clothing.  He's only 8 months old, but he has a really long torso, like his daddy.  So hard to believe that my baby is on the move and will soon be a toddler! 

Parker and Maddie were especially wonderful last week.  I don't know if it was because it was spring break, and we had nothing to do but stay home and relax, or if they are maturing on some level.  Hoping for the latter!

Some brief examples:
When grandma bought them a bag of popcorn to share at the craft store, Maddie literally fed pieces to Parker, then gave him her quarter so he could have 2 turns on the mechanical horse.  (It's pretty ancient and bucks like a bull, so her decision might have been fear-driven, but it was still sweet.)

On a different afternoon, I returned to the backyard after changing one of Jack's diapers inside, and I happened upon the two of them talking, as Parker gently pushed Maddie on the swing set.  I stopped dead in my tracks, with tears in my eyes.  It was so precious [and rare], I didn't want them to see me and stop.

When we are in the van and it's nearing a feeding time for Jack, Maddie will gently feed him little baby cereal puffs, one at a time, to keep him from crying.

The other morning, Parker requested to give Jack a bottle.  I propped them on the couch with pillows and watched as Parker carefully tilted the bottle back.  When Jack started drinking, Parker laughed, "This is fun!"  He kissed the top of Jack's head and snuggled in close.

One afternoon, we were playing in Parker's room when I realized I needed to switch the laundry.  It was about time for Parker and Maddie to have quiet time in their rooms and Jack to nap.  Maddie went to her room without complaint, but Parker and Jack didn't seem quite ready to go to bed.  I asked Parker to please watch Jack for a moment while I ran down to take care of the laundry.  I finished quickly and raced back upstairs to find Parker laughing and playing carefully with Jack.  I told him I would take Jack, and he needed to have quiet time.  "Please, mom, can we just have a few more minutes?  I was having so much fun playing with him!"  I shrugged, scanned the floor for small objects, and agreed to let them play a bit longer while I picked up the living room.  I returned a short time later, and picked up Jack.  "Thanks so much for watching him, Parker."  He replied (without a hint of sarcasm), "No, thank you, momma!" 

Today was Monday and business as usual.  We dropped Parker off at preschool and headed to Bible study.  I dropped Jack off in the church nursery and headed for the preschool room for Maddie.  When we arrived at her door, she clung to my leg.  I looked down to see her bottom lip protruding and tears filling her eyes.  "What's wrong?" I asked, alarmed.  She shook her head as fat teardrops spilled down her cheeks.  I sat in the middle of the hall and held her in my lap.  She finally sobbed, "When Parker has preschool and you have Bible study, we never get to have Mommy-Maddie special time!"  Ohhhh.  You see, typically, on Parker's school days, I am able to put Jack down for a nap and have uninterrupted "special time" with Maddie at home.  We usually end up playing with plastic horses and lizards up in her room.  She loves it.  And she was right, on Mondays, we are at Bible study and miss out on that special time.  "How about if today, during quiet time, I come into your room for some special time...with the Ipad?"  Her eyes lit up.  She nodded and hugged me, burying her face in my hair.  I held her and rocked her and thanked God that she still wants to have special time with me.

Finally, tonight I got to rock my baby to sleep.  He was so tired that we left Grammy and Pawpaw's early.  Aaron will be coming home any minute with the older two.  It's amazing how quiet the house is when they are gone!  Jack fell asleep in the van on the way home and barely woke when I got him out of his car seat.  With his head on my shoulder, I made his bottle and carried him up the stairs.  He drank his bottle slowly, and I changed him into his pajamas in my lap.  He laid his little head on my shoulder and I patted him and sang lullabies and kicked myself for all the evenings I had rushed through nighttime routines so I could have some "me" time.  We snuggled in the silence, and I finally carried him to his crib and gently laid him down.  He glanced up at me with heavy lids and drifted off to sleep as I patted his back.  What a special time!

I can hardly wait for Parker and Maddie to get home so I can have some quality cuddle time with them, too!

3/28/12

Green bean milkshake

Mmmm...sounds yummy, right?  I thought so when I was a kid.  Well, not exactly.  I thought that a green bean milkshake would be preferable to plain old green beans.  Needless to say, I was wrong.

See, I was having a power struggle with my parents over food.  I. hate. green. beans.  Specifically, I hate canned green beans (which is what we always ate).  I should say it's what my family always ate while I sat stubbornly, arms folded across my chest, making the most disgusted expression I could muster each time they were served.  How I loved our beagle, who ate more than his fair share of my regurgitated, coughed from mouth to napkin, slipped under the table beans.  I was not nearly as slick as I imagined, and soon my parents were watching my every move.  It all came to a head one fateful night...the night of the green bean milkshake.  I still shiver when I think about that blender full of green mush...

Our family had recently been on a milkshake kick.  We often had milkshakes for breakfast, some fruit, milk, a little sugar, and voila!  A yummy, easy meal.  Using my preadolescence reasoning skills, I deduced that adding milk and sugar to any food and blending it to the consistency of a shake would greatly improve the dining experience.  I happened to be wrong.

After sitting at the table for nearly an hour, refusing to eat my beans, I finally asked my parents if I could do anything I wanted to my beans if I promised to eat them all.  Yes!  They breathed a sigh of relief that the standoff was nearing an end.  When I announced my plans to make a green bean milkshake, I could see their pathetic attempts to hide the grins.  Ha!  I'd show them!  I'd eat every last green bean, whipped up into a delicious concoction.  Why hadn't I thought of this sooner?

I pureed the beans and added a tiny bit of milk and a teaspoon of sugar, then sampled.  Hmmm...still tasted like crap - I mean, green beans.  Must need more milk and sugar.  Repeat.  Repeat.  You get the idea.  Pretty soon I had an entire blender full of milky, sugary, green sludge.  And my brother chanting, "You have to drink it all!  You have to drink it all!"  I got through about half a glass, grimacing, nearly vomiting, when my mom, shoulders shaking from laughter put an end to my misery and allowed me to pour the rest down the drain.  I don't remember ever complaining about green beans again.

Now things have come full circle.  Jack hates green beans.  Actually, he pretty much rejects any green vegetable I introduce.  I am so sick of opening up a jar of baby food, grinning and talking like an idiot just to get him to open his mouth, only to have him immediately spit out the food I just inserted.  Grrr....  I have tried every brand I can find.  I have tried mixing it with baby cereal.  No luck. 

I even bought fresh beans, cleaned them, steamed them, pureed them, strained them, etc.  They were lovely.  Fresh, bright green, sure to be a hit. 


Nope.  Now it was personal.  So you reject the Gerber brand.  I can understand that; it looks gray and disgusting.  So you spit out the Earth's Best Organic [ridiculously expensive for a tiny jar] brand, no problem.  But, excuse me, did you just spit out the homemade-I-slaved-in-the-kitchen-for-hours[okay, 30 minutes]-fresh-batch of beans?  I don't think so, pal.  I'm winning this battle.  Deja vu...  Wonder what my parents were thinking lo those many years ago?

So in my desperation to have him eat a wholesome meal [read: win], I made a green bean milkshake.  Well, not exactly.  I added some baby oatmeal and baby pear juice.  And guess what?  I won

Then, of course, 20 minutes later he had the last laugh when I had to change his diaper.  Curse you, pear juice!