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


The Great Great Wolf Lodge

We recently went to a Great Wolf Lodge with the kids for the first time.  We had been promising the trip for about six months, you know as part of the whole, "C'mon kids, you're going to love living in Dallas...They have that cool indoor waterpark hotel called Great Wolf Lodge there.  Yeah, sure we can go!"  Then of course we moved to Dallas and learned that one night at Great Wolf was about the equivalent of one year of college tuition.  Okay, so I'm exaggerating...a little.  It took me months to find a decent price.  Finally, the day had come, and we were all so excited!

While we were there, I discovered something amazing...

I could enjoy vacation.  With kids!  Crazy, right?  But it was true!  The first "vacation" we took after becoming parents was torturous.  It was a large, extended family affair.  While everyone else slept through the night and well into the morning, we were up feeding a two month old.  As people lounged in bikinis all around me, I was self consciously trying to hide my post-pregnancy body.  I was anxious every time the baby cried, which was a lot.  You get the idea.   It was a far cry from the relaxing, exciting, romantic trips Aaron and I were accustomed to taking.

Fast forward about six years.  Add three more kids.  Throw in two parents who have learned that the real joy of vacation is not about personal pleasure and relaxation - at least not in this season of our lives... The real joy comes from the children themselves.  From the smiles and shrieks of joy as they bounce on hotel beds.  From the wonder in their eyes as they behold something never seen before.  From the wild, circular running and dancing - a physical inability to contain their excitement.  From the soft, sweet head resting heavily on my shoulder at the end of the day.  From warm little bodies tucked in close to mine, the blissful sighs, the "I love you's," and the sound of air softly entering and exiting four tiny noses.

Were there fights?  Yes.  Meltdowns?  Of course.  Was it worth every penny and every second of planning, packing, and working?  You bet your bottom dollar!


Bouncy House Bliss

Jack was half asleep.  Caleb needed to eat.  And we were already running late for a bouncy house birthday party.

It had been a busy day.  Good busy, but still busy.  Aaron and I were tired.  Though we loved the birthday boy and his family, neither of us were looking forward to another activity.

Aaron opted to stay home with sleepy Jack and hungry Caleb.  I grumbled my way to the van with the older two.  Fifteen minutes later were were greeted by the bright lights and blaring music of the indoor bounce park.  Sigh.

"Mom, can I have some tokens to play that shooting game?"  "Watch me!  Watch me bounce!"  I was silently cursing Aaron.  As Parker blasted through space aliens, Maddie and I wandered over to the claw machine.  A group of hopeful children, faces pressed against the glass, were sighing with disappointment each time the claw ascended without a prize.  Frustrated parents attempted to shoo them away.

I watched, mesmerized.  Didn't that little brown bear just pull loose?  I'm sure that with 2 more tokens I could win it for Maddie if these little squirts would scram.  Um, I mean, if these darling children would kindly give me a turn.  As the other children lost interest, I feigned boredom and held back.  Maddie was pulling on my arm.  "Mommy, come watch me on the princess slide!"  "Just a minute, sweetie.  Mommy will be right there…"  She headed toward the giant slide just as I inserted my tokens.

Then, out of nowhere a sweet little girl who could have been no more than two came up and began to manhandle my controls.  I plastered a smile on my face.  "May I have a turn?" I asked sweetly.  The blinking numbers were counting down.  Only 20 seconds left.  I began to wrestle the controls.  She thought it was a game and pulled harder.  Clearly she didn't know with whom she was dealing.  10 seconds.  I was embarrassed that I was clearly wrestling with a two year old (and losing) when it finally occurred to me to give her the empty token cup.  "Here, Sweetie.  Hold on to this tightly.  Both hands!  Good girl."  Victory!

Followed quickly by defeat.  My perfectly placed claw emerged sans bear.  Deflated, I began to look for Maddie.  I saw Parker hanging around the gun game, but Maddie was nowhere in sight.  She wasn't on the princess slide.  My heart began to race.  It was a small space.  There weren't a lot of people.  Still.  She wasn't in the next bounce tent or the next or the next.  Why didn't I watch her go down the princess slide?  She didn't even want that bear.  What was I thinking?  Why was I wasting my time, our time?  Finally I caught a glimpse of her climbing through a tunnel.

"Maddie!"  She ran up to me, smiling.  I picked her up and twirled her around.  "Maddie, I'm really sorry I didn't come and watch you slide on the princess slide when you asked.  Mommy was being silly.  I'm sorry."

"That's okay," she replied quickly.  "You can watch me now!"  We headed back to the huge pink and white monstrosity and I watched her and cheered for her over and over until she was too tired to go anymore.  She joined me on the nearby bench and curled into my lap.

Suddenly, I was ecstatic to be at the party.  It's so easy for me to take my kids for granted.  To assume I know what they want instead of giving them what they are so clearly requesting: me.   It's both humbling and wonderful to realize that Maddie just wants me.  I forget that she is still so little and innocent partly because she is in fact, so big (in the 90th percentile for height and weight in her age group).

So tonight, I hugged my little big girl tightly and thanked God for our busy day and the lessons He allows me to learn, even amidst the chaos of a bouncy house party.


Pity Party

1:30 AM: Enter sniveling child.  "Mommy, my bed is wet."
"Did you pee?"
"No, I'm just hot.  And my pj's felt all wet.  And I changed them.  But I still can't sleep.  And I'm hot."
"Lay a towel over your pillow, don't cover up, and go back to bed."

Silence.  Sleep begins to descend again…."WAAAAAAA!!!!"

My feet hit the floor.  I am scowling as I rush toward the room, hissing for said child to "Hush up!" before she wakes the entire house.  I enter the darkened room and the smell hits me like a wall just as my feet slip in the squishy bits of disgustingness on the floor.  I fumble for the light.  How on earth can a child so small produce so much vomit?

I am frowning.  Really?  Really?!  This week?  When Aaron will be gone for days.  Can't wait to see who else will get sick.   Bet the washing machine will wake the baby tonight…On and on and on.  My thoughts are on a runaway train.  My mental pity party has officially begun.

As I work to strip the bed, I notice poor Maddie in the corner of my eye, shivering, watching me closely, tearful.  I am certain she sees the sneer on my face.  The sneer at the foul smell, at the middle of the night waking, at the inconvenience…I stop.  Oh, honey.

I am finding that in every situation, there is a turning point.  There is a moment when I am allowed a glimpse of my behavior and then a choice.  Is this who I want to be?  Is this who God is calling me to be?  At that moment, I can choose selfishness and ugliness, or I can choose grace and peace.

My heart and expression begin to soften.  I speak in a soothing voice and lead her to the bathroom where I clean her hair and face in the tub.  She is crying that she is angry with herself for getting sick.  My heart aches.  "It's okay, sweetie.  It happens to all of us.  It's not your fault.  It's no problem."  Her sniffling stops and she begins to relax.

Towels on the stripped bed, hair in a pony tail, fresh pajamas, a bucket on the floor.  I pull a warm blanket up to her chin and tiptoe from the room.

I'm so glad I decided to leave the pity party early.  It was a dud anyway.  Pretty lonely there.  You know that saying, "Misery loves company"?  Well, I think it's a bit misleading.  People don't want to be around misery or miserable people.  They may be drawn to them, like onlookers to a train wreck, but no one really wants to be there.  I certainly don't.

These days, I find myself drawn more toward peace.  Peace, grace, love.  That's where I want to be.  That's where I choose to be.  Thankfully, there's always an open invitation to join that party.

So tonight, at 2:40 AM, as I sit listening to the washing machine running, feeling the wet of my soapy sleeves, and reeking faintly of someone else's, puke, I just want to share a bit of my joy.  I pray you have a peaceful night, too.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.  Colossians 3:23-24

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  Romans 8:37

Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.  Nehemiah 8:10