Parentine – (noun) A state, period, or place of isolation that includes the activity of bringing up a child as a parent, teacher, daycare worker, nurse, cook, janitor and overall provider of things.
I wanted to share this moment with my son from this morning in the hopes that it will encourage all the parents out there attempting overachievement parentine, as I like to call it to give their kids some slack and more importantly some time. Yea… you know if I’m talking to you. Don’t worry… we’re all guilty.
My 8 year old son was working on his school work with me this morning at the kitchen table and after quite a bit of grumbling, leaned his head down and said, “Mom…I’m not feeling myself.” I already knew. He had been on the verge of tears twice since starting that morning, but at the sight of his big dark eye lashes hanging over his paper and filling up with tears, I was taken aback by the amount of weight I could almost see him holding.
I looked at him and said, “Are you sad?” He nodded and started to tear up, but held it back. I often overestimate my children’s resilience in times like this. I assume they are fine because they are flexible and positive natured. Although we aren’t immune from hearing the occasional “my life is over” or “worst day ever” comments, in our big family the kids tend to roll with the punches. Ashamedly, they often hear me make comments like, “life is hard” and “it’s not about you” but in this moment, this moment that clearly required bravery, this little one was trying to hold back all the collective grief and pass it off as a show of strength.
Little did he or I know the strength this moment required wasn’t a holding back but rather a letting go. First off, let me say how proud I am of this kid for naming it. “I don’t feel myself” is a difficult thing for most adults I know to recognize, let alone to admit aloud. We could all take some lessons from my 8 year old son’s true bravery today, myself included.
Thank goodness, I had the awareness in that moment to listen rather than model again how to push back the pain. I took his hand, something I have learned is so important with my own children when I really desire to connect with what they are feeling, and we had a nice chat about how it’s okay to be sad, angry and disappointed. Mostly, I just asked him over and over again what he missed about each part of his old routine. When he stopped talking, I asked him to elaborate or tell me more about a particular game he loved playing or a friend he thought was funny. Through tears and laughter he shared things with me from “banana spys” on the playground (don’t ask), to PE (of course), to the way the classroom actually felt when you walked in. Together, we decided I would help him set up a space at home that isn’t the kitchen table so he might feel some comfort and purpose.
My favorite share was when he said he missed his teacher. I asked, “What do you miss the most about her?” He said, “Her face,” and as if that didn’t melt my heart enough I said, “Her face makes you feel happy.” He added, “Her face makes me feel smart. I just feel smarter when she is in the room.” These teachers are nothing short of miracles. Want to tug at the teacher’s hearts? Write them a note right now. Ask your kid what they miss the most about their teacher. Ask them to be specific. Send it in an email with a quick thank you. It doesn’t have to be long or elaborate, but their hearts are aching now too and helping to connect a teacher’s and a kid’s heart is a gift all it’s own. Let’s flood their inboxes.
But thanking a teacher isn’t my only mission in sharing this story. It’s the perfect summation of so much gratitude and grief that has come for so many of us as well as our kids these days with school at home. It’s overwhelming, and my guess is that, like me, parents might be trying to do it all perfectly right down to discussing their child’s feelings. Each time I got an email about how best to do this, I loaded on the guilt about the conversations I wasn’t having with them and the wasted time I had spent on Netflix and Facebook trying to “self care.”
The funny thing about guilt is it’s about me, not them. It’s self-serving. It’s about whether or not I look like a good parent, but if I heard anything today, it was a reminder to be self giving of my time when my kids need it most. Hear me clearly. When they need it most, not at every moment. The message was to be patient and watchful. Ironically, in my Catholic Christian tradition, this is just what we are being called to do in this holy week.
Just as each kid processes in their own way, they also process in their own time. For one kid, it might be over school work or during a classroom zoom this week. For another, at bedtime tonight, and for another it may be a month or even years from now. When my son and I were done he looked at me and said, “Thanks mom.” The two words every parent desires to hear from time to time. Sometimes I think it’s one of the only reasons we wipe so many boogers and clean so many rears, but it’s as rare as a zoom call without a frozen face. So I’m gonna tuck that one in my back pocket for awhile.
Whatever the timing, there is no perfect way except to offer your presence when the need does arise. Sadness comes from a feeling of loss and processing that feeling is one of the most important parts of grief. And let’s be real, we are all grieving. What I’m offering today is an invitation for you to watch and wait. Here me parents, the most important thing we can do during this quarantine isn’t the perfect balance of homeschool and work, or even making sure our pants are on during a zoom call (although this is a good idea in case you decide to stand up). It isn’t making the best meals, or turning on all the online field trips, whilst painting the kitchen or losing weight with the now free online exercise classes. It is simply a call to watch for that moment of need
Getting out the door in this house is always, shall we say, interesting. We head out 30 minutes before we actually have to drive away and I always hope we don’t forget anything. (insert snort laugh) Yeah right! Do the math: 5 kids equals: 5 backpacks, 5 lunch boxes, 5 water bottles, 10 socks (how do we only have 7?), 10 mittens, 5 snow pants, 5 pair of boots, 5 coats, 5 underwear (yes they have been forgotten), 5 hats, 5 pair of shoes (I’m embarrassed to tell you how many times someone isn’t wearing them when we arrive), and one pair of glasses. Add to all that to the unimaginable amount of folders and paperwork, permission slips, etc, and you have yourselves a mobile Target Store!
The worst mornings are when the littles do the “noooooo I don’t want to goooo!!!” and my usual hostage negotiations aren’t cutting it. Especially when all three littles do it at once. I have been known to scream up to heaven, “I only have TWO hands!?! WHY!? WHY NOT MORE!?”
Since I don’t have extra hands, the only option for no-I-won’t-go kids is to wrestle them into their coat, sit on them while you put on their shoes and then press them into their car seat (if you can get them to stop arching their back).
Parenting trick #354: I always gently tickle the inner thigh and when they inevitably curl up, I use my lightning fast hands to get the one leg buckled. It’s the “How Fast are Mommy’s Hands” Game. Tickle, buckle, snap, tickle, buckle, snap!
(Insert evil mommy laugh…)
”MUAHAHAHAHA… I GOT YA!
Pause…. and realize all the other kids are looking at me in some kind of mix between shock and awe!!
Okay, maybe that was a bit too much, but sometimes just getting them in their seats feels like something that deserves a parade or at least a fist pump into the air.
An Ugly Morning
Way more often than I would like to admit, I have what I call an ugly morning. One morning in particular, I was ranting about the usual on the drive to school:
“You have a checklist to complete at night. You have a checklist for morning. You need to have things ready! You need to listen to me the first time! I understand time! I understand consequences! That’s why you HAVE to listen the first time! You are missing your sock…2 minutes…you didn’t finish your morning chores…3 minutes….you had to be told 5 times to brush your teeth…1 minute…..you didn’t get out of bed when your alarm went off…that’s 10 minutes! It all adds up people!”
All of this is a lecture they have heard before, but this time instead of stopping to take a breath I let my feelings take over, and the longer I talked, the louder and more angry I got. Eventually, I was screaming at the top of my lungs.
“I HATE asking you to get out of bed! I HATE telling you to brush your teeth! I HATE reminding you to put on your socks! I HATE HAVING TO SCREAM TO GET YOU TO LISTEN! AHHHHHHHH!”
I finished my selfish rampage as I was pulling up at the school. We were 10 minutes late, and I had made sure they knew it was their fault. I turned around to see 5 stunned faces. I didn’t care. I let them get out of the car and walk into school in silence. No “I love you.” No, “we’ll do better tomorrow.” Just a lot of “hate.” A word I tell my children not to say, and I had just screamed it to describe what I didn’t like about being a mom.
Hate me yet? I feel small just writing this and I wasn’t even the on the receiving end of this rampage. It was an ugly morning, and by the time I got the littles to school and headed off to my mom’s group, I was bawling. It wasn’t that my frustrations weren’t founded, but that rather than giving them an “educational opportunity” (my dad’s code word for his very insightful lectures, which I now appreciate totally) I was using them as my release. My own insecurities about being an unorganized, bad mom were leaking out onto their day. Not cool.
That morning, all I could see in my thoughts were those faces after I had finished berating them and smashing them down so far that I’m sure they scarcely felt an inch tall. I felt an inch tall, but in the midst of of my ugly, Jesus was there watching and loving me in spite of my ugly. In desperation, I picked up a book that I had been reading at the time called Parenting by Paul David Tripp and wouldn’t you know, within a few paragraphs I read this:
“If we are going to give grace to our children, we need to confess that we are but children in daily need of the Father’s care. If we are going to be patient, we need to admit our need for forgiveness. If we are going to persevere, we need to humbly admit that our only hope is that our heavenly Father will never give up on us. And if we are going to teach our children to run to Jesus daily, we must run to Jesus daily as well.”
I knew right then what I had to do. I had to apologize and show my vulnerability so that I might mirror the Father’s love through my own mistakes. That night, there was a discussion about that dreadful morning’s events and some tears shed on my part as I apologized and opened my sin for my children to see. It was hard and humiliating, but the beautiful part is that in seeing my repentance my children in turn, witnessed the grace of Jesus.
What I hope to convey by sharing my ugly morning is that even in our failures, we can remind ourselves and our children that Jesus heals all.
Needless to say, many mornings I worry that I might fail before I even begin. I often stand outside my children’s doors before they wake praying, breathing deeply, crossing all my appendages in hopes that I won’t have any mommy fails in the morning hours that are soon to follow.
I have found that if I pause to pray and ask for Jesus’ help before I wake them, my mornings run a lot more smoothly, but this means I have to wake up at least a few minutes before them. A small price to pay for the peace that follows. When I start with a prayer that acknowledges my inabilities and asks for grace to fill in the places I fall short, the morning looks different. I notice the good things: the big kids helping the littles with their shoes, a little one putting his plate in the dishwasher, the way the three-year-old hides behind her messy hair upon waking until she is ready to be spoken to. I laugh more, I breath more, and I convey God’s love for me, to my children with more clarity.
Now instead of a few minutes, I get up almost an hour before them to pray, meditate, talk to my husband, express some gratitude and ask for a lot of grace for the day ahead. My eldest even started a tradition of praying on the way to school. The kids are the ones who remind me of this new practice, lead the prayers and are especially thoughtful when they notice the morning was a difficult one. Trust me, nothing will fill your mom heart more than hearing your kids pray for you and their siblings.
The message is simple as Tripp describes it.
“If all that your children needed was the knowledge and enforcement of rules, then the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus would not have been necessary.”
In other words, he reminds me of something I’ve known all along… I am not enough. I never was and never will be. However, if I show that vulnerability openly to my children and allow them to see my brokenness pulled together by Jesus, it will speak loads more to them than I ever could. They will see that with Jesus I am enough. With Jesus, they are enough. With Jesus, you are enough!
Until next time, go out and SHARE some chaos, CREATE some confidence, and INSPIRE some grace of your own!
School is in the full swing now and dare I say I’m kind of enjoying it. You don’t have to feel guilty for loving to leave your kids at school. Seriously. No guilt. It makes me look bad.
Having all 5 home means more fighting, more meals, more dishes, more discipline and more wackadoodle Mom. I’m not totally pessimistic though. I do, I so so so do, miss sleeping in past 7 AM, and I will admit I miss spending time with them when they are being nice and acting like perfectly mannered drone children. I’m just one of those moms that is a better person when I have some time away from my kids. Surprise!
It’s wasn’t Christmas, but on that first day, I totally danced to “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” in my active wear (a.k.a. PJ’s), baseball cap (a.k.a. greasy hair cover), and yesterday’s make-up, while I watched them go to the glorious teachers, who teach the marvelous things and put the big smarts in their crazy little heads. Okay, okay – my eye holes might have leaked a little bit, or maybe it just rained on the playground on that cloudless day….on that one spot…on my face……
P.S. Mom’s who make those beautiful, first day, chalk board signs. Please stop. You are making me look bad. I tried one year but I used printer paper and a marker that was too light. The resulting picture was of my kids holding up, what looked like, a piece of blank white printer paper. They’re going to see your pictures, at your kids’ graduations and ask me why I didn’t do that. I will just have to point to their first day picture, the one with the piece of blank white paper and say, “I tried.” Or maybe I will just point to their empty baby book and shrug my shoulders.
Why School Mornings Make me Cray Cray (But just a little….mostly, I’m sort of sane…. I think.)
During school season, in the morning, I walk into my kids room and usually say in my best June Cleaver voice, something like “Wakey Wakey Eggs and Bakey! Except I don’t have time for that so just eat your cereal.” P.S. If you make eggs and bacon every morning, don’t tell me. It will have the same effect as your chalkboard sign.
So, if you haven’t guessed yet, there’s is a slight snag in my perfect back to school family picture. I little snafu, a hiccup, minor hurdle, if you will. Okay, it’s a flipping house sized boulder, but I’m gonna laugh about it and poke fun anyway cause, well, that’s what I do to stay sane. That’s right! The dreaded “Morning Routine”. Can I get an AMEN? You know exactly what I’m talking about if you have kids that attend school…. and a pulse.
In our house, there are very few moments that someone isn’t screaming or crying as though they either lost a limb or are about to cut someone else’s off. Here’s a mental picture for you because I know you’re curious. Children #1 and #2 are throwing barbs at each other to see who can make the other one mad first. Child #3 is constantly asking for something in broken record form because he’s learned if he doesn’t just obnoxiously repeat himself he won’t be heard over the other 4 (classic middle kid syndrome). Children #4 and #5 are usually crying, screaming, pooping, peeing, spilling, falling, or demanding something! And then, just as I’m about to bite into my own breakfast, which I rarely have time to eat, someone yells from the bathroom, “WIPE ME!”
The two big kids take it in stride pretty well, and they put up with a lot, but even I want to rip my eyeballs out at the noise some days, so you can’t blame them for being a bit on edge. Often, after a few minutes of thundering, one of the bigs starts screaming “BE QUIEEEET!” at the littles which only makes them cry and whine harder; the big kid who didn’t yell “Be Quiet,” then snaps at the other for snapping at the littles which in turn causes a yelling fight between the bigs. About 15% of the time that comes to blows…in other words true and utter chaos and it’s LOUD.
A Little Throwback For You. (Imagine me 25 years younger with an ugly boy haircut, no boobs to prove I’m a girl, and Spock ears cause I haven’t yet grown into my head. Pretty, isn’t it?)
Growing up, my sister, Traci, and I used to line up cereal boxes…three of them in a sort of U-shape around our bowls. That way we didn’t have to look at or talk to each other when we weren’t “awake yet.” Or maybe it was to spare ourselves the horror of seeing Spock ears and 80’s bangs, but that’s another story. This cereal tent was a great tactic, but there were only two of us. My calculations concluded that I would need 15 cereal boxes to do this with my kids and inevitably someone would be mad because they got the bran flakes box instead of the frosted wheat. Maybe I will just take those 15 boxes and create my own little fort to hide in.
Back to the Future (My all time favorite movie BTW.)
Not much has changed for me morning-wise since those days of hiding behind cereal boxes with my sister. Talking to me before I’m awake is still a dangerous practice, which is probably why the majority of my children are the same way. The apple doesn’t fall far. Am I right? I can’t blame them really. I try to imagine what it must be like to be in an almost pitch black room in a dead, and I mean D E A D sleep, have someone pry me out of my bed and sit me at a counter in the bright morning light,ask me what I want to eat and then to have someone next to me make a noise. A NOISE!? Any noise…. my eye is twitching just thinking about it. So imagine 5 little Katie’s sitting at a counter every morning waiting for breakfast. Both funny and scary.
Yes, I Have a Point (Hang in there. I just might make sense of all this yet.)
I’m not a perfect mom! The Lord knows this, you already know this, my kids certainly know this. I used to care, however, in the last few years I’ve decided that I’m okay with not being perfect. I’m okay with what anyone thinks really. They can judge or not. It really doesn’t phase me anymore. Perhaps it’s a side effect of this blog’s transparency or I’m passing some imaginary threshold as I grow closer to 40. One with a banner over it that reads, “Who gives a poop what everyone else thinks.” (Yes… I said poop. Not the other word. I’m not a monster! Most of the time.)
Quite frankly, I’m glad my kids see my mugly (messy/ugly) most days. My job is to raise them to love God and be ready for their future. They are my legacy. What better way to show them that they can’t do it alone, than to live out my mugly, loud, not enough, but forgiven, and complete with Jesus life, right in front of them.
You do You. (Not a little of them and mostly you. Just You!)
We are all a little mugly in the morning. Both in person and with our kids, but no matter what your morning routine looks like… June Cleaver, Lorelei Gilmore, Clair Huxtable, Marg Simpson, let me just put this out there. You do you!
I tell my kids this all the time. They love to point fingers, compare, and blame each other. Well, here’s a news flash that’s not actually a news flash: mom’s and other adults who, frankly, should be adulting better point fingers too. We all know plenty of “adults” who point fingers and compare. If we’re being honest with ourselves that includes us. It’s human nature, but that doesn’t me we shouldn’t try to improve.
Our kids take their cues from us. That’s where the “you do you” mentality is so helpful. A very wise mom I know once told me, “You can’t change the people around you.” You can cheer them on, you can communicate with them, even better, you can pray for them, but you CAN NOT change them. The thoughts you can change, habits you can stop, barriers you can break through, mountains you can climb are your own. As that same wise mom said, “The only person you can move is you!”
So… just do you, and if that is sometimes a mugly, loud, chaotic affair, then embrace it or change it, but don’t try to be the mom who made the chalkboard sign if you aren’t her. Your morning may be full of difficult, selfish, angry faces, but when you push through, you take difficulty and model perseverance, you take selfishness and model servant-hood and you take the anger and model love. Sometimes it isn’t as beautiful as the “June Cleaver” next door but it’s you. And whether you believe it or not it is good! You are a beautifully and wonderfully made and even in your broken morning, little lives are being changed simply because you showed up. Even in your chaotic mess… God is there!
Happy schooling everyone! And here’s to you doing you like a bad beast this week! Until next time, go share some chaos, create confidence and inspire some grace in your home.
So these are my digs. It’s where I come every week to get my creative juices flowing. I sit here……
No really, sometimes I just sit here. I often write. Sometimes I read the bible, sometimes I read self help books that I will follow religiously for tens of days. Sometimes I lose myself in a novel. Sometimes I go to my Facebook or Instagram account and scroll, scroll, scroll, scroll, scroll. You get the picture. It’s a home away from home, sort of. Big comfy chair? Check. Warm fire? check. Coffee, a.k.a. lifeblood? Check. Computer? Check. The only thing I’m missing is the husband rubbing my shoulders, and the “MOM, I NEED YOU TO WIPE MY BUTT!!!!” Actually, I don’t really miss my 5 kids or any form of butt wiping. I know. You’re surprised. The husband would be nice, but I will settle for my barista as long as she doesn’t start rubbing my shoulders. That would be weird.
I know you care so I will tell you. Rhonda, the manager, knows me by name. I’m so habitual that Rhonda notices when I don’t have my tumbler, I change tumblers, or even once, when I had a new dent in my tumbler!?! I know… right!?! She’s that good, people.
In my early caffeine days, I drank ⅓ cup cream and ⅔ coffee, but the longer I drank and the more kids I had, the less I wanted extras and the darker I wanted the coffee. I can’t afford to watch my 5 kids and waste space and time swallowing cream!?! I often think it would be more effective for me to just insert caffeine with IV, but then I wouldn’t get all the lovely coffee benefits. “Coffee benefits?” you say. Please share! Oh, I’m gonna share. In fact, I might overshare, but what’s new. Oversharing is my gift, and I will wear it like a badge!
4 Reasons Coffee Makes me a Better Parent
1 Wakeful parents don’t forget as much!
It gives me energy! Of course, this is the most common and popular reason people state for drinking coffee. It keeps me from making potentially dangerous, sleepy parenting decisions, like mistaking diaper rash cream for toothpaste (not me, but a guy I know). Nothing is worse for me, or potentially more dangerous for my family, than me leaving the house without coffee. I have been known to chug an entire cold cup of joe in speedy desperation. Have you ever tried to chug from a coffee mug? The rim is a little thick and it’s not as graceful as a water bottle or a can of soda. Inevitably, while I’m trying to full-on chug said coffee from said thick rimmed stoneware, someone pulls at my right leg, a few teaspoons worth end up missing my mouth and dripping down my neck, which I usually absorb with my shirt. I don’t wear white. Never wear white if you have children under the age of 10. If the shirt doesn’t work, I just rub it into my skin. A perfume of sorts. It probably absorbs into my skin and has the same benefit as drinking it. Like an essential oil.
2 It fights morning breath!
I use coffee to literally burn the plaque, morning breath, and left over bits of chocolate I downed in my bed after kids were asleep, out of my mouth. Yes, I’ve skipped brushing a time or two…or three. I haven’t asked my dentist if this is a good practice, but I’m pretty sure he would say it’s better than doing nothing at all, if not just so people don’t have to smell my dookie breath. Nuf said.
3 Delicious things make me happy!
I would eat pretty much anything if it said coffee on it: Ice cream? My favorite! Chocolate? Ummm…yes! Cake? Bring it on! You could make coffee flavored chips, crackers, maybe even ham!!! I’m pretty sure I would eat it. My favorite coffee things are those chocolate covered espresso beans. What prodigy came up with this!?! Essentially you are eating coffee beans, which I would do. In fact, I’m pretty sure I would just eat coffee grounds. It would be messier, and I might choke, and it might be stuck all over my teeth for the rest of the day, but other than that, I think I would enjoy it equally. I think I will talk to Barista Rhonda about serving bowls of coffee grounds. Can’t you see the black-teethed happy smiles around the place now!?! People spooning in their coffee joy for the day!?! “Would you like whip cream with that?” “Why yes… yes I would!”
That’s right…poop. By far the best coffee drinking benefit of all time. Anyone who drinks coffee regularly knows large quantities of dark coffee can really get things headed in the right direction. How do you think I got my bowels moving again after I birthed 5 poop-backer-upper, hemorrhoid causing children? Am I right or am I right? I’m so comfortable in my coffee haven, that I take a poo every time I come. I habitually use the same stall. It’s mine! I’m thinking of asking Rhonda for a plaque!
A Poo Poo Story
The other day I was headed in the direction of said poop place and I discovered someone had been there before me!?! How did I know? I’m there early, 5:30 am a.k.a guilt-free-time (when the kids are still asleep), so I usually take delight in the upright seat and blue water, knowing it has been cleaned just for me. Honestly, this is even better than home. My toilets are NOT this clean. There isn’t even a black line around the top edge of the water, dried pee around the rim, or a stray, questionable hair sitting where my back side’s about to go. On this particular day, not only did this alleged potty robber pilfer my blue water, but this commode caper had the audacity to take a number 2!!!! And leave it!!!! (Now that really felt like home, but that’s a story for another day.) Perhaps the most disturbing thing about this stinky ordeal? My coffee home potty has automatic flush. I’m just saying, if I took a poop that big in public, when I went to walk away I would be sure I heard a the rocket blast.
Seriously though, why do public toilets have to flush so loud?!? They boom and splatter like they are trying to wash down 5lbs of little smokies. It’s unnecessary. My children are afraid of them. They sit there trying to relax and do their business all the while clenched and afraid, yelling, “DON’T LET IT FLUSH!!! I wanna go out before you FLUSH IT!!!” They probably think their little bodies will go down with their business! Poor kids. No wonder there are so many small children riddled with constipation!
Bringing it Full Circle
Constipation. That’s where this blog comes full circle. Coffee shouldn’t just be for parents. We should just start giving our kids coffee in the morning. That would solve it! Works for me. Never mind the lack of common sense and medical data to back up this claim. Forget milk and OJ! Coffee needs to be a part of a balanced healthy diet. Cause I’m telling you, once you have two warm cups in your system, no fear of the flush noise is gonna hold back that tootsie roll!
Here’s hoping this brought you some belly chuckles, a little joy and some seriously good “scientific information.” Until next time, don’t be afraid to SHARE chaos, CREATE confidence, and INSPIRE some grace of your own!
In light of all this Elf on a Shelf stuff, I wanted to introduce you to our house friend…the TROLL on a shelf.
Now, before you roll your eyes at yet another tiny holiday toy that comes to life, let me first congratulate the parents who successfully pull this off. I wholeheartedly admire those energy-in-the night-parents, who create high wire walking, ice skating, mischievous marshmallow throwing acts at an hour that I am usually either snoring or watching mindless television and stuffing my face with the candy that I hid under my bed.
I’m gonna be honest though, there are a lot of us, who can’t handle the stress of elf life. I’m going to suspect even some of you who have an elf, just don’t have the energy for it, or in some cases, even wish they had never bought the thing.
So here I am again to make ya’ll feel normal. My Troll serves no purpose. None…except for the fact that I didn’t want to get rid of him from when I was a kid. Since I’m too lazy to make up fun stuff, he just moves around and hides and when the kids find him, I move him again. Let’s be honest, most of the time I forget, so some Christmases he only moves twice. The kids keep trying to turn him into an elf, but I don’t need that kind of pressure, so I insist that he’s just a Troll. I’m sure I’m scarring them for life and depriving them of some serious childhood fun!
This fluffy haired guy has been out playing with our family for 4 years now. He obviously has an affinity for reindeer, his red hair is a festive and bold fashion choice, much like his personality. He is never doing anything, just sitting in different places, kind of like what I do on Mondays. He goes from picture frame, to clock, to jar, to tree, to shelf. Always up high as my 1 year old would throw him in the potty and attempt to flush him down if she could ever reach him. He has been found in the nude on occasion, thanks to some curious children, and if you asked him, I bet he’d tell you he loves Jesus and Santa!
In tissue… BE JEALOUS!
Up high..MIC DROP!!
What I’m saying is, with all the holiday traditions flying around, it’s easy to feel like you’re a bad parent if you don’t do something or you do it but present it without a deep meaning.
Thanks to our addiction to social media, it’s unfortunately common to feel like you’ve failed because you didn’t move your elf or he’s on top of the tree AGAIN! Let me tell you, it doesn’t matter if it’s an elf, a shepherd, a creepy Troll toy, or nothing. It doesn’t matter if you move it every night, once a week, or not at all. Your family is just that, yours, which means it can have it’s own traditions tailored to your energy levels.
If you are an organized creative parent, then by all means move your elf every night! If you’re a crafty, engineering dad, then suspend that dude from the ceiling! But if you’re like me, and you’re a tired, sometimes sloppy, usually scatter-brained mama and you don’t want that tradition you heard about yesterday or you started one and afterwards discovered it was too much work, then for Pete’s sake, throw it out! Sure the kids might hem and haw for a bit, but there are other traditions your kids will have to enjoy and remember. Some that you probably don’t even realize you have created.
God chose you to be the parent of these children for a reason. You bring your own set of unique gifts to the table. Those kids are becoming all the good parts of you, and yes some of the bad, but that’s what makes them human. Perfect is boring. I love my sometime inappropriately sarcastic 10 year old and my sometimes over the top sassy 7 year old. If they were perfect, they couldn’t learn.
Let’s see what the Apostle Paul has to say about comparing ourselves to others:
“All must test their own work: then that work, rather than their neighbor’s work, will become a cause for pride. For all must carry their own loads.” Gal 6:4-5
So stop comparing your family traditions to that ones you saw yesterday on Pinterest, and make your own unique memories! Follow traditions because they make your family happy, not because you feel like you have to keep up with the latest social media feed or mommy blog. When you look at those posts, look at them in a different light. Don’t compare yourself to them. Instead thank God for that friend and for creating all of us uniquely.
Even if that means all you do is set up a nativity and wrap a few lights around a pole. I’m sure my kids will still be talking about the boring, sometimes naked Troll when they’re all grown-up, and there will most certainly be a fist fight over who gets to keep our little red nosed friend when we’re gone.
Until next time, share some chaos, create confidence, and inspire some grace of your own! Merry Christmas friends!
So it took me a while to write about this, and in total honesty, I’ve been putting it off. I’m actually still a bit ashamed about this one, but my pledge has always been to share even my most humiliating moments with you, so cherish it and share it with those who will benefit from its equaling power.
(Deep breath. Here we go.)
August 23, 2016, 8:01 am
It is a beautiful summer morning, and I’m snuggling comfortably in my bed. In fact, this is the last day of summer vacation. The last day of constant bickering, the last day of sleeping in, the last day of having my 5 kiddos all to myself! I quietly admit to myself that I will miss them when they start school again.
Emotions, which bring both sorrow and glee together in one big hormone pot pie, swirl around in my one-step-beyond-comatose body. I’m also relishing in the simple fact that I don’t have to get up if I don’t want to. In fact, I might not. I will probably just tell the kids to grab some bowls and dry cereal and eat on the living room floor while they watch some mindless cartoons. I can vacuum the floor in a couple weeks. Heck, they can get the baby up too! She’s old enough to eat cereal. She might spill it all over, but she can just eat it off the (relatively) clean floor.
I haven’t heard from even the youngest three this morning. They are usually the first ones up yelling for “ceweal” or saying they are “hungwy.” This must be God’s gift to me for all my hard work this summer. One last day to sleep in. I have really perfected my sleeping-in craft over the summer. Even my kids are well accustomed to dawdling in the morning.
Tonight, we are scheduled to go to the school’s orientation. The supplies for each of the older kiddos has been packed in their backpacks waiting by the door for over a week. I am really on top of it this year! I feel relaxed and somewhat euphoric thinking about how I have survived the summer. I managed them all over these past 3 months: I tutored 3 of them, I baseballed one of them, I family vacationed with all of them, and I even managed to sunscreen and bathe most of them! Between all this and my ingenious dry cereal in the living room idea, I probably deserve an award! I psychologically pat myself on the back and look forward to afternoons of one or two young napping children and quiet. This is gonna be great!
My phone’s text message notification goes off.
I note the time and think about how tomorrow, I will have been up for an hour and a half already. I figure it’s my mom or sister. I grab my phone, hopeful to look at some pics of my adorable nieces and nephews, or maybe a shot of mom and dad enjoying breakfast on the beach. Nope, it’s my good friend Michelle.
Michelle has always been a bit of a mentor for me and a very generous person. She is texting to see if she can meet me, as she has some clothes from her youngest son to pass along to my eldest. It’s a group text to both me and my husband, who is in the garage getting ready to leave for work.
It reads, “I’m swinging by the school now. Can one of you meet me?” Before I can answer, my husband responds and I watch as the following plays out on my messaging app:
Husband: St. Pats starts tomorrow. Sorry.
Michelle: Hahaha! Your poor children! Have another!!
Husband: I can stop by the house tonight after orientation if you like.
Michelle: Ha! I am here….
Where are you parked?…..
I am in front of Methodist church….
Husband: Confused. We are at home. Kids start school on Wednesday.
Michelle: No they don’t. Seriously- I have to get to work.
(20 second pause….)
Cue husband arriving in the bedroom where I left my euphoric, self praising, slumber somewhere around, “Where are you parked,” to search the school’s webpage. Bart walks in somewhere around, “Ooooooh… sugar loving donkey!!!!!!!!!!!! TODAY IS THE FIRST DAY!!!!!!!!” At least that’s what I think I said.
I immediately start yelling, repeatedly, “Today’s the first day!!!! Today’s the first day!!!! Today’s the first day!!!! How can this happen? Today’s the first day!!” like some kind of crazed broken record. Meanwhile, my husband does his infamous finger run/pull through his hair with both hands, and says things like, “I don’t know, I don’t KNOW!!!!” and other locutions I can’t retype here.
I start to cry. Bart walks out to the living room to call Michelle and shamefully explain why we weren’t joking, but we really aren’t at the school. I manage to pull myself together enough to wake up my second oldest, Evelyn, and explain that mommy messed up and today is the first day. I need her to jump up and put some school clothes on because school started about 10 minutes ago.
It is at this confusing, awkward, mortifying mommy moment, that I go to get my eldest up and when I don’t find him in his bed, I realize something even worse!!! HE ISN’T EVEN HOME!!! He spent the night at his cousin’s house last night!!! You know an-end-of-summer hoorah! Super fun idea if it wasn’t on the eve of THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL! I forgot because I always forget when one of my kids sleeps somewhere else. I’m even known for looking for them in their bed in the morning and having a moment of panic when I don’t see them. Now I’m guilty of forgetting the first day AND where my child is.
I start to seriously wonder if parts of my brain have been oozing out of my ear while I sleep. I stick my fingers in to check and notice no crust or fluid. Curious. Maybe it’s those creepy earwig bugs. You know why they call them earwigs, don’t you? Creepy little devil bugs made me forget stuff! I knew I couldn’t trust them from the first time I saw those pincers and heard they had the word “ear” in their name.
I pick up the phone, while I pull on some clothes that I hope will look something like I didn’t just roll out of bed. My sister-in-law answers, and I explain my mommy fail as I try to sound like I haven’t been sobbing my brains out.
(Ahh haa… that’s where my brains went! I really need to stop crying so much.)
Because my SIL is awesome, and also a mother of five, she saves her laughing for the next time I will see her. She sounds sympathetic and understanding while she hands the phone to my eldest, Martin.
“Martin, mom messed up. The first day of school is today, not tomorrow. I’m so sorry.”
“WHAT? REALLY? Oh no. What are we gonna do!?!?”
Before answering, I silently think to myself, the exact opposite of what I was thinking in my bed this morning during my euphoric self tribute: I don’t know… I’m dumb. I’m worse than dumb. I’m a laughable, senseless, air headed, loser who is too incompetent to be your mother! People talk to me all the time. I see their mouths moving, I nod, but I don’t know what they are saying! I drive to your school often, and when I get there I realize I was headed to the grocery store, or I go to the grocery store when I’m supposed to be at the doctor! I have lost my car in almost every parking lot in this town! When I’m late getting you from school it’s usually because I forgot about you, but I don’t want you to feel unloved so I blame it on your baby sister and say she pooped her pants right before I had to leave. I went to look for you in your bed this morning because I forgot you weren’t here!?! Did you know there are bugs eating my brain?!? You should probably replace me with someone more qualified and with less brain oozing going on.
Instead, I try to sound like I’m not sniveling and snotting all over myself, and I say “Well, I can come and get you, but by the time I drive out there and back, get you ready, and get you to school, it will be almost lunch time and today is an early out. Or you can stay, and miss the first day. I’m so sorry buddy. I know you have been nervous about starting 5th grade.”
“Don’t cry, Mom. It’s okay. I will stay here. It’s not a big deal. I can just go tomorrow. We never do anything on the first day anyway.”
My sob-cloaking trickery is obviously out of practice. Ashamed of my mistake and my lack of emotional self control, I surrender and let my kid comfort me. “Okay buddy. Have a good day. I love you!”
“Love you too, Mom. It’s okay. Bye.”
There’s something about my kids trying to comfort me that pulls at the string that connects my stomach, heart and tear reflex. You know the one. If my kids comfort me, or I have to watch them try to be brave, I’m a salty puddle before I can finish telling them I love them. I’m also crying because I’m realizing how big my 10 year old has gotten while I had my back turned.
By the time I compose myself and walk from the bedroom to the car, my stellar 7 year old is smiling and ready for her first day. I try to clear the bloodshot from my eyes as I drive her to school, but I sob and blow my nose on the way in and out of the front office and up to her room.
Her classmates all cheer, “Evelyn’s here!” when she arrives at her room. I silently tell myself, “Well no other kid got that kind of welcome on their first day, so there’s that, and she’s really only 25 minutes late! Never mind the child you didn’t bring in at all!!”
The Icing on the Cake?
There is one thing I have failed to mention yet about this whole ordeal. The part that puts the shame in my shameful. The reason I slinked my way past the principal’s office, so as not to make eye contact and affirm my humiliation. A couple months prior to this mishap, I was appointed President of our School Board. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, have a chuckle at my expense! I am not only the mom who forgot the first day of school, I’m the School Board President who forgot the first day of school! You know, the lady who has heard the date for the first day of school in every meeting for the last six months!?!
In my defense, there was a misdated flyer for school orientation in our registration packet. Add that to the lackadaisical “who cares what day/date it is” attitude of summer, and the fact that I completely ignored the CAPITAL LETTER SUBJECT of the email the office sent notifying parents of the mistake on the flyer, and you get the embarrassed blubbering snotty mess that left the school defeated that day!
Now that the dust has settled on what is sure to go down as an epic folktale in this family, I not only mustered the courage to share my story and laugh at myself, I’ve learned a few things: You shouldn’t change your calendar based on one flyer, earwigsdon’t actually eat your brain, and my husband should never rely on me for dates. (All my friends know this, I know this, it’s always been this way, but now we are certain beyond a shadow of a doubt, Bart is the only reliable date keeper in this relationship.) I’m okay with this. It’s safer that way.
I’ve also realized something even more important: there is so much beauty to be found in our mistakes!
The most rewarding thing I’ve learned from all of this, is that when we make mistakes as parents, and we admit those mistakes to our children, we offer them the opportunity to show us their best selves!
My son comforted me…I’m raising a stand up young man.
My daughter got ready in record speed…I’m raising an efficient young women.
Both my children easily forgave me for my mistake…I’m raising loving, empathetic people.
What more affirmation could a mother possibly need!?! This kind of beauty in the darkness is the reason I started this blog.
But that’s what God intended for us to do with our trials. To find the joy in them! This quote from the first chapter of James, verses 2-4 spells it out for us.
My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.
JOY? Oh, I’ve found the joy all right! As I told my story, my friends hemmed an hawed and as they laughed I started to chuckle too.
ENDURANCE? I got that too, sister. When you make a big doozy like this to start off the year, all the other mistakes pale in comparison. I’m feeling pretty good about where the rest of the year can go now. Nowhere but up, baby!
MATURE? Yup, I’m totally mature! Just ask my husband.
In all seriousness, sharing this has grown, or rather, “matured” me into someone I can only be with God by my side…
a mother who is “lacking in nothing.”
I mean it! I’m not tooting my own horn!
I’m just saying that with Jesus I can forget the first day of school, yell at my kids, say a curse word in front of them, miss a game, forget a concert, or worse, and it won’t matter!
He will fill in my gaps and I WILL LACK NOTHING!
YOU lack nothing!
Jesus has given us a beautiful gift. Take it!
It doesn’t matter how big or small your mistake, Jesus loves you like you love those beautiful kids, and He doesn’t filter whom He forgives, nor does He run out of grace to show you the beauty that can come from your mistakes. So share your story of chaos, create confidence, and inspire some grace among your people. You never know when your ugly story will spread some unexpected joy of it’s own!
Soooo… lice. Admit it. Just reading the word made you cringe. And it’s not just because I put it in italics. I can make you do it again… bedbugs, chiggers, hand foot and mouth, mice, bologna cake (no? Google it. You’ll wince a little). I could go on all day, causing you to make awkward, squirmy, wincing faces at your computing device until your neighbor moves away a few feet. Oh yes. I’m that good!
First off, let me just say lice are not a sign of a dirty household, in fact, neither are bedbugs or any other abominable pest that enters your home. In fact, lice prefer clean hair and any of these annoying menaces can get into even the cleanest of homes. I’m not saying my home is clean. I’m just saying, “NO ONE IS SAFE!” See, now you can sleep easy. Right?
If you have never had lice in your home, let me give you the 411 right quick. Small bug, even smaller eggs, so small you almost need a microscope to see them. They usually, but not always, make your head itch, they are contracted by head to head contact. So really better than some pests, because most of your kids aren’t going around rubbing their heads together on a daily basis. However, there are still precautions you need to take, and if you have a germaphobe for a spouse, then their are more precautions you “need” to take.
All in all, my house has never been so clean. Thank you lice. I learned that I have a sanitizing setting on my dryer. Thank you lice. Those little nuisances can’t last 30 minutes in there, and your belongings will be so hot when you take them out you will need hot pads. Thank you lice. Having just about all my child’s belongings in bags for 10 plus days made both of us realize how little we really “need.” Thank you lice.
I had lice a couple times as a child. Although I remember the shampooing and tedious combing my poor mother endured, I was too young and carefree to trouble myself with what else was involved in eradicating this menace. I spoke to my mother, the day that all of this occurred, and do you know what she said? She said, “You know, this sort of feels like payback.” My mother, my sweet, all-around good natured, never spiteful mother. Although, I can’t say I blame her cause there was the lice vacation disaster of ‘86. Oh yea… me, my sister, my grandmother (who was vacationing with us) head lice. Away from home. Needless to say, I now truly appreciate all that nightmare entailed for my dear mom.
Let’s be honest though, for a mother, slowly and meticulously picking through your kids hair looking for eggs and bugs, not horrible. Not my idea of a good time, but I can think of worse things I’ve endured during my mothership. Hey monkeys do it. I didn’t eat the lice though. Just to clarify. On the other hand, getting my husband to pick and comb through my hair, well that was a horse of a different color. It was something close to asking a monkey to do it with mittens on. Not to mention my hair is the longest it’s been in 10 years. He did it though, and after checking the 10th or so time, he gained gracefulness and I began to trust that he was really looking. Now if that’s not love I don’t know what is.
Okay, one final public service announcement about lice and we can move on. Let me just warn you. I checked my kids head like 5 times before I found anything and the little things that I found I could remove with my finger. Everything that I read said that you wouldn’t be able to pull that off, but I could definitely pull them off (I couldn’t flick them off mind you) but I wasn’t sure of what they were until I finally found a live lie (what is singular for lice?). Let me tell you, when I saw that little bugger, I’m pretty sure my heart and breathing stopped for about 5 seconds, and I know I heard that repetitive, high-pitched, ringing note, that always plays on horror movies when something creepy shows up on the screen. Oh and BTW you are supposed to repeat treatment 7-10 days after the first treatment. I learned this the hard way and I want to keep all of the lice virgins out there from suffering the same fate. Just about the time I was going to remove aforementioned items from the large garbage bags. About 13 days after the first infestation, I saw a couple movements in my kids hair, while standing at the church book sale. Not my idea of Sunday Funday. Ya know?
If you do find yourself in a lice story, know this. You aren’t alone, you aren’t dirty (lice actually like clean hair), it will pass, and your house will be cleaner as a bonus! Until next time, share chaos, create confidence, and inspire some grace of your own!
It’s that time of year again. Spring… or at least you thought it was. The temperature jumps back and forth between 35 and 76, and feels like 35 but says 56. One day the trees are budding and the tulips are popping, the next, everyone is throwing blankets over plants so they aren’t ruined by a nightly frost. It’s enough to make you feel like one of those baseball player bobble heads.
I know, I know, it all makes us appreciate actual spring a little more but it’s so confusing in the Midwest. Spring break was the week of March 14, the “official” first day of spring was March 20, Easter was March 27, and to top it all off, the ground hog didn’t see his shadow (and we all know that’s a firm weather prediction) I think after all that though, here we are, April 22, and I can count the spring-like-days on one hand. But, you say, it’s the beauty of the seasons and blah blah blah… I’m not complaining (well, yes I am) but just get on with it already! I can’t decide if I should put away the winter coats and wash them, or bring out the shorts. One day my kids beg for the pool and pop cycles, the next, they won’t go outside because their “fingers will freeze off.”
Spring means lot’s of things at the Schmitz house, but the biggest event for us all, the mother of all things happening here, the center, the nucleus of our attention, goes to…………….. CHANGING OUT CLOTHES. Okay, so it’s not that celestial, but the reality is that it does consume a lot of time and energy on the mama’s part. A good problem to have… clothes, but always a lengthy process nonetheless. Now, before you give me a lesson on how I should be grateful my children have something to wear, please understand that I am abundantly grateful. I do realize that being able to afford clothes is a luxury and that it can also be a true struggle for too many families. I gladly donate almost all of the clothes my kids go through and, if you are able, I encourage you to find a worthy cause and do the same.
Back to why this is such an event for us. Let’s start with the fact that I am married to a very NEAT man and I’m not just talking about his personality. I’m not lying when I tell you we were cut from a different cloth. Dishes on the counter over night, toys that didn’t get put away, shoes right inside the door… these things cause very little trauma to my psyche and they certainly don’t bring on anxiety. (Please still like me… I realize I’m the man in the stereotypical man-women-relationship.) For my main squeeze, on the other hand, The Great Clothes transition has always caused minor heart palpitations. “Stuff” stresses him out, so clothes stacked and piled in every room for a week, bring him close to cardiac arrest. In all seriousness, he has come a long way. Each kid has been like mess therapy for him. Is there a name for people who are afraid of messes…. like messaphobic? If not, I’m creating it right now.
Where does this leave the the two opposites attracted? Well, because I love him, not because he puts pressure on me, (he knows better) his stress is my stress. Therefore, I feel pressure to get this all done in a quick and orderly fashion. Being the very smart and awesome husband that he is, he has learned over the years when to help, and when to sit back. He is a master at “what not to say to your wife when the house has been a mess for a week,” and (eat you heart out ladies) he has done all the laundry washing since our 3rd child was born. He will probably write a book some day. Buy it and stick it under your hubby’s pillow. (Just kidding, that’s not good relationship advice.)
You might be saying to yourself, does it really take a week? Well, I started on Monday and I’m finally on the last kiddo’s clothes today. What? Maybe she has too many clothes you say… Perhaps, but it takes some serious finagling to get 5 kids clothes into two bedrooms with small closets and two drawers each. I like to think of myself as some kind of clothes organizing expert, although, if you look in their drawers any time after the first day I put their new clothes in, you may not agree.
In all seriousness, it is fun to see the kids in something other than the same ten t-shirts and five, now holy, jeans they wore all winter, but I dread the mess and brain power this requires. Brain power? Yes! LOTS…the switch, the clothes that are in the laundry that need to be put in totes, the new clothes mixed in that I hastily pulled out on that random warm day, clothes to donate, clothes to throw, the clothes that say 2t but really fit like 4t (seriously…can’t we make this universal people), the clothes that hang, the ones that don’t, and then, my own personal cherry on top, a 1-year-old, crawling around pulling everything out while I’m putting it in.
Regardless of how much I dislike this job, it’s gotta get done, so here’s were we spin it back to a positive mamas. In honor of Mother’s Day, fast approaching, I’m going to share something with you that my inspiring mom told me a long time ago, “If there is ever anything I really don’t want to do, I just pray for the person I’m doing it for while I do it.” Simple, but obviously it stuck. This has helped me get through so many loads of laundry, piles of dishes, messy diapers, 12 am pukes in the bed, and yes, clothes transitions, with a better attitude. Thanks mom for always being there to lend a shoulder or answer the phone. You are the All Time Best Listener, so when you do give advice, I always listen and I’m a better mom for it. I love you.
So… 5 kids, 5 totes, 2 closets, 12 drawers and one VERY messy living room later, my kids are getting lots-o-prayers this week. Lucky kids. Oh…and bonus…I feel pretty good too.
Are you doing the clothes transition too? Let me know what it’s REALLY like for you.
Ironically, I have this metal, ornamental word, “SIMPLIFY,” which appropriately adorns my table every Lent. Bear with me, I’m getting to the part where it’s ironic. I’m sure it was a garage sale find that was meant to inspire me to do as it reads, “SIMPLIFY.” And, yes, it’s in all caps.That way, when I’m not listening to it, it sort of shouts at me from my dining room. Does anyone else see theironyhere? Okay, I will spell it out for you, in case this is the first post of mine you have read, or you have never talked to me for more than 2 minutes. I am anything but simple. First off, I have 5 kids and second, Hello!?!, I bought a thing, that says a word, to remind me not to buy the very things, that make my life anything BUT simple…..(I know… you are blown away by my logic… try not to be jealous.)
There is something very “in my face” about this decorative word, SIMPLIFY, at this particular time of year. It’s Lent right? We are supposed to be doing without, living with less, giving more, finding Jesus in the daily stuff, remembering His sacrifice. Right? I am, honestly, I AM doing all that stuff, but what’s so REAL about today’s post is that I have a confession to make, sometimes I AM NOT shining the reason for this season with my actions. I know… you’re shocked. Don’t point and shout. It’s not nice. This one is tricky to avoid though, because when I AM NOT making Jesus the center of this season, it’s still disguised as though I AM.
Allow me to explain, my spirituality, my faith, the teachings about Christ that I pass along to my children, it should be rich, real, but also simple. Right? But the reality is that although it should and it could, it isn’t always that way. Often, I get so overwhelmed with how to incorporate faith into our daily family life that I overdo and make life, decidedly, “unsimple.” So what should look like family faith growing activities, turns into something altogether different.
The Lenten/Easter season is the perfect example. I’m trying to help my children understand the journey we should take through Lent. Sacrifice. Waiting. Glory. In my head it’s beautiful, but if I’m being real with you, it looks more like this:
It’s coming kids! Lets prepare. Give something up, no not homework, make a sacrifice, it needs to hurt, people! Take all the flowers out of the house decorations, we are in the dark days, preparing for the light, we want to visualize (it helps when I say things like this with my crazy eyes). Then comes Holy Week, and things amp up a bit. Okay we’re going to wash each others feet like Jesus, troops. Get the bowl, don’t spill, act like you have carried a pitcher of water before. I don’t care if they stink! Stop splashing all over the place! Nooo don’t drink the foot water. Just stop and everyone listen. LISTEN to me RIGHT NOW (insert clenched teeth), and don’t hit your brother while we’re talking about Jesus! How about some resurrection rolls? No, don’t lick the top of the cinnamon container and you can’t just eat butter. Oh (word I shouldn’t use) I forgot the crescent rolls!!! – PAUSE BUTTON- I’m in my kitchen barking off orders, sugar is all over, kids are yelling from every direction. I have a lot of young kids. This is all realistic . It’s how it was going to be but my heart, my attitude, are somewhere else, and most importantly, where’s Jesus?
You get the picture. Before long, something that was meant to bring my family closer to understanding Christ’s life, quickly becomes an overloaded disaster of my making. It’s all good. It all teaches them about the journey, but either I need to learn to relax and be realistic about how a 1, 2, 4, 7, and 10 year old are going to walk this journey with me, or I need to let some things go. Whether I simplify my thoughts or our activities, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that Christ’s joy needs to shine through my actions and not the “Nazi Good Friday Mom” from down under.
Here’s the kicker, when the unfortunate Nazi scenario plays out in our home, Satan is laughing. He is getting a kick out of this very “unsimple” mess, but Jesus isn’t laughing. Jesus is watching lovingly and whispering something in my ear… “simplify.” It takes some deep breathing and a little effort, but if I take a moment to listen, in the midst of my chaos, I can hear Him, “Katie, simplify.” I bet you can hear him too. Close your eyes and imagine he is saying your name instead of mine. When you open them, step forward with a new lense. What do you see now? I don’t see sugar on the floor, I see my kids smiling. I don’t see kids demanding and yelling, I see that they are excited about God. I’m not barking off orders, I’m just living in the moment and rolling with the punches. How do you visualize your Good Friday, your family’s Easter now?
Case and point, Jesus didn’t heal the blind man with the granules of dirt from the banks of the river Jordan, water from the Ephedra plant, and two strands of his disciples hair. He used dirt and water. Simplify. He didn’t make wine for the wedding feast out of forty of the finest grapes, without blemish, he used water. Simplify. He didn’t calm the sea by saying abracadabra and bunch of big words that rhymed, he said, “Quiet! Be Still!” Simplify. In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus doesn’t explain in riddles or rattle off the seven stages of plant growth. He talks about something the disciples know. Dirt and water grow the strongest roots. Simplify.
There’s an underlying message here. Dirt? Water? Not quite, but it doesn’t get much more simple than dirt and water, so in a way that IS right. Time and time again, Christ lived and modeled the simple life he is asking us to replicate. Let’s not make the miracles Jesus creates in us, and in our children, into complicated recipes with hard to obtain ingredients. Let’s not overdo this life, to such an extreme that our seeds don’t grow on fertile ground. Instead, let’s follow His lead and use life’s simplest ingredients to pass along life’s best gift to our children.
My prayer for you this Easter is that you look through a new lense, and take time to realize that the simpler your story is, the more extraordinary it’s outcome can be.
In the mom’s group I have been part of for the last 6 years, we are going to begin talking about simplifying our lives. More specifically, about the book Simplicity Parenting, byKim John Payne. It reminds me of another book that I have had on my shelf for awhile about simplifying, 7 an Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, by Jen Hatmaker.
So what does that have to do with For Real Friday Mom? I have had one of the books for over a year. I bought it when we talked about this last year. I’ve had the other for several months, borrowed from a friend, but I’ve yet to crack either of them open. In fact, I have many self-help, marriage, parenting, biographies, novels, that stare at me from book piles all over my house. Some get read, some get started, some get used as decoration or the occasional lap desk, most, don’t do any of that. Many of these books are my favorites. Too many, I didn’t like after the first chapter, and others, like these two books about simplifying, are what I now call, osmosis coasters (say that three times fast.) Come on, you know you all have them. No mom corner table is complete without them! The ones that don’t get read, whether because of anxiety, guilt, or pride, you’re not sure. Those books that you feel like, if you rest your coffee cup on them from time to time, or move them from purse, to table, to nightstand, you might absorb their all encompassing knowledge through osmosis. Have you tried under your pillow yet? It’s a thought.
So why do I hang onto books like this Simplicity Parenting and 7, but never read them? The former, is obviously a good book! It comes with the recommendation of one of the people I admire most in this world. And the latter? Jen Hatmaker. Nuff said.
Why do you hang onto your osmosis coasters? Do you think you’re not good enough? Is it because it reminds you of all the things that are in your life that shouldn’t be: the 60 board games, of which your family only plays a handful? The looming pile of laundry, that is the result of your “but it’s a good deal” finds? Your unhealthy obsession with The Spot, at Target. Don’t deny it! You Spot! Where else can you find one dollar socks (that aren’t really a good deal), organization materials you “need,” and knickknacks to give the kiddos so you can keep them quiet for all of five minutes?
For me, it’s because, deep down, I know I need those books. Maybe, I won’t ever actually read them. Maybe the pillow osmosis trick will work. Does it really matter? The coaster itself has already done some work on my heart. God sees that small change and wants to help me make it bigger. Just seeing the title is a reminder. So, I’m going to stop beating myself up and telling myself the lie, that if I haven’t read it, I can’t start to make a positive change. I don’t have to do everything “by the book” (pun intended) to make a difference in my chaos. I don’t have to read the whole thing. If, simply by looking at the title, one drawer, one cupboard, one corner, is improved, that’s better than where I was at when I used the osmosis coaster trick!
What is in your osmosis coaster book pile? A diet book, a parenting book, a Christian devotional? Maybe, for you, it isn’t an actual book but a change: more exercise, less sweets, reading with your kids, your Lenten promise. Why did you avoid it? Why did you stop? Because the whole thing was too daunting? Was Satan whispering in your ear telling you that the book was too long, you didn’t have enough time, you didn’t read the devotional or do the exercise after Feb 1, so you can’t start again now? Stop listening to him and listen to Jesus. Where is He moving your heart to make a change?
God recently laid something on my heart. I need to stop focusing on the overwhelming task of all that needs to be done around me, and instead, simply focus on THE NEXT STEP. I think that thought applies here. The list is not getting shorter people! Read the whole book, exercise every day, put the dishes directly into the dishwasher, quit a bad habit, stop spending more time on social media than you do with real people. Whatever your mountain is to climb, quit looking at the whole task. Looking at it that way is immobilizing your mind and your heart. Instead, just ask God to help you take THE NEXT STEP. Jesus will see the yearning in your heart and He will walk with you. Heck, maybe, just maybe, you won’t have to open your osmosis coaster book, or even move it, instead just allow HIM to move YOU.
“Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
MY OSMOSIS COASTER PILES
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