Grace for Getting Kids Out the Door

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).  

img_20181111_073015 (2)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.  

Morning Restored

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.

img_20181128_070059_1Needless 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!

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School Mornings are my Frenemy

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!

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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.

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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.