He Marches to a Different Beat…and that’s okay.

DSC_4420This is my Benjamin.  He is so different from my other crazies.  He is busy and yet highly focused on what he is doing.  He is challenging and very loving and sweet.  He doesn’t follow instructions well but is very sensitive to correction.  He is cuddly and yet has a hard time receiving too many snuggles because he has so much to do.  He is hard to teach and coach but extremely curious about how things work and often takes things apart and puts them back together.  He even answers questions in unusual ways.

Benjamin, what do you want to be when you grow up?

A dump truck.

Do you mean a dump truck driver?

No, I mean a dump truck.

While coloring recently, I got on his case about how he holds his crayon and was encouraging him to try to color inside the lines.  He looked up at me with these big brown eyes and said, “Mama, those lines aren’t for me.”  He’s right.  They aren’t for him.  He just sees things differently.  He challenges me to try to see things from a new perspective.  I want so badly to understand him but he is so beautifully complicated.

He views the world in a very different way than anyone I have ever met.  In 1st Peter 4:10-11  it says, God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.  My sweet Benjamin is a gift to me.  He challenges the way I see things.  He encourages me to seek understanding over judgement.  He draws me in because I want to know him more.  He’s right.  The lines aren’t for him.  He marches to the beat of his own drummer because my drummer is either too fast or too slow.  His differences from me are so beautiful and mysterious.  What a blessing he is, not just as my son, but as a constant reminder of how our uniqueness is not a mistake but a plan for us to better serve others and serve God.  He will grow up to challenge the way we think about the world and for that I am grateful.  Color outside those lines little man.  Love you.

10 Crazy Things This Mom Says Daily

1.  Stop fighting over imaginary toys!

2. Don’t stand there and dance, just go to the bathroom.

3.  I don’t have any napkins, just lick your fingers.

4. That was not a snuggle, you just wiped your face off on my shirt!

5.  That’s nice but you aren’t at grandma’s house right now so NO!

6. Go back in there, wipe your bottom and wash your hands…..and turn off the light!

7. What do you have in your mouth?

8. You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.

9. You better eat all your pizza (or insert any other unhealthy kid food here) or you don’t get any ice cream.

10. Did you need that drink 10 minutes ago when I was in the kitchen, or do you just need it now that I’m trying to use the bathroom by myself?

The struggle is real.  What crazy things do you say?

This Parenting Thing is no Joke!

A few months ago I took a very scientific approach to finding out what parents were hoping to instill in their children….you know….I asked on Facebook.  I got a variety of answers.  Some were hoping for their child to have a love of learning, to be successful, to work hard.  I spent a lot of time thinking about what my hopes are for my kids and I found myself floating between things that the world says are great and things that are Spirit-filled.  I hope for my children to be financially stable, for them to fall in love and stay in love.  I hope for them to find something that they love to do as a career.  I hope they will take care of me in my old age (wink).  I hope they are successful.  We spend a lot of time instilling these concepts in our kids.  We work on our letter and numbers.  They have chores they need to complete.  We try different sports and activities to see what they will be good at, but when I really slow down and think about the things that will make me the most proud of them, it isn’t their success at a sport or in a career.  It isn’t their ability to find and hold down a steady job.  It isn’t even that they will be “happy.”  It’s more important than the stuff that comes from a “good life.”

I really want them to be good people.  In Galatians 5, Paul lists the fruits of the spirit as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.  Ever since I memorized these as a child, I have always thought of the fruits of the spirit as what should come out of you if you are full of Jesus.  Some of these I feel like we work on with our kids on the regular.  Concepts like patience are constantly coming up in our home.  “Be patient with her, she’s grumpy in the morning.”  We love well and we laugh hard.  We even talk about kindness and what it means to be kind with our words and actions.  I think that some of the more counter-cultural concepts are faithfulness, gentleness and self control.  Our culture doesn’t love these concepts.  We constantly hear about marriages breaking up due to unfaithfulness.  We praise aggressiveness in sports and winning at all cost in business.  We are bombarded by marketing that encourages us to buy now, eat now, drink now.  I think its hard to raise gentle kids who don’t get walked all over.  I think it’s hard to raise kids with self control and patience when so much around them is about instant gratification.

Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean we don’t try.  Perhaps we could raise a kinder and gentler generation.  My hope for them is that they love others the way Jesus did, holding nothing back.  My prayer for them is that they put others before themselves and take care of others recklessly.  I’m going to look for these fruits in my kids this week and put just as much energy into encouraging and pointing out their success in these areas as I do when they write their names with no backward letters.

How to Guide: Making your Family Crazy

If you are thinking, how can I get in a fight with my spouse and make myself and my children crazy, you should totally make an appointment to get family pictures taken.  The fight you ask……was because he tried to be helpful and do the laundry so my “good jeans” were in the washer when we needed to head out the door.  I mean seriously, what was he thinking?  Probably something ridiculous like, I think I’ll throw in a load of laundry because Sara seems particularly psychotic today.  Nice try Gabbard!  After throwing an adult size tantrum I did pull it together and wore only slightly damp jeans to our photo shoot.

Expectation is the enemy of joy.  When I expect things to go a certain way I am left feeling frustrated, disappointed and spent.  This is especially true when trying to do anything with little humans.  They don’t act the way you imagined they would.  They don’t say what you thought they might.  It’s crazy but they are like individuals rather than accessories (wink).  After a denim emergency, quick showers, hair doing, proper actual accessorizing and coordination of outfits we made it to our appointment and got these gems.

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Was it worth it?  I think it was.  The photographer captured each of their personalities so perfectly.  My Benjamin is a little squirrelly and a lot sweet.  Christopher has a lot of feelings and always has a twinkle in his eye.  Abigail is a little sassy (she gets it from her Mama) and is a happy, sweet girl.  Even though our getting ready process did not go as I had expected, the photos turned out far better than I could have ever imagined.  Goodness inspite of my attitude.  In the future I think I will plan as much as I can and go in with less expectation and more hope, it is Holy Week after all.

May you find hope today knowing that Jesus came, loved well, taught us how to care for one another, died, didn’t stay dead and awaits us in a sweet place.  Happy Easter!

 

Starbucks Sermons from my 5 Year Old

Recently while driving through a Starbuck drive thru I struck up a conversation with the employee working the window.  She started to hand me my coffee before I paid, apologized and said she was having a rough day.  She talked a little about it then took my money, handed me my coffee and I rolled up my window and pulled away.  My 5 year old asks, “What did she say Mama?”  I told her that she was just having a rough day.  Without skipping a beat Abigail said, “Wow, she must have even more kids than we do!”

I almost sprayed my coffee all over my window.  I guess she’s noticed that I’ve been a little stressed.  Between the running around from activity to activity, my hubby traveling for work and working myself I’m just about maxed out.  For every crazy moment when I feel like I might freak out, there are moments like this one or their snuggles and unsolicited I love yous that bring joy, unspeakable joy to me.

Sometimes we get so busy that we don’t laugh, experience complete joy or have moment of gratitude for the little glimpses of awesome that happen each day.  I can tell you in detail the last three fights I broke up between my crazies today but I can also tell you that they arranged themselves like they were getting their picture taken and said, “See Mommy, we look like a sweet family.”  After one of their fights, one apologized to the other and got a hug and an, “I forgive you.”  After I dropped dry spaghetti all over the floor, my son called me a silly goose and helped me pick it back up.

So much joy can be missed if we rush.  I’m going to make an effort this week to see the times when God shows up around me and in the hearts of my children and I’m going to enjoy them completely.

Halloween Candy…..Stop the Madness!

Halloween candy is the worst thing ever!  Not only does it juice them up the night of Halloween but it lingers for weeks after as a source of constant conflict.

Can I have a piece of candy Mommy?

No

Why not?

Because there are healthier options.  A kid cannot live on candy alone.

But I have been so good!

Yeah, well you are supposed to be good.

Drives me crazy!  Yesterday my daughter asked for candy before lunch.  I told her she could have a piece if she cooperated for quiet time.  She proceeded to whine, wake up her brothers and not rest at all.  As I gave up on a quiet time and headed downstairs she had the nerve to ask for candy.

No Abigail, you broke our agreement.

Moments later, I look over and she is walking across the kitchen with her hand behind her back.

Abigail, do you have a piece of candy?

No Momma,

Last chance to tell me the truth.  You will be in bigger trouble if you lie than if you just tell me the truth.  Do you have candy in your hand behind your back?

No Momma, my back just hurts.

Seriously?  She’s five and she bold faced lied to me.  She’s advanced for her age, what can I say.  It broke my heart.  She’s too little to be covering things up.  Have I not created a safe place for her to be honest?  I was so hurt by her lie.

How often do we do just that to God?  How often do we cover up something and try to hide it when God is looking at us and saying, “I see that hand behind your back.  It will be easier if you tell me the truth.”

What’s in your hand behind your back?  I could be a past experience that you can’t talk to God about yet?  Maybe it’s an addiction that has taken the place of God in your life.  Maybe it’s stress instead of trust in God.  Perhaps its judging others instead of loving them.  It’s different for all of us.  For me, I feel like it’s often a cupcake instead of self control or snapping instead of patience.

Whatever it happens to be, God is offering an easier road in exchange for our honesty with Him.  Remove the hand from behind your back, open your palm and accept the plan.

Rainy Day Crazy

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These two have been a challenge today.   It has poured all day today and we are incredibly dependent on our ability to go outside and get our wiggles out.  I pulled out my best stuff today.  We made a pirate ship, went on an umbrella walk, they helped make lunch, we read books, watched Sesame Street, we made telescopes out of toilet paper rolls. 

As I tried to make beds this afternoon they both jumped and pulled on the comforters of each bed and tossed pillows down as soon as I put them in place.  It was like making beds with drunk, belligerent frat boys. In my I mean business mommy voice I told them to go downstairs and play in the playroom.  As I finished up the last bed, I heard uncontrollable giggling coming from downstairs, which usually means someone is playing in the toilet.  I ran down the stairs to find them tickling each other (in a completely nonviolent way). 

It was so sweet.  When we found out we were having twin boys, after I got done freaking out, I reassured myself that we would have moments like these.  Sometimes in my day I let the crazy, not fun parenting stuff outweigh these moments in my mind.  I get so negative in my own thoughts, and then there are moments like these that are so filling and refreshing and humbling.  It still blows my mind that God gave these sweet, challenging, strong-willed, ticklish, screaming and amazing crazies to me.  Most days I think He believes I have more patience than I do, most days my children humble me but everyday with them is a blessing rain or shine.

Scary Rainbows

Today, as I sit on my back deck while my children play outside, I overhear them telling “scary stories.”  They are sitting in a circle in hula hoops taking turns telling the same story over and over again while the other two gasp in “terror.” 

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It goes a little something like this:

Then there was a big storm, and another big storm and they were in a tent and they couldn’t get out and then when they did, they saw a rainbow.

After I got over the shock of them voluntarily taking turns, I thought, wow we have read way too much Noah’s Ark.  My lasting thought however, was pure bliss that the scariest thing they can reference is a thunderstorm.  Sweet innocence.  So thankful that we have been able to protect them from the truly scary stuff so far.  They know nothing of true hunger, abandonment, abuse or even great sadness.  We haven’t even lost a pet during their short years.  They know Sesame Street, trips to the park, afternoon snacks and bedtime stories.  They cry tears of exhaustion after a long day at the spray park and tears of frustration over learning new skills.  Happy tears for toddlers.

As they grow into this world our challenge will be to find ways to include them in service to those who haven’t been so lucky.

James 1:27 (NIV)

27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Tire Swings, Tractors and Tonka Trucks

Yesterday I drove the kids out to my parent’s farm.  It’s about an hour drive that we make about once a week.  There is something so special about seeing your little ones trod the same ground you did as you grew up.  I have so many memories of playing hide and seek, swinging on a tire swing, riding horses, working on 4-H projects, feeding chickens and bringing lemonade out to the guys who were baling hay.

It’s so hard to fully appreciate this upbringing when you are living it.  You take for granted the silent nights with no traffic, the beautiful view, the fresh air.  Then when you go back and see it with the fresh eyes of your kids you suddenly become more aware of the beauty that God surrounded you with as a child.  You forget how long it took to mow the yard, how it always took “forever” to get to your friends house and how much you wished you had sidewalks to ride your bike on.  Those things become far lesser important as you see your suburban kids enjoying all that farm life has to offer.

We spent the whole afternoon outside.  We squealed on the tire swing. We moved dirt in our Tonka trucks.  We checked out the tractor.  We had dinner on the deck overlooking the valley.  We sprayed each other with the garden hose, then let their little clothes dry outside in the sunshine.  It was perfect.  That farm will always have my heart.

It makes me curious what my little crazies will look back on fondly as adults.  What memories of silly little things will they carry into adulthood and reminisce about later?  I have a feeling that it will not be the Pinterest projects I attempt with them, the crazy over the top birthday parties or how clean I kept our house but it will be those summer nights that we took over the cul-del-sac and all the neighborhood kids rode their bikes, the special date nights we took them on to the grocery store, the way their daddy always read them a goodnight story before bed or the wake up song I sing to them every morning.

Today I will stress less and make simple memories with my kids.

Crazies enjoying the Howell Farm.
Crazies enjoying the Howell Farm.

So a Ballerina, a Fire Fighter and a Bicycle Walk into a Bar…

Recently, while asking my children what they wanted to be when they grew up I got the following responses.  Abigail twirled and then replied, “A ballerina!”  Christopher put his hands on his hips and shouted, “A firefighter!” and Benjamin raised a finger to his mouth in deep thought and said “Hmmmm, a bicycle.”

When do we stop believing we can do or be anything?

I love that nothing limits them at this point.  That same freedom makes them complete hazards to themselves but it also makes them absolutely beautiful.  Their responses to common questions are the purest example.  What do you want for your birthday?  A paddy cake.  What do you say when you ask for something (hoping to hear please)?  I want something!  What would you like for dinner?  Ice cream and Nutrigrain Bars.  No worries about judgement or consequences.  No concern for societal convention.

We tell our children two very different things as they grow up.  When they are little we tell them, “You can be anything you want to be if you put your mind to it” and then when they are getting ready to go to college we tell them, “That’s sweet that you want to be a Philosophy major but how exactly do you expect to pay your rent.”

We can’t live this pure unadulterated freedom as adults but what if we all dreamed a little more and worried a little less?  Like so many other things in life, I think it’s probably a balance…..but for what it’s worth I think he would make the best bicycyle ever.