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.

Breaking my Mommy Heart

This week I cut my daughters hair, stitched up a hole in her special blankie she has loved well since she was a baby and prepared clothes for a consignment sale.  In short, there has been a lot of cry this week.  It is so true that the days are long but the years are short.  As I think about our oldest heading off to Kindergarten I’m filled with anxiety.  Is she prepared academically?  Have we done what we need to do to prepare her?  I’m also filled with sadness over how fast these baby/preschool years have gone.  As I’m filled with anxiety and sadness she is overwhelmed with excitement.  She is curious about what school will be like.  She can’t wait to ride a school bus.  She is anticipating all the new friends she will make and all the cool things she will learn.

Joshua 1:9 says, “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened, do not be dismayed for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

The older I get the harder it is to embrace this idea.  Change is  frightening but knowing that we don’t have to go it alone is comforting.  So as I cry over her curls, patch her blankies and stare at clothes that can’t possibly be too small for my baby girl, she is ready to attack these new experiences.  God, please give me half her courage to not only weather changes in my future but to embrace them.

Circles and Straight Lines

I find myself all the time saying, “When we get there?” or “When this happens?”  When the boys are potty trained life will be so much easier.  When the kids are in school, things will settle down (don’t worry, all my mom friends with older kids have set me straight on that lie I have been telling myself).  When we move or when we have the money…

Recently, a guest preacher spoke about Exodus and Moses’ journey through the desert.  He spoke about how we all have a desert of sorts to cross.  This could be a lay off at work, a delay in our plans to grow our family or a death in our close personal circle.  He spoke eloquently about his own personal deserts.  He even used visual aids.  Each week he had a jumbo pad of paper and a black marker and he would make a diagram of the journey that Moses was on and how it was not dissimilar to the one we are on too.

I’m pretty sure he wanted us to leave encouraged.  If Moses, who killed a guy, can be used by God then so can you.  Journey on to your Promise Land.  Trust God.  March forward good and faithful servant.  And don’t get me wrong, I got all those things but the thing I noticed the most about his talk were his visual aids.  Every single diagram he drew was a circle.  First this happens then this happens then you come back to here.

Hold up preacher man!  You’re telling me my life is not a straight line or even a curvy line headed in a distinct direction but a circle.  I’m out.  Next.  Bring in the next guy.  Kidding.  Kind of.

So often I find myself focusing so fully on the destination.  When we get completely out of debt we will be superheroes!  When the kids get bigger we will be able to take amazing vacations!  When I lose weight I’ll be happier!  When my house is clean my friends will think I have it all together!

What if life is not a straight line headed to a destination?  What if it’s a cycle of closeness to God, hardship and renewal?  What if it’s caring deeply for someone, being hurt, crying and then caring deeply for someone again?  What if its teaching our kids by example, failing, talking through the failure and then teaching our kids by example again?  In lieu of viewing this as a hamster wheel, how freeing is it that all we have to do is our best in this moment?  Tomorrow we may fail but today all we have to do is try.  Regardless of the desert we are crossing there will be a promise land coming up next that will renew us before we hit our next desert.  The things that are most important to me are things that never come to an end until I come to an end: loving others deeply, parenting my kids, serving others in a way that Jesus would have enjoyed.

No destination to race toward.  No deadline to hit.  Just beautiful circles.

The Social Media Mommy Lie

Not long ago my husband and I were talking about some of our frustrations in parenting.  He shared that he feels like the kids are so well-behaved all day while he is at work and then he comes home and they are nuts, not listening, acting out, arguing and throwing tantrums.  He went on to reference the happy smiling faces in the pictures I send him on our occasional trips to the zoo or playdates with friends.  With all the sensitivity I could muster, I busted out laughing.  “They are nuts all the time!  It is crazy all day long!”  I just don’t take pictures while I’m power walking out of the zoo with one under my arm kicking while the other two cry in the wagon.  I didn’t snap a quick picture when Benjamin emptied all the books off the bookshelf and pulled all the linens of the bed during nap time.  I  forgot to document it when Christopher laid down in the line at the grocery store because it wasn’t his turn to “pay.”  My husband’s perception of our days are based on the happy pictures I send him as he works.  Perception is reality.

In our house on your birthday we eat sweets, sing Happy Birthday and blow out candles at every meal.  The twins’ birthday comes 11 days before my daughters.  On their birthday, we talked through the things that are hard about other people having birthdays with our daughter who was almost 5 years old.  She struggled but made us very proud as graciously let them have the spotlight, watched them open presents and blow out candles.  Birthdays are hard for little ones but it gives us an opportunity to teach them that while they are very special and important, they are not the center of this big beautiful world.

Fast forward 11 days and it’s my daughter’s 5th birthday.  We wake up and come downstairs where I have a donut with a candle in it ready to sing to our birthday girl.  My boys climb up in their chairs for their donuts and ask for candles also.  I give them the pep talk about how they are very special and important but this is sissy’s big day and she is the only one that gets a candle, just like they did 11 days earlier.  As I begin to sing they begin to scream and cry.  I powered through and took these picture.

Abigail's 5th Birthday Breakfast

The picture on the left captured the reality of the moment however the picture on the right reflects how I hoped it would have gone.  Any guesses on which one ended up on Facebook?Social media is such a delicate balance.  There is so much negativity, criticism and strong opinions on facebook and twitter.  In equal parts there are a whole lot of us pretending to live a picture perfect life that is not reality.  The middle ground that I am constantly searching for is one that shows some of my reality in a way that allows myself and my friends to laugh at how crazy life can be sometimes.  As Christian moms it is not our job to be perfect, have perfectly behaved children, beautifully clean homes and homemade snacks when the kids get home.  All those things are nice, although almost impossible to attain and may even make us hard to relate to isolating us from the possible friendships we could be creating with moms who need some encouragement.  Who are you going to reach out to on a day when your kids are extraordinatoially challenging, the mom whose children look like they fell out of a Pottery Barn Kids catalog everyday?  There is power in being vulnerable.  I see my Christian mom challenge in three parts:

Love my kids with my whole heart, hopefully so intensely that they can begin to imagine how much God loves us.

Model caring and loving others so they become vehicles for God’s love to reach others.

Encourage other mommas that are trying to do the same thing.

As you post on your social media accounts this week, be honest, be real, be positive and use your platform as a doorway for real relationships with real people who are facing some of the best and worst moments of their lives.

When my Children Pretend to be Me

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My little humans have wild imaginations.  They pretend to be doctors, pirates, princesses, performers and chefs but the person they love to be more than anyone is me.  I know what you’re thinking, oh isn’t that sweet?  Well you would be right some of the time but the other times it’s just humbling.  When they are kissing each others’ boo boos or using their sweet mommy voice when asking for something I love it.  When they pretend to tuck each other in and they give hugs, kisses and rub noses my heart sings.

It’s the times when they bark orders at each other that I’m less than proud of myself.  Or when they clap their hands and tell each other in a serious mommy voice to hurry it up buttercup.  I’m never super excited to see them shake their fingers at each other.  Could I have more finesse when getting my kids out the door?  For sure, however some parts of this parenting thing are just not pretty.  Watching yourself played back through the eyes of your children is gratifying at times but also remarkably humbling.

It’s a lot of pressure being a parent.  We are constant teachers, modelers of good behavior, politeness and compassion but sometimes we have an off day and fall short of our own expectations of ourselves.  I’m betting my mom had days like these but I don’t remember them.  I remember the fun stuff she did with us as little ones.  I remember her having a snack ready for me when I got home from school and greeting me at the door.  I remember her sitting through hours of practices and tournaments.  I remember her letting us make forts in the living room.  I remember sitting down together as a family to have dinner more often than not.

Our children give us grace without even thinking about it, not unlike our Heavenly Father.  Now we just have to accept it for ourselves.  When we fall short, Jesus makes up the difference.

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Bedtime: When Everyone Cries and Nobody Wins

Bedtime is absolute craziness at our house.  The preparation required for 3 kids to get to bed is intense.  There are baths to take, teeth to brush, diapers to change, jammies to put on and books to read.  After everyone has been washed, brushed, clothes and tucked into bed without fail one loses their mind.

It starts the same way everytime. 

“One more hug Mommy.”

“Me too Mommy.”

“Now I want to give you a kiss.”

Now I’m going to kick my covers off as you watch me and then ask you to cover me up again. 

Now I’m going to drop my sippy cup amd pretend that I don’t have use of my limbs to pick it up myself.

Now I’m dissatisfied with my book selection. 

Now I remembered I left my other blankie downstairs, you know, the one I have never slept with before.

Repeat.  Times 3 Crazies.

This master manipulation added to my exhaustion is an explosive combination.  It usually ends with me giving in to the first 10 demands and then losing my mind after number 11.  Then there is crying, mine and theirs and then we hug 3 more times and go to sleep. 

I think I would be more assertive if they were only requesting items but it’s just so hard to say no to a hug.  I know one day the tables will turn and I’ll be begging for hugs from them.  Tonight I hugged 3 times each, tucked twice and told them I loved them and they were on their own.  25 minutes of absolute mayhem and they are quietish.

There has to be a balance right?  I want them to be reassured that they are safe and loved before they go to sleep but I also don’t want to teach them that they can manipulate me with their fit throwing.  As I sit in my now quietish house I can’t help but think they will bring this up to their therapist one day.

“Why do you think you feel that way Christopher?”

“Probably because Mom amd Dad didn’t hug us enough before we went bed.”

Ugh!  This parenting stuff is intense.  What’s bedtime like at your house?

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.

Not the Good Kind of Slip and Slide

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The scene of the crime.

Let me set the scene.  We bought a new house less than a month ago that came complete with a playset in the backyard.  My crazies think this is the coolest thing ever.  They would spend the entire day outside if this spring rain would just stop. 

Today, after naps, I socked, shoed and jacketed the crew and ushered them outside to enjoy a slightly overcast Ohio spring afternoon on the playset. 

As soon as we walk outside the dog walks over to the slide, lifts a leg and proceeds to pee all over the slide.  The slide, representing at least 80% of what makes the playset amazing.  I yell out to the kids to stay off the slide, run in and grab the dog’s water bucket, clorox and paper towels.  As I’m running back out the door, Benjamin is sitting on the top of the slide as his sister, bless her heart, is yelling, “No, Bubba it’s doggy pee!” 

It was like watching it in slow motion.  I yelled, “Benjamin don’t you slide down that slide.  Sit still.”  He looks right at me, smiles and slides. 

One of many moments when I have been totally grossed out by my kids.  Seriously.  Yeah, you showed me.  Who has got dog pee on their pants?  Not smiling now are ya!

Not one of my finest parenting moments followed but I did get to utter something I never thought I would.

“Now see what happens when you don’t listen to Mommy?  You get dog pee on your butt.”

Can’t make this stuff up folks.

Little Boys are gross….and other Pro-Motherhood Propaganda

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My twins boys are a little over two and a half.  This week Christopher laid on the floor and tooted (our special word for gas) and laughed.  He then did it again announcing, “Momma, I tooted!” and giggled more.  Seriously, what happened to my sweet little boys.  They are covered in mud every time we go outside.  They spit to entertain each other.  They make burping and throwing up sounds.  They are remarkably destructive for people so small.  Their toddlerhood is so different from what I remember from my daughter this age.

I recently saw a post that said, When you are raising boys you always know where you stand….in the middle of a hurricane.

Most days, this is exactly how it feels.  I feel like they are my lesson in releasing control.  I like to know what’s going to happen, when it will happen and most of the time I like to be the cause of a surprise not the victim of it.  When you have boys you have to release this.  When the sweet old lady at church comes up and reaches out to shake your little guys hand and he gives her enthusiastic “knuckles” instead, when your son releases gas in a quiet coffee shop, when he pees on the floor in front of your neighbors, when he rummages around in the bathroom and comes out with tampons for your guests like they are party favors you have to laugh or you will cry.

A friend recently sent me this quote, You can have faith or you can have control but you can’t have both.  I’d say if you have boys you need a lot of faith.