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.

We are NOT our Problems

My sweet 3 year old is struggling with seasonal allergies.  Gross Alert:  Everytime he sneezes he shoots snot down to his chin and little tears roll down his cheeks, not because he is crying about these impressive snot rockets but because they are just so watery.  Poor guy.  This morning we were all snuggling in bed and everyone was coughing and sneezing and sniffling and Christopher sighs, “Mommy, we are allergies….all of us are allergies.”

And although he is correct, we are so much more than that aren’t we?  We are sisters and brothers, sons and daughters, mommas and daddies.  We are hopefully, at least on a good day, helpers, encouragers, hardworkers but goodness, some days I just feel like my issues.  Some days I feel like an allergy.  When my kids have days like this, I try to remind them of their blessings.  I know it’s so sad that I can’t get that cup of water this instant because, heaven forbid, I am going to the bathroom, but look at this nice house we have with the clean water that comes out of our faucets.  Life is not so bad kid.  This never works on them and most times it doesn’t work for me either.  I usually can’t intellectually talk my way out of a self pity spiral but when I try I think about this.

It’s not who you are, but whose you are that counts. -Joel Osteen

There will be days when the snot hits the window in the car when you sneeze (seriously) and the tears roll down your cheeks, but even on your worst day, you are loved by a Big God who loves you just like you are His kid.  You are not an allergy you are a son or daughter of the King.  Mind Blown…..not to be confused with Nose Blown.

 

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!

 

Puke, Flat Tires and our New Friend Mindy

It was one of those days. I work partime in the Nursery at a daycare center.   One of the sweet babies threw up so hardcore on me that there was no saving my pants or shirt.  I was graciously allowed to leave early and I walked out to a nearly flat tire.  Off to Pep Boys we go…all of us…me and my three crazies.  In true car repair fashion they bring our car in almost immediately, up it goes and there it stays for over an hour and a half.  Stop for a moment and envision me, puke covered with three busy preschoolers trapped in a Pep Boys.  Good.  Now stop laughing.  This could have been disastrous right?  It could have but it wasn’t.

Shortly after we arrived in comes this well put together woman.  Her name was Mindy.  She was probably in her 40’s, she was pretty and had a quick smile.  She needed a new battery for her car.  She sat right down with me and my crazies and introduced herself, asked them their names, ages and cartoon favorites.  She helped me pick them up so they could look through the window at our floating car.  We talked about what we did for a living, our recent home selling and buying experiences, our families.  She was so warm and easy to know.  She didn’t have any kids herself but she embraced my children like they were her own.  By the time her car was done, my kids were strategically stealing each others seats to sit by her.  My son climbed up into her lap to watch Curious George….my busy son…. who never sits still.  Instead of having a terrible, stressful, long 90 minute wait for our car we became friends with Mindy.  She showered us with her kindness for 90 minutes.  When she left she shook each of my children’s hands and told them to be good and listen to their mommy then she turned to me, wrapped me in a big hug and said goodbye.  All I could get out was a quick thank you for her friendship.

We live in this strange world where we are always connected through our technology but so disconnected in so many other important ways.  Not only was Mindy present in the moment but she was kind and generous with her time and sweet to my children.  She wasn’t annoyed with my crew but rather amused and engaged.  I will think about her for the rest of my life.

And people say angels don’t exist.  Find an opportunity to be a Mindy this week.

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.

Very Big God and Very Small Problems

I’m sure this NEVER happens to you, but sometimes I get a little wrapped up in my own crap.  Sometimes I lose my mind over the state of my home, being late to preschool, my husband leaving dishes in the sink.  Sometimes I find myself losing sleep because my son doesn’t use his fork as well as his twin brother.  Is he falling behind?  What do we need to do to improve his fork skills?  I should probably google that to see if we are missing something.  I’m sure you NEVER sound like a crazy person but sometimes I do.  Sometimes I get so anxious over the most trivial things.

Occasionally I gain perspective because I have to endure something that really IS hard or witness a friend or family member go through a tragedy.  Last week I gained perspective in a different way.  We got to spend a week on the gulf side of Florida.  This was the first trip to the beach for our crazies.  They were so excited.  I was a mess of worry about the whole trip.  I couldn’t get past the idea of a 17 hour drive….while potty training….twin….boys.  I was concerned about the expense of this big of an adventure.  I was worried we would forget something.  I was worried about our dogs that were being dog sat by a new person.  I hadn’t seen the ocean in almost 8 years and all I was doing was worrying about everything with no anticipation of the awesome that was about to happen.

The trip went way better than I could have ever expected.  The only thing I forgot was sunscreen, which, believe it or not, you can buy in Florida.  The boys had zero accidents on the drive down and back.  Nobody drowned in the ocean.  No one required an urgent care visit.  No one puked.  And everyone had fun!  Somebody pinch me!

Our first morning, we woke up and had breakfast on the balcony overlooking the ocean and as we enjoyed the view we saw a beautiful rainbow.  Sometimes I forget the vastness of the world while I’m wading through my own crap.  Looking out at the seemingly endless ocean put things into perspective for me.  I thought about how trivial my worries are compared to many others in the world.  I thought about how amazing it is that in this vast world that we live in God knows and loves me.  Even as everyone else works through their own stuff too, God loves me.  Even as I let my worries consume me, God loves me through it, all the while loving everyone else through their stuff too.

I feel like the childhood version of myself had a better understanding of the “big-ness” of God.  The God who throws rainbows in the sky and molds the earth in His hands.  I found myself much more in awe of things then.  I don’t want to lose that childlike faith and awe.  This week I will look for times to be in absolute awe of this BIG GOD who loves little old me.

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.

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.

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

boys

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.

This is What a Village Looks Like

At 11pm last night the vomiting began.  It seemed like everyone’s kids are sick this time of year but I thought we might be able to dodge the bullet.  Ha!  I hadn’t gone to bed yet and I hear him crying.  I hustled down the hall before he woke everyone else up reached down to help him look for his binky (which is usually the reason for the middle of the night cry) and I come up with a wet, gross handful of vomit.  Poor guy.  In moments like this my husband and I work like a well oiled machine.  He wakes up, gathers the bedding, Clorox wipes the mattress, cleans the carpet and I clean the kid.  We’ve had a lot of practice.

Not 2 hours later and several vomiting episodes later I got sweet boy number 1 back to bed and then sweetness number 2 started puking.  Rinse and repeat for the well oiled machine and 2 hours after that he was back in bed.  I was absolutely exhausted this morning when we woke up for preschool.  Boys seemed to be in much better spirits.  I kept them in their pajamas, helped my daughter get dress and threw everybody in the car to go to take my daughter to preschool.  As I pull in the parking lot, my son throws up all over himself and his car seat.  At this point I’m wondering where all this food is coming from.

I called my friend Kerry on my way to school to see if she would walk my daughter to her classroom so I wouldn’t even have to get the boys out of the car.  She walks out just as I pull my son from the car seat and he proceeds to puke all over the cross walk in the parking lot.  She quickly scoops up my daughter (who will hence forth be referenced to as the healthy one), and takes her to her classroom.  So thankful for her.

I then look down at my pitiful kid, who is freezing, covered in vomit and crying.  Without even being asked, my friend Carli (another momma whose child goes to preschool too) jumps out of her car with wipes, a plastic bag, a helpful suggestion for an outfit change and willing hands to rescue me with.  While I cleaned up and changed my sons clothes she helped to clean out his car seat while she reassured me that she had been there too, that it would be okay and that she would be praying for it to pass quickly.

She saw a need.  Addressed the need.  Encouraged the recipient and went about her day as if she wasn’t a superhero.  Mind blown.

I had several women come along side me to encourage me, care for my sick kids, care for my healthy kid and help me get through this less than awesome day.  My little family lives far away from our extended family but we are so blessed to have this amazing community that steps in and helps me be a mom to these awesome little people, even when it’s not pretty.  There was no judgement, there was however, huge amounts of encouragement, understanding and action.  It is said that it takes a village to raise a child.  This is what a village looks like.

This time of year is so busy.  We are rushing everywhere we go.  What if we made a conscious decision to address the immediate needs of those in our path.  To help a stranger unload groceries into their car.  To text a friend who has been discouraged.  To hold the door and smile at the person behind you.  To buy coffee for the person behind you in the drive thru.  To help a mom whose kid is throwing up in the parking lot.  Invite someone into your village this Christmas.

Let us all care for one another.

Galatians 6:9-10  And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.