Tag Archive | motherhood

How to Introduce Your Child To Jesus (easy steps that a still-learning mommy can do)

One time when I was a middle-school teacher (a pregnant and grumpy one, this particular day), I tallied the number of questions I was asked in a 60-minute period. I wish I could remember how many it was, because I am 90% sure that this was a mere warm-up for the pure inquisition I have been experiencing at the hands of a bright-eyed, way-too-smartt and abundantly curious little boy who lives here.

I am questioned out.

I think I know what the Apostle Peter was talking about when he said we needed to be ready “in season and out of season” and “to have an answer for everyone who asks you…” Pretty sure he was talking to moms of toddlers. (He just didn’t want to come out and say it.)

In the last 48 hours, these are just a mere sampling of the questions I have been asked.

  • How do ears hear, eyes see, and boogers get in our noses?
  • Why do the trees stand up straight and tall?
  • Why do football players line up in a line?
  • How do they make the animal chicken into the food chicken? (That one was tough.)
  • What kind of animal is a Hokie bird? (“I have been instructed to respond, ‘a ferocious, fighting turkey,’ in case anyone else is curious.)
  • How do you keep the car in the lane?
  • What makes it snow?
  • Is there snacks in heaven?
  • Why do boys not wear makeup?
  • Why do men not have big tummies with babies in them?
  • Do scorpions swim in the water?
  • Do germs look like dirt?
  • How is a fire hot?
  • How do they make jelly beans?
  • What happens if girls play football?

And again, this is just a sampling, limited by a mom’s tired memory or failure to find a pencil at the right time.

This is just a beautiful, exhausting age.

I feel like a failure sometimes. I don’t have the right answers. I’m too tired, or too distracted to answer sufficiently. I don’t seize each chance, and once-in-a-childhood moments ripen and rot away.

And it’s fine if I don’t succinctly describe a twelve-man offensive rotation (which, trust me, is probably what’s happening. I’m not even sure that is a thing. Is an offensive rotation a thing? Anyways.) Likewise, it’s not the end of the world if I can’t remember how exactly it snows.

But Jesus, and heaven, and God and all that?

Yikes, I don’t want to be sleeping on the job for those questions.

I’ve thought of a few ways to intentionally teach Sam about Jesus. These are not rocket science, and I’m sure there are a bazillion books that say it better. But here are my thoughts.

  • Pray out loud, regularly. Relax, though. I don’t mean long-winded advanced churchy prayers. I am talking here about verbalizing those quick God-directed thoughts you have anyway. God, please help us find our car keys. God, I’m frustrated – help me to be patient with Ty. God, help us find our car keys. God, please help us not get lost. God, Tommy is sick. Help him feel better. God, please help us find our car keys. (I am pretty sure Sam is going to think “please help us find our car keys” is a verse in the actual Bible. But there is nothing I can do about that right now.)

And a really cool thing has happened since I’ve prayed out loud to find my car keys.

Sam, too, asks God for help.

In the past few days, he’s asked God to help him find his stuffed animals, to help him be a good football player, and to please make it snow (a particular prayer that is echoed by all members of this household). Now, of course prayer isn’t all about making God give you everything you want. But I am thrilled beyond thrilled that he thinks knows God is listening to what he needs.

  • Pray with him. Todd is way better at this than I am, so I am just going to tell you what he does. At night, they say prayers. Todd has Sam repeat after him. It is very basic stuff. “Thank you for Mommy.” Thank you for Mommy. “Help me to have a good attitude.” Help me to have a good attitude. etc. etc.

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Todd is showing Sam that he prays, teaching him how, and making it a positive experience. It is often not long, and that’s okay.

  • Throughout your day, talk about two things:
  1. God made everything.
  2. God loves them.

This is directly copied from my mother, when I watched her teach two-year-olds Sunday school. I love it because it is so do-able. I tried to teach Sam the story of Joseph and the coat today while I was making turkey tettrazini…I’m pretty sure I lost brain cells and mixed up a good portion of the details. But I can usually get “God made everything” right. even on a few hours of sleep.

  • This next one also helps when you’re tired and brain-fogged. Get a good children’s Bible and good children’s devotional. Reading a story at night as part of a routine is an easy way to teach, without exerting energy that you do not have, or explaining topics that you do not fully understand. See the links above for my two favorite choices.

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  • Music. Why re-invent the wheel, ya know? Jesus Loves Me was already written! Play it! This CD (Cedarmont Kids Bible Songs) is worth it’s weight in gold. I know there are other terrific kids CDs…any favorites you have? We listen to the Pandora station “Jesus Loves Me” radio, also. Added plus of this is that it teaches you verses to all those songs you kind of know and kind of forget.
  • Ask God to help me teach my kids about Him. I hesitate to even say this, because it is so obvious. But if I need help, I should ask for it. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. {James 1:5}

What helps your kids learn about Jesus? Does your family have favorite books or music?

 

 

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Should moms take naps? {thoughts on guilt, rest, and how to feel peppier}

There are a few groups of people I am secretly jealous of. So secretly, that I decided to post it here, on my blog. These groups are: people with really clean and organized purses, people who are tan all year long, AND…people with lots of energy. the naturally caffeinated.

I’ve always wished I were peppier, since back in the day when I tried out for cheerleading… and didn’t make it…and there were only two girls cut…and come to think of it, they probably needed a few extra cheerleaders. Apparently I was that unpeppy. I’m fine with it, really. I’m totally, totally, over it. Absolutely no remaining feelings of failure here.

But back to the topic, I just hate feeling tired, and (unlike my husband) I do not enjoy napping. Also unlike my husband, I do not enjoy going to the bathroom. Both things, I do because I have to. Men are from Mars, women are from Venus. So there you have it.

Recently, I’m feeling more tired than usual. (Sidenote – is that normal right now? My mom claims everyone feels more tired in January. Is that true?? Hmmm.) Which has led to more naps than normal, which has led me to wonder a few things:

  • Is it sometimes wrong to take naps? (Insert the sound of my husband laughing in the background.)
  • What makes you feel tired some days, and not tired other days? (Insert the broken record answer of my mother, for every. single. problem. you ever have: “It’s the hormones, honey. I promise it’s the hormones.”)
  • What should you do on days where you feel tired?
  • Why do I feel so guilty when I feel tired?

image by Leswek Nowak

A long time ago, when I was a teacher, one of my co-workers claimed his wife never, ever napped, and she listed her reason as something along the lines of “laziness doesn’t accomplish anything, blah blah blah….”

I remember thinking that this woman (if she really were a woman, and not some sort of angelic/alien creature) surely, surely developed this conviction AFTER her young children were raised. And it was still a dumb one.

Who knows what she meant, or what she actually did in the past or present. All I know is that those comments twinged in me some conflict that I have over what to do when I’m tired. As I’ve been mulling over this for a few weeks, I’ve come to a few conclusions.

  •  Naps are like donuts. Sometimes, you should say no. And sometimes, you should just thank the good Lord for all of his many blessings, and eat the whole, jelly-filled, sugar crusted, entire thing. With coffee and heavy cream.

Okay, so the analogy is a little muddled. But here’s what I’m saying. Yesterday, I was just pooped. I’m glad I rested for 20 minutes. Today I was fizzling too, but the best thing I could have done was turn on some peppy music, clean my kitchen, and write some emails. I felt much better than I would have otherwise. It’s hard to know sometimes: nap, or no? Donut, or no? Sometimes I pray for wisdom. That helps.

  • Energy is tied to attitude. Think back to college, if you doubt me. Or when you just fell in love. Of course you were tired. But you were so excited, so happy, so thrilled, you just didn’t feel tired. Life was too fun. How does this apply? Go back to college! When you’re feeling tired, ask yourself, self, am I just bored? What excites me? Think about and plan that! For me, this means when I feel myself getting that “blah,” foggy feeling, I think about the next party coming up, or daydream about the next vacation, or organize my cupboards (sad, but true). I find myself perking right up!
  • When you’re honestly just so tired, stop. But stop the right things. Here’s what I mean. On those afternoons when I’m in a foggy daze of exhaustion, usually, I end up mindlessly cleaning up the house and ignoring the kids. Hello!?! That is backwards! This week, still getting over my cold and feeling icky, in the afternoons (instead of trying to do everything at once and getting annoyed at everyone), I just played with my kids! When I was too tired to do that, I just sat down on the couch and watched them! The dishes crusted over and the laundry wrinkled, but I realized: Ty loves organizing things! And Sam actually helps him sometimes! And when Ty is excited, he does this standing-on-his-tippee-toes hop, hop that is just adorable! I realized how infrequently I do just stop and watch my kids. What a shame!
  • You can’t help your feelings. If I feel tired, I’m going to consciously fight feeling guilty on top of feeling tired. What an unnecessary load. You can’t help how you feel!
  • But you can change your feelings! Actions change feelings. Here are some things that make me feel less tired: a brisk walk, a glass of ice water, talking about something I’m excited about, eating a snack/small meal/big meal, laughing with my kids, a cup of coffee and a banana muffin, a shower, turning on music I love, planning something fun.

ps. here are some things that do NOT make me more energized: checking facebook, paying bills, complaining, thinking about all the moms who are way more productive than me, and answering a series of repeated questions from Sam.

If you’re interested in reading more, I thought this post and this one by Crystal had some good thoughts on how to feel peppier.

What about you? Do you feel guilty when you feel tired? What energizes you on those low-energy days?

One more plug for planning day (and how I spent mine)

image by Lotus Head

Recently I talked about how wonderful, amazing, and productive it is to get out of the house and have a planning day.

The Lord bless him, my wonderful husband, for two years in a row, has all but ushered me out of the door, practically ordering me to Panera to go do my planning. This year we were all sick with all colds, so I got a later start than normal. But it was still wonderful.

Here’s what I did:

  • Try not to do a weird, giddy laughing thing in my car as I’m driving out of the neighborhood, alone, to Panera. Cause that would be weird, giggling alone in the car.
  • Pull into Panera at 10:45 and use most of my willpower to not immediately order two full sandwiches, a croissant, and a bread bowl of soup for lunch.
  • Find a table. This is quite a process. I end up looking like a dog turning around in circles trying to decide where to sit down: Set stuff down on table. Deem it too dirty and move to the next. Nope, too far from the fireplace. Let’s try this one. Move again when I realize I’m hearing a nearby couple talking about her mastectomy. This table teeters. That one doesn’t have a comfy chair…Ahh! Finally! The perfect seat.
  • At this point I did feel like I had done enough to deserve a lunch break. I ordered the same thing I order every time, the Frontega Chicken Sandwich with Creamy Tomato soup and an apple. And a water, with a LARGE CUP, please. What’s up with the communion-sized water cups? Just because I like water doesn’t mean I have 1/6 of the thirst level.
  • Anyways. Once I finally got down to business, I began by praying, as I mentioned in the earlier post, that God would direct this time. Because I kind of felt like you do at the start of summer vacation… You have all these goals and are just sure at the end you’ll have revolutionized your life. (No pressure, or anything.)
  • The first thing that came to mind was that I need to pray daily for a few things. My kids’ salvation, whether or not we should have another child, and, that God would give me the strength to homeschool my boys, because I’d love to and the only way I can is if the Lord provides the way.
  • Then, I started making my  “roles and goals” list. I mention that in my prior post, as well…You list all of your roles, and narrow down goals for each category. The roles I considered were: spiritual, preschool teacher, homeschool planning, wife, mom, homemaker, sister/sister-in-law, friend, health, and blogger.
  • Here are a few things I realized:
  1. I must think I’m a really good wife already, because somehow that category ended up blank. Sorry, Todd.
  2. I want to find some good homeschool mamas to talk to. Suggestions, anyone? 🙂
  3. I really would like to eliminate my attachment to the internet and computer. Or stop using it at the wrong times and for the wrong reasons.
  4. If I want to have another kid, I want to be prepared. You know, meals in the freezer, exercising throughout the pregnancy, letter to myself not to flip out when I’m shushing a newborn 22 hours a day, ipod playlist of songs to help me do natural labor (that’s all it takes, right? A good playlist?)  See, if I plan enough, everything will be perfect. That is my mantra. Please don’t disagree with my mantra.
  • Well, frankly, after making all these ambitious plans, I was tired. I think the Chicken Frontega was sitting gloppily in my stomach, and I found myself feeling a little sleepy. Checking my email mindlessly a couple times in a row for no good reason, that kind of thing. I fought it for a while, and then I thought, you know, this is my planning day. I can do what I want.

And what I wanted was to take a nap. So I packed up, went to my car, and took a 20-minute power nap. I woke up really rejuvenated, and also a little embarrassed when I made eye contact with the guy in the car next to me. I pretended I was finishing up a conversation on the phone and went back in.

I had a nice cup of coffee and spent the rest of the time working on our yearly budget, and letting my mind wander a bit. I don’t do that much, but it was nice and I learned a lot.

I came home so, so happy to see my kids. It felt like I had been gone for three weeks. The house also looked like I had been gone for three weeks. But I kind of missed it. Okay, I just said that because it sounded good. I did not miss cleaning the house.

But really, I loved my planning day. It made me think I should take one a few times a year to regroup!

How about you? Have you taken your day? What did you learn?

Why Everyone Needs a Planning Day (and suggestions of how to spend it)

My friend Brandi does not share my enthusiasm for planning. Last year when I told her that I was having a “planning day” for the new year, she said, “Ugh!! Yuck! I’d hate that!!” in about the same tone as if I told her I’d served lizard for breakfast.

I thought it was a brilliant idea. I heard of it here at Keeper of the Home from Erin at the Humbled Homemaker. She calls hers a “New Year’s Planning Retreat,” which sounds a little more mountain cabin-y and cozy, and less teacher-work-day than my “planning day.” But whatever floats your boat. 🙂

Having tried it, and now, a year later, I still think it’s a brilliant idea. Here’s why:

  • You get to get out of the house, and to cuddle a nice, warm drink. Not a cold drink, not a re-heated drink, but a real, live, first-time around-hot drink. ahhhh… And maybe even a muffin! Or a ciabatta!
  • If you have children, your husband gets to experience what it’s like to be mom for three hours. (He’ll kiss your feet when you’re home, your children will kiss your feet, and all members will have a new appreciation for their individual daily routines.)
  • You can complete a list, a book, heck, even a thought, without being interrupted by nagging household chores or someone’s bowel movements. (Unless they’re yours. Just being real yo.)
  • You can think, and pray, and plan. Which is something everyone needs to do!
 What person wouldn’t benefit from an hour or two to think about the upcoming year, with time to make a few goals or wishes?

We all would! Working women, moms-to-be, full-time businessmen (hint, hint, Dad and Todd!), overwhelmed and nursing new moms, grandmas, pastors, whoever! That verse about not having a vision and failing…it’s right!

Why I Need It

Sometimes I just feel like a gerbil, on a wheel, racing and about to die of a heart attack like my sister’s hamster, Chip. Maybe not quite that bad.

But it’s like life just keeps going, and going, and I’d love a chance to stop and catch my breath. To think about what’s working in my life (that might be brief) and what isn’t. To ask God what he wants for us. To make a schedule and adopt a routine.

I do realize, though, that not all of you get giddy and have heart palpitations when you hear the word “goal-setting.” If you’re not like me, I have taken the liberty of given you the briefest of outlines (because I know you types aren’t excited about outlines, either…freaks! jk.) for what you can do on this planning day:

coffee shop

photo by Carlos Paes

If you’re not a planner…

  • Go somewhere different and pleasant for you. A friend’s warm sun room (I’m thinking an older friend, without kids, ya know?), Panera, a coffee shop, a mountain cabin, whatever!
  • When you sit down, ask God to be with you in your time. Thank Him for one thing about this year. Then tell him something else that disappointed or worries you.
  • Next, spend at least ten minutes thinking about what you’d love to do in the next year. Bonus points if you write them down. When the ten minutes are up, buy yourself a strudel as a treat for being so orderly.
  • Choose one item from the next list that SORT OF interests you, and think about that one, too.

The Thinks You Can Think

Now, if you are a “planning-type,” you have a kindred spirit here! Since I know you will be counting down the days to your planning day (and, dare I say, planning for your planning day) here are some options for your to consider for how you could use this time:

  • Roles and goals. We did this when I was a Young Life leader in college, and I still remember, because it was  so helpful. You list out your various roles in life (for me: household, mom, wife, daughter, sister, friend, church member, neighbor, blogger, organizer of finances, etc. etc.) Then you jot down two or three things you’d like to do or change for the next year.
  • Year verse/mission statement. Spend some time locating and meditating on a passage that’s *yours* for the next year. If you’re artsy, make a cute little card to place on the fridge.
  • Write down the names of the people closest to you. Think about each person. How can you serve him? What does she need? How could you pray for that person this year?
  • Create a schedule! (another fun, fun word for us nerds!) Perhaps your life needs a cleaning schedule, or a meal plan, or routine for your kids! You could use this time to “catch up” on things like this you’ve been needing in your life.
  • Spend some time reading a book. Not just any book, but a motivating and helpful one. For me, I’d read this new one by Sally Clarkson and Sarah Mae, or this one about homeschooling, or this one about childbirth. Not that I’m pregnant. Future reference. 🙂
  • Let your mind be blank, and wander a bit, and listen to the Lord. This one is a little scary-sounding. Weird, even. But I know at least in my life stage, I don’t often spend time listening to the Lord. Maybe he has something he’d like to tell you!

the one where Sam throws up on me

You won’t even believe me when I tell you what time the boys woke up this morning. Eight. Fif. Teen. (!!!) 8:15, people!!

Todd and I both enjoyed a late wake-up, because of a long, ongoing discussion we’ve been having. The argument concerns whether we’d prefer to wake up gradually (like, say, over a span of one and a half hours, with smoke detector-like beeps every nine minutes or so to keep us from really settling into deep slumber), or – brace yourself for this crazy idea – at the actual time one of us needs to get up. This particular morning, I’m pretty sure I threatened Todd with his life if he continued these shenanigans of snoozing again and again. So he just turned the alarm off at 5:30, and both of us gloriously overslept like we were livin’ it up on a luxury vacation.

Which we are, basically.

Anyway, when I got the boys up, the three of us climbed onto our cozy green rocking chair together and started to rock. We do this everyday, for at least fifteen wonderful seconds, and then Sam starts giggling (not in a cute way, but like a seventh-grade-boy-being-naughty-in-church-way) and Ty asks repeatedly for a stuffed animal jammed between the crib rails and starts squirming down, and Sam bonks his head against Ty’s on “accident,” and I sort of begin gritting my teeth as I’m singing Jesus Loves Me. That’s how it usually goes.

But today, this particular morning, I realized that I had gotten through a complete verse of the song with both children still nestled close and still beside me. Oh, this is nice, I thought, I just love being a mom.

They were so calm, and precious, that I was just about to begin a new hymn, when…I heard gagging beside me.

And then, well, you know.

Blech. And blech, and blech, and blech again. It was a doozy. We all sat there stunned. Ty got down and said, “What Sam doing Mommy?” in a sing-song kind of voice.

I can’t explain how I feel when someone throws up without sounding crazy. Something inside me just jumps into business mode. Like when there’s an international crisis and the President calls his cabinet in the oval office for a brainstorm.

I get this wave of adrenaline, and start wiping faces, and administering sips of water, and Lysol-ing surfaces and disinfecting clothing. It’s almost…fun. {I know, crazy.}

Anyways, this particular stomach bug was a really odd. I think I scared it with my aggression. Soon, Sam was asking for breakfast, and by 10:30 had eaten a bowl of oatmeal, two sausage links, a banana, a chicken patty, and an orange.

All of which I fought desperately to resist picturing in regurgitated form.

So the day, again, took an odd twist when at 12:15, I found myself riding a bike, pulling two kids in a wagon behind me (one with a bizarre stomach bug), in the semi-rain around the neighborhood, four days before Christmas. It just seemed like the right thing to do at the time.

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Here we are!

Anyone driven one of these? You feel like an ox plowing the fields. No, literally. It is the physical equivalent of reaping the harvests with a yoke around your loins. I don’t know if yokes go around loins, but that just sounded right.

The boys love it. They squeal and put their hands up like they’re on a roller coaster.

And Sam does what he always does when he’s happy…he talks, and asks a million questions.

At first, it was super-cute. Mommy, are we going SO fast? Mommy, how do you go so fast? Mom, is this fun? And other things that made me feel a little more like an awesome triathlete and less like an ox.

But today, I was just tired. I was trying to be a good sport, but truly, I felt like I was the one that had had the stomach bug. (How is that??) Plus, it’s embarrassing. I’m wearing a helmet, dressed in total  “mom-wear” sweatshirt and waist-riding yoga pants. And, to top it off, I’m not strong enough to pedal the wagon all the way up the hills, so I have to walk beside my bike looking like a big giant wimp of a dweeb. Obviously I am a dweeb, because I just used that word. Dweeb. Dweeb. Who says that.

Anyways.

Here are a sampling of the questions that I received, and attempted to answer, during this humiliating and physically exerting workout:

  • Mom, was that the garbage man?
  • Mom, why are those dogs barking?
  • Mom, why are we going up this hill?
  • Mom, why do you stand up like that?
  • Mom, Ty keeps sticking his hands out. Can you make him put them back in?
  • Mom, how did you learn how to ride this bike?
  • Mom, what is it called when you stand up on the bike?
  • Mom is it called balancing? Is that what you’re doing?
  • Mom, how do you ride that bike?
  • (Sam, I’m working really hard here. I can’t answer anymore questions. Ask Ty questions.)
  • Ty, how do you ride that bike? (Silence.) Mom, he didn’t know. Mom, I’m going to have to ask you the questions.
  • Why do our heads go back and forth when you go slow?
  • Mom, why are you going slow? (x3, over and over, louder and louder, until I answer that I am working as hard as I can.)
  • Mom, why did you step off the bike mom?
  • Mom, is it hard work? What would happen if you didn’t step off the bike?

See, that is the thing about motherhood. You can call it a lot of things, but you can’t call it predictable. You never know when you wake up in the morning what the day will hold. Maybe you’ll be scraping puke off a fuzzy green cushion! Maybe you’ll be undergoing a domestic version of the Inquisition while pedaling your hiney off around the neighborhood! Maybe you’ll do both! It’s an adventure!!

In the meantime, as far as our household is concerned, Todd and I have disinfected our sheets and are giving ourselves probiotics in IV-form. Stay tuned to find out how this bug manifests itself in adult form! Be sure to subscribe to updates so you don’t miss this one!

 

 

 

 

Is This The Good Life? Why You Should Enjoy (But Not Too Much) Having Little Ones

045 I was really not a good new mom.

A friend of mine had her first baby in the hospital room next to me, the day after I had my first baby. It was fun. And also, a little weird…we watched her contractions intensify on the hospital monitor system as she was in labor! We experienced a lot of “firsts” together, obviously.

I remember seeing her when the boys were a few weeks old. She was so happy. I just remember her gushing and “ooo”-ing, smiling away these sleepless nights that are “just for a season.”

A season?!?!? If we survive it!!! I thought she was a) crazy and b) awesome.

Even the second time around, when Ty, my second-born, was fresh and new from the hospital, I didn’t get it. He was doing all those awful things newborns do…falling asleep eating, never eating at the right times, just wanting to be carried all day long, being completely adorable and alert ONLY at 2:30 am, etc., etc.

My mom came over one afternoon to help. I was in my haven’t-brushed-my-teeth, wearing-my-pajamas-and-it’s-almost-dinner, sleepless and incoherent new mommy stupor stage. (Please tell me someone else has that stage.)

Anyway, my mom looked really cute. Her makeup was done, she’d just had a haircut, and she was wearing a trendy new outfit. I asked what she was all dressed up for.

“Oh, Dad and I are just going to grab a bite to eat tonight, that’s all.”

I remember shaking my head and saying with half smile, “Must be nice, living the good life…”

I will never forget how she looked – not at me, but around the room. At my kids. At the mess.

“No, Jessie. This is living the good life.” And she smiled, like she was remembering something wonderful.

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I get it, Mom.

I get it.

I’m so, so sorry that it has taken me 1,312 days of motherhood (and a few rounds of counseling, and multiple breakdowns, and infinite episodes of Netflix reruns to deal with my stress level)…

But I get it – I’m living the good life.

I know I have a horrible track record of making things around here sound like some sort of a domestic purgatory (here, and here, and here, and, oh you get the point.) But really, motherhood is so wonderful I can’t even put it into words without sort of choking up.

  • Ty tells me, “You’re beautiful, Mommy.” (He always tells Daddy he’s “a stud,” if that gives you any hints where he’s learned it.)
  • He asks to sing Jesus Loves Me, he gives us kisses, and his toes are so perfectly chubby. And is there anything more wonderful than rocking a cuddly little one to sleep?
  • Sam is three, and brilliant. No, really. He gets so excited about oatmeal and science experiments and throwing a football and doing it “all! by! MY! SELF!…”
  • He thanks me for making him delicious meals. He doesn’t even care that he can’t eat cheese or pizza or goldfish and all his meals are different.
  • He thinks I’m the smartest, most athletic, most creative and funny mom he could ever have.

All these things look so generic on paper, but you know that if you are the mommy, they’re wonderful.

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I get a catch in my throat thinking about days where my little ones aren’t bumbling around under my feet, when they aren’t calling for me when they’re hurt, when they make their own meals and tie their own shoes and (sob) have their own families.

This isn’t the end, though. You know me…there’s always a lesson. Lessons are my way of making me feel better about everything I don’t like or can’t understand. That’s healthy, right?

Lesson one is a story.

Once when I was a little girl (ten or so), I was trying to fall asleep, thinking about the things you think about when you’re trying to fall asleep, when I realized something. I had figured out how to make an air conditioner! Excitedly, I sprinted out of bed to tell my mom what I’d discovered.

Mom! Guess what! I know how they make an air conditioner! If you take two of those things that you cool off cookies on, and you smush up some ice cubes in between them, and then hold that in front of a little fan, then it’s like an air conditioner! Isn’t that amazing, Mom??!

I remember thinking it so odd that Mom (who was sitting there alone, reading a magazine, drinking some tea) looked…almost…tired? Could it be tired? That was weird.

But she listened. She smiled. She was impressed.

I laugh so hard at that story right now. I know exactly what she felt like, drinking her tea and putting her feet up for the first time all day, listening to someone re-invent an air conditioner. I hope she had a good, happy laugh when I went scampering back to bed.

Yesterday, Sam called me up to show me he’d made his laundry basket like a car. Today, he had turned his underwear inside out.

I hope that I was excited as my mom learning about air conditioners.

I hope that Sam knows I think these days are wonderful.

See here’s the thing about motherhood. It’s not wonderful like your wedding day, or Ruth’s Chris with your husband, or laying on a towel on the beach in June.

It’s messier than that.

It pokes its cute snotty-faced smile out when you’re not fully awake yet at 5:46 am, or trying to untangle a slinky, or scraping toothpaste off your ratty college yoga pants, or in the middle of making pizza dough, or paying your cable bill.

So the trick about it is to see those moments and enjoy when they come.

Because here’s the second lesson… It doesn’t last. I am just so, so sad here that this stage will be over so soon. Maybe for you it is almost over, or it is over. Maybe you’re not yet a mom, or won’t ever be one.

The answer is the same for us all. {And forgive me for going philosophical for a second…}

This isn’t our home. There’s more than what’s real right now.

And again, I quote C.S. Lewis, that wise old bachelor from half a world and half a century ago.

Are not all lifelong friendships born at the moment when at last you meet another human being who has some inkling…of that something which you were born desiring, and which…night and day, year by year, from childhood to old age, you are looking for, watching for, listening for? You have never had it. All the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of it – tantalizing glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear. But if it should really become manifest – if there ever came an echo that did not die away but swelled into the sound itself – you would know it. Beyond all possibility of doubt you would say ‘Here at last is the thing I was made for.’ ” {C.S. Lewis: The Problem of Pain}

I am grateful that I don’t have to cling desperately to the things I love – being a mom, my wonderful family…I’m grateful that all these things I think I was made for become real and forever in heaven, and never grow old.

“Death opens a door out of a little, dark room (that’s all the life we have known before it) into a great, real place where the true sun shines…”

~C.S. Lewis (Til We Have Faces)

Why are tantrums from someone else’s kid so funny? {and other questions about discipline}

This afternoon during the witching hour (when the boys were hammering each other with plastic food and rubbing sticks of glue on their arms) I called my sister to ask if she was up for company.

“Um, well yes, as long as everyone’s in a good mood. The upstairs is a mess, and it’s really chaotic. But if they’re happy and behaving, then come.”

“Oh, sure,” I said. “Yeah, we’re all in great moods.” (Muffling the phone as Ty is clawing my legs and whining.)

So we went, and the weirdest thing happened. About 12 minutes after we got there, I saw Sam out of the corner of my eye violently pounding his cousin Jack with a drum stick, yelling orders to hide in a different bear cave.

Deep breath, Jessica.

A few minutes later their whole house shook with the the blood-curling screams coming from the cruel, horrific, awful punishment of the time-out chair.

Nice, Sam, pull out all the stops. Use violence, scream at the top of your lungs, yes, keep saying, “No no no” over and over. That’s perfect.

And my sister? What was she doing during this traumatic and stressful parenting moment?

She was smiling. Laughing, really.

I would have been annoyed, except that I remembered how hilarious and entertaining…another kid’s tantrum is. I guess no mom can resist the enjoyment of being reminded that her kid is not the only conniving, tyrannical 30-pound devil on the face of the planet.

I need to back up, though. Because one day in thirty years if Sam and his future wife read this (that’s what they’ll do, right? Read it, and laugh over all the good parts, and thank me for being such a wonderful parent?) they’re going to feel I was unfair in my descriptions.

It’s an age of contradictions. As horrible these moments are, I love how wonderful Sam is. He really is. I love hearing him pray that God would “hold up the whole earth, and save all the people from hurricanes, and give new, new, new toys to kids who don’t have any.” He’s so precious when he tells me I’m the best mommy. I love when he tries to make Ty stop crying.

He is just the cutest thing ever.

Except when he’s not.

And I have nothing to say. I’m not Smartter today. I am confused, and wearied, and kind of have a tension neck ache from the stress and grimacing. Also, I’m sick of finding my flyswatters over the house from places where I’ve threatened/enacted corporal punishment. Which actually brings me to my first question.

  • Yeah, the spanking. I’m not really in the mood for any long arguments on this today. But really – if you use corporal punishment, how do you decide when it is absolutely necessary? Do you wait for Dad to come home? How do you ensure that it is effective?
  • And another question. Is it me, or does bad behavior go in phases? It seems like we have months around here full of bliss and stickers and hugs and “okay, mom”s (or something), and then for a few weeks it’s like Discipline.Boot.Camp. Is that just us? I honestly ran through Sam’s diet today in my head, thinking that surely he had inadvertently been consuming large amounts of Red 40 food dye for the last several weeks. (Still waiting on confirmation for that one.)
  • But further, if you have two kids, does it not seem that unfortunately they are never bad at the same time? On second thought, I do remember a few days where both were difficult…and probably, the alternating-schedule-thing is a better idea.
  • And, why is it so difficult to discipline? I mean, for real… I’m a mean person. I’m honest, I’m logical, I’m a rule-follower… I am shocked at how difficult it really is to be fair and firm, to dare to discipline. It is so much easier to be a bad parent, to ignore things, to let your kids tell you what to do, to tolerate disrespect, to basically do anything to avoid those shrill and disturbing “temper tantrums.” Man, those little boogers are smart! They know what works!
  • And one more thing… I guess I lied. I am getting smartter (and the audience breathed a huge sigh of relief) because I have learned one thing. And that is, being a parent just brings to the surface what a horrible person you are. And how much you need the Lord. I sure wish I wasn’t so snippy and easily angered. Sigh.

But I have found one thing that helps.

If I find myself getting too harsh, being annoyed too easily, and disciplining quickly without kindness, I have come up with a little checklist. It’s called: “The What Are You Really Annoyed About Checklist.” I stop and ask myself:

  1. Are you hungry? (This is easy. I’m always hungry, so whenever I break out the list, I usually just eat something, and proceed with #2)
  2. Do you have to go to the bathroom?
  3. Are you thirsty? (Guys. Being thirsty makes you real miserable.)
  4. Did someone else make you mad today? Are you worried about something else?
  5. Are your pants or underwear too tight? For real, ya’ll. That makes you just grumpy. So just go get Old Faithful underwear (you know the ones), and the yoga pants. Do it for the kids.
  6. Are you tired? Would a cup of coffee help? Granted, you can’t always “fix” this, but at least you can know.
  7. Are you hot? (This is a big one, too. You know that southern phrase “hot and bothered”? They know what they’re talking about.) Take off a sweatshirt. Life is too short to be hot. It just is.
  8. And, is there something that is kind of funny about this? Is there something I should take a picture of so that I can show my husband because he will never believe me otherwise?

So there’s my checklist, and thoughts, and questions, about parenting today…Anyone have any answers? 🙂