31 Days of Real Life: Day 19

It's funny, because a picture can tell a 1000 words, but it can also hide 1000 more.  

Chris has school on Wednesday nights so he had to leave as soon as I got home from work. Time being in short supply these days, and knowing that we needed to accomplish our annual Jack-o'lantern carving tradition soon, the kids and I said goodbye to daddy, climbed in the van, and headed to a Farmer's Market just down the street to pick out some pumpkins. I snapped this picture right before we left the market, and while I love their smiles and while our pumpkins are just right for the five of us, this picture doesn't say it all.

It doesn't say that Evelyn gave me copious amounts of sass because there wasn't room for her to sit on the wagon, or that she and Christopher had been bickering like an old married couple all evening, or that a second later, she dropped her pumpkin on Jackson's head (purely on accident though!) and then it fell and rolled under the car parked next to us. It doesn't show Jackson being upset because he didn't get a chance to pull the wagon, or one of the kids tripping as we walked under the awning of the market to pay...it shows the smiles and the pumpkins and the happiness of the moment, and for that, I'm thankful. But it's also important to note that the unhappy, gray-hair-inducing moments DO happen...for EVERYBODY. Sometimes we tend to forget that, at least when looking out in the great beyond known as social media. We look at everyone's highlight reels and don't believe that they ever have any bloopers like our own. But we ALL do. Not every moment is perfection. There is always a mixture of highs and lows. But what we choose to remember is up to us. 

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No Baby, I Won't Catch You This Time

The kids and I went to a new (well, new to them, anyways) playground this morning, and they were of course testing out the waters, seeing what they could climb, jump off of, and slide down. They are all usually pretty adventurous, and while I admittedly used to hover a bit when my oldest two were younger, I've now found great comfort in hanging back and letting them find their own way. 

Today, when Evelyn attempted the big kid slide for the first time, she checked to make sure I was nearby before she climbed the stairs. She sat at the top of the slide and asked me to wait at the bottom. "Come closer mommy! Catch me!" she cried. So I did, and when she reached the bottom, I found that she really would have been just fine without me there. She may have been scared because of a long-ago previous slide experience where the force, angle, and slipperiness of the equipment made her slam right off of it and into the ground in an ego-damaging butt-plant. Maybe she thought she needed me there to save her from potential harm. But she was fine. 

So, the next time she went down and implored me to catch her, I told her that I'd instead watch from the sidelines. "No baby," I said "I won't catch you this time." 

She went on to slide down by herself over a dozen times, and I heard her say, "Dat was AWESOME!" with a legitimate fist pump for added enthusiasm. I saw her get bumped by someone coming down after her and heard her respond, "I'm okay." I saw her do things by herself with pride, over and over again. 

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There will be so many times in life that they will fall. That they will stumble. That they will walk a rocky road life will be hard. In this world we will face trials and tribulations, right? It's a given. And as their mom, it's instinctual to want to shield them from harm. But doing that every time won't teach them about real life. I've learned that it's okay to say "I won't catch you."

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That's not to say that I relinquish my responsibility to care for them when they are hurt, or that they need to fend for themselves in every single way. That's crazy. I know that they need me. But they also need to learn how to fall and brush themselves off. They need to make mistakes, own them, and learn from them. And they can't do that if I'm always standing in front of their fears or opposition. I know they are little now, but as we all know, time flies by at an alarming rate when you're raising your babies, and they won't be little for long. Before I know it they will be in high school, and then in the vast beyond known as the real world. They will need to operate and face failures without me. So, in small ways here and there, I will choose to say, "No baby, I won't catch you this time." And I hope it adds up to make a big impact on their hearts.

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Minivan Confessions Episode 1: Choosing Kindness

When I was a freshman in college, Facebook made it's debut, and The University of Michigan was one of the first campuses to be included in the facebook user network (remember finding out that just anyone and everyone was going to be allowed on FB and it was a big conundrum?). I've always been an avid user for years, probably more than I should if I'm being perfectly honest, but at any rate, it is my favorite social media platform because it's where I feel most at home.

I am still treading the waters of and learning the ins and outs of the blogging world, but really, the point of it all is that I have words to share, and no matter where I share them, my greatest hope is that they might help someone. Those words might be written or they might be spoken, the latter of which led me to create my new video series, Minivan Confessions. Today, I bring to you, Episode 1, which originally debuted on my Facebook page (surprise, surprise!) on April 14th.

My vision for Minivan Confessions is to discuss and provide encouragement related to common topics that come up in the journey of motherhood. The name is derived from the location of my "video shoot"--the front seat of my cluttered minivan, where I can hide away and have a few minutes of peace and quiet. I would love for this to reach many women and let them know that they are not alone in their struggles. I spent a lot of time as a mom thinking I was the only one who had certain challenges, and that everyone undoubtedly has their crap together, but not Hot Mess Me. BUT, throughout the years, I've learned that I am wrong, and that we all have those hot mess moments, but we are still doing a good job. A hard job though, and one that is more easily navigated when we are bound together in an encouraging community. So, I hope people will join me on Facebook, or here on the blog, or on my soon-to-be-created YouTube channel, and find the community and encouragement that you're looking for.

Here for your viewing pleasure is Episode 1: Choosing Kindness Over Anger

As a basic summary, I talk about how as moms, we most often don't want to yell at our kids, and would like to remain calm, but it's hard to stay that way in the moments of frustration that pop up so frequently. Three tips are discussed to help us choose kindness over are anger.

1. Make a visible reminder

For me, this meant writing a Bible verse on a piece of paper and sticking it on my fridge, where I would often be reminded of the type of mom I wanted to be when it comes to speaking with my children. My go-to verse is:

When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness. -Proverbs 31: 26 NLT

Having something that can serve as a positive mantra is helpful because it tends to stick in my brain and come to the forefront when I have the choice to yell or react calmly. Disclaimer: I am human and don't always succeed at this. You too? That's okay. Do not beat yourself up over a bad moment. Give yourself grace.

2. Have an accountability partner

An accountability partner is someone you can count on to basically call you out if you flip your lid. Maybe it can be your spouse, but really, the person who is always there whenever you get angry...is your kid. So one idea is to get your child(ren) on board and let them know, "If mommy is getting angry or flying off the handle and you think I've crossed the line, it's okay to tell me." My kids do this with me, and they reference the end of James 1:19: My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. So when mommy goes nutso, the little darlings will remind me, "Mommy, slow to be angry..." and MOST of the time, that's all it takes for me to come back down to Earth and remember to breathe, and that getting angry is incredibly counterproductive. 

3. Give yourself grace

Please remember that parenting is hard, and there's no way to do it perfectly. Even the PTA mom or your 4th cousin or whoever that you think is just mom of the year, goes to bed questioning herself as a mom. It's tough stuff. We are doing the best we can, and the amazing thing is, IT IS ENOUGH. If your kids know that you love them, it is enough. One bad moment doesn't make you a bad mom. Please, give yourself grace and forgive yourselves. And do not underestimate the power of the words, "I'm sorry." If you have lost your temper, it's a powerful gesture to go to your children and apologize for what you said or did.

I speak more about these three tips in greater detail in the video, so please give it a look and let me know what you think. Be sure to visit and like my Facebook page, as that's where the videos will be posted with the most regularity and timeliness!

 

When Bedtime Seems Far Away

I'm just going to state the obvious, but here's the thing, we love our children. We love them with an undeniable, my-heart-could-burst-out-of-my-chest type of unconditional love. We love the baby giggles, toddler artwork, and hugs and kisses no matter the age. But at the same time, it's hard. It's hard to be “on” all the time. Hard to be in a nonstop good mood when your day has been filled with spit up, dirty diapers, spilled cereal, sibling squabbles, and lost shoes.

There are days that seem to last forever, with one hectic moment after the other. Questions race through your mind as the day goes on. Am I a bad mom? Why is this so hard? Will it ever be bedtime?

Will it ever be bedtime? Some days it seems like that beautiful hour will never arrive.

In an effort to remind myself, and any other mom who might need this reaffirmation, here are a few truths to keep in mind on those days when bedtime when seems so far away.


You are their everything

It's hard to be everything to everyone, I know this. But in our children's’ eyes, we are just that: their everything. Especially at the baby stage, they're not manipulating us and trying to give us a hard time. They're having a hard time themselves. There’s not a lot they can do on their own. So we rise to the challenge and even though we’re drained and spent and any other synonym that means tired down to the bone, we continue to be their everything.  

We are the doctors-the cleaners of vomit and kissers of boo boos.

We are the teachers-the singers of the alphabet and readers of bedtime stories.

We are the chefs-the makers of pancakes and slicers of sandwiches.

We are the counselors-the givers of hugs and soothers who calm.

We are the mamas, and we are their everything.

As much as it is a challenge, it is also our reward. And it won’t be this way forever. They will not always need us in this way. And sure, we can look forward to those days in some ways, but also take comfort in the here and now, in the fact that we are so deeply needed by someone who loves us so much.


The days are long but the years are short

When I was pregnant for the first time and when my first son was a newborn, so many people told me “Enjoy every moment. Time flies by.” Yes, I'm sure it does, I thought, but I didn't really take it in. Then I became a parent. And you know what? Although the pros far outweigh the cons, I’d be a gigantic liar if I said I enjoyed every single moment. I haven’t enjoyed the long stretches of sleep deprivation, the blow out dirty diapers, or the tantrums in public. And that’s okay. There is a lot of pressure on moms to “enjoy every moment” and we get caught in a trap of thinking that if we dislike any moment, we must be a bad mom. But no, even a saint would snap at the trials of motherhood. But while the day to day presents many challenges, the years truly do fly by, and I often have to remind myself of that fact. All of a sudden, my first newborn baby is in first grade. My second newborn baby is ready for preschool and is asking me to practice addition facts from the backseat of the van, and my third newborn, who I swear was JUST born a few weeks ago, tells elaborate stories and wipes her own butt now (amen to that, let me tell you). I think to myself, When did all of this happen? And HOW, when many days seemed so long and never ending?

My guess it that it took place in the moments when I was looking the other way, pulling my hair out, going crazy and wondering when parenting would start to get easier. I look back now, baffled that time has gone by with such alarming speeds. And I remind myself not to wish the time away too quickly, because the years truly do fly by all on their own.


Let them know

When you're feeling a little worse for the wear, let them know that you still love them, even when you're upset. Even when you're tired. Even when you're not acting very lovable yourself. Tell them every day. That you love them. That they are smart, kind, and helpful. That grown ups make mistakes too and that you're sorry you flew off the handle. Sorry is a heavy word and sometimes very difficult to say, but it's incredibly powerful for a child to hear that grown ups make mistakes too. They don't have to live their entire lives feeling the pressure to be perfect because they understand that we all fall short and need to seek forgiveness. So, if that's what you feel like you need to say, then let them know.


Mamas, this gig is hard. The hardest there is. And sometimes, bedtime does seem so very far away. But remember:

  • Let them know you still love them.
  • The days are long but the years are short.
  • You are their everything.

And most importantly:

You are a good mom, and you are not alone. We all have those never ending days where we have breathed a huge sigh of relief when the stories have been read, teeth have been brushed, and that hour has finally arrived. As much as we love our babies, there’s nothing wrong with loving bedtime too.

The One With the Viral Facebook Post

Whew, it's been quite a week, and it's only half over! I wanted to write this post to collect my thoughts on a few posts I made on my personal facebook page earlier this week, one of which has gone viral-ish. I admit I don't know exactly what qualifies as viral, but the fact that it has over 1,200 shares right now is pretty exciting to me! 

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