Happy New Year everyone! Soon, I will be posting about new year resolutions for myself, my marriage and my family...
However, with that said - one of my goals for this upcoming year is to really focus on the blog and encouraging moms who are in the thick of it...So, I will start with this post. Please leave a comment, and I would be thrilled to visit you and follow you back.
Before I had kids I would watch Super Nanny in utter disgust.
"My children will never be like those kids. My children will obey and be respectful always - because I will be the best parent ever."
Then I had kids.
And my kids are good. And they do obey. And they are respectful. Just not always.
See, the funny thing about my kids that I didn't factor into the equation before I had children, is that they are in fact kids.
And the other thing I did not factor into the equation before I had children, is that I have no clue what I am doing and quite honestly am just trying my best, but am no where near being the best parent ever.
Anyway, so Super Nanny has all of these really great suggestions. One of which she gives to moms who are at home all day with their children, is a schedule.
So, I have a handy dandy little schedule that I have posted on my dining room wall.
And it's been there for almost two years.
And I have followed it for a total of, maybe, four days.
I don't know why I'm not more consistent about it...well, ok, I'm lazy.
Well, not really lazy, but following a schedule is hard. Following a schedule takes planning and forethought and determination and a plan. Following a schedule does not allow for me to sit at the computer aimlessly while my children play "survival of the fittest."
But, unfortunately, Super Nanny is right. When I follow a schedule, my children are actually human. They play nicer, they speak kinder, they engage longer. My children, when following a schedule, are more like the imaginary children that I envisioned before I had them (although, those children were always clean and never spoke in an ungodly decibel.)
So, it's been crazy here especially with Christmas and Lily's birthday and just the general mood of our home (for goodness sake, this blog is called THE JOYFUL JUNGLE) and I have been just winging it more than usual. And it seems that since I have been winging it, my house is more jungle-y that normal, and not as joyful as usual. So yesterday, I determined that I would do the schedule as my last attempt at any glimpse of sanity.
My children were great...mostly.
I didn't raise my voice...hardly.
My kid didn't fight...much.
We played pretend, they played board games, we ate for a designated time instead of all day, and the joy returned.
Praise the Lord!!!!!!!
I mean it makes sense...really, it does. When you are working at a "real" job (you know, the kind you get paid for) when you have a plan for your day you are more productive. When there are goals and time frames and deadlines you must meet, you get more done. If you want to get paid, you produce.
For some reason, I don't often look at being a stay at home mom with the same outlook as I did when I had a job. I mean possibly, quite possibly, if I approached my day hoping to achieve something other than just survival - our days would be greater, more productive, happier. And although I don't get paid (seriously, can't the government figure out a way to pay stay at home moms) I do get better behavior out of it and a happier home.
Do you look at your role as a mom as a job or do you approach it with the "fly by the seat of your pants" mentality? Does your family have a schedule - do you actually follow it or is it more of a decoration like mine generally is?
So after nap time, it's lunch - and then go somewhere time (ya, that's totally and completely for my benefit and mental sanity) however, today it is a blizzard outside so we may just have to pretend to go somewhere...maybe Hawaii?
On Sunday, the sermon was about preparing for the King. The pastor talked about how Levi (Matthew) prepared a grand banquet for Jesus. He knew that Jesus was the King and so he prepared for a king. Then he talked about how a pharisee invited Jesus over for dinner, and gave him no special treatment.
On Saturday, we will be celebrating our King. The pastor asked us if our families make Christmas about the King, preparing a grand banquet for Him or do we just invite him over for dinner and have him sit at the kiddie table?
I have been struggling to figure out how to really teach my children that Christmas is amazing - because we are celebrating the King and yet we get all the gifts. When I heard this sermon, I was motivated - this Christmas was going to be about Jesus!
So, fast forward to yesterday (well, one day later...) we needed some Christmas music. Don't get me wrong, I love Frosty and Rudolph, snow and pretty packages. I love Santa coming to town (it's a great behavior modification tool) and chestnuts roasting by the open fire. However, those things exist because Christmas exists...Christmas does not exist for those things. So, I found a station on line that played real Christmas music, you know - the ones about Bethlehem and silent nights, angels singing and the faithful adoring Him? That, my friends, set the tone.
And surprisingly, even for my kids whose favorite songs are Jingle Bells and Rudolph, their attitude became more reverent when hearing songs about Baby Jesus...they even know how miraculous it all is. And then I huddled my kids and told them we needed to get ready.
"To celebrate the King!"
"The King? A King is coming to our house?"
"Well, Christmas is about what?"
"Well, we are going to celebrate Jesus' birthday on Saturday, and shouldn't we get our home ready to celebrate for Him? If he walked into our home right now, do you think He would feel like we really prepared for Him, or do you think He would feel like He really isn't a big deal?"
"He would think we don't care. But we do! We better start cleaning!"
My kids began running around the house - picking up toys, cleaning walls, washing the fridge, even organizing the silverware and utensil drawers! The house needed to get ready for the King!
So - after the house was clean and the kids were feeling a little tired, but even more excited than when we had begun, they looked at me. "What about the outside Mommy?"
"The outside of what?"
"We need to hang lights! Jesus needs to know we are ready to have a party! Jesus needs to see our house!!!"
Wait right there - we don't do lights. Not that I am against lights, but Dave works all the time, and hanging up lights with the kids at my feet does not seem like an enjoyable holiday tradition. But in that moment, when they were all making a very legitimate point, I agreed: We must hang up lights outside - because, after all, we are preparing for the King!
So, now that my kids are napping, I will go hang up lights. Thankfully Jesus will look at my heart and not at my ability to hang up lights!
On the docket today:
1. Dr. appointment for yet ANOTHER ear infection (Luke this time). This time it was so bulging that it was about to burst. He had some really scientific medical terminology for it - but "super bad ear infection, good thing you brought him in right away" would have worked just fine.
2. To the store to get yet another bottle of antibiotics for my poor boy - but I think we finally found one that doesn't tear up their system and make them beg for the pain of the infection over taking medicine (I know you all want to know what it is, so just ask and I will share my discovery...ooh, and it's only once a day!). No car carts were available (simply because they were being used by all the mom's with 1 child...yes, I know your little kid probably wants to "drive," but seriously people, this is key to my survival. Throw your kid in a regular cart and give them paper plates and tell 'em it's a steering wheel. I'm joking...not really, but moving on) The pharmacy gives balloons to all the kids which in theory would be absolutely fabulous, but in reality my kids start fighting over which color and how many they get and become quite unruly. Anyway, long story short they all try to blow up their balloons in the store and pierce holes through them with their teeth. Crying ensues. Happy day.
3. Build gingerbread houses. Ya, ya, I know I'm crazy. So crazy in fact that I just spent eleven dollars to buy a "gingerbread choo choo train" for it to crumbling before our eyes as we made it. The kids were sad, but quite elated when I threw my hands up in the air and told them to just go crazy and eat all they could in ten minutes. So, now onto homemade ones - well, homemade for me. Chocolate milk boxes with graham crackers on them covered with (good) frosting and (good) candy. Hopefully these will be better...if not, hopefully they will at least taste better.
4. Make a super hero cave for Luke in his room. Yes, so fun. For Luke it's an awesome little hide away. For me, it's going to be my tool for him to use when he gets angry and needs to escape before he makes bad choices with his words or his hands. My precious, tender hearted, kind, loving little boy gets quite frustrated very quickly and needs some outlet...that wont get him into major trouble. So super hero cave it is. Let's pray my tent making ability triples in size before they wake from nap.
5. Finish Christmas shopping...and maybe get a quiet dinner at my favorite Greek restaurant ever (well, my favorite restaurant period) thanks to some great friends. I'm relieved that we successfully pulled off a party for Lily making her feel like a queen, and now we have successfully done Christmas on an incredibly tight budget this year. However, I'm still racking my brain on how we as a family can make it about Jesus as a whole instead of cramming the nativity story wherever we can find time. I want our kids to be grateful and not greedy...hmmm, still pondering.
6. Frosty the Snowman is on tonight and we will let our kids stay up and watch. Popcorn and hot chocolate perhaps? Tis the season, so probably.
On days like today, when it's relatively calm but just very full, I'm so thankful that God gave me the life He did. I love my kids. I love my husband. I love God - and right now, I'm so thankful that He gave us Jesus so we could celebrate each year such an amazing miracle.
Have you ever been able to recollect a feeling from an event? Like the actual physical response you had to an experience?
When the doctor said that Dave had MS - I remember that feeling...that overtook my body.
Tonight a long time friend is in major physical peril. There is major swelling on his spine and he is losing feeling in his body. They need to do emergency surgery, but they cannot proceed unless the swelling goes down, which he is on steroids to help that process.
But the waiting.
He is worried about providing for his family - an honorable man.
His wife is just worried about him - a loving and gracious wife.
So we pray.
Lily has a little friend that she really wants to come to her party on Saturday. But he had surgery a couple of weeks ago, and from what I gather he got an infection from the surgery and it landed his precious little 2 year old self back in the hospital.
Tonight, as I picked the twins up from Cubbies I informed them that Lily's other little friends has RSVP'd and would be coming to the party. They were very excited. Then they quickly followed with, "Is Rio coming (they know Lily's affinity towards Rio) and I explained to them that Rio may still be sick.
Instead of worrying, instead of being scared for Rio, instead of pondering the what if's and the why's, they just told me to turn the music down and they both began to pray. They prayed their little hearts out, the most genuine humble little prayers I have ever heard them pray, for a little boy they had never met - because if Lily loves him, so should they.
My children inspired me.
So tonight, I am going to sleep and before I close my eyes I am going to pray. A humble, heartfelt, genuine prayer for a man I haven't seen in 17 years - because God loves him, and so do I.
Last night, as I was frantically loading the kids up in the van to get them out of the cold darkness, I was questioning why I really needed to go to the store.
I mean, come on, was it really necessary that we get eggs and milk...tonight? Couldn't we wait?
But no, we couldn't and so after loading the kids up and getting their seat belts all on I went inside to grab my keys. They were missing.
So, twenty minutes later and now a majorly frazzled mama, we found the keys (hidden in my son's night stand, mind you) and headed to the store.
We parked the car, I gave the kids the normal "be good or else" lecture and we headed in. Emma was looking at all the magical lights and the Christmas wreaths they have on sale when she stepped on Lily's heel. Lily then proceeded to fall flat on her face and cut her knee open. She was screaming, Emma was crying, Luke was asking me close to a million questions and baby Will well, he just sat there on my hip holding on for dear life. I picked Lily off the parking lot ground and ran into the store.
The car carts (which are absolutely necessary for a trip to the store for my little family...it keeps them all contained) were all gone. So the baby got thrown in the basket, Lily up top and the twins got to walk. Why do parents who have a choice let their children walk? Seriously, walking children are less than desirable.
After getting Lily a band aid we got all our groceries as we rubbed and bumped into everything since I am 2 carts wide when I have walking children (oy, the walking children) and by the time I made it to the check out lane I was more than ready to escape store land.
As I was loading my groceries onto the belt I heard Lily scream on the top of her lungs which is about as loud as a fire siren, "SANTA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (yes people, I exaggerate not, she held this for at least 10 seconds)"
I quickly turned my head, and there he was - incognito, kind of. Santa had jeans on, a red puffy jacket, and his hat. When he heard Lily, he quickly turned his head and gave her a quick wave and as quickly as he appeared he was gone from the store. However, this fact did not tame my children's wild proclamations to the world that they just saw the real Santa not the "beef and cheese" Santa, but the real Santa (name that movie.)
There was an older woman who was humored by my children's excitement and fascination, when Lily looked at her, put her hands out and screamed in a "why aren't you freaking out too, Lady?!" type of voice, "SANTA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" The lady smiled, and gently replied, "Yes, Santa! How exciting!!!"
The cashier gave me my receipt and we ran to see if we could find Santa. But he was gone.
So we ran out and asked the bell ringer if he had seen Santa leave. Without pause, he informed them that he had in fact seen Santa leave and fly off with his reindeer! The screams that had momentarily subsided returned with full vigor, "OH MY GOSH!!! HIS REINDEER! THAT'S CRAZY!!!"
Please note, that regardless of our wardrobe our family would have been the center of attention last night in the store, but to add to all the adventure, Luke had his Spiderman costume on (mask and all) because that's the way we roll. Oh yes, we were quite the sight.
We started out to our car and my kids had a barrage of questions for me.
Why was Santa at the store? To get groceries of course, before he went to the North Pole. Where was Ms. Clause? Baking cookies for Santa - she asked him for the groceries.
Does he take his reindeer everywhere? Yes, he doesn't need a car.
That man with the elf hat, was he really an elf? No, he was a manager with an elf hat on.
Can we go back and hug him? No, maybe next time (wouldn't that be kinda weird?)
Let's go home and tell Buddy (our elf on the shelf) that Santa is bringing groceries to the North Pole! Ok!
As I loaded the kids up in the van to go home and I handed them my phone so they could begin to call everyone and tell them what they had just experienced, I couldn't help but feel a little magic myself.
My house is a disaster, yet again - Monday's are always the worst because it's after Dave's been home for the weekend and all routine goes out the door to spend the greatest amount of time with Daddy. I look around, and granted there are a COUPLE of messes due to me (like my gym shoes out and my jacket draped over the chair) but the mass of the disaster is due to our little tax exemptions.
In my futile mind I think, "If you make it, you clean it."
Apparently, I am incorrect in my logic since reality at my home is, "If you make it, Mom will clean it."
So, this is how it typically goes - regardless of what clever idea or strategy I have up my sleeve, it always ends up here:
"YOU MADE THIS MESS! CLEAN IT! I SHOULDN'T HAVE TO CLEAN UP YOUR MESS! (please be aware that this is after at least thirty minutes of trying to persuade my children that cleaning will better their lives and they may become president if they know how to clean their home...they don't buy it either)"
"But you are our mommy, and this mess is too deep and too high for us to clean. Maybe the Cat in the Hat could help us clean."
"Ya cute, but the Cat in the Hat is pretend, and your little hands need to start picking up. Besides, why is it always this messy?"
"Because we love to play. We love to have fun with each other. We are all best friends. Isn't that good, Mommy?"
"Well, yes it's good - but it would be even better if you could love each other, play and be best friends in a clean home."
"It's just too much. Will you please help us? (Which let me translate for you - Will you please do it ALL while we follow you and make a mess in your trail?)
"I AM HELPING - I AM DOING IT ALL!"
"Well, you are our mommy, and you love us."
So, here's my debacle. What is a reasonable expectation for four year olds when it comes to cleaning? I don't feel like I'm asking them to do anything unreasonable by picking up all their messes. But perhaps I am.
Perhaps, in many areas I have unrealistic expectations with my kids.
We all know (whether or not we actually do this, who knows) that unrealistic expectations in marriage is a relationship killer. If I expected my husband to get me a card and roses and perhaps a nice gift for every meaningful event during the year, I would be thoroughly let down all year long (um, Dave...if you are reading this - I have officially put it in writing, please refer to this post on Valentines. Moving on...) So, in my immense maturity, I have come to understand that it's just not likely and to try as hard as I can to be grateful that my hubby is coming home to me after working for me all day to love me and our kids. I suppose that should be enough, but I digress...
With unrealistic expectations, their is constant frustration and struggle and hurt feelings and even anger. With unmet expectations, a disconnect can happen and a thought of, "You don't meet my needs," can creep in.
So, what about those expectations with kids?
I admit, I have no expectations for Will. He's the baby. Ya, ya, I know he's almost a year and a half but he's my baby so I tend to treat him like he's a helpless infant. I know this will get me in trouble later, but lay off people...But at 16 months, he seems like a baby. At 16 months with the twins, I was about to have Lily and they seemed so much bigger. They seemed so much older. I think I required more of them, definitely more of them than Will and perhaps even Lily.
Why is that? Do I expect them to act like 4 year olds, or do I expect them to act like peers and get frustrated when they act like children?
Well, I would like input people. Do you think you expect what is age appropriate from your children? Or do you secretly expect maturity out of your kids, and get disappointed when your expectations aren't met?
I would like to say I am the former, but the more I really put the magnifying glass up to the issues we face daily, I must admit that I am the latter.
And of course, in true Lily fashion, she has shown me in the last week that I haven't even tasted what the "trying 3's" are - because Lord knows, she will put Luke and Emma and their third year to shame.
She's right. I'm toast.
This week I have fought and lost my temper like I have never before with anyone and I have to admit (embarrassingly enough) that it was with my almost 3 year old. And even worse, it was over a sippy cup. She had two purple cups and wasn't willing to share with her baby brother because she wanted two purple cups, obviously and I was being incredibly mean because I was forcing her to let her brother have one. Yes, ridiculous I know - but alas, World War 3 broke out in our home that day and it wasn't a pretty sight.
When I first became a mom, all I heard about was the terrible 2's. Then when Luke and Emma were close to 3, then all the parents began to tell me the harsh reality that 3 is even worse than 2. One parent told me that 4 was when it became easy, but they were proven completely and utterly wrong when I had two four year olds in my house and was overwhelmingly outnumbered by 2 four year olds who KNOW EVERYTHING (just ask them.) Bit Lily, despite the delight that she normally is, has proven over and over and over again that two of the twins don't even come close to what one Lily can do.
You know, she was a surprise...the best surprise in my entire life, but a surprise none the less. I mean, I should have known from the beginning that she wasn't going to fit into any mold that was placed on her. We had the twins with the help of IVF and a month before I got pregnant with Lily I visited my doctor once again. He reassured me that I in fact still could not have children without the help of fertility treatments of some sort and that birth control was just not an issue I needed to worry my pretty little head about (ok, he didn't say pretty little head, but it's more fun to imagine that it went that way) Anyway, low and behold one month later I swung by my mom's house one morning with my nine month old twins (yes, 9 months - God must have known that I was mentally stable enough to undergo that task - ha!) and smelled the eggs that were cooking and gagged. I just knew I was pregnant.
Six pregnancy tests later, there was no denying that I was in fact pregnant.
Grand, I tell you.
Dave had just bought a brand new truck and was questioning if he should keep it. So that morning (before the gagging and the 6 pregnancy tests) he decided he would ask his boss for a raise and if he got one, he would keep the truck. If not, it would go back to the dealership for a more economical vehicle. When he got home that night, he was thrilled. We sat down to eat dinner, and he was so excited to tell me that his boss said yes. They decided to give him a ten percent raise! I sat there choking down my food, as all I could think about when he was telling me this was that we needed to get rid of the truck and get a minivan. Poor Dave.
As he finished telling me about his glorious day, he then looked over and said, "How was your day?"
"Um, it was fine, um, the babies were good, um, I'm pregnant."
"No,no,no,no,no,no,no." It couldn't be, how could this happen, we just spent fifteen thousand dollars to do IVF and now we are pregnant again?! It wasn't until we had our first ultrasound a few days later that it sunk in...for me - I think when she was born, he realized it was real, that she was real - that she in fact, was going to take our family by storm and be a force to be reckoned with, and one of the biggest best blessings we would ever be given.
Oh, this little girl. She makes us laugh so hard. She is funny, and smart. She is strong-willed to say the least (not in the stubborn sense, but in the real strong-willed sense) and she doesn't veer from the path that she is on.
Oh Lily, you have my heart little girl - and if only I could figure out how to not let you win EVERY SINGLE argument we engage in.
No matter how hard we tried, we couldn't remember.
We remembered one, but we knew there were so many more and yet, we couldn't remember a single one.
The only reason we remembered the one we did is because we consistently trip over it as it is never upright anymore - laying haphazardly in the middle of the girls' room.
Dumb plastic makeup table.
But the other presents, the hundreds and hundreds of dollars we spent, have faded into distant memory and into the depths of the toy closet to never be played with.
Which brought us to our conversation the other night as we were Christmas shopping yet again for more toys we knew would find their fate at the bottom of the toy closet.
This year, money is an issue. Ok, who are we kidding? Money is ALWAYS an issue, but this year we actually have to pay attention and stick to a budget. This new reality doesn't bother me in the least, mostly - but it does bother my husband. He would love to have the bottom of the tree filled with toys and treasures for our whole family. He would enjoy bringing boxes and boxes filled with things over to his family's regular get together. But this year, it will be handmade presents and baked goods. This year, if you are an adult you probably won't be getting a present. Darn recession...darn job instability.
So we were talking about it as all good couples do and then we tried to remember all the things we bought for our children last year.
It was a pretty good indicator that things and stuff don't make Christmas. Things and stuff are fun, but they aren't memories. Our oldest are only four - we still have time to set a precedent in our family that Christmas is about giving and celebrating that Jesus was born, not about getting and having so much that we never even touch the things we do have.
So, this year - our kids are getting one big thing. This year, their one big thing will be something that highlights who they are - not just what toy they think is really cool.
Luke loves to draw - this year he is getting art supplies that will encourage his passion for drawing.
Emma wants to be a doctor and loves everything pediatrician - this year she is getting a real stethoscope (purple too!) and a book all about our bodies and how they work.
Lily loves being a mommy and being the boss - this year she is getting a baby doll so she can take care of and boss that baby around to her heart's content.
And baby Will, well, he is getting a truck. A really big truck. But he's one - I don't know what he wants to be when he grows up...yet.
So, in as much as I would love to spoil my children with endless amounts of stuff that won't ever get played with beyond Christmas, we are resisting this year and focusing on the real meaning of Christmas.
And, I think that's a blessing.
This Christmas is your budget tighter than before? Are you being creative in the gifts you get for your loved ones? Or are you able to indulge this year? I would love to hear!
I have a slight issue with all of you - ok, most of you.
Let's get something straight - I am not 16 (but thank you for suggesting that I am) and yes all four of my kids belong to me and my husband. Yeppers, a traditional family. You look at me and gawk as if you have never seen a family with such copious amounts of children, yet I know that you undeniably have.
Also, I would much rather you reply to my children saying hi at least 23 gazillion million quadrillion times to you than have you inform me that I "have a cart load." Yes, I know it's shocking, but I am quite aware of the 150 pounds of children that I have just pushed across an entire parking lot (through snow, mind you) to buy 6 things. Yes, six things. If you would like for my children to look at me with their cherub faces and say, "Wow he/she was very nice," then please respond. However, if you only tell me the obvious that we are all very much aware of and neglect to be kind to my children, they will indeed look at me with their little cherub faces and say, "Wow Mama, that person was not very nice...they were rude."
My kids call it as they see it...so do I suppose - the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
Additionally, I agree with you on this point: Loud, obnoxious children screaming for things are just that: Loud and obnoxious. However, children who are happy and laughing in a controlled environment (such as the entirely too large grocery CAR that I am pushing with all 4 of my kids in it) are happy and laughing. If you are miserable and can't handle people being positive about life - I am sorry. I hope you find happiness, however we will not allow your bad attitude to effect ours. So your dirty looks will not make my children be less happy because at this point they still assume that ALL people are as happy as they are.
One last thing...when you see me struggling to push my HUGE LOAD as you put it through the parking lot - I would much appreciate it if instead of staring at me and just watching me struggle, you jump in and help me.
And to the one woman who did just that today with a smile - my kids are still talking about how kind you are. Thank you.
(You know, that lady with "Quite the cart full")
I went on a very romantic date last night - with another man.
As soon as my date saw me he told me I was beautiful. Then he hugged me and told me I smelled pretty.
When we were on our way to the restaurant, and I asked my date what music he would like to listen to, he replied, "What would you like to listen to?"
My date was quite the gentleman.
My date was with a 4 year old...my son Luke.
Last Christmas my husband took Emma on their first date. They both dressed up and he took her out on the town. Needless to say, she is super excited about their upcoming one in a few weeks, and Lily will be going on her first date this year as well. But Luke and I have never done anything just the two of us that was really special. And I thought it was about time.
I could tell you all the details but throughout the night my heart was exploding with pride and love for my little boy who was so loving, and polite and gentlemanly. He opened doors for me, waited for me to sit first, used his manners correctly in all situations, and was so excited to hold my hand the whole night.
Sometimes as a mommy I get lost in the muck and mire of discipline, correction, and training. Sometimes I feel the only word out of my mouth is "no" all day long. Sometimes I feel like I haven't been able to truly connect with any one of my children all day long. But then I have moments like the one I had last night, and I am reminded that I have the best profession in the whole world.
All I can say is this...whoever he marries, she is going to be one lucky lady!
This may be the longest we have waited in years...yes, last year it was up right after Halloween and the year before that, it was up the first week in October.
We watch Christmas movies all year long and so when the season finally starts catching up to our excitement about Christmas, we can't hold off from decorating.
And yes, my kids who completely understand that the whole reason we even get presents on Christmas is because it's Jesus' birthday and Santa just gives us all of Jesus' presents because Jesus is so cool (ya, culture and faith totally mixed up into one giant conglomeration...don't judge me) Anyway - they are already calling Santa (who happens to be my older brother who lives in California...you didn't know we were related, did you?) telling him what they want for Christmas.
Let me take this brief moment to make this ABUNDANTLY clear - I will not be buying, or allowing my children to accept any doll that pees, poops, or cries. I have enough of that in my house as it is...let's continue, shall we?
Usually we go from the excitement of the sugar intoxication from Halloween right to the excitement of Christmas, and Thanksgiving just falls into there somewhere - we eat turkey and call it good and get on to the real holiday. But this year, I decided it would be different.
This year, I wanted our children - well, and Dave and I too, to really be thankful for all the things we have to be thankful for.
It seems as though so many people are just ungrateful now. Maybe it's my generation that feels we are entitled to everything we want and we are angry when we don't get it. Maybe it's the false belief that if you love God enough He will give you everything you want and when He doesn't we think something is wrong with God. Maybe it's because we are constantly bombarded with reminders of all the things we DON'T have that we MUST have or we just aren't up to cultural standards...I don't know, but regardless of what the reason may be, it seems as a culture we have lost our grateful hearts.
Currently there is a commercial for a car company where there is a young boy who is talking about his parents and how "nerdy" they are because they drive an old van - and how you too can be cool if only you buy this new 37k SUV. I cringe every time I see that - for a couple reasons:
1. Little boy, you will be thankful your parents drive that old nerdy van when you want to do something that costs money and your parents actually have money to do it instead of paying 500 dollars a month for a car payment (sorry, that's my Dave Ramsey follower coming out)
2. Little boy, you should be grateful that your parents have a vehicle. Be grateful for what you have.
We noticed that our kids were starting to be that way about certain things, not big things, but regardless - it needed to be addressed and stopped immediately.
They want things to be fair, they want the coolest toys, they want stuff now, they are learning the gross art of discontentment and they are only four. So now I've explained to them that there are people out there who don't have anything. I've explained to them that there are people out there who have everything and aren't thankful for what they do have. I've explained to them that Daddy works hard for what we have and we need to be appreciative and grateful that we have clothes on our bodies and a roof over our head and toys to be played with and food in our tummies. And our kids, by in large are getting it...with reminders...frequently.
So, this year as a November activity for us to focus on Thanksgiving and all that we have to be grateful for - I decided to do a Thankful tree.
I drew a large tree trunk (because I'm such a wonderful artist, ha ha ha) and then I cut out what seemed to be about 100 leaves out of construction paper we had lying around. Each day, Dave and I and the three oldest kids are writing what we are thankful for that day.
It's interesting to see their answers. I'm thankful that primarily their responses have been people, and their needs being met, and only just a few "things" have made their way up to the tree.
I know in the economy right now, it is so easy to focus on what we don't have. It's easier to see the glass half empty sometimes than it is to search out those things for which we should be so grateful for.
But I challenge you - take a deep breath. Slow down this season. Focus on those things in your life that you can be grateful for. I am confident you will have more than you even know.
Enjoy Thanksgiving this year - make it a thankful Thanksgiving.
No, four days doesn't sound like a lot - but, it is.
I would suck being a hunter's widow, that's for sure.
So, Dave wrote on the calendar "Dave's Gone" through the days he would be on his trip, and jokingly (but not really) I put "AKA Melissa Goes Insane."
Yes, I had high hopes for this week of single parenting as you can tell.
But, I'm here to report: We are ALL still alive. Not only are we all still alive, but the kids were actually really good...for the most part.
I implemented at the beginning of the week the marble motivator. He or she who earns the most marbles at the end of the week, gets to pick a fun family activity of their choice for everyone to do.
That my friends, has worked awesome. Marbles = Currency for a 4 year old. I give it two weeks of being fantastically effective...but I will take what I can get.
But on Wednesday we had a miracle day...maybe not miracle, but one in which I went "WOW! I am the one who sets the tone of our family..."
Tuesday was insane. Daddy had left and the kids were crazy, I lost my phone (which happens to me pretty frequently so that didn't even really ruffle my feathers) and my house went from being really clean to a tornado scene just a few short hours later. The kids were fighting, I was yelling, and EVERYONE was grumpy.
But then they went to sleep easily. And the baby slept all night long. And I got to throw away a bunch of crap that I have been putting off because I would rather sit on the couch with Dave at night then be productive. Wednesday morning came, and Mommy was re-energized (which doesn't happen all too often!)
So, that morning I gathered my kids together and told them I wanted to make them a promise. I promised, regardless of their behavior, that I would not yell that day. I promised that I would use my nice Mommy voice all day to the best of my ability because I wanted to have a good day and I really didn't like yelling. I promised my change in behavior to them without them needing to promise anything back. See, that morning I walked by the wall in our playroom that has had this gigantic five foot quote up for almost two years by Dr. Seuss, "You have brains in your head, you have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose." And I realized, that regardless of their behavior, my behavior needed to emulate Jesus, maturity, and love. And for months now, I have been excusing my behavior as the effect of their choices. But Wednesday morning, I realized after reading that quote, that I needed to be the instigator of the behavior not the responder.
When I made my promise to the kids, Luke and Emma lit up. They were so excited that they were going to have a day without a grumpy mommy. So excited in fact, that they proceeded to promise to me, "Mommy, I promise to not be bad today." "Mommy, I promise to listen the first, or maybe the second time...but I won't make you say anything eleventeen times."
But in that moment, I knew that regardless of their end of the bargain, I would keep mine.
And I did.
At six o'clock, the baby had pulled the plug to the computer so many times that the computer had to restore itself (which sounded like a much bigger problem than it actually was) and I raised my voice...slightly. And my kids, who had been angels all day, looked at me with sad eyes and said, "You broke your promise."
I immediately dropped to my knees so I could look at them eye to eye and asked for forgiveness. And they were so excited to give it. I didn't excuse my behavior, I didn't blame them, I just took total responsibility and the kids were really responsive.
Then it was bed time. And the kids went down easily. And the baby slept all night. And I woke up re-energized...to Lily screaming. And I reacted. And our day was not wonderful like Wednesday...I was not intentional. I was not on the offensive, I was playing defense ALL.DAY.LONG.
So, lesson learned this week...Behavior motivators like marbles are awesome. But what's even more effective is a fulfilled promise of good behavior from Mommy.
And Dave comes home tonight...thank God.
This single parenting thing is for the birds...well, and the way stronger moms than me.
So, I don't take back ANYTHING I said in my previous post.
I think it's important to stay at home and take care of your children. I think it's hard work, and should NEVER be considered as a lesser choice than continuing to work while you raise children.
With that said, please let me make something abundantly clear:
I think there is a grand difference between those who continue to work after they have children so they can pay their rent and put gas in their cars and those who work so they can continue having lots and lots of money and the best things.
Big difference...in my opinion.
The lady I spoke of in my previous post was of the latter mindset and it irks me when she makes comments how due to new positions, she has an extra hour at home now in the evenings and her children are "lucky" for that extra hour they have...wow, 3.75 hours instead of 2.75 hours...yes, they should be grateful.
Ok, enough about her.
However, I fear I stepped on toes of those who are like my mom was.
My mom had to work, and I had to be in daycare. I NEVER once thought my mom loved me less because I had to go to La Petite every day. Nope...not once. It was my mom and me against the world, and my mom was doing what she had to do so that I could eat, have a roof over my head and not once know or even question our economic standing well into high school.
I remember my mom when I was four, not my day care. I have some memories of day care, but they are foggy to say the least.
She did what she had to do, and I don't fault her for that.
So, yes - I know there are moms out there who ache to be at home with their kids all day and yet have to work so they can support their families. I know there are moms out there who would love to stay at home but because of extenuating circumstances, they just can't.
I totally get it.
But those who can't bare to think of staying at home with their children because it would steal away their identity, or because they would lose purpose, or because quite frankly they must afford the payment for their 75,000 vehicle...I don't understand. I don't get it. I can't even pretend to agree with that decision.
See the huge difference between my mom and the ladies I just described, is that I was of utmost importance to her. Even though she worked from 8-5, when she got home, there was no confusion as to why she was working: me. That's why, quite possibly, I remember my mom and not my day care. But when women have children and then simply because of their desire for stuff throw them into all day child care - are they much more than trophy children?
I have some friends, who will probably be angry with me after this post especially, but really - is the nice stuff more important than your children being with you?
I know we all love our children, I just wonder where they fall in priority.
And I also know, that there are some of you, because of your love for your children are working incredibly hard to provide for them because that's what you have to do - and I admire your strength, and your endurance and your mommy heart...
I don't know why it still bothers me soooooooo much...but it does, oh yes, it does.
When I first had my twins, quit my job and was officially a stay at home mom it seemed like all the morning shows (that I was still able to watch because my babies slept all the time...) had women on there talking about how so many women were sacrificing their own identities, no longer contributing to society in a meaningful, tangible way. They spoke on how women were losing purpose and reasonably were no longer an asset to society because of one factor.
They no longer worked...outside the home...at a real job.
They were moms.
Ya, that made me angry.
So, here I am and it still makes me angry.
I know that I'm a bit different than most moms these days. When I am in groups of moms, I usually am the youngest mom with the most kids. I finished having my kids when I was 28, most of my friends are now 29 and just starting families.
I had a promising career in public speaking (which is hilarious now, since it seems I can barely mutter an intelligible sentence) when I believe with all my heart that God told me it was time I started a family. Had I ignored that prompting, I probably would be very successful (in terms of money) and who knows if I would have had a family by now. Since it was so hard to conceive back when I was 24 - I can only imagine the hurdles I would have to jump now that I am closer to 30. But I didn't ignore God - instead, I listened and met my wonderful hubby two weeks later.
So, all that to say...I chose my life.
And I chose to stay at home with my kids and be with them from the moment they open their beautiful eyes to the moment they lay their precious heads on the pillow at night. I chose to be with them all day long so I can be there for every "first." I chose to be with my children, to hear every whine, deal with every discipline, wipe every snotty nose, change every dirty diaper. I chose this.
I've written about this before, but it's so fresh...you see, a woman has come into my life recently who is older than me. She has a "power career" I suppose and so does her husband. They have a nanny. I of course, in my constant battle to NOT be judgmental, have a few opinions on that myself but as I have matured I have realized that people choose things for different reasons and it's easier in life to just keep my mouth shut and smile (to the best of my ability.) But you see, this woman, does not.
This woman, I am certain, feels about me the same way those talk shows spoke regarding stay at home moms. It is quite clear that I am inferior to her, that her family is superior to mine (for she drives a far better vehicle than mine and I'm sure she lives in a far more glamorous house), that her parenting struggles are so much more complex than mine, and really - life and mothering really must be so much more...well, simple for me.
Week after week after week I have endured this woman's opinions on her life versus mine and have smiled and tried my hardest to let it roll off my back. But the last time, I couldn't...
She was talking about the evening hours, you know, those wonderful peaceful (ha!) hours from dinner to bedtime? She was speaking on how stressful those hours are for her - from the time she picks them up at 5 till she puts them down at 7:45. She then looked at me, with her ever so condescending eyes, and said, "Nights are so hard for us families who work."
ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?
By the time I put my kids to bed I have been with them for thirteen hours. For thirteen hours I have played, been used as a jungle gym, said "no" a gazillion times, disciplined what seems a gazillion times more, changed even more diapers than that, and I get to enjoy all the whining from the moment the slightest twinge of hunger touches their little tummies to the moment they let out their last protest for bed. By bedtime, I am done.
Excuse me ma'am, I must say, nights are so hard for us families who have kids.
And for us simpletons aka stay at home moms - we have had to please the toughest critics all day, teach the most promising students on all things about life, perform for audiences with the shortest attention spans and we don't get a pay check. When my kids go to sleep at night, I don't relax in front of a beautiful huge flat panel tv - instead, I watch tv with rabbit ears on my 27" box tv that is missing buttons. I don't have fancy stuff, wear beautiful clothes, and have high class taste with food and wine. But what I do have? Knowing that my kids know me better than anyone, knowing I know my kids better than anyone. Seeing all their growth instead of having to be told about milestones that were met while I was trying to please other people all day long.
So, while you pursue your career and deal with your kids those not even three hours of the day - I am with my kids all the time and when they go to school and no longer need me every minute of every day...maybe I will pursue my career. But when all is said and done, I am mommy...all the time - and that ma'am, is harder than any power position you may hold...and much more rewarding.
And I am pretty certain that we live here now - and just take short vacations to the land of the healthy...very.short.vacations.
All four kids. And the hubby.
Oh, and my mom who got sick thanks to me (well, really to my children, but I am the one who brings them over there to see her) and landed herself in the hospital because her fever caused her to have a ms attack.
Four sick kids, and the hubby, and my mom.
I'm not sick though.
But because I really enjoy stressing out, I do it very well, and have won all the awards due to my wonderful talent of stressing such as the "Nine year old ulcer" award, and the "TMJ only due to stress" award, oh and my favorite was the "Breaking out in hives for a solid two months" award - I have decided to stress out.
Yes, I know - very logical, right?
So, I win the TMJ award...again.
So, 4 sick kids, and the hubby, and my mom...and a mouth that refuses to open without pain.
Oh, and one of the stressing out awards that I loathe soooooo much is the "Eat like you will never eat again" award. That one rocks. Won that one yesterday.....
And then I realized, well, was reminded of my UNHEALTHY love for food. Stupid unhealthy love for food. I mean when you are addicted to alcohol or drugs...the effect lasts for a little bit. But with food, the enjoyment is gone as soon as you are finished eating. That sucks. So, last night I go to bed with a sweet little reminder that I need to break this stupid addiction to food and I seriously need to stop stressing out.
So, then I have a wonderful dream that lasted ALL.NIGHT.LONG.
And just as a precursor to me telling you this dream, please note that I totally understand there is no medical basis for said dream, so please do not inform me that my dream was medically impossible...it was a dream people.
Ok, so in my dream I'm totally out of shape, and just plain fat. I had been eating (in my usual fashion) but all the junk food made me so sluggish that I decided not to exercise anymore because there was just no point. So, hence my insane obesity...
I could barely keep up with my kids, my husband found me completely unattractive, I was depressed - am I painting a pretty picture here? Ya, it was a great night of sleep last night, let me tell ya'.
Despite my grotesque appearance, I was still behaving the same way when it came to stress...the food just wasn't doing it for me anymore. And my stressing was out of control. It made me that much more unattractive to my hubby, made me a really mean mommy and all in all I was just totally and completely miserable.
Yes, yes, happy Friday everyone...just bare with me.
So, then I get all numb (thank you Dr. Oz show for talking about strokes yesterday (yes, we are 90 and watch the Dr. Oz show) can you do parenthesis within parenthesis?) and tingly...and my body just goes crazy. So I go to the doctor who wasn't Dr. Oz and he tells me I have chronic progressive (the kind that just keeps getting worse and worse and worse) Multiple Sclerosis.
I say, in typical Melissa fashion, "Why?"
And the doctor says, "Because you are fat and stressed. Your body can't maintain the way you live and your behaviors within your life. Have fun telling your family this one." (Can I please say, I would not recommend dream doctor to anyone?)
And I went and told my family.
They weren't sad. They weren't scared. They weren't surprised. They were angry - and let down.
Emma said, "You just loved that ice cream more than me..."
Luke said, "Really, you couldn't just go walking more?"
Dave just looked at me with disgust (which is so not like Dave in case you were all worried) which made it that much more nightmare-ish.
So, today I have not yelled. I have talked quietly, and in the moments when I want to yell because the stress is starting to get to me, I whisper. I have decided that I do love my family, my marriage, my health, my happiness more than food and definitely more than stress (which is really another psycho form of control - and we all know how much I love control).
God made it perfectly clear in the word that worrying does not add any time to our lives, so what's the point? And as much as ice cream always sounds wonderful, the deliciousness of it is gone as soon as the ice cream is consumed unlike being healthy is a reward that is long lasting.
I'm still unnerved by my whole dream, and I know I'm not going to get MS because I like ice cream and I stress really easily, but it was a pretty amazing wake up call to what could be if I didn't get myself into check.
Anyway - on that note...happy Friday. I encourage you to choose your family, your marriage, your health this weekend instead of all the other things that beg for our attention and devotion.
I don't remember the specifics, but it was an Oprah show.
I was newly married and without children (you know, the days when I still went to movies and slept on a regular basis?) and I was visiting with my mom.
The show was about marriage and kids.
Keep in mind, I did NOT have children...yet.
There were women on the show talking to Oprah how hard it was to be a mom - working moms, stay at home moms, just moms in general.
And then, as a special guest (I think it was just some random woman) there was a lady who, get this, loved her husband MORE than her children! I know, shocking.
All the other women berated her, "How can you possibly love your husband more than the precious children you mother?"
As I watched this episode, I sided with the special guest. Of course you should love your husband more...otherwise your kids will be the center of the universe and what happens when your kids grow up?
My mom on the other hand, who had three children, sided with the mob. "Of course you love your children more than your husband...how could you not?"
If I recall, we had quite the discussion that day...and I believe I left that day agreeing to disagree.
Now, 7 years or so later and 4 children later, I agree with...the special guest. Still.
But she made it seem so easy.
I try to love my hubby with all my heart. I try to not let him slip to the back burner. I try to value his conversation and pay total attention to him. I try to give him one hundred percent of me all the time. I try to be understanding of his role as provider. I try, I try, I try.
But I think I fail...often.
I don't know how much of my failure is really me intentionally choosing my kids over Dave and how much of it is pure survival at this stage in life.
When he is trying to tell me about his day, and I quickly run away to save the house from burning down due to a candle that has been intercepted by a toddler (no, really, I do take precautions in my deodorizing my house...but seriously people, don't underestimate the power of an acrobatic toddler)...or when I am trying to make him dinner because I know he skipped lunch to save us money and I completely space it due to my four year olds deciding to "cook" themselves with all my spices (ya, my kids like to cook...possibly a little too much) - I know he feels like he comes last, but really, would he like if I ignored them in these situations and continued tending solely to him? I think not.
But here's my dilemma - and this was brought to the forefront of my attention yesterday...
If when he is talking to me, and the kids are about to, let's say dump an entire container of orange juice all over the floor, and I divert my attention to the soon to be catastrophe - he gets frustrated at me for (once again) putting him last. If I, however, pay attention to him and let the catastrophe happen, then he gets frustrated at the kids and at me for allowing it to happen. And then I, in my wonderfully mature and rational way, get frustrated at him for being so (what I feel at the time) ridiculous...and then we don't talk for a couple of hours.
I understand that he wants to feel important.
Poor guy went from being the center of my universe (that may be overstating it a bit, but you understand my point) to feeling lost in a crowd of kids overnight. Two babies right away, three babies shortly after that, four babies soon after - and I know he feels like screaming, "HELLO!!!! I'M STILL HERE!!!! DON'T FORGET ME!!!!!!!!!!"
Yet I, multi-tasking phenom that I am, somehow cannot figure out how to juggle my four small children and my husband and make them all feel valued and love ALL AT THE SAME TIME. But I need to. I want to. I want my husband to leave each day feeling like he is the most important human being in the world to me, and come home feeling like the love of my life and my hero for providing for us. Yet, I know that in reality, when he leaves in the morning he feels just like a paycheck needing to happen and when he comes home at night he feels like he is my hired hand.
I am sure it will get easier as they get older and less demanding and prone to doing things that include flooding, fire, destruction and danger - but the baby is one...and I can't continue feeling like I am constantly letting him down, and I know he can't continue feeling like he is forgotten until the baby is old enough to wipe his own bottom (sorry about another poop reference, but seriously - that's a huge cause of interrupted conversation!)
And beyond all that, if it doesn't change soon, I can envision us when they are all busy with their own lives and we are alone, not knowing how to carry on a conversation without having to be busy all the time...dividing my attention.
How do you handle this? Or do you?
Do you side with the women in the mob who feel that there is no possible way you can love your husband more than your children, or do you side with the special guest who believed it was imperative that you do?
I don't want to be that parent.
I know I shouldn't be that parent.
But alas, I find myself being that parent.
You know, the parent that is always close by, always ready to step in and rescue their child, always ready with the claws out to defend and protect against any wrong doing towards their offspring?
Ya, that's me.
My kids, especially the older two, are quite capable little kids. In reality, they don't need me hovering around - yet in my "I need to control everything, if I'm not I don't know how to breathe" way, I hover...
Yet again, me (gosh, seriously, I'm a slow learner...) with my beautiful controlling qualities.
Watch out people, because in a year when the twins go off to kindergarten, I am going to be an absolute mess. They will be gone. At school. Without me to protect, correct, guide. They will do so well. I however, will be a mess...those will be fun blogs I'm sure.
Anyway, so you might be asking - what makes you think of this dear control freak? Well, let me tell you.
This morning we went to a long time friend's house who has a boy the same age as Luke. They of course were wrestling - as all little boys do. And then, in true little boy fashion, Luke's buddy clocked him in the face.
Was Luke crying? No.
Did Luke come running to me in pain? No.
Did Luke even turn to me or give me any indication that he needed even a smidge of help from me? No.
So, I just sat there quietly and let them work it out....
Of course that's not what I did people - I am a helicopter parent in recovery!
I went to him, treated him like a baby and acted like he was a victim (when he was clearly not since they were wrestling and not three minutes later he returned the favor to his friend and got him even worse than Luke got it.)
As I was participating in my helicopter-esque behavior, I wanted to gag myself. Really do I want my son to have to run to me every time something goes awry?
Do I really want my kids to feel powerless without my aid to fight their own battles, to overcome their own hurdles, to succeed individually?
No! Yet, I hover.
Might as well add a propeller to my wardrobe...
You should see me at a playground.
No, really - I'm that mom.
Hello, my name is Melissa and I am a helicopter parent.
Ok. No more. They shall fight their own fights...and I will leave them to figure out how to resolve conflict WITHOUT me - except when they do the punching...that's a different story.
But really, don't we all want to protect our kids? Don't we all (once again grouping all you readers in with my dysfunction so as not to feel so bad about my abnormalities as a mother)want to save our kids from ever getting hurt?
Yet I know that it was when I've been hurt that I've experienced the greatest growth.
A long time ago, a family very dear to my heart had a son after two daughters.
I was about 14 maybe and in a conversation with her she told me that it was her intention to raise her son up to be a godly man. That conversation stuck with me.
Now I have two boys of my own, and although there are days when my only hope is to make it to bedtime without losing my sanity - I now desire the same thing for my sons: To raise them into godly men.
But a little touch of romantic wouldn't be so bad either...
With that said, I am working to teach Luke how to be a gentleman. I am teaching him to treat women like princesses (please excuse me feminists who would much rather open their own door...) to open doors for them, to wait for girls to go first, to compliment and be gentle with them.
I have taught Luke how to ask girls to dance with him (living in a home with 3 of us, he has lots of practice) and so now he will politely ask Emma, "May I please have this dance?" He then puts one arm on her waist and the other holding her hand, gently spins her and then kisses her on her cheek.
I know I will probably kick myself when he is sixteen and these gentlemanly gestures are getting him into precarious situations...but nonetheless...
Yesterday as we were leaving the grocery store that also has a jewelry store in it, we had to do our ritualistic stop to get a magazine so Emma could look to see what diamond she wants Daddy to buy her when she is all grown up (which happens to be the ripe old age of...5) But yesterday, Luke asked if he could get one too.
"Um, why Buddy?"
"I need to pick out what ring I am going to buy my mother."
"You are going to buy me a ring?"
"No Mommy, not you, my mother."
"Buddy, I am your mother."
As he puts his hand on his head, as if he is totally exasperated at my complete ignorance regarding the things of love, he emphasizes again, "Mommy, I will all grow up and marry my MOTHER."
"Oh Luke, you mean your wife?"
"Ya, ya, ya...my wife."
I then proceed to buckle him and we begin to drive home. After a bit of silence he says, "But Mommy, I don't know my wife's name."
"I know you don't Honey. But you know who does?"
"God does. He already knows which woman you are going to marry when you grow up."
"WHAT?!?!?! I don't want to marry a woman, I want to marry a girl."
"Well, a woman is a grown up girl."
"You are a woman?"
"Yes buddy, and you will become a man."
"But I don't want to be a man, I want to be a boy! Mommy, I'm a boy!"
"Well, women are grown up girls and men are grown up boys. Daddy is a man."
"Hmmm....." and after another long bout of silence he begins, "I will all grow up into a man and my girl will grow into a moman (yes, moman) and then we get married. Then I become a father and she becomes my mother..." (At this point, I decided not to correct...I mean, he will figure it out, eventually right?)
"Bella says I can marry her. I will marry Bella and she will become my mother."
At this point he threw the magazine on the floor of the van in frustration.
"What's going on, Luke?"
"There is nothing good in here for my mother."
Ok, he's four...we have plenty of time. And then Emma speaks up...
"Mommy, I know what my daughter's name is."
"Your daughter? You already know what your daughter's name is?"
"Yes. Uncle Seneca."
"Uncle Seneca? That's a silly name for a daughter."
"You mean your future husband?"
"Ya, ya, ya."
"Oh, ok. Because you are my daughter. You are going to marry your husband."
"Oh...then I know what my husband's name is."
Aunt Cathleen might have an issue with that one sweetie.
Dave and I decided that we would make our kids finish what they started - always.
I thought that principle would be good to instill into our children since it's an admirable trait...you know, finishing things?
So, we have.
Half way through t-ball, ok, who are we kidding, halfway through the first game Luke told us that he was done. But no, we made him finish his season and he ended up loving it.
Usually, during a page of school work that is especially difficult one or both of the twins will say they are done. But no, I make them finish it - because we finish what we start.
Now we are doing soccer, and so far our kids love it. But I know it's coming, when their feelings get hurt, or they have to sit out for awhile longer than desired and they tell me they are done. And I will, yet again, tell them no because we finish what we start.
Except, what happens when, Emma (because it will be Emma who points out my fatal flaw and informs me I am grossly coming up short in an area) looks at me and says, "Mommy, when are you going to finish the laundry? Remember, we need to finish what we started..."
Or, "Mommy, when are you going to wash that last pan in the sink? Remember, we need to finish what we started..."
Or best of all, "Mommy, weren't you supposed to exercise EVERY day? What happened? You are going to finish what you started, right?"
As I was thinking about it, I always often start things with an excitement and then, well, life happens.
I know, horrible excuse.
But really, people, LIFE HAPPENS. All 4 kids get sick. Or I get sick. Or the dishwasher breaks (because Lord knows, I HATE doing dishes by hand) or whatever...life happens.
And then things that once were exciting and enjoyable even become tedious chores added to my plate that, really, I don't have time for...ok, I don't want to make time for. And then I neglect them.
Often times, I commit to things and then there is a lapse in time from when I make my commitment to when I have to fulfill it, and that time is enough for me to question my sanity in committing in the first place and convince myself that I really can't take another thing on.
Nice, Melissa. I know my kids are watching. I know that they are looking to see if I in fact stop drinking diet coke since I said a couple of weeks ago I was going to stop. I know Emma is looking to see if I actually will exercise every day like I said I was going to so I could get more healthy for myself and our family. And then, I can see their disappointment in their faces when they ask, "What are you drinking?" And I confess to them it's diet pop...and not grown up juice. Darn 4 year olds know everything...just ask them - they will tell you.
Do you finish what you start? Do you make your kids finish what they have started? Or do you allow them to quit when it becomes no longer enjoyable or too hard?
Now, I am going to get ready for our daily preschool class that I committed to doing with the kids daily - even though it's entirely unenjoyable for me and quite tedious...but I must finish what I started, so they will do the same...
And for a while, I think I have fallen into the trap of thinking that because I'm a Christian, I am instantly perceived and labeled a "hate-monger."
There are things, based on the bible, that I believe are right and wrong. Things that I believe are black and white with no room for gray.
Yet, God has been working on my heart.
I think that it is easier to believe the lie that I am already perceived as a hate-monger than to overcome my fear/anxiety of sharing my faith.
I think that we (and yes people, I'm totally generalizing, but before you get angry, delete me from your "friend" list and stomp away, here me out...) would rather buy into the story that those who don't know Jesus are angry at God, angry at the church, angry at Christians and therefore they will be forever eternally lost, because simply, we just cannot overcome their angst towards us.
Ok, I know there are people (I have some in my own world) who know about God and Jesus. They have studied the bible and are probably more knowledgeable about what the bible says than most Christians. And yes, when they decided to NOT believe in God or Jesus they did so because they were angry. We would like to think they were angry for no good reason, but by all accounts, they had just cause. People who called themselves Christians have severely let them down, hurt them, even abused the role they had - and yet proclaimed Jesus the whole time.
But really, are most people in that boat?
I dare say, that most people who have not accepted Jesus into their lives as Lord, haven't done so because no one has told them the Good News.
And instead of accepting the responsibility, and admitting to ourselves that we are failing at the Great Commission, we blame it on them - we say it's because they have shut out the truth because they believe Christians are already hate mongers anyway.
God is kind, but He's not soft. We know the truth, and yet we are sitting on our hands. How selfish!!!
And, if all that people who don't believe in Jesus know about those of us that do know Him is that we are quick to judge and are all talk and no walk - then maybe we deserve the reputation that we believe goes before us.
Ok, ok, I'm no Kate plus 8 or Octo-mom, which is ok considering my marriage is intact and I'm mentally balanced (most days) - but really, 4 kids in 3 years with no nanny or video cameras on me constantly to keep me in check?
I say this in jest. Because, generally speaking, I am not competitive.
Really, I'm not.
Case in point: Coaching t-ball. The other coaches are screaming at their teams to "drive the line," while I am encouraging my team in their sand castle building abilities.
But apparently, when it comes to being a mom I'm competitive. Seriously? Seriously.
Which, let's laugh for a moment, since if you read this blog you know of my wonderful habit of yelling, and my constant battle with being quick to anger...yet, I am competitive.
Ridiculous if you ask me.
A few weeks ago I went on a late night (ok, it was like 8 pm, but I have 4 kids 4 and under, so it may as well been midnight people) trip to the store. As I was standing in line, there was a mom with a teen and a little baby behind me. Being cordial (as I enjoy doing when I don't have my kids taking random things off the shelf distracting me) I asked her how old her baby was.
"One," she said,
"Oh, I have a one year old too...such a fun age." (Why is it that when I don't have my kids with me, I have to talk about them? COME ON MELISSA!)
"And then they grow up to this," she said pointing to the rather unamused teenage girl with her.
"Ha, ha, ha (like I'm not already scared half to death to think I will have 4 teenagers at once, 2 of which will be girls!) I'm trying to ignore that reality..."
"How many do you have?" And here's my moment of glory, people - the moment when I say how many kids I have and how close together they are so that everyone can pat me on the back telling me I'm Mommy of the Year even though they have no clue who I am.
"I have four."
"I beat you, I have five." Seriously??? SERIOUSLY??? I can't let her win, I totally am a more stressed out, overworked mommy than she is...
"Wow five! After my twins (always the key to winning) and then 2 more in 36 months (my last moment to pull out a win), I am done. Wow, five - that's impressive... "
"Twins? You definitely win...I can't imagine having twins!"
And I walked away inwardly gloating, because I won yet another "who's the craziest mommy" game.
Are you guilty of playing the mommy game too? Or am I the only one, because I know I would lose at any real competition?
But in the last couple of weeks, in those rare moments when I only have one or two or even three of my munchkins, I am still running in circles. Regardless if I have one kid or all four, I'm working endlessly to love and teach, guide and direct my kids. Being a mom, whether or not you have 1 of 19 is a never ending, wonderful, exhausting, rewarding, laborious job. And really, the competition is ridiculous.
I decided, that instead of spending my time seeing who scores higher I should use that time to encourage other moms. I should be intentional with my limited time and my opportunities I have with other moms. I decided, instead of talking about my kids, to encourage the moms I see with how I see they are doing a great job. I decided, instead of seeing the mom who is totally embarrassed by her kid who is having a total melt down and
just thinking to myself that I'm glad it's not my kids this time, that I will be intentional and walk by her and encourage her somehow, even by saying, "We all have these days...hang in there."
Are you intentional when you meet other moms? Do you feel like you are winning the mommy game, maybe losing? Encouragement goes a long way, and Lord knows that there have been times when all I have wanted was for someone to tell me I am doing a good job.
I intend to be that encouragement for someone else.
No longer do I just have pictures and candles, but we have artwork.
We are real grown ups now.
Seriously, though...Dave and I bought a painting the other night.
Granted, we bought it at Fred Meyer which may or may not make us more grown up since now we are constricted by budget concerns and the question, "Do we need this painting more or less than the 4 boxes of diapers we could buy with the same amount?"
And no, it's not actually hanging up...yet. It's sitting nicely on a table in our garage. But it will, eventually...no, soon, it will be hanging up soon.
On this same date night where we bought our said painting, we went to dinner at a new restaurant in town that everyone thinks is awesome (including Dave) but not I. I think it's mediocre and incredibly loud, and really when I have a chance to not be with the kids - the last thing I want to do is willingly go somewhere that's even louder than my home. But regardless, that is where we went (because I love my husband so) and we, of course, were seated right next to a table with a baby. Dave looked at me with an "oh boy, here we go" expression and I reassured him that it would be just fine...what harm could a tiny baby do.
Little did I know about the six year old. She was going potty.
She returned to the table and began dancing in the isle between our two tables. There she danced, turning in circles and waving her arms around like she was at a dance party and like it was totally acceptable to be doing that in a restaurant. As she danced and kicked her legs, waving her arms almost knocking over our drinks - I just calmly moved them to the other side of the table.
I sat there staring, yes staring (I have a problem with that when people with deplorable manners are out in public) at her parents who were not oblivious to the dancing, but just completely didn't care. They, apparently felt her dancing was so fabulous that when the servers tried to pass by carrying large trays of food they didn't even motion to her to get out of the way. I am convinced that my mouth hung open as I watched the lack of consideration in this family.
The little girl went away again for some reason, I can only assume another trip to the restroom when her dad, who had wonderful manners himself, decided to stand right in the aisle as well. I began to laugh as I saw the servers walk around him trying hard to respect his personal space although he was completely disrespecting theirs.
And then our food came. I saw the girl carrying our food high on the tray and was excited to finally eat and be done with this whole performance when the dad so nicely bumped into our server, causing her to lose her balance and our food went crashing down to the ground.
Awesome friends. Awesome.
Did he look over and apologize? No. Did he move back into his booth and sit down? No. Did he move so when all the bus boys were trying to clean it up they didn't have to work around him? NO! IT WAS INSANE!!!! Who does that?????????????????????????????
At that point, I wished that our kids were with us so they could see that rude manners affect everyone around us.
There are parents who are way to hard on their kids in public, expecting them to not make a peep. There are parents who spend the entire time at a restaurant telling their kids to sit down, not scream, don't do that with your fork. There are parents who are oblivious to their children and I think they have just reconciled their kids are possessed and their is nothing they can do about it. And there are parents who are so rude and disrespectful themselves that they think their kids audacious behavior is totally normal.
But our meal was comped (which was nice since we pay a pretty little penny for Mary Poppins which is worth every cent, but still...) and then we rewarded our patience and our restraint with buying artwork.
Patient, restrained adults with artwork...I'm so grown up.
I am a wife, a mother of four, a daughter, a niece, a granddaughter, and a friend. My life is definitely a jungle, but a joyful one. My hope is that as you read my blog you are encouraged in all the roles that you may lead. So grab a cup of coffee and be encouraged that even though life may seem like a jungle at times your jungle can be filled with joy!