Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Mommy Guilt...

I took the twins to their first eye appointment today.  They both had a rough time with the four year old screening at their yearly checkup and so today would be the verdict on what their eyes were really doing.

Emma's eyes were great.  Thank you Lord.

Luke on the other hand, his close vision (as you can tell, I know lots about eyes and the medical terms) was fine, but according to the doctor his vision for distance was pretty bad.  And she said it will only get worse, with every growth spurt that happens.  Fabulous.

We finished up with the exam and went to try on glasses.  When we had first arrived he was looking at all the glasses excited about getting some (if in case that happened) but when it was time for him to pick out a real pair he was not thrilled.  He tried on every pair and kept scrunching up his little nose and I could see the disappointment he was fighting written all over his precious face.  I encouraged him that these glasses would give him super hero vision and girls were going to think he was so handsome.

He kept responding with, "Those look weird.  Those look dumb."  WHAT?!?!?!?

"NO THEY DO NOT LUKE DAVID!  You look so handsome in those glasses - everyone is going to want a pair of glasses like those because you look so cool with them."  I was doing my best mommy job in encouraging him through it.  Finally, he accepted it, picked out a pair and we began to leave.

And I was almost in tears.

I feel so guilty.  My poor baby has not been able to see for four years.  This is my fault.  I could have prevented this.

Ok, Melissa get a grip on yourself - right now.  SOOO ridiculous!

What is up with this stupid mommy guilt?  I am not the giver and taker of health.  I didn't make his eyes, I didn't cause his vision to be poor for distance.  Yet I take the burden COMPLETELY on my shoulders.

Do you find yourself doing that with your own children?  Isn't mommy guilt horrible?  See the thing about mommy guilt is that it is based in la la land and nowhere in reality.  Although most of us would readily admit that we are nowhere close to being super moms, for some reason we expect ourselves to be and beat ourselves up over it if we aren't.  We think that everything, from health to height from brilliance to athleticism is something that we have complete and total control over.  I can't even control my own health - but for some reason I think I should be able to do that for my children.

When Will was born he aspirated amniotic fluid as they were delivering him.  He spent two weeks in the NICU (The longest two weeks of my ENTIRE life) and for the two weeks he was in there and for the last 11 months I have struggled with guilt over the whole thing.  He's the stinker that took the breath too soon.  He just couldn't wait to be born - it was totally not my fault.  I was just laying there (I had a c-section, obviously) but I have blamed myself over it...pretty much every time it comes to mind.

I have found myself holding me accountable for things that are totally and completely beyond my control.  I am a bit of a control freak; I like to have things planned and am not a big fan of surprises.  And I am learning, a lot lately that my kids really belong to the Lord and the only thing that I should hold myself accountable for (other than meeting basic needs) is what Proverbs 22:6 says, "Point your kids in the right direction - when they're old they won't be lost."

So, I am responsible for the training that Luke and Emma receive, not their health!  I am responsible for guiding them gently down the path of righteousness, and not their eye sight!  I am responsible for imparting good manners and virtues that matter - not how athletic or tall they are.

I really need to try to keep that in perspective.  I need to keep reminding myself of the truth that God is the one who has ultimate control over their little lives that are so precious to me...but with that said and the knowledge of that at the forefront of my mind - I know I will continue feeling unrealistically guilty about it for at least a couple more days.  Darn that mommy guilt!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Princess Pediatrician

I read an article recently in a parenting magazine regarding little girls.  The article said that if a dad calls his daughter princess and tells her all the time that she is beautiful you are "inviting her to think of herself as helpless."  When I read that, I chuckled, and read it out loud to Dave.  "Uh huh, helpless," as he grinned.

Emma, is anything but helpless.  Lily, is anything but fragile.  But if you ask them if they are beautiful they will tell you proudly, "YES!"  If you ask them if they are a princess, without hesitation they will respond, "YES!" 

Fragile and helpless, ha!  Spoiled a bit - maybe.  Aware of the immense value they hold as part of our family and to society - definitely.  Conscious of what it means to be a princess in actions and in words - absolutely.  But fragile and helpless - one hundred percent no.

Emma, the most princess-iest of them all wants to be a pediatrician when she grows up.  Pretty fragile and helpless.  She is saving her money right now - for a tutu?  No, for a car.  She's four, she's brilliant, she's beautiful and she's nice.  She knows that she deserves to be treated a certain way, because she is a princess, and she knows that she needs to treat others a certain way, because she is a princess.  Her daddy tells her everyday how beautiful she is and that she is Princess Emma.  And I think, in my personal non clinical opinion, that those conversations between her daddy and her have contributed to her self-esteem and her confidence.

Lily, she's two.  Right now she better be a singer because she has had so much practice with those little lungs of hers, that they better be put to great use!  But Lily, even though she is only two - you don't mess with her.  She knows that she is important, that she is valuable, that she is special and don't suggest otherwise.  Helpless and fragile are not words that I would use to describe all.

But let's move on.  I know that in our society now there is a big push for not forcing our kids into preset gender roles.  Why do girls have to be nurses, they can be scientists?  Why do girls have to stay at home and be mommy's - they can go to work and the dad's can stay at home!  Why must girls play with dollies and boys play with trucks?  Whatever.  Emma, if I bought her a truck would look at me confused and ask me where her princess was.  If I bought a doll for Luke he would say, "Here, let me take you to your mommy," as he walked the baby over to Emma.  Emma wants to dress up as a princess and Luke wants to dress up as a super hero.  Emma wants to mull over and discuss why my mom's new bed hurt her, Luke went right in and tried to fix the problem.  BOYS AND GIRLS ARE DIFFERENT!  And if I teach my son that girls are just like boys, he will treat them JUST. LIKE. BOYS.  Here's a question - you want your daughter to marry a man who treats her like a man, or one who treats your daughter like royalty?

I teach my kids that we need to be kind to all people.  Boys and girls, black and white, all people.  But I am teaching my son that he needs to be a gentleman.  He needs to open doors for people, offer to help people, treat girls with respect and like precious princesses that they are.  He knows that he can be the hero - but only if he behaves like a prince.  If he behaves like an ogre (except for Shrek) then he will be treated like one.

When Luke grows up he says he wants to be a daddy and work hard.  He's not sure what he wants to work hard doing right now; generally his answer is Spiderman, but nonetheless, he wants to work hard.  I know that he sees Dave working hard and providing for our family...but is that so bad?  Is it so bad that Emma sees me staying at home and taking care of her while Dave goes and slays dragons for our family so that we will be provided for?  I don't think so. 

I want our daughters to know that they are valuable, precious and loved so that when the first boy comes along and tells her all those things she isn't swept off her feet and ready to do whatever he wants.  I want her to think, "Glad you are aware of that!"  I want my son to know how to be a gentleman and a hard worker so that when the time comes to provide for his family he is ready to step up to the plate and do so.  I don't think I am hurting them by encouraging my children in the way God wired them - I think that I am giving them confidence to go and do what God wants of them.

So, we will continue telling our girls that they are princesses - however...Dave did stop telling them that princesses should not have to climb the stairs.  They were getting too heavy.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

I need a getaway.

I need a getaway. 

I'm thinking of a cabin on a mountain somewhere sans children (definitely) and hubby (possibly) with no technology and maybe a book.  No, scratch the book.  Just a chair, a bed, and food already cooked waiting for me in the fridge. I could sit in silence and just watch the wind blow the trees.  Seriously, I'm not a hermit or someone who hates social interaction - but my life is so loud.  Quiet sounds good.  But, here's the problem:  I'm not an introvert.  I would go nuts.

Ok, I need a getaway to a romantic city.  That's cheap to get to.  That's close enough that if I had to get back right away it wouldn't take me three days.  And I need friends to go with me, who are in desperation of a getaway too.  Hmmm, scratch that.  Girls night would be fun, but a getaway?  If I got to get away, I would need to get away with my hubby.  Definitely hubby - pretty sure he needs one just as much as I do.

Hmmm....scratch the romantic city.  The ocean.  Now, that's relaxing.  A little cute ocean side town - and then we can walk everywhere instead of fighting over how either of us are driving (that's always fun.)

Ok, so no children, with hubby, at the ocean.

And I would need a massage - no, not the shoulder squeeze massages that last 10 seconds that Dave gives, but a real masseuse one.  Ooh, a couple's massage - that would be cool...wait, are those cool or a little weird?  I wouldn't know.  They sound cool though.

No children, with hubby, at ocean, couple's massage.

Yep.  There we have it.  That's what I need.  And I'm sure that there is someone who will read this and say, "No no no, that is a want not a need."  No, it is in fact a need - let me assure you. 

Anyone want to babysit four heart warming children? :)

Friday, June 25, 2010

I think I'm plenty mature, thank you very much!

Sometimes it stinks to be strong - to be required to just.keep.going.
Sometimes it seems like it would be easier to crawl into a hole and just hide until the storm has passed, or throw a huge fit so the whole world knows how unfair life has been. 
Sometimes the whys outnumber the answers and the uncertainty of life is overwhelming.

I felt like that a couple of years ago, in a way I've never felt before.
Dave had just been promoted to running his own store so we were going to be moving out of state.  I had just had Lily 2 months earlier and the thought of moving was overwhelming - I wasn't thrilled to say the least.  My friend and I, in hopes to encourage me, decided to study James 1 from the Bible.  The beginning goes like this...

" Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way." (The Message)

As we talked through the verses, we were encouraged and felt good that we were doing a sweet little Bible study.

Then I packed up the kids and our stuff to meet Dave at our new home.  On a Friday.  I knew no one, I had no idea where our new home was - I was grumpy.  From Friday morning to Tuesday night, Dave and I were at odds.  I was angry about being there, he was angry with my bad attitude.  I thought to myself, "Glad I am studying James...this sure is a challenge."  Then Wednesday morning Dave woke up and his entire body was numb.  He couldn't tie his shoes, he couldn't button his shirt.  As I got my hard working husband ready for work, buttoning his shirt for him - I was scared out of my mind (as was he, but he wouldn't admit it.)  Finally, whatever his body was doing demanded us to go to the ER.

They wouldn't let me bring my kids into the ER and I didn't know anyone to watch them for me.  I had to be with my husband, but I had to take care of my kids.  I had no choice.  I took my kids to a drop in day care - where later when I picked them up Luke was eating out of the trash due to no supervision.  Awesome.  Anyway, as my heart was breaking and angry that I had to do that, I rushed to the hospital where my husband was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.

I am a stay at home mom.  My husband provides for our family by working, and I provide for our family by taking care of our kids.  Now what?  See, my mom also has MS and she is in a wheelchair and all I could see in my mind was Dave sitting in a wheelchair.  He was only 27 - he didn't deserve this.  I was only 26 - and I felt like God was playing a cruel joke on me...first my mom, then my husband?  The next day I called a church that we had visited on Sunday begging for help and I was met with, "Sorry, we don't have a program in place for that."  Needless to say, we never went back there.

Our friend and former pastor hopped in his car and drove 3.5 hours to be with our kids so I could tend to my shocked husband.  Shortly thereafter, another friend hopped on a train at midnight to take care of my kids for a week.  God was taking care of my family and me - but I couldn't see it.  I was so scared and angry.  Dave feared that he had failed our family as he struggled to hold a fork to eat and could barely write his name.  I reassured him that he had not and told him he would have complete recovery and to have faith - yet I was in doubt.  I wanted to climb into a hole, hide, scream, run.  But I couldn't, because I had 3 sets of little eyes watching everything I did.  I had to keep on keeping on...even though I felt like I couldn't take another step.

My mind kept going back to the passage in James - "Consider it a sheer gift,"  really God?!  A sheer gift would be perfect health.  A sheer gift would be stability and security with our future.  Not MS.  NOT MS!!!  "Mature and well-developed," are you kidding me?  I thought I had already been through enough to be considered mature and well-developed.  I decided, in my anger, that if God was going to test me on the part of the Bible that I was studying, I was no longer going to read it. 

Let's take a quick pause in my story.  Right now there are some of you reading this that are really hurting.  Some of you are going through loss, betrayal, illness, unemployment, and much more.  Some of you are being so strong right now because you have too - despite what you want to do and how you really feel.  Some of you are angry and confused, not knowing when life is going to go your way.  Some of you know God and the hope that He offers, some of you are questioning His promises, and others don't believe in God at all.

But what I can tell you as truth, from the depths of my heart is that there is a God.  A God who loves you.  A God who keeps His promises.  A God who declared in Jeremiah 29:11 -
"I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for."  His plans are not always our plans, but with that said, we don't see the whole picture like God does.  He knows what's best for us - in the long run.  And though it may feel like it, He has not abandoned you.  He is still there, even in the darkest hour of your life - even if you can't see Him.

Dave did fully recover.  He has to take medication each week that he loathes.  He can't hang out in heat for a long time, and getting the flu could be detrimental to him.  But life is back to normal - a new normal, I suppose.  And after close to two years (obviously I wasn't as "mature" as I thought) I realized that God isn't playing a sick game on me - and I decided to crack open the Bible again.  My heart aches for you who are hurting.  My prayers are filled with requests for your well-being.  But today, as I say goodbye I want to leave you with this:  God hurts with you.  He loves you.  Even if you don't know Him yet, He is there ready to take you in His arms.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

I would, but...

I would write a post, but I'm tired.

The baby kept me up for three straight hours last night screaming.  And then when he finally went to sleep, Luke started having growing pains.  Luke and I slept in our overly hot house on the living room floor which is reminiscent of a hard concrete slab.

I would write a post, but I'm going on a date tonight and we have a new babysitter coming.  She has never been to my house so I must clean it so she doesn't think we live in a total state of disarray at all times - we'll save the truth for the next time she comes.

I would write a post but my children who I love with all my heart and are completely over tired are refusing to take naps right now.  God bless their little souls (if you are from the South, you know what I really mean.)

I would write a post but Dave, who rarely does the discipline, just disciplined the kids - and now they are acting like their hearts are broken.

I would write a post but oh! I just remembered we are having a play date at 1...oh boy, gotta go!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Fabulous Four?

The person who told me that four is when it gets easy - were you just trying to encourage me by giving me some false hope?!  Seriously!

Yesterday the day starts out with my precious Spiderman boy who is 4 asking if he could watch another Spiderman cartoon on Youtube.  He's been obsessed with Thomas the Train since he was a year and a half and I loved that obsession.  Thomas taught about things like working hard, sharing, competition that has a winner and a loser (yes people, someone would actually lose), friendship and characteristics I wanted Luke to learn.  Spiderman teaches - well, I don't know what Spiderman teaches (I'll get back to you on that one.)  I loved buying Thomas DVD's for Luke but Spiderman DVD's - really?  I'm just not there yet. 

So, I tell the boy no.  I try to explain to him that he can watch some later, but right now I needed the computer.  He tells me, "I'm so angry!"
And in my "I really could care less about this argument" voice I say, "Well, you're going to have to get over it."  And then the response comes...
"You get over it.  It's your problem!"  Aahh, 4 - yes, this is definitely a breeze.

Oh but it gets better.

Then we go to my aunt's house last night to play in her yard and "help" her garden.  Luke and Emma both pulled growing plants out of a planter right after my aunt said, "No!"  Another proud mommy moment.  So I bring both of them over to the patio and start telling them it's disrespectful, blah blah blah, (I get tired of hearing myself speak) and Luke says in his sweetest voice, "Yes Mommy."  Oh but not Princess Emma.  Emma rolled her eyes and sighed like she was fifteen and I was telling her she couldn't go to a party.  Are you kidding me?!?!?!  So I make her sit by the fence on "time out" which really is quite the joke in my family and I don't know why I'm so persistent about it.  She says, "I have to go potty!"  I tell her to hold it (mind you, she just went 3 minutes earlier)  Next thing, I look over and see her pulling her pants down and peeing right there on the lawn.  That, my dear Emma, looks nothing like a forest.  Then Lily follows suit and pulls her shorts and diaper right off.  Deep breath, 4 - sooo much easier than when they couldn't talk or walk and they were just cute.  Uh huh.

And then the day turns into night when they, the lovely four year olds, should be sleeping.  When I should be sleeping.  9 times.  NINE times they woke up last night:  "I need a drink of water."  "I had a bad dream." "I'm (never been scared before in my entire life but tonight I will start) afraid of the dark."  "Can I watch Spiderman?"  "I heard a sound."  "My tummy's rumbling." "I think I need socks."  "Can we do something fun tomorrow?" "I have to go potty."  NINE TIMES.  My baby, my little baby who it is still acceptable for him to wake up in the night, only once...when Luke woke him up.  Yes 4, way easier!  By the way, that doesn't include when my husband woke me up at 1 to tell me he was coughing and having a hard time sleeping...REALLY?!??!?!  (That will be for a later day.)

I'm not sure when the actual age that parenting will get easier, or if it really does.  Maybe it just gets different.  I thought at times when the twins were babies that I was never going to make it.  I did, and now there are times I think the same.  I know I will make it in the end, probably pretty tired, but I will make it.  But let me be honest with you:  Four is NOT the magic age!  I heard recently that it was the "terrible twos" the "trying threes" and the "freaking fours."  Ooh...maybe five is the magic number...maybe.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Give away - free stuff - no coupon clipping required!!!

As most of you know - or maybe you don't - I started a fan page of sorts on Facebook.  I have found that it is easier for people to "follow" The Joyful Jungle through Facebook instead of on Blogger simply because of functionality purposes.  Anyway...
I am doing a give away!!  I'm sooo excited about it for a couple of reasons (I will do my list thing again, to seem official and important - ha!)
1.  It will get the word out about The Joyful Jungle and hopefully through that more moms will be encouraged on their mommy journeys.
2.  We are giving away something - free!!!  And I don't know about you, but I love free stuff (hence my recent shopping trip where I bought 36 bottles of laundry detergent for 7.00 - we'll save that story for a later post!)
3.  It will make someone's, well 2 someone's jungles, smell awesome!  We are giving away a Scentsy plug in system which includes 3 Scentsy bars - a value of $25.00 (Ooh, I feel like I'm on The Price is Right)!
4.  One of the moms who is a "fan" of the Joyful Jungle has supplied us with this awesome give away and I would love for you to check our her Scentsy website at to see all the other cool products that they offer.  We should help other mom's out!!!

Ok, so here's how it will work.  If you aren't already a fan of the page on Facebook, go to your Facebook search and type in The Joyful Jungle.  Click the "like" button and you will start getting updates and posts via Facebook (which I have found is soooo much easier than Blogger.)  Then, refer your friends!!!  On the left hand of the page there is an icon to "share."  That's the easiest way to let your friends know about it.  Our 125 fan and the person who referred them will BOTH win the Scentsy Plug in system.  How cool is that?

My heart is for this blog to encourage other mom's and bring humor and focus (sometimes) to the task before us as moms.  I would love it and appreciate it sincerely, if you would help me get that done by sharing it with your friends!

Thanks, I can't wait to give away free stuff!!!

Best friends forever if I have anything to say about it.

Four kids and a hubby sick with coughs and I decide to have a play date today.  I'm that good.  No actually, I'm that insane.

Yes, I told their mom they were sick before she brought them to my germ infested mansion.  At some point after a multitude of children, I think you aren't so paranoid anymore about germs.  Don't all little kids have perpetual runny noses?  Ok, back to the point...

Anyway, my kids had fun with their new friends but it happened again!!!  "It" would be when Emma leaves Luke in the dust for her new friends and then they leave him out or do things Emma knows will make Luke mad.  "It" drives me crazy.

Emma and Luke are best friends.  They hold hands when they are scared, they sit next to each other when they are shy, they jump up and down together when they are excited.  They even refer to each other as "my Luke" and "my Emma."  I have pounded it into their heads since they could understand words that they were each others "forever best friends."

So, today as it was happening again, I pulled Emma aside.
"Emma, who is your best friend?"
"This boy," as she points to her new friend whom she obviously doesn't remember his name.
"No, who is your forever best friend?"
"Luke," she says with a voice that screams "I know the lecture is coming."
"Even though it's fun to make new friends you can't be mean to your forever best friend.  Because when your new friend goes home, Luke will still be here.  You must be kind."
"Yes Mommy."

I think I'm doing a good job facilitating friendships among the kids.  We often will go around the table saying nice things about each other.  I encourage them to show compassion to each other when one gets hurt.  I promote play time together without me refereeing.  All in all, they are best friends...

Well, that is except when they are screaming, pinching, hitting, or ignoring each other.  "They" includes Lily as well.  Will is loved by everyone at this point, well, maybe except for Lily at times...but back to the subject.  In those moments I fear relationships between them as adults filled with anger and resentment...ooh, I hope I am not fostering that!  But alas, my brothers never lived with me so in theory I'm an only child and so I'm not sure what's normal and what's I tend to over react.  I think.

But my favorite moments with four kids who love each other:

When I find Luke and Lily hiding under her covers laughing hysterically.
When Emma and Lily play house and Emma lets Lily be the mommy.
When Luke's at the doc, store, or anywhere and someone gives him a prize he will always ask for three more.
When they hold hands so that they can be brave for shots or anything scary.

I love when they love each other.  I will love when they grow up and love each other.  I think this may be our new family least for awhile:

Proverbs 17:17 "Friends love through all kinds of weather, and families stick together in all kinds of trouble. (The Message)

How do you foster friendship and love between your kids?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Being trained in potty training.

Really?  Really?  You potty trained your kid at six months?  At six months they were crawling to the toilet and going potty?  At six months?

I know that you are totally lying your kid is a total genius and could probably read college lit books by the time they were one, but unfortunately my kids just aren't as smart as yours.

I despise potty training.  I started potty training the twins promptly when they turned two - because according to everyone, that's when I was supposed to.  It lasted one hour before we had gone through all of the training pants and I had cleaned up so many messes from two children that I was done.  I decided that they could potty train themselves when they felt grossed out enough by diapers.

The world's not kind to newly three year olds who are still in diapers - they think something is wrong with kids and their parents ability to parent.  My kids were able to grasp Jesus dying on a cross and living in their hearts - but going poop in the potty was beyond their comprehension.  I didn't really care that they were still in diapers; that is until I had Will.

I would line up all four kids in order:  Luke, Emma, Lily and Will.  Then I would proceed to change all their diapers in an assembly line fashion.  I could no longer change Luke's big three year old bottom and then change Will's tiny little behind.  It was just not working for me anymore.  So we bought them bribe toys that sat beyond their reach and low and behold, they trained themselves shortly after turning three.

I suppose I was delirious hopeful in thinking that Lily would be quicker with the whole endeavor.  But I am doubtful after the last couple of days, and quite honestly - I don't care.  She is SO stubborn and strong willed that if I make it my idea she will resist.  So, I won't.  She may be yet another kid that isn't potty trained until they are three.


You just hold on to your story of potty training at six months - you have a genius. 

(Yes, that is Lily wearing a pull-up OVER a diaper.  Nice.)

Happy Father's day!

Any man can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a daddy.

The father of my children is Daddy to them.  They adore him, and so do I.

Father's day was always a rotten day growing up because my father was just that - a father and nothing more.  My friends would always be busy with their dad's and I would try my hardest to act as if it was any other day.  But my heart hurt.

I dreamed about when I would have children and the man that they would call Daddy.  I dreamed about father daughter dates, dancing in the kitchen, threatening boys that would look at our daughters.  I dreamed about our sons and how they would do cool boy things with their daddy.  But I didn't have that as a little girl, yet I always knew that I had something better.  I had the ultimate Father.  I knew from the time I was a little girl Psalm 68:5 "A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling" was in my heart.  I knew that God was watching out for me, that He wanted the best for me, that He had a hope and a future for me.

And now, I am married to an amazing man who is my kids' daddy Daddy.  He is the final authority on beauty, dances are best in his arms and train tracks are only "super cool" if built with Daddy.  Our kids don't question his love or commitment to them - they trust him with their whole beings.

I found Luke tonight before bed in the bathroom.  He looked at me and said, "I'm putting gel in my hair like Daddy."  Luke wants to be just like Dave. My daughters are in love with him and Emma wanted to marry him until I explained he was already taken.  When Lily heard that, she just decided she would marry Papa (Dave's dad) instead!  When they get dressed every day, their first stop is at Dave where he will tell them, "Wow!  You look beautiful!"  Emma and Lily are princesses - because Daddy says so.

Father's day is now a day that I love, because God has answered my prayers.  He not only blessed me with an amazing husband who I love to honor on this day, but he also blessed me with a man who was the closest thing to a father I ever had who showed me what it meant to really love God and family.  That man taught me what men were supposed to be to their families.  Watching him and his wife with their sons showed me what kind of family I wanted.

On Father's day we are having donuts for breakfast (kids pick for Daddy) and his presents were hand picked by the kids.  The kids are very proud of their picks of presents for Daddy.  His card is one that Lily picked out where the turtle stretches his arms 2 feet wide showing how much we love him - which is fitting since when we ask Lily how much she loves Daddy she jumps and arches her back and stretches her arms as far as they can go.  Father's day is now a fun day.  And tomorrow I will call my "dad" to say "happy Father's day" and in my heart be thankful of the two men who are the closest images of God's fatherly love that I have ever seen.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Mom Nazi

One hour makes quite the difference I tell you!

This last week we decided to move bedtime back an hour to 7:30.  Bedtime has been 6:30.  6:30 was amazing.

When the twins were two they were in Puggles (AWANA program) and they were learning that God created night and day.  Their teacher asked the kids if the sun was still awake when they went to bed.  All the kids were shaking their heads no - except for Luke and Emma who were emphatically nodding their heads yes. 

6:30 has been my friend and the savior of my sanity multiple times.  But this summer, our kids protested.6:30 was no longer going to cut it.

Last night at about 6:45, Dave and I shared a look of desperation.  45 minutes have never taken so long.
After an entire day of screaming, whining and fighting we felt as if we were crawling to the finish line.  Dave and I have to be victorious, our ranking in our family must be first.  At 6:45 it was us against them, and they were winning by quite a margin.  It didn't look pretty.  And then it happened...

I became the Mom Nazi.  Their eyes got big, they knew I meant business.  They whined, they were thrown into their rooms (thrown is a figurative term for those picking up their phones to call CPS)  They were ungrateful, their treats were trashed.  They didn't listen the first time, they were on the naughty step.  Emma straightened up pretty quickly but Luke and Lily tested the boundary.

Luke was angry and throwing a temper tantrum - he wanted Dave and I to draw Spiderman for the 567,987,453 time and we told him no.  He proceeded to tell me that his heart was broken, I had ruined his whole life - blah, blah, blah.  I'm glad my kids can express their emotion - but Mom Nazi doesn't care.  If you want to scream, scream in your room.  He was on time out in his room for 4 minutes.  4 minutes, due to continuous escape, turned into 30 minutes.

Finally, FINALLY, it was bedtime.  As I was quickly (but lovingly) putting them to bed I stopped Emma.  I told her she behaved fabulously, she did a great job and I was proud of her.  "Thank you Mommy," she said in her most princess of voices and hopped promptly into bed.

Luke started screaming his head off as if on cue.  "What is your problem Luke," I asked in the most compassionate voice I could muster (Mom Nazi definitely does not major in compassion).  "You told Emma she did a good job.  You need to tell me I did a good job!  You hurt my feelings!"  WHAT?!?!?  You have driven me to the breaking point of all sanity today and you want me to tell you "good job"?!  So, I took a deep breath and began.  "Do you think you did a good job today?'  He shook his head no.  "Emma obeyed, she was kind, she listened - she had a great day.  You, on the other hand, did not.  Tomorrow, if you decide to wake up with a happy heart and make good choices then at the end of the day I will tell you 'good job'." 

And then it was finished.  The day was done.  That last hour almost did me in.  That last hour can drive me to call our babysitter last minute begging for her to come deal with them at bedtime (yes, I admit I am guilty of that.  She gets paid to put them to bed, I however do not!)  But we crossed the finish line standing, limping a bit, but standing nonetheless. 

Some days feel like marathons.  Yesterday was one of those days.  As Dave and I fell on the couch, exhausted as all the kids were finally sleeping, this verse came to mind, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith" 2 Tim 4:7  Yesterday was a battle as some days in parenting are, but we kept up the good fight.  And this morning, Luke woke up with a smile.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What to do, what to do...

The inevitable happened yesterday.

I knew it would at some point, but I was hoping for a little more in the distant future.  But no, yesterday.

"Hello, Melissa?  This is Dr. Robbin's office.  We wanted to know what your plan was for your frozen embryos."

Oh good.  This call HAD to take place the week of my 4 year old driving and my 2 year old off roading with a walker.  Of course they decide to call me after four years the week when I am questioning if I am really doing this whole parenting thing well.  Awesome.

I told her I would call her back today.  I conveniently forgot.

Five years ago this October, Dave and I went through the In Vitro Fertilization process (IVF) because we were told that unless we did, we basically had no chance of conceiving on our own.  I was all messed up hormonally and I knew in my heart that what I had been dreading since I was fifteen was in fact true - I couldn't have a baby on my own.  But we ventured through the process (which I will save for another post) and at the day of the transfer (when they put the embryos back in) we had four viable, healthy embryos.  Dr. Robbins, being the fantastic Reproductive Endocrinologist that he is, would only transfer two because of the great chances of both taking.  The other two were frozen.

 By that point I had prayed and felt in my heart of hearts that God told me I would have four babies so I of course wanted to store any embryos we couldn't transfer.  Beyond that, Dave and I believe with our whole beings that life begins at conception - even if that conception is in a test tube so we couldn't discard them or donate them to scientific research.  And to all the naysayers, God plays a part in it from the beginning.  Out of 32 eggs, 17 were mature, 11 fertilized, and only 4 survived to day 5 when a natural pregnancy would not even technically be a pregnancy yet.  God determined which would survive, which would have life.

Anyway - four babies.  

Well, 8 months after Luke and Emma were born I went back to my doctor to make sure that I still couldn't have children.  My OB told me that nothing had changed.  And one month later, I was pregnant...naturally.  Lily, our biggest surprise ever was born 18 months after the twins.  Will was born promptly 19 months after her when I got off the pill for one month.  IVF not only made it possible for us to have babies, it kicked my body into high gear and now we have four.


I can't have two more, are you kidding me?  My kids run circles around me most days as I struggle to keep up and maintain some sort of control.  I love me children with my whole heart, but Dave and I may have to be institutionalized if we have more.

So, what do we do?  I can't throw away the embryos - totally not an option for us.  Those embryos, that most people would consider just cells at that point in development, look like this:

This is Luke and Emma when they were only five days post conception.  And now those little embryos, look like this:

I can't imagine adopting them out - our kids look so much like us and those are my babies even if they are being stored right now.  I can't throw them away - that would be like throwing Emma and Luke in the trash.  My stomach gets sick even thinking about it.  And having them?  My body is so protesting from having four in 3 years,
I can't imagine it could take much more, or my sanity for that matter.  So what did we decide to do?  Pay for one more year of storage.

Aaaahhhhh!!!  WHAT DO I DO?????????????

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Ya, that was me

I registered Luke for tee ball today.  Sort of a weird feeling having my boy playing baseball; I'm not really embracing this whole "growing up" thing all too well.  So, I loaded my kids in the van to drop off the form that of course is only one day away from being too late at city hall.  Luke was sporting his Spiderman costume (of course), Emma was in her dress and an apron (whatever floats your boat) and Lily was of course covered in dirt from head to toe (inevitable with that child.)  It has been a couple weeks since anyone has been sick so Will volunteered this time and had a nice flow of snot coming from his nose.  Me - well, I've been going full steam ahead since 4:45, so you can only imagine how I look!

As we dropped off the form, Luke who apparently thought we were going to play tee ball was quite angered that we were just dropping off a form.  So, I came up with a grandiose idea to divert his attention that we would go on an adventure to find treasure.  Ya, I'm that bright.

So, yes that was me with the super hero, chef, dust ball and asthmatic baby walking around downtown collecting pinecones, grass, rocks, sticks and flowers for our treasure hunt.  And you are welcome for telling Emma no when she asked if the park was a forest (because she had to go to the bathroom, and has an affinity for peeing on the ground since her first hike back in April and has deemed anything a forest if it needed to be such as the high school football field, a public park, etc.)  So, yes that was also me running to the closest bathroom with the super hero, chef, dust ball and asthmatic baby just in time before we had a catastrophic accident in yet another public park.

That was also me who had the wonderful idea of taking my kids to the store at 5:00 pm (only the busiest time of day) to make our own healthy popsicles out of yogurt.  And yes, that was my two year old dust ball who decided that throwing the yogurt at the checker would be a fabulous way of helping.  It only exploded a tiny bit.  The checker showed me mercy and still accepted my coupon off of six even though now I only had five.

We put all of our treasures into groups, counted each one and learned about nature.  We made our yogurt popsicles that I informed the kids they were more than welcome to have for breakfast tomorrow.  We even learned why talking with mean words makes people feel yucky (thank you group of young girls who decided every other word out of your mouth would be a four letter one.)  Luke got to see some boys play baseball and they even gave Luke a ball to keep.  And I got to see Emma stick up for her sense of style to all the girls who sneered at her apron - and then after her explanation all really wanted one.

We had fun today, just the five of us.  My kids were exceptionally good and followed instruction wonderfully (you never know with four little ones) and bed time was a breeze.  Today was a good day.  A full day, but a good one.  I like good days.  I'm certain that life is just better when you are having fun living it.  Now to come up with a genius idea of what to do with all of our forest treasures...anyone, anyone?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Smile, nod and slowly back away...

I have always been an honest person, and even when I have tried to sugarcoat the truth or hide how I really feel the truth is written plainly all over my face. 
This has been a characteristic that has won me favor with a lot of people, and caused me great trouble with others.  I'm not a phony person.  Often times I wish I had the ability to be thinking one thing but be able to smile and nod and slowly back away.  Instead, I - so full of tact - stand there with a "you've got to be kidding me" expression on my face just long enough to offend the person receiving it.  I know it is a shortfall and unfortunately, as hard as I try, I have yet to overcome it. 
Let's put it this way:  I am not the friend you come to when you just got a bad haircut to tell you it looks great.  I am, however, the friend who will give you the number of someone who can fix the haircut for you.
With that said, I am constantly aware of my inability to hide my feelings regarding people.  Try as I may, there are just some people that I just don't like.  I don't think God wants us to like everyone, but I know that God wants us to love everyone.  And the way that translates into real life?  I'm still figuring it out, but maybe it looks like how I feel about cats - I don't want to be around them, I don't want one as a pet but I don't want them to be hurting, hungry, cold or sick (I would just rather someone else tend to them.)  Ok, that's totally not biblical, but I'm still growing in maturity spiritually - just being honest.
Along with not being able to be tactful or discreet regarding my feelings most times my other shortcoming is compassion and mercy.  I'm definitely not the person you come to when you are totally screwing up for an encouraging word.  I will, however, tell you that what you are doing is totally wrong and that you are screwing up your life and hurting people around you - there's that honesty thing again.
Where is all this going?  Good question - I'm getting there, be patient (another one of my not so developed qualities)!  Recently I was around someone who I, well let's just say, am not the biggest fan of.  And OF COURSE they enforced all the reasons that I am not a big fan.  And yes, my kids were present (which, really, when aren't they?) and yes, they were watching me and what I did and said...because They. Are. Always. Watching.  So when this person decided to show all their wonderful attributes (sense the sarcasm?) I grinned and walked away before my face could do all the talking for me.  I didn't open my mouth, I didn't tell them what I really thought, I didn't even take a second in that place to contemplate a response.  I just walked away.  It was hard, let me be honest.  Melissa, who I really am, would much rather have stood there and explained to them all the reasons that I am justified in feeling this way regarding them.  Ya, ya, I know - it's totally not biblical...but human, and there is that whole maturing work in progress thing.
My kids are doing this new thing which drives me crazy where when they get mad they yell, "I don't want to be your friend anymore!" or "You hurt my feelings, I don't like/love you (depending on the offense)"  or "I don't want to be around you anymore."  It irritates me so much, and often more than the offense that spurred the comment, because words can be so hurtful and when we speak from our emotions, we often don't think about our words until it's too late.  Kids are resilient - but not always, and you never know when that hurtful word is going to be the one that really cuts deep.  I've been working on that with them, without much success, but slowly but surely.
As I was walking away, inside I was screaming, "I don't want to be around you anymore!  I don't like you anymore!"  Inside, I was jumping up and down clenching my fists wanting to stomp my feet and throw a fit because I had been wronged.  In that moment, I understood my children.  I realized that the only difference between them and me in that moment is I understand what is socially acceptable and unacceptable for that matter.  I understand discretion - although often times, it proves quite difficult.
The other thing that they have recently started is tattling which drives me just as crazy, because with four kids I am inevitably being tattled to CONSTANTLY.  I really want them to solve their problems among themselves.  I don't want to consistently be dragged into the middle of their routine squabbles to listen to even more whining.  So my new automatic response to all the tattling is, "figure it out."  But what did I do in that moment?  I walked straight to Dave and tattled to him like a four year old.  I told him all the reasons that I was wronged and was innocent.  Dave, due to all of his managerial experience, is much better at keeping his mouth shut while hearing complaining.  But I knew I was acting like a child.
So, as I was processing the whole dumb situation, I realized something.  My kids aren't acting badly when they scream and shout and tattle.  They are being completely and utterly human.  They don't know social norms. They don't understand discretion and restraint.  Yet.  I am, like I said earlier, working with them on it.  I am trying to teach them the art of being discreet and restraining themselves (which after writing this, maybe Dave should be the teacher on that one).  They are growing and maturing and learning, constantly - as am I, apparently.
I am really trying to be more Christ like, and as I'm succeeding in some areas I am reminded how far I have to still go in others.  I know my kids will get it, eventually and I know I will too God willing.  In Phillippians 1:6 it says, "...he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."  I'm definitely being stretched in my feelings towards cats as we apparently have a new OUTSIDE stray pet cat who has been named Susan.  Who knows, maybe God will start stretching me in my feelings towards this other person.  I would have said, "ya right" but I just put a dish of water out for a cat.  Miracles never cease.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Be careful little eyes what you see....

I'm not exactly sure when our kids went from being too young to understand anything "grown up" that we were talking about to requiring us to spell out almost every conversation we have.  I'm not sure when the precise moment was that they began to process and mull over what they heard us talking about in passing.  I suppose that moment doesn't really matter all too much now, but we are definitely on the other side.  Our kids hear EVERYTHING.  They see EVERYTHING.
Being a good example is something I suppose we strive for continuously, right?  Or at least we say we do, so we can feel good about our parenting.  We tell our kids to be kind, to share, to be honest, to be hard workers.  We try to emulate these characteristics so that they have an example of what we are trying to teach them right in front of their faces at all times - but let's be honest, we fall short.  A lot.
The other day, my husband was called into work on his day off, which I mentioned in my earlier post I was not too happy nor feeling very kind towards the people involved in the situation.  Dave's days off are almost sacred to me.  It's two days all week where I feel I'm not outnumbered so badly and I get to have adult companionship and conversation.  Ok, I know I sound a bit possessive, but seriously - it's the closest thing to a break I get that I don't have to pay for!  Anyway, back to the subject...
Before he left for work, we were all able to sit around the table and have lunch together.  All the kids had just woken up from nap and weren't aware that Daddy was going to have to go to work.  Dave broke the news to them.  The kids, especially Luke, were very upset.  The "why's" began to come at us at a speed we couldn't keep up with and then I stuck my foot in my mouth.  I said, "Dave, you should just have told them you were sick."  Good Melissa - be totally angry, selfish and in your sin go ahead and sin some more and lie.  Totally awesome!  Of course not thinking about what I said until I said it and then desperately wishing I could take my words and eat them - a whole other flood of "why's" began to flow.  Dave gave me this, "what were you thinking" look as he began to field all the questions.
Luke asked why the employee called in sick.  He asked why Daddy needed to go in because that employee called in sick - which were all valid questions, that I myself was wondering.  He then asked, "Daddy, why don't you say you are sick?"  Great - I have encouraged my son to be a liar.
Dave responded with such wisdom.  "Luke, we work hard because God wants us to work hard.  I am responsible and if I call in sick it's only because I'm really sick.  And when I'm really sick, I just lay in bed all day.  It's no fun.  We are honest - we don't even lie when it's the easier way out."  The kids looked at him and took his answer as truth and moved on.  I realized that we took what could have been a bad moment and used it for a learning moment - and then I felt great that I, um, facilitated such a great learning opportunity for my family. :)  I then realized that I am disciplining my kids, quite often mind you, for behaviors and attitudes that they are learning from none other than me.  I get so frustrated that they don't put their shoes in the shoe box - but my shoes are nicely thrown by the chair.  I get irritated when they don't pick up their toys, but the magazine I was reading was left on the floor right where I was reading it last night.  I get angered when Emma doesn't tell me the truth right away, and then I realized I just offered the suggestion of dishonesty as a way to get what I wanted.  I have to look at myself in the mirror and realize what kind of reflection of good virtue and character I am instilling in my children.
The other day it was clean up time.  Luke didn't want to clean up which is no big surprise, and I love his excuses as to why he can't pitch in - they are quite entertaining.  But this day he said, "cleaning up does not make me happy."  Great.  Apparently we are continuing on the mindset of, "if it doesn't make you happy, then just don't do it."  That's gotten my generation really far.  Anyway, as those words tumbled out of his little four year old mouth, I dropped to my knees and looked him in the eye.  "Luke," I said, "I want you to be happy, I really do.  But what I care more about your happiness, is that you are a good person who works hard and loves Jesus.  If I don't teach you that sometimes we have to work hard even when we don't want to - you may be a really happy grown up but you won't be one that anyone really wants to be around."  He understood my words, turned around and began to clean up and was thrilled when I told him he was a hard worker.  As he was cleaning, I wondered if I am an example of hard work.  I work hard, there is no doubt about it, but am I working hard on things that are tangible to my kids?  I don't know, something I suppose I am still chewing on.
My daughter Emma, before leaving the house or her room for that matter, sits in front of her mirror and puts on her "special" make up and perfume.  She likes to find lotion and smell pretty.  When asked why she does this, she will tell you that she learned it from me (which is quite humorous, since I don't often get a chance to even touch my makeup unless I'm pulling it out of the toilet - thank you Lily)  And though that's really sweet, and she's such a pretty little princess, I would much rather have her emulating more virtuous things.  Like reading her bible, or praying or being kind to her brothers and sister.  Does she see me reading my bible, or praying or being kind?  Does she see me being respectful and honoring her dad?  Not this morning, that's for sure.
I was doing school work with Luke and I had asked Dave to watch the other three kids so I could focus on finishing up this workbook with Luke.  Dave, according to him, did not hear that request.  Lily disappeared and was very quiet, so I knew she was up to nothing good.  However Dave was not aware of really anything the other kids were doing because he was preoccupied.  I found Lily, after finishing school with Luke, in our room painting her fingers and toes.  Not with a Sharpie pen, but this time with real purple finger nail polish.  The polish was all over her, the carpet and even some clothes.  Lovely.  Quite honestly,  after that, I had a really hard time this morning being respectful and honorable to Dave.  I'm over it - although, does anyone know how to get fingernail polish out of carpet?
But seriously, what kind of example are you showing your children?  What characteristics and virtues are you reflecting to them?  Is their behavior just a mirror of the behavior you show to them?  Are you being the type of person that you are requiring them to be? 
In 1 Corinthians 11:1 Paul says, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ."  I encourage you today to consider if this is the message that you are not only speaking to your children, but one that you are living out.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Come on kids, Mom doesn't need a heart attack.

As my aunt and I both jumped to grab Lily, saving her from an ER visit, I just stood there holding on for dear life to the walker.  Laughing.  In my own little world, laughing.  I didn't even realize that she had been out of the walker for about a minute before I finally let go.  She decided that she would get into the baby walker (because it's so much more fun when you know how to walk apparently) and go down my mom's deck stairs.  My heart has had enough near heart attacks this week, I think I'm good for awhile.
Then there is Baby Will who, while I was dealing with another kid, climbed up the entire stair case and went into the kids' bathroom upstairs.  He climbed up the kids' little step stools (keep in mind that he is only 10 months old), grabbed a tooth brush and began to brush his four teeth.  Dave found him very proudly practicing good dental hygiene.
Then of course, Luke and his driving excursion the other day.
Thank you Lord that Emma isn't quite the daredevil that the other three are proving to be.
Then of course today, Dave's typical day off, he gets called in.  I would love to go into the emotion I feel regarding that, however I value his job and the provision that comes from it so I will use discretion to the best of my ability.  Our relaxed day quickly went KABOOM!  And we went from 10 mph all morning to a good 125 mph in just minutes.  Within minutes Dave left for work, I had a lady come to play with the kids who comes monthly to help me with preschool stuff, my phone rang with one of my best friends who just had her baby today, two girls knock on my door looking for their lost cat, Lily trying to flush makeup down the toilet (I swear, I should just give up on makeup) and Will climbing in the cupboards.  All. Day. Long.  Today was insane.  So hence, why I just stood there laughing, granted a bit deliriously, when we saved Lily from taking a near catastrophic tumble off my mom's an infant walker none the less.  Stupid walker.
My house that was spotless last night looks like the land of toys and kid clothes exploded in my living room.  And yet, I'm in a relatively good mood.  Probably, because I have the ability to laugh - even like I said earlier, if it's delirious laughter.
Sometimes, I feel like I'm on a roller coaster ride with my kids that will continue FOREVER.
I mean, my kids push me to the limits every single day, making me step out of my comfy little box and expand my horizons.  For example, cats.  We don't have a fence in our backyard (don't get me started on that one) and we always have cats hanging around.  I hate cats.  Ya, ya, I know they are God's creatures blah blah blah, but I despise them.  They scare me, they make me cringe to have them touch me...I don't like them.  And a stray shows up on our doorstep yesterday and my baby puts his hand in the cat's mouth!  Are you kidding me?  Come on!!!  But, I must admit, after the scary little cat didn't bit Will's hand off I grew a little attached and was sad to see it had left our doorstep this morning.
My adventure in motherhood, in the grand scheme of things, is only beginning.  I'm highly aware of that.  Yet I know that a lot of the times, we just have to hold on and enjoy the ride.  Today, was one of those days.
I don't have any deep spiritual lesson today, simply because my mind could not extract any thing of substance from today.  However - don't be too serious!  Have fun.  Build towers, make train tracks, sing the ABC's on the top of your lungs, dress up like a princess.  Don't allow your kids to drive or off road with a walker, but have fun.  Don't take yourself too serious either - enjoy your kids, enjoy your time with them and be able to laugh.  As maddening as some of the stuff that our kids do is, if you can't laugh you will go crazy!
Tomorrow night, a dear friend I consider my sister, is graduating.  When I first met her, she was turning two - just like Lily.  Tomorrow she ends one adventure to begin another.  The last 16 years of her life have flown by for me.  It still is crazy for me to think that she is almost an adult.  I know that I can't make time slow down, and that there are other times that I wish it would hurry up (like through potty training), but I want to treasure every minute I have with my kids - even when they scare me half to death.  It goes by so fast, and I personally don't want to miss a moment.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Meet my kids...

Luke is four.
He loves Spiderman.  He used to love Thomas the Tank Engine but now that he is four he loves Spiderman.  He used to demand to be called Choo Choo Guy, but now he dresses up as Spiderman daily and we have to refer to him as Spiderman.
Luke tried to drive yesterday, and is still in shock I think.  Luke woke up no less than ten times last night to tell me that he loved me.  Cute.
In the developmental screening today at his 4 year old check up he was asked if he knew a song.  He sang his rendition of the Spiderman theme song.  Fitting.
Emma is four.
Emma is a princess, to the fullest extent of the word.
Emma loves jewelry, makeup (pretend) and fancy dresses.  Emma does not like to leave the house, or even her room without a fancy dress on.
Emma's best friend right now is her 85 year old great grandmother.  If it was up to Emma, she would spend alone time every day for hours on end with Granny.  She thinks she is absolutely fascinating and wonderful.
Emma is very smart, brave and motherly to her brothers and sister.  She is strong willed, stubborn but incredibly gentle and loving.
Emma dressed in a fancy dress, tights, heels and jewelry today for her doctors appointment.  She was quite the little lady saying "thank you" to all the compliments.
Lily is two and a half.
Lily is full of life and energy.
Lily wants to be potty trained - but quite honestly, I just don't have it in me right now.  I really don't like the "training" part of it at all and much prefer them to decide that they just want to be done with diapers.  That's much easier - albeit longer to actually take place than real training.
Lily is the loudest human being on the face of the planet and causes the police to be called because she disturbs our neighbors peace with her loudness.
Lily knows what she wants, and she usually gets it.
Today Lily...wait, nevermind - no one wants to hear about poopy diapers and two year olds taking them off before their mothers get to them.
Will is 10 months old.
Will is proving himself to be quite the contender for being the handful of the family.
He started his life out with fighting for his health in the NICU for two weeks, and now he throws himself on his siblings to wrestle them to the ground - smiling the entire time.  He already climbs on the table, in cupboards, up stairs.  But his disposition is wonderful, and he is easy going and it doesn't take much to please him.
Today due to the prodding of his sisters and brother he stuck his hand in the mouth of a stray cat that found itself at our back door.  His sisters and brother were laughing hysterically and then he too thought he was quite impressive with his feat of bravery.
I know I am in for it with Will.  Bring it on.
Those are my kids.  Those are the kids I prayed for, longed for, hoped for.  Those are the kids that exhaust me and challenge me daily.  Those are the kids that God chose for Dave and me.
With preschoolers driving cars, toddlers and poop, babies and stray animals and princesses that require a wardrobe - I love my life.
I am so glad I'm a mommy.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Lesson of the day: 4 year olds should not drive!

At 4:45 this morning, my son Luke woke me up.  "Good morning Mommy!  It's wake up time!  The sun is awake!"  I quickly pulled him into my bed and nestled him between Dave and me.  For the next two hours I fought with him to go back to sleep, which was a losing battle, since all he could see was the sun beckoning him to play outside.  I laid there in bed, frustrated that I was once again losing precious sleep which lately I have really been feeling the effects of.  I thought to myself about how I would blog on how frustrated and even resentful I become when I lose sleep night after night after night.  But eventually, we all emerged from bed and I knew it would be a good day despite my incredible lack of sleep.  I got a shower (which is always a landmark moment), we went to the store to buy a darkening shade for Luke's room:), and we were on our way to the park after a quick pit stop at my mom's to say hi.
The kids were so excited to go to the park, so the three oldest ran outside while I got Will ready and was pushing my mom's wheelchair back to her (since my kids always move it to the other end of her house.)  Then I heard crying.  I went outside to find my van no longer in my mom's driveway but parallel parked across the street, Luke crying in the middle of the road holding his leg and the girls standing by him telling me that he got hit by the van.  I was confused, and shocked, and in disbelief of what I was seeing.  I ran to my van and there I found it in neutral with the key just turned enough to turn the battery on.  I quickly turned it off, demanded that the girls get back inside my mom's house and turned my attention to Luke.  I could tell that he was a bit in shock and he refused to walk, so we headed to the ER.  I was amazingly calm.  I knew nothing was broken - or at least I assumed, since he wasn't uncontrollably crying.  After about three hours, two x-rays and the story being told by Luke about ten times we were able to come home.  His leg was cut and bruised, his face was scratched up, his tummy and chest have some scratches, his ear is black and blue behind it and on his shoulder blade he has some scratches.  All in all, pretty miraculous outcome for Luke.  We got home, I put all four kids to nap and then fell asleep myself out of pure exhaustion.
About an hour later, I woke up and began to replay what had happened this morning.  And then the reality of what could have happened this morning hit me. 
I was so frustrated this morning because my kids were out of bed all night last night.  I was so irritated that they not only took all my energy during the day but they also took every last ounce of energy I had left while I should have been sleeping.  And yet, in a matter of seconds I could have lost three of my four beautiful, wonderful, precious children.  Luke was in the driver seat and the girls were in the passenger seat - and then he turned the car on.  If he had turned the car on seconds sooner, the car could have rolled right over the girls.  Luke jumped out and got skinned by the car, but had he jumped out a second sooner, the car could have rolled right over him.  In a matter of seconds, my entire life could have changed forever.and I would have been aching for a lack of sleep caused by my full of life kids.
I know that in a couple of days when the shock of all this has dissipated a bit,  especially since Luke didn't get injured severely, I will be grumpy about not sleeping again.  But I will be keeping this day in the forefront of my memory bank so I can revisit my emotion and keep perspective on being a mom.  Being a good mom is hard work.  Being patient and kind, loving and gentle at all times can sometimes feel impossible.  Sometimes, especially on those nights when I am lacking any quantifiable amounts of sleep, being a mom can seem like a real lack luster thankless job.
But today I was reminded that I am so blessed to be a mom.  I am so blessed to have four amazing children who are full of life and curiosity.  I am so blessed that tonight I got to tuck in four healthy kids. 
If you are discouraged today as you are reading this, please know you are so amazingly fortunate to be a mommy to your children.  It's easy to lose perspective when you haven't had much of a break in who knows how long and your kids seem like they have forgotten all manners and good virtues you have instilled in them.  But you are blessed!  In Psalm 127:3 it says, "Don't you see that children are God's best gift? The fruit of the womb his generous legacy?"
Don't lose heart - hang in there.  Today will be seared in my family's mind forever and I'm thankful it all turned out the way it did, but it was a pretty horrible morning.  However, I needed the perspective that it offered.  And now, I am going to sleep.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Please, please like me!!!

I was fifteen, standing in line at the door of my history class waiting anxiously for the bell to ring.  Of course the girl who had no ability to be kind or respectful, yet was very popular (I'm sure for that very reason), was standing right by me.  The cool sandals at the time were Dr. Martens.  It seemed like EVERYONE had a pair, yet I knew there was no way my mom would spend a hundred bucks on a pair nor did I have the nerve to even ask.  But my mom did buy me some Colorado sandals, that looked almost identical, but for half the price.
Are you all keeping up with the shoe story so far?
I was so excited to wear them to school that day and actually had received a ton of compliments on them before the history class.  As I was standing there, Ms. Popular looks down and sees my shoes and in her total coolness that defined her she said, "Where did you get those?  Goodwill?"  She laughed and the girls who followed her mindlessly snickered along with her.  I was so hurt.  All of the compliments were erased from my mind and filled with the six words of that girl.
Oh, but the story gets better.
The next day I found myself lined up at the door again waiting anxiously for the bell to ring.  And of course Ms. Popular was standing right by me.  I looked down at her shoes and much to my surprise, she was wearing the same shoes I had on the day before.  The avoider of conflict that I tend to be went right out of the window and I looked at her and said, "Where did you get those shoes *@#$"  Not my most Christ like moment in my life, but I felt justified.  I never cussed so it was a huge deal that I "stood up" to her - however, she spoke like a sailor so it had no effect on her.
That moment, obviously, has stuck with me for 14 years.  Melissa, move on already.  But here's the thing...
Don't we want people to like us?  Every person wants to be accepted and liked - whether or not we admit it.  I think some of us are just more comfortable with the reality that not every single person likes us more than others.  Those people tend to be the confident, go getters, because they aren't paralyzed by the "what if's" of acceptance that so many people are paralyzed by.  But even those people, yes even those people, still want people to like them.
When I was doing public speaking and traveling with the company talking to parents of drug addicted teens I met so many parents that were "people pleasers."  They parented from the need to be liked and accepted by their children.  I didn't understand in the least how monumental of an issue that was to get over back when I was nineteen, but now that I am a parent I understand it a bit more.
About two weeks ago after telling Luke that his birthday party was not going to be that day but in three more days, he declared that he hated me.  I know that Luke didn't understand what that really meant, but he was frustrated and that was the only way he could communicate it.  I calmly sent him to his room and with door shut, he screamed over and over again, "I hate Mommy! I hate Mommy!"  I stood outside of his room hearing those words, and my heart was hurting.  "Come on Melissa, he's not even four yet.  You know that he doesn't get it, don't let this hurt you," I thought to myself.  So, I took a deep breath and walked downstairs.  I got the other three kids ready to leave, shoes tied and buckled in their car seats.  Luke came downstairs where he found his shoes sitting on the step.  He doesn't know how to put his own shoes on yet and was very angry that I didn't put his shoes on for him.  He ran to the car where the four of us were all waiting for him.  He asked me, with tears in his eyes why I didn't put his shoes on.  I didn't respond.  He climbed into his car seat and waited for me to buckle him in.  I didn't.  He began to scream, "Buckle me in!  You need to buckle me in!"  I didn't respond.  He walked to the front of the van with tears streaming down his face and asked me why I wasn't buckling him in.  As calmly as I have ever spoken, I looked at him and said, "You told me you hated me.  God says that when we say we hate someone, we are really saying that we wish they were dead.  If I wasn't alive, you would have to buckle your own seat belt."  I could see on his face my words penetrating his little four year old heart.  He said, "I'm sorry Mama.  I don't want you to be sick, I don't want you to not be alive.  I love you.  I don't hate you, I'm sorry for saying those bad words."  And he proceeded to fall into my arms and we hugged for about two minutes.  Those ten minutes drained me emotionally - and I'm sure that moment will stay seared in my memory much longer than 14 years.
But really, who do we need approval from?  Our friends?  Our family?  Our kids?  Our spouses?  People we don't even know?  Sometimes we can get so caught up in other people's approval, that we forget whose approval really matters.  In Galatians 1:10 it says, "Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ."
This verse has been at the forefront of my mind this week as I started the page for this blog.  I even saw on Facebook where people started liking "I'm not feeling very happy today.  Please 'like' me so I can feel better about myself."  Isn't that so true?!  I know that not everyone is going to like me, and not everyone is going to agree with my blog and what I write often times - but I am going to write what I feel is true and right and what I believe God has laid on my heart to write about, regardless of what people might think or if they will like me after they read it.  Because in the end, God's approval of me is what truly matters., and God's approval of you is what should matter to you in the grand scheme of it all.
Since that incident with the shoes 14 years ago, I have owned quite a few pairs of Dr. Martens - and surprisingly, no one has really complimented me on them.  And even more shocking, people's opinions on my shoes don't matter to me anymore.  And I'm learning, to the best of my ability to adopt the statement spoken by my friend Lisa Whittle, "Like me or not, I just pray that you cannot deny the presence of God in my life."  Slowly but surely I will get there...

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Super Mom!!! Are you kidding me?

So in my quest to lose the baby weight, I got this fabulous idea of loading all four of my children in my double stroller and going on power walks.  We are quite the sight to be seen!  I put Will in the very front (since he has discovered hair pulling), Emma gets thrown behind him in the first seat (because let's admit it, she is his other mom...or so she thinks), Lily goes in the next seat and Luke straddles her bringing up the rear.  My kids are not small by any definition and so when it all is added up, I'm pushing about 145 pounds of kid and a 20 pound stroller - which makes uphill a blast!  I huff and puff pushing all of them while they encourage me by screaming, "FASTER!  FASTER!  FASTER!"  We of course get stopped about every few houses by an onlooker, which probably could be annoying but I welcome it as a much needed break for my sore arms.  And with almost a 100 percent accuracy I can predict how our conversation will go:
Onlooker:  "Wow, you have quite the load there."
Me (with a polite smile): "Yes I do."
Onlooker:  "How old are all of your kids?"
Me:  "Twin 4 year old's,2 and almost 1"
Onlooker:  "You must be very busy!  I bet you are super mom!"
Me:  "Ya, I stay pretty busy.  Have a wonderful day."
Luke:  "Mommy you aren't a super hero, you are the mommy."
Me:  "Thanks for the reality check honey."
Then we proceed until we get stopped again.
When I envisioned having kids, they were always clean and well behaved.  They wanted to cuddle a lot, read books, and they never forgot their manners or ate with their mouths open.  I was always beautiful (of course) in my dream and put together - and people were always in amazement how wonderfully behaved and perfect my children were.
Darn reality!
We lived in Kalispell when the twins turned two and Lily was 6 months old.  Our church served dinner every Wednesday night and you could find us there rain or shine (it was cheap and I didn't have to cook!)  You would get your food cafeteria style and then take it back to your table.  Dave worked evenings and so I was single parenting it most of the time which always lends itself to wonderful adventures.  One Wednesday night I placed the kids at the table and told them to stay seated until I got back with their food.  I proceeded through the line and was headed back to the table with 3 plates in hand to a table that had my girls sitting there but no Luke.  I told Emma to not move as I began to frantically look for Luke all over the church.  Soon, about twenty youth and pastors were enlisted to find Luke.  My heart was racing, but I knew he was somewhere in the church - just where?  As I was about to run down yet another hall, the youth pastor found him playing in one of the rooms with the thermostat.  Nice.  I grabbed his hand tightly and we walked back to the table where I found baby Lily crying in the high chair because she was all alone.  Yes, alone.  Emma was gone.  So, I asked some random person to sit with my kids and give Luke the death stare if he dared move from his chair.  As I started running out of the gym to find Emma, she walked into the gym proudly.  Holding her diaper.  With no pants.  She had gone potty apparently in the restroom and wanted to share the news with EVERY. SINGLE. PERSON.  Horrified I grabbed her, ran to the bathroom, redressed her and went back to our table.  And then we finally got to eat our dinner.  Yes, that's me - Super Mom.
This morning as I was getting caught up with some emails and banking stuff I realized that it had been quiet for too long.  Lily was missing.  I found her in my bathroom with the door locked.  When I unlocked the door I found her "painting" her fingers and toes, among other things, with a black sharpie.  Beautiful.  Super Mom, right here.
I have become quite comfortable with my reality, ever since my kids could walk, that I am definitely NOT Super Mom.  But I still struggle with disappointing myself when I feel like I have not attained that title - which happens, well, daily.
Busy does not equal Super Mom.  Lots of kids does not equal Super Mom.  Quite honestly, I don't know what would equate to Super Mom.  But what I do know is that loving your kids equals Great Mom.  Taking time to teach them about life's little miracles equals Great Mom.  Introducing your children to Jesus and instilling in them characteristics of compassion and love equals Great Mom.  A clean house, in my opinion, doesn't equate to Great Mom - it equates to a clean house which is wonderful.  But a house that is full of love and learning and growing - that equates to greatness.
In Deuteronomy 32:4 it says, "He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is He."
I am not a super hero, but God is.  I am not perfect, but God is.  And I think, when we rely on God's strength in us instead of our own strength then parenting becomes a bit easier.  When we remember that we won't be perfect, but that God always is and loves us despite our imperfection - it's easier to laugh at those moments when everything seems to be going wrong (like naked kids in the middle of the church).  Embracing that we will make mistakes, that our kids will not always be spotless well-behaved robots nor will we, and that life is messy and full of imperfections and opportunities to grow will allow us the freedom to truly become great parents.  When our eyes shift from us to Him - that's where we find freedom and the ability to really flourish.
Now I'm going to go grab the magic eraser and get the sharpie off the bathroom counter and then lock all the markers away where no two year old can reach them for a very long time - and then for a walk!

Friday, June 4, 2010

The purpose of this whole thing...

I love writing.  It's become my new passion from the comfort of my own home in the rare quiet moments of my life.  It gives me an outlet to explain what I think, how I feel, or just vent.  It also gives me a sense of fulfillment when I am told how a certain post encouraged or challenged a reader.  I used to be a public speaker and though I enjoyed that immensely, writing is so more freeing - and you can do it in your pajamas!
Some of you who read this regularly know me personally, others - most of you, do not.  The most fundamental characteristic of my life is my relationship with the Lord.  My choices on how I raise my children, to how I operate within my marriage to, gasp, even my political affinity is based on my relationship with Jesus.  I cannot and don't understand how I can separate my love for Jesus and my life I live - for in my opinion, the life I live is because of my love for Jesus.
And therein enters my writing.  One of the biggest things that frustrate me within the Christian community is the hyper-spirituality of people who tend to throw practical Christianity right out the window while trying to appear as though they have obtained some lofty spiritual platform.  It drives me nuts!  It kills me when Christians act superior to people who do not believe, like those who are not believers are mentally deficient somehow.  And it irritates me when Christians say that they want to reach out to people who don't believe - and they do so by offering them Bible verses, instead of loving them to the Lord and to an appreciation of what the Bible says.  I wanted my blog to be a reflection of me, and how I view the Lord and my relationship with Him.  I wanted people to read my writing who don't have a relationship with Jesus and prompt them to think about Jesus in a new light - instead of the way they have always viewed religion.  I wanted Christians to read my posts and be challenged in how they carry out their Christianity in their daily lives - with their children, spouses, and with whoever they happen to meet in public.
And so I have prayed about the direction of my blog - what I would want to accomplish through it and how I want it to be used in the grand scheme of things.  Quite honestly, I have my visions of grandiose success for my blog and writing, but I know we are living in reality.  I don't want it to be a Bible study.  I don't want it to be a feel good fluffy blog where there really is no meat to chew on.  I want it to be a place where people go to be challenged and provoked to think about things differently.  If you want a Bible study, there are some wonderful blogs out there that would meet that need.  If you want a feel good blog full of fluff, there are plenty of those out there for that as well.  But if you want to read something that will challenge you with practical Christianity and be real about the struggles and joys of motherhood, marriage and being a woman - than this is the blog I hope that will meet that need.
Everyday, with a husband and four kids, there is a lot of material that comes to light.  In the last couple of weeks my four year old twins noticed that not all people have the same color of skin that we do, my son told me that he hated me, my little 2 year old Lily started getting attention apart from Luke and Emma, Emma is learning not to challenge authority but to respect it and Will is growing rapidly before my eyes.  My husband and I are praying about what God would want from us as a family in service to Him and what that will look like and just for more fun with it all, I'm still trying to lose the baby weight.  I know that life is full for me, and I am quite aware that life is very full for those who read my blog.  I want to write posts that I feel will encourage and challenge you - and make you laugh a bit.  I want to write about things that will make you feel like you did something valuable with your time by reading them, instead of feeling like you could have spent that ten minutes doing something more productive - so I will do my best to write things that pertain to your life and the things that matter to you.
I had a conversation with my husband recently regarding Biblical Christianity.  In the Bible, I don't recall anyone coming into real relationship with Jesus and then continuing their normal lives.  Once they learned who He really was, they were radically transformed and given a sense of urgency to do something about it.  Some of the disciples were fishermen.  When they came to the reality of who Jesus really was they didn't say, "Wonderful, you are the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.  You are the key to eternal life.  Now excuse me, I need to go catch some salmon."  They dropped their nets, they left everything they held onto and followed Jesus.
I'm not sure that we do that anymore.  I speak for myself, but I think I'm much more like the rich young ruler, except not that rich and definitely not a ruler.  But I love God and I want to serve Him, but I don't want to release the control of the things that give my life comfort and security.  I want to be really make an impact for Christ, as long as I know that there is a paycheck coming every other Friday.  I like control, I like ten year plans, and I'm not much for surprises.  I like things to make sense to me, and happen according to plan - and yet, I know after much experience that nothing rarely happens neatly and according to plan. 
So, I'm not going to wait to make the blog the coolest thing anyone has ever seen.  I'm not going to wait till I have an awesome logo and some really cool pitch.  I feel like God is prompting me to just stop making it about me and what I want and let Him be in control and take it where it may go. 
So here it is, if you read this blog regularly and you are on Facebook, click on "like."  If you are challenged or encouraged, frustrated or even upset with what I write - put it on the wall.  If you have questions, post them.  I don't know where God will take this - maybe nowhere and it will just be my own personal corner to process my thoughts on life.  But if God chooses to use my writing to advance Himself than that is all I can ask for.
Here's to what God holds in His hands and sees with His eyes, and to the faith to believe even when we can't see.