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.
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!