Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Heart of the Matter: Anything means ANY thing

I did it--or I should say, I'm doing it. I'm praying ANYTHING. "God, I will do anything. I will give anything."

I thought it would be scary, but it's not. It is unbelievably freeing. Because the things I've been holding onto... they're not mine to hold onto. I have been clutching so tightly onto the idea of control, when I knew deep down that I didn't have control. THAT was scary. THAT was stressful.

It has been coming slowly. I have been finding ways to simplify. I have, as you know, cut out television for the past month--and while I will probably start watching some things again in November, I am glad that I took the time off. I learned the joy of following through with a commitment that, in and of itself, isn't "important." I learned that I have developed all sorts of ways to waste time and avoid some deeper issues in my heart, and I have worked to cut those out as well. I learned that the world keeps spinning even when I miss "major" events in the lives of, well, people who don't actually exist. (And I've learned that I don't even really care nearly as much as I thought I would.)

But it's not just about TV. My heart has been softening toward my children in areas that I didn't know it was hardened. I have been gracious with my husband when I wanted to be defensive. I have said "no" to things that were good because I knew that they weren't the best for my family right now.

Slowly, I have--after almost 30 years of being a Christ-follower--been turning my life over to Jesus in all new ways.

And so it just made sense to begin praying "anything." This morning I was literally on my knees praying "anything." I can't even REMEMBER the last time I got on my knees to pray.

At first I thought God wasn't answering me, that He wasn't leading me. In her book (called Anything, if you haven't been following along in this blog series) Jennie Allen says that God started leading them immediately. Where was MY leading? I think deep down I expected to wake up in the morning and find a baby on my doorstep or check my e-mail and find a message begging our family to move to Africa. No such leading.

But He was leading. Is leading.

Jennie says, "Daily abandon would prove to be more costly than the reckless kinds of obedience."

And this is it. This is where He is leading me. In the day-to-day dying to self. When I pray for God to change my husband's heart about something, and He says, "Why don't we change yours?" When I think my plate is already full, and Lamb announces, "Mommy, guess what! I volunteered you to be in charge of my fall party at school!" When someone gets upset over something that I did--something that I thought was good and helpful--and God whispers, "Just say, 'I'm sorry.'"

ANYTHING doesn't mean "any big thing." It means anything. Big or small. Letting go of being right. Letting myself be inconvenienced. Being gracious when I feel I have been wronged. Being patient when I want a few minutes to process and my kids just.won't.stop.talking.

Will there be big things? I think so. I hope so--with a hope that is both excited and a little anxious. But right now, anything means going through my day with my hands open, not holding onto an illusion of control or an idea of entitlement.

God, I will do anything.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Weekend Review... in time for the next weekend...

I have been waiting and waiting to tell you about last weekend. Now it's Friday again, time for another weekend. But I still want to tell--and show--you what we did last weekend! So here I am. Better late than never, so I've heard.

My kids had the day off of school on Friday--YAY! Instead of just hanging out at home or spending the day focused on our own fun and happiness, we decided to make our day about others. This will be the subject of a whole other post, because it.was.AWESOME. Seriously fabulous. We had a GREAT day giving to others. And then at the end of the day, we DID do a little family celebration... by taking the kids to Boo at the Zoo.

This is a terrific family event, and we have gone every year since Lamb was just 1. (Well, last year we got TO the parking lot, and then Roo puked all over Daddy, so I don't know if that really counts as GOING. But other than that.) Everything is decorated for Halloween, nothing is scary, and there are 12 trick-or-treat stations, featuring full-size candy bars and Little Debbie snacks. The kids have a blast--and so do we.

This year... oh my heart... my three munchkins decided to wear coordinating costumes...


Are they not the cutest minions you have ever seen?

And talk about the perfect costume...

I wish he would have left those goggles on, because they were PER.FEC.TION.

Unfortunately, around 1 AM (back at home, while everyone was in bed--not still at Boo at the Zoo!) I started hearing an all-too-familiar sound... the barking cough. Poor Roo gets croup so darn easily! I was up with him off and on until 5, and then I just sat up with him, trying every trick in the book. No luck. Finally around 6 I decided to take him to Children's. Since this has become a semi-regular occurrence for us, we decided not to bother any grandparents or babysitters, and Mr. Fantastic just stayed at home with the big kids while I took Roo to the ER. I have to say, I have been SO THANKFUL for our Children's Hospital in the 3 years since we have had Roo. I think we have taken him in there 5 or 6 times since he was born, and we have NEVER had to sit in a waiting room. We always go directly to triage and then straight into an exam room. They are really great.

Of course, although I had waited for hours to take him in... he improved GREATLY during the 20-minute drive to the hospital. His breathing was still labored when we saw the triage nurse, but by the time we got to the exam room he was almost back to normal. He did still have the barky cough, though. This was a mixed blessing, because I felt like an idiot, but it meant that we didn't need the breathing treatment--which is never a fun experience with Roo. They did give him an oral steroid, though, to reduce the inflammation, and that worked wonders. Within 20 minutes he was totally fine, no cough--and it never came back. They discharged us, and we were home less than two hours after we had left!

And then we could get down to the real Saturday business: a whole lotta nothing. We played board games, we did crafts, we read...  we just hung out together as a family. It was glorious. It was the second weekend in a row that we had time for that. It needs to become more of a habit. We really enjoy just being together, the 5 of us. It's lovely.

And just to completely bookend our day... right before bedtime... this same child who had needed a trip to the ER that morning... SLAMMED his head into my nose while we were playing on the ground. About a year ago, he broke my nose during a fit, and I am pretty sure he did it again. OH.MY.WORD. that is some pain. Mr. Fantastic was in the basement watching the Buckeyes game, and poor Lamb called him up because she knew I was hurting.

But I have to say, it completely warmed my heart to watch my big kids take care of me. Mr. Fantastic had to leave a few minutes after it happened, and Lamb and Monkey did everything they could to make life easier. They got their own dinner, they made up a bed for me on the couch, they got MY dinner, they rubbed my feet! Who are these children? I ADORE them!

And Sunday was more family time... church, lunch, a few errands/chores, and a family birthday party. A bit busier than Saturday, but still lots of fun.

Weekends like this make me want to be one of those parents who doesn't let their kids be involved in ANYTHING. It is just so nice to be together, to not have a bunch of places to run. Which reminds me of this post I saw today on Becoming Minimalist. This really struck me! You know that I have been doing some soul-searching lately, and as part of that I have been working toward simplification. But I think I often forget that simplification doesn't just mean "less stuff." There are other things we can simplify--like our calendars. Amen.

So how was your weekend? Or maybe a better question at this point: What plans do you have for THIS weekend? Do you do Halloween? What are your kiddos going to be?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The No (more) Drama Mama, part 1: The Questions

If you follow me on Facebook, you know that I had a post planned for tonight... and then I lost it... from my brain. Yep, it was in my head, and then it was gone. I was left with nothing but a title and a vague feeling of greatness lost.

And now here I am, posting, and you might think that I have found the post that has hidden itself away in a dark corner of my mind. You would be wrong. This isn't it. Instead, this post is born out of my evening--and my last 8 years as a parent.

I know that people typically go to blogs for what they can get: craft ideas, recipes, a good laugh, a thought-provoking read, or even a heart-warming story to make them smile. Tonight, though, I'm hoping that you will come see what you can give.

Tonight I am looking for ideas. Suggestions. Input. HOPE!

Tonight I come to you as a mommy to a little girl entering the tween years. And all the drama that comes with that.

I remember when Lamb was just a little tot, talking to other moms about little girl attitude and little girl drama. And we would say, "If they act like this NOW, what are we going to do when they are 13?"

And now she's 8, and I'm wrestling with the same things I did when she was 2 and 3. What am I going to do with all of this drama?

And more specifically, here is my real question: How do I validate her feelings and let her know that she can talk to me about anything... without feeding into the drama?

To be fair, some of it is on me. I know this. I have very little patience for the mannerisms and tone-of-voice that come with uncomfortable conversations with this girl. The fidgeting and the incomplete (and whiny) sentences ("Wellllllllllllllllllllllll............ it's just.................. I mean........................... sometimes......................... I mean.................... I don't know....................... I just..........................") make my skin crawl. For real. It is just about more than I can handle. Am I alone on this? Is this just my personality, or do other moms have to will themselves past this too?

And once we get past the logistics, there's the content. I fully recognize that an 8-year-old's world is much smaller than mine; therefore things that seem small to me might be big to her. That's the part where I want to validate her feelings and not blow her off. And at the same time, I have a sense that the feelings aren't always genuine--that they may (at least in part) be about attention or getting her way or staying up past bedtime.

So where is the balance? How do you as a mom discern when to "go there" with your daughter and when to say, "that's enough"? How do you keep yourself calm and not go, "This is ridiculous. Go to bed"? (Not that I have ever been temped to say that, of course. Definitely not in the last 15 minutes.)

What are your tips for cutting the drama? Post your comments here or on the Facebook page. Pass this along and ask your friends for their tips. I will compile them--along with some things that I have learned myself (yep, there's one or two bits of wisdom in there)--and post them in a day or so. (But if no one gives me suggestions, I'm going to look rather silly with this post just sitting out there. Come on, help a sister out!)

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Binkies, Bunk beds, and Big Boy Chairs: A lesson in letting go

It's a commonly accepted practice that moms get more relaxed in their parenting as time goes on--and as they add more children to their families. Bedtimes are more relaxed, treats are more common, that kind of thing.

I get it. I see it. And I'm not saying I don't see ways that I am more easy-going with this kind of stuff. For instance, this afternoon Roo let himself into the pantry, found the box of graham crackers, and sat down in the middle of the kitchen floor, chomping away--not on ONE graham cracker, mind you, but on several (one bite from this one, one bite from that one, put this one on the ground and pound it a bit, let the dog nibble that one and then take it back and lick it... that sort of thing). This would have been COMPLETELY unacceptable when my older kids were his age, but I was just so darn proud of the kid for doing that whole process himself that I couldn't scold him for it!

In many ways, though, I think I have gotten more uptight, more controlling, more of a worrier. When Lamb was born and one of the grandmas would watch her, they would always ask such respectful questions: "Is it OK to hold her while she sleeps?" "When do you want me to feed her?" Things like that. And I would answer, "You've been a mom a lot longer than I have--whatever you think is fine."

But now I worry. I worry about bedtimes and routines and screen time and... so many things. I feel the need to make sure that we are doing everything "right."

And then came Roo. And he continues to teach me that I need to rethink my idea of "right." And to let.the.heck.go of my worries.

I worried and worried and worried about when he would walk. And now that child runs everywhere.

I cried because the only name he would say was "Daddy." And now he clearly calls each member of our family by name--Lamb, Monkey, Mommy, Daddy, Gram, Nana, AND Papa! And every morning I walk in his room, and I'm greeted with a smile and a "Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!"

So you would think I would have learned my lesson by now, right? He may take his sweet time learning something, but once he's got it, he's GOT IT.

But no. No, I still have to learn over and over again. And he is a willing teacher.

At Roo's open house at the end of August, I asked his teacher if I could send a "binky" with him for naptime. Yep, he's 3 1/2. I had been thinking about getting rid of it for months, but oh. It just seemed so impossible. With Lamb, we went to Build-a-Bear when she was 2 and put the binky in the bear (whom she aptly named "Binky). Then she could snuggle her new friend and know that her binky was close by. It seemed like a good idea, but the first night she asked us to rip the poor animal open and get her binky out. For the next week bedtime was tough, but then everything was back to normal. Not too shabby.

With Monkey, I started telling him that when he was ready to be done, we would put his binky in a gift bag and leave it for the Binky Fairy. She would come while he was sleeping, take the binky for another baby, and leave him with a "big boy present." We had this conversation for several days in a row, and one afternoon I heard him SOBBING up in his bed. When I went to check on him, he sadly handed me the pacifier and said, "All done binky." I--ahem, the Binky Fairy--gave him his present, which made him happy in the moment, but did not make bedtime much easier that night... or the next several to follow.

If that's how the pacifier break went with kids who actually UNDERSTOOD, how was it going to go THIS time? Roo doesn't get abstract concepts or things that are in the future or... well, a lot of things.

But he's 3 1/2. Isn't it time? If I keep letting him use his pacifier, when do I get my "Bad Moms' Club" membership card???

All of this was running through my head as I humbly asked his teacher to give him a binky at naptime. She readily agreed--and also added that she would be happy to withhold it if I wanted to start cutting back.

Hint, hint.

(Don't jump on his teacher. She is fantabulous. She was being kind and gentle--I think she could see my hesitation on the whole thing.)

But then the craziest thing happened. When she would give him his pacifier at school, he would hand it back to her. He didn't want anything to do with it. And he would still sleep!

This was not a one-time deal. It happened the first day... and the second... and the third... and the fourth.

So I decided to do something crazy. I decided I would JUST STOP GIVING IT TO HIM.

And he didn't cry.

And he still went to sleep!

OK, so he didn't go right to sleep. But there was no crying. In fact, I'd hear him in his room, laughing and having a grand old time. And sometimes I'd have to go in and remind him to go "night-night." But eventually he would. He still falls asleep at naptime almost every day, and he still goes to sleep (though sometimes it takes a while) every night.

Can I confess something here? On the rare night that he is really struggling... like a night when he has gone to sleep, but now is restless and waking up over and over... I still give it to him. It's not often, maybe once every week. And it doesn't seem to be ruining him for life.

Do you think maybe, just maybe, I could stop worrying so much?

A few days ago, as I was watching Roo run around before lunch and mentally celebrating my binky victory, my mind turned to the next big "hurdle" I am facing with him: the crib. Yep, he's still in a crib. He doesn't climb out, and since he DOES tend to be awake for a while when I put him to bed... well, quite honestly, I am intimidated to think about trying to get him to stay in his bed. But have I mentioned that he's 3 1/2? And his other buddies with DS his age are in "big boy" beds? And did I happen to mention that I worry a little too much about making the right choices as a parent???

So as I stood there, my joy gradually replaced by more worries and insecurities, Roo came in and said, "Mommy! Mommy! Eat!" I pulled the tray off the high chair and reached to pick him up, but he pulled away and said, "No!"

Then he ran to the dining room table, climbed into a chair, and said, "Eat!"

This boy may take his sweet time, but when he's ready, he's ready. And he doesn't look back.

Take a deep breath. Relax. Go with it.

Stop worrying, Mom.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Daytripping, a comparison

What it looks like when a dad goes on a day trip...
The night before: Go to bed
The morning of: Get up, get dressed, and leave

What it looks like when a mom goes on a day trip...
The night before:
  • Set out clothes for everyone for the next day, so there are no "Daddy outfit" incidents
  • Put everyone to bed
  • Straighten house
  • Fold one last load of laundry
  • Pack lunches
  • Write note to hubby, explaining what time to wake up each child, what time the buses come in the morning (yep, there's 2 of them!), what time buses come in the afternoon, what to do for dinner, and what time to put the kids to bed
  • Finish preparations for the next day that she couldn't do while running kids all over God's creation after school
  • Go to bed way too late
The morning of:
  • Get up way too early
  • Get showered and dressed
  • Paint toenails, primp, etc.
  • Pack an extra pair of shoes, since the cute ones aren't comfortable and the comfortable ones aren't cute
  • Pack makeup in case she needs to freshen up
  • Pack toothbrush and toothpaste because she KNOWS she'll need that
  • Put dinner in the crock-pot
  • Set out everything the kids need to pack in their bookbags
  • Wake hubby up--remind him to check the note for details, warn him that one child went to bed absolutely heartbroken because he forgot to bring his homework home and may potentially have to "flip his card" and/or miss a whopping 2 minutes of recess so that he can complete said homework (Or maybe not. He's a worrier.)
  • Put reminder on phone to call youngest child's school to make sure it's OK for a family friend to get him off the bus (oops)
  • Leave, wondering what is actually going to get done and PRAYING that the evening/bedtime goes smoothly so that I--I mean, SHE--will be able to leave the house alone again someday
True story.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Give me words to speak

I need to tell you all something, but we need to be clear on one thing first. I am not bragging. This is not coming from a place of pride, but of complete and utter humility.

Here goes:
This Thursday I will be speaking at Heritage Christian Church for their MOPS group. My talk, "Created to be", is one of my favorites. But it is different every time. And can I just say that... this time... the words that God has given me to speak... are just fantastic. I am so honored and humbled and THRILLED to get to share these thoughts, this journey, with these moms. This is absolutely a moment when I realized that I could not have put this talk together myself--thank you, Lord, for giving me words to speak.

If you're in Columbus, OH, this Thursday, you should come check it out. (Details are on my Upcoming Events page.)

(Disclaimer: Childcare is full, except for the 2/3-year-old room. What a great problem for a MOPS group to have!)

If you're not in Columbus, would you pray with me that God uses these words to touch hearts? They have already touched mine.