Thursday, February 19, 2015

just because.

There's a scene in an episode of The Office (I've seen every episode way too many times, don't judge) where Nelly, the British character, is trying to take over as manager of Dunder Mifflin. Pam comes in for her employee review, which she is totally against, but somehow, the scene ends with Nelly gently laying a blanket across working mom Pam, who is now cozied up for a nap on the floor, and softly exclaiming "I think you're amazing!"

If someone gently tucked me in for a nap and told me they thought I was amazing, I think I would burst into tears and just thank them again and again through the sobbing. And then I would take that nap. Because I am a mom to four and I am tired. And naps are awesome but also very very rare.

Really though, that scene resonated with me because as moms, we all long to hear that sometimes. Nelly understood that, and she gave something precious to Pam: recognition for all she was doing. 

(From this paragraph on I promise not to talk about the characters from the Office as real people anymore. Continue.) 

Let me be clear: I do not think I am amazing. On the contrary, I am keenly aware of my faults. Of all the times I've messed up. Of the ways in which I could be doing more. Of the things I'm not accomplishing. Of the times when I fall so very very short. Of my sin. I think I can say that most of us are very aware of these things, that we are often our very harshest critics with a replay button for every single mistake we might have made that day.

As January ended and we headed into the second month of the year, I felt discouraged and down-trodden, weary and worn, tired and exhausted and wondering what I was doing wrong. Just ask my husband. He could sense the weariness at the end of each day, he could see me breaking and on the edge of what I had left to give. It was a combination of so many things; the holidays, family coming to stay with us, a wedding, sickness, getting back into homeschooling and teaching piano and trying to find a routine, not enough quiet time or breaks, rough weeks with each child, a lack of connection, a lack of sleep, and simply feeling overwhelmed and behind on every single thing. And the real kicker? Guilt. That mom-guilt that seems to creep in so easily, crippling even our best efforts as mothers. 

I felt guilty that my house wasn't clean. That we weren't accomplishing as much as I would have hoped in our schoolwork. That we weren't doing fun projects and crafts. That I wasn't making enough time for other people. That my hard-working husband didn't have socks clean for work in the morning. That the home-cooked meals were too infrequent or not healthy enough. That I was tired and I yelled at my kids when they whined for the eighteenth time that day. That I wasn't setting a good enough example for my little ones. And the list could go on. Nothing felt like enough.

Thankfully, I'm happy to say that I'm not writing this post from that place. The past two weeks have been so much better. We've found our routine again, I feel more caught up, I've been able to connect with sweet friends who empathize and encourage in the right ways, I've had moments to myself and in the Word, my husband and I have had time together, rest has been better, fun has been had... the things that were vital and missing have slowly but surely fallen back into place for now. God is good, y'all. 

I know, though, that I will continue to struggle-- each new season, week, day, hour can bring something new and different and challenging and hard. That's life. We will all struggle, however different it might look for each one of us. Perhaps you're in a hard season of marriage or going through heartbreak with your family-- believe me, I know how hard it is to mother, and feel like you're doing it well, during those times. Maybe you are dealing with sickness, whether it's just a few days of flu or something prolonged. Maybe you have a child with special needs, or perhaps just one who is very very difficult and stubborn. You might be a stay-at-home mom or a working mom (either way, it's a juggling act in which a few balls always get dropped.) Or maybe you simply have too much on your plate and you're tired of trying to keep up. And when we struggle, it is so easy to get discouraged. Too easy. We lose sight of what is important and get stuck in the muck and mire of our own minds.

Whatever season you may be in, my lovely fellow mother, I tip my hat, one of the many we all wear, to you. I recognize the work you are doing every single day. I stand beside you thankfully, glad for your example and your sisterhood. I revel in grace with you, the grace that abounds each minute of this never-ending job and allows us to breathe. I pray for discernment with you and for you, to know the difference between what is the real conviction God is laying on our hearts, prompting us to make the changes needed, and what is simply the ugly monster of mom-guilt laid on us by the world around us. I rejoice at the work we have been given in these precious children of ours, thankless and exhausting as it may be. I see your servant's heart and praise God for your dedication to this calling. I thank you for all you do down here in the trenches of this thing called Motherhood.

I say to you today, because sometimes we all just need to hear it: I think you're amazing.

And if I could, I would tuck you in for that much-deserved nap straightaway.

Monday, March 3, 2014

er.... hellooooo!!!

*nothing but empty echoes* 
*tumbleweeds blow by* 
*thick dust covers everything* 
*there is a family of mice nesting in the corner* 
Well, anyway, you get the idea. Hi. It's been a while.
Almost four months since I last blogged! 
This was not intentional. It never is.
It just... happens.
So much has happened in the last few months that when I look back on the last time I blogged it seems like ages ago, a completely different season of life.
December came with all it's usual craziness and hecticity (if that's not a word, it should be. I'm going with it.); the kids and I changed churches, leaving the one I had gone to for almost 13 years, the one where they were all baptized, where Jeremy and I met and were married; the holidays came and went but in a very different way... I can't even really explain it; family came and stayed with us and more busy-ness (wonderful as it was) ensued; there was sickness and teething and sleepless nights; birthdays galore happened; school fell by the wayside in the midst of all this and I started to feel very behind and very exhausted and overwhelmed; and then, just when we were starting to get back into a normal routine and figure life out again, we found a house to rent, packed up six-and-a-half years worth of stuff in two weeks and moved into a new place. And here we are, a month after that move, still working on getting settled but grateful to be where we are-- in more ways than one.


So many life-changing things squeezed into such a short amount of time. I realize there's not a lot of detail in there, and it's the barest bones description of those happenings that I could possibly give you-- when really, some of those things could be a lengthy blog post all their own. 

I think that's one reason I've shied away from blogging. Sometimes, I'm not sure what to share. Obviously, there are things about my life that I choose not to talk about on here, just as we all do, for whatever our own personal reasons may be. That's ok. But sometimes it stunts our ability to share anything at all. It's hard to find the balance. That line between being honest and real, and over-sharing possibly to the detriment of others is a fine one. I'm not sure I always know how to walk it.

I've also struggled with why I still want to blog. Why should I even write posts? In the blogging world everyone has a niche, it seems. What's mine?
Fashion? ha!
Cooking and baking? Maybe once upon a time. But nowadays if I make the time to cook and bake (which I still love to do), I'm darn well not going to have the time to blog about it too!
Crafts? ha, I say, again!
Decorating, cleaning, and organizing tips? why, do YOU have some? I'll take them, please. I need all the help I can get.
Eating healthy? Exercising? This one gets a double ha. HA! HA!
Homeschooling? I'm doing my best. I still love it. But I'm not exactly poised to inspire anyone to greatness in this area.
I don't have an Etsy shop. My pictures are nothing by which to be amazed (they're literally all phone pictures these days. Not even kidding.) I haven't read any wonderful life-changing books lately that I can share with you all. I'm not one of those moms who has the gift for writing just the right post that every other mom needed to read. I'm not even especially eloquent these days. 

I was thinking about all of these things, and here is where I realized that what was standing in my way was pride. I never would have said this in so many words, and I probably really didn't even think it this way, but essentially this is what my attitude toward blogging had become:
"If I can't write or share something that will be considered cool, or awesome, or inspiring, or creative, or {insert great adjective here} then I guess I just won't bother at all."

And I'm not going to lie, I'd love for people to love my posts. Why share things in a public place at all if you don't want it to be seen and enjoyed and become a part of someone else? I like the community, connection, and camaraderie that things like facebook, instagram, and blogging have as a part of them. It's special to me. And who doesn't like knowing  that the people you admire also admire you?

But I want to blog for reasons other than those. I want to share things in this space because when I do, a part of my life and the life of my family is put down in words and pictures, and that is a precious thing. In looking back through some of my archives, I realized that there are moments I wrote about that, had I not put them here, they would be lost forever. Forgotten. I can't let go of that and quit capturing things here in this place. 

So that is what I will do. I will write from the place of who I am, which is quite simply a wife who loves her husband, even when marriage is messy and hard.
A folder of laundry, a doer of endless mind-numbing chores, and someone who sometimes binges on too much tv.
A woman who loves my home and wants to make it as lovely a place as I can for my beloved family and friends. Someone who will share that home with others even if there are graham cracker crumbs on the couch, dishes on the counter, and spots on the floor.
Someone who will sometimes make pancakes for dinner at 7:30 at night because it's been one of those days, and will feel no shame, because a proper healthy home-cooked meal is just not always in the cards.
A mommy who doesn't always have it together, barely gets by on some days, messes up from time to time, gets weary and discouraged, and feels in over her head sometimes. A mommy who needs grace every single day.  A mommy who loves her four kids more than words can even say and cherishes that she gets to be with them, even on the very worst day.
Someone who wants to share moments and memories like these: our first fire in our new home and the cozy peace it brought as they all sat in front of the fireplace. We ate sandwiches and popcorn for dinner on a blanket, and then they all brought pillows and books to read while Bennett made sure we all knew, again and again, that the fire was "hot. hot. hot." as he pointed with his little fingers.

These are the days. I will do my best to make sure they are never forgotten. And if God uses this little life of mine to inspire or bring joy to someone else along the way, well then, wonderful. I hope and pray He does. 

Either way, I still know I'll smile when I read these posts and see these pictures someday. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The bright orange pumpkin

a poem by Emma Joy, age nine

On a bright summer's day,
I opened my cupboard
Just to find a bright orange pumpkin,
Round and fat and broad.

I asked, "Ms. Pumpkin,
What might you be doing here?"
She said, with a voice like honey,
"I have come to say that autumn is near."

I looked outside, and before my eyes,
The trees, oh my! The trees!
What a beautiful sight that met my eyes!
'Twas red and orange and gold.

"Oh!" I exclaimed. "'Tis the perfect time for pies!
I shall make pumpkin, apple, and cherry pies.
But I won't use you, Ms. Pumpkin,
For I think you are quite nice.

Most pumpkins that I've met before
Are rude and cold as ice."
And from that day
And up till now,

Ms. Pumpkin is my friend.
I think that you
Should meet her,
When you see me again.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

it's all fun and games until someone poops in the tub.

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to be a great mom when things are great?
I'm an amazing mom when my kids are well-behaved and our day goes exactly as planned. I smile, I laugh, I have joy, I'm bubbly. I amuse my children with songs and stories and silliness and sometimes even a well-planned craft. We get along famously, a happy, albeit sometimes ragtag because even on the best of days hair isn't always combed or pajamas aren't always lost, bunch. I go from one task to the next with a nice little rhythm all my own, and I can't help but feel how much I love, JUST LOVE, being a mom. It's awesome, people, simply awesome. Super-mom high five!

That's a nice little word picture, isn't it? Are you wondering why I wrote this blog post if I was just going to toot my own horn? Welllll........
Hang on, friends. It's about to take a turn towards the ugly.

Let's get real. How often does our day go exactly as planned? How often are all of my children well-behaved at the very same time and we are living in perfect harmony? How often do I not get interrupted when trying to accomplish something, even if it's just trying to go to the bathroom by myself? How many times do I feel completely on top of it, "it" being house, kids, schoolwork, projects, errands, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. (too many? Just making a point. I may have gotten carried away.)
These are all rhetorical questions, and I'm sure you can guess the answer to each one: Hardly ever, if at all. 
That's normal, I'm pretty sure. (raise your hand if you feel the same way!) That's just life
But what really bothers me is how easy it is to go from happy super-mom to frustrated, grumpy, impatient, snappish, stressed-out, frazzled, crazy, no-fun-at-all mom. Don't get me wrong-- I love being a mom, and that really is all the time. I realize that the hard parts are just included with this job, and even on our very worst day I'm so thankful I get to do what I do.
The problem is, I just need to show that, that attitude of gratitude, even in the hard moments. It's too easy and common to let the circumstances dictate my mood and the person I choose to be.  
It's good to revel in the great moments and to take our reward, whether it be a sense of accomplishment or an extra bit of pure joy. We all need that.  I think God gives us those shining moments or days of pleasant ease when we need them most, not so we can feel prideful or puffed up, but so we can simply keep going. It's His grace. 
Grace. There it is. The quality I want to have and exhibit not only to the world but also and especially to these small ones under my care. Grace under pressure. It's easy to be happy and loving and speak in a kind tone when everything is going my way. But, oh, how hard it is at other times.
When an entire bowl of cereal and milk gets spilled all over the table, chairs, and floor.
When your four-year old throws her third gigantic fit of the day just because you gave her the pink lunch plate instead of the purple one.
When you're desperately trying to get ready to actually be somewhere on time and there hasn't been a moment to just breathe and the kids won't stop fighting and bickering and the toddler won't stop making mess after mess after mess.
When everyone gets runny noses and colds all in the same week and there is so much whining and snot and lack of proper sleep that all you want to do is curl up on the couch by yourself to nap, but oh look, you can't, because there's another kid who needs something and also, a giant smear of snot on your favorite pillow.
When you've had to tell them to do the same chore four times and you start to feel like Naggy mcNaggerson, which I just hate.
When the third dish of the day gets broken and you know it's because they were goofing when you told them not to. 
When the seven-year-old spends an hour grumping and pouting because she didn't just want quesadillas for lunch, and you, being the horrible mean person you are, made her eat them anyway. 
When naptime for little one isn't naptime at all, but instead cry-and-scream-and-be-miserable-and-grumpy time... which, coincidentally, is what the whole day has been like. And the day before that. And the day before that.
When your nine-year-old argues and talks back and throws down bad attitude like it's her business.
When you've gotten the baby all clean and fresh after a long bath and are just ready to pull the kid out, only to discover he's been sitting in turd-water for the past five minutes.   
When you're woken up repeatedly at 4:30 in the morning to more snot and more whining and crying.
When you feel behind on everything and you can't help but compare yourself to all the other moms our there who must have it more together than you.
When you have a lot on your mind and you're feeling a little lost or worried. 
When you're sad.
When you're stressed.
When you're weary.
When life gets heavy.
We've all been there. Perhaps you haven't had some of these exact same situations (these have all actually been a part of my week, YAY BEST WEEK EVER HAHAHAHAHAHA NOT REALLY), but I bet you've got your own set of "whens" that make it hard to carry on with a calm spirit of love and grace or at the very least a smile.
This is what I'm working on, friends. I'm working on being a great and graceful mom not just when it's fun and easy to be a great mom, but even in the nitty-gritty of it all, in the awful and hard and challenging moments and on the really crappy (you can take that both literally and figuratively, how neat is that) days too. I want to nurture and bless my children even when they don't feel like blessings to me (which they are, of course). I want to glorify my God every day, not just on the good ones.
And I can't do it alone. I know if I try that it's only going to get worse. I'm relying on my God to soften and shape and sanctify me, to take my efforts and bless them and give me the strength and will to just keep on trying. To take His grace and cover me, and then to allow me to share that grace all day long with my family. It's going to take prayer, and it's going to take a lot of me looking into my kids' eyes and asking forgiveness in the messy moments, because I know I'm only human and perfection is impossible.  
Parenthood. Good grief. It is so sanctifying and humbling, like nothing else.
And it is such a gift.
> > > Here's one other little thought to tack onto the end of this messy post about motherhood... since we know we've all got our own set of struggles and I think it's safe to say that no one finds parenting an easy task... how about taking the time to encourage another mother today? Write a note and send it snail-mail style. Drop off a Starbucks or a plate of cookies or some flowers from your garden. Call just to say "I love you and you're doing a great job". Ask how you can pray for her specifically. Plan a park date and spend some mommy time together. Share a Bible verse or two that you once found encouraging. It can even be as simple as a text message, just to let her know you're thinking of her, right down there in the trenches where you are too. I know from experience that these sorts of things, no matter how big or small they are, can make the day just a little bit more bearable and joyful. 
(this post is specifically about moms, but this idea of intentional and simple encouragement is something we can practice with anyone and everyone, no matter how different our circumstances. It's such a lovely and wonderful thing! Bonus: if you take the time to encourage someone else, you almost always end up being encouraged yourself. BAM. I know, because I can't even tell you how many times this has happened to me. Isn't God good?) < < <

> > > ps. speaking of lovely and wonderful things, check out my new blog look! It's so purty! courtesy of the one and only sweet Molly June, she's the bomb diggity, y'all. < < &lt 

Monday, September 16, 2013

this is monday morning.

Me, showered but undone in the makeup or hair department, doing our lesson planning for the week, since our weekend was far too busy to allow for it. Reveling in the thrill of a brand-new pad of list paper, and all the promise and potential therein, and enjoying the much-needed cup of coffee my sweet sister brought me when she came home from her morning shift.
Rosalie, still in her pajamas and yesterday's ponytail, happily tracing shapes and humming snatches of songs to herself (much to her sisters' annoyance).
Emma, also undone in the hair department but still cute, on the computer doing her math, clicking away on the mouse and keyboard like an old pro. She claims she hates it, but I think she secretly likes doing it because using the computer all by herself makes her feel grown-up. Anything that makes math more fun is a thumbs-up in my book.
Annabelle, concentrating on her grammar workbook, which as of now is one of her favorite subjects. Curly hair all wild from the night's sleep and glasses perched smartly on her adorable nose, I look at her working independently and think how much older a second grader seems than a first grader.
Bennett wanders around the house in a t-shirt and diaper, seeing what he can get into, every once in a while climbing on top of things like the computer desk from whence I  must rescue him. His toys of choice this morning are a pancake turner and a potato masher, which he wears on his arm because he figured out he can.
And Violet the dog sleeps soundly on top of forgotten pillows upon the couch, and the breakfast dishes sit on the counter still because I somehow haven't gotten to them yet even though it's 11 in the morning. I'm ok with that. Some things can wait. They'll get done sometime today, as will the laundry and the picking up of scattered toys.
These are just unedited pictures from my phone. I like it that way, because these moments, these snapshots from this Monday morning in September, aren't necessarily anything special or spectacular. It's just life; the normal, imperfect, messy, sometimes crazy or frustrating or exhausting, simple and beautiful and wonderful kind. And these are the moments I want to capture, because they are NOW; but someday they won't be, and I know I will miss them and cherish the sweet remembrance.

Friday, August 23, 2013

oh, children. {#4}

Emma, to her little brother: "oh Bennett, you're not actually human. You're an alien and you come from the planet of cute."
Annabelle, upon hearing talk of the Superbowl: "so, this bowl, it could save your life, right? What are its powers exactly?" (she was kidding. I think. She's a comedian, this one.)
Rosalie found a snail outside one day, and brought it to me, wondering where she should put it. I told her to put it on the grass, since snails need green things to live. She did, and I considered the matter over. Only a few minutes later, however, she came back to me, worried and concerned. "mommy, I think the snail is dying!" I quickly reassured her that he would be fine on the grass, but she insisted I come and see. She led me to it and pointed, "see? It's dying!"
I looked. Oh dear. "Um, Rosalie, did you step on it after you put it on the grass?? "
She wasn't wrong... it was definitely dying. Poor little snail, all smashed to bits.
Recently, there was an old power plant here in our town that was blown up so they could take it all down. one day we happened to be driving down the road on which it was located, and I made sure to point it out to the girls, since it was kind of a big deal.
As we drove past it, I heard Annabelle say, in a jeering tone, "hey, power plant, you got blown up real good, didn't  you? Yeah. take that." 
.... did my 7-year old seriously just TAUNT an exploded building?
yes. yes she did. 
We were at the dinner table one night and Rosalie was eating an orange. She looked up at me with a mildly concerned expression and informed me that she had eaten a seed. I quickly responded with "oh, it's ok. it just means you'll grow an orange tree in your tummy, and the branches will come out your mouth and ears." (oh come on, we mamas have to have a little fun teasing sometimes!)
But then I reassured her, "Don't worry honey, nothing bad will happen... seeds need to grow outside of our bodies, where there's dirt and sunshine and water." 
Emma chimed in, "Yeah... but if all you eat is dirt and water and sunshine, then you're in trouble."
Annabelle, upon overhearing a conversation about digital camera and photographs: "Mommy, what's a mega-pickle?"

Silly kids of mine. I'm so grateful for how they make me laugh and smile! Sure, they most definitely drive me crazy sometimes....but I wouldn't trade them and their funny little selves for the world.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Things at which I am not good.

-blogging. (Hmmm, you think? It's been almost a month again. Sheesh.)

-keeping my plastic containers and lids in any semblance of order. That cupboard is a hopeless mess, people. Good luck finding a lid to match the one you just put those leftovers in! The plastic wrap is down in that drawer there if you need it.

-putting away my laundry. Do I get points just for getting it all cleaned and folded? I'm pretty good at that. But it'll be sitting in the baskets till kingdom come.

-keeping my son off of the couch. He climbs up there a hundred times a day, it's just his favorite. And then he falls off and bumps his head, inevitably, or knocks over a lamp, or manages to get peanut butter all over the cushions, or screams at me when he can't get to where he's trying to go. I ask you, how necessary is a couch, really? Because my life might actually be easier without it.

-cleaning, as in scrubbing and wiping and mopping. There, I said it. I wish I didn't have to do it, ever. But since this house is one big series of messes, that's not really an option. I'd rather not live in filth, so clean I shall! (even still, please don't expect spotlessness. That just ain't gonna happen.)

-calling people on the phone. I used to be good at this. But somewhere in my life as a mom, it just became one more thing to try to fit into my busy day. This is not a good thing, considering that a good percentage of my family lives far away (hi parents, hi siblings, hi grandma, I miss you!). I'm trying to be better. And if you call me, I promise I'll either answer or at least call you back eventually. But if you wait around for me to give you a ring, we may never actually talk. (Thank the Lord for texting, am I right?)

-not eating dessert. I can't help it. I love it. I love to make it, I love to eat it. Dessert and I are close friends.

-being patient with my dog. I love her, I really do. But she drives me crazy. Maybe it's the fact that all my patience is used up on my four children and I have none left to spare for her, or maybe it's the fact that she just so happens to be one of the most annoying creatures on the planet.... or both. I think it could be both. Poor Violet.

-figuring out new things, technology-wise. I'm writing this blog with an app on my new-ish phone. This could be revolutionary, folks! But I have yet to try to add pictures. And I haven't hit publish yet.... here's hoping you all can actually read this.....this content is just too good to not be shared with the world.