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Don’t Fight Naked

Don’t Fight Naked

I don’t know about you, but I struggle at home. Whether it’s a little girl who just loves to pee on the floor or a red-headed genius six-year-old who is never satisfied or a middle child who laughs at all the rules (especially the rules of gravity), my head is spinning by sunrise every day.

By nap time, I am done and everyone ends up crying themselves to sleep. It’s really fun.

In her post titled, “The Scientific Reason Moms Hate Screaming,” Rachel at A Mother Far From Home says that “This is why moms are so dadgum tired. Taking care of babies, toddlers, and preschoolers is like having heart attacks, hypoglycemic attacks, and lion attacks all day long.” She is speaking specifically about the noise that comes with small children and how that affects a mother’s brain, but I would add that there are lots of things about small children that make our heart race and our blood pressure rise. For me, the noise is definitely hard to deal with but it’s only one of a page-long list.

Just a few hours before I read Rachel’s post, I was praying The Armor of God. Part of me wants to cringe just saying that because I grew up in church and The Armor of God has become kind of like Nickleback was at that time in my life: way overplayed. But in high school, I thought it was hilarious when my youth group leader spoke on Ephesians 6:10-18 and said, “Don’t Fight Naked.” I wrote that on the back of one of my notebooks and today my four-year-old uses that notebook for handwriting worksheets. Good thing he can’t read yet because the word “naked” is already hilarious enough without having it written on one of his prized possessions.

When I was in youth group, The Armor of God wasn’t yet too much for me. It wasn’t until college when I stopped going to church and started doing lots of other things that I began questioning all the overplayed words of my growing up.

Today I’ve come to realize that a lot of those verses are overused because they really do help our lives. The verses of “The Armor of God” are something I’ve known for a long time, but I’m a kinesthetic learner so I guess I needed to have some use for it.

Like having children, maybe. Isn’t being a mom the hardest thing you’ve ever done in your life? But I’m thankful for these reminders, for this help:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood…

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist,

with the breastplate of righteousness in place,

and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.

In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

~read the whole thing: Ephesians 6:10-18

Could this possibly relate to motherhood? Yes, I think so. And it’s not so we can win the battles of discipline. It’s so we can realize there is more at stake. We are fighting for our family. We’re fighting with our family. We’re not fighting against them.

What a great reminder that, when I struggle at home (and I know I’m not the only one!), my struggle is not against flesh and blood.

Among all the questions, would a belt of truth help? Yes, please.

What about a breastplate of righteousness to protect my heart from all the veiled lies that come with the uncertainty of motherhood? Absolutely.

At nap time, could feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace be the answer? Bring it on.

A shield of faith to to extinguish attempts to ruin the joy of raising children? Yes!

Motherhood (and all parenting) requires armor because as moms we’re not just keeping kids alive, but guiding them into the kind of lives that will also require armor.

It would be easy to settle here. As in, Oh yeah, that’s true. I’ll remember that for next time. But I’ve grown up a little since high school, and I know this isn’t a piece of information to simply remember. We have to put on armor now because we know there will be a battle later. (How do you put on the armor? Pray it. Speak it. Over and over.) Once my kids start screaming and begging and hitting each other with plastic swords, it will be too late to get dressed. If I’m naked, I can’t help anyone. (Except maybe my husband… TMI? 🙂 )

Small Ones

Small Ones

As I write, I know I’ve failed. In so many ways. Inconsistencies everywhere. Disappointments. Rolled eyes. Mine and theirs and probably yours.

Yet hope remains at the core. Every day, hope that the next day will be better. Right now, the disappointments of this day grip and need refreshment.

Right now it is nap time. It is mostly quiet. Mostly calm. I am sitting on my bed, legs covered. Leaves sway outside my windows, caught by sunlight and shadow. Waving. Dancing. Ferocious. Caught by the wind but stuck to their tree.

How I made my children sit and wait. How I scolded tiny curious hands and big adventurous spirits. I stood at the edge of the kitchen counter, caught by the wind of frustration but stuck to walls of reality, where small fingers held globs of butter, where lunches were being eaten quicker than I could make them. What’s the big deal? My kids were gobbling carrots. I can’t even remember why I was so angry.

Can disappointments be kindling for new fire? I hope so because here I am and though I see beauty and greatness in my young-mother season, I also see an army of chaos and noise marching to the disappointments of my own unwarranted reactions.

Who was it that said we should celebrate the small victories? That, as mothers, there are always millions of things going on. Work and friendships and laundry and dishes, trying to keep up with spousal dates or even just time alone. Then, hobbies, those things that we are drawn toward. Our passions, our gifts. We are constantly working on things for our own lives and also in the lives of our children. Is there ever enough time? Though one child might throw meatballs at lunch, all the other children clear their plates with glee. That’s a small victory.

We are constantly demanding, “Stop hitting.” “Quiet your voice.” “Stay in your room.” “Choose kindness.” We are always tying shoes or digging out splinters or wiping noses or bottoms or asking for a path to be cleared to the beds. There is always more to do, more to work on, more to demand. Yet the small victories are the ones we will only see if we sometimes slow down and watch. If we sometimes remember.

Small victories always add up to one big victory.

None of my kids can tie their shoes yet, but they can untie their shoes and get them on and fill their own thermoses. Small victories. Baby steps. Like when my six-year-old’s nose started bleeding a few weeks ago, it splattered on the ground and made a hilarious spray of a mess on the floor. I was trying to help the nose but also didn’t want the other children’s feet in the mess so I said (probably yelled) that the two non-bleeding children should stay in the kitchen. As I gave tissues to the bleeding son and took wet wipes to the floor, my four-year-old hugged his little sister and said over and over in the most sure and calming voice, “Stay with me.” And she replied, just as sure,”Okay.” The floor still had to be wiped clean and the nose still needed pressure, but that calming voice of small victories rang.

Perhaps all my frustration is just a result of misplaced expectation. I want too many things and I think I can have them all right now. Instead of being stuck to the visual reality of this every day life, maybe get stuck to the idea that wholeness sounds more often than it looks, remembering that here is where the wind of small victory catches.

Oh, I remember now. Small Victories is the name of Anne Lamott’s newest book (which I have not read but want to because I love her!). But I also read it somewhere else, from someone who was speaking of mothering small children. Perhaps it was Rachel Jankovic. Just trying to give credit to the original.

 

I’M FAILING AT CHRISTMAS

I’M FAILING AT CHRISTMAS

Is it really possible? I mean, Christmas is a day. December 25. And days always begin and end without human help.

But as humans, we so often act like we need to do all these things to make Christmas. We need gifts and trees and cookies and we need to drive around looking at lights and we need the happy music and the steaming cocoa.

In my household, we have Christmas traditions. They’re pretty usual. We make forgotten cookies. We watch all the movies. We look at Christmas lights. We give as much as we can. We have fun. This year, I thought we’d also spread  Christmas kindnesses across our community, and we’d make a Jesse Tree to remind ourselves of the bigger story. We started the tree, but have not been faithful, and my almost 6-year old reminds me daily. “Mom. We forgot to read our Bible story.” We’re stuck on Moses.

Surely, I thought, I can just incorporate kindnesses into our wintertime life. “Hold the door for the person behind you.” “Pay for someone’s coffee.” “Let someone go ahead of you in line at the grocery store.” I even sat down and made a list with my children. A whole list of completely plausible ideas. And we talked about why we wanted to show kindness.

“What is kindness?” I said. And we decided that kindness means considerate and willing, nice and helpful. We wrote our list and have done none of it. Not even the simple, free things. Because life happens without trying.

December 25 will come.

This year, the forgotten cookies crumbled. Our tree topper didn’t light. Our children have cried and screamed and talked through all the Christmas movies. When we drove around to look at lights, we had to stop for gas and for air in the tire. Our 4-year old was being nasty and my words weren’t getting through to him so I took him out of the van and sat him on the curb to have a little chat. It was really fun. (Not.) Really? Don’t you know this is Christmas? I thought. The roads for the best lights in town were blocked off, so we left that neighborhood early and got dinner at a food truck. Our kids hated it and ended up eating bananas instead. Our Jesse Tree is empty.

By trying to make Christmas, it seems I have unmade it.

But our tree is up (no topper). Our ornaments are hung (except one that likely got thrown out with our last tree). The air is cold. Forgotten cookie crumbs are filling a box on top of our fridge.

And my boys are not being kind or selfless like I want them to be. Like I want. “I” is such a selfish word.

Really. Do you have to do that? It’s Christmas. 

But is’t not Christmas. It’s only December 16. We’ve got nine more days.

Nine more days to make up my lack of follow-through. Nine more days to get it right.

Then, I wonder if we need that Jesse Tree anyway, or that list of Christmas kindnesses. Do we need cookies that hold their shape? Whether eaten by finger or spoon, they still do the sugary trick. We have tried. And now we’re going out of town for a pre-Christmas vacation, and we won’t be home to complete any of the things on our list. Really, we’re out of time for preparation.

Only one kindness has been done. This is one truly random, unplanned kindness that lets me know that my children understand the true meaning of Christmas.

It’s Jesus. It’s a savior. It’s peace on earth. Good will toward men. It’s glory to God. It’s the best gift ever wrapped up in cloths and presented by angels. It’s everything before Him and everything after Him. It’s unfailing love and a call to do the same. Peace on earth. Good will toward men.

Last week we went to Costco. Among other things, we bought a box of gummy snacks. They are a treat for my children, and that day I had splurged on organic ones. I gave one gummy pack to each child after seat belts were buckled. We made our way to the line of cars sitting stopped at a red light. Crowded and waiting to turn. To go home. And my 6 year-old said, “Mom. What does that sign say?” pointing to a woman on the curb wearing drab cloths and a shivery frown. A woman ignored.

“Pregnant and hungry. Anything helps. God bless,” I read.

I’m seeing these signs everywhere now.

“Oh,” said my son. “Can we give her something?”

“I don’t have any cash,” I told him, “What could we give?”

“Gummies!” he said, and he reached back into the trunk, stuck his hand into the box of gummies and grabbed a handful. As many packages as his fingers could grip, and he handed them to me. His precious gummies.

This kindness wasn’t even on our list.

But I rolled the window down anyway, letting in a chill, and I handed the gummies over. The organic ones, given in an organic way to a woman who said thank you and walked away and stuffed her hoodie pocket with them.

We search for meaning, for ways to make Christmas special. But meaning is only found in the manger, where animals roam and hay is scattered. Where life exists opposite from humans trying.

Life is not a human creation, but a gift.

So maybe I’m not actually failing at Christmas.

Somehow my children know, though they don’t often act like it, about peace on earth and good will toward men. They know about generosity and love and glory to God in the highest. They know.

REVIEW OF THE LITTLE PRINCE MOVIE (SORT OF)

REVIEW OF THE LITTLE PRINCE MOVIE (SORT OF)

When I started reading The Little Prince to my boys, I was optimistic. We had already read The Mouse and the Motorcycle20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and Peter Pan (adapted versions of the latter two). But my kids didn’t care about The Little Prince.

Was it too much philosophy? Too much beautiful language? Too little action?

The Little Prince is one of those books that I could read in one day, one of the few books that I have read in one day. I know it’s small, a children’s book, but now that I have tried to read it to my kids, I wonder if it really is. Though I think children can become enthralled with the fantastic stories within each chapter, to fully grasp the enormity, years must exist behind your present life.

I was shocked when someone recently told me that they didn’t care for the book. They said it was too cynical. While that comment shook me for a moment, it also formed a full-bodied question that has been flickering in my mind: is The Little Prince only useful to those of us who can identify with all the child-likeness of The Little Prince, while at the same time seeing ourselves within the vanity of the rose, the wildness of the fox, the power-hungriness of the businessman, and of course with the consequential and dynamic aviator?

Even though we hadn’t finished the book, we watched the movie. I admit that I was skeptical. Could a movie really capture everything that Antoine de Saint Exupéry shows through The Little Prince? Surely not.

Not long before we showed the movie in our living room, I had seen a display of its figures at Barnes and Noble. All the figures were marked 50% off and I considered purchasing some for my sister. She collects The Little Prince things. Things like the book itself in every language, a stuffed doll, and various artworks, stamps, calendars, etc. She is the one who introduced the book to me, when I was a child.

The movie is not really a movie of The Little Prince as we know it, but of a post-Little Prince world. Really, it is about a little girl who learns of the book’s title character, and realizes, like the book’s narrator, that the world is so much bigger than what we can figure.

Kind of like the book. The movie is a great homage of the book, a reminder of what it is like to read the book for the first time. The movie is interesting, beautiful, even uses the exact opening words and a bit of the French language. It is tremendous, shockingly good, and my whole family enjoyed it.

This week, my 5 year-old even brought the book back to me and opened to chapter 7, where our bookmark had landed that fateful day when I thought The Little Prince was lost to my household. But we opened it back up and read together the story of the aviator’s agitation at The Little Prince’s concern for his rose’s life. This was a rose that he loved so much, he had to leave her, and then he regretted leaving. What a grownup emotion. A roller coaster. A group of feelings difficult to pin without the simplicity that childhood beckons.

“It is such a secret place, the land of tears,” I read. The aviator dismisses The Little Prince’s concern, thinks it unimportant, then realizes that it is more real than the aviator’s desire to repair his plane and fly home. The plane was tangible, breakable, would eventually, one day, be useless, be replaced. The Little Prince was human. His rose, a friend.

The Little Prince is a child, and my children are children too. I know that speculation of the book’s meaning has been made. Is it about war? Certainly, I see that in it now. Yet having read it many times with only fantasy in mind, for me the book is firstly about humanity, reminding of childhood desires and thoughts which continue to exist well into adulthood.

Yet now that I have children, my childhood exists again. It’s getting a callback. My children don’t hear fantastic beauty in the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. They don’t feel attached to the allegory in the dessert. They just see a depiction of the world they know as truth.

So I smile. Thanks, Antoine. I hope you’re smiling too.

WHY I STAY AT HOME WITH MY KIDS

WHY I STAY AT HOME WITH MY KIDS

Let me begin by saying something that may be obvious. I am a stay-at-home mom, and I know there are millions of us out there. I also know that there are millions of working moms, and I’m not saying that anyone is right or wrong. There is a reason I didn’t title this, “Why You Should Stay at Home with Your Kids”. That is a personal decision, a personal journey, and you should probably seek that for yourself. For better or for worse, this is my stay-at-home story:

People often say to me, “It’s so great that you can stay at home,” or “I wish I could stay at home.” Though I don’t usually ask for clarification, it seems that the implication here is that my husband makes enough money, so I don’t have to work.

That is completely inaccurate. My husband and I made the decision that I would stay at home, and that is why I stay at home. It’s not because my husband makes enough money. In fact, he doesn’t. Simply, we believe that I am supposed to stay at home, so I do.

It may have been easier for us to make this decision for two reasons: 1.) I have never had a full-time job, so the cost of childcare would have almost equaled the paycheck I was making when I was pregnant with our first child. 2.) I am passionate about writing stories, and that kind of job just doesn’t exist in the 9-5 world.

Today, I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for almost 6 years. I did go back to work for a brief time, and I do a little freelance writing every now and then, but I don’t have to do any of that. My main job is Mom.

And do you know what that means? It means that from 9-5, I do the work of guiding big emotions and exploring big imaginations. I wipe small butts and I try to keep small hands from getting into the trash can, the toilet water, or the raw meat thawing in the kitchen sink. I give a lot of hugs, but I also get kicked in the shin a lot. I get to sit with my kids and snuggle, reading books in the morning, but I also get to deal with cranky morning kids who don’t want to let up on their selfish desires.

Sometimes it seems like too much for one person, especially when I have dreams of my own, on top of my own emotions, my own imagination, and my own physical body to keep clean and well.

It’s time like these (and, honestly, these are most of the times) when I wonder why. Why do I stay at home with my kids? Why don’t I go to work? Why don’t I just hire a babysitter or a nanny and take an office somewhere so I can write all day long and grocery shop in peace? Well, first of all, it’s not just me. I’m married, so it’s WE. And WE have 3 children.

Today, I’m listing my reasons. Here they are:

1.) So I can hear everything. This is not about being in charge, but being near. I can hear when my children are having a hard time. I can hear what makes them happy. I can sit with my 3 year-old while he goes to the bathroom and spits out the deepest thoughts of his entire running, jumping, loud-noise making day. I can hug my daughter before nap time. I can enforce the rules of our home without confusing my kids with the rules of daycare. I can know what rules are important for them and what rules really aren’t.

2.) Because I believe that my kids will be better off if they are with me or my husband the majority of the time. Personally, I just couldn’t imagine our kids being in someone else’s care for 8 hours of every weekday. That’s about half of their waking moments.

3.) Mostly, though, when I’m having a rough day and I don’t want to be home anymore, I have landed on this: I want my kids to see what a well-rounded person is. My husband and I are the only people my children know. I know that sounds extreme, and you’re probably thinking, Don’t you ever let your kids out of the house? Yes, we do. We let them socialize all the time- at the playground, at church, at a weekly mom’s group I go to. They are around others quite often, but those people can’t show my kids what it’s like to be human. Only my husband and I can do that. If my kids were in day care, they would be in the care of a professional for most of every day. While I’m sure that most day cares take fine care of children, I believe the best care is that of a parent. When my children have tantrums, when they do something wrong, I can talk to them every time. I can talk to them in a way that they can understand. Or I can talk to them until they understand. When my children need food, I can teach them to make it themselves. I can teach my children through example that people are not perfect  because I am not perfect. I throw my own tantrums sometimes, and because I’m home, my kids can see my process. I know that sometimes we just have to forgive each other and move on with life. I can help them understand that it’s okay to be sad and angry and to feel like the world is trampling on them. And I can help them understand what to do with those kinds of feelings. Right now my kids are 5, 3, and 1, so we are in a season of continuing, of repetition. On the days when I’m tired of the same old-same old, I choose to believe that everything will make sense eventually.

A few months ago, my pastor said something like, “We are not suppose to manage our money. We are supposed to steward it,” and without going into a lot of financial stuff right now, I want to turn the table a little bit. When he said that, I instantly thought of my job as a mom. At the time I had been saying to myself, “I don’t know how to manage my kids.”

But we’re not supposed to manage our kids. We’re supposed to steward them. And that starts a whole other journey because I don’t know how to do that either. But I know there’s a lot more grace, a lot more freedom, a lot more reason to stay at home and figure this thing out together than to leave them in the care of someone else.

So maybe I should add this one: I don’t know what I’m doing, so I probably shouldn’t send my kids off into the world just yet.

Again, this is a piece of my stay-at-home story. I’m sure your story looks a little different.

Do you stay at home with your kids? Why or why not? Do you want to stay at home with your kid, but feel like you can’t?

When Life Doesn’t Look How We Think It Should

When Life Doesn’t Look How We Think It Should

It started one morning after breakfast, when I was still a little tired from the night. I had poured my first cup of coffee and made it yummy with cream. I was sipping, pacing, trying to figure out how the day should go. I really stink at schedules, so I usually put something together the morning of.

Almost every morning since my second child was born, I have come to face a conundrum. I am almost never ready when my kids wake up. And the mornings when I happen to plan, often just get stomped all over. Are mornings rough for you too?

It seems that mornings go well when I walk directly to the couch, maybe with some dry cereal or snacks, and my children follow, and we read or we play Scrabble. We’re close and cozy and it’s wonderful. Those are the best mornings, but they aren’t always a reality.

The other day, after a hectic breakfast with far too much noise, my children plopped themselves down and tore through the boxes that line our dining room walls. I have prepared these boxes by filling them with things for my kids to do, but it is up to them to find them and use them. Inside these boxes, my children find first-step reading books, a bag of pompoms, a game of Connect Four, dominoes, and always a few random things that have spilled out from their bedroom. This day, they went to the boxes and played. They got along. They were quiet. They were happy, and so was I. And even though the floor was reminiscent of something Kevin McCallister might set up for The Wet Bandits, my home was peaceful, and I realized something:

Sometimes peace looks like chaos.

Peace (2)

And after I wrote that sentence down, all of these other beautiful, mind-boggling sentences came rushing from my heart, down my arm, into my pen. Here they are:

Sometimes love looks like a splinter.

love

Sometimes brotherhood looks like death.

Brotherhood

Sometimes fun is messy.

fun

Sometimes rest is sweaty.

Rest

Sometimes success looks like failure.

success

Sometimes pancakes look like birds.

Rest (1)

Sometimes playing looks like war.

Playtime

Sometimes happiness looks like melancholy.

happiness

Sometimes a treat looks like a strawberry.

Hi

Sometimes opportunity looks like an invitation.

opportunity

Sometimes blessings look like trials.

THIS

Sometimes friendship looks like a voyage.

THIS (1)

How the Small Things Help out the Big Things

How the Small Things Help out the Big Things

My husband purchased this website domain for me for Mother’s Day. Pretty sweet, right? He knows me. He didn’t come up with the name. I had been running a wordpress-hosted poetry blog by the same name for a few years. Then it seemed it was time to move on to bigger things. Like full-length posts.

While I navigate this blogging thing, I’m also writing a novel. And although I’ve written lots of short stories with fleshed out characters who do important and beautiful things with their lives and reveal meaning to ours, this novel thing is hard work. I know the beginning and the end, but I am having a hard time with the middle (the details) of it. How will my characters get from the muddy, messy place they are in right now to where the novel ends in all its majestic conclusion?

The answer is the same as it’s always been because the question is also the same question that’s been asked for centuries. How does anything ever happen? One word at a time. One scene at a time. One step at a time.

Every time I put my pen to my notebook, my characters live and breathe. I need to remember that this is how they move forward. It’s how they learn. It’s the only way they will get to the last page.

I think some of my problem is that I see the end and it’s so beautiful. Right now, though, my characters are stuck in a world of daily life, of working and struggling with tiny things that they are allowing to become big things. Here in the real world, I am doing the same thing.

I have a daily life where I live and breathe, where I walk, where I do dishes and clean up spills, where I sit on the sidewalk with my kids and collect rocks from the gravel parking lot, carrying them in buckets. On their own, these scenes are nothing. But when you place them all in sequence, they make life.

My kids are so happy with the details of life. They LOVE picking up rocks and carrying them in buckets. But I get caught up in the ending. “Yes, rocks are great, but don’t you see that this parking lot will be paved and it won’t flood anymore when it rains?” But my kids also love the rain, and the giant muddy puddles it leaves behind.

While I don’t know my entire future, I know a few things. There are a few things we can all be certain about. Yet if we focus too much on the future, we won’t ever get there. If I keep wanting to just get my characters to their last scene, there will be no meaning to it. The future is always made from tiny, daily, walking, breathing, rock-collecting, mud-stomping details where our feet get dirty and it seems all we have are useless pieces of ground.

But the ground is not useless. It is necessary. Without it, our feet would never go anywhere.

But the ground is not useless. It is necessary. Without it, our feet would never go anywhere.

While I work on the rocky, muddy details of this novel, while I parent my children who never seem to learn, I am also writing blogs right here. These blogs are like exercise. They are like tiny rays of sunshine. They are like the moments I spend collecting rocks with toddlers who will one day make me a grandma. I can’t finish a novel in one day, but I can finish a blog post.

Life is like the gravel outside my window, which is pretty useless when picked apart and scattered. Together, lots of rocks make ground. Like together, each of my moments make days, make years, make a life.

 

The Destruction of Womanhood: On Titles and False Justification

The Destruction of Womanhood: On Titles and False Justification

I have two boys and one baby girl. She’s not actually a baby, but she is the youngest and we still call her baby. Not like Jennifer Grey in Dirty Dancing, but as a prefix, conjoined to her actual name. It’s an endearing title, one that we say with smiles, one that lightens the mood and creates empathy and warmth. Though she’s not a baby, we give her that title because we recognize that she is the smallest one of us all.

She is actually a feisty 18 months. A toddler. A young woman, if you will. A sister who is always looking for a place among the boys, a place where she can build and play catch, where she can run around with one hand raised, ready to destroy anything that gets in her pretty little way.

She loves necklaces and baby dolls too. She loves purses and shopping carts, baskets and hats (and so do her brothers!) But she’ll plop right down in the middle of any male bonding that goes on near her. If the boys shut their door before she enters, she will scream and bang with her fists until help arrives. She can’t open her own doors.

I, on the other hand, can open doors, but I have lots of difficulties with the boyhood that runs here. Video games, sword fighting, jumping and running, punching anything in sight, throwing, kicking, and yelling, are not in my blood.

I prefer a quieter home, one where we sit at a table and color. I would even take an hour of cutting and pasting. I have one boy who loves to cut and paste and color, but he gets caught up in his older brother’s pursuit of more intellectual things. Their’s is a battle of physical vs. visual, mathematics vs. art. Both boys play both parts well, but hardly ever at the same time. When convinced, they will sit and do almost anything, but this takes some serious convincing. Their sister loves art supplies. She loves to taste markers, dissolve cardboard on her tongue, and shake crayon boxes until every color explodes on the floor. This is why I always think twice about getting the art supplies out.

These are young children. They have great imaginations. They have great desires to try to do things they can’t possibly accomplish on their own. My 3-year old has recently started proclaiming, “I’m a creative thinker.” I’m not sure why he says this. I know we have commented on his creative inclinations, but I can’t recall ever telling him that he is a creative thinker. Still, he knows it and he speaks it.

Sometimes, when I am overcome with the desire for quiet, quick obedience, without the creative thought attached, I want to shout, “I am your mother! Do what I say!” On a few occasions, I have let those words slip, angry eyes bulging, I’m sure.

“What you say flows from what is in your heart.” ~Luke 6:45

Then, what is in my heart?

These are not usually words of love. They are selfish words.

I think I deserve to be obeyed. I think I deserve respect. I do, but it’s not my job to demand it.

The title of Mother was given the day I bore life in my belly, but it’s my job to live up to it, to show my children that a mother is kind and strong, creative and a good listener, a seeker of beauty, a teacher with patience, a learner always expecting, no matter what goes on around.

Before I was a mother, I was a daughter and a woman. These parts of me still exist but often feel crushed, like the sidewalk chalk that my 5-year old prefers to bang on the ground instead of draw with. Sidewalk chalk is meant for creation. It’s a tool, a toy, used for drawing. But my math and science boy wants to see what happens when you crush it. I know he’s just curious, in the same way he’s curious about what happens to the light inside the refrigerator when the door closes, and what stops our cabinets from slamming.

This kind of exploratory habit is not in my nature, but I suppose it once was. Most children are curious beings, like the monkey George. Now that I know the answers (or I think I know the answers), wonder has become a nuisance. Now, I don’t want to stop to explore. I want to take the answers I know and I want to create something.

My children are young and don’t know the answers yet, so maybe it’s not that they are trying to destroy my womanhood, but to bring life back to the very core of me.

Perhaps every child brings the gift of relearning, of experiencing once again what it is about life that makes us who we are.

Perhaps every child brings the gift of relearning, of experiencing once again what it is about life that makes us who we are. (1)Since we are only discovered in the context of others, maybe my womanhood can only be truly discovered in a life of battles. Through the searching for band aids. Through the peeling back of packaging and the rubbing on of healing salve. Through the sticking together.

It’s not just the cuddles and the kisses, but the tantrums and the scraped knees that bring us life.

So, let me ask a question. When my kids smash their chalk or throw their Legos, what am I doing? How am I using my position of mom to give meaning to the same word’s title? Am I letting my own answered questions dictate the answers for my children? Or am I allowing them discovery, and at the same time allowing myself to continue learning what the word Mother means?

Words always have two meanings: the denotation (the literal definition), and the connotation (the positive and negative associations that words are given through cultural and personal experiences).

How am I forming my children’s connotation of the word mom? Is a mom someone who yells, someone who causes her own destruction, and therefore the destruction of her children and her home? Or is a mom someone who sees beyond herself and uses her words to speak life, her creative abilities to change the atmosphere of her home and generate goodness and love in the hands and voices of her noisy, fearless children?

How are you using your position of Mom (or whatever your title may be) to bring life to your home?

A Note on Creativity and Motherhood

A Note on Creativity and Motherhood

When people find out I’m a writer, they often say to me, “Wow! I could never do that.”

To me, writing is normal. It’s how I think. It’s often the only way I think. (And I’m sure that, if you’re not a writer, I would say I could never do whatever it is that you do. That’s because all people are supposed to be different. I know that’s an astounding revelation. Honestly, though, I think sometimes we just need to be reminded of basic human truths.)

I understand why writing is intimidating to so many people. Writing is a messy feat. Without a passion for it, it would be treacherous. Like all creative acts, it’s a series of tries, and it’s only in this messy, trying journey that we discover what is best and what is accurate. Writing is not just about writing a bunch of words, but rewriting and editing, until you have finally, actually, miraculously said exactly what you need to say in the exact way that it needs to be said. Anyone who has ever worked on their words knows that to write is to witness miracles.

Writing is frustrating because you can’t plan it. You just have to take your first few words, your first vision, your first inkling at a character or a plot, and you have to mess with it until you find it wholly.

Writing is like motherhood in that way. (And how many times did I say as a very young woman that I could never be a mother?)

When we’re pregnant, we have a tiny vision of what our child will be. Then one day we meet a baby who can’t do anything but express basic bodily functions. Yet these newborns possess power. They provoke us to heights of emotion we never knew existed. When we give birth, we aren’t simply bringing another person into the world, we are creating more life within ourselves. When we meet our new babies, we realize that we had no clue what was in our belly all those months. It wasn’t just a baby, but life itself.

It wasn't just a baby, but life itself

 

As our children grow, and as we spend time nurturing them and training them, we realize that the fetus (the ultrasound), the newborn, the toddler are each only a clue to the person that is emerging.

kids jumping

 

Parenting, like writing, is not only messy, but requires consistency. And I’m not talking about consistency in discipline or schedules. (Though I know consistency in these areas are important… but I am also apparently incapable of consistency in those areas. Stay tuned for another post about that.) I’m talking about consistency in being.

Parenting requires that we continue to be a parent. As we continue to show up, to hug, to kiss, to play, to correct, we find that this is what parenting is mostly about. We cannot control our children, but as we continue to be parents, we will figure out the details. Parenting requires that our love remain a consistent factor in our relationships with our children. And if your love has taken a visible break, you’ll know it. You’ll probably feel nervous or angry or just out of sorts. Like you need a hug. It’s okay. It happens to the best of us. We get so turned around in this world sometimes. Just come back. Just give your kid a hug. And keep doing it. Be available. And continue being available. That’s called consistency.

So often as writers, and as mothers (and as people) we don’t start something because we are scared of being rejected or we’re unsure what will happen.

I was recently talking with a friend about a project she hadn’t started yet. I told her a lot of things, but one thing I said was, “Start somewhere. Start now.”

And I’m taking that advice for myself because I struggle with the enormity of a life made from small decisions. I struggle with questions like, “What are we going to eat for breakfast” and “Can we play a video game?” and “What happens next in my novel?”

But we all need to lay these kinds of struggles aside. We know that if we are to go on with our morning, we are going to have to eat something. We know that my son will have to be answered, and no matter what the answer is he’ll probably have a tantrum. I know that if I’m going to ever finish writing a novel, I’m just going to have to think of something to happen next, and if it sucks it’s okay. I’ll just scratch out those words and write some other words. But I have to start somewhere. And I should just start now.

So mom, creative being, friend, wife, woman, what do you want to do with your life? What thing is piercing you in the gut right now?

Do you want to write? Get some paper. Get a pen. Do you want to ride horses? Sign up for lessons! Do you want to teach your kids to bake? Open your cupboard and get out the ingredients for cookies. Do you want to learn to paint? Buy a canvas. And don’t just stare at the white nothingness. Close your eyes and figure out what you see. Not what your neighbor sees. Not what I see. Figure out what you see. Then dip your brush in some paint and get on with it.

Go ahead and paint a line on your cheek, too because you can’t stop the mess anyway.

Start somewhere, friend. Start now.

 

What Is An (Introvert) Mom To Do?

What Is An (Introvert) Mom To Do?

Have you heard of Susan Cain? She wrote a book called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. I haven’t read it yet, but I did watch her TED Talk, where she speaks about the book. I realize that’s not the same, but I have a long list of books to read and it only keeps growing. For now, the TED Talk will have to do.

Susan Cain provides a great definition for introversion. She says, “It’s different from being shy. Shyness is about fear of social judgment. Introversion is more about, how do you respond to stimulation, including social stimulation. …introverts [often] feel at their most alive and their most switched-on and their most capable when they’re in quieter, more low-key environments.” 

I’ve never questioned the fact that I am an introvert. But I have always hated that word, and I still don’t like using it. It just has this connotation, you know?

For me, the word creates an image of someone who shies away because of a desire to be inside and alone. It’s a recluse who smells bad and doesn’t know how to form proper sentences. But that’s not accurate. Connotations aren’t whole pictures. (Honestly, though, sometimes I am that weird introvert who just wants everyone to go away. Sometimes I even smell bad and have a hard time forming proper sentences. Okay. Whew. Now you know.)

I am an introvert, but I love people, too (most of the time). I’m even okay in big crowds. And I love going to parties.

But do I actually love going to parties?

Sure, going to parties makes me feel popular, liked, included. But do you know what I usually do at big parties? I sit on a couch. I cling tightly to the people I arrived with. I don’t talk much. Instead, I watch. When I was young, I just thought everyone was supposed to love big crowds. Now, thankfully, I know that I swing more toward small group settings. I can unapologetically say that I really only want to be around a few people at a time, people I can chat with, people I can learn from, people I can discuss deep meaningful things with like the dichotomy of Pinterest: we love it but it also makes us feel like we have a big fat L across our foreheads. That is a deep truth.

Really, I love having people around. I just can’t be around people all the time.

But I’m a stay at home mom, so I have to be around people all the time.

WHAT IS AN

I think all of us, introvert or not, know that since small children require so much attention, there has to be some kind of relief. Most of us don’t have the innate ability to just take care of other people and never do a thing for ourselves.

I know that mothering experts say we need to take time to do things that we love, things that refresh us. We need to step away from the home every once in a while. I also can’t shake something that I heard an elderly lady say to me recently. “When I was young,” she said, “there was no such thing as ‘my time’.” So how did mothers survive back then? I wish I had asked her.

For now, I know that the television is always there for me when I need to shower or read a few pages of great literature (other people sneak off to do that, too, right?) I know that when I feel like my kitchen exploded with cookie dough and our two-nights-ago dinner, I can clean it with the help of “15 minute sibling time” and my type B personality.

Some days I feel crazy. I feel like I shouldn’t have had kids. I feel like I need my kids to go to day care somewhere so I can just sit at home in all my introvert-ness and read and write by candlelight while Beethoven plays softly over the Youtube.

But I have kids. They were my choice and I love them. They were given to me. I was given to them. I am their mother.

One thing I have learned is that taking care of kids, doing housework, making lunches and even grocery shopping can be restful acts.

That sounds crazy, right? But hear me out. Rest is not something we can create. Even candles and Beethoven, a massage, a hot bubble bath, wouldn’t relax me unless I allowed myself rest.

So, while I do dishes, while I sweep the floor, while I pick up dirty socks and two-inch army men, I remind myself to breathe as if I’m practicing Yoga with Adriene.  Our feeling of craziness is so often our mind’s doing.

I challenge you to take it over. Next time you feel stressed out, close your eyes and take a deep breath. Say the words, “I need help right now.” I promise that if you actually want it, you’ll get it. It might not look like you think it will, but you will get rest if you want it and are willing to look for it.

When you feel crushed and useless from social stimulation, take a rest. Take it with your kids if you have to. Just stop creating busyness. Sit down. No matter what has spilled, no matter who is fussing, if you are feeling crazy, just stop for a second. Don’t look at your phone. Don’t turn to the computer. Those things do not provide rest.

Mom, when you can’t find a quiet, low-key environment, rest in the knowledge that whatever chaos is happening will not last forever.

You can, right now, invite your kids to lie down in your bed with the lights off. And don’t mind if they tickle each other or giggle through the whole thing. Sit down in the middle of the living room floor and let your kids find a seat in your lap.

Then, while you are washing dishes and the kids are acting like the world is ending, the soap on your sponge can feel like the bubble bath you think you need.

You’re welcome 🙂