Sunday, July 29, 2012

Hands full

Time is going by fast.

Remember when you were a kid and it seemed like summer lasted forever? And Christmas seemed like it would never come?

These days it seems like my birthday is every other week and that my kids are somehow growing through time-lapse photography.

Sometimes when I’m out with my kids, an elderly person will chuckle at my harried expression and stained shirt and say, “You’ve got your hands full!”

They’re right. I do.

And sometimes I feel like I’m not enjoying my life enough. Like I’m not grateful enough or happy enough. It bothers me that I am not always experiencing an “attitude of gratitude.” I try to be happy. I try to find the joy in cleaning up applesauce and throw up and scraping poop out from under my fingernails.

But raising little kids is hard. And people who say things like, “I loved every minute of it when my kids were little!” obviously never had a child pee in the floor in the Sears fitting room or eat a bowl of dog food for a morning snack.

There are moments when you WANT time to go fast. Like when you’re trying to get a diaper fastened before the monsoons begin or when you want someone to finish their temper tantrum and let go of your leg so you can finish lunch.

Yes, the days are long, but the years are short.

I constantly wonder if I’m doing a good job at parenting my kids, and I worry that I’m not enjoying it enough. Maybe I’m not making the most of every moment. Can I make up for “quality time” with all of this “quantity time?”

I’m with my children almost constantly and yet I still feel guilty if I leave them at home while go out for an hour alone. How can I not? They stand in the doorway and wave and blow kisses to me as I back out of the driveway!

I admit it: I look forward to bedtime. But sometimes at the end of the day I wonder what exactly I did with my kids all day. Did I luxuriate in the feel of their hugs? Did I look into their eyes and study the beauty of their precious faces? Did I make them feel special? Did I feed them healthy food and nourish their minds with a good book? Did I really hear them laughing (or crying) so that I can remember the sound of it? Did I do a good job, or did I just barely scrape by with my hands full?

Sometimes, I don’t WANT to tuck my kids in. I want their dad to do it while I go lay in bed and watch Say Yes to the Dress. But in the back of my mind, I worry about the day when I’ll be wishing that I still had my hands full. When they wanted me to tuck them in and snuggle them and sing them lullaby songs.

Parenting fluctuates between being a challenge and being a blessing.

Some days the only thing that keeps me from going off the deep end is reminding myself that those blessings will come. Those lightbulb moments when you teach them something and they get it. Those catch-your-breath-because-that-is-the-sweetest-thing-you’ve-ever-seen moments will come again and I need to be here to witness them – not running in the opposite direction.

Yes, sometimes I wish I was somewhere else. If I didn’t admit it, then I’d be lying. (If you don’t admit it, you are probably lying, too.) But knowing that my babies and my toddlers and my little kids are mine for such a tiny span of time is what keeps me from going over the edge. It’s what helps get me through the hard days (and nights.)

How many times have you spent a sleepless night with a sick baby? How many times have you rocked them or swayed them to sleep on your hip? Sometimes I stop and think – this moment – this is it. This is living.

My baby, his chubby baby cheeks, his long eyelashes, his wispy baby hair, his safeness and tiny hands and his snuggliness and sweet baby smell – this is it. One day soon his snorty little crying pouty face is going to be the face of a teenager. He will be the one backing out of the driveway while I’m the one waving and blowing kisses out the door.

I need to remind myself to slow down and be. Be here in this moment.

Fast-forwarding through the tough poop-under-the fingernails moments will rob me of some precious moments. These times will never be here again. When I’m holding a crying toddler in one arm and trying to change the laundry with the other or when I’m overscheduled and underslept, or when I’m mediating a sibling conflict or praying for direction or healing and I would give anything for a quiet hour to myself – I know that even though it’s hard, it is what it is.

And it goes too fast. Way too fast. And the worst thing in the world would be for me to one day wake up in a clean, empty, quiet house and realize that I have somehow missed it all.

And isn’t the big picture just a whole lot of little pictures put together?

Yes, my hands are full, but all too soon, they won’t be.

-from my article for from July 29, 2012

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Garage Smell

I haven’t had a garage sale in about five years.

Since my two older girls were at camp last week, I seized the opportunity to purge my entire house of clutter. You wouldn’t believe the pile of stuff that I ended up with.

Usually I sell at the Kids’ Stuff Sale at Garfield Park, so I had lots of kids' clothes and toys and books saved up. When I brought all that up from the basement and added it to the “purge pile,” I ended up with a virtual mountain of stuff. There was so much of it that I decided to have a garage sale.

When the kids got home, the first thing Sadie (the packrat) said was, “Why do you always clean out when we aren’t home?”

Hmm. I looked at her and said, “Why do you think? Don’t you dare get anything out of this pile!”

I spent the rest of the week cleaning out the garage, sorting, borrowing tables, setting up tables, making signs, making price tags, making lemonade and making cookies.

Unfortunately, I managed to choose the weekend when it was hotter than a two-dollar pistol. Yes, I actually saw two trees fighting over a dog. As I sweated my butt off and got a sunburn, I watched as people parked in my yard and hauled off my stuff for 1/50th of what I paid for it.

That plus the heat kind of put me in a bad mood.

My kids, however, set up their lemonade stand (well, I set it up for them) in the shade and proceeded to ooze their cuteness and rake in the quarters. They even got TIPS. I couldn’t even get $1 for a pair of Tommy Hilfiger jeans!

Don’t get me wrong. Most of the people who patronized my sale were super nice and friendly – they are my fellow “garage-salers,” just out looking for a deal. There were a couple of meanies though. I’d rather just give my stuff to charity than sell it to meanies.

Here’s my three day schedule:

Put signs up. Pull tables out. Set up stuff. Sort out kids’ clothes. Set up lemonade stand. Make lemonade. Get change. Trip over skis that won't sell for $5. Sweat butt off. Get sunburn. Bicker over 50 cents. Watch yard get turfed. Listen to dog bark head off. Take back pain medicine. Put more ice in lemonade. Pick up everything that fell off table. Take signs down. Pull tables in. Collapse in A/C.

I finally gave up and called Purple Heart to come and pick up about 20 bags of leftovers. I never want to see any of that stuff again!

Nope, I hadn’t had a garage sale in over 5 years.

And now I remember why.

-from my 7-22-12 article for

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Sadie's Prayers

A mother robin built a nest in the candelabra on our front porch and the girls checked on the nest every single day to check the progress of the eggs. Unfortunately, on the day they found it, they TOUCHED it before they asked about it and so we were all worried that the mother bird would abandon the nest. Sadie was SO upset and worried and she prayed and asked God to please please PLEASE make the mother bird come back - she would feel responsible if the eggs didn't hatch. The next morning, she SAW the mama bird fly back into the nest and she was so excited... she came running into the house to tell me that "This is my very first answered prayer!!"

Later that week, Sadie lied to me about putting clean clothes into the laundry hamper (of all things). I called her on it and we finally ended up snuggling on the bed in the guest room with her crying. We talked about God and liars vs. lying. It was a hard night of parenting. She ended up with "no screens for a week" and that was hard for her. She has to learn to pay the consequences for her actions. Not that the lie was big, it was over nothing practically - but we have to nip it in the bud. She wasn't allowed to watch a movie when Grammie came over so she went upstairs to read her Bible!

On the day she started her summer dance camp she realized that she had no tutu or leotard that fit. So with 45 minutes to spare, we went on the fastest shopping trip in history to Gabe's and then to Burlington - and we prayed for God to please help us find tights, a leotard, and a tutu. And we did! Sadie made up a rhyme as we pulled in the parking lot: "We made it there with 4 minutes to spare!" It's amazing that God listens to the little things.

However, when I picked her up five hours later, she had had a terrible day and came out crying and just miserable. She said everything went wrong - she tripped over her own feet, she already knew everything, none of the girls would talk to her and they thought she was weird, it was too hot in there and she was sweaty, she ran out of water and she was thirsty...she went on and on about how awful it was. I was so upset... I kept trying to tell her how great she is, and how if nobody wanted to talk to her it was their problem, not hers... and that sort of thing. The truth, but it still hurts when you're a little girl. So the next day she decided she was going to try it again, but when we got there, she got really nervous and didn't want to go in so I asked her if she wanted to say a prayer, and so on the sidewalk in front of the ballet school, we prayed for her to have fun and not be scared and for her to make a friend. (Not to mention all of the praying I did the night before for her).... When I picked her up, she came out with a GIANT smile on her face and said "It was great! I loved it! I won the jumping leaping contest and I made friends and everyone was jealous because I had gummy bears for lunch! Our prayers worked, Mom! God even listens to little things too!"

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Favorite Stati - June/July

Grammie tries to take Josie's picture. Josie throws her arms up in front of her face and says, "No geography, please!" Grammie: "Don't you mean PHOTOgraphy?" Josie: Whatever.

My 3 girls are having a "sleepover" in Adelaide's bedroom floor. I went in to kiss them goodnight and I stepped on Sadie's leg. She said, "Ohhh! That's my bad hip!" She's 8.

Today, for homeschooling physics class, we learned that when Jedidiah lifts a super heavy crystal cake tray in the air and throws it on the ground, it shatters into a billion pieces!

Adelaide is working on a Wizard of Oz puzzle. She said, "Hey! Here is part of the Ella Fa Krode!"

Josie: "Baton Camp makes me feel happy and joyous. And also less grumpy."

After reminding my two oldest daughters that they need to be nice to their sister even when she's a pest, Sadie informs me, "But Mom! She keeps persecuting us!"

More Rules for Raising Daughters

Raising girls is a mystery sometimes. That’s pretty bad news for me, since I am one (or at least I used to be several years ago… now I'm getting kinda old.)

There are so many things I need to teach my three girls about life and about being women! It’s intimidating, since sometimes I feel like I haven't really grown up myself.

They are growing up fast. Though I look for helpful hints everywhere I go, I'm still happy to accept new advice into my parenting arsenal. Here is the second installment of tips that I've collected (see numbers 1-4 from last week here), just in case you need some help with your girls.

5. Be polite. In a world where rudeness abounds, it’s a refreshing change to come across someone who holds the door for you or helps you pick up all the stuff you just dumped out of your purse.

Teach your daughter to do those things. Teach her that she’s not the center of the universe and that other people are out there and that they deserve respect. Teach her that good manners are not just boring old rules – they become part of who you are.

You’re her parent. You are not her friend (at least, not yet.) She has friends. She only has one mom (and dad.) Make the world a better place by teaching her to be polite, whether she likes it or not. You can be her friend when she’s grown. For now, be her parent.

6. Teach her independence. Show her that women can do anything.

By following your beliefs and passions, show her that women can be strong. Define yourself and don't be ashamed of it. Be an individual – don't just define yourself as her mom or as her dad’s wife. Be yourself, too, so that she'll see it’s okay to be herself.

Don't teach her to cater to what everyone else might expect her to be. If she's going to lead the orchestra, she has to turn her back on the crowd. Help your daughter figure out who she is, and then be supportive.

7. Share secrets. Talk with your daughter. Most girls love to talk, so talk. Talk about anything and everything. Books, clothes, school, nature, boys, friends, church, dreams, fears – anything.

Communicate. Listen. Your relationship is the most important thing that you can nurture during her years at home with you. Other things may fall by the wayside. Let them. But don't let your relationship be one of those things.

8. Let her be. Your daughter may want to stay home and read (like one of mine) or she may want to go jump out of helicopters (like another one of mine.) Whether she wants to travel or write or play sports or be a ballerina, let her.

Let her be wild sometimes. Let her be sad sometimes. Let her be who she is and love her through all of it. I have a tendency to try to fix things when something is wrong with one of my girls, but I guess I should let go sometimes and let them figure out things for themselves.

If I'm going to train them to be strong, independent adults, then I need to just let them be. Even if that means letting them make their own mistakes sometimes.

9. Let her pick flowers. Girls love to pick flowers. Sometimes to a fault. (I never have flowers growing in my yard for more than a couple of days. Someone always finds them and makes a bouquet to bring inside.)

Just give up. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, right? Pick flowers with her. Put them in her hair. Put them in your hair! Make daisy chains with her and fill your house with flowers… what are you saving them for, anyway?

Well, that's all the advice I’ve got for now. Scary, huh? I'm only 8 years in, though. I'll come up with some new material soon.

In the meantime, if you have any good advice for me or other moms out there, please share it. We need all the help we can get.

-from my 7/15/12 article for

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Rules for Raising Daughters

Lately I’ve been thinking about all of the things that I need to teach my daughters.

I have three of them, and they are growing up at the speed of light.

I read parenting articles, books, magazines and the Bible. I listen to sermons, go to conferences, attend a small group book study and visit any other place I think I might be able to glean a bit of mothering wisdom that I may have missed along the way.

Don’t get me wrong – in no way am I claiming to be all-knowing – I’m stumbling along the road of motherhood just like you are. But just in case you’re always looking for a second (or 22nd) opinion like I am, here is the first installment of some tips for raising daughters that I’ve collected over the past eight years. I hope they help you like they are helping me.

1. Read to her. Read everything you can get your hands on – Dr. Seuss, Mother Goose, Eric Carle, Steven Kellogg, Laura Ingalls Wilder and Tomie dePaola. Don’t forget about classical literature, either. My daughter loves things I once thought she was too young for – things like Greek mythology, Cleopatra and the Bible. Fill her mind with the beauty that her imagination can conjure up and let her see you reading for pleasure too. Show her that there is power in the written word.

2. Let her play dress up. Little girls seem to inherently love to wear pretty dresses and paint their nails. Let her. Who cares if she wears a fairy princess dress, a Superman cape and a Pocahontas wig to the grocery store? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so let her figure out what beauty is to her. Remind her that it’s what on the inside that counts, anyway.

3. Teach her how to love. Love her wildly and fiercely. Show her how to love without restraint, without conditions and without remorse. Love her dad, her brothers and sisters, her grandparents, her aunts and uncles and cousins. Don’t just say that you love them – let her see you loving them actively. Help people, do good deeds, pray for others in front of her. If she gets hurt or her heart gets broken, show her how to dust herself off and try again. She’s going to love the same way you do. Let her learn from your mistakes and your strengths. Teach her how to do it right.

4. Encourage her creativity. If she wants you to dance with her, dance. Dance, even if you’re like me and have no rhythm or even if you always have to be “the prince.” Twirl her around in your arms and let her dance on your feet. Let her sing to the top of her lungs and put on “a show,” whether it’s with an off-key ukulele or a whole bunch of magic tricks. Drag out the dreaded art supplies and let her make messes all over your kitchen table and grind Play-doh all over your floor. Give her Legos and popsicle sticks and a bunch of rocks and string and let her inner engineer take over. Let her try out your makeup, even if she ends up with bright red lips (and cheeks). Teach her that it’s fun to create – and that we all have creativity of some sort inside of us. You can have a clean kitchen when she’s gone off to college. Don’t be the way I struggle not to be. I sometimes obsess so much about messes that I miss great opportunities to bond and make memories (not to mention Sculpey clay figures.)

Next week, we’ll talk about politeness, independence, secrets and manners. If you have any tips for mothering a daughter, I’d love to hear them – and add them to my list.

-from my 7/8/12 article for

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Scary Mermaids

Around here, someone is always in the bathtub pretending to be Ariel.

My girls have always loved the Disney version of The Little Mermaid. We have Barbie mermaids, Playmobil mermaids, My Little Pony mermaids (perhaps those are classified as sea-horses), mermaid shirts, mermaid books … you get the idea.

Now, my girls don’t scare very easily. They love to play outside in the dark, run through the woods and go fishing with creepy crawly things. They love to watch shows like River Monsters, Man vs. Wild and Shark Week. They don’t blink an eye when learning about mummification or Medusa or the Chimera.

So the other night when my husband let them watch Mermaids: The Body Found, a “pseudo-documentary,” he figured it was a pretty safe bet because it was on Animal Planet, for Pete’s sake. Come to find out, he should’ve boycotted the whole show. We are not talking Sebastian and Flounder stuff here.

Josie, my second oldest, is very matter-of-fact, logical and practically fearless. She watched the show and said, “Humph. Weird.” Then she went to sleep.

My oldest child, however, tends to let her imagination run away with her (I think it's hereditary.) Here is her running commentary during the show:

“This is kinda stupid. How can anybody believe that mermaids came from monkeys? Okay, mermaids do not do THAT. Who the heck would believe this? Okay, that is NOT what mermaids look like. This can NOT be for real. They are horrible! Oh, come on. What a dumb show. This isn't real. Daddy - is this real? Um… this isn't real, is it?”

No matter how stupid it was -- and it was pretty stupid -- the mermaids were still pretty scary, and Sadie couldn't get the picture of them out of her little head. She totally freaked herself out. She couldn't sleep for three nights. She turned on all the lights in the house (even the one in her closet) and she slept with a flashlight.

(She gets it from me. I did the same thing after watching Paranormal Activity.)

She came to my room over and over, nearly in tears and worrying herself sick. I didn't know what to do, since this sort of thing isn't usually an issue at our house.

So we read some nice, happy stories. We said prayers. We thought happy thoughts and sang happy songs. And still she couldn't sleep. As I sent her back to her room a third time she protested, “But Daddy says they're real!” (He didn't.) “Daddy is trying to scare me!” (He wasn't.)

Josie finally tromped downstairs and said, “Mommy. Something has got to be done. Sadie keeps poking me and saying, ‘Hey! Are you awake?’ and I say, ‘Well, I am NOW because you will not leave me alone!’ I have to get some sleep here!”

Since nothing else seemed to be working, I dug deep into my stockpile of parenting expertise and decided to tell Sadie a story about a nightmare I had when I was her age. I had to do something - she was starting to freak me out too! So I snuggled with her on my bed and rubbed her back and began in a soothing voice, “I know how you feel. Once I had a dream about these three creepy little green guys with horns that were hiding behind my bed….”

She smacked her forehead, covered her eyes with her hand and said, “MOM. You are not helping. AT ALL.”

So much for my parenting skills.

Finally, her very reasonable younger sister came up with a solution that my less logical (chicken) brain hadn’t thought of:

“Sadie, just THINK about it. We are a thousand miles from the ocean. Even if those creepy mermaids were real, which they are NOT, they could not get to our house. They do not have feet and they cannot possibly swim up our stairs.”

Sadie thought about this for a second, nodded slowly and went to bed.

Problem solved. Whew. Now we can both sleep.


from my 7/1/12 article for