Just One of Those Days – 5.17.15

Tonight, I feel tired. Exhausted, actually. Irritable.

Now, I hope it’s obvious just how much I love my kids. How proud I am to be a mom.

Except I’m not feeling a whole bunch of those fuzzy emotions at the moment.

Today, my kids were whiney. Unappreciative. Expectant. Lazy. They fought incessantly and almost seem to look for opportunities to frustrate their sibling to the point of tears. And then there’s the leaving the back door open when the air conditioning is on and letting in the flies, kicking their muddy boots off as they’re running through the kitchen, tying multicolored yarn all through the house like a spider web so you trip while trying to get to the bathroom, and Jack demanding to know where *I* left his baseball mitt. How much can a girl take?!?

This morning, my oldest asked if he could have some of my smoothie. Just as he does every morning. Of course. But when he finished it, he just lazily let the glass cup slide out of his hands and onto the floor. Surprised to see such a blatant act, I asked him to put it in the sink. Oh, my word. You would have thought I was asking him to pluck off his own fingernails. The complaining, whining, the “but I didn’t know I had to put it in the sink” cry and flailing himself on the floor. Sheesh. I gave a quick speech about how we all have jobs to do around the house because we’re part of a family and we don’t make unnecessary work for others. “But I thought you LIKED cleaning, Mom!!!” he whined.

Oh.no.you.didn’t.

This is why, I’m learning, God gave my kids dimples. And long eyelashes. Because those things prevent me from going off the handle every time they do or say something so completely thoughtless.

Motherhood is not for the faint of heart. That’s a fact. It’s exhausting. It’s thankless. No one notices what you do until you stop doing it (or if there’s an interruption of service.) You sift through hours of slave labor, meal schedules and laundry to get one smile, one “I love you!” or even just the sight of one of them sharing with their sibling. I’m not excusing the selfless nature of mothers; I knew what I was signing up for. I’m just so tired of it not improving. The worry that it will never change. The idea of me raising such entitled kids who expect life to be served on a silver platter.

As a teacher, I want to TEACH. To instruct. To impart knowledge with the intent of my kids personalizing and applying these concepts to their lives. But I’m just not seeing much progress today.

Just one of those days.

I’ve only been a mom for a little more than six years, but that’s long enough to know that these feelings pass. Better yet, these feelings of frustration lead to Mom taking action. To see that I don’t have One of Those Days again tomorrow.

Before I go to sleep, I’m going to brainstorm a list of chores, family activities and verses of Scripture for all of us to memorize. And then I’m going to get lost in another sewing project. To unwind. And I’ll probably have some unnecessary sugar too. Because tomorrow will be different. Tomorrow we will work together as a family. Tomorrow we will foster a heart of gratitude.

And if not, at least I’ve got chocolate.

Our First Visitor – 5.6.15

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In honor of Ben’s first birthday in heaven, we bought a bird feeder along with some bird seed. It was food especially for songbirds, including cardinals. That was intentional. We wanted to do what we could to attract these beautiful reminders of God’s presence as much as possible.

We had the bird feeder up for just a few minutes when we received our very first guest.

God is so good to us.

Catching Up – 5.3.15

These are photos that I hate to revisit. But I feel like this is the easiest way to “catch up” on the four months of time that shook up reality. Life looks a lot different without Ben, our big goof ball and compliant second-born. Jack’s twin.

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It started with headaches at the end of January 2014. Out of nowhere. And then he’d throw up. A tumor was identified. Surgery was scheduled. They removed what they could, but had to leave the rest as it would jeopardize the time he may have left.

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Wrestling after surgery was much more gentle, as Ben didn’t have the stamina he did a few weeks earlier. But we were still so thrilled every time he jumped onto the pile, yelling, “Twin Power!”

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Holding my second born – my shadow – for as long as he’ll let me.

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Jack looking over Ben’s scars from his surgery a few weeks prior.

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He acted annoyed that Megan always wanted to hold his hand. And yet, he always waited for her to catch up and grab his. Always a protector.

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Announcing Baby #4! Ben was the first to guess it was a girl. And although his first silly suggestion was the name “Megamind,” he did approve of our thought to name her Katherine.

 

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As time wore on, even wrestling was emotional. We just never knew when it was going to be the last.

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After a while, Ben couldn’t sit up. Or walk. He had to be carried to the bathroom, held on the toilet and then even had to have a catheder. Stupid cancer. But he did love bubbles. And silly string. And of course, we always let him do them IN the house!

 

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It will never be okay that we had to bury our son. Never. But knowing that he’s with Jesus and that we will see him again soon definitely helps. Another day closer.

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This. This is Benjamin. Not the previous photos you saw. What you saw was cancer. The steroids that helped keep the swelling around the tumor down. That was not Ben. This is how I picture Ben in heaven. Running, smiling and radiating God’s love all over that beautiful dimpled face.

Preschool-Bound – 9.6.13

It’s hard to believe my four-year-olds are going to be starting preschool on Monday.
They’ll be going to a local co-operative nursery school, three mornings a week. They are going to love all of the activities! Their teacher is just wonderful and I’m looking forward to hearing their stories. It’ll be the first time in an organized classroom setting. They’re so excited!

Why Didn’t I Do This Sooner? – 8.23.13

As a mom, do you ever have those moments where you think, Oye, why didn’t I do this sooner?
I’ve said that at least five times this week.
Gosh, if I would have known Megan would have done so well through the weaning process I would have started months ago!
Why in the world did it take me so long to coordinate new house chores for my boys? They’re so capable!
I can’t believe I dreaded getting back on the Weight Watchers wagon. I’m feeling so much better!
But I suppose that’s normal, right? You make a big deal of the thing you’re avoiding, very aware of the work it would take to make a change. At least I do. So I do research online, ask my friends, consider my options, complain about it to my husband, get freakishly overwhelmed/depressed/annoyed/confused, and then decide there’s nothing left to do but to just start. And amazingly, it almost always works out really really well.
I get this way about housework, too. I don’t WANT to load the dishwasher. My hands would get wet, I have to stand at the sink and that food has been caked on for a whole hour. I don’t want to do it. Forget the fact that it really only takes me about three minutes. I’d rather just sit down with some Oreos and an oversized glass of milk staring at my laptop screen. So I do. And then I find that I’ve gained ten pounds. My jeans are starting to pull tighter and I get frustrated at myself. So what do I do? Grab another brownie. Vicious cycle.
What I’m beginning to realize is how everything goes back to what I’m eating. Donuts, Oreos and frequent trips to McDonalds where Gosh, I can’t let this Happy Meal go to waste were literally weighing me down. So Andy and I decided to get back on Weight Watchers and try and discipline ourselves. Again. For like the third time.
Today is Day Three.
While preparing dinner tonight, I had that feeling of, Wow, I actually feel pretty good about things in this moment. I wonder why that is? that I realized how much of myself I had changed when I adjusted my eating.Dinners are organized again because I am forced to plan ahead. We pack our lunches the night before – for all five of us – and so there’s no question about what I’ll need to prepare when I’ve got three kids to manage. No daily stress there.
My entire family works to get the house clean throughout the day because I actually have the energy to hold them to do it and work alongside them. A huge help.
I’m finding little projects to tweak and little areas of the house to organize, now that I’m trying to distract myself from junk food. Great feeling.
My husband has been bonding with Megan so much more now that she’s not tied to me for nourishment and comfort twenty four hours a day. Added bonus is that I let her cry through that normal 4am feeding because I’m not breastfeeding anymore. Know what Megan did? She fussed for a few nights and now sleeps straight through until about 6:30am. Straight through. And she’s asleep by 7:30pm. That means I get a wonderful night’s sleep and I’m able to function better all through the day. (Mental note: try getting to bed before midnight to fully take advantage of that sleep.)
And this is all because I started eating better.
Weight Watchers, I think I love you.

The Power of Perspective – 6.30.13

Perspective can be a scary thing.
 
Watching thousands of people as small as ants from the top of a skyscraper. Realizing just how big an airplane is up close. Or learning that someone you love has just been diagnosed with a deadly disease. It’s tough. Sometimes it’s easier to observe things from a far than experience them up close. Perspective can be very very painful. And it’s usually very uncomfortable.
 
I believe one of the most humble doses of perspective one can experience is that of having kids. Very few things have the capability of bringing you to your knees quicker.
 
One moment, you’re on top of the world. I mean, like Mom of the Year eligibility. Everything is going well, you’ve hit your stride, your kids are charming, beautiful and intelligent. You even look thinner in Target’s dressing room mirrors. Your husband loves what you made for dinner and your baby practically puts herself to sleep. Life. Is. Amazing.
 
And just when you start thinking about how easy it would be to add another cherub to the mix… BAM! You’re hit with a healthy dose of perspective.
 
I had one of those amazing days this past week. And consequently, it was the excitement of today that brought me back down to reality.
 
I think it was Wednesday that was just awesome. My boys were especially charming in the morning and fell over themselves with appreciation for every little thing I did. They sat nicely in the double-cart at Walmart that afternoon and when I offered Jack a Band-Aid for a cut on his finger, he said, “You take good care of me. You’re a good mommy.”
 
Swoon.
 
I could have died and gone to heaven, right in that moment. Gosh, what a wonderful life I’ve been given. Could my kids BE any sweeter?
 
And then it became Saturday.
 
Admittedly, I stayed up too late finishing a project in the basement, so I was in no mood to start off the day pretending I was up for this. Andy went to work and the kids immediately starting screaming. Over nothing. Literally. Nothing. “Ben said he didn’t like me!” Jack yelled. “Jack said he won’t listen to me, Mom! MOM! Did you HEAR me!?” Ben screamed. Oh, my.
 
I should have thrown the towel in right there, but I tried to muster enough energy to rally them in cleaning up and getting out of the house. Sometimes, it’s easier for me to “fake it till I make it” if I get out, just so I could have a change of scenery. They begged to go into McDonald’s PlayPlace so I lazily appeased.
 
They were surprisingly good while we ordered and ate. They played for a bit and then I gave them the “ten more minutes” countdown. I reminded them again at five minutes, two minutes, one minute, etc. This is nothing new. It should not have been a surprise. But to my boys – in that moment – they were not having it. Full blown (double) tantrum. Oye.
 
I tried staying patient as we got a few things at the grocery store (after all, one of their first meltdowns of the day was because we were out of milk) and then I threw them outside to play when we got home. My patience at this point was warily thin, so when they both bolted to the front of the house against my wishes, I was full-blown mad. I chased down Ben and carried him back into the backyard. I went around for Jack, but couldn’t find him. Oh, that is not good for a mommy’s patience. I walked around the house four times, with no luck. I couldn’t see him and I couldn’t hear him. I started getting worried. Oh, no. Did he run off somewhere to escape my wrath?
 
I didn’t know where else to look. My first thought was to call Andy and see what he thought I should do. Call the police? Oh, geez. I opened the back door and there was Jack, sitting on the couch. “Sorry for running, Mom,” he said. Ooooh, this kid.
 
When Andy came home a few hours later, I practically threw the kids at him and asked for a few minutes to myself to make dinner. What a wonderful fifteen minutes that was. At least I was able to calm down enough to think about going through the craziness of the bedtime routine.
 
Perspective.
 
Sometimes, we are the family that other people complement in stores. “Oh, my! What wonderfully behaved children you have!” and “Are they always this sweet to their sister?” But I’m always mindful of the fact that we are always just a HAIR away from the looks, stares and negative comments about how horribly my kids are behaving.
 
Parenting brings out the best and the worst in us, I guess. Makes you want to call your mom to thank her for all of the sacrifices she made for you and your siblings while also apologize for all of the ways you made it difficult.
 
So don’t be too hard on the mom whose son is screaming because his mom won’t let him have a candy bar or whose 14-month-old daughter is flailing her little body on the floor of the McDonalds PlayPlace because you took the straw (she had in her mouth while she was running) away from her. That mom is doing the best she can. On any given day, that mom could have easily been me.

I Married a City Boy – 5.27.13

I married a city boy. He picked me up at school where we were working… or perhaps I picked him up… I’ve always been fuzzy on those details. But nonetheless, this country bumpkin was smitten the moment I saw him.
I tell him all the time, I never believed in ‘love at first sight’ until I met you. He thinks I’m kidding.
I’m not.
It was his confidence. His smile. His “honest” eyes, as I called them. When he was around, I felt comfortable. Happy. Like myself, but better. I was absolutely elated when he finally got the hint and asked me to marry him!
Six years later, I still feel lucky.We’re raising three great kids and still consider eachother to be our best friends. My confidant. My support. My love.
There are a lot of ways Andy shows me he loves me. But every week, I’m reminded of one of the biggest: when he mows our lawn.
We have a riding lawn mower. It sorta came with our house, although I suppose we did pay an additional $200 for the seller to leave it for us. And what a help it has been! We have just under an acre in the backyard and a small plot in the front; having a riding mower not only allows Andy to give the boys frequent rides around the yard, but it also allows him to get it done in half the time and energy it would have normally taken. Every time I see him on that mower, my heart skips a beat.
My city boy.
When we met, he was living in the city. While we dated, it was clear to me how much he loved living there. He was a sixth-generation city-dweller and wore his heritage proudly. Working in real estate, he had a heart to restore the city to what it had used to be, the community he heard his dad and grandfather talk about. I agreed to marry him, knowing full well that I needed to be okay with living in the city with him for as long as we both shall live.
I knew this was the man God had intended for me and I trusted Andy’s heart, so this wasn’t a really tough choice. Except it kinda was. I grew up in (what I always thought was) the country. People nowadays tell me that it’s really the suburbs. But the fact that my parents live next to a big red barn, own several acres and our road wasn’t paved (nor did we receive access to cable television) until I was in high school are big indicators of “country” to me. I dreamed of building a house with tons of land, letting my kids stay outside all day until it was dark and having campfires during the summer. But I had to let those dreams go in order to follow my husband’s dreams. Not hard, but still kinda hard.
Andy renovated a beautiful apartment for us, even installing same-floor laundry and a walk-in closet for me so I wouldn’t suffer in any way. And it was wonderful! We walked to restaurants, rode our bikes to the park and grilled on our balcony as we chatted with the neighbors. Truly a phenomenal place to start a life. We sold our house about four years later and moved into another apartment just a few blocks down because we didn’t have a peace about any of the other houses we saw. We were within walking distance to the zoo, had memberships to the museum and went to the park every few days. I found that I had really come to enjoy the city not just because my husband liked it, but because I was discovering all of the good things it had for our family!
About a year later, Andy found a great house. But it wasn’t anything I was expecting. It was in the suburbs, just two miles from where I grew up! It appealed to him because of its community-feel… sidewalks, houses were close together, and you could walk to the post office, bank, diner, coffee shop and a couple stores! We won an intense bidding war not on price, but on terms. The Lord completely paved the way. And. I. Was. Still. In. Shock. It was such an amazing house because of its ability to cater to both ‘city’ and ‘country.’
That was this past July. We’ve been in this house for about ten months. And every day, I pinch myself. I’m living my dream. The dream I abandoned. The dream I never thought was possible. We’re doing it together. And it’s even better than I imagined!
I know that Andy would prefer to live in the city. He tells me that he really likes it here, but I know he misses it. But he did this for me. For our kids. Because he knew it would make me really really happy.
It used to take him five minutes to mow our front and back lawns in the city. Because they literally were the size of a postage stamp. Here, it takes at least an hour (and that doesn’t even count the amount of time he spends weed-wacking.) It’s a labor of love, for sure. In the fall, he’d laugh that all of the leaves that fall in our backyard – which was quite abundant, by the way – would have covered an entire city block. And he’s right. But he does it anyway.
This afternoon, I watched him give the boys rides on the lawn mower as he worked to mow our entire lawn. Back and forth, back and forth, my city boy smiled with one of our four-year-olds on his left knee as he manuevered our big old mower through our property. I know he would rather not be mowing. But the fact that he does – and with a good attitude – is one of the most romantic things he does for me.
My city boy. Mowing our lawn. Swatting at the flies, ducking at the low branches and carrying bags of cut grass to the curb. For me.
Daddy and Jack, September 2012
Now THAT’S love.