Tag Archives: Housework

Everyday moments (alternate title: the aftermath of imagination)

There’s a bazaar in my living room…

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S’ signs read “3 DOLRS FOR SAPLS” (3 dollars for samples); E’s reads “One doler to buy a toy or a gift”… They were a bit ambitious in their pricing (motivated by a $6 lego set they are saving for!), but did earn lots of pennies, nickles and dimes as we enjoyed our day at the “market”

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For an extra penny, T would spin your playdo pizza in the salad spinner, which “mysteriously” stopped working the next day. Our apologies to Grammy who gave it to us. It was much loved and died in a very happy place, Grammy!

There’s a rocket on my front porch…

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The captain of this particular ship

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Painting it pink!

We call it “the aftermath of imagination”.

(You should see the playroom!)

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More “staycation” photos

Still catching up on the last few months!

We stayed home over spring break this year and simply enjoyed a week without a schedule.  I can’t tell you how much we appreciated just being in our hometown, taking advantage of some down time in the house with one another, enjoying some local outings with friends, and visiting a few nearby attractions that we had never made time to see.  My husband even took two days off work to make it a true “staycation” and a family affair.

The only time I felt a slight twinge about our lack of solid plans was when E was assigned to write about what she was looking forward to over spring break.  After hearing what her classmates planned to write, she came home and said “I think we are the only ones not going somewhere”.  However, my perspective was set right again when S responded, “Didn’t you hear?!  We’re going to my friend’s house…they’re petsitting chickens and we get to visit and touch them!”  Well, by golly, the kids were bouncing off the walls with excitement about that!   (Thank you, friends, for letting us visit, and for serving as the entire topic of E’s spring break essay!)

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E holding the chicken in our friend’s living room : )

In addition to that highlight, we spent the rest of break doing (to quote an elderly gentleman I met once) “a little bit of everything and a whole lot of nothing”.

We…

(1) played the first ever family game of T-ball in the back yard (called on account of hail after 4 innings, if you can believe that)…backyard T-ball has now become a favorite family activity, by the way.  One of my favorite moments was when – in our game of kids vs. grown ups – all three older kids were on base, leaving six month old H as the only available kid, which meant he had to bat.  We helped him earn his first RBI  (reported here mainly because I know you would be proud, uncle B!)

(2) traveled to the local transportation museum

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A real train shed, with a real turntable! The kids got to sit on the turntable while it moved and also got to see a milk truck (a concept we had to explain : )  We really made this trip for T and he loved it.  However, as a note to anyone who might find themselves at a train museum with a youngster, if I could do one thing differently, I would bring his toy train shed and turntable with us, so he could see that this was the same thing, only bigger.  The scale almost made some of the things we love seem unfamiliar.  It also makes my family seem tiny in this photo.  Can you even see us?!

The transportation museum was 5 miles from a park that had a kiddie-train and a carousel and the loudest donkey on earth (seriously, the thing “Hee-Hawed” so loudly and unexpectedly that we all jumped and H started to cry).  Of course, that will be the part of the day all the kids remember! : )

(3) hit our favorite local frozen yogurt shop

(4) concluded our Lenten project (I’ll update this later) and celebrated a wonderful Easter with some wonderful friends

(5) hunted some Easter eggs at home and at our church egg hunt

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If you can see past those faces that I love so much, I would like to point out the orange Christmas ornament on the table behind them. Did I mention that we’re a little behind on the housework around here?

The Easter bunny scaled back on the candy this year and brought each of the kids a small surprise.  The girls each found a small lego set in their basket, T discovered a new addition to his train set (Butch, the Sodor tow truck), and H is enjoying a new sleep wrap since the velcro on his old one, well…let me see if I have a photo…

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H stands for Houdini

(6) The big finale to the “staycation” was a pony ride.  We went to a local farm that, as it turned out, had “lost” our reservation.  It actually turned out to be lucky that we caught them at a time they could do it, and even luckier that the lack of preparedness in the stable meant we were able to help get the ponies ready.  The kids helped brush the animals and saw them being saddled and bridled.  Then each girl got her own turn while T watched and learned.  After he was ready, they doubled up while he got his own ride.

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And here’s T feeding the ponies afterwards…

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It was disconcerting that the petite carrots we fed them were exactly the size and shape of T’s fingers. Fortunately, the ponies have discerning palates.

Of course, the best part of the week was being together, and having extra time to just let a relaxing week feed our imaginations.  For example…

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That place where we spilled the water looks like a hippo!

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I could put pennies there to make the eyes!

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Check me out; I’m riding the hippo!

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My hippo is shrinking in the sun Mom!  What the heck?!

We may have also watched a movie or two…with a horse we rediscovered in the toy bin after our  trip to the farm.  (I played with this horse when I was a little girl and have vivid memories of building a fence for her with Lincoln Logs under Nana’s ping pong table…thanks for bringing up the old toys, Nana!)

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Love the staycation idea.  Now if I could just get the kids to stay little so we could savor more of those “at-home” moments.  I know that I’ll blink and they’ll be asking me if they can go on a spring break trip with their friends.  And that will be fun too, as long as I know where they’re going, that it’s a safe environment, that chaperones are present, that they know how to make good choices, that…

Well, let’s just say again that I’m savoring these moments.  Sit there and snuggle that pony as long as you want, T.  I’m coming over to sit next to you…

More updates to come!

perspective (alternate title: H is for “hold me…24 hours a day”

H likes to be held.

24 hours a day.

I like holding H.

I wish I could do it 24 hours a day.

Sometimes I need to try to put him in his swing or on his playmat for a few minutes so I can do frivolous things like laundry or dinner prep or open a childproof bottle of ibuprofin to relieve my aching back.  On occasion, I go completely nuts and try to take a shower.

He doesn’t like that.

As a result, I have learned to do things one handed.  And I shower when there is someone else available to hold him or during (precious!) naptimes.

He is not a colicky baby, because if I understand correctly (i.e. according to the go-to medical source “wikipedia”), colic is crying that occurs for no reason.

H has a reason.  It is “I am crying because no one is holding me!  I like to be held!  Even when I sleep!”

Still, even though we are not dealing with colic (thank you, God!), when I read the following quote about colic, it meant a lot to me.  It is powerful, applies to our situation (I believe), and has made me appreciate hat H lets us know that laundry, dinner and even showers can wait.  I read it a few weeks ago, and I can’t tell you how often I think about it when he starts crying because I had the nerve to put him in his bouncy chair so that I could load the dishwasher (as if I needed an excuse to avoid the dishes…let me hold that precious baby!), and when I am nursing a sore back because I have to wear him in the baby bjorn all day to get anything (anything!) done around the house.

Not a picture of H, since I'm having camera upload issues.  Instead is a picture of Nana and S during her similar "hold me!" phase.  God bless you, Nana!

Not a picture of H, since I’m having camera upload issues. Instead an archived picture of Nana & S during her similar “hold me! even as I sleep!” phase. God bless you, Nana!

I don’t know if this quote is true or not, but it offers a perspective that I need, and I’m posting it in case it helps anyone else!

From Dr. Alan Green:

“I believe that colic exists in order to change deeply ingrained relationship habits. Even after the miracle of a new birth, many parents and families would revert back to their previous schedules and activities within a few weeks – if the new baby would only remain quiet and peaceful. It would be easy to continue reading what you want to read, going where you like to go, doing what you like to do as before, if only the baby would happily comply. Instead, the baby’s exasperating fussy period forces families to leave their previous ruts and develop new dynamics which include this new individual. Colic demands attention. As parents grope for solutions to their child’s crying, they notice a new individual with new needs. They instinctively pay more attention, talk more to child, and hold the child more – all because of colic. Colic is a powerful rite of passage, a postnatal labor pain where new patterns of family life are born.”

You have our attention, H!

Our love too!

You always will.

Love,

Your mama

P.S. I do realize that in the previous blog post, H was lying contentedly on the boppy.  That was part of his disguise : )  (and we do try to catch the rare moments on film!)

update on the past month, part 2

Other things we’ve been up to this month…

(1)  Exploring!

Here we are at NC State’s “farm day”.  Note to self: pack vegetarian lunches next year.  Otherwise, S may look at the animals walking around in their pens and ask questions like, “Is that turkey like the turkey I just ate for lunch?” and you will have to field panicked looks from nearby families until you say something misleading like “NO ONE is going to eat THAT turkey!!!”  (and at least one mother will mouth the words “thank you” as you’re leaving.)

S milking a pretend cow. There were also bunnies to pet, calf statues to lasso, and free ice cream. I thought T would like the “touch a tractor” section, but he just yelled “Big Scary Truck!” as we moved away.  I guess he’s used to the matchbox versions.

We also visited the big museum about 40 minutes away (a special outing for us!).  Friends gave us passes they weren’t using (thank you!), and we had an absolute blast.  T fed his train obsession in this exhibit.

T could have happily played here for the entire day.

And how about this sign at the exit of that exhibit?

It’s like they knew T was coming…

(2)  Celebrating!

Our cousins had lots of birthdays, so we have been to their house for a “Tangled”-themed treasure hunt, to a park near their house for their one-year-old’s cake smashing soiree, and to a pasture within that park to just admire the horses and views.  (Thank you, cousins!)  One photo, from my brother, who is by far my favorite photographer (as long as he’s not taking “work photos” of my children, i.e. “X-rays”…)  Can you believe this photo was taken by someone who just plays around with the camera during the off-time from his Orthopedic Surgery practice?

S in the white, E in the green, cousin G with the long ponytail and cousin E in his superman cape.  Childhood captured in photo.

(3)  Hanging around

Check out E on the swing in our backyard.  Photo credit to my brother again.  How much about spring and childhood and E is captured in this one photo of her muddy feet?  Volumes, I tell you.

(4)  Fishing!

Nana got the kids a fishing pole AND managed to disassemble the pole and fix it after I broke it (thank you, Nana!).  Since I clearly don’t know how to handle a rod, dad took over the casting lessons, and the kids had a blast.

Noteworthy: the kids will spend an hour catching minnows and tadpoles in their nets at the local pond and collecting them in a water filled bowl that we pour back into the pond before we leave.  Here are E & T inspecting their catches with Nana…

Also noteworthy: the girls “fished” for an hour with dad with a plastic stopper on the end of the reel (i.e. no bait or hook) and were thrilled with the experience.  I can’t imagine what they will do when we actually introduce the idea that you could use the pole to catch a fish.

(5)  Trying to keep our heads above water in terms of housework

With this much fun going on, mom has had to work overtime to simply keep our familial feet underneath us.  Exhibit A: every few weeks I have to go through a pile that looks like this to pull any artwork or projects we want to save.

This process deserves a post of its own.  Stay tuned.  Then there’s the normal stuff.  I mentioned before that I lost the battle with the laundry.  I fared only slightly better in the kitchen.  And Nana saved me with regards to everything else.  (see below)

(6)  Spent time with Nana!

Nana’s visit was devoted to catching up, hanging out, and pitching in. In addition to fishing, playing, taking the kids to several museums (T was adorable riding the train at the local science museum and still asks to “go ride James” again at least every other day), Nana just rolled up her sleeves and help me get some things done.

More detail?   I am just out of the first trimester of pregnancy, which means I am still exhausted, but also feeling my version of a nesting instinct.  Much to my husband’s dismay, I have no desire to clean, but an overwhelming urge to organize and declutter (my normal instinct, but taken to a fever-pitch during pregnancy).  The end result: During pregnancy, I am desperate to get organized but too tired to actually do it, which leaves me very frustrated.  While she was here, Nana helped me sort through the kids outgrown clothes and she watched the kids and took care of lots of everyday things (the kitchen! the laundry!) while I tackled the attic, my desk, the bankbook, and several projects that have been languishing on my “to-do” list literally for years.  Thank you, Nana!  We loved playing with you and are so appreciative of all the help.  (I haven’t listed everything you helped me catch up on because I am embarrassed that I was that far behind!)

More updates coming…have I mentioned that it’s been a busy month?!

Updates and photos from last month (part 1!)

So I’ve been AWOL (life has been busy!) and have been promising an update…

Here’s the short version: we’ve been having fun, which has involved a spring break “staycation”, a week recovering from that staycation (hello, laundry), a wonderful Easter, and then a great visit from Nana!

And here’s the longer version: updates and photos from our last month (part 1)…

Each girl got to pick one special “must do” for the week of spring break.  To my surprise (why did I think they would stay in my comfort zone?) E picked “make a dress for our dolls” and S picked “plant a garden”.  Holy moly.  I have no experience in either of those things.  (It did make me glad I asked however, since there is no way I would have put either one on a list of plans, and obviously they are unexplored areas of interest!)  Anyway, here we are at the fabric store…

fuzzy cell phone photo

After a “looking loop” around the store, each girl was allowed to pick out one yard of any fabric they wanted, and one foot of any ribbon they wanted.  E & S surprised me by both selecting the same fabric and ribbons.  (They wanted their dolls to match, I guess!)  T got a piece of fabric with cars on it that I hoped would become his new lovey, but alas that role was filled by the racecar and Toby train the Easter Bunny brought him.  Not conducive to sleeping – rolling over onto those loveys (especially Toby, who says “full steam ahead!” everytime T bumps him in the crib).  Oh well.  He loves them!

Anyway, here’s the dolls in their dresses.  Since I don’t know how to sew, these are more like glittery sackcloths, but they made the girls happy!

E said, “Her dress looks a little like a bathrobe, but I like it!”

Thanks to Nana who did an actual sewing lesson with the girls when she visited a few weeks after this (with a real sewing machine).  I keep a few cloths around the house for various things, and one now has random, festive stitches all over it.  An easy way to have the kids feel like they were “really sewing important things” (at least until the machine stopped working…anyone have a spare manual for a JC Penney sewing machine purchased in the mid 1980s?)  Here’s one of my new decorative cloths below.

Just look at that stitching! She’s a natural, I say! : )

We’re hoping to complete the set after (1) we figure out what’s going on with the sewing machine, and (2) Nana comes back to teach me how to thread and use it.

S’ project was the garden.  I am not a gardener, but we headed over to Home Depot (with their optimistic “You can do it.  We can help.” motto).  S & E picked out three things to plant (1) marigolds: the only flowers the deer won’t eat, (2) carrots: the only vegetable S will eat, and (3) basil: because the man who helped us said there was almost no way I could mess it up.

After hours and hours of shoveling, weeding, removing rocks, adding topsoil, planting, and lots of muddy shoes and jeans piling up on the porch, we have the smallest garden ever.  It is impressive only to me and the children.  (I promise, we truly have spent countless hours on it, but it is really only a 4 x 6 patch of ground with 12 flowers and some tiny sprouts that are either carrots or weeds…I honestly don’t know how to tell them apart, so I have no idea if I’m weeding, or ruining our only crop.  I am not kidding about this.)

The two big rocks on the left that we used to mark the rows of carrots and basil kind of look like gravemarkers for our struggling-to-survive garden. Seriously, is anything going to grow in that red clay? We added two huge bags of topsoil, but honestly, I have no idea what I’m doing.

And in the interest of internet input, can someone please click on this photo to enlarge it and tell me if any of the green things sticking out of the ground look like the beginning of a carrot-top?

OK, so if you can fight the impulse to tell me we should have added more topsoil and removed more rocks (I promise, we were removing rocks for hours…), tell me instead which of these green leaves is a carrot sprouting, and which is a weed. Carrot at the top of the photo? Weed at the bottom? All weeds? Egads. I think I’m going to go to the grocery store, buy a bunch of fully grown carrots and plant them one night after the kids go to bed and then take everybody outside to harvest them the next morning. In case you think I’m kidding with this plan, I have already done my research. Apparently, they sell carrots at Whole Foods that still have the green leafy parts on top. Score!

Anyway, the kids love watering the flowers; it has been a fun adventure, and I give us an “A” for effort.  My grandma J, who – God rest her soul – (1) won all sorts of yard and neighborhood beautification awards, (2) was in charge of all the flowers for our church for decades and (3) grew the rose petals that lined the aisle of my wedding, would applaud our efforts too.  She would appreciate that at this stage of life, we are certainly process (as opposed to product) oriented!

My grandmother would also likely laugh at the fact that the flowers we are trying to grow are in a battle to survive, while the part of our yard that received no TLC and is “supposed” to be grassy is covered in the most lush display of flowery “weeds” you can imagine.  I mean, check out the photo below.

Yes, I love them. But honestly, “My kingdom for a carrot!”

The brick wall marks the property line between our house and the neighbors.  It’s like the weeds magically stop there (much to the delight of the girls, and to the dismay of my husband).

It is uncanny. I will say that these flowers provide hours of entertainment for the children, because they are determined that none of them be chopped by the lawn mower. Every time my husband says he’s going to mow the lawn, they sprint outside to pick all the flowers and cover my kitchen in bouquets. I will miss this stage so much when they grow out of it…sigh…at least then I will know that I really did try to enjoy it all in the moment.  Bring on the bouquets, girls!

Finally, since I mentioned the racecar and train that appeared in T’s Easter basket, let me include a few photos of the holiday.  We tried to capture the meaning of the season – telling the kids an age-appropriate version of the crucifixion and resurrection (when S heard Jesus died and came back to life, she said, “Hmm.  I think that’s what I’ll do too”, then let out that little breath that almost made it sound like “Well then, that’s one less thing to worry about.  What’s for dinner?”  It was a good opportunity to tell her we can all come back to life, and live forever in heaven.  (Happy belated Easter, everyone!)

Then there were the secular celebrations.  Here we are dyeing Easter eggs

T got a plastic egg and a cup of water, and was absolutely a part of it at the age of 1!

I know you can see the plastic egg in the photo…can you also see the clear plastic cup of water he dunked this egg into for half an hour? He kept yelling out random colors while he did it, mimicking the words his sisters were saying as they dyed their eggs. I remember taking this photo. He shoved the egg right at the camera and yelled “purple!” So we have the spirit of the activity covered…we’ll work on colors next year : )

S at our church egg hunt

Hunting eggs in our house Easter morning

E & S hunting eggs on Easter morning. Note that it is still pitch black outside the windows. The kids were so excited that they woke up insanely early. Also…note to self: ask the Easter Bunny to make a quick list of where the eggs are hidden. There was one we couldn’t find for a few days, and of course it was one of the real, hard boiled eggs. Fortunately, we did find it before the smell found us! I was like Kirk in that episode of Gilmore Girls, looking for the egg…anyone else remember that episode?!

We also enjoyed spending part of the weekend with cousins and the other part with friends.  Beautiful company, beautiful weather, beautiful time.  Love all y’all!

In the “less than beautiful” category…My deviled eggs didn’t turn out exactly right…

I had promised deviled eggs, then learned that I couldn’t use the boiled Easter eggs that were hidden overnight at room temperature (health risk, apparently), so I only had the two eggs left in the fridge to work with. Me in the kitchen + no spare ingredients = no room for error/recipe for disaster. My mother-in-law gave me this awesome tray to hold deviled eggs in, and I am embarrassed to say that these eggs were so misshapen they wouldn’t even fit in the tray. Oh well. This is why no one complains when I bring pre-packaged cookies to potluck gatherings.

Between the flowers and the eggs, my grandmother would finally have to admit that I inherited absolutely none of her talents…but my admiration for those talents is ever increasing grandma!  This gardening and cooking is tricky stuff!

More updates on S’ new obsession with cooking in the next post…  Here’s hoping she has inherited my grandma’s skill as well as her interest, and that she can take over the kitchen soon!  S is actually so into cooking right now that I’m thinking of arranging an apprenticeship with my Mother-in-law, who is an amazing cook and maybe planning to visit soon.  Are you up for it Grammy?!

I’ll leave you with a photo of the laundry that accumulated while we were doing all this other stuff.  The laundry problem was exacerbated by the fact that the week after spring break was unseasonably cold, which meant I could just shove all the dirty warm weather stuff deeper into the hamper and pull out all the winter things I had just put away.  End result?  Well, check out laundry day…

There are no people in the photo because we were all basically walking around in towels by this point.

My husband, never one to complain, actually looked at the growing pile shortly after spring break, sighed, and went out and bought himself new boxers.  True story.

(And lest that be misinterpreted, know that he is actually great about helping out with the laundry and everything else around the house, but in his infinite marital wisdom realized that buying a few new boxers was probably the best investment in overall domestic contentment.  And his wife says, “amen to that”.  I don’t need a six-week retreat in Fiji.  But occasionally, I do need a week of blissfully ignoring the laundry : )

So that’s part I of our update…to be continued with part II later.  Hope everyone else is enjoying spring too!

The Kids-eye View

What most of us see:

a pile of weeds just removed from our overgrown flower bed

From a child’s perspective (E):

the perfect ingredients to make a giant bird’s nest (E's vision, but S helped and is pictured here as the bird)

 

 

What most of us see:

A hole in the yard, created with plastic shovels, made muddy with a cup of water, and likely to cause a twisted ankle next time we’re playing out back.

From a child’s perspective (S):

a pool for the caterpillars, (this time it was S' vision, but E helped, and the pool included small leaf boats in case any caterpillars didn't want to get wet

 

 

What most of us see:

a tree at the playground (stock photo, because I didn't have my camera at the park yesterday, but this is exactly what the base of the tree looked like)

From a child’s perspective (T):

a tunnel for a choo choo train (T doesn’t know that many words at this point, but “tunnel” and “choo choo” are among them…credit to my friend A who saw him all excited about the discovery of this particular tree at the park and called me over to provide T-to-English translation and enjoy the moment. T just kept saying, in his 1 year old dialect, "Tunnel! Tunnel, for choo choo!")

 

 

What most of us see:

my messy kitchen after snack time

What I hope my family sees & remembers:

a mama who took them outside to play instead of cleaning up! (what?!? some mothers do both?!? don't tell my husband...)

“Martyrmom”

So I have realized recently that I have a daily mothering M.O. that – while appearing selfless on the surface – is actually not good for me or for my family.

The M.O. is presenting myself as the mommy martyr. In practice this means putting someone else’s needs before my own, (possibly announcing to the family that I’ve done so…though not always), sighing, and then internally celebrating what a selfless mother I am.

Examples:

We’re having dinner, and after I’ve hopped up for the 15th time to get something for someone, a child asks for more milk. My response: “Yes, I’ll get you more milk, but I want you to realize that I haven’t even gotten to eat a bite of my own dinner yet”. Sigh. Steps to the fridge, pour the milk, martyr, martyr, martyr.

Or

“Yes, I’ll get out the tea set for you, but I want you to notice that I am cleaning up the whole house while you’re doing that, so I want no arguing about who gets which cup. Sigh. Clean. Martyr, martyr, martyr.

Or this could also apply in more adult situations.

At 5am, internally thinking, “I am exhausted, but I’ll get the baby, again.” Martyr, martyr, martyr.

I could list about 100 other examples: Sigh…I have too many family demands to go out tonight…I’m always taking the burnt piece of toast (I always just do this one, never announcing it)…etc, etc, etc, martyr, martyr, martyr…

I’m not saying all of these actions are bad. I love my family, and I love doing things for them. Also, I do think sacrifice is an important element of parenthood and that generosity is an important character trait. I also want to emphasize that my family is amazing: they appreciate and respect me, do their share (and more!) around the house, make sacrifices, and encourage me to live and follow dreams big and small. This is not about them.

Instead it is about recognizing that my own mentality and some of my words – at the dinner table, during cleaning hour, when I’m invited to do things outside the house, etc. – need an adjustment.

This recognition struck recently when I read a story that made me think about what I’m really doing when I continually present myself as a martyr to the family.

I haven’t been able to find the story since (I’ll post an update if I find it…) but it goes something like this…

There is a mother on her deathbed who realizes that she has sacrificed everything about herself to devote herself to her husband and children. Instead of the expected celebration of the selfless mother content with her life of service and devotion, the story presents the mother as one overwhelmed with regret. Paraphrasing as best I can remember, the mother laments that by always putting herself last she “made myself resentful, taught my daughters they weren’t worthy of respect and taught my sons to treat their wives badly”.

Again, I am NOT in that situation (my family is too fantastic for that, and I’m not nearly that selfless), but I think as mothers, there is real danger here.

I mean, if I’m being honest about why I’m denying myself, it is often to

(1) make my own life easier (it’s just easier to deny yourself that to deny someone else in the family, or to make another piece of toast to replace the burned one, etc…) or

(2) to create some ridiculous “bank of chips” that aren’t necessary (no one in the family is keeping count) and that I’ll never cash in anyway (i.e. the mentality of “once I’ve taken a girls weekend once, I’ve cashed those chips and may never get to go again!” so I’ll sit here and bemoan the fact that life just doesn’t allow that…martyr, martyr, martyr…)

So I have been consciously trying, for the last few weeks, to drop the martyr mentality.

I have actually told the children: “I’d be happy to get you more milk, after I’ve eaten my own dinner. Please wait.”

And guess what? Everybody’s fine. My kids learn to wait. I get to eat, and I’m forced to drop that “woe is me” mentality. Win, win, win.

I have actually said, “No tea party right now. We can’t get out more toys when the house is already a mess. Let’s clean up together, and when we’re done, we can play whatever you want.” There is often whining, the clean up takes longer, and the result is not “adult-did-it-perfect”, but the kids learn to pitch in, and again, I am forced to drop that “Must I do everything?” mentality that is unhealthy for me and a bad example for my kids. Bonus: tea party together…

And guess what? I have the ability to say to my husband, “The baby was up so early this morning. Can you take the kids for an hour this Saturday so I can take a nap”, and he’s happy to do it. I go from martyr, martyr, to an appreciative (and rested) wife. And my husband feels good about being my afternoon hero. How’s that for a good transition?

I feel like someone could read this and think I am dumb for missing something so simple, but honestly, it is really hard for me to find the balance. I am a mother. My family comes first. It’s easier to clean the room myself. It’s easier to eat the burnt toast. It’s less of a battle to hop up and get the milk. Sometimes getting away for a girls’ night is honestly just too much work for me, and too hard for the kids. Those things are legit… but if I cross the line, and

– become too proud of those sacrifices,
– or become resentful,
– or start to enjoy the power that giving bestows (as opposed to being the one to receive and express gratitude or even feel indebted)
– or let my family take the sacrifices I do make for granted,
– or make them feel guilty about something I’m doing for them, when in reality they should know that true sacrifices come from love without emotional price tags,
– or deny my family a chance to feel the pride they earn when they do things for me,
– or deny my children the praise they earn when they patiently wait,

then I’ve gotten out of balance.

I don’t want to be a martyr. I want to let go of all the self-importance that title provides me and I want to share an attitude of “let’s take care of each other”. It’s going to be hard work, and I will miss the peace that came with kids who are momentarily satisfied (because mom got that milk right when they wanted it!) and the ego of one who “must always be the one who [insert task here]”.

But there’s a chance that if I made a few choices differently, the inflated sense of self-importance that “martyrmom” provides me with could be replaced with a sense of appreciation for my family (who are so happy when they do something for mom) and some important lessons about how things work best when we all practice patience, generosity, and tell each other what we need to be happy.

I want to stop the sighs, have the sacrifices I do make come from a place of love (not martyrdom), and trade that sense of self-importance for a sense of gratitude, because there are two truths here:

(1) My family is fantastic, and will do what I ask them to.

And

(2) I don’t want to be a martyr. That attitude doesn’t actually make me feel good or help my family. The truth is, I just want to be a good mom.

P.S. This was a hard post to write and I’m worried it won’t say what I mean it to. I hope it conveys that (1) my family is wonderful and (2) I have found a(nother!) flaw in myself that needs my attention.

For some reason, as I write this, I also feel the need to admit that the dishes are piled in the sink, the laundry is overflowing the hamper, and that I lost my patience more than once today with the kids. I think I feel the need to admit all that because I’m worried the post could be misinterpreted to read that I have erred on the side of being the always-at-attention, ready-to-serve, never-neglectful mother, when what I’m trying to say is that I was aiming for that, and even in the midst of falling short, am beginning to think that the martyr mentality that sometimes (for me) accompanies that outlook is bad for both me and the kids.

P.P.S. I wrote this post, and the P.S. above, over a week ago and have just hesitated to hit publish until now. Can you tell I am nervous about how it will come across?! I should also include – as an emphasis on how blessed I am – that last night I went to bed early because I was too tired to deal with the house and planned to tackle it this morning. I woke up this morning to find a pristine kitchen and most of the laundry done – all a nice surprise from my husband who just thought I might appreciate a break. Pretty amazing, that one…

Update re: Lent

If you read the post about our preparations for Lent, then you know we had three family goals:

(1)  a devotional with the kids every day

(2)  a better bedtime prayer and routine

(3)  40 bags in 40 days (decluttering and donating)

Here’s the update:

(1)  The devotional: We’ve done the devotional almost every day (not perfect, I know, but a big improvement for us.)  The key was switching from evening to afternoon (a more relaxed time at our house, in contrast to a busy bedtime routine with a tired mom and dad).  It has also helped that I made two rules: (1) only one devotional is allowed a day (the kids like the book, so before this rule, they would ask for several one day then want to read something else the next), and (2) we have to read them in order (i.e. no flipping through, looking at pictures and arguing about whether we’ve read one before or who gets to pick).  We sit down, pick up the book, and read the next one.  What a relief to have a simple process at a time of day when we can really enjoy it.

(2)  The bedtime prayer: I have found a prayer that works better for us.  Our new prayer (which is still a little long, I think…I may take a stanza out soon…) is based on one I found online, then adjusted to fit our kids vocabularies and the things I wanted to emphasize.  The original is the fourth one down at this link.

And here’s our version…

 

Jesus, help my eyes to see

All the good you’ve done for me.

 

Jesus, help my ears to hear

How I can help others far and near.

 

Jesus, help my hands to do

Things that are good, like you taught me to.

 

I love you God.  Thanks for loving me.

Help me be the best person I can be.

 

Since having the kids add items to the end of the prayer was creating issues for us, we have stopped doing that for now, but plan to pick it back up once we’ve established a better rhythm.  We have remembered to do this almost every night, but have been a little thrown by some sleep schedule adjustments this week.  Again, not perfect…

(3)  40 bags in 40 days: I have to confess that we started this a little before Lent and are approaching it in spurts.  So far, we have tackled the following areas:

  • my closet (seemed like a fair place to start, before hitting everyone else’s…I want some credit for getting rid of my softest T-shirt, even if it did have about 8 holes in it)
  • the garage, including the collection of small appliances we “might be able to get fixed someday” (goodbye, rice cooker that has been broken for over a year!)
  • the attic, including lots of furnishings we used in old apartments and just don’t fit our current place
  • part of the kitchen (I had replaced all our kids’ plates with BPA free versions several years ago, so why had I stored all the old plastic plates on a high shelf?  I honestly have no idea…)
  • my computer (so far I have unsubscribed from 7 e-mail lists that were cluttering my inbox on a daily basis…I end up on these lists when we need to make a large purchase and sign up to receive e-mails and a one-time huge discount…I am tired of deleting the daily mailings and have decided clicking “unsubscribe” that many times counts as at least part of a “bag”.)

Anyway, I have read that the best way to do this challenge well is to commit to touching every item in the house.  I won’t hit this mark, but I like having the idea in my head.  I have also read that you cannot count a bag until it is out of your house, which means our current total tally is five.  However, we just received a mailing from an organization that will be visiting our neighborhood mid-March to collect used clothing and household items, and we do have six more bags ready for them.  I just need to commit to not looking in those bags again!  And of course, we still have many more areas around the house to tackle.

The bottom line is that our efforts have been imperfect, but I hope as the season goes on those efforts will become routines and then eventually habits.  (And there has to be some sort of recognition that Easter is being about grace, rather than perfection, right?!  I mean, we are trying, but I recognize that I am certainly relying on grace, all the way around…)

Blessings and God’s grace to you and yours too this Lenten season!

The merits of saying nothing…

I was cleaning up the kitchen, so I told the kids to play anything they wanted, as long as it didn’t require my assistance, and I mentally committed to letting them figure things out on their own for half-an-hour.  Still, I could hear snippets of their conversations and couldn’t resist peeking in at the process.

So when E pulled her top sheet off her bed and downstairs I thought, “that sheet is going to get so dirty down here”, but said nothing.

When S helped her spread it out on the living room’s hardwood floor I thought, “last time they did this with a blanket, with no rug pad, and it made such a slippery surface that someone fell”, but I said nothing.

When they dumped the whole box of lego duplos out on the floor and began separating the connected pieces and spreading them out on the sheet, I thought, “S is not wearing shoes!  She is going to step on a lego and hurt her foot!”, but I said nothing.

When they left the whole crazy mess to go color, I thought “they can’t just leave all of that there!”, but they were playing independently – just like I’d asked them to – so I said nothing.

When E asked me how to spell “botanical”, I said something – for the first time –  “B-O-T-A-N-I-C-A-L”

I also said something when they asked me to come look at what they had created.  I think my exact word was, “WOW!”

Check out what the kids can do when I step back, say nothing, and just let them go:  a botanical garden, made of lego-flowers, complete with signs welcoming bees and birds to come over and check it all out.

(I think I am wanting credit for showing restraint now, and for recognizing the merits of sometimes saying nothing, because when they are teenagers I am going to be all up in their business.)

God, as I raise these children, please help me know when to intervene, and when to bite my tongue and let my kids go & do & independently figure things out.

In the meantime, I think that’s a pretty great botanical garden!  (If you want to see the details they drew in the pictures, you can click on the photo to enlarge.)

Lots of Birds (and two chick-flicks)

Note to self and husband: Do not park under the tree at the northeast corner of the church parking lot.


If you can't see the image clearly, know that the car is covered in approximately 5 billion bird turds.

I decided to torture you with a close-up.

Additional note to self and husband: Next time, if the car looks like the pictures above, one of us should keep the children at a safe distance while the other moves the car to a safer space to load all the kids.  (Dibs on staying with the children, by the way.)

Note to dry cleaner: Our apologies.  Clearly, these were not healthy birds.

Note to Birds:  I believe my husband is in danger of going all “Steel Magnolias” on your tail feathers, should you leave the sanctuary of the church parking lot.

And a final note, to readers (because I can’t resist): When I asked my husband if he felt “going all ‘Steel Magnolia’ ” on the birds was too feminine a reference for his intended actions (despite the guns and firecrackers involved in that scene of the film), he said, “Isn’t ‘Steel Magnolias’ a movie?  The only part I’ve ever watched is the scene where Kathy Bates rams that convertible over and over again in the parking lot.  I didn’t even know about the birds.”  (Extra point to anyone who can name that non-Steel Magnolias movie!)

Clearly I can use whatever reference I like, as this man is in absolutely no danger of being too closely associated with chick-flicks.

These birds, on the other hand, are in more danger than they know.