Just Enjoy the Journey

Today is my oldest’s seventh birthday! As per tradition we hid his presents for him to go on a fun present hunt. Last year we kicked it up a notch by using harder hiding places and writing him clues to find the next one. This year we went a step further. Each clue was written in code that he would need to find certain books around the house to help break, then follow the somewhat cryptic clue to find the present.

My husband and I painstakingly worked these codes and clues out asking each other’s opinions on whether it would be too hard or too easy. We enjoyed doing it and wrapped each present with care and stayed up after sending the kids to bed to hide them in their respective places. Then left all 10 clues in an envelope with “Colton” written in bright green somewhere where it would be one of the first things he’d see when he woke up.

This morning he found the envelope, and excitedly proclaimed “Wow!! Maybe its 10 dollars!” He was slightly confused when he flipped through the clues and couldn’t understand what they said. With as much encouragement that I could muster at 7 am, I pointed out the steps he’d need to follow to figure out what the clue said. Off he went to get started. Over the next two and a half hours I watched as he rode the roller coaster of emotions working through riddles and clues and searches.

Some of the presents were met with a “Cool!!” And some were opened with a less enthused, “Another Hot Wheel.” As I watched and struggled to keep my own emotions at bay, I couldn’t help but think about how often I do the same thing walking through life. God has painstakingly designed a road for us to walk and enjoy. Is it always easy, and everything we need is handed to us or in plain sight? NO!! But He wants us to relax and enjoy it still, even when it gets a little tougher.

Several times, Colton came to me frustrated because of a certain clue. And I had to remind him, “This is meant to be fun, Bug! Don’t freak out when you can’t figure something out, just relax!”

God must feel that way, when we come to him complaining about things that are hard in our life. I’m not talking exactly about the really tough trials, though we can have joy and relax through those, too. I’m talking about the everyday struggles.

“My kids woke up at 5:30 am!! Again!!”

“My husband missed the laundry basket, again.”

“Ugh! Dishes!”

“When is this kid going to get the hang of potty training?!”

Are these things tough and hard and frustrating? Yeah!! I’m not downplaying that. I’m simply pointing out that someday we can look back and laugh at these tough times. And, like most empty nesting moms or women whose husbands have passed away before them, we’ll have a tear in our eye.

There’s a country song that repeats over and over:

“You’re gonna miss this

You’re gonna want this time back.”

And, even though, I’m right in the thick of it, too, I strongly believe it to be true! Don’t waste the time wishing away the tough things. Lean in, Relax, and stay loose.

Lies Moms Believe

I’m a bad mom. I’ve heard so many moms say this out loud. Which makes me wonder how many moms say it in their heads. Why are we so quick to judge ourselves? I recently had a conversation about this very thing with my best friend about this. She felt bad for wanting a night away from her kids. “If that makes you a bad mom,” I replied, “Then I’m one, too.” I don’t know what it is that makes you feel like a bad mom, but remember, unless it is something that truly harms your child, chances are you are lying to yourself. Your kids love you! They think you are amazing! If you love them and take care of basic needs instead of partying or spend that money on drugs, then you are a good mom.

I’m responsible for every thing that happens to my child. Yes, you have control over what your child watches on TV, or what they wear, who they spend the bulk of their time with, but you cannot control everything that happens to your kids. This lie usually rears its head after something bad happens. I remember after my son broke his leg when he was two, this lie filled my brain. I wasn’t in the room when he fell, I even felt at first he was just being dramatic about how much his leg hurt (it didn’t cross my mind until hours later that it might be broken). Watching him hobble around for the next month in a cast that stretched from his upper leg to his foot, brought on all sorts of mom guilt. “If I had been in the room I could have stopped him from jumping on the couches.” “What must people think of me when they hear that such a small baby has such a large injury?” Things happen, and its fortunate for kids to have experiences when they are younger. Obviously, I’m referring to broken bones and not life-altering experiences. We can help them prepare for the even worse things that will happen to them as adults.

My child’s behavior is a reflection on my parenting. This one I swallow hook, line, and sinker almost anytime I’m in public with my kids. If they do well, share with other kids, don’t scream or hurt people, then I feel good about myself. It’s when they’re throwing fits, bickering, being cranky, etc; suddenly, I’m a bad mom (two lies in one). Yes, some of our children’s behavior reflects on what they are getting away with at home, but not as much as we dump on ourselves. They are going to be children. They are going to have raging emotions and not know what to do with them. We can’t expect a 4 year old to “have it together” all of the time. I’m 30 and I don’t have it together all of the time!

You know what truly shows our parenting prowess? Our reaction to their behavior. I learned this a long time ago, when my oldest daughter was about 18 months old. She was screaming and throwing a huge fit at a public pool. So I slowly methodically started changing her and getting ready to leave. An older lady walked up and patted me on the shoulder to get my attention. “You’re such a good mom, and you are being so patient.” (Im not saying this to toot my own horn. Please, do not take it that way.) If we freak out and match their freak out, the reflection people around us is that we must be a mom who freaks out a lot. (Not a bad mom!! Once again!)

Once my child doesn’t need me anymore, I will be pointless. Your child will always need you! They might not need you for the basic every day things anymore, but, trust me, I still need my mom! Also, just as a side note, you have a purpose bigger than your kids. Its hard to remember that when you’re up to your elbows in diapers, but start dreaming now of what you can fill your time with after you’re not so busy with those little ones. Your kids, especially your daughters, need to see that it’s okay for MOM to have hobbies and goals.

The End of An Era

For the last 7 and a half years of my life, I have been in a phase. This phase I’ll just call “BabyMaking.” I’m sure you understand.

This phase is full of pregnancy tests, birth control debates, nursing, sleepless nights, car seats, ‘are we ready to have another one?,’ potty training, infant tylenols, vaccinations vs no vaccinations, well baby visits, the list goes on and on. I’ve peed in a cup so many times I can’t even tell you.

I’m 34 weeks pregnant with my fourth, so, obviously, I’m not actually near the end of this phase, but I’m closer than I have ever been.

My husband and I have reached the decision that this will be our last baby.

It was a tough decision. I think for some it is tougher, for some they didn’t get to make the decision, it was simply forced on them. My point is, choosing to not have a baby is just as big of a deal as choosing to have a baby.

We seem to judge couples who hold off having children or choose not to have children. I’ve heard people say it’s selfish to not have kids. I completely disagree!

Being a parent changes you, and not everyone makes that change. That’s why so many children are aborted, abandoned, or placed in foster care. So if someone decides they’re family is complete with just them and their spouse, respect their decision. When a mom tells you they’ve decided they’re not having any more children, don’t reply with, “Well, you never know what the future holds.” Have people had surprise babies after they thought they were finished? Yes! But you don’t have to wish that on somone. And coming to the decision to not have another baby is not an easy one. Don’t shower doubt all over a carefully thought out, emotionally wrought decision. Don’t bring up all the people who wish they could’ve had more children and make them feel guilty for not having more.

Instead let’s celebrate with them the new phase of life!! Throw them a “NO More Babies Shower!” Fill it with gifts and laughter about all the things they can do now that they know they’ll never be pregnant or nursing again. Make a ceremony of throwing out all the infant Tylenol and diapers!!! Its a big deal! Just as big as adding another person to the world!

We celebrate pregnancy and pregnant women, which is great! What a miraculous thing to carry a human inside of you until they’re ready for the outside world!

Let’s not forget to keep on celebrating the next 18 years of being a mom!!

Falling in Love with Your Child

Can I be completely honest? Sure I can, no judgment on the internet, right?

Sometimes I find it hard to love my son. I hope he never reads this, but since I’m being open and honest, its true. Not that I don’t love my son, in the “I would die for you” way. What I mean is, lately, when I look at him I feel more frustration and annoyance than the swelling of pride and joy that used to be there.

With my girls, they’re still in that adorable stage of toddlerhood, so even if they are misbehaving I still want to just wrap them in my arms and kiss them all over. But my son is turning into a man. A rather headstrong one at that. He has traits that remind me of myself and that can be a problem. He’s also very selfish, despite all attempts by myself and my husband to raise our children thinking of others. He seems to constantly only be thinking of himself and what he’ll get out of a situation.

I feel terrible sending this out to the wide void that is the internet, but maybe, just maybe, there are other parents out there that sometimes go through stages of not really liking their kids.

Well, there is hope! I have, for the past few months, have been trying something that is usually advised for your marriage.

I read an article or blogpost about how to fall back in love with your husband. The basic idea is to notice things about your spouse. For example for me (not that I fell out of love but was trying to stay in love) it was Reed’s hands, or the set of his shoulders, or the way his arms look in a tight T-shirt (they don’t have to be physical things, I just find my husband extremely attractive inside and out, lol). Sometimes it would be hard to find things, the article warned, and that would be the crux of the experiment. Finding the things that you love about that person, is what helps you to stay in a place that you have the greatest love for them.

So, I’ve been trying that on my son. I don’t want you to get the wrong idea, here. I never really stopped loving my son. I think what was happening was he was transitioning out of the toddler/little boy stage and into a young man stage. He being my oldest, I didn’t know how to love on him as a young man. He still loves snuggles and kisses, but I knew that wasn’t enough, simply because he’s not the tiny little boy that I can just snatch up and kiss all the time. I needed to fall in love with the new Colton, as a young independent man that he was becoming.

So everyday I strive to notice a few more things I love about him. The way he longs for perfection! His attention to details, and how he even keeps me in line sometimes. He knows the house rules better than even Reed and I who wrote them. The way he loves on his sisters (when he’s not torturing them, that is). The way he loves and looks up to his dad. That handsome face he makes when he’s reading a book. His ridiculous over the top laugh when he finds something funny that nobody else does. Its like since no one else is laughing he has to laugh extra to make up for it.

There are so many wonderful things about this little man we are raising in our home! He teaches me new things every day!

You Gonna Have Another One?

This past Sunday morning, I was asked the seemingly ever present question. “When are you having another baby?”

It’s is interesting that no matter what stage of life you are in there is always the question of kids. If you’re single, the question is, “Well, dont you wanna settle down and have kids before its too late?” If you just got married, “When are you having kids?” After you finally have a baby, “When are you guys having another one?” I have three babies, ages 6, 4, and almost 2. Now, yes, the age gaps imply that its time for another baby, but it’s really none of your business. Also, its is a really emotional subject for me right now. Why?

Well, I thought I wanted another baby, but lately I’m wondering if, deep down, I just want another chance. Another chance to enjoy the excuse to be selfish the way you can be selfish when you’re pregnant. The way I can excuse not getting anything done all day because I just dont feel up to it.

Maybe, I just want that first 48 hours in the hospital (Im a C-Section Momma) where you get pampered by the nurses and people bringing you food as you just lie in bed snuggling your tiny, tiny newborn.

Maybe I just want another set of small hands and feet, another pair of beautiful baby eyes gazing into mine for what feels like hours at a time.

As I look back at old pictures and videos of my three beautiful kids, I try to close my eyes and relive those moments. I have one of those weird memories that can relive random moments of my life. It’s not always trustworthy. As my dad says, “I have a photographic memory, I just ran out of film.”

So, I will relive some special memory of when my 6 year old used to wrap his arm around my side and caress my back while he was nursing. Or how my 4 year used to unlatch just to smile at me. Or how my youngest used to let out these ear splitting screeches at the most random times.

I thought I wanted another baby, and, to be honest, my husband and I have been trying. But every time my “monthly gift from Mother Nature” comes, I experience that disappointment mixed with relief, and I don’t know quite how to take that. I think part of me knows that when another child is added to the mix, everything changes.

More importantly, I think God hasn’t let me get pregnant yet. Maybe, because He wants me to see that having another baby will not bring back all those beautiful moments with my other three. Having another baby won’t cure my longing to keep them little just a little while longer.

I dont know if I’ll have another baby, but no matter what I will treasure the memories and look forward to the future. I cannot wait to see them embracing who God made them to be, learning to drive, finding their calling, getting married, becoming parents. Im looking forward to the teenage years with my girls of sharing clothes and going shopping together and staying up late watching chick flicks.

Im looking forward to watching my son turn into a man. He has dreams of building houses or being an inventor. I can almost picture him working with his dad and uncles, or leaning over blueprints of his latest project with that intense focus he summons up from time to time.

I want them to grow up. I just…don’t want them to grow up at the same time. This is the life of a mom, I guess.

How I Started Winning As A Mom

What is your win as a mom/parent? In everything in life there needs to be a clearly defined win. Otherwise how do you know what you are working towards? My win has always been that my kids would know, no matter what happens or what they’ve done, I love them!

I recently made a daily to do list of high priority and low priority things that I need to be doing on a daily basis. The low priority things are things like dishes, laundry, clean one room, water the plants, and practice piano. The high priority is spend time with God, read my Bible, and show love and encouragement to each of my children and my husband.

Its only been a couple of days, but I’m already dumbfounded with how lacking I am in this area. My husband is good at drawing me away from my crazy self and spending time with me, and my littlest one is adept at demanding of snuggles when she needs them. So I feel like I have hit their love languages pretty well most days. However with my 6 year old and my 4 year old it has been a different story. Most days I find the only one-on-one “I love you” time is the 5 minutes I spend tucking them in at night. I say that i want to be so close to them and for them to never doubt my love, but how am I showing it?

My 6 year old has been going through some “shaping” phases. I feel like every day is a work day, and, yes, he needs that, but I think I need to ease up every now and then and just let him know I love him, warts and all. My 4 year old is an quiet introvert, with moments of insane chattiness. The moments she demands my attention are always the worst possible moments. I’m elbow deep in giving the dog a bath or carrying endless piles of firewood. So sadly she gets only half of my attention or sent away feeling very unloved. It hurts me to even think of what a terrible job I’ve been doing in this area. But Im determined to do better. Im going to love on my kids at least once a day, every day, rain or shine!

So how about you? What’s your win? Are you winning every day?

Working Mom vs Stay-at-Home Mom

I know, I know…so much has been written on this subject, already. I probably will not have anything new and revolutionary to say, but in this time of rampant “Mom Shaming” I cannot (and will not) stay silent. That being said, lets dive in.

We all know that we are individuals. We all know that what works for some people (i.e. sleep schedules, diets, cars, clothes, etc) does not work for others. So why would we dare to think that all moms should stay home and do laundry and dishes all day, or all moms should get dressed, slap on makeup and get a job? Honestly, either outlook would not work logistically.

I have a friends who are working moms and I have friends who stay at home. When we all get together for weekend play dates at the park, an onlooker would not be able to tell the difference. (Any preconceived difference you’re seeing in your head has been brought on by television’s stereotypical portrayal. Since when have they gotten anything right?)

So if there is not a noticeable difference in the rearing of our children or the way we comport ourselves in public situations, why do both sides harp so harshly on each other? Are there non-moms and outsiders also shouting out their opinions? Yes! But once again, when have we (as moms) ever taken parenting advice from people who are not parents?

I am a stay at home mom, yes, but my choice is not because I do not have any career dreams or talents. My choice to stay home was based on the needs of my family, and on the fact that I get extremely overwhelmed and stressed too easily. Could I adjust if my families needs changed? Yes, and there might come a day when that happens. When that day comes, I hope to have all of my “stay at home mom” friends support.